Thursday, August 10, 2006

Christology of James

The problem before us is clear. Granted that James was a 1st century Jewish writers, we may assume his familiarity with title LORD as a strict referent to YHWH. However, in this Jewish letter James explicitly identifies the referent of LORD as Jesus. This leads us to the perplexing question at hand: Is there a single instance in James, where LORD is explicitly used of YHWH and it clearly and explicitly cannot refer to Jesus? The reason for this question is clear: Having identified Jesus unambiguously as LORD in two explicitly clear passages, shouldn’t our hermeneutical strategy be to assume that every other reference of LORD is still to Jesus, unless it is exegetically implausible?

1 comment:

jdarlack said...

Here are a few far-from-comprehensive thoughts:

Not that I know of any case in Paul's or any other author's writings where both uses of κυριος are found within the same text, but would this not be something worth exploring? Not that an occurence of similar phenomenon in other places makes it necessary that James uses the word both ways. It would just render a double use more probable.

A second line of questioning would center on what would be the most obvious referent of κυριος given the context. In a Jewish or even early Christian setting, would the function of κυριος point more clearly to Jesus as Lord or to YHWH? For instance, in 1:7, the double-minded are told they should not expect to recieve anything παρα του κυριου. Later in v. 17, James refers to the gift giving God as the "Father of lights." This would certainly refer to YHWH of the OT. This would seem to lend weight to seeing the κυριος of v. 7 as YHWH as well.

In 5:4, the use of κυριος is set within a probable allusion to the OT, "The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty." Compare with Isaiah 5:7 where the "Lord Almighty" hears the cries of distress of the righteous, and particularly v. 9, where the exact phrase, εις τα ωτα κυριου σαβαωθ "to the ears of the Lord Almighty" is used. Given that James is quite possibly echoing Isaiah's song of the vineyard, it is more likely that "Lord Almighty" refers to YHWH of the OT, without explicit reference to Christ. A similar argument could arise from 5:11, where "The Lord is full of compassion and mercy" is most likely a reference to the YHWH's revelation to Moses at Sinai (Exod. 34:6 and restated in various forms throughout the OT).

Of course, it could be argued (and I lean in this direction) that James views Jesus in such a manner as to fold him into the identity of YHWH of the OT to the point of equation. This could be seen in 5:7-8, where η παρουσια του κυριου "the coming of the Lord" is used possibly of the return of Christ, or to refer to the OT concept of the "day of YHWH," or to a Christian conflation of the two concepts, where Christ returns as YHWH to his people.

Either way, I do not think it is a mark of low Christology for James to use κυριος to refer to YHWH in some places and to Jesus in others.