[We are] not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. (Romans 1:16)

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Salutation!

by H K Flynn
James is often discussed when the ‘no strings attached’ view of justification is being compared to the view that faith, by definition, results in works of obedience. For that reason, I thought I’d begin a series on Zane Hodge’s 5 part outline of James.

This post is on Part I: Salutation.

But unlike most salutations, this one has quite a bit of intrigue.

First Note: Hodges is convinced that James has been thoroughly misunderstood by historical Christianity. While some see this as a near impossibility, I flat out don't.

Note Also: Hodges considers James an unusually tightly organized epistle and this structure helps us to see how James can be much better understood if one simply keeps in mind the obvious. What James explicitly says his topic is, really is his topic. James is teaching Christian believers how to advance in the Christian life by, to use a modern expression, leveraging their trials. James teaches that trials are the key to full maturity.

James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad: Greetings.

Why scattered?

Since there is no reference in his Epistle to the beginning of the gentile mission, Hodges suggests that James was writing far earlier than the writing of any other NT epistle, as early as AD 34. For instance, in his epistle there is no reference to Philip, Peter, Barnabas and Paul, or any of their converts, and more crucially, there is no reference at all to Gentile/Jewish relations or tensions.

This is even more telling when it is remembered that it was written not to one but to more than one congregation, as seems to be implied by the salutation. The omission of his advice on Gentile/Jewish tensions seems glaring.

If this early dating is true, James would have been writing in the shadow of three events, Pentecost, and the deaths of Ananius/Sapphira and of Stephen. This means an early time frame emphasizes the plausibility of the idea that his burden was salvation from sin induced death, as well as salvation into the perfect and complete maturity we see in the miracle-working apostles after Pentecost.

(See Antonio’s discussion for biblical support for James teaching salvation from death.)

This understanding would suggest that after James was converted, like Paul, at the appearance of His risen Savior, he may have joined the leadership of the Jerusalem in some sort of role. Acts, because it is a defense of Paul, does not fill in these details.

In Acts 8:1, Luke does tell us that after the death of Steven, the entire Jerusalem church was scattered throughout the region, leaving only the Apostles remaining in Jerusalem.

We can juxtapose James’s greeting after Acts 8:1…

And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.

James, bondman of God and of [the] Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which [are] in the dispersion, greeting.

This is the Darby Translation. The NKJV reads similarly:

James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad: Greetings.

Hodges notes that the ‘scattered abroad’ is literally ‘in the dispersion’.

So we can begin to see that an early date is both likely and helpful in understanding why James is so emphatic about the need to allow trials to unlock the miraculous power of post-Pentecost Christianity.

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