Thursday, February 15, 2007

Mark Taylor on the Structure of James (Part 1)

I came across this very interesting book on the structure of James last week: A Text-Linguistic Investigation into the Discourse Structure of James, by Mark Taylor. Anyone who has done even the slightest amount of research on this letter knows the difficulty involved in following James' train of thought. Here's a brief summary of the contents of chapters 1-4.

Chapter 1 - Approaches to the Structure of James

  • Concludes that most scholars are beginning to see James as a literary whole

  • Notes the overthrow of Dibelius’ suggestion that James is a collection of somewhat random pericopes

  • Suggests unity achieved through the use of various devices such as catchwords, thematic expansions, and recapitulation

  • Notes that most scholars argue that James 1 presents the “key” to the structure of the entire letter

  • Observes that while there is a general consensus that James is a literary whole, there is little agreement regarding how individual units function within the larger discourse

Chapter 2- Methodology

  • Begins with a discussion of text-linguistics and its application to New Testament studies

  • Explains the particular approach, cohesion shift analysis - developed by G. Guthrie - he employs in this analysis

  • Cohesion Shift Analysis essentially refers to the attempt to determine a composition’s structure by carefully analyzing various linguistic phenomena (eg. genre, verbal aspect, person reference) in order to observe specific “breaks in the text” (42-43)

Chapter 3 - Cohesion Shift Analysis

  • Seeks to determine where “cohesion shifts” (i.e., “breaks in the text”) occur in James with a view to better understanding its structure

  • Concludes that important cohesion shifts occur at James 1:9, 12, 13, 16, 19, 21; 2:1, 5b, 14, 21, 25; 3:1, 13; 4:1, 7, 11, 13; 5:1, 6, 12 , 16, 19

  • Also notes that “significant shifts occur before and after 1.12, 1.16, 4.11-12, 5.6 and 5.12 thus indicating their independent character in that they are " ‘isolated’ from the surrounding context, at least as far as the cohesion dynamics are concerned” (58)

Chapter 4 - The Use of Inclusio in James

  • Seeks to determine how the presence of inclusions helps reveal the letter’s structure

  • Helpfully notes (following Guthrie) that repetition of words, phrases, etc. does not necessarily indicate the presence of an inclusio. The presence of repetition may thus serve other functions.

  • Argues for the presence of inclusions at the following points of the letter:
    James 1:2-4// 1:12 (does see 1:12 as creating a “bridge” into the next section)
    James 1:12// 1:25 (also suggest 1:25 is a summary statement)
    James 1:16// 1:19
    James 1:13//1 :21 [Taylor concludes his discussion of inclusions in James 1 by suggesting, “a sustained argument is developed relating to the character of God, the demands of his word and his actions upon believers” (64)]
    James 2:1// 2:9
    James 2:12-13// 4:11-12 [Taylor suggests this is “perhaps the most important, yet overlooked, uses of inclusio by the author of James” (64)]
    James 2:14-16// 2:26
    James 2:14// 2: 6-17
    James 2:20// 2:26
    James 3:1// 3:12
    James 4:1// 4:3
    James 4:7// 5:6
    James 5:7-11

  • Taylor actually argues for the presence of several inclusions in James 5:7-11, suggesting that this is “a highly structured, carefully balanced section” (68)

  • Taylor’s representation of the structure of James 5:7-11:

  • A “Grand Inclusio” at James 1:25 and 5:7-20
    o Here Taylor follows P. Davids, W. Wuellner, and T Penner in arguing for the presence of “several significant connections between 1.2-25 and 5.7-20” (69)
    o Taylor states, “Thematically, both the opening [1:2-25] and the closing [5:7-20] convey an eschatological outlook. The eschatological reversal of 1.9-11, the crown of life in 1.12, and the promise of future blessing to the one who obeys in 1.25 correspond to the promised return of the Lord in 5.7-11. Likewise, the telos kuriou, with reference to the testing of Job in 5.11, encourages further reflection on the eschatological outcome of trials promised in 1.2-4 (cf. the use of teleios) (70)


1 comment:

ChristMyLife said...

Thanks for taking the time to provide this information. The structure of James is a challenge. I look forward to reading more about your observation on this book.