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1 My brothers, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, YHWH of glory, with partiality.
1 My brethren, hold not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, [the Lord] of glory, with respect of persons.
1 My brothers, within the glorious faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, do not choose to show favoritism toward persons.
2 For if a man enters into your assembly with a gold ring, in fine clothes, and there should also come in a poor [man] in dirty clothes,
3 and you have respect for him that wears the fine clothes and you say to him, "You sit here in a good seat,"and say to the poor man, "You stand there,"or, "Sit here under my footstool,"
3 and if you are then attentive to the one who is clothed in excellent apparel, so that you say to him, “You may sit in this good place,” but you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit below my footstool,”
4 and so did you not differentiate among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?
4 are you not judging within yourselves, and have you not become judges with unjust thoughts?
4 Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?
5 Listen, my beloved brothers. Did God not choose the poor of the world [to be] rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those that love Him?
6 But you have dishonored the poor. Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into court?
6 But ye have dishonored the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you, and themselves drag you before the judgment-seats?
7 Do they not blaspheme the noble name by which you are called?
7 Are not they the ones who blaspheme the good name which has been invoked over you?
8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself,"you do well;
8 Howbeit if ye fulfil the royal law, according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself, ye do well
9 but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors.
9 but if ye have respect of persons, ye commit sin, being convicted by the law as transgressors.
9 But if you discriminate among men, you commit sin and you will be condemned by the law as transgressors of the law.
10 For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one [point], he has become guilty of all.
10 Now whoever has observed the whole law, yet who offends in one matter, has become guilty of all.
11 For He who said, "Do not commit adultery,"also said, "You shall not murder."Now if you do not commit adultery, but [yet ]you murder, [then ]you have become a transgressor of the law.
11 For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou dost not commit adultery, but killest, thou art become a transgressor of the law.
11 For he who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not kill.” So if you do not commit adultery, but you kill, you have become a transgressor of the law.
12 So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty.
12 So speak ye, and so do, as men that are to be judged by a law of liberty.
13 For judgment is without mercy to the one who does not show mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
13 For a judgment without mercy will be on him, who does not show mercy; for you exalt yourselves by having mercy over judgment.
13 For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.
1–26 Appraisal of Faith-inspired Action This chapter presents James' demonstration of the integral relationship between genuine faith and actions. It falls into two basic sections:
1b,9b partiality Semitism The Greek noun prosôpolêmpsia (Jas 2:1) and the corresponding verb prosôpolêpteô (Jas 2:9) literally mean to "lift up the face" (or "countenance"). The noun is not attested in G or in secular Greek and may be a Christian neologism. It is clearly derived from G's verbal phrase prosôpon lambanein (cf. Lv 18:15). G's phrase, in turn, is modeled on the Hebrew phrase nāśā pānîm (cf. Lv 19:15); it is another indication of the deeply Jewish character of James' language and thought.
1–26 Deliberative Rhetoric The whole of chapter 2 is a fine example of deliberative (sumbouleutikon) rhetoric (see → 1.3.3), where the speaker seeks to dissuade his audience from a certain action or exhort them to it. Here James attempts to dissuade his readers from showing favoritism to the rich ( Rhet.Jas 2:1–13) and to exhort them to live out their faith through actions (Jas 2:14–26). The diatribe style is used frequently in deliberative rhetoric.
2b sordid Echo James uses the noun form (rhuparia) of this same word (rhuparos) for an "unclean action" in Jas 1:21.
3d Adding “here” for Parallelism The likely original reading (witnessesd in A, the original hand of C, and Ψ, and followed by V) lacks "here" (hôde). P74 (vid.), א , C2 (followed by Byz, TR, S) read "here" (hôde) after "sit" in order to create a better parallelism in the imperatives, i.e., "stand there" balances "sit here."
4b evil thoughts Allusion to a Corrupt Legal Judgment? The Greek word for "reasoning" (dialogismos) is also a technical term for a judge's decision (cf. →BGU 1. 226.22); thus the phrase may mean, "judges who give corrupt decisions." See V.
5c heirs of the kingdom which he has promised to those who love him Echo The verse echoes Jas 1:12: "the man who perseveres through trials...he will receive the crown of life that the Lord promised to those who love him." James thus equates the "crown of life" with inheriting the kingdom. James also identifies the poor of the world with those who persevere through trials and are found worthy.
5b has not God chosen the poor God’s Choosing of the Poor and Weak God's special concern for the poor is a marked theme in both the Old Testament and in Jesus' teaching. See also →James: Rich and Poor.
Paul's language in 1 Corinthians is quite close to that of James: "God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something" (1Cor 1:27).
5b Has not God chosen the poor Preferential Option for the Poor In line with James' view, Catholic social teaching calls all people to show a special concern for the poor.
See also →James: Catholic Social Teaching.
8a the scripture Individual Passage or Scripture as a Whole? The Greek hê graphê can refer to an individual scriptural passage (e.g., as in Mk 12:10) or to scripture as a whole (e.g., Acts 8:32). V takes it in the latter sense, rendering scripturas; S simply renders, "as it is written" (passive participle of ktb).
8a in accordance with the scripture Scripture as the Norm The G is kata tên graphên. This use of kata with the accusative means "in conformity with," "according to the norm of"; cf. 1Cor 15:3.
8b in accordance with the scripture Jesus’ Teaching: Love as The Norm of The Law James teaches that the royal law (the Torah as interpreted by Jesus) is fulfilled when it is carried out in accordance with one of its commandments, "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Lv 19:18). In other words, Lv 19:18 expresses the key value which governs the law as a whole.
