James 2:8
If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(8) If ye fulfil the royal law.—Better paraphrased thus, If, however, ye are fulfilling the Law, as ye imagine and profess ye are doing, the royal law, according to the Scripture, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye are doing well; but . . . . Mark the touch of irony in the defence which St. James puts into the mouths of his hearers. It were certainly a sweet proof of neighbourly affection, that exemplified in James 2:3. The “royal,” or “kingly law,” is, of course, God’s, in its highest utterance; and may be taken as an illustration of what a law really consists: viz., a command from a superior, a duty from an inferior, and a sanction or vindication of its authority. There is much confusion of thought, both scientific and theological, with regard to this; were it not so we should hear less of the “laws of nature,” and divers other imaginary codes which the greatest legist of modern times has called “fustian.” The sovereign law of love, thus expressed by the Apostle, is one so plain that the simplest mind may be made its interpreter; and the violation of it is at once clear to the offender.

James 2:8-11. If ye fulfil the royal law — The supreme law of the great King, which is love; and that to every man, poor as well as rich; ye do well — The phrase, νομος βασιλικος, royal law, here admits of three interpretations. 1st, As the Greeks called a thing royal which was excellent in its kind, it may mean an excellent law. 2d, As the same Greeks, having few or no kings among them, called the laws of the kings of Persia, βασιλικοι νομοι, royal laws, the expression here may signify, the law made by Christ our King. 3d, This law, enjoining us to love our neighbour, may be called the royal law, because it inspires us with a greatness of mind, fit for kings, whose greatest glory consists in benevolence and clemency. The law or precept here spoken of was enjoined by Moses, but Christ carried it to such perfection, as it was to be practised among his followers, and laid such stress upon it, that he called it a new commandment, John 13:34; and his commandment, John 15:12. But if ye have respect to persons — In this partial manner, ye commit, εργαζεσθε, ye work, sin — That is, ye do a sinful action; and are convinced — Or rather convicted, by the law, which I have just now mentioned: for that law enjoins you to love your neighbours as yourselves, and consequently to do them justice. For whosoever shall keep the whole law — In every other instance; and yet offend in one point — Knowingly; he is guilty of all — He is liable to condemnation from the lawgiver, as if he had offended in every point. The Jewish doctors affirmed, that by observing any one precept of the law with care, men secured to themselves the favour of God, notwithstanding they neglected all the rest. Wherefore they recommended it to their disciples to make choice of a particular precept, in the keeping of which they were to exercise themselves. Whitby says, they commonly chose either the law of the sabbath, or the law of sacrifice, or the law of tithes, because they esteemed these the great commandments in the law. This corrupt Jewish doctrine St. James here expressly condemns; for he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill — The apostle’s meaning is, that all the commandments being equally enjoined by God, the man who despises the authority of God so far as to break any one of them habitually, would, in the like circumstances of temptation and opportunity, certainly break any other of them; consequently, in the eye of God, he is guilty of breaking the whole law: that is, he hath no real principle of piety or virtue in him.

2:1-13 Those who profess faith in Christ as the Lord of glory, must not respect persons on account of mere outward circumstances and appearances, in a manner not agreeing with their profession of being disciples of the lowly Jesus. St. James does not here encourage rudeness or disorder: civil respect must be paid; but never such as to influence the proceedings of Christians in disposing of the offices of the church of Christ, or in passing the censures of the church, or in any matter of religion. Questioning ourselves is of great use in every part of the holy life. Let us be more frequent in this, and in every thing take occasion to discourse with our souls. As places of worship cannot be built or maintained without expense, it may be proper that those who contribute thereto should be accommodated accordingly; but were all persons more spiritually-minded, the poor would be treated with more attention that usually is the case in worshipping congregations. A lowly state is most favourable for inward peace and for growth in holiness. God would give to all believers riches and honours of this world, if these would do them good, seeing that he has chosen them to be rich in faith, and made them heirs of his kingdom, which he promised to bestow on all who love him. Consider how often riches lead to vice and mischief, and what great reproaches are thrown upon God and religion, by men of wealth, power, and worldly greatness; and it will make this sin appear very sinful and foolish. The Scripture gives as a law, to love our neighbour as ourselves. This law is a royal law, it comes from the King of kings; and if Christians act unjustly, they are convicted by the law as transgressors. To think that our good deeds will atone for our bad deeds, plainly puts us upon looking for another atonement. According to the covenant of works, one breach of any one command brings a man under condemnation, from which no obedience, past, present, or future, can deliver him. This shows us the happiness of those that are in Christ. We may serve him without slavish fear. God's restraints are not a bondage, but our own corruptions are so. The doom passed upon impenitent sinners at last, will be judgment without mercy. But God deems it his glory and joy, to pardon and bless those who might justly be condemned at his tribunal; and his grace teaches those who partake of his mercy, to copy it in their conduct.If ye fulfil the royal law - That is, the law which he immediately mentions requiring us to love our neighbor as ourselves. It is called a "royal law," or kingly law, on account of its excellence or nobleness; not because it is ordained by God as a king, but because it has some such prominence and importance among other laws as a king has among other men; that is, it is majestic, noble, worthy of veneration. It is a law which ought to govern and direct us in all our intercourse with men - as a king rules his subjects.

