James 2
ICC New Testament Commentary
My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons.

1-7. To court the rich and neglect the poorin the house of worship reverses real values.

In 2:1-7 the thought of the supreme importance of conduct, stated in 1:26-27, is further illustrated by an instance from a situation of common occurrence. With this instance the writer connects his reply to two excuses or pretexts (vv. 8-13, 14-26), which are perversions of true religion, and in so doing he is led to enter upon broader discussions. Ch. 2 is more original and less a repetition of current Jewish ideas than any other part of the epistle.

1. ἀδελφοί μου, marking transition to a new topic, cf. 1:19, 2:14, 3:1, 5:7, and see note on 1:2.

ἐν προσωπολημψίαις “with acts of partiality.” προσωπολημψία (found also Romans 2:11, Ephesians 6:9, Colossians 3:25, Polyc. Phil. 6), together with the cognate words προσωπολημπτεῖν (Jam 2:9), προσωπολήμπτης (Acts 10:34), ἀπροσωπόλημπτος (ecclesiastical writers), ἀπροσωπολήμπτως (1 Peter 1:17, Clem. Romans 1:3, Barn. 4:12), is a compound formed from the LXX translation of the O. T. phrase נָשָׂא פָנִים, λαμβάνειν πρόσωπον, Leviticus 19:15, Psalm 82:2, etc. (For an analogous compound, cf. ἐμοσχοποίησαν, Acts 7:41). These words were of course used only among persons acquainted with the Greek O. T., that is, Jews and Christians.

This group of expressions has had a history not unlike that of English “favour,” “favouritism,” etc., and, having often had originally an innocent sense, came in the O. T. to mean “respect of persons” in the sense of improper partiality. The early uses related chiefly to partiality on the part of a judge. In later use any kind of improper partiality might be meant, whether judicial favouritism or, as here, selfish truckling to the powerful. For the meaning of the Hebrew expression, see Gesenius, Thesaurus, s. v. נָשָׂא, p. 916; cf. Lightfoot on Galatians 2:6, and, for some similar O. T. expressions, Mayor on Jam 2:1.

The plural denotes the several manifestations of favouritism; cf. Winer, § 27, 3; Hadley-Allen, § 636; cf. 2 Corinthians 12:20, Galatians 5:20, 1 Peter 4:3.

ἐν denotes the state, or condition, in which the act is done; here the acts with which the action of the main verb is accompanied. Cf. 2 Peter 3:11 ὑπάρχειν ἐν εὐσεβείαις, Colossians 3:22 ὑπακούετε … μὴ ἐν ὀφθαλμοδουλίαις, Jam 1:21 ἐν πραΰτητι.

Warnings against contempt of the poor are common in the O. T., cf. Leviticus 19:15, Proverbs 22:22, Ecclus. 10:23, etc.

μὴ ἔχετε. Not interrogative (R.V. mg., WH.), but imperative (A.V., R.V. text), as is better suited to the gnomic style of the epistle (cf. 1:2, 22, 3:1, 4:11, etc.), and to the following context.

The question “Do ye, in accepting persons, hold the faith of our Lord?” would express doubt whether a faith accompanied by this fault is true faith in Jesus Christ at all.

But this makes a weak and unnatural opening to the paragraph, is too subtle and indirect for so straightforward a writer, and does not suit so well the transition to the following sentence with γάρ. This writer (e. g. in vv. 5, 6, 7) uses the question-form rather in argument than in exhortation. Note, too, the directness with which his other paragraphs open, e. g. 1:2, 5, 3:1, 5:7. Moreover, such a surprisingly drastic denial that the readers were Christian believers would require a clearer form of statement.

ἔχετε τὴν πίστιν. Cf. 2:14, 18, 3:14, Matthew 17:20, Matthew 21:21, Mark 11:22, Luke 17:6, Acts 14:9, Romans 14:22, 1 Timothy 1:19, Philemon 1:5. ἔχω is used in its natural sense, with reference to “having” an inner quality. This is a Greek usage, see L. and S. s. v. ἔχω A. I. 8. Cf. τηρεῖν τὴν πίστιν, 2 Timothy 4:7, Revelation 14:12. For the whole phrase, cf. Herm. Mand. v, 2:3 τῶν τὴν πίστιν ἐχόντων ὁλόκληρον.

τὴν πίστιν. The “subjective” faith, not the later idea of a body of doctrine to be believed; so throughout this epistle, 1:3, 6, 2:5, 14-26, 5:15. Faith in Jesus Christ is the distinctive act which makes a man a Christian. See A. Schlatter, Der Glaube im Neuen Testament2, 1896.

