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Bible Commentaries

The Expositor's Greek Testament

James 2



Other Authors
Verse 1

James 2:1. μὴἔχετε: the imperative, which is also found in all the versions, seems more natural and more in accordance with the style of the Epistle than the interrogative form adopted by WH.— ἐν προσωπολημψίαις: the plural form is due to Semitic usage, like ἐξ αἱμάτων in John 1:13; cf. Romans 2:11; Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 3:25.— τὴν πίστιν τοῦ κυρίου …: the mention of the “faith of Christ” is brought in in a way which shows that this was a matter with which the readers were well acquainted. The phrase must evidently mean the new religion which Christ gave to the world, i.e., the Christian faith.— τῆς δόξης: the intensely Jewish character of this Epistle makes it reasonably certain that the familiar Jewish conception of the Shekinah is what the writer is here referring to. The Shekinah (from the root שׁכן “to dwell”) denoted the visible presence of God dwelling among men. There are several references to it in the N.T. other than in this passage, Matthew 9:7; Luke 2:9; Acts 7:2; Romans 9:4; cf. Hebrews 9:5; so, too, in the Targums, e.g., in Targ. Onkelos to Numbers 6:25 ff. the “face (in the sense of appearance or presence) of the Lord” is spoken of as the Shekinah. A more materialistic conception is found in the Talmud, where the Shekinah appears in its relationship with men as one person dealing with another; e.g., in Sola, 3b, it is said that before Israel sinned the Shekinah dwelt with every man severally, but that after they sinned it was taken away; cf. Sota, 17a, where it is said: “Man and wife, if they be deserving, have the Shekinah between them”; so, too, Pirqe Aboth., iii. 3: “Rabbi Chananiah ben Teradyon [he lived in the second century, A.D.] said, Two that sit together and are occupied in words of Torah have the Shekinah among them” (cf. Matthew 18:20); see further Oesterley and Box, Op. cit., pp. 191–194. The Shekinah was thus used by Jews as an indirect expression in place of God, the localised presence of the Deity. “In the identification of the Shekinah and cognate conceptions with the incarnate Christ, ‘a use is made of these ideas,’ as Dalman says, ‘which is at variance with their primary application’. It marks a specifically Christian development, though the way had certainly been prepared by hypostatising tendencies” (Box, in Hastings’ DC(55)., ii. 622a). That Christ was often identified with the Divine Shekinah may be seen from the examples given by Friedländer, Patristische und Talmudische Studien, pp. 62 ff. If our interpretation of δόξα here is correct, it will follow, in the first place, that the meaning of the phrase … ἰησοῦ χριστοῦ τῆς δόξης is free from ambiguity, viz., “… Have faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Shekinah” (literally “the glory”); this is precisely the same thought that is contained in the words, “… who being the effulgence of his glory … (Hebrews 1:2-3). And, in the second place, this rendering shows that the words are an expression of the Divinity of our Lord; cf. Bengel’s note: “ τῆς δόξης: est appositio, ut ipse Christus dicatur δόξα”. [Since writing the above the present writer finds that Mayor, p. 78, refers to Mr. Bassett’s comment on this verse, where the same interpretation is given, together with a number of O.T. quotations; it seems scarcely possible to doubt that this interpretation is the correct one.]

Verses 1-13

James 2:1-13 take up again the subject of the rich and poor which was commenced in James 1:9-11.

Verse 2

James 2:2. εἰς συναγωγὴν ὑμῶν: as the Epistle is addressed to the twelve tribes of the Dispersion no particular synagogue can be meant here; it is a general direction that is being given. In the N.T. the word is always used of a Jewish place of worship; but it is used of a Christian place of worship by Hermas, Mand., xi. 9.… εἰς συναγωγὴν ἀνδρῶν δικαίωνκαὶ ἔντευξις γένηται πρὸς τὸν θεὸν τῆς συναγωγῆς τῶν ἀνδρῶν ἐκείνων. Harnack (Expansion … i. 60) says: “I know one early Christian fragment, hitherto unpublished, which contains the expression: χριστιανοί τε καὶ ἰουδαῖοι χριστὸν ὁμολογοῦντες”. This latter may well refer to a place of worship in which converted Gentiles and Jewish-Christians met together. And this is probably the sense in which we must understand the use of the word in the verse before us. The Jewish name for the synagogue was בית הכנסת (“house of assembly”); according to Shabbath, 32a, the more popular designation was the Aramaic name בית עמא (“house of the people”); Hellenistic Jews used the term προσευχή = οἶκος προσευχῆς as well as συναγωγή.— ἀνὴρ χρυσοδακτύλιος, etc.: Cf. Sirach 11:2, μὴ αἰνέσῃς ἄνδρα ἐν κάλλει αὐτοῦ, καὶ μὴ βδέλυξῃ ἄνθρωπον ἐν ὁράσει αὐτοῦ. For ἀνήρ see note on James 2:7. χρυσοδακτύλιος does not occur elsewhere in the N.T. nor in the Septuagint; cf. Luke 15:22. λαμπρᾷ, probably in reference to the fine white garment worn by wealthy Jews.— πτωχὸς ἐν ῥυπαρᾷ ἐσθῆτι: ῥυπαρός occurs elsewhere in the N.T. only in Revelation 22:11 (cf. 1 Peter 3:21) and very rarely in the Septuagint, see Zechariah 3:3-4; in the Apoc. of Peter we have, in § 15, … γυναῖκες καὶ ἄνδρες ῥάκη ῥυπαρὰ ἐνδεδυμένοι …—There is nothing decisive to show whether the rich man or the poor man (presumably not regular worshippers), who are thus described as entering the Synagogue, were Christians or otherwise; on the assumption of an early date for the Epistle they might have been either; but if the Epistle be regarded as belonging to the first half of the second century non-Christians are probably those referred to; but it would be futile to attempt to speak definitely here, for a good case can be made out for any class of worshipper.

Verse 3

James 2:3. ἐπιβλέψητε: “look upon with admiration,” the exact force of the word is conditioned by the context; it quite expresses the Hebrew פנה אל, the meaning of which varies according to the context, e.g., in Psalms 25:16 (Sept. Psa 24:16) it is “to look graciously,” in Deuteronomy 9:27, “to look sternly”.— σὺ κάθου ὦδε καλῶς: the reference is to the kind of seat rather than to its position; chairs, or something corresponding to these, were provided for the elders and scribes (cf. Matthew 23:6; Mark 12:39; Luke 11:43), and would no doubt have been offered to persons of rank who might enter, while the poorer men would sit on the floor, which is indeed clearly implied by the words ὑπὸ τὸ ὑποπόδιόν μου. The official who directed people to their seats was called the חזן (Chazzan) i.e., the man who “had charge”; we read of the existence of this official in the Synagogue within the Temple precints in Jerusalem (Yoma, vii. 1).

