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Bible Commentaries

The Expositor's Greek Testament

James 1



[52] Inscr. + BKP, curss., om. L, Epistola Catholica beati Jacobi Apostoli Vulg. (Epistulae Catholicae VulgA), . . Pesh.




Verse 1

James 1:1. : A very common name among Palestinian Jews, though its occurrence does not seem to be so frequent in pre-Christian times. Some noted Jewish Rabbis of this name lived in the earliest centuries of Christianity, notably Jacob ben Ḳorshai, a “Tanna” (i.e., “teacher” of the Oral Law) of the second century. The English form of the name comes from the Italian Giacomo. : Only here can refer to Christ; in Galatians 1:1 the differentiation is made still more complete ’ . On the other hand, in John 20:28, we have . But the disjunctive use of in the words before us does not imply a withholding of the divine title from our Lord, for the usage of in the N.T., especially without the article, when connected with , is in favour of its being regarded as a divine title, see e.g., 1 Corinthians 1:1-3, etc. Hellenistic Jews used as a name for God; the non-use of the article gains in significance when it is remembered that , “Dominus,” was a title given to the early Roman Emperors in order to express their deity, cf.Acts 25:26, where Festus refers to Nero as . The Palestinian Syriac Lectionary (containing, as generally conceded, the dialect which our Lord spoke), as well as the Peshittâ, read “Our Lord,” the expression used in the Peshiṭta in Matthew 8:25, , , , and in Matthew 20:33, , ; both instances of divine power being exercised. : the use of this title, applied to Jesus without further comment, speaks against an early date for the Epistle; in a letter written to Jews during the apostolic age it is inconceivable that the Messiah should be referred to in this connection without some justification; Jewish beliefs concerning the Messiah were such as to make it impossible for them to accept Jesus as the Messiah without some teaching on the subject; this would be the more required in the case of Jews of the Dispersion who could not have had the same opportunities of learning the truths of Christianity as Palestinian Jews. The way in which the title is here applied to our Lord implies that the truth taught was already generally accepted. The absence of the article also points to a late date. : Generally speaking, to the Jew ( ), when used in reference to God, meant a worshipper, and when used with reference to men a slave; as the latter sense is out of the question here, must be understood as meaning worshipper, in which case the deity of our Lord would appear to be distinctly implied. : the “twelve tribes” was merely a synonym for the Jewish race ( ), but there was a real distinction between the Jews of the Dispersion and the Palestinian Jews. The latter were for the most part peasants or artisans, while the former, congregated almost wholly in cities, were practically all traders (cf.James 4:13). In each case there was a restricted circle of the learned. The connection of the Diaspora-Jews with Palestine became less and less close, until at last it consisted of little more than the payment of the annual Temple dues; with very many one visit in a lifetime to Jerusalem sufficed, and this was of course entirely discontinued after the Destruction, when the head-quarters of Jewry became centred in the Rabbinical academy of Jabne. From the present point of view, it is very important to bear in mind, above all, two points of difference between Palestinian and Diaspora-Jews, (1) Language, (2) Religion. (1) Among the former, Aramaic had displaced Hebrew; Aramaic was the language of everyday life, as well as of religion (hence the need of the Methurgeman to translate the Hebrew Scriptures in the Synagogues); among the latter Greek was spoken. It is not necessary to insist upon the obvious fact that this difference of language brought with it a corresponding difference of mental atmosphere; the Jew remained a Jew, but his way of thinking became modified. (2) Their contact with other peoples brought to the Diaspora-Jews a larger outlook upon the world; at the same time, they could not fail to see the immeasurable superiority of their faith over the heathen cults practised by others. This resulted on their laying greater stress on the essentials of their faith; the ethical side of their religion received greater emphasis, the spirituality of belief became more realised, and it therefore followed of necessity that universalistic ideas grew, so that proselytism became, at one time, a great characteristic among the Diaspora-Jews; Judaism contained a message to all peoples, it was felt; and thus the particularistic character of Palestinian Judaism found no place among the Diaspora-Jews. But, at the same time, the Bible of these Jews, which exercised an immense influence upon their thought and literature, was Hebraic in essence though clothed in Greek garb; hence that extraordinarily interesting phenomenon, the Hellenistic Jew. In view of what has been said it is interesting to note that two outstanding characteristics of the Epistle before us are: Hebraic thought and diction expressed in Greek form, and the emphasis laid on ethics rather than on doctrine. The meaning of is quite unambiguous, and there is no justification for restricting it to the Eastern Dispersion; it includes the Jews of Italy, Macedonia, Greece, Asia Minor and, above all, Egypt, as well as of Asia. For further details see Esther 3:8; Esther 8:9; Esther 9:30; Esther 10:1; Acts 2:9-11; Syb. Orac., iii. 271; Josephus, Antiq. XIV., vii. 12; Contra Ap., i. 22, etc., etc. : Cf.Acts 15:23; Acts 23:26, the only other occurrences of this form of salutation in the N.T. “Historically there is probably no ellipsis even in the epistolary ” (Moulton, Grammar of N.T. Greek (1), p. 180). It is of interest to note that in the Epistle inspired by St. James (Acts 15:23) this form of salutation is used; it would, however, be precarious to draw deductions as to authorship from this, for the use of the infinitive for the imperative is quite common in Hellenistic Greek; as Moulton says: “We have every reason to expect it in the N.T., and its rarity there is the only matter of surprise” (Ibid.). The Peshiṭtâ and Syrlec have the Jewish form, Shalôm.



