The Eye That Sleepeth Not

That would be my eye.  Not because I’m staying up until ridiculous hours of the night applying for jobs.  But rather because I am (kinda) like that evil master Sauron, scanning the Protestant world looking for goofiness.  I see all.  I hear all.  All bend to me.  Or something.

Actually, I am not really scanning.  I have a few websites I frequent because of some previous-life connection.  This one is because he was a very close friend of mine my senior year in high school.  He is now a pastor of a church in Maryland.

So anyway, his post is entitled “James’ view of the Bible”, and contains the following section:

What did [James] think of the Bible? He tells us in the letter he wrote. In James 1:18, we see that he believed it was truth. In this same passage, James tells us that the Word is the means of regeneration — new birth (James 1:18, 21). The Word acts as a mirror, showing us our defects (James 1:23-25). It is our guide for living today (James 2:8), and will serve as the standard for judgment in the future (James 2:12). Finally, in James’ most famous passage, he tells us that we must not merely be hearers of this great Word—we must be doers as well (James 1:22). May James’ attitude—and the attitude of all who know and fear God—be ours this year.

It will suffice to look at merely the first example given: James 1:18.  What does James 1:18 tell us about his view of “the Bible”?  Not much, really, seen as the Bible is not the subject of the quote:

Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.

In fact, what my friend seems to have done is conflated the “word of truth” with “the Bible”, but they are, in fact, not the same thing.  The image that is being used by St James is reminiscent of the first few chapters of the book of Genesis, where God creates the universe by speaking it into existence.  In the same way, he re-creates mankind by speaking him into existence.  The Gospel of St John takes this image of the creative action of God’s spoken word, and identifies that word as the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, who has now been incarnate.  I think it is to go too far to say that St James is here speaking of Jesus as the “word of truth”.  Rather he is using an image for our re-creation in Christ, one that conveys that, as with the universe, we were re-created out of nothing, bringing nothing of our own to the project.  “Word of truth” is thus a Genesean (???) image used to depict our utter dependence on God’s saving action.

This word transcends all human capacities.  And yet we are not left completely in the dark, for this creative word, this infinite and eternal speech of God has revealed Himself.  As was mentioned above, he was incarnate.  And so the full revelation of the “word of truth” is the incarnated Second Person: Jesus of Nazareth.

This is not to denigrate the Bible.  I agree wholeheartedly with my friend’s sentiment that the Bible should be read, studied, meditated upon and lived.  It contains the only Holy Spirit-attested recollections of Our Lord’s life.  It contains  truth and manifests truth.  But it is not the Truth.  It contains and manifests the word of life.  But it is not the Word of Life.  The same could be said for Apostolic Tradition, but this is not that stale post.

Incidentally, “word of truth” also couldn’t be the Bible, because the Bible did not yet exist.  Parts of the NT had not even been written at this point, let alone collated into a series of canonized books.  And St James would not have been aware, and probably would have bristled at the idea, that this letter he was writing would someday be elevated to an equal, if not even superior status to that of the OT writings.

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~ by Rob on March 2, 2009.

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