Verse 4

James 2:4. οὐ διεκρίθητε ἐν ἑαυτοῖς: “Are ye not divided among yourselves”? The Peshiṭtâ uses the word אתפלג, the same as that used in Luke 11:17. “Every Kingdom divided against itself.” The reference in the verse before us might be to the class distinctions which were thus being made, and which would have the effect of engendering envy and strife, and thus divisions.— κριταί: the Peshiṭtâ has the interesting rendering מפר̈שנא (instead of the usual word for “judge” דינא), which comes from the root meaning “to divide”.— διαλογισμῶν πονηρῶν: Cf. Matthew 15:19, ἐκ τῆς καρδίας ἔρχονται διαλογισμοὶ πονηροί: genitive of quality, “judges with evil surmisings,” viz., of breaking up the unity of the worshippers by differentiating between their worldly status; the writer is very modern! διαλογισμοί is generally used in a bad sense, cf. Luke 5:21-22; Romans 1:21.

Verse 5

James 2:5. ἀκούσατε, ἀδελφοί μου ἀγαπητοί: This expression, which one would expect to hear rather in a vigorous address, reveals the writer as one who was also an impassioned speaker; cf. in the same spirit, the frequent ἀδελφοί, and especially, ἄγε νῦν, James 4:13, James 5:1.— ἐξελέξατο: a very significant term in the mouth of a Jew when addressing Jews; cf. Deuteronomy 14:1-2, υἱοί ἐστε κυρίου τοῦ θεοῦ ὑμῶνὅτι λαὸς ἅγιος εἶ κυρίῳ τῷ θεῷ σου, καὶ σὲ ἐξελέξατο κύριος θεός σου γενέσθαι σε αὐτῷ λαὸν περιούσιονcf. Acts 13:17; 1 Corinthians 1:27. There is an interesting saying in Chag. 9b where it is said that poverty is the quality most befitting Israel as the chosen people.— πτωχοὺς τῷ κόσμῳ: i.e., poor in the estimation of the world; the reading τοῦ κόσμου or ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ τούτῳ loses this point; cf. Matthew 10:9; Luke 6:20.— πλουσίους ἐν πίστει: “Oblique predicate” (Mayor). In the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, Gad. vii. 6 we read: “For the poor man, if, free from envy, he pleaseth the Lord in all things, is blessed beyond all men” (the Greek text reads πλουτεῖ which Charles holds to be due to a corruption in the original Hebrew text which reads יְאֻשַּׁר = μακαριστός ἐστι). See, for the teaching of our Lord, Matthew 6:19; Luke 12:21. πίστις is used here rather in the sense of trust than in the way in which it is used in James 2:1.— κληρονόμους τῆς βασιλείας: the Kingdom must refer to that of the Messiah, see James 5:7-9, and Matthew 25:35, δεῦτε οἱ εὐλογημένοι τοῦ πατρός μου κληρονομήσατε τὴν ἡτοιμασμένην ὑμῖν βασιλείαν ἀπὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου, but not Matthew 5:3 which treats of a different subject. It is of importance to remember that the Messianic Kingdom to which reference is made in this verse was originally, among the Jews, differentiated from the “future life” which is apparently referred to in James 1:12, … λήμψεται τὸν στέφανον τῆς ζωῆς, ὃν ἐπηγγείλατο τοῖς ἀγαπῶσιν αὐτόν. There was a distinction, fundamentally present, though later on confused, in Jewish theology, between the “Kingdom of Heaven” over which God reigns, and that of the Kingdom of Israel over which the Messiah should reign. An integral part of the Messianic hope was the doctrine of a resurrection (cf. Isaiah 24:10; Daniel 12:2). This first assumed definite form, apparently, under the impulse of the idea that those who had suffered martyrdom for the Law (Torah) were worthy to share in the future glories of Israel. In the crudest form of the doctrine the resurrection was confined to the Holy Land—those buried elsewhere would have to burrow through the ground to Palestine—and to Israelites. And the trumpet-blast which was to be the signal for the ingathering of the exiles would also arouse the sleeping dead (cf. Berachoth, 15b, 4 Ezra 4:23 ff.; 1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16). According to the older view, the Kingdom was to follow the resurrection and judgment; but the later and more widely held view was that a temporary Messianic Kingdom would be established on the earth, and that this would be followed by the Last Judgment and the Resurrection which would close the Messianic Era. This was to be followed by a new heaven and a new earth. In the eschatological development which took place during the first century B.C. Paradise came to be regarded as the abode of the righteous and elect in an intermediate state; from there they will pass to the Messianic Kingdom, and then, after the final judgment they enter heaven and eternal life. In our Epistle there are some reflections of these various conceptions and beliefs, but they have entered into a simpler and more spiritual phase. That the reference in the verse before us is to the Messianic Kingdom seems indubitable both on account of the mention of the “Lord Jesus Christ” (Messiah) with which the section opens, showing that the thought of our Lord was in the mind of the writer, and because of the mention of the “Kingdom,” and also on account of the direct mention of the coming of the Messiah as Judge, later on in James 5:7-9. And if this is so then we may perhaps see in the words θεὸς ἐξελέξατο a reference to Christ.

