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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges
James 1

 

 

Other Authors
Introduction

CHAPTER 1

Title. Ἰακώβου Ἐπιστολή, as in BK and in the subscription of. א, which has no title, and of A where the title is lost. In C both title and subscription are lost.


Verse 1

CH. James 1:1. INTRODUCTORY ADDRESS

1. θεοῦ καὶ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ. καὶ is here disjunctive. James (or Jacob) is the δοῦλος of God and also of the Lord Jesus Christ. Grammatically it would be possible to regard θεοῦ καὶ κυρίου as a joint qualification of Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, but the usage of the N.T. is against this: comp. Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ καὶ θεοῦ πατρὸς κ.τ.λ. (Galatians 1:1). See, however, St John 20:28 ὁ κύριός μου καὶ ὁ θεός μου, where both terms are applied to Christ.

κύριος, frequent in LXX. as the Hellenistic equivalent for Jehovah, as well as in lower senses, is applied in N.T. as a title of reverence to Christ, ‘the Master,’ and is so used almost as a proper name, ‘the Lord’; hence the absence of the article as here and frequently, especially when κύριος is governed by a preposition, or when it is in the genitive case, or when it precedes Ἰησ. Χριστός. Winer, III. xix. 1, p. 154. Here it is correlative to δοῦλος. Therefore, although the use of κύριος here may not distinctly prove the truth of the Godhead of Christ, yet the associations of the word certainly tend to connect the Lord Christ of the N.T. with the Lord God of the O.T.

δοῦλος: (a) in reference to a king, a subject, all subjects of an Oriental monarch being slaves: καὶ ἰδοὺ οἱ δοῦλοί μου μετὰ τῶν δούλων σου, 1 Kings 5:6 : Ἰεροβοὰμ δοῦλος Σολομῶντος, 1 Kings 11:26, and frequently. So in N.T. ὡμοιώθη ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν ἀνθρώπῳ βασιλεῖ ὂς ἠθέλησεν συνᾶραι λόγον μετὰ τῶν δούλων αὐτοῦ, St Matthew 18:23; where the δοῦλοι are satraps, or provincial governors. In Demosthenes the subjects of Philip are δοῦλοι, in contrast to the free Athenians: κἂν αὐτὸς μὴ παρῇ τοὺς δούλους ἀγωνοθετήσοντας πέμπει, Philippians 2:22 : (b) in reference to a master, a slave; and in a special sense (c) a slave consecrated to a god, ἱερόδουλος, a term applied to the Nethinim, Joseph. Ant. XI. 5. 6: comp. εἴθʼ οὔτως ἀεὶ Φοίβῳ | λατρεύων μὴ παυσαίμην, | παυσαίμην ἀγαθᾷ μοίρᾳ Eur. Ion 151–153. All three are Christian thoughts: (a) connects δοῦλος with the conception of the βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ, (b) with the thought of personal service to a Master, (c) who is divine.

St Peter calls himself δοῦλος καὶ ἀπόστολος Ἰησ. Χριστοῦ, 2 Peter 1:1. So St Paul, δοῦλος Ἰησ. Χριστοῦ, κλητὸς ἀπόστολος, Romans 1:1; and in conjunction with Timothy, Παῦλος καὶ Τιμόθεος δοῦλοι Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ, Philippians 1:1.

The simplicity of this self-designation and the absence of any authoritative title tend to prove the authenticity of the Epistle.

ταῖς δώδεκα φυλαῖς. This conception of the solidarity of Israel is a point in the enthusiasm of the Maccabean revival. Our Lord recognises it in the number of the Apostles and in their destination as judges of the twelve tribes of Israel. See Introduction, p. xxxii.

ἐν τῇ διασπορᾷ. Though the expression would include the vast area over which the Jews were scattered, when used without any qualifying words it had the special meaning of the Eastern dispersion in Syria, Mesopotamia, Media and Elam, and other districts in the region of the Tigris and Euphrates. See Edersheim, Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Vol. I. p. 6 ff., and Introduction, pp. xxix., xxx.

διασπορά, lit. a scattering of seed, is not classical but is frequent in LXX. in the sense of (a) scattering or dispersion, Deuteronomy 28:25; Jeremiah 34:17 : (b) collectively, the Israelites dispersed in different parts of the world, ‘the Dispersion.’ τὰς διασπορὰς τοῦ Ἰσραὴλ ἐπισυνάξει, Psalms 146:2. τὴν διασπορὰν τοῦ Ἰσραὴλ ἐπιστρέψαι, Isaiah 49:6. μὴ εἰς τὴν διασπορὰν τῶν Ἑλλήνων μέλλει πορεύεσθαι; John 7:35. See also 1 Peter 1:1.

There is no single fixed term in Hebrew for ‘the dispersion.’ Therefore in using the recognised expression ἡ διασπορά for a variety of Hebrew words the LXX. translators defined and specialised the meaning of the prophetic passage.

χαίρειν. Infinitive for imperative, where possibly λέγει or some similar word is to be supplied. Κλαύδιος Λυσίας τῷ κρατίστῳ ἡγεμόνι Φήλικι χαίρειν, Acts 23:26. Sometimes χαίρειν λέγει is to be supplied, Παῦλος πᾶσιν τοῖς ἁγίοιςτοῖς οὖσιν ἐν Φιλίπποις, Philippians 1:1. Winer, III. 64:6, p. 735. Comp. also ὑμεῖς ἄλλοθεν ἄλλος ἐρητύειν ἐπέεσσι, Il. II. 75. Such uses however may be connected with the original use and derivation of the infinitive as a dative of purpose. See Monro, Hom. Gram. § 242.

The same simple salutation is used in the encyclical letter addressed to the Gentile brethren by St James and the Church in Jerusalem, Acts 15:23. St Paul’s salutation is usually χάρις καὶ εἰρήνη, Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:3 and frequently.


Verse 2

2. πᾶσαν χαράν, all joy, nothing but joy, all that constitutes joy—merum gaudium. Comp. ἐν πάσῃ ὑπομουνῇ, 2 Corinthians 12:12. μετὰ πάσης προθυμίας, Acts 17:11. πᾶν κέρδος ἡγοῦ ζημιουμένη φυγῇ, Eur. Med. 454, ‘pure gain.’ For the use of πᾶσαν compare also χάριν σοι ἔχω πᾶσαν, Arrian Epict. III. 5, ‘I am entirely grateful.’ Winer, P. III. § 18. 4. For the thought comp. 1 Peter 4:13 καθὸ κοινωνεῖτε τοῖς τοῦ Χριστοῦ παθήμασιν χαίρετε, ἵνα καὶ ἐν τῇ ἀποκαλύψει τῆς δόξης αὐτοῦ χαρῆτε ἁγαλλιώμενοι.

ἀδελφοί. The special word for the Christian community, ὑμεῖς ἀδελφοί ἐστε, St Matthew 23:8 : ἐξῆλθεν οὖν ὁ λόγος εἰς τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς κ.τ.λ., St John 21:23; ἀπαγγείλατε Ἰακώβῳ καὶ τοῖς ἀδελφοῖς, Acts 12:17; just as it denoted the brotherhood of the Jewish Church: ἐξῆλθεν πρὸς τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς αὐτοῦ, Exodus 2:11. καὶ ἄξουσιν τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς ὑμῶν ἐκ πάντων τῶν ἐθνῶν, Isaiah 66:20.

ὅταν περιπέσητε. The aorist points to the several occasions of temptation in each single instance, as often as,—a single act—ye fall, &c., consider it all joy.

περιπίπτειν, to fall around or upon, generally, perhaps always, in connection with things evil: τοιούτῳ μὲν πάθειπεριπεσόντες, Thuc. II. 54. νοσήματι περιπίπτωμεν, Xen. Cyr. VI. 2. 27. ἐαυτῷ περιπίπτειν, ‘to fall into one’s own snare,’ Hdt. I. 108. λῃσταῖς περιέπεσεν, St Luke 10:30. ‘The word brings out the externality of the temptation,’ Mayor.

πειρασμός. Not classical, a proof, putting to the test, trial, temptation, not primarily in the sense of enticement or allurement, though this thought is not excluded, enticement to pleasure being a ‘trial’ as well as pain or persecution. πειρασμός in LXX. is used to translate Hebr. Massah, Exodus 17:7 καὶ ἐπωνόμασεν πειρασμὸς καὶ λοιδόρησις. In the N.T. it is used in an important passage speaking of our Lord’s πειρασμοί: ὑμεῖς δέ ἐστε οἱ διαμεμενηκότες μετʼ ἐμοῦ ἐν τοῖς πειρασμοῖς μου, Luke 22:28. Comp. δακρύων καὶ πειρασμῶν, Acts 20:19. Satan is called ὁ πειράζων, Matthew 4:3 and 1 Thessalonians 3:5, where the reference is especially to a test of faith, as here.

ποικίλοις. So also 1 Peter 1:6 ἐν ποικίλοις πειρασμοῖς. Here greater prominence is given to the variety of trials by the position of ποικίλοις at the end of the clause and by its separation from its substantive. The πειρασμοί of the Christian are varied; spiritual, intellectual, sensual. The whole Epistle may be regarded as a treatise on πειρασμοί, and this first clause is in brief the apostle’s answer to the suffering Churches of the dispersion. πειρασμός is necessary to the active exercise of πίστις, and without it ὑπομονή is impossible. The emphatic position of πᾶσαν χαράν shews the importance of the thought.


