Expositor's Greek Testament
My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.Jam 3:1-18 form a self-contained section; the subject dealt with is the bridling of the tongue, see above Jam 1:19; Jam 1:26-27.
Jam 3:1. Μὴ πολλοὶ διδάσκαλοι γίνεσθε: the Peshiṭtâ reads: “Let there not be many teachers among you”; both the Greek version, which implies that the “teachers” belonged to the congregation of the faithful, as well as the Syriac, which implies that “teachers” from outside were welcomed,—cf. Pseud-Clem., De Virginitate, i. 11 … quod dicit Scriptura, “Ne multi inter vos sint doctores, fratres, neque omnes sitis prophetae …” (Resch., op. cit., p. 186),—bear witness to what we know from other sources to have been the actual facts of the case. It is the greatest mistake to suppose that διδάσκαλοι here is equivalent to Rabbis in the technical sense. In the Jewish “Houses of Learning” (i.e., the Synagogues, for these were not exclusively places of worship) whether in Palestine or in the Dispersion (but more so in the latter), there was very little restriction in the matter of teachers; almost anyone would be listened to who desired to be heard. We have an example of this in the case of our Lord Himself, who found no difficulty in entering into Synagogues and teaching (Matthew 12:9 ff; Matthew 13:54; Mark 1:39; Luke 6:14 ff., etc., etc.), although His presence there must have been very distasteful to the Jewish authorities, and although on some occasions the ordinary hearers altogether dissented from what He taught (e.g., John 6:59-66); the same is true of St. Peter, St. John, and above all of St. Paul. In the case of St. Paul (or his disciples) we have an extremely interesting instance (preserved in the Babylonian Talmud, Meg., 26a) of an attempt, a successful attempt, made on one occasion to stop his teaching; it is said that the Synagogue of the Alexandrians (mentioned in Acts 6:9), which was called “the Synagogue of those of Tarsus,” i.e., the followers of St. Paul, was bought up by a Tannaite (“teacher”) and used for private purposes (see Bergmann, Jüdische Apologetik im neutestamentl. Zeitalter, p. 9). Like the Athenians (Acts 17:21), many inquiring Jews were always ready to hear some new thing, and welcomed into their houses of learning teachers of all kinds (cf. Acts 15:24; 1 Timothy 1:6-7). The following would not have been said unless there had been great danger of Jews being influenced by the doctrines condemned: “All Israelites have their part in the world to come, … but the following (Israelites) have no part therein,—he who denies that the Resurrection is a doctrine the foundation of which is in the Bible, he who denies the divine origin of the Torah, and (he who is) an Epicurean” (Sanh., xi. 1; quoted by Bergmann, op. cit., p. 9). The custom of Jews, and especially of Hellenistic Jews, of permitting teachers of various kinds to enter their Synagogues and expound their views, was not likely to have been abrogated when they became Christians, which was in itself a sign of greater liberal-mindedness. The διδάσκαλοι, therefore, in the verse before us, must, it is held, be interpreted in the sense of what has been said. The whole passage is exceedingly interesting as throwing detailed light upon the methods of controversy in these Diaspora Synagogues; feeling seems to have run high, as was natural, mutual abuse was evidently poured forth without stint, judging from the stern words of rebuke which the writer has to use (Jam 3:6). On the διδάσκαλοι in the early Church see Harnack, Expansion … i. pp. 416–461.—εἰδότες ὅτι μεῖζον κρίμα λημψόμεθα: Cf. Pirqe Aboth, i. 18. “Whoso multiplies words occasions sin”; Jam 1:12. “Abtalion said, Ye wise, be guarded in your words; perchance ye may incur the debt of exile, and be exiled to the place of evil waters; and the disciples that come after you may drink and die, and the Name of Heaven be profaned”; Taylor comments thus on these words: “Scholars must take heed to their doctrine, lest they pass over into the realm of heresy, and inoculate their disciples with deadly error. The penalty of untruth is untruth, to imbibe which is death”. λημψόμεθα: the writer does not often associate himself with his hearers as he does here; the first person plural is only rarely found in the Epistle (cf. πταίομεν in the next verse).
