James 2:26: Faith and Works, Part 13

Verse 26:[1] For as the body without the spirit (or, breath[2]) is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

[For as the body (of whatever living thing [Piscator]) without the spirit (נֶפֶשׁ, soul, to the Hebrews denotes life itself [Grotius]: He here calls πνεῦμα/ spirit, either, 1. the bearing or breath [Cajetan in Estius, Gomar], as in 1 Corinthians 14:14, 15, where, to sing with the spirit, that is, with the breath of the mouth, is opposed to to sing with the mind: The sense is that the body that does not breathe is dead [Gomar]: Or, 2. that substance which supplies life to the body, Luke 23:46; Acts 7:59 [Grotius], or the soul [Estius, Piscator], with which present the body breathes [Piscator], which is also often called the spirit, as in Psalm 31:5;[3] Ecclesiastes 12:7;[4] 1 Corinthians 2:11[5] [Estius]) is dead] That is, It does not put forth those acts which are agreeable to the human body (Grotius).

[So also faith (understanding, which is [Beza]) without works is dead] That is, it is useless with respect to justification (Hammond); it is not true and living faith (Junius, similarly Piscator, Cameron); it does not bring it to pass that a man might be reckoned righteous by God, and obtain the spirit of God and eternal life; it does not produce that which it ought to produce, that is, the continuation of Divine favor, and consequently eternal life, which Chrysostom shows in many places [passages produces by Grotius] (Grotius).

The spirit: this may be understood either, according to the marginal reading, of the breath; and then the sense is, that life and breath being inseparable companions, as the want of breath argues want of life in the body, so, lively faith and works being as inseparable, want of works argues want of life in faith: or, according to the reading in the text, spirit, taking it for that substance which animates the body, and is the cause of vital functions in it, which is sometimes called spirit, Psalm 31:5; Ecclesiastes 12:7; 1 Corinthians 2:11; and then the sense is, that as a body is without a soul, so faith is without works, i.e. both are dead. As a body without the soul hath the shape and lineaments of a man, but nothing that may discover life in it; so faith without works may be like true faith, have some resemblance of it, but hath nothing to discover the truth and life of it. So faith; not true faith, for that cannot be dead, but an empty profession of faith, which is rather called faith by way of concession, or because of some likeness it hath to it, than really is so; as a dead body, though called a body, is really but a carcass.

[1] Greek: ὥσπερ γὰρ τὸ σῶμα χωρὶς πνεύματος νεκρόν ἐστιν, οὕτω καὶ ἡ πίστις χωρὶς τῶν ἔργων νεκρά ἐστι.

[2] Greek: πνεύματος.

[3] Psalm 31:5: “Into thine hand I commit my spirit (רוּחִי; τὸ πνεῦμά μου, in the Septuagint): thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth.”

[4] Ecclesiastes 12:7: “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit (וְהָרוּחַ; καὶ τὸ πνεῦμα, in the Septuagint) shall return unto God who gave it.”

[5] 1 Corinthians 2:11: “For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit (τὸ πνεῦμα) of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.”

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