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Bible Commentaries

Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament
James 3

 

 

Introduction

CHAPTER 3

James 3:3. Instead of the Rec. ἰδού, found only in some min., Griesbach has, after C, many min. etc., adopted ἴδε; however, εἰ δέ is to be read, with Lachm. Tisch. Wiesinger, de Wette, and others, after A B G K א, many min. vss. etc. Not only does the preponderating weight of authorities testify for this, but also its difficulty.

Instead of πρὸς τὸ πείθεσθαι, Lachm. and Tisch. (approved by de Wette, Wiesinger, not by Bouman) have adopted εἰς τὸ π. (so B C א).

Lachm. has retained the Rec. αὐτοὺς ἡμῖν, after B G K א, etc.; Tisch., on the contrary, reads ἡμῖν αὐτούς, after A C.

James 3:4. Instead of σκληρῶν ἀνέμων (A G, etc.), Lachm. and Tisch. read ἀνέμων σκληρῶν, after B C K א, which according to authorities is to be considered as the correct reading.

James 3:5. Lachm. and Tisch. 7 read μεγάλα αὐχεῖ (A C*) instead of the Rec. μεγαλαυχεῖ (Tisch. 2); attested by B C** G K א, almost all min.

Whether we are to read, with the Rec., ὀλίγον πῦρ, or, with Lachm. and Tisch., ἡλίκον πῦρ, cannot with certainty be decided by authorities, since A* C* G K, etc., are in favour of the former, and A** B C א of the latter reading. The latter reading, however, merits the preference, as it is not to be understood how ὀλίγον, suitable for the thought, should be exchanged for the difficult reading ἠλίκον; without sufficient reason, Kern, Theile, Wiesinger, Bouman(167) would retain the reading of the Rec.

James 3:6. Before the second γλῶσσα the Rec., after several min. etc., has οὕτως, which already Griesbach considered suspicious, and, after A B C K א, etc., is according to Lachm. and Tisch. to be erased; it was evidently inserted in order to lighten the difficult construction; also de Wette, Wiesinger, Bouman, and others consider it spurious; Reiche decides otherwise.

After γενέσεως א only has ἡ΄ῶν, which is evidently an interpretation.

There is great variation with regard to the sequence of the words δύναται ἀνθρώπων δα΄άσαι (thus the Rec. after G retained by Tisch.); B C, etc., read δαμάσαι δύναται ἀνθρώπων (Lachm.), and A K א, etc., read δύναται δαμάσαι ἀνθρώπων. It is evidently indifferent for the sense.

Instead of the Rec. ἀκατάσχετον after C G K, etc., probably should be read, with Lachm. and Tisch., ἀκατάστατον, after A B א, etc. (approved by Wiesinger and Lange, rejected by Reiche and Bouman).

James 3:9. The Rec. τὸν θεόν after G K, etc., is to be changed for the better attested reading τὸν κύριον, after A B C א, etc., Lachm. Tisch.: the alteration is easily accounted for.(168)

James 3:12. According to the Rec. the last clause begins with οὓτως, after C** G K א, some min. and vss., which already Griesbach considered suspicious; it is, according to the testimony of A B C, to be erased as an insertion.

The words which follow in the Rec. (after G K, etc.) are οὐδε΄ία πηγὴ ἁλυκὸν καὶ γλυκὺ ποῖησαι ὓδωρ. This reading, whose spuriousness was already recognised by Griesbach, is, as a correction for the sake of explanation, to be changed for οὔτε ἁλυκὸν γλυκὺ ποιῆσαι ὓδωρ; attested by A B C, etc., and adopted by Griesbach, Lachm. Tisch. and others. א reads οὐδέ.

James 3:13. Whether after ἐν ὑ΄ῖν a comma is to be placed, with Lachm. and Buttm., or, with Tisch. and the Rec., a note of interrogation, see the explanation of the verse.

James 3:14. Instead of ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ, א has the plural ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις.

In the same MS. τῆς ἀληθείας instead of after ψεύδεσθε stands after κατακαυχᾶσθε.

James 3:16. After ἐκεῖ, א has inserted καί.

James 3:17. The καί of the Rec. between ἀδιάκριτος and ἀνυπόκριτος is, according to A B C א, etc., to be erased as an insertion; so also in James 3:18 the article τῆς before δικαιοσύνης, according to A B C G K א, etc.

With chap. 3 James passes to the treatment of a new theme, to which the conduct of the Christians, to whom this Epistle was directed, likewise gave occasion. It is that which was already indicated by βραδὺς εἰς τὸ λαλῆσαι in chap. James 1:17, and by μὴ χαλιναγωγῶν γλῶσσαν αὐτοῦ in chap. James 1:26. The more unfruitful faith was in works corresponding to it (especially the works of compassionate love), the more did “the loquacious teaching and ruling of others” (Wiesinger) prevail. Words had taken the place of works. This section, which is closely united with the preceding, treats of this; yet without “any hidden indication contained in it that it was the doctrine of faith which was an object of controversy” (de Wette); for in the whole Epistle there is not the slightest indication of controversies in the churches in question. The fault refers to the same with which Paul in Romans 2:17 ff. blames the Jews, only that with these Christians πίστις, which was to them something entirely external, took the place of νόμος. The moral relation was essentially the same. The warning (as in chap. James 2:1) stands first, and the reason assigned for it follows: “Be not in great numbers teachers, my brethren, considering that we will receive a heavier judgment.” Calvin, Piscator, Laurentius, Baumgarten, and others arbitrarily refer this warning to the unauthorized judging and condemning of each other; by this explanation the idea διδάσκαλοι does not receive its proper meaning. On the other hand, we are not to think of persons rushing into the proper munus docendi (Bede, Semler, Pott, Gebser, Hottinger, Schneckenburger, and others), but on the free teaching in the congregation which was not yet joined to a particular office, but appertained to every one who felt himself called to it.

πολλοί belongs not to γίνεσθε ( πολλοὶ γίγνεσθαι = multiplicari, Genesis 6:1; Schneckenburger), but is either the subject (de Wette, Wiesinger, Bouman) or forms the predicate united with διδάσκαλοι. In the first case, however, γινέσθωσαν would more naturally stand instead of γίνεσθε; also from the second construction a more important thought arises; therefore it is to be explained: “Be not many teachers,” that is: “Be not a multitude of teachers” (Lange). It is inaccurate to explain πολλοί = πάντες (Grotius); it is false to explain it = nimii in docendo (Baumgarten: “be not excessive, vigorous judges”). The verb γίνεσθε has here the same meaning as in chap. James 1:22.

With εἰδότες κ. τ. λ.] James points to the reason of μὴγίνεσθε; yet εἰδότες being closely joined to the imperative is itself hortatory: considering. In the phrase κρῖμα λαμβάνειν, κρῖμα has in the N. T. usage undoubtedly the meaning condemnation; comp. Matthew 23:13 (Mark 12:40; Luke 20:47); Romans 13:2; but also elsewhere the word occurs in the N. T. almost entirely in this meaning, which Lange incorrectly denies (see Cremer). Because James includes himself, many expositors have been induced to take κρῖμα here as vox media (so also Lange), but it is to be considered that James does not use this expression as if the sentence of condemnation could not be removed (see chap. James 2:13); only this is evident to him, that the severer ( μεῖζον) the condemnation, so much the more difficult is it to be delivered from its execution. The comparative μεῖζον (not = too great, Pott) is explained from a comparison with others who are not teachers.


