James 2:2
For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment;
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(2) For if there come unto your assembly (literally, synagogue).—This is the only place in the New Testament where the Jewish word is used for a Christian congregation.

A man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel.—Better, a man golden-ringed, in bright apparel. Roman satirists had much to say upon the fops and dandies of their time, with “all their fingers laden with rings”; some, if we may trust the sneer of Martial, having six on each; and others with heavy gold or light, according to the oppressiveness of the season; no doubt, the fashions set in Rome extended to Jerusalem. “Goodly apparel” is, rather, gorgeous—splendid in colour or ornament; the same two words are translated “gay clothing” in the following verse.

And there come in also a poor man in vile raiment.—Squalid, even dirty, as from work and wear—the exact opposite of the idle over-dressed exquisite.

2:1-13 Those who profess faith in Christ as the Lord of glory, must not respect persons on account of mere outward circumstances and appearances, in a manner not agreeing with their profession of being disciples of the lowly Jesus. St. James does not here encourage rudeness or disorder: civil respect must be paid; but never such as to influence the proceedings of Christians in disposing of the offices of the church of Christ, or in passing the censures of the church, or in any matter of religion. Questioning ourselves is of great use in every part of the holy life. Let us be more frequent in this, and in every thing take occasion to discourse with our souls. As places of worship cannot be built or maintained without expense, it may be proper that those who contribute thereto should be accommodated accordingly; but were all persons more spiritually-minded, the poor would be treated with more attention that usually is the case in worshipping congregations. A lowly state is most favourable for inward peace and for growth in holiness. God would give to all believers riches and honours of this world, if these would do them good, seeing that he has chosen them to be rich in faith, and made them heirs of his kingdom, which he promised to bestow on all who love him. Consider how often riches lead to vice and mischief, and what great reproaches are thrown upon God and religion, by men of wealth, power, and worldly greatness; and it will make this sin appear very sinful and foolish. The Scripture gives as a law, to love our neighbour as ourselves. This law is a royal law, it comes from the King of kings; and if Christians act unjustly, they are convicted by the law as transgressors. To think that our good deeds will atone for our bad deeds, plainly puts us upon looking for another atonement. According to the covenant of works, one breach of any one command brings a man under condemnation, from which no obedience, past, present, or future, can deliver him. This shows us the happiness of those that are in Christ. We may serve him without slavish fear. God's restraints are not a bondage, but our own corruptions are so. The doom passed upon impenitent sinners at last, will be judgment without mercy. But God deems it his glory and joy, to pardon and bless those who might justly be condemned at his tribunal; and his grace teaches those who partake of his mercy, to copy it in their conduct.For if there come into your assembly - Margin, as in Greek, "synagogue." It is remarkable that this is the only place in the New Testament where the word "synagogue" is applied to the Christian church. It is probably employed here because the apostle was writing to those who had been Jews; and it is to be presumed that the word synagogue would be naturally used by the early converts from Judaism to designate a Christian place of worship, or a Christian congregation, and it was probably so employed until it was superseded by a word which the Gentile converts would be more likely to employ, and which would, in fact, be better and more expressive - the word church. The word "synagogue" (συναγωγὴν sunagōgēn) would properly refer to the whole congregation, considered as "assembled together," without respect to the question whether all were truly pious or not; the word "church" (ἐκκλησία ekklēsia) would refer to the assembly convened for worship as called out, referring to the fact that they were called out from the world, and convened as worshippers of God, and would, therefore, be more applicable to a body of spiritual worshippers.

It is probable that the Christian church was modelled, in its general arrangements, after the Jewish synagogue; but there would be obviously some disadvantages in retaining the name, as applicable to Christian worship. It would be difficult to avoid the associations connected with the name, and hence it was better to adopt some other name which would be free from this disadvantage, and on which might be engrafted all the ideas which it was necessary to connect with the notion of the Christian organization. Hence the word "church," liable to no such objection as that of "synagogue," was soon adopted, and ultimately prevailed, though the passage before us shows that the word "synagogue" would be in some places, and for a time, employed to designate a Christian congregation. We should express the idea here by saying. "If a man of this description should come into the church."

