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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges
James 2



Other Authors
Verse 1

1. ἀδελφοί μου, the name itself is a protest against the sin of προσωπολημψία.

μὴἔχετε is pointed interrogatively by Westcott and Hort. This construction however is regularly used only where a negative answer is expected, and even if there are exceptions to the rule, the imperative is more forcible and more characteristic of St James’ style. See Winer, III. 67, 3 b.

ἐν προσωπολημψίαις, with respect of persons. Do not let those personal distinctions and differences continue to find a place in religious life. The plural denotes the different ways in which προσωπολημψία shews itself, the various acts and instances of deference to persons. See note James 1:17. The compounds προσωπολημψία, προσωπολημπτεῖν, προσωπολήμπτης are first found in the N.T. They are among the earliest purely Christian words.—πρόσωπον λαμβάνειν is a Hebraism נָשָׂא פָּנִים, lit. to lift the face (opposed to making the countenance fall); hence to be favourable to: translated by ἐθαύμασά σου τὸ πρόσωπον, Genesis 19:21 : hence in N.T. always in a bad sense of shewing favour or preference to persons on account of external advantages, rank, wealth, power: οὐ λαμβάνεις πρόσωπον οὐδενός, Luke 20:21, in parallels οὐ βλέπεις εἰς πρόσωπον ἀνθρώπων, Matthew 22:16, Mark 12:14; comp. οὐ γὰρ προσωπολήμπτης ὁ θεός, Acts 10:34; θαυμάζοντες πρόσωπα, Judges 1:16. For προσωπολημψία itself, see Romans 2:11; Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 3:25.

τὴν πίστιν τοῦ κυρίου κ.τ.λ., the faith in the Lord Jesus, that faith of which He is the object, in virtue of which the disciples were called οἱ πιστεύοντες.

τῆς δόξης. Comp. Hebrews 12:11 where δικαιοσύνης has the same emphatic position qualifying the whole phrase. For the expression see 1 Corinthians 2:8 οὐκ ἂν τὸν κύριον τῆς δόξης ἐσταύρωσαν, and comp. John 1:14 ἐθεασάμεθα τὴν δόξαν αὐτοῦ, δόξαν ὡς μονογενοῦς παρὰ Πατρός. See also John 2:11; John 17:5; John 17:22; John 17:24. In the LXX. δόξα is used of the Shekinah or glorious manifestation of Jehovah in the tabernacle, e.g. καὶ δόξης Κυρίου ἐπλήσθη ἡ σκηνή, Exodus 40:35—a signification closely connected with the use of the word by St John: see Bp Westcott on John 1:14 and comp. Book of Enoch, ch. xli, ‘my eyes beheld all the sinners who denied the Lord of glory.’ The construction of τῆς δόξης with πίστιν, which is possibly suggested by the marginal reading in W. H., has the support of some interpreters, who render: (a) belief in the glory of the Lord Jesus or (b) faith proceeding from the Lord Jesus in the glory (about to be revealed). The expression however of πίστις Ἰησ. Χρ. varied sometimes by the construction of εἰς or ἐν is so usual (see Romans 3:22; Galatians 2:16; Colossians 2:5) that it is natural to take these words together and to regard τῆς δόξης as added with special reference to the subject under discussion.

Verses 1-4


Verse 2

2. ἐὰν γὰρ εἰσέλθῃ. ἐάν is virtually equivalent to ὅταν. The supposed case is presented vividly and distinctly, Goodwin, p. 102.

εἰς συναγωγὴν ὑμῶν, into a synagogue (or assembly) of yours. It is natural to suppose that the first Christians would take the name of Synagogue to designate their place of assembly for worship interchangeably with ἐκκλησία, which afterwards came to be the prevalent expression. It is at any rate clear that the συναγωγή here mentioned is a Christian and not a Jewish place of assembly. It is used in a distinctively Christian sense in Herm. Past. M. xi. 9 συναγωγὴν ἀνδρῶν δικαίων, and Epiphanius says of the Ebionites, συναγωγὴν οὗτοι καλοῦσι τὴν ἑαυτῶν ἐκκλησίαν, Lightfoot, Phil. p. 190. Like any other synagogue among the Jews its doors would be open to any Jew or proselyte who chose to enter. And from what St James says it appears to have been a grave spiritual danger and temptation for the poor Christian communities of the Dispersion to welcome with special honour a wealthy unconverted Jew who may have been prompted by curiosity or sympathy to enter their assembly. See Lightfoot, Phil. loc. cit. and Hort’s Judaistic Christianity, p. 150.

