From:  A Torah Commentary on James 1-2                         Return to Home        

By Roland H. Worth, Jr.                               © 2014

 

 

 

[Page 133]    

 

 

 

 

 

Introduction 3:

Use of the Teachings of Jesus

 

 

 

 

            That James utilizes a large number of Jesus’ ideas and concepts can easily be proven.  Indeed, the degree of similarity has compelled commentators to commonly argue that these are the result of the impact of either one or more of the gospels on James or the hypothetical written documents they used as sources.  Alternatively, if one is an advocate of an extremely early dating of James, that these are “the earliest available form of some of the sayings of Jesus.”[1] 

In my judgement, this makes a major interpretive error—even in the clearest cases of reliance:  even here it often confuses clear usage and intended quotation.  If intended as quotation why are these not clearly identified as such?  James is quite capable of quoting “the royal law according to the scripture” and then giving the words (2:8).  Why, not once, is there a reference such as “and Jesus said” and then providing the words?  Hence, in most cases, allusion or summation--rather than full quotation--seems far more likely to be the proper terminology in making the linkage between Jesus and the details of James’ arguments.           

[Page 134]                  Following is a survey of representative remarks by James and their quite possible / probable roots in the teachings of Jesus as suggested by various commentators and analysts.  Though hardly comprehensive, it provides an easily usable survey of the type of parallels one is most likely to encounter. 

            Dean B. Deppe surveyed 60 commentators and scholars who wrote between 1833 and 1985.  The largest number of parallels (184) were found in 1833 by Thiele.  The next largest figures come from Mayor in 1892 (65), Davids in 1985 (52), and Spitta in 1896 (50).  The numbers drop to 39 parallels (Sidebottom, 1967), then to 30 and below.[2]  We have noted the cases where 30 or more endorsed parallelism—i.e., where at least half of those surveyed were convinced of clear reliance or actual -quotation being involved.  

We go into these at relative length because one more commonly runs into an assertion of the linkage or a modest size list of parallels, but far less often someone who actually presents the material in a quoted, easy to follow alignment such as here.  Our discussion will also be orientated toward the English only reader.  

It should be remembered that some remarks of Jesus may only be suggestive of similar comments by James and nothing more.  There is a profound difference between grasping this fundamental truth of a user-source connection and overstating it.  The evidence seems abundant enough without such “gilding of the lily.”  These come into significance to the extent that we recognize clear-cut ones and ones where the probability of a connection seems likely.[3] 

Hence James at least alludes to such teachings repeatedly, whether they arise to the level of “quotation” or not.  The fact that there are so many, however, is a powerful evidence of how deeply the memory of Jesus’ personal teachings had penetrated the [Page 135]   minds of His followers and how it shaped not only their beliefs but how they expressed them.  Furthermore, the large number of such similarities argues powerfully for an extremely early date of the epistle when the direct personal memory of those words would be the most common and widespread.  

            We readily admit to a considerable skepticism of how much these parallels are direct evidence that James consciously utilized the memory of Jesus’ words.  On the other hand we must—as noted above—take into consideration the very significant number of such cases.  Even when, individually, we might hedge conscious linkage of the two, do not the very number of them argue that there has to be something far more significant working here than mere verbal coincidence?

After presenting a list of some of the correspondences, David H. Edgar comes to a similar conclusion as he writes,[4]

 

None of them is exactly identical with the wording of the gospel traditions, and, taken singly, many, perhaps even most, can plausibly be explained as simply sharing a common ethos.  Taken as a whole, however, the resonances are too frequent and consistent to be explained satisfactorily as accidents of a common general outlook.

 

            We should also keep in mind that both James and Jesus were brought up in a culture where knowledge of the Torah and prophets was prized.  Hence it would not be surprising that both based concepts on that source and that, in individual cases, (1) James could be alluding to / citing / quoting Jesus, (2) he could be quoting / referring to the Old Testament, or (3) he could be intending his readers to consider the origin of the teaching in both sources.  

 

[Page 136]

 

 

James, Chapter One

 

James 1:2

 

James:  “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials.”

                        Jesus:  Matthew 5:11 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute

you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.  12 Rejoice and

be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they

persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

            Luke 6:22 “Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they

exclude you, and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of

Man's sake.  23 Rejoice in that day and leap for joy!  For indeed your reward

is great in heaven, for in like manner their fathers did to the prophets.”

 

 

            In James’ teaching the reward promised for successfully enduring “various trials” (1:2) is a fully developed spiritual maturity on earth—“perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (1:4).  In contrast Jesus was speaking of “your reward in heaven” rather than on earth.[5]

            In Jesus’ teaching the plea for pride in enduring adversity is because the suffering is “for My sake.”  In contrast, in James it is disassociated from any religious cause.  [Page 137]   Although their Christian faith might be an element, the way the mistreatment is described in the epistle sounds more like the “rough knocks” that life often sends on the economically less prosperous through abuse at the hands of the powerful.

           

 

 

James 1:4

 

James:  “But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

                        Jesus:  Matthew 5:48 “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your

Father in heaven is perfect.”

 

 

            Those seeing a parallel here speak in terms of both texts making a plea for perfection.  In James the subject, however, is “patience” being perfected through the endurance of “trials” (verse 2).  In Matthew the subject is gaining the “perfect[ion]” through love (5:44, 46)--and treating even enemies the same as loved ones.  Both have the idea of being on the receiving end of unjust treatment and in Matthew it explicitly includes decent treatment of those who have caused the injustice (verse 44).

            That both embraced the same concept seems clear, but did James’ teaching come from Jesus or from the Old Testament?  In a very real sense we could rightly answer “both” since the importance of the Old Testament teaching would have been reinforced by Jesus’ own stress on the subject.  Hence the better way to express the root problem is:  Is there something distinctively “Jesus” in the usage that can’t be attributed to the Old Testament.  That seems a clear reach.

[Page 138]                  In Deuteronomy 18:13 the admonition is, “You shall be blameless before the Lord your God,” which is presented as the reverse of following the various “abominations” of the land they were entering (verses 10-12).  

            Noah was pictured as meeting that ideal of personal character:  “Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations” (Genesis 6:9); “a righteous man, blameless in his time” (NASB).  Similarly, Job is described as “blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil” (Job 1:1).  

           

 

James 1:5

 

                        James:  “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to

all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”

            Jesus:  Matthew 7:7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you

will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  8 For everyone who asks

receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.  11

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how

much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who

ask Him!”

            Luke 11:9 “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and

you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  10 For everyone who asks

receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.  13

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how

much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask

Him!”

 

[Page 139]

            45 scholars out of 60 see this as garnered from Jesus teaching.[6]

This is the application of a broader principle Jesus laid down about “ask[ing]” in general.  The subject matter is clearly the same, that of prayer. 

Wesley L. Wachob and Luke T. Johnson insist that James “has recited, in his own words, the essence of both the fundamental exhortation . . . and the fundamental conclusion” found in these verses.[7] But are the idea of seeking God’s help and receiving a Divine gift / assistance so unique to Jesus that that is the only place James could have found it—especially since the concession is made that he doesn’t even use the same words?  Are not the twin concepts of seeking and receiving fundamental to the very concept of prayer found in both testaments?  How then can it be so uniquely rooted in Jesus’ teaching?

Jesus does not specifically mention God giving wisdom when one prays for it; the Old Testament, however, does: 

 

3 Yes, if you cry out for discernment, and lift up your voice for understanding,  4 if you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures;  5 then you will understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God.   6 For the Lord gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding;   7 He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk uprightly (Proverbs 2).

 

[Page 140]     

This text and similar remarks in Biblical and non-Biblical Jewish “wisdom literature” have been appealed to, quite reasonably, as providing an adequate solution to where James had learned the concept.[8]

On course, the theme can be found in a broader selection of passages as well.  For example, in Psalms 119 “understanding” is used repeatedly as if, in part, a synonym for wisdom and insight.  Prayer to God is involved in the hope of obtaining it:

 

119:34:   Give me understanding [“wisdom,” BBE], and I shall keep Your law; indeed, I shall observe it with my whole heart.

119:73:  Your hands have made me and fashioned me; give me understanding [“wisdom,” BBE; “make me wise enough,” CEV], that I may learn Your commandments.

119:125:  I am Your servant; give me understanding [“discernment,” NIV; “wisdom,” BBE], that I may know Your testimonies.

119:144:  The righteousness of Your testimonies is everlasting; give me understanding [“wisdom,” BBE], and I shall live.

119:169:  Let my cry come before You, O Lord; give me understanding [“wisdom,” BBE] according to Your word.

 

[Page 141]                  Dean B. Deppe, in his massive study of alleged Jesus statements in James, finds here not a direct quotation but “a deliberate allusion to Jesus’ teaching as indicated by the common wording, similar subject matter, and the weight of support from the history of interpretation.”[9]  The last claim is based upon the fact that he found it number three in popularity of all the texts claimed to have a direct origin in what Jesus taught.[10]  The “common wording” essentially comes down to the single word “ask” and the “similar subject matter” that prayer will be answered.  Is there anything uniquely “Jesus” in these two themes? 

It would be startling if James was unaware of what Jesus taught on the subject.  On the other hand, to single Him out as if “the = unique” source of James’ teaching seems to push the evidence far beyond what is required or even strongly encouraged by the texts.  Both James and Jesus are echoes of their shared Jewish spiritual heritage found in the Old Testament.  Could James have said what he did without having both in mind?

 

 

 

James 1:6

 

                        James:  “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts

is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.”

            Jesus:  Matthew 21:21 “So Jesus answered and said to them,

‘Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only

do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, ‘Be

removed and be cast into the sea,’ it will be done.”

