Friendship and Benefaction in James (Emory Studies in Early Christianity 15)

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What are the terms of the Free Shipping Program? Can I use the Free Shipping Program without limitation? Talbert ed. Robbins does briefly address the Acts of Peter and the Twelve Apostles in his essay, suggesting that the shift in voice, as in the canonical Acts, can be ex- plained as a literary phenomenon that is well documented among other ancient sources. Poirier ed. Batten neither is the document mentioned directly in any extant ancient Christian writ- ings. Moreover, there is nothing in the text that the developing orthodox church would have found to be offensive.

Although no consensus about the composition and compilation of the text has emerged, several have argued for a 2nd or 3rd century Syrian provenance on the basis of particular themes in the narrative, such as its stress upon endurance and ascetic practice, typical of Syrian forms of Christianity, and its use of pearls as sym- bols of salvation.

Such scholars also grant, how- ever, that this may be the date of only the earliest section of the text which is the story of the pearl merchant. This section is often viewed as an allegory, or least it reflects allegorical components such as the city, Habitation, which rep- resents the community of the faithful who must endure. He argues the latter for three reasons: 1 the connections between persecution and apostasy26 see Acts Pet. Schneemelcher ed. Volume II trans. See, for example, H. The text reflects the dangers of temptations to the monks, including the lure of rich patrons, as well as the Pachomian monastic practice of healing both the body and the soul.

Since Pachomius died in the mid fourth century, the current form of the text would have had to have been produced after that date. They are also obviously two very different texts, of dissimilar genres.

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  • James neither speaks of the disciples nor of Peter in particular; while the story of the Acts of Pet. Despite its adaptations of some traditions associated with Jesus, the letter only refers to Jesus twice ; with the second reference being a possible interpolation,29 while the polymorphic Jesus of the Acts is a significant character, operating under various disguises. Clearly these two texts are birds of a different feather. But when one reads these two brief documents side by side, one notices that despite all of their obvious differences, they share significant affinities with one another by virtue of the particular themes and motifs that appear together, inde- pendently, in each text.

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    Such affinities are worth exploring, for they raise the possibility that echoes of James may be apparent in the Acts; that the epistle resonated with the people who developed and used this later unusual text. In general, and comparable to other apocryphal Acts, the account of the Acts Pet. Krause observes a possible 43 allusions to New Testament texts in the Acts; see id.

    Batten some parallels have been noticed, as we will see. This essay therefore attempts to offer a further exploration to determine if there are points of contact, and if so, how might the letter of James have played a role in the development of the Acts of Peter and the Twelve Apostles? Points of Comparison Before proceeding, it is important to remember, as several scholars have con- cluded, that the Nag Hammadi text is a fusion and redaction of earlier texts, but exactly how it was put together remains subject to discussion.

    Some close stud- ies of the text, however, argue that at the very minimum, what began as an allegorical tale of a pearl merchant eventually became a document stressing care for the poor and avoidance of the rich. This point will re- emerge at different points in this essay but generally, the discussion will focus on the text in the form in which we currently have it.

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    There are several themes and motifs that appear in each document. The most obvious and significant is the critique of the rich in both texts see Jas —11; —7; —6; Acts Pet. Both writings stress testing and endurance Jas —4, 12—15; —11; Acts Pet. The following will provide a survey comparison based of these apparent connections then offer some conclusions and hypothe- ses.

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    For another list of possible allusions, see C. Wiebe ed. Other readers have refused to grant that James does not respect the rich. In James, the term ptwco,j is not a code word for a pious or faithful person as has been argued by some,36 but describes a person who is materially hard up, as is particularly evident in the description of such a man in tatters in Jas However, the use of rich and poor language has primarily rhetorical purposes. It is hard to determine exactly what socio-economic level the author and his audience were from, but the letter reflects a degree of sophistica- tion in Greek and likely emerges from an urban context with its reference to a finely dressed man sporting gold rings, to crowns, and to merchant activity.

    Even if such figures and objects are not real, they must have been familiar to the audience and author. There are three main sections of James that concern the affluent. Tamez, The Scandalous Message of James trans. Arias; New York: Crossroad, Calvin, Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles trans.

    Owen; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, , — Kloppenborg ed. Zangenberg ed. Here, scholars become embroiled in debates about whether or not the rich referred to are members of the audience or not. James draws upon pro- phetic language from Isaiah —8 LXX which underlines the eschatological consequences of being rich or lowly. The well-to-do man is not offered a second chance, but is condemned to perish while the lowly will be exalted Jas Next, Jas —7 unambiguously directs the audience not to show partiality mh. James subsequently explains that such preferential treatment of the wealthy effectively dishonours the poor man Jas Hartin James [Sacra Pagina 14; Collegeville: Liturgical Press, ], 69 argues that avdelfo,j should be understood as implicit in Jas Neufeld ed.

    As Plutarch observes, by offering the most comfortable chair to a specific person, one was engaging in silent flattery. And as in chapter 1, James offers no glimpse of a potential second chance for the well heeled, but relentlessly presses their negative char- acteristics, reminding the audience that it is the rich who oppress and drag them into court, and who blaspheme the good name invoked over them Jas —7.

