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Bible Commentaries

Vincent's Word Studies

James 1

Verse 1

Jesus Christ. Only here and in ch. 2 1; nowhere in the speeches of James (Acts 14:14, Acts 14:15; Acts 21:20 sq.). Had he used Jesus ' name it might have been supposed to arise from vanity, because he was the Lord 's brother. In all the addresses of epistles the full name, Jesus Christ, is given. Servant [δουλος] . Properly, hired servant. Compare Philippians 1:1; Jude 1:1.

That are scattered abroad [εν τη διασπορα] . Lit., in the dispersion; on which see on 1 Pet Jude 1:1. Rev., which are of the dispersions.

Greeting [χαιρειν] . Lit., rejoice. The ordinary Greek salutation, hail! welcome! Also used at parting : joy be with you. Compare the same expression in the letter from the church at Jerusalem, Acts 14:23; one of the very few peculiarities of style which connect this epistle with the James of the Acts. It does not occur in the address of any other of the Apostolic Epistles.

Verse 2

All joy [πασαν χαραν] . Joy follows up the rejoice of the greeting. The all has the sense of wholly. Count it a thing wholly joyful, without admixture of sorrow. Perhaps, as Bengel suggests, the all applies to all kinds of temptations.

When [οταν] . Lit., whenever : better, because it implies that temptation may be expected all along the Christian course.

Ye fall into [περιπεσητε] . The preposition peri, around, suggests falling into something which surrounds. Thus Thucydides, speaking of the plague at Athens, says, "The Athenians, having fallen into [περιπεσοντες] such affliction, were pressed by it."

Divers [ποικιλοις] . Rev., manifold. See on 1 Peter 1:6.

Temptations [πειρασμοις] . In the general sense of trials. See on Matthew 6:13; 1 Peter 1:6.

Verse 3

Trying [δοκιμιον] . Rev., proof; but the American Revisers insist on proving, and rightly. See on 1 Peter 1:7.

Worketh [κατεργαζεται] . The compound verb with kata, down through, indicates accomplishment. The proving will work successfully and thoroughly. This harmonizes with a perfect work, ver. 4.

Patience [υπομονην] . See on 2 Peter 1:6, and James 5:7.

Verse 4

Perfect work [εργον τελειον] . "This is followed by a perfect man. The man himself is characterized from his condition and work" (Bengel). Work [εργον] is the word with which katergazetai, worketh, is compounded. It is the accomplished result of patience in moral purification and ennobling. Compare work of faith, 1 Thessalonians 1:3. Perfect and entire [τελειοι και ολοκληροι] . The two words express different shades of thought. Teleioi, perfect, from telov, fulfillment or completion (perfect, from perfectus, per factus, made throughout), denotes that which has reached its maturity or fulfilled the end contemplated. 'Oloklhroi, from olov, entire, and klhrov, a lot or allotment; that which has all which properly belongs to it; its entire allotment, and is, therefore, intact in all its parts. Thus Peter (Acts 3:16) says of the restored cripple, " faith has given him this perfect soundness [ολοκληριαν] . Compare the familiar phrase, an accomplished man. Note, also, James' repetition of the key - words of his discourse, rejoice, joy, patience, perfect.

Wanting nothing [εν μηδενι λειπομενοι] . Rev., more literally, lacking in nothing. Note James' characteristic corroboration of a positive statement by a negative clause : entire, lacking in nothing; God that giveth and upbraideth not; in faith, nothing doubting. The conditional negative mhdeni, nothing, is used, rather than the absolute negative ouJudeni, as implying nothing which may be supposed; no possible thing.

Verse 5

But. Omitted in A. V. In pursuing this perfection you will find yourselves lacking in wisdom. One may say, "I know not how to become perfect;" but, if any man, etc.

Lack. Note the repetition.

Of God that giveth [του διδοντος θεου] . The Greek puts it so that giving is emphasized as an attribute of God. Lit., "Ask of the giving God," or of "God the giver."

Liberally [απλως] . Only here in New Testament. Literally the word means simply, and this accords with the following negative clause, upbraiding not. It is pure, simple giving of good, without admixture of evil or bitterness. Compare Romans 12:8, where a kindred noun is used : " He that giveth let him do it with simplicity [εν απλοτητι] Compare, also, Proverbs 10:22. Men often complicate and mar their giving with reproach, or by an assumption of superiority.

Verse 6

Doubting [διακρινομενος] . Compare Matthew 21:21. Not equivalent to unbelief, but expressing the hesitation which balances between faith and unbelief, and inclines toward the latter. This idea is brought out in the next sentence.

