James 1:1-11

We will actually begin our study of James this Tuesday.  Please read James 1.  In his writing, James heavily relies upon Jewish wisdom literature and the teachings of Jesus.  If you have time before Tuesday, please also read Proverbs 3, Sirach 15:11-20, and Matthew 5-7 (Sermon on the Mount).

As you read through James 1 this week, there are a few keywords to which to pay particular attention. First, after the brief greeting, James begins his work with the assonance (in Greek) “Pasan charan” (v.2) which literally means “All joy.”  In other words, the Christian life that James will describe in his letter begins with the recognition that a pervasive and all-encompassing joy is the essential characteristic of the Christian life despite what may come our way.  This understanding of the centrality of joy in the Christian experience is found throughout the apostolic witness in the New Testament. (See, Acts 13:52, Phil. 1:4, 1 Peter 1:8, 1 John 1:4).

Another key word in James 1 is the Greek word diakrinomenos (doubt/waver) in v.6. Diakrinomenos (which is generally translated as “doubt”) literally means to judge thoroughly or back-and-forth. It has the negative connotation of “analysis-paralysis” or of being unable to make a firm decision.  Its sense is not to doubt a fact, but to vacillate or to waver between two options. Therefore, in his juxtaposition between faith and doubt in vv. 6-8, James is not speaking about whether his audience assents to a particular doctrine such as would later be found in the Creeds. Rather, James is concerned with whether we place our full trust in God. Doubt isn’t the opposite of belief but the opposite of being steadfast. A doubter is one who wavers in placing his trust in God. James’ statements here are similar to Jesus’ teachings on faith and moving mountains (Matt. 17:20, Matt. 21:21).

The final keyword in James 1 is the Greek word rhyparia in v.21 (which is not used anywhere else in Scripture). The word generally meant filth or dirt. Therefore, James is usually translated as saying: “Let every man be quick to hear . . . put away all filthiness . . . and receive . . . the implanted word.” However, rhyparia was also used to specifically denote discharges from the ear or earwax. Therefore, vv.19-21 can also be translated as “Let every man be quick to hear . . . remove your earwax (or ear pus) . . . and receive . . . the implanted word.”  We have all experienced an ear infection that interferes with our hearing. In using the word rhyparia, James appears to be making this analogy that just as an ear blockage prevents us from hearing someone speaking to us, so our manner of life can also prevent us from hearing God speak to us. Therefore, we must remove those things that interfere with our hearing. See, Matt. 13:16.

Dinner is at 6. The menu is turkey areyas. Discussion about 6:45. Hope to see you here. Please bring a friend.   

Therefore I prayed, and understanding was given me;
I called upon God, and the spirit of wisdom came to me.
For wisdom is more mobile than any motion;
   because of her pureness she pervades and penetrates all things.
For she is a breath of the power of God,
  and a pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty;
   therefore nothing defiled gains entrance into her.
For she is a reflection of eternal light,
   a spotless mirror of the working of God,
   and an image of his goodness.

Wisdom of Solomon 7:7, 24-26


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