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Bible Commentaries

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary
James 4

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 1

1.] Whence are wars, and whence fightings among you (“By what follows, it is not contentions between teachers that are meant, as Schneckenb., al., or sects, as Semler, al.,—but concerning ‘meum’ and ‘tuum.’ Grot. refers them to the tumults which preceded the destruction of Jerusalem. πόλ. and μάχ. are strong expressions, as in Arrian, Epict. iii. 21 in Raphel, and Wetst. πρὸς τὸ παιδάριον πόλεμος, πρὸς τοὺς γείτονας κ. τ. λ.” De Wette. The above assertion, that these are strifes about mine and thine, confines them perhaps to too narrow a space; they seem rather, as Huther, to represent all those quarrels which spring up about common worldly interests from selfish considerations of pride, envy, covetousness, and the like)? Are they not from hence (this second question contains in fact the answer to the former, in an appeal to the consciences of the readers), from your lusts (an unusual sense of ἡδοναί, hardly distinguishable from ἐπιθυμίαι: in fact taken up by ἐπιθυμεῖτε) which militate (campaign, have their camp, and, as it were, forage about. There seems no need, with De W., Calov., al., to supply κατὰ τῆς ψυχῆς or κατὰ τοῦ νοός, as in ref.: Huther observes well, that, had this been intended, it would have been more plainly expressed. Schneckenb., Theile, al. understand it of militating one against another, but this again is not consistent with the context, in which αἱ ἡδοναὶ ὑμῶν are treated as a class, united for one purpose, cf. James 4:3 fin. Wiesinger thinks that the adversaries are to be found in the fact of the ἐπιθυμεῖν having set over against it an οὐκ ἔχειν, an οὐ δύνασθε ἐπιτυχεῖν. But this again would not, except by implication (this οὐ δύνασθε implying a neighbour who is the obstacle), touch the point of wars and fightings. It is far better therefore to see as the adversaries, our fellow-men, against whom, to put down whom and set ourselves up, our lusts are as it were an army of soldiers ever encamped within us and waging war) in your members (see a remarkable parallel in Plato, Phædo, p. 66 C: καὶ γὰρ πολέμους καὶ στάσεις καὶ μάχας οὐδὲν ἄλλο παρέχει ἢ τὸ σῶμα καὶ αἱ τούτου ἐπιθυμίαι)?

James 4:2 carries on the assertion in detail. Ye desire (generally: it is not said what: but evidently worldly possessions and honours are intended by the context, James 4:4 ff.), and possess not (lust of possession does not ensure possession itself, then comes a further step, out of this lust): ye murder (but how comes φόνος to be introduced at this early stage of the development of ἐπιθυμία, before ζῆλος, which itself leads on to μάχαι κ. πόλεμοι? Three solutions of this difficulty may at once be set aside, as out of the question: 1. that which makes the words mean “ye envy even unto death,” giving the so-called adverbial meaning to φονεύετε καί. So Carpzov, Pott, Schneckenburger, al. Against this, besides its exceeding lameness and clumsiness, is, that in this case the subordinate verb φονεύετε must come last, not first. 2. That which gives to φονεύετε the unexampled sense, “ye murder in thought,” have the intent to murder. So Estius, Calov., Bengel, De Wette, Huther, Wiesinger. But even if such a meaning might be justified, which I doubt, by the strong figurative cast of the passage, yet the matter of fact character of the following clause, καὶ οὐ δύνασθε ἐπιτυχεῖν, makes it more probable that a matter of fact is here also pointed at, and that φονεύετε is rather qualified by καὶ ζηλοῦτε than strictly parallel with it. 3. That of Œcum., which as far as I know stands alone: ἐπιστατέον δὲ ὡς φόνον ἐνταῦθα καὶ πόλεμον οὐ τὸν σαρκικόν φησι. τοῦτο γὰρ βαρὺ καὶ κατὰ λῃστῶν ἐννοεῖν, μὴ ὅτι κατὰ πόσως πιστῶν καὶ τῷ κυοίῳ προσερχουένων. ἀλλʼ ὥς γέ μοι δοκεῖ, φονευειν φησὶ τοὺς τὴν ἑαυτῶν ψυχὴν ἀποκτίννυντας ταῖς τολμηραῖς ταύταις ἐπιχειρήσεσι, διʼ ἃς καὶ ὁ πρὸς τὴν εὐσέβειαν αὐτοῖς πόλεμος. Another inadmissible expedient is, to suppose φθονεῖτε to be the true reading; there being no authority whatever for it in manuscripts. Thus Erasm., Luther, Calvin, Beza, Piscator, Benson, and many others. It only remains then to take the word literally, and understand it to allude to such cases, e. g. as those in the O. T. of David and Ahab, who, in their desire to possess, committed murder. And if it be said, as Œc. above, that this is a hard saying of those who feared the Lord, be it remembered that the Apostle is speaking of πόλεμοι καὶ μάχαι, and though he may include under these terms the lesser forms of variance, the greater and more atrocious ones are clearly not excluded. In the state of Jewish society during the apostolic age, it is to be feared that examples of them were but too plentiful, and there is no saying how far the Christian portion of Jewish communities may have suffered themselves to become entangled in such quarrels and their murderous consequences) and envy, and are not able to obtain: ye fight and make war (these words form the final answer to the πόθεν κ. τ. λ. with which the section begins: and are therefore not to be joined with the following as by δέ in the rec.).