χρυσοδακτύλιος, wearing a gold ring or rings. As luxury advanced the wearing of rings became increasingly the fashion. Rings were worn on all except the middle finger (Plin. H. N. XXXIII. 6). See Wetstein, who quotes Lucian, Nigrin. 21 οἱ πλουτοῦντες αὐτοὶ καὶ τὰς πορφυρίδας προφαίνοντες καὶ τοὺς δακτυλίους προτείνοντες; Aelian, V. H. III. 9, δακτυλίους πολλοὺς φέρων ἐκαλλύνετο ἐπὶ τούτῳ; Seneca, N. Q. VII. 31, Exornamus annulis digitos et in omni articulo gemma disponitur; Mart. XI. 60, Senos Charinus omnibus digitis gerit nee nocte ponit annulos nee dum lavatur. Comp. also Juv. Sat. VII. 139, Ciceroni nemo ducentos │ nunc dederit nummos nisi fulserit annulus ingens. Note the ingens; it would be seen at a glance. Rings were even hired to give the appearance of wealth: ideo conducts Paulus agebat │ Sardonyche, Juv. Sat. VII. 143. G. F. Watts in his impressive picture, ‘He had great possessions,’ has rightly noted this indication of great wealth. According to Clemens Alex., who forbids luxury in Christians, a special exception is made for the ring which was considered necessary for the purpose of sealing, Paed. III. 11–57 f. This however is clearly distinct from the ostentatious use of rings referred to by St James.

ἐν ἐσθῆτι λαμπρᾷ. See Luke 23:11; Acts 10:30.

Verse 3

3. ἐπιβλέψητε. ἐπί indicates an earnest, fixed look. The rich man at once attracts attention.

σὺ κάθου ὧδε καλῶς. Sit thou here in a good place. The classical phrase is ἐν καλῷ. Dr Field, Otium Norv., quotes ἄγει μέ τις λαβὼν εἰς τὸ θέατρον, καθίσας ἐν καλῷ, Alciph. Ep. III. 20. Comp. Matthew 23:6 φιλοῦσιντὰς πρωτοκαθεδρίας ἐν ταῖς συναγωγαῖς and Mark 12:39; Luke 11:43; Luke 20:46.

κάθου. See Veitch sub voc. κάθημαι. This form for the more classical κάθησο occurs in the Comic writers of the classical period and in late prose, as here and Psalms 110:1 (cited Matthew 22:44 and elsewhere). The use of a popular and vernacular form not used in literature is a touch of reality.

ὑπὸ τὸ ὑποπόδιόν μου, the words are now placed in the mouth of one person, perhaps the ἀρχισυνάγωγος.

Verse 4

4. οὐ διεκρίθητε. For reading see critical notes. Did ye not make a distinction among yourselves (though you are ἀδελφοί), and thereby shewed yourselves to be judges whose reasonings are evil? διεκρίθητε though passive in form has here a middle or intransitive meaning. This appears from the two other passages in the N.T. where the same form occurs, Matthew 21:21; Mark 11:23. Compare the prevailing N.T. form ἀπεκρίθη in place of the far rarer ἀπεκρίνατο, which last occurs four times only in the synoptic gospels, and three of these are in the parallel accounts of the Passion.

There is a tendency in later Greek to the disuse of middle forms. In Modern Greek the middle voice has ceased to exist. There are also instances in Hellenistic Greek of recurrence to original forms, and “the aorist stems in -η and -θη appear to have originally had an intransitive sense of which the passive sense was a growth or adaptation.” Monro’s Hom. Gram. § 44.

But apart from these arguments from the history of language the passive rendering fails here to give good sense.

διαλογισμῶν πονηρῶν. See on ἀκροατὴς ἐπιλησμονῆς, James 1:25. διαλογισμοί, reasonings, never in a good sense in N.T., διαλογισμοὶ πονηροί, Matthew 15:19; οἱ διαλ. οἱ κακοί, Mark 7:21. See also Romans 14:1; Philippians 2:14; 1 Timothy 2:8.

Verse 5

5. ἀκούσατε emphasizes the important reasoning which follows; comp. our Lord’s frequent formula ὁ ἔχων ὦτα ἀκούειν ἀκουέτω

ἐξελέξατο. Comp. 1 Corinthians 1:26-28 βλέπετε γὰρ τὴν κλῆσιν ὑμῶν, ἀδελφοί, ὅτι οὐ πολλοὶ σοφοὶ κατὰ σάρκα, οὐ πολλοὶ δυνατοί, οὐ πολλοὶ εὐγενεῖς· ἀλλὰ τὰ μωρὰ τοῦ κόσμου ἐξελέξατο ὁ θεός, ἵνα καταισχύνῃ τοὺς σοφούς, καὶ τὰ ἀσθενῆ τοῦ κόσμου ἐξελέξατο ὁ θεός, ἵνα καταισχύνῃ τὰ ἰσχυρά· καὶ τὰ ἀγενῆ τοῦ κόσμου καὶ τὰ ἐξουθενημένα ἐξελέξατο ὁ θεός, κ.τ.λ. But the statement rests immediately on the first beatitude: ΄ακάριοι οἱ πτωχοί, ὅτι ὑμετέρα ἐστὶν ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ, Luke 6:20. In Acts 2:39 the Godward side of the thought is expressed: καὶ πᾶσι τοῖς εἰς μακρὰν ὅσους ἂν προσκαλέσηται Κύριος ὁ θεὸς ἡμῶν. Comp. also διὰ τοὺς ἐκλεκτοὺς οὓς ἐξελέξατο, Mark 13:20, and ἐκλεκτοί frequently as those chosen out to do the work of Christ in the world. So St Paul is σκεῦος ἐκλογῆς, Acts 9:15.

