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.
42 Huub van de Sandt
nowhere else in James. Such symbolic language would differ from the
imagery in the rest of the letter where it is precisely friendship and not
marriage which is emphasized. Jamesâ€™ readers can be friends with God
like Abraham (2,23), or they can be friends with the world (4,4). How
then to satisfactorily explain the selection of the adultery image in Jas
The present paper shows that these difficulties can be solved by
invoking the aid of the Two Ways tradition, that is, the section as
reflected in Did 3,1-6. This is not as simple a task as it may seem. It is
true, Jamesâ€™ letter is permeated with allusions to other sources such as
the teaching of Jesus, the Bible, the Testaments of the Twelve
Patriarchs, and the Wisdom of Solomon. It is a redacted work, a text
which was constructed from separate blocks of tradition which were
then re-arranged to become integral parts of a coherent structure (17). In
most cases, however, there is no clear evidence to suggest the direct
dependence of James on other writings since these parallels involve
language or motifs that are found in more than one of these works.
â€œDetermining the precise provenance of any specific expression within
James is commensurately difficult, since there are usually too many
possibilitiesâ€ (18). Rather than consciously alluding to the sources he
used, James re-expressed, reformulated, and developed these
traditional materials as his own teaching (19).
(16) For elaboration of these and other problems connected with the term
â€˜adulteressesâ€™ in this verse, cf. J.J. SCHMITT, â€œYou adulteresses! The Image in
James 4:4â€, NT 28 (1986) 331-334.
(17) DAVIDS, The Epistle of James, 22-24; ID., â€œThe Epistle of James in
Modern Discussionâ€, ANRW II.25,5 (Berlin â€“ New York 1988) 3621-3645; esp.
3630; M.E. TAYLOR, â€œRecent Scholarship on the Structure of Jamesâ€, Currents in
Biblical Research 3 (2004) 86-115; esp. 105-106.
(18) L.T. JOHNSON â€“ W.H. WACHOB, â€œThe Sayings of Jesus in the Letter of
Jamesâ€, Authenticating the Words of Jesus (eds. B. CHILTON â€“ C.A. EVANS)
(NTTS 28/1; Leiden 1999) 431-450; repr. in JOHNSON, Brother of Jesus, 136-154;
(19) HARTIN, James, 82-85; DAVIDS, â€œThe Epistle of James in Modern
Discussionâ€, 3630. See also BAUCKHAM, James, 78-83; W.H. WACHOB, The Voice
of Jesus in the Social Rhetoric of James (SNTSMS 106; Cambridge 2000) 116.
According to J.S. Kloppenborg (â€œThe Reception of the Jesus Traditions in
Jamesâ€, The Catholic Epistles and the Tradition [ed. J. SCHLOSSER] [BETL 176;
Leuven 2004] 93-141) â€œthe lack of verbatim agreement between a predecessor
text and its re-performanceâ€ is due to â€œthe rhetorical practice of performance â€¦
The differences between the predecessor text and the paraphrase are not due to
the vagaries of oral transmission but due instead to deliberate and studied
techniques of verbal and conceptual transformationâ€ (221).