Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed

A Brother’s Wisdom 1

JesusJames*.jpgWe begin our series on James today and I suspect it will take us some time. As with previous Bible studies, we’ll do these Monday – Thursday. Our focus will be on how the brother of Jesus, James, offered wisdom to his day and offers wisdom for our day, too. James, we will observe over and over, “looks like” his brother both physically (according to this artist) and teaching-wise.

This study emerges from my commentary on James that I have now sent off to Eerdmans and will appear in about a year, but our focus here will be on the implications of James.


1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations:

James identifies his own credibility for writing such a letter in the term “servant.” The term suggests both a relationship to God and to the Lord Jesus Christ (no there is not anti-empire theology in James), and at the same time a connection to a great heritage: some of Israel’s greats called themselves and were called “servants,” including Moses. It is a good reminder for us to see ourselves as God’s servants and as Christ’s servants, and to let those kinds of “titles” shape our identity and what others think of us. The word “minister,” you may recall, has that sense too.


By connecting himself to the Lord Jesus Christ here James turns everything that follows into “Christian.” That is, James is a messianist and he writes for a messianic audience. This sort of thing matters because some still argue that James is “barely” Christian. Luther, as you know, struggled mightily with James because it didn’t teach his theology of justification and Calvin spends a lot of time wrestling James to the ground so he can get him on his theological side. But perhaps we’re missing something here: not all of earliest Christianity was Pauline or Johannine or Hebrews-ine or Petrine; some of it was Jamesian (better said as “Jakobite” since the Hebrew word behind our “James” is “Jacob”).


I’ve already indicated that James writes to messianic communities. To cut a long, long debate very, very short, I understand “to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations [diaspora]” to refer to (1) ethnic Jews, (2) who were messianic, and who (3) were now living outside the Land of Israel.

A Jewish audience; from a Jewish author; and that Jewish author happened to have been reared in the same home that reared Messiah Jesus.

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posted February 16, 2009 at 1:32 pm

Just want to give encouragement; I think James is a very, very important book in our day, as important as Romans was to the Church in Luther’s day. Looking forward to the series.

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posted February 16, 2009 at 4:32 pm

I’m really looking forward to this series too – James is one of my favorite NT books.

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Ted M. Gossard

posted February 16, 2009 at 5:32 pm

I look forward to this series as well; also the commentary!

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posted February 16, 2009 at 5:39 pm

Hi Scott,
How I love that phrase; But perhaps we’re missing something here: not all of earliest Christianity was Pauline or Johannine or Hebrews-ine or Petrine; some of it was Jamesian!
Looking forward for an ongoing exploration

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posted February 16, 2009 at 8:55 pm

This sounds interesting. I thing I will watch and walk and maybe even talk for a while. Good stuff so far.

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Dianne P

posted February 17, 2009 at 11:08 am

Excited about this series, and even more so, about the new commentary. Last year I wanted to teach a series on James and gave up because I couldn’t find a helpful (imo) commentary.
I think James tells us so much about how we ought to BE as Christians, which is sadly overlooked in our “all about me” churches today. Maybe it’s the Catholic upbringing in me…
Since we’re pondering joining a Lutheran congregation – and are about to begin their 8 week pre-membership series – I’m curious to hear what you have to say about the Lutheran perspective. And how our Lutheran pastor teaches this. Interesting point – the pastor raised Catholic and educated by Jesuits – so curious if this background might uniquely inform his Lutheran perspective on James.
Anyway, great timing.

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Dianne P

posted February 17, 2009 at 11:11 am

Is the authorship of the book of James pretty much agreed on to actually be James?

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Doug Allen

posted February 22, 2009 at 8:41 pm

Am looking forward to this series as James, I think, is one of the “bridges” to Christianity that does not make me feel alienated.

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