τῷ κόσμῳ (for the reading see critical notes), in respect of the world, in the world’s regard. Comp. ἀστεῖος τῷ θεῷ, Acts 7:20; δυνατὰ τῷ θεῷ, 2 Corinthians 10:4; νικᾶν πᾶσι τοῖς κριταῖς, Aristoph. Aves, 445; θεοῖσιν οὗτοι κἀνδράσιν ῥιψάσπιδες, Aristoph. Pax 1186, ‘in the judgment of.’ ἐμοὶ γὰρ ὅστις ἄδικος ὢν σοφὸς λέγεινπέφυκε πλείστην ζημίαν ὀφλισκάνει, Eur. Med. 580, Jelf 600, Winer, III. § xxxi. 4 a.

For κόσμος see on James 1:27.

πλουσίους ἐν πίστει, i.e. not that their riches consist in faith, but that faith is the sphere or region in which they are rich, in which their riches lie, they are rich as being οἱ πιστεύοντες. In fact ἐν πίστει qualifies πλουσίους much as τῷ κόσμῳ qualifies πτώχους. See Beyschlag ad loc. and Bp Westcott on Hebrews 11:2 ἐν ταύτῃ γὰρ ἑμαρτυρήθησαν οἱ πρεσβύτεροι. The expression is to be distinguished from πλούσιος ὢν ἐν ἐλέει, Ephesians 2:4, where the genitive would be required in the classical idiom, as πλούσιος κακῶν, Eur. Or. 394.

ἧς ἐπηγγείλατο. The reference may be to an ἄγραφον or unrecorded saying of the Lord’s, possibly of the Risen Lord to St James himself. But the words of the first beatitude cited above are the words of a promise, see also Matthew 25:34. For the attraction of ἧς into the case of the antecedent comp. Acts 1 :1 περὶ πάντων ὧν ἤρξατο ὁ Ἰησοῦς ποιεῖν τε καὶ διδάσκειν.

Verses 5-14


Verse 6

6. ἠτιμάσατε. The aorist points to the particular instance cited by the Apostle. You dishonoured the poor man—deprived him of his due τιμή or rank and dignity in the kingdom of heaven. The more technical term in this sense is ἀτιμόω.

οὐχ οἱ πλούσιοι κ.τ.λ. Not only did you degrade those whom Christ honoured, but you honoured those who have shewn themselves unworthy.

καταδυναστεύουσιν ὑμῶν, lord it over you, oppress you. See Acts 10:38 τοὺς καταδυναστευομένους ὑπὸ τοῦ διαβόλου, the only other passage where the word occurs in N.T., but comp. κατακυριεύειν, Matthew 20:25, Mark 10:42, Acts 19:16, 1 Peter 5:3, and κατεξουσιάζειν, Matthew 20:25, Mark 10:42.

The oppression of the poor by the unprincipled rich was an inveterate evil among the Israelites denounced from first to last by the Prophets. The widening breach between the Jews and Christians tended to deepen this hostility. See Psalms 10, 11 and Psalms 140:12-13. See also Cheyne on Isaiah 53:9.

αὐτοί, with its proper sense of contrast, ‘they on their part’ in contrast with you who place them in the best seats of the synagogue.

ἕλκουσιν, drag with violence. εἷλκον αὐτὸν ἔξω τοῦ ἱεροῦ, Acts 21:30. Comp. also Acts 9:1 ὅπως ἐάν τινας εὔρῃ τῆς ὁδοῦ ὄντας, ἄνδρας τε καὶ γυναῖκας, δεδεμένους ἀγάγῃ εἰς Ἰερουσαλήμ.

εἰς κριτήρια. See 1 Corinthians 6:2; 1 Corinthians 6:4; also Matthew 10:17, Acts 9:2; Acts 26:11. These were not heathen tribunals but Jewish courts which were recognised and permitted under the Roman government.

Verse 7

7. τὸ καλὸν ὄνομα. Not the name of ‘Christian,’ as some have thought, but the name of Jesus Christ into [or in] which they had been baptized; see the first instance of baptism, Acts 2:38, βαπτισθήτω ἕκαστος ὑμῶν ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ εἰς ἄφεσιν τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ὑμῶν. Usually εἰς τὸ ὄνομα, Matthew 28:19; Acts 8:16; 1 Corinthians 1:15, and frequently.

The use of the word βλασφημεῖν implies the divine character of the name.

