May, Jonathan, G
Covenant loyalty and the goodness of God: a study in the theology of James.
PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.
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The problem of what, if anything, brings continuity of thought to the exhortations found in the New Testament Letter of James has perplexed, and continues to perplex interpreters of this letter. Indeed, for Martin Dibelius the literary character of this letter provided no opportunity for the development, or elaboration of religious ideas. In view of this fact, Dibelius concluded that the Letter of James has no theology. In this present consideration of James, it is demonstrated that Dibelius' view of James as lacking a developed theology is quite mistaken. In contrast to Dibelius' opinion, James' employment and development of convenant thought provides the letter with continuity of thought, as the author uses it to challenge the 'defective' theology of the implied audience, whilst establishing his own alternative theology.
The thesis proceeds by examining three aspects of covenant thought (God's character, the nature of the convenant relationship, and the threat of assimilation) in the context of the Old Testament and other Jewish sources. Then the indictment of the implied audience, found in Jas 4:1-6, is considered in order to establish whether or not covenant thought is a significant factor in James' theology. This consideration establishes that James employs and develops covenant thought, and on this basis the following chapters proceed to investigate the role this ideology performs in the exhortations of Jas 1-2. Finally, a summary analysis of the remainder of the letter (3:1-18; 4:7-5:20) confirms that covenant thought is influential throughout the whole letter. Consequently, it is evident that covenant thought performs a significant role in the theology and ethics of the Letter of James as he seeks to combat the 'defective' theology of the implied audience whose unfaithfulness is related to their misunderstanding of both God's character and their relationship to him.
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