A Sample Passage from the Comments on Jacob (James):

Chapter 2


1.  My brothers (= fellow believers, or, fellow Israelites, or, Family), stop, or do not have the habit of, holding the faith of Jesus Christ, our Lord (Master; Owner), Who is the glory (the manifestation Who calls forth praise), in respect of persons


(or: do not persist in holding our Lord's [= Yahweh's or Christ's] trust in partiality or favoritism, or in the receiving of faces or personalities, thus affecting the reputation of Jesus Christ).


Here I will mention that the use of the word "brother" had a wider semantic range than just referring to the men in the organization, as my expansions indicate, above.  The parenthetical alternate rendering explains the thrust of the verse.  However, in the first rendering, the phrase "Who is the glory" – giving the genitive as apposition – brings out an important statement about Jesus, our [Messiah].  He is the glory of God.  He is the Head of the body, the Second Man and the last, or eschatos, Adam (1 Cor. 15:45-47), "God's image and glory" (1 Cor. 11:7).


2.  For if a gold-ringed adult male, in a shining or radiant robe, may enter into your gathering (or: synagogue), but then a poor person (one reduced to beggary; an indigent) in a dirty or filthy robe (or: shabby clothing) may also enter,

3.  and you should look upon (or: gaze upon and regard) the one wearing the shining robe (= expensive, new clothes), and you may say, "You sit here in a fine and beautiful [manner or position] (= in a place of honor)," and to the poor one you may say, "You stand there," or, "You sit under my footstool (= on the floor near my feet; = a place beneath my position),"

4.  are you not thoroughly separated and disconnected within yourselves (or: discriminating and making a distinction among yourselves) and have birthed yourselves to become (or: caused yourselves to be) judges having the qualities of evil reasonings (or: decision makers whose motives are wicked designs and harmful logistics)?


Since this is a general letter, I don't think that vs. 2-4 are referring to a specific situation, but rather is an example of showing preferential treatment.  Apparently the called-out communities had some problems in adjusting their cultural norms to the New Reality in Christ.  Vs. 4 explains that such behavior displays a loss of solidarity that results in their being separated and disconnected within their own minds, and among each other.  They are judging others on outward appearances, rather than seeing Christ in each other and honoring Him equally in all.  The last phrase shows that such behavior is also the result of evil reasonings and wicked designs, rather than having the mind and attitude of Christ.  In John 7:24 Jesus told folks to stop judging by appearances.


There is also the element of people being focused on financial prosperity or social position that is being addressed.  In contrast to what Jacob is here pointing out, Jesus went to the outcasts and told the poor that God's reign and sovereign activities belonged to and pertained to them.  So already His message had become forgotten or discarded.  Folks had resumed the attitudes of the Pharisees, giving preferential treatment to those in the higher levels of their societies.


5.  Listen and hear, my beloved brothers!  Did not God at one point choose (call and speak out; pick out; select) for Himself the poor folks in the System


(or: Does not God Himself lay out and collect the beggars and those who slink and cower with wretchedness in the world of society, culture, religion and government)


rich folks in faith, trust, loyalty and conviction, and also heirs (those who possess by distribution of an allotment) of the reign and kingdom which He promised to and assured for those continually loving Him?


The System can refer to the ruling society, their local culture, their economic stratification, or their religious system.  In any or all of these, God chose those of low rank.  But these became rich in the characteristics of God's reign – to the point that they are heirs (= sons of the King).  Note again the qualifying characteristic: those who constantly live their lives with love for God.  Continually loving God implies relationship, not just religious behavior.  Many whom Christianity would reject as non-religious, profane or morally outcast, may well be loving God, even if they reject Pharisaical Christianity.


6.  But you folks dishonor and devalue the poor.  Are not the rich people continuously exploiting you people, repeatedly exercising [their] power and abilities against you?  Are they not continually dragging you into courts of law for judicial hearings?

7.  Are they not constantly defaming (slandering; speaking abusively of; vilifying; or: hindering the light of) the beautiful (fine; excellent; honorable; ideal) Name – the one being called upon (= put upon), and conferred on, you folks?


