Wednesday, November 21, 2012

James 1

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As usual, when I start a new book I like to check out the wikipedia page. I looks like this is a letter written by James, although I didn't see anything about who he was writing it for. It says that "[James] consists largely of moral exhortations and precepts of a traditional and eclectic nature." so perhaps it is intended as a letter for a general audience. Hopefully this means there will be plenty of material that will be of interest for me if it focuses on morals. Apparently our earliest copies are from mid to late 3rd century, although it is attributed to James the Just who died in 62 or 69. I'm not really sure how that works out, I guess the early copies were lost?

Greeting (v. 1)

Apparently I was right, James is writing "To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion", I guess it is just written for all.

Testing of Your Faith (v. 2-18)

You should be happy when you face trials, when you stand up to tests of your faith you become more steadfast, and letting this steadfastness have its full effect makes you perfect and complete.

This idea I find interesting, because I find grains of truth in it, but it's all mixed up with stuff I don't like, and the conclusion is pushed way too far. We'll start with the idea that you should be happy to face trials. I was arguing recently that we should accept challenges to our ideas because it is a chance for growth. We can find out if we are wrong and improve our positions, or we can be more confident in our previous position if our ideas hold up and have one more piece of evidence that are are indeed correct. This sounds like I am saying the same thing, we become more steadfast, but what I'm talking about isn't the same as what is written here. I'm talking about becoming more steadfast by employing error correction. Without the option to change your opinion if you are proven wrong this whole thing is worthless. The verse is about faith, it is about standing up to a challenge and never moving an inch. This is a very bad thing, this is the basis that people use to deny evolution or climate change given the ridiculous amount of evidence that we have at this point. Furthermore, I mention that we improve through these trials, which is similar to what is written here, except it says you become perfect. There is really no ideal, there's no end to the pursuit of knowledge. There is no room to improve yourself if you think you are already perfect. This is similar to something good, but it is poison, it is the evil twin of a good message.

If you lack wisdom, ask God and he will give it to you. But you must ask in faith without doubt. If you doubt you should expect to get nothing from the Lord, as you are double-minded and unstable.

So basically, if you ask God for wisdom and you don't get it, then it is your fault. Also, when it says that doubts are not allowed, it is basically saying that skepticism is bad.

Don't blame God when you are tempted, for God cannot be tempted by evil and God tempts no one. You are tempted by your own desires, which grow into sin and then death.

Reading this, I just knew it had to be bullshit. I generally try not to read SAB while doing my blog, but this time it seemed like a perfect time to use it. With it's help, I discovered that God can indeed be tempted, and God does indeed tempt people

Everything good comes from God.

Well that's a nice blanket statement. I love that God gets credit for everything good and washes his hands of everything bad. If he created everything and set up the rules for everything, shouldn't he have to take credit for the good and the bad?

I didn't really have time to do my normal inspection of christian commentaries today, but I did glance really quick through Guzik's (if anyone is wondering why I use his so much, they are generally pretty good, and the format is excellent for scanning for specific items) and he seems to have accepted the things I have complained about hook line and sinker.

Hearing and Doing the Word (v. 19-26)

You should be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.

Now that's good stuff! We should not only listen to the words other people say, but really hear it. Being slow to speak suggests we should truly listen and understand, instead of waiting for the other person to stop talking so we can start talking. And of course being slow to anger is great as well. Patience is a great virtue, and that is really what we are talking about here.

For the overview post (If you think I should add or remove stuff from this list please let me know, I think it would make good conversation)


1:19 Be a good listener and be slow to anger

"Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;"


1:6 Skepticism is bad

"But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind."

1:13,17 God takes credit for good and distances himself from bad

"Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God," for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one."

"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change."


  1. Once again we see the bad outweighing the good. One of the things that always strikes me when I read the bible is the lack of knowledge the writers had for older books in the bible or their decision to ignore it, perhaps with the knowledge that their audience would be ignorant of it.

    The story of James saying god can't be tempted or doesn't tempt is a great example of this. Either he is not aware of his error, which calls into doubt his credibility to be writing this in the first place, or he is full of BS--either way, it's not good.

    1. That's a good point, it reminds me of a saying Carolla likes to throw out in these situations, "stupid or liar". Are you wrong because you are incompetent or because you are lying to me? Either way we have a problem.

  2. Finally, out of Hebrews! :-)

    RB is right on the money. It is amazing at times how blatantly they contradict the OT, as you saw in SAB. :-) That whole "everything good comes from God" also has some OT Biblical truth to it depending on interpretation. The difference is that everything bad also comes from God by that same OT interpretation. ;-)

    By the way, the "To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion" is probably a reference to the Jews which were scattered throughout the other nations, and specifically Jewish followers of Jesus in this case. If that is the case, it would almost make more sense for this to be written after 70 CE, when the Temple was destroyed by the Romans, but there were already considerable disbursements of Jews throughout the middle-eastern world as well. So there may be some content, like in Hebrews, which requires a little Jewish-insider knowledge to understand, but so far you've got it down pretty well.

    Great points about facing the trials.

    1. Interesting about the dating of this being like after year 70. Historical dating like that seems so interesting. Especially when you include that there is some interpretation involved at the based level ("is probably a reference to...") it seems there is really no way to know for sure. But it certainly seems like compelling evidence to me.


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