Verses 2-18

2–18. (a) TEMPTATION FROM WITHOUT, 2–4; [1] WISDOM, PRAYER, STEDFASTNESS, THE DIVINE HELPS IN TEMPTATION, 5–8; [2] A SPECIAL FORM OF TEMPTATION—OPPRESSION BY THE RICH—THE OLD TESTAMENT PROBLEM OF THE PROSPERITY OF THE WICKED, 9–12; [3] VICTORY OVER TEMPTATION, 13.

(b) TEMPTATION FROM WITHIN—MORAL AND RELIGIOUS ERROR, 14–18.


Verse 3

3. γινώσκοντες. The part. has a causal force giving the reason for πᾶσαν χαρὰν ἡγήσασθε, ‘inasmuch as ye recognise’ &c. The tense implies a constantly recurring recognition.

ὅτι τὸ δοκίμιον, κ.τ.λ. Πίστις, here assured belief in Jesus Christ, is the supreme energizing principle of the Christian life. Christian life therefore consists in activity of faith, but this activity or exercise of faith is rendered possible by πειρασμοί, or trials which are the test or touchstone (τὸ δοκίμιον) of faith: the complete and perfect result (the compound κατεργάζεται gives the force of completion) of an active faith is ὑπομονή, patience, or endurance, or capacity of resistance to evil.

For τὸ δοκίμιον see 1 Peter 1:7, where the same expression occurs.

ὑπομονή is the principle of firmness in resistance to evil which fences in and gives security to the spiritual life. The word is rare in the classical period, but comp. ὑπομ. λύπης, Plato Deff. 412 c: τὴν τῆς μαχαίρας ὑπ. τῶν πληγῶν, Polyb. xv. 15. 8, where we have an important shade of meaning—there is a sense of activity in resistance as well as of capacity of resistance. It is not a mere passive quality, comp. the use of ὑπομένειν, Xen. Mem. II. 8. 6 τῶν πραγμάτων ὅσα μὲν δύνασαι ποιεῖν [χρὴ] ὑπομένειν: Ign. Polycarp 6 ἡ ὑπομονὴ ὡς πανοπλία. In N.T. the word both in its verbal and substantival forms receives an accession of meaning from its use by our Lord Himself: ὁ ὑπομείνας εἰς τέλος σωθήσεται, Matthew 24:13; or, as the saying is reported in Luke 21:19, ἐν τῇ ὑπ. ὑμῶν κτήσεσθε τὰς ψυχὰς ὑμῶν, and in Luke’s version of the parable of the Sower καρποφοροῦσιν ἐν ὑπομονῇ, Luke 8:15. The word does not occur in the other synoptics or St John’s Gospel, but is frequent in the Pauline Epistles; see especially Romans 5:3 εἰδότες ὅτι ἡ θλίψις κ.τ.λ., a passage strictly parallel to this, ἡ θλίψις corresponding with the τὸ δοκίμιον τῆς πίστεως of St James. And, as in Aristotle’s system, the repeated act produces the habit, from which in turn corresponding action springs.

So completely had ὑπομονή become identified with Christian character that it gave point to the Emperor Julian’s sneer, when the Christians complained of their treatment by pagan governors: “Bear it patiently,” he said, “as your God commands you,” Socr. H. E. III. 14.


Verse 4

4. ἔργον τέλειον, a perfect result, that result which is the τέλος of ὑπομονή, its final cause; opus consummatum O.L., o. perfectum 5. The character that repels and quenches evil results in perfectness and completeness. Each act of resistance strengthens character and developes new force, so completeness of resistance results in completeness of character.

τέλειοι are those who attain the aim or purpose for which they were intended and for which they were created, ὁλόκληροι (here and 1 Thessalonians 5:23 only in N.T.), those who retain all that was allotted to them from the first; comp. Acts 3:16 ἡ πίστις ἡ διʼ αὐτοῦ ἔδωκεν αὐτῷ τὴν ὁλοκληρίαν ταύτην, all this (physical) completeness. ὁλόκληρος is used (Ezekiel 15:5 LXX.) of a vine branch that is unimpaired: οὐδὲ ἔτι αὐτοῦ ὄντος ὁλοκλήρου οὐκ ἔσται εἰς ἐργσίαν, and very beautifully of perfect righteousness: τὸ γὰρ ἐπίστασθαί σε ὁλόκληρος δικαιοσύνη, Wisdom of Solomon 15:3.

The germ of this thought is in our Lord’s words, Matthew 5:48 ἔσεσθε οὖν ὑμεῖς τέλειοι ὡς ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν ὁ οὐράνιος τέλειός ἐστιν. Comp. 2 Samuel 22:26 (Psalms 18:25). It is noticeable and suggestive that in the parallel passage, St Luke 6:36, οἰκτίρμονες and οἰκτίρμων take the place of τέλειοι and τέλειος. See also for τέλειοι, Ephesians 4:13 μέχρι καταντήσωμενεἰς ἄνδρα τέλειον. Colossians 1:28 ἄνθρωπον τέλειον ἐν Χριστῷ.

ἐν μηδενὶ λειπόμενοι explains ὁλόκληροι.


Verse 5

5. The clauses are connected, λειπόμενοιλείπεται.

σοφίας, a term far wider in signification than the Greek conception of σοφία. A whole cycle of Hebrew literature is devoted to the praise and definition of Wisdom. According to the author of the Wisdom of Solomon σοφία is the most perfect principle of guidance in human action: λαμπρὰ γὰρ καὶ ἀμάραντός ἐστιν ἡ σοφία (Wisdom of Solomon 6:12); it is won by those who seek it: εὐχερῶς θεωρεῖται ὑπὸ τῶν ἀγαπώντων αὐτήν, καὶ εὐρίσκεται ὑπὸ τῶν ζητούντων αὐτήν—an expression closely bearing on this passage. Step by step σοφία leads to union with God: προσοχὴ δὲ νόμων (giving heed to her laws) βεβαίωσις ἀφθαρσίας, ἀφθαρσία δὲ ἐγγὺς εἶναι ποιεῖ θεοῦ· ἐπιθυμία ἄρα σοφίας ἀνάγει ἐπὶ βασιλείαν, Wis 6:19; 20; … τιμήσατε σοφίαν ἵνα εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα βασιλεύσητε. Again ch. Wisdom of Solomon 7:25 ἀτμὶς γάρ ἐστιν τῆς τοῦ θεοῦ δυνάμεωςἀπαύγασμα γάρ ἐστιν φωτὸς ἀϊδίου, καὶ ἕσοπτρον ἀκηλίδωτον τῆς τοῦ θεοῦ ἐνεργείας. Human wisdom is conceived of as an emanation from the divine wisdom which was with God at the creation of the world, πὰσα σοφία παρὰ κυρίου καὶ μετʼ αὐτοῦ εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα, Sirach 1:1.

This exalted view of σοφία gives force to the description of the Lord’s growth: καὶ Ἰησοῦς προέκοπτεν τῇ σοφίᾳ, Luke 2:52 : τὸ δὲ παιδίον ηὔξανεν καὶ ἐκραταιοῦτο πληρούμενον σοφία, Luke 2:40.

αἰτείτω. In the Wisdom of Solomon prayer is indicated as the effectual means of attaining σοφία. διὰ τοῦτο ηὐξάμην καὶ φρόνησις ἐδόθη μοι, ἐπεκαλεσάμην καὶ ἦλθέν μοι πνεῦμα σοφίας, Wisdom of Solomon 7:7. Comp. also Sirach 51:13 ἐξήτησα σοφίαν προφανῶς ἐν προσευχῇ μου. In St Matthew 11:19 (Luke 7:35), ἐδικαιώθη ἡ σοφία ἀπὸ τῶν ἔργων αὐτῆς, the meaning of σοφία seems to be the plan of divine wisdom which rules and governs all things. For the construction comp. γνώμας λειπομένα σοφᾶς, Soph. El. 474.

In the prominence which St James gives to σοφία we trace the surpassing influence of the Wisdom literature in this age. In a question of completeness or perfection of religions equipment it would be natural to treat of σοφία as the highest religious excellence, without which perfection was inconceivable.

So also St Paul places σοφία at the head of spiritual gifts. 1 Corinthians 12:8 ᾦ μὲν γὰρ διὰ τοῦ πνεύματος δίδοται λόγος σοφίας, ἄλλῳ δὲ λόγος γνώσεως κ.τ.λ.

αἰτείτω. αἰτεῖν, Lat. peto, generally, though not always (see Luke 1:63; John 4:9), used of requests made by an inferior to a superior. See Matthew 7:9 τίς ἐστιν ἐξ ὑμῶν ἄνθρωπος ὃν αἰτήσει ὁ υἱὸς αὐτοῦ ἄρτον κ.τ.λ.; Acts 3:2 to ὂν ἐτίθουντοῦ αἰτεῖν ἐλεημοσύνην; Acts 12:20 ᾐτοῦντο εἰρήνην. Hence our Lord never uses αἰτεῖν of His own requests to the Father, but ἐδεήθην (Luke 22:32) and ἐρωτήσω (John 16:26). See Trench, N.T. Syn. sub voc. on the important passage John 16:23 ἐμὲ οὐκ ἐρωτήσετε οὐδένἄν τι αἰτήσητε τὸν πατέρα δώσει ὑμῖν ἐν τῷ ὀνόματί μου.

