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Lesson Nineteen: James 2:14-24

  • Page ID
    125059
  • As we continue to consider texts related to Galatians, here we look at James 2:13–24. This text, while obviously not written by Paul, seems to interact with Galatians and handles similar subjects pertaining to faith, works, justification/righteousness, and the figure of Abraham. Instructions: Translate the Greek text with help from the reader notes. Complete the MYON (Make Your Own Note) and Discussion Questions if you desire.

    14 Τί τὸ ὄφελος, ἀδελφοί μου, ἐὰν πίστιν λέγῃ τις ἔχειν, ἔργα δὲ μὴ ἔχῃ; μὴ δύναται ἡ πίστις σῶσαι αὐτόν; 15 ἐὰν ἀδελφὸς ἢ ἀδελφὴ γυμνοὶ ὑπάρχωσιν καὶ λειπόμενοι ὦσιν τῆς ἐφημέρου τροφῆς, 16 εἴπῃ δέ τις αὐτοῖς ἐξ ὑμῶν· ὑπάγετε ἐν εἰρήνῃ, θερμαίνεσθε καὶ χορτάζεσθε, μὴ δῶτε δὲ αὐτοῖς τὰ ἐπιτήδεια τοῦ σώματος, τί τὸ ὄφελος;17 οὕτως καὶ ἡ πίστις, ἐὰν μὴ ἔχῃ ἔργα, νεκρά ἐστιν καθ᾽ ἑαυτήν. 18 Ἀλλ᾽ ἐρεῖ τις· σὺ πίστιν ἔχεις, κἀγὼ ἔργα ἔχω. δεῖξόν μοι τὴν πίστιν σου χωρὶς τῶν ἔργων, κἀγώ σοι δείξω ἐκ τῶν ἔργων μου τὴν πίστιν. 19 σὺ πιστεύεις ὅτι εἷς ἐστιν ὁ θεός, καλῶς ποιεῖς· καὶ τὰ δαιμόνια πιστεύουσιν καὶ φρίσσουσιν. 20 Θέλεις δὲ γνῶναι, ὦ ἄνθρωπε κενέ, ὅτι ἡ πίστις χωρὶς τῶν ἔργων ἀργή ἐστιν; 21 Ἀβραὰμ ὁ πατὴρ ἡμῶν οὐκ ἐξ ἔργων ἐδικαιώθη ἀνενέγκας Ἰσαὰκ τὸν υἱὸν αὐτοῦ ἐπὶ τὸ θυσιαστήριον; 22 βλέπεις ὅτι ἡ πίστις συνήργει τοῖς ἔργοις αὐτοῦ καὶ ἐκ τῶν ἔργων ἡ πίστις ἐτελειώθη, 23 καὶ ἐπληρώθη ἡ γραφὴ ἡ λέγουσα· ἐπίστευσεν δὲ Ἀβραὰμ τῷ θεῷ, καὶ ἐλογίσθη αὐτῷ εἰς δικαιοσύνην καὶ φίλος θεοῦ ἐκλήθη. 24 ὁρᾶτε ὅτι ἐξ ἔργων δικαιοῦται ἄνθρωπος καὶ οὐκ ἐκ πίστεως μόνον. SBLGNT

    2:14

    [SN] The pronoun Τί (NSN), functioning interrogatively (“what?”), is the subject of a verbless clause.

    [LN, SN] Ὄφελος (NSN) refers to a benefit or gain (related to the verb ὠφελέω; cf. Gal 5:2). It is the #predicate nominative of a verbless clause.

    [SN] Ἀδελφοί (MPV LF: ἀδελφός) is a #vocative of direct address.

    [SN] Ἐὰν with the subjunctive λέγῃ (PAS3S LF: λέγω) introduces the #protasis of the #third-class conditional statement, with μὴ . . . αὐτόν comprising the #apodosis. Considering that the #apodosis consists of a rhetorical question (introduced by μὴ, meaning a “no” answer is implied), we should probably treat this condition as a simple hypothetical (“If A, then B?”).

    [SN] Πίστιν (FSA LF: πίστις) is the object of the infinitive ἔχειν.

    [SN] Ἔχειν (PAN LF: ἔχω) is an #infinitive of indirect discourse, modifying λέγῃ. In this construction, a verb of speech introduces discourse (πίστιν . . . ἔχειν) without providing a direct quotation (i.e., “If someone says/claims to have faith” [indirect discourse] rather than “If someone says, ‘I have faith’” [direct discourse]).