James may follow Jesus' teaching here (see →James: Jesus' Traditions in James). Jesus had identified Lv 19:18, together with Dt 6:4–5 (loving the Lord with all one's heart, soul, mind, and strength) as the two greatest commandments of the Torah (Mk 12:28–34; cf. Mt 19:19).
8a royal law Royalty, Freedom, Reason, and the Law in 4 Maccabees
8a royal law Deist View: Love is the Essence of Christianity
Tindale here cites this passage, along with numerous other NT texts, to demonstrate that Christ and his apostles valued the virtue of love (charity) over dogmatic confessions of faith (53).
9b convicted by the law Irony In Jas 2:4, community members set themselves up as judges over community members; here they themselves are convicted by the law as violators of the law.
10b stumbles Metaphor for Sinning
11b If you do not commit adultery, yet do kill Allusive Accusation of Murder?
12b law of freedom Stoic View: True Freedom is Following The Divine Will (Law) On the Stoic view that true freedom arises from following the divine law and divine will, see Ancient Texts 1:25a.
12b law of freedom Paul and James on Law, Slavery, and Freedom For the relationship of James' views to Paul's view on freedom, slavery, and law, see Biblical Intertextuality 1:25a .
12b law of freedom Torah Frees One from Slavery to Passions On Philo's views on how following the Torah leads to true freedom from the slavery to passions, see Peritestamental Literature 1:25a.
12b law of freedom The Mishnah on Freedom and Study of the Law The Mishnah associates following the Torah with freedom:
1–13 Exhortation to Impartiality towards the Rich
Two specific passages have attracted the greatest attention in the history of interpretation:
1b glory Glory as God’s Presence The targums use the term "glory" for a manifestation of God's presence (Biblical Intertextuality 2:1b). The Aramaic yqr regularly translates the Hebrew kbd. It is also used as a circumlocution to avoid the conclusion that God can be seen directly:
2f gleaming Semantics The adjective lampros literally means bright or shiny, referring to fine clothes that would be noticed by others (cf. → 105). In Ios.Acts 10:30 it is used of an angel's appearance or banquets Sir 29:28 (G-Sir 29:22) See also Ancient Cultures 2:2-3.
2a synagogue Semantics The Greek word sunagôgê literally means a "gathering together"; by metonymy it refers to the building in which the gathering happens (Ancient Cultures 2:2a).
5b of the world “Of the world” or “in the world”? "Of the world" (tou kosmou) is read by correctors of A, C, P, and Ψ and followed by S, Byz, and TR. The dative reading "in the world" is read by all the major uncial witnesses and followed by V (Grammar 2:5b).
7 blaspheme the noble name The Name and God’s People To "blaspheme" essentially means to slander, to speak badly, of God or of people.
See further Christian Tradition 2:7.
10b guilty of all Integrity of the Law The author of 4 Maccabees agrees with James about the implication of breaking one commandment, giving the following reasoning:
13b boasts over In a Triumph? The verb (katakauchaomai) literally means "to boast over" (cf. the V's superexulto), as when a gladiator boasts over his fallen foe. The verb can thus have the extended meaning of "triumph over." See also the use in Jas 3:14. See the discussion on a possible conflict between mercy and judgment in Christian Tradition 2:13b.
13b mercy boasts over judgment Allusion in Paradise Lost?
3,8,19 nobly Semantic Field of Kalôs The Greek adjective kalos denotes something excellent in quality, morally good, or beautiful. James uses the adjective and its adverbial form several times in this pericope (Jas 2:1–13). The present translation as "noble" attempts to render the connotations expressing both external and internal value qualities of persons and actions.
In Jas 2:3, the Greek reads the adverb "sit here well" (kalôs). James here intends a contrast with the seating of the poor man—"sit here by my footstool." The contrast is clearly between seating one in a place of honor (appropriate to his rank as a wealthy man) and seating another, the poor man, in a less honorable position. Alternatively, kalôs can also be taken as a term of politeness, as in the NRSV rendering, "Have a seat here, please."
In Jas 2:7, James applies the adjective kalos to God's name; he may intend a contrast between the false honor of giving preferential treatment to a rich man and the true honor associated with God.
James also uses the adverb kalôs in Jas 2:8: the one who fulfills the royal law does well; one could also translate "acts nobly;" see the same phrase in Jas 2:19. The adjective kalos in Jas 3:13 and Jas 4:17 is also with a clear stress on the morally good aspect.
1b of glory Possible Syntactic Functions There are several grammatical possibilities for this phrase echete tên pistin tou Kuriou hêmôn Iêsou Christou tês doxês.
The distance of the word "glory" from "faith," (Biblical Intertextuality 2:1b; Textual Criticism 2:1b) the use of "glory" as a common eschatological concept in Second Temple Judaism (Jewish Tradition 2:1b), and the parallel use in 1Cor 2:8, make "Lord of glory" the best choice (Vocabulary 2:1b).
4a made distinctions Active, Passive, or Middle Meaning? The passive aorist diekrithête can be interpreted in a threefold manner.
5b in the world Dative of Location or of Reference? The dative case tôᵢ kosmôᵢ, without any preposition, may simply refer to location, but more likely should be taken as a dative of respect or reference, hence the translation, "poor in the eyes (with respect to) the world." Such a translation fits James' conception that "the world" (kosmos) is a realm opposed to the values of God (cf. Jas 1:27c and Jas 4:4b; Textual Criticism 2:5b).
Propositio (the proposition to be proved; Jas 2:1): The faith of Jesus Christ is incompatible with displays of partiality towards the rich and powerful within the Christian community.
Ratio (the causal basis for the propositio; Jas 2:2–4): The specific example of partiality in seating the rich and influential shows that community members are making judgments incompatible with the non-judgmental faith of Jesus Christ.
