Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Cycle of Generations

In his new book The Four, Peter Leithart notes that the gospel of Matthew begins with a number of similarities to Genesis. Matthew begins with a "book of generations" which is one of the organizing principles of the book of Genesis (cf. 2:4, 5:1, etc.). He also notes some resemblances between Matthew's gospel and the epistle of James.

One similarity, which he doesn't explicitly mention (but which I suspect he's alluding to), is the fact that the word "generations" is used only five times in the NT, twice in Matthew and twice in James (once in Luke).

Both of the uses in James need some elucidating, but just on the surface, Js. 3:6 is one of the instances and James is warning particularly about the dangers of the tongue (see my earlier post). James says that the tongue is set among our members so that it can defile the whole body and set "on fire the whole course of nature." Literally, James says that it can set on fire the "cycle of generations." With the emphasis at the beginning of the chapter on "teachers," it doesn't seem like too much of a stretch to see James addressing specifically generational challenges. He seems to be warning teachers in particular about the use of their tongues and the kind of impact it has on their students, children, congregations, etc. Their words have the potential to send their hearers to hell. Jesus has similar warnings for people who cause little ones to stumble.

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