Book Review: Mastering The Basics: James

Mastering The Basics:  James, by Lyman Coleman and Richard Peace

This is the only one of the entire series [1] I have read by the authors that was not about the epistles of Paul, and that alone gives this study guide to a most interesting book [2] a bit of contrast from the rest of the series.  It should be noted that there is a lot about the book of James that the author does not cover that is of interest, and two of these elements come fairly readily to mind.  One of them is that the authors seem not to note anything odd about James saying that he was writing to those among the twelve tribes in what is now remote eastern Turkey, in the area where the Israelites were put after the Assyrian captivity, interestingly enough.  Another omission is any mention of the way that Martin Luther thought of James, as an “epistle of straw” because he was greatly offended by the demand of James for ethical behavior, the fruits of faith, to be evident in the lives of believers.  This has the feel of a book that is not likely to be as popular because James is less known than the epistles of Paul in the antinomian world of the authors.

Obviously, this book is going to share a lot with the other books in the series, like its seven or thirteen week plan, its introductory materials, and the design of its lessons including text, study, group agenda, notes, and comments.  Some of the material in the book is worthy of additional commentary, as the book includes some excellent sources like Eusibius’ and Josephus’ account of James’ death, sort of.  There is a lot here of value, particularly the way that the author compares James to Proverbs (a common comparison) and notes that although James does not directly reference his half-brother, he uses the well-known technique of remez to reference much of Christ’s teaching [3].  The parallels between James and the letter in Acts 15 only increase the understanding that the two were written by the same person.  To be sure, this book has a lot to offer in its little details, showing that the authors at least endeavored to read a lot about this book when writing their Bible study on it, something that was an improvement over how they handled some previous books in the series.

As might be guessed, though, there is material here worthy of criticism.  Perhaps the most obvious area of criticism, aside from the aforementioned omissions above, is the fact that the authors are trying to curry favor with a Catholic audience by dancing around the issue of James’ paternity, not coming out clearly and stating that James was Jesus’ half-brother in order not to offend Catholics who believe that Mary was a perpetual virgin, in stark contrast to what the Bible actually says about her.  Apart from that and the fact that the this commentary, like all of the others, uses the inferior Alexandrian text for James, this is a relatively decent commentary.  To be sure, the authors do not know as much about James as they think they do, but they have at least tried to do their homework and that deserves a considerable amount of praise.  This is a lot better than the commentary of 1 Corinthians in this series, that is for sure, and is at least on the same level as the other two volumes I have read, and has some insights worth checking out.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/03/25/book-review-mastering-the-basics-ephesians/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/03/25/book-review-mastering-the-basics-philippians/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/03/25/book-review-mastering-the-basics-1-corinthians/

[2] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2015/12/17/book-review-the-james-code/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2015/10/09/mysteries-of-the-bible-why-does-james-call-gods-law-the-royal-law-of-liberty/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2011/04/27/the-problem-with-partiality-a-musing-on-james-2-1-13/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2010/12/13/on-the-biblical-accounts-of-the-origin-of-warfare-james-41-4-and-genesis-419-24/

[3] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2013/03/11/if-you-dont-know-the-text-you-cant-play/

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About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Bible, Biblical History, Book Reviews, Christianity, History. Bookmark the permalink.

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