The Draw to Dostoevsky

It’s Crime and Punishment part two, chapter five tonight. I’m struck by how much of the story can be glimpsed in this one chapter. We meet Petr Petrovich, a true antagonist, and he immediately shows his character. He wants to marry Raskolnivok’s sister, and he wants to put his elightened mind on display in this first encounter.

“If for example I was told to ‘love my neighbor,’ and did so, what comes of that?” … Science tells us to love ourselves first of all because everything on earth is based on personal interest …

p. 164

Throughout the chapter, Razumikhin’s conern for his friend shines through. I love how he is the one to speak up first and shut down Petrovich’s spirit of the age nonsense. “Enough, sir!”

Raskolnikov himself, from his sick bead, half-dead, teaches Petrovich the end of his ways,

“if you follow the theory that you were advocating just now to its conclusion, it turns out that one can slaughter people …”

p. 167

Of course, his twisted “economic theory” extends to twisted relationships, and when he slips up in his anger and subtly slights Raskolnikov’s mother, I just love how the nearly dead man rises and spits fire,

“If you dare once agin … utter even one word … about my mother … I’ll throw you down the stairs head over heels!”

p. 168

By the time the chapter ends, the reader is aware that it won’t be too difficult to put together the pieces of the crime. You can glimpse a litte of how it might play out, but what’s more is that this half-dead Raskolnikov is acting virtuously in his forceful stiff-arm to the esteemed, would-be “suitor” of his sister.

At this point in the novel, he is dead in his crime, he is a madman, writhing in his guilt, yet he knows Petrovich is toxic and absolutely full of it, and he does something about it.

After reading this chapter in Katz’s translation, I picked up the Pevear and Volohkonsky Everyman’s Library edition. In the introduction, W. J. Leatherbarrow, in one sentence, states exactly why I find Dostoevsky so enthralling.

Dostoevsky’s uniqueness lay not in the exposure of social injustice, but in the exploration of the complex and contradictory impulses which make up human nature.

p. xi

You see it in Raskolnikov from start to finish, and you see it in yourself. In a way, when you read Dostoevsky, you feel seen and known. And the best part is that you know there is redemption waiting for you at the end of the book.

Why is Reading 2 Corinthians so Slow?

There are a couple practical reasons. 2 Corinthians is very personal in nature, and it is sort of a one-sided conversation. You could look at the commentary introductions to get a technical description of the genre, but I just want to note that it is very similar to a type of Greek that we are the least familiar with — personal conversation.

I was thinking about this today, and my mind wandered in a less practical direction. Think about the nature of the conflicts in 2 Corinthians. It’s personal conflicts about money and slander and trust a whole host of people issues.

2 Corinthians is about the hardest issues in life, and so it is somewhat fitting that the Greek is the toughest to piece together.

Anchor Yale Bible Commentary in Accordance

The Anchor Yale Bible Commentary (AYBC) is commonly thought of as a full-scale critical commentary covering the Old Testament, Apocrypha, and New Testament, but it is more than that. I value AYBC because, while it is a great example of a critical commentary, its full-scale nature means the authors frequently offer multifaceted readings and insights.

In this post, I want to show you four examples of the type of commentary found in AYBC and one example of how you can easily move from text to commentary in Accordance. AYBC is 50% off at Accordance for one more day.

Insightful Readings

When I think of AYBC, I immediately think of how Joel Marcus frames Jesus’ cries from the cross. Let me set it up and show you a couple of quotations.

Joel Marcus, AYBC: Mark 8–16
Joel Marcus, AYBC: Mark 8–16

Marcus explains how in Qumran literature the Angel of Darkness was thought to be responsible for astronomical phenomena and could play a part in “the depression that darkens the mood of God’s chosen ones” (Mark 8-16, p. 1063). He notes how one of Satan’s goals is to get God’s people to curse him and die. With this context, Marcus writes,

And if Jesus will cry out “with a loud voice” here and in 15:37, that is exactly what people who are demonized—and only they—do elsewhere in the Gospel (1:26; 5:7; cf. 9:26 and Strelan, “Recognizing,” 493–501). Although Mark does not say so explicitly, therefore, the inference from his narrative may be that Jesus, on the cross, suffers such a sudden and intense Satanic assault that he becomes in some ways like a man possessed (cf. Danker, “Demonic Secret”).

