The first of two large units in this chapter addresses the problem of discrimination based on social class.
Favoritism, better, “acts of discrimination” or hurtful partiality based solely on outward appearance and social position (see 2.9n.). Our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, a highly embellished phrase; perhaps an editorial flourish.
A flagrant case of class discrimination. Your assembly, lit. “synagogue.” Evidently, rich and poor participated in the worship services.
Has not God chosen the poor … to be rich in faith, continues the theme of reversal begun in
1.9–10; cf. 1 Sam 2–8
. Christians who show class prejudice are oppressing part of God's elect.
The excellent name, that of Jesus Christ, invoked at the time of baptism.
This segment discusses partiality as a matter of law.
The royal law, a designation of Lev 19.18
that is unique to James. He attributes prominence to this precept because of its elevated status in the teachings of Jesus
(Mt 22.39; Mk 12.31; Lk 10.27; cf. John 13.34 and Gal 5.14; Rom 13.9
Concern for impartiality in the assembly originated as part of the Hebrew Bible's social legislation (e.g., Deut 15 and Lev 19
Citing the Decalogue (Ex 20.13–14; Deut 5.17–18
). Similar to the “law of solidarity” (“If a man does all things, but omits one, he is guilty of all,” cf. Deut 27.26; 4 Macc 5.20
; T. Asher
Cf. Mt 6.14–15
The author again appeals to a flagrant example (see 2.2–4
The use of an imaginary interlocutor was a popular debating technique, called diatribe. James gives his view of the relationship
between faith and works, probably from Pauline slogans (Rom 3.28; Gal 2.16
Faith demonstrated by acts: the examples of Abraham and Rahab.
God is one,
. Even the demons believe,
see Mk 1.24; 5.7
Our ancestor Abraham, a contrast to Paul's focus on Abraham's obedience and acceptance of God's promises (Rom 4.1–3; 9–13; Gal 3.6–9
). James places the distinctive criterion for Abraham's righteousness on the willingness to sacrifice Isaac as a work (Gen 22.9–14; cf. Heb 11.17
Quoting Gen 15.6
. Friend of God,
see Isa 41.8; 2 Chr 20.7
Rahab, the prostitute of Jericho (Josh 2.1–21
), is also a heroine of the faith in Heb 11.31
Servant of God occurs elsewhere only in Titus 1.1
. In the Hebrew Bible, “servant of the LORD” or “my servant” is applied to Moses (Deut 34.5; Josh 1.1
), David (2 Sam 7.5; Ps 78.70
), Daniel (Dan 6.20
), and Israel (Isa 42.1; 49.3
). Dispersion, Greek “diaspora,” the scattering of Jews outside Palestine, here applied to Christians (see 1 Pet 1.1
). Twelve tribes, the church as the new Israel. Greetings, a Hellenistic literary refinement (see Acts 15.23
Trials, or “temptations,” “tests” (see Gen 22.1; Mt 4.1–14; Heb 4.15; 1 Pet 1.6
Testing … endurance … complete, a catena, or series of linked phrases, that builds to a climax; cf. Rom 5.3–4
. Mature and complete, better “and perfect,” recalling the teaching of Jesus (Mt 5.48
Wisdom, ask God,
cf. 1 Kings 3
Wave … sea … wind,
see also 3.4; cf. Isa 57.20
Double‐minded, trying to hold two incompatible views; used in
, and nowhere else in early Christian writings. The author's vocabulary includes other rare terms (“Father of lights”
, “implanted word”
, “cycle of nature”
Lowly … the rich, wealthy people can be Christians; the issue is not social standing but unjust behavior; see 2.2–6; 5.1–6
Like a flower,
see Ps 103.15; Isa 40.6–7
On the reversal of fortune, see 1 Sam 2.7; Lk 1.52–53; 6.20–26; 16.19–31
Blessed is reminiscent of the Beatitudes (Mt 5.3–11; Lk 6.20–22
) and the refrain in the Psalms (e.g.,
). The crown of life, the only other occurrence is in Rev 2.10
. A reiteration of vv. 2–3
. Promised to those who love him;
cf. Ex 20.6; Deut 5.10; Rom 8.28
Some Hellenistic Jews believed that each person has both an evil inclination and a good inclination; because God created both,
the individual might blame God for moral lapses. James vigorously refutes this position (see Sir 15.11–20
) without compromising a pastoral stance (my beloved).
A return to the subject of God's generosity (v. 5
). Father of lights, the title also occurs in CD
; Apocalypse of Moses
; Testament of Abraham
7.60; cf. Gen 1.15–16; Ps 136.7
. Gave us birth, i.e., as Christians (cf. 1 Pet 1.23
). Word of truth, i.e., the gospel (see Eph 1.13; Col 1.5
). The Christian life thus constitutes a new creation.
A three‐part wisdom saying (cf. Sir 5.11
) alerts the reader to an important distinction between James and Paul. Paul (2 Cor 5.21
) probably means a “righteousness found in God” but imparted to believers as a gift, whereas the Jewish Christian James means
a standard of righteousness established by God to which the believer seeks to conform.
Implanted word, a rare phrase meaning the same as “word of truth” in
Righteousness for James is a unity of word and deed.
Be doers of the word,
see Mt 7.24–27; cf. Rom 2.13
Perfect law, the law of liberty, enables Christians to become perfect (
1.4; cf. Ps 18.8
A summary focus on the outward practice of one's faith (cf. Acts 26.5; Wis 14.27; 1 Clem 62.1
Bridle their tongues refers to
, but also anticipates the discussion of speech ethics in
Orphans and widows are wards of God the father (Deut 10–18; Ps 68.5
) in whose distress believers are also to show mercy and love (cf. Sir 4.10
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