View Full Version : James 2:10-11 and property rights
May 14th 2010, 02:40 PM
James 2:10-11: For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. 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.
I've often wondered if James 2:10-11 is consistent with property rights. Is James 2:10-11 saying that someone guilty of stealing a loaf of bread is also guilty, in a court of law as well as before God, of committing murder (i.e., the violation of the right of self-ownership)?
I don't think it's inconsistent, but I'll throw it out here for debate.
May 14th 2010, 03:10 PM
It's talking about guilt as a theological concept, under theological law, not as a category under the pragmatic laws of society. Of course, concepts of law and theology are never totally separate. However, they have been (and are) even less separate at some places and times than they are in the modern West.
But even in societies in which theological law and practical law are held to be synonymous, it is possible to recognize differences in practical application of the law.
A similar situation in the secular West would be how a person can be arrested from anything from jaywalking, to theft, to murder (e.g. is equally guilty in terms of being subject to arrest), yet the practical consequences society chooses to apply are different.
May 14th 2010, 07:54 PM
The context of James 2:1-13 is that those who are showing favoritism are being knocked back down into their place. Breaking just one law makes us all equally sinners. Just because you've "sinned less" doesn't make you better, it just means to have the opportunity to share a seat in the same boat with everyone else.
I found an interesting note on the passage in one commentary though that you might find interesting (though there is no mention of it in a sampling of others I checked)... The suggestion is that Jewish teaching may have drawn no distinction between breaking only one law vs. breaking all of them. If this was the case, then the intended recipients (Messianic Jews from the looks of James 1:1-3), might have already been familiar with this teaching.
Whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it: this statement is meant to explain a well-known Jewish teaching that the Law should be observed in its entirety, as there is no distinction between important and less important commandments—the Law is indivisible. Therefore to break one commandment is to be guilty of breaking all.
Loh, I., & Hatton, H. (1997). A handbook on the Letter from James. UBS handbook series (75). New York: United Bible Societies.Though, even if this statement isn't building on some sort of pre-existing teaching... the basic principal that "nobody is better than anyone else" is still valid.
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