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Bible Commentaries

Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

James 4



James 4:1 . Before μάχαι , πόθεν is to be repeated, after A B C א , etc. (Lachm. Tisch.).

James 4:2 . After καὶ πολεμεῖτε , οὐκ ἔχετε is to be read, according to almost all testimonies (A B G K, etc.); only a few min. insert δέ (the reading of Rec.); several others (C א , etc.) read καὶ οὐκ ἔχετε ; recommended by Griesbach, guaranteed by Reiche; the insertion of the particle is explained from endeavouring more closely to connect the following with what goes before.

James 4:4 . Instead, of the Rec. μοιχοὶ καὶ μοιχαλίδες , after G K, etc., A B, several vss. Bede have only μοιχαλίδες (Lachm. Tisch.); א , pr. read only μοιχαλίδες , but corrected μοιχοὶ καὶ μοιχαλ . Theile, Lange, Brückner (also Reiche) correctly consider the simple feminine as the original reading; otherwise de Wette, Bouman, and others.

Tisch. 7 remarks: loco identidem considerato non possum quin teneam etiamnum lectionem jam in ed. anni 1841 a me defensam; see on this the exposition. א has a τούτου after κόσμου , and instead of the genitive τοῦ Θεοῦ the dative τῷ Θεῷ .

James 4:5 . On the pointing of this verse, see exposition.

Instead of the Rec. κατῴκησεν , after G K, all min. vss. Theophylact, Oecumenius, Bede (Tisch.), Lachm. has, after A B א , etc., adopted κατῴκισεν .

James 4:7 . A B א , very many min. etc., have, after ἀντίστητε , the particle δέ (Lachm.), which is wanting in G K, many min. etc. (Rec. Tisch.); probably the δέ was omitted to give to the sentence an independent form; so also Lange; Bouman otherwise: δέ fulciendae orationis caussa inculcatum est.

James 4:10 . The article τοῦ is to be omitted before κυρίου , according to the testimony of A B K א , etc.

James 4:11 . Instead of καὶ κρίνων , Rec. after G K (Reiche, Bouman), etc., is, with Lachm. and Tisch., to be read ἢ κρίνων , according to the testimony of A B, several min. vss. etc.

James 4:12 . After A B א , many min., almost all vss., the words καὶ κρίτης are, with Griesb. Lachm. Tisch. etc., to be added to ὁ νομοθέτης ; they are wanting in the Rec. (after G K, etc.); so also, according to the testimony of almost all authorities, the particle δέ is to be added after σύ .

Instead of the Rec. ὃς κρίνεις , after G K, etc. (Bouman), ὁ κρίνων is, with Lachm. and Tisch., to be read, after A B א , several min.; also recommended by Griesbach; and instead of the Rec. τὸν ἕτερον , likewise with the same editors, τὸν πλησίον is to be read, after A B א , etc.

James 4:13 . The Elz. ed. reads σήμεροναὔριον (thus in B א , Lachm.); but A G K, very many min. etc., have the reading adopted by Tisch.: σήμ . καὶ αὔριον , which must be considered genuine, as ἤ appears to be a correction for the sake of simplification.

The Rec. (ed. Steph.) has the conjunctives πορευσώμεθα , ποιήσωμεν , ἐμπορευσώμεθα , κερδήσωμεν , after G K, several min. etc. In A the two first verbs are in the conjunctive; in א only the first verb, the others in the indicative; B, very many min. Vulg. and other vss. have only the indicative; so Lachm. and Tisch. The conjunctive appears to be a correction.

ἕνα , following ἐνιαυτόν , is omitted by Lachm.; the omission is, however, too slightly attested by B א , Vulg. etc., and, besides, is easily explained as the statement of time here expressed by ἕνα appeared unsuitable.

James 4:14 . Before τῆς αὔριον Tisch. reads, after G K א , the article τό (Rec.); Lachm., after A, τά ; Buttmann, after B, has omitted the article; he has also omitted the words γάρ and ἡ after ποία , according to his statement after B (which Tisch. has not remarked), so that his reading is: οἵτινες οὐκ ἐπίστασθε τῆς αὔριον ποία ζωὴ ὑμῶν ; see exposition.

After ἀτμίς Lachm., according to A, Vulg., has omitted the particle γάρ ; it is, however, probably genuine, and only removed from the text as interrupting the sense.

Instead of the Rec. ἐστίν (after G, etc.), which is defended by Reiche and Bouman, Lachm. and Tisch. have rightly adopted ἐστε ; attested by A B K, very many min.; the change into ἐστίν is easily explained. In א the words ἀτμὶς γάρ ἐστε are entirely awanting.

The Rec. ἔπειτα δέ is a correction of the more difficult ἔπειτα καί , attested by A B K א , etc.; G has ἔπειτα δὲ καί .

James 4:15 . Buttmann reads θέλῃ instead of θελήσῃ , against the testimony of all authorities.

The indicative ζήσομενποιήσομεν (Lachm. Tisch., after A B א , etc.) is to be preferred to the Rec. ζήσωμενποιήσωμεν (after G K, etc.), not only according to authorities, but on account of the thought (Wiesinger, Lange). In some mss. and vss. ζήσωμενποιήσομεν is found; this reading is incorrectly defended by Fritzsche (Leipz. Lit. Z., and Winer and Engelhardt’s neues krit. Journ. V. 1826), Theile, Reiche, Bouman, and others; Winer, p. 256 [E. T. 357], prefers to read both times the conjunctive; see exposition.

James 4:16 . Instead of καυχᾶσθε , א alone has κατακαυχᾶσθε .

Instead of the form ἀλαζονείαις (B** K, Lachm. Tisch. 2, Buttm.), Tisch. 7 has adopted the form ἀλαζονίαις (A B* G).

Verse 1

James 4:1 . The section beginning with this verse is in close connection with what goes before, pointing to the internal reason of the disorders in the congregations referred to. The sudden transition is to be observed from the sentiment directly before expressed, that righteousness prospers only in peace , to the impressive question: πόθεν πόλεμοι κ . τ . λ .] an answer to which follows in a second question “appealing to the conscience of the readers” (Wiesinger).

πόλεμοιμάχαι ] synonymous terms, only to be distinguished by the first denoting the general condition, and by the second the single phenomena (Wiesinger, Lange, Bouman: πόλεμος = vehementior dimicatio, μάχη = minus aperta concertatio); correctly Laurentius: non loquitur apostolus de bellis et caedibus, sed de mutuis dissidiis, litibus, jurgiis et contentionibus. Several expositors, as Pott, Schulthess, Schneckenburger, arbitrarily limit these πόλεμοι to contentions between teachers; according to de Wette and Wiesinger, contentions concerning meum and tuum are to be understood; but in what follows the object is not stated, but the cause of the contentions and dissensions among the readers. [186]

The repetition of ΠΌΘΕΝ is explained from the liveliness of the emotion with which James speaks.

ἘΝ ὙΜῖΝ ] among you.

The demonstrative οὐκ ἐντεῦθεν emphatically points to what follows; Bouman: graphica rei significatae est informatio, qua primum intento tanquam digito monstrantur, deinde diserte nominantur ΑἹ ἩΔΟΝΑΊ ; Michaelis incorrectly assumes this as a separate question = ΟὐΚ ἘΚ ΤΟῦ ΚΌΣΜΟΥ ΤΟΎΤΟΥ , John 18:36 . By ἘΚ ΤῶΝ ἩΔΟΝῶΝ ὙΜῶΝ the internal reason of these dissensions is disclosed. ἩΔΟΝΑΊ is here by metonymy = ἘΠΙΘΥΜΊΑΙ ; they are lusts directed to earthly riches; not “a life of sensual indulgence as realized lusts” (Lange).

ΤῶΝ ΣΤΡΑΤΕΥΟΜΈΝΩΝ ἘΝ ΤΟῖς ΜΈΛΕΣΙΝ ὙΜῶΝ ] The lusts have their seat as it were their encampment (Wiesinger) in the members (see on chap. James 3:2 ); [187] they, however, do not rest there, but according to their nature wage war ( στρατεύονται ). Estius (with whom Bouman agrees) incorrectly explains it: cupiditates, tanquam milites, membris vestris, ut armis utuntur ad opera peccati, by which ἐν is falsely understood. Calovius, Baumgarten, and de Wette, after 1 Peter 2:11 and Romans 7:23 , supply κατὰ τῆς ψυχῆς or τοῦ νοός ; but if James had meant the fight of the lusts against the soul or the’ reason, he would have more plainly expressed it. Gebser, Schneckenburger, Lange, and others (Brückner comprehends both) understand it of the strife of the desires against each other; but this is evidently a foreign thought. According to Wiesinger, “the strife arises and is carried on because the ἐπιθυμεῖν has as its opponent an οὐκ ἔχεινοὐ δύνασθαι ἐπιτυχεῖν , against which it contends.” But it is better to refer the στρατεύεσθαι to everything which hinders the gratification of the desires. As in what follows ἐπιθυμεῖτε refers to αἱ ἡδοναί , and φονεύετε καὶ ζηλοῦτε to the idea στρατεύεσθαι , James appears chiefly to have intended the opposing strivings of others against which the ἡδοναί contend. From this internal war arose the πόλεμοι καὶ μάχαι . [188]

[186] According to Lange, James has in view all the hostile dissensions of the Jewish people (Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, Alexandrians, Samaritans) and of the Jewish Christians (Nazarenes, Ebionites, etc.).