Verse 6

James 2:6. ἠτιμάσατε: Cf., though in an entirely different connection, Sirach 10:23, οὐ δίκαιον ἀτιμάσαι πτωχὸν συνετόν ( δίκαιον is absent in the Hebrew); the R.V. “dishonoured” accurately represents the Greek, but the equivalent Hebrew word would be better rendered “despised” which is what the A.V. has. “Dishonouring” would imply the withholding of a right, “despising” would be rather the contempt accorded to the man because he was poor. There can be little doubt that it is the former which is intended here, but the idea of the latter must also have been present.— οὐχ οἱ πλούσιοι καταδυναστεύουσιν ὑμῶν: the rich here probably refer to wealthy Jews, though it does not follow that “there could have been no question of rich Jews if the city and the temple had fallen” (Knowling), for the Epistle was addressed to Jews of the Dispersion, the bulk of whom were not affected, as far as their worldly belongings were concerned, by the Fall of Jerusalem. On the other hand, the possibility of the reference being to rich Jewish-Christians, or Gentile-Christians, cannot be dismissed off-hand, for on the assumption of a late date for the Epistle it is more likely that these would be meant. The writer is taxing his hearers both with bad treatment accorded to the poor, as well as pusillanimity with regard to the rich. The word καταδυν. only occurs once elsewhere in the N.T., Acts 10:38, … πάντας τοὺς καταδυναστευομένους ὑπὸ τοῦ διαβόλου; but fairly frequently in the Septuagint, e.g., Amos 8:4; Wisdom of Solomon 2:10; Wisdom of Solomon 15:14. The accusative ὑμᾶς, which is the reading of א1A, etc., is in accordance with the frequent usage of the Septuagint, where καταδυν. often takes an accusative instead of the genitive.— αὐτοὶ: “The pronoun αὐτὸς is used in the nominative, not only with the meaning ‘self’ when attached to a subject, as in classical Greek, but also when itself standing for the subject, with a less amount of emphasis, which we might render ‘he for his part,’ or ‘it was he who,’ as in the next clause; it is disputed whether it does not in some cases lose its emphatic force altogether, as in Luke 19:2; Luke 24:31” (Mayor). ἕλκουσιν: See Matthew 10:7; Matthew 10:18. Cf. Acts 16:19, … ἐπιλαβόμενοι τὸν παῦλον καὶ τὸν σίλαν εἵλκυσαν εἰς τὴν ἀγορὰν ἐπὶ τοὺς ἄρχοντας.— κριτήρια: Cf. 1 Corinthians 6:2; 1 Corinthians 6:4, either Jewish (cf. the Peshiṭtâ rendering בית דינא) tribunals or Gentile ones.

Verse 7

James 2:7. βλασφημοῦσιν: for the force of the word cf. Sirach 3:16, ὡς βλάσφημος ἐγκαταλιπὼν (the Greek is certainly wrong here, the Hebrew has בוזה, “he that despiseth”) πατέρα. Cf. Romans 2:24, τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ θεοῦ διʼ ὑμᾶς βλασφημεῖται ἐν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν (Isaiah 52:5); the word in the N.T. is sometimes general in its application, of evil speaking with regard to men (in the Apoc. of Peter the phrase, οἱ βλασφημοῦντες τὴν ὁδὸν τῆς δικαιοσύνης occurs twice, 7, 13); at other times, specifically with reference to God or our Lord.— τὸ καλὸν ὄνομα τὸ ἐπικληθὲν ἐφʼ ὑμᾶς: the name here (especially in view of καλόν) must be “Jesus” (Saviour), for the Jews would not be likely to have blasphemed the name of “Christ” (Messiah); in Acts 4:10-12 it is also the name of “Jesus,” concerning which St. Peter says: Neither is there any other name under heaven, that is given among men, wherein we must be saved. τὸ ἐπικλ. ἐφ. ὑμ. is a Hebraism, in Amos 9:12 we have: יאשׁר נקרא שׁמי עליהם which the R.V. renders (incorrectly): “which are called by my name,” it should be: “Over whom my name was called,” as rendered by the Septuagint, excepting that it repeats itself unnecessarily, ἐφʼ οὒς ἐπικέκληται τὸ ὄνομά μου ἐπʼ αὐτούς. The Peshiṭtâ, too, has, שמא טבא דאתקרי so that the R.V. rendering here is incorrect, though the margin has “which was called upon you”. The idea which the phrase expresses is very ancient; a possession was known by the name of the possessor (originally always a god), this was the name which was pronounced over, or concerning, the land; in the same way, a slave was known under the name of his master, it was the name under whose protection he stood. And so also different peoples were ranged under the names of special gods; this usage was the same among the Israelites, who stood under the protection of Jahwe—the name and the bearer were of course not differentiated. This, too, is the meaning here; it does not mean the name that they bore, or were called by, but the name under whose protection they stood, and to which they belonged Parallel to it was the marking of cattle to denote ownership. (See, in reference to what has been said, Deuteronomy 28:10; 2 Samuel 12:28; Jeremiah 7:10). In the passage before us there is not necessarily any reference to Baptism, though it is extremely probable that this is so; Mayor quotes Hermas, Sim. ix. 16, πρὶν φορέσαι τὸν ἄνθρωπον τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ θεοῦ νεκρός ἐστιν· ὅταν δὲ λάβῃ τὴν σφραγῖδα (baptism) ἀποτίθεται τὴν νέκρωσιν καὶ. ἀναλαμβάνει τὴν ζωήν. Resch (op cit. p. 193) quotes a very interesting passage from Agathangelus, chap. 73, in which these words occur: … καὶ εἰπὼν ὅτι τὸ ὄνομά μου ἐπικέκληται ἐφʼ ὑμᾶς, καὶ ὑμεῖς ἐστὲ ναὸς τῆς θεότητός μου. In the passage before us, the omission of all mention of the name, which would have come in very naturally, betrays Jewish usage; as Taylor truly remarks (Pirqe Aboth., p. 66): “A feeling of reverence leads the Jews to avoid, as far as possible, all mention of the Names of God. This feeling is manifested … in their post-canonical literature, even with regard to less sacred, and not incommunicable Divine names. In the Talmud and Midrash, and (with the exception of the Prayer Books) in the Rabbinic writings generally, it is the custom to abstain from using the Biblical names of God, excepting in citations from the Bible; and even when Elohim is necessarily brought in, it is often intentionally misspelt …” It should be noted that this phrase only occurs once elsewhere in the N.T., and there in a quotation from the O.T., quoted by St. James in Acts 15:17.

Verse 8

James 2:8. μέντοι: “nevertheless” there is a duty due to all men, even the rich are to be regarded as “neighbours,” for the precept of the Law, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Leviticus 19:18), applies to all men.— νόμον βασιλικόν: “There is no difficulty in the anarthrous νόμος being used (as below, James 4:11) for the law of Christ or of Moses on the same principle that βασιλεύς could be used for the King of Persia, but the addition of an anarthrous epithet should not have been passed over without comment, as it has been by the editors generally” (Mayor). The reference is to the Torah, as is obvious from the quotation from Leviticus 19:18, and therefore βασιλικόν—if this was the original reading—must refer to God, not (in the first instance) to Christ; the Peshiṭtâ reads: “the law of God”.— τελεῖτε: in Romans 2:27 we have the phrase νόμον τελεῖτε.— τὴν γραφήν: cf. 1 Corinthians 15:3 κατὰ τὰς γραφάς. On a papyrus belonging to the beginning of the Christian era, the phrase κατὰ τὴν γραφήν is used in a legal sense in reference to a contract, i.e., something that is binding (Deissmann, Neue Bibelst., p. 78). When used in reference to the Torah, as here, it was of particular significance to Jews who, as the “people of God” were bound by the Covenant.— καλῶς ποιεῖτε: Cf. Acts 15:29; 2 Peter 1:19.

