James 3:5
Verse (Click for Chapter)
New International Version
Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.

New Living Translation
In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire.

English Standard Version
So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!

Berean Study Bible
In the same way, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it boasts of great things. Consider how small a spark sets a great forest on fire.

Berean Literal Bible
Thus also the tongue is a small member, and boasts exceeding things. Behold a small fire, how great a forest it kindles.

New American Standard Bible
So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire!

King James Bible
Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!

Holman Christian Standard Bible
So too, though the tongue is a small part of the body, it boasts great things. Consider how large a forest a small fire ignites.

International Standard Version
In the same way, the tongue is a small part of the body, yet it can boast of great achievements. A huge forest can be set on fire by a little flame.

NET Bible
So too the tongue is a small part of the body, yet it has great pretensions. Think how small a flame sets a huge forest ablaze.

New Heart English Bible
So the tongue is also a little member, and boasts great things. See how a small fire can spread to a large forest.

Aramaic Bible in Plain English
In this way, also, the tongue is a small member and has dominion; even a small fire kindles a great forest.

GOD'S WORD® Translation
In the same way the tongue is a small part of the body, but it can brag about doing important things. A large forest can be set on fire by a little flame.

New American Standard 1977
So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. Behold, how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire!

Jubilee Bible 2000
In the same manner, the tongue is a very small member and boasts of great things. Behold, how great a forest a little fire kindles!

King James 2000 Bible
Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasts great things. Behold, how great a forest a little fire kindles!

American King James Version
Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasts great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindles!

American Standard Version
So the tongue also is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how much wood is kindled by how small a fire!

Douay-Rheims Bible
Even so the tongue is indeed a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold how small a fire kindleth a great wood.

Darby Bible Translation
Thus also the tongue is a little member, and boasts great things. See how little a fire, how large a wood it kindles!

English Revised Version
So the tongue also is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how much wood is kindled by how small a fire!

Webster's Bible Translation
Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!

Weymouth New Testament
In the same way the tongue is an insignificant part of the body, but it is immensely boastful. Remember how a mere spark may set a vast forest in flames.

World English Bible
So the tongue is also a little member, and boasts great things. See how a small fire can spread to a large forest!

Young's Literal Translation
so also the tongue is a little member, and doth boast greatly; lo, a little fire how much wood it doth kindle!
Study Bible
Taming the Tongue
4Consider ships as well. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot is inclined. 5In the same way, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it boasts of great things. Consider how small a spark sets a great forest on fire. 6The tongue also is a fire, a world of wickedness among the parts of the body. It pollutes the whole person, sets the course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.…
Cross References
Psalm 12:3
May the LORD cut off all flattering lips, The tongue that speaks great things;

Psalm 39:1
For the choir director, for Jeduthun. A Psalm of David. I said, "I will guard my ways That I may not sin with my tongue; I will guard my mouth as with a muzzle While the wicked are in my presence."

Psalm 73:8
They mock and wickedly speak of oppression; They speak from on high.

Proverbs 26:20
For lack of wood the fire goes out, And where there is no whisperer, contention quiets down.

James 3:4
Consider ships as well. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot is inclined.
Treasury of Scripture

Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasts great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindles!

so.

Exodus 5:2 And Pharaoh said, Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice to …

Exodus 15:9 The enemy said, I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the …

2 Kings 19:22-24 Whom have you reproached and blasphemed? and against whom have you …

Job 21:14,15 Therefore they say to God, Depart from us; for we desire not the …

Job 22:17 Which said to God, Depart from us: and what can the Almighty do for them?

Psalm 10:3 For the wicked boasts of his heart's desire, and blesses the covetous, …

Psalm 12:2-4 They speak vanity every one with his neighbor: with flattering lips …

Psalm 17:10 They are enclosed in their own fat: with their mouth they speak proudly.

Psalm 52:1,2 Why boast you yourself in mischief, O mighty man? the goodness of …

Psalm 73:8,9 They are corrupt, and speak wickedly concerning oppression: they …

Proverbs 12:18 There is that speaks like the piercings of a sword: but the tongue …

Proverbs 15:2 The tongue of the wise uses knowledge aright: but the mouth of fools …

Proverbs 18:21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love …

Jeremiah 9:3-8 And they bend their tongues like their bow for lies: but they are …

Jeremiah 18:18 Then said they, Come and let us devise devices against Jeremiah; …

Ezekiel 28:2 Son of man, say to the prince of Tyrus, Thus said the Lord GOD; Because …

Ezekiel 29:3 Speak, and say, Thus said the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against you, …

Daniel 3:15 Now if you be ready that at what time you hear the sound of the cornet, …

Daniel 4:30 The king spoke, and said, Is not this great Babylon, that I have …

2 Peter 2:18 For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through …

Jude 1:16 These are murmurers, complainers, walking after their own lusts; …

Revelation 13:5,6 And there was given to him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; …

matter. or, wood.