τοῦ κυρίου. Objective genitive, cf. Mark 11:22, Galatians 2:16; Hermas, Sim. vi, 1:2, etc.

The view of Haussleiter, Der Glaube Jesu Christi und der christliche Glaube, 1891, and James Drummond, Epistle to the Galatians, 1893, p. 91, that these genitives after πίστις are subjective, not objective, is unnatural, and seems disproved by both Mark 11:22 and Galatians 2:16. See Sanday on Romans 3:22. Hort paraphrases: the faith “which comes from Him and depends on Him,” but this is unnecessary.

τῆς δόξης. “Glory” is the majesty and brightness of light in which God dwells, and which belongs also to the Messiah; see Sanday on Romans 3:23, G. B. Gray, art. “Glory,” in HDB; A. von Gall, Die Herrlichkeit Gottes, 1900.

The interpretation now most commonly given for this difficult expression is probably right. τῆς δόξης is genitive of characteristic (cf. Luke 16:8, Luke 18:6, Hebrews 9:5 Χερουβεὶν δόξης), limiting the whole preceding phrase τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, i. e. “our glorious Lord Jesus Christ.” The expression is a not altogether happy expansion of ὁ κύριος τῆς δόξης (1 Corinthians 2:8), cf. ὁ θεὸς τῆς δόξης, Psalm 29:3, Acts 7:2, ὁ πατὴρ τῆς δόξης, Ephesians 1:17. By its solemnity the writer may intend to emphasise the inconsistency between the great privilege of Christian faith and this petty discrimination between rich and poor.

No convincing objection can be made to this interpretation, although there is no complete parallel to it. Among the other interpretations the following deserve mention:

(1) ταῖς προσωπολημψίαις τῆς δόξης, “partiality arising from your own opinion,” or “partiality arising from external glory” (admiratio hominum secundum externum splendorem, Michaelis). But the separation of the words is too great, and the meaning “glory” for δόξα in this context too obvious, to permit this interpretation, and it is now held by no one.

(2) τὴν πίστιν τῆς δόξης, “faith in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Pesh.), or “Christ-given faith in the glory” (i. e. the glory which we are to receive, Romans 8:18), or “the glorious faith in Christ.” But the last two of these are forced, and the first involves too strange an order of words to be acceptable, in spite of such partial analogies as Acts 4:33, 1 Thessalonians 2:13. Cf. Buttmann, § 151, III; Winer, § 61, 4; for many illustrations of hyperbaton from LXX and secular authors, see Heisen, Novae hypotheses, pp. 768 ff.

(3) Various interpretations separate off some part of the phrase τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, which is then connected with τῆς δόξης, and the two together taken as in apposition with the rest of the phrase. The least objectionable of these is perhaps that of Ewald, “our Lord, Jesus Christ of glory”; but this division is unnecessary, and it seems impossible that the writer should not have meant to keep together the whole of the familiar designation.

(4) A.V. and R.V. supply τοῦ κυρίου, and translate “the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of Glory.” There are abundant parallels for this latter phrase, but none for such a singular omission.

(5) Bengel, Mayor, Hort, WH. mg., and others take τῆς δόξης as in apposition to the preceding and as referring to Christ (perhaps as the Shekinah) under the title of “the Glory.” But the evidence that this is a possible use of ἡ δόξα (see the full note of Mayor3, pp. 79 ff., cf. Luke 2:31, Ephesians 1:17, Titus 2:13, Hebrews 1:3) is inadequate.

(6) Spitta and Massebieau think the words ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ an interpolation by the Christian editor. This would leave the expression “the Lord of glory,” referring, as in Enoch, to God. Beyschlag’s answer to this, that an interpolator would not have broken the phrase τοῦ κυρίου τῆς δόξης, is not quite satisfactory, since the natural words to follow τοῦ κυρίου are ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ. But the interpolation is not sufficiently obvious to justify itself apart from the general theory to which it belongs. See the long note in Mayor.

2. γάρ explains the warning by pointing out that respect of persons is easily recognisable as sin. γάρ introduces οὐ διεκρίθητε κτλ., v. 4.

εἰσέλθῃ, cf. 1 Corinthians 14:23-25.

