Pray for reign…

A good friend of mine died this morning. Her painful battle with cancer over the last few years has been a constant reminder that our hope is in the resurrection at the future reign of our Lord. While this is a blog on all things jacobean, the apostle Paul every once in a while gets it right!

Λογίζομαι γὰρ ὅτι οὐκ ἄξια τὰ παθήματα τοῦ νῦν καιροῦ πρὸς τὴν μέλλουσαν δόξαν ἀποκαλυφθῆναι εἰς ἡμᾶς. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us (Romans 8:18 NIV).

I find it interesting that Paul compares our “present sufferings” with the glory to be revealed in us. After all, in human experience it is pain that often makes the deepest impression on us in our lives. The abuse we suffer at home or on the playground can scar us deeply, and the misery of illness can wear thin the thickest shield of faith. Yet all of this present suffering is nothing compared to the glory revealed in us at the resurrection. James calls his readers to faithful endurance while waiting for what Paul called the “glory to be revealed” at the coming of the Lord.

Μακροθυμήσατε οὖν, ἀδελφοί, ἕως τῆς παρουσίας τοῦ κυρίου. ἰδοὺ ὁ γεωργὸς ἐκδέχεται τὸν τίμιον καρπὸν τῆς γῆς μακροθυμῶν ἐπ᾽αὐτῷ ἕως λάβῃ πρόϊμον καὶ ὄψιμον. μακροθυμήσατε καὶ ὑμεῖς, στηρίξατε τὰς καρδίας ὑμῶν, ὅτι ἡ παρουσία τοῦ κυρίου ἤγγικεν Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near (James 5:7-8 NIV).

In this passage James likens the coming of the Lord to the arrival of the rain in Palestine. As a farmer waits for the rain, we are to wait for the “reign” of Christ. The farmer, whose livelihood and survival depends on the proper timing of the rain, is still subject to the timing of things. He can do nothing but wait patiently. We, who often don’t realize it but also depend wholly upon the “reign” must wait patiently as well. We are to endure faithfully, but we do not endure without hope. Our wait should be tempered with the reality that any suffering we endure is a shadow of the intensity of an eternity under the righteous rule of the Savior.

My thesis is dedicated to Sandy who no longer has to wait for the reign. May its words teach me and perhaps others to pray with Elijah-like fervency for the coming reign.

Abraham, Rain, Monotheism & the Evil Yezer in Jubilees and James?

Rinaldo Fabris, in a footnote (p. 347, n. 46) mentions a string of citations illustrating the importance of rain (in reference to his comments on Jas 5:17-18). One of the citations was to Jubilees 12:4, 18. Below is the text of Jubilees 12 according to Charles’ APOT:

1 And it came to pass in the sixth week, in the seventh year thereof, that Abram said to Terah his father, saying, ‘Father!’ 2 . . . , ‘What help and profit have we from those idols which thou dost worship, . . . ? . . . 4 Worship the God of heaven, Who causes the rain and the dew to descend on the earth And does everything upon the earth, And has created everything by His word, And all life is from before His face. . . .

Though his father does not react positively to Abraham’s revelation at first, Abraham does destroy all of the household idols. (He also marries Sarah here in the narrative. The theme of rain continues, however:

16 And in the sixth week, in the fifth year thereof, Abram sat up throughout the night on the new moon of the seventh month to observe the stars from the evening to the morning, in order to see what would be the character of the year with regard to the rains, and he was alone as he sat and observed. 17 And a word came into his heart and he said: All the signs of the stars, and the signs of the moon and of the sun are all in the hand of the Lord. Why do I search (them) out? 18 If He desires, He causes it to rain, morning and evening; And if He desires, He withholds it, And all things are in his hand.’ 19 And he prayed that night and said, ‘My God, God Most High, Thou alone art my God, And Thee and Thy dominion have I chosen. And Thou hast created all things, And all things that are the work of thy hands. 20 Deliver me from the hands of evil spirits who have dominion over the thoughts of men’s hearts, And let them not lead me astray from Thee, my God. And stablish Thou me and my seed for ever That we go not astray from henceforth and for evermore.’

Note that he prays for deliverance from “evil spirits who have dominion over the thoughts of men’s hearts” (cf. Jas 1:13-15) and that he and his seed will not go astray (cf. Jas 5:19-20). Verbal parallels should be checked… David Instone-Brewer suggests that James is a homily on the life of Abraham (as transmitted in Jubilees). He does not mention the possibility of a connection here at James 5:17-18 via Jubilees 12. This should be explored.