Joel Marcus, Mark 8–16, p. 1063

For Marcus, this isn’t just a novel interpretation or a neat way to find parallels to Qumran literature. There is some interprative payoff and theological insight:

With his cry, and with the death that follows, Jesus has achieved the purpose of his mission: complete identification with humanity’s slave-like, accursed condition, and a corresponding form of decease, “even death on a cross” (cf. Phil 2:7–8). The cry of dereliction, then, is in a strange way the Markan counterpart to the Johannine cry of triumph, “It is finished!” (John 19:30)—the goal has been achieved, humanity has been redeemed, and Jesus can therefore die. (Mark 8–16, p. 1064)

Joel Marcus, Mark 8–16, p. 1064

I remember reading this in seminary and being blown away by the thought of Jesus being demonized. It has impacted my reading of Mark ever since. These are just a couple of snippets; Marcus soars in this section. His comments on Jesus’ death (Mark 15:33–41) span fifteen pages.

Interpretive History and Options

One great benefit of a monumental series like AYBC is that some volumes are of the life-work, magnum opus type. Raymond Brown’s John commentary is a great example.

Raymond Brown, AYBC: John 13–21
Raymond Brown, AYBC: John 13–21

I appreciate the way Brown interacts with the text from multiple perspectives. He looks at it critically and devotionally, and he does not neglect the history of interpretation. I recently turned to Brown’s commentary for insight on the giving of the Spirit in John 20:22.

He first discussed the text in light of the Gospel of John itself and noted echoes of Genesis 2, Wisdom 15:11, and Ezekiel 37:3–5. Brown then turned to the history of interpretation, discussing the debate over the text at the Second Council of Constantinople and the view of Theodore of Mopsuestia. He discusses Chrysostom’s view “who relates the gift of the Spirit in John 20:22 to the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Spirit in Acts to the power to work miracles and raise the dead” (p. 1038). Finally, he comments on how critical scholars respond to the text.

This is just one tiny glimpse of what makes Raymond Brown one of my all-time favorite commentators (right up there with R. T. France).

Textual Criticism

A friend and I were recently talking about Hebrews 8 when a text critical issue arose in 8:8. Does the author of Hebrews say that (a) God found fault “with them and said …” or does it say (b) God found fault “and said to them?” THGNT and NA28 are different here.

Hebrews 8:8a
μεμφόμενος γὰρ αὐτοῖς(THGNT)/αὐτοὺς(NA28) λέγει·
Craig Koester, AYBC: Hebrews
Craig Koester, AYBC: Hebrews

AYBC is the type of series that you can turn to for text critical commentary as well. Supporting αὐτους (finding fault with them) and against αὐτοις (says to them), Craig Koester comments,

[Reading “says to them”] does not fit the author’s style, however, since he regularly introduces biblical quotations with a form of legein to say or similar word and no indirect object (2:6, 12; 3:7, 15; 4:3, 7; 6:14; 9:20; 10:5, 15; 12:5, 26).

Craig Koester, Hebrews, p. 385

Because the manuscript evidence is so split, I thought Koester’s argument based on the author’s style was helpful. Not the final word, but a helpful comment.

Devotional Insight

Today, I found especially helpful Victor Paul Furnish’s commentary on 2 Corinthians 7:2.

Victor Paul Furnish, AYBC: 2 Corinthians
Victor Paul Furnish, AYBC: 2 Corinthians
2Corinthians 7:2
Χωρήσατε ἡμᾶς· οὐδένα ἠδικήσαμεν, οὐδένα ἐφθείραμεν, οὐδένα ἐπλεονεκτήσαμεν.
Make room for us. We wronged no one. We corrupted no one. We defrauded no one.