Verse 9

James 2:9. προσωπολημπτεῖτε: see note on James 2:1; the word does not occur elsewhere in the N.T. nor in the Septuagint; cf. Leviticus 19:15; Deuteronomy 16:19.— ἁμαρτίαν ἐργάζεσθε: the strength of the expression is intended to remind his hearers that it is wilful, conscious sin of which they will be guilty, if they have this respect for persons on account of their wealth. It is well to bear in mind that the conception of sin among the Jews was not so deep as it became in the light of Christian teaching.— ἐλεγχόμενοι: i.e., by the words in Leviticus 19:15., μὴ θαυμάσῃς πρόσωπον δυνάστου.— παραβάται: the verb παραβαίνω precisely expresses the Hebrew עבר “to cross over”; cf. Romans 2:25; Romans 2:27; Galatians 2:18; Hebrews 2:2; Hebrews 9:15, and see Matthew 15:2-3. To cross over the line which marks the “way” is to become a transgressor.

Verse 10

James 2:10. τηρήσῃ: τηρεῖν is used here with a force precisely corresponding to the Hebrew שׁמר when used in reference to the Law, or a statute, the Sabbath, etc.; the idea is that of guarding something against violation.— πταίσῃ δὲ ἐν ἑνί: πταίειν = the Hebrew כשׁל, “to stumble over” something; the picture is that of a παραβάτης stumbling over the border which marks the way; cf. the oft-used expression in Jewish writings of making a “hedge” or “fence” around the Torah, e.g., Pirqe Aboth., i. 1. With the verse before us cf. Sirach 37:12, … ὃν ἂν ἐπιγνῷς συντηροῦντα ἐντολάςκαὶ ἐὰν πταίσῃς συναλγήσει σοι, and James 2:15 καὶ ἐπὶ πᾶσι τούτοις δεήθητι ὑψίστου ἵνα εὐθύνῃ ἐν ἀληθείᾳ τὴν ὁδόν σου.— ἐν ἑνί: used in a pregnant sense, “in one matter” or “in any single point”.— γέγονεν πάντων ἔνοχος: While there are a certain number of passages in Rabbinical writings which are in agreement with this teaching (e.g., Bemidbar Rabb., ix. on Numbers 5:14; Shabbath, 70b; Pesikta, 50a; Horaioth, 8b; quoted by Mayor), there can be no doubt that the predominant teaching was in accordance with the passage quoted by Taylor (in Mayor, op. cit., p. 89) from Shemoth Rabb. xxv. end: “The Sabbath weighs against all the precepts”; as Taylor goes on to say: “If they kept it, they were to be reckoned as having done all; if they profaned it, as having broken all”. Rashi teaches the same principle. This is quite in accordance with the Jewish teaching regarding the accumulation of מצוות (“commandments,” i.e., observances of the Law); a man was regarded as “righteous” or “evil” according to the relative number of מצוות or evil deeds laid to his account; the good were balanced against the bad; according as to which of the two preponderated, so was the man reckoned as among the righteous or the wicked (see the writer’s article in the Expositor, April, 1908, “The Parable of the Labourers in the Vineyard”).— πάντων is equivalent to all the precepts of the Torah. For ἔνοχος cf. Matthew 26:66; 1 Corinthians 11:27; Galatians 3:10; see also Deuteronomy 27:26, and Resch, op. cit., p. 47.

Verse 11

James 2:11. μὴ μοιχεύσῃς, etc.: for the order of the seventh commandment preceding the sixth, cf. the Septuagint (Exodus 20:13-14), and Luke 18:20; Romans 13:9. With this mention of adultery and murder together should be compared §§ 9, 10 of the Apoc. of Peter; in the former section the punishment of adulterers is described, in the latter that of murderers, while in § 11 mention is made of the children who were the victims of murder. Possibly it is nothing more than a coincidence, but the fact is worth drawing attention to that in the Apoc. of Peter (or, more strictly, in the extant remains of this) the punishment is described only of those who had been guilty of evil speaking (blasphemy), adultery, murder, and the wealthy who had not had pity upon widows and orphans. These are the sins upon which special stress is laid in our Epistle; other sins receive only incidental mention.

Verse 12

James 2:12. οὕτως λαλεῖτε καὶ οὕτως ποιεῖτε: When one thinks of the teaching of our Lord in such passages as Matthew 5:22; Matthew 5:28, where sinful feelings and thoughts are reckoned as equally wicked with sinful words and acts, it is a little difficult to get away from the impression that in the verse before us the teaching is somewhat inadequate from the Christian, though not from the Jewish, point of view.— διὰ νόμου ἐλευθερίας: See above James 1:22; James 1:25, and cf. John 7:32-36.— μέλλοντες κρίνεσθαι: cf. James 2:7-8, and especially James 2:9, ἰδοὺ κριτὴς πρὸ τῶν θυρῶν ἕστηκεν.

Verse 13

James 2:13. γὰρ κρίσις ἀνέλεος, etc.: Cf. Matthew 5:7; Matthew 7:1; Matthew 18:28 ff; Matthew 25:41 ff. For the form ἀνέλεος see Mayor, in loc. The teaching occurs often in Jewish writings, e.g., Sirach 28:1-2, ἐκδικῶν παρὰ κυρίου εὑρήσει ἐκδίκησιν, καὶ τὰς ἁμαρτίας αὐτοῦ διαστηριῶν διαστηρίσει. ἄφες ἀδίκημα τῷ πλησίον σου, καὶ τότε δεηθέντος σου αἱ ἁμαρτίαι σου λυθήσονται. Test. of the Twelve Patriarchs, Zeb. viii. 1–3: “Have, therefore, yourselves also, my children, compassion towards every man with mercy, that the Lord also may have compassion and mercy upon you. Because also in the last days God will send His compassion on the earth, and wheresoever He findeth bowels of mercy He dwelleth in him. For in the degree in which a man hath compassion upon his neighbours, in the same degree hath the Lord also upon him” (Charles); cf. also vi. 4–6. Shabbath, 127b: “He who thus judges others will thus himself be judged”. Ibid., 151b: “He that hath mercy on his neighbours will receive mercy from heaven; and he that hath not mercy on his neighbours will not receive mercy from heaven”. Cf. also the following from Ephraem Syrus, Opp., 1. 30E (quoted by Resch. op. cit., p. 197): καὶ μακάριοι οἱ ἐλεήσαντες, ὅτι ἐκεῖ ἐλεηθήσονται· καὶ οὐαὶ τοῖς μὴ ἐλεήσασιν, ὅτι οὐκ ἐλεηθήσονται.— ποιήσαντι: this use of ποιεῖν is common in the Septuagint and corresponds to the Hebrew עשׂה; it is often used with חסד (“kindness”).— κατακαυχᾶται: “triumphs over”.

