5 Interesting Facts about the Letter from James

Saint_James_the_JustThe letter from James is “a one-of-a-kind document”, according to scholar and commentator Scot McKnight, with “no real parallel among ancient letters, essays, and homilies.”

It is a letter that addresses numerous topics, many of which underlie the tensions behind the headlines today, including suffering, social justice, and poverty. It also contains some challenging passages related to the role of faith and works.

Here are 5 interesting facts as we start our study.

1) It was probably written by the brother of Jesus

James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ (1:1)

Most scholars (at least those writing evangelical commentaries) agree that the author of this letter is James the brother of Jesus (Matt 13:55; Mark 6:3; Gal 1:19), also known as James the Just. Another candidate is James, the son of Zebedee, the older brother of John, and an apostle in Jesus’ inner circle (Matt 17:1; Mark 5:37, 14:32-33). Many rule out the latter James, due to his early death at the hands of Herod Agrippa I (Acts 12:2) around 44 CE. But that shouldn’t disqualify him. James the son of Zebedee would have been alive to write the letter if the earliest suggested dating of the letter is correct.

The primary reason for accepting James the Just as the author, over other possible candidates, is the tradition of the early church, which attributed the letter to him. Continue reading

Just Launched: Action packed Graphic Novel version of the Gospel of Mark

One of my favorite books in the Bible is the Gospel of Mark. I have taught through it several times, including on a short term mission trip to Liberia. I love how it vividly portrays Jesus’ ministry, capturing all that He did through a short and action packed narrative.

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ …

From the start the account jumps right in, starting with the ministry of John the Baptist and Jesus’ own baptism.

baptism-of-jesus-closeup

Jesus being baptized from the graphic novel by Simon Pillario (used with permission)

The Gospel, as noted theologian N.T. Wright explains is “the royal announcement that the crucified and risen Jesus, who died for our sins and rose again according to the Scriptures, has been enthroned as the true Lord of the world.” This is good news, not good advice and it needs to be shared because “something has happened as a result of which the world is a different place.”

The format of this gospel, with its focus on what Jesus is doing, readily lends itself to being illustrated in a graphic novel. And this format offers an opportunity to announce the good news, not only to Christians, but to people who may never have picked up a Bible, but would readily read a graphic novel.

And that is what Simon Amadeus Pillario illustrator of the Word for Word Bible Comic (link), is hoping to offer as he launches his KickStarter campaign.

The campaign page can be found here!

Through the graphic novel format Pillario hopes to present the stories of the Bible, using the actual words of Scripture, in ways that are “historically accurate, unabridged, and untamed”. There are no annotations, notes, or additions to the text of Scripture. When you pick up one of these novels you are reading the Bible. What you do get, with the text, are beautiful and carefully researched images that attempt to capture the power of the story in a historically accurate way. For more on the work that goes into each novel check out Simon’s blog.
centurion_at_cross
He has already successfully launched two campaigns on KickStarter (Judges and Joshua), so you can be confident that Simon will deliver what he promises. The best part about joining this campaign is that many options for backing it include receiving copies of the books Joshua, Judges, and Ruth. Two of these novels are available now, so, while you are waiting for the Gospel of Mark, you can enjoy some rewards right away.

I will leave you with this video. It captures some of Pillario’s thoughts on how he plans to illustrate all four of the gospels in such a way that there is a unity in how they present narratives that occur in more than one account.

Calvinism, Arminianism, & Vocabulary

We are going through Christian Theology in Sunday school, and this week we were covering both the similarities and differences between Calvinism and Arminianism. We focused on two passages in Ephesians (1:4-6 and 2:8-9).

For he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world that we may be holy and unblemished in his sight in love. He did this by predestining us to adoption as his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the pleasure of his will— to the praise of the glory of his grace that he has freely bestowed on us in his dearly loved Son.

and

For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so that no one can boast.

The emphasis in class was on how each group understands key words in Scripture like grace, faith, and election.

Each group uses these words – but they do not mean what the other group thinks they mean. Definitions for these words were explored using key documents like the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Canons of the Synod of Dort, and the writings of Arminius.

Here are the slides (pdf)