Reason why ye have not. Ye have not, because ye ask not (in prayer to God: in the following verse he explains, and as it were corrects this):


Verses 1-10

1–10.] Exhortations and pleadings, as connected with what preceded, first against wars and fightings, then against the lusts and worldly desires out of which these spring. And herein, 1–3.] against wars and fightings, the origin of which is detailed and exposed.


Verse 2

2. The sense of the words themselves, πρὸς φθόνον ἐπιποθεῖ τὸ πνεῦμα ὃ κατῴκισεν ἐν ἡμῖν, is very variously given. α. πρὸς φθόνον is by some referred back to λέγει,— ἡ γρ. λέγει πρὸς φθόνον: “An putatis, quod scriptura in vanum loquatur adversus invidiam? Spiritus desideria excitat, sed meliora desideriis carnis:” so Du Mont, in Huther. But this “desideria excitare” is an unexampled sense of ἐπιποθεῖν. Gebser takes this connexion, and renders, “Think ye, that the Scripture speaks in vain, and enviously?” And nearly so Œcumenius, ἢ δοκεῖτε ὅτι κενῶς ἡ γραφὴ λέγει, πρὸς φθόνον; οὐδὲν τούτων· ἀλλʼ ἐπιποθεῖ κ. τ. λ. But, as Huther remarks, this necessity for sufficiently condemns this view: and thus ἐπιποθεῖ would be left here without any qualifying adverb to fill out its sense. β. Taking then πρὸς φθόνον with ἐπιποθεῖ, we have the following various views taken:

ι. πνεῦμα as the subject. And herein

A. τὸ πν. = the human spirit, in its natural condition. So Hottinger, “Animus hominis natura fertur ad invidendum aliis:” so also Beza, Laurentius, Grot., al., and E.V.

B. τὸ πν. = the Spirit of God, whom God hath caused to take up His dwelling in us: and then

a. πρὸς φθ. = “ad invidiam:” in which case the clause is interrogative: “Num ad invidiam proclivis est Spiritus, qui nobis inest? minime:” similarly Bed(12) (“Numquid spiritus gratiæ, quo significati estis in die redemptions, hoc concupiscit ut invideatis alterutrum”), Witsius, Calv., Wolf, al.

b. πρὸς φθ. = “contra invidiam:” so Luther, der Geist.… gelüstet wider den hass,—Pareus, Bengel, al.

c. πρὸς φθ. = “invidiose:” so De Wette, much as the interp. given above, neidisch lieht (uns) der Geist: so Schneckenburger, and in substance many old Commentators (see Pol. Synops. v. p. 1459, Colossians 1), rendering it “usque ad invidiam:” e. g. Tirinus, Menochius, Cajetan, al.

II. πνεῦμα as the object, supplying ὁ θεός as the subject, understanding πν. the human spirit, and taking πρὸς φθόν. adverbially. So Wiesinger, “The Love of God jealously desires as an object your love:” so Theile, supplying however ἡ γραφή as the subject, as also does Œcumenius, continuing from the words cited above, οὐδὲν τούτων· ἀλλʼ ἐπιποθεῖ ἤτοι ἐπιζητεῖ τὴν διὰ τῆς παρακλήσεως αὐτῆς ἐγκατοικισθεῖσαν ἡμῖν χάριν: and below, πνεῦμα τὴν ἀγαθήν φησι προαίρεσιν.

