Blaine Robison, M.A.
Published 24 November 2013; Revised 28 May 2019
Scripture Text: The Scripture text used in this commentary is prepared by Blaine Robison and based on the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament. The essentially literal translation seeks to reflect the Jewish character of the author and writing. All other Scripture quotations are from the NASB Updated Edition (1995), unless otherwise indicated. Click here for Abbreviations of Bible Versions. Quotations marked with the initials "BR" indicate the translation of the commentary author.
Sources: Bibliographic data for works cited and resources consulted may be found at the end of the commentary. Works without page numbers are cited ad loc. Important Jewish sources include:
• The Septuagint (LXX) is the Jewish translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, which was in use among Jews by the mid-2nd century BC. The LXX with English translation may be found here.
• Citations for Josephus, the first century Jewish historian (Yosef ben Matityahu), are from The Works of Flavius Josephus (c. 75-99 A.D.) trans. William Whiston (1737). Online.
• Citations for Philo of Alexandria, the Jewish philosopher (20 B.C.─A.D. 50) are from The Works of Philo Judaeus, compiled by Peter Kirby, found online at Early Jewish Writings.
Syntax: Unless otherwise noted the meaning of Greek words is from F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (2009), and the meaning of Hebrew words is from The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (1981), abbreviated as "BDB." See the Greek Guide for the meaning of grammar abbreviations. The numbering system of the Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible is identified with "SH" (Strong's Hebrew number) and "SG" (Strong's Greek number). Strong's Online.
Terminology: In order to emphasize the Jewish nature of the apostolic writings and message I use the terms Jacob (James), Yeshua (Jesus), Messiah (Christ), Tanakh (Old Testament), and Besekh (New Testament).
Please see the Introduction for background information on the letter.
Midrash 3: On Love, 2:1-13
1 My brothers, hold not the faithfulness of our Lord Yeshua, the Messiah of glory, with respect of persons.
My brothers: pl. of Grk. adelphos, lit. "of the same womb," and in secular Greek meant "brother." Usage in the apostolic writings is generally literal, but figurative uses also abound indicating affinity in common interests or culture. In the apostolic narratives adelphos primarily refers to blood siblings or fellow Israelites (Matt 4:18; 5:22-24; Mark 3:22; Acts 1:14; 3:22; 7:13), but in the apostolic letters adelphos, often in the plural, refers primarily to disciples of Yeshua and members of believing communities (e.g. 1Cor 1:10; Gal 1:2; Php 2:25; 1Th 3:22).
Danker says the plural vocative case (direct address) indicates "brothers and sisters" and a number of versions employ this greeting. Since Jacob is addressing the Messianic members of the twelve tribes, it's inconceivable that the vocative case would not include the women, given the amount of hortatory material in this letter. Against this interpretation is that there is a word for "sisters" (Grk. adelphē, verse 15 below), which Jacob does not use here. More likely is that "brothers" refers to the leaders of congregations and heads of households. The fact that Jacob addresses "brothers" does not exclude women from the application of his exhortations.
hold: Grk. echō, pres. imp., generally means to possess with the implication of being under one's control or one's disposal, but here the verb has the sense of viewing something in a particular way, to consider or to hold. In this sense the mind has control of a viewpoint. not: Grk. mē, lit. "not," a particle of qualified negation. It differs from the other standard negative particle, oú, in that oú is objective, dealing only with facts, while mē is subjective, involving will and thought. With mē the negation concerns a supposition and thus prohibits or forbids (DM 265f). The imperative mood and present tense of the verb combined with the negative particle mē indicates a strong command to stop a practice in progress.
the faithfulness: Grk. pistis, occurring 12 times in Jacob's letter, incorporates two primary facets of meaning, first that which causes trust and faith, i.e., faithfulness or reliability, and second, trust or confidence in an active sense (BAG). Pistis is used in the LXX to twice render Heb. emun (e.g., Deut 32:20; Prov 13:17; 'faithfulness,' BDB 53), but renders Heb. emunah ('firmness, steadfastness, fidelity,' BDB 53) over 20 times (mainly of men's faithfulness, 1Sam 26:23; 2Kgs 12:15; 22:7; 1Chron 9:22, 26, 31; 2Chron 31:12, 15, 18; 34:12; Prov 3:3; 12:17, 22; Jer 5:1, 3; 7:28; 9:3; Hos 2:20; but also of God's faithfulness, Ps 33:4; Lam 3:23; Hab 2:4; Biblos; ABP). Pistis also translates Heb. aman (to confirm, to support, Jer 15:18), amanah ('fixed support,' Neh 9:38; 11:23; SS 4:8) and emet (firmness, faithfulness, truth, Prov 14:22; Jer 28:9; 33:6). The LXX usage emphasizes that the Hebrew meaning of faithfulness is the intended usage of pistis.
The apostles build on this meaning and represent pistis as composed of two elements. The first element of faithfulness is confidence or trust: "And without faith[fulness] it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him" (Heb 11:6; cf. Heb 4:2). True faith leads one to seek God and then trust Him to respond with His good gifts. The second element of faithfulness involves commitment, constancy and obedience, which includes following God’s direction for life and producing works of righteousness (cf. Eph 2:8-10). There is no essential difference between the faith or faithfulness of the Hebrew patriarchs and the faith spoken of by Yeshua and the apostles.
TEXTUAL ISSUE: Many Christian interpreters identify a third usage in the Besekh of pistis as a body of belief, i.e., doctrine (e.g., Acts 6:7; 1Tim 4:1, 6; 6:10; 2Tim 4:3; Jude 3). However, this objectivizing of the pistis-concept owes more to later Christian misunderstanding of the use of the definite article ho (the) with pistis than apostolic intention. The Greek of the apostolic writings is really Jewish Greek, that is, it communicates the Hebrew language of the apostles. In Hebrew the definite article ha with a noun only serves to specify the noun in a sentence or makes the noun more emphatic, but it does not change the definition of the noun. For example, the Greek name Iēsous (Yeshua, Jesus) often appears in the genitive case as tou Iēsou, but no Bible translates the definite article as "the Jesus." Jacob uses ho with pistis 7 times (1:3; 2:1, 17, 20, 22, 26; 5:15), but he never uses pistis to mean 'doctrine.'
of our Lord: Grk. kurios may mean either (1) 'one in control through possession,' and therefore owner or master; or (2) 'one esteemed for authority or high status,' thus lord or master. See the note on Jacob 1:1. Kurios is the principal title by which disciples and members of the public addressed Yeshua during his earthly ministry and the frequent use of kurios to address Yeshua would not have considered deity. Jacob, as other Messianic Jews, would call Yeshua kurios (for Heb. adon, master, owner) because the Messiah would rule over Israel. The combination of kurios with the verb echo serves as a play on words. The title "Lord" ( tou Kuriou), as well as "Yeshua" (Iēsou) and "Messiah" (Christou) that follow, are all in the genitive case, which is the case of definition or description; adjectival in function.
The genitive case qualifies the meaning of a preceding noun and is normally translated with "of." Rendered as a subjective genitive, it would mean that kuriou performs the action. Rendered as an objective genitive, Kuriou receives the action. Many Bible versions treat the phrase as an objective genitive and translate "faith in our Lord" (CEV, ESV, GNT, HCSB, LEX, NASB, NCV, NET, NIV, NLT, NRSV). It should be noted that there is no preposition "in" (Grk. en) in the Greek text. Most likely Jacob intended the subjective genitive, "the faith[fulness] of our Lord" (ASV, CEB, CJB, DRA, KJV, KJ21, MW, NKJV, RSV, TLV, YLT). The same kind of phrasing may be found in Romans 3:22, 26; Galatians 2:16; 3:22, 26; Ephesians 3:12, Philippians 3:9 and Revelation 14:12.
Jacob, as does Paul, alludes to the axiom of Habakkuk 2:4, which all Bible versions translate as meaning "the righteous will live by his faith," i.e., the righteous man will live by his own trust or faithfulness. However, the LXX translates the clause as "the righteous man out of my faithfulness shall live." In the context of the prophetic word it is the faithfulness of God by which the righteous person lives. In the present context it is the faithfulness of Yeshua to the Father's plan that makes salvation possible (John 5:43; 6:40; 10:18, 30; 17:22).
Yeshua: Grk. Iēsous (English "Jesus") transliterates Heb. Yeshua our Lord's Hebrew name given to him by his parents in accordance with angelic direction. Yeshua is the only name by which he was known to contemporaries. For many Jews the name "Jesus" is a distinctly Christian word. Sadly, for many Christians the name "Jesus," while precious, does not evoke the reality of his Jewish identity. See the note on Jacob 1:1. the Messiah: Grk. Christos, the translation of Heb. Mashiach, the expected fulfiller of the hopes of Israel for an end-time deliverer, the anointed priest-king or Messiah. The English word "Christ" is a transliteration, not a translation of Christos. "Messiah" is the correct translation. For an expanded discussion on the Jewish title see my commentary on Mark 1:1.
of glory: Grk. doxa has four categories of meaning: (1) splendor or radiance in the sense of brightness, (2) magnificence in the sense of what catches the eye, (3) fame, renown, honor or approval, and (4) glorious as in the angelic beings and majesties. In the LXX doxa translates Heb. kabod, which refers to the luminous manifestation of God’s person, his glorious revelation of Himself. Characteristically, kabod is linked with verbs of seeing and appearing and stresses the impact that the manifestation of a person or God makes on others. In the apostolic writings doxa is a continuation of the underlying Hebrew concept (DNTT 2:45). Jacob probably alludes to the double fact of Yeshua's ascension into heaven to sit at the Father's right hand (Luke 24:26; Acts 7:55) and Yeshua's coming from heaven to establish his earthly reign (Dan 7:13-14; Mark 13:26).
with respect of persons: Grk. prosōpolēmpsia, the receiving of one's face, partiality. In this context partiality is viewed as a vice, not a virtue. The Torah affirms that God does not show favoritism (Deut 10:17), a principle asserted by Peter (Acts 10:34) and Paul (Rom 2:11). Jacob may also allude to Sirach 4:22, "Do not show partiality, to your own harm, or deference, to your downfall." Jacob continues with an illustration of the kind of partiality he condemns.
2 For if a man should enter into your synagogue with a gold ring, in fine clothing, and also a poor man should enter in filthy clothing;
For: Grk. gar, conj., is generally accepted as a contraction of ge ("yet") and ara ("then"), and in a broad sense means "certainly it follows that." Gar often functions to connect statements in narratives with preceding statements. Jacob employs a literary pattern in which an exhortation is expressed in the imperative mood followed the reason expressed in the indicative and introduced with gar. He employs gar in this fashion 15 times in his letter. if: Grk. ean, a conditional particle or conjunction. When used with a verb in the subjunctive mood, as follows, then ean introduces a possible circumstance that determines the realization of some other circumstance. In other words if “a” is true or exists, then “b” is a logical outcome. a man: Grk. anēr, an adult male without regard to age or marital status.
should enter: Grk. eiserchomai, aor. subj., to go in, to enter, most frequently of a geographical location, but here of entry into a manufactured structure. The subjunctive mood indicates a hypothetical situation based on an actual practice. The verb is past tense, but many versions translate as present tense. into: Grk. eis, prep. that focuses on entrance, frequently in relation to direction and limit, here complementing the verb to indicate completion of movement. your synagogue: Grk. sunagōgē means a gathering-place or place of assembly and in the rest of the Greek apostolic writings refers to the place at which Jews gathered for worship and learning as well as the congregation that met (Acts 6:9; 9:2).
Sunagōgē occurs 56 times in the Besekh, all but three in the apostolic narratives (also in Rev 2:9; 3:9). Christian Bibles uniformly translate sunagōgē with "synagogue" in all verses where it appears, except here. Only seven Christian Bibles have "synagogue" in this verse (ASV, Darby, JUB, LITV, NJB, WEB, YLT), but the great majority of Christian versions avoid the use of "synagogue" with "assembly," "church," "church meeting," "congregation," or "meeting." Four of the five Messianic Jewish Bibles have "synagogue" (CJB, HNV, OJB, TLV), but the MW has "assembly." In the LXX sunagōgē occurs 225 times and is used primarily to translate Heb. qahal (SH-6951), assembly, convocation, or congregation (BDB 874), occurring first in Genesis 28:3. In addition, sunagōgē renders Heb. êdah (SH-5712), congregation, a company assembled together by appointment, or acting concertedly, first in Exodus 12:3 (BDB 417) (DNTT 1:292).
