Recently a friend asked me to recommend a commentary, monograph and theology of the Epistle of James. Below is my response.
I highly recommend the commentaries by Luke Timothy Johnson (Anchor Bible) and Peter H. Davids (New International Greek Commentary on the New Testament). Patrick Hartin has also written a great commentary in the Sacra Pagina series.
As far as monographs go, I’d recommend Hartin’s Spirituality of Perfection: Faith in Action in the Letter of James. It’s a good read, and I think it captures the overall focus of James rather well. If you look at this book, it’s probably not worth getting the Hartin’s commentary (if you are looking at Davids and/or Johnson as well).
Luke Timothy Johnson has published a collection of articles that he has written on James (Brother of Jesus, Friend of God: Studies in the Letter of James). It’s a great companion to his commentary, and the studies have helped set the pace for James studies – I’d recommend it as a text book in conjunction with the commentary.
Bauckham’s monograph on James (James: Wisdom of James, Disciple of Jesus the Sage) is very good as well. It is not so much a commentary as an introduction/monograph (in the New Testament Readings series). He engages the genre of James and the letter’s relationship to the teachings of Jesus. He also interacts with Kierkegaard on James.
As far as James’ “theology” goes, there’s the work by Andrew Chester and Ralph P. Martin (The Theology of the Letters of James, Peter, and Jude) in the New Testament Theology series.
So, I guess I’ve listed more than I’ve been asked for – and not necessarily in a “neat order.” If I were forced to pick a monograph, commentary and theology, I think I’d go for the following:
- Commentary: Luke Timothy Johnson, Anchor Bible
- Monograph: Luke Timothy Johnson, Brother of Jesus, Friend of God: Studies in the Letter of James
- Theology: EITHER Patrick Hartin, Spirituality of Perfection: Faith in Action in the Letter of James OR Richard Bauckham, James: Wisdom of James, Disciple of Jesus the Sage) I think I’d recommend Hartin for the sake of usefulness, but Bauckham’s become a standard.
What do other Jacobean scholars think? What are the top commentaries, monographs and theologies on the Epistle of James?