Confirmatio (further confirmation of the propositio; Jas 2:5–7): In aligning themselves with the rich, church members align themselves with enemies of the faith: it is the rich who oppress poor community members and who blaspheme the name of the Lord Jesus:
Exornatio (embellishment and enrichment of the argument once the propositio is established; Jas 2:8–11): the one who shows favoritism violates the royal law (i.e., the faith of Jesus Christ: the Torah of the Kingdom taught by Jesus).
Conplexio (a brief conclusion summarizing the argument; Jas 2:12–13): James exhorts the community to abandon favoritism and to speak and act in a way consistent with the royal law. If they continue with their unwarranted judgmental and partial behavior, they themselves can expect a harsh judgment.
1–13 beloved brothers Softening of the Criticism While strongly criticizing the community for the sin of partiality towards the rich, James uses rhetorical techniques to soften his criticism’s harshness:
He also employs hypothetical scenarios and rhetorical questions instead of directly accusing members of sin:
Only at Jas 2:6a does one find direct accusation: “But you have dishonored the poor person.”
4–7 have you not made distinctions Confirmatio: Rhetorical Questions Written in the diatribe style, this section asks a series of rapid-fire rhetorical quesitons (cf. → 1.12; cf. Diatr.→ 9.2.6–11 on using rhetorical questions in proofs): Inst.
In each case, the expected answer is "Yes": these are points that James' readers should know.
James' questions also gives a clue as to the social location of James' audience. Since he questions them on their response to both rich and poor, it may be inferred that they themselves are at neither extreme.
5f Has not God chosen ...but you have dishonored: Contrast James sets up a sharp contrast between God's actions and the actions of the community:
12f Speak in such a way, and act in such a way Concluding Call to Action Rhetorical theorists list the call to action as one conclusion to an argument; e.g., →Rhet. Alex. 20 [1434a].
1–4 Judicial Setting The legal system in the Roman Empire enshrined preferential treatment for the rich and powerful.
2f Public Reinforcement of Social Status In ancient Mediterranean societies, great importance was placed on clearly acknowleging social rank in public gatherings.
Seating arrangements for meals in upper class society, for example, was strictly arranged by rank.
The patron-client (Latin: patronus-cliens) relationship was an important social relationship in ancient Mediterranean society. The patron, in a more powerful social position, provided protection and benefits to the client; the client in return pledged loyalty and provided various services to the patron.
Members of James' community may have been seeking the patronage of the rich man by giving him preferential treatment in the assembly.
6c dragging you off into court Possible Scenarios The following are two possible scenarios in which the wealthy or powerful may have taken a poor person to court.
The wealthy could take debtors to court to force them to repay loans. In the Roman Empire of James' time, farmers and other workers often went into debt, in part due to a relatively high rate of taxation. Small farmers would often lose their ancestral land if they were unable to pay their debts.
The Gospel tradition often refers to debtors who are unable to repay loans (see Mt 18:21–35; Lk 7:41–43; 12:57–59; 16:1–8) and are thus threatened with legal action and perhaps prison (see Mt 18:30–35; Lk 12:58). Note Jesus' advice to settle matters with adversary before going to court (Lk 12:58), implying that justice would be hard to attain in a court system that legally gave preferential treatment to the rich.
Legal disputes may well have also involved disputes over rents, wages, and taxes.
In a first-century Jewish context, the court was likely the local synagogue with the priest acting as judge.
In accusing a man of using armed force to seize the rightful property of others, Cicero also alludes to less overtly violent means of defrauding others of property:
6b oppressing Oppression of the Poor by the Rich One particular and common example of the oppression of the poor by the more powerful and wealthy was the illegal seizure of property (cf. →James: Rich and Poor).
One 2nd c. AD letter describes what must have been a typical scenario:
Eusebius quotes from Melito's apology to Marcus Aurelius regarding anti-Christian legislation:
Even the upper classes were not free from the danger of having their land illegally seized:
8a royal law Royal Law in Stoic and Platonic Contexts The phrase "royal law" would have been familiar in a Greco-Roman philosophical context:
This Stoic conception of the law closely parallels James' understanding of law as God's law naturally inherent in humans as the "impanted word" (Jas 1:21). The written form of this natural law is the Torah (Jas 1:23–25; 2:10–11).
In this sense, James may use "royal" to refer to the law as authored by God the King; or perhaps "royal" in the sense of the supreme law that rules all things.
13 mercy A Range of Views
→ 2.8.2 [1385b–1386b] defines eleos as "a kind of pain excited by the sight of evil, deadly or painful, which befalls one who does not deserve it" ( Rhet. 224). A person feels pity for another to the extent that he realizes that the same misfortune could happen to himself or to his friends. → 1.81 regards it as part of human nature, and a fitting quality for a juror. 1–2 Aristog.
→ 7.111 reports that the Stoics regarded mercy ( Vit. Phil.eleos) as a negative passion, one of the subcategories, along with jealousy and envy, of pain (lupê; 1925, 2:217).
→ 5 [731C–D] argues for a balance: in general one should show mercy ( Leg.eleein) to those who do wrong, and to be gentle (praus) with wrongdoers. But in dealing with those who are obstinately wicked, one must be ready to fight them, for example, in self-defense. In punishing such people, one must allow anger (Plato uses both thumos and orgê in this discussion) free reign, and punish them severely ( 1926, 1:336–7).
1b glory Glory as a Manifestation of God’s Presence In G, the Greek word doxa is often used to translate the Hebrew kābôd, a concept referring to a visible manifestation or revelation of God’s divine nature, often described as a fire (Ex 24:17).