In judging of the above interpretations (the classification of which I have mainly taken from Huther), we may notice, that to interpret πρὸς φθόνον ἐπιποθεῖ, as if it were κατὰ φθόνου ἐπιθυμεῖ, see Galatians 5:17, is to do violence to the construction and meaning of the words: besides which, there is no mention here of envy, as a human passion, the discourse being of the enmity to God incurred by those who would be friends to the world; of God’s enmity to the proud and upholding of the humble. So that God must be the subject of this clause, as expressed by τὸ πνεῦμα ὃ κατῴκισεν ἐν ἡμῖν. This being so, our only rendering of πρὸς φθόνον will be as above, adverbially, as so very frequently, e. g. πρὸς δίκην, πρὸς ἡδονήν, πρὸς χάριν, πρὸς λύπην, πρὸς ὀργήν, πρὸς βίαν, πρὸς ὕβριν, &c. &c. See Palm and Rost’s Lex. under πρός, vol. ii. p. 1138, Colossians 2, where many examples are given, e. g. πρὸς χάριν ἢ πρὸς ἀπέχθειαν δικάζειν, Lucian: πρὸς ὀργὴν ἀκούειν, &c. With regard to the sense above given, as fitting into the context, Theile well says, ἐπιποθεῖν with an accusative, “desiderio alicujus teneri,” to love eagerly, as reff. 2 Cor., Phil., introduces us into the same figurative realm of thought in which μοιχαλίδες placed us before. The Apostle is speaking of the eager and jealous love of God towards those whom He has united as it were in the bond of marriage with Himself.


Verse 3

3.] ye ask (notice the unaccountable interchange of active and middle, αἰτεῖσθαιαἰτεῖτεαἰτεῖσθε, all referring to the same act) and do not receive, because ye ask amiss (with evil intent, see below), that ye may spend (it) (that which ye ask for) in (‘in the exercise of,’ ‘under the dominion of:’ ἐν does not belong to the verb ( δαπανᾶν ἐν, ‘to spend on,’ “that ye may consume it upon” as E. V., which would be δαπανᾶν εἰς), but to the state in which the spenders are, q. d. in the course of satisfying) your lusts. The general sense is: if you really prayed aright, this feeling of continual craving after more worldly things would not exist: all your proper wants would be supplied: and these improper ones which beget wars and fightings among you would not exist. Ye would ask, and ask aright, and consequently would obtain.


Verse 4

4.] Ye adulteresses (the occurrence of the fem. only is rightly explained by Theile: “A fœm. nec vero a masc. facta denominatio suppeditari poterat ipsa imagine. Ea quum Deum sistat maritum, homines fœminam, non minus recte singuli homines scorta dicentur, quam totum genus atque universa aliqua gens scortum.” Nor is De Wette’s protest needed that only das Volk im Ganzen, only the entire people, is thus called: nor Huther’s consequent modification of Theile, that St. James is addressing Churches here. For God is the Lord and husband of every soul that is His, as much as of every church; and the indignant μοιχαλίδες of the Apostle is just as applicable to every one who forsakes his or her God, as to an apostate church. This is one of those cases where the testimony of our ancient MSS. is so valuable, in restoring to us the nervous and pregnant rebuke of the original), know ye not that the friendship of the world ( ὁ κόσμος here, precisely as in ch. James 1:27, men, and men’s interests and ambitions and employments, in so far as they are without God. So that we must not understand merely worldly goods, as Schneckenburger, Theile, al., nor merely worldly desires (Didymus, Laurentius), nor both of these together (De Wette), to neither of which will φιλία properly fit) is enmity (‘the state of being an enemy:’ not ἐχθρά, “inimica,” as vulg., which destroys the parallelism and force) of God (the man who is taken out of the world by Christ, cannot again become a friend and companion of worldly men and their schemes for self, without passing into enmity with God, of whose family he was a reconciled member. God and the world stand opposed to one another: so that a man cannot join the one without deserting the other. This is further stated in what follows)? whoever therefore (particular consequence on the general axiom just stated, carried however further, into all approach to, and not merely the completion of, the outward state) shall be minded (no stress on βουληθῇ: it is a mere statement of fact as to the man who becomes a friend of the world, and therefore, in so doing, sets his mind and thought and wish that way. So that we need not say with Laurentius, “Non is tantum est inimicus Dei, qui est ipso opere amicus mundi, sed etiam ille qui cum non possit, vult tamen.” But he is so far right, that the Apostle certainly means to say, He that would be a friend of the world, must make up his mind to be God’s enemy) to be a friend of the world, is (thereby, by the proceeding in the direction indicated by that βουλή) constituted (as above, ref.; not merely “is,” or ‘becomes:’ ‘becomes ipso facto,’ ‘then and there,’ is rather the meaning of καθίσταται) an enemy of God.