Verse 2

James 3:2. The reason ( γάρ) of the preceding; yet not so much of the warning: μὴγίνεσθε (Schneckenburger),—this is conditioned by εἰδότες κ. τ. λ.,—as rather of the thought μεῖζον κρῖμα ληψόμεθα; namely, so that the first clause refers only to κρῖμα ληψόμεθα, and only that which follows to the idea μεῖζον; whilst in the expression εἴ τις κ. τ. λ. the idea is contained, that as οὐ πταίειν ἐν λόγῳ conditions τελειότης, sinful man is thus not in a position to bridle the tongue. Brückner incorrectly considers the clause εἴ τις κ. τ. λ. as the explanatory reason of the directly preceding sentence: “we all offend frequently, for whosoever offends not in word he only preserves himself from πολλὰ πταίειν.”

The words πολλὰ πταίομεν ἅπαντες] are to be taken in their widest sense (Wiesinger, Brückner); by ἅπαντες (a stronger form than πάντες) neither the διδάσκαλοι simply are meant, nor is it = plerique (Grotius), and πταίειν points not expressly to errores, qui docentibus obvenire possint (Grotius), or to “speech which is used in teaching” (de Wette), but it comprehends all and every moral error of whatever kind it may be.(169)

πολλά] is adverbial, as in Matthew 9:14.

To this first thought that which follows is annexed ἀσυνδέτως.

εἴ τις] see chap. James 1:5; James 1:23; James 1:26 = ὅστις.

ἐν λόγῳ] is not to be limited to teaching proper (Pott = ἐν διδασκαλίᾳ), but is equivalent to ἐν τῷ λαλῆσαι, chap. James 1:19; ἐν denotes the sphere within which the οὐ πταίειν occurs; otherwise in chap. James 2:10. On οὐ after εἰ, see on chap. James 2:11.

To οὗτος τέλειος ἀνήρ, ἐστι is to be supplied; οὗτος is emphatic; what follows δυνατὸς κ. τ. λ. is in apposition to τέλ. ἀνήρ; the word ἀνήρ is used here as in chap. James 1:8.

The meaning is: Whosoever offends (sins) not in speech, and thus is able to bridle his tongue, proves himself thereby to be a perfect man who is able to rule also the whole body, that is, all the other members, so that it is subject to his will. James here places the body in opposition to the man “as a relative independent power which offers moral resistance to the will of the Ego” (Wiesinger), which it is his task to bridle. The καρδία, indeed, is the fountain of evil deeds (Matthew 15:19), but the lust which is rooted therein has so thoroughly appropriated the members of man, and as it were fixed its dwelling in them (Romans 7:23), that they appear as lusting subjects, and may be represented as such in lively concrete language. By such explanations as ὅλον τὸ σῶμα, equivalent to “the whole connection of the actions and changes of man” (Baumgarten), or = reliquae peccandi illecebrae (Pott), or = tota vita (Schneckenburger), the idea lying at the foundation does not receive its full meaning. Even the remark of de Wette, that τὸ σῶμα denotes “not only all organs proper, but even the affections,” is not to be retained; on which account Brückner adds: “the latter only in so far as they are expressed by the former.” The explanation of Lange is also arbitrary, that the body here denotes the organ and symbol of all other modes of human action, with the exception of speech. Laurentius rightly observes: nihil obstat, quo minus per totum corpus intelligamus caetera corporis nostri membra: manus, pedes, etc.


Verse 3

James 3:3. But if we put bridles in the mouths of horses, we turn also their whole body. The clause καὶ ὅλον κ. τ. λ. forms the apodosis to the protasis beginning with εἰ (Pott, Wiesinger, Brückner, Lange, Bouman). Many expositors incorrectly attach this clause to the protasis, whereby Theile regards James 3:5 as the apodosis belonging to it, whilst others supply a thought as the apodosis; according to de Wette, this thought is, that “the tongue is not so easily tamed as a horse,” which is wholly unsuitable.(170)

The particle δέ is not, with Theile, to be explained as closely connecting this verse to the following,(171) for here and in James 3:4 nothing else than a contrast to James 3:2 is to be expressed; it is rather used here even as in chap. James 2:15, simply distinguishing the case adduced for comparison from that for the sake of which it is introduced (Wiesinger). By τῶν ἵππων standing first, the view is at once directed to the object by which the sentiment expressed is to be illustrated (comp. James 3:4). The genitive depends not on τοὺς χαλινούς (Theile, Lange, and others), but on τὰ στόματα (Oecumenius, Hornejus, Pott, Gebser; Bouman wavers), for on this word the emphasis rests. τοὺς χαλινούς points back to χαλιναγωγῆσαι, James 3:2, by which apparently this image was suggested to James.

On the phrase: εἰς τὰ στόματα βάλλειν, comp. in Aelian: χαλινὸν ἵππῳ ἐμβάλλειν.

The words εἰς τὸ πείθεσθαι ἡμῖν αὐτούς are for the purpose of accentuating the governing of the horse by the bridle put into its mouth. The apodosis καὶ ὅλον τὸ σῶμα κ. τ. λ. corresponds to χαλιναγωγῆσαι καὶ ὅλον τὸ σῶμα, James 3:2.

μετάγειν] in the N. T. only here and in James 3:4, is = circumagere. The tertium comparationis lies in εἰς τὰ στόματα; for, as Bengel correctly remarks: in ore lingua est, and οὐ πταίειν ἐν λόγῳ, is identical with the bridling of the tongue in the mouth.


Verse 3-4

James 3:3-4. Two comparisons by which the thought εἴ τις ἐν λόγῳ κ. τ. λ. is illustrated and confirmed. It is incorrect when it is assumed that “James, with James 3:3-4, will primarily explain and establish by examples the importance, maintained in James 3:2, of power over a little thing, as the tongue, for the government of the whole” (Wiesinger), and that the tertium comparationis is “a little thing does much” (Gunkel); for neither in James 3:2 is the smallness of the tongue mentioned, nor in James 3:3 is the smallness of the bridle brought forward. The examples adduced, which are closely attached to the preceding, are rather designed to prove how by the mastery of the tongue that of the whole body is possible; it is, James will say, even as one rules the horse by the guidance of the bridle, and the ship by the guidance of the helm. Only in the second image does the smallness of that by which the steersman rules the great ship appear to James as something important, so that he dwells upon this point in what follows (so also Lange).


Verse 4

James 3:4. The second comparison is emphatically indicated by ἰδού. καί is either also or even so. Wiesinger prefers the second meaning, which certainly gives to the thought a peculiar emphasis. The participles ὄνταἐλαυνόμενα are to be resolved by although. Both participial sentences bring forward the difficulty of guiding the ship, in order to cause the power of the small helm to be recognised. It is possible that in the second clause: καὶἐλαυνόμενα, there is an allusion to the lusts moving man (Bede: venti validi … ipsi appetitus sunt mentium), or “to the temptations ( πειρασμοί) of the world, coming from without” (Lange).