Here Jacob is having in mind those finely-dressed folks to whom the called-out communities are showing a fawning deference.  To the very folks who take unfair advantage of them, as well as speaking abusively of "the beautiful Name" (we can presume that he is referring to the Name, Jesus, the one being "conferred on" them).  The word "defaming" (etc.), in vs. 7, is the verb often rendered "blaspheming."  If these rich people were Jews (and note in vs. 2, above, that this gathering may be in a synagogue), they would certainly not having been blaspheming God with their words.  So how were they "slandering the beautiful Name"?  In Rom. 2:23-24 Paul points out that the behavior of God's people caused God's Name to be blasphemed among the ethnic multitudes (non-Jews; Gentiles).  It is the behavior of these rich folks among their congregation that is vilifying God's Name and "hindering the Light" of the good news, while the rest of the called-out community devalues and dishonors the poor.  In today's Christian world the poor are sometimes considered less spiritual or without faith.  It is presumed by some that if this were not the case that they would otherwise be prospering.


8.  Since, however (or: If, really), you are continuously bringing to its goal (finishing; bringing to fruition; perfecting; ending; bringing to a close; fulfilling) the royal law (or: kingly custom; sovereign distribution; rule fit to guide a king), you are performing beautifully (doing ideally; producing excellently), down from and in accord with the Scripture,


"You will love your neighbor (the one near you; your associate) as yourself." [Lev. 19:18]


The Greek word 'ei can mean either "since," or "if."  I chose to put a positive spin with my first rendering, but included the second meaning.  You may choose which you think he was doing, speaking the positive into their lives, or questioning the fact of their fulfilling "the royal law" and "rule fit to guide a king."  Since he earlier referred to this law as "the perfect law of liberty and rule of freedom," in 1:25, I suggest that we should ask, Did their above behavior of favoritism lead to freedom, or maintain bondage?  Another possibility is that he was being somewhat sarcastic.


His reference to Lev. 19:18 echoes what Jesus answered about the greatest commandments in Mark 12:31.  In vs. 34 He responds, to the scribe's reply in agreement with Jesus, that he is not far from the reign/kingdom of God.  Jesus, John and Paul come readily to mind in their emphasis on love and acceptance of those around us.  This Christ-love is that which fulfills the Scriptures.


9.  Yet if you habitually show favoritism (accept faces; behave with partiality), you are continuously working error (a miss of the target; a failure; sin) being ones by proof of guilt repeatedly convicted as transgressors (folks stepping aside or across [the line]), under the Law (or: exposed as deviators by the custom).


Favoritism leads to elitism, and we will want to get into that elite group.  God makes choice and "elects" a group or a person for a specific job, but He does not show favoritism.  Paul admonishes Timothy to "continually doing nothing (constructing not one thing) down from (in accord with; on the level of) inclination (or: a leaning toward [something]) or bias" (1 Tim. 5:21).  And in Matt. 5:45-46, Jesus says,


"because He is repeatedly making His sun to rise back up again upon bad (evil; wicked) folks as well as [upon] good (virtuous) folks, and He is habitually sending rain upon fair and equitable people (those in right relationship; those within the Way pointed out; just ones; rightwised ones) as well as [upon] unfair and inequitable people (those not in right relationship; those not in the Way pointed out; unjust ones).  You see, if you should happen to love the ones constantly loving you folks, what wage or reward do you continue holding (or: having)?"


In Acts 10:34 Peter tells us that "God is neither partial nor takes folks at face value (does not receive faces or appearances)."


Jacob's mentioning the Law (or: custom) may have been a reference to Deut. 1:17 or 16:19.  All of Christ's emissaries used the Torah or the Prophets to substantiate their points.  Paul does this frequently.  What is meant here, is that even under the old covenant such behavior as favoritism was condemned.  He continues in his comparison in the following verses.


10.  For you see, whoever perhaps kept (or: may have guarded and observed) the whole Law, yet possibly at some point stumbled in one thing, had become held (or: caught) within all [its aspects] (or: = is liable for and susceptible to everything).

11.  You see, the One saying, "You should (or: may) not commit adultery," also said, "You should (or: may) not murder." [Ex. 20:13]  Now if you are not committing adultery, yet you are now being a murderer, you have come to be (you have been birthed) a transgressor of (a deviator from; [p74 and A read: one who stands away from]) law (or: custom).


