in Abingdon New Testament Commentaries
Pages 152 pages
Publisher Abingdon Press
Sleeper's lucid exposition of James restores this often neglected work to its rightful place in the Christian canon. Carefully charting the verbal structures and argument of the letter, he demonstrates that it is a coherent piece of moral teaching intended to encourage the development of Christian character, not just a collection of disparate maxims. As he guides the reader through the letter's basic themes, Sleeper is attentive to its echoes in the Old Testament, Hellenistic Jewish wisdom literature, and sayings of Jesus, as well as to its affinities with other Christian writings. Moreover, he shows that the author's understanding of God and of human nature provides a significant theological foundation for practical wisdom about the Christain moral life.
This book appears in the following featured collections.
- New Testament Commentaries & Monographs by Princeton Theological Seminary
The Abingdon New Testament Commentaries series (ANTC) aims to provide “compact, critical commentaries” that assume no knowledge of Greek for theological students and, secondarily, for upper-level college students and church leaders (“Foreword,” by general editor V. P. Furnish, p. 9). C. Freeman Sleeper’s slim volume on James functions well within these strictures, presenting a treatment of the introductory issues and the commentary proper, as well as a select bibliography and index of subjects, all within 152 pages. The twenty-nine-page introduction is organized under five headings: “Literary Issues”; “The Letter in Its Literary Context” (which deals with the thought-world of James through an exploration of its points of contact with the canonical and extracanonical Jewish and Christian literature); “The Letter in Its Social Context” (i.e., intended audience); “Authorship and Dating”; and “Themes in the Letter.” James is presented as a protreptic discourse (i.e., a “general call to a life of virtue”), written in the style of a diatribe and in the form of a letter (16-18). After its epistolary salutation, the text falls into three major sections: introduction (1:2-27), main body (2:1-5:6), and conclusion (5:7-20). Apart from this broad outline, Sleeper finds no “logical progression” in James (20); the letter appears rather to consist of “notes, in random order, on several topics” (19). The text is likened to “a lot of loose beads strung together,” with the various themes presented in the introductory section (Sleeper counts sixteen) picked up and elaborated at random points elsewhere in the letter. The intended audience is described as “Jewish Christians living outside Judea” (cf. 1:1), and perhaps especially in Alexandria, “who were familiar with the Greco-Roman moral tradition” (31-32). The majority of them were poor (see, e.g., 33). [Full Review]