            Mark 11:23 “For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this

mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his

heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have

whatever he says.

 

[Page 142]

            The verbal parallel between Jesus “if you have faith and do not doubt” has a quite convincing verbal parallel in James’ “ask in faith, with no doubting.”  In my judgement, this is one of the most probable of the borrowings.  Although one could find demands for faith and condemnation of doubt in both testaments, one would need a convincing mention of both in the same text as there is in the case of Matthew 21:21.

            One also has the case of the “sea” being envolved—though in very different ways.  In James it is one of being personally whipped about by the winds at sea; in Jesus the subject being the “mountain” being cast into the sea.  Hence there are three verbal links between the two speakers:  “faith,” “doubt,” and the “sea.” 

This much verbal linkage would seem to be very odd when it occurs within the confines of one single verse.  One or, maybe, even two of these might make one wonder if the linkage has truly passed into the area of necessary inference, but surely three should.

            On the other side of the matter, the “sea” imagery is rejected as significant by some because it was so widely known and because it is used in such a different manner in the two speakers.[11]

             

[Page 143]

 

James 1:9

 

                        James: “Let the lowly brother glory in his exaltation, 10 but the rich

in his humiliation, because as a flower of the field he will pass away.”

            Jesus:  Matthew 23:12 “And whoever exalts himself will be humbled,

and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

            Luke 14:11 “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who

humbles himself will be exalted.”

 

 

            This is essentially the same point made in James 4:11 and the similarities and differences will be discussed at that point.         

 

 

 

James 1:17

 

                        James:  “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and

            comes down from the Father of lights. . . .”

                        Jesus:  Matthew 7:11 “If you then, being evil, know how to give good

gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give

good things to those who ask Him!”

            Luke 11:13 “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to

your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit

to those who ask Him!”

 

 

[Page 144]                  In Matthew the statement of promised gifts is as broad as in James, but in Luke it is limited to one particular item—the Holy Spirit.  Virtually by definition what else is God expected to give but “good” gifts?  The deduction is seemingly inherent in the very definition of God’s nature and any intervention in earthly affairs that He may make on behalf of His faithful people. 

            Furthermore, the Old Testament explicitly embraces the teaching as well.  In Psalms 84:11, the people are reminded that “the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord will give grace and glory; no good things will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.”  In the next chapter the theme is again raised, “Yes, the Lord will give what is good; and our land will yield its increase” (Psalms 85:12).

Hence the ultimate derivation of both Jesus’ and James’ usage would seem to be the Old Testament.  Although he was surely aware of what Jesus had said, there seems nothing in his words that would argue that Jesus’ presentation of God’s “good gift nature” is especially in mind.

             

 

James 1:21

 

                        James:  “. . . Receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able

to save your souls.”

             Jesus:  Luke 8:8 “ ‘But others fell on good ground, sprang up, and

yielded a  crop a hundredfold.’  When He had said these things He cried, ‘He

who has ears to hear, let him hear! . . . 15 But the ones that fell on the good

ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart,

keep it and bear fruit with patience.’ ”

 

[Page 145]

James B. Adamson argues that here “James is probably recalling the same parable given and expounded in Luke.”[12] On James 1:5, 9, 17, he expresses no reservations as to usage. 

In our current text, for both James and Jesus the idea is front and center that the word has been sown / planted in us and that it both can and will produce visible manifestations if we permit and encourage it.  The result is “bear[ing] fruit” in Luke and that covers all the positive and beneficial consequences of discipleship, but in James the particular benefit in mind is the salvational result.

The linkage stands out even further when one notes how James puts the responsibility for the success of the word on the hearer:  receive with meekness the implanted word.”  There is the implicit image of the hearer being the “ground” the seed works within and without whose concurrence nothing constructive will occur.  This image is certainly inherent in Jesus’ parable for it is only the “good ground” that receives the seed and where growth results.  In contrast, in the other “grounds” it all comes to nothing.  The reception is different.  

However, this is not imagery Jesus invented or is the only one known to use it.  For example, the concept of being planted by God is not unknown of the collectivity of God’s people in the Old Testament:

[Page 146]

Psalms 44:2:  You drove out the nations with Your hand, but them You planted; You afflicted the peoples, and cast them out.”

Psalms 80:8:  You have brought a vine out of Egypt; You have cast out the nations, and planted it.” 

Psalms 80:15:  And the vineyard which Your right hand has planted, and the branch that You made strong for Yourself.

Jeremiah 2:21:  “Yet I had planted you a noble vine, a seed of highest quality.  How then have you turned before Me Into the degenerate plant of an alien vine?”

 

Some of these images are, strictly speaking, of transplanting rather than growth from the seed stage, however:  Psalms 80:8 (“a vine out of Egypt”) is certainly such and 44:2 is likely the same.  The other two texts seem intended to refer to growth from the initial planting stage—a more strict parallel with the point of James and Jesus.

Furthermore, Jesus’ use is—like James’—of the individual and not the group.  So it is significant that the Old Testament also edges into something approaching an individual planting by God—clearly indicating that it was not just the nation but those in the nation being described.  Isaiah 60:21 is especially relevant and perhaps the best example:  “Also your people shall all be righteous; they shall inherit the land forever, the branch of My planting, the work of My hands, that I may be glorified.”  Yet even here the “people” and the “they” are collectively “the branch of my planting.”  The collectivity is again the center of attention.

[Page 147]                  Likewise in Ezekiel 17:22-24, it is “one of the highest branches” that will be planted (verse 22), but it will grow into a “high tree” and all will be impressed by it.  This is surely a description of the nation being planted and growing into an object of admiration.  Even “one of the highest branches” constitutes far more than a mere “seed.”

The closest we have to the strictly individual and not corporate emphasis of James and Jesus is likely Psalms 92:13, “Those who are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God.” 

Even here a major difference still exists:  in both Jesus and James the emphasis is on how individuals become what they should be morally and spiritually.  In Psalms 92:13, the emphasis is on one who is already part of God’s people for he is “planted in the house of the Lord:”  he has already grown from seed into a growth large enough to be transplanted into the place of worship. 

Hence we would seem to have the memory of Jesus’ individualistic “seed” teaching as the most probable source—at least major source—of James’ imagery.  The Old Testament refers to “[trans-]planting” of the individual grown seed, while Jesus emphasizes the seed itself from the initial planting stage.  Hence James’ usage seems to be imitating that particular type of usage.

To say that  Jesus had developed it from verbal precedents in the Old Testament is reasonable enough, but the teaching still stands distinctly enough on its own two feet.  And how James uses the text (“the implanted word”) far better fits that source than the Old Testament directly.   

 

[Page 148]

 

James 1:22

 

                        James:  “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving

            yourselves.”

                        Jesus:  Matthew 7:24 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of

Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on

the rock.”  

            Luke 6:46 “But why do you call Me 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do the

things which I say?”

 

 

            49 out of 60 commentators list this text as a usage of the teaching of Jesus.[13]

            Adamson argues that “the thought here is essentially that of Matthew and Luke” and that in these words “we may well have another unrecorded saying of Jesus.”  He concedes “equally possible is common Jewish influence.”[14] 

What is often forgotten about Jesus is that he was a preacher, which meant that the same themes got cycled and recycled before different audiences, varying verbally but not in core thought.  Hence one might have an “unrecorded saying of Jesus” but one is just as likely to be looking at a person who has well digested the teaching and is using its thrust to make his own point.  

            Furthermore, as Dean B. Deppe rightly argues, the doing / hearing contrast was well rooted in a wide variety of Jewish Biblical and non-Biblical sources:  “the prophets [Page 149]   (Ezekiel 33:32), the law (Deuteronomy 30:8 ff.), wisdom literature (Proverbs 6:3; Sirach 3:1), Jewish philosophical treatises (4 Maccabees ), Qumran, Philo, Josephus, the Mishnah, the Talmud. . . .”[15] 

As a follower (and possible kin of Jesus) it would be natural to filter the other sources through the lens of the teaching of Jesus, but there would still be the need to find evidence of a special reliance on that source to raise it above the others.  Is that really possible here?   

 

 

 

James 1:23

 

                        James:  “For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is

like a man observing his natural face in a mirror.’

            Jesus:  Matthew 7:26 “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine,

and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the

sand.”

            Luke 6:49 “But he who heard and did nothing is like a man who built

a house on the earth without a foundation, against which the stream beat

vehemently; and immediately it fell.  And the ruin of that house was great.”

 

 

            49 out of 60 scholars see this as derived from the teaching of Jesus.[16]  The discussion of this text is so closely tied in with James 1:22, that what was appropriate [Page 150]   there is also applicable in this case, at least for the first half of the verse:  Both Jesus and the Old Testament emphatically demanded that one not only hear God’s word, but also conform oneself to it. 

The illustrations to convey the point are different in James and Jesus (mirror versus building a house).  At the most we would have here conceptual borrowing by James that seems impossible to narrow down specifically to Jesus, while verbal borrowing there is none.           

 

 

 

James, Chapter Two

 

2:5

 

                        James:  “Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor

of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised

to those who love Him?”

            Jesus:  Matthew 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the

kingdom of heaven.  5 Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”

            Luke 6:20 “Then He lifted up His eyes toward His disciples, and said:

‘Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.’ ”

 

 

            Of 60 scholars surveyed, 43 saw a clear dependence on Jesus’ teaching.[17]

[Page 151]                  Both Luke and James speak of having the kingdom in terms not hedged by Matthew’s “poor in spirit,” making it as if economic status alone were pivotal.[18]  But would not that subtext be usually present as well?

