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111

CHAPTER X.
THE CHRISTOLOGY OF ST. JAMES.
THE PRACTICAL UNBELIEF INVOLVED IN SHOWING A WORLDLY RESPECT OF PERSONS IN PUBLIC WORSHIP.

"My brethren, hold not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. For if there come into your synagogue a man with a gold ring, in fine clothing, and there come in also a poor man in vile clothing; and ye have regard to him that weareth the fine clothing, and say, Sit thou here in a good place; and ye say to the poor man, Stand thou there, or sit under my footstool; are ye not divided in your own mind, and become judges with evil thoughts?"—St. James ii. 1-4.

AS has been stated already, in a previous chapter (p. 23), one of Luther's main objections to this Epistle is that it does not "preach and urge Christ." "It teaches Christian people, and yet does not once notice the Passion, the Resurrection, the Spirit of Christ. The writer names Christ a few times; but he teaches nothing of Him, but speaks of general faith in God."

This indictment has been more fully drawn out by a modern writer. "The author's stand-point is Jewish rather than Christian. The ideas are cast in a Jewish mould. The very name of Christ occurs but twice (i. 1; ii. 1), and His atonement is scarcely touched. We see little more than the threshold of the new system. It is the teaching of a Christian Jew, rather than of one who had reached a true apprehension of 112 the essence of Christ's religion. The doctrinal development is imperfect. It is only necessary to read the entire Epistle to perceive the truth of these remarks. In warning his readers against transgression of the law by partiality to individuals, the author adduces Jewish rather than Christian motives (ii. 8-13). The greater part of the third chapter, respecting the government of the tongue, is of the same character, in which Christ's example is not once alluded to, the illustrations being taken from objects in nature. The warning against uncharitable judgment does not refer to Christ, or to God, who puts His Spirit in the hearts of believers, but to the law (iv. 10-12). He who judges his neighbour judges the law. The exhortation to feel and act under constant remembrance of the dependence of our life on God belongs to the same category (iv. 13-17). He that knows good without doing it is earnestly admonished to practise virtue and to avoid self-security, without reference to motives connected with redemption. Job and the Prophets are quoted as examples of patience, not Christ; and the efficacy of prayer is proved by the instance of Elias, without allusion to the Redeemer's promise (v. 17). The Epistle is wound up after the same Jewish fashion, though the opportunity of mentioning Christ, who gave Himself a Sacrifice for sin, presented itself naturally."5353   Davidson, Introduction to the Study of the N.T. vol. i. pp. 327, 328, 2nd ed. (Longmans, 1882).

All this may be admitted, without at all consenting to the conclusion which is drawn from it. Several other considerations must be taken into account before we can form a satisfactory opinion respecting the whole case. Few things are more misleading, in the interpretation of Scripture, than the insisting upon one set of 113 facts and texts, and passing over all that is to be found on the other side. In this manner the most opposite views may be equally proved from Scripture. Universalism and the eschatology of Calvin, Pelagianism and Fatalism, Papalism and Presbyterianism.

First, both logically and chronologically the teaching of St. James precedes that of St. Paul and of St. John. To call it "retrograde" when compared with either of them is to call a child retrograde when compared with a man. St. Paul had to feed his converts with milk before he fed them with meat, and the whole of the congregations addressed by St. James in this letter must have been at a comparatively early stage of development. In some respects even the Mother Church of Jerusalem, from which his letter was written, did not get beyond these early stages. Before it had done so the centre of Christendom had moved from Jerusalem to Antioch; and to Jerusalem it never returned. It was useless to build a structure of doctrine before a foundation of morality had been laid. Advent must come before Christmas, and Lent before Easter. The manifold significance of the great truths of the Incarnation and the Resurrection would not be well appreciated by those who were neglecting some of the plainest principles of the moral law; and to appeal to the sanctions which every Jew from his childhood had been accustomed to regard as final was probably in the long-run more convincing than to remind these converts of the additional sanctions which they had admitted when they entered the Christian Church. Moreover, there are passages in the Epistle which seem to show that St. James at times looks aside to address Jews who are not Christians at all, and it may be that even when He addresses Christian converts he deliberately 114 prefers arguments which would weigh with Jew and Christian alike to those which would appeal to the latter only. Like St. Paul himself, he was willing to become to the Jews a Jew, that he might win the Jews. Besides which, we must allow something for the bias of his own mind. To his death he remained in many respects, not only a saintly shepherd of the Christian Church, but also a Hebrew of Hebrews. He is the last Jewish prophet as well as the first Christian bishop, a Hebrew Rabbi inside the Church; and even if the condition of his readers had not made it desirable to lay much stress upon the Law and the Old Testament, the associations of a lifetime would have led him frequently to those old sources of truth and morality, all the more so as no authoritative Christian literature was as yet in existence. It was part of his mission to help in creating such a literature. He sets one of the first, it may be the very first, of the mystic stones, which, although apparently thrown together without order or connexion, form so harmonious and so complete a whole; and alike in the solidity of its material and in the simplicity of its form this Epistle is well fitted to be one of the first stones in such a building.