Verse 14

James 2:14. τί τὸ ὄφελος: B stands almost alone in omitting τό here; in 1 Corinthians 15:32, the only other place in the N.T. where the phrase occurs τό is inserted. A somewhat similar phrase occurs in Sirach 41:14, … τίς ὠφελία ἐν ἀμφοτέροις; the abruptness of the words betrays the preacher.— ἀδελφοί μου: a characteristic mode of address in this Epistle. With ἀδελφός cf. חבר in Rabbinical literature.— ἔργα: = the Hebrew מצוות (literally “command; ments,” i.e., fulfilling of commandments): see Introduction IV., § 2.— πίστις. i.e., as expressed in the Shema‘ (Deuteronomy 6:4 ff.): “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One …”; this was the fundamental tenet of the Jewish faith, and that it is this to which reference is made, and not the Christian faith, is obvious from James 2:19 which contains the essence of the Shema‘.— σῶσαι: the belief in the efficacy of works among the Jews has always been very strong; the following quotations express the traditional teaching of Judaism on the subject: “He that does a good work in this world, in the world to come his good work goes before him;” Sota, 3b, in Kethuboth, 67b we have the following: “When Mar Ukba lay a-dying, he asked for his account; it amounted to 7000 Zuzim (i.e., this was the sum-total of his almsgiving). Then he cried out: ‘The way is far, and the provision is small’ (i.e., he did not think that this sum would be sufficient to ensure his justification in the sight of God, and thus gain him salvation); so he gave away halt of his fortune, in order to make himself quite secure.” Again, concerning a righteous man who died in the odour of sanctity, it is said, in Tanchuma, Wayyakel, i.: “How much alms did he give, how much did he study the Torah, how many Mitzvoth (i.e., ‘commandments,’ see above) did he fulfil! He will rest among the righteous.” It is also said in Baba Bathra 10a, that God placed the poor on earth in order to save rich men from Hell; the idea, of course, being that opportunities for doing Mitzvoth were thus provided. In a curious passage in the Testament of Abraham, chap. xvi, it is said that Thanatos met Abraham and told him that he welcomed the righteous with a pleasant look and with a salutation of peace, but the sinners he confronted with an angry and dark countenance; and he said that the good deeds of Abraham had become a crown upon his (Thanatos’) head. In Wisdom of Solomon 4:1 we have, … ἀθανασία γάρ ἐστιν ἐν μνήμῃ αὐτῆς ( ἀρετῆς), ὅτι καὶ παρὰ θεῷ γινώσκεται καὶ παρὰ ἀνθρώποις. Cf. Enoch ciii. 1–4.

Verses 14-26

James 2:14-26. On this section see Introduction IV., § 2. There are a few points worth drawing attention to, in connection with the subject treated of in these verses, before we come to deal with the passage in detail: (1) πίστις here means nothing more than belief in the unity of God, cf. James 2:20 τὰ δαιμόνια πιστεύουσιν …; this is a very restricted use of the word, both according to Hebrew and Greek usage. The Hebrew אמונה means primarily “faithfulness,” “steadfastness,” “reliability,” and is used in reference to God quite as much as in reference to men. This is also the force of the verb אמן; it is only in the Hiph‘al that the meaning “to believe in,” in the sense of “to trust,” arises. The use of πίστις in the Septuagint varies; mostly it corresponds to אמונה, but not infrequently this latter is rendered ἀληθεία, e.g., Psalms 88:34, 50, 97 ( (Psa. 89:34, 50, 97) Psalms 98:3, though in each of these cases Aquila and Quinta render πίστις. In Sirach 41:16, πίστις is the rendering of the Hebrew אמת (“truth”), while in Sirach 45:4, Sirach 46:15 it corresponds to אמונה in the sense of “reliability”. In Sirach 37:26 the Greek is obviously corrupt, πίστις stands there for the Hebrew כבוד (“glory”), which is clearly more correct. But the most interesting passage on the subject in Sir. from our present point of view is Sirach 15:15 : ἐὰν θέλῃς, συντηρήσεις ἐντολάς, καὶ πίστιν ποίησαι εὐδοκίας; of which the Hebrew is: אם תחפץ תשׁמר מצוה ואמונה לעשׂות רצונו (“If it be thy will thou dost observe the commandment, and it is faithfulness to do His good pleasure”; the context shows that it is a question here of man’s free-will). Here πίστις is used in a distinctly higher sense than in the passage of our Epistle under consideration. In so far, therefore, as πίστις is used in the restricted sense, as something which demons as well as men possess, it is clear that the subject is different from that treated by St. Paul in Romans; and therefore the comparison so often made between the two Epistles on this point is not à propos. (2) That which gave the occasion for this section seems to have been the fact that, in the mind of the writer, some of the Jewish converts had gone from one extreme to another on the subject of works. Too much stress had been laid upon the efficacy of works in their Jewish belief; when they became Christians they were in danger of losing some of the excellences of their earlier faith by a mistaken supposition that works, not being efficacious per se (which so far was right) were therefore altogether unnecessary, and that the mere fact of believing in the unity of God was sufficient. Regarded from this point of view, there can, again, be no question of a conflict with Pauline teaching as such. The point of controversy was one which must have agitated every centre in which Jews and Jewish-Christians were found. In this connection it is important to remember that the “faith of Abraham” was a subject which was one of the commonplaces of theological discussion both in Rabbinical circles as well as in the Hellenistic School of Alexandria; regarding the former, see the interesting passage from the Midrashic work, Mechilta, quoted by Box in Hastings’ D.C.G., ii. 568b. The error of running from one extreme into another, in matters of doctrine, is one of those things too common to human nature for the similarity of language between this Epistle and St. Paul’s writings in dealing with the subject of faith and works to denote antagonism between the two writers. (3) The passage as a whole betrays a very strong Jewish standpoint; while it would be too much to say that it could not have been written by a Christian, it is certainly difficult to understand how, e.g., James 2:25 could have come from the pen of a Christian. (4) It is necessary to emphasise the fact that this passage cannot be properly understood without some idea of the subject of the Jewish doctrine of works which has always played a supremely important part in Judaism; for this, reference must be made to IV., § 2 of the Introduction, where various authorities are quoted.

