James was a member of a church in which no one had need (Ac 4:34). The theme of rich and poor is recurrent in the letter. His great call is that all believers should hold whatever of this world's good they possess in trust for the needy. Long-standing tradition attributes the letter to James the Lord's brother. No other James could sign his letter 'James' and expect everyone to know who was meant. It appears to be written to well-established churches living in settled times.

1 1James [Iakōbos; Heb. Ya'akov], a servant [doulos]

Can also mean 'slave'.

of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are in the Dispersion [diaspora]

Diaspora (Dispersion) was the technical name for the Jewish community that lived 'dispersed' among the nations outside of Israel (see 2 Macc 1:27; Jn 7:35).

: Greetings [chairein]. 2Count it all joy [charan]

Word play on chairein above.

, my brothers [adelphoi], when you fall [peripiptō] into various temptations [peirasmois]

Has two basic meanings in the NT. It can refer to the inner enticement to sin (1 Tim 6:9). Or it can denote external affliction, particularly persecution (cf. 1 Pet 4:12). Mt 26:41 and //s may contain both senses.

, 3knowing that the testing [dokimion]

Found only elsewhere in the NT in 1 Peter 1:7 and in the LXX in Ps 11:7 and Prov 27:21. The LXX refers to the process of refining silver or gold by fire.

of your faith [pisteōs] produces endurance [hypomonēn]

Patience (makrothymia) is that which Christians are to exercise towards people and hypomonē that which Christians are to exercise to external difficulties.

. 4Let endurance [hypomonē] have its perfect work [ergon teleion], that you may be perfect [teleioi] and complete, lacking [leipō] in nothing. 5But if any of you lacks [leipō]

Leipetai is a word play on leipomenoi in v4.

wisdom [sophias], let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally [haplōs]

Occurs only here in the NT. It is from a root whose basic meaning is 'single', 'simple' (in the sense of undivided, unwavering intent, unreserved, uncalculating), a meaning retained in Paul's use of the noun haplotēs in Eph 6:5 (cf. Col 3:22).

and without reproach; and it will be given to him. 6But let him ask in faith [en pistei], without any doubting [diakrinomai]

Means 'to differentiate'. From this root idea it was extended to include the ideas of 'judging' (1 Cor 14:29) and 'disputing' (Ac 11:2), and hence, in the middle voice, 'to dispute with oneself', 'to waver', 'to doubt' (cf. 2:4).

, for he who doubts is like a wave [klydōni]

Lit. a 'billowing' or 'surging' rather than 'wave'. The ceaseless, sometimes violent motion of the sea was a popular image of change and instability in ancient literature. See Ecclus. 33:2; Philo, 'On the Giants', 51; 'On the Sacrifice of Abel and Cain', 90; 'On the Eternity of the World', 125.

of the sea, driven by the wind and tossed. 7For let that man not think that he will receive anything from the Lord. 8He is a double-minded [dipsychos]

Lit. 'double-souled'. Used here for the first time in Greek literature, and some think James may have coined it. Cf. OT 'divided heart' (Ps 12:2; Ho 10:2) and the blessing of following God with a 'whole heart' (Ps 119:2). The rabbis depicted the human condition as as having two tendencies, good and evil, warring in the soul. Cf. Jesus' quotation of the Shema, Dt 6:5, in Mt 22:37.

man, unstable in all his ways [tais odois autou]. 9But let the brother [adelphos] in humble [tapeinos]

Someone low down on a socio-economic scale, poor and powerless. Cf. Ps 10:18; 34:18; 102:17; Is 11:4; Am 2:7. Jewish Christians in Israel and Syria would have been poor. A famine that struck at about this time would have struck the poor most severely.

circumstances glory [kauchaomai] in his high position [hypsei]

Used elsewhere to describe the heavenly realm to which Christ ascended (Eph 4:8) and from which the Holy Spirit descends (Lk 24:49). Cf. Phil 3:20.

; 10and the rich [plousios], in that he is made humble, because like the flower in the grass, he will pass away [parerchomai]

The Romans understood the passage of time. Forbidden great architecture like the Greeks who also immortalised youth in the construction of marble statues, the Romans made an art form out of festival instead. Theatres were elaborately set up, only to be torn down the moment a festival was over.

. 11For the sun [helios]

The image of the quickly fading flower would have been a familiar one for Middle Eastern readers who annually saw the early spring flowers wither suddenly under the sun's heat.

arises with the scorching wind [kausōni]

Possibly the 'sharav,' a hot, dry wind from the deserts east of Israel. The word occurs in the LXX to denote the 'east wind', the hot desert wind, and is frequent in images of judgment; cf. Hos 13:15.

, and withers the grass, and the flower in it falls, and the beauty [prosōpou] of its appearance perishes [apollymi]. So also will the rich man fade away [marainō]

Connotes death.

in his pursuits [poreiais]

Can mean 'way' in the sense of 'way of life' but often has a more specific sense, a 'journey'. In this context and in the light of 4:13 the word probably denotes the profit-motivated business trip in the midst of which the rich Christian is suddenly 'taken away'.

. 12Blessed [makarios] is the man who endures [hypomenō] temptation [peirasmon], for when he has been approved [dokimos], he will receive the crown of life [stephanon tes zōēs]

The crown sometimes refers to a royal crown, but more frequently is used of the laurel wreath given to the victorious athlete (see 1 Cor 9:25). Symbolizes glory and honour.

, which the Lord promised to those who love [agapaō] him. 13Let no man say when he is tempted [peirazō]

Cf Ecclus 15:11-12 in which Jesus the son of Sirach protests against the tendency to blame God for temptation.