A man with a gold ring - Indicative of rank or property. Rings were common ornaments of the rich; and probably then, as now, of those who desired to be esteemed to be rich. For proof that they were commonly worn, see the quotations in Wetstein, in loc.

In goodly apparel - Rich and splendid dress. Compare Luke 16:19.

A poor man in vile raiment - The Greek here is, filthy, foul; the meaning of the passage is, in sordid, shabby clothes. The reference here seems to be, not to those who commonly attended on public worship, or who were members of the church, but to those who might accidentally drop in to witness the services of Christians. See 1 Corinthians 14:24.

2, 3. "If there chance to have come" [Alford].

assembly—literally, "synagogue"; this, the latest honorable use, and the only Christian use of the term in the New Testament, occurs in James's Epistle, the apostle who maintained to the latest possible moment the bonds between the Jewish synagogue and the Christian Church. Soon the continued resistance of the truth by the Jews led Christians to leave the term to them exclusively (Re 3:9). The "synagogue" implies a mere assembly or congregation not necessarily united by any common tie. "Church," a people bound together by mutual ties and laws, though often it may happen that the members are not assembled [Trench and Vitringa]. Partly from James' Hebrew tendencies, partly from the Jewish Christian churches retaining most of the Jewish forms, this term "synagogue" is used here instead of the Christian term "Church" (ecclesia, derived from a root, "called out," implying the union of its members in spiritual bonds, independent of space, and called out into separation from the world); an undesigned coincidence and mark of truth. The people in the Jewish synagogue sat according to their rank, those of the same trade together. The introduction of this custom into Jewish Christian places of worship is here reprobated by James. Christian churches were built like the synagogues, the holy table in the east end of the former, as the ark was in the latter; the desk and pulpit were the chief articles of furniture in both alike. This shows the error of comparing the Church to the temple, and the ministry to the priesthood; the temple is represented by the whole body of worshippers; the church building was formed on the model of the synagogue. See Vitringa [Synagogue and Temple].

goodly apparel … gay clothing—As the Greek, is the same in both, translate both alike, "gay," or "splendid clothing."

For if there come unto your assembly; either church assemblies for worship, Hebrews 10:25; and in these we find some respect of men’s persons, which may here be blamed: see 1 Corinthians 11:20-22. Or their assemblies for disposing church offices, and deciding church controversies, &c.; for he speaks of such respecting men’s persons as is condemned by the law, Jam 2:9, which was especially in judgment.

A man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel; the usual ensigns of honourable or rich persons, Genesis 38:18,25 41:42 Luke 15:22 16:19.

And there come in also a poor man; the word signifies one very poor, even to beggarliness.

In vile raiment; filthy and sordid, Zechariah 3:3,4, the sign of extreme poverty.

For if there come unto your assembly,.... The place of religious worship where saints are assembled together for that purpose; though some think a civil court of judicature is intended, and to which the context seems to incline; see James 2:6

a man with a gold ring; on his finger, which shows him to be a man of dignity and wealth; so those of the senatorian and equestrian orders among the Romans were distinguished from the common people by wearing gold rings; though in time the use of them became promiscuous (q); the ancients used to wear but one (r), as here but one is mentioned; and only freemen, not servants, might wear it: however, by this circumstance, the apostle describes a rich man, adding,

in goodly apparel; gay clothing, bright shining garments, glistering with gold and silver, very rich and costly, as well as whole, neat, and clean:

and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; mean and despicable, filthy and ragged: in the courts of judicature with the Jews, two men, who were at law with one another, might not have different apparel on while they were in court, and their cause was trying: their law runs thus (s);

"two adversaries (at law with each other), if one of them is clothed "with precious garments", (Myrqy Mydgb, "goodly apparel",) and the other is clothed with , "vile raiment", (the judge) says to the honourable person, either clothe him as thou art, while thou contendest with him, or be clothed as he is, that ye may be alike, or on an equal foot.''