τὸ ἐπικληθὲν ἐφʼ ὑμᾶς, called or invoked upon you at baptism. Comp. Jeremiah 14:9 καὶ τὸ ὄνομά σου ἐπικέκληται ἐφʼ ἡμᾶς. See also Deuteronomy 28:10; 2 Chronicles 6:33; 2 Chronicles 7:14; Amos 9:12. These instances associate with the expression the thoughts of ownership and service. A freedman bore his master’s name and soldiers that of their general, especially the bodyguard of an emperor, as Augustiani, Commodiani. To these may be added Sebastianus, a soldier in the bodyguard of Diocletian (Σέβαστος being the Greek equivalent of Augustus). So Christiani, soldiers of Christ the King.

Verse 8

8. μέντοι, rare in N.T.; 5 times in St John; also 2 Timothy 2:19; Judges 1:8. It introduces a concession. If however ye fulfil the royal law (which you transgressed by dishonouring the poor through προσωπολημψία) ye do well.

νόμονβασιλικόν. The position of βασιλικόν is emphatic, and distinguishes the law of Christ, the βασιλεύς, from the Mosaic law. Compare Plato, Ep. p. 1297 Α εἰς βασιλέως δʼ εἶδος πειρᾶσθαι μεταβάλλειν καὶ δουλεῦσαι νόμοις βασιλικοῖς, and 2 Maccabees 3:13 διʼ ἃς εἶχε βασιλικὰς ἐντολάς, i.e. the laws or commands which a king makes and issues, the meaning here and not, as has been suggested, ‘the law which even kings obey.’ The expression does not occur elsewhere in the N.T., but it is natural that the thought of the βασιλεία, the kingdom, or, as it would mean to a contemporary, the empire of Christ, should be especially present with the Apostle, who was himself of the royal line of David. It is a phrase which bears upon it the stamp of an original writer summing up a leading point of Christian teaching, and not by any means one likely to have been invented by a late writer.

ἀγαπήσεις τὸν πλησίον σου ὡς σεαυτόν. See Leviticus 19:18, and Matthew 19:19, and comp. Romans 13:9 τὸ γὰρ οὐ μοιχεύσεις …, καὶ εἴ τις ἑτέρα ἐντολή, ἐν τῷ λόγῳ τούτῳ ἁνακεφαλαιοῦται, ἐν τῷ Ἀγαπήσεις τὸν πλησίον σου ὡς σεαυτόν κ.τ.λ.

καλῶς ποιεῖτε, ye do well, i.e. you are right, comp. Aristoph. Plut. 859 καλῶς τοίνυν ποιῶν ἀπόλλυται. So, “Di bene fecerunt inopis me quodque pusilli │ finxerunt animi,” Hor. Sat. I. 4. 17. See also Acts 15:29 ἐξ ὧν διατηροῦντες ἑαυτοὺς εὖ πράξετε.

Verse 9

9. τοῦ νόμου. Here the law of Christ which makes no distinction between rich and poor.

Verse 10

10. Regarded as a whole law is the expression of the divine will; therefore infraction of the law in one particular is transgression of the divine will, and so a transgression of the whole law. The instances cited are cases of transgressing the Mosaic law, but the principle is of universal application. It is a different principle from that taught in the Rabbinical schools, according to which each particular act of obedience to each law has its assigned reward. The law was not treated as a whole but as a series of separate enactments. “Whosoever fulfils only one law, good is appointed to him, his days are prolonged and he will inherit the land.” Kiddushin i. 10, quoted by Schürer, Gesch. des jüd. Volkes, II. § 28 (Eng. Trans. Div. II. Vol. II. p. 92).

On the other hand Wetstein ad loc. quotes sayings agreeing with St James’ teaching, e.g. Si faciat omnia unum vero omittat omnium et singuloram reus est, Sabbat. f. 70. 2; again R. Johanan dicit, omnis qui dicit: Totam legem ego in me recipio praeter verbum unum, hie sermonem Domini sprevit, et praecepta ejus irrita fecit. One false note destroys the harmony, and a broken link destroys the chain. For our Lord’s word on this see Matthew 5:19.

ὅστιςτηρήσῃ, πταίσῃ. In Classical Greek ὅστις ἄν would be usual. The omission of ἄν however removes the indeterminate character of the expression; it is conceived as an actual case. Comp. Hom. Od. VIII. 523 f. ὡς δὲ γυνὴ κλαίῃσι φίλον πόσιν ἀμφιπεσοῦσα | ὅς τε ἑῆς πρόσθεν πόλιος λαῶν τε πέσῃσιν, Soph. Oed. Col. 395, γέροντα δʼ ὀρθοῦν φλαῦρον ὃς νέος πέσῃ, Ant. 1025, ἐπεὶ δʼ ἁμαρτῇ. So also in prose Thuc. IV. 17, ἐπιχώριον ὂν ἡμῖν οὖ μὲν βραχεῖς ἀρκῶσι μὴ πολλοῖς χρῆσθαι. See Campbell, Soph., Essay on Lang. § 27 and Goodwin, § 62, n. 3.