As I read early this morning with the day’s first cup of coffee, I wondered what exactly Paul might have in mind. Why was he telling them he had done nothing and corrupted and defrauded no one? I tapped on the verse reference on my iPhone, selected amplify, and was immediately taken to Furnish’s commentary:

The emphatic profession of innocence (No one did we wrong … corrupt … defraud, 7:2b) can only have been prompted by charges or at least by insinuations to the contrary. Since the apostle seems to presume that a simple denial will suffice, one learns very little from this passage about the nature of those charges. The third denial, however, no one did we defraud, provides an important clue. The same verb (“to defraud”) is used in 12:17–18. From that passage and its context it would appear that the apostle has been suspected of duplicity and fraud in the matter of the collection for Jerusalem …

Victor Paul Furnish, 2 Corinthians, p. 369

I was struck by the humanity of Paul. In 2 Corinthians he isn’t he a powerful hero type character. He’s vulnerable and human, and like Jesus, he too knows what it was like to be slandered. It is always good to see your world reflected in the real world of scripture.

Furnish’s comments weren’t in and of themselves explicitly devotional, but it helped bring me to a very meaningful, devotional reflection.

Here is an example of what it looks like to jump from a Bible text to a commentary on an iPhone:

Moving from text to commentary in Accordance on an iPhone

Conclusion

While AYBC is a full-scale critical commentary — in that way similar to Hermeneia — it is much more. The contributing authors are specialists in their field and frequently offer multifaceted insight into the text.

Right now you can get the Accordance version of AYBC for 50% off. The sale only lasts for one more day, and they do offer payment plans. Check it out the sale here.

A Reading Workspace in Accordance

Over the past few weeks, I’ve settled into a reading workspace in Accordance that I really like. A recent post on the Accordance forums prompted me to do a quick screen recording to demonstrate and explain the setup. I didn’t take the time to edit or polish it, but I hope it is helpful in giving you ideas for your own reading workflow.

Logos 9

Faithlife is releasing Logos 9 today, and in this post I will highlight a few of the new features and resources I find most significant:

  • Dark mode for the desktop apps
  • Improved guide aesthetics and functionality for the desktop apps
  • Factbook on mobile
  • New Lexham Reference Lexicons for the Hebrew Bible, Aramaic portions of the Hebrew Bible, the Greek New Testament, and Septuagint

Dark Mode (desktop)

Dark mode is a long-awaited addition, and it looks great on Logos.

Dark mode on MacOS
Dark mode on MacOS

My son frequently falls asleep in the guest bed in my office, and I often need to keep working. With the lights out, night mode makes Logos so much more pleasant to use.

Logos will, sort of, automatically shift with your OS between light and dark mode. I say “sort of” because at sunset and sunrise, you will be prompted to restart the program to initialize the color shift.

Restart to shift between light and dark mode
Restart to shift between light and dark mode

The only two apps on my computer that require a restart to initiate dark mode are the two Bible software programs — Logos and Accordance. Hopefully, in the near future Logos will do the programing necessary to allow the app to more seamlessly switch between light and dark mode.

Guide Aesthetics and Functionality

Years ago I created a custom guide in Logos to search by Bible reference. This guide includes commentaries, grammars, ancient literature, the atlas, and cultural concepts.

In the images below, you can see how the commentaries section has been significantly improved. Now, the commentary results (1) have book cover images and (2) you can click to sort the results by your library prioritization, series, author, and other fields.

In one sense, this is a small improvement, but it is an improvement that makes my experience of using the app better just about every time I use it. The cover images make it especially easy to see exactly which series have hits. Every time I use this guide, I appreciate that feature.

Factbook on Mobile

Factbook is the Logos tool that gives you a launching pad for researching almost any topic that isn’t reference based. For reference-based searches there is the passage guide or the exegetical guide or your custom guides. For discovering what your library has to say about Jerusalem, for example, there is Factbook.

Logos 9 gives you full access to Factbook on your mobile devices. To give you a sense of the breadth of results this tool returns, I’ve taken four screenshots of the Jerusalem report:

Factbook on a 12.9” iPad Pro (1 of 4)
Factbook on a 12.9” iPad Pro (1 of 4)
Factbook on a 12.9” iPad Pro (2 of 4)
Factbook on a 12.9” iPad Pro (2 of 4)
Factbook on a 12.9” iPad Pro (3 of 4)
Factbook on a 12.9” iPad Pro (3 of 4)
Factbook on a 12.9” iPad Pro (4 of 4)
Factbook on a 12.9” iPad Pro (4 of 4)

Whether you are looking for information on a famous biblical city, discussion of an obscure place or person, introductions to books of the Bible, or you are starting a thematic study, Logos 9 significantly improves your ability to put your library to work on mobile devices.