If one may permit a tad of realistic cynicism, would not--as a group--the economically poor be “poor in spirit” as a result of their living conditions, in contrast to the “arrogance of spirit” that would be expected among the richer?  Hence they have already been humbled into an acknowledgment that they are not masters of their own destiny. 

In contrast, the weller-to-do would have to first have their delusions smashed before they are receptive to God’s kingdom.  Life has “broken” the pride of the poor already; only when the pride of the better off is broken can they, too, be willing to acknowledge their responsibility toward God—joining with the poor in a humility of spirit toward the Divine.

Of course the point of Luke could well be very different than this and we should consider that possibility as well.  Note the context:

 

20 Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.  21 Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be filled.  Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.  22 Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you, and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of Man's sake.  23 Rejoice in that day and leap for joy!  For indeed your reward is great in heaven, for in like manner their fathers did to the prophets.

 

[Page 152]                  Could not Jesus’ point be that “yours is the kingdom of Godin spite of being poor and not because of it?  In other words, the intention is not to emphasize some special blessing of the poor, but how they are defiantly not excluded from the Divine kingdom?  They will have just the same opportunity as anyone else and not one iota less.  And, as Jesus candidly points out, that includes in its suffering.

 

Wesley L. Wacob and Luke T. Johnson see confirming evidence of literary dependence by appealing to the context of James.  They argue that this entire section in defense of the poor begins with a plea to “not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality” (2:1).  They observe that in 2:5 we find what “the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ” was on the subject:  that the poor will be heirs of the kingdom”—and their’s being the kingdom is exactly the point taught in Matthew 5:3 and Luke 6:20.  Hence those texts are being relied upon by James, they insist.[19]   

 

What of a possible root in the Law and Prophets?  The Old Testament speaks much of God’s desire for the welfare of the poor—both physical and spiritual.  The need would be to find a text that linked them with being recipients (James, “heirs”) “of the kingdom.”  We read of how “He has given to the poor” (Psalms 112:9).  “Has,” past tense.  Although the deduction that He will continue to do so is a logical one, the promise in no way requires the idea of the “kingdom” being the gift.   

We read that “the meek shall inherit the earth” (Psalms 37:11). “Those blessed by Him shall inherit the earth, but those cursed by Him shall be cut off” is the promise in verse 22.  Is the “earth” to be taken as synonymous with the “kingdom?” in that the Divine realm is intended to be world wide?  Even if so, the implication is not developed of the two being one and the same. 

[Page 153]                  In Jesus’ teaching the “kingdom” promise, however, is made explicit and it is to the “poor” not the “meek,” though I readily admit that it would be surprising if---in real world terms—the two descriptions are anything but functional equivalents.  With the lack of Old Testament precedents, a reliance upon James seems inevitable. 

 

As to differences between Jesus and James:  “Our author [James] alone,” Adamson writes, “explicitly makes the blessing a promise for the future.”[20]  The key here may well be “heirs of the kingdom.”  One might well be the member of a royal family for decades, for example, before becoming “heir” to the crown, i.e., actually receive it. 

Likewise a person might well be in Christ’s kingdom for decades before “inheriting” (so to speak) the blessings that come at death and not before.  Although this is quite true, the heir status is now, the receiving of the benefits of being heir is what is future.  By its inherent nature that is always the case. 

So is the future aspect that much of a “difference” between Jesus and James at all?  I think not.  Jesus stresses its current reality; James its future reward.  The two concepts interlock as if parts of the same puzzle.

 

 

 

[Page 154]

James 2:8

 

                        James:  “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture,

‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you do well.’

            Jesus:  Matthew 22:39 “And the second is like it:  ‘You shall love your

neighbor as yourself.’  40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and

the Prophets.”

            Luke 10:27 “So he answered and said, ‘You shall love the Lord your

God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with

all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’  28 And He said to him, ‘You

have answered rightly; do this and you will live.’ ”

            Mark 12:28 “Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them

reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him,

‘Which is the first commandment of all?’  31 ‘And the second, like it, is this:

'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment

greater than these.’  33 And to love Him with all the heart, with all the

understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one's

neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and

sacrifices."

 

 

            Wachob and Johnson argue that James continues his elaboration on what “the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ” means in regard to “partiality” (2:1) and that the argument from Leviticus 19:18 makes the most sense if it is recognized that Jesus Himself had argued the same type of point from that very text.  Although they concede that other sources both Jewish and Christian (Biblical age and post) made the same or similar deductions--which weakens the power of the argument--it is still “hard to imagine” that the readers could have avoided the tie-in with Jesus’ teaching. 

[Page 155]                  Especially when they are reminded that they are discussing “the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ” in particular.[21]  In other words, Jesus is given as the reference point for the allusion and not the Torah. 

            In contrast, Dean B. Deppe is convinced that referencing the quote back to Jesus is fundamentally wrong for a reason that lies transparently and easily visible on the surface of the text:  “James states himself that he is quoting scripture; therefore he is recalling Leviticus 19:18, not any saying of Jesus.”[22] 

Of course this implicitly assumes that none of the Synoptics was written by this time—not even Mark.  Here we hit a paradox:  We have argued for a very early date for James being written (mid-30s to mid-40s); that makes it that much harder to argue for an even earlier composition of one of the Synoptics.  We simply seem to have run out of time for there to have arisen a perceived need  for a major detailed written account of Jesus’ life.  

Not to mention the question of whether these documents were originally embraced “simply as” inspired and authoritative or were considered “scripture” as well from the beginning.  Paul is certainly cited as scripture (2 Peter 3:16) and one would anticipate the gospels being similarly acknowledged.  But how quickly and how widespread?      

However one resolves the comparative dating of James versus that of the gospels, Deppe’s argument still seems the stronger of the two approaches.  “Scripture” is still language we most naturally connect with a description of the Old (rather than New) Testament as of when James was written.

 

           

[Page 156]

James 2:10

 

                        James:  “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in

one point, he is guilty of all.”

            Jesus:  Matthew 5:18 “For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and

earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till

all is fulfilled.  19 Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these

commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of

heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the

kingdom of heaven.”

            Luke 16:17 “And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than

for one tittle of the law to fail.”

 

 

            Although there is no verbal linkage between James and Jesus, the conceptual linkage and reliance is clear-cut.  Indeed, Jesus provides the reasoning that tells us why what James says has to be true:  in breaking a Divine commandment and teaching others there is nothing wrong with doing so, one has “literally” spit in the face of the law.  One has denied that that provision--and who knows how much else--is actually binding.  One has repudiated the power of law—in effect, that of the entire law. 

[Page 157]                  This is because by insisting that one had the right to validly challenge one segment, the door was effectively opened to challenging everything else that is in it.  And thereby be “guilty” (James’ word) of denying the authority of the entire Divine code.  For all of it has been subjected to your veto.  

            The closest Old Testament passage to the concept of violating one law as equivalent to violating the entire law (i.e., the system of law) is likely Deuteronomy 27:26, “Cursed is the one who does not confirm all the words of this law.  And all the people say Amen.”  The word “all” is a translator’s addition to convey the idea under discussion but is not part of the actual text. 

Yet the pledge being made makes no sense if it means anything less that all.  The RSV is making an interpretive addition in its translation, howbeit a valid one, because “confirm” doesn’t really make much sense without it:  “Cursed be he who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them.”

Also consider the similar warning in Deuteronomy 28:15, “But it shall come to pass, if you do not obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments and His statutes which I command you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you.”  It did not matter which commandment one broke, the Code itself had still been violated and punishment would come regardless of which specific provision was envolved. 

            One would not be violating the command against adultery by murder for example, but either of these (and a multitude of other actions) would violate the code in which both prohibitions are found.  In that sense one could be described as “guilty of all” in breaking the Code of behavior at any point.  Hence we can get to James 2:10 via this Old Testament route, but it does not seem as direct a route as working from the basis of what Jesus Himself taught.

                

           

 

[Page 158]

 

James 2:11

 

                        James:  “For He who said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘Do

not murder.’  Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you

have become a transgressor of the law.

            Jesus:   Matthew 5:21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old,

'You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the

judgment.'  27 You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not

commit adultery.’ ”  (Context verses 21-30)

 

 

            This strikes me as an oddity to introduce:  “He who said” in both James and Jesus surely refers to God Himself and not to Jesus.  This is not some occasion on which Jesus inveighed against either murder or adultery independent of a reference to the Ten Commandments. 

Furthermore, in both cases Jesus and James elaborated on the two commandments to make the point that, though good in their own right, far more is sinful as well.  It is not just murder that is evil but also the hatred and contempt that leads to it (Matthew 5:22); it is not just physical adultery that is sinful but the sexual fantasy of doing it as well (verse 28).  Hence it seems odd to introduce this as proof of a reliance on Jesus rather than where Jesus Himself got it from—the Old Testament.

[Page 159]                  When Jesus provides a lengthy presentation of varied sins (not all of which are directly discussed in the Ten Commandments), He refers to “murders, adulteries” (Matthew 15:19).  Even more direct evidence of how Jesus would have listed them is found in His response to the question of what He meant by the instruction to “keep the commandments” (19:17):  “ ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself” “ (Matthew 19:18-19). 

Hence it would seem far more likely that if Jesus Himself were to have made the remark James did—or an equivalent one—He would have constructed it verbally to mention murder first and then the adultery.  Therefore it seems far safer to conclude that James constructed his argument here directly on the basis of the Old Testament.

 

An aside:  In the bulk of Septuagint manuscripts, both the Exodus and Deuteronomy accounts of the Ten Commandments mention the adultery before the murder—as in James.  In the Masoretic Text of the Hebrew, however, the order is reversed--murder is mentioned before adultery.[23]

Has Septuagint usage influenced James’ choice of word order?  Has it affected him so much that he uses it without thinking?  This could lead to conclusions in diametrically opposite directions. 