πάντων ἔνοχος. Comp. ἔνοχος θανάτου, Matthew 26:66; ἔνοχος τοῦ σώματος καὶ τοῦ αἵματος τοῦ κυρίου, 1 Corinthians 11:27. ἔνοχος bound or held, from ἐνέχεσθαι: πάντων is a genitive of cause. The construction follows that of verbs of prosecuting and sentencing: (΄ιλτιάδεα) οἱ ἐχθροὶ ἐδίωξαν τυραννίδος τῆς ἐν Χερσονήσῳ, Hdt. VI. 104; οὐχ ἁλίσκεται ψευδομαρτυριῶν, Arist. Rhet. I. 15. 17, Jelf § 501. See also Winer [253] III. xxx. d who connects the construction with verbs of taking hold of &c., where the Greek idiom requires a genitive, as: τὰ κρείσσονα καὶ ἐχόμενα σωτηρίας, Hebrews 6:9.

Verse 11

11. εἰ δὲ οὐ μοιχεύεις. This use of οὐ for μή in the protasis of a conditional sentence is not infrequent in the N.T., especially when there is an antithesis between a negative and affirmative sentence as here. As Dr Moulton notes on Winer, p. 601, the expression is equivalent to εἰ οὐ μοιχεύων ἔσῃ, φονεύων δέ. εἰ οὐ μοιχεύεις = ‘if thou art guiltless of adultery.’ Comp. εἰ τοὺς θανόντας οὐκ ἐᾷς θάπτειν, Soph. Aj. 1131; εἰ ἀποστῆναι Ἀθηναίων οὐκ ἠθελήσαμεν, Thuc. III. 55; εἰ ἄλλοις οὐκ εἰμὶ ἀπόστολος ἀλλά γε ὑμῖν εἰμί, 1 Corinthians 9:2.

In Modern Greek ἐὰν δέν (the modern equivalent to οὐ) is the regular idiom.

Verse 12

12. διὰ νόμου ἐλευθερίας μέλλοντες κρίνεσθαι. See note James 1:25.

Verse 13

13. ἡ γὰρ κρίσις κ.τ.λ. The judgment implied by κρίνεσθαι διὰ νόμ. ἐλευθ. is pitiless to him who shews no pity. But neglect of the poor, or absence of ἔλεος, is implied in deference to the rich or προσωπολημψία. The law of liberty condemns such distinction. Therefore the προσωπολήμπτης will find no mercy under that law the principle of which is ἔλεος. But even divine compassion does not extend to him who has no compassion on his fellow-creatures, the lesson of the parable of the unmerciful servant, Matthew 18:23-35. ἔλεος the contrary principle rejoiceth over judgment because there is nothing for judgment to condemn, ἔλεος like ἀγάπη being the fulfilling of the law. ἐλεημοσύνη indeed is nearly equivalent to δικαιοσύνη, see the various readings St Matthew 6:1 and comp. Daniel 4:27 τὰς ἁμαρτίας σου ἐν ἐλεημοσύναις (כְּצִדְקָה) λύτρωσαι καὶ τὰς ἀδικίας ἐν οἰκτιρμοῖς πενήτων. ἀνέλεος for the classical ἀνελεής or the more purely Attic form ἀνηλεής, in Homer νηλεής, see Lob. Phryn. 711. For the reading here see crit. notes.

Verses 14-26

14–26. The relation between πίστις and ἔργα:—a subject suggested by the preceding paragraph, but also probably by one of the questions referred to St James for solution. Such questions were frequently put to Rabbis as to our Lord (see Matthew 18:21; Matthew 19:3; Matthew 22:17; Matthew 22:36). So St Paul decides the relations between πίστις, ἐλπίς and ἀγάπη 1 Corinthians 13, assigning the leading position to ἀγάπη which is closely akin to ἔλεος.

Probably as a reaction from justification by works of the law a fallacy had sprung up among the Jewish Christians that faith in Christ existing as an inactive principle, a mere speculative belief, would suffice without works. St James shews what an impossible position this is. ἔλεος is regarded as the practical result and test of πίστις as it is in Matthew 25:34-40, a passage probably in the Apostle’s mind here. The works of which St James speaks are works of πίστις not of the Mosaic law. Such ἔργα Christ himself sets forth as required in the Christian life in the Sermon on the Mount and in such passages as Matthew 7:20, ἀπὸ τῶν καρπῶν αὐτῶν ἐπιγνώσεσθε αὐτούς; Matthew 26:10, γνοὺς δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Τί κόπους παρέχετε τῇ γυναικί; ἔργον γὰρ καλὸν ἠργάσατο εἰς ἐμέ, and others. It is noticeable also that when our Lord enjoins keeping of the commandments Matthew 19:18-20 the instances of observances are taken from the second table only, comp. with this Romans 13:8 ὁ γὰρ ἀγαπῶν τὸν ἔτερον νόμον πεπλήρωκεν. St James’s teaching here is the teaching of Christ and of St Paul.