Check out this screenshot showing the various types of entries you find by typing “James” into Factbook.

Lexham Research Lexicons

Alongside the release of Logos 9, Faithlife has produced four new lexicons culled from their years of hard work mining and tagging texts and hand curating data. These lexicons are unique in both the content and organization of their entries. Take a look at this entry on 1-הלף from Genesis 31:7:

Lexham Research Lexicon of the Hebrew Bible
Lexham Research Lexicon of the Hebrew Bible

Here, the Lexham Research Lexicon of the Hebrew Bible includes the following:

  • Basic English glosses
  • Equivalents from the Septuagint
  • Beside each Septuagint equivalent is the number of times that word is used to translate the Hebrew word you looked up. (The LXX base text is Swete, I believe.)
  • In the “Verb Usage” section you are given meanings and example citations that link to the Bible sense lexicon, along with links to other Hebrew words in the same semantic domain
  • Links to key resources in your library that discuss the word

The verb usage section is so helpful in the way it links to the Bible sense lexicon and provides synonyms. Here is an example of what you find in the Bible Sense lexicon when clicking “to transgress,” the first link in the article above:

Jumping from Research Lexicon to Bible Sense Lexicon
Jumping from Research Lexicon to Bible Sense Lexicon

For the parallel word ἀλλάσσω in the Septuagint, The Lexham Research Lexicon of the Septuagint lists the following information:

  • English glosses
  • principal parts that occur in the LXX
  • Hebrew equivalents with word counts
  • Key passages
  • Links to occurrences of ἀλλάσσω in contemporary literature
  • Links to key resources in your library discussing the word
The Lexham Research Lexicon of the Septuagint
The Lexham Research Lexicon of the Septuagint

The name research lexicon is appropriate in light of the unique content of these resources. They are a mix between well organized concise traditional lexicons, concordances, dictionaries based on semantic domains, and word study reports that give you quick access to other resources in your library that discuss the word.

Here is a look at The Lexham Research Lexicon of the Greek New Testament on διοδεύω in Acts 17:1:

The Lexham Research Lexicon of the Greek New Testament
The Lexham Research Lexicon of the Greek New Testament

Finally, The Research Lexicon of the Aramaic Portions of the Hebrew Bible on פְּשַׁר in Daniel 5:8:

The Reasearch Lexicon of the Aramaic Portions of the Hebrew Bible
The Reasearch Lexicon of the Aramaic Portions of the Hebrew Bible

The Research Lexicons are a fantastic addition to any library, and they will be especially helpful to those who don’t have the standard lexicons and are just getting started exploring the biblical languages.

Other Improvements

The features and resources above are the aspects of Logos 9 I find to be most helpful, but there are many other new features and improvements:

  • Sermon builder improvements
  • Preaching mode for Sermons (all platforms)
  • Sermon manager
  • Counseling Guide
  • Images in notes (all platforms)
  • Charts tool (desktop and web apps)
  • Improved reading plans
  • Document info pane
  • App toolbar improvements
  • Easier access to search (mobile)
  • Passage lists (mobile)

Logos will be posting and linking to a host of other articles and reviews discussing these features. You can follow them on Twitter @Logos and #logosbiblesoftware.

Conclusion

If dark mode is something you use and value, Logos 9 is definitely worth looking into. The addition of Factbook on mobile is helpful and the improvements to guides are nice, but dark mode is the major new feature.

The Research Lexicons are the standout new resources; they are absolutely awesome. If you don’t find a package you want that includes them, you might consider picking up one or two as standalone resources.

Logos will have a host of upgrade paths to choose from, and these are all being announced today. Checkout Logos 9 here.

Thanks to Faithlife for allowing me to be a part of the beta process and providing me with the resources necessary to write this review.

