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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?
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.
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.
1–13 Exhortation to Impartiality towards the Rich
Two specific passages have attracted the greatest attention in the history of interpretation:
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).
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.
4a made distinctions Active, Passive, or Middle Meaning? The passive aorist diekrithête can be interpreted in a threefold manner.
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.
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.
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).
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:
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."
4b judges of unjust reasonings Justice Demands No Partiality to the Rich →Ps.-Phoc. 9–11 connects right judgment with an admonition against partiality:
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).
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 .
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
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.
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.
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).
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.
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").