(5) Even so . . .--Thus, like the tiny rudder of the mighty ship, whereon its course most critically depends--the tongue is a little member; for it "vaunts great words which bring about great acts of mischief." The verb translated boasteth is peculiar to this place, but occurs so often in the works of Philo that we may be almost certain St. James had read them. And many other verses of our Epistle suggests his knowledge of this famous Alexandrian Jew.

Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!--It would be more in the spirit and temper of this imaginative passage to render it, "Behold, how great a forest a little spark kindleth!" Thus it is expressed in the Latin Vulgate; and note our own margin, "wood." The image constantly recurs in poetry, ancient and modern; and in the writer's mind there seems to have been the picture "of the wrapping of some vast forest in a flame, by the falling of a single spark," and this in illustration of the far-reaching mischief resulting from a single cause. (Comp. Ecclesiasticus 28:10.)

Verse 5. -

(1) Application, of illustration. The tongue is only a little member, but it boasts great things. The true reading appears to be μεγάλα αὐχεῖ (A, B, C). The compound verb of the Textus Receptus, μεγαλαυχεῖν, is found in the LXX. (Ezekiel 16:50; Zephaniah 3:11; 2 Macc. 15:32; Ecclus. 48:18).

(2) Third illustration. A very small fire may kindle a very large forest. Ἡλίκον (א, A2, B, C1, Vulgate) should be read instead of ὀλίγον (A1, C2, K, L, ff). It is equivalent to quantulus as well as quantus. A somewhat similar thought to the one before us is found in Ecclus. 11:32, "Of a spark of fire a heap of coals is kindled." Υλη "Matter," A.V.; "wood," R.V. The word is only found here in the New Testament. In the LXX. it is used for a "matter" of judgment in Job 19:29; "matter" in the philosophical sense in Wisd. 11:18. (cf. 15:13); the "matter" of a book in 2 Macc. 2:24; the "matter" of a fire in Ecclus. 28:10 (the whole passage, vers. 8-12, is wroth comparing with the one before us); and for "forest" in Job 38:40; Isaiah 10:17. It is most natural to take it in this sense here (so Syriac and Vulgate, silva). "The literal meaning is certainly to be preferred to the philosophical" (Lightfoot on Revision, p. 140). Forest fires are frequently referred to by the ancients. Virgil's description of one ('Georgies,' 2:303) is well known; so also Homer's ('Iliad,' 11:155). Even so the tongue is a little member,.... Like the bit in the horse's mouth, or like the helm of a ship.

And boasteth great things: and does them; for this word may be taken in a good sense: a bridled and sanctified tongue, that is influenced by the grace of God, and directed by the Spirit of God, as it speaks great and good things, it has great power, weight, and influence: the tongue of the just is as choice silver, and the lips of the righteous feed many, Proverbs 10:20, the Gospel, as preached by Christ's faithful ministers, who are the church's tongue, when it comes not in word only, but in power, is the power of God unto salvation: faith comes by hearing it, and hearing by this word; by it souls are convinced, converted, and comforted, enlightened, quickened, and sanctified.

Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth; what vast quantities of wood, large forests, stately buildings, and populous towns and cities, are at once seized on by a little fire, a few sparks, and in a short time burnt down, and utterly destroyed. One of the proverbs of Ben Syra is,

"burning fire kindles great heaps;''

suggesting, that an evil tongue does great mischief, as did the tongue of Doeg the Edomite, as the gloss upon it observes: from hence the apostle passes to consider the abuse or vices of the tongue. 5. boasteth great things—There is great moment in what the careless think "little" things [Bengel]. Compare "a world," "the course of nature," "hell," Jas 3:6, which illustrate how the little tongue's great words produce great mischief.

how great a matter a little fire kindleth—The best manuscripts read, "how little a fire kindleth how great a," etc. Alford, for "matter," translates, "forest." But Grotius translates as English Version, "material for burning": a pile of fuel.3:1-12 We are taught to dread an unruly tongue, as one of the greatest evils. The affairs of mankind are thrown into confusion by the tongues of men. Every age of the world, and every condition of life, private or public, affords examples of this. Hell has more to do in promoting the fire of the tongue than men generally think; and whenever men's tongues are employed in sinful ways, they are set on fire of hell. No man can tame the tongue without Divine grace and assistance. The apostle does not represent it as impossible, but as extremely difficult. Other sins decay with age, this many times gets worse; we grow more froward and fretful, as natural strength decays, and the days come on in which we have no pleasure. When other sins are tamed and subdued by the infirmities of age, the spirit often grows more tart, nature being drawn down to the dregs, and the words used become more passionate. That man's tongue confutes itself, which at one time pretends to adore the perfections of God, and to refer all things to him; and at another time condemns even good men, if they do not use the same words and expressions. True religion will not admit of contradictions: how many sins would be prevented, if men would always be consistent! Pious and edifying language is the genuine produce of a sanctified heart; and none who understand Christianity, expect to hear curses, lies, boastings, and revilings from a true believer's mouth, any more than they look for the fruit of one tree from another. But facts prove that more professors succeed in bridling their senses and appetites, than in duly restraining their tongues. Then, depending on Divine grace, let us take heed to bless and curse not; and let us aim to be consistent in our words and actions.
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