James, First, Second, and Third John (Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture) by Kelly Anderson, Daniel Keating

(New York: Baker Academic, 2017), 304


Introduction to James

  • Brilliance of James is in his understanding of faith, the human person, and salvation. Change of behavior begins with a change of heart (1)
  • James's holiness according to Hegesippus: "He was in the habit of entering alone into the temple, and was frequently found upon his knees begging forgiveness for the people, so that his knees became hard like those of a camel, in consequence of his constantly bending them in his worship of God, and asking forgiveness for the people." (4)
  • Theological themes:
    • The strict relationship between faith and works: faith must be accompanied by conduct that manifests the new life in Christ (esp. Jas-02-26, responding to misinterpretation of Paul's important teaching that Christians are justified by faith rather than works (Rom-03)
    • Care for the poor and control the tongue
    • Take an attitude of humility before God
    • There is not middle road: waffling and indecision amount to choosing against God. Faith requires a total commitment to the ways of God ,and one's charitable actions demonstrate one's faith.
  • "James insists on spiritual perfection for all his listeners and shows that the way to get there is a deep conversion that flows from humility and repentance." (11)

Trials and Joy (James 1:2-11)

  • Jas-01-3 on Suffering:
    • Trials can lead to human perfection and strengthen our faith
    • The fruit of trial is a cause of joy
    • Peter (1 Pt-01-7) and Paul (Rom-05-4) teach the same thing
    • James teaches us to see every aspect of life as part of God's mysterious plan of love
  • Jas-01
    • Wisdom supplies the divine perspective that enables a person to withstand tirals without giving up and leads to spiritual maturity
    • Wisdom is obtained only through prayer
  • James always has an eye on the next life and teaches us to determine the value of things on the basis of their potential to bring us to eternal life (26)

God's Desire for Our Life (James 1:12-27)

  • Jas-01
    • If we yield to sin, the final outcome is death. The two options are either:
      • Temptation → perseverance → life
      • Temptation → sin → death
    • The decision to persevere is a decision to love God. A person who continues to trust in God and obey him even when it becomes hard to do so ultimately has chosen to love God.
  • Jas-01: A degenerate lifestyle blocks the transformative power of the word of truth, cf. 2023-09-25-The Way of the Disciple
  • Jas-01: "bias for action" is secular culture discovering truths of the faith
  • ~Veritas Splendor
  • "Life comes through accepting the word of truth and persevering in it; death comes from being ensnared by one's own desires and the influence of the world. For James, life begins with knowing the truth." (39)

Faith and Love (James 2:1-13)

  • Evangelii Gaudium echoes James by placing the care for the poor at the heart of the Christian life (41)
  • The poor are chosen by God (2:5-7) and the sin of partiality is tantamount to breaking the whole law (2:8-13)
  • Jas-02: "poor in the world" remain pure by refusing to compromise themselves for the perks that the world offers (46)
  • Jas-04: those who love the world are at enmity with God; there is no middle road (47)
  • "A person who seeks to become ingratiated with the rich renounces his or her standing as one of God's poor who have a privileged share in his kingdom." (48)
  • "According to the Pope, at the heart of an inordinate desire for money is a misunderstanding of one's identity. Since Jesus our king has identified with the poor, we must do the same." (49, cf. Centesimus Annus 36)
  • Jas-02: "James directs his readers away from focusing on the gravity of a particular sin to focus instead on the lawgiver, God, thus offering reason not to sin at all: love and respect for God. The law is an indivisible whole that is wither accepted and obeyed or disregarded and disobeyed. God, who is one and indivisible, gave the whole law." (52, cf 2023-01-21-A Church In Crisis)
  • "The fact that all of us have sinned greatly and will be judged ought to spur us on to seize opportunities to speak and to act with gracious kindness and generous compassion so that mercy will win out over judgment in our lives." (54)

Faith without Works (James 2:14-26)

  • "A person who has the kind of faith that does not issue in works of mercy has not been transformed by the love of God." (57)
  • "The Old Testament teaches that care for the poor is the basic feature of life in covenant relationship with God." (57)
  • Jas-02: "Correct belief about God, which the demons share, is not sufficient for salvation. Faith in God must be lived out by obedience to God's commands." (59, cf. Mt-07)
  • "We ought to respect other Christians, who may possess less of the truth but may be more faithful at practicing the truth that they know." (60)

