The Scandal of partiality in the Epistle of James

Part 10: Guilty in accordance to the law

In verses 8-11 James’ brothers, his co-servants in Christ those who belong to the twelve tribes scattered among nations (1:1), are now reminded of their identity which finds itself in their history as the people upon whom God disclosed His divine will according to the law.

Verse 8 echoes what was spoken of the Lord in Leviticus 19:18 which find its place within what scholars call as ‘the Holiness Code[1]’ of Israel. The code calls on the people of Israel to separated from the rest of the world because God has chosen them in doing so they are to demonstrate their unique relationship with God by disassociating themselves from profane worldliness and by their rituals and by obeying the commands in the Law which includes exercising equality as a demonstration of justice and righteousness with injunction to “love one’s neighbour as oneself” (Lev. 19:15). While, Jesus emphasized that the moral requirements of the law –justice, mercy and faith –were the heart of God’s will for Israel and were to be the norms governing its life as a people of God. Jesus spoke of the entire law as summarized in two commands: love of God and neighbour[2] (Mat. 22:37-39).

Hence, the law finds its full significance in love. Thus implying that to do that sincerely is to really put ourselves in a position where we must love our neighbour in the same effectual terms that we love ourselves. In consequence circumscribing that laws are in effect admissions of human weakness. But at the same time are also expressions of collective strength –of our ability to bear one another’s burdens, including the burden of our sins[3].

By their act of showing partiality James in verse 9 implicates them of guilt in accordance to the law that they recognize as their arbiter of divine judgement. He goes on further in verses 10-11 by pronouncing them as guilty of all counts in accordance to the law again echoing what has been stated that status and accomplishments in this world will not change the individual’s standing before God. [4]


[1] Holiness Code, is the collection of legal material in Leviticus, so named by A. Klostermann in 1877 (” The Concise Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. 2000)

[2] Achtemeier, Paul et al. Introducing the New Testament: Its Literature and Theology p.502

[3] Keizer, Garret. Putting Our Money Where God’s Mouth is an essay from Getting on Message: Challenging the Christian Right from the Heart of the Gospel Laarman, Peter ed.(Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 2006) p.201

[4] Perkins, Pheme. First and Second Peter, James, and Jude, Interpretation, a Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching p.109

 

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