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1. Have (ecete). Rev., hold, not in the sense of hold fast, cleave to, but of possessing, occupying, and practicing, as a matter of habit. Thus we say that a man holds his property by a certain tenure. A rented estate is a holding. So of an opinion, or set of opinions, with which one is publicly identified. We say that he holds thus and so.
With respect of persons (en proswpolhmyiaiv). From proswpon, the countenance, and lambanw, to receive. To receive the countenance is a Hebrew phrase. Thus Lev. xix. 15 (Sept.): Ouj lhyh proswpon ptwcou: Thou shalt not respect the person (receive the countenance) of the poor. Compare Luke xx. 21; Rom. ii. 11; and Jude 16.
2. Assembly (sunagwghn). The word synagogue is a transcript of this. From sun, together, and agw, to bring. Hence, literally, a gathering or congregation, in which sense the word is common in the Septuagint, not only of assemblies for worship, but of gatherings for other public purposes. From the meeting itself the transition is easy to the place of meeting, the synagogue; and in this sense the term is used throughout the New Testament, with the following exceptions: In Acts xiii. 43, it is rendered congregation by the A.V., though Rev. gives synagogue; and in Apoc. ii. 9; iii. 9, the unbelieving Jews, as a body, are called synagogue of Satan. As a designation of a distinctively Jewish assembly or place of worship it was more sharply emphasized by the adoption of the word ejkklhsia, ecclesia, to denote the Christian church. In this passage alone the word is distinctly applied to a Christian assembly or place of worship. The simplest explanation appears to be that the word designates the place of meeting for the Christian body, James using the word most familiar to the Jewish Christians; an explanation which receives countenance from the fact that, as Huther observes, "the Jewish Christians regarded themselves as still an integral part of the Jewish nation, as the chosen people of God." As such a portion they had their special synagogue. From Acts vi. 9, we learn that there were numerous synagogues in Jerusalem, representing different bodies, such as the descendants of Jewish freedmen at Rome, and the Alexandrian or Hellenistic Jews. Among these would be the synagogue of the Christians, and such would be the case in all large cities where the dispersed Jews congregated. Alford quotes a phrase from the "Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs:" the synagogue of the Gentiles. Compare Heb. x. 25, "the assembling together (episunagwghn) of yourselves."
With a gold ring (crusodaktuliov). Only here in New Testament. Not a man wearing a single gold ring (as A.V. and Rev.), which would not attract attention in an assembly where most persons wore a ring, but a gold-ringed man, having his hands conspicuously loaded with rings and jewels. The ring was regarded as an indispensable article of a Hebrew's attire, since it contained his signet; and the name of the ring, tabbath, was derived from a root signifying to impress a seal. It was a proverbial expression for a most valued object. See Isa. xxii. 24; Hag. ii. 23. The Greeks and Romans wore them in great profusion. Hannibal, after the battle of Cannae, sent as a trophy to Carthage, three bushels of gold rings from the fingers of the Roman knights slain in battle. To wear rings on the right hand was regarded as a mark of effeminacy; but they were worn profusely on the left. Martial says of one Charinus that he wore six on each finger, and never laid them aside, either at night or when bathing. The fops had rings of different sizes for summer and winter. Aristophanes distinguishes between the populace and those who wear rings, and in his comedy of "The Clouds" uses the formidable word sfragidonucargokomhtai, lazy, long-haired fops, with rings and well-trimmed nails. Demosthenes was so conspicuous for this kind of ornament that, at a time of public disaster, it was stigmatized as unbecoming vanity. Frequent mention is made of their enormous cost. They were of gold and silver, sometimes of both; sometimes of iron inlaid with gold. The possible beauty of these latter will be appreciated by those who have seen the elegant gold and iron jewelry made at Toledo, in Spain. Sometimes they were of amber, ivory, or porcelain. The practice of wearing rings was adopted by the early Christians. Many of their rings were adorned with the symbols of the faith - the cross, the anchor, the monogram of Christ, etc. Among the rings found in the catacombs are some with a key, and some with both a key and a seal, for both locking and sealing a casket.
4. Are ye not partial in yourselves? (ou diekriqhte en eautoiv). Wrong. The constant sense of the verb in the New Testament is doubt, except Acts xi. 2; Jude 9, where it means dispute. Compare ch. i. 6. The meaning here is, therefore, that, in making a distinction between the rich and the poor, they expressed a doubt concerning the faith which they professed, and which abolished such distinctions. Hence, Rev., rightly, Are ye not divided in your own mind?
