Bangs Head Against Wall

When you’re just restarting a complicated project, it’ best not to take on the biggest problems right away. The whole business quickly assumes daunting proportions when you view it from the perspective of its knottiest enigmas.

So a wiser person than I would have skipped over James 1:17 when resuscitating a project that involves fixing intricate formatting glitches, adapting to an analytical framework you don’t fully share, and accelerating the pace of one’s progress toward completion.

James 1:17 involves parallel clauses that juxtapose dosis agathê and dôrêma teleion; are they synonymous? Why the distinction? (After reviewing the evidence, I plump for rhetorical effect rather than lexical semantic distinction.) It identifies God as the “Father of lights,” a relatively peculiar characterization at that point — Scripture identifies God as creator of light, of course, and as universal Father, but that particular phrase seems unprecedented. The Dead Sea Scrolls’ usage “Prince of Lights” doesn’t seem to apply to God directly, but to an intermediate agent (it stands opposite the “Angel of Darkness” in 1QS 3.20, and Belial in CD 5:19).

Then it ends with a four-word phrase whose meaning is so obscure that scribes twisted it various ways to wring the semblance of clarity out of it: “the Father of lights, with whom there is no parallagê ê tropês aposkiasma” (“variation or shadow of change,” or something like that). The textual variations demand thoughtful attention; syntax and semantics of the phrase demand careful deliberation; and I have to express my conclusions in someone else’s preferred terminology.

Plus, I’ll probably have to revisit it after a while.

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