, "I am tempted by God," for God can't be tempted [apeirastos]

'Inexperienced.' Word play on peirazō (recurrent in v13).

by evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14But each one is tempted, when he is drawn away [exelkō]

Connotes a forceful dragging out or away.

by his own lust [epithymia]

Desire is pictured as the mother (epithymia is feminine), giving birth to sin, her child. Cf. Prov 5-9. Does not always have a bad meaning (cf. Lk 22:15; Phil 1:23). The rabbis spoke of 'the evil impulse' ('yeser hara') that inhabits every person.

, and enticed [deleazō]

Suggests the attraction exerted by proffered bait. In 2 Pet 2:14, 18, deleazō is used of the enticements of false teachers. Cf. Philo; 'There is no single thing that does not yield to the enticement (deleasthēn) of pleasure, and get caught (helkō 'drag') and dragged along in her entangling nets …' ('On Husbandry', 103). Both these words in v 14 were originally associated with fishing.

. 15Then the lust, when it has conceived, bears [tiktō] sin; and the sin, when it is full grown, brings forth [apokueō] death. 16Don't be deceived [planaō], my beloved [agapētoi] brothers [adelphoi]. 17Every good gift and every perfect [teleion] gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom can be no variation [ouk parallagē]

Tropē and parallagē are often used with astronomical meaning. The changeableness of creation was frequently used to highlight, by contrast, the unchanging nature of God the Creator (cf. Philo, 'Allegorical Interpretation', 2:33: 'Every created thing must necessarily undergo change, for this is its property, even as unchangeableness is the property of God').

, nor turning shadow [tropēs apostkiasma]

The first eight Greek words of the verse form an almost perfect hexameter, evidence of idiomatic Hellenistic Greek and perhaps a quote from an unknown source.

. 18Of his own will [boulomai] he brought us forth [apokueō]

Philo uses apokyeō of creation. Only NT occurrences of this verb here and in v15.

by the word [logō] of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits [aparchē] of his creatures [autou ktismatōn]. 19So, then, my beloved [agapētoi] brothers [adelphoi], let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger; 20for the anger of man doesn't produce [katergazomai]

For righteousness as the righteous activity that meets God's approval for which poieō and ergazomai (to do or practice righteousness) have this meaning see Ps 15:2; Ac 10:35; Heb 11:33. In the only place where 'work' (ergazomai) and 'righteouness' are used together in the LXX (PS 15:2), the context has to do with sins of speech.

the righteousness [dikaiousunēn]

Paul has in mind works that precede conversion and James works that follow conversion, so it follows that the 'justification' for which these works are the basis must be something different in Paul than in James. Paul uses dikaioō to describe the dynamic activity whereby the sinner is graciously given a new status, based on the sinner's union with Christ and secured through faith. For Paul, dikaioō is a term that denotes the initial transfer of a person from the realm of sin and death into the realm of holiness and life. Because the sinner has no righteousness of his own to offer, 'works' can have no place in effecting this transfer. In James, however, dikaioō has a meaning that is well attested in the OT, in Matthew, and in many Jewish sources. It describes a verdict that is based on the actual facts of the case; a judge declares a person 'righteous' because that person can be proven to be innocent (cf. Gn 38:26; 44:16; Je 3:11; Ezk 16:51-52). This verdict is associated with the last judgment (cf. 1 Sa 12:7; Is 43:26; Mi 7:9). See the link between justification in 2:21-25 and salvation in 2:14, where salvation is to be related to the verdict pronounced at the last judgment (Is 43:9; 45:25; 50:8; 53:11). That verdict takes into account the works that must inevitably be produced by true faith (cf. Mi 6:11; 1 Ki 8:31-32; with which Paul agrees; 2 Cor 5:10). With this comes the recognition that people cannot merit God's acquittal in themselves; cf. Ps 143:2 which is the precedent for Paul's emphasis on grace (Ro 3:20 and Gal 2:16).

of God. 21Therefore, putting away [apotithemai]

Generally used of 'taking off' a set of clothes (cf. Ac 7:58) and applied widely in the NT to 'putting off' old patterns of behaviour (Rom 13:12; Eph 4:22, 25; Col 3:8; Heb 12:1; 1 Pet 2:1).

all filthiness [rhyparia]

Used only here in biblical Greek, but its adjective is used in 2:2 to describe the clothes of the poor man, and in Zech 3:3-4 of the garments that the high priest Joshua had to put off before he can be given a new, rich set of clothes by the angel of the Lord.

and overflowing [perisseia]

Means surplus or abundance.

of wickedness, receive with humility [prautēti] the implanted word [emphyton logon]

'Planted in you' has the sense 'inborn', (cf. Wisdom 12:10, the only other occurrence of the word in 'biblical' Greek) but likely not to refer to innate knowledge here, rather something that has become implanted (see Herodotus 9:94, Epistle of Barnabas 1:2; 9:9), Jer 31:33.

, which is able to save your souls [psychas hymōn]. 22But be doers [poiētai logou]

There was a widespread Jewish belief of James' day that 'not the expounding (of the law) is the chief thing, but the doing (of it)' (the second-century rabbi (Simeon b. Gamaliel in Mishnah, 'Abot' 1:17).

of the word [logou], and not only hearers, deluding your own selves. 23For if anyone is a hearer of the word [logou] and not a doer, he is like a man looking [katanoeō]

Not a hasty or cursory glance but thoughtful, attentive consideration (as in Lk 12:27; 'consider the lilies').

at his natural face [prosōpon tēs geneseōs]

Genesis can mean 'existence' (Wisdom of Solomon 7:5; Judith 12: 8) but usually carries the sense of 'birth' or 'creation'. Another possibility is that genesis is used, as often in Philo, to connote that which is creaturely and transitory, as opposed to the divine realm of eternity. Maybe genesis should not receive particular emphasis here.

in a mirror [esoptrō]

The mirror was often used as a figure of moral law in ancient philosophy and religion but James may not be intending to draw parallels between v23 and 25.