Verse 15

James 2:15. In accordance with the very practical nature of the writer, he now proceeds to give an illustration of his thesis which is bound to appeal; he must have been a telling preacher.— ἐὰν: the addition of δέ is fairly well attested, but the reading of (56)

(57) where it is omitted is to be preferred.— ἀδελφή: the specific mention of “sister” here is noteworthy; it is the one point in this passage which suggests distinctively Christian influence. This is apparently the only place in the Bible in which “sister” is mentioned in this special connection.— γυμνοί: Cf. Test. of the Twelve Patriarchs, Zeb. xii. 1–3: “I saw a man in distress through nakedness in winter-time, and had compassion upon him, and stole away a garment secretly from my father’s house (another reading is ‘my house’), and gave it to him who was in distress. Do you, therefore, my children, from that which God bestoweth on you, show compassion and mercy without hesitation to all men, and give to every man with a good heart. And if you have not the wherewithal to give to him that needeth, have compassion for him in bowels of mercy” (Charles). Of course it is not literal nakedness that is meant in the passage before us; in the case of men the Hebrew ערום (= γυμνός), while often used in a literal sense, is also frequently used in reference to one who was not wearing a כתנת (= χιτών) and thus appeared only in סדינים, “under-garments,” see Amos 2:6; Isaiah 20:2 f.; Job 22:6; Job 24:7-10. In the case of women, the reference is likewise to the כתנת, though in this case the garment was both longer and fuller than that of men; at the same time, it is improbable that the “sister” would have appeared without a veil, unless, indeed, we are dealing with a venue which is altogether more Western; this is a possibility which cannot be wholly excluded.— λειπόμενοι: must be taken with ὑπάρχωσιν as the addition of ὦσιν is poorly attested.— ἐφημέρου τροφῆς: “the food for the day”; the words express the dire necessity of those in want. Cf. Matthew 6:11, τὸν ἄρτον ἡμῶν τὸν ἐπιούσιον δὸς ἡμῖν σήμερον, and Nestle’s note on ἐπιούσιος in Hastings’ D.C.G., ii. 58a. ἐφήμερος does not occur elsewhere in the N.T. or the Septuagint.

(56) Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.

Verse 16

James 2:16. ὑπάγετε, θερμαίνεσθε, χορτάζεσθε: these words do not seem to be spoken in irony; this is clear from the τί τὸ ὄφελος. They are spoken in all seriousness, and it is quite possible that those whom the writer is addressing were acting upon a mistaken application of Christ’s words in Matthew 6:25 ff., Be not anxious for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on.… Be not therefore anxious, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? For after all these things do the Gentiles seek; for your Heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. It was entirely in accordance with their idea of πίστις that these people should leave to their Heavenly Father what, according to both Jewish and Christian teaching, it was their duty to do.— μὴ δῶτε δὲ: “The plural is often used after an indefinite singular” (Mayor).— τὰ ἐπιτήδεια τοῦ σώματος: only here in the N.T., but often found in classical writers; Mayor gives instances.— τί τὸ ὄφελος: in the earlier passage in which this phrase occurs there is no question of irony, it is a direct fallacy which is being combated; in this verse, too, the writer is correcting a mistaken idea, this comes out clearly in the next verse.

Verse 17

James 2:17. οὕτως καὶ πίστις …: just as faith without works is dead, so this spurious, quiescent charity, which is content to leave all to God without any attempt at individual effort, is worthless.— καθʼ ἑαυτήν: the Vulgate in semetipsa brings out the force of this; such faith is, in its very essence, dead; cf. the Peshiṭtâ.

Verse 18

James 2:18.— ἀλλʼ ἐρεῖ τις: these words, together with the argumentative form of the verses that follow, imply that a well-known subject of controversy is being dealt with. ἀλλʼ ἐρεῖ τις is a regular argumentative phrase, used of an objection. “Instead of the future the optative with ἄν would be more common in classical Greek, but the latter form is rather avoided by the Hellenistic writers, occurring only eight times in the N.T.,—thrice in Luke, five times in Acts” (Mayor).— ἔχεις: the interrogative here suggested by WH does not commend itself, as the essence of the argument is the setting-up of two opposing and definite standpoints.— κἀγὼ: In the N.T. καί “often coalesces with ἐγώ (and its oblique cases), ἐκεῖ, ἐκεῖθεν, ἐκεῖνος, and ἄν; but there are many exceptions, and especially where there is distinct coordination of ἐγώ with another pronoun or a substantive. There is much division of evidence” (WH, Ths N.T. in Greek, II. App., p. 145).— δεῖξόν μοι τὴν πίστιν σου …: πίστις is not used quite consistently by the writer; faith which requires works to prove its existence is not the same thing which is spoken of in the next verse as the possession of demons; the difference is graphically illustrated in the account of the Gadarene demoniac; in Luke 8:28 the words, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the Most High God, express a purely intellectual form of faith, which is a very different thing from the attitude of mind implied in the words which describe the whilom demoniac, as, sitting, clothed and in his tight mind, at the feet of Jesus (Luke 8:35).—With the whole verse cf. Romans 3:28; Romans 4:6.

