This painting by El Greco is also on the cover of Luke Timothy Johnson’s Brother of Jesus Friend of God: Studies in the Letter of James. It depicts James as a pilgrim. I have not had a chance to read up on the iconography / hagiography of James the Just. I know that the fact that there are several men named James in the New Testament, coupled with debates regarding James’ familial ties with Jesus have made tracing the imagery used to represent James quite murky.
All this aside, I really do like El Greco’s work here.
If you’ve been out of the web-loop lately, you may want to check out MySpace.com. MySpace has been in the news because it can be the kind of place where young people post too much information about themselves, making themselves vulnerable to online predators. (That’s the bad news.) The good news is that MySpace enables folks to network with each other via the web.
An interesting development of MySpace is the crop of historical (and biblical) figures that have taken on a kind of web-based intermediate state prior to the resurrection. Of particular interest to this blog is the presence of James the Just himself on MySpace (we’re friends, as his “Top Eight” list of friends indicates). The great Reformer, Martin Luther and his Wife have both become friends with James the Just as well (though James still protests Luther’s poor review of the so-called “epistle of straw”).
Anyway, take a look. I’ll personally be interested to see what kind of dialog may go on between St. Paul and James. Or perhaps Luther would be willing to comment on his views of James in light of the New Perspective?
Speaking of bibliographies, Ernest Rubinstein, a librarian at Ecumenical Library of the Interchurch Center, has compiled an “Annotated Bibliography” of resources on the Epistle of James. This bibliography is not a bad representation of recent James research. This bibliography is part of a whole site put together by/for? “United Methodist Women.” Check it out:
Michael Bird of Euangelion, recently posted about his plan to create a bibliography of resources on the Pistis Christou debate. This reminded me of my own plans in the past to create an online bibliography of articles and books on all things Jacobean (having to do with James the Just or the Epistle of James. So, I will begin doing so within the next few weeks. Keep posted.
Scot McKnight lists the following verses as evidence against the perpetual virginity of Mary:
- Mark 3:31-35: “His mother and his brothers.”
- Mark 6:1-6: “Is this not the ’son of Mary’ and his brothers Yakov, Yosef, Yehudah, and Shimeon? Are not his sisters here with us?”
- John 2:12: “he went down to Capernaum with his mother and brothers and his disciples”. (Sisters stay back in Nazareth?)
- John 7:3: “His brothers said to him…”
- John 7:5: “For even his own brothers did not believe in him.”
- Galatians 1:19: “save only James, the Lord’s brother.”
- Acts 1:14: Mary “and with his brothers.”
He notes that the burden of proof rests on those who would say that “brothers” or “sisters” would mean anything other than blood-brothers or blood-sisters. To this list can be added the references compiled from Richard Bauckham’s work on Sean du Toit’s blog, Primal Subversion. As I mentioned in my comment on Scot McKnight’s post. My feet are squarely planted in the protestant camp. I just found Rice’s argument “interesting.” As McKnight concludes:
Protestants should not be bothered if Mary and Joseph chose to remain virginal. Their decision would not be an attack on marriage or on sexuality. It would be a sacred vow of celibacy on their part, not because of their sainthood but because (and here we are guessing) they sensed an overwhelming awe at the majesty of what God chose Mary to do. Her body, in other words, became a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit for both of them. That’s how I’d see it from that perspective. I don’t think that view, however, is what we find in the NT.
Ben Witherington has posted a rather long excerpt from his forthcoming commentary on James.
There is a reason James, like Paul, calls himself a servant of Jesus Christ, and not his secretary or scribe (grammateus). He too has received revelation, and he too has insights to share, and new perspectives on previous wisdom teaching including that of his brother.
I’ve wondered about James’ and his view of wisdom as somthing that “comes from above.” J.A.Kirk, in his article “Meaning of Wisdom in James” (NTS 16 : 24-38), states that “wisdom” in James functions in a similar way to the Holy Spirit in the writings of Paul. Peter Davids takes a similar stand (NIGTC 51ff.), while Bill Baker has argued against it (“Wisdom in James and the Spirit: Are They the Same?” Paper read at the 56th Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society, November 17-19, 2004). I’d like to study this concept in more depth, as I wonder what a “wisdom pneumatology” would contribute to our understanding of the early church’s encounter with the Holy Spirit. As a Pentecostal, I’ve found that we quickly pick up the prophetic paradigm to explain the early believers’ experience of the Spirit, and rightly so. What would examining a wisdom pneumatology add? On the other hand, those who look at James are all too quick to label the work simply as “wisdom lit.” This ignores the prophetic themes that work their way into the text. This is one area of my current thesis (on James 5:17-18). James appropriates apocalyptic and prophetic imagery to describe the current situation of his community. His writing would be quite at home in sections of Isaiah or Malachi or Amos.
Scot McKnight at Jesus Creed comments on the “perpetual virginity” of Mary. This topic would seem to be completely off base on my own blog (as it seems to be unrelated to James the Just). On the contrary, if James the Just was Jesus’ brother, then Mary’s virginity has a lot to do with the topic. McKnight notes the following Christian sources that support the perpetual virginity of Mary, and then comments:
2d Century text Protevangelium James
Origen, Commentary on Matthew 10:17
Athanasius, Virginity, can’t locate reference in my NPNF text.
Augustine, Nature and Grace, 36.42.
Martin Luther, Works, 22.23.
John Calvin, NT Commentary on Synoptics, at Matthew 12:46-50.
John Wesley, in A.C. Coulter, John Wesley, 495
In text-critical terms, belief in Mary’s perpetual virginity is early, widespread, and found in every major tradition of the Church. One might say it was the universal faith of the Church, apart from rare exceptions, until the post-Reformation era.
My own two feet are squarely planted in the Protestant tradition of the non-perpetual virginity of Mary. It has been a view that I have never questioned, until I read Anne Rice’s work, Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt. Rice develops the story of Mary’s perpetual virginity from Joseph’s standpoint rather than from some view that Mary was “holier than thou.” If I can recall correctly, Joseph asks in essence, “How can I ‘touch’ someone who has given birth to the Son of God?” From that standpoint, I guess perpetual virginity takes on a more “human” explanation. Given that Joseph could have very well fathered Jesus ‘brothers and sisters’ in a previous marriage, I don’t have too much of a problem with the idea. Either way, my faith does not stand or fall on the concept.