James 2

Favoritism in the Church

The Rich

If a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring… (James 2:2)

The word “gold ring” (Gk. chrusodaktulios) appears only here in the New Testament. It is a compound word, combining the word “gold” (Gk. chrusion) with the word for “finger” (Gk. daktulos). A person who could afford to wear gold on their finger was clearly wealthy, and probably intending to flaunt that fact. This gold ring, set with chalcedony, dates to the first or second centuries AD.

The Poor

And a poor man in filthy clothing also comes in… (James 2:2)

The word “filthy” (Gk. hruparos) refers to that which is dirty or soiled. The poor were associated with dirty clothing for a variety of reasons, which most likely included their general living conditions, perhaps their employment, and the lack of sufficient resources to maintain good clothing. This statue portrays an old fisherman. He is standing and clothed in what would probably have been considered to be filthy clothing. He would surely have been considered poor. This statue is believed to be a copy of a Greek original of the 3rd century BC. It was photographed at the Vatican Museums.

Special Seating

You show regard to the one wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place” (James 2:3).

These special theater seats, located in the theater of Dionysus at Athens, granted extra space to their patrons and kept them separate from the regular masses of people who attended the theater. A number of these seats are inscribed with the names of their owners, ensuring that they were reserved for special use only. This practice in the theater was unfortunately being imitated by the believers that James was addressing.

Roman Upper Class

Are not the rich the ones who oppress you? (James 2:6)

This recreation of a wealthy Roman house illustrates the lifestyle of the rich. Note the intricate mosaic floor, the beautifully executed frescoes on the walls, and the ornately carved pillars in the peristyle garden outside. This display was photographed at the Astigi Museum in Spain.

Roman Courts

Are they not the ones who drag you into court? (James 2:6)

This 1st-century fresco depicts a scene from the life of Solomon, in which he acted as judge in the case of the two women who were fighting over a child (1 Kgs 3:15-27). Of particular interest is the way the artist has depicted the people and setting in a way that reflects the 1st-century world. Not only are the soldiers dressed as Romans, but the judge and his associates are sitting on a raised platform (bema) while the woman pleads her case before them. This is quite similar to the bema discovered at Corinth and is likely what James and his contemporaries would have envisioned when they thought of a court. This fresco comes from the House of the Doctor at Pompeii.

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