ἁπλῶς, with simplicity, without secondary motive, simpliciter, O.L., rather than affluenter, V. Comp. ὁ μεταδιδοὺς ἐν ἁπλότητι, Romans 12:8; δοξάζοντες τὸν θεὸν ἐπὶ τῇ ὑποταγῇκαὶ ἁπλότητι τῆς κοινωνίας εἰς αὐτοὺς καὶ εἰς πάντας, 2 Corinthians 9:13. In the classics ἁπλοῦς is opposed to what is deceitful, ἁπλᾶ τῆς ἀληθείας ἕπηἁπλοῦς ὁ μῦθος, Aesch. Cho. 554; ἁπλοῖ τρόποι opp. to δόλος, At. Plut. 1158.

καὶ μὴ ὀνειδίζοντος, not reproaching, for ingratitude. The two elements to be avoided in giving are: [1] secondary motives on the do ut des principle; [2] complaint on account of favours unreturned, τοῖς εὖ παθοῦσιν ὀνειδίσαι τὴν χάριν, Libernus, D. XXXIII. (quoted by Wet stein): Odiosum sane genus hominum beneficia reprobantium, quae meminisse debet is in quem collata sunt, non commemorare qui contulit, Cic. Lael. 20.

From these two human defects divine gifts are absolutely exempt. [1] Interested motive is impossible with God; and [2] man’s ingratitude is no barrier to divine love: ὅτι αὐτὸς χρηστός ἐστιν ἐπὶ τοὺς ἀχαρίστους καὶ πονηρούς, Luke 6:35.


Verse 6

6. ἐν πίστει. πίστις here, reliance on a promise, trust in the character of God, the faith which was the necessary condition of a miracle.

διακρινόμενος. In middle voice διακρίνεσθαι=to get a thing decided, to decide for oneself, to set two issues before oneself; so to doubt, to be in a critical state of mind. The thought is of judicial hesitation which ceases when the verdict is given; hence, to dispute. See Acts 11:2 διεκρίνοντο πρὸς αὐτόν. Judges 1:9 τῷ διαβόλῳ διακρινόμενος. The tense implies a continuance of hesitation which is not a Christian attitude. Comp. Matthew 21:21 ἐὰν ἕχητε πίστιν καὶ μὴ διακριθῆτε, οὐ μόνον τὸ τῆς συκῆς ποιήσετε κ.τ.λ., a passage reflected here, πορεύου σὺν αὐτοῖς μηδὲν διακρινόμενος, Acts 10:20. See Page on Acts loc. cit. and St Matthew in this series loc. cit.

κλύδυν. Only here and Luke 8:24 in N.T., but frequent in classics.

θαλάσσης. The absence of the article with this word is very rare. See Winer, P. III. § 19, and comp. ἠχοῦς θαλ. καὶ σάλου, Luke 21:25. κινδύνοις ἐν θαλάσσῃ, 2 Corinthians 11:26. κύματα ἄγρια θαλάσσης, Judges 1:13.

ἀνεμιζομένῳ καὶ ῥιπιζομένῳ. qui a vento fertur et circumfertur, V. Neither of these words is found in LXX. or elsewhere in N.T. ἀνεμίζεσθαι is ἅπαξ λεγ., but comp. for the thought κάλαμον ὑπὸ ἀνέμου σαλευόμενον, Matthew 11:7. ῥιπίζειν is used in Aristoph. in the sense of fanning a flame: τεμάχη ῥιπίζεται, Eccl. 842. ῥιπαὶ expresses any rapid movement of wave, wind, fire, stars, ῥιπαὶ άστέρων, Soph. El. 106: the verb here possibly of the tide. Comp. ῥιπαὶ κυμάτων ἀνέμων τε, Pind. P. IV. 346. Comp. the proper name Εὔριπος, where the tide ebbed and flowed with unusual violence; hence the word is applied as here to an unstable man: τῶν τοιούτων γὰρ μένει τὰ βουλήματα καὶ οὐ μεταῤῥεῖ ὤσπερ Εὔριπος, Eth. Nic. IX. 6. 3. See also Ephesians 4:14, where κλυδωνιζόμενοι (ἅπ. λεγ.) καὶ περιφερόμενοι παντὶ ἀνέμῳ expresses the same idea and is possibly modelled on these words or similar words in St James’ teaching.


Verse 7

7. γάρ. See Winer, LIII. 3. The ἄρα in γάρ draws the inference, the γε corroborates it. ‘Let not then that man,’ &c.


Verse 8

8. δίψυχος. Not classical, and here only in N.T.; it does not occur in LXX.; possibly a word coined by St James himself. (In Psalms 119:113 the Hebr. for ‘them that are of a double mind’ is vaguely rendered παρανόμους in the LXX.) ψυχή is regarded as the seat of desires, volition; hence δίψυχος, one who is torn by conflicting desires. The word, elsewhere rare, is very frequent in Hermas’ Pastor, so much so that the treatise reads like an amplification of St James’ teaching. As one instance out of many bearing the impress of this passage, comp. ἆρον ἀπό σου τὴν διψυχίαν καὶ μηδὲν ὅλως διψυχήσῃς αἰτήσασθαι παρὰ τοῦ θεοῦ, Herm. Past. M. 9. It is difficult to decide whether ἀνὴρ δίψυχος is to be taken as a subject with ἀκατάστατος as a predicate, or whether both are in apposition to ὁ ἄνθρωπος ἐκεῖνος. On the whole the latter view seems preferable.

ἀκατάστατος. Here only in N.T. The noun ἀκαταστασία and the adjective are classical in the sense of political instability and confusion; in Polybius ἀκατάστατος is used of youthful fickleness: διά τε καὶ φύσει μὲν καὶ ἀκατάστατον ὑπάρχειν [τὸ μειράκιον] ἔτι δὲ μᾶλλον ὑπʼ ἐκείνων τότε μετεωρισθέν, VIII. 4. 6. In this sense also Luke 21:9. See also 1 Corinthians 14:33.

The separation between ὁ ἄνθρωπος ἐκεῖνος and ἀνὴρ δίψυχος gives emphasis to the words in apposition: comp. τὸ πάσχα ἡμῶν ἐτύθη Χριστός, 1 Corinthians 5:7; Romans 8:28; 2 Corinthians 7:6.

ἐν πάσαις ταῖς ὁδοῖς αὐτοῦ. Comp. infr. James 1:11 ἐν ταῖς πορείαις αὐτοῦ. The figure is so frequent in the O.T. as hardly to need illustration: διδάξει πραεῖς ὁδοὺς αὐτοῦ, Psalms 25:9. νομοθέτησόν με, κύριε, ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ σου, Psalms 27:11. οἱ ὀφθαλμοί μου ἐπὶ πάσας τὰς ὁδοὺς αὐτῶν, Jeremiah 16:17. Hence Christianity or the Church is preeminently ἡ ὀδός, Acts 19:9 κακολογοῦντες τῆν ὁδὸν and 23 τάραχος οὐκ ὀλίγος περὶ τῆς ὁδοῦ.


Verse 9

9. Καυχάσθω δὲ ὁ ἀδελφὸς ὁ ταπεινὸς κ.τ.λ. The transition to the contrast between rich and poor is quite natural here. For the problem of the prosperity of the wicked and the suffering of the righteous is one with which the Wisdom literature occupied itself more anxiously than with any other. It is, for instance, the theme of the Book of Job.

The rejoicing in τετείνοσες is parallel in spirit to the rejoicing ἐν πειρασροις. The τεπείνενσις of the rich (his becoming poor) will save him from the fate of the rich. Comp. 1 Samuel 2:10, LXX. (a passage not found in the Hebrew), μὴ καυχάσθω ὁ φρόνιμος ἐν τῇ φρονήσει αὐτοῦ, καὶ μὴ καυχάσθω ὁ δυνατὸς ἐν τῇ δυνάμει αὐτοῦ, καὶ μὴ καυχάσθω ὁ πλούσιος ἐν τῷ πλούτῳ αὐτοῦ.


Verse 10

10. ὡς ἄνθος χόρτου. Comp. πᾶσα σὰρξ χόρτος, καὶ πᾶσα δόξα ἀνθρώπου ὡς ἄνθος χόρτου· ἐξηράνθη ὅ χὁρτος καὶ τὸ ἄνθος ἐξέπεσεν. Isaiah 40:7-8. ὥσπερ ἄνθες ἀνθῆσαν ἐξέπεσεν, Job 14:2. ἄνθρωπος ὡσεὶ χόρτος αἱ ἁμέραι αὐτοῦ, ὡσεὶ ἄνθος τοῦ ἀγροῦ οὕτως ἐξανθήσει, Psalms 103:14. See also Psalms 37:2. The whole Psalm is parallel in thought to this passage.