On the one hand, it could be introduced as evidence for a non-Palestinian setting and later date for the epistle.  Alternatively, that the Septuagint tradition—delivered through the influence of Diaspora Jews in and visiting the region--had influenced usage [Page 160]   to the point that their order was just as acceptable in public religious discourse as the reverse one.  These “outsiders” would certainly have had a maximum impact upon James of Jerusalem--if we deem him the author--since his city would have been the obvious destination of any foreign Jew who was present for religious purposes.   

On the other hand, the term order could be used simply because it reflected the kind of world situation he was immediately dealing with and trying to improve:  that adultery was far more common than legal and semi-legal “murder” and destruction of livelihood.  In other words, his priority target was the behavior they would feel the guiltiest about and where they would be the most vulnerable to correction.  Here they were betraying not just “somebody” they may have barely known, but their very spouse.  If correction couldn’t be accepted here, where could it possibly be?
 
 

 

 

James 2:13

 

                        James:  “For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no

mercy.  Mercy triumphs over judgment.”

            Jesus:  Matthew 5:7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain

mercy.” 

            Luke 6:36 "Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is

merciful.”

 

 

[Page 161]                  The survey of 60 scholars found 40 embracing James’ usage of Jesus in this case.[24]

            The concept of God showing mercy, however, is certainly rooted in the Old Testament itself.  David spoke of how, “"With the merciful You will show Yourself merciful; with a blameless man You will show Yourself blameless” (2 Samuel 22:26) 

As to the concept of merciless judgment for those who show no mercy, it is hard to read verse 28 without believing that the implication of such is included:  “You will save the humble people; but Your eyes are on the haughty, that You may bring them down.”  The implication can also reasonably be found in such other texts as Daniel 4:27, Isaiah 58:6-12, and Psalms 41:1-4.  In short, why should these particular words be viewed as uniquely Jesus rather than Old Testament references?

Rabbinic tradition had no problem with the concept of either Jesus or James in this case.  One rabbi expressed it in words both would have found quite congenial, “Every time that thou art merciful, God will be merciful to thee; and if thou art not merciful, God will not show mercy to thee.”[25]  In short, this was an understanding of God that found wide support within Judaism, thereby minimizing the probability of provable reliance on the words of Jesus.  As Wachob and Johnson sum it up, “The road from possibility to probability is a long one, and cannot be traveled for James 2:13 with the available evidence.”[26] 

That James would be encouraged to make the argument because Jesus had emphasized mercy makes inherent sense.  All James has done is to adopt the reasoning of Jesus rather than using His words as a “quotation.”  That would seemingly require something significantly more explicit to make James’ readers detect it.           

[Page 162]

            On the other hand:  Although mercy for mercy has strong Old Testament roots, one might well find a significantly stronger case for reliance on Jesus--rather than a quotation of Him--in the closing words of the verse, “mercy triumphs over judgment.”  In the Judgment Day scene of Matthew 25:31-46, the people are judged on the basis of their mercy by God’s regal agent, Jesus. 

            Those who exhibited it are rewarded for their mercy to His followers:

 

34 Then the King will say to those on His right hand, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:  35 for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in;  36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.”

 

            Likewise those who lacked mercy are punished:

 

41 Then He will also say to those on the left hand, “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels:  42 for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink;  43 I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.”  44 Then they also will answer Him, saying, “Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?”  45 Then He will answer them, saying, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.”  46 And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.

 

[Page 163]

            Although the word mercy is not found, who can possibly deny that is the concept being discussed?  And how can that lead to anything but, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Jesus) and “for judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy.  Mercy triumphs over judgment” (James)?

            Furthermore Jesus Himself is the King in this passage that sets mercy given and non-mercy bringing punishment within a specifically judgment setting.  In light of that setting, Jesus’ formulation of the principle surely fits better for James’ inspiration than those Old Testament texts:   for here the concept of judgment is explicitly envolved and mercy received or rejected is the obvious result of that judgment. 

 

 

 

[Page 164]

 

James 2:15

 

                        James:  “If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food,  16

and one of you says to them, ‘Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,’ but you

do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it

profit?”

            Jesus:   Matthew 25:34 “Then the King will say to those on His right

hand, 'Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for

you from the foundation of the world:  35 for I was hungry and you gave Me

food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me

in.”

            John the Baptist:  Luke 3:11 “He answered and said to them, ‘He who

has two tunics, let him give to him who has none; and he who has food, let

him do likewise.’ ”

 

 

            The concept of helping the needy is certainly rooted in these texts:  from the Baptist, from the standpoint of it being an obligation; from Jesus from the standpoint of it playing a role in determining one’s eternal destiny.  Hence James’ teaching would be a logical deduction from these passages.  On the other hand, would it not also be a logical deduction from varied Old Testament texts enjoining the responsibility of helping the down and out?

            Isaiah 58 provides a fine example of this theme, one that is especially relevant:

 

7 Is this not the fast that I have chosen:  To loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke?  7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; when you see the naked, that you cover him, And not hide yourself from your own flesh?   8 Then your light shall break forth like the morning, your healing shall spring forth speedily, and your righteousness shall [Page 165]   go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.  9 Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’  If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,  10 If you extend your soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul, then your light shall dawn in the darkness, and your darkness shall be as the noonday.  11 The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought, and strengthen your bones; you shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.

 

            Isaiah is emphasizing the same thing as James:  make sure the needy receive assistance; no excuses—do it!  Hence—if any text is specifically in James’ mind at all—Isaiah would make a better “match.”  James, however, moves even beyond Isaiah by stressing the futility of mere good wishes for the destitute.  (A theme Isaiah does not raise.)  Good wishes are fine, but until something is done to deal with the situation the words have accomplished nothing at all for the suffering.

 

 

 

 

[Page 166]

 

 

James, Chapter Three

 

3:12

 

                        James:  “Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear

figs?  Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.”

            Jesus:  Matthew 7:16  “You will know them by their fruits.  Do men

gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?  17 Even so, every good

tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.  18 A good tree cannot

bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.”

            Luke 6:43  “For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad

tree bear good fruit.  44 For every tree is known by its own fruit.  For men do

not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble

bush.”  

 

 

            33 of the 60 surveyed scholars found a Jamesian dependence on Jesus’ teaching.[27]

  Jesus’ argument in both Matthew 7:16 and Luke 6:43 is that how we act reveals our fundamental inner nature, a significantly different point than that made by James.  Adding to the precedent Matthew 7:17-18, as is done,[28] does not seem to strengthen the linkage case because there the emphasis is on the quality (good/bad) of the fruit that is borne and not on whether something totally different can be borne as well.

            Introducing Luke 6:44 (which not all parallelists do) produces something far more impressive, for here we do have the emphasis on how one never expects to gather one type of product from a different type of tree.  The illustration of different products coming from the same tree, though, is still not present.  

            Adamson considers both Matthew 7:16 and James 3 as variants of “ancient proverbial wisdom” rather than anything proving a Jesus-James linguistic tie.[29] Certainly it reflects the same kind of observation that could occur easily across ancient cultural and [Page 167]   geographic boundaries.  Plutarch, for example, wrote, “But as it is, we do not expect the vine to bear figs nor the olive grapes.”[30]  Or as Seneca insisted, “Good does not spring from evil any more than figs grow from olive trees.”[31]

            Which brings us to a reality that must be considered when studying the degree of “quoting” or “usage” of Jesus engaged in by James.  When Seneca or Plutarch or others make this kind of remark, can we consider them as deliberately quoting or relying upon each other or some unknown earlier writer? 

That is hardly likely!  Their imagery grows naturally out of the agricultural conditions of the Mediterranean basin.  These are the kind of images that would occur spontaneously to one writer after another when dealing with a subject where it would fit.[32]  For the same reason, more than just the use of such imagery is needed before we can speak with confidence of a specific case reflecting genuine borrowing from Jesus’ words.

            This is not to deny that the words of James and Jesus easily complement each other:  Jesus says what you do reflects what you are.  He is forcing the listener to a basic judgment on themselves:  What is my fundamental character—good or bad?

James argues from that assumption—that one is fundamentally good or bad--but he approaches it from a significantly different angle:  If my core nature is actually good, what is evil doing coming out of my mouth and in my behavior?  If I am fundamentally evil, why do I find good in my actions and coming off my tongue?

Both speakers believe that what we do reflects what we are.  Both are convinced that how we act reveals our core nature.  But is that sufficient to prove that James uses the language and the argument specifically because of what Jesus said?  Or is the fact that they both work from the same assumption adequate to explain the similarity?    

 

[Page 168]

 

 

James 3:18

 

                        James:  “Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who

make peace.”

            Jesus:  Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be

called sons of God.”  

 

 

            Of those 60 scholars analysed, 38 saw a clear dependence of James on Jesus.[33]  A similar thought but not intended as a quotation, argues Adamson.[34]

Deppe argues against a connection on the grounds that what happens in Matthew 5:9 refers to future rewards while James is concerned with the benefits in the here and now.[35] 

True, being “sons of God” can refer to being resurrected; in Luke 20:36  “sons of God” is paralleled with “being sons of the resurrection.”  However, one can be called such in the here and now as well.  Paul speaks of all Christians alive in his day as already being such, “All who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” (Romans 8:14).  In Galatians 3:26 he repeats the same point, “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” 

[Page 169]                  In light of this usage, an “eschatological” reference by Jesus is clearly not intended to be the sole proper context for such language.  Similarly, the mercy promised in Matthew 5:7 is obtained in eternity, but is it not also imparted in the current world as well? 

