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149

CHAPTER XIII.
THE FAITH OF THE DEMONS; THE FAITH OF ABRAHAM;
AND THE FAITH OF RAHAB THE HARLOT.

"Thou believest that God is One; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and shudder."

"Was not Abraham our father justified by works, in that he offered up Isaac his son upon the altar?"

"And in like manner was not also Rahab the harlot justified by works, in that she received the messengers, and sent them out another way?"—St. James ii. 19, 21, 25.

In the preceding chapter several points of great interest were passed over, in order not to obscure the main issue as to the relation of this passage to the teaching of St. Paul. Some of these may now be usefully considered.

Throughout this volume, as in the companion volume on the Pastoral Epistles and other volumes for which the present writer is in no way responsible, the Revised Version has been taken as the basis of the expositions. There may be reasonable difference of opinion as to its superiority to the Authorized Version for public reading in the services of the Church, but few unprejudiced persons would deny its superiority for purposes of private study and both private and public exposition. Its superiority lies not so much in happy treatment of difficult texts, as in the correction of a 150 great many small errors of translation, and above all in the substitution of a great many true or probable readings for others that are false or improbable. And while there are not a few cases in which there is plenty of room for doubt whether the change, even if clearly a gain in accuracy, was worth making, there are also some in which the uninitiated student wonders why no change was made. The passage before us contains a remarkable instance. Why has the word "devils" been retained as the rendering of δαιμόνια, while "demons" is relegated to the margin?

There are two Greek words, very different from one another in origin and history, which are used both in the Septuagint and in the New Testament to express the unseen and spiritual powers of evil. These are διάβολος and δαιμόνιον, or in one place δαίμων (Matt. xlii. 31; not Mark v. 12, or Luke vii. 29, or Rev. xvi. 14 and xviii. 2). The Scriptural usage of these two words is quite distinct and very marked. Excepting where it is used as an adjective (John vi. 70; 1 Tim. iii. 11; 2 Tim. iii. 3; Titus ii. 3), διάβολος is one of the names of Satan, the great enemy of God and of men, and the prince of the spirits of evil. It is so used in the Books of Job and of Zechariah, as well as in Wisdom ii. 24, and also throughout the New Testament, viz. in the Gospels and Acts, the Catholic and Pauline Epistles, and the Apocalypse. It is, in fact, a proper name, and is applied to one person only. It commonly, but not invariably (1 Chron. xxi. 1; Ps. cviii. [cix.] 5) has the definite article. The word δαιμόνιον, on the other hand, is used of those evil spirits who are the messengers and ministers of Satan. It is thus used in Isaiah, the Psalms, Tobit, Baruch, and throughout the New Testament. It is used also of the false gods of the 151 heathen, which were believed to be evil spirits, or at least the productions of evil spirits, who are the inspirers of idolatry; whereas Satan is never identified with any heathen divinity. Those who worship false gods are said to worship "demons," but never to worship "the devil." Neither in the Old Testament nor in the New are the two words ever interchanged. Satan is never spoken of as a δαίμων or δαιμόνιον, and his ministers are never called διάβολοι. Is it not a calamity that this very marked distinction should be obliterated in the English Version by translating both Greek words by the word "devil," especially when there is another word which, as the margin admits, might have been used for one of them? The Revisers have done immense service by distinguishing between Hades, the abode of departed spirits of men, and Hell or Gehenna, the place of punishment (iii. 6). Why did they reject a similar opportunity by refusing to distinguish the devil from the demons over whom he reigns? This is one of the suggestions of the American Committee which might have been followed with great advantage and (so far as one sees) no loss.

St. James has just been pointing out the advantage which the Christian who has works to show has over one who has only faith. The one can prove that he possesses both; the other cannot prove that he possesses either. The works of the one are evidence that the faith is there also, just as leaves and fruit are evidence that a tree is alive. But the other, who possesses only faith, cannot prove that he possesses even that. He says that he believes, and we may believe his statement; but if any one doubts or denies the truth of his profession of faith he is helpless. Just as a leafless and fruitless tree may be alive; but 152 who is to be sure of this? We must note, however, that in this case the statement is not doubted. "Thou hast faith, and I have works;" the possibility of possessing faith without works is not disputed. And again, "Thou believest that God is One;" the orthodox character of the man's creed is not called in question. This shows that there is no emphasis on "say" in the opening verse, "If a man say he hath faith, but have not works;" as if such a profession were incredible (see p. 137). And this remains equally true if, with some of the best editors, we turn the statement of the man's faith into a question, "Dost thou believe that God is One?" For "Thou doest well" shows that the man's orthodoxy is not questioned. The object of St. James is not to prove that the man is a hypocrite, and that his professions are false; but that, on his own showing, he is in a miserable condition. He may plume himself upon the correctness of his Theism; but as far as that goes, he is no better than the demons, to whom this article of faith is a source, not of joy and strength, but of horror.

