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Saturday, 19 January 2019

Prayer gets the thumbs up.

I first read through the opening chapter of James' letter and wondered if all his allusions were taken from the New Testament. No. In that first chapter my New King James Version (with the centre column containing page cross-references) lists the Old Testament books of: I Kings, Jeremiah, Job, Numbers, Proverbs and Isaiah, and New Testament books: Acts, II Peter, Romans, Matthew, Mark James, I Corinthians, John, Ephesians, Colossians and Luke. This man knew the whole Bible and was able to put his own imprint upon it. How beautifully the translators from the Greek have given it to us in English.
Now I have read it all. James is telling us in every verse how to be a Christian; not to have faith without works. “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:20).
Patience is a prominent theme for James. We are also told to watch what we say. And, at last we are told of the effectiveness of prayer. “Is any among you afflicted? Let him pray; Is any merry? Let him sing psalms” (James 5:13). Ask the elders of the church to pray for us when we are sick. “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (5:16).
Let us pray!
Joyce Voysey

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

James - "I like him!"

Book Club January, 2019 – JAMES

I have had to get to know James before I even start on his epistle.  I like him! The NRSV says that James is "traditionally identified" as the brother of Jesus.* And I like that the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) says, “The author writes in Greek with grammatical accuracy and some elegance.”  My first thought on reading that was, “O Jesus too would have been well educated and elegant.” (I love grammatical accuracy!) What a family it was! What a mother! We know of Mary's strength of thought from her Song of Praise.

Mary's Song of Praise: "The Magnificat" (Luke 1: 46-55)

And Mary said,
My soul magnifies the Lord,
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour,
For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden:
for behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
For he that is mighty has done to me great things;
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.
He hath showed strength with his arm;
he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He hath brought down the mighty from their seats,
and exalted those of low degree;
He hath filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent empty away.
He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy,
As he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.

Not only Jesus benefited from such refinement and spiritual strength.
Now to Joseph. Some commentators (including Bible scholar Thomas L. Leishman (1900-1978) who wrote a series called "The Continuity of the Bible" among other works) suggest that Joseph possibly already had children from a previous marriage when he married Mary. These “brethren” would perhaps then have been grown men by the time Jesus was born. Didn't Joseph take Mary and the babe into Egypt (no mention of other children), and to the temple when Jesus was 12 years old (no mention of other children making that pilgrimage)? And is that the last mention of Joseph? Perhaps he died before Jesus reached 30.
Biblical references to "James" or "brethren [of the Lord]"(excluding reference in his epistle):

  • I Cor 9:5 Have we not the power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?
  • Matt. 13:55, 56 Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not his mother called Mary? And his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas: And his  sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things? [i.e. wisdom and mighty works (verse 54)]
  • Mark 6:3, Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon and are not his sisters with us? [JV: Error would put Jesus on a totally human plane, only capable of ordinary things.]
  • Acts 1:14 All the apostles were named, then, These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.
  • Galatians 1:19. Paul went to Jerusalem to see Peter, “But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord's brother.”
  • Matt.12:46-50. While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him. Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee. But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? And who are my brethren? And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.  [See also Mark 3:31-35 and Luke 8:19-21.]
  • John 7:3-5. His brethren therefore said unto him, Depart hence, and go into Judaea, that thy disciples also may see the works that thou doest. For there is no man that doeth any thing in secret, and he himself seeketh be known openly. If thou do these things, shew thyself to the world. For neither did his brethren believe in him. 
  • See also Acts 15:13 and on. 

There is much to learn about James from the Introduction to James in Dummelow's The One Volume Bible Commentary, pp. 1031-1034. Rev. J.R. Dummelow indicates that “The unbelief of the brethren was removed after the resurrection by the appearance [of Jesus] to James." (See I Cor 15:7 "After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.". Also Acts 1:14, above.) James had not believed that Jesus was the Messiah until that point.
Dummelow also says, "James, the Lord's brother, presided at the Council, doubtless in the capacity of chief ruler of the local Church of Jerusalem. We should have expected Peter to preside. St. James' speech proves him as decided an adherent of Gentile liberty as St. Peter. He approves St. Peter's conduct in baptising Cornelius, and quotes prophecies showing that the Messianic Church will embrace all nations."