[187] Incorrectly Laurentius: Per membra hic intellige non tantum externa membra, sed et internos animi affectus. Still more strangely Lange explains τὰ μέλη as “the members of individuals and the members of the people.”

[188] Comp. Plato, Phaedr. xv.: καὶ γὰρ πολέμους καὶ στάσεις καὶ μάχας οὐδὲν ἄλλο παρέχειτὸ σῶμα καὶ αἱ τούτου ἐπιθυμίαι ; consult also Cicero, de fin. bon. i. 13.

Verse 2

James 4:2 describes in a lively manner the origin of these external strifes. The stages are ἐπιθυμεῖτεφονεύετε καὶ ζηλοῦτεμάχεσθε καὶ πολεμεῖτε ; the second succeeds the first because it is without result, and the third the second for the same reason.

ἐπιθυμεῖτε ] here in a bad sense referring to τῶν ἡδονῶν , James 4:1 . It is evident that the object to be thought on is worldly possessions; James does not mention the object, because he only required to express “the covetous impulse” (de Wette). It is unsatisfactory to think only on the desires of individuals. James rather describes the conduct of the churches to whom he writes; these, discontented with their low position in the world, longed after earthly power to which, as the church of God, they thought they had a claim. This striving made them consider persecution as a reproach; on the contrary, James exhorts them to count it as a joy (chap. James 1:2 ). This also produced among them that respect of persons toward the rich of the world for which James blames them. This was also the source of internal division; the affluent in the church despising the poor instead of imparting to them of their wealth, and only striving after an increase of their riches; whilst the poor grudged the rich their possessions, and accused them of being the children of the world. Thus in these churches occurred the same strife which prevailed among the Jews, and was the source of factions among them.

By καὶ οὐκ ἔχετε ] the uselessness of ἐπιθυμεῖν is expressed, and also the motive to φονεύειν καὶ ζηλοῦν is assigned; it is unnecessary here, with Gebser, Hottinger, de Wette, to explain ἔχειν = to receive; it rather means: to have , to possess. The meaning is: from the desire follows not the possession, namely, of what is desired.

φονεύετε καὶ ζηλοῦτε ] As here the external action is not yet described, but the internal disposition, φονεύειν cannot here be taken in its literal meaning, as Winer (p. 417 [E. T. 589]), Lange, Bouman think. Many expositors, as Carpzov, Pott, Morus, Augusti, Gebser, Schneckenburger, and others explain it adverbially: “even to murder and killing;” but the position of the words contradicts this explanation; if the idea ζηλοῦτε was to be strengthened by φονεύετε , it must be placed first. Other expositors, as Erasmus, Calvin, Beza, Piscator, Hornejus, Laurentius, Benson, Schulthess, Hottinger, and others, solve the difficulty by the conjectural reading φθονεῖτε ; but this reading has not the slightest support in authorities. Nothing remains, as Wiesinger correctly remarks, than to explain φονεύειν here, with Estius, Calovius, also de Wette (who, however, wavers), according to 1 John 3:15 , of internal hatred, [189] and “to justify this word by the boldness of the expression prevailing in this passage; comp. πόλεμοι καὶ μάχαι , στρατεύεσθαι , μοιχοί (more correctly ΜΟΙΧΑΛΊΔΕς ),” Wiesinger. It is true that then an anti-climax would seem to occur; but this is only in appearance, as in point of fact ΖΗΛΟῦΝ (hostile zeal already ready to break out in word and action) presupposes internal ΦΟΝΕΎΕΙΝ . [190]

καὶ οὐ δύνασθε ἐπιτυχεῖν ] namely, that for which you hate and envy. What follows on this are πόλεμοι , therefore James closes with μάχεσθε καὶ πολεμεῖτε , in which likewise the answer to the question πόθεν πόλεμοι , πόθεν μάχαι is contained (Wiesinger). With οὐκ ἔχετε , which does not stand in the same relation to μάχεσθε κ . τ . λ . as καὶ οὐ δύν . ἐπιτυχεῖν does to φον . κ . ζηλ ., [191] James resumes the foregoing ΟὐΚ ἜΧΕΤΕ and Οὐ ΔΎΝΑΣΘΕ ἘΠΙΤΥΧΕῖΝ , in order to assign the reason of this “not having,” etc.; the reason is ΔΙᾺ ΤῸ ΜῊ ΑἸΤΕῖΣΘΑΙ ὙΜᾶς , thus the want of prayer. [192] That prayer for earthly things is heard, is not an opinion peculiar to James, but a divine promise; in which only this is to be observed, that the prayer must be no ΚΑΚῶς ΑἸΤΕῖΣΘΑΙ ; see the following verse.

[189] Stier in his exposition remarks: “James means hatred, but he speaks of killing and murdering, namely, in a spiritual sense, in order to designate hatred as an attack on one’s neighbour;” his translation: “ye smite ” (instead of Luther’s: “ye hate”), is not, however, justified by this.

[190] The explanation of Oecumenius is peculiar, but not to be justified: φονεύειν φησὶ τοὺς τὴν ἑαυτῶν ψυχὴν ἀποκτιννύντας ταῖς τολμηραῖς ταύταις ἐπιχειρήσεσι , διʼ ἃ ; καὶτρὸς τὴν εὐσέβειαν αὐτοῖς πόλεμος .

[191] Accordingly, not a comma is to be put after πολεμεῖτε , but a full stop; thus Tischendorf and Lachmann. Stier incorrectly explains it: “it thus remains at the close as at the beginning, Ye have not.”

[192] In this passage the exposition of Lange reaches almost the climax of arbitrariness. He here assumes a fourfold gradation (1) desiring; (2) murdering and envying; (3) fighting and warring; (4) asking and not receiving; and corresponding to these (1) not having; (2) not receiving; (3) an increased not having; (4) an increased not receiving. The first stage denotes Judaism full of chiliastic worldly-mindedness up to the time of the N. T.; the second, the attitude of the Jews toward the Christians; the third, the Jewish war; and the fourth, Judaism after the destruction of Jerusalem.

Verse 3

James 4:3 . James apparently again resumes the last expression, whilst he now grants αἰτεῖτε to his readers; but as he designates this their asking as κακῶς αἰτεῖσθαι , he does not consider it as an actual prayer, so that the foregoing declaration is nevertheless true. It is therefore inaccurate to resolve αἰτεῖτε into “or even if you ask.” [193]

On the interchange of middle and active forms, see Winer, p. 229 [E. T. 321]. The middle form naturally suggested itself in James 4:2 , prayer for others being not the point under consideration; but in the next clause, as James wished to lay stress on the active side of prayer in antithesis to ΛΑΜΒΆΝΕΙΝ he used the active form. “ Egotistical praying for oneself” (Lange) is incorrectly understood by the middle.

καὶ οὐ λαμβάνετε ] emphasizes the uselessness of their asking, the reason of which is assigned by the following: ΔΙΌΤΙ ΚΑΚῶς ΑἸΤΕῖΣΘΕ . ΚΑΚῶς finds its explanation in the following ἽΝΑ ; your prayer is therefore evil, because it has no other object than ΔΑΠΑΝᾷΝ ἘΝ ΤΑῖς ἩΔΟΝΑῖς . Incorrectly Gebser: “for your prayer must implore only for true heavenly blessings.” The discourse is here rather of the temporal condition; this, James observes, continues with you a poor and depressed one, because ye ask for a better one only in order to be able to indulge your lusts.