χόρτος. See note on St Matthew 6:30 in this series. The first meaning of the word is [1] an enclosed place, especially for feeding cattle: αὐλῆς ἐν χόρτῳ Hom. Il. XI. 774. Hence [2] provender, hay, θηρῶν ὁρείων χόρτεν οὐχ ἵππων λέγεις Eur. Alc. 495. Then [3] vegetation generally, flowers and grass, and even brushwood, which when dried are used for fuel in the East. Matthew 6:31. In this sense χόρτος is not classical. The derivation is from a root meaning ‘to seize,’ hence ‘to enclose’; it is cognate with χορός, ‘an enclosed place for dancing’; hortus, ‘garden,’ ‘yard,’ &c. Curtius, Gk Etym. § 200. Skeat, Etym. Dict., under ‘Yard.’


Verse 11

11. ἀνέτειλενἐξήρανενἐξέποσενἀπώλετο. The use of the aorist here is to express the instantaneous effect produced by the καύσων. In English the present tense would be used to express this point of time; but the greater exactness of Greek thought and language places the events in the past. They are past in the very moment of describing them. See Winer P. III. § xl. 1, p. 346, and notes on St Matt. in this series, and compare 1 Peter 1:24 ἐξηράνθη ὁ χόρτος καὶ τὸ ἄνθος ἐξέπεσεν. By some grammarians these are cited as instances of the gnomic aorist. See Mayor ad loc. and Burton, N.T. Moods and Tenses, p. 21. Winer however does not recognise this use of the aorist in N.T.

σὺν τῷ καύσωνι. The καύσων is the hot wind or sirocco blowing at sunrise from the Eastern desert. ἐπάξει καὺσωνα ἄνεμον (urentem ventum, V.; Hebr. קָדִים רוּחַ, east wind) ἐκ τῆς ἐρήμου, Hosea 13:15. ἀναλήμψεται γὰρ αὐτὸν καύσων, Job 27:21. καὶ ἐγένετο ἄμα τῷ ἀνατεῖλαι τὸν ἥλιον καὶ προσέταξεν ὁ θεὸς πνεύματι καύσωνι συγκαίοντι, Jonah 4:8. It was this wind that made the early morning hours so burdensome to the labourers, τοῖς βαστάσασι τὸ βάρος τῆς ἡμέρας καὶ τὸν καύσωνα, Matthew 20:12, where see notes.

ἐξέπεσεν. A beautifully exact word to describe the dropping of the petals or corona out of the calyx, as an effect of drought, which would be more strikingly sudden under the hot eastern sun than in a temperate climate like ours.

εὐπρέπεια, here only in N.T. Comp. ἑκ Σιὼν ἡ εὐπρέπεια τῆς ὡραιότητος αὐτοῦ, Psalms 50:2. For the general sense of this passage comp. πᾶς ὁ ὑψῶν ἑαυτὸν ταπεινωθήσεται, ὁ δὲ ταπεινῶν ἑαυτὸν ὑψωθήσεται, Luke 14:11. One of the notes of the Kingdom was the exaltation of the poor: 1 Samuel 2:8; Psalms 9:12; Psalms 9:18; Psalms 72:2; Psalms 72:4; Psalms 72:12-13; Psalms 107:41; Psalms 113:7-8. In Isaiah 25:3 the LXX. version, εὐλογήσει σε ὁ λαὸς ὁ πτωχός, where the Hebr. is ‘the strong people shall glorify thee,’ is suggestive. See also Luke 1:52; Luke 6:20. The Gospel is especially a message to the poor, Matthew 11:5. The rich are regarded as synonymous with the wicked, the poor with the righteous. See Isaiah 53:9; Sirach 13:3; Luke 16:19-31. Comp. Psalms 10, 11.

This aspect of the rich and poor respectively is a vein of thought which runs through all the prophetic writings. It is a social result which has ensued in many epochs, when the wealthier class unrestrained by any unselfish principle gave themselves over to every indulgence of pride and passion. It is a view which finds support in some of the words of Christ: εἰ θέλεις τέλειος εἷναι ὕπαγε πώλησόν σου τὰ ὑπάρχοντα καὶ δὸς τοῖς πτωχοῖς καὶ ἕξεις θησαυρὸν ἐν οὐρανοῖς, Matthew 19:21. See also James 1:23-24. It took effect in the earliest organisation of the Church. Acts 2:44; Acts 3:6. It was part of the religious thought of the day, as shewn in Essenism and Ebionism, the latter name being derived from a Hebr. word meaning ‘poor.’ One of the great lessons of Christianity has been to teach the responsibility of wealth and its place in the service of Christ, whether by noble use or self-sacrificing abandonment.

ἐν ταῖς πορείαις αὐτοῦ, in his ways, possibly in a literal sense [1] in his journeys for traffic or business, [2] but more probably in the ordinary figurative sense of way or path in the O. T. Comp. κατάρτισαι τὰ διαβήματά μου ἐν ταῖς τρίβοις σου ἴνα μὴ σαλευθῇ τὰ διαβήματά μου, Psalms 17:5.


Verse 12

12. This verse closes the paragraph which begins with James 1:2, referring back to the original thought of temptation and endurance.

τὸν στέφανον τῆς ζωῆς, the crown of life. τῆς ζωῆς, gen. of apposition denoting that in which the crown consists. The life, i.e. eternal life, is the promised crown. στέφανον, not the imperial or royal crown (διάδημα), but the garland of victory and civic worth, or military valour, woven of oak, ivy, parsley, pine or olive; see however Revelation 4:4; Revelation 9:7; Revelation 14:14, στεφάνους χρυσοῦς. στέφανος is used of the kingly crown, Matthew 27:29 and parallels. But there the word suited the material of which the crown was composed. See Trench, N.T. Syn. sub voc., and Bp Lightfoot on Philippians 4:1. Comp. κομιεῖσθε τὸν ἀμαράντινον τῆς δόξης στέφανον, 1 Peter 5:4; πᾶς δὲ ὁ ἀγωνιζόμενος πάντα ἐγκρατεύεται, ἐκεῖνοι μὲν οὖν ἵνα φθαρτὸν στέφανον λάβωσιν, ἡμεῖς δέ ἄφθαρτον, 1 Corinthians 9:25; ὁ τῆς δικαιοσύνης στέφανος, 2 Timothy 4:8, where see the context which is parallel to this passage. Still more closely parallel is Revelation 2:10 γίνου πιστὸς ἕχρι θανάτου καὶ δώσω σοι τὸν στέφανον τῆς ζωῆς.

The thought is finely illustrated by a noble statue of James, the brother of the Lord, on the porch of Amiens Cathedral. Above the head of the apostle, not on his head, but at a distance from it, is represented a crown, to shew that the crown is not yet attained; it is the inspiring hope of life to be struggled and fought for through temptation and trial. This last thought is signified by a shield which the apostle holds in his hand, on which is inscribed a banner or flag such as used to be carried in the very forefront of battle. Such is the teaching of St James here. See Ruskin, The Bible of Amiens.

δν ἐπηγγάλατε. The suppressed subject of ἐπηγγείλατο can only be ὁ κύριος or ὁ χριστός. And the question arises: Is this promise a saying of our Lord’s not recorded in the Gospels? Or is it another form of Matthew 10:22, ὁ δὲ ὑπομείνας εἰς τέλος οὗτος σωθήσεται or Luke 21:19, ἐν τῇ ὑπομονῇ ὑμῶν κτήσεσθε τὰς ψυχὰς ὑμῶν? The connexion between ὑπομονή and ζωή is the same in both expressions, and the form of the expression here may be due to St James’ love of poetical imagery. On the other hand it is perhaps most natural to regard it as a direct citation of words of our Lord remembered by St James, which distinctly conveyed a promise. For though the word of promise is only explicitly stated here, it is clearly indicated in the form of each of the above cited passages. See Reach, Agrapha, logion 52, p. 130.

τοῖς ἀγαπῶσιν αὐτόν. Comp. τοῖς ἠγαπηκόσι τὴν ἐπιφάνειαν αὐτοῦ, 2 Timothy 4:8.


Verse 13

13. παραζόμενος, while tempted, in the course of temptation. Such a primitive form of error may have arisen from a perverted inference from the petition in the Lord’s Prayer: μὴ εἰσενέγκῃς ἡμᾶς εἰς πειρασμόν, Matthew 6:13. St James’ words reveal the secret of temptation. However external the inducements to it may appear, its root is within. Comp. Sirach 15:11 ff.

ἀπὸ θεοῦ. ἀπὸ denotes origin simply, not agency. Winer, P. III. § xlvii. b note 2.

ἀπείραστος, for classical ἀπείρατος. κακῶν, genitive of source, ‘untempted by evil.’ Comp. ἄκλαυτος φίλων, Soph. Ant. 847; κακῶν ἀτρύμονες, Aesch. Theb. 875; Winer, P. III. § XXX. 4. Others render as R.V. marg. ‘untried in evil.’ But ἀπείραστος is clearly in connexion with the attendant verbs πειράζομαι, πειράζει, and must have the same signification which they bear. There is no real theological difficulty. Absolute freedom from the power of temptation precludes the possibility of tempting others.


Verse 14

14. A parable of sin and death. ὑπό implies direct personal agency. Man is regarded as tempted by his own lust or desire, here personified. The offspring of this union is sin; sin when mature becomes the mother of death. Comp. for the thought generally: τὰ γὰρ ὀψώνια τῆς ἁμαρτίας θάνατος, τὸ δὲ χάρισμα τοῦ θεοῦ ζωὴ αἰώνιος ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ τῷ κυρίῳ ἡμῶν, Romans 6:23; τὸ γὰρ φρόνημα τῆς σαρκὸς θάνατος, Romans 8:6.

