Book Review: James Commentary by Arnold Fruchtenbaum

In the Ariel’s Bible Commentary, Arnold Fruchtenbaum deals with the Messianic Jewish Epistles as a group. The Commentary on James by Arnold Fruchtenbaum is a practical and succinct explanation of the book of James.  While Hebrews was written by an author in the Diaspora to the inhabitants in the land around Jerusalem, James is written by an author in the land near Jerusalem (or in Jerusalem) to the inhabitants in the Diaspora. The Commentary is not a series of sermons, but a sound exegesis (drawing the meaning out) of the original writing of James.

Fruchtenbaum wisely provides the entire Scripture of James broken up by the outline of James.  He then provides an interpretation of each appropriate phrase of the text to clarify the meaning of the letter written to Jewish believers. James is a very practical book, with an emphasis on James 1:22, “Be doers of the Word, not hearers only.”James wrote to Christians facing persecution in the Diaspora. This is in contrast to many of Paul’s letters which are both doctrinal and practical. 

James has many allusions to Matthew, a fellow disciple of Jesus. Fruchtenbaum considers James as likely the oldest New Testament book, which may be why it has a less developed theology compared to Paul. It does not develop additional teaching on Jesus Christ, which God preserved for Paul. There are, however, 54 imperatives in the 108 verses, which accentuate the practicality of the message.  

Fruchtenbaum lays out the theme of James as “Proving your faith.” Faith will be tested in life to strengthen believers.  Fruchtenbaum outlines six tests of faith in response to: 1) the Word of God (1:19-27; 2) social distinctions (2:1-13); 3) its production of works (2:14-26); 4) developing self-control (3:1-18); 5) its reaction to the world and worldliness (4:1-5:12); and 6) prayer in all circumstances (5:13-18).

A particular important section of Fruchtenbaum’s commentary is dealing with the Lordship Salvation issue.  (pp. 259-274) Fruchtenbaum is objective and fair in his analysis with extensive quotations, which support a grace theological view for faith and salvation.  This issue has and does confuse too many Christians who are living by works to maintain their salvation, rather than pursuing the holiness of God and trusting God with the works.

Do not teach James without consulting Fruchtenbaum’s Commentary on James.  He follows a Literal Historico-grammatical approach to interpretation.  He also follows a classical dispensational view which harmonizes Scripture in a natural interpretation, rather than impose by presuppositions a particular theology.

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