Mar 15, 2012

The Road not Taken in James

A number of recent interpreters of James have attempted to find in James' wisdom theology an implicit Christology. While this would certainly help to raise the Christological profile of the book, J. Ramsey Michaels has provided a good word of caution concerning this exercise. Michaels notes that,

“A word first needs to be said, however, about ‘the road not taken’ For it is tempting to capitalize on the recent popularity of ‘Wisdom christology’ in, say, the Gospel of John and then look for Wisdom christology also in James. Indeed, this short letter accents divine wisdom — even more than John’s Gospel does. God’s wisdom in contrast to ‘earthly,’ ‘natural,’ or ‘demonic’ wisdom (3:15), comes ‘from above’ (3:15, 17), like every other ‘good and perfect gift’ (1:17). God gives wisdom generously to everyone who asks (1:5). Wisdom is an attribute of God and is God’s gift — it is, if you like, ‘the Lord’s gift (1:7).

“But wisdom is not ‘the Lord.’ Wisdom is traditionally feminine, whereas ‘the Lord’ is resolutely masculine. James has a wisdom theology but not a wisdom christology. If we find christology, we must look for ‘the Lord.’ And ‘the Lord’ in the letter of James is Jesus.”

J. Ramsay Michaels, “Catholic Christologies in the Catholic Epistles,” in Contours of Christology in the New Testament, ed. Richard N. Longenecker (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005), 270.

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