Instone-Brewer article on James

An article by David Instone-Brewer, titled “James as a Sermon on the Trials of Abraham,” is available for reading on Amazon along with other essays collected in The New Testament in Its First Century Setting: Essays on Context and Background in Honour of B. W. Winter on his 65th Birthday (eds. P. J. Williams, et al.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004), 250-268.

Use Amazon’s “search inside the book” feature to look for the article and read online!

Southern Baptist Journal of Theology issue on James available online!

The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology has published an entire issue on the Epistle of James (vol. 4, no. 3 [2000]). This issue has been made available online by Southern Seminary.

Download the complete complete Journal as a PDF file here. Or download the individual articles below:

2 Editorial: Thomas R. Schreiner
Practical Christianity
4 Robert H. Stein
“Saved by Faith [Alone]” in Paul Versus “Not Saved by Faith Alone” in James
20 Timothy George
“A Right Strawy Epistle”: Reformation Perspectives on James
32 Mark A. Seifrid
The Waiting Church and Its Duty: James 5:13-18
40 Ron Julian
A Perfect Work: Trials and Sanctification in the Book of James
52 Dan G. McCartney
The Wisdom of James the Just
66 Sermon: Daniel L. Akin
The Power of the Tongue, James 3:1-12

Elijah in the Seder Olam Rabbah

Regarding the eschatological return of Elijah, it is interesting to note Seder Olam 17. Milikowski dates the Seder Olam to the 2nd cent. (attributed to R. Yose ben Halaphta). Here there is not just one return of Elijah, but two – during the days of the messiah, and later when “Gog will arrive.” This is significant for Christian eschatology and beliefs on the return of Elijah, given that the Gospels’ equation of John the Baptist with Elijah (or one who came in the “spirit and power of Elijah”) and Rev. 11’s two witnesses, who are patterned for a large part after Elijah, and who are said to be martyred by the Antichrist. Here is the text of the Seder Olam Rabbah:

In the second year of Ahaziah (King of Israel) Elijah was hidden away and is not seen until the messiah comes. In the days of the messiah he will be seen and hidden away a second time and will not be seen until Gog will arrive. At present he records the deeds of all generations.

אחזיהו בנ אחאב מלך שנתים ובשנה השנית לאחזיהו גיגנז אליהו ואינו נראה עד שיבוא משיח ובימות המשיח נראה וניגנז שינית ואינו נראה עד שיבא גוג ועכשו הוא כותב מעשה כל הדורות כולן

Translation by Chayim Milikowski, “Trajectories of Return, Restoration and Redemption in Rabbinic Judaism: Elijah, the Messiah, the War of Gog and the World to Come.” Pages 265-280 in Restoration: Old Testament, Jewish, and Christian Perspectives (ed. James M. Scott.; Supplements to the Journal for the Study of Judaism 72; Leiden: Brill, 2001), 267. Hebrew text of Seder Olam 17 from Joseph Milikowski, “Seder Olam: A Rabbinic Chronography” (Ph.D. diss. Yale University, 1981), 323-324.

The text is as follows in Heinrich W. Guggenheimer’s edition:

אֲחַזְיָה בֶן־אַחְב מָלַךְ שְׁנָתָיַם. וּבַשָּׁנָה הַשֵּׁנִית לְאֲחַזְיָה נִגְנָז אֵלִיָּהוּ וְלֹא נִרְאֶיה עַד שֶׁיָּבֹא מֶלֶךְ הַמָּשִׁיחַ וְנִרְאֶה ונִגְנָז שְׁנִיָּה עַד שֶׁיָּבֹא גוֹג וּמָגוג. וְעַכְשָׁיו הוּא כוֹתֵב מַעשֵׂה כָל־הַדּוֹרוֹת כֻּלָּם וָיָּמָת כִּדְבַר־ייי אֲשֶׁר־דִּבֵּר אֵלִיָּהוּ וגו׳.

Aḥaziah ben Aḥab ruled for two years. In Aḥaziah’s second year, Elijah was hidden and will not be seen again until King Messiah will come, then he will be seen, then hidden a second time until Gog and Magog come. But now he writes down the deeds of all generations. (2Kings 1:17) “He (Aḥaziah) died, following the Eternal’s word that Elijah had spoken.”

Seder Olam: The Rabbinic View of Biblical Chronology (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1998), 153-155.