σκληρός] is also used of the wind in Proverbs 27:16 (so also Aelian, de animal, v. 13, ix. 14; Dio Chrysostom, iii. p. 44 C).

The verb μετάγεται united with τὰ πλοῖα is the same as in James 3:3. The words ὑπὸ ἐλαχίστου πηδαλίου] mention by what this guidance takes place. On ὑπό, see chap. James 1:14. By the addition of ἐλαχίστου a new point is introduced which is retained in what follows. The superlative is for the purpose of bringing more strongly forward the smallness of the πηδάλιον in contrast to the great ship ( τηλικαῦτα ὄντα). The counterpart is the little tongue (James 3:5).

The addition: whithersoever the desire of the steersman willeth, is not superfluous; it expresses—in opposition to ὑπὸ ἀνέμων ἐλαυνόμενα—the free mastery of him who steers the ship, which he exercises over it by means of the helm, and corresponds to εἰς τὸ πείθεσθαι κ. τ. λ., James 3:3.

ὅπου] (instead of ὅποι, which does not occur in the N. T.) is found also in the classics united with verbs of motion, particularly with τιθέναι, but also with βαίνειν; Sophocles, Trach. 40: κεῖνος ὅπου βέβηκεν. By ὁρμή is not to be understood the external impulse, or “the pressure which the steersman exercises” (Erasmus, Semler, Augusti, Stolz, Pott, Theile, Wiesinger), also not “the course of the navigator kept in action by the helm” (Lange); by both of these interpretations a meaning is imposed upon the word foreign to it. It rather indicates, as in Acts 14:5 (see Meier in loco), the eager will, the desire of something (in Plato, Phil. p. 35 D, it is used as synonymous with ἐπιθυμία); thus Bede, Calvin, Grotius, Baumgarten, Gebser, de Wette, and others.

The participle εὐθύνων indicates him who sits at the helm and directs the ship; it is thus not = εὐθυντήρ (Grotius, Pott, Schneckenburger). Luther correctly translates it according to its meaning: “whether he wills who governs it.”

For corresponding passages from the classics, see in Wetstein, Gebser, Theile; particularly Aristotle, Quaest. mechan. ii. 5.


Verse 5

James 3:5. Application of the comparison, particularly of the second illustration, μικρόν, pointing back to ἐλαχίστου.

μεγαλαυχεῖν] which expresses the contrast to μικρόν is not = μεγάλα ἐργάζεσθαι (Oecumenius, Theophylact, Calvin, Laurentius, Pott, Bouman, and others), for the idea of doing is precisely not contained in the word, but it denotes proud conduct in word and behaviour, which has for supposition the performance of great things, and is always used in a bad sense. This certainly does not appear to suit οὕτως, as in the preceding the discourse is not about talking, on which account Lange prefers the reading μεγάλα αὐχεῖ; but also this expression = “boasteth great things,” does not exclude, but includes that secondary meaning, for why would not James otherwise have written simply μεγάλα ποιεῖ? But οὕτως is so far not unsuitable, as the performance of great things—as they are spoken of in the foregoing—forms the reason of the boasting of the tongue. On a mere inanis jactatio it is not natural here to think. This first clause already points to what follows, where the destructive power of the tongue is described. This description begins with a figure: “What a fire kindles what a forest.” In justification of the reading ἡλίκον (instead of ὀλίγον), de Wette (with whom Brückner agrees), translating ἡλίκον πῦρ: “what a great fire,” observes, “that the burning of the forest is contemplated in its whole extent.” But the verb ἀνάπτει, as Wiesinger correctly observes, is opposed to this explanation; also this clause forms the transition from the foregoing to what follows, and therefore must still contain the reference to μικρόν, which certainly is afterwards laid aside. This does not, however, constrain us to the rejection of the reading ἡλίκον (against Wiesinger and Bouman), since this word, which indeed chiefly emphasizes greatness, can also be used to give prominence to smallness; see Pape. The older expositors, according to its meaning, correctly explained the quantus of the Vulgate by quantulus; thus Cajetan., Paes, and others; the same explanation by Lange. If Brückner thinks that it is not appropriate to take ἡλίκον here in this signification, owing to the following ἡλίκην, it is, on the contrary, to be observed that precisely the opposition of the same word in a different signification is entirely in accordance with the liveliness of the sentiment.

On the use of ἡλίκος in the interrogative explanatory sense, see A. Buttmann, p. 217 [E. T. 253]. Erasmus, Laurentius, Grotius, Baumgarten, Augusti explain the word ὕλη by materia, lignorum congeries, as it has in Sirach 28:10 the signification of fuel; but the image is evidently much more lively and graphic when ὕλη is retained in its usual meaning: forest. Corresponding descriptions in Homer, Il. xi. 155. Pindar, Pyth. iii. 66; see also Sirach 11:32. Philo, de migr. Abrah. 407 A. In Stobaeus it is said: Parva facula cacumen Idae incendi potest.


Verse 6

James 3:6. Application of the image: Also the tongue is a fire, the world of unrighteousness; the tongue sets itself among our members, as that which defileth the whole body and kindleth the wheel (of life) revolving from birth, and is kindled of hell. As a (little) fire setteth a forest in conflagration, so also the tongue kindleth the whole life of man. Such is the destructive power of the tongue, that whosoever knows how to bridle it may with truth be called a perfect man (James 3:2).

Several interpreters divide the first clause: καὶ γλῶσσα πῦρ, κόσμος τῆς ἀδικίας, into two corresponding parts, supplying the idea ὕλη to κόσμος τῆς ἀδικίας; thus Morus: igni respondet lingua, materiae seu silvae respondet mundus improbus. Manifestly wholly arbitrary; rather the words κόσμος τῆς ἀδικίας form an apposition to γλῶσσα, by which the power of the tongue similar to destructive fire is explained. κόσμος has here the same meaning as in LXX. Proverbs 17:6 : ὅλος κόσμος τῶν χρημάτων;(172) thus the multitude comprehending the individual: consequently κόσ΄ος τῆς ἀδικίας is the fulness of unrighteousness. The tongue is so called because, as the organ of ὀργή, it includes a fulness (not exactly the sum-total) of unrighteousness which from it pervades the other members ( ὅλον τὸ σῶμα). Calvin correctly, according to the sense: acsi vocaret mare vel abyssum (Luther inaccurately: “a world full of wickedness”). This is the explanation of most expositors. Bouman correctly explains the definite article: famosus iste mundus iniquitatis. The following are other explanations:—(1) Oecumenius takes κόσμος = ornament, and explains: γλῶσσα κοσ΄εῖ τὴν ἀδικίαν διὰ τῆς τῶν ῥητόρων εὐγλώττου δεινότητος; similarly Wetstein, Semler, Elsner, Rosenmüller, Storr, Lange(173) (Wahl is doubtful). But κόσμος never signifies in an active sense that which puts an ornament on another, but always the ornament itself, that wherewith a person adorns himself (or another). (2) Bretschneider likewise takes the word as equivalent to ornament, but supplies ὡς, and explains: ut ornatus (mulierum) inhonestus sc. inquinat mentes, sic lingua deprehenditur inter corporis membra id quod totum corpus inquinat; yet evidently more arbitrarily than the foregoing explanation. (3) Theile retains the usual meaning of the word world, and explains: lingua (est ignis), mundus (vero est) improbitatis i.e. improbitate plenus, nimirum ob illam ipsam linguae vim; but apart from the inadmissible supplements rendered necessary, and the harshness contained in this combination of the genitive, this explanation is to be rejected, because by it the words would contain an assertion on the nature of the world, instead of on the nature of the tongue. (4) Estius, indeed, is right in his comprehension of the idea, but he arbitrarily understands it as causative: quia (lingua) peccata omnigena parit; so also Herder: “the mainspring and the cause of all unrighteousness.” Gebser introduces something foreign into the explanation, taking κόσμος = the wicked world. Clericus, Hammond, Eichhorn, Kuinoel, and Hottinger, without any sufficient reason, think that the words are to be expunged from the text as spurious.