; 24for he sees [katanoeō] himself, and goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25But he who looks [parakyptō]

Can refer to a quick glance, but often reflects its root meaning: para, 'beside' and kyptō, 'bend'; suggesting the physical effort involved in stooping to look at something carefully (1 Pet 1:12).

into the perfect law [nomon teleion; Heb. Torah]

Cf. Ps 19:7. The law was sometimes ascribed the power to give true freedom (cf. Mishnah, 'Abot.' 6:2) but James is more likely referring to the gospel.

of freedom, and continues [paramenō]

Remains or perseveres.

, not being a hearer who forgets, but a doer of the work, this man will be blessed [makarios] in what he does. 26If anyone among you thinks himself to be religious [thrēskeia]

The term is not specifically Christian and is used widely in Greek religion to denote the reverencing and worshipping of a god or gods. Often connotes outward acts of worship.

while he doesn't bridle his tongue, but deceives his heart, this man's religion is worthless [mataiotēs]. 27Pure religion and undefiled before our God and Father is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction [thlipsei], and to keep oneself unstained by the world [kosmou].

2 1My brothers [adelphoi], don't hold the faith [echō tēn pistin] of our Lord Jesus Christ of glory [doxēs] with partiality [prosōpolēpsiais]

Lit. 'receiving the face', a literal rendering of the OT Hebrew for partiality.

. 2For if a man with a gold ring [chrysodaktulios]

'With gold rings'; such as members of the upper-class Roman 'equestrian' class wore.

, in fine [lampra]

'Brightly shining'.

clothing, comes into your synagogue [synagōgēn]

Elsewhere in the NT refers to the Jewish place of worship (with the possible exception of Rev 2:9 and 3:9) but used generally of an assembly of people for various purposes. Perhaps an assembly to judge issues which had arisen, cf. 1 Cor 6, but not likely with visitors present. Synagōgē is used of an 'assembly' of Christians ('righteous men') in Hermas, 'Mandates' 11:9.

, and a poor man in filthy clothing also comes in; 3and you pay special attention to him who wears the fine clothing, and say, "Sit here in a good place;" and you tell the poor man, "Stand there," or "Sit by my footstool [hyppodion mou]

Lit. 'under (hypo) my footstool'; lower than my low down seat; beneath my floor-stool.

;" 4haven't you shown partiality [diakrinō]

The verb can refer to the activity of making distinctions (cf. Ac 11:12; 15:9) but James uses the same verb in 1:6 to mean the divided, conflicting thoughts of the person who lacks faith. Among yourselves (en heautois) would then mean 'in each of you'.

among yourselves, and become judges [kritai] with evil thoughts? 5Listen, my beloved brothers [adelphoi]. Didn't God choose those who are poor in this world [kosmō] to be rich [plousious] in faith [pistei], and heirs of the Kingdom [basileias] which he promised to those who love [agapaō] him? 6But you have dishonored the poor man. Don't the rich oppress [katadynasteuō]

Frequently occurs in the LXX to describe the exploitation of the poor (cf. Am 4:1), and orphans and widows (cf. Ezk 22:7), by the rich.

you, and personally drag you before the courts [kritēria]? 7Don't they blaspheme [blasphēmeō] the honourable name by which you are called [epikaleō]

Lit. 'which has been called on you'. This translates a common Hebrew idiom and is found in James' quotation of Amos 9:12 in Ac 15:17. The phrase connotes close relationship, even possession, and is frequently found in the OT to describe the relationship between YHWH and his people.

? 8However [mentoi]

In its seven other NT occurrences, mentoi means 'however'.

, if you fulfil the royal law [nomon basilikon]

While the OT law could be described by Jews as 'royal' (Philo, 'Posterity of Cain' 102), the word here must be seen in the light of James' mention of the kingdom of God in 2:5. Cf. Lev 19:18 in this context. Philo, allegorizing the 'royal highway' of Nu 20:17, frequently calls the way to God and his words the 'royal road' (cf. e.g., op cit).

, according to the Scripture [graphēn], "You shall love [agapaō] your neighbour as yourself," you do well. 9But if you show partiality, you commit sin, being convicted by the law as transgressors. 10For whoever keeps the whole law [nomon], and yet stumbles [ptaiō] in one point, he has become guilty of all. 11For he who said, "Do not commit adultery," also said, "Do not commit murder." Now if you do not commit adultery, but murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12So speak, and so do, as men who are to be judged [krinō] by a law of freedom [nomou eleutherias]

Descriptions of the liberating effect of law were common among both pagans (esp. the Stoics; cf. Epictetus, 'Diss.' IV. 1. 158; Seneca, 'Ce vita beata' 15.7) and Jews (Philo, 'Every Good Man is Free 45; b. Abot. 6,2b).