According to the Scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself - Leviticus 19:18. Compare Matthew 19:19. See it explained by the Saviour, in the parable of the good Samaritan, Luke 10:25-37. In regard to its meaning, see the notes at Matthew 19:19.

Ye do well - That is, "if you fairly comply with the spirit of this law, you do all that is required of you in regulating your intercourse with others. You are to regard all persons as your "neighbors," and are to treat them according to their real worth; you are not to be influenced in judging of them, or in your treatment of them, by their apparel, or their complexion, or the circumstances of their birth, but by the fact that they are fellow-beings." This is another reason why they should not show partiality in their treatment of others, for if, in the true sense, they regarded all others as "neighbors," they would treat no one with neglect or contempt.

8. The Greek may be translated, "If, however, ye fulfil," &c., that is, as Alford, after Estius, explains, "Still I do not say, hate the rich (for their oppressions) and drive them from your assemblies; if you choose to observe the royal law … well and good; but respect of persons is a breach of that law." I think the translation is, "If in very deed (or 'indeed on the one hand') ye fulfil the royal law … ye do well, but if (on the other hand) ye respect persons, ye practice sin." The Jewish Christians boasted of, and rested in, the "law" (Ac 15:1; 21:18-24; Ro 2:17; Ga 2:12). To this the "indeed" alludes. "(Ye rest in the law): If indeed (then) ye fulfil it, ye do well; but if," &c.

royal—the law that is king of all laws, being the sum and essence of the ten commandments. The great King, God, is love; His law is the royal law of love, and that law, like Himself, reigns supreme. He "is no respecter of persons"; therefore to respect persons is at variance with Him and His royal law, which is at once a law of love and of liberty (Jas 2:12). The law is the "whole"; "the (particular) Scripture" (Le 19:18) quoted is a part. To break a part is to break the whole (Jas 2:10).

ye do well—being "blessed in your deed" ("doing," Margin) as a doer, not a forgetful hearer of the law (Jas 1:25).

If ye fulfil; or, perfect; the word signifnies to accomplish perfectly, but no more is meant by it than sincerity in observing the duties of the law in an indifferent respect to one as well as another, which he seems to oppose to their partiality in the law, by respecting some and neglecting others.

The royal law; either the law of God the great King, or Christ the King of saints; or rather, the royal law is the king’s law, i.e. the great law which is the same to all, rich and poor, the common rule by which all are to act, as, the king’s way, Numbers 21:22, i.e. the great plain way in which all are to travel. Here may likewise be a tacit reflection on the servile disposition of these accepters of men’s persons, evil becoming them that pretended to be governed by the royal law, which was to be observed with a more free and king-like spirit.

According to the Scripture: see Matthew 22:39 Galatians 5:14.

Ye do well; ye are not to be blamed, but commended. The apostle seems here to answer an objection they might make in their own defence; that in the respect they gave to rich men, they did but act according to the law which commands us to love our neighbour as ourselves: to this he replies partly in this verse by way of concession, or on supposition; that if the respect they gave to rich men were indeed in obedience to the law of charity, which commands us to love our neighbour as ourselves, then they did well, and he found no fault with them; but the contrary he shows in the next verse.

If ye fulfil the royal law,.... Which is the law of love to men, without distinction of rich and poor, high and low, bond and free; and is so called, because it is the law of the King of kings; hence the Syriac version renders it, "the law of God", it is the law of Christ, who is King of saints; and because it is a principal law, the chief of laws; as love to God is the sum of the first and great commandment in the law, and may be called the king of laws; so love to the neighbour is the second and next unto it, and may very well bear the name of the queen of laws, and so has royalty in it; and indeed this last is said to be the fulfilling of the law, Romans 13:8 and it is also submitted to, and obeyed by such who are made kings and priests to God; and that in a royal manner, with a princely spirit, willingly, and with all readiness: the same word, in the Hebrew language, signifies "princes", and to be willing. The Jews frequently ascribe royalty to the law, and often speak of , "the crown of the law" (w); and they suppose the Israelites had crowns upon their heads, when the law was given them on Mount Sinai, in which were engraven the name of God, and which they were stripped of when they made the golden calf (x): now this royal law is fulfilled, when it is regarded without respect of persons,

according to the Scripture, in Leviticus 19:18

thou shall love thy neighbour as thyself; and which is to be understood of every nation, without distinction of Jews and Gentiles, and of persons of every state and condition, rich and poor, without any difference: and when this law is so observed, it is commendable:

ye do well: that which is right, and which is a man's duty to do; this, when done from right principles, and to a right end, is a good work, and is doing a good work well.