Whilst almost all expositors refer κόσμος τῆς ἀδικίας to what precedes (to which, according to the reading of the Rec. which has οὕτως before the following γλῶσσα, it necessarily belongs), Tischendorf has put a point after πῦρ but not after ἀδικίας;(174) and Neander translates: “As a world full of unrighteousness, the tongue is among our members;” so also Lange construes it. But this construction is not only difficult, but isolates too much the first thought γλῶσσα πῦρ, which only has a correct meaning when it is closely connected with what follows.

The new clause accordingly begins with γλῶσσα, and καθίσταται has its necessary supplement in what follows: σπιλοῦσα κ. τ. λ.

καθίσταται] can neither here nor in chap. James 4:4 mean it stands: the perfect only has this meaning, but not the present; it means: it sets itself, it appears (Wiesinger). Also the explanations are false: “it is so placed” (Pott); collocata est (Beza, Piscator, Schneckenburger); “it becomes (such)” (de Wette, appealing to Romans 5:19), and “it rules” (Lange, appealing to Hebrews 8:3). Theile arbitrarily completes the idea: hand raro. The words which follow mention how the tongue appears among the members—as that which defileth the whole body. The idea σπιλοῦν, to which certainly πῦρ is not suited, is suggested by the apposition κόσμος τῆς ἀδικίας. Only with the following participle does James carry on the image of fire; it is artificial to assume in σπιλοῦν a reference to it. Bengel: maculans, ut ignis per fumum; comp. on this passage Ecclesiastes 5:5. Neither the double καί (for how often the several καί succeed each other in a simple copulative sense!) nor the omission of the article before the two participles (comp. chap. James 4:11; James 4:14) proves that the participles which follow καὶ φλογίζουσα and καὶ φλογιζομένη are subordinated to σπιλοῦσα (Wiesinger). This construction could only be considered as correct if the two participles analyzed the idea σπιλοῦσα ὅλ. τ. σῶμα into its individual parts or confirmed it; but neither of these is the case here; they rather add to this idea two new points. The object τὸν τροχὸν τῆς γενέσεως, belonging to φλογίζουσα, has found very different explanations. The word τροχός, according to its etymology, denotes something running, and, although used of other rotatory orbs, as particularly of the potter’s wheel, it is especially used as a designation of a wheel, 1 Kings 7:30 ff.; Ezekiel 1:15; Ezekiel 1:19-20. The word γένεσις can here be only in the same sense as in chap. James 1:23; the compound idea: the wheel of birth, i.e. “the wheel revolving from birth,” is a figurative designation of human life; comp. Anacreon, Od. iv. 7: τροχὸς ἅρματος γὰρ οἷα βίστος τρέχει κυλισθείς. Thus Gebser in particular correctly explains it: “the wheel which is set in motion from our birth, i.e. a poetical description of life;” so also Brückner and Bouman. The explanations of Oecumenius ( τροχός· βίος ὡς εἰς ἑαυτὸν ἀνελιττόμενος), Calvin, Laurentius, Hornejus, Pott, Neander, amount to the same thing. Also Estius, Grotius, Carpzov, Michaelis understand life, only deriving this idea in a different manner. They explain τροχός (for which Grotius would read τρόχος) = cursus, γένεσις = natura, and cursus naturae = vita; by this explanation, however, the figurative nature of the expression suffers. Wiesinger (with whom Rauch agrees), deviating from this explanation, prefers to understand by it the whole body ( ὅλον τὸ σῶμα), τροχός denoting either the wheel (by which, then, τροχὸς τ. γεν. would be the revolving wheel of existence, of life, namely, of that to which the tongue belongs), or (which Wiesinger prefers) the circumference (thus τροχ. τ. γεν. would be the circumference of being, i.e. the circumference belonging to the tongue from birth, native to it). But, on the one hand, it is not to be supposed that James, after using the ordinary expression ὅλον τὸ σῶμα, should express the same thing figuratively without the least indication of the identity of meaning; and, on the other hand, it is opposed to the first interpretation that the body is not to be represented as a wheel, and to the second that τροχός is taken in a sense which it never has, for it never means the circumference, but at the most the round border which incloses something. Other expositors go beyond the restriction of the expression to the life of the individual,—which is evidently required by the foregoing ὅλον τὸ σῶμα,—either, with Wolf, appealing to the Hebrew גִּלְגַּל תּוֹלְרוֹת, explaining it: indesinens successio hominum aliorum post alios nascentium (thus Lambert, Bos, Alberti, Augusti, Stäudlin),(175) or taking τροχός = κύκλος, γένεσις = κτίσις, and accordingly τροχ. τ. γενέσεως = “the circle of creation;” thus de Wette, and among the earlier interpreters Beza (in the edition of 1565), Crusius, Coccejus. All these ideas are foreign to the context. If the first explanation drags something “foreign” into it, the second bears besides “a monstrous character” (Wiesinger). Still less is the explanation of Lange to be justified: “the wheel of the development of life, primarily of the Jewish nation, and then further of all mankind,” since γένεσις never denotes development of life.

The following are other explanations which are refuted by their arbitrariness and rarity:—(1) that of Semler, who explains it ordo generandi, according to the expression occurring in Plutarch: ποταμὸν τῆς γενέσεως ἐνδελεχῶς; (2) that of Bengel rota sive sphaera superior est ipsa natura humana rationalis; gehenna vero est pars profundior cor; lingua in medio ex inferioribus inflammatur et superiora inflammat; (3) that of Meyer (Observatt. ad ep. Jacobi), who takes the expression = sanguinis orbis seu circulato; lastly, (4) that of Kype, who assumes the rota poenalis is figuratively meant cujus radiis illigabantur rei, and accordingly φλογίζειν τὸν τροχ. τ. γενέσεως means: augere vitae hujus cruciatus.

The verb φλογίζειν is in the N. T. ἅπ. λεγ.; in the LXX. it is found in Exodus 9:24; Numbers 21:14; Psalms 97:3, and other places. The figurative expression, which refers back to πῦρ, indicates the fatal effect which the tongue, from which the pollution of the whole body proceeds, exercises on the life of man, whilst it pervades the same by its passionate heat. James so presents it, that being κόσμος τῆς ἀδικίας, and thus concentrating in itself (or in word) a fulness of unrighteousness, it forms, as it were, the axle round which the wheel of life moves, and by which it is set on fire. Morus incorrectly understands φλογίζειν “de damnis, quae lingua dat;” but the discourse is not concerning the injury which man suffers, but concerning his moral conduct; still less corresponding is the explanation of Michaelis, according to which φλογίζειν = to inflame, and that in the words of James the thought is contained: “lingua saepe alii excitantur, ut insano studio mala ingrediantur.” The representation that the tongue defiles the whole body and sets the life on fire is, as Wiesinger correctly remarks, not to be justified by the remark that all sins have their foundation in the sins of the tongue, but rests on the observation that ὀργή, before it manifests itself in other ways, first and foremost appears in word, and thus the tongue is its most direct organ.(176) The second participial sentence states whence the tongue receives this destructive power ( φλογίζειν), by which also the idea that it is κόσ΄ος τῆς ἀδικίας finds its justification. The participle φλογιζο΄ένη is to be retained in the sense of the present; it has neither the meaning of the perfect, as if the tongue had been only once set on fire by γεέννα, nor is it, with Grotius, Mill, Benson, Semler, Storr, Rosenmüller, to be taken as future, and to be referred to future punishment. The expression γεέννα, except in the Synoptics, is only found here; in Matthew 5:22; Matthew 18:9, Mark 9:47, it is used for a more exact description of the genitive τοῦ πυρός. The thought that the tongue is set on fire of hell is not to be explained away either by ex inferno being paraphrased by Theile by igne diabolico, and this by igne foedissimo ac funestissimo; or by being explained with Morus: tantus est ille ignis, ut ex geennae igne videatur esse incensus. James means that as ἐπιθυμία (or more precisely ὀργή), whose most direct organ is the tongue, has its origin from the devil, it is thus from hell (see James 3:15). Also in the O. T. the injurious effects of the tongue are described; see Psalms 52:4; Psalms 120:3-4, Proverbs 26:27, and other passages (Sirach 5:13 ff; Sirach 28:11 ff.); yet in all these passages the discourse is only on the evil which is inflicted by it on others, or on the punishment which befalls the man who misuses it. This peculiar thought of James has its counterpart in no passage of the O. T.


Verse 7-8

James 3:7-8. In these verses the untameable power of the tongue is adduced. The particle γάρ here indicates neither simply the transition (Pott), nor is it to be referred to μεγαλαυχεῖ (Wiesinger), separated from it by James 3:5-6, nor only to the last thought, φλογιζομένη κ. τ. λ. (Lange); but it is used as a logical particle, whilst the truth expressed in these verses substantiates the judgment contained in James 3:5-6. The relation of these two verses to each other is, that James 3:8 contains the principal thought, and James 3:7, on the other hand, a thought subordinate to it, which is only added in order to make that thought more emphatic. The meaning is: Whereas man tames all animals, yet he cannot tame the tongue. By φύσις is to be understood not the genus (Augusti, Gebser, Bretschneider, Schneckenburger), but the qualitas naturalis, and in such a manner that James has in view not the relation of the individual man to the individual beast, but the relation of human nature to animal nature in general, however this may differ in the different kinds of animals. The totality of beasts is expressed by four classes, which are arranged in pairs, namely, quadrupeds and birds, creeping beasts and fishes.

θηρία] are not “beasts generally” (Pott), nor specially “wild beasts” (Erasmus, Vatablus, Piscator, Baumgarten, Theile, Bouman).

τὰ ἑρπετά] are neither terrestrial animals generally (Pott, Hottinger), nor only serpents (Luther, Calvin, Grotius, and others), but it is used here in the same meaning as in Genesis 1:24-25 (LXX. ἑρπετά, as the translation of רֶמֶשׂ); see Acts 10:12; Romans 1:23.

ἐνάλια] ( ἅπ. λεγ.) denotes either fish simply, or likewise all worms living in the water; Luther incorrectly translates it “sea wonders,” and Stier “sea monsters.” There is here the same classification as in Genesis 9:2 in the LXX. (which may have been before the mind of James): τὰ θηρία τῆς γῆς, τὰ πετεινὰ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ, τὰ κινούμενα ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς, οἱ ἰχθύεις τῆς θαλάσσης. The dominion of human nature over the brute creation is expressed by the verb δαμάζειν (i.e. so to subdue, that what is subdued submits to the will of the subduer), because it supposes the subjection of something resisting (see Mark 5:4). That James only thought on wild animals does not follow from this. The perfect δεδάμασται is added to the present δαμάζεται in order to represent the present taming as that which had already taken place in the past. It is incorrect to resolve δαμάζεται into δαμάζεσθαι δύναται (Hottinger, Schneckenburger), for it treats not only of the possibility, but of the actuality.

τῇ φύσει τ. ἀνθρ.] is not the dat. commodi, but the dative used with the passive, instead of the construction with ὑπό. φύσις has the same meaning as before; accordingly not ingenii solertia (Hornejus, Hottinger, Schneckenburger).


Verse 8

James 3:8. The chief thought is marked by δέ, as a contrast to the foregoing. With τὴν γλῶσσαν is meant not the tongue of others (Estius, Grotius, Hornejus, Baumgarten), but one’s own tongue (according to Lange, both are indicated, the last primarily). The remark of Bengel is also unsuitable: nemo alius, vix ipse quisque. The words οὐδεὶς δύναται ἀνθρώπων δαμάζειν (or more correctly, after B C: οὐδεὶς δαμάσαι δύναται ἀνθρώπων, because the accent is on δαμάσαι) are to be understood in all their sharpness; the weakening completion of the Schol. in Matthaei: εὐκόλως δηλαδὴ καὶ ἄνευ πόνου, is false. By this thought, what was said in James 3:2 now receives its full light. The moral earnestness of the author urges him at the close to the exclamation: ἀκατάστατον κακόν κ. τ. λ.; hence the independent form of this addition (see Winer, p. 471 [E. T. 668]). By ἀκατάστατον (unsteady, restless, see chap. James 1:8) the unrest of the passions is indicated, not simply with reference to what follows, unsteadfastness (de Wette); comp. Hermas, Past. II. mand. 2 : πονηρὸν πνεῦμά ἐστιν καταλαλία, καὶ ἀκατάστατον δαιμόνιον. This reading is to be preferred to that of the Rec. ἀκατάσχετον (not to be tamed), “because it adds a new idea after οὐδεὶς δαμάσαι δυν. ἀνθρ.” (Wiesinger).

The image of the poisonous serpent lies at the foundation of the second exclamation: μεστὴ ἰοῦ θανατηφόρου; comp. Psalms 140:4.


Verse 9-10

are closely connected with the foregoing; but not as if “the unstedfastness of the tongue is further described” (de Wette), nor as if the duplicity of the tongue is added as a new point (Lange), but for the purpose of prominently showing how the tongue, although it praises God, yet proves itself to be an ἀκατάστατον κάκον, μεστὴ τοῦ θανατ

James 3:9-10 are closely connected with the foregoing; but not as if “the unstedfastness of the tongue is further described” (de Wette), nor as if the duplicity of the tongue is added as a new point (Lange), but for the purpose of prominently showing how the tongue, although it praises God, yet proves itself to be an ἀκατάστατον κάκον, μεστὴ τοῦ θανατ. It is to be observed that this expression, as the first person plural shows, refers to Christians among whom the εὐλογεῖν τὸν κύριον occurs. James does not hesitate to include himself, knowing that naturally he was entirely the same as others.(177) James first places beside each other, by a simple copulative conjunction, the two contradictory acts which man performs by the tongue, namely, the εὐλογεῖν τὸν κύριον and the καταρᾶσθαι τοὺς ἀνθρώπους. The preposition ἐν is instrumental, as in Luke 22:29 and elsewhere. By the repetition of ἐν αὐτῇ in the second clause, the antithesis is yet more strongly marked. εὐλογεῖν and καταρᾶσθαι are correlate expressions, since the former, as the translation of the Hebrew בֵּרֵךְ, has properly the meaning “to bless;” in reference to God, as here, it means laudibus celebrare, to praise; comp. Psalms 145:21, and other passages.

The combination of τὸν κύριον καὶ πατέρα (instead of the Rec. τὸν θεὸν κ. π.) as a designation of God (for by κύριος is not here to be understood Christ) is unusual; comp. chap. James 1:27. This twofold name designates God on the side of His power and on the side of His love (comp. Matthew 11:25).

In the second clause the important description: τοὺς καθʼ ὁ΄οίωσιν θεοῦ γεγονότας, is annexed to τοὺς ἀνθρώπους, by which the contradiction of the action described still more pointedly appears. The thought and expression agree with Genesis 1:26. Also, according to this, sinful man is still a being created after the image of God. Were the expression merely to be referred to what man originally was, but which he has ceased to be, the point of James’ saying would be broken. Bengel correctly observes: remanet nobilitas indelebilis. Benson, Pott, Gebser, and Semler arbitrarily restrict the contents of this verse to the conduct of those who set themselves up as teachers.(178)


Verse 10

James 3:10. First a repetition of the saying in brief expressive combination, by which the accent is placed on αὐτοῦ. With the words οὐ χρὴ ταῦτα οὕτως γίνεσθαι, James adds the condemnation of the conduct described.

The impersonal verb χρή is in the N. T. ἅπ. λεγ.; the usual word is δεῖ, from which it does not differ in meaning.

ταῦτα οὕτως] The union of these two words serves for the sharpening of the idea; ταῦτα designates the contents; οὕτως, the form of the action; incorrectly Bengel: ταῦτα bona; οὕτω adjunctis malis.


Verse 11

James 3:11. Illustration of the unnaturalness of the conduct mentioned by an image taken from nature: Does the fountain from the same hole send forth the sweet and the bitter?

πηγή] The article is not here for the sake of liveliness (Schneckenburger: articulus fontem quasi ante oculos pingit), but is used because πηγή is generically considered.

ἐκ τῆς αὐτῆς ὀπῆς] ὀπή, the hollow, Hebrews 11:38, Exodus 33:22, Obad. James 3:3, is here the hole from which the water of the fountain streams forth. πηγή refers to man; ὀπή, to the mouth. The chief accent is on αὐτῆς, which points back to ἐκ τοῦ αὐτοῦ στόματος, James 3:10.

βρύειν] an ἅπ. λεγ., properly to sprout forth, then to overflow, is here used transitively, to cause to flow forth.

τὸ γλυκύ and τὸ πικρόν indicate, indeed, the two different kinds of water, yet linguistically τὸ ὕδωρ is not to be supplied; the former refers to εὐλογεῖν, and the latter to καταρᾶσθαι. With this verse James says only that happens not in nature, which occurs in the case of man, out of whose mouth proceed blessing and cursing. The following verse first expresses the impossibility.


Verse 12

James 3:12. This verse shows, by examples taken from nature, that from one principle opposite things cannot be produced, but that any cause can only bring forth that which corresponds to its nature. Semler incorrectly paraphrases the first question: μὴ δύναται συκῆ ἐκαίας ποιῆσαι: an fieri potest, ut ficus, cujus est dulcis natura, producat amaras oleas; for that here the contrast of sweet and bitter (which only the last clause of the verse resumes) is not designed to be expressed, is evident from what immediately follows: ἄμπελος σῦκα, where James would otherwise have mentioned the olive instead of the vine. The idea is rather that nothing can bring forth that which is not corresponding to its nature.(179) Consequently the opinion of de Wette, that here thistles (according to Matthew 7:16), or something similar, instead of ἄμπελος would be more appropriate, is incorrect.

To the question follows as its conclusion the negative clause: οὔτε ἁλυκὸν γλυκὺ ποιῆσαι ὓδωρ, which is so construed as if the former sentence, not only in meaning, but also in form, was a negative one; οὔτε ( א: οὐδέ) and the omission of δύναται are thus to be explained.(180)

ἁλυκόν is the subject, and γλυκὺ ὓδωρ the object; ποιῆσαι is used in the same signification as before; thus: Nor can bitter bring forth sweet water. The opposite ideas ἁλυκόν and γλυκύ are emphatically placed beside each other. James hereby indicates, that if from one month the bitter (namely, the κατάρα) and also the sweet (namely, the εὐλογία) proceed, this is not only morally reprehensible, to which James 3:10 points, but is something impossible; accordingly, the person who curses man, who is made after the image of God, cannot also bless (praise) God, and that thus if the mouth yet express both, the εὐλογεῖν can only be mere seeming and hypocrisy (Lange).(181)


Verse 13

James 3:13. With this verse apparently begins a new section, which, however, stands in close connection with the warning in James 3:1, whilst the true wisdom is here contrasted with the false wisdom of which the readers boasted, and by which they considered themselves qualified to teach. Also here in the words: τίς σοφὸς καὶ ἐπιστήμων ἐν ὑμῖν, the chief point is again placed at the beginning. These words are usually understood as a direct question (Tischendorf and Winer, p. 152 [E. T. 211]); on the other hand, Lachmann has only placed a comma after ὑμῖν, which is approved by Al. Buttmann (p. 217 [E. T. 252]); an inversio structurae then here takes place; whilst “the direct interrogative form, owing to the construction which follows, passed naturally over into the meaning of the kindred relative clause.” Certainly in the N. T. the direct question is frequently used instead of the indirect, indeed instead of the relative pronoun; also in the usual meaning “the disruption of the clauses, as well as the asyndetic transition to δειξάτω without any subject,” is surprising. But, on the other hand, the discourse by the direct question evidently gains in liveliness, as it is, moreover, peculiar to the diction of James; see, however, Sirach 6:34, to which Schneckenburger appeals in support of the incorrect opinion that τις is here the indefinite pronoun.

σοφὸς καὶ ἐπιστήμων] The same combination of these two words is found in Deuteronomy 1:13; Deuteronomy 4:6, LXX., as the translation of the Hebrew חָכָם וְנָבוֹן; comp. also Hosea 14:9. If James here considered these two synonymous ideas as different, σοφός is to be referred to the general, and ἐπιστήμων to the particular. Wiesinger refers the former to the intelligence, and the latter to the practical insight into the correct judgment of any given case; others differently.