ἐξελκόμενος καὶ δελεαζόμενες. Either [1] with Bede, cited by Mayor: abstractus a recto itinere et illectus in malum; two processes in temptation are indicated: persuasion through some strong motive to leave the right path, allurement to sin: comp. ἐγκράτειαν οὕτω μάλιστʼ ἂν ᾤετο ἀσκεῖσθαι, εἰ αὐτὸς ἐπιδεικνύοι ἑαυτὸν μὴ ὑπὸ τῶν παραυτίκα ἡδονῶν ἑλκόμενον ἀπὸ τῶν ἀγαθῶν, Xen. Cyr. VIII. 1. 32; or [2] the figure is drawn from the capture of fishes. The words are here in the order of thought; in act δελεαζ. would precede. Comp. Moriamur et in media arma ruamus, Verg. Aen. II. 353; Castigatque auditque dolos, ib., VI. 567; ἐξελκ. here only in N.T. δελεαζ., comp. δελεάζοντες ψυχάς, 2 Peter 2:14; δελεάζουσιν ἐν ἐπιθυμίαις, 2 Peter 2:18; γαστρὶ δελεαζόμενα, Xen. Mem. II. 1. 4; ἡδονὴ κακοῦ δέλεαρ, Plat. Tim. 69 D.


Verse 15

15. ἀποτελεσθεῖσα, perfected, of fall age, mature. Comp. jam matura viro, jam plenis nubilis annis, Verg. Aen. VII. 53.

ἀποκύει, brings forth, R.V.


Verse 17

17. πᾶσα δόσις, κ.τ.λ. Note the hexameter rhythm here, πᾶσατέλειον; for similar instances see Hebrews 12:13; John 4:35.

δόσις, strictly an act of giving. Comp. Philippians 4:15 οὐδεμία μοι ἐκκλησία ἐκοινώνησεν εἰς λόγον δόσεως καὶ λήψεως, where, as Bp Light-foot notes, δόσεως καὶ λήψεως are used in the technical sense of ‘credit and debit.’ In the classics δόσις appears to signify the thing given, a gift, according to the lexicons, but in many of the examples quoted the active sense is still apparent, e.g. Hom. Od. VI. 208, δόσις δʼ ὀλίγη τε, φίλη τε, δόσις may well signify a giving rather than a gift, and this original and proper signification gives a real distinction between δόσις and δώρημα, which is lost if δόσις is rendered ‘a gift’ and becomes synonymous with δώρημα. δόσις is the act or mode of giving, which may be right or wrong, and δώρημα is the gift itself.

The position of ἀγαθή and τέλειον gives the force of an adverbial clause; if it be good or perfect it is a divine gift.

ἄνωθέν ἐστιν. This is rightly regarded as the predicate rather than ἄνωθέν ἐστιν καταβαῖνον. See however Winer, III. xlv. 5, where the second view is supported. ἄνωθεν from above, from heaven. See ch. James 3:15; James 3:17 and John 3:31; John 19:11, and comp. Colossians 3:1 τὰ ἄνω ζητεῖτε. Philo de Profug. T. r. p. 571. 2 speaks of σοφίαν ἄνωθεν ὀμβρηθεῖσαν ἀπʼ οὐρανοῦ.

τοῦ πατρὸς τῶν φώτων, the Father of lights. Primarily perhaps the Creator of the heavenly bodies, but also in a wider sense Father and Creator of light in all its manifestations; Giver of all gifts, spiritual, intellectual and moral, beauty of nature and excellence of art. For this use of the plural denoting the parts of which a whole is made up, comp. προφυλάττεσωαι ψύχη ἢ θάλπη, attacks of cold and heat, Xen. Mem. I. 4. 13. So in Latin: artes, Art in its various forma, works of art; regna the various elements in the regnum &c.

Although the expression τοῦ πατρὸς τῶν φώτων cannot be precisely parallelled, the association of light with the idea of God may be abundantly illustrated: the first creative word of God is “Let there be light,” Genesis 1:3; comp. Isaiah 45:6-7 “I am Jehovah, there is none else, that form light and create darkness”: ἐγώ ὁ κατασκευάσας φῶς καὶ ποιήσας σκότος. So in the manifestation of Jehovah the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the son shall be sevenfold as the light of seven days, Isaiah 30:26. Comp. also ἐν τῷ φωτί σου ὀψόμεθα φῶς, Psalms 35:9; σὺ κατηρτίσω ἥλιον καὶ σελήνην, Psalms 73:16; καὶ ἀνατελεῖ ὑμῖν ἥλιος δικαιοσύνης, Malachi 4:2. In 1 John 1:5 God is absolutely φῶς, and in Hebrews 1:3 Christ is regarded as the effulgence (ἀπαύγασμα) from the Father. So in Wisdom of Solomon 7:26 σοφία is described as being ἀπαύγασμα φωτὸς ἀϊδίυ.

παρʼ ᾦ οὐκ ἔνι π., with whom there is no possibility of change. Lit. ‘there is no room for.’ See Lightfoot on Galatians 3:28, who agrees with Winer (P. II. § xiv. p. 96) that ἔνι is not a contraction for ἔνεστι, but a form of ἐν or ἐνί with the accent thrown back as ἕπι, πάρα, &c. See also Colossians 3:11.

παραλλαγή, transmission from one condition to another, change, as π. κάλλους πρὸς αἶσχος, Arr. Epict. II. 23. 32. So here perhaps simply change from light to darkness, in which case the predominant thought both in this and the following expression would be absolute brightness, the negation of darkness—rather than absolute immutability, the negation of change. The context of the passage however suggests that παραλλαγή may be here used in a scientific sense, or at any rate in a way suggestive of the scientific term parallax. It is true that no instance is cited of such a use of παραλλαγή before the date of this Epistle, but neither is there an instance cited of παράλλαξις used in this sense earlier than Proclus, who, c. A.D. 440, wrote a paraphrase on a work of the astronomer Ptolemy (fl. A.D. 139), and the Modern Greek term for parallax appears to be παραλλαγή, not παράλλαξις. See Sophocles, Modern Greek Lexicon sub voc. This may represent a very ancient usage.

Parallax “may be defined in the most general way as the difference between the directions of a body as seen from two different points,” or, “apparent change in position produced by movement of the earth.” Newcomb’s Popular Astronomy, pp. 165 and 206. “The parallax of the sun was calculated, though erroneously, by Aristarchns c. 250 B.C. and Hipparchus 162–127 B.C., a calculation adopted by Ptolemy and adhered to for twelve centuries.” Young’s Text-Book of General Astronomy, § 666. The thought therefore would be familiar in St James’ tune. Moreover he was writing to men living in regions where astronomy had flourished from a remote antiquity. That astronomical phrases were known to the Greek-speaking Jew in the post-exile period appears from various passages in the LXX. αὐτὸς γάρ μοι ἔδωκεν τῶν ὄντων γνῶσιν ἀψευδῆ εἰδέναι σύστασιν κόσμου καὶ ἐνέργειαν στοιχείων, ἀρχὴν καὶ τέλος καὶ μεσότητα χρόνων, τροπῶν ἀλλαγὰς καὶ μεταβολὰς καιρῶν, ἐνιαυτῶν κύκλους καὶ ἀστέρων θέσεις, Wisdom of Solomon, Wisdom of Solomon 7:17; καὶ καθʼ ὥραν γεννημάτων ἡλίου τροπῶν καὶ ἀπὸ συνόδων μηνῶν, Deuteronomy 33:14; ἐπίστασαι δὲ τροπὰς οὐρανοῦ, ἢ τὰ ὑπʼ οὐρανὸν ὁμοθυμαδὸν γινόμενα; Job 38:33.

In the Book of Enoch, ch. lxxi., there is an elaborate treatise on the laws and movements of the heavenly bodies, and the expression ‘Father of the lights’ finds a parallel in such phrases as: ‘The seasons, the years, and the days, Uriel shewed me; the angel whom the Lord of glory appointed over all the luminaries of heaven in heaven, and in the world,’ &c. ch. lxxiv.

If this view of the meaning of παραλλαγή be accepted, the expression would indicate the immutability of the Eternal Father, and the thought would be intensified by the results of modern science, according to which “the apparent displacement of the fixed stars, due to parallax, is so minute as to elude our investigation.” The παραλλαγή of the stars indeed is incalculable; with the Father of the lights παραλλαγή is inconceivable.

It is difficult to decide with certainty between these two possible senses of παραλλαγή. It is in favour of the first that the same thought of light and darkness would be retained in both expressions—παραλλαγή and τροπῆς ἀποσκίασμα. The second introduces the further thought of unchangeableness.

τροπή, turning or revolution, or perhaps the setting of a heavenly body. The genitive τροπῆς denotes occasion or cause.

ἀποσκίασμα is the shadow projected from one body on to another, or in any way caused by the movements of a body.

