March 1, 2009

James' Epistle, c.AD 52 (part 3.5)

This post is the bridge between the first and last halves of this series.

Previously: (1) James & Paul don't have to be homogenized for the sake of our faith. (2) The conflict in their history together suggests there should indeed be conflict in their writings, but we may still believe they were both speaking truth and merely arguing from different perspectives - even if they often argued in the same terms, and even if this went on for years. (3) The traditional arguments for necessarily dating James' Epistle before 50 AD are invalid for various reasons.

Point: We need a better set of arguments for dating James' Epistle.

Also Recently: (1) The second chapter of Paul's letter to the Galatians can only refer to the Council of Jerusalem, which therefore dates this letter after 50 AD. (2) The vocabulary of Galatians is consistent with a situation after the Council and reveals Paul's lingering sense of conflict with Jerusalem. Now: Without defending it at this point, for the sake of time, I'm going to take the position that Galatians was written some time in the middle of 50 AD, in between the events of Acts 15:39 and 15:40.

Preview of my Conclusion: The best and most conservative date for James' Epistle is a year or two after Paul's writing to the Galatians.

Preview of Posts Left in this Series: We need to look at the linguistic connections between Galatians and James and consider possible explanations for them. After that, it's back to chronology and logistics. The next chance Paul and James had to sit down together (Acts 18:22, in the Autumn of 52 AD) could possibly be a terminus point for the last most likely date of James' Epistle. Although we cannot assume the two men came to any unity of understanding about their significant differences in perspective - at this time, if ever - we should at least assume they saw one another and spoke at some length. However much headway James & Paul were able to make during this probable meeting, it is that much less likely James would have gone on to write the same Epistle that he did.


Neil said...

This comment probably belongs underneath an earlier post, but I'm just now catching up:

Prolonging the tension between James and Paul isn't the only reason conservatives loathe equating Gal 2 with Acts 15. Due to their high view of scripture, they feel committed to reconciling Paul's account with Luke's account, despite some apparent inconsistencies. If Paul's 14th year visit was the Jerusalem Council, then he totally omits mentioning the famine visit of Acts 11. And that seems a major omission since he's arguing about how many trips to Jerusalem he felt obligated to make. Conservatives aren't comfortable with that kind of looseness in Paul's reporting. Also, Paul clearly describes his 14th year visit as a private meeting, while Acts 15 portrays a very public council. So Paul's objectivity is called into question, or else Luke's chronological faithfulness.

BTW, lugging the grain rather than the money all that distance sounds terribly impractical, so I assume we can rule that one out.

Bill said...

I always love getting new comments on old posts, but this one's fine here.

Thanks for the reminder. I think you & I talked about this years ago, but I still don't see why anyone thinks Paul's required to list all the visits. Luke makes it clear that the church was in hiding when Paul & Barnabas came in and out with the relief delivery. So if nobody saw him, it didn't get mentioned.

"Privately" can be a relative term. Acts 15:6 says it's the apostles and elders, which fits with Gal.2:2. Acts 15:12 says "multitude" but "plethos" has some flexibility to it. (Jefe, how much is a plethora?)

I admit a quick greek-concordance search shows 'plethos' tipping generally to a large number, but we don't know how many elders Jerusalem had. If the church was thousands, the elders could have been hundreds. That would qualify.

Bottom line - if you agree they didn't bring grain, then you can't squeeze "fourteen" years before Acts 11, which you must do if they brought money. Money would only help if they brought it so early that there was actually grain still available to be bought!

Maybe we need to accept that "spin" doesn't count as lying. Luke certainly put Paul's best side forward. Luke left out that Silas broke the banishment from Thessalonica. Luke left out many things. It makes perfect sense for Paul to do the same.

And if any religious, conservative biblical scholars seriously want to prohibit all spin...

Well. Let's leave it at that. ;)

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