. 13For judgment [krisis] is without mercy to him who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment [kriseōs]. 14What good [ophelos] is it, my brothers [adelphoi], if a man says he has faith [pistin], but has no works? Can faith [pistis] save [sōzō]

While sometimes used to describe the initial entrance of a person into God's kingdom, it often denotes the final deliverance from sin, death and judgement in the last day. This is the meaning the word seems to have in James.

him? 15And if a brother [adelphos] or sister [adelphē] is naked [gymnoi]

Often refers to the lack of the outer garment, the [chitōn].

and in lack of daily food, 16and one of you tells them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled;" and yet you didn't give them the things the body needs, what good is it? 17Even so faith, if it has no works [erga], is dead [nekra]

Useless, inactive, inert. Cf. Ro 7:8; Heb 6:1; 9:14.

in itself. 18Yes, a man will say [legō]

The phrase is consistently used in Greek literature to introduce an objection to or disagreement with the view being presented (see 1 Cor 15:35 and numerous e.g.s from the 'diatribe' style which use the device of the imaginary objector to knock down any possible objections).

, "You have faith, and I have works [erga]." Show me your faith [pistin] without works [ergōn], and I by my works [ergōn] will show you my faith [pistin].19You believe [pisteuō] that God [theos]

As the Jews frequently make out in the [Shema], Dt 6:4.

is one. You do well. The demons also believe, and shudder [phrissō]

Used in some ancient magical texts of the effect that the sorcerer wished to bring about.

. 20But do you want to know [ginōskō], vain [kene]

Kenos (lit. empty) is rarely applied to people, but probably suggests deficiency in understanding as well as moral perversity.

man, that faith apart from works [ergōn] is dead [argē]

Means lit. 'not-working', or 'idle'. Used of the workers who had not been hired for the day (Mt 20:3, 6). James' choice of the word here creates a play on words: 'faith that has no works does not work'.

? 21Wasn't Abraham our father [patēr] justified [dikaioō]

Used in a declarative sense (probably not demonstrative; i.e., demonstrating their righteous status by performing good works; cf., Gen 44:16; Lk 7:29, 35). James 2 is not asking 'How can righteousness be demonstrated? but 'What kind of faith secures righteousness?' James differs from Paul in applying the word to God's ultimate declaration of a person's righteousness rather than to the initial securing of the righteousness by faith, i.e., James uses 'justify' where Paul speaks of judgement. Wesley distinguishes between 'initial justification' and 'final justification'. In the OT dikaioō generally denotes a verdict of innocence which is demonstrated on the basis of demonstrated righteousness or covenant loyalty (cf., Mat 12:37).

by works, in that he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? 22You see that faith worked with [synergeō] his works [ergois]

Word play in Greek on ergois and synergei here.

, and by works faith was perfected [teleioō]

'to perfect' or 'bring to maturity'. A parallel to James' language is found in Philo, 'On Husbandry', 42, where he says that Jacob was 'one who was perfected as a result of discipline'. Perhaps the imaginary objector interpreted Abraham's faith in accordance with some Jewish traditions, as his turning from idolatry (e.g., Philo, 'The Virtues', 216; Josephus, 'Ant', 1.154-157; 'Jubilees' 11-12.

; 23and the Scripture [graphē]

Heb. in the Tanakh.

was fulfilled [plēroō]

Basically means 'to fill' or 'fill up' and can be used of fishing nets (Mt 13:48) and houses (Jn 12:3). More typically used in NT to designate the 'filling up' or 'culmination' of the OT through the advent of Jesus.

which says, "Abraham believed [pisteuō] God, and it was accounted to him as righteousness [dikaiosunēn];" and he was called the friend of God [philos theou]

The title was a popular one in intertestamental literature, cf., Philo, 'On Sobriety', 5b; 'On Abraham', 273; Jubilees 19:9.

. 24You see then that by works, a man is justified, and not only by faith. 25In like manner wasn't Rahab the prostitute [pornē] also justified [dikaioō] by works [ergōn], in that she received [dechomai] the messengers [angelous], and sent them out [ekballō] another way? 26For as the body [sōma] apart from the spirit is dead [nekron], even so faith [pistis] apart from works [ergōn] is dead [nekra].

3 1Let not many of you be teachers [didaskaloi], my brothers [adelphoi], knowing that we will receive heavier judgment [meigon krima]. 2For in many things we all stumble [ptaiō]

Applied figuratively to spiritual failure both in Judaism and the NT (cf., 2:10: Rom 11:11; 2 Pet 1:10). It may suggest sins of a relatively minor, even inadvertent nature. Jesus ben Sirach highlights sins of speech in conjunction with inadvertent sins: 'A person may make a slip without intending it. Who has never sinned with his tongue?' (Ecclus. 19:16). James is about to illuminate the problem of the tongue with a series of illustrations popular among Greek and Hellenistic-Jewish moralists. These illustrations are of a type that would have been widely known among those with even a minimal acquaintance with Hellenistic culture.

. If anyone doesn't stumble in word, the same is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body also. 3Indeed, we put bits into the horses' [hippōn]

Cf. the fifth century BC playwright Sophocles: 'I know that spirited horses are broken by the use of a small bit' ('Antigone', 477).

mouths so that they may obey us, and we guide their whole body. 4Consider how [idou] the ships [ploia]

Aristotle specifically contrasted the small size of the rudder, turned by one man, with the 'huge mass' of the ship it controls ('Quaest. Mechan.' 5), and both man and God were often compared to a helmsman. Horse and ship analogies are found together as combined imagery to illustrate God's control of the cosmos (Pseudo-Aristotle, 'Mund.' 6; frequently in Philo) and sometimes of man's derived authority over creation (Philo, 'On the Creation', 88). Man's mind, or higher nature, is also compared to the charioteer and helmsman, as that which must control the whole person (Philo, 'On the Migration of Abraham', 67; Strobaeus 'Ecl.' 3:17.17; Plutarch 'Quorm. adol. poet. aud. deb. 33F). Sometimes fire is included along with the horse and the ship.