Verse 15

15. ἀδελφὸς ἢ ἀδελφή, a recurring reminder of the relationship of the disciples to one another.

γυμνοὶ ὑπάρχωσιν κ.τ.λ., comp. Matthew 25:35-36. In later Judaism the duty of almsgiving was vividly realised. This is one of the post-exile religious ideas which strongly influenced thought at this period. See Tobit 4:8 ff. where the Hebr. text has: ‘Every one who occupieth himself in alms shall behold the face of God, as it is written, I will behold thy face by almsgiving,’ Psalms 17:15, almsgiving being as elsewhere substituted for righteousness. So Khasidim, the pious, are those who exercise Khesed, mercy.

St James’s one injunction to St Paul when he recognised his mission to the Gentiles was ‘to remember the poor’: μόνον τῶν πτωχῶν ἵνα μνημονεύωμεν, Galatians 2:9, and the Church over which he presided proved its first enthusiasm by acts of charity.

With the Stoics ἔλεος was reckoned among the defects or vices: it was a disturbing element that broke in on the philosophic calm: ὁ ἀπειθῶν τῇ θείᾳ διοικήσει ἔστω ταπεινός, ἔστω δοῦλος λυπείσθω, φθονείτου, ἐλεείτω, Epict. Diss. III. 24. 43. Comp. Virgil’s picture of the happy man; among his blessings is the absence of pity: neqne ille | aut doluit miserans inopem, Georg. II. 498.

τῆς ἐφημέρου τροφῆς, of the day’s supply of food, as distinguished from τῆς καθʼ ἡμέραν τροφῆς. Field, Otium Norv., ἀπῆλθεν ἐκ τῆς οἰκίας μόνοςἄδουλος, ἄπορος, οὐδὲ τὴν ἐφήμερον ὁ δύστηνος ἐκ τῶν ἑαυτοῦ χρημάτων τροφὴν (ne unius quidem diet viaticum) ἐπαγόμενος, Dion. Hal. Ant. VIII. 41 (Wetstein).

Verse 16

16. χορτάζοσθε, from χόρτος, see note James 1:11, and for the verb note on Matthew 5:6 in this series. First of cattle, ‘to feed,’ βοσκημάτων δίκηνβόσκονται χορταζόμενοι, Plato, Rep. 586: then, as a coarse comic word, of man, ‘to eat.’ In later Greek χορτάζειν means to satisfy, so frequently in synoptic gospels; elsewhere in N.T. only here and John 6:26; Philippians 4:12; Revelation 19:21.

Verse 17

17. οὕτως καὶ ἡ πίστις κ.τ.λ. The conclusion is drawn by analogy. It is inconceivable that ἔλεος, pity, or compassion, can exist without results, so is the conception of faith without works an impossible one. νεκρὰ καθʼ ἑαυτήν, dead in itself, right through itself, thoroughly dead, ineffective and non-existent. Works are a condition and evidence of life. But these are very different from the works of the law, minute observances each separately meritorious against which St Paul’s argument is directed.

Verse 18

18. ἀλλʼ ἐρεῖ τις. The objector denoted by τις is virtually St James. The ἀλλά is adversative to James 2:15-16. Shew me the faith without works, i.e. Shew me a faith which is consistent with standing aloof and bidding the hungry begone and feed himself and the naked clothe himself. Such faith is indeed a thing inconceivable. But I will shew you my faith as evidenced and proved by works of ἔλεος.

ἐκ τῶν ἔργων, as an inference or deduction from its works.

Verse 19

19. The ineffectiveness of faith regarded as merely intellectual assent is shewn by the example of belief in the unity of God, a belief which even devils hold.

ὅτι εἶς ἐστὶν ὁ θεός, that God is one. The central belief of Judaism, Deuteronomy 6:4 ἄκουε, Ἰσραήλ, Κύριος ὁ θεὸς ἡμῶν Κύριος εἶς ἐστιν, the fundamental principle of faith. For reading see crit. notes.

καλῶς ποιεῖς, thou art right. See above, James 2:8.