Verse 5

5.] Or (ref. the formula puts a hypothetical alternative, the assumption of which negatives itself) do ye think that the Scripture saith in vain, The Spirit that He (God) placed in us (viz. when the Spirit descended on the church. We have κατοικίζω somewhat similarly used Æsch. Prom. 250, τυφλὰς ἐν τοῖς θνητοῖς ἐλπίδας κατῴκισα) jealously ( πρὸς φθόνον, as πρὸς βίαν and the like: see below) desireth (us for his own)? These words connect naturally with the foregoing. We are married to one, even God, who has implanted in us His Spirit: and He is a jealous God, who will not suffer us to be friends of His enemy and His friends at the same time. The only difficulty seems to be, to trace this latter saying in any part of Scripture. For that this is the quotation, and no other, must be maintained against very many Commentators (see below) on account of λέγει, which can hardly be otherwise used than at introducing the thing said. I will state the solution which seems to me the most probable, and then give an account of other methods of solving it. The emphasis of this clause lies on the πρὸς φθόνον ἐπιποθεῖ: and, interpreting those words as above, we are naturally led to ask, is there any chapter or passage especially, where such a mind towards His people is ascribed to God? And this directs our thoughts at once to Deuteronomy 32, where the love of Jehovah for Israel, and His jealousy over them is described. In that song of Moses we have this very word used of God, Deuteronomy 32:10 f., ἐκύκλωσεν αὐτὸν καὶ ἐπαίδευσεν αὐτόν, καὶ διεφύλαξεν αὐτὸν ὡς κόρην ὀφθαλμοῦ· ὡς ἀετὸς σκεπάσαι νοσσιὰν αὐτοῦ καὶ ἐπὶ τοῖς νοσσοῖς αὐτοῦ ἐπεπόθησεν: and Deuteronomy 32:19, καὶ εἶδεν κύριος καὶ ἐζήλωσεν, καὶ παρωξύνθη διʼ ὀργὴν υἱῶν αὐτοῦ καὶ θυγατέρων· καὶ εἶπεν, ἀποστρέψω τὸ πρόσωπόν μου ἀπʼ αὐτῶν κ. τ. λ. So that here we have the elements of the sense of that which is cited, viz. the jealous desire of the Lord over His people. And for the rest, τὸ πνεῦμα ὃ κατῴκισεν ἐν ἡμῖν, the only solution seems to be, that the Apostle translates into the language of the Gospel the former declarations of the God of Israel, e. g. such as that Numbers 35:34, ἐγὼ γάρ εἰμι κύριος κατασκηνῶν ἐν μέσῳ τῶν υἱῶν ἰσραήλ, combining them with such prophecies as Ezekiel 36:27, καὶ τὸ πνεῦμά μου δώσω ἐν ὑμῖν. I own that such a solution does not seem to me wholly satisfactory: still there is nothing improbable in the idea that St. James may have combined the general sense of Scripture on the point of God’s jealousy over His people, and instead of the God who dwelt in Israel, may have placed the Holy Spirit who dwelleth in us. At all events it is better to understand it thus, than to make λέγει mean ‘speaks,’ or to force the words of the citation from their simple meaning. I now proceed to state other interpretations. And 1. of those who have recognized the fact that the words πρὸς φθόνον κ. τ. λ. are a citation. Of these, understanding the words variously (see below), Grotius believes them to refer to Genesis 6:3; Genesis 6:5; Beza, Erasm. Schmid, to Genesis 8:21; Witsius, to Numbers 11:29; Schneckenb. to Deuteronomy 5:9 ff.: Le Clerc, to Psalms 119:20 ff.: Michaelis, to Proverbs 21:10; Cocceius, to Song of Solomon 8:6; Wetstein, to Wisdom of Solomon 6:12. Others have supposed the N. T. to be intended by ἡ γραφή. Thus Benson believes the reference to be to Matthew 6:24; Storr, al., to Galatians 5:17; Bengel, to 1 Peter 2:1 ff.: and Semler again, to a passage in the apocryphal book called the Testament of the XII Patriarchs. Bewildered by these differences, many Commentators, among whom are Œc., Bede(11), Calv., Est., Wolf, al., either deny the fact of a citation altogether, or refer the λέγει either on to the citation following in James 4:6, or back to what went before,—or, as I have done above, believe that the general sense of Scripture on the subject, and not any particular text, is adduced. Before passing from this part of my note, I may remark that Huther’s objection, that against the view here given, the formula citandi, ἡ γραφὴ λέγει, is decisive, is not valid: see Wolf’s Curæ, vol. v. p. 66: and cf. John 7:38; John 7:42, where though the formula εἶπεν ἡ γραφή is used, the general sense, and not the exact words, is given.