For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.Jam 3:2. πταίομεν: see note above on this word Jam 2:10.—εἴ τις ἐν λογῳ οὐ πταίει: Cf. Sir 19:16, τίς οὐχ ἥμαρτεν ἐν τῇ γλώσσῃ αὐτοῦ;—τέλειος: see note on Jam 1:4.—ἀνήρ: see note on Jam 1:12.—χαλιναγωγῆσαι: see note on Jam 1:26.—καὶ ὅλον τὸ σῶμα: it is quite possible that these words are meant literally; the exaggerated gesticulation of an Oriental in the excitement of debate is proverbial; that the reference here is to even more than this is also quite within the bounds of possibility, cf. John 18:22; Acts 23:2-3.
Behold, we put bits in the horses' mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body.Jam 3:3. εἰ δὲ: this is the best attested reading, but see Mayor’s admirable note in favour of the reading ἴδε γάρ.—τῶν ἵππων: “The genitive is here put in an emphatic place to mark the comparison. It belongs both to χαλινούς and to στόματα, probably more to the former as distinguishing it from the human bridle, so we have ἄχρι τῶν χαλινῶν τῶν ἵππων, Revelation 14:20, ἐπὶ τὸν χαλινὸν τοῦ ἵππου, Zechariah 14:20. Cf. Psalm 32:9” (Mayor). Knowling draws attention to Philo who “speaks of the easy way in which the horse, the most spirited of animals, is led when bridled, De Mundi Opif., p. 19E”.—καὶ ὅλον τὸ σῶμα …: Cf. what was said in the preceding verse.
Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth.Jam 3:4. τηλικαῦτα: Cf. 2 Corinthians 1:10; Hebrews 2:3; Revelation 16:18, the only other N.T. passages in which the word occurs.—πηδαλίου: only elsewhere in N.T. in Acts 27:40.—ὁρμή: only elsewhere in the N.T. in Acts 14:5, used there, however, in the sense of a rush of people. The graphic picture in this verse gives the impression that the writer gives the result of personal observation.
Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!Jam 3:5. ἡ γλῶσσα …; For this idea of the independent action of a member of the body taken as though personality were attached to it see Matthew 5:29-30; Matthew 15:19; it is quite in the Hebrew style, cf. in the O.T. the same thing in connection with anthropomorphic expressions. Moffatt (Expository Times, xiv. p. 568) draws attention to Plutarch’s essay, De Garrulitate, 10, where the union of similar nautical and igneous metaphors (as in Jam 3:4-6) is found; “the moralist speaks first of speech as beyond control once it is uttered, like a ship which has broken loose from its anchorage. But in the following sentence, he comes nearer to the idea of James by quoting from a fragment of Euripides these lines:—
Μικροῦ γὰρ ἐκ λαμπτῆρος Ἰδαῖον λέπας Πρήσειεν ἄν τις· καὶ πρὸς ἄνδρʼ εἰπὼν ἕνα,
Πύθοιντʼ ἂν ἀστοὶ πάντες.”—
καὶ μεγάλα αὐχεῖ: ἅπ. λεγ. in N.T.; the same would apply to the alternative reading (see critical note above) μεγαλαυχεῖ. In Sir 48:18 we have, καὶ ἐμεγαλαύχησεν ὑπερηφανίᾳ αὐτοῦ. Mayor most truly remarks: “There is no idea of vain boasting, the whole argument turns upon the reality of the power which the tongue possesses”; this fully bears out what has been implied above, that this section has for its object the attempt to pacify the bitterness which had arisen in certain Synagogues of the Diaspora owing to controversies aroused by the harangues of various “teachers”.—ἰδοὺ ἡλίκον πῦρ ἡλίκην ὕλην ἀνάπτει: at the risk of being charged with fancifulness the surmise may be permitted as to whether this picture was not suggested by the sight of an excited audience in some place of meeting; when an Eastern audience has been aroused to a high pitch, the noise of tongues, and gesticulation of the arms occasioned by the discussion following upon the oration which has been delivered, might most aptly be compared to a forest fire; the tongue of one speaker has set ablaze all the inflammable material which controversy brings into being. The possibility that the writer had something of this kind in his mind should not be altogether excluded.—ἀνάπτει occurs in the N.T. elsewhere only in Luke 12:49; Taylor (quoted by Mayor) says: “On fires kindled by the tongue see Midr. Rabb. on Lev. (Leviticus 14:2) where the words are almost the same as those in St. James, quanta incendia lingua excitat!”