It is most improbable that, if he had been alluding to the teaching of St. Paul, St. James would have selected the Unity of the Godhead as the article of faith held by the barren Christian. He would have taken faith in Christ as his example. But in writing to Jewish Christians, without any such allusion, the selection is very natural. The Monotheism of his creed, in contrast with the foolish "gods many, and lords many," of the heathen, was to the Jew a matter of religious and national pride. He gloried in his intellectual and spiritual superiority to those who could believe in a plurality of deities. And there was nothing in Christianity to make him think less highly of this 153 supreme article of faith. Hence, when St. James desires to give an example of the faith on which a Jewish Christian, who had sunk into a dead formalism, would be most likely to rely, he selects this article, common to both the Jewish and the Christian creed, "I believe that God is One." "Thou doest well" is the calm reply; and then follows the sarcastic addition, "The demons also believe—and shudder."

Is St. James here alluding to the belief mentioned above, that the gods of the heathen are demons? They, of all evil spirits, might be supposed to know most about the Unity of God, and to have most to fear in reference to it. "They sacrificed unto demons, which were no God," we read in Deuteronomy (xxxii. 17). And again, in the Psalms, "They sacrificed their sons and their daughters unto demons" (cvi. 37. Comp. xcvi. 5). In these passages the Greek word δαιμόνια represents the Elilim or Shedim, the nonenities who were allowed to usurp the place of Jehovah.6565   Döllinger, The Gentile and the Jew, II., pp. 384, 386, Eng. Tr., Heidenthum und Judenthum, pp. 825, 827. And St. Paul affirms, "That the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons, and not to God" (1 Cor. x. 20). It is quite possible, therefore, that St. James is thinking of demons as objects of idolatrous worship, or at any rate as seducing people into such worship, when he speaks of the demons' belief in the Unity of God.

But a suggestion which Bede makes, and which several modern commentators have followed, is well worth considering. St. James may be thinking of the demons which possessed human beings, rather than those which received or promoted idolatrous worship. 154 Bede reminds us of the many demons who went out at Christ's command, crying out that He was the Son of God, and especially of the man with the legion among the Gadarenes, who expressed not only belief, but horror: "What have I to do with Thee, Jesus, Son of the most high God? I adjure Thee by God, that Thou torment me not." Without falling into the error of supposing that demons can mean demoniacs, we may imagine how readily one who had witnessed such scenes as those recorded in the Gospels might attribute to the demons the expressions of horror which he had heard in the words and seen on the faces of those whom demons possessed. Such expressions were the usual effect of being confronted by the Divine presence and power of Christ, and were evidence both of a belief in God and of a dread of Him. St. James, who was then living with the Mother of the Lord, and sometimes followed His Divine Brother in His wanderings, would be almost certain to have been a witness of some of these healings of demoniacs. And it is worth noting that the word which in the Authorized Version is rendered "tremble," and in the Revised "shudder" (φρίσσειν), expresses physical horror, especially as it affects the hair; and in itself it implies a body, and would be an inappropriate word to use of the fear felt by a purely spiritual being. It occurs nowhere else in the New Testament; but in the Septuagint we find it used in the Book of Job: "Then a spirit passed before my face; the hair of my flesh stood up" (iv. 15). It is a stronger word than either "fear" or "tremble," and strictly speaking can be used only of men and other animals.

This horror, then, expressed by the demons through the bodies of those whom they possess, is evidence 155 enough of faith. Can faith such as that save any one? Is it not obvious that a faith which produces, not works of love, but the strongest expressions of fear, is not a faith on which any one can rely for his salvation? And yet the faith of those who refuse to do good works, because they hold that their faith is sufficient to save them, is no better than the faith of the demons. Indeed, in some respects it is worse. For the sincerity of the demons' faith cannot be doubted; their terror is proof of it: whereas the formal Christian has nothing but cold professions to offer. Moreover, the demons are under no self-delusion; they know their own terrible condition. For the formalist who accepts Christian truth and neglects Christian practice there is a dreadful awakening in store. There will come a time when "believe and shudder" will be true also of him. "But, before it is too late, willest thou to get to know, O vain man, that faith apart from works is barren?"

