The Eschatological Framework of the Epistle of James
Penner, Todd Charles
Penner, Todd Charles. The Eschatological Framework of the Epistle of James; A Thesis Submitted to the Faculty of Graduate Studies in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts, Department of Religion, University of Manitoba. Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada: University of Manitoba, August 1993.
The nature and character of the Epistle of James, as well as its place in the development of early Christianity, have been matters of some debate in past New Testament scholarship. This thesis attempts to place some of these issues in a new perspective through an analysis of the framework of James with a view to understanding the epistle as a whole. The first chapter of the thesis deals with four areas which, in the past, have affected the dating and interpretation of the letter. Attention is given to the language of James, to its supposed anti-Paulinism, to the issue over the placing of the epistle on Hellenistic vs. Palestinian soil, and to the problem regarding the combination of wisdom and eschatological motifs in the letter. The conclusions are that for too long the character, nature, and date of the epistle have been decided upon a priori grounds, and that the common designation of James as a Hellenistic wisdom document must be re-examined. The second chapter seeks to uncover the character of James. Through an analysis of the opening and closing to the main body of the epistle, it is determined that an eschatological inclusio provides the horizon for the community instruction of the main body. The epistle as a whole is then viewed as a community instruction manual which is has its instructional material placed within the framework of eschatological denouncements of the wicked and warnings to the community of impending end-time judgment which is soon to fall upon the world. The third and concluding chapter places the results of chapter two in the larger context of early Christianity and Judaism. It is determined that the Epistle of James has many points of commonality in both content and structure with the Community Rule (lQS) from Qumran and the Q source from early Christianity. These works appear to form an identifiable genre of literature (in form, content and function) in which community instruction is placed within an eschatological framework around which cluster the themes of impending judgment, eschatological reversal and prophetic denunciation.