10/22/2014

James The Just

This is a fascinating book on James from a Jewish perspective.

A Jewish book. Written by Dr. David Friedman (Jewish Rabbi, scholar, former Academic Dean and Professor of Jewish Studies at King of Kings College in Jerusalem, Israel; currently lectures internationally on biblical topics), James The Just presents the view from a Messianic perspective by focusing on the Jewish aspects of this practical NT book. The author states that this is not a verse-by-verse exegetical commentary. He encourages us to put on our Jewish glasses (if we are not Jewish), and to read the NT as a Jewish book, which is the context in which James was written.

Who is James? James (Ya'akov was his real name) was the chief rabbi of his early Messianic Jewish community in Jerusalem. His role was that of Torah teacher par excellence, chief halakhic judge and authority, and spokesman for the entire community. (Halakha or halakhic: Applications of the biblcal commandments to a community lifestyle.) In brief, Ya'akov was:
  1. a chief rabbi.
  2. a Torah scholar.
  3. a Bible commentator.
  4. akin to a high court judge.
A practical application of Leviticus. The writings of Ya'akov were a specific style of rabbinic writings. It is a collection of highlights from the sermons of the chief rabbi of Jerusalem's Messianic Jewish community. Likely, James gave these sermon talks on Sabbaths where the ending section of Leviticus was studied (chapters 19-22).

It was a collection of a particular rabbi's sayings and teachings (a Yalkut, in Hebrew, is a collection of highlighted teachings by a rabbi, often collected by his students). The main emphases of the yalkut are:
  • practical Torah
  • practical encouragement on how to live
  • not philosophical, but concrete: instructional guides on how to live according to Torah
  • most misunderstood point: "fiath & works," Ya'akov's point: keeping the instructions of the Torah is proof that one has strong faith in God and in Messiah Yeshua (Jesus).
The subjects found in Leviticus 19-22 which Ya'akov expounds upon are:
  1. The proper use of speech (in rabbinic literature, it is the laws of improper speech, speaking behind someone's back, smearing another and slander).
  2. Proper business practices.
  3. Contractual oaths.
  4. The showing of favoritism in legal matters.
  5. The value of being humble.
  6. Society's obligation to widows and orphans.
  7. The royal law of the Torah.

His words were written down by a scribe or by his students, for distribution into the Diaspora as instrumental guides for communities. His "book" may have been distributed and studied as commentary to Leviticus 19-22 in early Messianic Jewish communities in the Diaspora.

Though James is written in Greek, the letter of James is a uniquely Messianic Jewish view based on thoroughly Torah-based concepts that are from the five books of Moses. It is Jewish in:

  1. Subject matter.
  2. Tone.
  3. Emphasis.
  4. It's main expressed points.

As expressed in Jas 1:22-25, "...the most important matter is not study (of the Torah), but the practice" (Shimon, son of Paul's teacher, Gamliel). The first century Jewish world, both Jews and Messianic Jews, views "works" as the performance of the biblical commandments as stemming from one's faith in God, and never in opposition to it. In Jewish thought, the purpose of fulfilling the biblical commandments was never to earn entrance into the world to come, which may be a misconception of many today.

I received a copy of the book for free from Messianic Jewish Publishers & Resources via Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for my review. I am under no obligation to provide a favorable review.