Verse 19

James 2:19. σὺ πιστεύεις ὅτι εἶς ἐστιν θεός: Cf. Mark 12:29, 1 Corinthians 8:4; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Ephesians 4:6. The reading varies, see critical note above; the interrogative is unsuitable, see note on ἔχεις in the preceding verse. Somewhat striking is the fact that the regular and universally accepted formula (whether Hebrew or Greek) among the Jews is not adhered to; the Septuagint of Deuteronomy 6:4, which corresponds strictly to the original, runs: κύριος θεὸς ἡμῶν κύριος εἶς ἐστιν, and this is also the exact wording in Mark 12:29, The stress laid on κύριος (= יהוה) in the original is very pointed, the reason being the desire to emphasise the name of Jahwe as the God of Israel (note the omission of the article before κύριος); it sounded a particularistic note. The elimination of κύριος in the verse before us, and the emphatic position of θεός, is most likely intentional, and points to a universalistic tendency, such as is known to have been a distinctive characteristic of Hellenistic Judaism. To Jews of all kinds belief in the unity of God formed the basis of faith; this unity is expressed in what is called the Shema‘ (Deuteronomy 6:4 ff.), i.e., “Hear,” from the opening word of the passage referred to; strictly speaking, it includes Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Deuteronomy 11:13-21; Numbers 15:37-41, though originally it consisted of the one verse, Deuteronomy 6:4. From the time of the Exile, according to Berachoth, i. 1, the recitation of the Shema‘ every morning and evening became the solemn duty of all true Jews. To the present day it is the confession of faith which every Jew breathes upon his death-bed. It is said of Rabbi Akiba, who suffered the martyr’s death, that he breathed out at the last the word “One” in reference to the belief in the Unity of God as contained in the Shema‘ (Ber., 61b). A few instances may be given from Jewish literature in order to show the great importance of and honour attaching to the Shema‘: “They cool the flames of Gehinnom for him who reads the Shema‘” (Ber., 15b); “Whoever reads the Shema‘ upon his couch is as one that defends himself with a two-edged sword” (Meg., 3a); it is said in Ber., i. § 2, that to him who goes on reading the Shema‘ after the prescribed time no harm will come; in Suk., 42a, it is commanded that a father must teach his son to read the Shema‘ as soon as he begins to speak. The very parchment on which the Shema‘ is written is efficacious in keeping demons at a distance.—The single personality of God is frequently insisted upon in the O.T., Targums, and later Jewish literature; in the latter this fundamental article was sometimes believed to be impugned by Christian teaching concerning God, and we therefore find passages in which this latter is combated (see, on this, Oesterley and Box, op. cit., p. 155); in the Targums all anthropomorphisms are avoided, since they were considered derogatory to the Divine Personality. We must suppose that it was owing to this intense jealousy wherewith the doctrine of the Unity of God was guarded that in the passage before us there are no qualifying words regarding the Godhead of Christ; when St. Paul (1 Corinthians 8:6) enunciates the same doctrine, ἀλλʼ ἡμῖν εἶς θεὸς πατήρ, he is careful to add, καὶ εἶς κύριος ἰησοῦς χριστός. Such an addition might well have been expected in the verse before us; its omission must perhaps be accounted for owing to the very pronounced Judaistic character of the writer.— καλῶς ποιεῖς: it is impossible to believe that there is anything ironical about these words; as far as it went this belief was absolutely right; the context, which is sometimes interpreted as showing the irony of these words, only emphasises the inadequacy of the belief by itself.— τὰ δαιμόνια πιστεύουσιν καὶ φρίσσουσιν: one is, of course, reminded of the passage, Luke 8:26 ff. (= Matthew 8:28 ff.), already alluded to above: δέομαί σου, μή με βασανίσῃς, or, more graphically, in the parallel passage, ἔκραξαν λέγοντες, τί ἡμῖν καὶ σοί, υἱὲ τοῦ θεοῦ; ἦλθες ὧδε πρὸ καιροῦ βασανίσαι ἡμᾶς; cf. Acts 19:15; 1 Thessalonians 2:18. On demons see the writer’s article in Hastings’ D.C.G., i. 438 ff.—Mayor gives some interesting reminiscences of these words in other early Christian writings, e.g., Justin, Trypho, 49, etc.— φρίσσουσιν: ἅπ. λέγ. in the N.T.; literally “to bristle,” cf. Job 4:15; the very materialistic ideas concerning evil spirits which is so characteristic of Jewish Demonology would account for an expression which is not, strictly speaking, applicable to immaterial beings. One of the classes of demons comprised the שׂעירים (“hairy ones”), in reference to these the word φρίσσουσιν would be extremely appropriate (see further, on Jewish beliefs concerning demons, the writer’s articles in the Expositor, April, June, August, 1907).

Verse 20

James 2:20. The words of this and the following verses, to the end of James 2:23, belong to the argument commenced by a supposed speaker— ἀλλʼ ἐρεῖ τις—; it is all represented as being conducted by one man addressing another, the second person singular being used; with the ὁρᾶτε of James 2:24 the writer of the Epistle again speaks in his own name, and, as it were, sums up the previous argument.— θέλεις δὲ γνῶναι: “Dost thou desire to know,” i.e., by an incontrovertible fact; the writer then, like a skilful disputant, altogether demolishes the position of his adversary by presenting something which was on all hands regarded as axiomatic. As remarked above, the question of Abraham’s faith was a subject which was one of the commonplaces of theological discussion in the Rabbinical schools as well as among Hellenistic-Jews; this is represented as having been forgotten, or at all events, as not having been taken into account, so that the adversary, on being confronted with this fact, must confess that his argument is refuted by something that he himself accepts. It is this which gives the point to ἄνθρωπε κενέ. For κενέ the Peshiṭtâ has חלשא “feeble,” in its primary sense, but also “ignorant,” which admirably expresses what the writer evidently intends. Both Mayor and Knowling speak of κενός as being equivalent to Raca (Matthew 5:22), but the two words are derived from different roots, the former from a Grk. root meaning “to be empty,” the latter from a Hebr. one meaning “to spit” [see the writer’s article in the Expositor, July, 1905, pp. 28 ff.]; κενός has nothing to do with Raca.— ἀργή: the reading νεκρά is strongly attested; the Corbey MS. makes a pun by reading “vacua,” after having written “o homo vacue”. ἀργή is not so strong as νεκρά; cf. Matthew 12:36, πᾶν ῥῆμα ἀργόν.

Verse 21

James 2:21. ἀβραὰμ πατὴρ ἡμῶν: A stereotyped phrase in Jewish literature.— οὐκ ἐξ ἔργων ἐδικαιώθη: the writer is referring to the well-known Jewish doctrine of זכות (Zecûth), on this subject see Introduction IV., § 2.— ἀνενέγκας ἰσαὰκ …: on this subject an example of Jewish haggadic treatment may be of interest: “When Abraham finally held the knife over his beloved son, Isaac seemed doomed, and the angels of heaven shed tears which fell upon Isaac’s eyes, causing him blindness in later life. But their prayer was heard. The Lord sent Michael the archangel to tell Abraham not to sacrifice his son, and the dew of life was poured on Isaac to revive him. The ram to be offered in his place had stood there ready, prepared from the beginning of Creation (Aboth, James 2:6). Abraham had given proof that he served God not only from fear, but also out of love, and the promise was given that, whenever the ‘Aḳedah [= the “binding,” i.e., of Isaac] chapter was read on New Year’s day, on which occasion the ram’s horn is always blown, the descendants of Abraham should be redeemed from the power of Satan, of sin, and of oppression, owing to the merit of him whose ashes lay before God as though he had been sacrificed and consumed,” Pesiḳ. R., § 40 (quoted in Jewish Encycl., i. 87a). It is interesting to notice that even in the Talmud (e.g., Ta‘anir, 4a) the attempted sacrifice of Isaac is regarded also from a very different point of view, such words as those of Jeremiah 19:5; Micah 6:7, being explained as referring to this event (see further Proceedings of the Soc. of Bibl. Arch., xxiv. pp. 235 ff.).

