Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Off the Back of a Bird

Thinking about Bird’s recent comments:

The problem is, and I think Kloppenborg and Allison are trying to address it in their own way, to account for the fact that we have a very Jewish letter here, obviously written by a Christian, but it has so little explicitly Christian content. Is that because the author simply drew on a synagogue sermon and made a few cosmetic Christian changes (Dibelius), because it was written largely to non-Christian Jews (McNeil, Kloppenborg, Allison), or because the author drew on the traditions most familiar to him (Jewish Wisdom, Jesus Tradition, or perhaps even Stoicism [?]) in order to offer exhortation and spiritual discipline to a group of Jewish-Christians located somewhere in rural Syria? As the flurry of commentaries by Allison, Kloppenborg, Painter, and McKnight come out we can look forward to seeing how they answer such a question.

Several thoughts bombard my mind as one reads this. Firstly, is James anymore or less Jewish than the rest of the NT? Can we plausibly offer a distinction between Judaism and Christianity when James writes? Yes, there is the distinction that the Lordship of Jesus offers, but what else? The first Christian writers were all thoroughly Jewish, except for perhaps Luke (who was probably well educated in Judaism/LXX!). Is James the shock to the system that reminds NT scholars that they are dealing with 2nd Temple Jewish documents?
Johnson argues that “James’ Christianity is neither Pauline nor anti-Pauline but another version altogether.” Since I am inclined towards this view, why must James be either Christian (Pauline?) or Jewish? Should we expect anything less than what James is, if it was written to Jewish Christians? Graham Stanton writes: “once one accepts that Jesus traditions have been used at James 2:8 and at James 5:12, it becomes more likely that the writer has drawn on Jesus traditions elsewhere.” If this is accurate, then we are experiencing the conversion of James. Someone who was a thorough 1st century Jew, has now encountered the Messiah, the LORD JESUS, and this writing represents part of the ‘first-fruits’ of reflection on what that means. Thus, it appears McNeil, Kloppenborg, Allison have embarked on a journey which leads to a dead end.
Glad to see the Bird moving beyond Paul and Jesus into the rest of the NT. Some good thinking going on in his response to the Kloppenborg.

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