In vs. 10 the verb "kept" is in the aorist subjunctive.  I have rendered this here as a simple past tense, which would indicate that Jacob regarded such things as a thing of the past, since the new covenant had come with Christ (see the book of Hebrews, which compares the old with the new, and shows that Jesus is now the Great High Priest of the living temple, His body).  But it could also be rendered as a simple present, for at the time of the writing of this letter the physical temple was yet standing and the Jews were still keeping the Law.


These verses are ominous.  If we choose to keep one or more of the old covenant laws, we are held within the old covenant, and come into bondage to all of it.  The mixing of any of the Law (Torah – including the "ten commandments") into the administration of grace is a deadly mistake.  Paul said that when the commandment came into his life, he died (Rom. 7:9-10).  He also gave solemn warnings against such in Gal. 3-5.


12.  Thus keep on speaking and thus keep on doing (performing): as those being continuously about to be separated and decided about (evaluated; judged; made a distinction between; scrutinized) through means of a law (or: custom; [p74: word; message]) of freedom and liberty.


Jacob's argument and warning against living under the Law is brought to its logical conclusion: live as folks that are about to be continuously, from time to time, evaluated by a law of freedom and liberty (Gal. 5:1).  It is no longer the Law of Moses that will judge them, but the law of the new covenant – for Christ is the end of the Law for those who have become believers (Rom. 10:4).


13.  For you see, the separating and deciding (or: scrutinizing and judging) is merciless to the one not performing mercy.  Mercy is consistently speaking loudly and boasting down against separating (making decisions; scrutinizing; judging)!


It is important to see that vs. 13 flows directly from vs. 12.  We live under the constant judging (evaluating; making decisions about) of the Lord – and this is a good thing, for it is both correctional and can be promotional.  So here in vs. 13 he points us toward a life of "performing mercy."  We are called to this (to be "containers of mercy {or: instruments of mercy} – Rom. 9:23), to be dispensers of God's mercy to others.  It is the balancing ingredient in His judging, for His judging comes from His mercy seat, and we receive favor from this "throne of grace" (Heb. 4:16).  Furthermore, recall Paul's words in Rom. 11:32,


"For you see, God encloses, shuts up and locks all mankind (everyone; the entire lot of folks) into incompliance (disobedience; stubbornness; lack of being convinced), to the end that He could (or: would; should) mercy all mankind (may make everyone, the all, recipients of mercy)!"


14.  What is the advantage (the furtherance; the increase), my brothers (= fellow believers; = family) if a certain person may keep on claiming to continuously have faith (or: may be now saying [that he is] habitually having trust, loyalty and conviction), yet he may not normally have works (or: keep on possessing actions and deeds)?  Is the faith (trust; loyalty; conviction) not continuing able (constantly having power) to deliver (rescue; save; make whole and heal; restore) him?


I made the second sentence in vs. 14 a question, rather than a statement (recall that there was no punctuation in the earliest MSS).  The answer to this rhetorical question is "Yes."  Even the faith as a grain of mustard seed can move mountains.  When the man asked Jesus to help him with his unbelief, Jesus did so and granted the requested healing.  Now the answer to the first question would be "No increase, no furtherance along the path, and thus no advantageous benefit."  Actions and deeds are needed in order to produce life and gain an increase.  A man can say that he has faith to have children, but if he does not have intimate action with his wife, there will not likely be an increase in their family – unless, of course, other actions are taken.  But still, whatever faith and trust he does have is God's faith within him, and THAT still has power and ability to restore him, heal him, and make him whole so that with the body coming alongside to encourage him he can let the faith grow into action.


15.  Now if a brother or a sister may continuously subsist (or: should begin now in a position under [circumstances]) as naked ones (= without sufficient clothing), and may constantly be deserted (or: wanting) of daily food,

16.  yet a certain person out from among you folks may be saying to them, "Be now humbly departing in peace (or: Continue leading [your life] under [these circumstances] in union with harmony), be continuously warming yourselves and be habitually fed and fully satisfy yourselves," but you would not give to them the body's necessities – what is the advantage or resulting benefit?


Here we have a practical example that parallels what Jesus said to the "sheep and the kids (immature goats)" in Matt. 25.  Life in the kingdom is not just in words or prayers, but also in deeds.  We also have a witness from John that "Little children (little born-ones), we should NOT be habitually loving in word (by a word or thought), nor even in (or: by) the tongue, but rather within action (deed; work) and truth (or: REALITY)" (1 John 3:18).


