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Song of Solomon
James 2 COMMENTARY (Pulpit)
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My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ,
of glory, with respect of persons.
- WARNING AGAINST RESPECT OF PERSONS.
- The translation is doubtful, two renderings being possible.
That of the A.V. and R.V., "Hold not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons."
That of the R.V. margin and Westcott and Hort, "Do ye, in accepting persons, hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory?" According to this view, the section commences with a question, as does the following one, ver. 14. According to the former view, which is on the whole preferable, it is parallel to
The faith of our Lord
. "The faith" here may be either
tides quae creditur
), as in the Epistle of St.
Jude 1:3, 20
tides qua creditur
), "Have the faith which believes in," etc. (cf.
Our Lord Jesus Christ
. Exactly the same title occurs in
, in the letter written from the Apostolic Council to the Syrian Churches - a letter which was probably drawn up by St. James himself.
The Lord of glory
. The same title is given to our Lord in
1 Corinthians 2:8
, and seems to be founded on
, etc. The genitive,
, must depend on
in spite of the intervening
. Similar trajections occur elsewhere;
, and, according to a
(see Hort's 'Greek Testament,' vol. 2, appendix, p. 56). Bengel's view, that
is in apposition with
can scarcely be maintained, in the absence of any parallel expression elsewhere. Respect of persons (
The substantive is found here and three times in St. Paul's Epistles -
; the verb (
) only here in ver. 9;
. None of them occur in the LXX., where, however, we find
, etc. (cf.
), for the Hebrew
. Bishop Lightfoot has pointed out ('Galatians,' p. 108) that, in the Old Testament, the expression is a neutral one, not necessarily involving any idea of partiality, and more often used in a good than in a bad sense. "When it becomes an independent Greek phrase, however, the bad sense attaches to
, owing to the secondary meaning of
as a mask,' so that
signifies 'to regard the external circumstances of a man' - his rank, wealth, etc. - as opposed to his real intrinsic character. Thus in the New Testament it has always a bad sense." It is exactly this
regard to external circumstances
against which St. James is warning his readers; and the fact that our Lord Jesus Christ had himself been known, when on earth, as no respecter of persons (
), would give point to his warning. The plural (
) is perhaps used to include the different kinds of manifestations of the sin.
For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment;
- Proof that they were guilty of respect of persons.
Observe the insight which this passage gives us into the cha-racier of the assemblies of the early Christians, showing
that the entrance of a rich man was not entirely unknown, but
that it was probably exceptional, because so much was made of him. Notice
used here, and here only in the New Testament, of a Christian assembly for worship (cf. Ignatius, 'Ad Polye.,' c. 4,
Πυκνότερον συναγωγαὶ γινέσθωσαν
). (On the distinction between
, and the history of the terms and their use, see an interesting section in Trench's ' Synonyms,' p. 1.)
A man with a gold ring
). The word is found here only. The English Versions (both A.V. and R.V.) needlessly limit its meaning. The man was probably bedecked with a number of rings, and had not one only.
In goodly apparel.
The same phrase is rendering "gay clothing" in ver. 3. The variation is quite unnecessary, the Greek being identical in both places, and rightly rendered by R.V. "fine clothing." It is curious to find a similar needless variation in the Vulgate, which has
in veste candida
in ver. 2, and
in ver. 3.
And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool:
Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?
- The copula (
) of the Received Text is certainly spurious. It is found in K, L, but is wanting in
, A, B, C, Vulgate, Syriac, Coptic. B also omits the negative
(so Westcott and Herr margin). If this manuscript is followed, the sentence must be read as a direct statement, and not as interrogative. But if (with most manuscripts and editions) the interrogative be retained, the translation is still doubtful.
Διεκρίθητε ἐν ἑαυτοῖς
"Are ye not divided in your own mind?" so the Syriac and R.V., which would imply that this respect of persons showed that they were halting between God and the world - in fact, double-minded.
"Do ye not make distinctions among yourselves?" R.V. margin; this gives an excellent sense, but is wanting in authority, as there appears to be no other instance forthcoming of the passive with this meaning.