But it is easy to go away with an exaggerated view of the so-called deficiencies of this letter as regards distinctly Christian teaching. The passage before us is a strong piece of evidence, and even if it stood alone it would carry us a long way. Moreover, the strength of it is not much affected by the ambiguity of construction which confronts us in the original. It is impossible to say with absolute certainty how the genitive "of glory" (τῆς δόξης) ought to be taken; but the Revisers are possibly right: "Hold not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, (the Lord) of glory, with 115 respect of persons."5454   There is, however, a good deal to be said for Bengel's suggestion, that τῆς δόξης is in apposition with τοῦ κυρίου ἡμ. Ἰ. Χριστοῦ, i.e. "the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, (who is) the Glory." Comp. Luke ii. 32; Eph. i. 7; 1 Peter iv. 14; 2 Peter i. 17; Col. i. 27; John i. 14. See J. B. Mayor's note in the Expositor, Sept., 1889, pp. 225-28. Nor does it much matter whether we take the Greek negative (μὴ ... ἔχετε) as an imperative, "Do not go on holding;" or as an interrogative which expects a negative reply, "Do ye hold?" In any case we have the Divinity of Jesus Christ, and the fact of His being an object of faith to Christians, placed before us in clear language. No mere Jew, and no Ebionite who believed that Jesus was a mere man, could have written thus. And the words with which the Epistle opens are scarcely less marked: "James, of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ a bond-servant." In both passages the title "Lord," which in the Old Testament means Jehovah, is given to Jesus Christ, and in the opening words God and the Lord Jesus are placed side by side as equal. Moreover, St. James, who might have claimed honour as the brother of the Lord, prefers to style himself His bond-servant. He has "known Christ after the flesh," few more closely and intimately, and he knows from experience how little such knowledge avails: "henceforth knows he Him so no more." He who does the will of God is the true brother of the Lord, and it is this kind of relationship to Christ that he wishes to secure for his readers.

Nor do these two passages, in which Jesus Christ is mentioned by name, stand alone. There is the question, "Do not they blaspheme the honourable Name by which ye were called?" The honourable Name, which had been "called upon" them, is that of 116 Christ, and if it can be blasphemed it is a Divine Name (ii. 7). The Second Advent of Christ, "the coming of the Lord," is a thing for which Christians are to wait patiently and longingly (v. 7-9), and the office which He will then discharge is that of the Divine Judge of all mankind. "The coming of the Lord is at hand. Murmur not, brethren, one against another, that ye be not judged: behold, the Judge standeth before the doors" (v. 8, 9).

Nor have we yet exhausted the passages which in this singularly practical and undoctrinal Epistle point clearly to the central doctrine of the Divinity of Christ and His eternal relation to His Church. "Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the Church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the Name of the Lord: and the prayer of faith shall save him that is sick, and the Lord shall raise him up" (v. 14, 15). As in the case of the man healed at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple (Acts iii. 6, 16) it is "in the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, ... whom God raised from the dead, even in this Name," that the sick man is to be restored. And some interpreters (Dorner and Von Soden) think that Christ is included, or even exclusively intended, in "One is the Lawgiver and the Judge" (iv. 12. Comp. v. 9). Thus Liddon: "Especially noteworthy is his assertion that the Lord Jesus Christ, the Judge of men, is not the delegated representative of an absent Majesty, but is Himself the Legislator enforcing His own laws. The Lawgiver, he says, is One Being with the Judge who can save and can destroy; the Son of man, coming in the clouds of heaven, has enacted the law which He thus administers."5555   Bampton Lectures, Lect. VI, p. 433 (Rivingtons, 1867). But without taking into 117 account expressions of which the interpretation is open to doubt, there is quite enough to show us that the Divinity of Jesus Christ, His redeeming death, His abiding power, and His return to judgment are the basis of the moral teaching of St. James, and are never long absent from his thoughts. Expressions, some of which no mere Jew or Ebionite could have used, and others which no such imperfect believer would have been likely to use, abound in this short Epistle, in spite of its simple and practical character.5656   Among these should be included the phrases which St. James uses to indicate the Gospel revelation: "the Word of truth" (i. 18); "the implanted Word" (i. 21); "the perfect law, the law of liberty" (i. 25); "the royal law" (ii. 8).

