James for Jews

I am reading an interesting translation of the New Testament:  “The Restored New Testament: A New Translation with Commentary, Including the Gnostic Gospels Tomas, Mary, and Judas.” by Willis Barnstone.  I checked it out of my library to give it a look.  Barnstone seems a pretty interesting guy (see Wiki).  He is a poet and a translator (works with Greek, Chinese, Spanish and others).  I am enjoying his NT translations, they give me a new perspective on the NT.

The first book I read was “Yaakov” (James).  In his commentary he tells us that Jesus is only mentioned twice in the book of James and based on both placements–the first verse of the first two chapters–they may be pious insertions.  He feels the book of James may simply have been Jewish pseudepigrapha composed during the intertestamental period which is wisdom writing (not a letter) from a highly Hellenized Jew with “high poetic discourse to the poor”.   The work was then “lightly Christianized” to make it acceptable in an emerging canon.   Barnstone feels James was probably writing to fellow Jews.

Reading James in light of this made much sense to me.  With only a little looking about, I found these sites which also entertain this hypothesis:

I am adding this to my Bible Manipulation collection.

Question for readers:

  • Have you heard of Barnstone or this translation?  Luke’s Atheist google search shows almost nothing.
  • Had you heard of this hypothesis before?  Am I just really out of it? 🙂


Filed under Philosophy & Religion

11 responses to “James for Jews

  1. thanks for comment, WB

  2. Willis, thanx for stopping in. Is my summary of what I thought you said about the book of James fairly accurate? [*Sabio is hoping the comment was not made by a bot]

  3. james

    Hey i like your willingness to explore the book of James. Luthers hatred towards it has had a significant impact on its use in church history. I think it was also marginalized because of its demanding ethical code.
    I am not sure about your hypothesis regarding the insertion of Jesus’ name after the fact. It is curious that there is not more reference to jesus. But the letter is highly resonant with the sermon on the mount and wisdom literature in general. Try reading the sermon on the mount and then this book and you will be surprised.
    This proverbial kind of wisdom writing is common in Jewish writing and would have likely been received in this light. I believe that this book is the legitimate writing of the half brother of Jesus but that conviction is certainly open to debate.
    I really like the commentary “James Brother of Jesus Friend of God” by Luke Timothy Johnson.

  4. @ James
    I was under the impression that most modern, non-confessional scholars are pretty much in agreement that James is not written by Jesus’ brother. I know many Christian would prefer that the gospels & Revelations were likewise written by apostles but I thought this was now not accepted. What does Luke Timothy Johnson say?

  5. james

    Hey Sabio.
    Yeah, it is true that non-confessional scholars do not believe James is written by Jesus brother. Confessional types are split on this issue. Johnson still supports his authorship, however he is a catholic. It is interesting to note that the arguments brought up by non-confessionals are not definitive. Most confessional types, Johnson, Brosend, Davids will point the limits of research to decisively determine authorship. You have to take a leap at some point.
    It might be of interest to try and read the text “as if” it was written by James and see what happens.
    I am interested in rhetoric and the text and so am interested in these kinds of exercises.

  6. @ James
    Great summary — thank you kindly. I agree, reading the text with different view points in mind is incredibly illuminating. I remember learning that when I did acting in Japan for 2 years — same script, completely different meanings depending on tone, pauses, emphasis, moods etc …
    With that old of a text I imagine determining authorship “definitively” — heck, look at the puzzlement over the Federalist Papers and even more resent documents. 🙂
    Do you have a website? Seems like you should (or will).

  7. The Restored New Testament sounds interesting. I wonder how it compares to the Pre-Nicene New Testament I have the latter, but have not read it yet, and with my current reading dry-spell I have no idea when I will read it. 😉

  8. No shocker here… it may even have been a Jewish Christian writing, but was even more “Christianized” as orthodoxy went from following Jesus to worshipping the Christ.

  9. @Zero
    Do you feel the orthodox move to worship Jesus as a Messiah was the right move? Are you saying the more of the early church did not see Jesus as a god?

    Indeed the writer may be a Jewish Christian but if so, only in that he valued that rabbi’s teachings. Is that is what you are saying?

  10. I feel orthodoxy it has it’s pluses and minuses, jury is out on that one.

    I am saying some early Christians did not see Jesus as a god but they got over written by the later orthodox movement.

    And I am indeed saying that about James.

  11. @ Zero
    Thanks — makes sense to me.

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