Hence τροπῆς ἀποσκίασμα is either [1] the shadow of night caused by the rotation of the earth, or, in popular phrase, by the setting of the sun (comp. οὔθʼ ὁπότʼ ἂν στείχῃσι πρὸς οὐρανὸν ἀστερόεντα | οὔθʼ ὅτʼ ἂν ἂψ ἐπὶ γαῖαν ἀπʼ οὐρανόθεν προτράπηται· | ἀλλʼ ἐπὶ νὺξ ὀλοὴ τέταται δειλοῖσι βροτοῖσιν, Od. XI. 17–19; τροπαὶ ἠελίοιο, ib. xv. 404, which Eustathius interprets of the west, τὰ δυτικὰ μέρη, the region of sunset): or [2] the shadow of eclipse caused by the revolution of a planet or its moons: a far more frequent occurrence in some parts of the celestial system than in the experience of our own planet: e.g. “The inner satellite of Jupiter and also the two next inside of it are eclipsed at every revolution, i.e. once in every eighteen hours,” Newcomb’s Practical Astronomy, p. 210. The created luminaries suffer eclipse by projected shadow or darkness by turning from the source of light: with the Father of lights there is absolutely undimmed and continuous splendour: “the shadows vanish in the light of light.” Tennyson.

Schleusner, following some of the Greek interpreters, takes ἀποσκίασμα as equivalent to ἴχνος, and renders it ne levissimum quidem mutationis vestigium, ‘not a trace or vestige of change.’ There is however no authority for this use of the word ἀποσκίασμα, and by this rendering the important conception of darkness or overshadowing, as a defect in the mundane luminaries, is lost. So also O. L. renders modicum obumbrationis, vicissitudinis obumbratio.


Verse 18

18. βουληθείς, of His own wish, denoting absolute freedom from necessity or external cause of any kind. βούλομαι and βούλησις are strictly used of the end, not of the means to the end: εἰ δή τι τέλος ἔστι τῶν πρακτῶν ὃ διʼ αὑτὸ βουλόμεθα, Arist. Eth. N. I. 2. 1; ἡ μὲν βούλησις τοῦ τέλους ἐστὶ μᾶλλον, ἡ δὲ προαίρεσις τῶν πρὸς τὸ τέλος, Eth. N. III. 2. 9. See Stewart’s Eth. N. ad loc. cit.

ἀπεκύησεν. The recurrence of this rare word (see above, James 1:15) throws into forcible contrast the generation of sin, and the new birth from the Father of lights. This is the more striking as ἀποκύειν is a word strictly used of the mother, not as here of the Father, ‘begat.’ The word generally used in this sense is γεννᾶν. Comp. the use of τίκτειν, Il. II. 742; Aesch. Eum. 630.

The aorist points to the single act of regeneration, as in 1 Corinthians 6:11 ἀλλὰ ἀπελούσασθε, ἀλλὰ ἡγιάσθητε, ἀλλὰ ἐδικαιώθητε ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι τοῦ κυρίου, κ.τ.λ.

λόγῳ ἀληθείας, by the word of truth, the instrument by which the work is effected.

λόγος ἀληθείας is the word or message which conveys the truth, the revelation of the truth. Comp. ὁ λόγος τῆς σωτηρίας ταύτης, Acts 13:26; ὁ λόγος τῆς ἀληθείας τοῦ εὐαγγελίου, Colossians 1:5; ὁ λόγος τῆς ἀληθείας, 2 Timothy 2:15; ὅ ἦν ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς ὅ ἀκηκόαμενπερὶ τοῦ λόγου τῆς ζωῆς, κ.τ.λ., 1 John 1:1. Comp. also the frequent ἀμὴν λέγω of our Lord (note the variant ἀληθῶς λέγω, Luke 12:44); in St John always the repeated ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω. See especially, as bearing on this passage, St John 3:3; John 3:5 ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω σοι, ἐὰν μή τις γεννηθῇ ἐξ ὕδατος καὶ πνεύματος οὐ δύναται εἰσελθεῖν εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ.

In the passages quoted above ὁ λόγος τῆς ἀληθ. or τῆς σωτηρίας is the Gospel, that divine revelation by which God regenerated the world in Christ,—a sense which it bears here; but there is a nearer approach to the personal λόγος of John 1:1 here than in the other passages. The message of truth in Christ is proved to be the regeneration (ἡ παλινγενεσία) first of Israel, then of the world. The repeated ἡμᾶς points to the privilege of Israel.

εἰς τὸ εἶναι. A final clause denoting the end or object of the spiritual creation.

ἀπαρχήν τινα, a kind of firstfruits. τινα qualifies the boldness of the expression, Winer III. 2 a. In the Hebrew ritual ἀπαρχή meant the firstfruits of men and cattle and harvest, consecrated and offered to God: οἴσετε τὸ δράγμα ἀπαρχὴν τοῦ θερισμοῦ ὑμῶν πρὸς τὸν ἱερέα, Leviticus 23:10. See also Deuteronomy 26:2; Exodus 23:19 : ἀπαρχὴ therefore besides the primary meaning of ‘firstfruits’ as the promise of harvest and dedication of the coming harvest carried into the New Covenant the thought of consecration to God. Comp. οἴδατε τὴν οἰκίαν Στεφανᾶ, ὅτι ἐστὶν ἀπαρχὴ τῆς Ἀχαίας, 1 Corinthians 16:15; οὖτοι ἠγοράσθησαν ἀπὸ τῶν ἀνθρώπων ἀπαρχὴ τῷ θεῷ καὶ τῷ ἀρνίῳ, Revelation 14:4.

τῶν αὐτοῦ κτισμάτων, His creatures. The gift of the Incarnation is literally and truly a new life, and the result is a new creature: ὥστε εἴ τις ἐν Χριστῷ καινὴ κτίσις, 2 Corinthians 5:17. See Galatians 6:15. Thus Christ is πνεῦμα ζωοποιοῦν, 1 Corinthians 15:45, because it is by the spiritual communication of His own life that the new creature is effected. With this conception of the new birth as a gift of the Father of lights comp. the use of φωτίζειν, φώτισμα, φωτισμός, as baptismal expressions: οἱ φωτιζόμενοι ἑπτὰ ἡμέρας λαμπροφοροῦσιν, Suicer, sub voc. φωτίζειν.


Verse 19

19. ἴστε. For the reading see above. The classical form ἴστε for the Hellenistic οἴδατε is found here only in N.T. ‘Ye know it’ refers to what precedes, emphasizing that, and leading on to its consequence—a new life.

ταχὺς εἰς τὸ ἀκοῦσαι. εἰς signifies aim or tendency; ταχὺς is constructed also with the infinitive alone: ὡς θέλοντα μέν μʼ ἔχεις | σοὶ συμπονῆσαι καὶ ταχὺν προσαρκέσαι | βραδὺν δʼ Ἀχαιοῖς εἰ διαβληθήσομαι, Eur. Hec. 861–3: ταχὺς ἐν τῇ ἀκροάσει σου, Sirach 5:11. One of the sayings attributed by Mahommedan writers to Christ is, ‘Asked by some how to win Paradise, He said, “Speak not at all.” They said, “We cannot do this.” He said then, “Only say what is good” ’ (Margoliouth, Expository Times, Dec. 1893). Comp. γλῶσσα ἀνθρώπου πτῶσις αὐτῷ, Sirach 5:13.


Verses 19-27

19–27. THE CHRISTIAN LIFE, CHARACTER AND WORSHIP

This theme incidentally arises from the thought of temptation, as moral or religious error, and is immediately connected with the expression ἀπαρχήν τινα τῶν αὐτοῦ κτισμάτων, James 1:18.

It is a description of the life in union with Christ on the practical side. In view of prevailing pagan immorality and even of the ethics of philosophic paganism, the importance of moral teaching in the early Christian Church can hardly be over-estimated. The contrast between the Christian ideal and the pagan Society from which it was separated accounts for the repeated warnings even against gross forms of sin.


Verse 20

20. ὀργὴ γὰρ ἀνδρὸς κ.τ.λ. There is a suggestion of irony in this expression. ὀργή, primarily ‘passionate impulse,’ is as far as possible removed from justice in any case. How much greater the contrast between human ὀργή and divine δικαιοσύνη! On the other hand ὀργὴ θεοῦ is used of divine justice in its manifestation towards sinners, Romans 1:18.


Verse 21

21. ἀποθέμενοι, of putting off a garment, τὰ ἱμάτια, Acts 7:58; a burden, ὅγκον, Hebrews 12:1. More frequently figuratively, Romans 13:12 τὰ ἔργα τοῦ σκότους. Ephesians 4:22; Ephesians 4:25 τὸν παλαιὸν ἄνθρωποντὸ ψεῦδος. Colossians 3:8 τὰ πάντα, ὀργήν, θυμόν, κ.τ.λ. 1 Peter 2 :1 πᾶσαν κακίαν. The tense implies a single, decisive effort.

πᾶσαν ῥυπαρίαν. πᾶσαν, in its whole extent. ῥυπαρίαν, ἅπ. λεγ. in N.T., uncleanness, comp. σαρκὸς ἀπόθεσις ῥύπου, 1 Peter 3:21; ὁ ῥυπαρὸς ῥυπανθήτω ἔτι, Revelation 22:11.

περισσείαν κακίας, excess of wickedness. περισσείαν not classical: ἄπ. λεγ. in N.T.

ἐν πραΰτητι, with meekness. πραΰτης is a note of the Kingdom. Psalms 25:9; Psalms 34:2; Psalms 37:11; Psalms 76:9; Psalms 147:6; Psalms 149:4.