also, though they are so big and are driven by fierce winds, are yet guided by a very small rudder, wherever the pilot desires. 5So the tongue is also a little member, and boasts great things. See how a small [hēlikēn]

The same Greek word [hēlikos] is given opposite meanings, expressing magnitude in either direction. Cf. Philostratus, 'Vit. Ap.' 2.11.1 - 'for it seems to me a super-human feat for such a tiny [tēlikoud] mite to manage so huge [tēlikouto] an animal'.

fire can spread to a large [oligon] forest [hylēn]

Could refer to the brush which covered so many Palastinian hills, and which, in that dry Mediterranean climate, could easily and disastrously burst into flame.

! 6And the tongue is a fire [pyr]

As an image, the rapid destructive spread of fire was frequently used to convey a warning about the effect of unrestrained passions. The OT compares the speech of a fool to 'a scorching fire' (Pr 16:27; cf., Sirach, in Ecclus 28:22).

. The world [kosmos] of iniquity [adikias] among our members is the tongue, which defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature, and is set on fire by Gehenna [geennēs; Heb. Gey-Hinnom]

Transliteration of the Hebrew, 'Valley of Hinnom', which had an evil reputation in the OT and in the intertestamental period came to be used of the place of final judgement.

. 7For every kind of animal, bird, creeping thing, and thing in the sea, is tamed, and has been tamed [dedamastai]

Cf. similar classification of animals in Gen 1:26 and Philo, 'On the Spedial Laws', 4. 110-116. Philo also compares man to the driver of a chariot (cf. Jas 3:3) and the pilot of a ship (3:4) in stressing his dominion over creation; 'On the Creation', 8.

by mankind. 8But nobody [oudeis]

Augustine suggests: '…he does not say that no-one can tame the tongue, but no-one of men; so that when it is tamed we confess that this is brought about by the pity, the help, the grace of God' ('de Nat. et Grat'., c.15).

can tame the tongue. It is a restless [akatastatos]

Cf. 1:8. Evil is 'always liable to break out' (Phillips). Or evil is volatile. Cf., Hermas, 'Mandate'. 2.3: 'Slander is evil; it is a restless (akatastaton) demon, never at peace' (cf. Jas 4:1). The word is also linked with sins of speech in Pr 26:28, LXX.

evil, full of deadly poison. 9With it we bless [eulogeō]

The blessing of God was a prominent part of Jewish devotion. 'The Holy One, Blessed by He' is one of the most frequent descriptions of God in rabbinic literature and 'the eighteen benedictions', a liturgical formula used daily, concluded each of its parts with a blessing of God. Christians also blessed God in prayer (cf., Eph 1:3; 1 Pet 1:3).

our God and Father, and with it we curse [kataraomai]

Cf. Dt 30:19. The curse was seen to have great power in the ancient world. For to curse someone is not just to swear at them; it is to desire that they be cut off from God and experience eternal punishment. Cf. James' allusion to Gn 1:26 in v 7. The rabbis cautioned against cursing for the same reason: one should not say '"Let may neighbour be put to shame" - for then you put to shame one who is in the image of God' ('Bereshith Rabba' 24, on Gn 5:1).

men, who are made in the image [homoiōsin] of God. 10Out of the same mouth [stomatos]

Cf., Benjamin 6:5, 'the good set of mind does not talk from both sides of its mouth: praises and curses, abuse and honour, calm and strife, hypocrisy and truth, poverty and wealth, but it has one disposition, uncontaminated and pure, towards all men'.

comes forth blessing [eulogia] and cursing. My brothers [adelphoi], these things ought not to be so. 11Does a spring [pēgē]

The existence of many villages depended on spring water.

send out from the same opening fresh and bitter [pikros]

'Bitter' is not normally used of water: it may be that James assimilates his description of the water to language associated with the tongue, whose speech is often said to be 'bitter' (Ps 64:3; Pr 5:4; Sirach 29:25; and cf. 3:14).

water? 12Can a fig tree, my brothers [adelphoi], yield olives, or a vine [ampelos]

The image of the plant that produces according to its nature was a popular one in ancient literature. Epictetus, for instance, asked: 'How can a vine be moved to act, not like a vine, but like an olive, or again an olive to act, not like an olive, but like a vine? It is impossible, inconceivable' ('Discourses', 2.20.18-19). Cf. Mt 7:16.

figs? Thus no spring yields both salt [halykon] water and fresh water. 13Who is wise [sophos] and understanding [epistēmōn]

Wise and understanding are not regularly used as titles for teachers, although they occur several times in the LXX together, once with reference to the qualities leaders should possess (Dt 1:13, 15) but also with application to all of Israel (Dt 4:6; cf. Dn 5:12).

among you? Let him show by his good conduct that his deeds are done in gentleness of wisdom [prautēti sophias]

Meekness was hardly a virtue to be sought after in the minds of most Greeks: it suggested a servile, ignoble debasement.