Verse 2

James 1:2. : Cf.Philippians 2:29, : the rendering in Syrlec, which is rather a paraphrase than a translation, catches the meaning admirably: , “With all joy be rejoicing my brethren.” : the writer is not to be understood as meaning that these trials are joyful in themselves, but that as a means to beneficial results they are to be rejoiced in; it is the same thought as that contained in Hebrews 12:11: , . : this term of address was originally Jewish; in Hebrew, is used, in the first instance, of those born of the same mother, e.g., Genesis 4:2, etc.; then in a wider sense of a relative, e.g., Genesis 14:12, etc.; and in the still more extended meaning of kinship generally, e.g., of tribal membership, Numbers 16:10; as belonging to the same people, e.g., Exodus 2:11; Leviticus 19:7, and even of a stranger ( ) sojourning among the people, Leviticus 19:34; it is also used of those who have made a covenant together, Amos 1:9; and, generally, of friends, 2 Samuel 1:26, etc.; in its widest sense it was taken over by the Christian communities, whose members were both friends and bound by the same covenant (cf. the origin of the Hebrew word for “covenant,” , from the Assryo-Babylonian Biritu which means “a fetter”). This mode of address occurs frequently in this Epistle, sometimes the simple without (James 4:11, James 5:7; James 5:9-10), sometimes with the addition of (James 1:16; James 1:19, James 2:5). : in James 1:12 ff. obviously means allurement to wrong-doing, and this would appear to be the most natural meaning here on account of the way in which temptation is analysed, though the sense of external trials, in the shape of calamity, would of course not be excluded; “it may be that the effect of external conditions upon character should be included in the term” (Parry). It is true that the exhortation to look upon temptations with joy is scarcely compatible with the prayer, “Lead us not into temptation” (Matthew 6:13; Luke 11:4) or with the words, “Pray that ye enter not into temptation” (Matthew 26:41; Luke 22:40; see too Mark 14:38; Luke 22:46; Revelation 3:10); but, as is evident from a number of indications in this Epistle, the writer’s Judaism is stronger than his Christianity, and owing to the Jewish doctrines of free-will and works, a Jew would regard temptation in a less serious light than a Christian (see Introduction § iv.). Most pointedly does Parry remark: “There is a true joy for the warrior when he meets face to face the foe whom he has been directed to subjugate, in a warfare that trains hand and eye and steels the nerve and tempers the will ’”; this is precisely the Jewish standpoint; while the Christian, realising his sinfulness and inherent weakness, and grounded in a spirit of humility, reiterates the words which he has been taught in the Lord’s Prayer. This passage is one of the many in the Epistle which makes it so difficult to believe that it can all have been written by St. James.— : the connection in which this word stands in the few passages of the N.T. which contain it supports the idea that in external trials are included (Luke 10:30; Acts 27:41).— : Cf.1 Peter 1:6., , Pesh. adds , cf.3 Maccabees 2:6,



Verse 3

James 1:3. : “recognising”; this seems to be the force of the word in Hellenistic Greek (see Lightfoot, Ep. to the Galatians, p. 171); if so, it comes very appositely after .— : according to instances of the use of the word given by Deissmann (Neue Bibelstudien, pp. 187 ff.) it means “pure” or “genuine”; it is the neuter of the adjective used as a substantive, followed by a genitive; the phrase would thus mean: “That which is genuine in your faith worketh ’”; this meaning of makes 1 Peter 1:7 clearer and more significant; cf.Proverbs 27:21 (Sept.); Sirach 2:1 ff. On see James 1:6.— : emphatic form of , “accomplishes”.— : the word here means “the frame of mind which endures,” as distinct from the act of enduring which is the meaning of the word in 2 Corinthians 1:6; 2 Corinthians 6:4. Philo calls the queen of virtues (see Mayor, in loc.), it is one which has probably been nowhere more fully exemplified than in the history of the Jewish race.



Verse 4

James 1:4. : “But let endurance have its perfect result”; the possibility of losing heart is contemplated, which would result in something being lacking; the words recall what is said in the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, Joshua 2:7. “For endurance ( ) is a mighty charm, and patience ( ) giveth many good things”. Cf.Romans 5:3.— : Cf.Matthew 5:48; Matthew 19:21; see Lightfoot’s note on the meaning of this word in Philippians 3:15, “the are in fact the same with ” (Ep. to the Philippians, p. 153). That in the passage before us it does not mean perfect in the literal sense is clear from the words which occur in James 3:2 (assuming that the same writer wrote both passages), . “The word is often used by later writers of the baptised” (Mayor).— : Cf.Wisdom of Solomon 15:3; in its root-meaning implies the “entire lot or destiny,” so that the underlying idea regarding a man who is means one who fulfils his lot; here it would mean ‘those who fully attain to their high calling’.— : this is merely explanatory of .



Verse 5

James 1:5. There is no thought-connection between this verse and what has preceded, it is only by supplying something artificially that any connection can be made to exist, and for this there is no warrant in the text as it stands (see Introduction III.). In James 1:4 has as its full result the making perfect of men, so that they are lacking in nothing; when, therefore, the next verse goes on to contemplate a lacking of wisdom, there is clearly the commencement of a new subject, not a continuation of the same one. The occurrence of and , which is regarded by some as a proof of connection between the two verses, denotes nothing in view of the fact that the subject-matter is so different; moreover, there is a distinct difference in the sense in which this word is used in these two verses; coming behindhand in what one ought to attain to is quite different from not being in possession of the great gift of wisdom; this difference is well brought out by the Vulgate rendering: “’ in nullo deficientes. Si quis autem vestrum indiget sapientia ’”— Cf.James 3:13-17; the position assigned to Wisdom by the Jews, and especially by Hellenistic Jews, was so exalted that a short consideration of the subject seems called for, the more so by reason of the prominence it assumes in this Epistle. It is probable that the more advanced ideas of Wisdom came originally from Babylon; for, according to the Babylonian cosmology, Wisdom existed in primeval ages before the creation of the world; it dwelt with Ea, the god of Wisdom, in the depths of the sea (cf.Proverbs 8:22-30); Ea the creator was therefore guided by Wisdom in his creative work (see Jeremias, Das alte Testament im Lichte des alten Orients, pp. 29, 80); in Biblical literature Wisdom became the all-discerning intelligence of God in His work of Creation; as it was needed by God Himself, how much more by men! Hence the constant insistence on its need which is so characteristic of the book of Proverbs. This laid the foundation for the extensive Ḥokmah (or Wisdom) literature of the Hellenistic Jews, which exercised also a great influence upon the Jews of later times. Under the influence of Greek philosophy Wisdom became not only a divine agency, but also assumed a personal character (Wisdom of Solomon 7:22-30). According to the Jerusalem Targum to Gen. i. 1 Wisdom was the principle whereby God created the world. Generally speaking, in the later Jewish literature Wisdom refers to worldly knowledge as distinct from religious knowledge which is all comprised under the term Torah (“Law”); and therefore Wisdom, unlike the Torah, was not regarded as the exclusive possession of the Jews, though these had it in more abundant measure, e.g., it is said in Kiddushin, 49 b: “Ten measures of wisdom came down from heaven, and nine of them tell to the lot of the Holy Land”. On the other hand, Wisdom and the Torah are often identified.— : for the prayer for Wisdom, cf.Proverbs 2:3f.; Wisdom of Solomon 7:7; Wisdom of Solomon 9:4; Sirach 1:10; Sirach 51:13; in the Epistle of Barnabas xxi. 5, it says: : there is an interesting parallel to this thought in the opening treatise of the Talmud, Berachoth, 58 b: “Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, Who hast imparted of Thy wisdom to flesh and blood”; the point of the words “flesh and blood” is that the reference is to Gentiles as well as Jews, corresponding thus to the in the words before us. The force of lies in its sense of “singleness of aim,” the aim being the imparting of benefit without requiring anything in return; the thought is the same as that which underlies Isaiah 55:1, Ho, every one that thirsteth ’ come, buy wine and milk without money and without price, i.e., it is to be had for the asking.— : the addition of this is very striking; it is intended to encourage boldness in making petition to God; many might be deterred, owing to a sense of unworthiness, from approaching God, fearing lest He should resent presumption. The three words which express the method of Divine giving— , , —must take away all scruple and fear; cf.Hebrews 4:16, Let us therefore draw near with boldness unto the throne of grace.’— : Cf.Matthew 7:7.



