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The Oxford Bible Commentary Line-by-line commentary for the New Revised Standard Version Bible.

James - Introduction

1.

James is written in good, but not elegant Greek. The author has composed short sentences rather than long and beautiful periods. Paranomasia and other Greek speech forms show that the letter is not simply a translation from a Semitic original, but it cannot be proved that the author used the LXX. The high occurrence of Semitisms (Mussner 1987: 30–2) cannot be explained by the use of traditional material only. Of special interest are parallels to the Hebrew Dead Sea scrolls. Bilingualism was widespread in first-century Palestine, even the scribe of the great Isaiah scroll from Qumran (1QIsa) was fluent in Greek. Apparently the author of James was also a bilingual Palestinian Jew.

2.

Claims that a scrap of papyrus from Qumran (7Q8) contains Jas 1:23–4 have been disproved (RevQ 18 (1997), 307–24), by showing it to be part of 1 Enoch 103 in Greek. Fragments of James are preserved in three papyri of the third century P20, P23, and P100). The whole letter is included in the fourth-century codices, Sinaiticus (ℵ) and Vaticanus (B), the latter attesting the best text-form. The text of James is not so well preserved as that of other NT documents, which might partially be explained by its rather complicated canonical history.

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