17.  Thus also [is] the faith (the trust, conviction and loyalty): if it should not continue to have works (include actions; possess deeds; have employment), by itself it exists being dead (or: is lifeless; = is a corpse) in correspondence to its own nature (in the sphere of itself).


An example of this is the seed that does not fall into the ground (be implanted) and die: it abides alone (John 12:24), and will not bring forth life, but in time will die.  What is loyalty, if you do not stand by your friend?  What is conviction, if it does not empower the decisions of you life?  What is trust, if you do not live with complete reliance upon the Father?  The Seed of His faith may have been sown in your field, but if He has not yet prepared your soil (through burning off the competing weeds, through plowing up the beaten-down path of you life, through adding soil, or substance, to your rocky terrace) will it produce a crop?


18.  Yet someone will say, "You continuously have (hold) faith, and I continuously have (or: possess) works (actions).  You at once show me (exhibit to my eyes) your faith apart from the works or actions, and I, forth from out of the midst of my actions and works, will show (exhibit to) you my faith, trust, conviction and loyalty."


What does Jacob mean here?  We are not certain even where to put the quotation marks – the translations vary.  Is this all what this "someone" is saying, as I've punctuated it, or is it a statement in the first sentence, followed by Jacob's response with, "You at once show me..."?  It seems to me that Jacob's straw man is making the point for Jacob in this illustration, the point being that it is the works that demonstrate the faith, and without action faith cannot be shown.  It is not a "faith versus works" position.  Either reading gives the same point.


19.  You continuously believe (or: trust; are convinced) that God is One (or: that God exists being One; that One exists being God; or: that there is one God). [Deut. 6:4]  You are performing (doing) beautifully (excellently; ideally) even the demons (Hellenistic concept and term: = animistic influences) continuously believe (or: presently trust; are constantly loyal; are normally convinced [about this]), and constantly shudder (bristle; shiver; are ruffled).


[comment: in this last phrase Jacob is either making an ontological statement about “demons,” or he is using sarcasm, referring in a derogatory manner to the Jews who also believe this; Jesus used the term "diablos" (devil; one who thrusts-through folks) to refer to Judas in John 6:70; He used the term satan when speaking to Peter in Mark 8:33; this phrase could also refer to the superstitious mindsets of folks who have believed Jewish or pagan myths, or have accepted animistic influences into their thinking]


This seemingly parenthetical statement is in the midst of Jacob's point about faith needing action in order to be productive, which he was making since vs. 15 and which he continues in vs. 20, then on to the end of the chapter.  I suggest that vs. 19 needs to be understood in the context of this ongoing topic.


In other words, "So you believe in one God.  Wonderful!"  You can almost taste the sarcasm.  Both his straw man and the demons have faith!  Thus, the very negative aspects of the spirit world even have this kind of "faith."  Considered otherwise, with my above comment which I include in my translation, he is referring to the Jews who hold this belief in one God, calling them "demons."


20.  But are you willing to experientially and intimately know and receive insight, O empty person, that the faith, trust and loyalty, apart from the works and actions, exists being inactive (continues unproductive; [p74 reads: empty; without contents; other MSS: is dead])?


This is saying the same thing as vs. 17, above.


21.  Our father Abraham was not placed within the Way pointed out (made fair and equitable; put in right relationship; rightwised; made a just one; also: = placed in covenant) from out of works, when offering up his son Isaac upon the altar!


Reading this as a factual statement, rather than as a question, seems more consistent with the context.  The works were the outflow of His believing God; He was already in the Way pointed out and pointed in the right direction (which is trust and faith).  His works did not put Him there, they demonstrated his faith, as in vs. 18, above.  This is affirmed by Paul in Gal. 3:6,


"just as Abraham, 'trusts in God (or: believed by God; experienced confidence by God), and he is/was at once logically considered by Him [that he entered] into a right relationship (or: and it was counted for him into a rightwised relationship with freedom from guilt, fairness, equity and justice which comprise the Way pointed out).'"


See vs. 23, below.


22.  Are you normally seeing that the faith, trust and loyalty continued to work together with his actions and works, and forth from out of the actions (or: works), faith (trust, loyalty and conviction) was brought to its goal (was perfected; was matured; was finished)?