"Did you not doubt among yourselves?" this (doubt) is the almost invariable meaning of
in the New Testament, and the word has already been used in this sense by St. James (
). Hence this rendering is to be preferred. So Huther, Plumptre, and Farrar, the latter of whom explains the passage as follows: "It shows
act as though Christ had never promised his kingdom to the poor, rich in faith; and
to argue mentally that the poor
be less worthy of honor than the rich." Judges of evil thoughts (
κριταὶ διαλογισμῶν πονηρῶν
their own (thoughts), which caused them to respect persons. Thus the phrase is equivalent to "evil-thinking judges." (On the genitive, see Winer, 'Gram. of N. T. Greek,' p. 233; and cf.
Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?
- Proof of the sinfulness of respect of persons.
). This has been noticed as a coincidence with the speech of St. James in
. It is, however, too slight to be worth much (cf.
, A, B, C), "poor as to the world;" perhaps "in the estimation of the world." These God chose (to be) rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom, etc.
; mentioned here only by St. James (and even here,
, A read
in ver. 8.
Which he hath promised.
As Dean Plumptre has pointed out, "it is scarcely possible to exclude a direct reference to the words of Christ, as in
Luke 12:31, 32
; and so we get indirect proof of a current knowledge, at the early period at which St. James wrote, of teaching which was afterwards recorded in the written Gospels."
But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats?
- You have dishonored by your treatment the poor man, whom God chose; while those rich men to whom ye pay such honor are just the very persons who
oppress you and
blaspheme God and Christ.
In the Old Testament we occasionally find the term "poor" parallel to "righteous" (
); and "
to "wicked" (
). St. James's use here is somewhat similar (see on James 1:9, etc.). "Christiani multi ex pauperibus erant: pauci ex divitibus" (Bengel). The "rich men" here alluded to are evidently such as was the Apostle Paul before his conversion.
They dragged the poor Christians before the judgment-seat (
ὑμᾶς εἰς κριτήρια
). So Saul, "haling (
) men and women, committed them to prison" (
They blasphemed the honorable Name by which Christians were called. So Saul thought that he ought to do many things contrary to the
of Jesus of Nazareth, and strove to make them blaspheme (
All this they did
); "themselves," just as Saul did. No difficulty need be felt about the presence of these rich men in the synagogues of the Christians (see Introduction, p. 8.). It will be noticed that St. James
calls them "
Further, it must be remembered that, at this early date, the Church had not yet learnt by bitter experience the need for that secrecy with which in later days she shrouded her worship. At this time the Christian assemblies were open to any who chose to find their way in. All were welcome, as we see from
1 Corinthians 14:23
, etc., where the chance entry of "
unlearned or unbelieving" is contemplated as likely to happen. Hence there is no sort of difficulty in the presence of the "rich man" here, who might be eagerly welcomed, and repay his welcome by dragging them to the judgment-seat.
Draw you before the judgment-seats.
The account given by Josephus of the death of St, James himself affords a good illustration of the manner in which Christians were liable to this (see Introduction, p. 6.). But the tribunals need not be confined to Jewish ones. Other instances of similar treatment, illustrating the thoughts and language of the passage before us, may be found in
. Litigation of an entirely different character between Christians themselves is alluded to and condemned by St. Paul in
1 Corinthians 6
Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called?
That worthy Name
the honorable Name
; probably the Name of Christ, by which the disciples were known (
), and for which they suffered (
1 Peter 5:14
By the which ye are called
which was called upon you
τὸ ἐπικληθὲν ἐφ ὑμᾶς
). A similar expression is found in St. James's speech in
, in a quotation from
If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well:
- What is the connection with the foregoing?
is ignored altogether by the A.V. Translate, with R.V.,
howbeit if ye fulfill
, etc.; Vulgate,
According to Huther, St. James here meets the attempt which his readers might, perhaps, make to justify their conduct towards the rich with the law of love; whilst he grants to them that the fulfillment of that law is something excellent, he designates
directly as a transgression of the law. Alford thinks that the apostle is simply guarding his own argument from misconstruction - a view which is simpler and perhaps more natural.
The royal law.
Why is the law of love thus styled? (The Syriac has simply "the law of God.")
