The epistle of James states, What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” (James 2:14, 24, 26) Thus, James’ letter centers around the concept of actions instead of the teachings of Protestants that state that faith alone is enough through their doctrine of Justification. Jesus is understood then through the epistle of James to exist through acts.
The main podium of the epistle of James is faith; James states that even the demons in hell believe in God, for it was God’s vengeance that placed them in Hades, so, a Christian must do more than the demons in hell, they must go beyond mere concepts of Christ and allow Christ to become active in their lives, or for them to have faith and act in Christian manners. This is how Jesus is known from past to the present to the future understandings of Christ.
In understanding Christ through James’ epistle the vices of humanity must be constrained; these vices include formalism (or the worship of Christ through idolatry and outward celebration of Christ instead of inward revelation and instead of through acts of love), meanness, falsehood, partisanship, evil speaking, boasting, and oppression. The epistle’s main message revolves around patience, which is the true virtue in understanding Christ and living a Christ-like life.
The epistle states that if a person can maintain patience through all of the above mentioned vices then they are truly Christ-like. A true believer in Christ asks no questions about the trials they must endure, they are child-like in their acceptance of faith and God’s wisdom. That is to say that faith should be a single-minded purpose. James states that a person must endure their trials and tribulations because of the end result. James wrote this epistle in the third century during a time when Christians everywhere were being martyred for their belief and their faith was waning because of the dead that surrounded them, “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. (James 1:12)”. It is a difficult task to endure without promise of an earthly reward and the epistle by James emphasizes that if Christians endure their persecution they will be rewarded in heaven.
The basic principles of James’ epistle involve love; love of Christ is the end result of gaining the crown of life. Love is a gift, it is through love that Christ is known and this runs from the past concepts of the understanding of Christ to future and present concepts. Love transcends time in the epistle and becomes an all-encompassing force that relates to the understanding of faith through the application of act and the ultimate gaining of it.
In both the epistle and in Q what is common among the two is the absence of a death-resurrection cycle. As such the lives and faith exhibited by Elijah, Rahab, and Job seem to be ill fitted to the overall epistle and Q. This is stated because the death-resurrection discourse is essential in understanding Christ through all ages especially since the epistle teaches acts a way in which to be Christ-like. These acts, or activities done by Christians become less laudable since they are not backed by the typical version of death-resurrection which entails much of the faith based in Christianity.
In understanding Christ the role of faith is undeniable. A Christian must have unblinding faith in the works or miracles of Christ as well as the final resurrection performance. Both James’ epistle and Q disregard this main element.
As such the book of Q does not present the reader with a lot of historical detail of the life of Jesus, but the application of the book in understanding Christ in the past and in the present is found in the book’s unique design of bringing into the reader’s attention teachings of Christ, or put more bluntly, quotes of Christ.
The book was designed to follow the writings by the followers of Christ who wrote down the quotes 20 years after Christ’s resurrection. Thus the book focuses on the teachings of Christ as remembered by his followers. This presents a rather obvious biased or tainted view since it is difficult to remember and accurately record events after 20 years. In James’ epistle the accounts were first hand and documented well within a decent time range and thus their application of understanding Christ is more reliable. The epistle teachings that understanding Christ is gained through love and patience.
The Q gospel does not say specifically one thing or another in order to come to an understanding of the past, present and future of understanding Christ but merely present the teachings and allow for the reader’s own interpretation. This is a very liberal step. The teachings present Christ as a healer, a teacher, and a simple man who is filled with God’s love. The true common link then between James’ epistle and Q resides in the concept of love as it applies to the teachings of Christ.
Since love is able to traverse time, in order to understand Christ in the tertiary realm of past, present, and future, both of these works focus their main attention on the attribute of love. This is where true wisdom is found, according to the teachings of Christ. The epistle of James is relevant in that it brings to light unconventional and somewhat unrecognized teachings of Christ according to the Church as is the same for Q. Both books are presented as daily instructions for living and not necessarily like narrative text which is found in abundance throughout the bible.
The epistle of James was written during a time of trial for the Jewish faith. Thus, early Christians would interpret his writing to their own comfort and understand that Christ would want them to endure suffering now, remain true to their faith and receive their reward in heaven. Christianity in the present day, although common to this theme of finding reward in heaven would not associate being martyred as part of the necessary process to be in God’s good graces. The book of Q differs on this in that the teachings themselves do not mention a specific interpretation but they generalize an event to be kept in accordance with Christ being a charismatic person who taught to simply have faith and be a good person.
Both books emphasized strength in faith and through acting with a strong moral fiber. James’ writings preached against sin and the overindulgence in sin would eventually lead to hell; he stated that if a person had faith they are just the same as demons in hell but if a person had actions to back up their faith then they were being Christ-like. The gospel of Q preached a similar morality that entailed doing kindness in the likeness of Christ. Both books then understand Christ through actions and through behaving like Christ. This behavior entailed a general sense of kindness and goodwill and the golden rule of doing unto other as you would have done unto you. So, even while James was writing his epistle and Jews were being persecuted for their faith the message was forgiveness just as Q emphasizes this very divine trait in the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. Both books highlight that one should not be tempted to do bad deeds and by rising above this temptation one may be even more Christ-like and find the gift of love in heaven and also find that in order to understand Christ the only thing that matters is to find love.
Although the interpretations of each book will differ from the persecution of past Christians (many martyred for their beliefs and forced into hiding in the catacombs of the early 3rd century) to the present day abundance of several sub religions to whatever the future holds in the ever increasing interpretations of Christ’s word and the subsequent formulation of a religion based on that one interpretation the common theme throughout time and in both the epistle of James and Q is this; morality.
Coats, George. “A Structural Transition in Exodus”. Vetus Testamentum. Vol. 22, Fasc. 2 1972. Pg. 129-142.
Downing, Christine. “How Can We Hope and Not Dream? Exodus as Metaphor: A Study of the Biblical Imagination”. The Journal of Religion. Vol. 48, No. 1. 1968. Pg. 35-53.
Gunter, Stephen & Elaine Robinson. Considering the Great Commission. Abingdon Press. 2005.
Halabi, Yakub. (March 1998). Ideas and Foreign Policy. University of Denver. International
Hendel, Ronald. “The Exodus in Biblical Memory”. Journal of Biblical Literature. Vol. 120, No. 4. 2001. Pg. 601-622.
Mortimer, Arias. Announcing the Reign of God. Wipf and Stock Publishers. 2001.