That whosoever is actually wise is to show it by action, is the chief thought of the following sentence. The construction of δειξάτω with ἐκ and the object following on it, reminds us of chap. James 2:18 : δείξω ἐκ τῶν ἔργων μου τὴν πίστιν, but the relation is not entirely the same. In that passage πίστις is the invisible, which is to manifest itself as the visible by ἔργα; but here both καλὴ ἀναστροφή and τὰ ἔργα αὐτοῦ are visible; the former is the general, the latter is the particular, which as individual special manifestations proceed from it. The verb δείκνυμι means here, as there, not to prove or demonstrate, but to show. The addition ἐν πραΰτητι—which is to be connected neither with τὰ ἔργα αὐτοῦ nor with τῆς καλῆς ἀναστροφῆς, forming one idea, but belongs to δειξάτω, more exactly defined by ἐκ τῆςαὐτοῦ—has the principal accent, as πραΰτης σοφίας, i.e. the meekness springing from wisdom, and therefore peculiar to it (opposite of ὀργή), is the necessary condition under which the showing forth of works out of a good conversation alone is possible. The mode in which the individual ideas of the sentence are united together is certainly somewhat surprising, but it is explainable from the fact that James placed together all the points which occurred to him as briefly as possible. James might have put τὴν σοφίαν αὐτοῦ as the object belonging to δειξάτω; but instead of this he puts τὰ ἔργα αὐτοῦ, in conformity with the importance which works have to him, in which as faith (James 2:10) so also wisdom manifests itself. He then makes the idea σοφία to follow in the adverbial addition ἐν πραΰτητι σοφίας. The sentence might also be divided by a point after ἀναστροφῆς; then the first clause would mean: let him show it out of a good conversation; and the second clause might either be taken as an addition dependent on δειξάτω (so Neander: “works performed in meekness suitable to wisdom”), or a verb would have to be supplied. However, the detachment of the second clause decides against this construction. ὡς σοφοῦ is not, with Schneckenburger, Theile, Wiesinger, to be supplied to αὐτοῦ, as the reference to wisdom is contained in the additional clause; but also αὐτοῦ must not be referred to σοφός (his works, that is, of the wise man), but it refers to the subject contained in δειξάτω (thus Lange and Brückner). The whole idea πραΰτης σοφίας is neither to be resolved into πραεῖα σοφία (Beza, Grotius, Baumgarten, Semler, Gebser, Hottinger, Schneckenburger), nor into πραΰτης σοφή (Laurentius), but to be explained: “the meekness which is proper to wisdom, and proceeds from it” (Wiesinger), or “in which σοφία evidences itself” (Lange).(182) With the emphasis on πραΰτης James passes on to βραδὺς εἰς ὀργήν (chap. James 1:19), of which what follows is a further explication.


Verse 14

James 3:14. As meekness belongs to wisdom, so he who has in his heart ζῆλος πικρός and ἐριθεία boasts of wisdom without any right. As this was the case with his readers, James now directly addresses them: εἰ δὲἔχετε] To ζῆλος, zeal,—which is here, as frequently, used in a bad sense,—is added the adjective πικρός for the sake of strengthening it, perhaps with reference to James 3:11-12 (Grotius, Pott, Gebser).

ἐριθεία] has in the N. T. the meaning controversial spirit, or, more definitely, partisanship; comp. Romans 2:8; 2 Corinthians 12:20 (see Meyer on both passages); Galatians 5:20; Philippians 1:17; Philippians 2:3; in 2 Corinthians 12:20 and Galatians 5:20 ζῆλοι and θυμοί are united together as plurals.

ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ ὑμῶν] in contrast with the word of his readers, boasting of their wisdom.

In the apodosis: μὴ κατακαυχᾶσθε καὶ ψεύδεσθε κατὰ τῆς ἀληθείας] neither the first nor the second verb is to be converted into a participle; certainly κατα in the first verb refers to κατὰ τῆς ἀληθ., and so far already contains the idea of lying, but James designed prominently to bring forward this, and therefore he adds καὶ ψεύδεσθε to κατακαυχᾶσθε. On κατακαυχᾶσθε, comp. chap. James 2:13 (see Winer, p. 417 [E. T. 590, note 1]). In κατακαυχᾶσθε the reference is to others, in ψεύδεσθε to one’s own conscience (Lange). In order to avoid the tautology in ψεύδεσθε and κατὰ τ. ἀληθείας, Wiesinger understands by ἀληθεία “truth in an objective Christian sense—the Christian truth, by the possession of which they fancied themselves σοφοί.”(183) But, on the contrary, it is to be considered that that which, logically considered, appears as mere tautology, receives another import, when not only the understanding but also the disposition is recognised as a factor of the construction; so it is here; compare, moreover, Isocrates, de pace, p. 165: διαψεύδεσθαι τῆς ἀληθείας.


Verse 15

James 3:15. The character of the σοφία from which bitter zeal and partisanship proceed.

οὐκ ἔστιν αὕτη σοφία] αὕτη is not to be separated from σοφία, but forms along with it the subject. Luther incorrectly translates: “for this is not the wisdom,” etc. By αὕτη σοφία is meant that wisdom by which man has ζῆλον πικρόν in his heart, or that from which it springs; the predicate to it is: οὐκ ἔστιν ἄνωθεν κατερχομένη.

οὐκ ἔστιν] emphatically precedes, and the participle takes the place of an adjective (de Wette, Wiesinger, Winer, p. 313 [E. T. 439]). Gebser, Pott, Schneckenburger incorrectly explain ἐστιν κατερχομένη = κατέρχεται. On the idea ἄνωθεν κατέρχ. comp. chap. James 1:17.

As an ungodly wisdom it is characterized by three adjectives which form a climax: ἐπίγειος, ψυχική, δαιμονιώδης.

ἐπίγειος] expresses the sharpest contrast to ἄνωθεν κατερχομένη, that wisdom being designated as such which belongs not to heaven, but to earth. That it is sinful (“taking root in a whole life of sin,” Kern, Wiesinger) is not yet expressed. James calls it ψυχική] inasmuch as it belongs not to the πνεῦμα, but, in contrast to it, to the earthly life of the soul; see Meyer on 1 Corinthians 2:14, and author’s explanation of Jude 1:19. These two first ideas are abstractly not of an ethical character, but they become so by being considered in contrast to the heavenly and the spiritual. It is otherwise with the third idea: δαιμονιώδης. This word ( ἅπ. λεγ.) = devilish, betokens both the origin and the nature, and is to be taken not in a figurative, but in its literal sense; comp. James 3:6, chap. James 4:7; incorrectly, Hottinger: impuro genio magis quam homine digna.

The explanation of Hornejus contains arbitrary statements: terrena, quia avaritiae dedita est, quae operibus terrenis inhiat; animalis, quia ad animi lubidines accommodatur; dacmoniaca, quod ambitioni et superbiae servit, quae propria diaboli vitia sunt; and equally so that of Lange, who finds here characterized “Judaistic and Ebionite zealotism,” and refers ἐπιγ. to “the chiliastic claims to the dominion of the earth.”(184)


Verse 16

James 3:16. Reason of the judgment expressed in James 3:15. With the introductory words: ὅπου γὰρ ζῆλος καὶ ἐριθεία, James points back to James 3:14; with the following words: ἐκεῖ κ. τ. λ., he names the fruit of ζῆλος and ἐριθεία; these are ἀκαταστασία and πᾶν φαῦλον πρᾶγμα; ἀκαταστασία] is uproar, disorder; comp. Proverbs 26:28; στόμα ἄστεγον ποιεῖ ἀκαταστασίας. An uproarious disorderly nature proceeds not from God: οὐ γάρ ἐστιν ἀκαταστασίας θεὸς, ἀλλ ̓ εἰρήνης, 1 Corinthians 14:33.

