Pheme Perkins: Skepticism about the Epistle of James

Pheme Perkins, First and Second Peter, James, and Jude, Interpretation (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1995), 93-94:

Most Christians share Luther’s skepticism about James. It tells us nothing of Jesus, so it cannot have much to contribute to the development of the Christian faith. Luther referred to James as an “epistle of straw.” At the end of the nineteenth century, the German commentator, Johann Gottfried Herder replied that the nourishment of unthreaded grain could be found within the straw nonetheless…. Modern interests in liberation theology have drawn some attention to the treatment of the poor in James…..However, most Christians find the assumptions of an ancient economy structured on the hierarchical authority of a wealthy, landowning elite far removed from their own experience. Like Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, and like other first-century writings that embody the generalities of ancient wisdom, James gathers advice on how to live that is difficult to translate into modern experience.

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