The first LXX use of sunagōgē occurs in the blessing of Isaac given to Jacob, "And may El Shaddai bless you, and make you fruitful and multiply you so that you may be a congregation [Grk. sunagōgē] of peoples" (Gen 28:3 mine). God later confirmed Isaac's blessing as a covenantal promise, ""I am El Shaddai; be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a congregation [Grk. sunagōgē] of nations shall come from you" (Gen 35:11; 48:4). The prophecy hints at the future establishment of the synagogue, which means "assembly" or "congregation." The origin of the Greek term sunagōgē dates back to the 5th century BC and in ancient times was used to refer to any collection of things or people. Sunagōgē had a particular usage by Gentile trade guilds to refer to both their business meetings and religious feasts.
The earliest archaeological evidence for the Jewish synagogue, found in Egypt, is dated to the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC (OCB 722). The beginning of the synagogue is not known for certain, but scholars generally date it during the Babylonian exile. Pious Jews, far from their native land, without the ministry of the Temple, no doubt felt the necessity to gather on the Sabbath in order to listen to the word of God and engage in prayer (cf. Ps 137; Jer 29:7; Ezek 14:1; 20:1; Acts 16:13). Eventually meetings came also to be held on other days, and at the same hours as the morning and evening services in the Temple. According to the Jewish philosopher Philo (20 B.C. - A.D. 50) synagogues were houses of prayer and schools of wisdom (On the Life of Moses , 39). As Jews emigrated west synagogues followed.
In any community where at least ten Jewish men lived, the Jews would meet together for study and prayer and eventually build a sanctuary (Heb. shul) for their meetings. In Israel where the Sadducees exercised supervision over the temple, Pharisees supervised the learning of Torah in the synagogue. By the first century, synagogues, especially in the Diaspora, emerged as the central institution of Jewish life as a place where study, worship, exhortation, celebration, and various other kinds of meetings take place. Ceremonies were conducted in full view of the participants, with the masses of people no longer being relegated to outer courtyards, as was the case in the Jerusalem Temple (OCB 722).
Moseley, citing the Jerusalem Talmud (Meg. 3:1; Ket. 105a; Sot. 7:7, 8; Yom. 7:1) says there were between 394 and 400 synagogues in Jerusalem during the first century (8), although one might infer from the Babylonian Talmud that the number 394 was the sum total of synagogues, houses of study and schools in Jerusalem (Ket. 105a). There were certainly many synagogues, especially in each quarter of foreign Jews residing in Jerusalem (cf. Acts 2:5, 9-11; 6:9) (Jeremias 62).
Moreover, wherever there was a Jewish synagogue there was also a devoted body of Gentiles attached to it (Schurer 2:308, 312). The synagogue with Jews and Gentiles in attendance became the starting point for Yeshua and later the apostles to proclaim the good news of Messiah's Kingdom. Thus God's chosen people Israel, with the grafted-in Gentiles (Rom 11:24-25), became the "assembly of nations" as promised to the patriarch Jacob, which Paul dubbed the "Commonwealth of Israel" (Eph 2:12). In this verse Jacob refers to a Messianic synagogue, a congregation of believers in Yeshua, predominantly Jewish, expressing their New Covenant faith in a way retaining most or all of the prayers, customs and style of non-Messianic synagogues.
David Stern understandably complains about the mistranslation of Christian versions, saying,
"This reflects the translators' unwillingness to acknowledge the Jewishness of New Covenant faith and the overall antisemitic bias that has infected Christianity over the centuries. The New Jerusalem Bible prepared by Roman Catholics does use the word 'synagogue,' but adds in a note, "James is writing to Jewish Christians; it is possible that they may even have still been attending Jewish synagogues, or it may be his word for the Christian 'assembly' for liturgical services." "Even … still … attending Jewish synagogues"—how backward of them! And how backward of Sha'ul, who made it his 'usual practice' to do so (Acts 17:2)!
"Ya'akov is talking neither about a Christian church service nor a gathering of Jewish nonbelievers but a Messianic synagogue. He would not refer to 'your synagogue' and assume his readers were in charge of seating visitors if the synagogue was not controlled by the Messianic Jews. There is no reason why 'synagogue,' with its unmistakably Jewish connotation, should have been 'his word for the Christian assembly in general, since the term the New Testament uses 112 times? for that is ekklēsia (usually rendered 'church' in other versions; see Mt 16:18); Ya'akov himself employs it at 5:14. The idea that this synagogue was Messianic simply did not occur to the Jerusalem Bible note-writer. Rendering sunagōgê 'assembly' or 'church' instead of 'synagogue' robs Messianic Jews of their identity.
"This verse establishes a solid New Testament basis for modern-day Messianic synagogues, provided they do not exclude Gentile believers. To do so would 'raise the middle wall of partition' once again, in violation of Ephesians 2:11–16. A Messianic synagogue, while committed to preserving and developing a Jewish rather than a Gentile mode of expressing New Covenant faith, must be open to participation by believing Jews and Gentiles alike." (728f)
with a gold ring: Grk. chrusodaktylios, a ring made of gold worn as an article of jewelry on a finger. Marshall has "gold-fingered." The noun is singular but translated as plural in some versions (AMP, CJB, GW, TLB, NKJV, NRSV, OJB, RSV). in fine: Grk. lampros, meaning bright and shining, and was used to refer to high quality clothing. clothing: Grk. esthēs, clothing, apparel or vesture. As with ring, the term is singular but most versions translate the word as plural "clothes." and: Grk. de, conj., used to indicate (1) a contrast to a preceding statement or thought, "but;" (2) a transition in presentation of subject matter, "now, then;" or (3) a connecting particle to continue a thought, "and, also" (BAG). The third meaning applies here.
also: Grk. kai, conj. that marks a connection or addition. Kai has three basic uses: (1) continuative – and, also, even; (2) adversative – and yet, but, however; or (3) intensive – certainly, indeed, in fact, really, verily, yea (DM 250f). The first use applies here. Kai is used in the LXX to translate the vav (ו) character added to words for conjunctive effect. There are over 50 conjunctions in biblical Greek, but kai is by far the most common in the Besekh, occurring over 9,000 times (BibleHub). The excessive use of conjunctions is evidence of either an original Hebrew text or Jewish Greek. See my note on the significance of conjunctions in the Besekh.
a poor man: Grk. ptōchos, in a needy condition that is opposite of having much, poor, indigent. should enter: Grk. eiserchomai, aor. subj. The subjunctive mood indicates a hypothetical situation. in: Grk. en, prep. generally used to mark position, lit. "in" or "within." filthy: Grk. rhuparos, filthy or soiled. clothing: Grk. esthēs. The point of the hypothetical scenario is applying the principle of the faithfulness of Yeshua. What would Yeshua do in the circumstances?
3 and you have regard to him who wears the fine clothing, and say, "You sit here in a good place;" and you tell the poor man, "Stand there," or "Sit by my footstool;"
and you have regard: Grk. epiblepō, aor. subj., to pay special attention to, to look at, to be impressed by. The subjunctive mood indicates that Jacob continues the hypothetical scenario introduced by "if" in the previous verse. to him who wears: Grk. phoreō, to bear or carry, to have something closely and constantly associated with one's person, here clothing. the fine clothing: See the previous verse. and say: Grk. legō, aor. subj., to make a statement or utterance, whether oral or in written form. The verb "say" functions as quotation marks for the text since ancient writings did not contain punctuation. You: Grk. su, second personal singular pronoun. The pronoun emphasizes that someone is singled out for attention. sit: Grk. kathēmai, pres. mid. imp., be at rest on the haunches, to sit down or to take a seat.
here: Grk. hōde, adverb of place, here or in this place. in a good place: Grk. kalōs, an adverb denoting in an effective manner, with focus on meeting expectations. Mounce defines as "well, rightly, suitable, with propriety, becomingly." Danker clarifies that the adverb has a patronizing meaning, "here's a nice seat for you." In other words, the seat meets the expectations of the one in fine clothing. Jacob's mention of the good place to sit may allude to the chief seats (Grk. prōtokathedria, Matt 23:6) in the synagogue, the bench in front of the ark where the Scriptures were contained while facing the congregation. It was reserved for the officials and persons of high distinction (Rienecker 1:123). Yeshua criticized certain Pharisees and scribes for preferring this place of honor (Luke 11:43; 20:46). If not the chief seats, then the good place would be close to this bench so that the wealthy person would be near those of high social distinction.
and you tell: Grk. legō, aor. subj. See the mention above. the poor man: See the previous verse. You: Grk. su. See the mention above. stand: Grk. histēmi, aor. imp., to cause to be in a place or position, to set or stand. there: Grk. ekei, adverb, 'in that place,' as opposed to another place. This direction implies the back of the synagogue or in some other place that is out of everyone's way. or Sit: Grk. kathēmai, pres. mid. imp. See the mention above. by my footstool: Grk. hupopodion, a device for supporting one's feet when in a sitting position, a footstool. The mention of a footstool is rather curious given its usage in Scripture. In the Tanakh the footstool was used by someone sitting on a throne (2Chron 9:18).
From heaven's vantage point the "earth" is God's footstool (Isa 66:1), although "earth" should be translated as "land," referring to Israel (cf. Lam 2:1; Matt 5:35). The Tabernacle was also considered God's footstool (1Chr 28:2; Ps 99:5; 132:7). The fact that someone in a synagogue would have a footstool indicates a pretentious seat for the speaker. The implication of this direction is to sit on the floor. In effect the offense is treating the poor man as an enemy (cf. Ps 110:1). Such treatment could not be more discriminatory.
4 Do you not make distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?
Jacob follows up the hypothetical scenario with a rhetorical question. Do you not: Grk. ou, adv., a particle of strong negation. make distinctions: Grk. diakrinō, aor. pass., to dispute or contend with, to hesitate or to waver. among yourselves: Jacob refers to those who would commit the offense described in the previous verse. and become: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. ind., to come to be, to become or to originate. judges: pl. of Grk. kritēs, judge, with focus on official legal role. with evil: Grk. ponēros may mean (1) marked by lowness in social worth or deviation from an acceptable moral or social standard, particularly as prescribed by God in his Word, (2) low in quality, bad, poor, or (3) in deteriorated or undesirable state or condition, of physical circumstances. In the LXX ponēros renders Heb. ra, which can mean evil, bad or of little value (DNTT 1:565).
In the Tanakh ra is used to describe both that which is ethically evil (Deut 1:35; 4:25) and something that is unpleasant, disagreeable or injurious (e.g. Deut 22:14; 28:35; Isa 3:11). Jacob may not be speaking of moral evil, but bad in terms of the effects on the personality and ultimately the congregation. thoughts: pl. of Grk. dialogismos, the process of turning things over in one's mind in response to a problem or challenging event. This verse presents a reality check for the hypothetical proposition. Jacob is not saying that Messianic synagogues are guilty of this discriminatory practice. It no doubt occurred in some non-Messianic synagogues and Jacob cautions Messianic Jews from repeating the mistakes of their old associations. In addition, he points out that favoritism violates Yeshua's prohibition of judging (Matt 7:1).
5 Listen, my beloved brothers. Did not God choose those who are poor in the world to be rich in faithfulness, and heirs of the kingdom which he promised to those who love him?
Listen: Grk. akouō, aor. imp., the sensory act of hearing with the ears, metaphorically of paying attention, but also probably with the sense of comprehension or understanding. Jacob exercises his authority to issue this command. my beloved: Grk. agapētos, held in affection, esteemed or dear. brothers: pl. of Grk. adelphos. See verse 1 above. Did not God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. In secular Greek writings a number of deities, always represented in anthropomorphic form, were called theos. In ancient polytheistic culture theos was not one omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, Creator and ruler of the universe and certainly not spirit as described in Scripture (John 4:24).