The glory of the Lord is regularly associated with
In the NT, the glory of God is associated with Jesus. Just as Jesus shares the name of the Lord, so he shares his glory. The doxa of Jesus is closely associated with his resurrection (Rom 6:4; 1Pt 1:21), and with his future parousia (Tt 2:13; Mk 8:38; 13:26 par.) Mk 8:38, for example, speaks of the Son of Man returning "in his Father's glory with the holy angels."
1b partiality God is Impartial: the Torah’s Commands Against Partiality
God shows no partiality in his dealings with humans (all references use prosôpolêmpsia and cognates):
The Torah warns judges not to show partiality.
3 sit here Jesus' Criticism of Seeking Places of Honor
Jesus criticizes the scribes who seek "seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets" (Mk 12:39: prôtokathedriai en tais sunagôgais); cf. Lk 20:46; Mt 23:6). Here Jesus refers to the custom (common in both Jewish and Hellenistic cultures) of seating people according to social rank in public gatherings (Vocabulary 2:3; Ancient Cultures 2:2–3).
When invited to a wedding banquet, Jesus advises his followers not to sit in the place of honor.
4b judges Churches: Warnings against Partiality in Legal Cases The early Christian communities held gatherings where judgments were made on cases within the church: Mt 18:15–20; 1Cor 5:3–5 (cf. 1Cor 6:1–8).
5c heirs of the kingdom Inheritors of God’s Promises With his discussion of "heirs" chosen by God, James taps into a rich biblical tradition involving God's promises and inheritance.
7a name The Divine Name: God and Jesus' Presence and Authority In ancient Judaism, the name (Hebrew: šem) of God had a rich significance. A central point in the relationship between God and Israel occurs when God reveals his name (Yhwh) to Moses at the burning bush (Ex 3:14). Jesus shares the divine name, Lord, with God the Father (cf. Phil 2:9; Rv 1:8).
In the ancient world in general, a person or deity's "name" is not just an arbitrary label: it represents the person or deity's essence. The importance of the "name" of Jesus is so self-evident that no other reference is necessary: the apostles rejoiced "that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name" (Acts 5:41; cf. 3Jn 7; →Ign 3.1). Eph.
The "name" of God was understood as a kind of manifestation of God's presence on earth. Thus Solomon says of the Jerusalem Temple, "I have built this house for the name of the Lord, the God of Israel" (1Kgs 8:20; cf. Dt 12:11; 14:23). This conception is similar to the "glory" of the Lord as a divine manifestation: Isaiah parallels the two: "Those in the west shall fear the name of the Lord, and those in the east, his glory" (Is 59:19; cf. Biblical Intertextuality 2:1b Jewish Tradition 2:1b).
"Name" is closely connected to the power and authority of a person or deity (cf. Acts 4:10; 1Cor 5:3–4). Thus a prophet speaks "in the name of the Lord"(cf. Dt 18:19), i.e., by the power and authority of the Lord. Peter heals a man who is crippled "in the name of Jesus Christ" (Acts 3:6).
7 the noble name which is invoked over you Use in the Liturgy of St. James
13 judgment is merciless to the one who has not done mercy The Same Principle in Rabbinic Literature
1–13 Liberation Theology Perspectives
Commenting on Jas 2:5b from the perspective of the Latin American poor, Elsa Tamez concludes,
Tamez criticizes contemporary biblical exegetes of Jas 2:1–13 on two points:
8b love your neighbor as youself Three Types of Love
3d sit here below my footstool Figurative Speech? It is possible that James meant this command to be taken literally (Historical and Geographical Notes 2:3). It is also possible that it refers figuratively to sitting in a humble position. Cf. G-Ps 98:5: "Exalt the Lord, our God; bow down before his footstool."
9f convicted by the law as transgressors Enthymemes James argument in Jas 2:9–10 may be characterized as an enthymeme. → 1.2.13 [1357A] describes the enthymeme as a kind of deductive argument with an implicit premise which the hearer supplies based on assumed common knowledge. Rhet.→ 5.10.1–3 lists five types of enthymemes, one of which is an "imperfect syllogism": Inst.
James' enthymemes may be analyzed thus (→, 106–7):
The enthymeme in Jas 2:11 is a variation of this argument:
4b judges of unjust reasonings Justice Demands No Partiality to the Rich →Ps.-Phoc. 9–11 connects right judgment with an admonition against partiality:
1b the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ of glory Disputed Word Order The major mss. witness the following word order: tên pistin tou Kuriou hêmôn Iêsou Christou tês doxês, literally, "the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ of glory." The construction is awkward, and in an attempt to clarify the meaning, some late minuscules place tês doxês, "of glory," after pistin, "faith," giving the literal reading "faith of glory," i.e., "glorious faith;" cf. S in Comparison of Versions 2:1b.
2f,5f poor Severity of Poverty Emphasized
James here uses the term ptôchos for the poor person, in contrast to his earlier use of tapeinos (Jas 1:9–11; Vocabulary 1:9). Ptôchos emphasizes the physical poverty of a person, rather than his humble social status or character—the connotation of tapeinos.
Ancient Greek makes a distinction between the relatively poor (pênes) and the absolutely poor (ptôchos).
10b guilty Judicial Language The Greek enochos can mean that a person is legally responsible, and thus subject to punishment for a particular transgression.
1b faith of our Lord Objective or Subjective Genitive? State of Belief or Body of Teaching?
Grammatically, the phrase, "the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ" (pistis tou kuriou hêmôn Iêsou Christou) may be
The Letter as a whole offers no contextual clues to specify James' meaning, since the Letter discusses neither Jesus as the object of belief nor Jesus' own faith.