And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.Jam 3:6. See critical note above for suggested differences in punctuation.—καὶ ἡ γλῶσσα πῦρ: this metaphor was familiar to Jews, see Proverbs 16:27, … And in his lips there is as a scorching fire; the whole of the passage Sir 28:8-12 is very à propos, especially Jam 3:11, ἔρις κατασπευδομένη ἐκκαίει πῦρ, καὶ μάχη κατασπεύδουσα ἐκχέει αἶμα. Knowling refers to Psalms of Sol. 12:2–4, where the same metaphor is graphically presented, but the reference is to slander, not to the fire engendered by public controversy; Jam 3:2 runs: “Very apt are the words of the tongue of a malicious man, like fire in a threshing-floor that burns up the straw” (the text in the second half of the verse is corrupt, but the general meaning is clear enough).—καὶ ἡ γλῶσσα πῦρ, ὁ κόσμος τῆς ἀδικίας … τῆς γεέννης: Carr has a very helpful note on this difficult verse, he says: “a consideration of the structure of the sentence, the poetical form in which the thoughts are cast, also throws light on the meaning. From this it appears that the first thought is resumed and expounded in the last two lines, while the centre doublet contains a parallelism in itself. The effect is that of an underground flame concealed for a while, then breaking out afresh. Thus φλογίζουσα and φλογιζομένη refer to πῦρ, and σπιλοῦσα to κόσμος, though grammatically these participles are in agreement with γλῶσσα.”—ὁ κόσμος τῆς ἀδικίας: This expression is an extremely difficult one, and a large variety of interpretations have been suggested; the real crux is, of course, the meaning of κόσμος. In this Epistle κόσμος is always used in a bad sense, Jam 1:27, Jam 2:5, Jam 4:4. In the Septuagint ὁ κόσμος is several times the rendering of the Hebrew צבא, “host” (of heaven, i.e., the stars, etc.), see Genesis 2:1; Deuteronomy 4:19; Deuteronomy 17:3; there is no Hebrew word which corresponds to κόσμος, properly speaking; and it would therefore be no matter of surprise if a Jew with a knowledge of Hebrew should use κόσμος in a loose sense. In the N.T. αἰών is often used in the same sense as κόσμος, e.g., Matthew 12:32; Mark 4:19; Ephesians 1:21, of this world; here again it is mostly in an evil sense in which it is referred to, whether as αἰών or κόσμος. It is, therefore, possible that κόσμος might be used in the sense of αἰών, by a Jew, but as referring to a sphere not on this earth. Schegg (quoted by Mayor) interprets the phrase, “the sphere or domain of iniquity,” and though this is not the natural meaning of κόσμος, this cannot be urged as an insuperable objection to his interpretation; we are dealing with the work of an Oriental, and a Jew, in an age long ago, and we must not therefore look for strict accuracy. If κόσμος may be regarded as being used in the sense of αἰών, which is applicable to this world or to the world to come, then Schegg’s “domain of iniquity” might refer to a sphere in the next world. When it is further noticed that the tongue is called “fire,” and that this fire has been kindled by ἡ γέεννα, the place of burning, it becomes possible to regard the words ὁ κόσμος τῆς ἀδικίας as a symbolic expression of Gehenna (see further below, under τῆς γεέννης).