Jesus Works: James

Sources: Bart Ehrman, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings, 3d ed. (Oxford, 2004); I. Howard Marshall et al., Exploring the New Testament: A Guide to the Letters and Revelation (IVP, 2002), chapter 21; Geert Lernout, "Reception Theory," in Michael Groden and Martin Kreiswirth, The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism (Johns Hopkins, 1997).


The Reception of a Text
Is a text's meaning in its words? in our minds? in our lives?
A text's reception describes the way readers 'actualize' it.
Halakha refers to the body of practical Jewish law and tradition (cf. Aggadah) as living reception of God's Torah (instruction).
Christian life "receives with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls" (James 1:21).

Under the Law of Liberty: Faith as Ethics in James
James seems the most affirming NT writing of rabbinical Judaism (as natural theology is critically affirming of culture).
"The faith of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2:1) gives all threads of halakha continuing life:
The Law of Moses becomes the law of liberty (1:25) under which we operate (work) out of trust (faith) (ch. 2).
The writings become life-giving wisdom from above (1:5-8, 1:19-24, chs. 3-4).
The prophets become prophets of Christ's judgment on both the faithful and unmerciful (1:2-4, 1:9-18, 1:26-27, chs. 4-5).
James is characteristically (but not at all uniquely!) ethical in its theology.
How Should We Receive James?
Is James Judaism with a Christian label or veneer?
... Christian faith for Jews only?
... embrionic Christianity (e.g., "From Jesus to Christ")?
... the Jewish core and goal of Christian faith?

... in the context of the whole NT a warrant for a multicultural Church?