Diasporabrief

I know we all like to find little insights into the New Testament. P&BD readers tend to be New Testament junkies

Among the Apostles of Christ, two were named James. After the Lord ascended into heaven, one of the Jameses became the head of the Church in Jerusalem.

Rabbi Gamaliel, died A.D. 62
Rabbi Gamaliel, died A.D. 62
This James is known as “James the Less.” He wrote a letter, which is one of the 27 books of the New Testament.

St. Paul addressed his letters to the Christians of a particular town, like the Romans or Corinthians.

St. James, on the other hand, addressed his letter to:

“the twelve tribes in the Diaspora.”

The term Diaspora refers to Jews living outside the Holy Land.

Apparently, there were many letters written by Jewish religious authorities in Jerusalem to the brethren of the Diaspora.

The “Diaspora letter”–or Diasporabrief, as the German scholars call it–is a particular type of ancient Jewish literature. A Diaspora letter always urged Jews living among Gentiles to hold fast to the Covenant.

Perhaps St. James had these letters in mind when he wrote his letter. Likewise, the first readers of St. James’ letter might also have been familiar with “Diaspora letters.”

jewish diasporaThis makes St. James’ letter interesting not only for what it says, but also for what it does NOT say. It does not have the usual “Diaspora letter” content.

St. James’ letter does not urge the audience to keep the Mosaic law and the traditions of the Pharisees and rabbis. It does not encourage travel to the Holy Land. It does not pray for victory over the Romans (who were in the process of crushing the Jewish community in Israel).

Instead, St. James presents the teachings of Christ. The letter reads like a paraphrase of the Sermon on the Mount–a paraphrase given by someone who heard the Sermon with his own ears and learned to live in accord with it.

In other words, the letter of James IS a Diasporabrief. St. James intentionally imitated the rabbis. He was a rabbi, after all–a scholar and leader of Jews.

But St. James’ Diasporabrief was addressed to Jews who realized that the true Jerusalem is in heaven, and Jesus Christ is the High Priest of the Temple.