As being the most excellent of all laws; as we might call it the sovereign principle of our conduct (cf. Plato 'Min.,' p. 317, c,
Τὸ ὀρθὸν νόμος ἐστὶ
). Such an expression is natural enough in a Greek writer; but it is strange in a Jew like St. James (in the LXX.
is always used in its literal meaning); and as the "kingdom" has been spoken of just before (ver. 5), it is better
to take the expression as literal here - "the law of the kingdom" (cf. Plumptre,
Thou shalt love,
). The law had received the sanction of the King himself (
But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.
And are convinced,
etc.; better, with R.V.,
being convicted by the law
ἐλεγχόμενοι ὑπὸ τοῦ νόμου
). The Law of Moses directly forbade all respect of persons; see
(three verses above the passage just quoted by St. James),
πρόσωπον πτωχοῦ οὐδὲ μὴ θαυμάσῃς πρόσωπον δυνάστον.
For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one
, he is guilty of all.
- In this verse the subjunctives
, are rightly read by the Revisors, with
, B, C. The Law was express on the need of keeping
the commandments; see
(the same chapter to which St. James has already referred),
Καὶ φυλάξωσθε πάντα τὸν νόμον μου καὶ πάντα
τὰ προστάγματά μου καὶ ποιήσετε αὐτά
He is guilty of all.
The very same thought is found in rabbinical writers (Talmud, 'Schabbath,' fol. 70); a saying of R. Johanan: "Quodsi racist omnia unum vero omitter omnium est singulorum reus." Other passages to the same effect may be seen in Schottgen, 'Horae Hebraicae,' vol. 1. p. 1017, etc.; and cf., 'Pirqe Aboth,' 4:15. Was it a false inference from St. James's teaching in this verso that led the Judaizers of
. to lay down the law "
ye be circumcised after the customs of Moses ye cannot be saved"? "
shall keep the whole Law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of
," might seem to suggest such an inference: "
whom," says St. James himself, "
gave no commandment" (
). (On the teaching of this tenth verse there is an interesting letter of Augustine's to Jerome, which well repays study: 'Ep.' 167.)
For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law.
Do not commit adultery... do not kill.
The order of the commandments is remarkable; what is now the seventh is placed bolero the sixth. This appears to have been the usual order at that time. In this order our Lord quotes them in
, and St. Paul in
. Philo also has the same order, and expressly comments on it, drawing from it an argument for the heinousness of adultery ('Dec.,' 12:24). In the Vatican Manuscript of the LXX. in
the order is, "
shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not kill." But the Alexandrian Manuscript has the usual order, which is also found in
(according to the correct reading).
So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.
Verses 12, 13.
Conclusion of the subject
For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.
- A clear reminiscence of our Lord's teaching in the sermon on the mount (
, etc.; Matthew 5:7):
Μακάριοι οἱ ἐλεήμονες
ὅτι αὐτοὶ ἐλεηθήσονται
is certainly the right form of the word (
, A, B, C, K), not
(Receptus with L), and the
of the Textus Receptus is entirely wanting in manuscript authority, and should be deleted. The subject is ended by the abrupt declaration, almost like a cry of triumph, "Mercy glorieth against judgment."
profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?
- WARNING AGAINST RESTING CONTENT WITH A MERE BARREN ORTHODOXY.
: This is the famous passage which led to Luther's depreciation of the whole Epistle, which he termed a "right strawy" one. At first sight it appears, indeed, diametrically opposed to the teaching of St. Paul; for:
St. Paul says (
)," We conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from (
) works of Law," whereas St. James asserts (ver. 26) that "faith without (
) works is dead," and that man is "justified by works and not by faith only" (ver. 24).
St. Paul speaks of Abraham as justified by
, etc.); St. James says that he was justified by works (ver. 21).
St. Paul, or the Pauline author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, appeals to the case of Rahab as an instance
); St. James refers to her as an example of justification by
(ver. 25). The opposition, however, is only apparent; for:
The two apostles use the word
different senses. In St. Paul it always has a depreciatory sense, unless qualified by the adjective
. The works which he denies to have any share in justification are "
those which he elsewhere denominates the "fruit of the Spirit" (
), which are the "works" of which St. James speaks.
is also used in different senses. In St. Paul it is
πίστις δἰ ἀγαπῆς ἐνεργουμένη
); in St. James it is simply an orthodox creed, "Even the devils
(ver. 19): it may, therefore, be barren of works of charity.