(q) Alex. ab Alex. Genial. Dier. l. 2. c. 29. (r) Isidor. Hispal. Originum, l. 19. c. 32. p. 171. (s) Maimon. Hilchot Sanhedrin, c. 21. sect. 2.

For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment;
Jam 2:2-3. In these verses the conduct of the readers, which occasioned the exhortation of James (Jam 2:1), is described; hence the confirming γάρ. Both verses together form the protasis, on which Jam 2:4 follows as the apodosis; whilst they in form appear by their connection with δέ (according to the Rec. by και) as co-ordinate sentences, in thought Jam 2:2 is subordinate to Jam 2:3; Jam 2:2 assigning the circumstances under which the conduct described in Jam 2:3 occurred.

Hammond, Homberg, Baumgarten, Michaelis, and Herder assign even Jam 2:4 to the protasis; but incorrectly, as in that case the conjunctive would be required in that verse as in Jam 2:2-3. As regards the matter itself, the fault is not directed against the rulers of the congregation,—the presbyters and deacons (Grotius, Pott, Schulthess, Hottinger),—but, as the address ἀδελφοί μου (Jam 2:1) shows, it is entirely general. It was not the custom in the time of James for the deacons to point out places to those who entered their assemblies (Constit. Apost. ii. 56, 58).

The instance (ἐάν) which James states is, as regards the matter, not a hypothetical assumption, but a fact; and certainly not to be regarded as a solitary instance which only once took place, but as something which often occurred, that even in their religious assemblies the rich were treated with distinction, and the poor with disdain. It is not surprising that James in the description employed the aorist, since he generally uses that tense to represent that which is habitually repeated as a single fact which has taken place; see chap. Jam 1:11; Jam 1:24.

The words εἰς τὴν συναγωγὴν ὑμῶν] show that it is an entrance into the religious assemblies of the congregation that is here spoken of. It cannot be inferred from the usual signification of the word συναγωγή that a Jewish synagogue is here meant (Semler, Schneckenburger, Bouman); opposed to this is ὑμῶν; besides, the Christians would certainly not have the right to show seats to those who entered into such a place of worship; but, on the other hand, by συναγωγή here is not to be understood the religious assembly (de Wette). The whole description, both εἰσέλθῃ and the pointing out of seats, shows that συναγωγή denotes the place where the Christian congregation assembled for worship.[111] That James calls this by the word which was appropriate for Jewish places of worship, cannot be regarded in his mouth as anything surprising. Hammond, Baumgarten, Storr, Herder, and others most arbitrarily understand by συναγωγή the judicial assemblies of the congregation and their elders. According to Lange, the name of the Jewish place of worship is here a symbol “of the religious fellowship of the entire Jewish Christian dispersion;” this opinion is not less unjustifiable than the view connected with it, that “a literal understanding of what follows cannot be thought of.”

The rich man is here described as ἀνὴρ χρυσοδακτύλιος ἐν ἐσθῆτι λαμπρᾷ, and the poor man as πτωχὸς ἐν ῥυπαρᾷ ἐσθῆτι, the difference between them being represented to the eye in their clothing.

χρυσοδακτύλιος] a purely ἅπ. λεγ. = χρυσόχειρ (Lucian, in Tim.: πόρφυροι καὶ χρυσόχειρες περιέρχονται; in Nigrin.: τῶν δακτυλίων πλῆθος ἔχων). On λαμπρός, used of clothes, see, on the one hand, Luke 23:11 (comp. with Matthew 27:28), and, on the other hand, Revelation 15:6. Raphelius: nullum certum colorem declarat, sed splendidum, clarum, nitidum sen rubrum seu album sit, seu alius generis. The counterpart of the ἐσθὴς λαμπρά is the ἐσθ. ῥυπαρά of the poor man.

