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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:
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.
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:
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?
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.”
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].
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).
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:
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 .
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.
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).
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:
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.
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).