If one is to seek a contrast between James 3:18 and Matthew 5:9 it would seem far better to stress that the first is talking about peaceful behavior while the other is talking about going out and making peace (hence “peacemaker”).  The latter seems far better as a term describing consciously resolving existing conflicts.  In contrast, the peaceful behavior of the other text represents what can prevent conflicts from occurring in the first place.  The two are fully compatible, but represent two different emphases.   

           

 

 

 

 

 

 

James, Chapter Four

 

4:2c-3

 

                        James:  “Yet you do not have because you do not ask.  You ask and do

not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.”

            Jesus:  Matthew 7:7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you

will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  8 For everyone who asks

receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.  11

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how

much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who

ask Him!”

            Luke 11:9 “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and

you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  10 For everyone who asks

receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.  13

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how

much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask

Him!” 

 

[Page 170]     

In different language, James 1:5 makes the same essential point about the usefulness of prayer, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”  There the emphasis is on the need to ask--as in the first half of the current verse; here that is supplemented in the second half by an emphasis on when He will refuse to answer at all. 

The earlier objection on James 1:5 that there seems little to uniquely attach this to the teaching of Jesus remains true here:  the idea of seeking and receiving are core elements in the very concept of prayer as presented in both Old and New Testaments.  Where is the uniquely “Jesus” element that would justify us making Him the—or, at least, the exclusive--source for what James has to say? 

            Furthermore, the teaching of the two men emphasize distinctly different themes:  Jesus hits on, “Yes, your prayers will be answered!” and James, “Here’s why your prayers won’t be answered.”  They are flip sides of the same coin:  Unless God is a “cosmic patsy” waiting and willing to be abused by the entire human race, then the promise of answered prayer has to have the caveat that there are exceptions. 

[Page 171]                  Hence one could well argue that James is developing Jesus’ premises to cover aspects He did not immediately need but which those in James’ time required an explicit reminder about.  (But can’t James be, just as much, developing the implications of Old Testament teaching on prayer?)       

            Furthermore, James does begin with the same premise as Jesus:  “you do not have because you do not ask” is a clear fit with Jesus’ “ask and it will be given to you.”  Both are different ways of saying the same thing.  Yet is the promise of answered prayer so uniquely Jesus’ that James is referring specifically to that instead of the Old Testament or, more probably, both sources? 

            Although in the Old Testament precedents section of chapter 4 we deal at length with James’ point of why prayers go unanswered, we do not go into the initial (implied) part of his argument that prayer will be answered (based upon certain implicit conditions).  We should, therefore, spend a modest amount of space here pointing out Old Testament precedent for his teaching.

            Jeremiah 29 speaks of how God was going to bless the people, “Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you” (verse 12).  A few chapters later we read the admonition, “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know” (33:3).                     

            Isaiah 65:24 has it this way, “It shall come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear.”  Of those who love God we read in Psalms 69:15, “He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him.” 

[Page 172]                  Hence James could have found reason to say what he does on the basis of the Old Testament and what Jesus taught rather than on the basis of either alone.  That the more recent Teacher of the principle of answered prayer would be in the forefront of his thinking would be quite natural and expected.  On the other hand, without clearer cut evidence that points to an aspect distinctively that of Jesus, it seems extremely hard to give Him exclusive credit for what James had to say.  On this subject, both James and Jesus were both ultimately using the same source, the Old Testament. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

James 4:4

 

                        James:  “Adulterers and adulteresses!  Do you not know that

            friendship with the world is enmity with God?  Whoever therefore wants to

be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”

            Jesus:  Matthew 12:39  “But He answered and said to them, ‘An evil

and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it

except the sign of the prophet Jonah.’ ”

            Luke 11:29  “And while the crowds were thickly gathered together,

He began to say, ‘This is an evil generation. It seeks a sign, and no sign will

be given to it except the sign of Jonah the prophet.’ ”

           

(Others present these two texts instead:)

                        Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate

the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the

other.  You cannot serve God and mammon.”

            Luke 16:13  “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate

the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the

other.  You cannot serve God and mammon.”

 

[Page 173]

           

Tying the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:24 and Luke 16:13  with those of James 4:4 can be seen at least as early as Second Clement (middle/late second century A.D.) when that author writes,[36]

 

1.  And the Lord says:  “No servant can serve two masters.”  If we desire to serve both God and Mammon it is unprofitable to us.  2.  For what is the advantage if a man gain the whole world but lose his soul?”  3.  Now the world that is, and the world to come are two enemies.  4.  This world speaks of adultery, and corruption, and love of money, and deceit, but that world bids these things farewell.  5.  We cannot then be friends of both; but we must bid farewell to this world, to consort with that which is to come.     

 

 

Of this double set of passages  that have been introduced as proof of reliance by James on Jesus’ words, the first set (Matthew 12:39 and Luke 11:29) describes the world as sexually corrupt and James 4:4 does begin with such a reference, though it seems slim pickings to prove actual dependence. 

[Page 174]                  The second set (Matthew 6:24 and Luke 16:13) provide a closer “fit” though a conceptual one rather than a verbal one:  “friend of the world” is not used by Jesus nor “an enemy of God" yet it is hard to believe that anyone would deny that these are fully accurate applications of the assumptions Jesus works from. 

 

At least three elements of James 4:4 clearly echo Jesus’ sentiments though never expressed in the way James does—however we need to broaden out our selection of texts far above those just mentioned to establish the fact.  The first conviction is that the “world” is a distinct entity that can be distinguished from the supernatural world.  The distinction is explicitly made in regard to the existence of “the world,” but the implied alternative is surely intended to be heaven or God.  Matthew 18:7 speaks of how there is “Woe to the world because of offenses!”  In Luke 12:33 it is the opposite, the place of rewards being mentioned and the world described but not the term itself used, “Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys.”

“The world cannot receive” the Holy Spirit because they are totally oblivious to understanding Him (John 14:17).  “My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you” (John 14:27).  What the world can provide is different from what Christ can provide, making it a contrast between the world and the supernatural world.

The second parallel is that there is a fundamental enmity between the “world” and being acceptable to God.  John 7:7 describes this realm of the “world”  as having a special hatred of Jesus far in excess of any that it dumps on His followers, “The world [Page 175]   cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil.”  In light of John 17:14 it is clear that the intensity and venom of the hatred is the point since we read that “the world has hated them” also. 

It is “the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches” of this world that “choke the word” of God (Matthew 13:22).  Those it can’t subvert, it hates.  John 15:19 casts the contrast and enmity in its broadest terms, “If you were of the world, the world would love its own.  Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”

The third sentiment of Jesus that is found in James 4:4 is that one can not be on identical terms with both.  As Luke 16:13 has it, “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and mammon.”  If riches--so easily regarded as “proof” of God’s acceptance--did not automatically make it so, could anything else in the current world have done so?  I think not.  Hence the example would provide the same assumed answer for anything else worldly that might be mentioned.    

            Hence it seems inescapable that James is building upon the conceptual foundation laid by Jesus.  What the reader has to decide is whether this is a sufficient foundation to argue that James has “quoted” Jesus.  Or might it not represent the regard and respect the early Christians felt toward Him, that they freely built upon His concepts without even the perceived need to directly quote His words?  In short, they had internalized the message and adapted it to differing and changed circumstances and environments.  Remaining loyal to it, but making it more directly relevant to the immediate situation.

           

 

[Page 176]

 

James 4:8

 

                        James 4:8 “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.  Cleanse

your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”

            Jesus:  Matthew 5:8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see

God.

           

 

None of the three points made by James—(1) mutual drawing near, (2) cleansing of hands, (3) purification of hearts—is directly mentioned by Jesus.  Only in regard to the last is there a link at all:  the purification of the heart demanded by James results in the purity of heart that Jesus tells us will enable us to “see God.”  Hence the assertion of James is a logical development of the prerequisite required to meet the criteria of purity that Jesus demands.  Hence the two texts are conceptually interlocked.

Yet we find the key elements in James 4:8 easily enough in the Torah and Prophets.  For example, the need for purity in heart:  “Truly God is good to Israel, to such as are pure in heart” (Psalms 73:1).  The need for self-purification is present as well--as exhibited in commands to do so, such as Jeremiah 4:14, “O Jerusalem, wash your heart from wickedness, that you may be saved.  How long shall your evil thoughts lodge within you?”

            Secondly, the instruction for (morally, ethically) clean hands is also present.  In Psalms 24 we read:  3 Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord?  Or who may stand in His holy place?  4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his [Page 177]   soul to an idol, nor sworn deceitfully.  5 He shall receive blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.”  Hence if one did not already possess them, one needed to “cleanse” one’s hands to be acceptable to God.

            Thirdly, a mutual drawing together of man and God is taught.  In the middle of Malachi 3:7 is the plea, “Return to Me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts.”  And in Zechariah 1:3 there is the admonition to the prophet, “Therefore say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts:  Return to Me,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘and I will return to you,’ says the Lord of hosts.” 

            Hence each of the three segments of thought are found in both testaments.  What we must ask ourselves is whether there is an element in James’ reference to purification to argue a special link to Jesus alone that the teaching of the Old Testament is not adequate to explain. 

Or one might make the linkage in this manner:  that such matters were essential because they were continued as authoritative in the teaching of Jesus—the acceptance of the older authority being filtered through its embracing by the newer one.  But even this way, the teaching existed long before Jesus came to earth and He embraced it as of continuing necessity, not as new law. 

Jesus still did not present the teaching as uniquely new or His own.  If He was embracing it because of the Old Testament, why might not this play an equally important role in James’ decision to stress it?  Especially in the absence of a distinctively “Jesus” element being added to it that was different from that already existing in the Old Testament?   