The apostles are writing against different errors and tendencies: St. Paul against that of those who would impose the Jewish Law and the rite of circumcision upon Gentile believers; St. James against "the self-complacent orthodoxy of the Pharisaic Christian, who, satisfied with the possession of a pure monotheism and vaunting his descent from Abraham, needed to be reminded not to neglect the still weightier matters of a self-denying love" (Lightfoot on 'Galatians,' p. 370). [The tendency of the Jews to rely on their claim as "Abraham's children" is rebuked by the Baptist (
) and by our Lord (
). So Justin Martyr speaks of the Jews of his day:
Οἱ λέγουσιν ὅτι κα}ν ἁμαρτωλοὶ ῶσι θεὸν δέ
γινώσκωσιν οὐ μὴ λογίσηται αὐτοῖς ἁμαρτίαν
('Dial.,' § 141).]
The apostles regarded the new dispensation from different standpoints. With St. Paul' it is the negation of law: "Ye are not under Law, but under grace" (
). With St. James it is the perfection of Law. But, as Bishop Lightfoot has pointed out, "
ideas underlying these contradictory forms of expression need not be essentially different." The mere ritual has no value for St. James. Apart from anything higher it is sternly denounced by him (
, etc.). The gospel is in his view a
, but it is no mere system of rules, "Touch not, taste not, handle not;" it is no hard bondage, for it is a law of
, which is in exact accordance with the teaching of St. Paul, that "
the Spirit of the Lord is, there is
2 Corinthians 3:17
The question now arises. Granting that St. James does not contradict the doctrine of St. Paul, is he not opposing Antinomian perversions of it, and writing with conscious reference to the teaching of the apostle of the Gentiles, and the misuse which some had made of it? To this question different answers have been returned. "So long as our range of view is confined to the apostolic writings, it seems scarcely possible to resist the impression that St. James is attacking the teaching, if not of St. Paul himself, at least of those who exaggerated and perverted it. But when we realize the fact that the passage in Genesis was a common thesis in the schools of the day, that the meaning of faith was variously explained by the disputants, that diverse lessons were drawn from it - then the case is altered. The Gentile apostle and the Pharisaic rabbi might both maintain the supremacy of faith as the means of salvation; but faith with St. Paul was a very different thing kern faith with Maimonides, for instance. With the one its prominent idea is a
, with the other an
; with the one the guiding principle is the individual conscience, with the other an external rule of ordinances; with the one faith is allied to liberty, with the other to bondage. Thus it becomes a question whether St. James's protest against reliance on faith alone has any reference direct or indirect to St. Paul's language and teaching. Whether, in fact, it is not aimed against an entirely different type of religious feeling, against the Pharisaic spirit which rested satisfied with a barren orthodoxy fruitless in works of charity" (Lightfoot on 'Galatians,' p. 164; the whole essay should be carefully studied). In favor of this view of the entire independence of the two writers, to which he inclines, Bishop Lightfoot urges:
That the object of the much-vaunted faith of those against whom St. James writes is "
fundamental maxim of the Law," "Thou believest that God is one" (
); not "the fundamental fact of the gospel," "Thou believest that God raised Christ from the dead" (
That the whole tone of the Epistle recalls our Lord's denunciations of the scribes and Pharisees, and seems directed against a kindred spirit. To these we may add:
That the teaching of St. Paul and St. James is combined by St. Clement of Rome ('Ep. ad Corinthians,' c. 12.) in a manner which is conclusive as to the fact that he was unaware of any divergence of view between them, whether real or apparent. We conclude, then, that the teaching of St. James has no direct relation to that of St. Paul, and may well have been anterior in time to his Epistles to the Romans and Galatians. (For the opposite view, see Farrar's 'Early Days of Christianity,' vol. 2. p. 79, where an able discussion of the subject may be found.)
: Faith without works is equivalent to profession without practice, and is therefore dead.
- Omit the article (with B, C1), and read
: so also in ver. 16. Can faith save him! rather, with R.V.,
); the faith in question.
If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,
Verses 15, 16.