. 14But if you have bitter jealousy [zēlon pikron]

This section is reminiscent of, and perhaps modelled on, a popular Hellenistic-Jewish moral tradition that traced social ills back to jealousy (zēlos) and envy (phthonos). Close to James' teaching are some sections of The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, a Jewish pseudepigraphical work of around 100 BC. In this book, slander (katalalia, Testament of Gad 3:3), violence (polemos) and murder (Testament of Simeon 4:5) are all connected to jealousy - and these topics are treated by James in 4:1-12. The problem of 'double-mindedness' is frequently mentioned in the Testaments, cf. 4:8.

and selfish ambition [eritheia]

In its only pre-NT occurrences (in Aristotle), the word refers to the selfish ambition, the narrow partisan zeal of factional, greedy politicians.

in your heart [kardia], don't boast and don't lie against the truth. 15This wisdom [sophia] is not that which comes down from above [anōthen], but is earthly [epigeios]

Can be neutral (cf. Jn 3:12) but takes on negative connotations, describing that which is transitory, weak and imperfect (see 1 Cor 15:40; 2 Cor 5:1; Phil 3:19).

, sensual [psychikos]

Has a negative nuance in the NT, always being contrasted with 'spiritual' (1 Cor 2:14; 15:44,46; Jude 19).

, and demonic [daimoniōdēs]

Lit. 'pertaining to demons'. Only occurs here in the Greek Bible and may mean either that the wisdom is demonic in nature, and, more probably, in origin.

. 16For where jealousy and selfish ambition are, there is confusion [akatastasia]

Noun form of the adjective used in 1:8 and 3:8 to characterize the 'double-minded' man and the 'double-speaking' tongue. Also used in Lk 21:9 and 1 Cor 14:33.

and every evil deed. 17But the wisdom [sophia]

Cf. Gal 5:22-23. What Paul says the Spirit produces, James says wisdom produces. The fact that James never mentions the Holy Spirit (except perhaps in 4:5) may point to the 'equivalence' of wisdom and spirit in James' thinking. The two were associated in Jewish literature.

that is from above [anōthen] is first pure [hagnos]

Connotes moral blamelessness. Cf. 2 Cor 11:2.

, then peaceful [eirēnikē], gentle [epieikēs]

Lit. 'easily persuaded' in the sense a willing deference to others.

, reasonable [eupeithēs], full of mercy [eleous]

Note the alliteration of these last four adjectives and the rhyming similarity of the next few.

and good [agathōn] fruits, without partiality [adiakritos]

The adverb is used in the Testament of Zebulon 7:2 with reference to showing mercy. This context favours the translation 'without discrimination'.

, and without hypocrisy [anypokritos]. 18Now the fruit of righteousness [dikaiosynēs] is sown in peace by those who make peace.

4 1Where do wars [polemoi] and fightings [machai]

Both these words were most often used to describe physical conflicts between individuals or nations. Metaphorically, they describe violent verbal disputes (cf., Tit 3:9; and The Psalms of Solomon 12:3: slanderous lips 'kindle strife (polemos).

among you come from? Don't they come from your pleasures [hēdonōn]

Has a consistently negative meaning in the NT (Lk 8:14; Tit 3:3; 2 Pet 2:13). Cf., 4 Maccabees 1:25-6: 'in hēdonē there exists even a malevolent tendency, which is the most complex of all the emotions. In the soul it is boastfulness, covetousness, thirst for honour, rivalry, malice; in the body, indiscriminate eating, gluttony, and solitary gormandizing'.

that war [strateuō] in your members? 2You lust [epithymeō]

The verb form of hēdonē is never used in the NT; Tit 3:3 shows how hēdonē and epithymia were often interchangeable.

, and don't have. You kill, covet [zēloute]

The Testament of Simeon describes the way in which envy led Simeon to seize and almost murder his brother Joseph. Simeon warns his children that 'envy dominates the whole of man's mind' and 'keeps prodding him to destroy the one whom he envies' (3:2-4). Epictetus, a second-century AD moralist, notes that Caesar can free people from 'wars and fightings' (polemoi kai machai) but not from envy (phthonos)', 'Discourses', III.13:9. Cf. Mk 15:10; Ac 5:17; 13:45; Phil 3:6). Some Jewish Christian converts among James' readers could have been members of the radical Jewish Zealot movement, which advocated assassination of prominent Romans and their collaborators as a policy of terror.

, and can't obtain [epitygchanō]. You fight [machomai] and make war [polemeō]. You don't have, because you don't ask. 3You ask, and don't receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it for your pleasures [hēdonais]. 4You adulterers and adulteresses [moichoi kai moichalides]

Feminine noun, meaning 'adulteresses'. Cf., Je 3:20; Hos 2:5,7; Mt 12:39; 16:4.

, don't you know that friendship with the world [philia tou kosmou] is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend [philos] of the world [kosmou] makes himself an enemy of God. 5Or do you think that the Scripture [graphē]

Perhaps James has in mind such verses as Ex 20:5; 34:14; Zech 8:2.

says in vain, "The Spirit [pneuma] who lives [katoikeō] in us yearns [epipotheō]

While not used elsewhere of God, this verb always has a positive connotation in the NT.

jealously [phithonon]

Not used elsewhere in the NT with reference to God but occasionally used by Greek writers of the jealousy of the Olympian gods.

"? 6But he gives more [meizona] grace [charin]. Therefore it says [dio legō], "God resists the proud [hyperēpsanois]

Often associated with jealousy.

, but gives grace [charin] to the humble [tapeinois]." 7Be subject therefore to God. But resist the devil [diabolō]

Used in the LXX to translate Satan. The idea of Satan fleeing is found in 1 Peter and in pre-Christian Judaism; cf. Testament of Naphtali 8:4; Issachar 7:7.

