GreekGeek: A Conference Proposal (on Faith in Hebrews and James)

GreekGeek, a PhD student at St. Andrews, blogs on “ A Conference Proposal” on faith in James and Hebrews, she plans to note the commonalities between the two texts, including the use of both Abraham and Rahab as exemplars of faith and the link between faith and endurance during trials.

James’ Political “Theology”?

Thanks to Jim Davila at PaleoJudaica for blogging on two articles pertaining to James. One is on the ossuary forgery trial, but the other highlights James’ Theology. In the article, Stuart Laidlaw interviews James Tabor, the author of Jesus Dynasty, but he concentrates his article on the opinions of Barrie Wilson of York University:

. . . James was continuing with the teaching of his brother, emphasizing a more political form of religion that stressed the coming of a messiah to overthrow the Romans and restore the kingdom if Israel. . . . The theology of James, with its emphasis on political change as a way to address poverty and injustice, is as relevant today as it was 2,000 years ago, Wilson says.

Huh? Apparently Wilson is writing a book, and it will be interesting to see how he defends James’ political form of religion. Does care of widows and orphans, a disdain for economic favoritism and the denunciation of social injustice necessitate “political religion” or prophetic religion? For instance, Malachi prophesies:

“So I will come near to you for judgment. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice, but do not fear me,” says the LORD Almighty. Malachi 3:5

Here, Yahweh promises a return to his people that will be accompanied by a “house cleaning” (vv 2-3) where those who do not fear him will be swept away. James’ denunciation of the rich (5:1-6) and his preference for the poor (not to mention his use of the term moichalidas “adulterer” to describe his readers’ “friendship with the world” [4:4]), point to his affinity with the prophets like Malachi. It also shows an eschatological orientation to his teaching. He calls his readers to endure, not to revolt. Martin’s commentary in the Word Biblical Commentary series actually sees the Epistle of James as an apologetic against the radical political agendas of the zealots. While I think Martin goes a bit far in his exegesis, I think he at least shows that James is not interested in a radical political solution to the problem of poverty, but a whole-hearted desire on the part of God’s people to reach out to the poor while patiently enduring the evil system that perpetuates poverty.