 

 


[Page 178]

 

James 4:9

 

James:  “Lament and mourn and weep!  Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.”

                        Jesus:  Matthew 5:4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be

comforted.”

            Luke 6:21 “Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be filled.

Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.”

            Luke 6:25 “Woe to you who are full, for you shall hunger.  Woe to you

who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.”



            It is argued that there are significant connections here in the Greek:  the word for “laugh” is only found in James and Luke and the verb is in the second person in both texts.[37]  An impressive dissimilarity, however, is found in regard to Matthew 5:4 and Luke 6:21 when compared with James:  In James it is the sinner who is instructed / ordered to “lament and mourn and weep.”  In vivid contrast, in Jesus the emphasis is on how the victim—the presumed righteous individual—is promised relief from the very mourning that James demands! 

            James calls for repentance with the language; Jesus uses it to call for perseverance under suffering.  These are, respectively, the only point in the James and Jesus quotations.

[Page 179]                  Hence shared language is used in opposite directions.  It does not indicate (here at least) that a quotation is actually being undertaken or any direct reliance upon Jesus’ words is intended.  This may well bear witness to how deeply the actual words of Jesus had penetrated the mind of James:  the language is adapted to James’ different priority because of his familiarity with it.  That is quite possible, but does this rise to the level of probability or certainty? 

Turning to Luke 6:25, we still find that where the language is the closest it is still quite different in intent:

 

“Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom” (James).

“Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep” (Jesus)

 

Even here James is discussing repentance and Jesus is talking about retribution and how it will devastate emotionally when it hits.  James speaks of the emotions as paving the way to repentance and Jesus of them as the result of punishment.  Again, a major split in how the language is being utilized.

 On the side of reliance on the Old Testament as the foundation, the case seems weaker here.  Efforts have been made to find Old Testament precedents but it has been noted that they suffer from the defect that though passages may mention weeping and mourning, they lack a mention of laughter in the same text.[38]   If “joy” is permitted to function as a near synonym for laughter, then Psalms 126:5-6 and Jeremiah 31:13 come close to the combination of images.

[Page 180]                  Perhaps the best judgment is that James has so assimilated Jesus’ language that it has become part of his own vocabulary, even to use in a very different sense than it was originally.  In this case we would have a dependence, but—oddly enough—lack either quotation or direct usage.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

James 4:10

 

                        James:  “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift

you up.”

            Jesus:  Matthew 23:12 “And whoever exalts himself will be humbled,

and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

            Luke 14:11 “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who

humbles himself will be exalted.”

            Luke 18:14 “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified

rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and

he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

 

 

            This is an especially appealing parallel because it is based upon not merely one usage by Jesus but two different occasions, with the inherent probability that if He regarded the teaching as that important that it surely appeared at other times in His ministry as well.  In itself, this made it even more probable than normal that His teaching and words would be “recycled” by His followers in their later teaching.

[Page 181]                  f one judges “the Lord” in James 4:10 to be Jesus Himself, then the likelihood of James having in mind the personal teaching of “the Lord” Jesus increases accordingly.  Nothing would be more natural than to base faithfulness to “the Lord” on what “the Lord” Himself had said.

If one, however, regards “the Lord” as a reference to the Father, then the probability increases that both men are independently basing their teaching on the shared tradition of Torah and prophetic precedent.  Through synagogue attendance and the religious practice of his own household, he would have been well acquainted with this principle.

Although this would be true of James the apostle it would have been, if anything, even more true if from James the brother of the Lord.  The earliest reference—chronologically speaking—to this teaching found in the New Testament is attributed to the pregnant Mary, who was bearing Jesus, “51 He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.  52 He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted the lowly.  53 He has filled he hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty” (Luke 1).

            Hence Jesus was raised in a family where this fundamental principle was known and referred to.  Is it not likely, especially in times of hardship and stress, that it was referred to time and again by Mary when raising her child?  In that kind of historical context—especially lacking anything distinctly of Jesus being added to it—would not the probability shift to James the Lord’s brother utilizing the same prophetic texts Mary herself had been basing her own statement upon?

[Page 182]                  This argument, at least partly, can be neutralized by the fact that he would also have been aware of Jesus’ stress on it during His own ministry.  That would seemingly be enough to assure that he utilized it himself, walking in his brother’s teaching footsteps so to speak.

            Be that as it may, these are some of the Old Testament texts that teach the same thing—putting the elements of lowering and raising in the same verse :   

           

1 Samuel 2:7:  “The Lord makes poor and makes rich; He brings low and lifts up.”       

Proverbs 29:23:  “A man's pride will bring him low, but the humble in spirit will retain honor.”  (Many translations prefer to substitute for “retain” “gain/gains” [God’s Word, Holman, NIV, WEB] or “obtain” [ESV, NASB], renderings that contrast the “lowering” of the proud with the “elevation” of the humble.)

Ezekiel 17:24:  “And all the trees of the field shall know that I, the Lord, have brought down the high tree and exalted the low tree, dried up the green tree and made the dry tree flourish; I, the Lord, have spoken and have done it.”

Ezekiel 21:26”  “Thus says the Lord God:  ‘Remove the turban, and take off the crown; nothing shall remain the same.  Exalt the humble, and humble the exalted.”

 

            There are also places where the concept of exalting and humbling is developed but not necessarily using those precise words (Job 5:11-13 and Psalms 107:40-41, for example).  The elements of one being lifted up (Psalms 113:7-8, Amos 9:11, etc.) or brought down (Job 24:24; Psalms 106:43; Isaiah 2:12, etc.) are also mentioned independently of each other.

[Page 183]                  If the author of the epistle is the Lord’s brother:  Although James was surely well aware of the Old Testament precedent, it is hard to believe that the concept of raising the lowly could be present without his seeing the words, in significant part, through the prism of how his own lowly family was blessed with the Messiah.  That and his Brother’s teaching on the same subject would have assured his utilization of the argument where appropriate, regardless of whether he has His teaching specifically in mind.  

            If the authorship was by the apostle James, instead, much of this would remain true.  As a theme Jesus raised upon more than one occasion, it would surely have implanted itself in his mind.  Again, assuring his use of the imagery and allusion regardless of whether he specifically has in mind Jesus’ remarks when he speaks.

 

 

 

 

 

James 4:11

 

                        James:  “Do not speak evil of one another, brethren.  He who speaks

evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the

law.  But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.”

            Jesus:  Matthew 7:1 “Judge not, that you be not judged.  2 For with

what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use,

it will be measured back to you.”

            Luke 6:37 “Judge not, and you shall not be judged.  Condemn not,

and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.  38 Give,

and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together,

and running over will be put into your bosom.  For with the same measure

that you use, it will be measured back to you.”

 

[Page 184]

            This is another case of majority sentiment holding that James is utilizing Jesus--33 of 60 Bible scholars embracing that scenario.[39]

            This “judging” in the teaching of both James and Jesus envolves a play on words using official / legal judicial proceedings as its underlying basis.  The Old Testament provides repeated injunctions for non-biased judging, truth telling, and lie avoidance in regard to legal “judging.”  In regard to ethical “judging” of the behavior of others, those same principles are violated when one unjustly attributes baseness to others.  Jesus rejects such behavior with passion as does James. 

But has anything distinctively “Jesus” been added to mark James as especially reliant on Jesus as his source?  The verbal formulation of both is not found in the Old Testament, however much the reasoning behind it is ultimately based upon that source.  Hence we would seem to have a clear case of the latter being “filtered” through the media of Jesus’ own teaching.     

 

            The not judging—accusing another of (unjustified) evil—is clearly found in both James and Jesus, but, in all fairness, the additional element of speaking evil of law itself [Page 185]   is conspicuously absent in the latter, though it is hard to see that He would have had any problem with the concept:  Since legal judging is (supposed to be) based on law as its standard, when one is engaged in improper judging by attributing unjustified motives and evil to others, one is also providing a parallel prejudicial judgment against law itself—the spiritual / ethical law that prohibits such behavior. 

One rejects the authority of the very law that bans one’s conduct.  One has entered a “judgment” against its adequacy and appropriateness.

Indeed His condemnation of the scribes and Pharisees envolved—clearly, though implicitly—them speaking evil of God’s Law.  He critiques them as binding as law (through their traditions) what the Law did not require—indeed things directly contrary to that Law.  This was a judgment against the adequacy of the Divine Law itself, which left these out. 

Note that in making His condemnation of binding humanly invented tradition, Jesus not only condemned it by His own authority but also invoked the authority of the Old Testament to do so (Mark 6:5-8).  Hence Jesus’ implicit condemnation of “judging” (= rejecting) the law was based upon Old Testament teaching.  Would it be that odd if James’ was as well?  Or should we assume that this, also, is a case of the Old Testament being filtered through the lens of Jesus’ usage of that testament?   

           

 

[Page 186]

 

James 4:17

 

                        James:  “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it,

to him it is sin.”

            Jesus:  Luke 12:47 “And that servant who knew his master's will, and

did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many

stripes.  48 But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of

stripes, shall be beaten with few.  For everyone to whom much is given, from

him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him

they will ask the more.”

 

 

            One could take the words in Luke as establishing the reason for what James says:  since one will be punished for not doing the right thing (Jesus) then knowing the right thing and not doing it has to be sin (James).  But this only establishes what “could” be; do we have anything in the text stronger, to raise it to the level of being a probable reference point?