    [SN] Ἡ πίστις (FSN) is an example of the #anaphoric use of the article, referring back to πίστιν. For this reason, it may be translated as a demonstrative pronoun (“this faith”).

    [SN] Σῶσαι (AAN LF: σῴζω) is a #complementary infinitive modifying the main verb δύναται (PDI3S LF: δύναμαι).

    2:15

    [SN] Ἐὰν with the subjunctive ὑπάρχωσιν (PAS3P LF: ὑπάρχω) comprises the #protasis of another #third-class conditional statement. We should probably read the subsequent subjunctive verbs in this verse (ὦσιν . . . εἴπῃ . . . δῶτε) in conjunction with ἐὰν, meaning that the #protasis is comprised of the whole verse from ἐὰν to τοῦ σώματος, with τί τὸ ὄφελος; (v. 16) serving as the #apodosis.

    [LN] The adjective γυμνοὶ (MPN LF: γυμνός, -ή, -όν) is fairly rare in the NT, with only fifteen occurrences (this is its only occurrence in James). It means “naked” or “unclothed.”

    [LN, SN] The subjunctive verbs ὑπάρχωσιν and ὦσιν (PS3P LF: εἰμί) should probably be understood as synonymous in this verse (“is”), given the parallel clauses linked by καί.

    [LN, GMN] Λειπόμενοι (PPPMPN LF: λείπω): This is another uncommon word, with six occurrences in the NT, including three in James (cf. 1:4–5). It means “to lack” or “to be in need” and can take its direct object in the genitive case (τῆς ἐφημέρου τροφῆς).

    [SN, LN] The adjective ἐφημέρου (FSG LF: ἐφήμερος) follows the second-declension pattern and is an #attributive adjective modifying τῆς . . . τροφῆς. It is a #hapax legomenon meaning “daily” (note the component parts, ἐπί and ἡμέρα).

    [LN] The noun τροφῆς (FSG LF: τροφή) occurs sixteen times in the NT and means “food.”

    2:16

    [GMN] Εἴπῃ is AAS3S (LF: λέγω).

    [SN] Ἐξ ὑμῶν is a #partitive use modifying τις (“one of you”), communicating that ὑμῶν is the whole of which τις (“one/someone”) is part.

    [SN] Despite the absence of ὅτι, the phrase ὑπάγετε . . . χορτάζεσθε is #direct discourse. One clue for recognizing this is the verb of speech (εἴπῃ) and the shift from the third-person subjunctive to the second plural imperative (with the subjunctive being resumed with μὴ δῶτε).

    [TN] Ὑπάγετε ἐν εἰρήνῃ: The phrase “go in peace” (the verb used varies) is a Hebraic farewell benediction.

    [LN] Θερμαίνεσθε (PMM2P LF: θερμαίνω) means “to warm.” It occurs six times in the NT, all in the middle voice, and functions as a true middle with a reflexive sense (i.e., “Warm yourselves”). The other five occurrences all refer to Peter warming himself after Jesus’ arrest (cf. Mk 14:54, 67; Jn 18:18 (twice), 25).

    [LN] Χορτάζεσθε (PMM2P LF: χορτάζω) means “to feed” or “to fill (with food).” If we understand θερμαίνεσθε as a true middle, we should probably read χορτάζεσθε in the same way (“cause yourselves to be fed” or “eat your fill”).

    [GMN] Δῶτε (AAS2P LF: δίδωμι) is a μι-verb.

    [SN, LN] Τὰ ἐπιτήδεια (NPA LF: ἐπιτήδειος, -α, -ον) is a #substantival adjective (i.e., an adjective converted into a noun by the definite article) that refers to things that are “useful/necessary/essential.”

    [SN] Τοῦ σώματος (NSG LF: σῶμα) is functioning as a #genitive of purpose (“what is essential for the body”).

    [SN] Τί τὸ ὄφελος; (cf. v. 14 Τί τὸ ὄφελος) comprises the #apodosis of the #third-class conditional statement begun in v. 15. The interrogative pronoun τί (NSN), “what,” is functioning as the subject of a verbless clause, with τὸ ὄφελος (NSN), “the gain/benefit,” functioning as the #predicate nominative.

    2:17

    [SN] The demonstrative adverb οὕτως (“in this way”), modifying ἐστιν, refers back to the point made in 2:14–16 as an analogy supporting James’ statement in this verse.

