While the Old Testament has seven books of wisdom literature, the Letter of James is the only work of that genre in the New Testament.

Monday, 2/17/14

For the next few weeks our first reading will be from the Letter of James. Scholars tell us that its mastery of the Greek language is so complete that it could hardly have been composed by any of the Apostles, all of whom came to maturity as unschooled fishermen. But even though it might have been composed by some other scholarly Jew, it was cherished by the Christian community from the beginning.

The work is called a letter, but it doesn’t take the form of a letter. The Old Testament contains seven books that are properly described as works of wisdom literature, while for the New Testament this is the only example of that genre. As such, the writer muses on the mode of behavior characterizing a truly wise Christian.

The writer begins by urging us to treasure the times of great trial, since it is by bravely enduring them that we reach Christian perfection. (He very neatly described the progress from testing to perseverance to perfection.) He went on then to urge us to confidently ask God for growth in wisdom.

The writer then urges poor people to appreciate the benefits that come from their low estate, and he urges rich people to be leery of the dangers of a rich estate.

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