A wave [κλυδωνι] . Rev., surge. Only here and Luke 8:24; though the kindred verb occurs at Ephesians 4:14. The word is admirably chosen, as by a writer who lived near the sea and was familiar with its aspects. The general distinction between this and the more common kuma, wave, is that kludwn describes the long ridges of water as they are propelled in horizontal lines over the vast surface of the sea; while kuma denotes the pointed masses which toss themselves up from these under the action of the wind. Hence the word kludwn here is explained, and the picture completed by what follows : a billow or surge, driven by the wind in lines, and tossed into waves. Both here and in the passage in Luke the word is used in connection with the wind. It emphasizes the idea of extension, while the other word throws forward the idea of concentrating into a crest at a given point. Hence, in the figure, the emphasis falls on the tossing; not only moving before the impulse of the wind, but not even moving in regular lines; tossed into rising and falling peaks.

Driven by the wind [ανεμιζομενω] . Only here in New Testament.

Tossed [ριπιζομενω] . Only here in New Testament. From rJipiv, a fan. Anyone who has watched the great ocean - swell throwing itself up into pointed waves, the tops of which are caught by the wind and fanned off into spray, will appreciate the vividness of the figure.

Verse 7

That man [εκεινος] . Emphatic, and with a slightly contemptuous force.

Anything. i e. which he asks for.

Verse 8

A double - minded man is unstable, etc. The A. V. puts this as an independent apophthegm, which is wrong. The sentence is a comment and enlargement upon that man. "Let not that man think," etc., "a doubleminded man, unstable in all his ways." So Rev.

Double - minded [διψυχος] . Peculiar to James, here and ch. 4 8. Not deceitful, but dubious and undecided.

Unstable [ακαταστατος] . Only here in New Testament. The kindred ajkatastasia, confusion, is found ch. 3 16, and elsewhere.

Verse 9

But. Omitted in A. V. Introducing a contrast with the double - minded. The brother of low degree [ο αδελφος ο ταπεινος] . Lit., the brother, the lowly one. Not in the higher Christian sense of tapeinov (see on Matthew 11:29), but, rather, poor and afflicted, as contrasted with rich. Rejoice [ανθος] . Not strong enough. It is, rather, boast. So Rev., glory. Compare Romans 5:3; Philippians 3:3.

In that he is exalted [εν τω υψει αυτου] . Lit., in his exaltation. Rev., in his high estate.

Verse 10

In that he is made low [εν τη ταπεινωσει αυτου] . A form of expression similar to the preceding. Lit., in his humiliation. Both the A. V. and Rev. preserve the kinship between tapeinov and tapeinwsei, by the word low.

Flower [ανθος] . Only here, ver. 11, and 1 Peter 1:24.

Verse 11

For the sun is no sooner risen, etc. [ανετειλεν γαρ ο ηλιος] . By the use of the aorist tense James graphically throws his illustration into the narrative form : "For the sun arose - and withered," etc.

With a burning heat [τω καυσωνι] . Rev., with the scorching wind. The article denotes something familiar; and the reference may be to the scorching east - wind (Job 1:19, Sept.; Ezekiel 17:10), which withers vegetation. Some of the best authorities, however, prefer the rendering of the A. V.

Falleth [εξεπεσεν] . Aorist tense. Lit., fell off.

The grace of the fashion [ευπρεπεια του προσωπου] . Lit., the beauty of its face or appearance. Eujprepeia only here in New Testament.

Fade away [μαρανθησεται] . See on 1 Peter 1:4.

Ways [πορειαις] . Rev., goings. Only here and Luke 13:22. His goings to and fro in acquiring riches.

Verse 12

Is tried [δοκιμος γενομενος] . Lit., having become approved. See on trial, 1 Peter 1:7. The meaning is not, as the A. V. suggests, when his trial is finished, but when he has been approved by trial. Rev., rightly, when he hath been approved.

The crown [στεφανον] . See on 1 Peter 5:4.

Of life [της ζωης] . Lit., the life : the article pointing to the well - known eternal life. The figure is not that of the athlete's crown, for an image from the Grecian games, which the Jews despised, would be foreign to James' thought and displeasing to his readers. Rather the kingly crown, the proper word for which is diadhma, diadem. In Psalms 20:3 (Sept.), stefanov is used of the royal crown. In Zechariah 6:11, Zechariah 6:14, the reference seems to be to a priestly crown, forming part of the high priest 's mitre.