συναγωγήν means “meeting,” and it is not necessary here to distinguish between the “meeting” as an occasion and as an assembled body of persons. It is the proper word for a Jewish religious meeting, but is occasionally used, chiefly by writers having some Jewish or Syrian connection, for a Christian meeting; cf. Herm. Mand. xi, 9 ὅταν οὖν ἔλθῃ ὁ ἄνθρωπος ὁ ἔχων τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ θεῖον εἰς συναγωγὴν ἀνδρῶν δικαίων; Ign. Polyc. 4:2; Iren. Hær. iv, 31:1, 2; Epiph. Hær. xxx, 18 συναγωγὴν δὲ οὗτοι [the Ebionites] καλοῦσι τὴν ἑαυτῶν ἐκκλησίαν, καὶ οὐχὶ ἐκκλησίαν. The Christian Palestinian Aramaic dialect used a single word [כנישׁתא] as well for “synagogue” as for “church.” In view of this wide-spread occasional use, no trustworthy inference as to the place of writing of the epistle, still less any conclusion as to its Jewish-Christian authorship, or as to the nationality of the persons addressed, can be drawn from the occurrence of this word here.

The material is fully collected and well discussed by Zahn, Einleitung, i, § 4, note 1; Harnack in his long note on Hermas, Mand. xi, 9; Schürer, GJV, ii, § 27, notes 11 and 12.

The meaning “place of meeting,” “meeting-house,” natural if this were a Jewish synagogue, is wholly unlikely for a Christian writing. The only parallel to be adduced would be the inscription (from a locality not far from Damascus) Συναγωγὴ Μαρκιωνιστῶν, κώμ (ης) Λεβάβων τοῦ κ(υρίο)υ καὶ ς(ωτῆ)ρ(ος) Ἰη(σοῦ) Χρηστοῦ, προνοίᾳ Παύλου πρεσβ(υτέρου), τοῦ λχ͵ ἔτους, Le Bas-Waddington, Inscript. grecques et lat. iii, no. 2558. The date is a.d. 318-319.

χρυσοδακτύλιος, cf. Luke 15:22, also Genesis 38:18, Genesis 38:25, 41:42, Isaiah 3:21; and see note in Mayor3, p. 83, and “Ring,” in EB, HDB, and Dictt. Antt. for details of the custom of wearing rings.

For similar description of a rich gentleman, cf. Epictet. i, 22:18 ἥξει τις γέρων πολιὸς χρυσοῦς δακτυλίους ἔχων πολλούς, Seneca, Nat. quæst. vii, 31 exornamus anulis digitos, in omni articulo gemmam disponimus.

χρυσοδακτύλιος is found only here, but is correctly formed, cf. χρυσόχειρ in the same sense, χρυσοστέφανος, χρυσοχάλινος, etc.

ἐν ἐσθῆτι λαμπρᾷ, cf. Luke 23:11.

The term λαμπρός seems here to refer to elegant and luxurious, “fine,” clothes (cf. Revelation 18:14), but it can also be used of freshness or cleanness (Revelation 15:6) without reference to costliness, and sometimes (Acts 10:30) appears to mean “shining.” Its natural opposite in all these senses is ῥυπαρός, “dirty,” “shabby,” as below, cf. Philo, De Joseph. 20, ἀντὶ ῥυπώσης λαμπρὰν ἐσθῆτα ἀντιδόντες. Mayor gives other instructive references. See also Lex.. s. vv. λαμπρός and ῥυπαρός.

For the same construction as vv. 2, 3, cf. vv. 15-16.

3. ἐπιβλέψητε, “look,” i. e. with favour, “have regard.” ἐπιβλέπειν has this sense also in Luke 1:48, Luke 9:38, apparently through the influence of the LXX usage; cf. 1 Samuel 1:11, 1 Samuel 9:16, Psalm 25:16, Psalm 69:16, Job 3:3, Judith 13:4, etc. The development of this sense in an appropriate context is a natural one; but in classical usage only Aristotle, Eth. Nic. iv, 2, p. 1120, is cited.

εἴπητε. Doubtless the speaker is one of the dignitaries of the congregation, cf. τὸ ὑποπόδιόν μου.

κάθου. This form of the imperative (for the more literary κάθησο), found uniformly in O. T. and N. T., was doubtless in ordinary colloquial use, as is attested by its occurrence in comic writers of the fifth and fourth centuries b.c. and in post-classical usage. See Lex. s. v. and Winer-Schmiedel, § 14, 3, note 3.