τὰ δαιμόνια, the evil spirits who by their submission to the word of Christ recognised the One true God. δαιμόνιον is the neuter of the adj. δαιμόνιος and means literally that which proceeds from a δαίμων or god. εἰ μή τι δαιμόνιον εἴη, ‘unless there were some hindrance from the gods,’ Xen. Mem. I. 3. 5. So Demosthenes, Phil. III. § 54, speaks of the divine power or force which seems to be hurrying on the Hellenic race to destruction: ἐπελήλυθε καὶ τοῦτο φοβεῖσθαι μή τι δαιμόνιον τὰ πράγματα ἐλαύνῃ. The δαιμόνιον of Socrates is the divine warning voice which apart from his own reasoning faculties checked him from entering on dangerous enterprises. See Xen. Mem. I. 1. 2. It is defined Plat. Symp. 202 D πᾶν τὸ δαιμόνιον μεταξύ ἐστι θεοῦ τε καὶ θνητοῦἑρμηνεῦον καὶ διαπορθμεῦον θεοῖς τὰ παρʼ ἀνθρώπων καὶ ἀνθρώποις τὰ παρὰ θεῶν. Hence δαιμόνια are deities of an inferior order. One of the accusations against Socrates is, καινὰ δαιμόνια εἰσφέρειν, Xen. Mem. I. 1. 2, Comp. Acts 17:18 ξένων δαιμονίων δοκεῖ καταγγελεύς εἶναι. In the LXX. δαιμόνια is used to designate the false gods of the surrounding nations: Deuteronomy 32:17 ἔθυσαν δαιμονίοις καὶ οὐ θεῷ, a sense attributed by some to the word in this passage; but certainly not on good grounds, for how could faith in the true God be predicated of them?

In N.T. language τὸ δαιμόνιον is the unseen evil force or influence (comp. δαιμονίη ὁρμή, Hdt. VII. 18) which, gaining possession of a man, like a separate personality, impelled him to evil and afflicted him with disease. See note on S. Matthew 9:33.

φρίσσουσιν. ἄπ. λεγ. in N.T.; properly to be rough, to bristle, then to shudder with fear: in Plutarch especially of awe in the presence of a god.

A faith which involves ‘shuddering fear’ is widely removed from the justifying faith of St Paul which brings peace, Romans 5:1, and which is closely allied with that perfect love which casts out all fear, 1 John 4:18.

Verse 20

20. ὦ ἄνθρωπε κενέ. A comparison with Matthew 5:22 will shew that the first generation of Christians did not observe obedience to the letter, ῥακά in that passage being probably literally equivalent to κενέ here.

ὃτι ἡ πίστις χωρὶς τῶν ἔργων ἀργή ἐστιν. On the surface a verbal argument; for ἀργή ( and ἔργον) is synonymous with χωρὶς τῶν ἔργων. But ἀργή carries with it a moral stigma, πᾶν ῥῆμα ἀργόν (where πονηρόν is a variant), Matthew 12:36; οὐκ ἀργοὺς οὐδὲ ἀκάρπους, 2 Peter 1:8.

The argument is this: the ἄνθρωπος κενός might appeal to the faith of Abraham as an example of faith without works, faith purely and simply in the One true God. St James shews that even then justification was a result not of an inactive belief but of works in which faith was manifested, and which implies a great deal more than an intellectual assent to a proposition. It implies that grasp of unseen realities and that instinctive love and trust in God which go to form the conception of faith in the Epistle to the Hebrews, the leading and inspiring characteristic of the heroes of Israel.

Verse 21

21. ἐδικαιώθη. The strict meaning of δικαιοῦν is to make δίκαιος, so to justify or acquit. The further meaning ‘to regard as righteous’ is not etymologically justifiable and rests on supposed theological necessity. But the theology of this Epistle and indeed of the N.T. generally points to the possibility of τελειότης by an exact conformity to God’s will such as Abraham exhibited.

ἀνενέγκας, comp. Genesis 22:9 ᾠκοδόμησεν ἐκεῖ Ἀβραὰμ τὸ θυσιαστήριον, Genesis 22:13 ἀνήνεγκεν εἰς ὁλοκάρπωσιν ἀντὶ Ἰσαάκ, and so frequently of the sacrifices of the old covenant. In N.T. of the sacrifice of Christ: τοῦτο γὰρ ἐποίησεν ἑφάπαξ ἑαυτὸν ἀνενέγκας (al. προσενέγκας), Hebrews 7:27; ἁμαρτίας ἡμῶν αὐτὸς ἀνήνεγκεν, 1 Peter 2:24 : of spiritual sacrifices, ἀνενέγκαι πνευματικὰς θυσίας εὐπροσδέκτους θεῷ διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, 1 Peter 2:5. In liturgical language the ἀναφορά in the Eastern Church, answering to the Canon of the Western Church, signified the second portion of the Eucharistic service in which the consecration of the Elements and the Communion are included.

θυσιαστήριον, the altar of Jehovah is carefully distinguished from βωμός an altar of false gods both in LXX. and in N.T. where βωμός occurs once only, Acts 17:23 βωμὸν ἐν ᾧ ἐπεγέγραπτο ἀγνώστῳ θεῷ.

Verse 22

22. ἡ πίστις συνήργει, faith was all along cooperating with. The works were an exercise of faith, and the result of them was perfection of faith. So Gideon was stronger in faith after the exercise of his faith. For the principle comp. the Aristotelian doctrine, ἐκ τῶν ὁμοίων ἐνεργειῶν αἱ ἕξεις γίγνονται, Eth. Nic. II. i. 7.

