Jamesian confluence

There has been a confluence of thought and study that I really couldn’t have orchestrated myself.  Whether you call it happenstance or the will of God or a prompting of the Holy Spirit, it has happened.

This post, by the way, is not related to the James River of Virginia or to the “Jamesian Stew” series of essays that dealt critically with the King James version of the Bible.  This is a different kind of “Jamesian” confluence (and a very different James from the king of the early 1600s!).

The flowing rivulets are these:

  1. recent group classes/discussions centered in Acts 15—the chapter that documents the “conference” ultimately led by James
  2. recent group discussions of the letter known as James’s epistle
  3. my desire to understand more of the literary and historical contexts of both documents

In no way has the resulting river emptied into a “Dead Sea” that collects gunk and doesn’t move.  Not yet, anyway.  For now, this is living water that continues to flow.  At this juncture, I’m contemplating and processing a few elements and aspects that float in little whirlpools where the rivers come together:

  • James himself
    • his history as a person, his character (wisdom, humility, etc.)
    • his emphases as a teacher and leader (and whether he heard much of Jesus’ teaching personally or came to know some of them after Jesus’ death)
    • the morphings of his name
      • Hebrew Yaqob (possible symbolic weight of the famed OT Jacob) ==> Greek Iakobos ==> Latin Jacomus ==> German Jacobus
      • Old French Gemmes/Jaimes ==> English James
  • Chronology
  • Intertextualities
    • a) James and b) the beatitudes/”Sermon on the Mount”
    • a) James 2 and b) Leviticus, viz. the showing of favor, the rich and the poor, etc.
    • a) James and b) the Septuagint, i.e., many wordings of James are said to be related to the Greek translation of the Hebrew OT that was widely circulated and used before and during the 1st century
    • a) James and b) James (that’s no typo!)—how the vignettes and apohorisms of James chapter 1 relate to the longer treatments of some of the same subjects in the succeeding material (this could be labeled “book-level context”)

I’ll make an observation in each of the above categories, if you don’t mind.  (Actually, I’ll make the observations even if you do mind, but the condition sounded nice.)

James, as referred to here a few days ago, is almost universally recognized to have filled a unique role in post-resurrection Jerusalem.  He was a Jew, he became a believer in his half-brother, and he was recognized as a leader in the city-wide group of believers.  James now intrigues me more than ever. . . .  How and when did he become a believer?  How is it that he came to be looked to as a leader?  And what about his wisdom?  He emphasizes it in the letter that bears his name, and he manifest it to some degree in the Acts 15 conference.  This same figure, we presume, was the one who came to be referred to as “James the Just.”

Which brings me to chronology. . . .   James was probably not a believer with any particular role or status while Jesus was on earth, yet he clearly had some elevated role (at least in hindsight) within a few years at the most.  My personal guess would be that James was a Messianic Jew, to use an anachronistic expression, by 34 or 35, and a thought-leader in Jerusalem by 40.  His letter might have been written as early as the mid to late 40s.  The conference about which we read in Acts 15 likely occurred within a year of 47, and some have perceived a similarity of speech between the epistle and the Acts 15 mini-missive sent to gentile churches.

The intertextualities captioned above are far more significant, and also more solid, than the musings about James as a person or the dating of events and pertinent documents.  I am just now taking out a small pin to scratch the surface, but I’m already convinced that there’s a lot to learn in reading Leviticus 19, in particular.  That should probably be what I read next—if I want to be a serious doer/applier of the message, that is.

B. Casey, 10/11/15


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