            Actually John 15:22 seems like a more likely reference point if one is to be sought:  “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin.”  Does this not mean that since they “know to do good,” when they refuse to do it “it is sin”?
            The other side of this teaching is found in John 9:41, “Jesus said to them, ‘If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, 'We see.'  Therefore your sin remains.’ ”

[Page 187]                  What of the Old Testament as a basis?  The threat of Ezekiel 33 comes close to this:  “They sit before you as My people and they hear your words, but they do not do them” (verse 31) and when the prophesied disaster finally occurs “then they will know that a prophet has been among them” (verse 33).  Obviously their nonchalance and lack of doing the right things they were taught were regarded as sinful since punishment came upon them, but the explicit “sin” language is not used of them, as in the words of Jesus.

            The usage in the gospel of John can be objected to on the grounds that John was written long after James.  On the other hand, one can argue that the doctrinal tradition from Jesus—unless invented by John—must have been around since Jesus’ life and, therefore, available in verbal form even if not yet a written one.  Hence that James embodies in written form a tradition only later preserved as part of a written gospel.  Taken from that standpoint, it would seem reasonable to argue that John, as an eyewitness, has verified a James-John doctrinal linkage in regard to the subject them both discuss.  

 

 

 

[Page 188]

 

James, Chapter Five

           

5:1

 

                        James:   “Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that

            are coming upon you! 

                        Jesus:  Luke 6:24 “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received

your consolation.  25 Woe to you who are full, for you shall hunger.  Woe to

you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.  26 Woe to you when all

men speak well of you, for so did their fathers to the false prophets.”

 

 

            Some have suggested that both Jesus and James utilized the same source rather than one relying on the other.  The Psalmist, for example, refers to the rich coming face to face with pain and injury in spite of their earthly status:

 

2 But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; My steps had nearly slipped.  3 For I was envious of the boastful, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.  4 For there are no pangs in their death, but their strength is firm.  5 They are not in trouble as other men, nor are they plagued like other men.  6 Therefore pride serves as their necklace; violence covers them like a garment.  7 Their eyes bulge with abundance; they have more than heart could wish.  8 They scoff and speak wickedly concerning oppression; they speak loftily.  12 Behold, these are the ungodly, who are always at ease; they increase in riches.

16 When I thought how to understand this, it was too painful for me--  17 until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I understood their end.  18 Surely You set them in slippery places; You cast them down to destruction. 19 Oh, how they are brought to desolation, as in a moment!  They are utterly consumed with terrors (Psalms 73).

           

[Page 189]                  Yes, far lengthier than either James or Jesus put it, but surely equally powerful by the repeated hammering home of their status and the absolute certainty that nothing can avert their fate.  Then the gullet punch:  “Oh, how they are brought to desolation, as in a moment!  They are utterly consumed with terrors.”  Is this not the very point that James is making?

The problem one runs into, of course, is how many ways are there to describe the gutting of one’s prestigious economic situation?  Almost by the very nature of the event, one would anticipate certain concepts to make so much inherent sense that virtually anyone delivering this rebuke would utilize parallel language.  Whether rooted in the Old Testament or the personal teaching of Jesus, much the same imagery and argument would be used.  Anything else would be startling.

            If, however, James had either a personal knowledge of Jesus’ teaching—or even received it via one or more written accounts—one would expect him to invoke similar imagery both because of his loyalty to his Leader and because many of his readers would surely have heard reports of similar language having been used by Him.  James would be invoking familiar language from a respected source to make his point.  Yet is there enough of a verbal similarity to convincingly argue that James’ argument springs from Jesus or from the Psalms prediction?

           

 

 

[Page 190]

 

James 5:2

 

                        James:  “Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-

eaten.  3 Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a

witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire.  You have heaped up

treasure in the last days.”

            Jesus:  Matthew 6:19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on

earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal;  20

but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust

destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  21 For where your

treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

 

 

            Comparing James with the Synoptics, 42 commentators see a definite dependence.[40]

            And there certainly are parallels here.  Both mention the corruptibility of riches:  “Your riches are corrupted” reiterated by “your gold and silver are corroded” in James and the similar double affirmation in Jesus:  “moth and rust destroy” and “where neither moth nor rust destroys.” 

            James refers to how “your garments are moth-eaten” while Jesus refers to the destructive power of “moths” twice—the obvious destructive target of moths being “garments” though the word is not used.

            James speaks of how they had “heaped up treasure” while Jesus speaks of “where your treasure is” and how one should “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven”—another double reference from Jesus.

[Page 191]                  The imagery of failure being depicted as having moth eaten garments is found in the Old Testament (Job 13:28; Isaiah 50:9; Isaiah 51:8), but the “rusting” of treasures is conspicuous by its absence.  Hence this is a case where the probability is quite high that James—if he is consciously echoing anything—is echoing the words of Jesus.  That he could have blended these two particular images all by his own invention seems quite improbable.

 

 

 

 

James 5:6

 

                        James:  “You have condemned, you have murdered the just; he

does not resist you.”

            Jesus:  Matthew 7:1 “Judge not, that you be not judged.”

            Luke 6:37 “Judge not, and you shall not be judged.  Condemn not,

and you shall not be condemned.  Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”

 

           

First the linkage case:  Admittedly, the subject matter has shifted considerably between Jesus and James.  Jesus is concerned with inflicting unjust and unjustified “judgment” upon others.  James is concerned with those who have suffered unjust decisions.  These are, however, two sides of one conceptual coin. 

Jesus’ language is broad enough to include any unjustified censure whether judicially related or not, though it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the former is preeminently the emphasis even if, perhaps, not the sole one.  In contrast the reference of [Page 192]   James to how they “have murdered the just” could refer to character assassination—killing the man or woman’s reputation, but that is far less likely.  In contrast the outright abuse of the judicial process . . . or ignoring it entirely and being guilty of private violent revenge, seems surely the thrust of the passage.  In either case it would certainly be describing the violation of the principle Jesus had taught.

            The condemnation by James is clearly based upon the assumption that such behavior is unjust and a violation of God’s will.  The teaching of Jesus provides explicit evidence that it violates the Divine will.  Hence the texts interweave into a consistent whole whether or not Jesus’ warning is explicitly in James’ mind.

            We have presented the most favorable case we can for linkage, but can we seriously argue that this rises much above making improbable verbal parallels?  The teaching of Jesus certainly sounds like a condemnation of verbal abuse, the critical, negative, inflammatory, defamatory ranting intended to hurt or destroy the reputation of another.  The teaching of James sure does sound like it is aimed at outright violence and not verbal rage.  

            We can “paper together” these by the technique we have presented, but are we truly dealing fairly with the intention of the texts if we do so?

 

            If we limit James’ language to physical violence, we certainly find the condemnation of such in the teaching of Jesus.  The Lord speaks of responding to a slap of the face with the instruction of turning the other cheek (Matthew 5:38-39).  Jesus spoke of Judas turning Him over to the authorities to endure the kind of violence James refers to:  “woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed!  It would have been good for that man if he had not been born” (Matthew 26:24). 

[Page 193]                  In other words, the one who makes possible the abuse of punitive authority will ultimately face punishment for it.  Surely that carries the “freight” that those who carry out the actual violence will similarly face hostile judgment as well!   

            And He was certainly aware that judicial and extra-judicial murder had been sanctioned in the past and condemns it (Matthew 23:33-35).

            Yet in such texts we still do not reach James’ words, “You have condemned, you have murdered the just; he does not resist you.”  None of these remarks by Jesus is delivered in a manner to create a verbal parallel with James.

 

            In addition, although Jesus warns about the danger of judging, the consequence to be avoided—“that you be not judged”—that is not introduced as a factor at all in James’ argument.  Conceptually, James does discuss a “judgment” coming upon them:  their excesses have prepared them for death (James 5:1-5).  So some might consider this strong enough to constitute a bridge between the two sets of passages.

 

            Another difference between the passages:  Jesus warns only against judging.  James, in contrast, singles out one having “condemned” others and having “murdered the just.”  The Old Testament provides repeated examples of this in how the prophets were often treated in this manner. As Stephen insisted, “Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute?  And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers” (Acts 7:52).  If Stephen could make that conclusion directly from knowledge of the Old Testament, could not James have come to the same conclusion from the same source? 

[Page 194]                  Indeed, the Old Testament itself makes such a broadly worded connection time and again.  “But they mocked the messengers [plural] of God, despised His words, and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against His people, till there was no remedy” (2 Chronicles 36:16).  As Elijah cried out in prayer, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword.  I alone am left; and they seek to take my life” (1 Kings 19:10). 

In Nehemiah 9:26 the commonness of such behavior is again emphasized, “Nevertheless they were disobedient and rebelled against You, cast Your law behind their backs and killed Your prophets, who testified against them to turn them to Yourself; and they worked great provocations.”  And then there is God’s rebuke in Jeremiah 2:30 in similarly broad terms, “Your sword has devoured your prophets like a destroying lion.”

One could attempt to avoid the power of these precedents by arguing that only prophetic abuse is particularly in mind.  True.  Yet if even prophets could be so freely abused, is there any doubt that “average” people suffered as well?  For that matter, would any challenge that abuse of the powerless and weak is repeatedly referred to in the Old Testament as well?  Which really brings us back to the reasonableness of referring to an Old Testament root for James’ teaching.

 

 

           
[Page 195]

 

James 5:9

 

                        James:  “Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be

condemned.  Behold, the Judge is standing at the door!  10 My brethren, take

the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering

and patience.”

            Jesus:  Matthew 24:33 “So you also, when you see all these things,

know that it is near--at the doors!”

            Mark 13:29 “So you also, when you see these things happening, know

that it is near--at the doors!”

 

 

            The judgment concept has a different center of emphasis, though clearly expressing the same idea.  In James “the Judge is standing at the door.”  In Jesus “it”—the particular judgment under discussion--is “at the doors.”  Since a judge brings a judgment, the two speakers obviously are working from the same conceptual background, that the time for answerability is close.