Verse 23

23. ἐπίστευσεν δὲ Ἀβραὰμ κ.τ.λ. The quotation is from the LXX. of Genesis 15:6. The example of Abraham’s faith is cited Sirach 44:20-21 and 1 Maccabees 2:52 and in N.T. Romans 4:3; Romans 4:9; Romans 4:22; Galatians 3:6. The prominence given to this illustration is another instance of the influence of post-exile thought in the N.T. The faith of Abraham became a leading topic with Philo and the Alexandrian school as well as with Rabbinical writers at the Christian era. See Bp Lightfoot, Galatians, p. 156 f.

ἐλογίσθη αὐτῷ εἰς δικαιοσύνην, was reckoned or counted to him for righteousness. That is according to divine reckoning Abraham’s faith was righteousness. There is no need to seek any other meaning in the words than their exact and literal sense. St Paul quotes the words (Romans 4:3; Romans 4:9; Romans 4:22; Galatians 3:6) to prove justification by faith, St James quotes them to prove justification by works which spring from faith and are inseparably connected with it.

εἰς δικαιοσύνην. In some instances of this use of εἰς in the N.T. it can be illustrated from the classics (Winer III. p. 229, xxix. a). In others where it is more clearly influenced by the Hebrew idiom with לְ εἰς still retains its proper sense denoting aim or result or the state into which a thing passes; comp. the German machen zu. Instances are ἔσονται οἱ δύο σάρκα μίαν, Matthew 19:5; αἱ γλῶσσαι εἰς σημεῖόν εἰσιν, 1 Corinthians 14:22; ἡ ἀκροβυστία αὐτοῦ εἰς περιτομὴν λογισθήσεται, Romans 2:26. See Green’s Grammar, p. 212.

φίλος θεοῦ ἐκλήθη. The precise expression is not found in the LXX.; but comp. Isaiah 41:8 σπέρμα Ἀβραὰμ ὅν ἠγάπησα, semen Abraham amici mei, V., and 2 Chronicles 20:7 Ἀβραὰμ τῷ ἠγαπημένῳ σου: Hebr. אֹהַבְךָ: ‘thy friend,’ R.V.

ἐκλήθη. καλεῖσθαι is not merely equivalent to the substantive verb, but implies [1] prestige, as ὁ πᾶσι κλεινὸς Οἰδίπους καλούμενος, Soph. Oed. R. 8; [2] permanence in a class, τάδε γὰρ ἄλυτα κεκλήσεται, Soph. El. 230. See Jebb on the last passage and Ellendt’s Lex. sub voc.; [3] recognition by others, comp. Luke 1:76; Romans 9:26.

Verse 24

24. ὁρᾶτε. Note the change to the plural from πιστεύειςβλέπειςθέλεις. The conclusion is addressed to the brethren, no longer to the ἄνθρωπος κενός.

Verse 25

25. Ῥαὰβ ἡ πόρνη. See Hebrews 11:31.

ὑποδεξαμένη, having secretly (ὑπό) received them as guests. In Hebrews the simple verb δεξαμένη is used.

ἐκβαλοῦσα expresses energetic action, eagerness and impatience in sending them at once. See Matthew 9:38 ὅπως ἐκβάλῃ ἐργάτας εἰς τὸν θερισμὸν αὐτοῦ. Mark 1:12 καὶ εὐθὺς τὸ πνεῦμα αὐτὸν ἐκβάλλει εἰς τὴν ἔρημον, Matthew 11:15 ἤρξατο ἐκβάλλειν τοὺς πωλοῦντας κ.τ.λ.

Verse 26

26. ὥσπερ τὸ σῶμα χωρὶς πνεύματος κ.τ.λ. The illustration is important. The union of faith and works is as close as the union of body and spirit. In each case the union is that which we call life. Separation of the two elements means death. Body (σῶμα) and spirit (πνεῦμα) is an exhaustive division of the human individual. Sometimes indeed man is regarded as consisting of spirit, soul (ψυχή) and body, as 1 Thessalonians 5:23. But in this passage and elsewhere as Romans 8:9 ff., where body or flesh (σάρξ) and spirit are spoken of as alone constituting the human entity, ψυχή is included in πνεῦμα, which is divinely infused life in its highest manifestation by virtue of which man became a living soul: καὶ ἐνεφύσησεν εἰς τὸ πρόσωπον αὐτοῦ πνοὴν ζωῆς· καὶ ἐγένετο ὁ ἄνθρωπος εἰς ψυχὴν ζῶσαν, Genesis 2:7. Comp. πᾶσα σὰρξ ἐν ᾗ ἐστὶν πνεῦμα ζωῇς, Genesis 6:17. The ψυχή though including all lower forms of life is in its perfect state one with πνεῦμα. Bodily life and spiritual life are made of one high principle of life. See Delitzsch, System of Biblical Psychology, p. 231 f. (Eng. Trans.). Life consists in movement and energy; but these under present conditions are impossible without σῶμα. So faith is inconceivable without works, and works without faith.


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Bibliography Information
"Commentary on James 2:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, October 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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