Verse 13

Of God [απο θεου] . Lit., from God. Not by God, as the direct agent, but by agency proceeding from God. Compare Matthew 4:1, where the direct agency, "by the spirit," " by the devil, "is expressed by uJpo. Cannot be tempted [απειραστος εστι] . Lit., is incapable of being tempted. But some of the best expositors render is unversed in evil things, as better according both with the usage of the word and with the context, since the question is not of God 's being tempting, but of God 's tempting. Rev. gives this in margin. 'Apeirastov only here in New Testament. Neither tempteth he [πειραζει δε αυτος] . The A. V. fails to render aujtov :" He himself tempteth no man. " So rev.

Verse 14

Drawn away [εξελκομενος] . Only here in New Testament. This and the following word are metaphors from hunting and fishing. Drawn away, as beasts are enticed from a safe covert into a place beset with snares. Note the present participle, as indicating the progress of the temptation : "is being drawn away."

Enticed [δελεαζομενος] . As a fish with bait. Also the present participle. See on 2 Peter 2:14.

Verse 15

The lust. Note the article, omitted in A. V. The peculiar lust of his own.

Hath conceived [συλλαβουσα] . Lit., having conceived.

Bringeth forth [τικτει] . Metaphor of the mother. Rev. beareth.

When it is finished [αποτελεσθεισα] . Better, Rev., when it is full grown. Not when the course of a sinful life is completed; but when sin has reached its full development.

Bringeth forth [αποκυει] . A different verb from the preceding, bringeth forth. Rev. has rendered tiktei, beareth, in order to avoid the repetition of bringeth forth. The verb is used by James only, here and at ver. 18. The image is interpreted in two ways. Either (1) Sin, figured as female, is already pregnant with death and, when full grown, bringeth forth death (so Rev., and the majority of commentators). "The harlot, Lust, draws away and entices the man. The guilty union is committed by the will embracing the temptress : the consequence is that she beareth sin.... Then the sin, that particular sin, when grown up, herself, as if all along pregnant with it, bringeth forth death" (Alford). Or (2) Sin, figured as male, when it has reached maturity, becomes the begetter of death. So the Vulgate, generat, and Wyc., gendereth. I am inclined to prefer this, since the other seems somewhat forced. It has the high endorsement of Bishop Lightfoot. There is a suggestive parallel passage in the "Agamemnon" of Aeschylus, 751 - 771 :

"There is a saying old, Uttered in ancient days, That human bliss, full grown, Genders, and dies not childless : And, for the coming race, Springs woe insatiate from prosperity. But I alone Cherish within my breast another thought. The impious deed Begets a numerous brood alike in kind; While households ruled by right inflexible Blossom with offspring fair. Insolence old In men depraved begetteth insolence, Which springs afresh from time to time As comes the day of doom, and fresh creates In Ate's dismal halls Fierce wrath from light, Unhallowed Daring, fiend invincible, Unconquered, with its parents ' likeness stamped."

The magnificent passage in Milton's "Paradise Lost," 2, 760 - 801, is elaborated from these verses of James.

Verse 17

The first words of this verse form a hexameter line, thus Pasa dosiv ajgaqh kaipan dwrhma teleion Such verses, or parts of verses, occur occasionally in the New Testament. Sometimes they are quotations from the Greek poets; sometimes the writer's words unconsciously fall into metrical form. Poetical quotations are confined to Paul, Acts 17:28; 1 Corinthians 14:33; Titus 1:12. Every good gift and every perfect gift (see Greek above). The statement that these gifts are from God is in pursuance of the idea that God does not tempt men to evil. The gifts of God are contrasted with the evil springing from man's lust. Two words are used for gift. Dosiv occurs only here and Philippians 4:15; there in an active sense; but here passive, as in Proverbs 21:14 (Sept.). Dwrhma is found Romans 5:16. It enlarges slightly upon the other word in emphasizing the gift as free, large, full; an idea which is further developed in ver. 18, of his own will. The Rev., rather awkwardly, endeavors to bring out the distinction by the word boon, for which the American Revisers insist on retaining gift. Boon originally means a petition; favor being a secondary and later sense, as of something given in response to a petition. The word is of Scandinavian origin, and the meaning favor seems to indicate a confusion with the Latin bonus, good; French, bon. Perfect. Enlarges upon good, bringing out more distinctly the moral quality of the gift.

And cometh down [καταβαινον] . A present participle, to be construed with anwqen ejstin, is from above. Lit., is coming down from above. As usual, this union of the participle with the finite verb denotes something habitual. Render, descendeth from above. Compare ch. 3 15.

