Brother of Jesus, Friend of God: Studies in the Letter of James Paperback – 1 Feb 2004
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From the Back Cover
The letter of James has enjoyed a colorful history, with its background and significance widely debated over the centuries. In this book an outstanding scholar of the New Testament offers new and selected studies of James that show its roots in antiquity and its importance for Christian history and theology.
Luke Timothy Johnson explores the letter of James from a variety of perspectives. After a general introduction to James, he looks at its history of interpretation. Johnson then examines James's social and historical situation, its place within Scripture, and its use of the sayings of Jesus. Several exegetical studies take care to place James in the context of Hellenistic moral discourse. Two concluding essays look at the themes of friendship and gender in James.
While seemingly of interest only to professionals, Johnson's "Brother of Jesus, Friend of God will also be accessible to general readers serious about Bible study, and church groups will find this volume to be a fruitful entry into an important portion of the New Testament.
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NOTE: in the exegetical essays, when he quotes a word, phrase or verse, it is almost always in Greek without English translation. Readers unfamiliar with Koine may find it difficult to follow.
First, Johnson sets his work within the trajectory of ancient sources; including Greco-Roman, Jewish literary background and discernable sayings of Jesus. Another clear trajectory set within these essays is the reception history of the epistle. Several essays consider different aspects of the history of interpretation of James (e.g., `A Survey of the History of Interpretation of James', pp. 39-44; `The Reception of James in the Early Church', pp. 45-60; `Journeying East with James: A Chapter in the History of Interpretation', pp. 61-83; `How James Won the West: A Chapter in the History of Canonization', pp. 84-100). In a closely related essay (`Prologue: James's Significance for Early Christian History', pp. 1-23), Johnson proposes that the letter was actually written by James of Jerusalem before 62 and how such an assessment might impact an understanding of earliest Christianity. Finally, Johnson sets his work on James within the trajectory of social and theological impact of the letter. Here he deals specifically with the discernable social context in James (`The Social World of James: Literary Analysis and Historical Reconstruction', pp. 101-22).
Though some essays here are dated, they remain helpful, if not crucial, pieces of scholarship which consist in the now ground swell of new research considering James on its own terms. In several of the essays Johnson's comparative approach with regard to Hellenistic moral literature seems forced and at times irrelevant, though fruitful insights have come to light in this way. For those already familiar with Johnson's essays this text will only be of interest with respect to the opening and concluding essays. The latter of which, because of its serious engagement with the theological issues of the letter, is worth the price of the book. While some of the essays are quite technical most are accessible to general readers accustom to biblical study. Though most of the essays are concerned with historical-critical issues, Johnson admirably turns the discussion toward the theological riches of this oft neglected text.
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