In the LXX theos renders primarily Elohim (over 2300 times), but also the tetragrammaton YHVH (over 300 times). As with many other Greek words the LXX infused new meaning into theos (DNTT 2:67-70). choose: Grk. eklegō, aor. mid., to pick out for oneself, choose or select. those who are poor: Grk. ptōchos. See verse 2 above. in the world: Grk. kosmos has a variety of uses in the Besekh: (1) the sum total of all beings above the animal level; (2) the planet upon which mankind lives; (3) mankind; (4) the world as the scene of earthly joys, possessions, and cares; (5) the world and everything in it as that which opposes God and is ruined and depraved of character (BAG). In this context Jacob may intend the social context in which the poor live.
to be rich: Grk. plousios, one possessing in abundance, rich or wealthy. The noun normally has a literal meaning of material wealth, but figurative uses occur a few times in the Besekh. Paul describes Yeshua as being "rich" before taking on the poverty of the incarnation in order to make us "rich" (2Cor 8:9), and God is "rich" in mercy (Eph 2:4). Yeshua described the overseer of the Smyrna congregation as materially poor but spiritually rich (Rev 2:9), whereas the overseer of the Laodicea congregation was materially wealthy but spiritually impoverished. in faithfulness: Grk. pistis, trusting faithfulness. See verse 1 above. and heirs: pl. of Grk. klēronomos, refers to that which is apportioned, an inheritor in a legal sense, heir. More frequently the word means to be a recipient of a share in something, with focus on experience of divine conferral of promised benefits.
of the kingdom: Grk. basileia may refer to the act of ruling and be rendered as "kingship, royal power/rule/reign or royal jurisdiction" or to a territory ruled by a king, i.e., kingdom. The concept of the Kingdom of God is crucial to understanding the Bible. It refers primarily to a condition in which the rulership of God is acknowledged by humankind, a condition in which God’s promises of a restored universe free from sin and death are, or begin to be, fulfilled. which he promised: Grk. epangellō, aor. mid., to promise something in the sense of a commitment. The promised Kingdom is most likely used here in its Tanakh sense of the promise of Messiah actually ruling over the earth from David’s throne in Jerusalem (cf. Luke 1:32, 69-79; Acts 13:32-33; 15:16).
to those who love him: Grk. agapaō, pres. part., to have such an interest in another that one wishes to contribute to the other's well-being, even if it means making a personal sacrifice to do so. In the LXX agapaō translates aheb, but aheb is a far more comprehensive word than agapaō. There are four words in Greek for love. Besides agapaō there is eros, desire or longing between a man and woman; storgē, family affection; phileō, affection of people who are close to one another, whether inside a family or out, also care and compassion, and then love of things that one enjoys. Aheb is like the English word "love" which is used to mean all these things. The future kingdom of God is for those who made themselves subjects of the King of Israel and have surrendered their lives and fortunes for His use.
6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you, and personally drag you before the religious courts?
But: Grk. de, conj. See verse 2 above. The conjunction is used here for contrast. you have dishonored: Grk. atimazō, aor., deprive of honor or respect, dishonor, disgrace, shame. the poor man: Grk. ptōchos. See verse 2 above. Do not the rich: Grk. plousios. See the previous verse. Jacob uses the term here in the literal sense. oppress: Grk. katadunasteuō, pres., to oppress. The verb conveys the idea of denying someone the higher position or blessing they should enjoy, to treat harshly, or to overpower someone. and drag: Grk. helkō, pres., to cause to move toward, draw of pulling motion as a sword from its sheath, or to drag as in dragging a net. The verb is given a figurative meaning here.
you before the religious courts: Grk. kritērion, a legal forum, a court or tribunal (for Heb. Beit-din), Jewish religious court. The word occurs only three times in the Besekh (also 1Cor 6:2, 4). The legal system in Israel for handling civil and capital (criminal) cases consisted of three basic courts: the Court of Three, the Court of Twenty-Three (Small Sanhedrin) and the Court of Seventy-One (Great Sanhedrin). For a description of these courts and the types of cases handled see my web article Jewish Jurisprudence. Jacob may be alluding to Yeshua's teaching in Matthew 5:25-26 of civil action against debtors, which could result in imprisonment for nonpayment.
7 Do not they blaspheme the honorable name by which you are called?
Do not they blaspheme: Grk. blasphēmeō, pres., means to injure the reputation of, revile, defame in relation to men or to blaspheme in relation to God. the honorable: Grk. kalos, meeting a high standard, fine or good. name: Grk. onoma in its central sense is used to identify someone. In Hebrew literature it carries the extended sense of qualities, powers, attributes or reputation. by which: Grk. epi, prep., lit. "on." you are called: Grk. epikaleō, aor. pass. part. (from epi, "on" and kaleō, "to call"), to give a name or nickname to and may be translated as to call or to name. Many versions clearly treat the phrase "good name by which you are called" as an allusion to Yeshua (AMP, CEB, CEV, CJB, DRA, ERV, EXB, GW, HCSB, LEB, NCV, NET, NIRV, NIV, NLT, NLV, NOG, NRSV, OJB, RSV, TLB).
The intention of the phrase is ambiguous in a number versions (ASV, ESV, HNV, JUB, KJ21, KJV, NASB, NKJV, TEV, TLV, YLT), but a few versions adopt the interpretation that the phrase refers to the name "Christian" borne by the disciples (MSG, WE). The Greek phrase is lit. "good name named on you." A few versions mention baptism (although the word does not occur in the verse) as the point at which the name of Yeshua was invoked over the person (AMP, CEB, HCSB) or the point at which one becomes a Christian (MSG). As a verb for naming someone epikaleō normally refers to a name given a person in addition to his regular name (Acts 1:23; 4:36; 10:5, 18, 32; 11:13; 12:25). Jacob may mean "Christian" since Hellenistic Jews were called that name in Antioch (Acts 11:26). See my web article The First Christians. Jacob could also mean the other name by which Jewish disciples were known, The Way (Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23; 24:14, 22; cf. John 14:16; 2Pet 2:21) or Natzratim or Notzrim (Nazarenes, Acts 24:5).
8 If however you fulfill Kingdom Torah, according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you do well.
If: Grk. ean. See verse 2 above. however: Grk. mentoi, a reinforcing particle with focus on reaction to a preceding narrative detail. The particle has both an adversative meaning "but," "nevertheless," "however," and an affirmative meaning "verily," "really" (Rienecker). you fulfill: Grk. teleō, pres., to bring to completion in a manner that leaves nothing undone, to achieve fully, to fulfill. the Kingdom: Grk. basilikos, pertaining to a king, royal, sovereign, excellent, supreme. Most versions render the word as "royal." Torah: Grk. nomos may mean either a principle or standard relating to behavior or codified legislation, i.e. law. The usage of nomos in the Besekh has a much deeper meaning. In the LXX nomos translates torah, but torah does not mean simply "law" or "laws" as the English word conveys.
The Hebrew word torah means "direction," "teaching" or "instruction" and comes from the root yarah, which means to throw, to shoot (as in arrows), or to cast (as in lots) (BDB 435f). The canonical Torah, written down by Moses at the dictation of God, sets forth the way a person is meant to live in an ethical and moral way in order to enjoy life to the full and to please God. Torah is considered royal because God is king over His people (Ps 5:2; 10:16; 29:10; Isa 6:5) and He gave the instructions, not Moses. according to: Grk. kata, prep., the root meaning is down, but the resultant meaning with the principal noun in the accusative case (as here) is 'along,' 'at,' or 'according to' (DM 107). The preposition serves the function of the phrase "it is written," which is used frequently in the apostolic narratives and Paul's writings.
the Scripture: Grk. graphē, writing, and in the Jewish context meaning the sacred Hebrew Bible (24 books) referred to as the Tanakh, corresponding to the Protestant Old Testament (39 books) and its translation into Greek, the Septuagint. All the quotations from the Tanakh in the Besekh come from the LXX. The term "Scripture," which occurs over 50 times in the Besekh, summarizes the body of literature containing God's inspired, infallible, inerrant words penned by over 25 writers, from Moses to Malachi. The Tanakh reveals God's nature, His plan for a Messianic Savior and salvation, and His plan for holy and righteous living. This is the only Bible Yeshua and the apostles knew and as Scripture they upheld its authority over the traditions of men.
Jacob then quotes Leviticus 19:18. You shall love: Grk. agapaō, fut., to treat respectfully, to welcome, to be pleased with. It is generally devoid of strong emotion, although it can mean to be fond of. It contains the idea of devotion for the sake of another. In the Besekh that devotion is often portrayed in sacrificial terms. In the LXX agapaō translates aheb, but aheb is a far more comprehensive word than agapaō. There are four words in Greek for love. Besides agapaō there is eros, desire or longing between a man and woman; storgē, family affection; phileō, affection of people who are close to one another, whether inside a family or out, also care and compassion, and then love of things that one enjoys. Aheb is like the English word "love" which is used to mean all these things.
Let's consider a point of grammar. The verb "love" is not in the imperative mood, the mood of command, as the verb "hear" in the previous verse. It may seem strange then that "love" is translated as "you shall love" instead of "you will love." The future tense in Greek is generally predictive of an event or behavior. Sometimes, though, future tense expresses the idea of progress in future time. And, as in this case, the future tense sometimes expresses an entreaty for behavior, and since it necessarily involves futurity, this is an appropriate tense for that idea. The LXX of the Leviticus passage also has the future tense for "love." The future tense in the Greek manages to convey both the certainty and the obligation of God's expectation that the neighbor be given love, just as is found in the Hebrew grammar of this command.
your neighbor: Grk. plēsion, indicating nearness whether in proximity or circumstance, generally rendered as "neighbor." Plēsion is used in the LXX to render Heb. rea (SH-7453), which means friend, companion, or fellow, including a fellow citizen (BDB 945f; DNTT 1:255). as yourself: Grk. seautou, a reflexive pronoun, second person singular. This qualification is intended to invite self-examination. The expectation is not "love your neighbor as others do." Hillel had said: "Be a disciple of Aaron, love peace, pursue peace, love all men too, and bring them nigh unto the Law" (Avot 1:12).
God gave very practical guidelines so that the Israelites would know what he meant by loving one's neighbor. These expectations included leaving a portion of a harvested field for the poor, confronting sinful behavior, and refraining from any action that would cause harm to another's person or property. It's also noteworthy that the "stranger" (non-Israelite) was to be treated with the same degree of justice and love (Lev 19:33-34).
Love is a measure of faithfulness. It is to be offered in sincerity and with respect. Love avoids evil and supports what is good. Love is particularly devoted to brothers. Those of the household of faith in need have a claim on our generosity. Love would not contemplate wronging a brother. We should keep in mind that the Torah cannot be canceled if love fulfills it. Moreover, for love to fulfill Torah, then it must be an informed love. As a person devoted to God's will (12:2), the disciple takes the time to learn from Torah how God defines justice and the right things that a disciple should do for his neighbor.
Some Christian psychologists and ministers have interpreted the second commandment as a justification for self-love. "How can you love others if you don't love yourself?" Such an assumption ignores both the grammar of the command and the reality that everyone loves himself. The word "as" is a preposition, not a conjunction. With a preposition the command is set in contrast to another condition or activity In other words, "as" presumes that you already love yourself. Paul said, "No one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it" (Eph 5:29 NIV). We pamper ourselves. Admit it! We eat, we sleep, we bathe, we perfume, we curl, we exercise, we clothe ourselves, and much more. We do love ourselves. Consider how much of your time is spent pursuing activities for your personal health and welfare, and you'll begin to get a measure of your current self-love.
Self-love is a slippery slope. Paul warned that in the last days people would be self-lovers (Grk. philautos, 2Tim 3:2), and he did not mean it as a good thing. Many vices can result from inordinate self-love, which Paul goes on to list:
"money-lovers, boasters, arrogant, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without affection to kindred, irreconcilable, slanderers, uncontrolled, brutal, good-haters, 4 betrayers, reckless, conceited, pleasure-lovers rather than God-lovers, 5 having an appearance of godliness, but denying its power." (2Tim 2-5 mine)
Yeshua called his disciples to renounce self-love: "He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal" (John 12:25). The disciple cannot really fulfill this command with all its specific expectations in Leviticus 19 unless the self is surrendered to God and transformed by His grace (Eph 4:22-24; Col 3:9-10). you do: Grk. poieō, pres., a verb of physical action that may refer to (1) producing something material; make, construct, produce, create; or (2) to be active in bringing about a state of condition; do, act, perform, work. The second meaning applies here. In the LXX poieō renders chiefly Heb. asah (SH-6213), accomplish, do, make, work (first in Gen 1:7), and used of a wide range of human and divine activity. well: Grk. kalōs. See verse 3 above. If the disciple carries out the intention of the second great commandment, then he will meet the expectations of God.