Father of lights [του πατρος των φωτων] . Lit., the lights, by which are meant the heavenly bodies. Compare Psalms 135:7 (Sept.); and Jeremiah 4:23 (Sept.). God is called "the Father of the lights," as being their creator and maintainer. Compare Job 38:28; Ps. viii. 3; Amos 5:8.

Is no variableness [ενι] . Abbreviated from enesti is in. Stronger than the simple is, and denoting inherence or indwelling. Rev., can be.

Variableness [παραλλαγη] . Better, Rev., variation. The word is not used, as some suppose, in a technical, astronomical sense, which James' readers would not have understood, but in the simple sense of change in the degree or intensity of light, such as is manifested by the heavenly bodies. Compare Plato, "Republic," 7, 530 : "Will he (the astronomer) not think that the heaven and the things in heaven are framed by the Creator in the most perfect manner? But when he reflects that the proportions of night and day, or of both, to the month, or of the month to the year, or of the other stars to these and to one another, are of the visible and material, he will never fall into the error of supposing that they are eternal and liable to no deviation [ουδεν παραλλαττειν] - that would be monstrous."

Shadow of turning [τροπης αποσκιασμα] . This is popularly understood to mean that there is in God not the faintest hint or shade of change, like the phrase, a shadow of suspicion. But the Greek has no such idiom, and that is not James' meaning. Rev., rightly, renders, shadow that is cast by turning; referring still to the heavenly orbs, which cast shadows in their revolution, as when the moon turns her dark side to us, or the sun is eclipsed by the body of the moon.

Verse 18

Begat [απεκυησεν] . Rev., brought forth. See on ver. 15, and compare 1 John 3:9; 1 Peter 1:23.

A kind of first fruits [απαρχην τινα] . A kind of indicates the figurative nature of the term. The figure is taken from the requirement of the Jewish law that the first - born of men and cattle, and the first growth of fruits and grain should be consecrated to the Lord. The point of the illustration is that Christians, like first - fruits, should be consecrated to God. The expression "first - fruits" is common in the New Testament. See Romans 8:23; Romans 16:5; 1 Corinthians 14:20, 1 Corinthians 14:23; Revelation 14:4.

Verse 19

Wherefore. The A. V. follows the reading wste. But the correct reading is iste, ye know, and so Rev. Others render it as imperative, know ye, as calling attention to what follows.

Verse 21

Filthiness [ρυπαριαν] . Only here in New Testament, but James uses the kindred adjective (ch. 2 2), "vile raiment." 'Rupov, filth, occurs in 1Pe 3:21 - on which see notes; and the verb rJupow, to be filthy, is found in Revelation 22:11.

Superfluity of naughtiness [περισσειαν κακιας] . A translation which may be commended to the attention of indiscriminate panegyrists of the A. V. Perisseia is an unclassical word, and occurs in three other New - Testament passages - Romans 5:17; 2 Corinthians 8:2; 2 Corinthians 10:15. In all these it is rendered abundance, both by A. V. and Rev. There seems to be no need of departing from this meaning here, as Rev., overflowing. The sense is abounding or abundant wickedness. For naughtiness Rev. gives wickedness, as in 1 Peter 2:1, 1 Peter 2:16, where it changes malice to wickedness. It is mosty rendered malice in both A. V. and Rev. In this passage, as in the two from Peter, Rev. gives malice, in margin. Malice is an adequate translation, the word denoting a malevolent disposition toward one's neighbor. Hence it is not a general term for moral evil, but a special form of vice. Compare the wrath of man, ver. 20. Naughtiness has acquired a petty sense in popular usage, as of the mischievous pranks of children, which renders it out of the question here.

With meekness [εν πραυτητι] . Lit., "in meekness;" opposed to malice.

Engrafted [εμφυτον] . Only here in New Testament. Better, and more literally, as Rev., implanted. It marks a characteristic of the word of truth (ver. 18). It is implanted; divinely given, in contrast with something acquired by study. Compare Matthew 13:19, "the word of the kingdom - sown in his heart." Grafted or graffed is expressed by a peculiar word, employed by Paul only, ejgkentrizw, from kentron, a sharp point, thus emphasizing the fact of the incision required in grafting. See Romans 11:17, Romans 11:19, Romans 11:23, Romans 11:24.

Which is able to save [τον δυναμενον σωσαι] . Compare Romans 1:16, "the power of God unto salvation."

Verse 22

Hearers [ακροαται] . Used by James only.

Deceiving [παραλογιζομενοι] . From para, beside, contrary to, and logizomai, to reckon, and hence to conclude by reasoning. The deception referred to is, therefore, that into which one betrays himself by false reasoning - reasoning beside the truth.