ΔΑΠΑΝᾷΝ ] to expend, spend (Mark 5:26 ); here, in a bad sense, to squander, to lavish. Suidas: λαμπρῶς ζῆν καὶ σπαθᾷν ; the object to the transitive verb is “that for which you pray.” ἘΝ ΤΑῖς ἩΔΟΝΑῖς ὙΜῶΝ ] not with , but in your lusts. Wahl incorrectly explains δαπανᾷν ἐν = sumtum ponere in aliqua re, i.e. τιθέναι τὰ χρήματα ἔν τινι ; this meaning combines ΔΑΠΑΝᾷΝ with ΕἸς . The sense is not “for the gratification of your lusts” (Baumgarten), but governed by your lusts.

[193] Semler very strangely paraphrases it: scio, quosdam vel publieis precibus (et exsecrationibus, iii. 9) eam in rem parcere, mala omnia preeari imperatori et magistratui Romano.

Verse 4

James 4:4 . μοιχαλίδες ] The Rec. μοιχοὶ καὶ μοιχαλίδες has not only the most important authorities against it, but is also easily explained, because the term was taken in its literal sense, which is expressly done by Augusti, Jachmann, and Winer. The context, however, proves that the literal meaning is not here to be retained. If the idea is used in a figurative sense, according to the view which prevails in Psalms 73:27 (Isaiah 57:3 ff.; Ezekiel 23:27 ), Hosea 2:2 ; Hosea 2:4 , and other passages of the O. T. (comp. also Matthew 12:39 ; Matthew 16:4 ; as also 2 Corinthians 11:2 ; Revelation 2:22 ), and as the context requires, then every reason for a distinction of sex ceases. Theile, Lange, Brückner have therefore correctly declared for the reading μοιχαλίδες . Theile’s opinion: non minus recte singuli homines scorta dicuntur, quam totum genus atque universa aliqua gens scortum, is so far inappropriate, as the expression μοιχαλίδες used “of individuals in the church of God is certainly singular” (Wieseler); it is here to be referred not to individuals, but to the churches to whom James writes (not “the Jewish factions into which Judaism was sundered,” Lange); so also Brückner. These, according to the conduct described by James, had fallen away from God, and therefore James, full of moral indignation, addresses them with these certainly severe words.

οὐκ οἴδατε , ὅτι ] points the readers to their own conduct.

φιλία τοῦ κόσμου ] By κόσμος expositors understand either worldly goods (Pott, Gebser, Hottinger, Schneckenburger, Theile, Wiesinger) or worldly desires (Didymus, Laurentius), or both of these together (de Wette, Stier); and by ἡ φιλία τοῦ κόσμου , the inclination of the heart diverted toward worldly things. But it is more correct to take κόσμος in the same sense as in chap. James 1:27 (see explanation of that passage), and to understand ἡ φιλία τοῦ κόσμου of reciprocal friendship; yet so that active conduct toward the world here predominates. The Christian who aims at worldly glory conforms himself (contrary to the admonition in Romans 12:2 ) to the world, attaching himself to its pursuits, and is thus inclined to it with his heart, his endeavour at the same time being to be esteemed and not despised by the world. The explanation of Piscator: amicitia cum impiis, is in essentials correct. The term φιλία ( ἅπ . λεγ . in N. T.) does not suit the usual explanation. [194]

ἜΧΘΡΑ ΤΟῦ ΘΕΟῦ ] expresses as ΦΙΛΊΑ ΤΟῦ ΚΌΣΜΟΥ a reciprocal relation; yet here also the active reference predominates, on account of which most expositors explain it directly by ἜΧΘΡΑ ΕἸς ΘΕΌΝ (Romans 8:7 ), although Pott gives also the explanation: ad ejusmodi agendi rationem nos abripit, quae Deo displicet, nosque privat amore divino. Lachmann, following the translation of the Vulgate: inimica , has adopted the reading ἐχθρὰ , by which, however, the peculiar force which consists in the opposition of the two substantives is removed.

From the judgment here expressed concerning the ΦΙΛΊΑ ΤΟῦ ΚΌΣΜΟΥ , James infers the sentiment that follows: ΟὖΝ , therefore.

ὃς ἂν οὖν βουληθῇ κ . τ . λ .] By the usual explanation of ΦΙΛΊΑ Τ . ΚΌΣΜΟΝ , and of the corresponding ΦΊΛΟς ΤΟῦ ΚΌΣΜΟΥ , ΒΟΥΛΗΘῇ is at all events disconcerting. Whilst some expositors urge that by it designed and conscious intention is designated (Baumgarten), and others oppose it to the actual deed, [195] and find the idea expressed that even the simple inclination to the love of the world (de Wette: “whosoever has perchance willed to love the world”) effects ἔχθρα τοῦ Θεοῦ , [196] Schneckenburger, on the contrary, says: verbi ΒΟΥΛΗΘῇ cave premas vim. With each of these explanations the expression retains something strange, which also is not removed by distinguishing, with Lange, the “formal” and the “material intention,” and understanding ΒΟΥΛΗΘῇ only of the latter. But it is different as soon as ΚΌΣΜΟς is considered not as an aggregate of things but of persons, since then ΦΙΛΊΑ , as above remarked, consists in a reciprocity. The meaning is: Whosoever, although a Christian, giving himself up to the pursuits of the world, will live in friendship with it, and thus will be not despised but esteemed and loved by it, has directed to it his wish ( βουληθῇ ) [197] he (thereby) is constituted an enemy of God; ἐχθρὸς τοῦ Θεοῦ ] is likewise used in the sense of reciprocal relation, although here the passive meaning predominates.

ΚΑΘΊΣΤΑΤΑΙ ] has here the same meaning as in chap. James 3:6 (so also Lange); it is generally rendered incorrectly = ἘΣΤΙ ; inaccurately by Theile = fit, sistitur; by Schneckenburger = stands there as; by Bouman = constituitur divino in judicio.

[194] According to Lange, the friendship with the world consisted “in the chiliastic desire of the enjoyment of a worldly glory which was only coloured with hierarchical piety.”

[195] Laurentius states this opposition in the most definite terms: non si tantum est inimicus Dei, qui est ipso opere amicus mundi, sed etiam ille, qui cum non possit, vult tamen … et sic voluntate implet, quod ipso opere non potest.

[196] Similarly also Wiesinger: “James brings under the same judgment not only the decided and expressed love to the world, but even the inclination to step into such a relation to the world.”

[197] In essentials Estius correctly says: Terribilis valde sententia adversus cos qui suas actiones et studia componunt ad gratiam humanam. Hoc enim vere est esse amicum hujus seculi.

Verses 5-6

James 4:5-6 . The views of expositors differ widely in the interpretation of these verses. At first sight the words following λέγει appear to be a quotation from the O. T. which James has in view. That of the older and some of the more recent expositors assume this to be the case, although they differ from each other, some combining πρὸς φθόνον directly with λέγει , but others including it in the quotation Against this explanation, however, is the circumstance that the words supposed to be here quoted nowhere occur in the O. T. Such a passage has accordingly been sought for, where a similar thought is expressed, but almost every expositor has fixed upon a different passage. Many expositors seek to remove the difficulty by supposing that James does not here quote any single definite passage, but only a sentiment contained in the O. T. generally, or in several of its expressions. Opposed to this idea, however, is, first, the uncertainty whether James will confirm by it the statement contained in what precedes or in what follows; and secondly, the formula of quotation pointing to a definite passage, particularly as λέγει is not = λαλεῖ . But, moreover, the clause μείζονα δὲ δίδωσιν χάριν is against the view here indicated, since these words cannot be reckoned as part of the quotation, because James only afterwards quotes the O. T. passage from which they are derived; but, also, they cannot be considered as a statement of James not belonging to the quotation, because δέ closely connects them to what directly precedes.


The various O. T. passages which have been conjectured are as follows:

Genesis 4:7 (Rauch); Genesis 6:3 ; Genesis 6:5 (Grotius); Genesis 8:21 (Beza, Ernest Schmid); Numbers 11:29 (Witsius); Psalms 37:1 ; Psalms 73:3 (Lange); Psalms 119:20 ff. (Clericus); Proverbs 21:10 (Michaelis); Song of Solomon 8:6 (Coccejus); from the Apocrypha Wis 6:12 (Wetstein), and others. Benson supposes that James has in view the N. T. passage, Matthew 6:24 ; Stäudlin, that he has in view that passage and also Galatians 5:17 ; Storr, the latter passage only; and Bengel, 1 Peter 2:1 ff. Semler thinks that the passage is here cited from the “Testimony of the Twelve Patriarchs;” and Gabler, that the words are borrowed from a lost prophetical book. In recent times, Engelhardt (Remarks on James 4:5-6 , in the Ztschr. f. d. Luth. Theol. , by Delitzsch and Guericke, 1869, Part II.) has expressed the opinion that Isaiah 63:8-11 , Psalms 132:12-13 , and Hosea 1:2 ; Hosea 1:1-5 , form the groundwork of these words of James. Wolf, Heinsius, and Zachariae refer the words to the thoughts contained in what follows; Theile, de Wette, Brückner (also first edition of this commentary), to the thoughts contained in what precedes that the friendship of the world is enmity with God.