Note also that according to Seder Olam, “In the year 13 of Aḥab there was a great famine in Samaria for three years, followed by war with Ben Hadad for 2 1/2 years” (Guggenheimer, 154).

Elijah in the Lives of the Prophets

Note a few things regarding the story of Elijah in the Lives of the Prophets 21:1-15:

  • (v. 2) At his birth, Elijah is given by an angel “flames of fire” to eat (cf. Rev 11:5; 2 Kgs 1:10-14).
  • (v. 5) He is said to pray for the drought and for the rain (cf. Jas 5:17-18).
  • (v. 4) Elijah’s prayer for drought and rain are referred to as “signs.”

Below is the Greek text from T. Schermann, Prophetarum vitae fabulosae (Leipzig: Teubner, 1907), 93-94 and the English trans. by D.R.A.Hare, “The Lives of the Prophets” (OTP 2:396-97).

καʹ. Ἠλίας Θεσβίτης ἐκ γῆς Ἀράβων, φυλῆς Ἀαρών, οἰκῶν ἐν Γαλαάδ, ὅτι ἡ Θέσβις δόμα ἦν τοῖς ἱερεῦσιν. Ὅτε εἶχε τεχθῆναι, εἶδε Σοβαχὰ ὁ πατὴρ αὐτοῦ, ὅτι ἄνδρες λευκοφανεῖς αὐτὸν προσηγόρευον, καὶ ὅτι ἐν πυρὶ αὐτὸν ἐσπαργάνουν, καὶ φλόγα πυρὸς ἐδίδουν αὐτῷ φαγεῖν καὶ ἐλθὼν ἀνήγγειλεν ἐν Ἱερουσαλὴμ καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ ὁ χρησμός· μὴ δειλιάσῃς· ἔσται γὰρ ἡ οἴκησις αὐτοῦ φῶς καὶ ὁ λόγος αὐτοῦ ἀπόφασις καὶ κρινεῖ τὸν Ἰσραήλ.
(94.) Τὰ δὲ σημεῖα ἃ ἐποίησεν, εἰσὶ ταῦτα· ηὔξατο Ἠλίας καὶ οὐκ ἔβρεξεν ἐπὶ ἔτη τρία καὶ πάλιν ηὔξατο μετὰ τρία ἔτη καὶ γέγονε πολὺς ὑετός· ἐν Σαρεφθοῖς τῆς Σιδωνίας
ἐποίησε διὰ ῥήματος κυρίου τὴν ὑδρίαν τῆς χήρας μὴ ἐκλεῖψαι καὶ τὴν καψάκην τοῦ ἐλαίου μὴ ἐλαττωθῆναι· τὸν υἱὸν αὐτῆς ἀποθανόντα ἤγειρεν ὁ θεὸς ἐκ νεκρῶν εὐξαμένου αὐτοῦ. Προβλήματος γενομένου παρ’ αὐτοῦ καὶ τῶν προφητῶν τοῦ Βάαλ, τίς ἂν εἴη ὁ ἀληθινὸς καὶ ὄντως θεός, ᾕρησε γενέσθαι θυσίαν παρά τε αὐτοῦ κἀκείνων καὶ μὴ ὑποθεῖναι πῦρ, ἀλλ’ ἕκαστον εὔξασθαι καὶ τὸν ἐπακούοντα αὐτὸν εἶναι θεόν. Οἱ μὲν οὖν τοῦ Βάαλ ηὔχοντο καὶ κατετέμνοντο ἕως ὥρας ἐνάτης καὶ οὐδεὶς αὐτοῖς ἐπήκουεν· ὁ δὲ Ἠλίας καὶ ὕδατος πολλοῦ πληρώσας τὸν τόπον, ἔνθα ἦν ἡ θυσία, ηὔξατο· καὶ εὐθὺς ἐπέπεσε πῦρ καὶ ἀνήλωσε τὴν θυσίαν, καὶ τὸ ὕδωρ ἐξέλειπεν· καὶ πάντες τὸν μὲν θεὸν εὐλόγησαν, τοὺς δὲ τοῦ Βάαλ ἀνεῖλον ὄντας τετρακοσίους πεντήκοντα. Τῷ βασιλεῖ Ὀζίᾳ ἀποστείλαντι μαντεύσασθαι παρὰ εἰδώλων προεφήτευσε θάνατον καὶ ἀπέθανεν.
Δύο πεντηκοντάρχων ἀποσταλέντων ἐπ’ αὐτὸν παρὰ Ὀχοζίου τοῦ βασιλέως Ἰσραὴλ ἐπεκαλέσατο τὸν κύριον καὶ πῦρ ἀπ’ οὐρανοῦ κατέβη κἀκείνους ἀνήλωσε τὸ πῦρ ἐκ προστάγματος κυρίου.
Κόρακες ἔφερον αὐτῷ ἄρτους τὸ πρωΐ, δείλης δὲ κρέα· τῇ μηλωτῇ ἐπάταξε τὸν Ἰορδάνην καὶ διῃρέθη καὶ διέβησαν ξηρῷ τῷ ποδὶ, αὐτός τε καὶ Ἐλισαῖος· τὸ τελευταῖον ἀνελήφθη ἅρματι πυρός.
1 Elijah, a Thesbite from the land of the Arabs of Aaron’s tribe, was living in Gilead, for Thesbe was given to the priests. 2 When he was to be born, his father Sobacha saw that men of shining white appearance were greeting him and wrapping him in fire, and they gave him flames of fire to eat. 3 And he went and reported (this) in Jerusalem, and the oracle told him, Do not be afraid, for his dwelling will be light and his word judgment, and he will judge Israel.
4 The signs which he did are these. 5 Elijah prayed, and it did not rain for three years, and after three years he prayed again and abundant rain came. 6 In Zerephath of Sidon through the word of the Lord he made the jar of the widow not to fail and the flask of oil not to diminish. 7 Her son who had died God raised from the dead after (Elijah) prayed. 8 When the question was posed by him and the prophets of Baal concerning who is the true and real God, he proposed that a sacrifice be offered both by him and by them, and that fire not be placed under (it), but that each should pray, and the one answering him would be God. 9 Accordingly, the (prophets) of Baal prayed and cut themselves until the ninth hour, and no one answered them; and Elijah, when he had filled the place where the sacrifice was with much water, also prayed, and immediately fire came down and consumed the sacrifice, and the water was gone. 10 And all blessed God, and killed the four hundred and fifty (prophets) of Baal. 11 When King Ahaziah sent to obtain an oracle from idols, (Elijah) prophesied death, and he died.
12 When two captains of fifty were sent to him from Ahaziah, the king of Israel, he invoked the Lord and fire came down from heaven, and the fire consumed them at the Lord’s command.
13 Ravens brought him bread in the morning and meat in the afternoon. 14 With a sheepskin he struck the Jordan and it was divided, and they crossed over with dry feet, both he and Elisha. 15 Finally he was taken up in a chariot of fire.