9 But if you have respect of persons, you commit sin, being convicted by the Torah as transgressors.
But: Grk. de, conj. See verse 2 above. if: Grk. ei, a contingency marker used to set the stage for an event or course of action and introduce an "if" clause. you have respect of persons: Grk. prosōpolēmpteō, pres., to show favoritism or partiality. See verse 1 above. you commit: Grk. ergazomai, pres. mid., to focus on effort as such in the course of activity or with focus on the result of effort, which applies here. sin: Grk. hamartia, refers to a behavioral action, as well as its result, every departure from the way of righteousness, both human and divine. In Greek culture hamartia meant to miss, to miss the mark, to lose, not share in something, be mistaken. A mistake is the result of ignorance. Hamartia essentially meant to fail and could mean anything from stupidity to law-breaking, anything that offends against the right, that does not conform to the dominant ethic, to the respect due to social order and to the polis (DNTT 3:577).
In the LXX hamartia translates a whole range of Hebrew words for guilt and sin, particularly Heb. chata (lapse, sin). In the Tanakh a sin is an offense against the religious and moral law of God. In ancient Israel sin was tantamount to rejecting God’s covenant. Hamartia is not displaying the imperfections that separate humanity from divinity, but violating the clear instructions of God. Hamartia is the dominant word for sin in the Besekh. The degree of intentionality is not a factor in defining sinful behavior, only whether the express requirements or prohibitions of Torah commandments have been violated. Paul also describes sin as transgression of the Torah (Rom 4:15; 5:20; 7:7–12), as does John (1Jn 3:4). Religious people may erect their own codes for determining prohibited behavior, but God's judgment is based strictly on the commandments He gave to Moses for the people of Israel and the commandments Yeshua and the apostles gave for the Body of Messiah, all based on the Torah.
being convicted: Grk. elenchō, pres. pass. part., refers to evaluating or responding to improper behavior with varying modes of approach, depending on the context. The verb could mean (1) to expose wrongdoing, (2) disapprove of wrongdoing or (3) offer convincing evidence of wrongdoing. Danker prefers the third meaning for this verse. In any event elegcho is a rebuke that seeks to prove with demonstrative evidence, not hearsay, which Jacob proceeds to cite. by the Torah: Grk. nomos. See verse 8 above.
as transgressors: pl. of Grk. parabatēs, a transgressor or violator. This translation, also used in other versions, is not strong enough to convey the heinous nature of the indictment. In secular Greek writings parabatēs referred mostly to a warrior beside the charioteer, or a certain kind of foot soldier (DNTT 3:583), so used in a religious sense the term suggests someone who fights against God. The term occurs only five times in the Besekh (also verse 11 below; Rom 2:25, 27; and Gal 2:18) and describes someone who deserved being cut off from Israel (Heb. karet).
According to the Mishnah there are thirty-six transgressions for which the Torah specifies the punishment of karet (K'ritot 1:1; cf. Ex 30:33; 31:14; Lev 7:25-27). These transgressions included murder (Lev 17:4), the prohibited sexual unions of Leviticus 18 (Lev 20:17), blasphemy (Num 15:30), idolatry (Deut 13:1-5), necromancy (Lev 20:6), refusing circumcision (Gen 17:14), profaning Shabbat (Ex 31:14), certain violations of ritual purity laws (Lev 7:20-21, 25; Num 19:13), eating chametz (leavened product) during Pesach (Ex 12:15), not "humbling" oneself on Yom Kippur (Lev 23:29), anointing a layman with priestly oil (Ex 30:30), duplicating priestly perfume (Ex 30:38), and eating blood (Lev 17:14).
The Torah provided no means of atonement or restoring fellowship for deliberate offenses. Punishment as determined by a court varied between flagellation, not to exceed forty strokes (Deut 25:2-3), and the death sentence as specifically prescribed for some of the offenses. However, the transgression must be committed defiantly (Num 15:30) or presumptuously (Deut 17:12-13) to be subject to karet. If committed unintentionally (by mistake or in ignorance), a sin offering may be brought (Lev 4:2-35; 5:15-18; 22:14; Num 15:27-29; Isa 6:5-7).
The Torah provides these instructions concerning showing partiality, always in the context of legal judging:
"You shall not bear a false report; do not join your hand with a wicked man to be a malicious witness. 2 You shall not follow the masses in doing evil, nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after a multitude in order to pervert justice; 3 nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his dispute." (Ex 23:1-3)
"You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly." (Lev 19:15)
"You shall not show partiality in judgment; you shall hear the small and the great alike. You shall not fear man, for the judgment is God’s." (Deut 1:17)
"You shall not distort justice; you shall not be partial, and you shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and perverts the words of the righteous." (Deut 16:19)
Jacob, then, likens making social distinctions to judicial malfeasance.
10 For whoever shall keep the whole Torah, and yet stumble in one point, he has become guilty of all.
For: Grk. gar, conj. See verse 2 above. whoever: Grk. hostis, an indefinite pronoun used as a generalizing reference to the subject of a verb, 'anyone,' or 'whoever.' shall keep: Grk. tēreō, aor. subj., to maintain in a secure state or to be in compliance with instruction, to keep or observe. the whole: Grk. holos, a term that signifies something as a complete unit and not necessarily indicative of every individual part: all, whole or entire. Torah: Grk. nomos. See verse 8 above. and yet stumble: Grk. ptaiō, aor. subj., to lose one's footing, stumble or trip, used figuratively of a moral mishap or sin. in one point: Grk. heis, a numerical term, one. The allusion is to one commandment or to one part of the Torah. he has become: Grk. ginomai, perf., to come into being, to become, to undergo a state of existence or change.
guilty: Grk. enochos, required to give an account, with focus on a legal procedure, liable or accountable. of all: Grk. pas, a term that conveys the idea of comprehensiveness, either used with the focus on the aggregate, 'all or whole,' or the components of an aggregate, 'each or every.' The former meaning is intended here. Jacob alludes to God's expectations that the people of Israel would keep all His commandments (Lev 19:37; 20:22; Num 15:40; Deut 5:29). Indeed the purpose of the New Covenant was to enable and empower the people of Israel to obey his instructions (Jer 31:31-33; Ezek 37:24; Matt 28:20; Rom 8:3-4). Jacob addresses a problem that still exists among Christians, picking and choosing which commands they will obey (cf. Jdg 21:25). Paul pointed out that if one obeys one commandment he is liable to keep all the commandments (Gal 5:3).
The question is what does "all the Torah" mean? Most of the commandments in the Torah are for all Israelites, but some commands were only for priests, some only for Levites, some only for Nazirites, etc. Many commands are of a contingency nature based on the freedom to choose. So, the Torah Jacob must have in mind, as reflected in the next verse, is the moral code that is binding on all members of the community, as he will go on to illustrate in the next verse. Being "guilty of all" does not mean that disobeying one rule means literally disobeying all other rules. Rather the idiomatic expression flows from God's intention that his people keep all of his instructions. If we disobey one of his rules, then we have rebelled against the authority of the entire Torah and thus have disobeyed the One who gave all the rules.
11 For he who said, "Do not commit adultery," said also, "Do not commit murder." Now if you do not commit adultery, but murder, you have become a transgressor of the Torah.
For: Grk. gar, conj. See verse 2 above. he who: lit. "For the One," meaning the God of Israel, not Moses. said: Grk. legō, aor. part., to make a statement whether in oral or written form. The verb "say" functions as quotation marks for the text since ancient writings did not contain punctuation. The verb in this context represents the Jewish belief in the dictation of the Torah to Moses. Do not: Grk. mē, not. See verse 2 above.
commit adultery: Grk. moicheuō, aor. subj. Jacob quotes the seventh commandment (Ex 20:14). Adultery refers to sexual relations between a married woman and a man not her husband (Lev 20:10; Deut 22:22-24; Prov 6:32; Jer 29:23; Hos 2:2; Rom 7:3). Adultery was an offense long before Moses (Gen 20:3; 26:10). Everyone knew the seriousness of adultery since the Torah prescribed death for the offenders (Lev 20:10) and any children born of an adulterous union were considered mamzer or illegitimate (cf. Deut 23:2; Isa 57:3). Adultery could also be spiritual. God accused Israel of adultery because of idolatry (Jer 3:9; Ezek 23:37). In the Sermon on the Mount Yeshua defined lust, that is, covetousness of a married woman, as adultery (Matt 5:28). In other words planning a sin is the same thing as actually committing the sin.
said also: Jacob repeats the verb of divine dictation. Do not: Grk. mē. commit murder: Grk. phoneuō, aor. subj., the unlawful taking of human life, from the sixth commandment in Exodus 20:13, although murder was known to be wrong long before Moses was born (Gen 4:11-12; 6:5-7; 9:3-6). Hebrew has two words for taking life: ratzach and harag and there is a clear distinction between these words. Ratzach means premeditated murder, while harag encompasses accidental killing, manslaughter, killing in war and court-ordered execution. The sixth commandment specifically prohibits ratzach, not taking the life of another in defense of oneself or others.
All the early English versions from (1395-1769) translated the Torah quote as "You shall not kill." Of modern versions only the AMP, ASV, DRA, ERV, KJ21, KJV, NLV, RSV and WE translate phoneuō as "kill" instead of "murder." It’s a mystery how translators made the mistake when the Greek also has separate words for murder (phoneuō) and kill (apokteinō, e.g., Matt 10:28) and it is phoneuō that is used in this verse in the Greek text. God did not prohibit all killing. In the Scriptures God expects the death penalty to be imposed for murder. (Ex 21:12; Lev. 20:1; Num 35:16-21). God also commanded killing animals for food and sacrifice and permitted killing in self-defense and killing in war.
Now: Grk. de, conj. See verse 2 above. if: Grk. ei. Jacob repeats the word of contingency used in verse 9 above to setup the hypothetical situation. you do not: Grk. ou, adv. See verse 4 above. commit adultery: Grk. moicheuō, perf. but murder: Grk. phoneuō, perf. The perfect tense of these two verbs refers to action completed in past time with continuing results to the present. you have become: Grk. ginomai, perf., may mean (1) to come into being, (2) exist through application of will or effort by an entity, or (3) to undergo a state of existence, change or development, to come to be or become. Jacob presents the logical outcome of the prohibited action. a transgressor: Grk. parabatēs. See verse 9 above. of the Torah: Grk. nomos. See verse 8 above. See verse 9 for the expression "transgressor of the Torah."
12 So speak, and so do, as being about to be judged through a Torah of freedom.
So: Grk. houtōs, adv., a particle serving as an introduction to the manner in which something is to be done, 'in this manner or way.' speak: Grk. laleō, pres. imp., to make a sound or a statement. and: Grk. kai, conj. so: Grk. houtōs. do: Grk. poieō, pres. imp. See verse 8 above. as: Grk. hōs, adv., used here in a comparative sense; just like, similar to. being about to: Grk. mellō, pres. part., a future oriented verb with a pending aspect, being in the offing, be about to, be going to. be judged: Grk. krinō, pres. pass. inf., to be subject to scrutiny and evaluation of behavior, to judge. Many versions and commentators treat "are to be judged" as a reference to God's eschatological judgment, of which there are two - the judgment of the Messiah at his second coming (Matt 25:31-32; 2Cor 5:10) and the final judgment after the millennium (Rev 20:11-15).
However, it is much more likely that Jacob speaks of judgment in an immediate sense. God's judgment, as his forgiveness, always occurs after the behavior so in that sense it is always future. by a Torah: Grk. nomos. See the note on verse 8 above. of freedom: Grk. eleutheria, the absence of constraint relating to personal choice or action, freedom, liberty. The expression "Torah of freedom" does not mean "law of license" (cf. Gal 5:13). The freedom of which Jacob speaks is freedom from legalistic traditions. Jacob reminds his readers that the very Torah given to Moses, not traditions developed by the Pharisees, is the standard by which God judges all peoples. Since Torah is the standard of judgment then it behooves disciples to live by its precepts.