Judges of evil thoughts (kritiai dialogismwn ponhrwn). Better, as Rev., "judges with evil thoughts." The form of expression is the same as in Luke xviii. 6, krithv thv ajdikiav, the judge of injustice, i.e., the unjust judge. So Jas. i. 25, a hearer of forgetfulness. The word thoughts is, rather, reasonings. See on deceiving yourselves (ch. i. 22). Compare Luke v. 21. Their evil processes of thought lead to these unjust discriminations.
5. Hearken, my beloved brethren. Alford cites this phrase as one of the very few links which connect this epistle with the speech of Jas. in Acts xv. 13.
The poor of this world (touv ptwcouv tou kosmou). But the correct reading is tw kosmw, to the world; and the expression is to be explained in the same way as ajsteiov tw Qew, fair unto God, Acts vii. 20, and dunata tw Qew, mighty through (Rev., before) God, 2 Cor. x. 4. So Rev., poor as to the world, in the world's esteem. Poor, see on Matt. v. 3. Rich in faith. The Rev., properly, inserts to be, since the words are not in apposition with poor, but express the object for which God has chosen them. Faith is not the quality in which they are to be rich, but the sphere or element; rich in their position as believers. "Not the measure of faith, in virtue of which one man is richer than another, is before the writer's mind, but the substance of the faith, by virtue of which every believer is rich" (Wiesinger, cited by Alford).
6. Despised (htimasate). Not strong enough. They had manifested their contempt; had done despite to them. Rev., correctly, dishonored. From the use of the aorist tense, ye dishonored, which the A.V. and Rev. render as a perfect, ye have dishonored, the reference would appear to be to a specific act like that described in vv. 2, 3.
Oppress (katadunasteuousin). Only here and Acts x. 38. The preposition kata, against, implies a power exercised for harm. Compare being lords over, 1 Pet. v. 3, and exercise dominion, Matt. xx. 25, both compounded with this preposition.
Draw (elkousin). Not strong enough. The word implies violence. Hence, better, as Rev., drag. Compare Livy's phrase, "a lictoribus trahi, to be dragged by the lictors to judgment;" Acts viii. 3, of Saul haling or hauling men and women to prison; and Luke xii. 58.
Judgment-seats (krithria). Only here and 1 Cor. vi. 24.
7. They (autoi). Emphatic. "Is it not they who blaspheme?" Worthy (kalon). Rev., better, because stronger, honorable. By this epithet the disgracefulness of the blasphemy is emphasized.
By the which ye are called (to epiklhqen ef umav). Lit., which is called upon you; the name of Christ, invoked in baptism. The phrase is an Old-Testament one. See Deut. xxviii. 10, where the Septuagint reads that the name of the Lord has been called upon thee. Also, 2 Chronicles vii. 14; Isa. iv. 1. Compare Acts xv. 17.
8. Fulfill the royal law (nomon teleite basilikon). The phrase occurs only here and Rom. ii. 27. Telein, fulfill, is stronger than the more common word threin, observe or keep, which appears in ver. 10.
Compare, also, Matt. xix. 17; xxiii. 3; John xiv. 15, etc. James here speaks of a single commandment, the proper word for which is ejntolh, while nomov is the body of commandments. It is appropriate here, however, since this special commandment sums up the entire law. See Romans xiii. 10; Gal. v. 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.).
9. Ye have respect to persons (proswpolhmpteite). Only here in New Testament. See on ver. 1.
Ye commit sin (amartian ergazesqe). Lit., "work sin." Compare Matt. vii. 23; Acts x. 35; Heb. xi. 33. The phrase is rather stronger than the more common aJmartian poiein, to do sin, John viii. 34; James v. 15; 1 Pet. ii. 29. The position of sin is emphatic: "it is sin that ye are working."
And are convinced (elegcomenoi). Rather, as Rev., convicted. The word, which is variously rendered in A.V. tell a fault, reprove, rebuke, convince, while it carries the idea of rebuke, implies also a rebuke which produces a conviction of the error or sin. See on John viii. 46. Compare John iii. 20; viii. 9; 1 Corinthians xiv. 24, 25.
10. Keep (thrhsh). See on ver. 8.
Offend (ptaish). Lit., as Rev., stumble.
He is guilty (gegonen enocov). Lit., he is become guilty. Enocov, guilty, is, strictly, holden; within the condemning power of. Compare Matthew xxvi. 66; Mark iii. 29; 1 Cor. xi. 27. Huther cites a Talmudic parallel: "But if he perform all, but omit one, he is guilty of every single one."
11. A transgressor (parabathv). From para, beyond, and bainw, to go. A transgressor, therefore, is one who goes beyond the line. So, also, trespass, which is trespass, from the Latin trans, across, and passus, a step. A similar word occurs in Homer, uJperbasia, a transgression or trespass, from uJper, over, and bainw, to go.