NIC in Accordance – Three Posts

This weekend I finished the third and final post on the New International Commentary (45 vols.) in Accordance Bible Software. The goal was to demonstrate both the high quality content of the commentary and how Accordance is a fanstastic platform on which to access the work.

In the first post, NICNT in Accordance Bible Software, I featured the following NT commentaries:

  • R. T. France on Matthew
  • Doug Moo on Romans
  • David deSilva on Galatians

I also note two of my favorite ways to access commentaries in Accordance:

  • Setting up a saved workspace that opens the series in fullscreen
  • Reading a commentary at length on an iPad with a two column layout

In the second post, NICOT in Accordance Bible Software, I featured the following OT comentaries:

  • Victor Hamilton on Genesis
  • John Oswalt on Isaiah
  • Tremper Longman on Ecclesiastes
  • Daniel Block on Ezekiel

At the end of this post, I illustrated two more ways of accessing commentaries in Accordance:

  • Triple-clicking a reference to jump to your preferred commentary
  • Using the info pane for quick reference when you don’t want to read extensively

The third post, NIC and Other Commentaries in Accordance, looks at the way the NIC commentary explains “law of liberty” in James and compares it to the way the term is handled in the New International Greek Testament Commentary, the Anchor Yale Bible Commentary, and Hermeneia.

The occassion that prompted this series of posts is the deeply discounted Eerdmans sale happening at Accordance until midnight Monday, 9/21.

Thank you to Accordance for providing a copy of NIC for review.

NIC and Other Commentaries in Accordance

This is the third and final post on NIC in Accordance Bible Software. Here are links to the first and second.

In this final post on the New International Commentary (NIC) in Accordance Bible Software, I want to demonstrate how the NIC commentary compares to other major commentary series. The idea for this post arose naturally in the course of regular Bible reading.

As I read, I wondered about “law of liberty” (νόμος ἐλευθερίας) in James 2:12, and I checked a few commentaries for what they might say about the context of phrase. The goal was to get a better understanding of the conceptual world with which James might have been operating when he chose those particular words.

Let’s take a look at NIC, the New International Greek Testament Commentary, the Anchor Yale Bible Commentary, and Hermeneia.

NIC on “law of liberty”

Scott McKnight is the author of the NICNT James commentary. He has one short section on the phrase in his comments on James 2:12. He states,

By attaching ‘of liberty’ to ‘law,’ though, James changes the game of the yardstick by which one is judged. Yes, Torah observance is the yardstick, but James’s Torah has been clarified by Jesus … the law of liberty is the law of loving your neighbor as yourself (2:8) … There are no substantive differences, then, between James 2:12 and Matthew 25:31–46.

p. 220

The reason this section is so short, however, is because McKnight devoted four pages to the expression when it first occurred in 1:25.

In his commentary on 1:25, McKnight surveys three options of interpretation. He summarizes the three views this way,

First, there is a (supposedly) Hellenistic Judaism view: it refers to a free life in accordance with reason, with “reason” being a way of describing the Law of Moses. Second is a nomistic Judaism view: it refers to the Law of Moses as that which brings freedom to the obedient. Third is a Christian Judaism view: it refers to the Law of Moses as understood by and interpreted by Jesus in accordance with the double commandment to love God and others.

p. 155

In explaining the first option, McKnight cites Philo and 4 Maccabees, Epictetus and Seneca. For the second view, he discusses Psalms, 1QS from the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Mishnah, and Leviticus. Finally, for the third view he discusses Eusebius and several New Testament passages.

The main observation I want to make here is that McKight cites and discusses the primary literature in support of each position. Here’s how he concludes his discussion:

James’s point is this: those who look into the Law as understood by Jesus, which an be called the “word,” is “perfect,” and brings “liberty,” and persevere in their following of that understanding of the Law, are those who will be blessed (1:25c).

p. 158

NIGTC on “law of liberty”

In his NIGTC commentary on James 2:12, Peter Davids comes to essentially the same conclusion as McKnight, stating concisely,

This certain judgment will be according to (διά, as in Rom. 2:12) “the law of liberty,” which, as has already been observed (cf. 1:25), is nothing less than the law of Moses as interpreted (and to some extent altered) by Jesus and the early church, which took its cues from Jesus.

p. 118

Davids, too, devotes more attention to the issue at 1:25. There, he has about a page surveying the interpretive options, whereas McKnight had four pages. Instead of citing and discussing the key passages, Davids merely provides parenthetical lists of references. His conclusion is that “law of liberty/freedom” should be understood as “the OT ethic as explained and altered by Jesus.”