13 For judgment is without mercy to the one having shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
For: Grk. gar, conj. See the note on verse 2 above. judgment: Grk. krisis, judgment. The term has four possible applications: (1) of scrutiny of conduct; (2) of a local court responsible for administration of justice; (3) of saving help; (4) of responsible or right decision. Danker attributes the first meaning here in a legal sense. is without mercy: Grk. aneleos, unmerciful. to the one: Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. having shown: Grk. poieō, aor. part. See verse 8 above. no: Grk. mē, 'not.' See verse 1 above. mercy: Grk. eleos, kindness expressed for one in need, compassion, mercy or pity. In the LXX eleos normally represents Heb. chesed, which means proper covenant behavior, the solidarity which the partners in the covenant owe one another.
Chesed results in one giving help to the covenant partner in his need. So the connotations of eleos meaning chesed may stretch from loyalty to a covenant to kindliness, mercy, and pity (DNTT 2:594). BDB defines chesed as essentially goodness or kindness and often occurs in passages with the sense of kindness of men towards men, in doing favors and benefits, but also kindness extended to the lowly and needy (338). The use of the verb poieō indicates that mercy is not just sentiment or expressing words, but doing something practical that benefits the person being shown mercy.
According to the prophet Micah mercy is one of the three virtues that summarizes the Torah, "He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?" (Micah 6:8 HNV). Yeshua alludes to the Micah passage when he rebuked the scribes and Pharisees for neglecting "the weightier matters of the Torah—justice and mercy and faithfulness" (Matt 23:23 TLV). In Hebraic thought man's duty of mercy is based on the fact that God will show mercy only to the merciful.
Yeshua expressed this maxim in the Sermon on the Mount "For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you don't forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Matt 6:14-15). Yeshua went on to illustrate the principle in the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant (Matt 18:21-35). Similarly the Talmud has "Who is merciful to others, mercy is shown to him by Heaven, while he who is not merciful to others, mercy is not shown to him by Heaven" (Shabbath 151a). In both instances mercy and judgment are immediate, not eschatological.
Mercy: Grk. eleos. triumphs over: Grk. katakauchaomai, pres. mid., to boast, in the sense of having a feeling of advantage or superiority. The verb is formed from the prep. kata ('down,' 'according to') and kauchaomai ('to have or express pride in being intimately associated or involved with,' 'to boast'). judgment: Grk. krisis. As with the first use of this word in the verse Jacob likely intends judgment in a contemporary sense. Jacob uses a literary device of personifying Mercy and Judgment. Stern offers two ways to interpret this sentence. First, "the mercy which a person shows toward others wins out over, that is, prevents, God’s adverse judgment toward him" or second, "God’s mercy wins out over his judgment" (733). Adamson suggests that Jacob is urging that mercy be a disciple's rule of practice in speech and act and thus "mercy triumphs over legalistic judgment" (118).
While the Greek of this verse is difficult the point is likely that mercy shown will result in judgment being set aside in favor of mercy being given. Another consideration is that Jacob may be engaging in a play on words, contrasting God's judgment with man's judgment. in verses 1 to 7 Jacob condemns the kind of human judgment that results in partiality to the rich and powerful. Mercy is superior to man's biased judgment in that only mercy fulfills the second commandment (verse 8), and when that happens man's partiality judgment is defeated and God's judgment is averted.
Midrash 4: On Faithfulness, 2:14-26
14 What is the benefit, my brothers, if anyone should claim to have faithfulness, but should have no works? Can that faithfulness save him?
Verses 14-18 are similar to the Parable of the Two Sons that Yeshua tells in Matthew 21:28-31. Obedience to God is shown by what we do, not by what we say (Gruber-Notes 224). This section employs two key terms, "faithfulness" and "works." Jacob's presentation has historically been misrepresented by Christian theologians who have pitted him against Paul. Misunderstanding has resulted because of the failure to understand the Jewish point of view of both apostles. Another consideration for interpretation is that rather than beginning a completely new topic, Jacob simply expands his treatise on what it means to live by the Kingdom Torah and he employs a hypothetical argument with a fictive opponent to make his point.
What: Grk. tís, interrogative pronoun indicating interest in establishing something definite; who, which, what, why. is the benefit: Grk. ho ophelos, increase or advantage connected with an activity or circumstance, profit, benefit or gain. my brothers: pl. of Grk. adelphos, voc. See verse 1 above. if: Grk. ean, a conditional particle or conjunction. When used with a verb in the subjunctive mood, as follows, then ean introduces a possible circumstance that determines the realization of some other circumstance. In other words if "a" is true or exists, then "b" is a logical outcome. With this particle Jacob introduces a hypothetical situation. anyone: Grk. tis, indefinite pronoun to indicate non-specification, a certain one, someone, anyone, anything. Since the pronoun is masculine some versions have "a man," but Jacob is purposely general in his argument.
should claim: Grk. legō, pres. subj. See verse 11 above. The subjunctive mood is used to indicate mild contingency or probability and looks toward what is conceivable or potential. The subjunctive is appropriate for a hypothetical argument. The verb has the emphasis of making a claim that is in fact untrue. to have: Grk. echō, pres. inf., to possess something with the implication of having under one's control or at one's disposal. The infinitive is a verbal noun and here expresses a result. faithfulness: Grk. pistis. See verse 1 above. The noun is presented here as a claim of the fictive opponent. but: Grk. de, conj. See verse 2 above. The conjunction offers a contrast. should have: Grk. echō, pres. subj. no: Grk. mē, lit. "not," a particle of qualified negation. It is subjective, involving will and thought.
works: Grk. ergon generally means a deed, action or accomplishment with these applications: (a) in contrast to rest; (b) as a practical proof of something; (c) of the deeds of God and Yeshua, specifically miracles; or (d) the deeds of men, exhibiting a consistent moral character (BAG). Given the examples of Abraham and Rahab the "works" cannot be legalistic works of Pharisaic traditions, since those rules did not exist then. Rather Jacob uses "works" in the same sense as the "good works which God has prepared beforehand" of which Paul speaks in Ephesians 2:10. For Jacob "works" are behaviors that fulfill the instruction of God in the Torah, works that reflect a righteous character (cf. Eph 2:10), or more specifically works that fulfill the second great commandment. He is not talking about works of legalism (ergōn nomou, Rom 3:20, 28; Gal 2:16; 3:2, 5, 10) in order to satisfy man-made traditions (Rom 2:29).
Can: Grk. dunamai, to be capable for doing or achieving. that: Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a relative pronoun. faithfulness: Grk. pistis, faithfulness. However, Jacob uses the term in this proposition as a pretense of faithfulness, because the hypothetical man "says" he has faithfulness, but he has no works to give the claim validity. save: Grk. sōzō, aor. inf., to deliver, or rescue from a hazardous condition, often in the sense of bodily harm. In the Besekh sōzō frequently refers to rescue from spiritual peril, including deliverance from God's wrath on the Day of the Lord. him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun used to distinguish a person or thing from or contrast it with another, or to give him (it) emphatic prominence. The pronoun may mean (1) self, (2) he, she, it, or (3) the same. The second meaning applies here, "him," i.e., the one making the claim. Jacob's scenario is not unlike that in the Sermon on the Mount where certain individuals will claim to have been faithful to Messiah, but they will hear "I never knew you" (Matt 7:23).
In the Jewish context in which Jacob writes it's important to remember that to many Pharisees almsgiving, prayer, fasting and tithing were the most important components of righteous living (Luke 18:12) and almsgiving was the most important of the four. Some believed that giving alms gained merit in the sight of God, and even gained atonement and forgiveness for past sins.
"It is better to give alms than to treasure up gold. For almsgiving delivers from death, and it will purge away every sin." (Tobit 12:8-9 RSV)
"For almsgiving to a father will not be forgotten, and against your sins it will be credited to you." (Sirach 3:14 RSV)
There was a rabbinic saying: "Greater is he who gives alms than he who offers all sacrifices." (Barclay 1:136)
Almsgiving was considered the best good work a person could do. This is the epitome of loving your neighbor and in so doing loving your God. Even loaning money without interest or helping a poor man to some lucrative occupation was considered a form of almsgiving. (For information more on the Jewish practice of almsgiving, see the articles "Alms" and "Charity" at JewishEnclyopedia.com.) God does value almsgiving as Cornelius reported the word of the angel who visited him:
"And Cornelius was saying, "Four days ago until this hour, I was praying during the ninth hour in my house; and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing, and he said, 'Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God.'" (Acts 10:30-31 BR)
However, the Pharisees were entirely wrong about the atoning value of almsgiving. Sins are only forgiven by the shedding of blood (Heb 9:22).
15 If a brother or sister is naked and lacking daily food,
If: Grk. ean, a conditional particle that introduces a possible circumstance. a brother: Grk. adelphos. See verse 1 above. or sister: Grk. adelphē (from delphus, "of the same womb"), normally used of a female blood sibling (Matt 13:56; Rom 16:15). Jacob could intend both "brother" and "sister" in a literal sense (cf. Isa 58:7), but probably the nouns would include any member of the Messianic community (cf. 1Jn 3:17). is: Grk. huparchō, pres. subj., be present in a functional manner or to function or be in a state as determined by circumstance, be.
naked: Grk. gumnos, naked, bare, without clothing. As qualified by the accompanying verb gumnos does not mean that the person is totally devoid of clothing and goes about nude in public. Rather expression is idiomatic for being without essential possessions (cf. Job 1:21; Eccl 5:14-15), being clad with only the inner garment or tunic (Mark 14:51; John 21:7) or having given one's outer clothing as security for a loan (cf. Deut 24:17; Job 22:6; Matt 5:40; Luke 3:11). and: Grk. kai, conj. lacking: Grk. leipō, pres. pass. part., to be in a state of affairs requiring attention because of deficiency, lack. daily: Grk. ephēmeros, for the day, daily. food: Grk. trophē, that which is needed to nourish or sustain physical life, food, victuals, diet. In ancient times when there was no refrigeration, shopping for food was a daily necessity. Wages for workers were also paid daily in order to buy food.
16 and someone says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and be filled;" but do not give to them the necessities of the body, what is the benefit?
and: Grk. de, conj. See verse 2 above. The conjunction continues the thought of the previous verse. someone: Grk. tis, indefinite pronoun. See verse 14 above. The pronoun refers to the fictive opponent, the one who claims faithfulness. says: Grk. legō, aor. subj. See verse 11 above. The subjunctive mood emphasizes the hypothetical nature of the proposed scenario. to them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun, i.e., the ones in need. Go: Grk. hupagō, pres. imp., 2p-pl., to proceed from a position with the focus on the departure point; go, leave or depart. in: Grk. en, prep.
peace: Grk. eirēnē, a relational word that means a state of harmony as a result from cessation of hostility or a peaceful condition that focuses on mutual acceptance in personal relationships and that reflects common objectives. The Greek word corresponds to Heb. shalom, which means completeness, soundness, welfare, or peace (BDB 1022). In Jewish culture shalom is never peace in the negative sense, the absence of conflict, but the possession of everything that makes for man’s highest good. be warmed: Grk. thermainō, pres. pass. imp., to warm oneself by something that produces heat.
and: Grk. kai, conj. be filled: Grk. chortazō, pres. pass. imp., 2p-pl., originally of feeding plant growth to animals to the point of satisfaction, meet the need for food, to feed or fill, be satisfied or have one's fill. but: Grk. de, conj. do not: Grk. mē, adv., negative particle. give: Grk. didōmi, aor. subj., 2p-pl., generally to give something to someone, often with the focus on generosity, but may be used to mean bestow, hand over, impart, entrust, yield, put, or sacrifice (BAG). In the LXX didōmi generally renders Heb. natan (SH-5414, first in Gen 1:29), to give, put or set, with the same range of meaning (DNTT 2:41). The point of the verb is that the giving should take place in lieu of the dismissal.
to them: pl. of Grk. autos. the necessities: pl. of Grk. epitēdeios, from the sense of suitable adapted to something, the term means that which is useful or necessary for something. of the body: Grk. sōma, a structured physical unit in contrast to its parts, body of human or animal, whether living or dead, but normally of a living human body. While Greek dualism distinguished between the soul and the body, in Hebraic thought the body represents the whole man. what: Grk. tís, interrogative pronoun. is the benefit: Grk. ophelos. See verse 14 above. In other words, what benefit have you bestowed by mere words? How have you fulfilled the Royal Law to love your neighbor? Jacob's sarcastic question is reminiscent of Isaiah's indictment of Israel,
"Is this not the fast which I choose, To loosen the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free And break every yoke? Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into the house; when you see the naked, to cover him; and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?" (Isa 58:6-7)
Jacob may also allude to Yeshua's parable of the sheep and goats (Matt 25:31-46). In that parable the sheep are characterized by their compassion for those in need among Yeshua's brethren. (See my commentary on Matthew 25.) Many interpreters resort to this parable to encourage charity to the poor because of seeing Yeshua "in them." While this interpretation sounds noble, it is patently unbiblical. Yeshua is only "in" his disciples and the Body of Messiah and the unbelieving poor will still die in their sins if they do not accept the Messiah and Savior. The most important charitable work to give the unbelieving poor is the Gospel (verse 5 above; cf. Matt 4:23; 9:35; Luke 4:18; 7:22). The gospel was intended for the poor (Luke 4:18; 6:20; 7:22) and the nature of righteousness inherently involves care for the needs of others (Matt 6:1-4; 19:21; Luke 12:33; 14:13; 19:8f).