- Observe the
character of the illustration chosen, from works of mercy (cf.
in ver. 15 should be deleted (omitted by B, C, K); also the disjunctive particle
at the commencement of the verse (with
And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be
warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what
Depart in peace
. This is something quite different from the fullness of our Lord's benediction, "Go
ὕπαγε εἰς εἰρήνην
Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
But the rendering of the A.V. appears to be justified by the LXX. in
Παρέθηκαν αὐτῷ μόνῳ καὶ αὐτοῖς
καθ ἑαυτούς κ.τ.λ.
Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.
Verses 18, 19.
: Even the devils believe (
). How worthless, then, must be faith (
Yea, a man may say
). The objection in
1 Corinthians 15:35
is introduced by precisely the same words. It is somewhat difficult to see their drift here, as what follows cannot be an objection, for it is just the position which St. James himself adopts. The formula must, therefore, be taken as introducing the perfectly fair retort to which the man who gives utterance to the sentiments of ver. 16 lays himself open.
Without thy works.
, B, C, Latt., Syriac, Coptic), the Received Text has the manifestly erroneous reading
(K, L), in which it is happily not followed by the A.V.
Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.
"Thou believest that God is one," R.V., reading
Ὅτι εῖς ὁ Θεός ἐστιν
"Thou believest that there is one God," A.V. and R.V. margin, reading
εῖς Θεὸς ἐστὶν
. The reading, and by consequence the translation, must be considered somewhat doubtful, as scarcely any two uncials read the words in precisely the same order. The illustration is taken from the central command of the Old Testament (
), indicating that the case of Jews is under consideration. The following quotations from the Talmud will show the importance attached by the Jews to this command (Farrar, 'Early Days,' etc., p. 83). It is said ('Berachoth,' fol. 13, 6) that whoever in repeating it "
the utterance of the word '
,' shall have his days and years prolonged to him." Again we are told that when Rabbi Akibah was martyred he died uttering this word "One;" and then came a Bath Kol, which said, "
art thou, Rabbi Akibah, for thy soul and the word 'One' left thy body together."
But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
: Proof from the example of Abraham that a man is justified by works and not by faith only. In
we read of Abraham that "he believed in the Lord; and he accounted it to him for righteousness" (LXX.,
Αβραμ τῷ Θεῷ καὶ ἐλογίσθη αὐτῷ εἰς
, quoted by St. Paul in
). But years after this we find that God "tested Abraham" (
). To this trial St. James refers as that by which Abraham's faith was "perfected" (
), and by which the saying of earlier years found a more complete realization (cf. Ecclus. 44:20, 21, "Abraham... kept the Law of the Most High, and was in covenant with him... and when he was proved, he was found faithful. Therefore he assured him by an oath, that he would bless the nations in his seed," etc.).
Faith without works is dead
. The Received Text, followed by the A.V., reads
, A, C3, K, L, Syriac, Vulgate (Clementine). The Revisers, following B, C1, if, read
, "barren" (so Vulgate Amiat. by a correction,
Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?
Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?
And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.
And he was called the Friend of God.
The expression comes from
2 Chronicles 20:7
(in the Hebrew,
ὅν ἠγάπησα τῷ ἠγαπημένῳ σου
). The same title,
, is given to Abraham by Clement of Rome ('Ad Corinthians,' 10; 17.), and was evidently a standing one among the Jews. Philo actually in one instance quotas
Ἀβραὰμ τοῦ φίλου
ποῦ παιδός μου
. Illustrations from later rabbinical writers may be found in Wetstein, and cf. Bishop Lightfoot on 'Clement of Rome,' p. 61. To this day it is said that Abraham is known among the Arabs as
, equivalent to "the Friend."
Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.
Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent
out another way?
: Proof from the case of Rahab the harlot of justification by works (cf.
). Rahab is mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament in
, where she also appears as
Ῥαὰβ ἡ πόρνη
, and is spoken of as having "received the spies,"
δεξαμένη τοὺς κατασκόπους
ὑποδεξαμένη τοὺς ἀγγέλους
here. There, however, she is regarded as an instance of
(see above in preliminary note). The only other place where her name occurs is in the genealogy of our Lord, in
, "Salmon begat Booz of Rachab (
ἐκ τῆς Ραχάβ
For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
- Conclusion of the whole matter
: "As the body apart from the spirit is dead, even so faith apart from works is dead."
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