Allison - The Epistle of James

Dale C. Allison, Jr. -The Epistle of James - A Critical and Exegetical Commentary
The book of James has been dubbed 'the enigma of the New Testament', and critical opinion regarding the letter is unusually diverse.
 
Some attribute James to a brother of Jesus and deem it to be the earliest extant Christian writing. Others assign it to an unknown individual who wrote in the first part of the second century or even later. Some espy in the letter a coherent global structure. Others regard the work as without overall plan. Some classify James as an example of paraenetical literature that does not require or reflect a particular "Sitz im Leben". Others read between the lines any number of specific scenarios involving the author and his first readers. A few have doubted that the book was composed by a Christian. Most to the contrary read Christian doctrine and practice into almost every line.
Perhaps such disparity in judgment should cause despair. If the experts disagree so much over this 'oddity' within the canon, are there really enough clues to solve the case? In this writer's judgment, however, some arguments are better than others, and we do indeed know enough to adjudicate plausibly between many of the conflicting proposals. The following pages accordingly do not just catalogue opinions: they also as often as not take sides.
 

Dale C. Allison, Jr. -The Epistle of James - A Critical and Exegetical Commentary

Bloomsbury, 2013 - 790 pp.
ISBN 978-0-567-07740-0
 

Dale C. Allison, Jr. -The Epistle of James - A Critical and Exegetical Commentary - Contents

General Editors' Preface 
Preface 
Literature 
INTRODUCTION 
  • I. AUTHOR AND DATE 
  • II. SITZ IM LEBEN 
  • III. SOURCES 
  • IV. GENRE 
  • V. STRUCTURE  
  • VI. LITERARY CHARACTERISTICS 
  • VII. LEADING IDEAS 
  • VIII. LOCAL ORIGIN 
  • IX. TEXT 
  • X. THE RECEPTION OF JAMES 
COMMENTARY 
  • I.  SALUTATION AND ADDRESS (1.1) 
  • II.  THE OUTCOME OF TRIAL (1.2-4) 
  • III. WISDOM, FAITH, DOUBT (1.5-8) 
  • IV. THE CONTRARY FUTURES OF POOR AND RICH (1.9-11) 
  • V. TEMPTATION AND GOD (1.12-15) 
  • VI. THE GOODNESS OF GOD (1.16-18) 
  • VII. QUICK TO HEAR, SLOW TO SPEAK, SLOW TO ANGER (1.19-21) 
  • VIII. HEARING AND DOING (1.22-25) 
  • IX. PURE RELIGION (1.26-27)
  • X. PARTIALITY CONDEMNED (2.1-13) 
  • XI. FAITH WITHOUT WORKS (2.14-26) 
  • XII. THE SINS OF SPEECH (3.1-12) 
  • XIII. WISDOM, HUMILITY, PEACE (3.13-18) 
  • XIV. FRIENDSHIP WITH THE WORLD VERSUS FRIENDSHIP WITH GOD (4.1 -12)
  • XV. DENUNCIATIONS OF THE PROSPEROUS (4.13-5.6) 
  • XVI. THE NEAR END AND PATIENT ENDURANCE (5.7-11) 
  • XVII. PROHIBITION OF OATHS (5.12) 
  • XVIII. PRAYER, HEALING, RESTORATION (5.13-20)

Dale C. Allison, Jr. -The Epistle of James - A Critical and Exegetical Commentary - Structure

 
Echoing Luther's verdict that James 'throws things together chaotically', de Wette wrote that the book is 'without plan or arrangement'. Many have been of the same mind, including the influential Dibelius, who affirmed that 'the entire document lacks continuity in thought'. For him, the frequent catchword connections are purely formal, and the aphoristic formulations—especially in chap. 1—should be understood in isolation. Yet just as recent work on Proverbs has more and more tended to find coherence between nearby sayings and to offer contextual interpretations, so too with James: Dibelius' practice of interpreting small units as though they were quarantined from their surroundings appears to belong to the past. Davids, 25, is typical of more recent work: James is 'a carefully constructed work'.
Although rejection of Dibelius is the current consensus, there remains no agreement as to what to put in its place. That is, those who agree that James displays thematic coherence disagree on how precisely the book is put together. This lack of concord has led Bauckham to suspect that 'something must be wrong with the goal that is being attempted', that is, with the attempt to uncover the overall literary structure ofthe work. He rightly observes that coherence of thought does not require a carefully composed structure and that it further does not demand a sequential argument. His own proposal finds in James three major parts:
A  Prescript (1.1)
B  Introduction (1.2-27)
C  Exposition (2-5)
 
This commentator largely agrees with Bauckham. 1.1 is the prescript, 1.2-27 serves as an introduction of sorts, and 2.1-5.20 is the main body, or at least the rest of the letter.
Regrettably it is hard to say much more, and one expects no forthcoming consensus on the issue. Some writers are more organized than others, and James was not one of the more organized; thus his work can be analyzed any number of ways. One recalls that it is much easier to identify major structural keys in Matthew than it is to divine the global organization of Mark. In this respect, James is more like the Second Gospel than the First. Exegetes have disputed and will forever dispute whether Jas 1.12 goes with 1.9-11 or with 13-15 or with 13-16 or with 13-18, or whether 4.11-12 belongs with 4.1 -10 or constitutes an isolated section, or whether 4.13-17 and 5.1-6 are two halves of a whole or rather two independent pieces, or whether 5.12 is in any way tied to its immediate context. The debates regarding these and related issues—above all the coherence of the aphoristic units in chap. 1—will never conclude because James too often fails to demarcate its units in evident ways. Scholars may wish to draw straight lines, but James remains fuzzy. One sympathizes with Popkes, 57, who makes no attempt to offer a comprehensive outline. A commentator, of course, must of necessity divide the text into discrete sections; but this writer freely confesses that his decisions have sometimes been dictated by convenience, not by a deep conviction that any other analysis would be inappropriate.
 

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