Verse 6

James 1:6. : , as used in this Epistle, refers to the state of mind in which a man not only believes in the existence of God, but in which His ethical character is apprehended and the evidence of His good-will towards man is acknowledged; it is a belief in the beneficent activity, as well as in the personality, of God; it includes reliance on God and the expectation that what is asked for will be granted by Him. The word here does not connote faith in the sense of a body of doctrine. This idea of faith is not specifically Christian; it was, and is, precisely that of the Jews; with these (Emûnah) is just that perfect trust in God which is expressed in what is called the “Creed of Maimonides,” or the “Thirteen principles of faith”; it is there said: “I believe with perfect faith that the Creator, blessed be His name, is the Author and Guide of everything that has been created, and that He alone has made, does make, and will make all things”. In Talmudical literature, which, in this as in so much else, embodies much ancient material, the Rabbis constantly insist on the need of faith as being that which is “perfect trust in God”; the měchûsarê ’amanah, i.e., “those who are lacking in faith,” (cf.Matthew 6:30, = ) are held up to rebuke; it is said in Sotah, ix. 12 that the disappearance of “men of faith” will bring about the downfall of the world. Faith therefore, in the sense in which it is used in this Epistle, was the characteristic mark of the Jew as well as of the Christian. In reference to : Knowling draws attention to Hermas, Mand., ix. 6, 7; Sim., James 1:4; James 1:3.— : means to be in a critical state of mind, which is obviously the antithesis to that of him who has faith; it excludes faith ipso facto; Cf.Matthew 21:21, If ye have faith and doubt not ( ) ’; Aphraates quotes as a saying of our Lord’s: “Doubt not, that ye sink not into the world, as Simon, when he doubted, began to sink into the sea”.— : a very vivid picture; the instability of a billow, changing from moment to moment, is a wonderfully apt symbol of a mind that cannot fix itself in belief. occurs only here and in James 1:23 in the N.T., only elsewhere in Luke 8:24.— : a number of verbs are used in this Epistle ending in - , viz., , , , , , , , , , , , ; the word before us is one of the sixteen used in the Epistle which do not occur elsewhere in the N.T., nor in the Septuagint.— : from a “fan”; it occurs here only in the N.T., but cf.Daniel 2:35 (Septuagint), ; the word is not used in Theodotion’s version. With the verse before us cf.Ephesians 4:14.’ .



Verse 7

James 1:7. , etc.: almost in the sense of . The verb occurs very rarely, see John 21:25; Philippians 1:17. There is a ring of contempt in the passage at the idea of a man with halting faith expecting his prayer to be answered. is used here in reference to men in general; in the next verse is more specific; in this Epistle occurs usually with some qualifying word.— : obviously in reference to God the Father on account of the . above.



Verse 8

James 1:8. : Although this word is not found in either the Septuagint or elsewhere in the N.T. (excepting in James 4:8) its occurrence is not rare otherwise; Clement of Rome, quoting what he calls , says: , ’ (Resch., Agrapha, p. 325 [2nd ed.]); the word occurs a number of times in Hermas, e.g.,Mand., ix. 1, 5, 6, 7; xi. 13; so too in Barn., xix. 5, and in Did., iv. 4, as well as in other ancient Christian writings and in Philo. The frame of mind of the is equivalent to a “double heart,” see Sirach 1:25, (i.e., the fear of the Lord) ; this is precisely the equivalent of the Hebrew in Psalms 12:3, which the Septuagint unfortunately translates literally, . In Enoch xci. 4 we have: “Draw not nigh to uprightness with a double heart, and associate not with those of a double heart”; as the Greek version of this work is not extant it is impossible to say for certain how “double heart” was rendered. On the construction here see Mayor.— : this is severe, and reads as if the writer had some particular person in mind. The double-hearted man is certainly one who is quite unreliable. , which occurs only here and in James 3:8 (but see critical note) in the N.T., is found in the Septuagint, though very rarely; in Isaiah 54:11 we have , where the Hebrew for . ( ) means “storm-tossed”. In the verse before us the word seems to mean unreliability, the man who does not trust God cannot be trusted by men; this probably is what must have been in the mind of the writer.— , etc.: a Hebrew expression for the course of a man’s life in the sense of his “manner of life” ( , see James 3:13) see Proverbs 3:1, (Hebrew ), . The sense of the expression is certainly different from in James 1:11 which refers to the days of a man’s life.