(w) Pirke Abot, c. 4. sect. 13. & Abot R. Nathan, c. 41. T. Bab. Megilla, fol. 28. 2. Bemidbar Rabba, sect. 4. fol. 183. 2. & sect. 14. fol. 215. 2. & Midrash Kohelet, fol. 73. 4. Targum Jon in Deuteronomy 34.5. (x) Vid. Targum. Jon. & Jerus. in Exodus 32.25. & xxxiii. 4.

{4} If ye fulfil the {f} royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well:

(4) The conclusion: charity which God prescribes cannot agree with the respecting of people, seeing that we must walk in the king's highway.

(f) The law is said to be royal and like the king's highway, in that it is simple and without changes, and that the law calls everyone our neighbour without respect, whom we may help by any kind of duty.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Jam 2:8-9. With these verses James meets the attempt which his readers might perhaps make to justify their conduct toward the rich with the law of love; whilst he, granting to them that the fulfilment of that law is something excellent, designates προσωποληπτεῖν directly as a transgression of the law. This explanation, which among ancient expositors, particularly Calvin, Cornelius a Lapide, Laurentius, Hornejus, and among the moderns Hottinger, Theile, Wiesinger have recognised as the correct one, is justified both by the particle μέντοι and by the phrase καλῶς ποιεῖτε.

μέντοι has in the N. T., where besides the Gospel of John it only elsewhere occurs in 2 Timothy 2:19 and Judges 1:8, always the meaning yet, nevertheless; but this meaning is not here suitable, as Jam 2:8 contains no contrast to what goes before.[120] It is therefore to be retained in its original classical meaning, assuredly, certainly, and points out that James grants something to his readers, having, however, in view the contrast which he expresses in the following εἰ δὲ κ.τ.λ.[121] This is also indicated by the expression καλῶς ποιεῖτε (see Jam 2:19), which is evidently too feeble for an earnest enforcement of the law of love. Wiesinger correctly observes that the hypothetical dilemma carries in itself unmistakably an ironical character.[122] James calls the law ἀγαπήσεις κ.τ.λ., which is cited from Leviticus 19:18, νόμον βασιλικόν, because it is the most excellent of all laws, ceterarum legum quasi regina (Knapp; so also Theile, Wiesinger, de Wette, Bouman, and others), inasmuch as all other laws are contained in it; see Romans 13:8-10; Galatians 5:14 (1 Timothy 1:5; Matthew 22:39). It is far-fetched to explain the attribute βασιλικόν, because it was given by God the great King (Raphelius, Wetstein, Wolf, Baumgarten), or by Christ (Grotius), or because it applies to kings (Michaelis), or quia reges facit (Thomas; Lange combines all these explanations); also Calvin’s remark is to be rejected as too artificial: regia lex dicitur, ut via regia, plana scilicet, recta et aequabilis, qui sinuosis diverticulis vel ambagibus tacite opponitur.

νόμος is here (see also Jam 2:9), as in Jeremiah 31:33 (Hebrews 8:10; Hebrews 10:16), used of a single commandment, instead of ἐντολή (which Lange wrongly denies). The expression τελεῖν νόμον is found only here and in Romans 2:27; it is a stronger expression than τηρεῖν νόμον (Jam 2:10).

κατὰ τὴν γραφήν] is not to be combined with βασιλικόν, nor is the mode of τελεῖν thereby stated, but it is the simple formula of citation.

[120] Brückner finds the contrast in love being the reverse of partiality; but μέντοι does not simply express the opposite, but the adversative meaning of the particle in the N. T. is of this nature, that it only occurs when the sharp contrast to an “although” is to be filled up or expressed; it is arbitrary to explain it as equivalent to “on the contrary.”

[121] Some interpreters explain μέντοι here, contrary to linguistic usage, as equivalent to igitur.

[122] When de Wette, against this explanation, says: “How could those blamed appeal to this law for their partiality?” it is to be observed that they seek thereby to justify only their conduct to the rich, by which certainly they leave their conduct to the poor unjustified.

Jam 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, Jam 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.

