Context is King – Even in Movie Trailers

For those teachers out there who would stress to their students the importance of context when interpreting Scripture, the following re-edited movie trailers on YouTube could very well serve as excellent examples. When the context is removed, you can make the harmless seem harmful and the harmful seem harmless:

TEXT – CONTEXT = PRETEXT

Predestined Romance

I’m not a Calvinist, nor am I the son of a Calvinist, but I attend a predominantly Calvinist seminary (at least in the theology dept.). While this has nothing to do with James, I thought someone might get a kick out of this Calvinist Romance Novel that was found on the web by one of my coworkers:Calvinist Romance NovelI’m not exactly sure who is responsible for the artwork, but my coworker found it on “The Pleasant Blog.”

PhD – a comic strip for grad students

I’ve stumbled upon a comic strip for grad students. Based at Stanford, PhD (standing for “piled higher and deeper”) chronicles the pains and the joys of being a grad student. I know that many of the folks who read this blog are either seminary/grad students or work with the species on a regular basis, so I figured I’d pass it along. Too bad they don’t have a theology or biblical studies grad student in the host of characters… Nonetheless, I can still identify with much of the material. ENJOY!

Van Halen & the Epistle of James – “Fire in the Hole”


The Epistle of James in pop culture seems to be a fitting topic for this blog, and recently such a reference to the strawy epistle showed up on the blog, “Colossians 3:16.” There, Terry Mattingly’s new book, Pop Goes Religion is highlighted. Mattingly describes an overt reference to James 3 by the glam-metal group, Van Halen, in the song “Fire in the Hole” off of the Van Halen III album:

there’s a fire in the hole
fire in the hole
there’s a fire in the hole, fire

rudder of ship, which sets the course
does not the bit, bridle the horse
great is the forest, set by a small flame
like a tongue on fire, no one can tame

As Mattingly says, “it doesn’t take a degree in New Testament studies” to see the connection with James 3 in the last stanza. The title of the song itself is a referent to v. 6:

The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

Gary Cherone (once a member of the band and co-author of this song) is a Christian and intentionally made reference to James (see Mattingly, Pop Goes Religion, pp. 2-3).

The “James” in James T. Kirk = James the Just

Each day I do a blog search for anything written about James the Just or the Epistle of James. This time, I found a real gem! T. J. Sode writes:

Did you know that the original Star Trek was a subliminal attempt by the Roman Catholic Church to convert the masses back to true Christianity? Who is the Captain of the Enterprise? James Tiberius Kirk. James is the brother of Jesus, and after the crucifixion, James became the leader of the early sect. Tiberius was a Roman emperor. Kirk is the most common European spelling for the English word “church.” James T. Kirk = Jesus, Roman, church. We have a Kirk or church flying through space, representing an unseen Starfleet.

Of course, Sode goes on to explain some “fascinating” connections between Spock (who represents Satan) and McCoy (who represents the “true faith”). Don’t you just love speculative “exegesis?” I wonder if there are any Trekkies out there who could chime in… Are there other connections between James T. Kirk and James the Just?

James the Just had Dreadlocks

Sideshow BobJames the Just had “dreadlocks” according to Wikipedia:

Germanic tribes, the Vikings, the Greeks, the Pacific Ocean peoples, the Naga people and several ascetic groups within various major religions have at times worn their hair in dreadlocks. In addition to the Nazirites of Judaism and the Sadhus of Hinduism, there are the Dervishes of Islam and the Coptic Monks of Christianity, among others. The very earliest Christians also may have worn this hairstyle. Particularly noteworthy are descriptions of James the Just, “brother of Jesus” and first Bishop of Jerusalem, who wore them to his ankles.

I don’t know about this one. Hegesippus (via Eusebius) describes James:

He was holy from his mother’s womb; and he drank no wine nor strong drink, nor did he eat flesh. No razor came upon his head; he did not anoint himself with oil, and he did not use the bath. (Ecclesiastical History 2.23.5)

While I’m not sure exactly what hairstyle in which James wore his locks, the text certainly does not say that it was in dreads. Nor does it mention James’ hair reaching his ankles. On the other hand, if one interprets Hegesippus’ account as describing James the Just as a Nazirite, then I guess one could infer (based on Judges 16:13, 19) that James had “locks” (מחלפות) of hair, as did Samson – who is often held as the Nazirite par excellence. Of course, even if it could be proven that Samson’s locks were dreadlocks, it does not follow that all Nazirites had dreadlocks.

Interestingly enough, Daniel Stökl Ben Ezra contends that James’ ascetic lifestyle (as described by Hegesippus & Epiphanius) is more characteristic of the fasting of the high priest during the celebration of Yom Kippur. Interesting concept. I hope to explore this a bit further. See his monograph, The Impact of Yom Kippur on Early Christianity (WUNT 163; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2003), 246-250; see also his article, “‘Christians’ Observing ‘Jewish’ Festivals of Autumn,” pages 53-71 in Image of the Judaeo-Christians in Ancient Jewish and Christian Literature (Tübingen : Mohr Siebeck, 2003).

Hmm… I wonder what Sideshow Bob would have to say about this?

Introductions…

James the brother of Jesus, or “James the Just,” was the first ἐπίσκοπος (episkopos or “bishop”) of Jerusalem in the early church. In spite of his importance, the study of the “historical James” has been largely neglected by biblical scholars until recently. The discovery of the supposed James Ossuary (a box that may have once contained his bones) has sparked quite a flury of interest [MORE]. There have also been a series of publications that have emerged out of the discussions held at the Institute of Advanced Theology at Bard College [MORE].

My own interest in James began with my study of the Epistle of James as a teenager in the A/G program “Bible Quiz.” I quickly held fast to James’ challenge to endure in the midst of temptation/trial during my rocky teens. At seminary, I have spent much of my time studying the Epistle, and recently I have begun delving deeper into the historical situation of James the Just, who is possibly (and in my opinion-probably) the author.

In the future,
I plan to post pages contining primary resources for studying the historical James (both in the original language and in standard English translations). I hope also to collect links to various print and electronic resources that pertain to Jacobean studies, along my own research from the past.

For the next academic year, I plan on writing a thesis on James’ use of Elijah as an example of prayer (5:17-18). I hope to post research on the topic here, with the goal of “discussing” my findings with others who may be interested.