Jacob does concur with Paul that those of the household of faith and our own relations in need have a special claim on our generosity (Rom 12:13; 16:2; Gal 6:9-10; 1Tim 5:8; cf. Deut 15:7-11). John makes the same point when he says:
"We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoever has the world's goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?" (1Jn 3:16-17 NASB).
Interestingly, the only recorded "compassionate ministry" conducted by the disciples during the apostolic era was for the benefit of the saints in the land of Israel (Acts 2:45; 6:1-3; 24:7; Rom 15:25-27, 31; 1Cor 16:1-3, 15; 2Cor 8:1-4; 9:1-5, 12). Christians should consider what they could do now for the poor in Israel. Charity in the parable of the sheep and goats has the added dimension of being performed for those who suffer persecution, especially as will occur during the great tribulation. By caring for His poverty-stricken, homeless and imprisoned Jewish brothers, the "sheep" of the nations identify with the Shepherd and receive his commendation, as in the cases of Roman centurions who performed charitable acts for Jews (Matt 8:4-10; Luke 7:1-5; Acts 10:1-2).
There is also a biblical caveat to consider in this context. Charity should not create dependency and relieve the poor of taking responsibility for their own needs. Consider that while the Torah required farmers to leave a portion of their crop for the poor, widows and orphans, God did not expect the farmer to deliver the produce to them (Ex 23:11; Lev 19:9-10; 23:22; Deut 24:19). In addition, justice for the poor in the Torah did not mean redistributing the wealth of the rich or giving favoritism to the poor, but simply that God's absolute standard of justice would apply in all cases regardless of the status of the parties (Lev 19:15; Deut 1:16-17). The apostle Paul laid down the dictum, "If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat" (2Th 3:10 NKJV), and he gave rules for helping widows in distress (1Tim 5:9-10).
17 So also that 'faithfulness,' if it has not works, is dead by itself.
So: Grk. houtōs, adv., thus, so, in this manner. also: Grk. kai, conj. that: Grk. ho, definite article but used here as a relative pronoun. 'faithfulness:' Grk. pistis, faithfulness. See the note on verse 1 above. Jacob refers back to the claim of faithfulness in verse 14. if: Grk. ean. Jacob repeats the conditional particle used in verses 2, 8, 14 and 15 above for the sake of his hypothetical scenario. it has: Grk. echō, pres. subj. See verse 1 above. not: Grk. mē, adv. works: pl. of Grk. ergon. See verse 14 above. Jacob means genuine works of righteousness. is: Grk. eimi, pres., to be, a function word used primarily to declare a state of existence, whether in the past ('was, were'), present ('are, is') or future ('will be'), often to unite a subject and predicate (BAG).
dead: Grk. nekros, one without life, dead, used here in a spiritual or moral sense. by: Grk. kata, prep., lit. "against." Here the preposition depicts one thing separating itself from another (Thayer). itself: Jacob personifies "faithfulness" and rightly points out that a claim of faithfulness without concern for brethren in need cannot possibly reflect the living faithfulness expected by the Messiah.
18 But, someone will say, "You have faithfulness, and I have works. Show to me the faithfulness of yours without works, and from my works I will show you faithfulness."
Jacob resorts to a rhetorical device of an imaginary conversation between two parties who espouse opposite viewpoints, a recognized strategy in Jewish teaching and discourse. The imagined conversation continues to the end of the chapter. But: Grk. alla, adversative conj., but, on the other hand, or however. The word serves to introduce a statement with emphasis. someone: Grk. tis, indefinite personal pronoun. In the context the "someone" is standing in for Jacob or an advocate for Jacob's position. will say: Grk. legō, fut. See verse 3 above. You: Grk. su, pronoun of the second person. have: Grk. echō, pres. See verse 1 above. faithfulness: Grk. pistis. See verse 1 above. Jacob refers back to the claim of faithfulness in verse 14.
and I: Grk. kagō, conj. formed from combining kai ("and") and egō ("I"), and serves to link in parallel a personal affirmation by way of addition to or confirmation of a preceding statement. have: Grk. echō, pres. works. pl. of Grk. ergon. See verse 14 above. Show: Grk. deiknumi, aor. imp., may mean to show (1) so as to be observed by another, point out, make known; or (2) or so as to be understood by another, explain, demonstrate. to me: Grk. egō, pronoun of the first person. the faithfulness: i.e., the claim of faithfulness. of yours: Grk. su. without: Grk. chōris, in a condition or circumstance not including; without, apart from. works: pl. of Grk. ergon. What works do you possess that validate your claim of faith?
and I: Grk. kagō, conj. from: Grk. ek, prep. used to denote separation or derivation; from, out of. my: Grk. egō. works: pl. of Grk. ergon. will show: Grk. deiknumi, fut. you: Grk. su. faithfulness: i.e., true faithfulness. Jacob's friend can easily demonstrate his faithfulness to Yeshua by charity toward Yeshua's brethren. Jacob essentially says that the claim of faithfulness without fulfilling the second great commandment is baseless. Commentators typically interpret this imagined conversation as contrasting salvation by trust vs. salvation by legalistic works. However, nowhere in the conversation does Jacob mention salvation as he does in verse 14 above. At this point Jacob is addressing the inherent nature of discipleship.
19 You believe that God is one. You do well. The demons also believe, and shudder.
You believe: Grk. pisteuō, pres., in general Greek usage, means to have confidence or faith in the reliability or trustworthiness of some thing or someone. In the LXX pisteuō renders the Heb. 'aman, which essentially means to confirm or support (BDB 52). In the Niphal form 'aman means to be true, reliable or faithful and can be applied to men (e.g., Moses, Num 12:7), but especially to God who keeps his covenant and gives grace to those who love him (Deut 7:9). In the Hiphil form 'aman means to stand firm or trust as Abraham trusted in God's promise (Gen 15:6). In the Hebrew concept trust and faithfulness are inseparable. If one trusts, then one is faithful. Far too many Christians truncate "believe" into affirming a creed or believing in the God of the Bible or even trusting in Yeshua's atoning work for salvation. Unfortunately, such believing and trusting does not always result in faithfulness.
that God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. See verse 5 above. is one: Grk heis, a numerical term with focus on singleness. Jacob alludes to the opening line of the Jewish ritual called Shema: shema Israel, Adonai Eloheynu, Adonai echad ("Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one," Deut 6:4), which was recited daily, in the morning and in the evening (Ber. 1:1). The word "one" in Hebrew is echad, which is the cardinal number "one," and as an adjective may mean "one and the same" (Gen 40:5), the first in a sequence and unity (BDB 25). The declaration affirms both the belief in one God, that is, the God of Israel is the only God in existence, that this God is Israel's God and by virtue of that fact God is king over His people. The affirmation has long divided Christians, Messianic Jews and unbelieving Jews.
How can God be one and yet be Father, Son and Holy Spirit? Doesn’t that make God three? Nowhere does the Besekh say that God is three. However, echad is not a statement of arithmetic but of character. Echad describes his uniqueness. He is the only God there is. And as such He alone is to be worshipped. Having said that - echad also incorporates the idea of a plurality in unity, a tri-unity. In Genesis 1:1 Elohim ("God," plural of El) created the heavens and the earth. Elohim is a plural noun and the very nature of the universe attests to plurality in the deity that created it. The universe is a triunity: space, time and matter, each of which also consist of three parts. Space has three dimensions or directions. North-south, east-west, and up-down.
Time is three: past, present, future. Matter consists of energy, motion and phenomena. (For a detailed explanation of the triunity of the universe see Henry Morris, Biblical Basis for Modern Science, Chap. 2.) The mathematical equation of the triune God is not 1+1+1=1, but 1 x 1 x 1=1. That is the mystery of God. In Genesis 1:26 the Creator says, "Let us make man in our image," and man is also a plurality in unity: body, soul and spirit, as mentioned in the very verse in which God is declared to be one (cf. 1Th 5:23). The rabbinic explanation that Elohim is a "plural of majesty" does not fit at this point. The Torah goes on to point out that there is "one" statute for the Israelite and for the alien (Num 15:15), which means the commandments of the Torah function as a unity. When Israelites acted in unity they were described as echad (Jdg 20:8; 1Sam 11:7).
The word "echad" often means a multiple unity, such as "one" cluster of grapes or "one" bundle of sticks. God is revealed with more than one personality in Scripture. Genesis 1:2 mentions the Spirit of Elohim as moving over the ball of water that would become the earth. Three men visited Abraham and he called one of them Adonai (a name for God in the Tanakh). Jacob wrestled with a man he also called Adonai. Isaiah 48:16 uses three different terms to speak of the divine: "From the first I have not spoken in secret, from the time it took place, I was there. And now the Lord GOD has sent Me, and His Spirit" (NASB).
You do: Grk. poieō, pres., to do or perform something. well: Grk. kalōs, well or rightly. See verse 3 above. The statement "You do well" appears first in verse 8 above as an compliment for keeping the royal commandment. The demons: pl. of Grk. daimonion refers to a deity or transcendent being of lesser or subordinate rank. In the Besekh the term only has a negative connotation of an evil spirit hostile toward man and God. Daimonion was historically derived from daiomai, to divide or apportion and may be connected with the idea of the god of the dead as a divider of corpses (DNTT 1:450). also believe: Grk. pisteuō, pres. When used of the demons Jacob means that they give credence to the existence of God and the truth of Scripture (cf. Matt 4:1-11), not that they trust in God for His favor.
and shudder: Grk. phrissō, pres., to tremble in the fact of something that is disturbing to the uttermost, shudder out of fear. The verb occurs only here in the Besekh. Jacob's assertion is borne out by Yeshua's confrontation with demons and their fear of being tormented or sent to the Pit (Mark 5:7, 10). They know that their destiny is eternity in hell (1Pet 3:19; 2Pet 2:4; Jude 1:6; Rev 9:14).
