Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
GTJ 4:2 (Fall 83) p. 310
Commentary on James, by Peter Davids. New International Greek Testament Commentary series. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982. Pp. 226. $14.95.
In this third volume in the NIGTC series, Peter Davids has provided a thorough and up-to-date commentary on James which interacts in detail with the most recent NT research. The author is Associate Professor of Biblical Studies at Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry in Ambridge, PA.
The author’s stance is evangelical. He accepts the Jacobean authorship of the epistle, but carefully delineates the various possibilities within this general framework as suggested by contemporary studies. Arguing that external evidence yields no certain conclusion about the date of the epistle, Davids takes his readers to a detailed study of internal evidence. He analyzes the Hellenistic culture reflected in the epistle, the Jewish-Christian culture, the historical-doctrinal position, and the “James-Paul Debate,” and draws his conclusions after assessing the arguments of all points of view. In Davids’s view, the evidence on authorship and date leads to only limited conclusions. Nevertheless he states that the probabilities are for an authorship by James the Just between A.D. 40 and the Jerusalem Council. However, he also asserts the likelihood that James either received assistance in the editing of his epistle, or else that it was edited later, perhaps after his death, as the church spread beyond Jerusalem and used Greek more widely (p. 22). To Davids, this hypothesis fits the Sitz im Leben more easily in the sections on poverty and wealth, as well as the Greek idiom which is unusually proficient for one of Palestinian origin. However, I am not convinced that resorting to later redactors is the only way or the best way to explain the phenomena. Literary skills are not limited by geography, and the employment of amanuenses at the time of composition could explain whatever grammatical polishing requires explanation.
In his discussion of the Sitz im Leben of the epistle, Davids suggests that the last three decades before the first Jewish War (i.e., A.D. 40-60) furnish the best setting for the kind of Jewish life reflected in the letter (p. 33). After the death of Herod Agrippa I (ca. A.D. 44), famines and internal instability characterized the land. It was not only a period of clash between Jews and the church, but also within the temple clergy, and between the wealthy and the poor in Judaism. The commentary assumes that the original traditions which form the content of the epistle appeared during the early part of this period, and were gathered and perhaps edited during the latter part. “Thus the work is perhaps the last picture one has of the Palestinian church before the storms of war closed over it” (p. 34)....
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