καλῶς. Usually explained as meaning “in a good seat,” “comfortably.” But the usage does not fully justify this (see Mayor’s citations), and some polite idiom in the sense of “please,” “pray,” is to be suspected. In various Greek liturgies the minister’s direction to the worshipping congregation, στῶμεν καλῶς, presents the same difficulty and suggests the same explanation. See F. E. Brightman, Liturgies, Eastern and Western, vol. i, Oxford, 1896, pp. 43, 49, 383, 471. The Syrian liturgies sometimes merely carry this over, “Stōmen kalōs, ” but also render by, “Stand we all fairly,” ibid. pp. 72, 74, 104. On the Jewish custom of distinguished places in the synagogue, cf. Matthew 23:6, Mark 12:39, Luke 11:43, Luke 20:46, and see “Synagogue,” in EB and HDB

A noteworthy commentary on these verses is offered by a passage found in various ancient books of church order. Its oldest form is perhaps that in the Ethiopic Statutes of the Apostles (ed. Horner, 1904, pp. 195 f.): “And if any other man or woman comes in lay dress [i. e. in fine clothes], either a man of the district or from other districts, being brethren, thou, presbyter, while thou speakest the word which is concerning God, or while thou hearest or readest, thou shalt not respect persons, nor leave thy ministering to command places for them, but remain quiet, for the brethren shall receive them, and if they have no place (for them) the lover of brothers or of sisters, having risen, will leave place for them.

“… And if a poor man or woman either of the district or of the (other) districts should come in and there is no place for them, thou, presbyter, make place for such with all thy heart, even if thou wilt sit on the ground, that there should not be respecting the person of man but of God.”

See also the Syriac Didascalia apostolorum, 12; Apostolic Constitutions, ii, 58; E. v. d. Goltz, “Unbekannte Fragmente altchristlicher Gemeindeordnungen,” in Sitzungsberichte der kgl. preuss. Akademie, 1906, pp. 141-157. There is no sufficient indication that the passage is dependent on James.

στῆθι, in contrast to κάθου.

στῆθι ἢ κάθου ἐκεῖ] B ff.

στῆθι ἢ κάθου] sah.

στῆθι ἐκεῖ ἢ κάθου] A 33 minn Cyr vg Jer Aug syrhcl.

στῆθι ἐκεῖ ἢ κάθου ὧδε] אC2KLP minn boh syrpesh.

στῆθι ἐκεῖ καὶ κάθου] C*.

The reading of B ff makes the rough words an invitation to stand or to take a poor seat. So the Sahidic, which thus on the whole supports B ff. The readings of A al and א al seem to be different emendations, both due to the wish to make στῆθι explicit and so to create a better parallelism. But since the indefinite ἐκεῖ does not in itself imply any disrespect to the visitor, the effect is to lessen rather than intensify the rudeness of στῆθι, and the product is a weaker text than that of B ff (sah). The text of B ff is thus on both external (see p. 85) and internal grounds to be preferred.

ἢ κάθου ἐκεῖ ὑπὸ τὸ ὑποπόδιόν μου, i. e. in a humble place. This is a sorry alternative to standing. Cf. Deuteronomy 33:3 ὑπό σε, “at thy feet,” Luke 8:35, Luke 10:39, Acts 22:3 παρὰ τοὺς πόδας.

These persons who come into the meeting are visitors, who may be won for the church, and the treatment of them at this critical moment reveals the real feeling of the members toward the relative worth of the different classes in society. The visitors seem clearly distinguished from the members of the congregation; and nothing indicates, or suggests, that they are members of sister churches. They are undoubtedly outsiders, whether Jews or Gentiles.

ὑπό] B3 P 33 minn have emendation to the easier ἐπί.

4. οὐ] Omitted by B ff minn. The repetition of —ΟΥ ΟΥ might suggest either the insertion or the omission of the word in transcription. The attestation and the greater intrinsic vigour of the sense speak for the omission.

KLP minn read καὶ οὐ, the καί being added to indicate the apodosis.

διεκρίθητε. “Ye have wavered,” “doubted,” i. e. “practically, by your unsuitable conduct, departed from and denied the faith of v. 1, and thus fallen under the condemnation pronounced in 1:6-8 against the δίψυχος.” Cf. 1:6 and note, 3:17 ἀδιάκριτος; and, for the mode of argument, 1:8 δίψυχος, 4:8 ἁμαρτωλοί, δίψυχοι.

Of the various meanings proposed for διεκρίθητε this one, which is common in the N. T. although not attested in secular Greek, yields in the present context the best sense, being especially recommended by the allusion to the “waverer” of 1:6. Cf. Matthew 21:21, Mark 11:23, Romans 14:23, Jam 1:6, and the kindred sense “hesitate” in Acts 10:20, Romans 4:20.

Other interpretations which have been given are classified as follows by Huther, whose elaborate note, as reproduced with additions by Beyschlag, pp. 103 f., should be consulted for the history of the exegesis.

διακρίνεσθαι = (1) separar

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;
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?
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?
But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats?
Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called?
If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well:
But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.
For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.
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.
So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.
For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.
What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?
If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,
And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?
Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
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.
Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.
But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
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.
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 them out another way?
For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
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