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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and Homiletical

James 4

Verses 1-3



James 4:1-3

1     From whence come wars and1 fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? 2Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and 3cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet2 ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask3, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.


Analysis:—See above in summary of contents. The Apostle comes now to worldly-mindedness [i.e. the lust of the world—M.] which lies at the bottom of the fanatical zeal of teaching and wrangling described in the preceding chapter. He began with the appearance of visionariness (James 1:0), passed on to party-spirit (James 2:0), then portrayed fanatical striving in its outward aspect (James 3:0) in order to come now to the inward disruptions and breaches among the readers of his Epistle and to worldly-mindedness, which is really the root from which they spring. By and by (James 4:4 etc.) we shall meet it in the shape of selfishness and a bias to apostasy (James 5:0), as self-righteousness ripe unto judgment. The Apostle moreover passes more and more from the Jewish Christians to the Judaizing Christians and from these to the real Judaistic Jews themselves. This suggests the remark that James put this Epistle into the hands of the Jewish Christians in order that it might influence all Jews, as it were, as a missionary instruction to the converted over against the unconverted, and to the rightly-converted over against the badly-converted. Notice the rapid transition from the thought immediately preceding, viz.: that righteousness can prosper only in peace, to the impressive question: πόθεν πόλεμοι, the answer to which is contained in a second question appealing (Wiesinger) to the conscience of the readers (Huther).

James 4:1. Whence then are wars and whence fightings?—Not only dogmatical disputes between the teachers (Schneckenburger), or civil contentions concerning “meum” and “tuum” (de Wette). It is a true picture of the hostile dissensions of the Jewish people. Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, Alexandrians, Samaritans—on this basis sprung up nothing but new dissensions; believing or Christian and unbelieving Jews. The former contained as yet in the germ the opposites of Nazarenes and Ebionites, of Essene-gnostic and Pharisaic-vulgar Ebionites, the latter the shocking discord which appeared in the Jewish war and during the siege of Jerusalem. The πόλεμοι were the basis: the condition of war [warlike attitude], the μάχαι, single quarrels and fightings, which certainly partook occasionally of the character of skirmishes and at a later period even of battles; this is denied by Laurentius: “non loquitur Apostolus de bellis et cædibus, sed de mutuis dissidiis, litibus, jurgiis et contentionibus.” [Alford renders “militate.” To act the soldier is the real meaning of στρατευομένων.—M. ].

Is it not hence?—The explanation; for ἐντεῦθεν is not a separate question: from hence? (Michaelis).

From your lusts.ἡδοναί are more than ἐπιθυμίαι (Huther); they are desires actualized, a life of sensual indulgence (Luther: voluptuousness, Wollüste). These wage war chiefly in the members. The members need hardly be emphasized as being the camp of the lusts (Wiesinger); nor is the idea that they war against the soul (Romans 7:23; 1 Peter 2:11; de Wette) the leading idea. Theile, Schneckenburger and others rightly apply the term to the war of the lusts among themselves. Huther thinks it denotes an inward warfare against our fellow-men, but ἡδοναί would hardly be the most suitable word to bring out that idea. We might however think of the members in a restricted and in a wider sense; the members of individuals and the members of the people. From the individual Jew, whose lusts become inimically opposed in his members, the division and dissension between spiritual selfishness and vain worldly-mindedness are communicated to the members of the whole nation. Wiesinger thinks the fightings denote opposition of the ἐπιθυμεῖν and the οὐκ ἔχειν. The fruitless struggling however is only an appearance and a judgment of this fighting. It is described in four gradations: 1, desiring; 2, murdering and envying; 3, fighting and warring; 4, praying and not receiving. To the first corresponds not having, to the second not obtaining, to the third an increased not having, to the fourth an increased not receiving. The first grade denotes Judaism full of chiliastic worldly-mindedness up to the time of the New Testament. The second grade describes particularly the attitude of the Jews towards the Christians. The third grade comprises the development of the Jewish war. The fourth is mainly the history of Judaism after the destruction of Jerusalem. Such a definite mapping out of periods was of course not intended by the Apostle, but it describes the process of the development of Judaism as unfolded by history. The common construction that the reference here is either to the desire of individuals or of entire churches, and the limitation of the object of that desire to worldly riches and glory are inadequate to the prophetical relation in which James stood to his people. [Alford cites a remarkable parallel from Plato, Phædo. p. 66, c: καὶ γὰρ πολέμους καὶ στάσεις καὶ μάχας οὐδὲν ἄλλο παρέχειτὸ σῶμα καὶ αἱ τοῦτου ἐπιθυμίαι.—M.].

James 4:2. Ye desire it and ye have it not.—The indefinite object at all events is implied; in the most general sense the object of the chiliastico-judaistic longing for the world [ Welt-sehnsucht, i.e. longing for the dominion of the world—M.], in the utmost variety of form and colour, nominally the fruit of righteousness, James 3:18. The antithesis pregnantly expresses the fruitlessness of the struggle. Ye have not has of course also the sense: ye receive not (de Wette); but it declares at the same time that they receive not, because they have not, because they are empty (Luke 19:26). [Desire is not possession; there is many a slip between the cup and the lip.—M.].

Ye murder and ye envy.—This strong expression has induced commentators to submit various modifications of it arising from their supposition that the Apostle here addresses only Christians and refers as yet only to the internal dissensions among the members themselves. Ye kill your own soul (Oecumenius), ye envy (according to the conjectured reading φθονεῖτε, Erasmus, Calvin and many others), ye hate (according to the doctrine that hatred is murder in thought 1 John 3:15. Luther, Estius, Wiesinger, Huther) ye strive even to murder and death (Carpzov, Schneckenburger). Winer rightly advocates the literal sense of the term. That ζηλοῦτε is not mentioned first proves nothing: for the two terms are not intended to a stronger and a weaker degree of conduct, but the negative and positive sides of their conduct. They committed murder because they thought they were zealous for the glory of God. With their striving they were hunting for the fleshly ideal of the glorifying of their religion. On that account also murder must come first. The twelve tribes, however, who had already killed the Lord Himself and Stephen, who were in part responsible for the death of the Baptist and James the son of Zebedee, who had already shown the disposition to kill Paul, and who soon after did kill the author of the Epistle himself, had to submit to this address; the Christians among them were at least sympathizing with these national offences. But their acts of murder and strife were wholly in vain, as were afterwards the acts of the inquisition, the hierarchical judicial murders and religious wars of the zeal of the middle ages from the Crusade against the Albigenses to the Thirty years’ War. Ye do not attain your terrible, hypocritical end, the Babel of conscience-monarchy in the pseudo-glory of Zion.

Ye fight and ye make war.—These words are not merely explanatory of πόλεμοι James 4:1 (Huther), for the primary reference is no longer to the quarrels among the Jews themselves. Their individual words become at last open fighting, and this leads to open warfare. Hence οὐκ ἔχετε is repeated here, and, as we read with Griesbach and Lachmann, with καὶ preceding it, “and yet ye have not, i.e. ye get it not.” We join this with what goes before in order to constitute the third antithesis, not with what follows (Huther) to introduce the specification of the cause of all their disappointments.—Not till then follows the reason, not only of the frustration of their warring, but also of their murderous striving and desiring. All lacks the true life of prayer, which purifies, hallows and adjusts our efforts to the Divine disposition of affairs. But the probable protestation of the Judaists: “we pray much,” prompts the Apostle to add an ironical self-correction which brings out the fourth and most terrible antithesis. Their asking (αἰτεῖν) is evil praying (αἰτεῖσθαι. The Apostle having introduced an interchange of Active and Middle—see Winer, p. James 297: Matthiä 2. p. 1097.—he may here either take the Active as denoting importunate asking or the Middle as denoting egotistical praying for oneself. The latter is probably intended.), and for the reason that they pray for the help of Jehovah for a fulness of prosperity which they intend to squander in the lusts of their worldly mind. We have here to remind the reader of the visionary expectations of the Jews during the destruction of Jerusalem, of their gloomy lamentations in the post-christian synagogue (how they make God Himself weep over the unhappiness of His people) and of their vain, worldly striving and their description of the most sensual carousals in the future Kingdom of God.


1. It is indeed a sad contrast if we oppose the name of Christ as that of the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6) to the wretched quarrels and disputes of those who call themselves Christians and yet not uncommonly carry on such quarrels in His name. The question of James “Whence are wars and whence fightings among you?” may be addressed with equal pertinence to the countless sects and parties in just as many Christian communities in every age of the Church’s history. The cause is really still the same now which it was in the Apostolic age, viz.: the carnal mind which exhibits the selfishness of the natural man, after he has been baptized. The Church of Christ, which ought to be a Zion of peace, has in consequence become a Babel of confusion. But the serpent-seed of discord bears even now the same unhappy fruit which it did then. The sword which the loveless man turns against his brother, wounds his own hands, and in proportion as men covet what is their neighbour’s, they themselves grow poorer in true peace.

2. There is no greater enemy of the true spirit of prayer than the spirit of quarrelsomeness and contention, cf. 1 Peter 3:7. It is impossible to find faith where love is wanting; how then can the unbelieving prayer of an ἀνὴρ δίψυχος (cf. James 1:6-8) obtain any thing at the Lord’s hand? Many a complaint of prayers not answered would surely cease, if men did not confine themselves to hearing their hearts only concerning the disappointment they have experienced, but would also examine their consciences concerning hidden guilt, which renders the hearing of prayer on the part of God morally impossible. Cf. Isaiah 1:11-15.

3. Prayer in order to be well-pleasing to God must ever go hand-in-hand with a God-consecrated life. There is no greater horror in the sight of God than prayer which irreconcilably contradicts the inward and outward life. Cf. Proverbs 28:9; Psalms 34:16-17.

4. The Christian is permitted, to pray also for outward things, provided it be done in the spirit of absolute submission and resignation to the Divine Will, to the glory of His name and in the name of Christ. The rule Matthew 6:33, applies also here. If this mind is wanting, prayer will not be followed by peace filling the heart, and this very want of true peace consequent upon prayer is an intimation that we need not expect the fulfilment of the desire uttered by us in prayer. Cf. Conférences sur la prière, par J. Martin, Paris, 1849, p. 3 etc.

5. Prayer is evil first respect of the object, if we pray for some vain, unprofitable or foolish thing; secondly in consideration of the disposition, if we pray in a vain, covetous and boisterous spirit, that is without submission and filial trust, without leaving every thing at the disposal of God. Heubner.


The disputes and quarrels in the Christian Church—a great proof how little the wisdom which is from above is understood and practised, James 3:16.—Every sensual and selfish lust which is not killed in the heart of the Christian, sooner or later must work disastrously to the detriment of fraternal communion.—Disappointed hopes I should not fill us with bitterness and hatred against one another, but rather prompt us to humility and believing, confiding prayer.—It is not sufficient to pray only, all depends upon the manner how we pray and in what spirit.—God not a God of disorder, but a God of peace in all churches of the saints, cf. 1 Corinthians 14:33.—The history of prayers that have not been heard. Examples: Deuteronomy 3:26; John 11:3-6; 2 Corinthians 12:8-9 etc.—Prayer the true thermometer of the spiritual life—He who prays illy need not expect more than he who prays not at all.—What our Lord said to Salome applies to many a praying man, Matthew 20:22.—In prayer we must not think first and foremost of ourselves, but chiefly of the glory of God and the welfare of our neighbour.—A Christian prays not that he may bend the will of God according to his will, but in order that he may shape his will according to God’s.—No prayer without work, no work without prayer.—

By caring and by fretting,
By agony and fear,
There is of God no getting,
But prayer He will hear.

Mit Sorgen und mit Grämen
Und mit selbsteigner Pein

Lässt Gott sich gar nichts nehmen,

Es muss erbeten sein.      cf. Psalms 127:1-2.

Starke:—Even with believers Satan attempts to bring about all manner of evil. He sows tares among the wheat, Matthew 13:25.

Langii, Op.:—The wars of the world are nothing but outbreaks of the evil heart, in which the evil lusts fight against God, against man and also among themselves, Psalms 140:3.

Cramer:—Many a man rakes and scrapes and strives to get everything for his own use to no purpose, and labours tooth and nail but only hinders himself therewith.

Quesnel:—It is a great mercy of God not to hear men if they offer unjust prayers, Psalms 66:18.

Stier:—It is natural that the heathen, before Christ teaches them peace, break the battle-bow (Zechariah 9:10) and live fighting and warring with one another; but where Christendom knows and confesses the name of God, peace ought surely to be there. To be sure, this so-called Christendom upon earth, inclosing (not contrary to the Divine purpose) as a net many nations, is far from being the Church of Saints, the Body of the Lord, animated and occupied by His Spirit; hence to this day bloody wars are waged even between Christian nations, and it cannot be otherwise because of righteousness against unrighteousness; the vigorous conduct of such wars is the Christian duty of rulers and ruled (kings and subjects) in the right place to which the sword put by God into hands [of lawful authority—M.] belongs. Moreover the good fight of faith must go on among Christian nations, states and churches, the sword of the spirit must be drawn against whatever is unchristian and ungodly, just as every holy man must fight for peace with the. devil and with the world. But James makes no reference whatever to this good fight; he doubtless includes pure zeal for the truth in love, directed against all unrighteousness and whatever belong thereto in word or deed, in the peace in which the fruit of righteousness should be sown (James 3:18). But for all, enough remains for this cutting question: “Whence are wars and whence are fightings among you, quarrelling and discord in word and deed among brethren and members of the Church of God, evil wars on a small scale like those without among the nations?”

Jakobi:—Do not even desire that which cannot benefit thee in things pertaining to God, and whatever thou dost desire, desire it only in as far as it furthers thy eternal salvation. But if thou prayest only in order to have and to enjoy, if thou openest communication with God only in order to receive or as it were to extort from Him worldly gifts, thou dost indeed draw nigh to Him with thy mouth and serve Him with thy lips, but thy heart is far from Him.

Neander:—James like Paul here presupposes an inward conflict in man, the conflict between flesh and spirit. As Paul calls the powers of evil the law in the members, because the body is the outward manifestation of man and because the dominion of sinful desires exhibits itself on and in the body, so James speaks of the lusts that war in the members.

Viedebandt:—The real trouble-states (Störenfriede=disturbers of peace) in the world are seated deep in the hearts of men—the worldly lusts.—Peace among men is the consequence of peace in men.—Who carries his point among men by quarrelling, is always the loser no matter how much he may gain besides, for he loses with God.—There is relatively little praying in the world and besides, much of that little is evil praying.—Most men desire the gifts of God, not God Himself.—Envy seeks quarrel and quarrel brings woe.—We find often many obstacles in the way by our desires. Why? Because self-will and pride present obstacles to Divine help.

Lisco:—The sinful lusts.—The dissensions of worldly life.—The nature and consequence of lusts.

Porubszky:—The deepest root of all strife.

[James 4:1. Harmony ought to reign in the members (ἐν τοῖς μέλεσιν. The word μέλος signifies 1. a limb, a member; 2. a song and then the music to which a song is set, an air, a tune, a melody. ἐν μέλει, in tune, harmoniously. The Greek word μέλος would suggest the double idea of member and harmony to a Greek ear and I cannot but consider the selection of the word to have contemplated such an allusion), but now they exhibit strife and discord, the confusion of the camp and the violence of an armed soldiery. The lusts act the part of soldiers (στρατευομένων), they are not only encamped within us and foraging (Alford), but they are acting the part of soldiers, engaging in all the offices of military service.—M.].

[1. φονεύετε. This was especially true of those bands of λῃσταὶ, sicarii, robbers and assassins, who, under the name of zealots, infested Jewish society at this time, and at last made the Temple itself a den of assassins. See Matthew 21:13. Evidences of the blood-thirsty spirit of rage, which now like a fiend possessed the heart of large numbers of the people, may be seen in the murderous plots and violent and frequent outbreaks at this period, mentioned in Josephus (see below), and in the Gospel and Acts, such as that of Barabbas (Matthew 27:16; John 18:40), and of Judas of Galilee, and Theudas (Acts 5:36), and the Egyptian (Acts 21:38), and the conspiracy against St. Paul (Acts 23:12-14). There may also be a reference here to the cry of the multitude assembled from all parts of the Jewish dispersions at the Passover, “Crucify Him” (Matthew 15:13-14). Wordsworth.—M.].

[Whitby cites the following passages from Josephus. Bell. Judges 4:10; Judges 2:1; Antiq. 18, 1; Bell. Jude 1:2Jude 1:2, Jude 1:23; Jude 1:7, 31; I. 405.—M.].


[1] James 4:1. A. B. C. Cod Sin. and al. insert a second πόθεν.

Lange: Whence then [are] wars and whence fightings among you? Is it not hence: from your lusts, which [especially] wage war in your members.
[Whence are …? Are they not …—M.]

[2] James 4:2. Rec. and some minuscules read δὲ after ἔχετε. A. B. G. K. οὐκ ἔχετε; C. Cod. Sin. Vulg. Griesbach and al. καὶ οὐκ ἔχετε.

Lange: Ye desire it and ye have it not, ye murder and ye strive and ye cannot obtain it; ye fight and ye make war, and ye get it not, because ye ask not.
[Ye desire and ye have not: ye commit murder and ye envy, and are not able to obtain; ye fight and make war, and ye have not, because ye ask not.—M.]

[3] James 4:3. Notice the interchange of αἰτεῖτε and αἰτεῖσθε. Cod. Sin. intensifies the last word of this sentence into καταδαπ.

Lange: Ye ask and receive it not, because ye ask illy [desirable in your interest] that ye may waste it in your lusts.
[ye ask and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may spend it in your lusts.—M.]

Verses 4-17



James 4:4-17

4     Ye adulterers4 and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world5 is enmity with God6 whosoever7 therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy8 of 5God. Do ye think that the Scripture saith in vain,9 The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy? 6But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. 7Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist10 the devil, and he will flee from you. 8Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye doubleminded. 9Be afflicted, and mourn, and11 weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. 10Humble yourselves in the sight of the12 Lord, and he shall lift you up. 11Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and13 judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a Judges 12:0 There is one lawgiver,14 who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou15 that judgest another?16 13Go to now, ye that say, To day or17 to morrow we will go18 into such a city, and continue19 there20 a year,21 and buy and sell, and get gain: 14Whereas ye know not what22 shall be on the morrow. For what is your life?23 It Isaiah 24:0 even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and25 then vanisheth away. 15For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will,26 we shall live,27 and do this, or that. 16But now ye rejoice28 in your boastings: all29 such rejoicing is evil. 17Therefore to him that knoweth to do30 good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.


Analysis:—Reproach of the impending apostasy, James 5:4.—Exhortation to a better and higher aim, James 4:5-6.—The characteristics of their conversion to God on theocratic fundamental ideas (the new allegiance of the people of God, their purification, penitential mourning, and humiliation according to their situation) James 4:7-10.—Renovation of their conduct towards the brethren, James 4:11-12.—Dissuasion from their restless, gain-seeking and self-willed wandering through the world in consideration of the approaching storm of judgment James 4:13-15.—Reproof of their false security and forewarning of their conscience, James 4:16-17.

Reproach of the impending apostasy.

James 4:4. Ye adulteresses, know ye not.—The fact, that the majority of commentators are in favour of the Text. Rec. the authorities to the contrary notwithstanding, and that they consequently read; “ye adulterers and adulteresses,” is rightly accounted for by Huther, who says that it arises from their taking the term in a literal sense, “which is expressly done by Augusti, Lachmann and Winer.” But we can hardly conceive any thing more extravagant than to suppose that James would brand all Jewish Christians as literal adulterers and adulteresses. It is however in perfect keeping with the symbolical language of the Old Testament that James here describes the Judaistic bias to apostasy from the living God of revelation, Psalms 73:27; Isaiah 57:3; Ezekiel 23:27; Hosea; Matthew 12:39; Matthew 16:4; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Revelation 2:22. The wonder is that t this passage has not led commentators to learn the symbolical character of the whole Epistle, and more particularly the symbolical character of the rich in James 2:0 and James 5:0. The only suprising part of this exposition is the occurrence of the feminine adulteresses, a term which Theile considers to be not altogether fitting, which Wiesinger calls singular as applied to individuals, while Huther remarks that the term should be referred to Churches. Besides it is noteworthy that symbolical adultery according to the usage of the Old Testament and according to the figure itself is feminine inasmuch as it describes the apostasy of the Lord’s bride. To this must be added that the Apostle is not addressing now the Jewish Christian Churches in particular, but Judaism in general, such as, in the preceding section, he saw it sundered into the most diverse factions. The Plural probably denotes this disruption, not only the several synagogues but also the several factions.

Know ye not.—From your theocratical calling to the covenant with God as opposed to the ungodly world, and from your teaching and knowledge.

That the friendship of the world:—That is befriending and alliance with an ungodly world (James 1:27; cf. 1 John 2:15), not merely inclination to wordly goods (Theile and al.), nor worldly desires (Laurentius), nor both of these together (de Wette). The world is personified in this antithesis; it is idolatry depicted as a whole, the vanity of mankind deifying itself and deified (i.e., ungodliness showing itself in its propensity for the impersonal) connected with the whole visible world frustrated by it. The Judaistic friendship for the world, which must be taken chiefly in an active sense, consisted just in the chiliastic desire of enjoying a worldly glory which at the best was only dyed hierarchically pious (in sensual enjoyment, honour and dominion cf. Matthew 4:0). It is to be noticed that this vain worldliness concealed itself under the garb of a pious fleeing from the world (the hatred of heathenism, even of Gentile-christian, pretended uncleanness).

Is enmity of God.—Here also the predominant active sense must be held fast “on which account the majority of commentators interpret it straightway by ἔχθρα εἰς θεόν (Romans 8:7)” Huther. Lachmann following the inimica of the Vulgate, has even adopted the reading ἐχθρὰ [which, however, is also the reading of the Cod. Sin.—M.], which greatly weakens the weight of the idea.

Whoever therefore shall be minded to be a friend of the world.—Inference drawn from what precedes. Ὅς βουληθῇ. The difficulty which has been found in this expression, because it seems to involve an intentional choice of evil, is set aside if we distinguish between a formal and a material intention. The Apostle certainly could not suppose his readers to have the formal intention of surrendering to the world. But it was very different with the material intention of taking a direction in worldliness which involved the friendship of the world. But this was precisely the case with the rebellious chiliasm of the Jews, even with the worldly-mindedness of Judaistic Christians. And in this sense the term certainly lays stress both on the conscious intention (Baumgarten) and on the antithesis of their doing which had already become a reality. Whosoever is devoted to the world, although as yet only in his heart (not, as Wiesinger, who for the present is only inclined that way), has stood up as the enemy of God, because our attitude to God is determined by the attitude of our heart. The Lord looketh at the heart. Huther’s laying stress on the construction that the world must be taken here as an aggregate of persons, because φιλία then consists in a reciprocity, seems to be an expedient beside the mark. That the world is represented as an aggregate of persons stands to reason; but the question is whether the persons are to be honoured as persons or dishonoured as impersonal things as a means of selfishness. However he rightly observes that καθίσταται here as in James 3:6, must not be weakened, but denotes “he takes the attitude.” We render “he stands up,” or “appears,” because this brings out the as yet inward character of his attitude. [On the whole “is constituted” seems to be the best rendering of the term in English; it does not touch the inward or the outward attitude in particular but involves either and this seems really to be the Apostle’s meaning. It is immaterial whether the man’s purpose be latent, uttered in words or manifest in deeds, in any case he is constituted an enemy of God.—M.].

Exhortation to a better and higher aim, James 4:5-6.

James 4:5. Or do ye fancy that the Scripture saith in vain.—This passage is one of the most difficult in the New Testament; we must therefore refer the reader to the Commentaries for a full discussion of the question (see Schneckenburger, Beiträge, p. James 193: Huther, Wiesinger, etc.). We have first to set aside the really desperate expositions which aim at improving the text (see Huther’s note p. 166) and then the connection of πρὸς φθόνον with what goes before. The Scripture saith against envy (du Mont), or: Think ye that the Scripture speaks in vain and enviously (πρὸς φθόνον adverbially, Gebser)? But in that case πρὸς φθόνον ought to precede λέγει. We consider the exposition of Beza, Grotius and al.: “The spirit of man has a natural bias to envy” as underrated by Huther. In that case the words have to be connected with what the Scripture says of the envy of Cain, and similar passages. But that exposition is inadmissible, for 1. The spirit is described as having taken up its abode in us and consequently distinguished from ourselves, 2. μείζονα κ. τ. λ. would be without a subject. The first difficulty, indeed, would be obviated if we could take πνεῦμα in the sense of πνεῦμα φθόνου according to Wisd, 2, 24.= διάβολος. Huther undervalues the similar exposition of Semler ad. James 5:7, saying, “because of its strangeness we make room for Semler’s note on this passage: Jacobus, Paulus, Petrus, Judas uno quasi ore id confirmant, opus esse, ut Romanis et sic (!) Deo se subjiciant” and further on: “τῷ διαβόλῳ, qui per πνεῦμα φθόνου vos suscitat adversus magistratum romanum.” But the want of a subject to μεἰζονα deters us from adopting this exposition somewhat as follows: even the Holy Scripture testifies that there has come among us a spirit which excites that envy which is the specific attribute of that love of the world which causes the wars and fightings described above (see the book of Jonah). Less tenable is the exposition which makes the spirit to denote the Divine Spirit but takes the respective words interrogatively, as follows, “num ad invidiam proclivis est Spiritus Sanctus? minime” (so Gabler and similarly Bede, Calvin and al.). Where the citation from Holy Writ introduces the subject, we hardly expect an interrogative sentence. The interpretation of de Wette, Huther and al. is at present urged more than any other. Huther: “Or do ye think that the Scripture speaks in vain? (No) the Spirit, that has taken His abode in us, enviously desires us, but gives (so much the) more grace; therefore He saith,” etc.—The parentheses abundantly show how very forced is this interpretation, which is also advocated by Schneckenburger and al. Our objections to it are as follows: 1. The anthropomorphism “that the Spirit of God loves us even unto envy” is too strong. The reference to ζῆλος, the jealousy of God in the conjugal relation He sustains to His people, is allowable but ζῆλος is not φθόνος, which is uniformly mentioned in Holy Scripture as a source of evil. To this must be added 2. The postulated supplements and the defective antithesis “but He gives so much the more grace,” etc. But this mode of expression at first sight grows even more dark, if we understand with Wiesinger τὸ πνεῦμα as the object of the human spirit, supplying ὀ θεός as the subject: Divine Love enviously desires the object of its Love, that is, the human spirit from God (i.e., aus Gott=emanating from God—M.], which turns either to God or to the world. If we bear in mind that θεός had been named immediately before, the envious loving remains in the first place, and then appears as a loving which is only directed to the Spirit. This applies also to the similar interpretation of Theile, who supplies however ἡ γραφή instead of ὁ θεός. However, even if we wished to retain the interpretation of Wiesinger or Huther we should be obliged to go back to the passage Exodus 20:5. The jealousy of God would be expressed in His visiting the iniquity of idolatry (=adultery) on the children of the third and fourth generation, and the antithesis “but showing mercy unto thousands, etc.,” would be adequately expressed in μείζονα δὲ δίδωσι χάριν. With reference to the citation in question, we have the following conjectures which we give in brief from Huther: Genesis 6:8; Genesis 6:5 (Grotius), Genesis 8:21 (Erasmus, Beza, etc.), Numbers 11:29 (Witsius), Deuteronomy 5:9 (Schneckenburger), Deuteronomy 32:21 (Heisen), Psalms 119:20 (Clericus), Proverbs 21:10 (Michaelis), Song of Solomon 8:6 (Coccejus), Wisdom of Song of Solomon 6:12 (Wettstein). Others again have gessed at passages from the New Testament, at some lost passage in the prophets, at a passage in the Apocryphal book called the Testament of the twelve Patriarchs or at a collective statement of different passages of Holy Scripture. Huther denies the fact of a citation altogether and believes the reference to be to a statement of James and that ἡ γραφὴ λέγει adverts either to the idea immediately preceding or to the citation introduced with διὸ λέγει in James 5:6 : ὁ θεός, etc. After all the interpretations given, that of Luther (Gomarus, Bengel and al.) still continues to possess much weight, viz., “the spirit lusteth against hatred=invidia,” (cf. Galatians 5:17); in favour of which may be produced the following passages: Psalms 37:1, etc.; Psa 5:34, etc.; Psalms 73:3, etc. Huther can hardly dispute successfully that πρὸς φθόνον in point of language may be equivalent to κατὰ φθόνου and that ἐπιποθεῖν may be taken in the sense of ἐπιθυμεῖν. But we still want the subject for μείζονα δὲ κ. τ. λ. and we are driven to recognize it in πνεῦμα itself. Then it is the Divine Spirit in believers on the one hand, mediating in them a longing going beyond the love of the world (Romans 8:23-26), and on the other also a grace which is beyond all longing, praying and understanding (1 Corinthians 2:9; Eph. 3:22). We therefore construe the passage with reference to Psalms 37:1 and Psalms 73:3 as follows: “over against and opposed to envy (which is really at the bottom of your worldliness and is the very soul of your wars, fightings and insurrections) the Spirit who took abode among us, utters a higher longing (ἐπιποθεῖ emphatic), and not in vain; for the self-same Spirit mediates also the grace which goes even beyond our longing in Him.” The Jews in consequence of the envy of their worldliness became unbelieving with-respect to Christianity (Acts 13:45; Acts 22:22), and rebellious toward the Romans; but the spirit which lived and acted in the true theocrats from Abel to Asaph (Psalms 73:0) and from him and the prophets to the Christians, coming in contact with it [envy?—M.] was longing beyond it and its objects for the immortal. And as envy shows itself in the proud whom God opposes, so that longing shows itself in the humble to whom He gives grace. We therefore give our sense of this passage by way of paraphrase. The friendship of the world of which envy is really the soul, and the friendship of God, of which the longing of the Spirit is really the soul are incompatibles and inimically opposed to each other. This may be proved from Scripture. For as to our relation to God it says not without reason that the strong longing of the Divine Spirit, who took up His abode in us (who united with our spirit, is the spirit of prayer, of our yearning for heavenly riches; while as the Spirit of Divine consolation and peace He mediates for us a grace which is even greater than our longing), bids defiance to and is opposed to envy which is the truest form of the spirit of the world. But as to the relation of God to ourselves, the Scripture saith: God resists the haughty and proud who are at one with the spirit of envy, while He gives grace to the humble who are at one with the poor in spirit. On the meaning of πρός=in relation or in proportion to, or against, in opposition to cf. the Lexica. The sentence, more clearly defined, would read thus: πρὸς τὸ ποθεῖν τοῦ φθόνου ἐπιποθεῖ τὸ πνεῦμα.—The Comparative “greater (more) grace” must consequently not be referred to the antithesis: what the friendship of the world does give (Bede, Gebser and al.), or “eo majorem, quo longius recesseris ab invidia” (Bengel), or according to an obscure thought: as compared with the case that the πρὸς φθόνον ἐπιποθεῖν did not take place (Wiesinger, de Wette, Huther).

[Without reconsidering this bewildering conflict of opinions, the view which seems to harmonize best with the context and the line of James’ argument, is to take πνεῦμα as the object, and understanding the Holy Spirit, to supply ὁ Θεός as the subject and to render πρὸς φθόνον adverbially. “The (Holy) Spirit that He (God) planted in us, jealously desireth [us].” The expression is highly figurative and alludes to the conjugal relation between God and the soul of believers. The Spirit of God implanted in us, jealously desireth us, jealously desires us to break entirely with the world and to be wholly consecrated and devoted to God. Any temporizing with the world would be spiritual adultery.—Then as to the citation from Scripture referred to we hold with many commentators that James gives the general sense of Scripture without specifying a particular passage. Alford takes the same view.—M.].

James 4:6. This greater grace is the greater measure of the comforting and satisfying Spirit as related to the longing Spirit. διὸ λέγει, that is the same Scripture, not τὸ πνεῦμα. [But why not refer διὸ λέγει to τὸ πνεῦμα the Holy Spirit? He speaks in us and in the Holy Scriptures—M.]. διὸ is very apposite: just as the Scripture speaks of our relation to God, so it speaks of God’s relation to us. The passage in question is Proverbs 3:34 LXX., which has however ὁ κύριος instead of ὁ Θεός. [The same variation occurs in 1 Peter 5:5.—M.]. Ὑπερήφανοι (not exactly equivalent to the τὰ ὑψηλὰ φρονοῦντες in Romans 12:16) are the same as the rich in James 5:1 etc. or in the Sermon on the Mount, Luke 6:24 etc. In like manner the ταπεινοί represent the poor, the lowly, the wretched in a symbolical sense, so much comforted in the Old Testament, or the poor in spirit, the suffering, the meek and the merciful of the Sermon on the Mount.

The characteristics of conversion to God required of the readers of the Epistle, or theocratic fundamental ideas.—The new allegiance of the people of God. Their approach, purification, penitential mourning and humiliation according to their situation. James 4:7-10.

James 4:7. Subject yourselves therefore to God.—Now follows a series of theocratic ideas in the process of the New Testament fulfilment or completion, which significantly reflect in consecutive order the several moments of Jewish conversion; a circumstance which seems to be not sufficiently noticed by Exegesis. Subject yourselves to God; become once more His real subjects, as the people of God, in opposition to your leaning to apostasy. This is the first and the whole, an exhortation not exclusively addressed to the decided ὑπερήφανοι. Calvin emphasizes the circumstance that the reference is not to obedience to God in general, but to submissio in particular. Semler indeed maintained that they were exhorted “ut Romanis se subjiciant, et sic Deo,” but it is rather the reverse; they were first to subject themselves to God and then in consequence of it, to the power appointed to rule them. Their submission to the rule of the living God was moreover to exhibit itself in their humbly getting reconciled to the new order of things, the change of Judaism into Christianity, the unity of Jews and Gentiles in Christianity and the existing rule of pagan Rome.

But resist the devil.—Not only because he is the enemy of God and the prince of this world, by the attractions of which they suffer themselves to be enticed, but especially because he is the demon of self-boasting and envy, who assumes the garb of an angel of light, and desires then by representing that his temptation to sedition is a call from God, James 1:13.—Being only half-decided and doubting make the tempter bold and strong, while resolute courage in God and resistance unmask him in his impotence; for real courage and real power come from God; the power of Satan is a lying phantom-power (Matthew 4:0). It is only in the self-temptation of man that the temptation of Satan can become efficient. [Huther quotes Hermas, Pastor, 2, 12.—“δύναταιδιάβολς παλαῖσαι, κ̇αταπαλαῖσαι δὲ οὐ δύναται, ἐὰν οὖν , νικηθεὶς φεύξεται .”—M.].

Draw nigh to God.—The allegiance of the people of God is followed by their drawing near to Him. נָגַשׁ or קָרַב in relation to God is a specifically theocratical idea. Exodus 20:21; Exodus 24:2; Leviticus 16:1; Ezekiel 40:46; cf. Isaiah 29:13; Hebrews 7:19; hence the expression Korban, that which is consecrated or offered to God. Here drawing near is used in the N. T. real sense=convert yourselves. The particular although not the exclusive reference to prayer.

And He will draw nigh to you.—The antithesis “Resist the devil and he shall flee from you” corresponds to the antithesis “Draw nigh to God and He will draw nigh to you.” (See 2 Chronicles 15:2; Isaiah 57:15; Zechariah 1:3).

James 4:8. Cleanse the hands, ye sinners.—The first specifically theocratic act. The expression refers to the Levitical purifications, the negative part of Levitical repentance, separateness from the world. The prophets did already apply this symbolical purification to ethical purification or rather interpret it ethically according to its profound import. See Isaiah 1:15-16; Psalms 18:21; Psalms 24:4; “He that hath clean hands and a pure heart.” The hands are the organ and symbol of ethical actions. To cleanse the hands signifies therefore to repent (Pott), to become separate from evil works, especially from lovelessness and wrong. This summons does not begin the summons to conversion (Huther), for it is already implied in the words “Subject yourselves to God,” which branch out into two moments, the negative “to resist the devil,” and the positive “to draw nigh to God.” This approach to God, in its turn, branches out into purification and sanctification in the narrow sense.

Consecrate your hearts.—The real consecration of our life to God consists in the consecration of the heart, in its surrender to God (Psalms 51:12; Psalms 51:18-19; Proverbs 23:26; Jeremiah 31:33; 1 Peter 3:15 etc.). The words “ye sinners” relate to the cleansing of the hands, the words “ye double-minded” to the consecration of the heart. The term ἁγνίσατε probably alludes more particularly to the unchastity of the heart, as the source of religious adultery. Wavering and unchastity are here alike, so are on the other hand simplicity or decision and chastity.—They are sinners in a particular sense according to theocratic ideas, as far as they are about to excommunicate themselves by their evil actions (James 2:3), to burden themselves with the ban of the real congregation of God (publicans and: sinners=those who are liable to the discipline of the synagogue); but the reason lies in this double-mindedness, their wavering (James 1:7-8), l their mischievous halting between God and the world, between Christianity and apostasy. Calvin’s note is almost superfluous: “non duo hominum genera designat, sed eosdem vocat peccatores et duplices ammo.” It is evident from James 4:6; James 4:8 that this exhortation to their own self-activity presupposes the grace of God as the source of strength.

James 4:9. Feel miserable and mourn.—Hardly limited to the mourning which introduces and accompanies the repentance of individuals; the type is found in the Old Testament extraordinary acts of penitence which in situations of uncommon offences and peril were performed to complete the ordinary acts of penitence, viz. purifications and consecrations or offerings, Exodus 33:4; Judges 2:4; Judges 21:2; 1 Samuel 7:6 etc.—The verb ταλαιπωρεῖν (ἅπαξ λεγ. in N. T.; the adjective form in Romans 7:24; Revelation 3:17; the noun Romans 3:16; James 5:1), denotes primarily to go outwardly through hard work, to endure hardship or distress, then the inward sense of misery on account of outward or inward wretchedness. Grotius and Roman Catholic theologians apply it without reason to castigations. Jewish fasting and other castigations as symbols of penitential sorrow are indeed the type, but Christian penitential sorrow must not be changed back into legal symbolism.

Mourn and weep.—See Nehemiah 8:9; Mark 16:10; Luke 6:25; Revelation 18:15; Revelation 18:19. The putting on of mourning-apparel or sitting in sackcloth and ashes (Grotius) can only be the type of the Gospel requirement of inward mourning (2 Corinthians 7:10).

Let your laughter be turned.—Isaiah 65:13; Luke 6:25. “James passes from the outward manifestation (γέλως πένθος) to the inward state (χαράκατήφεια).” Huther.—κατήφεια, casting down of the eyes, literally and figuratively. Hence shame and humiliation, ἅπαξ λεγ., Luke 18:13.

James 4:10. Humble yourselves before the Lord.—The fundamental idea of the leadings of the Old Testament and the O. T. fundamental rule of piety and of the promises attached to it; it has met its fulfilment in the humiliation and exaltation of Christ and must be realized in the life of believers (Romans 6:4; Job 5:11; Ezekiel 21:26; Matthew 23:12; Luke 14:11; 1 Peter 5:6; cf. Sir 2:17). As this humbling must be realized inwardly in the bowing of repentance before God (ἐνώπιον κυρίου), and outwardly in the patient enduring of the humiliating state of servitude and lowliness (ὑπὸ τὴν χεῖρα τοῦ θεοῦ, 1. pet. James 5:6) appointed by Him, so the exaltation also should begin with the inward consciousness of the exaltation, liberty and glory of the Divine Sonship [i. e. the state of being the children of God in Christ=Gotteskindschaft; υἱοθεσία, adoption—M.] and come to its outward consummation in the future glory, of which we have however some antepast here on earth. κύριος does not exactly signify Christ (Grotius), nor θεός as opposed to Christ (Huther and al.). James wants to see the living God of revelation recognized in Christ.

Renovation of their conduct towards the brethren. James 4:11-12.

James 4:11. Do not calumniate one another, brethren.—Huther thinks that this exhortation, couched in a milder form than the preceding and exhibiting a contrast in the address, ἀδελφοί being opposed to μοιχαλίδες, ἁμαρτωλοί, δίψυχοι, intimates that James now addresses, at least primarily, another class of persons, namely those “who by the worldly ways of the former felt induced to do those things against which he exhorts them.” But Wiesinger takes a more correct view as the transition: “The connection is as follows: if they thus humble themselves before God, they must not deny humility in the judgment they pass on their brethren. He therefore exhorts them to put away imaginary superiority to others in judging them, which is really an arrogant usurping of the judicial functions of God. The end corresponds to the beginning. Worldly pride the source of strife, humble submission to God the end thereof.” He adds however “he refers particularly to the oppressed.” But really there is no reason to see here already a distinct transition from one class to another. Slander and judging were the very soul of their fanatical doings in relation to their brethren. In James 3:1 also he addresses the brethren, although the sequel contains the severest kind of reprimand. καταλαλεῖν found here and 1 Peter 2:12; 1 Peter 3:16. It denotes not only slandering (backbiting, Luther) but also evil contradiction, retorting.—

He that calumniateth or judgeth his brother.—The Participles καταλαλῶν and κρίνων are stronger than the indicative: he, whose characteristic consists in that he calumniates his brother. Huther thinks that while καταλαλεῖν always includes κρίειν=to condemn, the reverse holds not good. This would make the former the stronger expression, but we consider the latter to be so. κρίνειν passes from a loveless and therefore from a hateful judging of one’s neighbour to a similar condemnation of him. Wiesinger says indeed that “the context affords not the slightest occasion to think here of quarrels among Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians,” but the spirit of the whole Epistle constrains us to think of it, although the word ἀλλήλων shows that the primary reference here is to the internal divisions of Judaism. James probably alludes more particularly to the expressions and accusations which the Jews as Judaists and unfree Jewish Christians were wont to bring against the believing and more believing Jews. This seems to follow from the sequel “He that calumniateth, etc., calumniateth the law.” Schneckenburger rightly observes that the epithet brother given to the slandered persons emphasizes the peculiarly reprehensible character of calumny. But the sequel shows that the Apostle, by the use of this word, still aims at something more. Νόμοζ designates here, as in James 1:25; James 2:9, etc., the Old Testament law in its New Testament fulfilment. Hence the idea of Huther is right that slandering and condemning one’s brother is really slandering and condemning the law itself, viewed as the law of the Christian life and more particularly as the law of love, for such conduct amounts to rejecting it as an unjust law; but the Apostle’s idea seems to be more comprehensive, viz., the condemnation of one’s brother from the standpoint of fanatical motives is a condemnation of the essential νόμος according to its inmost evangelical import and especially as to its tendency of saving and not condemning. Thus the condemnation of one’s brother in all cases is not only without the law and contrary to the law, but it falls also upon the law itself. This was perfectly clear in the case where the Jews judged the Christians; they judged the whole revelation (John 5:45-46); but in the opposite case also, i. e., that is where Christians judged the Jews, judgment was passed on the heart-point of the law, viz.: the promise of grace. De Wette, who sees in the respective expression only a figurative, pointed speech indicating the disregard of the law, dilutes the idea. Surely Grotius, Baumgarten, Hottinger are not altogether wrong (as Huther thinks) in understanding νόμος as the Christian doctrine and perceiving here the idea that whosoever burdens his neighbour with arbitrary commandments, pronounces upon the deficiency of the Christian doctrine and in so far sets himself up as its judge. For this is just the manner of those who condemn; occupying a false standpoint, in particular that of illiberal legalism, they set themselves up as judges over the word of revelation, which judges no man uncharitably and is unwilling that any man should be absolutely condemned and least of all he, who has taken his standpoint in that very word.

But if thou judgest the law, i. e., if thou settest thyself up condemningly over it.

Thou art not a doer of the law.—Although thou boastest, to be zealous and jealous of it to the highest degree.

But a judge. The question is does this mean 1, a judge who from another standpoint judges and condemns the law itself, that is a God-hostile adversary of the law, an out and out anomist [ἄνομος, without law, a lawless man.—M.], which would require us to supply the Genitive νόμου after κριτής (so Neander, Wiesinger and al.), or 2, does κριτής denote absolutely the judge who administers the law in judging men? This interpretation is opposed by Huther to the former, with the remark that the former makes this sentence and the one preceding it tautological, that it dilutes the antithesis of doer and judge and that the sequel adverts not to a judging of the law but to a judging of men. As to tautology, it does not belong to the first interpretation, because we have then the climax, not doers but condemners of the law. The antithesis “observer and despiser of the law” is surely much stronger than that of “doer and guardian of the law.” Lastly the idea “condemner of the law” is substantiated with what goes before. But the relation is such that the anti-judge is also always pseudo-judge just as anti-Christ is also always Pseudo-Christ.

James 4:12. One is the Lawgiver and Judge.—He is One, which is emphatic, not only as contrasted with all men, of whom this is not true, but also in the unity of the Lawgiver and the Judge (Morus), which does not suffer to rise a contradiction between the spirit of the law and the spirit of the judgment such as it ought to exist if the judging of the Judaists were authorized. Now His power to judge has developed itself in the first place as the power to save or to render blessed and in the second as the power to destroy or to damn. The sequel therefore is not a further predicate: “He is able to save, etc.” (Luther), but states the characteristic, “He, who is able.” This intimates at least that the Judge is the God of the Gospel, who saves or damns men according to their belief or unbelief, Mark 16:16.—He manifests Himself in fact as this δυνάμενος and thus establishes His exclusive prerogative to judge. Bengel: “Nostrum non est judicare, præsertim cum exequi non possimus.”

But who art thou.—Impotent before that judicial majesty and power of God, moreover as a sinner guilty of the judgment and in want of grace (see Romans 14:4).

That judgest.—Really who makest judging thy business: ὁ κρίνων, with the Article to which Schneckenburger calls attention. But this word evidently serves to introduce the sequel, according to which a great judgment is impending on these judges.

Dissuasion from their restless, gain-seeking and self-willed wandering through the world in consideration of the approaching storm of judgment. James 4:13-15.

James 4:13. Well then, ye that say.—Huther, who is supported by many predecessors (Oecumenius, Bede, Sender, Pott, Hottinger and al.), thinks that James now addresses no longer members of the Christian Church, but the rich; viz., rich Jews, according to the forementioned explanation of the term rich. Gebser and al. contradict this view; Wiesinger holds that James addresses simply a particular class of his readers. But the Apostle’s address really avoids every definite outward classification. His Epistle is addressed to the twelve tribes by the hands of the Jewish Christian, i. e., primarily to these with the intent that they should use the Epistle for missionary purposes among their brethren. But as James looks upon Judaism as a solidary31 guilt and perverseness attaching to the whole people, although mostly to the unbelieving Jews, so all his exhortations and warnings are addressed through the Jewish Christians to all Jews. Still so that the centre of gravity in his address is continually progressing from the Jewish Christians to the Jews. With respect to this section of the Epistle, while it still describes a gain-loving, trafficking Jewish wandering through the world, of which the Jewish Christians as well as the Jews might readily become guilty, at least to some extent, yet it is evidently the transition to the subsequent prophetical lamentation over the rich, i. e., over the hardened part of the Jewish people, especially their leaders, and is consequently addressed more particulary to the Jews.—The interjection ἄγε νῦν (here and James 5:0; not found elsewhere in the New Testament), according to Theile=“age audite,” refers doubtless to the announcement of the judgment, which comes out quite clear in James 5:1, but is here darkly and menacingly alluded to. James is anxious to communicate to his readers his sorrowful forebodings of the judgment impending on his people. Grotius renders: “jam ego ad vos,” de Wette construes it as calling upon them to lay aside the respective fault, Huther as preparing for the κλαύσᾰ̇τε in James 4:5.

Ye that say.—οἱ λέγοντες, ye that are in the habit of using such presumptuous and worldly language.

To-day and to-morrow.—See Appar. Crit. καὶ (according to Theile) certainly expresses greater confidence than. ἤ; the plan the journey of the restless traders. Wiesinger understands “and to-morrow” of the different plans of journey of different persons, Huther thinks that it fixed the precise duration of the intended journey. But James 5:14 shows that “to-morrow” is also added for the purpose of resenting the false security of the project. “To-morrow” denotes therefore the undefined future subsequent to “to-day,” not only a second day; for at that time a two days’ journey did not take one very far.

We will journey; we shall journey, πορευσόμεθα uttered with false, prophetical assurance.

To such and such a city.—A demonstrative pronoun instead of the name of the city, with the collateral idea that the goal is now one city, now another. [I have adopted the rendering this city, because “such and such,” “this or that” is a sense in which ὅδε is not used; at least the best Lexica do not give it, and I agree with Alford, that Winer p. 174, who refers to Plutarch. Sympos. I. 61 for this image of ὅδε τὸ δεῖνα, does not make his point, and that all that is necessary, is to suppose that τήνδε τὴν πόλιν expresses in general terms the city then present to the mind of the speaker.—M.].

And will work there one year.—ποιεῖν with a definition of time may denote primarily one’s stay at a place; but it probably intimates also that the respective time is spent (Acts 15:33; Acts 20:3 etc.). But we take the verb “work” in the sense of “working in the conduct of business.” The definition one year again denotes not only the false security of the calculation, but also their restless, unsteady habits; then, they think, we move on or return.

And do business [and traffic—M.]. The hastily following καὶ and the hastily following future are also pictorial expressions descriptive of their immoderate false security. Bengel: “Polysyndeton exprimit libidinem animi securi.” Huther assents to Kern’s note: “Traffic is introduced only by way of example as characterizing man’s doing calculated only with reference to earthly life and as contrasted with the life in God.” But it is doubtless an example illustrating the secular aspect of the chief tendency of the Judaism of that time as it already began to develop itself; and the Apostle with a prophet’s glance evidently, describes beforehand the fundamental trait of the diabolically excited world-liness of his people, as it afterwards became more and more developed.

James 4:14. Yes, ye that know not [whereas ye know not E. V. much more correct and idiomatic than Lange’s rendering—M.]. οἵτινες, properly, “ye that are of such a kind.” [Alford: =“ut qui”—“belonging, as ye do, to a class which.”—M.].

What will be to-morrow.—Proverbs 3:28; Proverbs 27:1. The general idea that carnal security is here met by ignorance of the future and the transitoriness of life (Huther) has here also a prophetico-historical bearing. Hence not only: “Ye know not, as mortal men, whether you are still alive to-morrow,” but also “ye have no presentiment of what the next future has in reserve for you with our people.” It is to be remembered that these words were written by an aged Apostle a few years before that great catastrophe, which brought the greatest misery and death on many thousand people not only at Jerusalem (and James considered Jerusalem and Judea to belong also to the dispersion of the twelve tribes in the enlarged sense of the term), but previously also in many cities of the Roman Empire (Cæsarea, Scythopolis, Ascalon, Damascus, Alexandria; Josephus, de bello Judges 2:18, Judges 2:1-8;) 20, 2.

For what is your life?—Of what sort, ποία. It is not only fleeting and perishable physically, but as the spiritual life of the nation also it is affected with deadly disease and a deadly destiny.

A vapor, forsooth, ye are.—Better “For ye are a vapor.”—M.]. On γὰρ see Appar. Crit. The reading ἐστέ is manifestly a stronger expression than ἐστί, applied to their life. “They themselves are thereby described as a vapor, as it is also said of the πλούσιος James 1:10 that he shall pass away as the flower of grass.” Huther. Does ἀτμίς denote vapor of fire (smoke, as in Acts 2:19 in connection with καπνοῦ) or vapor of water, that is, a misty formation, or is there no definite reference designed? We feel inclined to take the former view; 1, on account of the familiar reference to Acts 2:19; Joel 3:1-5; Joel 2:0, on account of the reference to fire in James 5:3; James 3:0, on account of the greater volatility of the vapor of smoke as compared with the vapor of water which in the shape of cloudy formation is apt to last longer and in reality does not vanish if it dissolves into rain. But the real tertium comparationis is certainly the volatility of vapor, presenting an affinity with the volatility of the shadow in Job 8:9; Psalms 102:12; Psalms 144:4. But in the last passage the figure also contains the idea of a breath and Psalms 102:4 the figure of smoke. Our passage is probably more nearly related to the one named last.

And then (again).—Laying the emphasis on φαινομένη, appearing in splendid extension, say like an illuminated cloud, καὶ might be rendered even: it not only decreases but even vanishes. But as objection may be raised to such an emphasis, Huther’s explanation of καὶ is sufficient “as it appeared so it vanished.” Thus Israel as a nation, was soon to vanish from the rank of nations.

James 4:15. Instead of that ye ought to say.—These words connect with James 5:13, but the parenthesis James 5:14 has the import of a prolonged characterizing address.

If the Lord will, we shall live.—See Appar. Crit. According to the less authenticated reading of the Text Rec. (καὶ ζήσωμεν), adopted by the majority of commentators, καὶ ζήσωμεν is generally connected with the protasis. Luther: “If the Lord will and we live, we shall do this or that;” Erasmus, Calvin, de Wette. The second καὶ then denotes the apodosis. Here the protasis is divided into two hypothetical ideas: if the Lord will and if we live. Grotius and al take the whole somewhat differently: “if the Lord will that we live, then the rest also will follow, then we shall do this or that;” but this really runs into the construction of Luther. Most impracticable is Bornemann’s construction, who adopting the Text Rec., makes καὶ ζήσωμεν the apodosis in the sense: “let us make our livelihood.” The better sense also favours the more critically sustained reading. Not only our doing depends on the will of the Lord, but also, first of all, life itself. Hence if the Lord will, we shall live and then do this or that (Wiesinger, Huther.) [I prefer the reading ζήσομεν and render “If the Lord will, we shall both live and shall do this or that,” for it is evident that the hypothesis controls both our living and doing. Our life is dependent on the will of God and our doing depends on our living. Cf. Winer, p. 301.—M.].

Reproof of their false security and forewarning of their conscience, James 4:16-17.

James 4:16. But now ye boast yourselves in.—But now, i.e. instead of their thinking and speaking. Instead of it ye boast yourselves etc., according to the preliminary allusion, James 5:15.

In your illusions.—Ἀλαζονεία denotes vaunting or bragging regarded in the light of illusion or deception.—But here we must lay more stress on the objective, vain, arrogant self-exaltation than on the boasting. The clause: “ye boast in your boastings” (de Wette), is rather tautological. Boasting being a joyous testifying of the ground of confidence, the sense is as follows: ye boast in a ground of peace, consisting in those vain illusions or castles in the air, which from their nature are multiform. Huther remarks that ἐν denotes not the object but the ground of their boasting; but in this boasting the ground is really made the object.

All boasting of such kind.—That is, grounded on haughtiness and self-illusion; whereas both James and Paul know a holy boasting (James 1:9—that is glorying) grounded on the most opposite qualities, not on self-exaltation in forgetfulness of God and departing from God but on self-abasement in reliance on God and resignation to God.

James 4:17. To him now who knoweth to do good.—This is not only a moral sentence used for the purpose of warning the readers but the concluding forewarning addressed to the Judaists, followed by the announcement of the judgments upon those who still persevere in their obduracy; the great turning-point in the Apostle’s argument like our Lord’s last address to the Jews John 12:35 (Matthew 23:0), or that of Paul, Acts 28:23 etc. And first we have to note that the main stress lies not on καλόν, as the sum-total of good, because this would require the Article (so Wiesinger), but on εἰδότι with which καλόν κ. τ. λ. must be connected. He therefore who, although he knows better, omits the good and moreover the doing of good which he knows to do, to him it is reckoned as sin. The reference here, however, is not primarily, that a single sin of omission is also sin, but the whole attitude of an impenitent religious knowledge, the whole self-contradiction of a hypocritical and unfruitful orthodoxism is here described as a wholesale sin of omission. As sin, according to Romans 1:21 began with a great central sin of omission, so it is also sealed with the great, all-embracing sin of omission of impenitence. But this proposition contains also the common doctrine of the single sin of omission. Now concerning this knowledge of good the question arises (according to Huther) whether James refers to the knowledge he had imparted to his readers by his exhortations (Estius), especially by the last (Grotius, de Wette and al.); or whether this knowledge describes one already existing in his readers, as Huther assumes, observing; “the uncertainty of human life is something so palpable that those who notwithstanding talk in their audacity as if it did not exist, as if their life were not dependent on God and contrary to their own knowledge do not that which is seemly but that which is unseemly and therefore is is so much the more sin unto them.” We consider this antithesis as confusing. It is surely assumed that the readers of the Epistle knew from the Old Testament the rudiments of doing good and that in this knowledge the Gospel had raised them to the full consciousness of the highest degree of doing good; but it is assumed with equal certainty that this word of the whole Epistle, as a final word of exhortation is to them matter of the greatest and most decisive importance. The word should therefore be taken as a final word with reference to their better knowledge of evangelical behaviour in general and not merely as reminding them of their previous knowledge of their dependence on God. We have still to ask what is sin to one who knows and doeth not? The knowledge by itself, or that knowledge as connected with not doing? The former would be more piquant and would mean something like this: to such an one even his Jewish prerogatives turn to ruin (Romans 10:0). The Gospel proclaimed to him first, becomes to him a savor of death unto death. However we must distinguish sin from the judgment of sin, hence the reference cannot be to the better knowledge by itself but to the contradiction between knowing and not doing, which runs thrugh the whole Epistle as the object of the Apostle’s controversy. This contradiction becomes sin to the perfect ἀνὴρ δίψυχος which is reckoned to or reserved for him i.e. unto judgment. This great forewarning introduces the subsequent passage of the judgment. It is noteworthy that James seems to foresee with assurance that the greater part or the mass of Israel would grow obdurate contrary to a better knowledge or with an evil consciousness against doing the truth of the Gospel and that all the Judaistic corruptions of his Christian readers, which he assails, are also connected with such a conscious perverseness in general and in the whole, although not with reference to every individual in every individual case, and although the solidarity of the judgment is suspended in the case of believing Jews.