  • Paul writes in Gal. 2:9 And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision. 
And I like what Dummelow says about a good Jew. (We do not hear a lot about good Jews, it seems to me, in the New Testament.) "We must picture him [James] to ourselves, not as one of those false Jews whose observations were merely formal and external, but as one of those true and earnest Jews whose obedience to the Law as a joy and an inspiration – whose life was lived in the spirit of Ps. 119." Having just recently read through the Psalms and found a special gentleness (which I hadn't expected) in Psalm 119, I appreciate that spirit.
We are told that James was brought before the Sanhedrin and put to death by stoning a few years before the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70. Dummelow again: "A Sadducean high priest, Ananus, brought him before the Sanhedrin, and caused him to be put to death by stoning, spite the remonstrances of all the better sort of Jews." Gleaned from Josephus and Hegesippus, it says.
Joyce Voysey 

*Dummelow concludes that James was "the brother of the Lord and head of the Church at Jerusalem". Thomas L. Leishman, in "The letters of James and Jude" (see The Christian Science Journal July 1942) refers to Matt. 13:55, "Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas?"

Sunday, 13 January 2019

We are God's garden

James 1: 21 from the translation by Eugene Peterson in The Message:

 ...throw all spoiled virtue and cancerous evil in the garbage. In simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation-garden of your life.

Sunday, 6 January 2019

Ask boldly

According to Noah Webster's 1828 dictionary, an epistle is "a writing, directed or sent, communicating intelligence to a distant person; a letter; a letter missive. It is rarely used in familiar conversation or writings, but chiefly in solemn or formal transactions. It is used particularly in speaking of the letters of the Apostles...and of other letters written by the ancients, as the epistles of Pliny."

A glance at the epistle of James reveals language that is straightforward and plainly spoken. Perhaps his readers needed this directness. Perhaps it was the method to which James was accustomed. It still packs a punch for today's reader. Take, for example, his admonition about being double-minded (James 1: 8), which echoes Psalm 119: 113. (Isn't it instructive that the New Testament writers knew their Scriptures so well?)

Psalm 119: 113 -

I hate vain thoughts: but thy law do I love. (KJV)

I hate disloyal [or double-minded] people, 
but I love your teachings [instructions; laws]. (Expanded Bible EXP)

I hate the two-faced,
    but I love your clear-cut revelation. (The Message by Eugene Peterson)

I hate those who are undecided whether or not to obey you; but my choice is clear—I love your law. (The Living Bible - TLB)

James 1: 6-8

But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways. (KJV)

If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who “worry their prayers” are like wind-whipped waves. Don’t think you’re going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open. (The Message)

But when you ask him, be sure that you really expect him to tell you, for a doubtful mind will be as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind; 7-8 and every decision you then make will be uncertain, as you turn first this way and then that. If you don’t ask with faith, don’t expect the Lord to give you any solid answer. (TLB)

How good it is that this epistle was included in the Canon.

Julie Swannell

Sunday, 30 December 2018

"Captain, why don't you heal your wife yourself?"

Page 113 gives a warm account of sea captain Joseph Eastaman and his wife Mary, their entry into Christian Science and subsequent dedication to the healing work. The page also offers information about Christian Science Class Instruction, a topic of special interest this year, with new Christian Science teachers having recently graduated.

Other students mentioned in the book include Gilbert Eddy (pp. 88 ff), Calvin Frye, Janet Colman and Laura Sargent. In recalling her lessons with Mrs. Eddy, Janet Colman remarked: "She mothered us so kindly" (p. 107). Laura Sargent was to join Mrs. Eddy's household staff as personal assistant, companion, and sometimes courier for 20 years (p. 131).

The household also included animals, and horses seemed to be Mary's favourites. The book lists the names of 10 (p. 134): Duke and Prince, Dolly and Princess, Jerry and Jean, Eckersall and Tattersall, Nellie and Major, and notes that a sign above the stable door read: "Always speak to the horses before entering the stalls".

Julie Swannell

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