Verse 9

James 1:9. : it is noticeable that this word is only used in the Pauline Epistles, with the exception in this verse and in James 3:14, James 4:16; it is used, generally, in a good sense, as here and James 3:14, though not in James 4:16.— : see note on James 1:2.— : cf.Luke 1:52, refers to the outward condition of a man, and corresponds to the Hebrew and , which like , can refer both to outward condition and character; the latter is the meaning attaching to . in James 4:6. In Sirach 11:1 we read: , . Cf.Sirach 10:31 (Hebrew).



Verses 9-11

James 1:9-11. An entirely new subject is now started, which has no connection with what has preceded; such a connection can only be maintained by supplying mental links artificially, for which the text gives no warrant. James 1:9-11 deal with the subject of rich and poor; they may be interpreted in two ways; on the one hand, one may paraphrase thus: Let the brother who is “humble,” i.e., belonging to the lower classes and therefore of necessity (in those days) poor, glory in the exaltation which as a Christian he partakes of; but let him who was rich glory in the fact that, owing to his having embraced Christianity, he is humiliated (cf.1 Corinthians 4:10-13), “let the rich brother glory in his humiliation as a Christian” (Mayor)—taking , however, as having the sense of self-abasement which the rich man feels on becoming a Christian. This interpretation has its difficulties, for it is the rich man, not merely his riches, who “passes away”; so, too, in James 1:11; moreover, if it is a question of Christianity, and cannot well both refer to it, since they are placed in contrast; this seems to have been felt by an ancient scribe who altered to in the cursive 137 (see critical note above), thinking, no doubt, of James 2:5, ’ It seems wiser to take the words as they stand, and to seek to interpret them without reading in something that is not there, especially as the writer (or writers) of this Epistle is not as a rule ambiguous in what he says; in fact, one of the characteristics of the Epistle is the straightforward, transparent way in which things are put. Regarded from this point of view, these verses simply contain a wholesome piece of advice to men to do their duty in that state of life unto which it shall please God to call them; if the poor man becomes wealthy, there is nothing to be ashamed of, he is to be congratulated; if the rich man loses his wealth, he needs comfort,—after all, there is something to be thankful for in escaping the temptations and dangers to which the rich are subject; and, as the writer points out later on in James 2:1 ff., the rich are oppressors and cruel,—a fact which (it is well worth remembering) was far more true in those days than in these.



Verse 10

James 1:10. : equally a “brother”; cf. the whole section James 2:1-13 below.— ’: these words, together with , etc., in the next verse, are adapted from the Sept. of Isaiah 40:5-8, ’ ; , · , , which differs somewhat from the Hebrew. It is an interesting instance of the loose way in which scriptural texts were made use of without regard to their original meaning; the prophet refers to , whereas in the verse before us the writer makes the words refer exclusively to the rich, cf. the words at the end of the next verse, . To the precise Western mind this rather free use of Scripture (many examples of it occur in the Gospels) is sometimes apt to cause surprise; but it is well to remember that this inexactness is characteristic of the oriental, and does not strike him as inexact; what he wants in these cases is a verbal point of attachment which will illustration the subject under discussion; what the words originally refer to is, to him, immaterial, as that does not come into consideration. in its original sense means “an enclosure” in which cattle feed, then it came to mean the grass, etc., contained in the enclosure, cf.Matthew 6:31.— : equally true of rich and poor, cf.Mark 13:31 for the transient character of all things, see also James 4:14 of this Epistle.



Verse 11

James 1:11. : the “gnomic” aorist, i.e., expressive of what always happens; it gives a “more vivid statement of general truths, by employing a distinct case or several distinct cases in the past to represent (as it were) all possible cases, and implying that what has occurred is likely to occur again under similar circumstances” (Moulton, p. 135, quoting Goodwin); he adds, “the gnomic aorist ’ need not have been denied by Winer for James 1:11 and 1 Peter 1:24”. The R.V. gives the present, in accordance with the English idiom, but clearly the Greek way is the more exact; the same applies to Hebrew, though this particular verb does not occur in the corresponding passage in either the Septuagint or the Massoretic text; an example may, however, be seen in Nahum 3:17. , , (see R.V.).— : the east wind which came from the Syrian desert, it was a hot wind which parched the vegetation and blighted the foliage of the trees; the Hebrew name “the wind of the east,” or simply , expresses the quarter whence it comes, the Greek , “burner,” describes its character, see Hosea 13:15; Ezekiel 17:10; it became especially dangerous when it developed into a storm, on account of its great violence, see Isaiah 27:8; Jeremiah 18:17; Ezekiel 27:26.— : the equivalent Hebrew word is , which like the cognate root in other Semitic languages, contains the idea of dying, cf.Isaiah 24:4; Isaiah 26:19.— : pleonastic; . is used mostly in reference to persons, e.g., in Sir. it occurs twenty-eight times, and only in two instances to things other than persons, viz., Sirach 38:8, [Hebrew marg., however reads ]. Sirach 40:6 [Hebrew text, however, ]. does not occur elsewhere in the N.T.; see Sirach 47:10, its only occurrence in that book.— : see above James 1:8.— : only here in N.T.