—καθίσταται: “is set,” i.e., “is constituted”. Mayor says: “It is opposed to ὑπάρχω, because it implies a sort of adaptation or development as contrasted with the natural or original state; to γίγνομαι, because it implies something of fixity”.—ἡ σπιλοῦσα: σπίλος means a “stain,” cf. Judges 1:23.—φλογίζουσα; ἅπ. λεγ. in N.T., cf. Wisd. 3:28.—τὸν τροχὸν τῆς γενέσεως. “the wheel of nature,” i.e., the whole circle of innate passions; the meaning is that this wrong use of the tongue engenders jealousy, and faction, and every vile deed, cf. Jam 3:16. For the different interpretations of the phrase see Mayor.—φλογιζομένη ὑπὸ τῆς γεέννης: In Jewish theology two ideas regarding the fate of the wicked hereafter existed, at one time, concurrently; according to the one, Hades (Sheol) was the place to which the spirits of all men, good as well as bad, went after death; at the resurrection, the good men arose and dwelt in glory, while the wicked remained in Sheol. According to a more developed belief, the place of the departed was not the same for the good and the bad; the former went to a place of rest, and awaited the final resurrection, while the latter went to a place of torment; after the resurrection the good enter into eternal bliss, the wicked into eternal woe, but whether these latter continue in the same place in which they had hitherto been, or whether it is a different peace of torment, is not clear. A realistic conception of the place of torment arose when the “Valley of Hinnom” (גי־הנם = ἡ γέεννα), was pointed out as the place in which the spirits of the wicked suffered; but very soon this conception became spiritualised, and there arose the belief that the Valley of Hinnom was only the type of what actually existed in the next world. The fire which burned in the Valley of Hinnom was likewise transferred to the next worm; hence the phrases: γέεννα τοῦ πυρός, κάμινος τοῦ πυρός, etc. Cf. 4 Esdr. 7:36; Revelation 9:1, etc.
For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind:Jam 3:7-8. These verses, are, of course, not to be taken literally; their exaggerative character rather reminds one of the orator carried away by his subject. But it must be remembered that to the Oriental the language of exaggeration is quite normal. Moreover, this enumeration of various classes of animals was familiar from the O.T., and would be uttered as stereotyped phrases often are, it being well understood that the words are not to be taken au pied de la lettre; e.g., a very familiar passage from the Torah runs: καὶ ὁ τρόμος ὑμῶν καὶ ὁ φόβος ἔσται ἐπὶ πᾶσιν τοῖς θηρίοις τῆς γῆς καὶ ἐπὶ πάντα τὰ ὄρνεα τοῦ οὐρανοῦ καὶ ἐπὶ πάντα τὰ κινούμενα ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς καὶ πάντας τοὺς ἰχθύας τῆς θαλάσσης (Genesis 9:2); and one who shows so much familiarity with the Wisdom literature would be well acquainted with what tradition had imputed to Solomon; ἐλάλησε περὶ τῶν κτηνῶν καὶ περὶ τῶν πετεινῶν καὶ περὶ τῶν ἑρπετῶν καὶ περὶ τῶν ἰχθύων (1 Kings 4:33), cf. Genesis 1:26 (Jam 1:27 is quoted in the next verse); Deuteronomy 4:17-18; Acts 10:12.
But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.
Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God.Jam 3:9. ἐν αὐτῇ: this is Hebrew usage, cf. εἰ πατάξομεν ἐν μαχαίρῃ, Luke 22:49; ἀποκτεῖναι ἐν ῥομφαίᾳ, Revelation 6:8.—εὐλογοῦμεν: this use is Hellenistic. Both in speaking and writing the Jews always added the words ברו־ הוא (“Blessed [be] He”) after the name of God; cf. Mark 14:61, where ὁ εὐλογητός is used in reference to God.—τὸν Κύριον καὶ πατέρα: the reading Κύριον can scarcely be right; Θεόν is not, it is true, well attested (see critical note), but it is required on account of the καθʼ ὁμοίωσιν Θεοῦ; neither the combination τὸν θεὸν καὶ πατέρα nor τὸν Κύριον καὶ πατέρα is in accordance with ordinary Jewish usage; the exact phrase does not occur in the Bible elsewhere, the nearest approach being Tob 13:4, … καὶ Θεὸς αὐτὸς πατὴρ ἡμῶν εἰς πάντας τοὺς αἰῶνας. Cf. Isaiah 63:16, σὺ Κύριε πατὴρ ἡμῶν, and 1 Chronicles 29:10, εὐλογητὸς εἶ, Κύριε, ὁ Θεὸς Ἰσραὴλ, ὁ Πατὴρ ἡμῶν. Although the Jews frequently speak of God as “Father,” it is usually in a different combination, probably the most usual being “Our Father” alone, or “Our Father and King”; in the great prayer called the “Shemôneh ‘Esreh” (“Eighteen” [Nineteen] Blessings), which was formulated in its final form about the year 110 A.D., each of the forty-four petitions which it contains begins with the words: Abinu Malkênu (“Our Father, our King”). Πατήρ is always used in reference to God in order to emphasise the divine love; and in the passage before us a contrast is undoubtedly implied between the love of the Father towards all His children, and the mutual hatred among these latter.—f1καταρώμεθα: this word shows that the special sin of the tongue which is here referred to is not slander or backbiting or lying, but personal abuse, such as results from loss of temper in heated controversy. Cf. Romans 12:13, εὐλογεῖτε καὶ μὴ καταρᾶσθε, and see the very appropriate passage in the Test. of the Twelve Patriarchs, Benj. 6:5, ἡ ἀγαθὴ διάνοια οὐκ ἔχει δύο γλώσσας εὐλογίας καὶ κατάρας.—τοὺς καθʼ ὁμοίωσιν Θεοῦ γεγονότας: quoted, apparently from memory, from Genesis 1:26, where the Septuagint reads, κατʼ εἰκόνα ἡμετέραν καὶ καθʼ ὁμοίωσιν; the Hebrew דמות (ὁμοίωσις) is synonymous with צלם (εἰκών). The belief that men are made in the material likeness of God is taught both in Biblical and post-Biblical Jewish literature; philosophers like Philo would naturally seek to modify this. An interesting passage which reminds one of this verse is quoted by Knowling from Bereshith, R. xxiv., Rabbi Akiba (born in the middle of the first century A.D.), in commenting on Genesis 9:6, said: “Whoso sheddeth blood, it is reckoned to him as if he diminished the likeness”; then referring presently to Leviticus 19:18 (Thou shalt not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself), he continues, “Do not say: ‘after that I am despised, let my neighbour also be despised’. R. Tanchuma said, ‘If you do so, understand that you despise him of whom it was written, in the likeness of God made He him’.” The lesson is that he who curses him who was made in the image of God implicitly curses the prototype as well.
 To be distinguished from the “Abinu Malkênu” prayer used in the penitential portion of the Jewish Liturgy.
Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.Jam 3:10. ἐκ τοῦ αὐτοῦ στόματος: This incongruity is often rebuked in Jewish literature; it was the more needed because in earlier days it was not regarded as reprehensible, cf. Proverbs 11:26; Proverbs 24:24; Proverbs 26:2; Proverbs 30:10, etc.—εὐλογία καὶ κατάρα: this does not imply a combination of blessing and cursing, as though such a combination were condemned, while either by itself were allowable (Mayor); it simply means that the mouth which blesses God when uttering prayer, curses men at some other times, e.g., during embittered controversy.—οὐ χρή: ἅπ. λεγ. in N.T.
Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?Jam 3:11. μήτι ἡ πηγὴ … τὸ πικρόν: these words show that the writer is thinking of the real source whence both good and evil words come; cf. Matthew 12:34-35 : Ye offspring of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh …; cf. ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ ὑμῶν below; βρύει does not occur elsewhere in the N.T. or the Septuagint; and ὀπή is only found elsewhere in the N.T. in Hebrews 11:38, cf. Exodus 33:22; πικρόν is only used here and in Jam 3:14 in the N.T.; cf. Sir 4:6, … καταρωμένου γάρ σε ἐν πικρίᾳ ψυχῆς αὐτοῦ.
Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.Jam 3:12. With the whole verse cf. Matthew 7:16-17; for the use of ποιεῖν see Matthew 3:10, πᾶν δένδρον μὴ ποιοῦν καρπόν …; ἁλυκόν does not occur elsewhere in the N.T. or Septuagint, though in Numbers 3:12, Deuteronomy 3:17, etc., we have the phrase ἡ θάλασσα ἡ ἁλυκή = the Dead Sea. “There is great harshness in the construction μὴ δύναται ποιῆσαι; οὔτε ποιῆσαι. If the government of δύναται is continued, we ought to have ἤ for οὔτε followed by a question; otherwise we should have expected an entirely independent clause, reading ποιήσει for ποιῆσαι” (Mayor).
Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.Jam 3:13. Τίς σοφὸς καὶ ἐπιστήμων ἐν ὑμῖν: The writer’s appeal to the self-respect of his hearers. σοφός and ἐπιστήμων (the latter does not occur elsewhere in the N.T.) are connected in Deuteronomy 1:13, where in reference to judges it is said, δότε αὐτοῖς ἄνδρας σοφοὺς καὶ ἐπιστήμονας καὶ συνετούς, cf. Deuteronomy 4:6; Isaiah 5:21.—ἐκ τῆς καλῆς ἀναστροφῆς: Cf. 1 Peter 2:12. ἀναστροφή is literally a “turning back,” but later connotes “manner of life”. Cf. a quotation from an inscription from Pergamos (belonging to the second century B.C.) given by Deissmann, in which it is said concerning one of the royal officials: ἐν πᾶσιν κα[ιροῖς ἀμέμπτως καὶ ἀδ]εῶς ἀναστρεφόμενος (op. cit., p. 83).—ἐν πραΰτητι σοφίας: cf. with the whole of this verse Sir 3:17-18, Τέκνον, ἐν πρᾳύτητι τὰ ἔργα σου διέξαγε, καὶ ὑπὸ ἀνθρώπου δεκτοῦ ἀγαπηθήσῃ. Ὅσῳ μέγας εἶ, τοσούτῳ ταπεινοῦ σεαυτόν, καὶ ἔναντι Κυρίου εὑρήσεις χάριν. The pride of knowledge is always a subtle evil, cf. 1 Corinthians 8:1.
But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth.Jam 3:14. εἰ δὲ ζῆλον πικρὸν ἔχετε καὶ ἐριθείαν ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ ὑμῶν: This makes it quite clear that what has been referred to all along is controversial strife; the bitter use of the tongue which the writer has been reprobating is the personal abuse which had been heaped upon one another by the partisans of rival schools of thought. ζῆλον is mostly used in a bad sense in the N.T., though the opposite is sometimes the case (e.g., 2 Corinthians 11:2; Galatians 1:14); the intensity of feeling which had been aroused among those to whom the Epistle was addressed is seen by the words ζῆλον πικρόν, with the latter word in an emphatic position; they form a striking contrast to πραΰτητι σοφίας. The word ἐριθείαν, derived from ἔριθος “a hireling,” means “party-spirit”.—μὴ κατακαυχᾶσθε: the malicious triumphing at the least point of vantage gained by one party was just the thing calculated to embitter the other side; this was a real “lying against the truth,” because such petty triumphs are often gained at the expense of truth.
