Friday, July 21, 2006

Christology of James - Hurtado

The Epistle of James is mainly concerned with exhortation about right behaviour; its Christology is implicit and largely a reflection of what the author and first readers held as traditional. Whatever one’s view of the question of authorship, the attribution of the document to James the brother of Jesus, the description of the addressees as “the twelve tribes in the Dispersion” (Jas 1:1) and other factors, including the strongly eschatological outlook (e.g., Jas 5:1–9), combine to give the document a Jewish Christian flavour. It is therefore interesting to note what the author and readers (who either were Jewish Christians or revered Jewish Christian traditions) must have regarded as traditional and uncontroversial Christology.

Jesus bears the titles Christ and Lord (kyrios) in formulaic expressions (Jas 1:1; 2:1). Indeed in James 2:1 we have mention of “the glorious Lord Jesus Christ” (tou kyriou hemon Iesou Christou tes doxes), giving a particularly sonorous and honorific expression. In several other cases Jesus is probably intended in references to “the Lord.” This holds for James 4:15, for example, where the will of “the Lord” is to govern Christian decisions. In James 5:7–11 it is also probable that Jesus is the “Lord” whose coming is awaited (Jas 5:7–8) and the judge standing at the door (Jas 5:9), in whose name the OT prophets spoke (Jas 5:10) and whose mercy and compassion are applauded (Jas 5:11). In all these cases it is noteworthy that Jesus is referred to in roles associated with God in the OT.

Jesus is likewise probably the “Lord” in whose name the sick are to be anointed and who will raise the sick and forgive their sins (Jas 5:13–15). There is probably a reference to Jesus’ name in James 2:7 as “invoked [in baptism?] over you” and blasphemed by opponents. This emphasis upon the sacred significance of Jesus’ name accords with references in Acts 1–11 and other evidence of Jewish Christian attitudes.

In addition many commentators have noted that this epistle is full of allusions to sayings of Jesus preserved in the Synoptic Gospels. This indicates both a familiarity with the Jesus tradition and a practical acceptance of Jesus’ authority as Lord of Christian behaviour. We may say that James emphasizes the practical and ethical consequences of the christological convictions shared by the author and intended readers.[1]
[1] Larry Hurtado “Christology” in Martin, Ralph P.; Davids, Peter H. Dictionary of the Later New Testament & Its Developments (IVP, 2000)

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