Verse 12

James 1:12. : this pleonastic use of is Hebraic; cf.Psalms 1:1, where the expression (“O, the blessedness of the man ’”) is rendered by the Septuagint.— : carries on the thought of in James 1:4; the absence of all reference to divine grace entirely accords with the Jewish doctrine of works, and is one of the many indications in this Epistle that the writer (or writers) had as yet only imperfectly assimilated Christian doctrine, see further Introduction IV., § 2— : see note on James 1:2.— : for . see note on James 1:2; cf. Luther’s rendering: “nachdem er bewähret ist,” which contains the idea of something being preserved, i.e., the genuine part, after the dross (as it were) has been purged away.— : Wisdom and the Law (Torah) are said to be an ornament of grace to the head (Proverbs 1:9), and Wisdom “shall deliver unto thee a crown of glory” (Proverbs 4:9); in Pirqe Aboth vi. 7 this is said of the Torah, of which it is also said in the same section, “She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her” (Proverbs 3:18); in Sirach 15:6 it is said that a wise man shall “inherit joy, and a crown of gladness (there is no mention of a crown in the Hebrew), and an everlasting name,” cf. 32 (35):2. In the Test. of the Twelve Patriarchs, Lev. iv. 1, we read “Be followers of his compassion, therefore, with a good mind, that ye also may wear crowns of glory”; cf.Asc. of Isaiah, vii. 22, viii. 26, ix. 10–13. The Hebrew is used both in a literal and figurative sense (for the latter see, e.g., Job 19:9) it is probably in a figurative sense that the word is here used.— . . : the insertion of or is found only in authorities of secondary value. The words ’, introduced by (cf. in next verse ’ refer perhaps to a saying of our Lord’s which has not been preserved elsewhere; the thought seems to be present in such passages as 2 Timothy 2:5; 2 Timothy 4:8; 1 Peter 5:4; Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:11; Revelation 4:4; Revelation 6:2; cf.1 Corinthians 9:25, which makes it all the more probable that the words were based ultimately on some actual “Logion” of Christ (cf.Matthew 19:28; Luke 22:30; cf. too, the following words which occur in the Acta Philippi: ’ · , see Resch, Agrapha (2), p. 280). Against this it might be urged that mention would probably have been made of the fact if the words were actually those of our Lord, in the same way in which this is done in Acts 20:35, where St. Paul directly specifies his authority in quoting a saying of Christ. There is an interesting passage in the History of Barlaam and Josaphat, quoted by James in “The Revelation of Peter”, p. 59, which runs: “And as he was entering into the gate, others met him, all radiant with light, having crowns in their hands which shone with unspeakable beauty, and such as mortal eyes never beheld; and when Josaphat asked: ‘Whose are the exceeding bright crowns of glory which I see?’ ‘One,’ they said. ‘is thine’ ”.



Verse 13

James 1:13. : In view of the specific doctrine which is being combated in these verses, it is probable that the verb is here used in the restricted sense of temptation to lust, and not in the more general sense ( ) in which is used in James 1:2. This view obtains support from the repeated mention of in James 1:14-15. The tendency to a sin which was so closely connected with the nature, the lower nature, of man (cf.Romans 7:23) would, on this very account, be regarded by many as in the last instance referable to the Creator of man; that this belief was held will be seen from the authorities cited in the Introduction IV., § 1. On this view refers to temptation of a special kind, ; cf.Matthew 5:28, ’; 1 Peter 2:11, , ; James 4:2-3 .’— : Cf. the parallel use of in Hebrew.— : “Untemptable of evil”; see Mayor’s very interesting note on ; the word does not occur elsewhere in N.T., nor in the Septuagint. If the interpretation of this passage given above be correct, the meaning here would seem to be that it is inconceivable that the idea should come into the mind of God to tempt men to lust; the “untemptableness” has perhaps a two-fold application: God cannot be tempted to do evil Himself, nor can He be tempted with the wish to tempt men. The word in its essence is really an insistence upon one of the fundamental beliefs concerning the Jewish doctrine of God, viz., His attribute of Holiness and ethical purity; the teaching of many centuries is summed up in the third of the “Thirteen Principles” of Maimonides: “I believe with perfect faith that the Creator, blessed be His name, is not a body, and that He is free from all the accidents of matter, and that He has not any form whatsoever”. The Peshiṭtâ rendering of this clause, from which one might have looked for something suggestive, is very disappointing and entirely loses the force of the Greek.— , etc., see Introduction IV., § 1.



Verse 14

James 1:14. : according to this the evil originates in man himself, which would be the case more especially with the sin of lust; with regard to temptation to sin of another character see 1 Thessalonians 3:5, ’ , who is doubtlessly to be identified with Satan.— : describes the method of the working of , the first effect of which is “to draw the man out of his original repose, the second to allure him to a definite bait” (Mayor). . is in its original meaning used of fishing, . of hunting, and then of the wiles of the harlot; both the participles might be transferred, from their literal use in application to hunting or fishing, to a metaphorical use of alluring to sensual sin, and thus desire entices the man from his self-restraint as with the wiles of a harlot, a metaphor maintained by the words which follow, ‘conceived,’ ‘beareth,’ ‘bringeth forth’; cf.2 Peter 2:14; 2 Peter 2:18, where the same verb is found, and Philo, Quod omn. prob lib., 22, ‘driven by passion or enticed by pleasure’ ” (Knowling).



Verse 15

James 1:15. : continuing the description of the method of the working of .— : With this idea of personification, cf.Zechariah 5:5-11, where the woman “sitting in the midst of the ephah” is the personification of Wickedness; and for the metaphor see Psalms 7:15 (Sept.), , . Since is represented as the parent of it can hardly be regarded as other than sinful itself; indeed, this seems to be taught in the Targum of Jonathan (a Targum which had received general recognition in Babylonia as early as the third century A.D., and whose elements therefore go back to a much earlier time) in the paraphrase of Isaiah 62:10, where it says that the imagination of sin is sinful, cf. Jer. Targ. 1 to Deut. xxiii. 11; this is evidently the idea in the words before us.— : this word does not occur elsewhere in the N.T., and only very rarely in the Septuagint, cf.1 Esdras 5:7, (A reads .) ; 2 Maccabees 15:39.’ ’; it refers here to sin in its full completeness, Vulg., cum consummatum fuerit. The passage recalls Romans 6:23, . Mayor quotes the appropriate passage from Hermas, Mand., iv. 2. · , . Just as and belong together, and the latter testifies to the existence of the former, so and belong together, and the latter proves the existence of the former; see James 2:22, .— : only here and in James 1:18 in the N.T., it only occurs once in the Septuagint, 4 Maccabees 15:17, .— : in Tanchuma, Bereshith, 8, it is taught that Adam’s sin was the means of death entering into the world, so that all generations to the end of time are subject to death; this teaching is, of course, found in both early and late Jewish literature; but it probably is not this to which reference is made in the passage before us. In seeking to realise what the writer meant by death here one recalls, in the first place, such passages as Romans 5:21: As sin reigned in death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord; cf. Romans 6:21, Romans 7:24; John 5:24: He that heareth my word, and believeth him that sent me, hath eternal life, and cometh not into judgement, but hath passed out of death into life; cf. John 8:51-52; 1 John 3:14: We know that we have passed from death unto life: see also Romans 7:24; 2 Corinthians 1:9-10; 2 Timothy 1:10; and James 5:20, ’ shall save a soul from death ’; it seems clear that in passages like these death is not used in its literal sense, and probably what underlies the use of the word is that which is more explicitly expressed in Revelation 2:11, He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death; Revelation 20:6Over these the second death hath no power; Revelation 21:8, But for the fearful, and unbelieving, and abominable, and murderers, and fornicators ’ their part shall be in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone; which is the second death. But there is another set of passages in which death is used in its literal sense; these should be noted, for it is possible that they may throw light on the use of in the verse before us:—Matthew 16:28, Verily I say unto you, there be some of them that stand here, which shall in no wise taste of death, till they see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom, almost the identical words occur in Mark 9:1; Luke 9:27; the belief in the near advent of Christ witnessed to by such passages as 1 Corinthians 11:26; 2 Thessalonians 2:1, etc., shows that the possibility of not dying, in the literal sense of the word, was entertained; for those who were living would know that when Christ, who had overcome death, should be among them again, there could be no question of death. The belief in the abolition of death when the Messiah should come was held by Jews as well as by Christians, see e.g., Bereshith Rabba, chap. 26, Wajjiḳra Rabba, chap. 30. The possibility may therefore be entertained that the writer of this Epistle is contemplating death in its literal sense, which those Christians will not escape in whom holds sway, but which they are able to escape if they remain faithful until the return of Christ; that this is expected in the near future is clear from James 5:7, Be patient, therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord ’ stablish your hearts; for the coming of the Lord is at hand.— : i.e., as regards the false teaching concerning the cause of sin in their hearts. The affectionate ending, “My beloved brethren” witnesses to the earnestness of the writer’s feelings.



