James: Diaspora Rhetoric of a Friend of God
Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix, 2015 pp. ix + 86. $19.95
Phoenix Guides to the New Testament, 17
Description: The Letter of James has been greatly underestimated. Some have regarded it as no more than a random set of wisdom sayings with minimal theology. Many have dismissed it as too late a writing to be interesting for the beginnings of Christianity. In this Guide Margaret Aymer sets out to counter such assessments. The key focus of the letter of James, a homily in form, is its impassioned argument for living Ďunstained by the worldí in the Diaspora. Against the charge that James is theologically weak, Aymer focuses on its theology of Godís divine singularity and immutability, and of Godís relationship to the community as father and benefactor. These are theological foundations for its emphasis on praxis, that is, community actions of belief, humility and mutual care.
Jamesís community does not live in a utopia. The letter of James takes its stand against empire, not least in regard to wealth, though it is in alignment with empire over matters of gender and power. Divine power is envisioned as an alternative power to that of the Romans, though in some respects it can seem equally brutal.
Aymer concludes by focusing on those addressed by Jamesís homily, the exiles in diaspora. Engaging the psychology of migration, she unpacks the migrant strategy underlying Jamesís call to living Ďunstainedí. But that leads into a further issue that arises once James becomes part of a scripture. What might it now mean, she asks, for twenty-first-century people to take seriously a separatist migrant discourse not only as an interesting ancient writing but as a scripture, a lens through which its readers can glimpse the possibilities for how lives are to be lived, and how contemporary worlds can be interpreted and engaged?
Subjects: Bible, New Testament, Hebrews and Catholic Epistles, James, Literature, Methods, Ideological Critique, Postcolonial Approaches, Theological Approaches
Review by Carla Swafford Works
Citation: Carla Swafford Works, review of Margaret Aymer, James: Diaspora Rhetoric of a Friend of God, Review of Biblical Literature [http://www.bookreviews.org] (2017).
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