[The real point of this saying is hardly brought out in Lange’s note and not touched at all under “Doctrinal and Ethical” and “Homiletical and Practical.” The reference is not to sins of omission, but to sinning against light and knowledge, to doing evil the knowledge of good notwithstanding. καλόν James 5:17 is the opposite of πονηρόν, and the persons, whom James addressed knew well enough that they ought to do good, but they separated their knowledge from their practice and did evil. This verse (James 4:17) contains a sharp rebuke, if not a sarcastic reflection on their inconsistencies.—M.]


1. One of the most important life-questions of Christian ethics is undoubtedly that of the Christian’s relation to the world which surrounds him. In answering it James again fully agrees with our Lord (cf. Matthew 6:24), and with Paul the Apostle (cf. Rom 12:2; 1 Corinthians 7:29-31; 2 Corinthians 6:14-18). He wants Christians neither to conform to the world nor entirely to separate themselves from it, but he insists so much the more on their being distinguished from the world and on their showing that they are governed by a very different principle and a much loftier spirit than the friends of the world. If this is omitted and on the contrary that friendship of the world is sought, which is incompatible with a harmonious and independent development of the Christian life, it must surely lead to the result, that God and His service are ultimately abandoned. The impossibility of uniting God and the world in the heart of a Christian belongs to the nature of the case; cf. Matthew 12:30. The world demands that we should love ourselves, God requires us to love Him; the world wants self-exaltation, God abasement and humility. The friend of the world and the friend of God are diametrically opposed to each other in principle, inclination and aim. Moreover how can there exist a lasting communion among things that cannot be reconciled? Here applies the saying in Matthew 16:26; Luke 10:38-42.—

2. James as well as the other writers of the New Testament receive the γραφή as the highest authority.

3. No sin is more loathsome in the sight of God than pride. We have only to realize for a moment the light in which a holy God cannot but regard a guilty sinner in order to understand that self-exaltation is not only wicked but almost ridiculous before Him. Thus far we may say that parcere victis et debellare superbos is the fundamental law of the Divine government both under the Old Testament and under the New. Then countless examples taken from history prove also the truth of the saying, which is constantly heard in the Gospel. Cf. Matthew 18:4; Luke 18:14; 1 Peter 5:5.

4. What James says here (James 4:7) of the devil is at once a supplement to his doctrine of the origin of sin (James 1:14-15) and a corrective of those who are wont to dilute the last mentioned passage after the manner of the Pelagians.

5. In writing “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” James by no means wants to deny that the grace of God is prevenient and free and to teach that the sinner, for his part, must first turn to God, before God is able in grace to turn to him. This would conflict with the nature of the case and also with 1 John 4:19. But he is here addressing Christians, whom God had already approached before (cf. Isaiah 65:1), but who, by their transgressions, had for a time departed from God and had first to return before they could again enjoy His grace and communion. It is once for all impossible to merit the favour of God by conversion and equally impossible personally to experience it without such a genuine conversion. Now all temporizing [indecision, half-work, German “Halbtheit”—M.], all discord between the outward and the inward life is fundamentally incompatible with such a genuine conversion. Cf. Luke 11:38-41.

6. True joy is the child of sorrow for sin. Man has therefore his choice here on earth between short grief to be followed hereafter by constant joy and short joy to be followed hereafter by eternal grief. Cf. Matthew 5:3-4; Luke 6:21; 2 Corinthians 7:10.

7. Nothing is more sad and pernicious than that Christians also in their intercourse with each other yield themselves so often to loveless calumny and forget the words of the Lord Jesus, Matthew 7:1-6. In this connection attention should be called to rash contradiction and hasty judging which are often the effects of ignorance or disgraceful passion; to censoriousness which contrary to men’s own better conviction magnifies the faults of their neighbour and overlooks his good parts, in direct opposition to the Apostolic precept, 1 Corinthians 13:4-7; to calumny, slander, tale-bearing, back-biting, etc., on which vices Reinhard’s System of Christian Morality, 4th ed. I. p. 681–693 deserves to be consulted. [Also Jeremy Taylor’s Sermons,—The Good and Evil Tongue—Slander and Flattery—The Duties of the Tongue.—M.]. He justly observes that partial and passionate reviewers are not unfrequently guilty of these vices to an eminent degree. Compare also Bayle’s Dissertations sur les libelles difamatoires, in Vol. IV. of his Dictionnaire, and the capital sketch of an accomplished calumniator in Gellert’s Moralische Vorlesungen, p. 647 etc. It is self-evident how ill all this accords with the duties of Christian brotherly love. Cf. 1 Corinthians 4:5; Ephesians 4:25; Colossians 3:13.

8. “The law protects our neighbour by the precept of brotherly love; he who notwithstanding injuriously assails him, violates the protecting law itself, sets himself above the law and makes choice of that part of the law he means to observe or not to observe; but in doing so, he ceases to be a doer of the law.” von Gerlach.

9. The Christian must also show in his daily life that he is influenced in all things by the sense of dependence which is the real foundation of the religious and moral life. James in concert with Solomon (Proverbs 27:1), with our Lord Himself (Matthew 6:34) and with the Epistle to the Hebrews (Hebrews 6:3) urges this upon his readers. Many a sinful action would remain undone, many a hasty step would not be taken, if the words “If the Lord will and we live” were not only on the lips but in the hearts of men. Compare the treatise of Morus, “de homine submittente se Deo,” in Opusculis, II p. 123. sqq.

10. There is not a more extensive region of sin than that on which James allows us to cast a solitary glance (James 4:17), the region of sins of omission, and again none in which not a few exhibit less concern. How many are perfectly satisfied if in their opinion they have not done any thing in thought, in word or in deed, which conflicts with the love of God and of our neighbour, although they have never accused themselves of that which unconsciously or designedly they omitted to do! Many secretly object to such simple and self-evident exhortations as those in James 4:13-16, that they have known it all a long time without considering that knowing without doing is altogether inexcusable, cf. John 3:17.—“The omission of good is the commission of evil. In this manner we actually may become thieves and murderers; e.g., the priest and the Levite who passed by the unfortunate sufferer, offended by omitting to observe the sixth commandment. This omission of good is also connected with slackness in doing good; gradually men become more and remiss in doing until at last all love of and longing for good leaves them and this is the death of which we must be on our guard. Beware, therefore, of procrastination! By deferring a thing we ought to do from day to day, we come to lessen its importance and soon forget it altogether. Such negligences disclose to us the slothfulness of our heart, a most dangerous and critical state of disease.” Viedebandt.

[James 4:12. Sanderson: “The words of St. James assert that there is but one Lawgiver—not one selected out of many, nor one above all the rest, but one exclusively; that is, one, and but one alone, who is able to save and destroy. What was usually applied to the prerogatives of Kings, may be justly said of the conscience of every man, that it is subject to none but God, and knows no superior upon earth. Memorable is the observation of the Emperor Maximilian, “To offer to domineer over the conscience, is to assault the citadel of heaven.” That man is a plunderer of the Divine Glory, and an invader of the authority that belongs to God, whosoever he be, that claims a right over the consciences of men, or usurps upon them. Let the popes of Rome, and the train of canonists, Jesuits and sycophants, that flatter and fawn upon them, clear themselves, if they can, of this sacrilege; and let such as submit their consciences to the power of any creature, which only ought to be subject to God, be careful lest by transferring the honour of that service that belongs to God, to any creature upon earth, they make a god of that creature, and so, in effect become guilty of idolatry.

From this first conclusion thus proved, follows this remarkable inference, that the proper rule of the conscience is that which God, the Supreme Lawgiver, has prescribed to it; and besides that, there is no other that ought to be admitted.

Yet this hinders not, that there may be other lawgivers of an inferior order, who by authority derived to them from the Supreme power, may have a just right to make laws, and consequently to bind the conscience to obedience. We do not say that God has committed to the Magistrate a power to oblige the consciences of his people by laws, but rather (to speak with more care and propriety) that God has given to the magistrate a jurisdiction to make laws, which by virtue alone of the Divine authority, do oblige the consciences of the subject; for properly speaking, the Magistrate does not oblige the conscience to obey the law, but God obliges the conscience to obey the magistrate.”—M.].

[James 4:17. Wordsworth: This conclusion of St James is added as the summing up of the argument, in the same manner as the aphorism with which St. Paul closes his reasonings concerning a doubting conscience, where he says, “Whatsoever is not of faith, is sin,” that is, whenever a man does anything without being persuaded in his mind that he may lawfully do it, he is guilty of sin. Romans 14:23.

St. James appears to have his eye here on this statement of St. Paul.
St. James adds to it another maxim of general import, viz., that whensoever a man omits to do anything which he is persuaded in his own mind that he ought to do, he is guilty of sin.

Thus these two Apostolic verdicts, delivered in a similar manner, constitute two fundamental rules of human action, as to what men are bound to forbear doing, and as to what they are bound to do.

Those persons whom St. Paul addressed, were tempted to do many things, which they did not, in their consciences, approve; and the Apostle warns them, that if they do any thing against their conscience, they commit sin.
They to whom St. James wrote, were vainglorious of their religious knowledge; but they were not careful to show forth their religious knowledge by religious practice; and the Apostle teaches them that their knowledge will only increase their guilt, unless they do what they know to be right.

Hence, while it is sin to shun knowledge, and there is some sin of ignorance (cf. Augustine 6, 661), and it is a sin to shut the ears to instruction; and it is a duty to get knowledge, to increase in knowledge, to abound in knowledge, we must beware not to rest in knowledge. We must add to our knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, charity. Without these knowledge is unprofitable; nay, will only increase our condemnation. See Sanderson 3, p. 232–234. Cf. Luke 12:47; John 9:41; John 15:22; and see the woes pronounced on Chorazin and Capernaum, Matthew 11:21.—M.].