The word pistis has two basic meanings in Greek (cf. →James: Faith in James ):
As James speaks of holding (Greek: echô) the faith of the Lord, it is likely that he refers to faith as a body of beliefs, cf. Jude 3: "the faith that was once for all handed down to the holy ones."
It is possible that James thinks of beliefs concerning Jesus, as found in 1Cor 15:3: "For I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures." The Letter as a whole, however, says nothing directly about beliefs concerning Jesus. James' consistent use of Jesus' teaching (cf. →James: Jesus' Traditions in James) reveals that James' primary concern centers on Jesus as a teacher, specifically, the teacher of the messianic Torah: the royal law (Jas 2:8) which in turn is equivalent to the law of freedom (Jas 1:25; 2:12); cf. Jas 2:9–11; 4:11: the Torah as interpreted by Jesus.
The "faith of Jesus Christ," then, seems to be equivalent to the religion (Jas 1:26–27) of Jesus, i.e., the body of teachings incorporating Jesus' interpretation of the Torah. Even with this emphasis on following Jesus' teaching, the subjective element is not completely lost. Jesus' teaching often called for a radical faith (trust) in God, and thus James' may presuppose a sense of Jesus' own strong faith in God the Father.
1–13 Theme of Wholeness and Division James continues the contrast between godly wholeness and sinful division: just as an individual person should not be divided and double-minded (Jas 1:6–8), so too the church members should not be divided by showing partiality to the rich in the community (Jas 2:4). See also→James: Perfection / Wholeness in James .
2ff For if a man Ratio; Hypothetical Exemplum
An example in deliberative rhetoric may be either real or invented (e.g., → 5.11.6). James presents a hypothetical example in order to prove his proposition that partiality is inconsistent with faith in Jesus Christ. Two points suggest that the Inst.exemplum is an invented scenario rather than a record of an actual event.
Even granted that James' exemplum is hypothetical, however, one should by no means draw the conclusion that the scenario is disconnected from the social reality of James' audience. The argument would have no rhetorical effect if the readers / hearers were unable to connect the scene with their own experience. James' hypothetical example simply portrays a stylized example of typical and familiar social relationships within the community.
→ 5.11.10 holds that examples from unlikes or contraries are most useful in exhortation: here James contrasts the behavior of partiality towards the rich with the expected impartiality of one who holds the faith of Jesus Christ. Inst.
4 made distinctions ...become judges: Paronomasia James plays on the similar sound and meaning of diekrithête (“make distinctions”) and kritai (“judges”), both of which are derived from the verb krinô—a fundamental semantic field for James. See also →James: Judging .
6c–7 they themselves …is it not they: Emphasis Placed on “the Rich” Using the grammatically unnecessary pronoun "they" (autoi), James emphasizes the absurdity of his audience's actions: the readers show partiality to the rich, in spite of the fact that they themselves (i.e., the rich) oppress them and drag them to court.
8–11 If you actually fulfill the royal law Exornatio: Appeal to the Law In attempting to demonstrate that their partiality to the rich violates the law, James uses a typical topos in Greco-Roman protreptic (persusasive speech): the attempt to persuade the audience to act in accordance with the law.
13a For judgment is merciless to the one who has not done mercy Concluding Use of a Maxim This passage may well be an originally independent maxim (Greek: gnômê; Latin: sententia), as suggested by the following considerations:
(1) the sudden appearance of a new topic: mercy;
(2) the compressed expression;
(3) the switch from second person imperative to gnomic third person.
3 Sit here below my footstool Description of First Century Synagogues James' description of the building is reminiscent of first-century Palestinian synagogues, which commonly had two or more rows of stone benches along walls and places for standing, as in the synagogues at Magdala→ and Capernaum→ in Galilee.
2a synagogue Importance of the Building in 1st c. Jewish Communities
The Greek word sunagôgê literally means a "gathering together."
The NT mentions Jewish synagogues:
Sunagôgê can also refer to Christian assemblies (→Ign. Pol. 4.2; →Herm. Mand. 11.9, 13, 14). Jas 2:2 is the only use of sunagôgê for a gathering of believers in Christ in the NT (but cf. the use of the related episunagôgê in Heb 10:25), an indication of the Jewish provenance of the letter.
The ancient Jewish synagogue was a place of prayer, teaching, and study, but could also serve other community functions, including serving as a meeting space for discussions, places of hospitality for strangers, and as the site of certain judicial and legal proceedings. The well-known dedication inscription at a 1st c. AD Greek-speaking synagogue in Jerusalem refers to the synagogue and its accompanying buildings,
The NT cites several instances where judicial proceedings ocurred in synagogues. Jesus warns his disciples that "they will hand you over to courts and scourge you in their synagogues" (Mt 10:17 par.; cf. Mt 23:34); "take you before synagogues and before rulers and authorities" (Lk 12:11; cf. Lk 21:12; Acts 22:19; 26:11).
Early Christian assemblies also considered legal issues: Paul assumes that the Corinthian church should be settling legal disputes among themselves (1Cor 6:5); Paul also alludes to the church gathering to excommunicate one of the church members (1Cor 5:3–5); legal issues are addressed at Mt 18:16–20; 1Cor 13:1–3; 1Tm 5:19.
Given its overall context within a discussion on partiality (2:1)—a term associated with legal injustice (Lv 19:15; Dt 1:7)—as well as its references to the need for arranging seating, its description of an encounter between the rich and poor, and the use of the term sunagôgê, it is probable that Jas 2:2–3 refers to a gathering of the church community to resolve some legal dispute.
