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James 2 – Skeptic's Annotated Bible answered

A response and reply to the notes on James 2 in the Skeptic's Annotated Bible (SAB).

King James Version

SAB comment

My comment

1 My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons.

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;

(2:2-4) The rich should not be treated better than the poor.

3 And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool:

4 Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?

5 Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?

6 But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats?

7 Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called?

8 If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well:

"Love thy neighbour as thyself."
How should nonbelievers be treated?
The author confuses how we should treat others with how God will judge and punish sinners. See also 2 Cor. 6:14.

9 But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.

10 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.

If you "keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point," you are "guilty of all."
The law demands perfection. If you are imperfect, you are indeed guilty of the entire law. God's law is not a set of completely unrelated instructions, like many human law books. So it is not injustice, but a corrolary of from the fundamental ideas behind God's law. What is the summary of the law?

And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.

And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.

So if you steal, it does not mean you're guilty of adultary, but you're guilty of not loving your neightbour. And loving your neighbour is what you are commanded to do. So you break the entire law of which each individual command is just an example of how you are forbidden to break it.

11 For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law.

12 So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.

13 For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.

"For he shall have judgment without mercy."
If you are merciless to others, God will be merciless to you. (Two wrongs make a right.)
God will judge you as you have judged others. Judgement is not about mercy, but about truth. The time for mercy is in this life. If you reject that, you will receive God's judgment upon your life, and this judgement will be a perfect fit for the committed sins.

14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?

(2:14, 17, 20, 24-26) "Can faith save him?"
Is Salvation by faith alone?
James talks here about a man who says he has faith. If he has or not, we do not know as we cannot look on the inside. We can only look at the outside, and see the fruits faith. And as Jesus said (Matthew 7:17):

Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.

So this remark of James is in perfect accordance with that. If there is no fruit, we can safely assume there is no faith.

15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,

(2:15-16) Help others that are in need; don't just wish them well. This is good advice, though it's unfortunate that James restricted this help to "brothers". Did he mean by this that you only need to help fellow believers?
The author of the SAB asks if James wants to restrict helping others to just fellow believers. No. James only mentions one example of active faith, namely helping fellow believers, indeed that is what is meant by brother and sister. He does not say we should help only those.

16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?

17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.

"Faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone."
What must you do to be saved?
Faith without works, faith which bears no fruit, is a sign there is not faith in the first place. See verse 14.

18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.

19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.

"The devils also believe."
James ridicules those who say salvation is by faith alone. He says the devils believe in God. Will their faith save them?
Are those who believe Jesus is the Christ of God?
The question is: do you have living faith? A faith that God exists is a faith one would share with the devils. And there faith produces at least one work: they tremble. But if you believe in God, but otherwise you're indistinguishable from the world, what faith is that?
You can say you have faith, but how do others know you have it? By the fruit this faith produces. Works do not proceed faith, but follow it.

20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?

21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?

"Was not Abraham our father justified by works?"
James says Abraham was justified by works (for being willing to kill his son for God); Paul (Rom.4:2-3) says he was justified by faith (for believing that God would order him to do such an evil act).
Was Abraham justified by faith or by works?
Abraham's works followed his faith. How do we know he had faith? By his works. Moreover, the justification James speaks of is not in the sight of God, but in the sight of men. In verse 23 James speaks about justification in the sight of God.

22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?

23 And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.

24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.

25 Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?

"Was not Rahab the harlot justified by works?"
(By By her works as a prostitute or by lying?)
Was Rahab saved by faith or works?
Is it wrong to lie?
The author of the SAB can't resist a sneer to Rahab here. I gather verse 8 is already forgotten.
On justification: this is justification in the eyes of men: it showed she had faith.
On lying, see Jos. 2:4.

26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.