ῥυπαρός] in its proper meaning only here in N. T.; in Zechariah 3:3-4, it is also used of garments. Are Christians or non-Christians meant by these incomers? Most expositors consider them to be Christians only, whether they belonged to the congregation or came there as ξένοι (guests). But the following reasons decide against this view:—1. They are distinguished by James from the brethren addressed, and are not indicated as brethren, which yet, particularly in reference to the poor (Jam 2:5), would readily have suggested itself as a strong confirmation of their fault. 2. In Jam 2:6-7, the rich are evidently opposed to Christians (ὑμῶν, ὑμᾶς, ἐφ ̓ ὑμᾶς), and reprimanded for their conduct towards Christians (not merely toward the poor), which if rich Christians had been guilty of, would certainly have been indicated as an offence against their Christian calling. That those who were not Christians might and did come into the Christian religious assemblies is a well-known fact; see 1 Corinthians 14:22-23. The view of Weiss (Deutsch. Zeitschrift f. christl. Wissensch. etc., 1854, No. 51), that the rich man was not a Christian, but that the poor man was a Christian, is supported by no feature in the description; in that case James would certainly have indicated the dissimilarity of relation; then “must Jam 2:5 ff. bring it forward as the gravest offence, that the brother chosen by God is slighted for the sake of the rich who were not Christians” (Wiesinger[112]).

[111] The word συναγωγή occurs in the N. T. in both meanings; usually it designates the religious place of meeting of the Jews; but that it also denotes the assembly, Acts 13:43 shows; see also Revelation 2:9. In the Apocrypha of the O. T. it has only the last meaning, and, indeed, in a general sense; see Wahl, Clav. Apocryph. συναγωγή.

[112] Lange considers the mode of expression symbolical; by the rich man is meant the Jewish Christian, who, as wearing a gold ring, boasts of his covenant rights; and by the poor man is meant the Gentile Christian. According to Hengstenberg, the meaning is precisely the reverse. Both opinions are unjustified.

Jam 2:2. εἰς συναγωγὴν ὑμῶν: as the Epistle is addressed to the twelve tribes of the Dispersion no particular synagogue can be meant here; it is a general direction that is being given. In the N.T. the word is always used of a Jewish place of worship; but it is used of a Christian place of worship by Hermas, Mand., xi. 9.… εἰς συναγωγὴν ἀνδρῶν δικαίωνκαὶ ἔντευξις γένηται πρὸς τὸν Θεὸν τῆς συναγωγῆς τῶν ἀνδρῶν ἐκείνων. Harnack (Expansion … i. 60) says: “I know one early Christian fragment, hitherto unpublished, which contains the expression: Χριστιανοί τε καὶ Ἰουδαῖοι Χριστὸν ὁμολογοῦντες”. This latter may well refer to a place of worship in which converted Gentiles and Jewish-Christians met together. And this is probably the sense in which we must understand the use of the word in the verse before us. The Jewish name for the synagogue was בית הכנסת (“house of assembly”); according to Shabbath, 32a, the more popular designation was the Aramaic name בית עמא (“house of the people”); Hellenistic Jews used the term προσευχή = οἶκος προσευχῆς as well as συναγωγή.—ἀνὴρ χρυσοδακτύλιος, etc.: Cf. Sir 11:2, μὴ αἰνέσῃς ἄνδρα ἐν κάλλει αὐτοῦ, καὶ μὴ βδέλυξῃ ἄνθρωπον ἐν ὁράσει αὐτοῦ. For ἀνήρ see note on Jam 2:7. χρυσοδακτύλιος does not occur elsewhere in the N.T. nor in the Septuagint; cf. Luke 15:22. λαμπρᾷ, probably in reference to the fine white garment worn by wealthy Jews.—πτωχὸς ἐν ῥυπαρᾷ ἐσθῆτι: ῥυπαρός occurs elsewhere in the N.T. only in Revelation 22:11 (cf. 1 Peter 3:21) and very rarely in the Septuagint, see Zechariah 3:3-4; in the Apoc. of Peter we have, in § 15, … γυναῖκες καὶ ἄνδρες ῥάκη ῥυπαρὰ ἐνδεδυμένοι …—There is nothing decisive to show whether the rich man or the poor man (presumably not regular worshippers), who are thus described as entering the Synagogue, were Christians or otherwise; on the assumption of an early date for the Epistle they might have been either; but if the Epistle be regarded as belonging to the first half of the second century non-Christians are probably those referred to; but it would be futile to attempt to speak definitely here, for a good case can be made out for any class of worshipper.

