Friday, January 17, 2014

Problems For James (part 3)

As should be expected from those that are operating with a proper, first century Jewish mindset, it is the earthly manifestation of the kingdom of the Creator God and its demonstration through the meal (the prominent social event of the day in that time---this has gone effectively unchanged) that is the foremost consideration, rather than an ambiguous concept of “salvation” that relied on relatively foreign, Greek concepts of an ethereal escape into a good-creation-denying-and-therefore-supposedly-blissful disembodied condition, with an eternal residence in some nether-regions beyond the clouds. 

This concept, though familiar to Jews of the first century, was largely rejected as antithetical to their worldview and the way that they understood their God.  It would also come to be rejected by Gentiles that came into contact with the Gospel claim of the Lordship of Jesus.  Contrary to the denial of the inherent goodness (though corrupted) of the creation, by submitting to the Lordship of Jesus via the Spirit’s mysterious though effectual application of the power of the Resurrection, those that called Jesus Lord came to be concerned with the manifestation of the Creator God’s kingdom on earth, along with what they understood to be the intended end of the renewal and restoration of the creation and its gathering together of a people into a body that was called to live out, in advance, that soon-to-be consummated kingdom as they celebrated the re-creation that was to come.  The Resurrection of Jesus into this world (that had been changed and was constantly being changed by the power of the Resurrection) with a new and transformed physical body, served as the model for their expectation.

So moving forward here in James, one does well to keep in mind the words of Jesus (from Luke 14---which would likely have composed part of the oral traditions of Jesus being shared by the church community at large) concerning exaltation and humiliation, about the first being last and the last being first, about the filling of the empty seats in the parable of the great banquet, and about the prevailing mindset (that Jesus sought to change) in His day about the messianic banquet (that it was the Creator God’s judgment on non-covenant people, represented by the deaf, blind, and lame), in order to rightly hear the contextual critique that is being offered. 

Doing this allows for the avoidance of anachronistic and improper application of terms when reading statement such as “But you have dishonored the poor!  Are not the rich oppressing you and dragging you into the courts?” (2:6)  James, presumably with the messianic banquet as exampled by Jesus (as Messiah) in mind, and with Jesus’ criticisms of the rich (Sanhedrin, High priest, Temple authorities, scribes, etc…) that were in circulation amongst believers at that time, is expressing incredulity that these same rich ones to whom they are offering the chief seats in their assemblies are the same ones that are dragging them before courts and councils, demanding that they disavow their claims that Jesus was indeed the Messiah.  This seems to be made clear when he writes “Do they not blaspheme the good name of the one you belong to?” (2:7)  With this, believers are reminded of what Jesus said to His disciples, which was that “they will seize you and persecute you, handing you over to the synagogues and prisons.  You will be brought before kings and governors because of My name” (Luke 21:12b).    

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