Verse 17

James 1:17. The following saying of R. Chaninah (first century, A.D.) is preserved: (“R. Chaninah said, ‘No evil thing cometh down from above’ ”.). On the possible connection between this verse and the preceding section, see Introduction IV., § 1.— : Mayor remarks on this: “It will be observed that the words make a hexameter line, with a short syllable lengthened by the metrical stress. I think Ewald is right in considering it to be a quotation from some Hellenistic poem.’ The authority of a familiar line would add persuasion to the writer’s words, and account for the somewhat subtle distinction between . . and . .”. In Theodotion’s version of Daniel 2:6, occur the words: ’ ’, which represent and in the corresponding Aramaic (the Septuagint has another reading); the distinction between these two is perhaps that the former refers to gifts in the ordinary sense, while the latter is a gift given in return for something done, i.e., a reward; but it cannot be said that the Greek reflects this distinction, though it is worthy of note that Philo makes a special distinction between them, “inasmuch as the latter noun is much stronger than the former, and contains the idea of greatness and perfection which is lacking in the former; Philo, De Cherub., 25; and so De Leg. Alleg., iii. 70, where he applies to the latter noun the same epithet ‘perfect’ as in the Greek of the verse before us” (Knowling).— : it is a question whether one should read: “Every good gift ’ from above comes down from ’,” so the Peshiṭtâ; or “Every good gift ’ is from above, coming down from ’”; Mayor thinks that on the whole “the rhythm and balance of the sentence is better preserved by separating from ”.— : Cf. on the one hand, Sirach 43:9, , , , ; and, on the other 1 John 1:5, . There can be no doubt that in the passage before us this double meaning of light, literal and spiritual, is meant.— : only here in the N.T., and in 4 Kings 9:28 (Septuagint); it is rendered in the Peshiṭtâ, a word which is used variously of “change,” “caprice,” and even “apostasy” (see Brockelmann, Lex. Syr., s.v.). In Greek, according to Mayor, the word may be taken “to express the contrast between the natural sun, which varies its position in the sky from hour to hour and month to month, and the eternal source of all light”.— : neither of these words is found elsewhere in the N.T., and the latter does not occur in the Septuagint either; the former is used in the Septuagint of the movements of the heavenly bodies, Deuteronomy 33:14: ’; cf.Job 38:33. The meaning of the latter part of the verse before us is well brought out by Luther: “Bei welchem ist keine Veränderung noch Wechsel des Lichts und Finsterniss”. If, as hinted above, there is a connection between this verse and the section James 1:5-8, the meaning may perhaps be expressed thus: When, in answer to prayer, God promises the gift of wisdom, it is certain to be given, for He does not change; cf. for the thought, Romans 11:29, .



Verse 18

James 1:18. Again we have a verse without any connection between what precedes or follows; the words , of James 1:19 seem to belong to James 1:18. As we have seen, James 1:17 most probably contains a quotation; the possibility of James 1:18 being also a loose quotation, from some other author, should not be lost sight of; it would explain, as in the case of James 1:17, the abrupt way in which it is introduced; the , taken as an indicative, might well imply that the writer is referring his readers to some well-known writing, much in the same way as St. Paul does in Acts 17:28, , · “ ”. For the general thought of the verse cf.1 John 3:9.— : this is strongly suggestive of an advanced belief in the doctrine of Grace, cf.John 15:16. , . The rare word is, strictly speaking, only used of the mother. “It seems clear that the phrase has particular reference to the creation of man, . This was the truth about man which God’s will realised in the creation by an act, a , which was the expression at once of God’s will and man’s nature” (Parry).— : = used in reference to the Torah in Shemoth Rabba, chap. 33; see further below; the picture would be very familiar to Jews; just as the new fruits which ripen first herald the new season, so those men who are begotten proclaim a new order of things in the world of spiritual growth; they are in advance of other men, in the same way that the first-fruits are in advance of the other fruits of the season. Rendel Harris illustrates this very pointedly from actual life of the present day in the East: “When one’s soul desires the vintage or the fruitage of the returning summer, chronological advantage is everything. The trees that are a fortnight to the fore are the talk and delight of the town” (Present Day Papers, May, 1901, “The Elements of a Progressive Church”).



Verse 19

James 1:19. : Cf.Sirach 5:11, , ; see Sirach 4:29, Sirach 20:7. A similar precept is quoted in Qoheleth Rabba, James 1:5 (Wünsche): “Speech for a shekel, silence for two; it it is like a precious stone”; cf. Taylor’s ed. of Pirqe Aboth, p. 25.— : Cf.Ecclesiastes 7:10 (R.V. 9), , ; see, too, Proverbs 16:32. Margoliouth (Expos. Times, Dec. 1893) quotes a saying which, according to Mohammedan writers, was spoken by Christ: “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’.” It must be remembered that the Arabs are the most foul-mouthed people on earth.