2. if there come unto your assembly] Literally, into your synagogue, the old familiar name as yet, in that early stage of the Church’s life, being used for the Christian as for the Jewish place of worship. What is noted presented the most glaring and offensive form which the acceptance of persons had taken. Signs of the eagerness of men who aimed at a high religious reputation to obtain such honours are seen in Matthew 23:6; and in a society so pervaded by worldliness as that of Judæa, wealth, if accompanied by any kind of religiousness, was sure to be accepted as covering a multitude of sins. What grieved St James was that the same evil should have crept in even among the disciples of the Lord of Glory.

a man with a gold ring] Literally, a gold-ringed man, implying, probably, more than one. The custom was one of the fashions of the Empire, and had spread from Rome to Judæa. So Juvenal, in a portrait which unites the two forms of ostentatious luxury noted by St James, describes one who, though born as an Egyptian slave, appears with Tyrian robes upon his shoulders, and golden rings, light or heavy, according to the season (Sat. i. 28. 30). So in Martial (xi. 60) we read of one who wears six rings on every finger, day and night, and even when he bathes.

in goodly apparel] Better, in gorgeous, or bright apparel. The word is the same as that used of the robe placed upon our Lord in mockery (Luke 23:11), and of that in which the Angel appeared to Cornelius (Acts 10:30). The primary idea is that of “bright” or shining, and this effect was often produced by a combination of gold embroidery with Tyrian purple and crimson.

in vile raiment] squalid is perhaps the nearest equivalent to the Greek word. It is used in the LXX. of Zechariah 3:4, of the “filthy garments” of Joshua the High-Priest. In Revelation 22:11 it is used of spiritual “filthiness,” as is the cognate noun in chap. James 1:21 of this Epistle.

Jam 2:2. Εἰσέλθῃ, shall enter) as an unknown stranger.—συναγωγὴν) assembly, and that a sacred one; for he adds, your. The name of synagogue is transferred from Jews to Christians.—ἀνὴρ χρυσοδακτύλιος, a man with a golden ring) The use of rings was formerly much more uncommon than now. The antithesis is simply a poor man.—λαμπρᾷ, splendid) bright and new, of whatever colour it may be.

Verses 2-4. - Proof that they were guilty of respect of persons. Observe the insight which this passage gives us into the cha-racier of the assemblies of the early Christians, showing

(1) that the entrance of a rich man was not entirely unknown, but

(2) that it was probably exceptional, because so much was made of him. Notice

(3) συναγωγή used here, and here only in the New Testament, of a Christian assembly for worship (cf. Ignatius, 'Ad Polye.,' c. 4, Πυκνότερον συναγωγαὶ γινέσθωσαν). (On the distinction between συναγωγὴ and ἔκκλησία, and the history of the terms and their use, see an interesting section in Trench's ' Synonyms,' p. 1.) Verse 2. - A man with a gold ring (ἀνὴρ χρυσοδακτύλιος). The word is found here only. The English Versions (both A.V. and R.V.) needlessly limit its meaning. The man was probably bedecked with a number of rings, and had not one only. In goodly apparel. The same phrase is rendering "gay clothing" in ver. 3. The variation is quite unnecessary, the Greek being identical in both places, and rightly rendered by R.V. "fine clothing." It is curious to find a similar needless variation in the Vulgate, which has in veste candida in ver. 2, and veste proeclara in ver. 3. James 2:2Assembly (συναγωγὴν)