2b poor man Conditions of the Poor in the Roman Empire See →James: Rich and Poor
10b guilty of all Stoic Doctrine: Integral Nature of All Virtues and Vices The Stoics believed that all virtues were interconnected, as were all vices:
5b the poor of the world + heirs of the kingdom: Reformulation of Jesus’ Teaching This can be read as a reformulation of the teaching of Jesus, "Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours" (Lk 6:20; cf. Mt 5:3). See also →James: Jesus' Traditions in James
6a dishonored the poor one The Sin of Shaming the Poor
6b oppressing you Prophetic Denunciation of the Rich Oppressing the Poor The same verb is often used in the prophetic tradition to refer to the rich and powerful taking advantage of the poor and weak:
11a Do not commit adultery Two Examples from the Decalogue James lists two examples of commandments: the prohibition of adultery and of murder.
13b mercy boasts over judgment Sirach and Jesus’ Teaching on Mercy The relationship of mercy, judgment, and forgiveness of sin is a central biblical theme.
Sir 28:1–7 parallels James' teaching:
At the heart of Jesus' own teaching is this same principle. Jesus teaches in the Sermon on the Mount:
The "royal law" (Jas 2:8) of the Kingdom of God, then, is characterized by mercy and forgiveness and not by a strict adherence to legal standards of judgment. This "law of freedom" is governed by the commandment, "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Jas 2:8): the attitude of love includes the inclination to show mercy rather than hold to a strict standard of judgment. See →James: Jesus' Traditions in James.
13b mercy boasts over judgment Syriac and Latin Interpretations
S changes the abstract principle of mercy triumphing over judgment to a personal application: "by mercy, you (pl.) will be raised above judgment." → paraphrases, "You will be raised up by [your] generosity above judgment, for you will not be seen under the condemnation of judgment" ( Ep. Cath. 1910, 94; Syriac-ibid., 123).
The Latin tradtion witnesses two readings:
→. ad loc. prefers the reading Annot. Ep. Iac.superexulto, in the sense that mercy extols itself over against judgment ( 2014, 400).
8b love your neighbor as yourself Love of Neighbor as the Central Commandment of the Torah The rabbinic tradition also sees the love of neighbor and Lv 19:18 in particular as central to the Torah.
1–13 Divisio Textus
5b the poor in the world Implications of God's Choosing the Poor
The tradition is careful to avoid the conclusion that God's choosing of the poor implies the rejection of the powerful and wealthy.
Several commentators are eager to show that James does not condemn the rich by choosing the poor.
1b do not show partiality Catholic Social Teaching In line with the thought of James, Catholic Social Teaching strongly condemns partiality or discrimination, insisting that all people should be treated equally since all are created in God's image (cf. Jas 3:9) and redeemed by Christ:
See further →James: Catholic Social Teaching .
7 blaspheme the noble name which is invoked over you The Significance of “the name”
10b guilty of all False Penance and the Integrity of the Law
The Second Lateran Council (1139) quotes Jas 2:10 in its condemnation of false penances. The Council teaches that "a penance is false when many sins are disregarded and a penance is performed for one only or when it is done for one sin in such a way that the penitent does not renounce another." Quoting Jas 2:10, the Council comments, "this evidently pertains to eternal life. Therefore, just as a person who is entangled in all sins will not enter the gate of eternal life, so also if a person remains in one sin" (in uno tantum maneat; →DzH 717; Christian Tradition 2:10b).
→CCC 2069 references Jas 2:10–11 in teaching that the two "tables" of the Decalogue (i.e., commandments concerning the worship of God and commandments concerning behavior towards one's neighbor) form an integral whole:
13b,3:17 mercy Loving-kindness and Almsgiving
The Greek eleos regularly translates the Hebrew ḥesed, a word referring to God's loving-kindness for his people:
4a made distinctions Judging Means Dividing The verb diakrinô can have two related but different meanings:
For the meaning of the passive form see Grammar 2:4a. In Jas 1:6, James applies the middle form of the verb (meaning "contend" or "dispute") to the inner life of his readers, warning them not to have conflicting or hesitating thoughts, but rather to trust single-mindedly in God. Here James applies the aorist passive form of same word to the community as a whole: "Have you not made distinctions among yourselves"—in other words, have you not made judgments about the worth of others based on their external appearance and social status? In James' worldview, both internal and external divisions violate the holistic unity intended by God.
8a actually Setting up a Contrast The particle mentoi typically has an adversative sense, thus one may translate, "However, if you actually fulfill..." Mentoi can also have the sense of "actually" or "really." This latter sense is more consistent with the flow of James' argument.
Mentoi should be taken with the de of the following verse to set up a strong contrast between two conditional statements:
James' point is that fulfilling the royal law absolutely excludes any partiality.
7 the noble name that is invoked over you Indication of God's People and a Worship Context
When epikaleô is used in the passive with the preposition epi, as here ("to call a name upon someone"), it denotes a relationship of possession between the parties (e.g., the Lord promised Solomon, "if then my people, upon whom my name has been pronounced, humble themselves and pray...[2Chr 7:14]; cf. Am 9:12; Dt 28:10). Thus the people of Israel could simply be called "those who are called by the name of the Lord" (i.e, the Lord's people); terminology that was take over by Christians: cf. →Herm. Sim. 8.1.1; 8.6.4). This relationship also implies the Lord's special presence among the people.
James' language (to onomoa epikaleô) also invokes a context of worship. To call on the name of the Lord means to worship him cultically: Abram built an altar and "invoked the Lord by name (epikaleô epi tôᵢ onomati kuriou)" (Gn 12:8; cf. Gn 4:26; Zep 3:9).