If the words πρὸς φθόνον ἐπιποθεῖ κ . τ . λ . do not form the quotation belonging to ἡ γραφὴ λέγει , it is to be assumed that James here already had in view the scripture adduced after διὸ λέγει in James 4:6 , but that he did not yet state it, because the sentiment expressed in those words obtruded itself upon him in confirmation of οὐ κενῶς (Wiesinger). πρὸς φθόνον cannot, as Gebser and others suppose, be united with λέγει ; for if one takes it to be equivalent to de invidia or contra invidia, there is this against it, that in what goes before there is no mention of envy; or if it is taken adverbially, then it appears as an appendage dragging after οὐ κενῶς , which would be added the more unsuitably, because, as de Wette correctly remarks, it cannot be perceived what meaning can be attached to the assurance that the scripture does not speak enviously. Most expositors rightly refer it to ἐπιποθεῖ , which, without the addition, would be too bare; it is added to this idea as an adverbial and more exact statement = in an envious, jealous manner , for the sake of strengthening it. It is linguistically incorrect to explain πρὸς φθόνον ἐπιποθεῖν = ἐπιθυμεῖν κατὰ φθόνον , Galatians 5:17 (thus Luther: “the spirit lusteth against envy;” Bengel, Stier; also Lange: “the spirit longeth over against and in opposition to envy”), since πρός , although it may be used in a hostile relation (Luke 23:12 ; Acts 6:1 ), yet does not in itself express a hostile reference. The explanation of many ancient and some recent expositors (Bede, Calvin, Beza, Grotius, Hottinger, Gabler, Bouman, and others), taking πρὸς φθόνον = ad invidiam , is also unsuitable; for, on the one hand, ἐπιποθεῖν is not = proclivem esse, and, on the other hand, it is contradicted by the connection in which there is not the slightest allusion to envy. With the correct explanation of πρὸς φθόνον , τὸ πνεῦμακατῴκησεν ( κατῴκισεν ) ἐν ὑμῖν is either subjective, “the Spirit of God,” or objective, “the spirit of man.” In the first case ἐπιποθεῖ has no object. De Wette, Brückner (so also Schneckenburger and some of the other expositors) supply ἡμᾶς as the object. Engelhardt, on the contrary, will supply no object, thinking “the supposed translation of the verb קִנֵּא is conclusive against an object;” but קִנֵּא requires an object no less than ἐπιποθεῖν , as it is, as well as the other, a relative (not an absolute) verb. By this interpretation ἐν ὑμῖν is to be understood of Christians, in whom the Holy Spirit (according to Engelhardt: “by the covenant of baptism”) has taken up His abode. In the second case, the subject is not expressed. Wiesinger supplies ὁ Θεός . There is no difficulty in this completion, the less so as the preceding ἡ γραφή , which, in connection with λέγει , is personified (comp. Galatians 3:8 , προιδοῦσαγραφή ), points to God, with whom it is, as it were, identified. This second explanation would deserve the preference before the first, as it is not apparent why James here, instead of simply God, should name the Holy Spirit, whom he has not elsewhere mentioned in his whole Epistle, and because the specification of an object belonging to ἐπιποθεῖ , which is essentially required for the thought, can scarcely be wanting. Certainly, in this second interpretation, ὃ κατῴκησεν ἐν ἡμῖν added to πνεῦμα is difficult, not so much on account of the formation of the expression, as because this addition appears to be a very unimportant remark. But it is otherwise with the reading κατῴκισεν , as then the relative clause marks “the right of propriety as the ground of explanation of envious love” (Wiesinger). According to this view, the passage is to be explained: Or think you that the scripture says in vain (rather God) enviously desires the spirit which He has made to dwell in us, but He gives the greater grace wherefore it says, etc.

It is yet to be remarked that δοκεῖν has the same meaning as in chap. James 1:26 ; κενῶς , that is, without contents, corresponding to the truth; comp. κενοὶ λόγοι , Ephesians 5:6 (Plato, Lach. 196b). The adverbial import of πρὸς φθόνον is justified by the usage of the Greek language; see Pape’s Wörterb.: the word πρός ; Winer, p. 378 [E. T. 529]; Buttmann, p. 292 f. [E. T. 340]. The verb ἐπιποθεῖν is also elsewhere in the N. T. construed with the accusative. The idea that God cherishes an “envious and loving longing” (Wiesinger) after the spirit of man, corresponds to the circle of ideas in the O. T., from which also the preceding μοιχαλίδες is to be explained.


The principal objections of Engelhardt that the two members of the 5th and 6th verses are not in congruity, and that the scripture adduced in James 4:6 does not prove the thought expressed in James 4:4 are solved by the observation that the friendship of the world, in which man opposes himself to the will of God, is pride, and that those to whom God gives grace are none other than the humble, who disdain to be the arrogant friends of the world. It is erroneous when Engelhardt denies that an emphasis rests on οὐ κενῶς , so that the grammatical construction forbids to make the idea πρὸς φθόνον κ . τ . λ . intervene as a contrast to κενῶς ; the asyndeton form is, besides, wholly suitable to James’ mode of expression; moreover, Engelhardt on his part finds himself constrained to supply a transitionary thought before μείζονα δὲ δίδωσιν . That James does not quote the scripture intended by him directly after the first λέγει , but defers it because he wished to emphasize that it was not vain and empty, may well surprise us, but it is to be explained from the liveliness peculiar to James. Moreover, in Romans 11:2-4 , although not in the same, yet in a similar manner, the passage quoted is separated from the form of quotation: τί λέγειγραφή , and in such a manner that the formula itself is taken up again by an ἀλλά , referring to the intervening remark, before the intended passage. When Engelhardt thinks that the words in consideration are to be recognised as the quotation, because they are words which do not elsewhere occur in James, apart from this being anything but conclusive, it is, on the contrary, to be observed that πνεῦμα understood of the human spirit already occurs in chap. James 2:26 , and that the words πρὸς φθόνον ἐπιποθεῖν do not occur in the passages of the O. T. which James, according to Engelhardt’s opinion, had in view.

Verse 6

James 4:6 . The words μείζονα δὲ δίδωσιν χάριν are explained from the fact that James already had in his view the passage of the O. T., afterwards quoted, from which these words are taken. The subject is the same as in the former sentence. The comparative does not express the comparison with the blessings which the world gives (Bede: majorem gratiam dat quam amicitia mundi; thus also Tirinus, Gebser, Pott, Winer, Schneckenburger, Kern), or after which those: invidi atque arrogantes, quos reprehendit, James 5:2-4 (Bouman), longed for; also it does not indicate “the greater measure of the comforting and satisfying Spirit as related to the longing Spirit” (Lange: “but he gives grace greater than the longing”), but “ μείζονα suggests a comparison with a case in which there is no πρὸς φθόνον ἐπιποθ .” (Wiesinger, so also de Wette); incorrectly Bengel: eo majorem, quo longius recesseris ab invidia.

διό ] = therefore, because it is so (de Wette). ἡ γραφή is to be supplied to λέγει . Kern incorrectly takes λέγει impersonally: it is said. The passage is Proverbs 3:34 , and is verbally quoted according to the LXX., except that here, as also in 1 Peter 5:5 , ὁ Θεός is put instead of κύριος . The ὑ̔ περήφανοι are those who, whilst they in striving after high things ( τὰ ὑψηλὰ φρονοῦντες , Romans 12:16 ) will be the friends of the world, are not ready to bear the reproach of Christ. That these are ἐχθροὶ τοῦ Θεοῦ , the scripture confirms by ἀντιτάσσεται .

Opposed to these are the παπεινοί , that is, the lowly , those who τοῖς ταπεινοῖς συναπαγόμενοι , Romans 12:16 , seek not the friendship of the world, but humbly bear the cross of Christ. That these are φίλοι τοῦ Θεοῦ the Scripture confirms by δίδωσιν χάριν . [198] Comp Sir 3:19-20 .

[198] The difficulty of the passage has induced some expositors to have recourse to arbitrary emendations; thus Erasmus and Grotius explain the words from διὸ λέγει to χάριν as a gloss from 1 Peter 5:5 . Hottinger (with whom Reiche agrees), on the contrary, is inclined to erase the words from μείζονα to λέγει , and to insert a δέ between ὁ and Θεός . Also Lücke, according to Gebser, considered those words a kind of gloss and error librarii to ἡ γραφὴ λέγει and τοῖς ταπ . δίδ . ver. 6, and that the context is to be thus construed: πρὸς φθόνονἐν ὑμῖεδοκεῖτε ὅτε κενῶςγρ . λέγει : ὁ Θεὸς ὑπερηφάνοις κ . τ . λ .

