Tuesday, November 18, 2008

ZECNT 2 - Structure of James

Does James have any kind of structure to it or is it just random thoughts thrown together? A number of years ago a pastor at a church I was attending preached through James. It was a great series but it was a series on various topics as presented in James. I never got the impression that there was anything tying these thoughts together or that they had any relationship to each other. Enter Blomberg and Kamell (hereafter B/K). Readers of Blomberg have already had a taste of his thoughts on James from two previous publications: Neither Poverty nor Riches, and From Pentecost to Patmos. He has made a few adjustments (most notably in his outline) but substantially his views have remained the same. Commentators are all over the map on the structure of James. Some seeing a good deal of structure while others see none (Dibelius is the one everyone points to on this one although Luther didn't see much organization either). On the scale of things B/K see a good deal of structure although they are cautious with their conclusions. They readily admit "that we may still be imposing more structure on the text than James had in mind. . . Still, even if this outline enables us merely to identify the three dominant themes of the letter, it seems worth generating." (26) What are those themes? They are: 1. Trials in the Christian Life, 2. Wisdom, and 3. Riches and Poverty. Indeed, they see a chiastic structure in the book which ends up placing the theme of riches and poverty as the most important of the three. (See the chiastic outline in From Pentecost to Patmos, p. 391, regrettably this chart was not included in the ZEC.) B/K see these themes introduced in 1:2-11 and restated in 1:12-27. These themes are then picked up again and expounded in 2:1-5:18. Riches and poverty are treated in 2:1-26, Wisdom and Speech in 3:1-4:12, and Trials and Temptations in 4:13-5:18. While I'm not entirely convinced on some of the details the general outline is growing on me. Even those who don't see as tight a structure as B/K, (ala Moo) they do seem to appreciate the repeating themes present in the book. All in all I think the outline deserves attention. Later this week I'll address a couple of individual passages in James.

No comments: