James 1:1 – Opening Greetings

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POSTED 28 JANUARY, 2018

reproduced from Salvation on the Line, Volume II

“James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Yeshua the Messiah, to the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad: Greetings.”

James the Just, author of the epistle, affirms that he is a servant “of God and of the Lord Yeshua the Messiah,” Theou kai Kuriou Iēsou Christou doulou. Here, there is a close association of the titles “God” (Theos) and “Lord” (Kurios), with the latter used to refer to the Messiah, although in the Septuagint the title Kurios would most often render the Divine Name YHWH/YHVH. It may be safely assumed that with titles used to describe God the Father applied to Yeshua the Son, that the Divine Lordship of Yeshua is affirmed. A selection of commentators on the Epistle of James conclude that, in view of the titles present in James 1:1, that a high Christology is present:

  • J.A. Motyer: “We have become accustomed to the standard English translation, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. But the Greek could equally well sustain the rendering ‘a servant of Jesus Christ who is God and Lord’…Even…were it the case that [James] intended the meaning which the English versions express—that God and the Lord Jesus are co-owners of their ‘slaves’—yet it cannot have escaped his notice that his words were equally capable of ascribing deity to Jesus. But he did not alter them. Some, today, find themselves satisfied ‘to say…He is “as-if-God” for me’. But there is no ‘as if’ in James: Jesus Christ is the Lord.”[1]
  • Dan G. McCartney: “In this letter…James identifies himself simply as a ‘servant of God and the Lord Jesus Christ.’ Since James includes no definite or indefinite articles with these words, it is possible to read this phrase as ‘servant of Jesus Christ, God and Lord.’ But it is more likely that he is simply closely associating the two nouns: Lord Jesus Christ and God. In any case, we must remember that when a Jew put the words ‘God’ and ‘Lord’ together, the Lord in view could only be God (cf. 1:7, where ‘from the Lord’ means ‘from God’). No matter how the verse is read, James is setting forth a very high Christology, identifying Jesus not just as Christ (Messiah) but also as Lord, mentioned in the same breath with God.”[2]

The statement of James 1:1, “Jacob, a slave of God and of the Lord Yeshua the Messiah, To the twelve tribes in the Diaspora: Shalom!” (TLV), is is perhaps something that most closely mirrors that of the Apostle Peter’s dynamic preaching in Acts 2:36, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Messiah—this Yeshua whom you crucified.” There are those who take the construction Theou kai Kuriou Iēsou Christou, “of God and of the Lord Yeshua the Messiah,” to actually be “of Yeshua the Messiah, God and Lord.” But perhaps more significant, is how the titles God and Lord are listed in such close proximity, with Yeshua the Messiah doubtlessly associated with one of them. As Douglas J. Moo concludes, “James’s view of his half-brother Jesus had undergone quite a transformation since the days they grew up in the same household together!”[3]

The statement of James 1:1, “From: Ya’akov, a slave of God and of the Lord Yeshua the Messiah To: The Twelve Tribes in the Diaspora: Shalom!” (CJB/CJSB), could have made more of an effort of separating out God the Father and the Lord Yeshua the Messiah, if James did not consider Yeshua to be integrated into the Divine Identity. All that would need to be seen for v. 1 to be an issue of James’ ministry as a servant, would be for him to have dropped the title Kurios or Lord, with him saying, “James, a bond-servant of God and of Yeshua the Messiah” (NASU modified). But instead, the Torah faithful, monotheistic Jew that James was, plainly sees him describe God the Father and the Lord Yeshua the Messiah, by using titles which among his peers would have been reserved only for the latter.


NOTES

[1] J.A. Motyer, The Message of James (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1985), pp 27-28.

[2] Dan G. McCartney, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament: James (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2009), 78.

[3] Douglas J. Moo, Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Letter of James (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000), 49.