Verse 7

James 4:7 . From the sentiment expressed in the preceding, James infers ( οὖν ) several exhortations expressive of the duty of humility.

ὑποτάγητε οὖν τῷ Θεῷ ] The exhortation is addressed to the ὑπερήφανοι : because God ἀντιτάσσεται them, they are to ὑποτάσσειν to God. In Schneckenburger’s explanation: plena obedientia vos Deo committite, ut sitis δοῦλοι Θεοῦ , obedientia is incorrectly emphasized. Calvin’s is better: subjectio ista, quam commendat, humilitatis est; neque enim generaliter hortatnr, ut pareamus Deo, sed requirit submissionem. [199]

ἀντίστητε δὲ τῷ διαβόλῳ ] This exhortation is closely joined to the preceding; submission to God means resistance to the devil. This requirement was so much the more appropriate, as the readers wished to be the friends of the κόσμος , whose ἄρχων is the devil.

καὶ φεύξεται ἀφʼ ὑμῶν ] comp. Hermas, I. 2, mand. 12 (ed. Hefele, p. 380): δύναταιδιάβολος παλαῖσαι , καταπαλαῖσαι δὲ οὐ δύναται . ἐὰν οὖν ἀντίστῃς αὐτῷ , νικηθεὶς φεύξεται ἀπὸ σοῦ κατσχυμμένος . Calvin: Quamvis continuos insultus repetat, semper tamen exclusus discedit.

καί after the imperative commencing the apodosis; so also in Matthew 7:7 and frequently. 1 Peter 5:5-9 is to be compared with this passage, where upon the quotation of the same O. T. passage follow exhortations to humility before God, and to resistance to the devil.

[199] On account of its strangeness, we give here Semler’s remarks on this passage: Jacobus, Paulus, Petrus, Judas, uno quasi ore id confirmant, opus esse, ut Romanis et sic Deo se subjiciant (in which Lange finds no fault were it only said: ut Deo et sic Romanis); and afterwards: τῷ διαβόλῳ , qui per πνεῦμα φθόνου vos suscitat adversus magistratum Romanum; similar also, of course, Lange.

Verse 8

James 4:8 . In contrast to the last exhortation and promise is the exhortation ἐγγίσατε τῷ Θεῷ , united in a similar manner with a promise. Whilst the devil is to be kept at a distance by resistance, we are to draw nigh to God. “ ἐγγίζειν is not to be limited to prayer, but is to be understood generally of man’s turning to God” (Wiesinger). Comp. on ἐγγίζειν , Isaiah 29:13 ; Hebrews 7:19 .

καὶ ἐγγιεῖ ὑμῖν ] corresponding to the preceding φεύξεται ἀφʼ ὑμῶν . Similar expressions in 2 Chronicles 15:2 ; Isaiah 57:15 ; Zechariah 1:3 .

But in order to draw nigh to God, conversion from the former nature is necessary; therefore καθαρίσατε χεῖραςἀγνίσατε καρδίας . The cleansing of the hands consists in withdrawing them from evil and in employing them in good works; the sanctification of the heart, in contending with impure desires, and in the cultivation of a holy disposition. The external and the internal must correspond; comp. Psalms 24:4 : ἀθῶος χερσὶ καὶ καθαρὸς τῇ καρδίᾳ . Pott erroneously supposes the first expression to be a symbolical designation of μετάνοια , and denies its reference to the externa vitae integritas (Carpzov). The reason why James names the hands is not only because they are the principal organa operandi, but also because that he, with ἐγγίζειν τῷ Θεῷ , does not think exclusively on prayer; see 1 Timothy 2:8 . On ἁγνίσατε καρδίας , comp. 1 Peter 1:22 ; 1 John 3:3 .

ἁμαρτωλοὶδίψυχοι ] This address, designating the present condition of the addressed, shows the necessity of μετάνοια ; ἁμαρτωλοί , because instead of God, who chose them for His possession, they serve the lusts ( ἡδοναῖς , James 4:1 ) of the κόσμος , corresponding to μοιχαλίδες , James 4:4 ; δίψυχοι , because they would at the same time be Christians. De Wette’s explanation is too weak: ye undecided (between God and the world); Schneckenburger’s remark: hic sensu latiore sumendum quam, James 1:8 , is incorrect, for διακρίνεσθαι there has its reason in the Christian giving his heart to the world instead of to God; see Test. Aser. III. p. 691: οἱ διπρόσωποι οὐ Θεῷ ἀλλὰ ταῖς ἐπιθυμίαις αὐτῶν δουλεύουσι .

Calvin correctly remarks: non duo hominum genera designat, sed eosdem vocat peccatores et duplices animo. [200]

[200] Kern: As James considers man in reference to the divine grace as the receiver , so, on the other hand, he takes into account the free self-activity of man as the condition by which a relation of unity of man with God takes place.

Verse 9

James 4:9 . The μετάνοια required in James 4:8 does not take place without grief and mourning for guilt. The consciousness of the latter is the road to the former; therefore the summons now to this mourning: ταλαιπωρήσατε καὶ πενθήσατε καὶ κλαύσατε . The repetition of καί is an expression of emotion; ταλαιπωρεῖν ] in the N. T. ἅπ . λεγ . (the adjective in Romans 7:24 ; Revelation 3:17 ; the substantive in chap. James 5:1 ; Romans 3:16 ), literally, to suffer external hardships , as in Micah 2:4 , is here used of the internal condition: to feel unhappy, wretched , as the adjective in Romans 7:24 . Estius, Gagnejus, Grotius erroneously refer it to bodily castigations: affligite vosmet ipsos jejuniis et aliis corporis σκληραγωγίαις (Grotius); similarly Hottinger: sensum miseriae claris indiciis prodite; falsely also Beza: reprehendit ἀναλγησίαν in adversis.

πενθήσατε καὶ κλαύσατε ] the same combination in Nehemiah 8:9 ; 2 Samuel 19:1 ; and in the N. T. Mark 16:10 ; Luke 6:25 ; Revelation 18:15 ; Revelation 18:19 : wail and weep. Grotius incorrectly explains πενθήσατε = lugubrem habitum induite, saccum et cilicia; there is not the slightest indication that James had in view the external signs of mourning in dress and the like. If the foregoing exhortations point to a change of the lusts and joy of worldly life into godly mourning ( τὴν κατὰ Θεὸν λύπην , 2 Corinthians 7:10 ), this is still more definitely expressed in what follows, by which James passes from the outward manifestation ( γέλωςπένθος ) to the internal state ( χαρὰκατήφεια ).

κατήφεια ] ἅπ . λεγ . (the adj., Wis 17:4 ), literally, the casting down of the eyes , here indicates internal shame; in Plutarch, Them. 9, it is used synonymously with δυσθυμία . Compare with this the picture of the publican in Luke 18:13 .

Verse 10

James 4:10 . Conclusion carrying with it an O. T. colouring of the exhortation, in which what has hitherto been said is summed up.

ταπεινώθητε ἐνώπιον κυρίου ] ταπεινώθητε in reference to ταπεινοῖς κ . τ . λ ., James 4:6 .

κυρίου ] i.e. Θεοῦ (comp. James 4:7 ), not Χριστοῦ (Grotius).

ἐνώπιον ] not = ὑπό , 1 Peter 5:6 : ταπεινώθητε ὑπὸ τὴνχεῖρα τοῦ Θεοῦ , but expresses that the self-abasement is to take place in consciousness of the presence of God, who gives grace only to the humble; comp. Sir 2:17 : οἳ φοβούμενοι κύριονἐνώπιον αὐτοῦ ταπεινώσουσι τὰς ψυχὰς αὐτῶν .

καὶ ὑψώσει ὑμᾶς ] is to be referred both to the present concealed and to the future manifested glory of the humble Christian (comp. chap. James 1:9 ). The contrasted ideas ταπεινοῦν and ὑψοῦν often occur; see in the O. T. Job 5:11 ; Ezekiel 21:26 ; in the N. T. Matthew 23:12 ; Luke 14:11 ; 1 Peter 5:6 , and other places.

Verse 11

James 4:11 . Without any indication of a connection with the preceding, James passes to a new exhortation, which, however, is so far closely attached to the preceding, inasmuch as humiliation before God carries with itself humility toward our brethren. From the fact that this exhortation, although decidedly earnest, has yet undeniably a milder character than the former, and that James uses here the address ἀδελφοί , whereas before it was μοιχαλίδες , ἁμαρτωλοί , δίψυχοι , [201] it is to be inferred that James now addresses, at least primarily, those who by the worldly ways of others felt induced to do those things against which he here exhorts them.

μὴ καταλαλεῖτε ἀλλήλων ] καταλαλεῖν only here and in 1 Peter 2:12 ; 1 Peter 3:16 (the substantive in 2 Corinthians 12:20 ; the adjective in Romans 1:30 ; 1 Peter 2:1 ), to speak in a hostile manner against one; Luther, “to slander:” ἀλλήλων ] against each other. Estius, Semler, Pott, Gebser, Hottinger incorrectly restrict the exhortation to teachers. [202]

καταλαλῶν κ . τ . λ . assigns the reason of the exhortation. The two ideas καταλαλῶν and κρίνων are indeed closely connected, but are not equivalent, since καταλαλεῖν presupposes κρίνειν ; they are here indicated as distinct ideas by ἤ .

By the addition ἀδελφοῦ not only is the reprehensibleness of καταλαλεῖν emphasized (Schneckenburger: jam hoc vocabulo, quantum peccatur καταλαλιαῖς , submonet), but also the reason is given for the sentiment here expressed καταλαλεῖ νόμου . By αὐτοῦ added to τὸν ἀδελφόν this is brought out more strongly, whilst also the brotherly union is more distinctly marked than by the simple ἀδελφοῦ ; incorrectly Bengel: fraterna aequalitas laeditur obtrectando; sed magis judicando.

καταλαλεῖ νόμου καὶ κρίνει νόμον ] By νόμος the same law is here meant as in chap. James 1:25 , James 2:9 , etc.: the law of Christian life, which according to its contents is none other than the law of love, to which ἀδελφοῦ and τὸν ἀδελφὸν αὐτοῦ already point. By reviling and condemning one’s brother , the law of love itself is reviled and condemned, whilst it is thereby disclaimed as not lawfully existing, and, as may be added, its tendency to save and not to destroy is condemned (Lange). The explanation of de Wette, that there is here a kind of play of words, in which is contained only the idea of contempt and disregard of the law, is unsatisfactory. [203] Grotius, Baumgarten, Hottinger quite erroneously understand by νόμος the Christian doctrine, and find therein expressed the sentiment, that whosoever imposes upon his neighbour arbitrary commandments designates the Christian doctrine as defective, and in so far sets himself up as its judge. [204]

With the following words: εἰ δὲ νόμον κρίνεις κ . τ . λ ., the further consequence is added: but if thou judgest the law, thou art not a doer of the law, out a judge.

The particle δέ serves to carry on the thought: ΟὐΚ ΕἾ ΠΟΙΗΤῊς ΝΌΜΟΥ , i.e. thou thereby departest from the attitude which becomes thee; for the law is given to man that he might do it, but whosoever thinks he has right against the law, cannot be a doer of it, and consequently assumes a position which does not belong to him (Wiesinger), which position is, as the sequel says, ἀλλὰ κριτής . Baumgarten, Gebser, Neander, Wiesinger, Lange, and others supply the genitive ΝΌΜΟΥ to ΚΡΙΤΉς ; incorrectly, for (1) this would make this sentence and the one preceding it tautological; (2) it dilutes the idea ΚΡΙΤΉς in its contrast to ΠΟΙΗΤῊς ΝΌΜΟΥ ; and (3) the sequel which is added to this idea ΚΡΊΤΗς , adverts not to the judging of the law, but to the judging of the man. The meaning is: Whosoever judges the law constitutes himself a judge, giving a law according to which he judges or pronounces sentence upon his neighbour. But this is not the province of man. The following verse tells the reason why it is not so.

[201] Lange incorrectly observes that there is no reason to see here a transition from one class to another. But it is not here maintained that James has in view a sharply exclusive distinction of different classes of his readers.

[202] Wiesinger correctly says that we are not here to think of a contest between Jewish and Gentile Christians; Lange incorrectly asserts that the primary reference here is to the internal divisions of Judaism.

[203] The opinion of Stier is mistaken: “Whoever improperly and officiously notes and deals with the sins of other men, throws blame thereby upon the law of God, as if it were not sufficient; for he acts as if he supposed it necessary to come to the help of the law.”

[204] Lange, in accordance with his view, supposes the reference to be to the Jewish ceremonial law, although he does not explain νόμος as equivalent to doctrine. Also Bouman thinks that James has here in view the judicia de aliena conscientia; but James does not indicate that among his readers disputes took place de sabbati veneratione, de licito vel illicito ciborum usu, etc. Augustine here arbitrarily assumes an attack upon the Gentile Christians. Correctly Laurentius: Is qui detrahit proximo, detrahit legi, quia lex prohibet omnem detractionem, sed et judicat idem legem, quia hoc ipso quod contra prohibitionem legis detrahit, judicat quasi, legem non recte prohibuisse.

Verse 12

James 4:12 . One is the lawgiver and judge , (namely) He who can rescue (save) and destroy. The chief accent lies on εἷς , in opposition to men who presume to be judges.

νομοθέτης καὶ κριτής ] The idea νομοθέτης is here introduced, because the judging belongs only to Him who has given the law, and is adduced against those who by judging their neighbour act as lawgivers, whereas their duty is to obey the given law. The explanation of Morus is false: legislator et judex est una eademque persona; and Theile infers from this something entirely foreign: unus est legislator … idem utriusque legis auctor: et severioris mosaicae et liberalioris christianae … isque etiam judex … et legitimus et idoneus, idque et utriusque legis et eorum qui alterutram sequuntur; of all which there is here no mention.

δυνάμενος σῶσαι καὶ ἀπολέσαι ] serves for a more precise statement of the subject εἷς (so also Brückner, Lange, Bouman); it mentions who this One is, and in such a manner that it is also announced why He and He only can be νομοθέτης καὶ κριτής . Schneckenburger correctly observes: ὁ δυνάμενος … articulus appositionis signum, ad subjectum εἷς pertinentis grammatice; but incorrectly adds: ita autem ut, quoad sensum, melius in propriam resolvatur sententiam. Not only grammatically, but also according to the sense, ὁ δυνάμενος , etc., is to be most closely united to εἷς ; therefore also Luther’s translation: “there is one Lawgiver who is able to save and to condemn,” is incorrect. [205]

δυνάμενος ] is not, with Schneckenburger, to be resolved into ᾧ ἔξεστι , but is to be retained in its literal meaning. Bengel correctly remarks: nostrum non est judicare; praesertim cum exequi non possimus.

On σῶσαι , see chap. James 2:14 ; on ἀπολέσαι , particularly Matthew 10:28 .

σὺ δὲ τίς εἶ ] expresses the insignificance of man, in contrast to ὁ δυνάμενος κ . τ . λ . (Schneckenburger), thus: “Thou who hast no power to save and to destroy;” comp. Matthew 10:28 .

The same question in Romans 14:4 ; Romans 9:20 . [206]

ΚΡΊΝΩΝ ] Schneckenburger: “ thou appos. ad pron. σύ ; qui articuli hanc vim nescierunt, loco participii posuerunt Ὃς ΚΡΙΝΕΙς .”

ΤῸΝ ΠΛΗΣΊΟΝ ] without the personal pronoun, as in Mark 12:33 ; Romans 13:10 ; Romans 15:2 . The Rec. τὸν ἕτερον perhaps arose from Romans 2:1 .

[205] Most expositors in the interpretation of this passage have failed in precision, being satisfied with giving only its general meaning. They appear for the most part to regard ὁ δυνάμενος κ . τ . λ . as an attribute of ὁ νομοθέτης (the Rec. omits καὶ κριτής ); thus de Wette translates it: “One is the lawgiver and judge, who is able to save and to destroy.” Wiesinger gives here only a paraphrase which is wanting in definiteness: “Judging us and our brethren belongs to Him alone (namely, to Him who as lawgiver is not under, but above the law), and He proves His exclusive right by His power to save and to destroy, with which He confirms His judicial sentence.”

[206] Yet is the σύ here to be understood in definite antithesis to another, namely to God, on which account also δέ is added. It has therefore a more independent meaning than in the passages adduced from the Epistle to the Romans. In this there is reason for the editors Lachmann, Tischendorf, and Buttmann here placing a comma after εἶ , but not in those other passages.