Verses 19-20

James 1:19-20. Another isolated saying, strongly reminiscent of the Wisdom literature; the frequent recurrence (see below) of words of this import suggests that here again the writer is recalling to the minds of his hearers familiar sayings.



Verse 20

James 1:20. , etc.: Man’s wrath is rarely, if ever, justifiable; even “just indignation” is too often intermixed with other elements; and frequently the premisses on which it is founded are at fault. Man, unlike God, never knows all the circumstances of the case. On the subject of anger, see Matthew 5:21-22, and cf. the Expositor, July, 1905, pp. 28 ff.



Verse 21

James 1:21. : used in Hebrews 12:1 of putting off every weight preparatory to “running the race that is set before us”; the metaphor is taken from the divesting oneself of clothes.— : not elsewhere in the N.T. or Septuagint; the Syriac has which is the same word used in Ezekiel 44:6 for the Hebrew “abomination,” meaning that which is abhorrent to God; usually it has reference to idolatrous practices, but it occurs a number of times in the later literature in reference to unchastity, this more especially in Proverbs. The adjective is used in Zechariah 3:4 of garments, and cf.Revelation 22:11, where the meaning is “filthy”. The word before us, therefore, probably means “filthiness” in the sense of lustful impurity.— : not merely “excess” in the sense of the A.V. “superfluity” and the R.V. “overflowing,” because in the smallest measure is already excess. The phrase seems to mean simply “manifold wickedness”; this has to be got out of the way first before the “implanted word” can be received.— : this must refer to the meekness which is the natural result of true repentance. Cf.Matthew 4:17, Repent ye, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.— : occurs only here in the N.T.; in Wisdom of Solomon 12:10 we have, . Mayor holds that the expression must be understood as “the rooted word,” i.e., a word whose property it is to root itself like a seed in the heart, cf.Matthew 13:21, ; and Matthew 15:13, ; and cf. 4 Esdr. 9:31, “Ecce enim semino in vobis legem meam, et faciet in vobis fructum et glorificabimini in eo per saeculum”. The meaning “rooted word” agrees admirably with the rest of the verse, and seems to give the best sense, see further below.— : Cf.1 Peter 1:9., . The words before us leave the impression that those to whom they were addressed could not yet be called Christians; , which they are enjoined to put off, implies a state far removed from even a moderate Christian ideal; and the “rooted word,” which is able to save their souls, has evidently not been received yet. On the subject of the “rooted word” being able to save souls, see further under James 1:22.



Verses 21-25

James 1:21-25 form a self-contained section. By putting away all impurity the “implanted word” can influence the heart; but it is necessary not only to hear the word but also to act in accordance with it.



Verse 22

James 1:22. : perhaps best expressed by the German “Werdet,” though Luther does not render it so.— , , etc.: Taylor quotes an appropriate passage from the Babylonian Talmud: “On Exodus 24:7 which ends (lit.), We will do and we will hear, it is written (Shabbath, 88a) that “when Israel put we will do before we will hear, there came sixty myriads of ministering angels, and attached to each Israelite two crowns, one corresponding to we will do, and the other to we will hear; and when they sinned there came down a hundred and twenty myriads of destroying angels and tore them off” (quoted by Mayor, p. 67). The duty of doing as well as hearing is frequently insisted upon in Jewish writings. See, further, Matthew 7:24, etc. As to the precise meaning to be attached to opinions differ; but the mention twice made of hearing the word makes it fairly certain that in the first instance—whatever further meaning it connoted—reference is being made to the reading of the Scriptures in the synagogue; further, the mention, also twice made, of the doing of the word makes it a matter of practical certainty that the reference is to the Torah, the Law; the fact that Jews are being addressed only emphasises this. For the attitude of the Jews towards the Torah during the centuries immediately preceding Christianity and onwards, see Oesterley and Box, The Religion and Worship of the Synagogue, pp. 135–151; here it must suffice to say that it was regarded as the final revelation of God for all time, that it was the means of salvation, and that its practice was the highest expression of loyalty towards God. Jews who had from childhood been taught to regard the Torah in this light would have found it very difficult to discard the time-honoured veneration accorded to it, and there was no need to do so, seeing the place that Christ Himself had given to it (Matthew 5:17-18; Matthew 7:12; Matthew 12:5; Matthew 19:17; Matthew 23:3; Luke 10:26; Luke 16:17; Luke 16:29), and provided that its teaching in general was regarded as preparatory to the embracing of Christianity. The intensely practical writer of this passage realised that those to whom he was writing must be drawn gently and gradually, without unduly severing them from their earlier belief, which, after all, contained so much which was identical with the new faith. The Torah, which had been rooted in their hearts and which was to them, in the most literal sense, the word of God, was the point of attachment between Judaism and Christianity; it was utilised by the writer in order to bring them to Christ, the “Word” of God in a newer, higher sense. All that he says here about the was actually the teaching of the Jews concerning the Torah, the revealed word of God; and all that he says was also equally true, only in a much higher sense, of the teaching of Christ, the “Word” of God,—this latter, higher conception of the “Word of God,” the , was one with which Hellenistic Jews were quite familiar;—what has been said can be illustrated thus:—