, and he will flee from you. 8Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded [dipsychos]. 9Lament, mourn, and weep. Let your laughter [gelōs]

Laughter in the OT and Judaism is often the scornful laughter of the fool (Ec 7:6; Ecclus 27:13). Cf. Lk 6:25b; Mt 5:4. It was said of the Roman that he would rather lose a friend than an opportunity for a joke, such was his love of histrionics. Neither did he feel the slightest embarrassment at displays of wild emotion.

be turned to mourning, and your joy to gloom. 10Humble [tapeinoō] yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he will exalt you. 11Don't speak against [katalaleō]

Speaking evil [katalalia] is often linked to jealousy [zēlos] (2 Cor 12:20, 1 Pet 2:1), selfishness (2 Cor 12:20), quarrels ([polemas] in Psalms of Solomon 12:3) and pride (Testament of Gad 3:3), and is seen as a manifestation of double-mindedness (Hermas, 'Similitude' 8.7.2; see 'Mandate' 2). Katalaleō literally means 'to speak against' and describes many kinds of harmful speech (Nu 21:4; Ps 101:5; 1 Pet 2:12; 3:16).

one another, brothers [adelphoi]. He who speaks against [katalaleō] a brother [adelphou] and judges [krinō] his brother, speaks against [katalaleō] the law and judges [krinō] the law. But if you judge [krinō] the law, you are not a doer of the law, but a judge [kritēs]. 12Only one is the lawgiver [nomothetēs], who is able to save [sozō] and to destroy [apollymi]. But who are you to judge [krinō] another? 13Come now [age nyn]

Lit. 'go to now', a form of address that is found elsewhere, particularly in 'popular' Greek style. James is addressing businessmen who are deliberate and self-confident. The first century was a period of great commercial activity and the Greek cities of Israel (e.g., Decapolis) were heavily involved in commerce. Many Jews were involved in business and large numbers had settled in cities throughout the Mediterranean world for commercial reasons.

, you who say, "Today or tomorrow let's go into this city, and spend a year there, trade, and make a profit." 14Whereas you don't know what your life will be like tomorrow. For what is your life? For you are a vapour [atmis]

Could also be translated 'a puff of smoke' (Phillips; cf., Ac 2:19).

, that appears for a little time, and then vanishes away. 15For [anti] you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will both live, and do this or that." 16But now you glory [kauchaomai] in your boasting [en tais alazoneiais]. All such boasting is evil. 17To him therefore [oun]

James uses a connective 'therefore' to link this traditional saying. Cf. Lk 12:47.

who knows to do good, and doesn't do it, to him it is sin.

5 1Come now [age nyn], you rich, weep and howl [ololyzō]

An onomatopoeic word. Weep and wail are words used by the prophets (cf., e.g., Is 13:6; 15:3; Am 8:3). [Ololyzō] is found only in the prophets in the OT and always in the context of judgment.

for your miseries that are coming on you. 2Your riches [ploutos]

Sometimes understood as a reference to crops. Garments and gold and silver specified the other two most common forms of wealth in the ancient world.

are corrupted [sēpō]

Can refer to the decay or transitoriness of all forms of human endeavour (Ecclus. 14:19).

and your garments are moth-eaten. 3Your gold and your silver are corroded [ios]

Rust had been applied to gold and silver in the Epistle of Jeremiah 10 and the image seems to have become a traditional way of designating the temporality of even the most precious metals (cf. Ecclus 29:10).

, and their corrosion will be for a testimony against you, and will eat your flesh [sarkos] like fire [pyr]

An image of God's judgment (Judith 16:17).

. You have laid up your treasure in the last days. 4See [idou], the wages of the labourers who mowed your fields, which you have kept back by fraud [apostereō]

First-century Israel before AD70 witnessed an increasing concentration of land in the hands of a small group of very wealthy landowners. Consequently, the small holdings of many farmers were assimilated into these large estates, and these farmers were forced to earn their living by hiring themselves out to their rich landlords. Jesus' parable of Mt 20:1-16 is cast against this familiar rural background and it is significant that the workers expect their pay at the end of the day (cf. Dt. 24:14-15; Lev 19:13; Mal 3:5). In a society where credit was not readily available, the failure to pay workers promptly could jeopardize life itself.

, cry out [krazō]

Cf., Gn 4:10; Ps 18:6.

, and the cries of those who reaped have entered into the ears of the Lord of Armies [kyriou Sabaōth]

Sabaōth is the transliteration of a Hebrew word that means 'army'. Cf., 1 Sa 17:45; Is 6).

. 5You have lived delicately [tryphaō]

Cf., 2 Pet 2:13 which uses the cognate noun tryphē to denote the daytime 'revelling' in which depraved false teachers delight.

on the earth, and taken your pleasure [spatalaō]

Found elsewhere Scripture only in 1 Tim 5:6 and Ex 16:49 (LXX) where the people of Sodom are condemned for their 'prosperous ease' and for not aiding 'the poor and needy'. Cf. Lk 16:25 for parallel verse.

. You have nourished your hearts as in a day of slaughter [hēmera sphagēs]

Not found in the LXX but has an equivalent in the Hebrew text of Is 30:25. 1 Enoch also uses the phrase (90:4).

. 6You have condemned [katadikazō]

A judicial term which suggests that the rich are using and perhaps perverting the legal processes available to them to accumulate property and gain wealth (cf., Am 2:6; 5:12; Mi 2:2, 6-9; 3:1-3,9-12; 6:9-16).

