Group maintenance in James and the Didache
Yu, Chun Ling
This thesis argues that both the epistle of James and the Didache reflect tensions among the early Christian communities. The community concerns reflected in the texts of each book are investigated. Then their group maintenance strategies are analyzed. It will be shown that both writings have a similar concern on the harmony and cohesiveness of the Christian communities. On the other hand, there are differences as well as similarities in their strategies for reducing conflict. An analysis of the community tensions reflected in James is given. This shows that James is not merely a random collection of traditional teachings beyond critical studies. Interpretative issues, including grammatical and rhetorical questions surrounding passages in James are considered carefully in order to explore the epistle’s rhetorical situation. It will be argued that reflected in the text are real concerns for tensions among the audience, not merely general ethical instructions. Then results from social-scientific studies on social identity and conflict phenomena are bring in to further explore the possible group dynamics for communities in conflict. This enhances one’s understanding of the meaning and purpose of the teaching in James. Theses group dynamics also fill in some gaps between passages in James. Hence, the coherence of the book is highlighted in the study. Lastly, these social-scientific theories also provide a framework for analyzing the strategies of maintaining group cohesiveness in James. Next, a parallel study is given for the Didache. This study shows that besides chapters 11-15, which clearly reflect dangers of dispute among the early believers, other sections of the document also reflect the Didachist’s concern for tensions among the early Christians. Then the group maintenance strategy of the Didache is analyzed using a similar framework as that used for James. Finally, a comparison between the two writings is given from the perspective of group maintenance. Similarities and differences in the books’ community concerns as well as their means for maintaining harmony in the community are highlighted to indicate the significance of these documents for the early Christian communities.