Check out, @Steve_Runge’s “High Definition Commentary: James”

images+%281%29One of the worst things about text messages is that you never really get the sense of the person talking. Think about it. Someone texts you something and how do you read it? With the voice that is inside your head. If the same person says the exact same thing to you, how will you receive it? You’re going to pay attention to their body language and you will hear their voice. There is a lot of nuance loss in written communication.

The written word is great for delivering messages — and equally problematic in keeping them concealed.

We often have the same issues with reading Scripture. The text simply dries up and we are left with a wasteland barren of nuance, cues, and inflection…giving us only black and white letters on a page.

james hi-def
Click this bad boy

Enter discourse analysis, a field of study and translation that if Runge hasn’t invented, has at least mastered. In a recent post, he writes,

Understanding these discourse devices serves as a foundation for moving on to higher-level analysis of a book’s message and structure. Identifying the markers used for signaling boundaries will better equip you to organize your expository preaching and teaching. And far from offering you just theory, this bundle of courses moves from foundational overview to detailed application of the principles to an exposition of Paul’s letter to the Philippians.

But, this post is not really about discourse analysis — rather, it is more about the latest released in the line. In reading through this commentary on James, his focus is truly on his adage, “Choice implies meaning.” This is something I believe as well. He doesn’t need to convince me, but if you need convincing, then simply read through these commentaries. For example, in James 5.1-6, Runge is able to note that the author of the Epistle is not simply talking to “the rich people,” but calls a wide audience to hear him…and then singles out the rich. He goes on to note that the Greek provides a nuance that allows the author to make a statement and then support it — something lacking in English. Finally, discourse analysis smooths the break between 5.6 and 5.7, something Runge notes through this study (99–102).

As always, Runge provides the reader with a well-thought out and well-written commentary on a book often ignored – either because of the supposed lack of theology or simply because it looks to be a simple read. Runge shows otherwise and does so by getting to the meat on the bones of the Greek words used by the Jewish writer.

now…if I can just get him to do a book on Galatians… 

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One Reply to “Check out, @Steve_Runge’s “High Definition Commentary: James””

  1. Just curious…
    Is the authorship discussed?

    From the Sample Pages:
    “Think of the possible credentials the James could have chosen for his greeting in verse 1. Most scholars believe he was Jesus’ own brother; reminding his readers of this fact would certainly boost his credibility in their eyes.”

    It seems “Most scholars believe…” Is at odds with some commentaries I have. If James is a redaction of an older, unknown document of James, brother of Jesus; or a totally different James as author, seems like the “High Definition”, becomes rather fuzzy.

    From among the several individuals named “James” who figure prominently in the early church, Christian tradition has held that the opening salutation refers to the brother of Jesus (Mt 13:55; Mk 6:3; Gal 1:19) and who was a leader in the Jerusalem church (Gal 2:9; Acts 15:13). Yet scholars have challenged this identification since antiquity. Those who defend the tradition argue that only such a well-known figure could refer to himself as James without an additional epithet, and that the absence of any biographical details differs significantly from other
    works considered pseudepigraphical (cf. 2 Tim 4:9-18). Modern critics of authenticity often cite doubts voiced in the early church: indications the letter dates to after James’s martyrdom (ca. 62 CE), and a Greek literary style well
    beyond the likely capabilities of a Galilean villager. Recent commentators have suggested that material originating from James was reworked by a disciple after his martyrdom to create the letter as we know it. However, it remains possible that the author was an otherwise unknown James only later identified with Jesus’ brother.”
    The New Oxford Annotated Bible, NRSV, 4th Edition, 2010.

    “Of authorship and date not much is known. The tradition that it was written by James the brother of the Lord has little support from ancient times. The indications of the letter
    itself – its excellent Greek with vivid metaphor and facile use of idiom, its apparent knowledge of 1 Peter (compare Jas.1:1 with 1 Pet.1:1; and 4.10 with 1 Pet.5:6) and of certain
    letters of Paul – suggest a Hellenistic Christian as its author and a date toward the end of the first century.”
    The New Oxford Annotated Bible, RSV, 2nd Edition, 1977.

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