Huub van de Sandt, «James 4,1-4 in the Light of the Jewish Two Ways
Tradition 3,1-6», Vol. 88 (2007) 38-63
The author of the Letter of James accuses his readers (Jas 4,1-4) of being responsible for war, murder and adultery. How are we to explain this charge? This paper shows that the material in Jas 1,13-21; 2,8-11 and 4,1-4 is closely akin to
the teknon section in Did 3,1-6. The teknon section belonged to the Jewish Two Ways tradition which, for the most part, is covered by the first six chapters of the
Didache. Interestingly, Did 3,1-6 exhibits close affinity with the ethical principles of a particular stream of Rabbinic tradition found in early Derekh Erets treatises. James 4,1-4 should be considered a further development of the warnings in Did 3,1-6.
James 4,1-4 in the Light of the Jewish Two Ways Tradition 3,1-6 39
proeipovnte"), baptizeâ€ (7,1) (5). It makes good sense to assume a
baptismal setting influenced James, too, and that some form of Did
1â€“6 underlies the Letter of James to a certain extent. First, Jas 1,21
(stressing the renunciation of all evil) is strikingly similar to 1 Pet 2,1.
Since the latter verse belongs to a passage (1,23â€“2,2) reflecting a
baptismal context, a baptismal setting is not unlikely for Jas 1,21
either (6). Also the statement in Jas 1,18 â€” about the â€œword of truthâ€
bringing about a rebirth of Godâ€™s creatures â€” might indicate a similar
(baptismal) life-situation (Sitz im Leben) as in 1 Pet 1,23 (7). The
teaching might have been part of the catechesis for any candidate prior
to his or her baptism in Jamesâ€™ community.
The Two Ways may also be the background to the Letter of James
for another reason. The letter shows a dualistic shape in its teaching
and theology. James builds his letter around the polar opposition of
two lifestyles, one led in friendship with God, the other in friendship
with the world, and this antagonism can be taken as thematic for the
composition of Jamesâ€™ letter as a whole (Jas 4,4) (8). Similar
antagonistic wording and clarification is found in the Two Ways.
(5) As late as in fourth-century Egypt, the Two Ways manual was used as a
pre-baptismal teaching and a basic instruction about Christian life to neophytes.
See VAN DE SANDT â€“ FLUSSER, The Didache, 86-89.
(6) F. MUSSNER, Der Jakobusbrief (HTKNT XIII/1; Freiburg â€“ Basel â€“ Wien
1987) 101; See also W. POPKES, Adressaten, Situation und Form des
Jakobusbriefes (SBS 125/126; Stuttgart 1986) 176-178; P.H. DAVIDS, The Epistle
of James. A Commentary on the Greek Text (NIGTC; Grand Rapids, MI â€“
Cambridge, UK 1982) 90. For example, the Greek verb ajpotivqhmi (â€œput asideâ€)
in Jas 1,21 (cf. 1 Pet 2,1) might reflect a baptismal setting. It can be used literally
for taking off clothes and laying them aside. In the baptismal ritual clothes were
taken off for ritual purification and rebirth into a new life. See also L.T. JOHNSON,
The Letter of James. A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (AB;
New York 1995) 201; D.J. MOO, The Epistle of James. An Introduction and
Commentary (TNTC; Grand Rapids, MI â€“ Cambridge, UK 1985) 80.
(7) See also Col 1,10; Eph 2,15; 4,21-24; 5,26. Compare K. SYREENI, â€œThe
Sermon on the Mount and the Two Ways Teaching of the Didacheâ€, Matthew and
The Didache. Two Documents from the same Jewish-Christian Milieu? (ed. H.
VAN DE SANDT) (Assen â€“ Minneapolis 2005) 91, n. 16.
(8) Cf. JOHNSON, The Letter of James, 288-289; ID., â€œFriendship with the
World and Friendship with God: A Study of Discipleship in Jamesâ€, Discipleship
in the New Testament (ed. F. SEGOVIA) (Philadelphia 1985) 166-183; repr. in L.T.
JOHNSON, Brother of Jesus, Friend of God. Studies in the Letter of James (Grand
Rapids, MI â€“ Cambridge, UK 2004) 202-220; R. BAUCKHAM, James. Wisdom of
James, Disciple of Jesus the Sage (New Testament Readings; London â€“ New
York 1999) 106; P.J. HARTIN, James (Sacra Pagina Series 14; Collegeville, MN
2003) 67-68; DAVIDS, The Epistle of James, 161.