Elijah prays for fire according to Josephus…

As Elijah “prays” for drought in James 5:17, so he prays for fire to consume his enemies in Josephus, Ant. 9.2 §23:

And when the captain that was sent found Elijah sitting upon the top of a hill, he commanded him to come down, and to come to the king, for so had he enjoined: but that in case he refused, they would carry him by force. Elijah said to him, “That you may have a trial whether I be a true prophet, I will pray that fire may fall from heaven, and kill both the soldiers and yourself.” So he prayed, and a whirlwind of fire fell [from heaven], and killed the captain, and those who were with him (Whiston’s translation). εὑρὼν δὲ τὸν ᾽Ηλίαν ὁ πεμφθεὶς ταξίαρχος ἐπὶ τῆς κορυφῆς τοῦ ὄρους καθεζόμενον καταβάντα ἥκειν ἐκέλευε πρὸς τὸν βασιλέα κελεύειν γὰρ τοῦτο ἐκεῖνον εἰ δὲ μὴ θελήσειεν ἄκοντα βιάσεσθαι ὁ δὲ εἰπὼν πρὸς αὐτὸν ἐπὶ πείρᾳ τοῦ προφήτης ἀληθὴς ὑπάρχειν εὔξεσθαι πῦρ ἀπ᾽ οὐρανοῦ πεσὸν ἀπολέσαι τούς τε στρατιώτας καὶ αὐτὸν εὔχεται καὶ πρηστὴρ κατενεχθεὶς διαφθείρει τόν τε ταξίαρχον καὶ τοὺς σὺν αὐτῷ

Canadian Theses on James

Neil Fernyhough, “Constructing the world of wealth in the Epistle of James.” M.Th. thesis. Vancouver School of Theology, 2001. Abstract available HERE. Full text PDF available HERE.

Alicia Batten, “Unworldly friendship: the Epistle of Straw reconsidered.” Ph.D. diss. University of St. Michael’s College, 2000. Abstract available HERE. Full text PDF available HERE.