    [SN] The καί here should be read adverbially (“indeed”), strengthening the rhetorical force of οὕτως.

    [SN]πίστις is the subject of the verb ἐστιν with νεκρά (FSN LF: νεκρός, -ά, -όν) functioning as a #predicate adjective. Notice again the #anaphoric use of the article with ἡ πίστις (“this faith/such faith,” i.e., faith that is without works).

    [SN]Ἐάν with the (negated) subjunctive ἔχῃ (PAS3S LF: ἔχω) introduces the #protasis of another #third-class conditional statement. It is inserted between the phrases οὕτως . . . πίστις and νεκρά . . . ἑαυτήν, which comprise the #apodosis (“such faith, if it does not have works, is dead”).

    [SN, TN]Καθ᾽ (the preposition κατά, which has undergone #elision) with the accusative reflexive pronoun ἑαυτήν (FSA) probably expresses #reference (“dead with respect to itself”). In translation, however, a gloss of “by itself” better communicates James’ point, given the preceding illustration.

    2:18

    [SN] The verb ἐρεῖ (FAI3S LF: λέγω) introduces #direct discourse.

    [GMN] Κἀγώ is an instance of #crasis (i.e., contraction) between καί and ἐγώ.

    [GMN] Δεῖξόν is AAM2S (LF: δείκνυμι).

    [SN] The second and third occurrences of τὴν πίστιν (FSA) in this verse are more examples of the #anaphoric use of the article (notice that the first occurrence of πίστιν in this new scenario is #anarthrous).

    [SN] The prepositional phrase χωρὶς τῶν ἔργων (NPG LF: ἔργον) modifies the verb δεῖξόν and expresses separation (“without/apart from works”).

    [SN] The prepositional phrase ἐκ τῶν ἔργων modifies the verb δείξω and expresses #means.

    2:19

    MYON [SN] Identify the use of ὅτι in this verse.

    [TN] Εἷς ἐστιν ὁ θεός: This is a reference to the Shema (Deut 6:4, κύριος εἷς ἐστιν).

    [TN] Since we do not have punctuation in our early NT manuscripts, we must rely on contextual reasoning to identify questions. Considering that this section is driven by other agreed-upon rhetorical questions (cf. 2:14, 16), it is possible also to read σὺ πιστεύεις . . . ὁ θεός as a question: “(Do) you believe that God is one?” Note that this clause does not contain a particle of negation, so the implied answer would be “yes” (further suggested by καλῶς ποιεῖς).

    [LN, SN] The adverb καλῶς means “well” (cf. the adjective καλός, -ή, -όν) and modifies the verb ποιεῖς (“you do well”).

    [SN] The first καί in this verse is #ascensive and should be translated “even.”

    [LN] Φρίσσουσιν (PAI3P LF: φρίσσω) is a #hapax legomenon that refers to trembling or shuddering with fear.

    2:20

    [GMN, SN] Γνῶναι (AAN LF: γινώσκω): Notice the stem change (γιν → γν), indicating that this is a second aorist form. It is a #complementary infinitive, completing the action of the verb Θέλεις.

    [LN] Ὦ is an interjection (literally “Oh!”), not to be confused with the MSD/NSD relative pronoun.

    [SN] Ἄνθρωπε (MSV LF: ἄνθρωπος) κενέ (MSV LF: κενός, -ή, -όν) is a #vocative of direct address, strengthened further by the interjection ὦ (“O foolish person!”).

    [SN] The ὅτι in this verse introduces the content of the verbal phrase Θέλεις . . . γνῶναι.

    [LN] The #predicate adjective ἀργή (FSN LF: ἀργός, -ή, -όν) refers to ineffectiveness or unproductiveness. It occurs eight times in the NT and refers to those standing idle in the marketplace (i.e., without jobs; Matt 20:3, 6); those who are lazy, intended as an insult (Tit 1:12); and as a synonym for those who are “unfruitful” (ἄκαρπος) in the knowledge of Christ (2 Pt 1:8).

    2:21

    [SN] Ὁ πατὴρ (MSN) is a #nominative in simple apposition that gives more information about the head noun, Ἀβραάμ (indeclinable, but functioning as MSN).

    [GMN] Ἐδικαιώθη (API3S LF: δικαιόω) is a #contract verb.