Verse 13

James 4:13 . The apostrophe commencing with this verse, and continued until chap. James 5:6 , has a character plainly distinguished from other portions of the Epistle (1) by ἄγε νῦν repeated; (2) those addressed are neither directly designated as ἀδελφοί , as is elsewhere the case with James (with the single exception of chap. James 4:1 ff.), nor are yet characterized as members of the Christian church; (3) only their forgetfulness of God is described, and their judgment is announced without any call being added to desist from their practice and be converted; so that this apostrophe contains not the slightest exhortation to repentance, as is the case with those addressed in James 4:8 as ἁμαρτωλοί and δίψυχοι . All this is a sufficient proof that James has in view, as Oecumenius, Bede, Semler, Pott, Hottinger, and others have correctly remarked (differently Gebser, Schneckenburger, de Wette, Wiesinger; Theile considers that Jewish Christians and Jews are here addressed), not so much the members of the church, as rather the rich ( οἱ πλούσιοι , James 5:1 ), of whom it is already said in chap. James 2:6-7 , that they oppress the Christians and blaspheme the name of Christ, and who are already, in chap. James 1:10 , opposed to “the brother of low degree.” The severe language against them in an Epistle directed to Christians is sufficiently explained from the fact that, with many among them, as follows from James 4:1 ff., the same forgetfulness of God had gained ground. Also the first section (James 4:13-17 ) is of such a nature that the fault therein expressed affected many of the readers not less than the arrogant Jews. [207] In this section, those addressed are at first characterized only according to their presumptuous security in their striving after earthly gain.

ἌΓΕ ΝῦΝ ] ἌΓΕ , occurring in the N. T. only here and in chap. James 5:1 , is a summons , which also, with classical writers, is joined with the plural (Winer, p. 458 [E. T. 649]).

νῦν ] serves not only for strengthening (de Wette, Wiesinger), but likewise for connection with what goes before. As in what follows there is no summons to do anything, some expositors suppose that ἄγε νῦν is designed only to excite attention; Grotius: jam ego ad vos; so also Pott, Theile: age, audite vos. Others supply a thought; thus Schulthess: Πῶς ΠΟΙΕῖΤΕ , or ΜῊ ΚΑΛῶς ΠΟΙΕῖΤΕ , and the like. De Wette thinks that the summons to lay aside the fault is indirectly contained in the reproof. Wiesinger suggests James 4:16 as the material for the designed imperative clause. It is more correct to assume that James has already here in view the imperative clause in chap. James 5:1 ,

ΚΛΑΎΣΑΤΕ ἘΠῚ ΤΑῖς ΤΑΛΑΙΠΩΡΊΑΙς ὙΜῶΝ Κ . Τ . Λ . , placed after ἌΓΕ ΝῦΝ again resumed; thus Gebser, Hottinger, Schneckenburger; similarly Lange, according to whom ἌΓΕ ΝῦΝ “refers to the announcement of the judgment, which comes out quite clear in chap. James 5:1 , but is here darkly and menacingly alluded to.”

ΟἹ ΛΈΓΟΝΤΕς ] ye who say. λέγειν is to be retained in its usual signification; comp. chap. James 2:14 . Theile, without reason, explains it: qui non solum cogitare soletis sed etiam dicere audetis.

ΣΉΜΕΡΟΝ ΚΑῚ ΑὔΡΙΟΝ ] announces the precise duration of the intended journey not when it should commence, but how long it should endure. With this explanation there is no difficulty in καί ; otherwise (as the Rec. reads) must stand. In καί there lies a greater confidence (Theile), as according to it a definite plan is fixed upon also for the morrow. According to Wiesinger, different instances are here taken together, as in 2 Corinthians 13:1 (so already Bengel: unus dicit hodie, idem aliusve eras, ut commodum est); according to this, ΚΑΊ would have to be explained: “and relatively” (sec Meyer on that passage); but the indefiniteness contained therein does not suit the certainty with which these people speak. Lange’s meaning is unjustified: “that ΑὔΡΙΟΝ is used for the undefined future subsequent to to-day.”

ΠΟΡΕΥΣΌΜΕΘΑ ] The indicative we shall journey expresses the certain confidence more strongly than the conjunctive let us journey; see critical remarks.

εἰς τήνδε τὴν πόλιν ] Luther: into this and that city. This explanation is also in Winer, p. 146 [E. T. 201], who adduces for it τήνδε τὴν ἡμέραν in Plutarch, Symp. i. 6. 1; but Al. Buttmann (p. 90 [E. T. 103]), on the other hand, correctly asserts that the pronoun in that passage, as everywhere among Greek authors, has its full demonstrative meaning, and that therefore it must be understood in James in the same sense; thus Schirlitz (p. 222) observes that the pronoun is here used δεικτικῶς ; see also Lünemann’s remark in Winer, Exodus 7:0 , p. 153; still it is not to be explained, with Schneckenburger: in hanc urbem, quae in conspectu quasi sita est; but, with Theile: certa fingitur, quae vero verie eligi potest. Those introduced as speaking mean each time a definite city; but as this differs with different persons, James could only indicate it in an indefinite manner, and he does so by the pronoun by which each time a definite city is pointed to; thus into the city which the traveller had chosen as his aim. By πορεύεσθαι εἰς τ . πολ . is indicated not merely the going into the city, but also the journey to the city in which they would remain.

ΚΑῚ ΠΟΙΉΣΟΜΕΝ Κ . Τ . Λ . ] we will spend there a year; ποιεῖν with a designation of time, as in Acts 15:33 ; Acts 20:3 , and other places; in the O. T. Proverbs 13:23 ; see also Nicarch. epigr. 35 (Jacobs’ ed.): ἐν ταύτπεποίηκα πολὺν χρόνον . Luther incorrectly translates it: “and will continue there a year;” [208] for ἐνιαυτὸν ἕνα is not the accusative of duration, but the proper objective accusative. The reading ἕνα fittingly expresses the confidence with which those introduced as speaking measure out their time beforehand, but not “their restless and unsteady conduct” (Lange).

καὶ ἐμπορευσόμεθα καὶ κερδήσομεν ] Bengel: καί frequens; polysyndeton exprimit libidinem animi securi.

ἐμπορεύεσθαι ] = to traffic; the final aim is designated by κερδήσομεν . That aim is worldly gain, which, in carnal security, is recognised as certain to be realized, so that it cannot fail. Kern correctly remarks: “Traffic is introduced only by way of example , as characterizing man’s doings with reference to the earthly life as contrasted with the life in God.” [209]

[207] Lange agrees with this in essentials, affirming that this section was principally addressed to the Jews; whereby he certainly proceeds from the erroneous supposition that the Epistle was directed to the Jews generally by the hands of the Jewish Christians.

[208] Stier correctly: “will spend there a year.” The opinion of Lange, that “ ποιεῖν along with a definition of time may likewise have indicated that the time in question is busily employed,” is contradicted by 2 Corinthians 11:25 .

[209] Lange indeed assents to this; but he thinks that the apostle, with a prophet’s glance, evidently describes beforehand the fundamental trait of the diabolically excited worldliness of his people, as it afterwards became more and more developed.

Verse 14

James 4:14 . James opposes to carnal security the uncertainty of the future and the transitoriness of life.

οἵτινες ] = ut qui; correctly Wiesinger: “Ye who are of such a character that,” etc.

οὐκ ἐπίστασθε τὸ ( τὰ ) τῆς αὔριον ] indicates the ignorance of what the next day will bring forth; comp. Proverbs 3:28 ; Proverbs 27:1 : μὴ καυχῶ τὰ εἰς αὔριον , οὐ γὰρ γινώσκεις τί τέξεταιἐπιοῦσα : thus whether life will still last. What follows shows that James had this chiefly in view.

ποία γὰρζωὴ ὑμῶν ;] γάρ gives an explanation of οὐκ ἐπίστασθε .

ποία ] as in 1 Peter 2:20 , how constituted? with the subsidiary meaning of nothingness. By the reading adopted by Buttmann: οἵτινες οὐκ ἐπίστασθε τῆς αὔριον ποία ζωὴ ὑμῶν , the genitive τῆς αὔριον is dependent on ποία ζωή ; thus, “Ye know not how your life of to-morrow is circumstanced.” This idea is evidently feebler than the usual reading, for it is supposed that they yet live on the following day, which according to the other reading is denoted as doubtful.

ἀτμὶς γάρ ἐστε κ . τ . λ .] γάρ refers to the idea lying at the foundation of the preceding question, that life is entirely nothing.