Works, living a life of doing mercy and producing love, is the goal of faith, and is the finished demonstration that faith exists in the person.  A changed life is evidence that the new birth has occurred – it does not produce the new birth.  And vs. 22 explains that this existing faith, trust and loyalty "continued to work together with his actions."  Faith produced the actions, then worked with them, and so out of the actions faith was brought to its purpose, its goal, and its intended end.  The goal is having Christ formed within so that we –  joined with Him – become the New Being, the new creation.


23.  And thus the Scripture was made full, the one saying,


"Now Abraham believed (or: put trust and confidence) in God (or: became persuaded by God; adhered to God), and he was counted into the Way pointed out by Him (or: he was considered rightwised by Him; he was reckoned fair, equitable and just in Him; alternately: so it was counted into right relation [= covenant inclusion] for him)," [Ex. 15:6]


and he was called "God's friend." [Isa. 41:8]


This quote confirms my rendering vs. 21 as a statement rather than a question.  It was Abraham's faith that counted him into those who having rightwised behavior, which God has pointed out to them.


24.  Are you folks normally observing (or: perceiving) that humanity (or: a person) is normally being rightwised (from time to time being placed in right relationship in the Way pointed out; progressively made fair and equitable; normally justified; = put in covenant) forth from out of the midst of actions and works, and not only from out of faith and trust?


Here, rendering vs. 24 as a question flows with the statement in vs. 25.  We are told in Heb. 10:1 that the Law "is not even once able (or: never has power) at any point to perfect (bring to the goal, finish, complete or mature) those folks repeatedly coming near (approaching) by offering the same sacrifices every year, on into the whole length (or: extended or stretched into the unbroken continuance) [of its existence]."  The Law is the epitome of "actions and works."  So the answer to the question of vs. 24 is, "NO!"


25.  Now in this same vein, even Rahab the prostitute, taking under [her roof] and welcoming the agents (messengers), and then later exiting them by a different way, was not rightwised (placed in right relationship in the Way pointed out; made fair and equitable; justified; or: shown to be righteous; also: = brought into covenant) forth from out of works.


You see, she said to the spies "I know that Yahweh has given you the land... For we heard how Yahweh dried up the waters of the Red Sea..." (Joshua 2:9, 10).  Her faith came from hearing the word.  Her faith is recorded in Heb. 11:31.


26.  You see, just as the body apart from a breath-effect (or: spirit) is lifeless (dead), thus also the faith and trust apart from actions and works [i.e., the living it out] is (exists being) lifeless (dead).


The subject here is faith, not works.  Faith and trust are kept alive by action, just like breathing keeps the body alive.  Faith, like a seed sitting alone on a shelf, can abide alone and eventually die.  But in the planting of faith (the seed) a plant is brought to birth.  The work of planting did not produce the seed or the plant, but the work of planting was necessary to bring the seed to its goal: a new plant.  But the plant came from the seed.  Dig all you want to, if there is no seed there will be no plant.  But we are co-laborers with Christ (the Seed; the Faith): we go out and sow the Seed in the world.


John Gavazzoni shared with me the following insights in a recent email:

"Note that he says 'AS the body without the spirit is dead, SO faith without works is dead.' Pardon my belaboring it: faith is AS the body. One would usually expect James to connect the spirit (the inner dynamic) with faith, and the body (the outer display) with works, but in his corollary he connects the body with faith, and the spirit with works.  Here I see James' affirming with Paul that it is 'God who WORKETH in you both to will and to DO of His good pleasure.'

"I think James finally nails the wonderful dynamic that he is expositing, by bringing the reader full circle to 'the faith of God' being the actions within the body of our faith making our faith effective unto appropriate actions. Each time we become aware of a lack of some action by which faith fulfills itself, we are driven back to patiently waiting upon God who worketh (faithFULLY) in us.

"I've often pondered how it is that God's actions are full of faith, i.e., He is faithFUL He is convinced, assured, confident, persuaded in the inevitability that His Being is the source, means and destiny of all things, and acts out of that assurance. It's His faith working by love, that is, His love is confidently certain. THAT'S what He saw in Abraham that He accounted as righteousness." (end quote)

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