The soteriology of James in light of earlier Jewish Wisdom literature and the Gospel of Matthew
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The epistle of James has been neglected in NT studies, caught between its relationship with Paul and the claim that it has no theology. Even as it experiences a resurgence of study, surprisingly no full-length survey exists on James as the epistle of “faith and works.” Approaches to James have neglected its soteriology and, in consequence, its theological themes have been separated or studied only in connection with Paul. As “moral character,” however, “faith” and “works” fit within a coherent theology of God’s mercy and judgment. This study provides a sustained reading of James as a Jewish-Christian document. Because James presents the “faith” and “works” discussion in context of “can such faith save?” (2:14), the issue becomes one of soteriology and final judgment. Both the “law of freedom” and the “word of truth” demand faithful obedience—the “works.” Moreover, God’s character and deeds in election form the basis for human “works” of mercy and humble obedience, while future judgment is in accordance with virtuous character. It has been established that James shares methodology and concerns with prior wisdom literature. This thesis therefore examines key ideas developing across the Jewish literature and Jesus’ teaching as presented by Matthew, and highlights developing views of God saving and judging his people. Within the first two chapters, James gives a high view of God’s work in calling and redeeming, providing wisdom to his people, and instilling the long-anticipated new covenant that they might live in obedience, humility and purity in accordance with his character and will. Because of God’s saving work, he justly judges those who fail to live mercifully, while his mercy triumphs for those who obey. God begins the work and sustains those who ask; but only those who submit to the “perfect law of freedom,” whose faith works, receive mercy when God enacts his final justice.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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