Christ calls Himself πραΰς, Matthew 11:29, and places the πραεῖς in the forefront of those who are ‘blessed,’ Matthew 5:4 (or 5). πρᾳότης as an ethical term is concerned with anger, it means absence from resentment, meekness in suffering; it is mentioned with very faint praise by Aristotle, who says, ἐπὶ τὸν μέσον τὴν πρᾳότητα φέρομεν πρὸς τὴν ἕλλειψιν ἀποκλίνουσαν, and again εἴπερ δὴ ἡ πρᾳότης ἐπαινεῖται. It is therefore one of those distinctively Christian terms which, like ὑπομονή, μακροθυμία, ταπεινοφροσύνη, point the divergence from pagan ethics. Closely associated with πρᾳότης in N.T. are, ἐπιείκεια, 2 Corinthians 10:1; ἐγκράτεια, Galatians 5:23; ταπεινοφροσύνη and μακροθυμία, Ephesians 4:2; Colossians 3:12; ὑπομονή, 2 Thessalonians 3:5. Comp. also 1 Corinthians 4:21; Galatians 6:1; Titus 3:2. With the exception of this passage and 1 Peter 3:15 πρᾳότης (πρᾳΰτης) is a Pauline word.

δέξασθε τὸν ἔμφυτον λόγον. Comp. μετὰ χαρᾶς δέχονται τὸν λόγον, Luke 8:13. ἐδέξασθε οὐ λόγον ἀνθρώπων ἀλλὰ καθὼς ἀληθῶς ἐστὶν λόγον θεοῦ, 1 Thessalonians 2:13.

τὸν ἔμφυτον λόγον, the implanted word. The word that becomes a part of the φύσις or character, that is worked into the nature just as the elements which go to form the plant are absorbed in it, and tend to its growth. ἔμφυτον is formally proleptic here; it is implanted after its reception. But in fact it expresses a constant quality of the λόγος and forms with it a single compound noun.

τὸν δυνάμενον σῶσαι κ.τ.λ. Comp. infra James 4:12 ὁ δυνάμενος σῶσαι. The power there attributed to God is here attributed to the implanted Word, and in fact the implanted Word is scarcely distinguishable from the indwelling Christ.


Verse 22

22. ποιηταὶ λόγου. ποιητής is a characteristic word of St James, occurring four times in this Epistle, elsewhere in N.T. once in Romans 2:13 ποιηταὶ νόμου, and in Acts 17:28, where it bears the classical sense of ‘poet,’ τινες τῶν καθʼ ὑμᾶς ποιητῶν. In Titus 1:12 St Paul uses the word προφήτης of a poet: εἶπέν τις ἐξ αὐτῶν ἴδιος αὐτῶν προφήτης.

παραλογιζόμενοι ἑαυτούς, deceiving yourselves, ‘making a false or erroneous estimate’: for this sense of παρά comp. παράσημος of a coin imperfectly stamped: δύναμις παράσημος αἴνῳ, Aesch. Agam. 780, power falsely stamped with praise; παραπείθειν, to persuade with fraud; παρακούειν, to misunderstand; παράγειν, to lead astray; σοφία δὲ κλέπτει παράγοισα μύθοις, Pind. Nem. VII. 34.


Verse 23

23. ἀκροατὴς λόγου, ‘he who only hears the word,’ is compared to a man who by looking into a mirror observes (κατανοεῖ) the face of his γένεσις—his true individuality—the real meaning of himself (κατενόησεν γὰρ ἑαυτόν), but who instantly departing forgets what manner of man he was. That is, if a man listens for a time only to divine teaching and is made to understand himself, to see himself in God’s word, and then abandons it, the impression made by reading or instruction is momentary. He is like the seed that fell in stony places or among thorns. On the other hand the ποιητὴς λόγου, he who does the word, looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, i.e. the word of God, and there sees reflected as in a mirror his own personality as it was created in the likeness of God (comp. ch. James 3:9); he abides in it, continues that earnest gaze, never losing sight of his ideal, of that which he was intended to be according to the purpose of his γένεσις or creation. “Is it not remarkable that St James dwells not on what the man learns about God in the Scripture, but on what he sees of God’s design, or delineation of what he, the beholder, was meant and made to be?” Archbp Benson, Communings of a Day, p. 8.

κατανοοῦντι, closely observing, attentively considering. Comp. Matthew 7:3 δοκὸν οὐ κατανοεῖς; Luke 12:24; Luke 12:27 κατανοήσατε τοὺς κόρακαςτὰ κρίνα, Luke 20:23 κατανοήσας δὲ αὐτῶν τὴν πανουργίαν; Acts 7:31-32; Acts 11:6 εἰς ἣν ἀτενίσας κατενόουν καὶ εἶδον: Romans 4:19; Hebrews 3:1 κατανοήσατε τὸν ἀπόστολον κ.τ.λ.; Hebrews 10:24 κατανοῶμεν ἀλλήλους, ‘take careful note of.’

τὸ πρόσωπον τῆς γενέσεως αὐτοῦ. Vultum nativitatis suae, V. The countenance (vultum as expressive of character) of his birth or creation in the image of God (see ch. James 3:9 and above, James 1:18); that is to say, as the next clause shews, his real self or personality (κατενόησεν γὰρ ἑαυτόν). Comp. ἐπὶ τῆς ἐν τῷ κατόπτρῳ μορφῆς ἡ εἰκὼν πρὸς τὸ ἀρχέτυπον σχηματίζεται, Greg. Nyssen, quoted in Suicer. Comp. the later use of πρόσωπον to signify the Persons or ὑποστάσεις of the blessed Trinity.

For the thought comp.

“As when a painter poring on a face

Divinely, through all hindrance finds the man

Behind it, and so paints him that his face,

The shape and colour of a mind and life,

Lives for his children ever at its best

And fullest.” (Tennyson.)

ἐν ἐσόπτρῳ. A mirror of polished metal.


Verse 24

24. ἀπελήλυθεν καὶ εὐθέως ἐπελάθετο ὁποῖος ἧν. The tenses are used with great exactness: the perfect denotes immediate succession and enduring result, ‘he has gone and is still away’; comp. terra tremit, fugere ferae, Virg. Georg. 1. 330. The aorist denotes the single instantaneous act of forgetting. For similar exact uses of these tenses in combination, comp. Luke 4:18 ἔχρισέν με (a single eternal act) εὐαγγελίσασθαι, ἀπέσταλκέν με (continued result) κηρύξαι: Hebrews 2:14 ἐπεὶ τὰ παιδία κεκοινώνηκεν σαρκὸς καὶ αἵματος καὶ αὐτὸς μετέσχεν (at His incarnation) τῶν αὐτῶν. See Winer, III. § xl. 6, where other instances are given.


Verse 25

25. παρακύψας. First of stooping or inclining to one side (not stooping down), either with a verb of looking, or absolutely as here: παρακύψας βλέπει τὰ ὀθόνια, Luke 24:12; παρακύψας βλέπει κείμενα τὰ ὀθόνια, John 20:5; ὡς οὖν ἔκλαιεν παρέκυψεν εἰς τὸ μνημεῖον, ib. 11; εἰς ἃ ἐπιθυμοῦσιν οἱ ἄγγελοι παρακύψαι, 1 Peter 1:12; see also Genesis 26:8; Proverbs 7:6. Though the strict meaning of παρακύπτειν is to glance sideways or ‘to peep,’ as ἄφρων ἀπὸ θύρας παρακύπτει εἰς οἰκίαν, Sirach 21:23, the context sometimes, as here, carries with it the sense of intently gazing. See Dr Field, Otium Norvicense, on Luke 24:12 and on this passage.

εἰς νόμον τέλειον τὸν τῆς ἐλευθερίας, into a perfect law, namely the law of liberty. The absence of the article before νόμον is noticeable. The conception is first stated generally, a perfect law; the article introduces a limitation defining that perfect law to be the law of liberty. It is an idiom which secures attention to the anarthrous noun. See Winer III. § xx. 4 and Green p. 34, and note the following examples: εἰρήνην ἀφίημι ὑμῖν, εἰρήνην τὴν ἐμὴν δίδωμι ὑμῖν, John 14:27; εἰ γὰπ ἐδόθη νόμος ὁ δονάμενος ζωοποιῆσαι, Galatians 3:21, where see Ellicott; ἐν πίστει ζῶ τῇ τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ θεοῦ, Galatians 2:20.

τὸν τῆς ἐλευθερίας. The freedom of the law of Christ is contrasted with the bondage to minute precepts which characterized the developed Mosaic system: τῇ ἐλευθερίᾳ ἡμᾶς Χριστὸς ἠλευθέρωσεν· στήκετε οὖν καὶ μὴ πάλιν ζυγῷ δουλείας ἐνέχεσθε, Galatians 5:1; γνώσεσθε τὴν ἀλήθειαν καὶ ἡ ἀλήθεια ἐλευθερώσει ὑμᾶς, John 8:32; comp. with this λόγῳ ἀληθείας supra James 1:18; ἐὰν οὖν ὁ υἱὸς ὑμᾶς ἐλευθερώσῃ ὄντως ἐλεύθεροι ἔσεσθε, John 8:36. See also Romans 8:15. Christians are children of God, liberi not servi. Comp. cui servire regnare est, ‘whose service is perfect freedom.’ Collect for Peace, from Sacramentary of Gelasius.