Friendship with the world, enmity of God.—The Christian’s relation to the world which sursounds him.—On spiritual adultery, cf. Hosea 2:1-19.—The Scripture should never utter a single word in vain to the Christian, cf. John 10:35 b.—The Spirit that dwells in Christians is decidedly opposed to every manifestation of hatred and envy.—God is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think (understand), Ephesians 3:20.—God resisteth the proud but giveth grace to the humble: 1. This is not otherwise according to the voice of history and experience; 2. It cannot be otherwise, if we consider the relation of God and the sinner; 3. It shall not be otherwise if God is to be glorified and the sinner preserved; 4. It will never be otherwise and the sinner had therefore better lay it to heart.—(James 4:6-7). How God stands to the humble Christian and how the humble Christian stands to his God.—The necessity of a constantly renewed conversion towards God after every new aberration.—The greatest demand of the Christian life: draw near to God, and its greatest consolation: He will draw nigh to you.—The insignificance of clean hands without a clean heart; the inward and the outward must be indissolubly united in conversion.—The beginning of conversion, the end of every sinful joy.—If we did not remain so far from God, God also would not remain so far from us.—The commandment of inward purification can never be fulfilled without prayer, Psalms 5:12.—(James 4:10-11). The Christian life a union of humility and love. He who truly knows and humbles himself before God will neither have the desire nor the courage to judge his brother uncharitably.—Sinning against our brother is also sinning against God.—Slander in religious associations and Christian circles: 1, The traces, 2, the sources, 3, the fruits of this vice.—He that speaks evil of others injures thereby 1, the brother whom he calumniates, 2, the neighbour who listens to him, 3, but most of all himself.—The Christian indeed is called to be a doer of the word but not in order to be a judge of the law.—The relation in which God stands to the transgressor of the commandment of love: 1, as the Lawgiver, 2, as the only Lawgiver, 3, as the only Lawgiver who is able to save and to destroy.—(James 4:13, etc.). On our dependence on God even in the actions of our daily life.—Difference between the Christian-minded and the worldly-minded merchant.—Christian and unchristian travelling. Our ignorance of the future, 1, the alarm it occasions, 2, the benefit it works.—“What is your life?” Different answers to this question from the standpoint 1, of experience, 2, of faith.—Life a vapor which is to ascend fragrant as incense.—How much cause have we not only to think but also to say: “If the Lord will and we live!” 1. Reasons for this frame of mind: a. death or want of ability prevent not seldom the execution of our best plans; b. the plans of others often conflict with ours or ours with theirs and both neutralize one another; c. we are often deprived of the opportunity or the desire to carry out our plans, but all under the guidance of God. 2. Fruits of this frame of mind: it will a. make us careful in laying, b. thankful for the success, c. submissive and satisfied with the frustration of our most cherished plans and desires.—Memento mori, cf. Psalms 90:0. and 103.—The problem of life must never be considered apart from its direct connection with death.—Lawful and unlawful glorying on the Christian standpoint.—The great chasm between knowing, willing and doing.—The greatness of seemingly little sins of omission.—“He that knoweth to do good, etc.” Extended application of this rule to the field of Christian philanthrophy and of Missions among the heathen.

Starke: Luther:—Envious men are not the temples of the Holy Ghost, James 3:14-15; 2 Timothy 1:7.—The proud instead of the honour, after which they run, receive shame and dishonour, Matthew 25:33.—The more of humility, the more of grace; if in valleys some hollows are deeper than others, the water collects in them, Luke 5:8.—Humility of heart is the most certain way not only to the love of our fellow-men but also to honour from God Himself. Luke 14:11.

Hedinger:—The enemy is not conquered by sleep. Take the sword of the Spirit, the helmet of hope, the shield of faith, then thou art equipped for the contest, Ephesians 6:11.—Nothing unclean is able to combine with God, the most pure Being, Isaiah 1:16.—Humility the surest road to constant exaltation, Matthew 23:12.—To speak evil of our brother does more harm than is generally thought; as many words, so many wounds are struck in the conscience, Psalms 52:4; Psalms 140:12.

Nova Bibl. Tub.:—A pious man always guards his tongue lest it judge his neighbour and defame him, Romans 14:13.

Luther:—God gave us His law, not that we should censure it, but keep it. Deuteronomy 7:11.

Starke:—Human legislators are able to render those, who obey their commandments, to some extent happy, but they can neither save them nor themselves; God is able to do both perfectly—The Apostle does not absolutely disallow commerce, he only blames those who are so covetous that they forget God in their business and think that every thing depends on their cunning, chasing and running, and do not remember that they cannot do any thing without the grace of God. Trading and chaffering has been peculiar to the Jews before and after the birth of Christ, especially to those who have lived out of Canaan, their country. For because they had no landed property among foreign nations, they were compelled to make their living by trade, which is the case now, if only it were done as it ought to be done.

Nova Bibl. Tub.:—O wretched man that layest out such great plans, dost thou not know that to-morrow God may require thy soul at thy hands? Luke 12:19-20.

Langii op.:—Nothing is more common than that the healthiest bodies of any age are all of a sudden attacked by divers diseases, Job 14:2.

Hedinger:—The will of God is the sole rule of Christians in all matters relating to the body or the soul, as in the case of Christ and Paul, John 4:34; 1 Corinthians 4:19; Acts 21:13-14.—The will of God permits also evil but turns it to the welfare of His children, Genesis 1:20.—An evil cause and a stubborn mind full of self-glorying go generally together, James 3:14; Romans 1:30.

Langii op.:—Ignorance is no excuse in cases where knowledge might have been had; but if a man knows better and yet is unfaithful and disobedient, he only aggravates his guilt accordingly, Luke 12:47-48.

(James 4:11) Stier:—I must judge in my heart in order to preserve myself from evil and to retain only what is good; I owe it in love to my brother to censure and exhort him in order to make him better and to prosper his soul. But this is altogether different from haughty, angry rebuking and scolding when I converse with some one about his sin; but the worst of all, and that which uniformly begets still greater discord, is the, alas, nowhere uncommon although thoroughly concealed vice of backbiting, which Luther in his Catechism has wisely ranged under the eighth commnadment. People discourse without vocation or duty, from sheer wantonness with a hateful temper of one’s supposed sin to another; speak evil of their brother behind his back, as a false brother, instead of saying it sincerely to his face Thus acted the heathen in the Apostolic age towards the Christians, wantonely refused to see their good works and preferred to backbite them as evil doers (1 Peter 2:12) Thus still act nowadays baptized heathen towards the godly, saying of them and burdening them with all manner of evil falsely. If this is done also among those who pretend to be brethren, verily the Holy Spirit strongly testifies against it and rather teaches Christians for their part not to deal thus with the children of the world. Where such backbiting takes place there is never a good conscience or a courageous answer to the questions: would I say this of him, if he were present? why do I not first tell him? Why and for what purpose do I now speak of it?—There is neither obedience of duty nor intent of love; here speaks and judges one’s own presumptuous, haughty mind, hence it runs so soon into judging falsely or even, if the matter were really so, into condemning, into damning judgment, which is at any rate absolutely forbidden.

(James 4:17). We are unprofitable servants before the Most Highest; that is certain, for all profitableness comes only from Him; but it is just because He makes us profitable that we are bound to do whatever is commanded us, to be diligent in doing good, as we know it, according to the will of God. James puts this lastly in the place of every self-willed doing of this or that. If we suffer ourselves to be found in good works aspiring for eternal life, then our earthly life verily has become more than a vapor, which vanishes away, then it is the seed-time of the great harvest of true gain.

Jakobi: (James 4:15):—“If the Lord will and I live.” There are indeed not a few Christians who take the precept of our text literally and think that they are sinning if in speaking of the future, they do not every time employ such a pious addition. But if faith here borders almost on superstition even in many otherwise enlightened Christians, is it not true that this momentous saying “If the Lord will and I live” sinks down into a mere conventionalism, if we carry it on our lips on every trifling occasion? and is it not to be feared that that which we should always utter only with a profound and most living sense of our impotence and the omnipotence of God, degenerates into a mere,’ blind habit? Let us apply also in this, respect the mighty saying of ‘St, Paul: “The kingdom of God is not in word, but la power,” 1 Corinthians 4:20—.

Neander:—“If the Lord will and we live.” It is evident that James in. saying this did not insist upon it, that we should always express such a condition in words. Such expressions might easily degenerate into mere forms and those Churches, in virtue of their whole tendency, were apt to turn every thing into a mere form. James, as we have already seen, is fond of naming the specific instead of the general thought, and instead of expressing, the general thought of the uncertainty and dependence of our whole earthly life, makes use of language calculated to indicate the general thought by its application to a specific case.

Heubner.: (James 4:15):—James will appear to some as a pietist, but just from, what he says we may know what genuine, sincere piety is. He is truly pious, whose piety interpenetrates also his whole heart, his whole life and his whole doing. To carry on even his earthly affairs with God characterizes the Christian: “with God” is his motto in every thing, Colossians 3:17.—The spirit of enterprise without religion is always pride.—

Lisco: (James 4:7-10):—All our doing is at the same time the work of God.—(James 4:11-17) The danger of pride: 1, It misleads us to judge others uncharitably (James 4:11-12); 2, it seduces us to trust over much in our own strength (James 4:13-17).—The unchristian element in the conduct of temporal affairs.—

Porubszky: (James 4:4-6):—Worldly and spiritual.—(James 4:6-7) Be subject to God.—(James 4:7-8) The greatest task of human willing.—(James 4:8-10) Three steps to genuine repentance: 1, grief; 2, faith; 3, work,—(James 4:11-12). Our judgment of others condemns ourselves.—(James 4:17). Of assurance in our worldly affairs.—

Weineck: (James 4:13-15):—In what Christian families may find comfort in the retrospect of a departing year.—

Wolf: (James 4:13-16):—Man may become the destroyer but not the architect of his happiness.

[Whitby: James 4:11 :—The great, exception which both, the unbelieving Jews and the Judaizing Christians among them had against the believing Gentiles was this “they observed not their feasts or Sabbaths and that they were not circumcised,” whence they concluded they differed little from the heathens. This was the thing for which the Christian fathers did contend, against them; viz. that the ancient patriarchs of old were acceptable to God, and consequently the Christians, and especially the converted Gentiles, might be acceptable to God without the observation of these feasts and Sabbaths or of circumcision.

James 4:15. It was a rule of. Ben Syra (Buxt. Flor. p. 4) “Let no man say he will do any thing, unless he first, say, If the Lord will:” who also adds, that “one died before night, for refusing to add this.” And when Alcibiades had said to Socrates, “I will do so if you will,” Socrates (Plat. Alcib. 1, in fine) tells him he ought to have said, ἐὰνθεὸς ἐθέλῃ, “if God will.” Not that we are obliged always to say thus (Romans 15:28), but only still to own our dependence upon Divine Providence.—M.].

[James 4:17. Εἰδότι οὖν. Menander says: “It is manifest folly to know what we ought to do and not do it.—M.].

[Macknight:—James 4:8. This and other exhortations of the like kind found in Scripture imply, that in matters of religion and virtue men must coöperate with the grace of God by their own earnest endeavours.—M.].

[Pyle: James 4:11. As to you, dear brethren, who are already converted to Christianity, be sure to avoid that pernicious custom of slander and rash censure. Remember, that whoever hastily and unjustly condemns another man, reflects upon religion itself, sets up for a judge and makes himself wiser than the Divine Law. And such an one must not pretend to be a true disciple of that law, while he sets himself above it.—M.].

[James 4:17. Now this, or any other crime, must be greater in a Christian than in any other man; because he, by the clear revelation of the Gospel, has or ought to have better notions of his duty, and a Stronger sense of his religious obligations.—M.].

[Burkitt: James 4:17. Let us learn hence, that to sin against light and knowledge, is a very heinous aggravation of sin, because the knowledge of our duty lays us under the greatest obligation to do it; and that the greater advantages and opportunities any man has of knowing his duty, and the more knowledge he sins against in not doing it, the greater is his sin, and the more grievous will be his condemnation.—M.].

[James 4:4. There is a sense in which a man may be a friend of the world and yet remain the friend of God, and this seeming paradox is the duty of very Christian and more especially of the minister of Christ. He must be the world’s true friend by telling the world its faults, exposing its corrupt maxims in a spirit of tender love and solicitude by preaching the truth of the everlasting Gospel and endeavouring to gain the world to Jesus Christ.]

