Monday, November 17, 2008

The Structure of James in the TINT

Kevin J. Vanhoozer (general editor), Daniel J. Treier and N. T. Wright (associate editors). Theological Interpretation of the New Testament: A Book-by-Book Survey. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008. Paperback, 272 pages. $19.99

Having recently studied and taught through the Epistle of James, I pulled up this particular article in Amazon's Online Reader. In commenting on Craig Blomberg's new commentary on James in the ZECNT series, I mentioned my frustration with commentators who seem to miss what I have come to see as the basic structure of the epistle. I have not yet been able to determine the structure Blomberg follows, but William Baker in the DTIB (now republished in TINT) seems to have discovered it. Here's what he says:

The author’s overall goal is for his readers to become one in person, in community, and in relationship with God. The proof of this new and continuing orientation is in their behavior with respect to God and others, in and outside the church. The means for this is for them to hear God immediately through the epistle itself, and daily through prayer, worship, and the church.

James’s focus on hearing God comes from recognizing the significance of the proverb of 1:19, “Let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger” (NRSV), in relationship to the entire epistle. (DTIB, p. 349; TINT, p. 204)
At this point, Baker shows how James immediately expands upon this key verse:
  • “slow to anger” (1:20-21)
  • “quick to hear” (1:22-25)
  • “slow to speak” (1:26-27)
Then he rightly, in my opinion, shows how 1:19 serves as a control text for the structure of the remainder of the epistle.
What is not so often observed is that these three parts of the proverb, broadly conceived, are als developed in the ensuing chapters: correctly hearing the word (ch. 2), the difficulty oof controlling the tongue (ch. 3), and the damaging effect of angry speech (ch. 4). (DTIB, p. 349; TINT, p. 204)
I think that he's got it. My outline was close, and I now see how I can improve upon it. Below is my original outline:
Salutation 1:1
Prologue 1:2-18
Thematic Statement 1:19-20
Body 1:21-5:6
Heading One:
Be Swift to Hear 1:21-2:26
Heading Two:
Be Slow to Speak 3:1-18
Heading Three:
Be Slow to Anger 4:1-5:6
Epilogue 5:7-20