Andrew M. Bowden, «The Fruit of Righteousness in James: A Study in Discourse Analysis.», Vol. 26 (2013) 87-108
In this study, a discourse analysis of James is conducted with the goal of better understanding the structure, theme, and cohesion of the letter. By paying careful attention to the details of the text, James’ paragraphs are identified, as are the signals of transition between the various paragraphs. The conclusions reached based on a discourse analysis of James are illuminating. Far from being a randomly arranged work, James repeatedly uses present prohibitory imperatives in the overall organization of the Epistle. These imperatives are important in marking transitions between main sections. Furthermore, a discourse analysis reveals that James is a coherent epistle comprised of 16 paragraphs, with 3,13-18 providing the overarching macrostructure of the letter. Bearing the fruit of righteousness, a theme prominent in 3,13-18, is seen to be the letter’s overarching and unifying thought.
96 Andrew M. Bowden
sections is marked by a recognizable pattern, since each is introduced by
a vocative plus a prohibitory present imperative using the Greek μή and
in contexts discussing judgment33. This pattern, which also introduces
the body-conclusion, is depicted as follows:
2,1 Ἀδελφοί μου, μὴ ἐν προσωπολημψίαις ἔχετε … ἐγένεσθε κριταὶ
3,1 μὴ πολλοὶ διδάσκαλοι γίνεσθε, ἀδελφοί μου … μεῖζον κρίμα λημψόμεθα
4,11 μὴ καταλαλεῖτε ἀλλήλων, ἀδελφοί … κρίνων τὸν ἀδελφὸν, κρίνει νόμον
5,9 μὴ στενάζετε, ἀδελφοί … ἵνα μὴ κριθῆτε
The first section of the body, beginning in 2,1, emphasizes the
inevitability of believers bearing the fruit of righteousness. The second
section follows closely on this thought, discounting an illusory good deed
(the tongue, 3,1-12) before explaining what genuine fruit really looks like
(3,13-18), and then issuing a call to repentance for not only the lack of
such fruit, but the complete opposite manifestation in the readers’ lives.
Finally, the third division, beginning in 4,11, exposes three specific ways
the readers have failed to bear this kind of righteous fruit.
126.96.36.199 Section One: Believers’ Actions towards the Poor Demonstrates
a Failure to Bear the Fruit of Righteousness (2,1-26)
In this text-sequence James explains the utter foolishness of claiming
that as God’s firstfruits believers need not display righteousness in their
actions. James will argue that the fruit of righteousness is only sown by
those who put their faith into action. Within the span of vv. 1-26 there
are four major paragraphs.
In the first paragraph of this section (2,1-7), James argues that it is
inconsistent for God’s firstfruits to act contrary to God’s nature and
character. Believers are showing favoritism to the rich and dishonoring
the poor and thereby acting in an opposite manner to the way God treats
the poor. His attitudes should prompt believers to treat others, including
the poor, with righteousness. In confronting this sin, James shows that
favoritism is evil and contradicts God’s action. Furthermore, their actions
are foolish, since the rich are the ones harming believers.
In this first paragraph, James begins an argument that runs
throughout this section in which he seeks to prove that his readers are
in need of repentance. To add force to his argument, James uses four
This structuring pattern has been noted by Johnson, who bases a portion of his outline
on it (James, 326), and by Cheung (Genre, 67, 71). That the theme of judgment occurs at
each major transition gives credibility to Baasland’s statement: “James views everything
from the perspective of judgment” (“Weisheit”, 122, author’s trans.).