"Wilt thou know" does not do justice to the full meaning of the Greek (θέλεισ γνῶναι). The meaning is not, "I would have you know," but, "Do you wish to have acquired the knowledge?" You profess to know God and to believe in Him; do you desire to know what faith in Him really means? "O vain man" is literally, "O empty man," i.e. empty-headed, empty-handed, and empty-hearted. Empty-headed, in being so deluded as to suppose that a dead faith can save; empty-handed, in being devoid of true spiritual riches; empty-hearted, in having no real love either for God or man. The epithet seems to be the equivalent of Raca, the term of contempt quoted by our Lord as the expression of that angry spirit which is akin to murder (Matt. v. 22). The use of it by St. James may be taken as an indication that the primitive Church 156 saw that the commands in the Sermon on the Mount are not rules to be obeyed literally, but illustrations of principles. The sin lies not so much in the precise term of reproach which is employed as in the spirit and temper which are felt and displayed in the employment of it. The change from "dead" (A.V.) to "barren" (R.V.) is not a change of translation, but of reading (νεκρά to ἀργή), the latter term meaning "workless, idle, unproductive" (Matt. xx. 3, 6; 1 Tim. v. 13; Titus i. 12; 2 Peter i. 8). Aristotle (Nic. Eth., I. vii. 11) asks whether it is likely that every member of a man's body should have a function or work (ἔργον) to perform, and that man as a whole should be functionless (ἀργός). Would nature have produced such a vain contradiction? We should reproduce the spirit of St. James's pointed interrogation if we rendered "that faith without fruits is fruitless."

In contrast with this barren faith, which makes a man's spiritual condition no better than that of the demons, St. James places two conspicuous instances of living and fruitful faith—Abraham and Rahab. The case of "Abraham our father" would be the first that would occur to every Jew. As the passages in the Apocrypha (Wisdom x. 5; Ecclus. xliv. 20; 1 Macc. ii. 52) prove, Abraham's faith was a subject of frequent discussion among the Jews, and this fact is quite enough to account for its mention by St. James, St. Paul (Rom. iv. 3; Gal. iii. 6), and the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews (xi. 17), without supposing that any one of them had seen the writings of the others. Certainly there is no proof that the writer of this Epistle is the borrower, if there is borrowing on either side. It is urged that between the authors of this Epistle and that to the Hebrews there must be 157 dependence on one side or the other, because each selects not only Abraham, but Rahab, as an example of faith; and Rahab is so strange an example that it is unlikely that two writers would have selected it independently. There is force in the argument, but less than at first sight appears. The presence of Rahab's name in the genealogy of the Christ (Matt. i. 5), in which so few women are mentioned, must have given thoughtful persons food for reflexion. Why was such a woman singled out for such distinction? The answer to this question cannot be given with certainty. But whatever caused her to be mentioned in the genealogy may also have caused her to be mentioned by St. James and the writer of Hebrews; or the fact of her being in the genealogy may have suggested her to the authors of these two Epistles. This latter alternative does not necessarily imply that these two writers were acquainted with the written Gospel of St. Matthew, which was perhaps not in existence when they wrote. The genealogy, at any rate, was in existence, for St. Matthew no doubt copied it from official or family registers. Assuming, however, that it is not a mere coincidence that both writers use Abraham and Rahab as examples of fruitful faith, it is altogether arbitrary to decide that the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews wrote first. The probabilities are the other way. Had St. James known that Epistle, he would have made more use of it.

The two examples are in many respects very different. Their resemblance consists in this, that in both cases faith found expression in action, and this action was the source of the believer's deliverance. The case of Abraham, which St. Paul uses to prove the worthlessness of "works of the law" in comparison 158 with a living faith, is used by St. James to prove the worthlessness of a dead faith in comparison with works of love which are evidence that there is a living faith behind them. But it should be noticed that a different episode in Abraham's life is taken in each Epistle, and this is a further reason for believing that neither writer refers to the other. St. Paul appeals to Abraham's faith in believing that he should have a son when he was a hundred, and Sarah ninety years of age (Rom. iv. 19). St. James appeals to Abraham's faith in offering up Isaac, when there seemed to be no possibility of the Divine promise being fulfilled if Isaac was slain. The latter required more faith than the former, and was much more distinctly an act of faith; a work, or series of works, that would never have been accomplished if there had not been a very vigorous faith to inspire and support the doer. The result (ἐξ ἔργων) was that Abraham was "justified," i.e. he was accounted righteous, and the reward of his faith was with still greater solemnity and fulness than on the first occasion (Gen. xv. 4-6) promised to him: "By Myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son; that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea-shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed My voice" (Gen. xxii. 16-18).