Verse 5-6

5, 6.] Testimony from Scripture to convince further those who might question what has just been stated.


Verse 6

6.] But He (God, by His Holy Spirit dwelling in us, the same subject as in the previous sentence) gives the more grace (the more and greater, for this longing and jealous desire): wherefore he saith (the Spirit, again: for it is the same Spirit who is implanted in us that speaks in Scripture. This is better than to supply ‘the Scripture;’ far better than to take λέγει impersonally, “it is written,” as Kern), God ( κύριος, LXX: and the same variation is found where the words are again cited in 1 Peter 5:5) is set against the proud (reff.), but giveth grace to the lowly (see Romans 12:16. This is a proof that the ambitious and restless after worldly honours and riches, are God’s enemies, whereas the humble and lowly are the objects of His gifts of ever-increasing grace. The inference follows in the shape of solemn exhortation (James 4:7-10)).


Verse 7

7.] Submit yourselves therefore to God (addressed mainly to the proud—the μοιχαλί δες above; but also to all): but resist the devil (the ἄρχων τοῦ κόσμου τούτου) and he shall flee (better than E. V., “will flee,” which is merely an assurance as from man to man: this is a divine promise. Huther refers to Hermas, Pastor ii. 12. 5, p. 949, δύναται ὁ διάβολος παλαῖσαι, καταπαλαῖσαι δὲ οὐ δύναται. ἐὰν οὖν ἀντίστῃς αὐτόν, νικηθεὶς φεύξεται ἁπὸ σοῦ κατῃσχυμμένος) from you:


Verse 8

8.] draw near to God, and He will draw near (here better ‘will:’ in speaking of the divine dealings, positive declarations are better softened: cf. John 16:23, E. V. Not that this is always observed: cf. Revelation 7:17, E. V.) to you. But it is only the pure in heart and hand that can approach God: therefore—Purify your hands (the hands being the external organs of action, and becoming polluted by the act, as e. g. by blood in the act of murder: cf. Isaiah 1:15, αἱ γὰρ χεῖρες ὑμῶν αἵματος πλήρεις: Isaiah 59:3; 1 Timothy 2:8. And, for both the particulars here mentioned, Psalms 23:4, ἀθῷος χερσὶ καὶ καθαρὸς τῇ καρδίᾳ), ye sinners: and make chaste your hearts (in allusion to μοιχαλίδες above), ye double-minded (ye whose affections are divided between God and the world. The Apostle is addressing not two classes of persons, but one and the same: “Eosdem vocat peccatores et duplices animo,” Calv.).


Verse 9

9.] This cannot be done without true and deep repentance, leading them through deep sorrow. Be wretched (in your minds, from a sense of your sinfulness. That such feeling will have its outward demonstrations is evident: but this word itself does not allude to them, as Grot., “Affligite vosmetipsos jejuniis et aliis corporis σκληραγωγίαις:” so likewise Est., al. Beza also misses the point of the exhortation, when he says, “ ἀναλγησίαν primum reprehendit in adversis, deinde immoderatam in rebus prosperis exultationem.” “Vestram persentiscite miseriam,” of Theile, is nearest the mark) and mourn and weep (here again Grot. refers the exhortation to outward things—“Lugubrem habitum induite, saccum et cilicia.” These may follow on that which is here commanded, but are not the thing itself): let your laughter (“lautæ vitæ,” Theile) be turned into mourning (these more of the outward manifestations) and your joy into humiliation ( κατήφεια, lit. casting down of the eyes: hence shame or humiliation, which produces such downcast looks: cf. Il. γ. 51, where Hector, addressing Paris, calls Helen πατρί τε σῷ μέγα πῆμα, πόληΐ τε παντί τε δήμῳ, δυσμενέσιν μὲν χάρμα, κατηφείην δέ σοι αὐτῷ. These latter, more of the inner states of mind).