            Although the expression “at the door” is repeatedly used in the Old Testament, neither it nor “at the doors” appears to be used as a way of expressing imminent judgment. 

The imagery of nearness is intermingled in Ezekiel 7:6-8 with the idea that it is so close that “the end has come; it has dawned for you; behold it has come.  7 Doom has come to you, you who dwell in the land; the time has come, a day of trouble is near, and not of rejoicing in the mountains.  8 Now upon you I will soon pour out My fury, and spend My anger upon you; I will judge you according to your ways, and I will repay you for all your abominations” (also consider the broader context elaborating on these matters).  
 [Page 196]                 This certainly is effective in conveying the idea of imminence but it is surely significantly different than the imagery shared by Jesus and by James.

 

 

 

 

 

James 5:10

 

                        James:  “My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of

the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience.”

            Jesus:  Matthew 5:11 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute

you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.  12 Rejoice and

be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they

persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

            Luke 6:23 “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy!  For indeed your

 reward is great in heaven, for in like manner their fathers did to the

prophets.”

 

 

            The element of prophetic suffering is certainly shared between Jesus and James.  James adds the element of “patience” to the admonition which Jesus did not, though He had certainly spoken of the need for it in other contexts (Luke 8:15; 21:19).  Furthermore, the implicit message of Jesus is that of urging “remaining steadfast under persecution,” which surely carries with it the demand for “patience” under adversity.

[Page 197]                  The specific prophetic example James may have had in mind is Job, who is mentioned in the following verse (5:11).  Job is not mentioned by Jesus at all, however, though one could easily argue that James adds it because he is providing an example which better fits the word “patience” than the prophets, in general, do.

            We saw earlier that the abuse of the prophets was repeatedly referred to in the Old Testament itself:  “killed Your prophets with the sword” (1 Kings 19:10); “killed your prophets” (Nehemiah 9:26); “your sword has devoured your prophets” (Jeremiah 2:30).  Hence the persecution of the prophets is a theme in both testaments and there seems nothing in the version of the teaching by Jesus that provides a special link to James.

 

 



James 5:12

 

                        James:  “But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven

or by earth or with any other oath.  But let your ‘Yes,’ be ‘Yes,’ and your

‘No,’ ‘No,’ lest you fall into judgment.”

            Jesus:  Matthew 5:33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those

of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the

Lord.’  34  But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is

God's throne;  35 nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem,

for it is the city of the great King.  36 Nor shall you swear by your head,

because you cannot make one hair white or black.  37 But let your ‘Yes’ be

'Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’  For whatever is more than these is from the evil

one.”

 

[Page 198]      

            Usually this is considered the clearest and least ambiguous of all the varied apparent dependencies of James upon the earthly teaching of Jesus.[41] 59 out of 60 scholars studied have listed it, which is as close to unanimous as you are ever going to get it in the scholarly world.[42] 

            The strongest argument for a dependence on Jesus lies in the uniqueness of the command to avoid oaths.  Jesus recognized the need for them in certain limited circumstances—His affirmation of Himself before Caiaphas as “the Christ, the Son of God” was given as an “oath” (Matthew 26:63-64).  Even so He was fundamentally displeased with them and this marked a major departure from the Jewish tradition as recorded in both the Old Testament and then contemporary Jewish practice.[43] 

One group of Essenes explicitly prohibited oaths, but since we know from both Josephus and Dead Sea Scroll fragments that they administered an entrance oath, this inconsistency (?) leaves one a bit perplexed.[44]  (Perhaps we should seek out a parallel with Jesus:  A general prohibition but allowing for the rarest of exceptions?  Or the use of oaths in a different societal situation?  Or, since they were entering into a covenant with the community, it was actually regarded “as a covenant promise rather than an oath”?[45])  Yet the scarcity of such potential alternatives pushes us irrevocably back to Jesus’ teaching as its source.            

[Page 199]                  Wesley L. Wachob and Luke T. Johnson find supportive evidence in the fact that, “A comparison of James’ prohibition of oaths (James 5:12) with the one attributed to Jesus in Matthew 5:34-37 shows that they have sixteen Greek words in common,”[46] which would seem a disproportionate number for the amount of comparative text involved and best explained by the scenario of usage.    

Given the reality of different audiences and circumstances, it is not surprising that there are differences between the prohibitions.  The most obvious to the English language reader would be:[47] 

(1) Matthew stresses the “theological” wrong involved.

(2) James puts this into “judgment” terms while Matthew stresses its sinful nature as being inherently “evil.”  (Those utilizing the traditional Greek text will have “the evil one” in place of “evil”—still making a difference in the reason being cited).

(3) Matthew mentions Jesus as the clear source of the teaching while James does not—though, of course, he never does.  This would be an argument against the validity of any of the above texts being “quotes” (or even close summaries) just as much as this one in particular.   

 

 

 

 

James 5:17

           

                        James:  “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed

earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three

years and six months.”

                        Jesus:  Luke 4:25 “But I tell you truly, many widows were in Israel in

the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months,

and there was a great famine throughout all the land.”

           

[Page 200]

The mention of “three years and six months” links James’ version of the drought to that of Jesus, other ancient sources seemingly not having specified that specific duration.

 

 

 

James 5:19-20

 

                        James:  “Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and

someone turns him back, 20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from

the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of

sins.”

            Jesus:  Matthew 18:15 “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go

and tell him his fault between you and him alone.  If he hears you, you have

gained your brother.” 

            Luke 17:3 “Take heed to yourselves.  If your brother sins against you,

rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.”

 

 

[Page 201]                  Although these texts share in common the idea of someone sinning and being convinced to change their way, the central thrust is different.  The teaching of Jesus is describing reconciliation of two humans with each other (“sins against you”); James is discussing reconciliation with God.  Jesus sounds as if he were speaking of a specific act; James sounds like a person following a lifestyle of evil.

            Now both situations entail an implicit or explicit repudiation of God’s will and, hence, sin against God as well as the individual envolved, but is not the point of emphasis distinctly different?  Should therefore one teaching be considered as the inspiration of the other? 

Indeed, the assertion that a sin against our brother or sister in faith is simultaneously an offense against God is not explicitly mentioned in Matthew 18:15 or Luke 17:3.  Indeed we have to go to Leviticus 6:2 to explicitly find proof that “a person sins and commits a trespass against the Lord” when committing various evil acts against others.     

           

 

 

 

Notes

 



 

[1] James B. Adamson, James:  The Man & His Message (Grand Rapids, Michigan:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1989), 179.

 

[2] Dean B. Deppe, The Sayings of Jesus in the Epistle of James (Chelsa, Michigan:  Bookcrafters, 1989), 231-233.

 

[Page 202]   [3] Patrick J. Hartin, James and the “Q” Sayings of Jesus (Sheffield, England:  JSOT Press, 1990), 143.

 

[4] Edgar, 63.

 

[5] Deppe, 62.

 

[6] Ibid., 237.

 

[7] Wesley L. Wachob and Luke T. Johnson, “The Sayings of Jesus in the Letter of James,” in Authenticating the words of Jesus, edited by Bruce Chilton and Craig A. Evans (Leiden, Netherlands:  Brill, 1999), 441.  They are discussing both James 1:5 and 4:3 (with the primary emphasis on the first text in this part of their analysis, though their reasoning would apply to both passages.).

 

[8] Deppe, 69. 

 

[9] Ibid., 70.

 

[10] Ibid.

 

[11] Ibid., Page 76.

 

[Page 203]   [12] Adamson.  James:  The Man, 179.

 

[13] Deppe, 237

 

[14] Adamson, James:  The Man, 180.

 

[15] Deppe, 86-87.

 

[16] Ibid., 237.

 

[17] Ibid.

 

[18] Cf. Adamson, James:  The Man, 180.

 

[19] Wachob and Johnson, “The Sayings of Jesus,” 444.

 

[20] Adamson, James:  The Man, 180.

 

[21] Wachob and Johnson, “The Sayings of Jesus,” 447-448.

 

[22] Deppe, 96.

 

[Page 204]   [23] Ibid., 35-36.

 

[24] Ibid., 237.

 

[25] Jer. Baba q. viii, 10, as quoted by Wachob and Johnson, “The Sayings of Jesus,” 448.

 

[26] Wachob and Johnson.  “The Sayings of Jesus,” 449.

 

[27] Deppe, 237.

 

[28] Such as by Hartin, Sayings of Jesus, 141.

 

[29] Adamson, James:  The Man, 181.

 

[30] Plutarch, Tranq 13, as quoted by Deppe, 101. 

 

[31] Seneca, Ep. 87:25, as quoted by Deppe, 101.

 

[32] Deppe, 101-102.

 

[33] Deppe, 237.

 

[34] Adamson, James:  The Man, 181.

 

[Page 205]   [35] Deppe, 105.

 

[36] Alicia Batten, Friendship and Benefaction in James, from the Emory Studies in Early Christianity, volume 15 (Blandford Forum, Dorset:  Deo Publishing, 2010), 162.

 

[37] Of Luke 6:21 in particular, Adamson, James:  The Man, 184.

 

[38] Deppe, 109.

 

[39] Ibid., 237.

 

[40] Ibid. 237.

 

[41] Adamson, James:  The Man, 183.

 

[42] Ibid., 237.

 

[43] Wachob and Johnson, “The Sayings of Jesus,” 433.

 

[44] Ibid., 433.

 

[45] Deppe, 142-143.

 

[Page 206]   [46] Wachob and Johnson, “The Sayings of Jesus,” 433.

 

[47] For these objections and various technical Greek language differences see the summary of Sophie Laws’ arguments in Adamson, James:  The Man, 184-185.