8. If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture] The Greek gives a particle which is not expressed in the English, “If, however, ye fulfil …” Nothing that the writer has said in disparagement of wealth and the wealthy is to lead men to anything at variance with the great law of love; that law embraces rich and poor alike. The position of the verb in the Greek gives it a special emphasis. The “law” which follows may be called “royal” or “kingly,” either (1) in the sense in which Plato speaks (Minos ii. 566) of a just law as kingly or sovereign, using the same adjective as St James, or (2) as coming from God or Christ as the true King and forming part of the fundamental code of the kingdom. In a Greek writer the first would probably be the thought intended. In one like St James, living in the thought of a Divine kingdom, and believing in Jesus as the King, the latter is more likely to have been prominent. This agrees too more closely with the uniform use of the word in the LXX. in a literal and not a figurative sense. The law which follows, from Leviticus 19:18, had been solemnly affirmed by the true King (Matthew 22:39). One who accepted it in its fulness was ipso facto not far from the Kingdom (Mark 12:34). Believing this to have been the main thought present to St James’s mind, it is yet probable enough that he chose the word so that those who were not as yet believers in Christ might see in the commandment of love, the law of God as the Great King.

ye do well] The words seem to point to those who, like the scribe in Mark 12:32-33, were ready enough to accept the law in theory but shrank from its practical application. We almost trace a tone of irony in the words: “In that case, if you attain a completeness which you never have attained, ye do well.” “Right well,” or “nobly,” or more colloquially “excellent well,” comes closer to the force of the adverb.

Jam 2:8. Νόμον βασιλικὸν, the royal law) which does not allow itself to be enslaved at the will of man; but is itself the law of liberty, Jam 2:12, and the sum of the (ten) commandments, ordering, as it does, that all shall love, and be loved—the greatest law of the Supreme King, who is Love, with whom there is no accepting of persons, and who exalts all His people to liberty and a kingdom, who orders them to avoid the accepting of persons, and has power to punish transgressors. Comp. note on Chrysost. de Sacerdotio, p. 443, respecting the epithet βασιλικὸς, royal.—τελεῖτε, ye fulfil) even by avoiding the respecting of persons.—κατὰ, according to) This word particularises: the law is the whole; that Scripture, thou shalt love, etc., is a part. Comp. Jam 2:10-11.—ἀγαπήσεις, thou shalt love) even in paying honour. The royal law is a law of love:[19] comp. 2 Corinthians 2:8, note.—τὸν πλησίον σοῦ, thy neighbour) even though poor.—καλῶς) excellently, rather than in the sense which is noticed in Jam 2:3 [sit in an honourable place]: comp. Jam 2:19; Jam 2:7.

[19] Thus Luther: die Liebe ist Kayserin.—Love is supreme.

Verse 8 - What is the connection with the foregoing? Μέντοι is ignored altogether by the A.V. Translate, with R.V., howbeit if ye fulfill, etc.; Vulgate, tamen. 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 προσωποληπτεῖν 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.")

(1) 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 βασιλικός). Such an expression is natural enough in a Greek writer; but it is strange in a Jew like St. James (in the LXX. βασιλικός is always used in its literal meaning); and as the "kingdom" has been spoken of just before (ver. 5), it is better

(2) to take the expression as literal here - "the law of the kingdom" (cf. Plumptre, in loc.). Thou shalt love, etc. (Leviticus 19:18). The law had received the sanction of the King himself (Matthew 22:39; Luke 10:26-28). James 2:8Fulfil the royal law (νόμον τελεῖτε βασιλικὸν)

The phrase occurs only here and Romans 2:27. Τελεῖν, fulfil, is stronger than the more common word τηρεῖν, observe or keep, which appears in James 2:10. Compare, also, Matthew 19:17; Matthew 23:3; John 14:15, etc. James here speaks of a single commandment, the proper word for which is ἐντολή, while νόμος is the body of commandments. It is appropriate here, however, since this special commandment sums up the entire law. See Romans 13:10; Galatians 5:14. It is the royal law; the king of all laws.

The phrase royal law is of Roman origin (lex regia). In the kingly period of Roman history it did not signify a law promulgated by the absolute authority of the king, but a law passed by a popular assembly under the presidency of the king. In later times the term was applied to all laws the origin of which was attributed to the time of the kings. Gradually the term came to represent less of the popular will, and to include all the rights and powers which the Roman people had formerly possessed, so that the emperor became what formerly the people had been, sovereign. "It was not," says Gibbon, "before the ideas and even the language of the Romans had been corrupted, that a royal law (lex regia) and an irrevocable gift of the people were created....The pleasure of the emperor, according to Justinian, has the vigor and effect of law, since the Roman people, by the royal law, have transferred to their prince the full extent of their own power and sovereignty. The will of a single man, of a child, perhaps, was allowed to prevail over the wisdom of ages and the inclinations of millions; and the degenerate Greeks were proud to declare that in his hands alone the arbitrary exercise of legislation could be safely deposited" ("Decline and Fall," ch. xliv.).

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