Verse 10

10.] Conclusion of the exhortation: the true way to exaltation, through humility. Calvin quotes from Augustine, “Sicuti arborem, ut sursum crescat, profundas subtus radices agere oportet, ita quisquis in humilitatis radice fixum animum non habet, in ruinam suam extollitur.” Be humbled before the Lord (ref. Matt. and 1 Peter 5:6; but ὑπὸ τὴν χεῖρα τοῦ θεοῦ there is not = ἐνώπιον κυρίου here. This latter gives more the realization in the soul of the presence of God, as drawing near to Him in humility: that, the subjection to Him in recognition of His providence and His judgments. κυρίου, not Christ, but the Father: see on ch. James 1:7), and He shall exalt you (both here and hereafter: by His grace and counsel here (not exactly as Grot., who is too external throughout this passage, “Sublimes facie donis suis”) to the hidden glory of His waiting children, and by His fruition and presence hereafter ( ἐν καιρῷ as 1 Peter 5:6) to the ineffable glory of His manifested children. Cf. besides reff. Luke 1:52; Job 5:11; Ezekiel 21:26).


Verse 11

11.] Do not speak against one another (it is evident what sort of καταλαλεῖν he means, by the junction of κρίνειν with it below: it is that kind which follows upon unfavourable judgment: depreciation of character and motive), brethren ( ἀδελφοί prepares the way for the frequent mention of ἀδελφός below): he that speaketh against a brother (but not necessarily indefinite: the relations of life, πατήρ, μήτηρ, ἀδελφός &c. frequently lose their articles even when put definitely), and judgeth his brother (the expression of αὐτοῦ in this second case brings out more strongly the community under the νόμος, which such an one violates), speaketh against the law (of Christian life: the old moral law glorified and amplified by Christ: the νόμος βασιλικός, ch. James 2:8; νόμος τῆς ἐλευθερίας, James 1:25), and judgeth the law (viz. by setting himself up over that law, as pronouncing upon its observance or non-observance by another. This is far better, than with Grot., al., “Doctrinam evangelicam homo talis spernit et damnat ut imperfectam: Christus enim tales non damnat:” or than Laurentius, cited with approbation by Huther, “Is qui detrahit proximo, detrahit legi, quia lex prohibet omnem detractionem: sed et judicat idem legem, quia hoc ipso quod contra prohibitionem legis detrahit, judicat quasi, legem non recte prohibuisse.” This is condemned by the word quasi: for such an argument might be used of every transgressor. See below): but if (as thou dost) thou judgest the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge (seeing that he who judges, judges not only the man before him, but the law also: for he pronounces not only on the fact, but on that fact being, or not being, a breach of the law. So that thus to bring men’s actions under the cognizance of the law, is the office of a judge. There is no need to supply νόμου after κριτής: indeed it destroys the sense by removing the point of the assertion. That the evil speaker judges the law, was before asserted; now, he is stated to be thereby removed from the Christian brotherhood of doers of the law, and become categorically a judge. And then in the next verse, the inconsistency and absurdity of his placing himself in that category is shewn).


Verse 11-12

11, 12.] Exhortation against evil speaking and uncharitable judgment. Some have thought that there is no close connexion with the preceding: and Huther urges this from the milder word ἀδελφοί being here used, whereas before it was μοιχαλίδες, ἁμαρτωλοί, δίψυχοι. But it may be observed, that St. James frequently begins his exhortations mildly, and moves onward into severity: in this very paragraph we have an example of it, where unquestionably the σὺ τίς εἶ ὁ κρίνων τὸν πλησίον; is more severe than the ἀδελφοί with which it began. The connexion is with the whole spirit of this part of the Epistle, as dissuading mutual quarrels, undue self-exaltation, and neighbour-depreciation. Chap. 3. dealt with the sins of the tongue: and now, after speaking against pride and strife, the Apostle naturally returns to them, as springing out of a proud, uncharitable spirit.