"My brethren, hold not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons." These words open a new section of the letter, as the renewed address indicates; and although the Epistle is not a set treatise, capable of analysis, but a letter, in which the subjects to be treated are loosely strung together in the order in which they occur to the writer, yet the connexion between the two very different subjects of this section and the preceding one can be traced. The previous section teaches that much hearing is better than much talking, and that much hearing is worthless without corresponding conduct. This section denounces undue respect of persons, and especially of wealthy persons during public worship. The connecting thoughts are religious worship and the treatment of the poor. The conduct which is true devotion is practical benevolence, moral purity, and unworldliness. This conclusion suggests a new subject, worldly respect of persons in public worship. That is the very reverse of pure devotion. To profess 118 one's belief in Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, and at the same time show one's belief in the majesty of mere money, is grievously incongruous. St. James is not making any attack on differences of rank, or asserting that no man is to be honoured above another. He is pointing out that reverence for the wealthy is no part of Christianity, and that such reverence is peculiarly out of place in the house of God, especially when it brings with it a corresponding disregard of the poor.

"If there come into your synagogue." This is one of several improvements which the Revisers have introduced into this passage. The Authorized Version has "assembly," which obscures the fact that the letter is written in those very early days of the Church in which the Jewish Christians still attended the worship of the Temple and the synagogue, or if they had a separate place of worship, spoke of it under the old familiar name. The latter is probably what is meant here. St. James, in writing to Christians, would hardly speak of a Jewish place of worship as "your synagogue," nor would he have rebuked Christians for the way in which different persons were treated in a synagogue of the Jews. The supposition that "the article (τὴν συναγωγὴ ὑμῶν) indicates that the one synagogue of the entire Jewish Christian Dispersion is meant, i.e. their religious community symbolically described by the name of the Jewish place of worship," is quite unfounded, and against the whole context. A typical incident—perhaps something which had actually been witnessed by St. James, or had been reported to him—is made the vehicle of a general principle (comp. i. 11). That the reference is to judicial courts often held in synagogues is also quite gratuitous, and 119 destroys the contrast between "pure religion" and worldly respect of persons in public worship.

Another improvement introduced by the Revisers is a uniform translation of the word (ἐσθής) capriciously rendered "apparel," "raiment," and "clothing." Only one word is used in the Greek, and it is misleading to use three different words in English. By a quaint misuse of the very passage before us, the translators of 1611 defend their want of precision in such matters, and avow that in many cases precision was deliberately sacrificed to variety and to a wish to honour as many English words as possible by giving them a place in the Bible! In ordinary copies of the Authorized Version the Address to King James is commonly given, the far more instructive Address to the Reader never. Near the close of it the translators say as follows:—

"Another thing we think good to admonish thee of (gentle Reader) that we have not tied ourselves to an uniformity of phrasing, or to an identity of words, as some peradventure would wish we had done, because they observe, that some learned men some where, have been as exact as they could that way. Truly, that we might not vary from the sense of that which we had translated before, if the word signified the same thing in both places (for there be some words that be not of the same sense every where) we were especially careful, and made a conscience, according to our duty. But, that we should express the same notion in the same particular word; as for example, if we translate the Hebrew or Greek word once by Purpose, never to call it Intent; if one where Journeying, never Travelling; if one where Think, never Suppose; if one where Pain, never Ache; if one where Joy, never Gladness, etc. Thus to mince the matter, we thought to savour more of 120 curiosity than wisdom, and that rather it would breed scorn in the Atheist, than bring profit to the godly Reader. For is the kingdom of God become words or syllables? why should we be in bondage to them if we may be free, use one precisely, when we may use another no less fit, as commodiously? A godly Father in the primitive time shewed himself greatly moved, that one of new-fangleness called κράββατοω σκίμπους though the difference be little or none (Niceph. Call. viii. 42); and another reporteth, that he was much abused for turning Cucurbita (to which reading the people had been used) into Hedera (Jerome in iv. Jonæ. See S. Augustine, Epist. 71). Now if this happen in better times, and upon so small occasions, we might justly fear hard censure, if generally we should make verbal and unnecessary changings. We might also be charged (by scoffers) with some unequal dealing towards a great number of good English words. For as it is written of a certain great Philosopher, that he should say, that those logs were happy that were made images to be worshipped; for their fellows, as good as they, lay for blocks behind the fire: so if we should say, as it were, unto certain words, Stand up higher, have a place in the Bible always, and to others of a like quality, Get ye hence, be banished for ever, we might be taxed peradventure with S. James his words, namely, To be partial in our selves and judges of evil thoughts."5757   From the Exact Reprint Page for Page of the A.V. published in the Year MDCXI. (Oxford, 1833). See also Trench On the A.V. of the N.T., pp. 83-101, and Lightfoot On a Fresh Revision of the N.T., pp. 33-59, for some excellent remarks on the harm done by making differences in the English where there is no difference in the Greek. In the present passage, besides the threefold translation of ἐσθής, there is a double translation of λαμπρός ("goodly apparel" and "gay clothing"), and also of εἰσέλθῃ ("come" and "come in"). In 1 John ii. 24 we have the same word (μένειν) translated in three different ways ("abide," "remain," "continue") in the same verse, entirely destroying the effect of St. John's impressive repetition.

