on James 2 :2
If there come unto your assembly - Εις την συναγωγην· Into the synagogue. It appears from this that the apostle is addressing Jews who frequented their synagogues, and carried on their worship there and judicial proceedings, as the Jews were accustomed to do. Our word assembly does not express the original; and we cannot suppose that these synagogues were at this time occupied with Christian worship, but that the Christian Jews continued to frequent them for the purpose of hearing the law and the prophets read, as they had formerly done, previously to their conversion to the Christian faith. But St. James may refer here to proceedings in a court of justice.
With a gold ring, in goodly apparel - The ring on the finger and the splendid garb were proofs of the man's opulence; and his ring and his coat, not his worth, moral good qualities, or the righteousness of his cause, procured him the respect of which St. James speaks.
There come in also a poor man - In ancient times petty courts of judicature were held in the synagogues, as Vitringa has sufficiently proved, De Vet. Syn. l. 3, p. 1, c. 11; and it is probable that the case here adduced was one of a judicial kind, where, of the two parties, one was rich and the other poor; and the master or ruler of the synagogue, or he who presided in this court, paid particular deference to the rich man, and neglected the poor man; though, as plaintiff and defendant, they were equal in the eye of justice, and should have been considered so by an impartial judge.
on James 2 :2
For if there come into your assembly - Margin, as in Greek, "synagogue." It is remarkable that this is the only place in the New Testament where the word "synagogue" is applied to the Christian church. It is probably employed here because the apostle was writing to those who had been Jews; and it is to be presumed that the word synagogue would be naturally used by the early converts from Judaism to designate a Christian place of worship, or a Christian congregation, and it was probably so employed until it was superseded by a word which the Gentile converts would be more likely to employ, and which would, in fact, be better and more expressive - the word church. The word "synagogue" (συναγωγὴν sunagōgēn) would properly refer to the whole congregation, considered as "assembled together," without respect to the question whether all were truly pious or not; the word "church" (ἐκκλησία ekklēsia) would refer to the assembly convened for worship as called out, referring to the fact that they were called out from the world, and convened as worshippers of God, and would, therefore, be more applicable to a body of spiritual worshippers.
It is probable that the Christian church was modelled, in its general arrangements, after the Jewish synagogue; but there would be obviously some disadvantages in retaining the name, as applicable to Christian worship. It would be difficult to avoid the associations connected with the name, and hence it was better to adopt some other name which would be free from this disadvantage, and on which might be engrafted all the ideas which it was necessary to connect with the notion of the Christian organization. Hence the word "church," liable to no such objection as that of "synagogue," was soon adopted, and ultimately prevailed, though the passage before us shows that the word "synagogue" would be in some places, and for a time, employed to designate a Christian congregation. We should express the idea here by saying. "If a man of this description should come into the church."
A man with a gold ring - Indicative of rank or property. Rings were common ornaments of the rich; and probably then, as now, of those who desired to be esteemed to be rich. For proof that they were commonly worn, see the quotations in Wetstein, in loc.
In goodly apparel - Rich and splendid dress. Compare Luke 16:19.
A poor man in vile raiment - The Greek here is, filthy, foul; the meaning of the passage is, in sordid, shabby clothes. The reference here seems to be, not to those who commonly attended on public worship, or who were members of the church, but to those who might accidentally drop in to witness the services of Christians. See 1 Corinthians 14:24.
on James 2 :2
2:2 With gold rings - Which were not then so common as now.