In James 1:18 it is said, “Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth”; the Jews taught that they were the children of God by virtue of the Torah. In James 1:21 it is said, “Wherefore putting away all filthiness ’ receive the rooted word”; according to Jewish ideas, purity and the Torah were inseparable, it was an ancient Jewish belief that the Torah was the means whereby lust was annihilated in a man. In the same verse, the expression can have a two-fold meaning in reference to the Torah; either it contains an allusion to the belief that the Torah was implanted, like Wisdom, in God Himself from the very beginning, hence the expression (“beginning”) used of the Torah; or else the writer is referring to the teaching of the Torah which was implanted, and therefore rooted, in every Jew from the earliest years. Once more, it is said that this word is able to save souls. Among the Jews it was an axiom that the Torah was the means of salvation; to give but one quotation illustrative of this ancient belief, in Wajjikra Rabba, 29 it is written: (“Torah is the only way that leadeth to life”). And finally, as already remarked, the necessity of being doers as well as hearers of the Torah is a commonplace in Jewish literature. For many illustrations showing the correctness of what has been said, see Weber, Jüdische Theologie (2nd Ed.), pp. 14–38, Bousset, Die Religion des Judenthums (1st Ed.), pp. 87–120, the various editions of Midrashim translated by Wünsche in “Bibliotheca Rabbinica,” and the handy collection being issued under the editorship of Fiebig, entitled “Ausgewählte Mischnatractate”. It will have been noticed that all that the writer of this passage says about as applicable to the Law, or Torah, is equally applicable, only in a much higher sense, to Christ; this will be obvious and need not be proved by quotations. But it is interesting to observe that apparently precisely the same thing was done by our Lord Himself, as recorded by St. John in the fourth Gospel; He adapted Jewish teaching on the Torah and applied it to Himself; for details of this, see Oesterley and Box, op. cit., pp. 139 ff. It will be noticed that in our Epistle the writer presently goes on to substitute (Torah) for , James 1:25; this is very significant; the “perfect law of liberty,” and the “royal law,” both refer to the Torah as perfected by the “King of the Jews”.— : i.e., deceiving the heart, as it is expressed in James 1:26; the rebuke shows the intimate knowledge on the part of the writer of the spiritual state of those to whom he is writing.



Verse 23

James 1:23. . : With the thought here contained, cf. Pseudo-Cyprian in De duobus mont., chap. 13: “Ita me in vobis videte, quomodo quis vestrum se videt in aquam aut in speculum” (Resch., op. cit., P. 35), cf.1 Corinthians 13:12; 2 Corinthians 3:18.— : Cf. Jud. 12:18, , “all the days of the natural life,” . being used of unenduring existence; if this is the meaning here, it is used “to contrast the reflexion in the mirror of the face which belongs to this transitory life, with the reflexion, as seen in the Word, of the character which is being here moulded for eternity” (Mayor). In James 1:24, “forgetteth what manner of man he was” makes it improbable that the reference is to the “natural face,” because a man would probably have some idea as to what his features were like. If is here used in the sense of “personality” (as in Sirach 4:22; Sirach 4:27; Sirach 7:6; Sirach 10:5; Sirach 42:1, etc.) then the reference would perhaps be to a man looking into his conscience, i.e., “the personality at its birth,” before he had become sin-stained; this being what he was originally meant to be. The Peshiṭtâ simplifies the matter by omitting , and is followed in this by some minor authorities.— : Cf.Sirach 12:11 ; and Wisdom of Solomon 7:26.



Verse 24

James 1:24. : gnomic aorists, see note on , James 1:11.



Verse 25

James 1:25. : in Sirach 14:20 ff. we read, . The word means literally to “peep into” with the idea of eagerness and concentration, see Genesis 26:8; Mayor says that the “seems to imply the bending of the upper part of the body horizontally”; if this is so the word would be used very appropriately of a man poring over a roll of the Torah.— ’: see above James 1:22.— , etc.: Cf. with this what is quoted as a saying of our Lord in the Doctrina Addaei: “Thus did the Lord command us, that that which we preach before the people by word we should practise in deed in the sight of all” (Resch., op. cit., p. 285).— : does not occur elsewhere in the N.T., and only very rarely in the Septuagint; see Sirach 11:27, .— : only here in the N.T., cf.Sirach 19:18 (Sirach 19:20 in Greek), , ; and Sirach 51:19, ([53]

[54] read ) (this clause does not exist in the Hebrew, and is probably a doublet); cf.Sirach 16:26.

[53] Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.

[54] Codex Sinaiticus (sæc. iv.), now at St. Petersburg, published in facsimile type by its discoverer, Tischendorf, in 1862.



Verses 26-27

James 1:26-27. Although these verses are organically connected with the preceding section, they are self-contained, and deal with another aspect of religion. While the earlier verses, 19b–25, emphasise the need of doing as well as hearing, these speak of self-control in the matter of the tongue. At the same time it must be confessed that these verses would stand at least equally as well before James 3:1 ff.— : the danger of regarding the appearance of religion as sufficient was the greater inasmuch as it was characteristic of a certain type of “religious” Jew, cf.Matthew 6:1-2; Matthew 6:5; Matthew 6:16; it must not, however, be supposed that this represented the normal type; the fact that the need of reality in religion is so frequently insisted upon by the early Rabbis shows that their teaching in this respect was the same as that of this writer.— : Hatch, as quoted by Mayor, describes as “religion in its external aspect, as worship or as one mode of worship contrasted with another”; this agrees exactly with what has just been said. does not occur elsewhere in the N.T. nor in the Septuagint.— : (B reads ). Not found elsewhere in the N.T. or in the Septuagint; is used in Psalms 31 (Heb. 32):9 in the Septuagint, as well as in the versions of Aquila and Quinta; for the thought cf. Psalms 38 (Heb. 39):2, 140 (Heb. 141):3, though the word is not used in either of these last two passages. Mayor quotes the interesting passage from Hermas, Mand., xii. 1. .— ; the reference is to the threefold misuse of the tongue, slander, swearing and impure speaking; see Ephesians 5:3-6.



Verse 27

James 1:27. ’: As illustrating this, Dr. Taylor (Expos. Times, xvi. 334) quotes the of Hermes Trismegistos: , , , . , . Cf. too, the following from the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, Jos. iv. 6: “The Lord willeth not that those who reverence Him should be in uncleanness, nor doth He take pleasure in them that commit adultery, but in those that approach Him with a pure heart and undefiled lips”.— : this was reckoned among the “practice of kindnesses,” which are constantly urged in Rabbinical writings, e.g., Nedarim, 39b, 40a; Ket., 50a; Sanh., 19b. Cf. too, Sirach 4:10, , . In the Apoc. of Peter, § 15, occur these words: , . Cf. also the Apoc. of Paul, § 35.



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Bibliographical Information
Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on James 1". The Expositor's Greek Testament. 1897-1910.