The word synagogue is a transcript of this. From σύν, together, and ἄγω, to bring. Hence, literally, a gathering or congregation, in which sense the word is common in the Septuagint, not only of assemblies for worship, but of gatherings for other public purposes. From the meeting itself the transition is easy to the place of meeting, the synagogue; and in this sense the term is used throughout the New Testament, with the following exceptions: In Acts 13:43, it is rendered congregation by the A. V., though Rev. gives synagogue; and in Revelation 2:9; Revelation 3:9, the unbelieving Jews, as a body, are called synagogue of Satan. As a designation of a distinctively Jewish assembly or place of worship it was more sharply emphasized by the adoption of the word ἐκκλησία, ecclesia, to denote the Christian church. In this passage alone the word is distinctly applied to a Christian assembly or place of worship. The simplest explanation appears to be that the word designates the place of meeting for the Christian body, James using the word most familiar to the Jewish Christians; an explanation which receives countenance from the fact that, as Huther observes, "the Jewish Christians regarded themselves as still an integral part of the Jewish nation, as the chosen people of God." As such a portion they had their special synagogue. From Acts 6:9, we learn that there were numerous synagogues in Jerusalem, representing different bodies, such as the descendants of Jewish freedmen at Rome, and the Alexandrian or Hellenistic Jews. Among these would be the synagogue of the Christians, and such would be the case in all large cities where the dispersed Jews congregated. Alford quotes a phrase from the "Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs:" the synagogue of the Gentiles. Compare Hebrews 10:25, "the assembling together (ἐπισυναγωγὴν) of yourselves."

With a gold ring (χρυσοδακτύλιος)

Only here in New Testament. Not a man wearing a single gold ring (as A. V. and Rev.), which would not attract attention in an assembly where most persons wore a ring, but a gold-ringed man, having his hands conspicuously loaded with rings and jewels. The ring was regarded as an indispensable article of a Hebrew's attire, since it contained his signet; and the name of the ring, tabbath, was derived from a root signifying to impress a seal. It was a proverbial expression for a most valued object. See Isaiah 22:24; Haggai 2:23. The Greeks and Romans wore them in great profusion. Hannibal, after the battle of Cannae, sent as a trophy to Carthage, three bushels of gold rings from the fingers of the Roman knights slain in battle. To wear rings on the right hand was regarded as a mark of effeminacy; but they were worn profusely on the left. Martial says of one Charinus that he wore six on each finger, and never laid them aside, either at night or when bathing. The fops had rings of different sizes for summer and winter. Aristophanes distinguishes between the populace and those who wear rings, and in his comedy of "The Clouds" uses the formidable word σφραγιδονυχαργοκομῆται, lazy, long-haired fops, with rings and well-trimmed nails. Demosthenes was so conspicuous for this kind of ornament that, at a time of public disaster, it was stigmatized as unbecoming vanity. Frequent mention is made of their enormous cost. They were of gold and silver, sometimes of both; sometimes of iron inlaid with gold. The possible beauty of these latter will be appreciated by those who have seen the elegant gold and iron jewellery made at Toledo, in Spain. Sometimes they were of amber, ivory, or porcelain. The practice of wearing rings was adopted by the early Christians. Many of their rings were adorned with the symbols of the faith - the cross, the anchor, the monogram of Christ, etc. Among the rings found in the catacombs are some with a key, and some with both a key and a seal, for both locking and sealing a casket.

Goodly apparel (ἐσθῆτι λαμπρᾷ)

Lit., bright or shining clothes. Rev., fine clothing.

Vile (ῥυπαρᾷ)

Compare James 1:21; and see on 1 Peter 3:21.

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