    Wealthy people in antiquity had the power to occupy the position of patron over multiple clients. Patrons and clients would often mask their unequal relationship with the lan- guage of friendship, however, calling one another fi,loj. Friendship had a long and noble history; it was prized by some as the highest sort of relationship that two humans could have, and was characterized by a variety of virtues including the willingness to die for one another, loyalty, frank speech, and the sharing of all goods in common. DeMaris ed. Fitzgerald ed. Batten with the world is contrasted with enmity with God As I have argued elsewhere, other virtues and characteristics of friendship emerge throughout the letter in part because James is aware that some people are associating with patrons, such as the rich man who enters the assembly in Jas —7, as if they are friends.

    This may be part of the reason is why showing partiality to such people is a sin; it not only dishonours the pauper but violates true friendship with God. Moreover, the particular moral behaviours that James advocates for the community are con- sistent with friendship. Jas 5 maintains a stereotypical and condemnatory characterization of the af- fluent.

    Here the rich are caricatured as luxury loving and greedy; they have overfed themselves tre,fw and killed the righteous one. They have cheated their workers Jas who have cried out to God. Their gold and silver has rusted and this rust will be evidence against their greediness and will eat away at their bodies, like fire Jas Again the rich are not offered a chance to repent and share their wealth; rather, they will be condemned.

    Although James does not particularly dwell upon their fate as other texts do eg. Finally, James presumes that some in the audience will be able to assist the poor in material ways eg. Jas — The letter insists that wishing peace and warmth for a person without actually providing them with food and cloth- ing — the things necessary for life — is hypocritical and a demonstration of how faith without works is dead Jas Stegemann, The Jesus Movement. Liebengood ed.

    The wealthy first appear in 3. However, since they do not see a bundle or a pouch that could hold pearls, they do not acknowledge the merchant but show disdain for him. He does not reveal who he is or invite them to his city and they return to their storerooms, thinking that he is mocking them.

    As in James, the rich are never described in detail, but remain somewhat of a stereo- type; they are people who remain with their treasures, unwilling to seek the pearl, which is likely a symbol of salvation. In contrast, when the poor hear the merchant, they approach him and request that he show the pearl to them. Although they do not have the means to buy it, they simply want to be able to tell their friends that they saw a pearl with their own eyes 3. The merchant tells them to come to his city and he will give the pearl to them for nothing. The poor respond by saying that they are beggars; that it is bread and money that are normally offered to beggars, and again ask that he simply let them look at the pearl.

    He answers that they should come to his city, and he will not only show the pearl to them, but give it to them for nothing. At this the poor rejoice because the man will give something for nothing. Thus as in James we have a marked contrast between the responses of the rich, who react negatively to the merchant and retreat to their secret storerooms where they presumably hoard their wealth, and the poor who come to him, asking only to see the pearl. These are the people who are not interested in the kingdom;53 who are quite hostile.

    They are not offered any possibility of repentance; the merchant does not attempt to preach to them, while he invites the poor to come to his city, which is generally understood as an allegorical symbol of the kingdom. Thus it is the poor who can receive the kingdom, comparable to Jas while the fate of the rich remains, at least at this point in the narrative, unknown.


    Granted, in the Acts the poor must journey to the kingdom, they must seek it in some sense, but once there, they will receive the pearl freely, a free gift which Victor Ghica has associated with grace. Here we see much more of a focus upon the social needs of the impoverished rather than a stress upon their eventual observation and receipt of a precious pearl. This recalls Jas —16 in which the author exhorts his audience to give the needy the things required to sustain the body.

    Moreover, this portion of the Acts may emerge from a later redactor who is more interested in social justice concerns than allegorical narrative,56 and who maintains an emphasis upon caring for the weak when Jesus instructs the disciples to heal the sick who believe in him It is this final redactor, argue some, who is attempting weave several sources together and place even more of an emphasis upon caring for the poor and resisting the rich. Avoidance of the rich — especially avoiding favouritism of the rich — is the content of the exhortation near the close of the text. Jesus directs the disciples not to dine in the houses of the rich, nor be friends with them lest their partiality influence the disciples.

    His words continue to point out that many in the churches have shown partiality to the rich, because they are sinful and cause others to sin Thus the Acts demonstrates clearly that showing partiali- ty to the rich is sinful and leads other members of the churches into sinfulness.

    Some observers have noticed the parallel with Jas 2 here,57 although to be sure, the Acts does not provide the vivid scenario of two men — one rich, one poor — entering the assembly and being offered the best seat or simply ordered around. Unlike the letter, the Acts does not condemn rich people, but they are never invited to change, share their wealth, and participate in the community.

    Friendship is thus important to the Acts, just as it is in James,59 provided that it is not friend- ship with wealthy people to whom one is often obligated to offer favours! Unlike other texts in the early church which criticize the rich but at the same time allow for prosper- ous people in the church provided that they repent bestow benefactions upon the poor Luke—Acts; Shepherd of Hermas ,60 James and the Acts have nothing positive nor encouraging to say about the rich.

    Although the Acts account fails to condemn the rich unlike James or texts such as 1 Enoch or Revelation, the latter two documents being even more caustic in their attacks than James, the Acts simply characterize the rich as either those who retreat to their storerooms, uninterested in anything that does not contribute to their wealth, or as people to be avoided because showing partiality to them can bring sinfulness to the church. It is striking that both James and the Acts identify partiality with the rich as a sin. For Molinari, the prohibition against the rich in the Acts Pet.