20 But are you willing to know, O vain man, that faithfulness apart from works is barren?
But: Grk. de, conj. are you willing: Grk. thelō, pres., to wish, will or desire. to know: Grk. ginōskō, aor. inf., to have information about or to form a judgment about something. O: Grk. Ō , the last letter of the Greek alphabet, but used here as an interjection. When the address is intended to carry special force the inflectional particle omega ("ō") is used (DM 71). The special usage of the omega letter with vocative case nouns is found in both classical Greek writings and Jewish literature (BAG). Only a small number of versions translate the omega literally (ASV, DRA, JUB, KJV, LITV, NKJV, OJB, REV, YLT). vain: Grk. kenos, devoid of contents, without substance, empty or vain, here speaking of one majoring in self-glorying ignorance.
man: Grk. anthrōpos, human being, man, or mankind. The noun is in the vocative case (anthrōpe) used only for direct address. In the LXX anthrōpos renders three Hebrew words: (1) adam, SH-444, a human male or generically for man and woman (Gen 1:26); (2) ish, SH-376, adult male or husband (Gen 2:23-24) and (3) enosh, SH-582, man or mankind (Ps 8:4-5) (DNTT 2:564). The interjection of "O Man" is a rhetorical device to address a fictive opponent. Paul uses the same literary device in his writings (Rom 2:1, 3; 9:20; 1Tim 6:11). The emphatic ō anthrōpe does not occur in the LXX, but the simple vocative anthrōpe occurs eight times in the LXX, six times in addressing a prophet of Israel as "man of God" (1Kgs 17:18; 2Kgs 1:9, 11, 13; 4:16, 39), one time addressing Israel (Mic 6:8) and one time addressing an adversary that that portended the betrayal of Judas (Ps 55:13).
that: Grk. hoti, conj. faithfulness: Grk. pistis. See verse 1 above. apart from: Grk. chōris, in a separated state or functioning in a condition or circumstances not including something, without, apart from. works: pl. of Grk. ergon. See verse 14 above. Again, for Jacob "works" refer to actions that fulfill the commandment to love one's neighbor. is barren: Grk. argos, idle, doing nothing. Mounce suggests 'injurious,' although his New Testament translation renders the word as "useless." In verse 17 faithfulness without charitable works was dead, and here it is useless. To Jacob it is incomprehensible to claim that one is trusts in God and is faithful to God and yet not be able to name one good work produced by that "faithfulness."
21 Abraham our father, was he not declared righteous from works, having offered up Isaac his son upon the altar?
Abraham: Grk. Abraam, which transliterates the Heb. Avraham. The first Hebrew patriarch became the prime example of faithfulness. He was the son of Terah, a descendant of Noah's son, Shem (Gen 11:27). He grew up in Ur of the Chaldees, a prominent Sumerian city. He was known at the beginning as Abram (“exalted father,” Gen 11:26), but his name was changed subsequently to Abraham (“father of a multitude,” Gen 17:5). When Abraham departed Ur he was accompanied by his wife Sarah, who was also his half sister (Gen 11:29-31; 20:12), and his nephew Lot (Gen 12:5). Abraham was living in Haran (Assyria) when God called him to migrate to Canaan, and during his sojourn there God spoke to him and established a covenant with him.
Abraham eventually traveled to Egypt. Although Abraham is often criticized because he deceived Pharoah regarding Sarah's status as his wife, he did so in order to ensure her safety. God never criticized Abraham, but instead judged Pharoah for taking Sarah. Abraham later took Sarah's servant Hagar as a co-wife (Gen 16:1-3) and by her had a son Ishmael (Gen 16:11), but then divorced Hagar and sent her away after the birth of Isaac (Gen 21:14). After the death of Sarah Abraham apparently had at least two concubine wives, one named Keturah who bore him six sons (Gen 25:1-6). Abraham died at the age of 175 and was buried with his wife Sarah in the cave of Machpelah in Ephron by his sons Isaac and Ishmael (Gen 25:7-10). For more on the life of Abraham see my web article The Story of Abraham.
our: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person. father: Grk. patêr, a male biological parent or ancestor. In Greek culture patêr was used of biological relation, of the patriarch of a family, as a title of honor for an old man or a philosopher, and of a deity to emphasize his authority and his power to beget. In the LXX patêr renders ab ("av"), which occurs about 1180 times. Abraham is acknowledged in Scripture as both the biological father of the Israelites and Jews (Gen 25:19; 26:3) and a spiritual father to many of all nations (Gen 17:5). The collective emphasis by Jews of Abraham as "our father" occurs several times in Scripture (1 Chron 29:18; Matt 3:9; Luke 1:55, 73; 3:8; John 8:39, 53; Acts 3:13; 7:2; Rom 4:12).
Was he not: Grk. ou, adv. The negative particle has interrogative effect here. declared righteous: Grk. dikaioō, aor. pass., to make right or render right or just (Mounce). Danker has (1) to verify to be in the right or (2) to put into a condition or state of uprightness. BAG adds to make free or pure. The verb occurs 39 times in the Besekh, 29 of which are in the works of Paul. In the LXX dikaioō renders Heb. tsadaq (SH-6663), to be just or righteous, to declare right, to vindicate, prove right, to acquit or be acquitted, or to be cleared of wrongdoing (e.g., Gen 38:26; 44:16; 2Sam 15:4; Ps 143:2; Isa 43:26) (DNTT 3:355). The context of this important word is a righteous standard against which people are measured.
The majority of Bible versions translate the verb dikaioō here with "justified," which may give the wrong impression. In most instances in the Besekh dikaioō is used of granting a pardon from the penalty of sin. However, the verb is used throughout the Tanakh to express granting justice for humans wrongly accused or vindicating someone's character. The same usage occurs in the Besekh (Matt 11:19; 12:37; Luke 7:29; 10:29; 18:14; 1Cor 4:4; 1Tim 3:16). Jacob is not portraying Abraham as a sinner needing God's pardon, but rather as a righteous man.
Jacob is using the verb with a completely different emphasis than found in Paul's writings. The question for Jacob is "how was the faith and righteousness of Abraham determined?" After all, Abraham's context does not include relying on an atoning sacrifice to be made right with God. The passive form of dikaioō used here could be interpreted as "verified as being righteous," which is further clarified in verse 23 below. We should take note of the fact that Jacob does not say that Abraham was "saved." Jacob is not talking about salvation from God's wrath as he does in verses 12-14, but what makes a person righteous.
from: Grk. ek, prep. works: pl. of Grk ergon. See the note on verse 14 above. In this case the work was one involving obedience to God's instruction. having offered up: Grk. anapherō, aor. part., to offer up a sacrifice as a religious act involving perception of an elevated site for the offering. Isaac: Grk. Isaak, a transliteration of Heb. Yitschaq ("laughter"). his son: Grk. huios, a male offspring or descendant, whether by direct birth or by more remote ancestry. In the LXX huios renders Heb. ben (“son,” “son of”), which is used in three distinctive ways: (1) to identify direct paternity (Gen 5). (2) to indicate a more distant ancestor (Gen 32:32); (3) having the characteristics of (e.g., Ps 89:22). Isaac was Abraham's second-born son, the only son of Sarah when Abraham was one hundred years old and Sarah was ninety (Gen 21:1-6).
God made it clear to Abraham that being the child of promise the Messianic line would go through Isaac (Gen 21:12). Later, through the matchmaking efforts of his father, Isaac married his second cousin Rebekah (Gen 22:15, 51, 57-58, 67). God reiterated the covenant He made with Abraham with his son Isaac (Gen 26:2-5, 23-24; Ex 2:24; 6:4; Lev 26:42). on the altar: Grk. thusiastērion, an altar used for offering sacrifices. Isaac became a child of sacrifice and a type of Yeshua when God commanded Abraham to kill his son in a worship ceremony in the "land of Moriah" (Gen 22:1-14), in the vicinity where Yeshua would be crucified. Isaac became a child of sacrifice and a type of Yeshua when God commanded Abraham to kill his son in a worship ceremony in the "land of Moriah" (Gen 22:1-14), in the vicinity where Yeshua would be crucified.
22 You see that faithfulness was working with his works, and through works faithfulness was perfected;
You see: Grk. blepō, 2p-sing., to see with the eyes, has the meaning here of having inward or mental insight. that: Grk. hoti, conj. faithfulness: Grk. pistis, faithfulness. In the case of Abraham the noun alludes to the patriarch's willingness to comply with divine directives. was working with: Grk. sunergeō, impf., to work along with in a supportive manner, to assist. his: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. works: pl. of Grk. ergon. See verse 14 above. The "works" of Abraham allude to the fact that he kept God's commandments (Gen 26:5; cf. Isa 51:1-2). Jacob is not applying a Pharisaic logic of relying on works of legalism as proof of righteousness, because Pharisaic traditions did not exist in the time of Abraham. and: Grk. kai, conj. through: Grk. dia, prep. works: pl. of Grk. ergon.
faithfulness: Grk. pistis. See verse 1 above. was perfected: Grk. teleioō, aor. pass., to bring to a point at which nothing is missing, i.e., to complete. Abraham had been faithful to God ever since he obeyed God's call to leave Ur of the Chaldees. Even though he walked by trust in God and not by sight for many years, he had yet to face the supreme test of his faithfulness. Would he obey God's command to sacrifice his son? The extreme trial played out on Mount Moriah demonstrated as no other test could Abraham's absolute loyalty and fidelity. Abraham's experience illustrates the reality that the act of truly believing in God includes permission for divine testing.
23 and the Scripture was fulfilled, saying, "Then Abraham trusted God, and it was credited to him for righteousness;" and he was called the friend of God.
and: Grk. kai, conj. the Scripture: Grk. graphē. See verse 8 above. was fulfilled: Grk. plēroō, aor. pass., has a wide range of usage and may mean (1) to make full (to fill full), whether of things or persons, (2) to complete a period of time or reach its end, (3) to bring something to completion or finish something already begun, (4) to fulfill by deeds a prophecy, obligation, duty or destiny, (5) complete, finish, bring to an end or (6) complete a number (BAG). Danker interprets the verb here as fulfillment of prophecy, something that had been foretold. Burdick, on the other hand, says it is fulfillment in the sense of completion. What Abraham did in Genesis 22 was the outworking of the faith described in chapter 15. which says: Grk. legō, pres. part., to make a statement. See verse 3 above. Jacob then quotes Genesis 15:6.
And: Grk. de, conj. Abraham: Grk. Abraam. See verse 21 above. trusted: Grk. pisteuō, aor. See verse 19 above. Most versions translate the verb as "believed." Note that Jacob does not say "believed in." God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. See verse 5 above. Many versions translate Genesis 15:6 as Abraham "believed in God," which may give the impression he had never believed in the true God before this point. In the Genesis verse the verb "believed" is Heb. aman (Hiphil Perf.), which essentially means to confirm or support (BDB 52). In the Hiphil form aman means to stand firm or trust. The Perfect of aman indicates a complete condition, one that began in past time with continuing results to the present. Abraham did not believe in the sense of an intellectual assent to a philosophical idea. Abraham had trusted God ever since he left Haran in obedience to God's direction. As a result of this trust he was faithful to God.
and: Grk. kai, conj. it was credited: Grk. logizomai, aor. pass., to count or calculate in a numerical sense, but also to infer, conclude, presume or to think upon, ponder (Mounce). Bible translations vary with "credited," "reckoned" and "imputed." In the LXX logizomai chiefly translates Heb. chashav (SH-2803), to think, account, (BDB 362), which is used in the sense of to think in a certain way, to estimate value or to calculate or compute something. Thus Jewish translators used logizomai with the sense of what God thinks about a person, whether regarding as righteous or guilty (cf. Gen 15:6; 2Sam 19:19; Ps 32:2) (DNTT 3:823). In Genesis 15:6 the verb chasav is a Qal Imperfect. The Qal is a simple action and the Imperfect points to action that has been going on but is not yet complete. As a word picture of arithmetic the counting had been going on coincidental with the trusting so that each time Abraham trusted it was added to the sum total representing his righteous character.
to him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. for: Grk. eis, prep., lit. "into." righteousness: Grk. dikaiosunē, a state that is in accord with standards for acceptable or anticipated behavior, uprightness, righteousness, justice. In the LXX dikaiosunē normally renders Heb. tzedaqah (SH-6666), first used in Genesis 15:6 of Abraham's faithfulness being considered as righteousness. The noun is often used to describe the character of God (Ps 5:8; 35:24; Isa 5:16; 42:21; Jer 9:24), as well as the Davidic king, the Messiah (Ps 72:1; Jer 23:5) (DNTT 3:354).
In the Tanakh the concept of tzedaqah refers to right or ethical character and behavior that is in keeping with the covenantal relationship with God. So, righteousness is more relational than legal. The term also carries the sense of salvation (deliverance) and judgment (justice). Righteousness primarily has human relationships as its focus and therefore righteousness strengthens the community. For God to declare Abraham righteous was based on the actions and character of Abraham. In other words, in those ancient settings God did not give the label of "righteous" to an unrighteous person.