James may refer specifically to baptism. Christians were baptized "in the name of Jesus Christ" (Acts 2:38; 8:16; 10:48) or "in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" (Mt 20:19). James also refers to the presbyters of the church anointing a sick person "in the name of the Lord" (Christian Tradition 5:14–15).
In the biblical tradition, "the name invoked upon you" would generally refer to God. James' use is ambiguous:
James' ambiguity here corresponds with his ambiguous use of the title kurios (→James: The Title Kurios in James)—James applies the title both to the Father and to Jesus in different contexts. Here it likely refers to the name of Jesus, understood in the sense of Jesus sharing the divine name; this reinforces the association of Jesus with the divine glory or presence expressed in Jas 2:1 (Biblical Intertextuality Jas 2:1b; Jewish Tradition 2:1b).
1:1–5:20 James Depictions of the Author Depictions of James, the author of the epistle, in paintings, statues, manuscript illustrations, engravings, woodcuts, and embroidery on liturgical vestments are particularly prominent in the Middle Ages. A common consensus of the artists is that the author of the epistle is James the Just, leader of the Jerusalem church; he is typically further identified with James, son of Alphaeus, one of Jesus' Twelve (Mk 3:18), and "James the Less" (Mk 15:40). The iconography of James draws particularly on accounts of James recorded in → 23 and Hist. eccl.→ 2, who in turn draw on accounts from Clement of Alexandria and Hegesipus. See also Vir. ill.→James: Introduction.
Several prominent features of these portrayals may be noted:
The following images are noteworthy:
James holds a club.
James, who resembles his brother Jesus, is second from his left. This full-scale copy was the main source for the— unfortunate—twenty-year restoration of the original (1978–1998). It includes several lost details such as Christ's feet, the transparent glass decanters on the table, and the floral motifs of the tapestries that decorate the room's interior. It was first mentioned in 1626 by the author Bartolomeo Sanese as hanging in the Certosa di Pavia, a monastery near Pavia, Italy, but it is unlikely that it was intended for this location. At some point, the upper third of the picture was cut off, and the width was reduced. Giampietrino is thought to have worked closely with Leonardo when he was in Milan. A very fine, full-size copy of this painting, before it was cut down, is installed at Tongerlo Abbey in Westerlo, near Antwerp, Belgium.
The side and central panels describe a a great hall with blue grey walls and three-colored tiles. In the side panels are depicted the half sisters of Virgin Mary, called after their fathers Mary Cleophas (left) and Mary Salome (right) together with their husbands.
Left panel: St. Mary Cleophas and Alphaeus (with the features of Friedrich the Wise with their two sons, the Apostles St. James the Less (at her breast) and Joseph Justus, called St. Barnabas, as annunciator of the Gospel of Matthew depicted with a book.
Central panel: Joseph, who seems to seems to sleep, the Virgin, dressed in blue with yellow lining, Anna and the Christ Child on her knee, who is stretching out his hand towards an apple given to him by Virgin Mary. Anna's three husbands following → are shown in the background in the matroneum: on the left Joachim, who is attracted by the holy women in front of him and whose relation is also shown by the corresponding blue and yellow color of his dress, Cleophas (with the physiognomy and chain of Emperor Maximilian I and Salomas, with the physiognomy of Sixtus Oelhafen von Schöllenbach, secretary of Friedrich III, Maximilian I and Karl V), who are talking to each other. There is an architectural structure by a great stone bench in the foreground of the central panel with two marble columns on the sides, over which is strectched a cloth of gold. On the right column is a tablet with date and signature: [LVCAS CHRONVS FACIEBAT ANNO 1509. The parapet of the matroneum is decorated by a sculptured frieze with dancing putti holding six escutcheons with the six fields of Electorate of Saxony. In the hall are shown the 17 members of the Holy Kinship. In the central panel are shown two more children of Mary Cleophas and Alpheus, the Apostles Simon, patron saint of weavers, dyers, tanners and saddlers and Jude, who went on mission and suffered their martyrdom together and therefore are regularly depicted together. Leg. aur.
Right panel: St. Mary Salome and Zebedee (with the features of Frederick III, Elector of Saxony, and his brother Herzog Johann der Beständige). St. Mary Salome, dressed in gold with dark red lining, is combing her son Saint James the Greater and while Saint John the Evangelist is hiding in her dress.
James is shown holding a Bible, symbolizing his status as a scriptural writer, in one hand. James is depicted in the Mannerist style with elongated form and without any of the traditional iconographic symbols
The risen Jesus appears to James and breaks bread with him (based on an account recorded in → 2, said to be drawn from the Gospel according to the Hebrews). Vir. ill.
James holds a book and club.
James, resembling Jesus, prayers on his knees with outstretched arms. It perhaps reflects Hegesippus' statement that James spent so much time in prayer that his knees were as hard as a camel's.
The inscription bearing the name of the saint has disappeared, but the iconography—facial features and beard shape —suggest that the icon is of James. Byzantine art places him among the founding fathers of the Church. As the creator of the first liturgy containing memorial services and the author of the message, which speaks of the healing power of prayer (Jas 5:14-16), he was also worshipped in ancient times as a healer. In Novgorod, James is prayed for the end of the epidemics. In sacred iconography, the representations of James of Jerusalem alone are very rare. We know the icons of Novgorod in which he is represented with other saints: Nicholas the Thaumaturgist, James the brother of God, Ignatius the bearer of God, end of the 15th c.; James the brother of God, Cosmas and Damian, 2nd quarter of the 16th c. The icon comes from the best workshops in Moscow or Novgorod.
1b glory Range of Meanings The noun doxa has a wide range of possible meanings.