Verse 22

James 2:22. βλέπεις …: as these words are the deduction drawn from what precedes, it is better to take them in the form of a statement, and not as interrogative.— πίστις συνήρ γει: this implies a certain modification, with regard to πίστις, of the earlier position taken up by the writer, for in James 2:21 he says: “Was not Abraham our father justified by works?” no mention being made of faith; while here faith is accorded an equal place with works; cf. Galatians 5:6, πίστις διʼ ἀγάπης ἐνεργουμένη, concerning which words Lightfoot says that they “bridge over the gulf which seems to separate the language of St. Paul and St. James. Both assert a principle of practical energy, as opposed to a barren, inactive theory”. On συνήργει see Test. of the Twelve Patriarchs, Gad. iv. 7, “But the spirit of love worketh together with the law of God …” (Charles).— καὶ ἐκ τῶν ἔργων πίστις ἐτελειώθη: it is obvious that “faith” is used here in the highest sense, not merely as an attitude of mind, but as a God-given possession. It must, however, be further remarked that if the Judaism of the Jewish-Christian writer of this part of the Epistle had been somewhat less strong, the words under consideration would probably have been put a little differently; for according to the purely Christian idea of faith, works, while being an indispensable proof of its existence, could not be said to perfect it, any more than the preaching of the faith could be said to perfect the preacher’s belief; though works are the result and outcome of faith, they belong, nevertheless, to a different category.

Verse 23

James 2:23. There is some little looseness in the way the O.T. is used in these verses; in James 2:21 mention is made of the work of offering up Isaac, whereby, it is said (James 2:22), faith is perfected; then it goes straight on (James 2:23) to say that the Scripture was fulfilled which saith, “Abraham believed …”; this reads as though the quotation were intended to refer to the offering up of Isaac,—the proof of perfected faith; but as a matter of fact the quotation refers to Abraham’s belief in Jehovah’s promise to the effect that the seed of Abraham was to be as numerous as the stars of heaven. In the O.T., that is to say, there is no connection between the quotation from Genesis 15:6 and the offering-up of Isaac. This manipulation of Scripture is strongly characteristic of Jewish methods of exegesis.— ἐπίστευσεν δὲ ἀβραὰμ …: the N.T. = Septuagint, which differs from the Hebrew in reading τῷ θεῷ instead of τῷ κυρίῳ, and the passive ἐλογίσθη for the active. Faith, according to Jewish teaching, was a good deed which was bound to bring its reward; it was one of those things which demanded a reward; the phrase זכות אמונה (“the merit of faith, i.e., “trustfulness”) occurs in Beresh. Rabba, chap. 74, where it is parallel to זכות תורה (“the merit of [keeping] the Law”); merit, that is to say, is acquired by trusting God, just as merit is acquired by observing the precepts of the Torah; the man who has acquired sufficient merit is in a state of Zecûth, i.e., in that state of righteousness, attained by good works, wherein he is in a position to claim his reward from God. Very pointed, in this connection, are the reiterated words of Christ in Matthew 6:5; Matthew 6:16, “Verily, I say unto you, they have received their reward”.— φίλος θεοῦ: Cf. 2 Chronicles 20:7; Isaiah 41:8; Dan. 3:35 (Septuagint); in Sirach 6:17 the Septuagint reads: φοβοίμενος κύριον εὐθύνει φιλίαν αὐτοῦ, ὅτι κατʼ αὐτὸν οὕτως καὶ πλησίον αὐτοῦ; the Hebrew has: “For as He Himself is, so is His friend, and as is His name, so are his works” (“works” must refer, most likely, to the “friend,” not to God); the Syriac runs: “They that fear God show genuine friendship, for as He Himself is, so are His friends, and as is His name, so are His works”. In the Book of Jubilees, xix. 9, it says in reference to Abraham; “For he was found faithful (believing), and was written down upon the heavenly tablets as the friend of God”; this is repeated in xxx. 20, but from what is said in the next verse it is clear that all those who keep the covenant can be inscribed as “friends” upon these tablets. Deissmann (Bibelstudien, pp. 159 f.) points out that at the court of the Ptolemies φίλος was the title of honour of the highest of the royal officials. In Wisdom of Solomon 7:27 the “friends of God” is an expression for the “righteous”. The phrase φίλος θεοῦ, therefore, while in the first instance probably general in its application, became restricted, so that finally, as among the Arabs, “the friend of God,” Khalil Allah, or simply El Khalil, became synonymous with Abraham. Irenæus, iv. 16, iv. 34, 4, refers to Abraham as “the friend of God,” but he does not mention our Epistle; if a reference to this was intended it is the earliest trace of an acquaintance with it. See, further, an interesting note of Nestle’s in the Expository Times, xv. pp. 46 f.; cf. Genesis 18:17 where the Septuagint reads, οὐ μὴ κρύψω ἀπὸ ἀβραὰμ τοῦ παιδός μου ἐγὼ ποιῶ, which is quoted by Philo with τοῦ φίλου μου instead of τοῦ π. μου. In the MS., 69 φίλος in the verse before us is rendered δοῦλος (see critical note above).

Verse 24

James 2:24. ὁρᾶτε: The argument between the two supposed disputants having been brought to a close, the writer addresses his hearers again, and sums up in his own words.— μόνον: the writer, by using this word, allows more importance to faith than he has yet done; there is not necessarily any inconsistency in this, the exigencies of argument on controversial topics sometimes require special stress to be laid on one point of view to the partial exclusion of another in order to balance the one-sided view of an opponent.

Verse 25

James 2:25. ῥαὰβ πόρνη: It must probably have been the position already accorded to Rahab in Jewish tradition that induced the writer to cite an example like this. In Mechilta, 64b, it is said that the harlot Rahab asked for forgiveness of her sins from God, pleading on her own behalf the good works she had done in releasing the messengers. The attempts which have been made to explain away the force of πόρνη are futile.

Verse 26

James 2:26. πνεύματος: Spitta’s suggested reading, κινήματος, is very ingenious, but quite unnecessary; רוח is often used of “breath,” and the Greek equivalent, πνεῦμα, is also used in the same way in the Septuagint.


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Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on James 2:4". The Expositor's Greek Testament. 1897-1910.

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