This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.Jam 3:15. οὐκ ἔστιν αὕτη ἡ σοφία ἄνωθεν κατερχομένη: The wisdom referred to,—acute argumentl subtle distinctions, clever controversia, methods which took small account of truth so long as a temporary point was gained, skilful dialectics, bitter sarcasms, the more enjoyed and triumphed in if the poisonous shaft came home and rankled in the breast of the opponent,—in short, all those tricks of the unscrupulous controversialist which are none the less contemptible for being clever,—this was wisdom of a certain kind; but, as expressed by the writer of the Epistle with such extraordinary accuracy, it was earthly (ἐπίγειος) as opposed to the wisdom which came down from above, it was human (f1ψυχική, i.e., the domain wherein all that is essentially human holds sway) in that it pandered to self-esteem, and it was demoniacal (δαιμονιώδης) in that it raised up the “very devil” in the hearts of both opposer and opposed. Nowhere is the keen knowledge of human nature, which is so characteristic of the writer, more strikingly displayed than in these Jam 3:15-16.
For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.Jam 3:16. πᾶν φαῦλον πρᾶγμα: this sums up the matter; cf. John 3:20, πᾶς γὰρ ὁ φαῦλα πράσσων μισεῖ τὸ φῶς, and with this one might compare again the words in our Epistle, Jam 1:17, πᾶσα δόσις ἀγαθὴ … ἄνωθέν ἐστιν καταβαῖνον ἀπὸ τοῦ πατρὸς τῶν φώτων.
But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.Jam 3:17. ἡ δὲ ἄνωθεν σοφία: the divine character of wisdom is beautifully expressed in Wis 7:25, ἀτμὶς γάρ ἐστιν τῆς τοῦ Θεοῦ δυνάμεως, καὶ ἀπόρροια τῆς τοῦ παντοκράτορος δόξης εἰλικρινής.—ἁγνή: in Wis 9:10, the prayer is uttered that God would send forth wisdom “out of the holy heavens …”; of that which is thus holy the first characteristic would be purity, the two ideas are inseparable; it is also possible that in the mind of the writer there was the thought of the contrast between purity and the sin which he knew some of his hearers to be guilty of (see above, the notes on Jam 1:12 ff., Jam 4:3-4).—εἰρηνική; only elsewhere in the N.T. in Hebrews 12:11; cf. Proverbs 3:17, where it is said of wisdom that “all her paths are peace”. The word is evidently chosen to emphasise the strife referred to in an earlier verse.—ἐπιεικής: the word is meant as a contrast to unfair, unreasonable argument, cf. Pss. of Song of Solomon 5:14.—εὐπειθής: this word, again, implies a contrast to the unbending attitude of self-centred controversialists; it does not occur elsewhere in the N.T.—μεστὴ ἐλέους καὶ καρπῶν ἀγαθῶν: the exact reverse of the cursing and bitterness of which some had already been convicted; in Wis 7:22-23, wisdom is spoken of as having a spirit which is: φιλάγαθον … φιλάνθρωπων.—ἀδιάκριτος: Cf. διακρίνομαι above (Jam 1:6, Jam 2:4) which, as Mayor points out, makes it probable that we must understand the adjective here in the sense of “single-minded”; perhaps one might say that here it means almost “generous,” in contrast to the unfair imputations which might be made in acrimonious discussion; the word occurs here only in the N.T.—ἀνυπόκριτος: Cf. 1 Peter 1:22; “genuine,” as contrasted with the spurious “earthly” wisdom.
And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.Jam 3:18. The keynote of this verse is peace, as contrasted with the jealousy, faction and confusion mentioned above; peace and righteousness belong together, they are the result of true wisdom, the wisdom that is from above; on the other hand, strife and “every vile deed” belong together, and they are the result of the wisdom that is “earthly, ψυχική, demoniacal”.