Some Christian commentators have concluded that Abraham had no righteousness prior to Genesis 15, but that he was given this label because he believed God. Adamson says that logizomai is used in the LXX to express one thing as being equivalent to or having the same force and weight as another (130). Thus, righteousness is substituted by imputation for the belief. This definition ignores the actual meaning of Heb. tzedakah/Grk. dikaios and implies that "righteousness" is a mere label and does not really reflect a person's character. This interpretation also flies in the face of how God regarded the saints of the Bible. On what basis was Noah considered a righteous and blameless man (Gen 6:9; Heb 11:7)? Job was regarded as blameless, upright and righteous (Job 1:8; 2:3; 9:20).
Jacob, too, was regarded as blameless, although not accorded that status in Christian Bibles (Gen 25:27; Heb. tam, perfect or complete, BDB 1070). David said, "Blessed is the one whose guilt ADONAI does not count, and in whose spirit there is no deceit" (Ps 32:2 TLV). David assumes the character quality is present before God's imputation. Yeshua said of Nathanael, "Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!" (John 1:47). Does an unrighteous man obey God to leave all security behind and begin a trek to an unknown destination just because God told him to go (Gen 12:1-4)? Can anyone possibly believe that God would have made the five promises to Abraham recorded in Genesis 12:2-3 and 13:14-17, if he had been an unrighteous man?
Does an unrighteous man build an altar to ADONAI as Abram did upon receiving the promises? Would God have judged Pharaoh (Gen 12:17) if Abraham had been an unrighteous man? Would Melchizedek, priest-king of Salem and type of the Messiah, have brought bread and wine to Abraham after his defeat of pagan forces (14:17-20) and would Abraham have given a tenth of the spoils of war to Melchizedek if Abraham was an unrighteous man? Paul described Abraham's life prior to Genesis 15 as a life of faith (i.e., faithfulness, Heb 11:8-9). There is not one sin attributed to Abraham, so calling him unrighteous when God does not amounts to defamation.
Abraham's belief in chapter 15 upon hearing that God promised a son of his loins was simply a new level of righteousness, because Abraham knew that only a creation miracle could enable him to have a son and such divine favor would establish significant responsibility on him. We also must not forget that several people are identified by the apostles as righteous: Zechariah & Elizabeth (Luke 1:6); Joseph (Matt 1:19); John the Immerser (Mark 6:20); Simeon (Luke 2:25); Joseph of Arimathea (Luke 23:50); Cornelius (Acts 10:22); Abel (Heb 11:4); Elijah (Jacob 5:16-17); and Lot (2Pet 2:7).
and: Grk. kai, conj. he was called: Grk. kaleō, aor. pass., often means either to call or summon to divine relationship and responsibility or to identify by name, which applies in this verse. the friend: Grk. philos, in a close relationship with another, as opposed to a casual relationship, friend. of God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. Stern points out that a friend is not one who merely declares his loyalty but who proves it by his deeds. Yeshua told his disciples, "You are my friends, if you do what I command you" (John 15:14). Abraham could be called God's friend because he obeyed every instruction he received from God. This character is reflected in the statement God made to Isaac:
"I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven, and will give your descendants all these lands; and by your descendants all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; 5 because Abraham obeyed Me and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes and My laws." (Gen 26:4-5)
24 You see that from works a man is considered righteous, and not by 'faithfulness' alone.
You see: Grk. horaō, pres. act. ind, perceiving with the organ of the eye and figuratively of extraordinary mental perception. that: Grk. hoti, conj. from: Grk. ek, prep. lit. "out of." works: pl. of Grk. ergon. See verse 14 above. a man: Grk. anthrōpos, a human being. is considered righteous: Grk. dikaioō, pres. pass. See verse 21 above. and: Grk. kai, conj. not: Grk. ou, adv. from: Grk. ek. 'faithfulness:' Grk. pistis. See verse 1 above. Commentators typically treat faith here as equivalent to intellectual belief (in the same manner as the demons in verse 19), but more likely Jacob alludes to a claim of fidelity to Yeshua. alone: Grk. monos, adv., signifying the exclusion of any other entity; alone, only.
25 Likewise also Rahab the harlot, was she not considered righteous from works, having received the messengers, and having sent them out another way?
Likewise: Grk. homoiōs, adv., likewise, in similar manner, similarly. also: Grk. de, conj. Jacob quickly transitions to make his point with another Bible character, one whose background was worlds apart from Abraham. Moreover, this person was not even an Israelite. Rahab: Grk. Rhachab, which transliterates Heb. Rachav ("broad"). The woman's name appears 5 times in the Tanakh, all in Joshua, and 3 times in the Besekh. According to Matthew's genealogy Rahab married Salmon and became the mother of Boaz (1:5), and thus an ancestor of King David and Yeshua.
the harlot: Grk. pornē refers to a woman who is for sale, a prostitute or a courtesan (DNTT 2:497) and is probably derived from pernēmi (“export for sale”). In the LXX pornê translates the participle form of the Heb. verb zanah (SH-2181), to commit fornication, be or act as a harlot (BDB 275), and the derivative noun zonah, harlot. The first use of the term occurs in Genesis 34:31 where the sons of Jacob liken the rape of their sister Dinah to being treated as a harlot. Harlots were mostly unmarried women who offered their bodies in exchange for money (Lev 19:29; Deut 22:21). A married woman could be accused of being a harlot if she behaved in the customary manner of prostitutes or had many lovers (cf. Gen 38:15-26; Jdg 19:2; 2Kgs 9:22; Prov 6:24-32; 7:10, 18-19; Jer 3:1).
Jacob repeats the declaration of Joshua 2:1 that Rahab was a harlot. Mekhilta, a Jewish Midrash on Exodus, reports (without foundation) that Rahab had been a prostitute for forty years from age 10 (Stern). There is no evidence that she was a temple prostitute. The Hebrew text says the Israelites came "to the house of a woman, a harlot, and named Rahab," which presents some ambiguity. The Hebrew phrase might be simply distinguishing Rahab as the owner of a house in which a harlot could be found. The Hebrew noun zonah could be derived from the verb zun (SH-2109), to feed (BDB 266).
Although all the Greek texts opted for pornē to render zanah, “harlot,” the Targum Jonathan understood it to be zunah, "hostess," from the root zun. However, the Targumist did not use the readily available Aramaic cognate zun in his translation. Instead, the Greek loanword pandokeus "innkeeper," transliterated into Aramaic, was used to translate zonah (McDaniel). Thus, Josephus, the first century Jewish historian, identifies Rahab as an innkeeper, not a harlot (Antiquities of the Jews, V, 1:2). Yet, the apostolic record is unambiguous and pornē never means innkeeper. However, it could be that rather than practicing prostitution herself, she provided the services of harlots as part of her inn-keeping business, and thus acquired the label (see fn 169 on the Josephus reference).
was she not: Grk. ou, adv. The negative particle has interrogative effect here. considered righteous: Grk. dikaioō, aor. pass. See verse 21 above. from: Grk. ek, prep. works: pl. of Grk. ergon. See verse 14 above. Rahab did not have a past life of faithful service to God, but casting her lot with Israel placed her among the righteous. It is fair to say that her intention to serve the God of Israel had to be present before the spies came to her. Indeed she told the spies of her belief that "ADONAI your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath" (Josh 2:11). Rahab's fellow Canaanites had heard the stories of the great miracles God performed for Israel and yet they did not belief, making Rahab's confession all the more significant.
having received: Grk. hupodechomai, aor. mid. part., to receive in hospitable fashion, to welcome. Joshua 2:1 says that the spies "came into the house … and lodged there" (NASB). The verb lodged is Heb. shakav, to lie down. According to BDB the verb is used in the Tanakh of (1) lying down for sleep (Gen 19:4); (2) lodging for a night (Josh 2:1), (3) lying down for sexual relations (Gen 19:32), and (4) lying down in death (Job 14:12) (1011). Some interpreters, of course, assign a prurient motive to the spies for going to Rahab's house, but their lodging was more likely a ruse. There is no evidence that the spies were seeking female comfort and Rahab's confession of faith in the God of Israel rebuts such slander.
the messengers: pl. of Grk. angelos, 'one sent,' a messenger, whether human or heavenly (BAG). In the LXX angelos renders Heb. malak, which means messenger, representative, courier or angel (DNTT 1:101f). The decision to translate malak or angelos as angel or messenger (i.e., human) relies primarily on the context. The term is used here to mean a the Israelite spies sent by Joshua. The Israelite messengers apparently entered the city by a gate, perhaps disguised and then sought shelter. and: Grk. kai, conj. having sent them out : Grk. ekballō, aor. part., to cause to move out from a position. another: Grk. heteros, a pronoun used to distinguish one item from another, other, another or different. way: Grk. hodos, a route for traveling, way, road, highway.
Rahab outsmarted the king of Jericho and hid the men on her roof, sending the arresting officers on a false chase toward the Jordan River. Rahab then encouraged the men to leave through a window from her house. They then hid in the hills and three days later returned to Joshua. In return for her help Joshua spared her and her clan when the Israelites destroyed Jericho (Josh 6:17-25). The apostle Paul concurs with Jacob's analysis saying "By emunah ['faithfulness'], Rachav [Rahab] the Zonah [harlot] did not perish along with the ones without mishma’at [obedience], after she gave the kabbalat [reception] panim [faces, before] to the spies b’shalom [with peace]" (Heb 11:31 OJB).
26 For just as the body without spirit is dead, so also faithfulness without works is dead.
For: Grk. gar, conj. See verse 2 above. just as: Grk. hōsper, adv. of manner relating events and conditions, even as, just as. HELPS adds "indeed just as," "just exactly like." the body: Grk. sōma. See verse 16 above. without: Grk. chōris. See verse 18 above. spirit: Grk. pneuma, wind, breath or spirit as the animating force for bodily movement. The lack of a definite article and the contrast with body indicates the pneuma refers to the human spirit. The spirit of man is that which man has in common with God who is Spirit (Gen 1:2; John 4:24). is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 17 above. dead: Grk. nekros. See verse 17 above.
so: Grk. houtōs, adv. See verse 12 above. also: Grk. kai, conj. faithfulness Grk. pistis. See the note on verse 1 above. without: Grk. chōris. works: pl. of Grk. ergon. See verse 14 above. Again, the noun refers to works of righteousness in contrast to Pharisaic traditions. is: Grk. eimi, pres. dead: Grk. nekros. Jacob states a simple logical principle. Belief or trust with no faithfulness robs "faith" of life. Put another way, a claim of faithfulness without accompanying works of righteousness, such as obeying the royal law, belongs to the time of being "dead in trespasses and sins."
Adamson: James Adamson, The Epistle of James. William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1976. The New International Commentary on the New Testament.
BAG: Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. trans. W.F. Arndt & F.W. Gingrich. The University of Chicago Press, 1957.
Barnes: Albert Barnes (1798-1870), James, Notes on the Whole Bible. Public Domain. Online.
BDB: The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. London: Oxford University Press, 1907. Reprinted by Associated Publishers and Authors, Inc., 1981.
DM: H.E. Dana & Julius R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament. The Macmillan Co., 1955.
Danker: F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, University of Chicago Press, 2009.
DNTT: Dictionary of New Testament Theology. 3 Vols., ed. Colin Brown, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1975.
Jeremias: Joichim Jeremias, Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus. Fortress Press, 1975.
Marshall: Alfred Marshall, NASB-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English. Zondervan Pub. House, 1986.
McDaniel: Thomas F. McDaniel, The Rehab of Rahab, Clarifying Baffling Biblical Passages. Private Paper, Palmer Seminary, 2007. Accessed 2 December 2013.
Moseley: Ron Moseley, Yeshua: A Guide to the Real Yeshua and the Original Church. Lederer Books, 1996.
Mounce: Mounce Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament edited by William D. Mounce. Zondervan Pub. Co., 2011.
OCB: The Oxford Companion to the Bible. ed. Bruce M. Metzger and Michael D. Coogan. Oxford University Press, 1993.
Rienecker: Fritz Rienecker, A Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, 2 Vols. Zondervan Pub. House, 1980.
Schurer: Emil Schurer, A History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ. 4 vol. trans. Peter Christie. T&T Clark, 1885.
Stern: David Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary. Jewish New Testament Publications, 1996.
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