To this special idea, which is particularly brought forward on account of the condition of those to whom James writes, the general idea: every evil deed, is added, in order to lay stress on the fact that zeal and partisanship bring along with them the corruption of the whole moral life. Of a wisdom which effects this, it must naturally hold good what is said of it in James 3:15.

The supposition of Kern (Tüb. Zeitschr. 1835, II. 59), to which de Wette assents, that the here presupposed controversies between Jewish and Gentile Christians are alluded to, is properly rejected by Brückner.


Verse 17

James 3:17. The character of the true wisdom, which (in contrast to James 3:15) is designated as ἄνωθεν σοφία] comp. with this expression, Proverbs 2:6; Wisdom of Solomon 7:25-26; Philo, de profug. p. 571: σοφία ἄνωθεν ὀμβρηθεῖσα ἀπʼ οὐρανοῦ; de nom. mut.: οὐράνιος σοφία.

πρῶτον μὲν ἁγνή ἐστιν] By πρῶτον μέν characteristic is distinguished from the rest, which are introduced by ἔπειτα, because it belongs to its nature, “designates its internal quality” (Kern). It is ἁγνή] i.e. καθαρὰ καὶ ἀρυπαρός, μηδενὸς τῶν σαρκικῶν ἀντεχομένη (Oecumenius); thus free from all impurity. Lange explains ἁγνή by consecrated; incorrectly according to N. T. usage; even in the classics, the reference to the gods sufficiently often steps into the background.

In the series of characteristics following after ἔπειτα, which describe σοφία according to its manifestations (Kern), the first three are named which indicate the contrasts to ζῆλος and ἐριθεία: εἰρηνική] peaceful (comp. εἰρηνοποιός, Matthew 5:9): ἐπιεικής] fair, mild; see on 1 Timothy 3:3 (not = yielding): εὐπειθής] ἅπ. λεγ. (opposite ἀπειθής, Titus 3:5): easy to persuade, that is, pliant, not contending in party-strife.

Then follows μεστὴ ἐλέους καὶ καρπῶν ἀγαθῶν] by which it is described as rich in active love: ἐλέους is particularly mentioned, because compassion is the most direct proof of love; comp. chap. James 1:27, James 2:13; καρπῶν ἀγαθῶν forms the contrast to πᾶν φαῦλον πρᾶγμα.

The series closes with two words—united by similarity of sound

ἀδιάκριτος, ἀνυπόκριτος, which express the contrast to everything of an uncertain and hypocritical nature. ἀδιάκριτος] is differently explained according to the different meanings of the root διακρίνεσθαι; Luther renders it impartial; Lorinus, Hornejus, Grotius (“sine partitione, nempe iniqua”), Baumgarten, Estius, Schulthess, Hottinger, Kern, Schneckenburger, Lange (“not separatistic, not sectarian”), and others understand it in the same sense; Beza explains it by “quae non discernit homines;” similarly Gebser undivided, that is, those who have the true wisdom do not separate from each other; the explanation of Pott: pacificus, agrees with this; the Vulgate, on the other hand, renders it non judicans; and Semler: nec temere judicans de aliis Christianis, qui suo more vivunt. It is best to start from the meaning of διακρίνεσθαι as it occurs in the N. T., to doubt, and accordingly, with de Wette and Wiesinger, to take ἀδιάκριτος = expers omnis cujuscunque ambiguitatis et dubitationis (similarly Wetstein = non duplex).(185) ἀνυπόκριτος] is unhypocritical, upright; see Romans 12:9; 2 Corinthians 6:6.

These two characteristics are also added with special reference to the state of things among the readers. On ἀδιάκριτος, see chap. James 1:6-8, James 2:4; on ἀνυπόκριτος, chap. James 1:22; James 1:26, James 2:1.

All the characteristics are attributed to true wisdom from the effects which it produces among those who are partakers of it; since it makes them pure, peaceable, etc.; the virtues of which it is the source belong to it.


Verse 18

James 3:18. As in James 3:16 the fruit of ζῆλος, and thus of false wisdom on which it is founded, is named, so in this verse is the fruit of true wisdom, which is εἰρηνική.

καρπὸς δικαιοσύνηςσπείρεται is a pregnant expression for: the seed, which yields the fruit of righteousness, is sown (Weisinger, Bouman, Lange). δικαιοσύνη] is not justification (Gebser, Schneckenburger), but righteousness or uprightness. The genitive is that of apposition, and announces wherein the καρπός consists. This καρπός δικαιοσύνης forms the antithesis to ἀκαταστασία καὶ πᾶν φαῦλον πρᾶγμα, James 3:16. δικαιοσύνη is by various expositors incorrectly referred to the future life.

σπείρεται] is to be retained in its literal meaning, from which there is no reason to depart, when the pregnant form of the expression is kept in view. Brückner converts the idea without justification into that of dispersing, i.e. of profuse spending; Pott falsely explains σπείρεται by δεῖ σπείρεσθαι. The sower is not to be considered as God (Brückner), for from the whole context the discourse is not concerning the conduct of God, but of the Christian. The addition ἐν εἰρήνῃ is not to be combined with καρπὸς δικαιοσύνης (Rauch) or with δικαιοσύνης (Kern: righteousness before God, which manifests itself in peace with God) as one idea, but it belongs to the verb, and announces the condition by which only the seed sown yields the fruits of righteousness; it is in antithesis to ζῆλος καὶ ἐριθεία, James 3:16.

De Wette incorrectly takes ἐν εἰρήνῃ = εἰς εἰρήνην, in hope of peace.

τοῖς ποιοῦσιν εἰρήνην] (= εἰρηνοποιοῖς, Matthew 5:9) is either the Dativus actionis (Wiesinger, de Wette, formerly in this commentary; Lange uncertainly) announcing who are the sowers, or Dativus commodi (Brückner, Bouman) announcing for whose use the καρπὸς δικ. is sown; in the latter case the ποιοῦντες εἰρήνην are likewise to be considered as sowers (de Wette considers it possible that the Dativus commodi may by its importance have supplanted ὑπὸ τῶν κ. τ. λ.). The latter explanation is more corresponding to the context, as it is already indicated in ἐν εἰρήνῃ σπείρεται that the sowing can only be by such as are in possession of σοφία εἰρηνική, and it was particularly brought forward that the righteousness springing from the seed is only imparted to those who make peace. Accordingly, the meaning of the sententious expression is: that the seed of righteousness sown in peace yields righteousness only to the peaceable. This explanation agrees in essentials with that of Wiesinger and Bouman, also of Lange, who, however, blends with it something foreign to it, and thinks on the future harvest of righteousness. Deviating from this, de Wette renders it: “The fruit (conduct, moral action) of righteousness is in hope of peace, as the seed of the heavenly harvest sown by them who practise peace.” Brückner: “The fruit (the produce) of righteousness is in peace dispersed (namely, by God) for them who practise peace.” Kern: “That which springs up for the peaceable as the fruit of their sowing, that is, of their peaceful conduct, is righteousness before God, which manifests itself in peace with God.”

 


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Bibliography Information
Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on James 3:4". Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hmc/james-3.html. 1832.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, November 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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