Verse 12

12.] One (God) is the lawgiver and judge (unites these two offices in His own person: the latter of them depending on the former), He who is able to save and destroy (this second clause, ὁ δυνάμ. κ. τ. λ., is an epexegesis of εἷς, and belongs closely to the subject, not to the predicative part of the sentence, as De Wette gives it, Einer ist der Gesessgeber und Richter, der da vermag zu retten und zu verderben. ὁ δυνάμενος, because He alone has the power to carry out His judgment when pronounced: “Nostrum non est judicare, præsertim cum exequi non possimus,” Bengel. On σῶσαι, see on ch. James 1:21 and James 2:14, as relating to ultimate salvation: and on κ. ἀπολέσαι, ref. Matt., to which this is the key text, fixing the reference there to God, and not to God’s Enemy): but thou, who art thou (thou, feeble man, who hast no such power, and who art not the lawgiver) that judgest thy neighbour (see ref. Rom., the influence of which on our readings here it is, as usual in such cases, very difficult to estimate)?


Verse 13

13.] Go to now (“interjectio ad excitandam attentionem,” Beng. This seems to be the true view of it: ‘come on,’ q. d. let us reason together: cf. δεῦτε, διελεγχθῶμεν, Isaiah 1:18. The νῦν serves to mark the time, as noted by the point to which the argument of the Epistle has arrived. It is hardly purely temporal, but as so often, slightly ratiocinative, = ‘rebus sic stantibus,’ ‘quæ cum ita sint:’ see on 1 Corinthians 13:13), ye that say (no stress on λέγοντες: not as Theile, “qui non solum cogitare soletis, sed etiam dicere audetis.” The fault is even oftener perhaps committed in word than in thought. We speak more presumptuously before men than we think in our own hearts; though there also we are too liable to forget God), To-day and to-morrow (the of the rec. would suppose an alternative, “to-day, it may be, or to-morrow:” with καί, the two days are assigned for the journey, without any alternative. Bengel and Wiesinger take καί, as in δύο μαρτύρων καὶ τριῶν, 2 Corinthians 13:1, as combining two possible cases: “Nunc dicit hodie, idem aliusve cras, ut commodum est,” Beng. This is possible: but I prefer the other) we will go (the indic, fut. (see var. readd.) gives the fixed certainty of the assumption) into this (most Commentators render, “this or that,” = “such a,” as E. V.: and Winer, Gramm. § 23. 5, refers to Plutarch, Sympos. i. 6. 1, for this usage of ὅδε. But his reference does not quite bear him out. Plutarch is proving the vinosity of Alexander from the βασιλικαὶ ἐφημερίδες, in which is found very often written ὅτι τήνδε τὴν ἡμέραν ἐκ τοῦ πότου ἐκάθευδεν, ἔστι δʼ ὅτε καὶ τὴν ἐφεξῆς: where τήνδε τὴν ἡμέραν is clearly a quotation from the diary, not ‘this or that day,’ but “this day:” and then τὴν ἐφεξῆς is an improper elliptical way of recording, that against the next day a similar entry was made. So that I should much doubt this usage of ὅδε, there being no mention of it in the best Lexx., and apparently no other example: and should consider τήνδε τὴν πόλιν as a sort of ‘oratio mixta,’ to express in general terms the city then present to the mind of the speaker) city, and will spend (reff. for this temporal sense of ποιέω) there one year ( ἐνιαυτὸν ἕνα is the accus. not of duration, but of the object, after ποιήσομεν. So that the E. V. “continue there a year,” is not accurate. It should have been ‘spend a year there,’ which savours of presumption much more strongly and vividly. ἐνιαυτ. ἕνα: “Sic loquuntur, quasi mox etiam de insequentibus annis deliberaturi.” Beng.), and (Bengel remarks well: “ καί frequens: polysyndeton exprimit libidinem animi securi”) will traffic (this word brings up the worldly nature of the plan) and get gain:


Verses 13-17

13–17.] Against ungodly and presumptuous confidence in our worldly plans for the future. This again falls into the previous context, where we are warned against hearts divided between God and the world. But, as has been rightly remarked as early as Bed(13), and by many since, e. g. Œc., Semler, al., St. James, though carrying on the same subject, is no longer, from this place to ch. James 5:6, addressing members of Christ’s church, but those without: the ungodly and the rich in this world. This however must be taken with just this reservation,—that he addresses Christians in so far as they allow themselves to be identified with those others. This first paragraph, for example, might well serve as a warning for Christians who are in the habit of leaving God out of their thoughts and plans. That it is still Jews who are addressed, appears from James 4:15, and ch. James 5:4.