Verse 23

Beholding [κατανοουντι] . With the notion of attentively considering (kata, down into, or through; compare eijv, into, ver. 25). Compare Luke 12:24, Luke 12:27; Hebrews 3:1. So that the contrast is not between a hasty look and a careful contemplation (ver. 25, looketh). It is not mere careless hearing of the word which James rebukes, but the neglect to carry into practice what is heard. One may be an attentive and critical hearer of the word, yet not a doer.

His natural face [το προσωπον της γενεσεως] . Lit., the countenance of his birth; the face he was born with.

In a glass [εν εσοπτρω] . Better, Rev., a mirror; a metallic mirror. The word occurs only here and 1 Corinthians 13:12.

Verse 24

He beholdeth [κατενοησεν] . The aorist tense, throwing the sentence into a lively, narrative form : he beheld himself and forgot. Compare ver. 11.

Verse 25

Whoso looketh [ο παρακυψας] . Rev., more strictly, he that looketh. See on 1 Peter 1:12. The verb is used of one who stoops sideways [παρα] to look attentively. The mirror is conceived as placed on a table or on the ground. Bengel quotes Wisdom of Sirach 14 23 : "He that prieth in at her (Wisdom 's) windows shall also hearken at her doors." Coleridge remarks : "A more happy or forcible word could not have been chosen to express the nature and ultimate object of reflection, and to enforce the necessity of it, in order to discover the living fountain and spring - head of the evidence of the Christian faith in the believer himself, and at the same time to point out the seat and region where alone it is to be found" (" Aphorisms "). Into [εις] . Denoting the penetration of the look into the very essence of the law.

The perfect law of liberty [νομον τελειον τον της ελευθεριας] . Lit., the perfect law, the law of liberty. So Rev. The law of liberty is added as defining the perfect law.

Continueth therein. Better, Rev., so continueth; i e. continues looking. Forgetful hearer [ακροατης επιλησμονης] . The latter word only here in New Testament. Lit., a hearer of forgetfulness; whom forgetfulness characterizes. Rev., very happily, a hearer that forgetteth; a rendering which gives the proper sense of forgetfulness as a characteristic better than A. V., a forgetful hearer.

Doer of the work. Lit., of work, as the noun has no article. Rev., a doer that worketh.

In his deed [εν τη ποιησει αυτου] . More correctly, as Rev., in his doing. Only here in New Testament. The preposition ejn (in) marks the inner connection between doing and blessedness. "The life of obedience is the element wherein the blessedness is found and consists" (Alford).

Verse 26

Seem to be [δοκει] . Rev., correctly, thinketh himself to be. A man can scarcely seem to be religious, when, as Trench observes, "his religious pretensions are belied and refuted by the allowance of an unbridled tongue."

Religious [θρησκος] . Only here in New Testament, and nowhere in classical Greek. The kindred noun qrhskeia, religion, occurs Acts 26:5; Colossians 2:18; James 1:26, James 1:27; and means the ceremonial service of religion. Herodotus (ii., 37) uses it of various observances practiced by the Egyptian priests such as wearing linen, circumcision, shaving, etc. The derivation is uncertain. Qreomai, to mutter forms of prayer, has been suggested, as the followers of Wycliffe were called Lollards, from the old Dutch lullen or lollen, to sing. Hence the adjective here refers to a zealous and diligent performance of religious services.

Bridleth [χαλιναγωγων] . Used by James only. See ch. James 3:2. Lit., to guide with a bridle. So Plato, "Laws," 701 : "I think that the argument ought to be pulled up from time to time, and not to be allowed to run away, but held with bit and bridle."

Verse 27

Undefiled [αμιαντος] . See on 1 Peter 1:4. The two adjectives, pure and undefiled, present the positive and negative sides of purity.

To visit [επισκεπτεσθαι] . See on Matthew 25:36. James strikes a downright blow here at ministry by proxy, or by mere gifts of money. Pure and undefiled religion demands personal contact with the world 's sorrow : to visit the afflicted, and to visit them in their affliction. "The rich man, prodigal of money, which is to him of little value, but altogether incapable of devoting any personal attention to the object of his alms, often injures society by his donations; but this is rarely the case with that far nobler charity which makes men familiar with the haunts of wretchedness, and follows the object of its care through all the phases of his life" (Lecky, "History of European Morals," 2, 98).

To keep [πηρειν] . See on 1 Peter 1:4.

Unspotted [ασπιλον] . See on 1 Peter 1:19.

Copyright Statement
The text of this work is public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on James 1". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/vnt/james-1.html. Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.