James 4:8. The Father, in the parable, running to meet the returning prodigal, a Divine illustration of the words “Draw nigh to God and He will draw nigh to yon.”—Outward lustrations are not sufficient, the heart must be purified as well. ἁγνίσατε καρδίας, literally “make chaste your hearts” alludes to their spiritual adultery (James 4:4), and the whole clause may be applied to baptized Christians whose hearts are in the world.

James 4:13. Debarim Rabba, § 9. p. 261.1 we read as follows: “Our rabbis tell us a story, which happened in the days of Rabbi Simeon the son of Chelpatha. He was present at the circumcision of a child and stayed with his, father to the entertainment. The father brought out wine for his guests, that was seven years old, saying, With this wine will I continue for a long time to celebrate the birth of my new-born son. They continued supper till midnight. At that time, Rabbi Simeon arose and went out, that he might return to the city in which he dwelt. On the way he saw the angel of death walking up and down. He said to him, Who art thou ? He answered, I am the messenger of God. The rabbi said, Why wanderest thou about thus? He answered, I slay those persons who say, We will do this or that and think not how soon death may overpower them: that man with whom thou hast supped, and who said, to his guests,With this wine will I continue for a long time to celebrate the birth of my new-born son, behold the end of his days is at hand, for he shall die within thirty days.”

James 4:16. Clarke cites from an old English work “The godly man’s picture drawn by a Scripture pencil” the words: “Some of those who despise religion say, Thank God we are not of this holy number ! They who thank God for their unholiness, had best go ring the bells for joy that they shall never see God.”

James 4:13, The same author cites the following from Saady’s Gulistan: “I knew a merchant who used to travel with a hundred camels laden with merchandise and who had forty slaves in his employ. This person took me one day to his warehouse and entertained me a long time with conversation good for nothing. ‘I have,’ said he, ‘such a partner in Turquestan, such and such property in India, a bond for so much cash in such a province, a security for such another sum.’ Then, changing, the subject, he said, ‘I purpose to settle in Alexandria, because the air of that city is salubrious.’ Correcting himself, he said, ‘No, I will not go to Alexandria; the African Sea (the Mediterranean) is too dangerous. But I will make another voyage and after that I will retire into some quiet corner of the world, and give up mercantile life.’ I asked him, what voyage he intended to make? He answered, ‘I intend to take brimstone to Persia and China, where I am informed it brings a good price; from China I shall take porcelain to Greece; from Greece I shall take gold tissue to India; from India I shall carry steel to Haleb (Aleppo); from Haleb I shall carry glass to Yemen (Arabia Felix); and from Yemen I shall carry printed goods to Persia. This accomplished, I shall bid farewell to mercantile life, which requires so many troublesome journeys and spend the rest of my life in a store.’ He said so much on this subject, till at last he wearied himself with talking: then turning to me, he said, ‘I entreat thee Saady, to relate to me something of what thou hast seen and heard in thy, travels.’ I answered ‘Hast thou never heard what a traveller said, who fell from his camel in the desert of Yoor?’ Two things only can fill the eye of a covetous man—contentment or the earth that is cast on him when laid in his grave.”—M.].

Compare also on

James 4:8. Bp. Hall. The duty of drawing nigh to God. Works, 4:746.

Bp. Smalridge. Of double-mindedness. 4 Sermons. Sermons, 349.

James 4:10. Robert hall, Humility before God. Notes of Sermons. Works, 4:312.

James 4:11. Barrow. Against detraction. Works, 1:523.

Sydney Smith. On Slander. Sermons, 257.

Chalmers. The guilt of calumny, Posth, Works, 6:12.

James 4:12. BP. Sanderson. Prælectiones.


James 4:4; James 4:4. A. B. Sin. etc. Vulg., Bede, Lachmann, Tischendorf and other translations read only μοιχαλίδες. μοιχοί preceding it in G. K. etc. originated probably in the O. T. symbolical sense having been abandoned and the literal sense adopted.

James 4:4; James 4:4. Cod. Sin. inserts τούτου after κόσμου.

James 4:4; James 4:4. Cod. Sin. reads ἔστι τῷ θεῷ for τοῦ θεοῦ ἐστιν of Rec. and al.

James 4:4; James 4:4. B. Cod. Sin. read ἐὰν for ἄν.—M.]

[8] James 4:4. Cod. Sin. has ἐχθρὰ for ἐχθρὸς.—M.]

James 4:4. Lange: Ye [adulterers and] adulteresses know ye not that the friendship of the world is the enmity of God? Whosoever therefore willeth to be a friend of the world, standeth up as an enemy of God.

James 4:4. [Ye adulteresses.… is enmity of God? … shall be minded (Alford) to be a friend of the world, is constituted an enemy of God.—M.]

[9] James 4:5 A. B. Sin. Lachmann, Wiesinger read κατῷκισεν for κατῷκησεν G. K. etc.

Lange: Or do ye suppose … The spirit that made His abode in us, as opposed to envy, longeth upward?
[Or do ye fancy … The spirit that He planted in us, jealously desireth? (So de Wette, and after him Alford).—M.]

James 4:6. Lange: Still greater however [than is the longing], He giveth grace: wherefore it [the Scripture] saith …

[But He giveth greater grace: wherefore He saith, God is opposed to the proud but giveth grace to the humble.—M.]

[10] James 4:7. A. B. Sin. Vulg. etc. insert δέ after the verb. δέ is omitted probably in order to give to the sentence a more independent form.

James 4:7. Lange: Subject yourselves … But resist …

James 4:7. [Submit yourselves.… But resist the devil and he shall flee from you.—M.]

James 4:8. Lange:… Cleanse the hands, ye sinners, and consecrate [make chaste unto God] the hearts, ye double-minded.

James 4:8. [Purify your hands …, and make chaste your hearts.—M.]

[11] James 4:9. [ A. and Cod. Sin. omit καὶ before κλαύσατε.—M.]

James 4:9. Lange: Feel miserable and mourn and weep! Let your laughter turn itself into lamentation and your joy into dejectedness.

James 4:9. [Be wretched and mourn and weep …, and your joy into humiliation.

James 4:9. [Alford: The old English noun downcast, now obsolete as a noun, is the exact equivalent of κατήφεια and ought to be resuscitated.—M.]

[12] James 4:10. [ Cod. Sin. inserts οὖν after ταπεινώθητε.—M.]

James 4:10. The omission of τοῦ does not affect the translation. [A. B. K. etc. Cod. Sin. omit it.—M.]

James 4:10. Lange: … before the Lord, and He will exalt you.

James 4:10. [Be humbled, therefore, before … and He shall exalt you.—M.]

[13] James 4:11. A. B. K. Sin. etc. Tischendorf read ἢ κρίνων for καὶ [Rec. etc.—M.]

James 4:11. Lange: Do not calumniate [decry] one another, brethren. He that calumniateth or judgeth his brother, calumniateth the law and judgeth the law.

James 4:11. [Do not speak against one another, brethren; he that speaketh against a brother or judgeth his brother, speaketh against.… M.]

James 4:12; James 4:12. καὶ κριτής omitted by Rec. [with K. L. etc.—M.], is inserted in A. B, many minuscules, almost all the versions, Tischend. Lachm. also Cod. Sin.

James 4:12; James 4:12. [A. B. K. L. many minusc. Cod. Sin. Vulg. Syr. Copt. al. insert δὲ after σύ, a reading by all means to be retained on account of the strong emphasis “But thou (almost contemptuous), who art thou?”—M.]

[16] James 4:12. A. B. Cod. Sin. and many minuscules fix the readings ὁ κρίνων and τὸν πλησίον against those of Rec. ὃς κρίνεις, and τὸν ἕτερον.

James 4:12. [K. adds (see Ps. 36:23)ὅτι οὐκ ἐν ̓ ἐν θεῷ τα διαβήματα —M.]

James 4:12. Lange: One is the Lawgiver and Judge, He, who is able … But who art thou, thou that judgest [art judging] thy neighbour? [… But thou, who art thou that judgest thy neighbour?—M.]

James 4:13; James 4:13. A. G. I. etc. Tischendorf [Cod. Sin. Alford.—M.] read σήμερον καὶ αὔριον, which is also more authentic and important than ἢ αὔριον.

James 4:13; James 4:13. Lachmann and Tischendorf following B. etc., several miuusc. Vulg:, read the Future for the Subjunctive of Rec. In point of matter more suitable. A. has first two Subjunctives then two Indicates. [So Cod. Sin.—M.]

James 4:13; James 4:13. [ A. B. Alford ἐμπορευσόμεθα καὶ κερδήσομεν. K. L. Subjunctive.—M.]

James 4:13; James 4:13. [ A. omits ἐκεῖ.—M.]

[21] James 4:13. B. and Lachmann omit ἕνα, but the omission is not decisive.

James 4:13. Lange: Well then, ye that say: to-day and to-morrow we will journey to such and such a city, and will work there one year, and do business and make gain.

James 4:13. [Go to now … to-day and to-morrow we will set forth to this city and will spend there one year and will traffic [de Wette, Van Ess, Allioli etc. Alford] and get gain.—M.]

James 4:14; James 4:14. The Plural τὰ (A. Lachmann) is in every case more telling than τὸ (G. I.) Tischendorf.

James 4:14; James 4:14. Lachmann, following A. Vulg. etc. omits γὰρ after ἀτμίς, which makes the expression more difficult, but also more lively. [But A. Cod. Sin. Vulg. Copt. omit not only γὰρ but ἀτμὶς γάρ.—M.]

James 4:14; James 4:14. ἐστε is fixed by A. B. I. etc.

[25] James 4:14. A. B. etc. read καὶ for δέ [Rec. Vulg. Æth. Bede put καὶ before ἔπειτα: Cod. Sin. agrees with A. ἔπειτα καὶ is accordingly the most authentic reading.—M.]

James 4:14. Lange: Yes ye that know not [understand not] what will be to-morrow [the great tempests of judgment].

James 4:14. For what [of what kind] is your life? A vapour, forsooth, ye are, which appeareth for a little while, and then vanisheth [again].

James 4:14. [Whereas ye know not the things of to-morrow: for of what sort (Alford) is your life? For ye are a vapour which appeareth for a little while, then vanishing as it came.—M.]

James 4:15; James 4:15. [B. reads θέλη.—M.]

[27] James 4:15. A. B. Cod. Sin. read ζήσομεν and ποιήσομεν. So Lachmann, Tischendorf [and Alford. K. L. al. have the Subjunctive.—M.]

James 4:15. Lange: Instead of that you ought to say …

James 4:15. [Instead of which ye … we shall both live and do this or that.—M.]

James 4:16; James 4:16. [Cod. Sin. has κατακαυχᾶσθε for καυχᾶσθε.—M.]

[29] James 4:16. [Cod. Sin. has ἅπασα for πᾶσα.—M.]

James 4:16. Lange: But now ye boast yourselves in your [vain] illusions, all boasting of such kind is evil.

James 4:16. [But now ye glory in your vain-boastings: all such glorying is wicked.—M.]

[30] James 4:17. (A.) reads ποιῆσαι for ποιεῖν.—M.]

James 4:17. Lange: To him now who knoweth., … to him it will turn to sin.

James 4:17. [So that to him who. …, to him it is sin.—M.]

[31]Trench says: “Solidarity, a word which we owe to the French Communists, and which signifies a community in gain and loss, in honour and dishonour, a being, so to speak, all in the same bottom, is so convenient that it will be in vain to struggle against.”—M.

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Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on James 4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". 1857-84.