With the expression "was justified as a result of works" (ἐξ ἔργων ἐδικαιώθη), which is used both of Abraham and of Rahab, should be compared our Lord's saying, "By thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned" (Matt. xii. 37), 159 which are of exactly the same form; literally, "As a result of thy words thou shalt be accounted righteous, and as a result of thy words thou shalt be condemned" (ἐκ τῶν λόγων σου δικαιωθήσῃ, καὶ ἐκ τῶν λόγων σου καταδικασθήσῃ); that is, it is from the consideration of the words in the one case, and of the works in the other, that the sentence of approval proceeds; they are the source of the justification. Of course from the point of view taken by St. James words are "works;" good words spoken for the love of God are quite as much fruits of faith and evidence of faith as good deeds. It is not impossible that his phrase is an echo of expressions which he had heard used by Christ.

That the words rendered "offered up Isaac his son upon the altar" really mean this, and not merely "brought Isaac his son as a victim up to the altar," is clear from other passages where the same phrase (ἀναφέρειν ἐπὶ τὸ θυσιαστήριον) occurs. Noah "offering burnt offerings on the altar" (Gen. viii. 20) and Christ "offering our sins on the tree" (1 Pet. ii. 24) might be interpreted either way, although the bringing up to the altar and to the tree does not seem so natural as the offering on them. But a passage in Leviticus about the offerings of the leper is quite decisive: "Afterward he shall kill the burnt offering: and the priest shall offer the burnt offering and the meal offering upon the altar" (xiv. 19, 20). It would be very unnatural to speak of bringing the victim up to the altar after it had been slain. (Comp. Baruch i. 10; 1 Macc. iv. 53.) The Vulgate, Luther, Beza, and all English versions agreed in this translation; and it is not a matter of small importance, not a mere nicety of rendering. In all completeness, both of will and deed, Abraham had actually surrendered and offered up to God his 160 only son, when he laid him bound upon the altar, and took the knife to slay him—to slay that son of whom God had promised, "In Isaac shall thy seed be called." Then "was the Scripture fulfilled;" i.e. what had been spoken and partly fulfilled before (Gen. xv. 6) received a more complete and a higher fulfilment. Greater faith hath no man than this, that a man gives back His own promises unto God. The real but incomplete faith of believing that aged parents could become the progenitors of countless thousands had been accepted and rewarded. Much more, therefore, was the perfect faith of offering to God the one hope of posterity accepted and rewarded. This last was a work in which his faith co-operated, and which proved the complete development of his faith; by it "was faith made perfect."

"He was called the Friend of God." Abraham was so called in Jewish tradition; and to this day this is his name among his descendants the Arabs, who much more commonly speak of him as "the Friend" (El Khalil), or "the Friend of God" (El Khalil Allah), than by the name Abraham. Nowhere in the Old Testament does he receive this name, although our Versions, both Authorized and Revised, would lead us to suppose that he is so called. The word is found neither in the Hebrew nor in existing copies of the Septuagint. In 2 Chron. xx. 7, "Abraham Thy friend" should be "Abraham Thy beloved;" and in Isaiah xli. 8, "Abraham My friend" should be "Abraham whom I loved." In both passages, however, the Vulgate has the rendering amicus, and some copies of the Septuagint had the reading "friend" in 2 Chron. xx. 7, while Symmachus had it in Isa. xli. 8 (See Field's Hexapla, I., p. 744; II., p. 513). Clement of Rome (x., xvii.) probably derived this name for Abraham 161 from St. James. But even if Abraham is nowhere styled "the Friend of God," he is abundantly described as being such. God talks with him as a man talks with his friend, and asks, "Shall I hide from Abraham that which I do?" (Gen. xviii. 17); which is the very token of friendship pointed out by Christ. "No longer do I call you servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known unto you" (John xv. 15). It is worthy of note that St. James seems to intimate that the word is not in the sacred writings. The words, "And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness," are introduced with the formula, "The Scripture was fulfilled which saith." Of the title "Friend of God" it is simply said "he was called," without stating by whom.6666   The following story is given by Mahometan commentators on the passage, "God took Abraham for His friend," which occurs in the fourth chapter of the Koran, entitled Nessa, or "Women:" Abraham was the father of the poor, and in a famine he emptied his granaries to feed them. Then he sent to one of his friends, who was a great lord in Egypt, for corn. But the friend said, "We also are in danger of famine. The corn is not wanted for Abraham, but for his poor. I must keep it for our own poor." And the messengers returned with empty sacks. As they neared home they feared being mocked for their failure; so they filled their sacks with sand, and came in well laden. In private they told Abraham of his friend's refusal, and Abraham at once retired to pray. Meanwhile Sarah opened one of the sacks, and found excellent flour in it, and with this began to bake bread for the poor. When Abraham returned from prayer he asked Sarah whence she obtained the flour. "From that which your friend in Egypt has sent," she replied. "Say rather from that which the true Friend has sent, that is God; for it is He who never fails us in our need." At the moment when Abraham called God his Friend God took Abraham also to be His friend. (See the notes in Sale's Koran; D'Herbelot's Bibliothèque Orientale, Maestricht, 1776, p. 13; Bishop Thirlwall's Letters to a Friend, Bentley, 1882, pp. 63, 64).
   Eusebius (Præp. Evan. IX. xix., p. 420) quotes Alexander Polyhistor (c. B.C. 80) as stating that Molon (Josephus, Contra Apionem, II. xiv.) interpreted the name Abraham as meaning the "Father's Friend" (πατρὸς φίλος), probably through a misspelling of the name. (See Lightfoot's note on Clem. Rom. x.)