AYBC on “law of liberty”

At 2:12, Luke Timothy Johnson points directly to his comments on 1:25, where he devotes a paragraph to the issue. He also cites Jewish parallels and mentions the Stoic context.

Johnson writes,

The position that obedience to the law renders a person free reminds some commentators … of the Stoic principle that only obeying the law of nature makes a person truly free and that, therefore, only the sage is truly free … but the idea is widespread enough—as the examples from Jewish literature attest—to make direct dependence on Stoic ideas unnecessary.

p. 209

Hermeneia on “law of liberty”

Hermeneia offers a much more extensive discussion of the Stoic context, while citing and discussing the parallel Jewish literature, as well. Dibelius’s commentary is a classic and provides a discussion of “law of liberty/freedom” similar in length to that of McKnight.

Of all the commentaries surveyed here, Dibelius provides the most throughout discussion of both the stoic context and that of Philo. When he cites ancient literature, he provides the key words in the original language and in translation.

Dibelius’s discussion is around four pages, but he offers no definitive conclusion on the context of our phrase. He writes,

Stoic concepts such as those sketched above could easily have influenced this formulation—especially by way of Diaspora Judaism, whose missionary terminology, just like any missionary terminology, made every effort to accommodate the needs of those to whom its mission was directed. But such a hypothesis does not exclude the other possibility that in adopting the expression Jas is looking back already to Paul’s struggle over freedom from the Law. Now, since misunderstandings of the Jewish Law are no longer a threat, Jas ventures to call the Christian norm “law” again, albeit “perfect law” and “law of freedom”—somewhat in the sense of Gal 5:13.

p. 120

Conclusion

No commentary is going to answer every question. I do, however, think McKnight’s commentary is likely the most helpful for most people. McKnight offers the most robust discussion of both the interpretive options and the broader scriptural context, emphasizing the way scripture reshapes the concept of law around the advent of Jesus.

I hope this three post series gives you a better idea of the content the NIC series offers and the benefit of accessing it in Accordance. The sale runs through midnight Monday, 9/21/20. Until that time, the entire 45 volume series is available for $599.

Who’s God for, James?

I think many would say that according to James God is for people who have connected their faith to good works, the people who have their life together. James actually answers this question, and that is not what he says.

In chapter 4, James says some hard things. He says that our interpersonal problems come from the fact that we don’t know how to handle our unfulfilled desires. He says that when we grasp and cling and fight for what we want we live like the world and stand at enmity with God. He makes very clear that God vigorously wants the immaterial parts of us — our minds and hearts and desires — to be redeemed as well as our actions (James 4:1–5).

That’s a message that can lead many to close the book and say, “That’s not who I am today. There is no good word for me here. I don’t fit.” When we walk away from scripture with that message, the issue is very likely that we need to keep reading. Look at the next verse:

μείζονα δὲ δίδωσιν χάριν· διὸ λέγει· ὁ θεὸς ὑπερηφάνοις ἀντιτάσσεται, ταπεινοῖς δὲ δίδωσιν χάριν

But he gives a greater grace! So he says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

James 4:6

I think that first sentence is emphatic — that’s how I read it. James understands that 4:1–5 is heavy and the call is piercing, and so I hear verse six as an emphatic call to lift our drooping heads. Who is God for? He’s for the humble. If the first five verses make you feel lowly and in need of grace, then you are exactly the type of person God is for! James is saying that feeling lowly and in need of help is the only requirment for receiving more grace.

I haven’t always seen that flow of thought between verses 1–5 and 6. This morning it was A. T. Robertson’s Word Pictures that really helped. Commenting on verse six, he writes,

“Greater grace.” Greater than what? “Greater grace in view of the greater requirement” (Ropes), like Rom. 5:20f. God does this. Wherefore (dio). To prove this point James quotes Prov. 3:34. God resisteth the proud (ho theos huperēphanois antitassetai).

