One of my favorite books of the Bible is the book of James. I preached seventeen sermons on this book and enjoyed it immensely. I am always looking for more insight on the deep truths found in it. Like the rest of the Bible I can’t get enough of it. When the opportunity came to read a commentary James highlighting the Jewish roots of this letter I jumped at the chance. Unfortunately my excitement was short lived.
Dr. David Friedman wrote James the Just: Presents Applications of Torah, one of a series of New Testament commentaries that looks at the Jewish context of each. The New Testament was written in a predominately Jewish culture by mainly Jewish men and having this understanding gives us a deeper understanding of their writings.
What I did enjoy about this commentary is the Friedman knows his stuff. Reading this I knew I was learning from a man who had devoted much time and energy in understanding all things Jewish. This pursuit of his isn’t merely academic but practical. You know that he loves what he is writing about.
Also the connections he makes between James’ letter and the Old Testament, particular Leviticus, is wonderful. It is information that will be helpful when I teach again from James.
Where I feel the book falters is in its presentation of its argument. The author is trying to convince/teach/prove that Jewishness of James, which no doubt he was, and is giving us facts to support his claims. Facts that are not fully substantiated. Here are some that stood out to me:
- In the forward Herschel Raysman says that Friedman proposes that the epistle of James is a collection of James’ teachings by his disciples and recorded in this epistle for the rest of us to read (also stated in the introduction by Friedman). There is no source sighted as proof of this.
- Also in the forward the claim is made that the Scriptures referenced must have been the Torah since there were no other Scriptures in the Greek world. In II Peter 3:14-16 we read from Peter that Paul’s writings are Scripture.
- Throughout the book Friedman refers to the church as a “Messianic Jewish community.” The early church did have former Jews as members but as we read in the New Testament Gentiles (non-Jews) became members of the church also. To continue to call them Jewish would be wrong. It also has the idea that to be part of the church one must become a Jew, a teaching strongly struck down in Acts 15, the book of Galatians, and elsewhere in the New Testament.
- The translation of the New Testament he uses is a Jewish translation and very few others. He would have been more convincing by using other translations more often.
- He also gives his own translation of a passage which is problematic in that he is translating it to fit his view.
- Throughout when quoting a verse he will admit he changed the verse but not say what change he made. Troubling to say the least.
Disclaimer- I received this book for free from Messianic Jewish Publishers through CrossFocused Reviews for this review. All that was required of me is that I review it, positively or negatively, on my site.