The Destructive Power of the Tongue (James 3:1-18)

  • Jas-03: "The sages (authors of Proverbs, Sirach, Wisdom) were able to impart wisdom because they were imbued with the word of God. They had meditated deeply on it, and it has become part of their very being. A teacher of the faith must first listen to Jesus' words and be formed by them. A Christian teacher must live and act as Jesus did." (68)
  • Jas-03: "The tongue, because it is propelled by evil, has the capacity to defile one's whole being as well as the entire course of one's existence." (71)
  • Jas-03:
    • "To curse one who is a son or daughter of God is akin to cursing God himself." (72)
    • "Like Sirach, James understands that one's speech is a measure of one's interior life." (73, cf. Sir-27-6)
    • St. John Chrysostom: "Let not the tongue that has touched the Lord's Body utter anything offensive." (74)
  • Jas-03:
    • "To be pure means to be wholly and completely aligned with God, seeking to imitate him and live according to his commandments and laws." (77)
    • "The truly wise person is not necessarily the great scholar, but someone whose life is marked by humility, peace, and mercy." (78)

Lover of the World or Lover of God (James 4:1-10)

  • Jas-04
    • Pray and ask! "Prayer means seeking God's will rather than our own." (81)
    • "Those who indulge their passions have no peace; they live in turmoil within themselves and with hostility toward others." (80)
  • Jas-04
    • "Loving things more than we love Christ harms our relationship with God...A person can love either God or the world but not both." (82)
  • Jas-04
    • "The prerequisite for our healing is that we humble ourselves before God in order to receive his grace." (84)

Exhortations against Pride (James 4:11-5:6)

  • James warns us to avoid three kinds of behavior that demonstrate arrogance toward God: speaking evil of a brother or sister, attending to one's business as if God did not exist, and the enjoyment of wealth gained by injustice (89)
  • Jas-04: by judging one usurps the place of God; no one has the right to disregard the divine law and judge a brother or sister (91)
  • Jas-04: docility in recognizing that all depends on God and letting God guide one's future expresses trust in God's will (93)
  • "With wealth comes a certain status in society and independence that undermine awareness of one's dependence on God." (98)
  • "A modest lifestyle, almsgiving, and charitable works are fundamental to Christian living." (101)

Patient Perseverance (James 5:7-11)

  • Jas-05: "Instead of leading us to complain about our brothers or sisters in the faith, hardships ought to increase our longing for redemption." (105)
  • "The doctrine of the communion of saints teaches us that we are never alone, but we belong to a great body of believers, both past and present, who advance the kingdom of God by overcoming hatred with prayer, love, and sacrifice. If we live our own trials well, perhaps generations to come will be able to look to us for hope and inspiration in their times of difficulty." (108)

Final Instructions (James 5:12-20)

  • Jas-05: Tertullian: "Prayer is the one thing that can conquer God." (118)
  • Jas-05: "The greatest spiritual work of mercy a Christian can do is to being someone back to the right path." (120)

1 John

Introduction to 1 John

  • Augustine: John "said many things, and nearly everything was about charity." (125)
  • John gives the basic criteria that distinguish those who truly belong to God from those who do not (125), showing true faith and genuine love (126)
  • Theological themes:
    • The true and real incarnation of the Son of God (1 Jn-01-3)
    • The call to love the brothers and sisters, not just in word but in practice
    • A correct and balanced understanding of sin
    • The distinction between God and "the world"
    • The role of the Spirit in the Christian life
    • True Christina life—eternal life—means fellowship with God himself

Prologue: The Word of Life (1:1-4)

  • "Word of Life" is both a person and a message (139)

First Movement: Walk in the Light (1:5-2:27)

Walk in the Light and Do Not Sin

  • 1 Jn-01: "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
    • "God not only forgives our sins but also cleanses us. We are not just pardoned; we are also purified...He is not surprised by our sin; he knows us perfectly. By his grace he helps us to recognize our sin." (149)
    • "The psalms provide a language for us to confess our sins, and we can make these powerful lines our own." (150, cf. Ps-51)
    • 1 Jn-01 is worth memorizing for ourselves and to give pastoral encouragement
  • 1 Jn-02: Jesus as the "atoning sacrifice" (NRSV, NIV) captures the sense of both "expiation" (NABRE, NJB, RSV) and "propitiation" (KVJ, ESV) (152)