The law of Christ then is called a perfect law because it is final and complete, as distinct from the Mosaic law which was transitory and imperfect; it is called a law of liberty because it is the expression of a Father’s love for his children, not of a Master’s law for slaves.

καὶ παραμείνας. The secret of Christian service is constancy, fixedness on the ideal self discovered in the perfect law: ὡς ἠγάπησα τὸν νόμον σου, κύριε, ὅλην τὴν ἡμέραν μελέτη μού ἐστιν, Psalms 119:97.

ἀκροατὴς ἐπιλησμονῆς, a forgetful hearer. A Hebrew construction frequent in N.T., as πάθη ἀτιμίας, Romans 1:26; κριτὴς τῆς ἀδικίας, Luke 18:6; ὁ οἰκονόμος τῆς ἀδικίας, Luke 16:8. The idiom is partly due to the vividness of Oriental speech, partly to the comparative paucity of adjectives in Hebrew. There are however parallels in the classics: μέλαινα δʼ ἄστρωνεὐφρόνη, ‘starry night,’ Soph. El. 19; λευκῆς χιόνος πτέρυγι, Ant. 114, ‘a snowy wing’; Winer, P. III. § 34 b; Green, p. 90; Donaldson, Greek Gram. 454.

ἐπιλησμονή not classical, and here only in N.T.

ποιητὴς ἔργου. The condition of abiding in the law of liberty is activity in the exercise of it. Hence the transition to true worship or service.

μακάριος ἐν τῇ ποιήσει αὐτοῦ. See John 8:31-34, the thought of which passage underlies this, ἐὰν ὑμεῖς μείνητε ἐν τῷ λόγῳ τῷ ἐμῷ ἀληθῶς μαθηταί μού ἐστε, καὶ γνώσεσθε τὴν ἀλήθειαν, καὶ ἡ ἀλήθεια ἐλευθερώσει ὑμᾶςὁ ποιῶν τὴν ἁμαρτίαν (comp. with ἐν τῇ ποιήσει αὐτοῦ) δοῦλός ἐστιν. Sin and righteousness are regarded as creations. If the ‘maker’ keeps his eye fixed on the model—abiding in that steadfast gaze—he will be happy in his making, as every artist or maker of things true and beautiful knows. His making will be true to his γένεσις.

ποίησις. Here only in N.T. Comp. καὶ ἐν πάσῃ σοφίᾳ ποίησις νόμου, Sirach 19:20.


Verse 26

26. εἴ τις δοκεῖ, is thought to be, has the reputation (δόξα) of being.

μὴ χαλιναγωγῶν. μή not οὐ, because the sentence is hypothetical, ‘if he does not bridle &c.’ It may be noticed however that in Modern Greek μή is invariably used with participles, and that there is a tendency to this use in the N.T. It is the grammatical expression of a more subjective method of stating facts. See Winer, P. III. § Leviticus 5. Among instances where the explanation on classical principles is difficult are: μὴ ἔχοντος αὐτοῦ ἀποδοῦναι ἐκέλευσεν αὐτὸν ὁ κύριος αὐτοῦ πραθῆναι κ.τ.λ., Matthew 18:26; ὅταν γὰρ ἔθνη τὰ μὴ νόμον ἔχοντα φύσει τὰ τοῦ νόμου ποιῶσιν, Romans 2:14; καὶ ἦν ἡμέρας τρεῖς μὴ βλέπων, καὶ οὐκ ἔφαγεν οὐδὲ ἔπιεν, Acts 9:9.

χαλιναγωγεῖν. Only here and James 3:2 in N.T., and elsewhere only in late Greek authors. Comp. ἀχάλινον κεκτημένοι τὸ στόμα, Plato de Legg. 701 c; ἀχαλίνων στομάτωνἀνόμου τʼ ἀφροσύναςτὸ τέλος δυστυχία, Eur. Bacch. 385–387.


Verse 27

27. θρησκεία. ἄπ. λεγ. in N.T. Cultus, religion in its external aspect, the outward observance of religious rites as opposed to εὐσέβεια or piety. “St James is not here affirming, as we sometimes hear, these offices to be the sum total, nor yet the great essentials of true religion, but declares them to be the body, the θρησκεία, of which godliness or the love of God is the informing soul.” Trench, N.T. Synonyms. Here St James reflects the most enlightened spirit of ancient prophecy: see especially Isaiah 1:13-17; Micah 6:7-8; and comp. Matthew 23:23.

There is a special interest in this definition of θρησκεία by St James, whose assiduity in the θρησκεία of Judaism earned for him the title of ὁ δίκαιος. For the classical use of the word comp. Herod. II. 18 ἀχθόμενοι τῇ περὶ τὰ ἱρὰ θρησκηίῃ (τῶν Αἰγυπτίων), and II. 37 ἄλλας τε θρησκηίας ἐπιτελέουσι μυρίας.

ἐπισκέπτεσθαι ὀρφανοὺς καὶ χήρας. Visitare pupillos et viduas in tribulatione eorum, V.; κρίνατε ὀρφανῷ καὶ δικαιώσατε χήραν, Isaiah 1:17. The care of widows was one of the earliest notes of the Church, it went on side by side with the continuous worship in the temple. See Acts 6:1; 1 Timothy 5:3. It is a mark of the divine loving kindness, Psalms 68:5; Psalms 146:9; and on the other hand the helplessness of the orphan and widow made them at all times victims of oppression: Psalms 94:6; Isaiah 10:2; Jeremiah 7:6; Jeremiah 22:3; Zechariah 7:10; Ezekiel 22:7; Malachi 3:6. The Pharisees, who made a boast of θρησκεία, devoured widows’ houses, Matthew 23:14.

ἄσπιλον. See 1 Timothy 6:14 τηρῆσαί σε τὴν ἐντολὴν ἄσπιλον: 1 Peter 1:19 ἀμνοῦ ἀμώμου καὶ ἀσπίλου Χριστοῦ: and 2 Peter 3:14 ἄσπιλοι καὶ ἀμώμητοι. Comp. Ephesians 5:27 ἵνα παραστήσῃ αὐτὸς ἑαυτῷ ἔνδοξον τὴν ἐκκλησίαν, μὴ ἔχουσαν σπίλον ἣ ῥυτίδα ἤ τι τῶν τοιούτων, ἀλλʼ ἵνα ᾗ ἁγία καὶ ἄμωμος. σπίλος belongs to later Greek: Lob. Phryn. 28 τοῦτο φυλάττου λέγε δὲ κηλίς.

κόσμου. Originally, order, εὖ κατὰ κόσμον, Hom. Il. x. 472 and frequently in Classical Greek: Herod., Thuc., Plat. and the poets, order in government, conduct, dress. So ornament, 1 Peter 3:3 ὁ ἔξωθεν ἐμπλοκῆς τριχῶνκόσμος: possibly the meaning of the word in ch. James 3:6. Then applied by Pythagoras and his followers to the order of the Universe, as opposed to chaos, hence the world. So Plato, Gorg. p. 508 φασὶν δὲ σοφοὶ καὶ οὐρανὸν καὶ γῆν καὶ θεοὺς καὶ ἀνθρώπους τὴν κοινωνίαν συνέχειν καὶ φιλίαν καὶ κοσμιότητα καὶ σωφροσύνην καὶ δικαιότητα καὶ τὸ ὅλον τοῦτο διὰ ταῦτα κόσμον καλοῦσιν. Comp. Plin. H. N. II. 3 Quem κόσμον Graeci nomine ornamenti adpellaverunt, eum nos perfecta absolutaque elegantia mundum. Comp. also Tertullian, Lib. Apol. c. xvii. Deus, qui totam molem istam … de nihilo expressit in ornamentum majestatis suae: unde et Graeci nomen mundo κόσμον accommodaverunt. This sense does not appear in the Canonical books of the O.T., but in the Book of Wisdom we find εἰδέναι σύστασιν κόσμου, Wisdom of Solomon 7:17; καὶ κτίσασα τὸν κόσμον ἐξ ἀμόρφου ὕλης, Wisdom of Solomon 11:17. This is also a N.T. use: ἀπὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου, Matthew 25:34; Luke 11:50; Hebrews 4:3; πρὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου, 1 Peter 1:20; ὁ κόσμος διʼ αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο, John 1:10. But in the N.T. κόσμος has the further significations of: (α) the world of men and women into which we are born, and in which we live: ὑμεῖς ἐστὲ τὸ φῶς τοῦ κόσμου, Matthew 5:14; ὁ δὲ ἀγρός ἐστιν ὁ κόσμος, Matthew 13:38; ἐρχόμενον εἰς τὸν κόσμον, John 1:9. (β) The world as opposed to God, the wicked world: ἡ βασιλεία ἡ ἐμὴ οὐκ ἔστιν ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου τούτου, John 18:36; ὁ τοῦ κόσμου ἄρχων, John 14:30; οὐ τὸ πνεῦμα τοῦ κόσμου ἐλάβομεν, 1 Corinthians 2:12; οἱ χρώμενοι κόσμῳ τούτῳ, 1 Corinthians 7:31; with this comp. πρὸς τοὺς κοσμοκράτορας τοῦ σκότους τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου, Ephesians 6:12.

 


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Bibliography Information
"Commentary on James 1:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cgt/james-1.html. 1896.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, November 11th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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