, you have murdered the righteous one. He doesn't resist you. 7Be patient [makrothymeō]

Can be used to indicate the long-suffering, loving attitude we are to have towards others (1 Cor 13:4; Eph 4:2; 1 Thes 5:14). [Hypomenō] then generally denotes the strong, determined attitude with which we are to face difficult circumstances (2 Thes 1:4). No distinction between these terms can be found here, and a similar overlap in meaning can be observed in the Testament of Joseph 2:7; cf. also Col 1:11.

therefore, brothers [adelphoi], until the coming [parousias]

'Presence' or 'coming' - a technical term in the early church for the expected return of Jesus in glory to judge the wicked and deliver the saints.

of the Lord. Consider how [idou] the farmer waits for the precious [timion] fruit of the earth, being patient [makrothymeō] over it, until it receives the early [prōimon]

Three-quarters of the average rainfall in Israel falls in December through to February, but the rain at the beginning and end of the growing season is critical (cf. Dt 11:14).

and late [opsimon] rain. 8You also be patient [makrothymeō]. Establish [stērizō]

Cf. 1 Thes 3:13; 2 Thes 2:17; Heb 13:9.

your hearts, for the coming [parousia] of the Lord is at hand. 9Don't grumble [stenazō]

'Grumble' or 'groan'. Usually used absolutely; only here in biblical Greek does it have an object ('against each other'). The meaning may be that believers should not grumble to others about their difficulties, or (and) that believers should not blame others for their difficulties.

, brothers [adelphoi], against one another, so that you won't be judged [krinō]. See [idou], the judge [kritēs] stands at the door. 10Take, brothers [adelphoi], for an example of suffering [kakopatheias] and of patience [makrothymias], the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11Consider how [idou] we call them blessed [makarizō]

Cf. 4 Macc 1:10; Mt 5:10.

who endured [hypomenō]. You have heard of the patience [hypomonēn] of Job, and have seen the Lord in the outcome [telos]

Can mean 'purpose' but also 'end' or 'outcome'.

, and how the Lord is full of compassion and mercy. 12But above all things, my brothers [adelphoi], don't swear [omnuō]

Concern about the devaluation of oaths because of their indiscriminate use and the tendency to try to avoid fulfilling them by swearing by 'less sacred' things (cf. Mt 23:16-22) led to warnings against using them too often (cf. Ecclus.23:9,11; Philo, 'On the Decalogue' 84-95. Cf. Mt 5:34.

, neither by heaven, nor by the earth, nor by any other oath; but let your "yes" be "yes," and your "no," "no;" so that you don't fall into hypocrisy [hypokrisin]. 13Is any among you suffering [kakopatheia]

A general term that denotes the experience of all sorts of afflictions and trials. Cf., 2 Tim 2:9; 4:5.

? Let him pray [proseuchomai]. Is any cheerful [euthymeō]

Refers not to outward circumstances, but the cheerfulness and happiness of heart that one can have in good times or bad.

? Let him sing praises [psallō]

Taken from a Greek word that designated a kind of harp, the word was used in the LXX to describe certain types of songs, especially songs of praise. Cf. English word 'psalm', and 1 Cor 14:15.

. 14Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders [presbyterous]

The office of elder must have been a widespread one in the early church and was possibly taken over from the synagogue. Pastors are never mentioned along with elders so the function of what we know as the 'pastor' was carried out by the elders.

of the assembly [ekklēsias], and let them pray over [proseuchomai epi]

Only here in biblical Greek is [proseuchomai] followed by [epi], indicating physical position or implying that hands were also laid on the sick, cf., Mt 19:13.

him, anointing [aleiphō]

Oil was widely used in the ancient world as a medicine, cf. Lk 10:34. Other ancient sources attest to its helpfulness in curing everything from toothache to paralysis (the famous second-century physician Galen recommended oil as 'the best of all remedies for paralysis', 'Mod. Temp.,2). On the basis of this text the early Greek church practised what they called the 'euchaelaion' (euchē - prayer and elaion - oil) and the Western church continued this practice. Cf. also Mk 6:13. In the LXX eleiphō is used equivalently to chriō with reference to the consecrating of priests.

him with oil in the name of the Lord, 15and the prayer [euchē]

Connotes a strong, fervent wish or petition. Cf. euchomai in Ac 26:29; 27:29; Rom 9:3.

of faith will heal [sōzō]

Usually refers to deliverance from spiritual death in the NT.

him who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up [egeirō]

Used to describe the renewed physical vigour of those who have been healed, Mt 9:6; Mk 1:31; Ac 3:7.

. If he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16Confess [exomologeō] your offenses to one another, and pray [euchomai] for one another, that you may be healed [iaomai]

Consistently applied to physical affliction. In the LXX describes the 'healing' of sin or 'faithlessness' (cf. Dt 30:3; Is 6:10; 53:5; Je 3:22), but in contexts which have already been compared to a 'wound'.

. The insistent prayer [deēsis] of a righteous [dikaiou] person is powerfully [poly ischuei] effective [energoumenē]. 17Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain, and it didn't rain on the earth for three years and six months. 18He prayed again, and the sky gave rain, and the earth brought forth its fruit. 19Brothers [adelphoi], if any among you wanders [planaō]

Our word 'planet', a heavenly 'wanderer' is taken from planaō. Widely used to describe any deviation whether wilful or not (1 Pet 2:25; Wisdom 5:6; and 2 Pet 2:15.

from the truth, and someone turns him back [epistrephō]

Can describe turning to God (Ac 14:15; 15:19; 26:18; 1 Thes 1:9) and turning back to God (Mk 4:12; Lk 1:15; 22:32).

, 20let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error [planēs] of his way will save a soul from death, and will cover a multitude [plēthos] of sins.

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