June 27, 2008

Jewish (Un)Believers

Generally, popular writers seem to think James wrote his letter to Jews who were believers and Matthew wrote his letter to Jews who were unbelievers. I'm starting to think that's actually backwards. (Or at least half-backwards.)

I'm starting to suspect James' Letter was "seeker friendly" outreach to Jews worldwide in the synagogue, to build a good reputation for the sect of 'Jesus Jews', to astound the Jews by saying things 'with authority and not as their teachers of the law' and to mention the Lord's name a couple of times as an opening.

I'm also looking at Matthew's Gospel as "in your face" outreach to Jews who had come to consider themselves followers of Christ's teachings, but didn't fully believe in the Man Himself. Like the Pharisees I posted/posited about yesterday. There must have been such people in early Jerusalem. They probably did write "little sayings gospels". And they'd seem to fit perfectly with Matthew's intended audience.

By the way, I'm suddenly also thinking there are certain things about traditional Christendom (mainly Protestant, as far as I can guess) that have given us the NEED to see James as something we can homogenize with Paul's writings and the MINDSET to see Matthew as argumentative evangelism to unbelievers.

But back to the main point:

I'm thinking James' Letter was outreach to unbelieving Jews and Matthew was outreach to pseudo-christian "teachings believers".

More exploration of both these ideas very soon...

UPDATE (6/28/08) - given the timing of James' Letter (~50/51) and Matthew's Gospel (~59-60) I can't help thinking James' Letter accidently helped create the kind of "half-believers" Matthew was trying to convert "all the way". END OF UPDATE

UPDATE TWO (7/1/08) - I'll be the first to admit my Greek Grammar is virtually nil, but I've been looking at the verb "to hold" in James 2:1 and wondering if it might possibly have the sense of a future imperitave. (?) That is, if James is writing to potential converts, could he be saying (in effect) "don't decide to [accept/take/hold] faith in Christ if you're going to do it with partiality..." (?) Maybe.

But if James is writing to Jewish Christian believers, why is there no cross, no resurrection and no holy spirit? To me, the only other view is to lump James in with the "teachings only" crowd, and - at this moment - I'm still trying hard to think more highly of James than that.

Or was James just being INCLUSIVE of the teachings only crowd? That might explain it all, but still... oy vei! END OF UPDATE TWO

PS: It's not damaging to my views to think there was a christless, crossless, resurrectionless "form of christianity" going on at such an early date. It just has to be shown how much more plausible it is that such a movement was a sect within the sect, a much smaller population which wasn't truly representative of the much larger christian community empire wide (yes, even in Jerusalem).

PPS: Paul's concerns to save the Jews (mentioned in 57 AD, in his letter to the Romans) and James' concerns for the zealous legalists might have merged perfectly into this type of a scenario, with both Paul and James hoping to gradually win them over... possibly.

But I'm getting waay ahead of myself now! :)

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