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.
46 Huub van de Sandt
completely from this realm of human passion and destructiveness.
Rather than testing his creatures, God sends them good things. James
speaks of how â€œby his decision,â€ God â€œgave birthâ€ to humans by a
â€œword of truthâ€. The reversal with regard to 1,13-15 is complete. The
meaning of this passage emerges from 3,13-18. Speaking of the divine
wisdom giving birth, James uses ajpokuevw (â€œto bear youngâ€) instead
of the more familiar synonym gennavw or tivktw. In our passage, he
speaks about the lovgo" by which God brings about a rebirth so that we
are the â€œfirst fruitsâ€ of his creations â€œof truthâ€ (1,18, ajlhqeiva").
Verses 1,19-21 begin with the address: â€œmy beloved brothers and
sistersâ€, employing thus the same vocative used at the beginning of
1,16-18. In 1,19-20 the initial result of human ejpiqumiva is specified as
anger (ojrghv) (27): â€œKnow this, my beloved brethren, let every man be
quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for the anger of man does
not work the righteousness of Godâ€. A further observation crucial to
the remainder of this paper, is that it is not just the particular detail of
the general passage in Jas 1,14-15 â€” which in 1,19d-20 is spelled out
as ojrghv â€” that connects the two passages, but also the formal
characteristic of the figure. The form of each of the two passages is
best designated as concatenation because they show the repetition of
one word from the preceding phrase in the phrase which follows it (28).
In Jas 1,14-15 the catenated form of â€œdesireâ€ and â€œsinâ€ lead to death
while the chain-syllogism in Jas 1,19-20 draws attention to the result
of anger. Since v. 19 of this unit deals with speech, it is probably a
sudden outburst of impetuous anger against another Christian which is
meant. The angry eruption according to v. 20 does not produce the type
of righteousness which reflects the standard God set for humanity.
(27) According to WALL, Community of the Wise, 192-247, James 4,1â€“5,6
elaborates on this third member of this triadic proverb: â€œquick to hear, slow to
speak, slow to angerâ€. Each of the three exhortations of this proverb â€œsupplies the
thematic interest or orienting concern for each of the three successive units that
make up the compositionâ€™s main body: â€˜quick to hearâ€™ is explained in 1:22â€“2:26,
â€˜slow to speakâ€™ in 3:1-18, and â€˜slow to angerâ€™ in 4:1â€“5:6â€ (69).
(28) On the chain-saying form, cf. DIBELIUS, James, 94-99; J. MARTY, lâ€™Ã‰pÃ®tre
de Jacques: Ã©tude critique (Paris 1935) 35. Of course, Jas 1,2-4 shows in
concatenated form how endurance under testing comes to perfection, while 1,12-
15 employs the exact same concepts. â€œSomething similar is found in Jas 1:2-4:
the climax, which is presented in the form of a catena, properly reads â€˜trialsâ€™ â€“
â€˜enduranceâ€™ â€“ â€˜perfectionâ€™ (peirasmoiv â€“ uJpomonhv â€“ teleiovth")â€ but â€œthe passage
in Jas 1:14, 15, which we took as our point of departure, offers a purer form of the
catenaâ€ (see DIBELIUS, James, 97).