Keeping the Commandments and Loving the Brothers and Sisters

  • 1 Jn-02: The true disciple is the one who hears God's word and puts it into practice in daily life, especially the commandment to love one another. (156)
  • 1 Jn-02: "to hate" for John is not dislike but rather a serious failure to love (159)
  • 1 Jn-02: "he who does the will of God abides for ever"
    • The psalmist prays to be delivered from the enticement of the eyes: "Avert my eyes from what is worthless; / by your way give me life" (Ps-119)

Antichrist and Denial of the Truth

  • The "last hour" does not mean that the end is temporally close, only that we are now in the final stage of history and waiting for Christ's return. (168)
  • 1 Jn-02: "There is no room for hedging our bets: truth and falsehood have nothing to do with one another. They cannot coexist in the life of the disciple." (171)
  • 1 Jn-02
    • By holding fast to the word of God we receive a living communion with God himself (172)
    • The primary teacher of the faith is God himself, through his word and Spirit (173)

Second Movement: Walk in Righteousness (2:28-4:6)

The Children of God

  • 1 Jn-02: John expects us to stand in confidence at the coming of Christ, not arrogantly but in humble assurance that we can ask God for what we need (178)
  • 1 Jn-03
    • The devil is the personal origin of sin in the world, and those who live a life characterized by sin show that they belong to him (185)
    • "The Christian cannot avoid taking sides in this battle. if we make a practice of sin, we show that we belong to the devil and are doing his work; if we avoid sin and practice righteousness, we show that we are abiding in Christ." (186)

Loving One Another in Truth

  • 1 Jn-03: "By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren."
  • 1 Jn-03
    • Those who are truly the children of God display love in concrete ways (194)
    • For John, almsgiving is the test of whether the love of God dwells in us (194)
  • 1 Jn-03: God requires us to believe in Jesus and love one another (197)

Test the Spirits

  • John calls us to develop a discerning mind, and God gives us the Holy Spirit, faith itself, and the apostolic witness and teaching of the Church (204)

Third Movement: Walk in Love (4:7-5:12)

Walking in Love

  • 1 Jn-04-8:
    • These are among Augustine's favorite texts in Scripture along with Rom-05 and provided the heart of his theology and spirituality. For Augustine, love is the key that opens the door to a true understanding of the Bible (210)
    • Augustine: "If nothing at all were said in the other pages of the scriptures, and this were the one and only thing that we heard from the voice of the Spirit of God, that God is love, we wouldn't have to look for anything else." (211)
  • 1 Jn-04
    • Now that Jesus has ascended to the Father, God is "seen" among us through our practice of loving one another (213)
    • God abides in us through his word and Spirit; we abide in God through faith and love (216)

Faith as the Foundation of Love

  • By believing and loving we participate int eh very life of God, which is eternal life (222)

Summary and Conclusion

  • Eternal life is what we most need. Jesus Christ is eternal life, and we receive this eternal life by abiding and living in the Son (235)
  • 1 Jn-05
    • We need to pray according to God's will. The more we are in union with him, the more our desires will be confirmed to his (236)
    • Prayer begets prayer. The spirit has been given to us to help us in our ignorance and lead us to pray according to the will of God (236)
  • Conclusion (240)
    • God's life within us leads us into a way of righteousness free of sin
    • Those who belong to God have overcome the evil one, while the world and those who belong to the world are subject to the power of the devil
    • We now have the divine life within us that teaches us the truth
  • "Any conception of God that is at variance with his self-revelation in Christ is an idol." (242)

2 John

Opening Greeting (1:1-3)

  • The Presbyter is writing to a church that he knows and loves. The recipients are one family linked together by the truth. (247)

Core Exhortations (1:4-11)

  • 2 Jn-01: John reminds us of the importance of sound teaching (252)

Closing Greeting (1:12-13)

  • John is likely writing to his home in Ephesus (257)

3 John

Opening Greeting and Commendation (1:1-4)

  • 3 John is likely John's personal communication about relationship issue and challenges in one local church (259)

Requests and Recommendations (1:5-12)

  • 3 Jn-01: For John, to see God is to know God (269)

Closing Greeting (1:13-15)

  • Christlike friendship is at the heart of what is means to be a follower of Jesus and a fellow believer with other Christians (273)

Topic: Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture

New Words

  • amanuensis: writing assistant (3)

Created: 2023-12-14-Thu
Updated: 2024-05-26-Sun