8a the royal law Echo
2a gold-ringed, dressed in gleaming clothes Clothing as a Sign of Social Status The same phrase used by James—esthês lampra—is used by → 10.5.1 to refer to the Hist.toga candida—a white toga worn by candidates for political office ( 2012, 4:124–25).
6a dishonored Public Shaming To dishonor a person is a serious offense in the Jewish and Greco-Roman societies of James' time, which relied heavily on honor and shame as mechanisms for enforcing cultural values.
3f Rabbinic Teaching on Partiality
Similarly, the rabbis warned against partiality in seating:
See also, however, the tradition about the Alexandrian synagogue in →b. Sûk. 51b, where members of various trades (e.g., goldsmiths, weavers) sit in certain areas; the poor man entering the synagogue can sit with his fellow craftsmen.
9a show partiality ...convicted by the law: Different Senses in Which Partiality Violates the Law How precisely partiality transgresses the Law is unclear. Some of the possibilities are as follows.
The first option is more likely for two reasons:
10b guilty of all Integrity of The Whole Law
Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5:18–19), similarly taught that the violation of a single commandment is a serious matter that implies an attack on the Law as a whole:
1b glory Uncertainty on the Position and Meaning of “Glory” in this Verse S, along with the Coptic Bohairic and some Sahidic witnesses, following some late miniscules, places "of glory" after "faith," yielding the reading: "glorious faith" (Textual Criticism 2:1b).
10b guilty of all Integrity of the Whole Law The significance of following or not following a single commandment in relation to the Torah as a whole is a theme that surfaces frequently in rabbinic literature:
1–4 show partiality Teaching on the Sin of Partiality
→ 167.18 discusses two possible scenarios: Ep.
→ ad 2:2 comments that partiality to the rich contradicts the essential equality of all Christians. All Christians are equal since: Ep. Cath.
Church orders urge that concern be shown for the poor who visit a congregation:
→Gloss. Ord. ad 2:1 "Whoever chooses the wealthy because of his wealth, and rejects the poor because of his poverty, in both cases sins" (utrobique peccat; 1275–76).
The Pelagian tract "On Riches" (→ 14.2), a severe critique of Christians who rationalize their own accumulation and valuing of wealth, in contradiction to the pattern offered by Jesus and his disciples, alludes to Div.Jas 2:1-4:
James Begg's 1838 pamplet condemning the Church of Scotland's practice of charging rents for church seats, quotes Jas 1:1-4.
→ 2-2.63.1–4 makes the following points in his teaching on partiality ( STacceptio personarum, translated as "respect of persons").
5b Has not God chosen the poor Free Will, God's Election, and Predestination The reference to God choosing the poor sparked commentary on the relationship between a person's free will and God's choice (election):
The Syriac tradition, by contrast, emphasizes free will:
7 blaspheme the noble name God’s Name or the Name of Christians The tradition offers various interpretations of the identity of the “name” blasphemed by the rich.
→ ad loc. notes two ways in which the rich blaspheme. Ep. Cath.
Bar Salibi also suggests that poor behavior among Christians allows pagans to speak badly of them:
9 show partiality ...convicted by the law: Which Laws are Broken?
10b has become guilty of all Various Interpretations
Augustine devotes a lengthy letter to Jerome, as well as a sermon, to the interpretation of this passage. He questions: Is James really implying that a person who shows favoritism should also "be judged an idolater, a blasphemer, an adulterer, a murderer?" ( → 167.3; Ep. 2005, 2/3: 96; , 591). Is James really implying (as the Stoics teach) that all sins or vices are equal? Augustine rejects this idea, since some sins are indeed worse than others (→ 179A.2). Serm.
Augustine's solution is to recall Jesus' teaching that the central commandments of the Law involve love: "Love the Lord your God" and "Love your neighbor as yourself":
Many commentators agree with Augustine's interpretation:
→ 1.29 (14) offers two influential interpretations: Poen.
→ 58 interprets "one" as a reference to God as the ultimate One, and the "all" as a reference to the plurality of the created world. "Creatures, by the fact that they are from the One but below the One, necessarily fall into number, plurality, distinction, guilt, and fault…" ( Exp. Exod. , 63; , 63-64). The context is Eckhart's defense of the thesis that there are no distinctions of attributes in the utter oneness of God (cf. → 110). Exp. Sap.
The Calvinist tradition understands James to refer to the moral law given to all humans, and exemplified in the Ten Commandments (→WLC Q. 99).
12b law of freedom Various Interpretations
→ reads the "law of liberty" as a reference to the Old Testment law. James' characterization is thus one of the grounds for denying the apostolic authorship of the letter, "He calls the law a law of liberty, though Paul calls it a law of slavery, or wrath, of death, and of sin" (LW 35:397; WA DB 7:386-87). See also Pref. Jas. Jude→James: Interpretation of James in the Reformation.
13a judgment is merciless to the one who has not shown mercy Various Interpretations
The tradition closely connects mercy (G: eleos; L: misericordia) with almsgiving (G: eleêmosunê; L: eleemosyne). The Catholic tradition classifies almsgiving as one of the "works of mercy":
13b mercy boasts over judgment Various Interpretations
The sixth-century Rule of St. Benedict refers to this passage in its list of the qualifications of an abbot:
The Rule continues, perhaps in an illustration:
"He must hate faults, but love the brothers. When he must punish them, he should use prudence and avoid extremes; otherwise, by rubbing too hard to remove the rust, he may break the vessel. He is to distrust his own frailty and remember not to crush the bruised reed (Is 42:3). By this we do not mean that he should allow faults to flourish, but rather, as we have already said, he should prune them away with prudence and love as he sees best for each individual. Let him strive to be loved rather than feared ( 1981, 282–283).