Sunday, February 28, 2010

James Dunn on James

I have finally finished reading Jimmy Dunn's Beginning from Jerusalem, a solid resource of information on the NT and early Christianity. A condensed version of it would make a good NT Introduction one day. Dunn gives a good summary of what the epistle of James contributes to our understanding of early Christianity:

  • It reveals to us a community which was in direct continuity with the wisdom traditions of Second Temple Judaism and drew on the same resources.
  • It reveals to a community which saw itself in direct continuity with Jesus of Nazareth and drew deeply on the tradition of his teaching for its own pattern of living.
  • It reveals to us a community which did not set the conviction of Jesus' glorification and lordship in any sort of antithesis with the tradition of his teaching but saw the two as entirely coherent and consistent with each other.
  • It reveals how the Jesus tradition, material such as was grouped into the Sermon on the Plain/Mount, must have functioned in the instruction and paraenesis of so many fledgling Christian communities, not only in Palestine but further afield.
  • It suggests how the disparate Gentile and Jewish congregations of the first century could find common ground and mutual respect the one for the other precisely in the Jesus tradition, in the way it was being formulated and continuously re-expressed and in the insights and emphases being drawn from it for daily conduct and mutual relationships. After all, [at] the end of the day, it was precisely this character of the letter of James which secured its recognition as Christian Scripture across the churches of the third and fourth centuries.

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