ἀτμίς (in the N. T. only here and in Acts 2:19 , in an O. T. quotation), literally breath; thus in Wis 7:25 , synonymous with ἀπόῤῥοια , has in the O. T. and the Apocrypha chiefly the meaning of smoke; thus Genesis 19:28 : ἀτμὶς καμίνου ; so also Sir 22:24 ; Ezekiel 8:11 : ἀτμὶς τοῦ θυμιάματος ; Sir 24:15 : λιβάνου ἀτμίς ; see also Joel 3:3 ; Sir 43:4 ; in the classics it also occurs in the meaning of vapour. According to Biblical usage, it is here to be taken in the first meaning (smoke); thus Lange; Luther translates it by vapour; de Wette and Wiesinger, by steam.

ἐστε is stronger than the Rec. ἐστι ; not only their life, but also they themselves are designated as a smoke; as in chap. James 1:10 it is also said of the πλούσιος , that he shall fade away as the flower of the grass.

By ἡ πρὸς ὀλίγονἀφανιζομένη ] the nature of the smoke is stated.

πρὸς ὀλίγον ] = for a little time; ὀλίγον is neuter.

καί is to be explained: as it appears, so it also afterwards vanishes. In the corresponding passages, Job 8:9 , Psalms 102:12 ; Psalms 144:4 , the transitoriness of life is represented not under the image of ἀτμίς (Wiesinger), but of a shadow; differently in Psalms 102:4 .

Verse 15

James 4:15 . After the reason has been given in James 4:14 why it was wrong to speak as in James 4:13 , this verse tells us how we ought to speak.

ἀντὶ τοῦ λέγειν ὑμᾶς ] is closely connected with οἱ λέγοντες , James 4:13 , so that James 4:14 forms a parenthesis: Ye who say, To-day, etc., instead of saying , ἐὰνκύριος κ . τ . λ .

According to the reading ζήσομεν καὶ ποιήσομεν (instead of the Rec. ζήσωμεν καὶ ποιήσωμεν ), it is most natural to refer καὶ ζήσομεν not to the protasis (as Tischendorf punctuates it), but to the apodosis (Lachmann and Buttmann; so also Wiesinger and Lange); for, first, it is grammatically more correct [210] to make only the conjunctive ΘΕΛΉΣῌ dependent on ἘΆΝ , and to take the two indicatives together; and, secondly, from this construction the striking thought results, that not only the doing, but also the life, as the condition of the doing, is dependent on the will of God: it is accordingly to be translated: If the Lord will, we shall both live and do this or that. Correctly Wiesinger: “It appears to be more suitable to the sense to take ἐὰν ὁ κ . θελ . as a single condition, and not to complete it by a second.” On the other hand, most expositors retain the reading of the Rec. , but they construe it differently. De Wette refers καὶ ζήσωμεν to the protasis, and takes the second ΚΑΊ as belonging to the apodosis: “If the Lord will and we live, we shall,” etc.; so also Erasmus, Luther, Calvin, Hornejus, Pott, and in general most expositors (also Winer, see critical remarks; on the contrary, Al. Buttmann, p. 311 [E. T. 362], prefers the indicative). Schneckenburger, indeed, refers ΚΑῚ ΖΉΣΩΜΕΝ to the protasis, but he connects it more closely with ἘᾺΝ ΘΕΛΉΣῌ : si Deo placet ut vivamus tum faciemus (similarly Grotius and Hottinger), which, however, cannot be linguistically justified. Bornemann (in Winer and Engelhardt’s N. krit. Journ. VI. 1827) commences the apodosis with καὶ ζήσωμεν , and explains it: “Let us seek our sustenance.”

Winer correctly observes that this explanation (which Brückner erroneously ascribes to this commentary) lacks simplicity, and is not supported by Biblical usage. [211] Bouman and others (see critical notes) refer ΖΉΣΩΜΕΝ naturally to the protasis, and ΠΟΙΉΣΟΜΕΝ to the apodosis. The meaning which this reading, unsupported by authorities, gives appears to be suitable, but yet is not correct, for it would be more correct to have said: ἘᾺΝ ΖΉΣΩΜΕΝ ΚΑῚ ΚΎΡΙΟς ΘΕΛΉΣῌ .

The indicative is to be preferred to the conjunctive in the apodosis, as a reciprocal call to definite action corresponds less with the context than the resolution to do something.

[210] The indicative future after ἐάν is only found with absolute certainty in Luke 19:40 . See Al. Buttmann, p. 192 [E. T. 222].

[211] The opinion which Winer, in Exodus 5:0 , p. 331 f. [see E. T. 357], has expressed, that perhaps no apodosis is to be assumed, James only intending to say that we should always resolve never to speak decidedly, he has in later editions correctly relinquished.

Verse 16

James 4:16 expresses the conduct of those addressed in contrast to James 4:15 ; and in such a manner that the judgment upon that conduct is also expressed.

νῦν δέ ] here, as frequently, where the reality in opposition to what is set before a person is emphasized; see 1 Corinthians 5:11 ; 1 Corinthians 14:6 .

καυχᾶσθε ἐν ταῖς ἀλαζονείαις ὑμῶν ] By ἀλαζονεία is to be understood the arrogant self-reliance on the duration of earthly prosperity; see explanation of 1 John 2:16 . De Wette inaccurately explains it by bragging; Theile, by arroganter facta, dicta; Schneckenburger, by pertness ; Wiesinger, by “those arrogant expressions affecting complete independence;” Lange, “by vain and arrogant self-exaltation;” and others differently. The plural is used, because such haughtiness manifests itself differently under different circumstances.

ἐν ] here used differently than in chap. James 1:9 : the ἀλαζονείαι are not the object, but the reason of the boasting, that from which it proceeds (against Wiesinger), and καυχᾶσθαι is designated from the standpoint of James: that haughty and presumptuous language in James 4:13 ; comp. Proverbs 27:1 .

With the following words: πᾶσα καύχησις κ . τ . λ .] James definitely expresses his reprobation.

τοιαύτη ] not every boasting in itself (chap. James 1:9 ), but every boasting which proceeds from ἀλαζονεία , which is founded in it and connected with it, is wicked.

Verse 17

James 4:17 . With the general sentence: Whosoever knoweth to do good and doeth it not, to him it is sin , James concludes what he has hitherto said.

οὖν ] is used in the sense of conclusion, but indicates that the concluding thought is the result of what has gone before.

καλὸν ποιεῖν ] belong together, dependent on εἰδότι ; not “whosoever knows the good that is to be done,” which would be to take ποιεῖν as an epexegetical infinitive. Wiesinger correctly remarks: “ καλόν is not the idea of good, in which case the article would be put, but that which is fair, in contrast to an action which in its moral nature is πονηρόν .” That the discourse is concerning a sin of omission as such, to which this sentence is commonly referred (Bengel, Jachmann, and others), is rightly contested by de Wette and Wiesinger. [212]

ἉΜΑΡΤΊΑ ΑὐΤῷ ἘΣΤΊΝ ] De Wette: “In the sense of reckoning; John 15:22 ; Luke 12:47 f.” (so already Estius, also Schneckenburger, Wiesinger, and others).

ΑὐΤῷ is here put, as frequently in the N. T., especially after the participle; comp. Matthew 5:40 ; see Al. Buttmann, p. 125 [E. T. 143]. With regard to the connection in which this sentence stands with the preceding, most expositors understand it as enforcing that to which James has formerly exhorted his readers, and refer ΕἸΔΌΤΙ to the knowledge which they have now received by the word of James. But against this is the objection, that if this expression be referred to all the previous exhortations (Estius: jam de omnibus satis vos admonui, vobis bene nota sunt), this would not be its proper place, because later on more exhortations follow; but if it is only referred to the last remark (Grotius: moniti estis a me, ignorantiam non potestis obtendere, si quid posthac tale dixeritis, gravior erit culpa; so also Pott, Theile, de Wette, Wiesinger), we cannot see why James should have added such a remark to this exhortation, as it would be equally suitable to any other. It is accordingly better to refer ΕἸΔΌΤΙ to the already existing knowledge of the subject just treated of; namely, the uncertainty of human life is something so manifest, that those who notwithstanding talk in their presumption as if it did not exist, as if their life were not dependent on God, contrary to their own knowledge, do not that which is seemly, but that which is unseemly, and therefore this is so much the more sin unto them. [213]

[212] “Since καλόν is the antithesis of πονηρόν , and not some positive good as beneficence, the defect of which is not πονηρόν , as de Wette correctly remarks, μὴ ποιοῦντι does not merely signify a sin of omission, but the omission of καλόν is necessarily a doing of πονηρόν .”

[213] When Lange, in arguing against this explanation, maintains that the word refers to the better knowledge of the readers, of evangelical behaviour in general, the definite connection of thought, in which here the general sentence is placed, is not properly considered by him.

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Bibliographical Information
Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on James 4". Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. 1832.