12. So. With reference to what follows, speak and do.
13. He shall have judgment without mercy that hath shewed no mercy (h gar krisiv anilewv tw mh poihsanti eleov). Lit., as Rev., judgment is without mercy to him that hath shewed no mercy. Both A.V. and Rev. omit the article "the judgment," that, namely, which is coming. Hath shewed, or, lit., shewed (aorist tense). The writer puts himself at the stand-point of the judgment, and looks backward.
Rejoiceth (katakaucatai). The simple verb kaucaomai means to speak loud, to be loud-tongued; hence, to boast. Better, therefore, as Rev., glorieth. Judgment and mercy are personified. While judgment threatens condemnation, mercy interposes and prevails over judgment. "Mercy is clothed with the divine glory, and stands by the throne of God. When we are in danger of being condemned, she rises up and pleads for us, and covers us with her defense, and enfolds us with her wings" (Chrysostom, cited by Gloag).
14. What doth it profit? (ti to ofelov). Lit., what is the profit? Ofelov, profit, only here, ver. 16, and 1 Cor. xv. 32.
15. Be (uparcwsin). The distinction between this word and the simple einai, to be, is very subtle. The verb uJparcw originally means to make a beginning; hence, to begin or to come into being; and, though used substantially as a synonym of einai, of a thing actually existing and at hand, it has a backward look to an antecedent condition which has been protracted into the present. Thus we might paraphrase here, "If a brother or sister, having been in a destitute condition, be found by you in that condition." Einai, on the other hand, would simply state the present fact of destitution. See on 2 Pet. i. 8.
Destitute (leipomenoi). Lit., left behind; and hence lacking, as Rev. Compare ch. i. 4, 5. This usage of the word occurs in James only.
Daily (efhmerou). Only here in New Testament.
Those things which are needful (ta epithdeia). Only here in New Testament.
18. Without (cwriv). Rev., more literally, apart from.
And I will shew thee, etc. The Rev. brings out the antithesis more sharply by keeping more closely to the Greek order: I by my works will shew, etc.
19. Tremble (frissousin). Only here in New Testament. It means, originally, to be rough on the surface; to bristle. Hence, used of the fields with ears of corn; of a line of battle bristling with shields and spears; of a silver or golden vessel rough with embossed gold. Aeschylus, describing a crowd holding up their hands to vote, says, the air bristled with right hands. Hence, of a horror which makes the hair stand on end and contracts the surface of the skin making "gooseflesh." Rev., much better, shudder.
20. Vain (kene). Lit., empty, without spiritual life.
21. When he had offered (anenegkav). Incorrect. For the participle states the ground of his justification. By works gives the general ground; offered, etc., the specific work. Compare Gen. xxii. 16, 17. Rev., correctly, in that he offered. The word ajnenegkav is, lit., brought up to; and means, not actually to offer up in sacrifice (though Isaac was morally sacrificed in Abraham's will), but to bring to the altar as an offering. See on 1 Pet. ii. 5.
22. Wrought with his works (sunhrgei toiv ergoiv). There is a play on the words in the Greek: worked with his works.
23. Was fulfilled (eplhrwqh). Not was confirmed, which the word does not mean either in New-Testament or in classical usage, but was actually and fully realized. James here uses the formula which in the Old Testament is employed of the realizing of a former utterance. See 1 Kings ii. 27; 2 Chronicles xxxvi. 22 (Sept.).
Imputed (elogisqh). Lit., as Rev., reckoned.
He was called the friend of God. The term, however, does not occur either in the Hebrew or Septuagint, though it is found in the A.V. and retained in Rev. Old Testament. In 2 Chron. xx. 7 (Sept.), thy friend tw hjgaphmenw, thy beloved. In Isa. xli. 8 (Sept.), my friend is on hjgaphsa whom I loved. "The friend of God" is still the favorite title of Abraham among the Jews and Mohammedans.
"Thou fain wouldst know who is within this light That here beside me thus is scintillating, Even as a sunbeam in the limpid water. Then know thou, that within there is at rest Rahab, and being to our order joined, With her in its supremest grade 'tis sealed. First of Christ's Triumph was she taken up. Full meet it was to leave her in some heaven, Even as a palm of the high victory Which he acquired with one palm and the other, Because she favored the first glorious deed Of Joshua upon the Holy Land."
Paradise, ix., 112-125.
Rahab became the wife of Salmon, and the ancestress of Boaz, Jesse's grandfather. Some have supposed that Salmon was one of the spies whose life she saved. At any rate, she became the mother of the line of David and of Christ, and is so recorded in Matthew's genealogy of our Lord, in which only four women are named. There is a peculiar significance in this selection of Rahab with Abraham as an example of faith, by James the Lord's brother.
26. Works (twn ergwn). Note the article: the works belonging or corresponding to faith; its works.