Verse 14

14.] whereas ye know not (so, admirably, the E. V.: exactly hitting the delicate force of οἵτινες, ‘ut qui,’—‘belonging, as ye do, to a class which’) the (event) (or, matter, or content: the more general and indefinite, the better) of the morrow: for ( γάρ substantiates the ignorance just alleged) of what sort (depreciative, as in 1 Peter 2:20) is your life? for ( γάρ refers to the depreciative force in ποία: ‘I may well pour contempt on it, for,’ &c.) ye are (ye yourselves: so that any thing of yours, even your life, must partake of the same instability and transitoriness. ἐστε, so in ch. James 1:10 the πλούσιος is said to pass away as the flower of the grass. It is not your life, which is not a thing seen, but ye, that πρὸς ὀλίγον φαίνεσθε) a vapour, which appeareth for a little time, afterwards as it appeared, so (this is the force of καί, ‘vanishing as it came;’ which not having been seen, δέ has been substituted, or the two, καὶ δέ, combined. It is not a case where (Bloomf.) the variations point to the original absence of a particle: for the καί in the text is not a particle of connexion, as the δέ is. For it to be so, the var. read. must have been καὶ ἔπειτα, not ἔπειτα καί) vanishing:


Verse 15

15.] (James 4:14 was parenthetical, and demonstrated the folly of their conduct. Now the sense proceeds, but with ὑμᾶς inserted by way of taking it up, after the parenthesis, direct from λέγοντες above) instead of (your) saying, If the Lord (God, as usual in this Epistle: see on James 4:10) will (not θέλῃ, but aor.: properly, shall have willed; i. e. have so determined it in His counsel), we shall both live (with the reading ζήσομεν, it would be hardly grammatically allowable to make this clause part of the hypothesis, ‘and if we live.’ With the subjunctive ζήσωμεν of the rec., this will be the right rendering: but even then it is more probable that the ἐάν would have been repeated, than that two such incongruous members as κύριος θελήσῃ and ζήσωμεν should be included under one hypothetical ἐάν. The escape from this, “si Deo placet ut vivamus” (Schneckenb., so Grot., al.), is clearly unallowable) and shall do this or that.


Verse 16

16.] But (contrast to the spirit of resignation to the divine will just recommended) now (as things now are, see 1 Corinthians 5:11; 1 Corinthians 14:6) ye boast in (not, as in ch. James 1:9, “make your boast in:” the ἐν indicates the state, as in ch. James 3:18, and James 4:3 especially. The ἀλαζονεία is the source, but not the material of the boasting) your vain-gloriousnesses (see note on ref. 1 John. Here ἀλαζονεία is the self-deceived and groundless confidence in the stability of life and health on which the worldly pride themselves. On this, as on its foundation, your boastful speeches, σήμερον καὶ αὔριον κ. τ. λ., are built): all such boasting (all boasting so made and so grounded) is wicked.


Verse 17

17.] This conclusion is most naturally understood to refer to the universal notoriety of the shortness of human life, and to apply only to the subject just treated. Otherwise, if, as many Commentators, we take it for a general conclusion to all that has gone before, we must understand it as Estius, “Jam de his omnibus satis vos admonui, vobis bene nota sunt:” in which case this would hardly be the place for it, considering that more exhortations follow, ch. 5. Grotius takes it to mean, “Moniti estis a me, ignorantiam non potestis obtendere, si quid tale posthac dixeritis, gravior erit culpa:” and so Theile, Wiesinger, De Wette, al. But in this case, why should such a conclusion follow this, rather than any other exhortation? So that ( οὖν here does not prove what follows, but refers the particular case to the general principle; q. d. therefore we see ‘hoc exemplo’ the truth of the general axiom, &c.) to him who knoweth to do good (not τὸ καλόν: καλόν is not any positive good, as beneficence; but merely the opposite of πονηρόν. So Wiesinger, rightly: and ποιεῖν is the object after εἰδότι, not the epexegetic inf. as De Wette, “knows the good, that he must do it”) and doeth it not (not merely, omits to do it, as might be the case if it were some one definite deed that was spoken of. It is not sins of omission that men are here convicted of, as so often mistakenly supposed: but the doing πονηρόν, as in the case of the speech above supposed, where καλόν is easy and obvious), it is sin to him (i. e. reckoned to him as sin. Schneckenburger well remarks, “Videre licet, Jacobum omnia.… ad thema suum primarium revocare, recti scientiam requirere recti exercitationem”).

 


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Bibliography Information
Alford, Henry. "Commentary on James 4:4". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hac/james-4.html. 1863-1878.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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