A couple thoughts on how this condensed little commentary is helpful to me in Readings James 4:6. I appreciate Robertson asking “Greater than what?” That’s him saying, “So where in the world do the opening words of verse 6 come from? What’s the connection?”

He points to Romans 5:20, which is helpful because that verse is another place where scripture says God’s grace abounds when the requirements seem too much.

Finally, Robertson says, “To prove this point, James quotes Prov. 3:34.” When he says “to prove this point” Robertson is saying that the quote about God giving grace to the humble is cited by James intentionally to offer scriptural proof that greater grace is available to those who fall short and are humbled.

To summarize, here’s the flow of the passage as I read it with Robertson’s help:

  1. 4:1–3 – Our conflicts stem from our inability to control our desires.
  2. 4:4 – When our desires are unchecked, we are in conflict with God, not just other people.
  3. 4:5 – God genuinely cares that our inner life is redeemed.
  4. 4:6 – But don’t fear! He gives even more grace for this. If you hear and are humbled by the requirment, go to him for help. You are exactly who you need to be! Just ask for help. Draw near to God and he will draw near to you (4:8).

I think that fits with the flow of the next few verses. James alternates between saying things that are hard to hear and pointing you to God for help.

LXX Psalm 7

A psalm of David that he sang to the Lord because of the words of Cushi, a Benjamite

Lord, my God, in you I hoped. Save me from all those who persecute me, and deliver me so that he doesn’t pounce on me like a lion when there is no one to rescue or save me.

Lord, my God, if I did this, if there is injustice in my hands, if I have lashed out at those who hurt me, then may I fall away from my enemies empty-handed. May the enemy chase and catch and trample my life into the ground and bury my glory in the dust!

Rise, Lord, in your anger! Be exalted by bringing my enemies to their end. Wake up, Lord my God, because of the order that you commanded. A group of people will surround you, and for this reason return on high!

The Lord will judge people. Judge me, Lord, according to my justice and according the my innocence.

May the wickedness of sinners be done away with right now! And bring in justice. God is one who searches hearts and inner parts.

It’s fair, my help from the God who saves those upright in heart. God is a judge who is just and strong and patient, not one who dishes out wrath every day.

If you do not return, he will polish his sword. He stretched tight his bow and readied it. And with it he prepared instruments of death. He fitted his arrows with burning cloths.

Look! In pain he brought forth injustice; he conceived pain and gave birth to lawlessness. He dug a pit and he cleared it out, and he will fall into the hole that he made. His pain will return upon his head, and his injustice will come down on the top of his head.

I will praise the Lord in light of his righteousness, and I will sing to the name of the Lord most high!

James and the Anxious

Some people read James chapter 2 and walk away feeling afraid. James 2 is the classic “faith without works is dead“ passage. Some read James and say to themeselves, “How can I actually be a Christian if this is the way things are supposed to be?”

A bit of good news: James is writing to Christians, to those he considers brothers and sisters in the faith. He is not wasting words; his message is indeed important and heavy and the point is sharp. But here’s the thing: He is trying to drive Christians closer to Jesus, not convince them they aren’t true Christians.

Sure, it is possible to fake it, and James 2 reveals characters such as this. I don’t think, however, that revealing fakes within flock is James main purpose. That’s just not the vibe I get, and I’ve read it in the original language many times. Shouldn’t the actual introduction and opening words of the letter be allowed to tell the reader to whom it is addressed? He calls those to whom he is writing “the twelve tribes” (1:1) and “brothers and sisters” (1:2).

I think it is well known, but it is worth repeating: Christians are not made whole all at one time. James himself says it in 3:2: “We all stumble in many ways.” From day one to the end of the journey, we encounter the Word, we see our imperfect condition, and we strive to be better reflections of Jesus. The Chrstian life is full of conviction from the Holy Spirit. When we hit passages like this and feel the prick, we shouldn’t think it means we are on the outside. In fact, it most likely means he is within us doing the normal work of calling us towards new life.