Last week, I was very excited to learn that my proposal for the Christian Apocrypha section of the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL)’s Annual Meeting in November was accepted. I’ll probably be thrilled until the beginning of the summer, when I realize that I have no idea what I’m doing and become terrified! Here’s the abstract which I submitted to the review committee.
The world of early Christianity is a shadowy realm, filled with historical, cultural, and theological pitfalls that threaten all who attempt to unlock its secrets. One of its most enigmatic residents is James, commonly known as “James the Lord’s brother” or “James the brother of Jesus” following the description provided in the Letter to the Galatians. Although this figure receives scant treatment in the gospels’ descriptions of Jesus’ ministry–so scant, in fact, that there has been an extended debate concerning the nature of his familial ties to Jesus–he bursts onto the scene in the latter portion of the New Testament, as a leader of the community in Jerusalem, a contemporary (and possibly an opponent) of Paul, and the author (real or imagined) of a letter that was ultimately adopted into the Christian canon of scripture. He is also associated with other early Christian literature, particularly the texts which scholars frequently characterize as “Jewish Christian” in nature. This paper will ask whether these and other contemporary sources are sufficient to identify James as a source of legitimate authority for some early Christian communities–and if so, what their choice of this particular source might reveal.
If this sounds interesting to you, let me know… I’ll probably force you to read a few drafts. Wish me luck!