    [GMN, SN] Ἀνενέγκας (AAPMSN LF: ἀναφέρω), “to offer up (as a sacrifice),” is a compound verb made up of the preposition ἀνά (“up”) and the verb φέρω (“to bring/carry”). The vastly changed form of the aorist participle may be understood in reference to the irregular first aorist form of φέρω, which is ἤνεγκα. It may be understood either as a #participle of means (justified by [means of] offering Isaac”) or as a #temporal participle (“justified when/after he offered Isaac”).

    [LN] Τὸ θυσιαστήριον (NSA LF: θυσιαστήριον) refers to an altar where religious offerings are made. This noun is used in the NT to refer to multiple types of altars, including the altar of incense in the temple (see Lk 1:11); the temple altar where sacrifices are made to God (see 1 Cor 9:13); and the altar upon which Abraham offered Isaac (present usage).

    2:22

    [SN] Ὅτι introduces the #clausal complement to the verb βλέπεις, which consists of the series of clauses through v. 23.

    [GMN, LN] Συνήργει (IAI3S LF: συνεργέω): A #compound word; notice that the augment for the imperfect tense has contracted with the ε to produce η. This verb means “to work with” or “to assist” and occurs five times in the NT (cf. Mk 16:20; Rom 8:28; 1 Cor 16:16; 2 Cor 6:1).

    [SN] Τοῖς ἕργοις (NPD LF: ἔργον) is likely best understood as the #dative of association. The σύν prefix to the verb favors this reading.

    [GMN] Ἐτελειώθη (API3S LF: τελειόω) is a #contract verb, so the final ο has lengthened to ω.

    2:23

    [GMN] Ἐπληρώθη (API3S LF: πληρόω): Like ἐτελειώθη in the previous verse, ἐπληρώθη is a #contract verb, hence the vowel lengthening.

    [SN] Ἡ λέγουσα (PAPFSN LF: λέγω) is an #attributive participle modifying ἡ γραφὴ (“the Scripture, which says”).

    [SN] Ἐπίστευσεν (AAI3S LF: πιστεύω) . . . τῷ θεῷ: The verb πιστεύω takes its object in the dative case, making τῷ θεῷ the #dative direct object (“Abraham believed God,” not “Abraham believed in God”).

    [GMN] Ἐλογίσθη (API3S LF: λογίζομαι). Notice that in order to accommodate the aorist passive ending, notice that the #dental stem ending is replaced by the σ formative.

    [SN] Αὐτῷ is a #dative of advantage.

    [SN] The prepositional phrase εἰς δικαιοσύνην likely expresses #purpose or #result.

    [TN] Ἐπίστευσεν δὲ Ἀβραὰμ τῷ θεῷ, καὶ ἐλογίσθη αὐτῷ εἰς δικαιοσύνην is a nearly verbatim quotation of LXX Gen 15:6. The name Αβραμ was altered to Ἀβραὰμ.

    [GMN, LN] Ἐκλήθη (API3S LF: καλέω): This is a second-aorist form, hence the stem change. The verb καλέω can mean “to summon” or “to invite,” but here it means “to call/name” (e.g., “Abraham wascalled a friend of God”).

    2:24

    [GMN] Ὁρᾶτε (PAI2P or PAM2P LF: ὁράω): The morphology for the PAI and PAM of ὁράω is the same, so it is possible to read this verb either way. However, there are a couple of reasons to read this verb as indicative rather than imperative: (1) the indicative mood is used throughout the addresses in this section (cf. v. 20, Θέλεις; v. 22, βλέπεις); and (2) for the imperative, one would expect the much more common interjections ἴδε or ἰδού or even the AAM2P ἴδετε. With this said, one factor in support of an imperative reading is that James could have chosen the present imperative ὁρᾶτε in order to match his prior tense usage (e.g., Θέλεις, βλέπεις).

    [SN] The prepositional phrases ἐξ ἔργων and ἐκ πίστεως both express #means.

    [SN] Καὶ οὐκ ἐκ πίστεως μόνον: The particle of negation οὐκ and the adverb μόνον both modify the verb δικαιοῦται, as the καί links the verbal action to this clause (“a person is justified by works and not only by faith”).

    Discussion Questions (Jas 2:14–24)

    [2:21–24] In your Greek text, Jas 2:21 is marked as a question. Is there evidence that supports reading vv. 22–23 and 24 as questions as well?

    [2:24] In 2:18–22, James makes frequent use of 2S verbs. Then, in 2:24, he makes the switch to the 2P with ὁρᾶτε. Based upon the immediate context and flow of the passage, why would James have made this shift?