"In like manner was not also Rahab the harlot justified by works?" It is because of the similarity of her 162 case to Abraham's, both of them being a contrast to the formal Christian and the demons, that Rahab is introduced. In her case also faith led to action, and the action had its result in the salvation of the agent. If there had been faith without action, if she had merely believed the spies without doing anything in consequence of her belief, she would have perished. She was glorified in Jewish tradition, perhaps as being a typical forerunner of proselytes from the Gentile world; and it may be that this accounts for her being mentioned in the genealogy of the Messiah, and consequently by St. James and the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews. The Talmud mentions a quite untrustworthy tradition that she married Joshua, and became the ancestress of eight persons who were both priests and prophets, and also of Huldah the prophetess. St. Matthew gives Salmon the son of Naasson as her husband; he may have been one of the spies.

But the contrast between Abraham and Rahab is almost as marked as the similarity. He is the friend of God, and she is of a vile heathen nation and a harlot. His great act of faith is manifested towards God, hers towards men. His is the crowning act of his spiritual development; hers is the first sign of a faith just beginning to exist. He is the aged saint, while she is barely a catechumen. But according to her light, 163 which was that of a very faulty moral standard, "she did what she could," and it was accepted.

These contrasts have their place in the argument, as well as the similarities. The readers of the Epistle might think, "Heroic acts are all very suitable for Abraham; but we are not Abrahams, and must be content with sharing his faith in the true God; we cannot and need not imitate his acts." "But," St. James replies (and he writes ὁμοίως δέ, not καὶ ὁμοίως), "there is Rahab, Rahab the heathen, Rahab the harlot; at least you can imitate her." And for the Jewish Christians of that day her example was very much in point. She welcomed and believed the messengers, whom her countrymen persecuted, and would have slain. She separated herself from her unbelieving and hostile people, and went over to an unpopular and despised cause. She saved the preachers of an unwelcome message for the fulfilment of the Divine mission with which they had been entrusted. Substitute the Apostles for the spies, and all this is true of the believing Jews of that age. And as if to suggest this lesson, St. James speaks not of "young men," as Joshua vi. 23, nor of "spies," as Hebrews xi. 31, but of "messengers," a term which is as applicable to those who were sent by Jesus Christ as to those who were sent by Joshua.

Plutarch, who was a young man at the time when this Epistle was written, has the following story of Alexander the Great, in his "Apothegms of Kings and Generals": The young Alexander was not at all pleased with the successes of his father, Philip of Macedon. "My father will leave me nothing," he said. The young nobles who were brought up with him replied, "He is gaining all this for you." Almost in the words of St. James, though with a very different meaning, he 164 answered, "What does it profit (τί ὄφελος;), if I possess much and do nothing?" The future conqueror scorned to have everything done for him. In quite another spirit the Christian must remember that if he is to conquer he must not suppose that his heavenly Father, who has done so much for him, has left him nothing to do. There is the fate of the barren fig-tree as a perpetual warning to those who are royal in their professions of faith, and paupers in good works.


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