In the passage before us the repetition of one and 121 the same word for "clothing" is possibly not accidental. The repetition accentuates the fact that such a thing as clothing is allowed to be the measure of a man's merit. The rich man is neither the better nor the worse for his fine clothes, the poor man neither the better nor the worse for his shabby clothes. The error lies in supposing that such distinctions have anything to do with religion, or ought to be recognized in public worship; and still more in supposing that any one, whether rich or poor, may at such a time be treated with contumely.

"Are ye not divided in your own mind, and become judges with evil thoughts?" Here, as in the first verse, there is a doubt whether the sentence is an interrogation or not. In the former case the meaning is the same, whichever way we take it; for a question which implies a negative answer (μή interrogative) is equivalent to a prohibition. In the present case the meaning will be affected if we consider the sentence to be a statement of fact, and the number of translations which have been suggested is very large. In both cases we may safely follow the Vulgate and all English versions in making the first verse a prohibition, and the fourth a question. "Are ye not divided in your own mind?" Or more literally, "Did ye not doubt in yourselves?" i.e. on the typical occasion mentioned. At the outset St. James says, "Hold not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ with respect of persons." But the conduct described respecting the treatment of the gold-ringed man and the squalidly clothed man shows 122 that they do have respect of persons in their religion, and that shows that genuine faith in Christ is wanting. Such behaviour proves that they doubt in themselves. They are not single-hearted believers in the Lord Jesus, but double-minded doubters (i. 6, 7), trying to make the best of both worlds, and to serve God and Mammon.

The word rendered "doubt" (διακρίνεσθαι) may mean "distinguish:" "Do ye not make distinctions among yourselves?" It is so taken by Renan (L'Antéchrist, p. 49) and others. This makes sense, but it is rather obvious sense; for of course to give a rich man a good place, and a poor man a bad one, is making distinctions. It seems better to adhere to the meaning which the word certainly has in the preceding chapter (i. 6), as well as elsewhere in the New Testament (Matt. xxi. 21; Mark xi. 23; Acts x. 20; Rom. iv. 20; xiv. 23), and understand it as referring to the want of faith in Christ and in His teaching which was displayed in a worldly preference for the rich over the poor, even in those services in which His words were to be taught and His person adored.

"Judges with evil thoughts" is an improvement on the more literal but misleading "judges of evil thoughts" (κριταὶ διαλογισμῶν ποωηρὼν). The meaning of the genitive case is that the evil thoughts characterize the judges, as in such common phrases as "men of evil habits," "judges of remarkable severity" (see above on "hearers of forgetfulness," p. 108). The word for "thoughts" is one which in itself suggests evil, even without any epithet. It is the word used of the reasonings of the Pharisees, when they taxed our Lord with blasphemy for forgiving sins (Luke v. 22. Comp. xxiv. 38). St. Paul uses it of those who are "vain in their 123 reasonings" (Rom. i. 21; 1 Cor. iii. 20), and couples with it "murmurings" (Phil. ii. 14) as congenial company. Those men who, even while engaged in the public worship of God, set themselves up as judges to honour the rich and condemn the poor, were not holding the faith of Jesus Christ, but were full of evil doubts, questionings, and distrust.


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