The Key of James
The key of James is found in the first chapter verses 19 & 20:
Know this, my beloved brothers:
let every person be quick to hear,
slow to speak,
slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God requires.
Some things to consider:
(1) Isn't this passsage just excellent advice on how to live when experiencing trials?
It is that but it also plays a role in the Epistle as a whole. Evidence for this role is not so much within the statement as in the passages that follow.
(2) What is James getting at?
Recall that the Prologue has closed with a vivid insistence that the new birth is a perfect gift from above. It is a perfect miracle given to us. These three admonitions simply flesh out James’ advice for fully unpacking that wonderful gift, and thereby producing 'the righteousness of God' of verse 20.
(3) Is this another Zane Hodges idea??
Yes:) He makes the claim that these two verses act as a sort of table of contents (my words) to the entire body of the epistle. And shazam, the body that follows does in fact very strictly fall into the three stated ‘topics’ of verse 19. Hodges writes, “The outline which we give for James falls naturally into three divisions related to each of the admonitions and in the precise sequence in which the admonitions occur in v 19.” (Hodges, The Epistle of James, Proven Character Through Testing, p. 37)
(4) Why would James be so Type A about it?
Hodges goes on, “In the Roman age the main body of a speech or discourse was called the kephalaia (headings) by the Greek rhetoricians (Kennedy, A New Testament Interpretation through Rhetorical Criticism, p.48) Thus what James actually presents in v 19 is an outline of the kephalaia, or topics, he will now discuss.” (p. 37)
(5) How solid is this idea of this passage essentially organizing the rest of the epistle?
“There is little doubt that vv 19-20 not only conclude the prologue but actually anticipate the contents of the main unit of the epistle.” (p.37)
(6) How much is this key verse idea dependent on the whole post-Pentecost background idea of James?
(7) Is your interpretation of Dead Faith dependant on this being a special key verse?
Yes, it is partly dependent. If it doesn’t hold up, the Purist interpretation, and for that matter the regular Christian interpretation, which isn’t very different in my mind, would essentially have a somewhat weaker argument against them. It even gives support the salvation from death argument. The kephalaia (or topics) argument shows that James is giving urgent advice to regenerate people so they will successfully unpack their gift of new birth and live like it.
(8) If this is the key verse, than what is the Epistle all about?
“Briefly, the subject of the Epistle of James is testing, and its theme is the proper behavior under testing. Such behavior consists of eagerness to listen, reluctance to talk, and restraint in the expression of anger.” (p. 37) (emphasis added by hk :~)