James 3:13
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.
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(13) Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge?—Who is wise, i.e., in the wisdom of God, and learned in that of man? The latter state is of knowledge natural or acquired, the former is Sophia, the highest heavenly wisdom, “the breath of the power of God—the brightness of the everlasting light—more beautiful than the sun, and above all the order of the stars” (Wisdom Of Solomon 7:25-29). Just as the devils hold with man the lower kinds of faith, that is belief merely (James 2:19), so do they share in his earthly knowledge. The self-same term as that describing it above is used by the evil spirit who answered the presumptuous sons of Sceva, “Paul I know,” while a different one altogether referred to the Lord Jesus (Acts 19:15).

“Where shall Wisdom be found,

And where is the place of Understanding?”

was the question of Job (Job 28:12). And the LXX, version marks the parallelism in the same Greek words as those used by St. James to distinguish between the two ideas.

Let him shew out of a good conversationi.e., right conduct. “Conversation” has slipped from its original meaning, which exactly represented the Greek, and is often misapprehended by the English reader. Literally, “turning oneself about,” it changed to “walking to and fro,” and the talking while engaged in these peripatetics, and then to its limited modern use. There is to be general good conduct, and particular proofs of it in kindly works in meekness of wisdom; noble acts of a holy habit.

James 3:13-16. Who is a wise man, &c. — People are naturally desirous of the reputation of possessing an understanding superior to that of others. Now, let us consider in what way the sense we have may be best manifested; let him who would be thought wise show his wisdom, as well as his faith, by his works; let him show out of a good — That is, a holy and useful conversation, his commendable and beneficent works, with meekness of wisdom — “This beautiful expression,” says Macknight, “intimates, that true wisdom is always accompanied with meekness, or the government of the passions.” But if ye have bitter envying Ζηλον, zeal, as the word properly signifies, or zeal accompanied with a bitter spirit, or an unkind disposition toward others. True Christian zeal is only the flame of love; but bitter, unhallowed zeal is evil, even if it be only found in the heart, and go no further. If that kind of zeal be in you, glory not — Or boast not of your improvement in Christianity; and lie not against the truth — By pretending that such zeal may consist with heavenly wisdom. This wisdom — That which is attended with such zeal; descendeth not from above — Does not come from God; but is earthly — Not heavenly in its origin, or end; sensual Ψυχικη, animal; not spiritual, not from the Spirit of God; devilish — Not the gift of Christ, but such as Satan breathes into the souls of men. For where this bitter zeal and strife — Or contention; is, there is confusion Ακαταστασια, tumult, or unquietness; and every evil work — Many other mischiefs attending it. It may be proper to observe, that about this time the Jews, from their intemperate zeal for the law of Moses, raised seditions in Judea and elsewhere, which were the occasion of many crimes and of much bloodshed. And as the apostle expected that this epistle would fall into the hands of some of the unconverted Jews, and indeed, perhaps, partly addressed them in it, he probably might refer to these tumults and disorders in this verse.

3:13-18 These verses show the difference between men's pretending to be wise, and their being really so. He who thinks well, or he who talks well, is not wise in the sense of the Scripture, if he does not live and act well. True wisdom may be know by the meekness of the spirit and temper. Those who live in malice, envy, and contention, live in confusion; and are liable to be provoked and hurried to any evil work. Such wisdom comes not down from above, but springs up from earthly principles, acts on earthly motives, and is intent on serving earthly purposes. Those who are lifted up with such wisdom, described by the apostle James, is near to the Christian love, described by the apostle Paul; and both are so described that every man may fully prove the reality of his attainments in them. It has no disguise or deceit. It cannot fall in with those managements the world counts wise, which are crafty and guileful; but it is sincere, and open, and steady, and uniform, and consistent with itself. May the purity, peace, gentleness, teachableness, and mercy shown in all our actions, and the fruits of righteousness abounding in our lives, prove that God has bestowed upon us this excellent gift.Who is a wise man, and endued with knowledge among you? - This is spoken with reference to the work of public teaching; and the meaning of the apostle is, that if there were such persons among them, they should be selected for that office. The characteristics here stated as necessary qualifications, are wisdom and knowledge. Those, it would seem, on which reliance had been placed, were chiefly those which were connected with a ready elocution, or the mere faculty of speaking. The apostle had stated the dangers which would follow if reliance were placed on that alone, and he now says that something more is necessary, that the main qualifications for the office are wisdom and knowledge. No mere power of speaking, however eloquent it might be, was a sufficient qualification. The primary things to be sought in reference to that office were wisdom and knowledge, and they who were endowed with these things should be selected for public instructors.

Let him show out of a good conversation - From a correct and consistent life and deportment. On the meaning of the word "conversation," see the notes at Philippians 1:27. The meaning here is, that there should be an upright life, and that this should be the basis in forming the judgment in appointing persons to fill stations of importance, and especially in the office of teaching in the church.

His works - His acts of uprightness and piety. He should be a man of a holy life.

With meekness of wisdom - With a wise and prudent gentleness of life; not in a noisy, arrogant, and boastful manner. True wisdom is always meek, mild, gentle; and that is the wisdom which is needful, if men would become public teachers. It is remarkable that the truly wise man is always characterized by a calm spirit, a mild and placid demeanor, and by a gentle, though firm, enunciation of his sentiments. A noisy, boisterous, and stormy declaimer we never select as a safe counsellor. He may accomplish much in his way by his bold eloquence of manner, but we do not put him in places where we need far-reaching thought, or where we expect the exercise of profound philosophical views. In an eminent degree, the ministry of the gospel should be characterized by a calm, gentle, and thoughtful wisdom - a wisdom which shines in all the actions of the life.

13. Who—(Compare Ps 34:12, 13). All wish to appear "wise": few are so.

show—"by works," and not merely by profession, referring to Jas 2:18.

out of a good conversation his works—by general "good conduct" manifested in particular "works." "Wisdom" and "knowledge," without these being "shown," are as dead as faith would be without works [Alford].

with meekness of wisdom—with the meekness inseparable from true "wisdom."

Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? i.e. if there be a wise man, &c. See Psalm 25:12, and 1 Peter 3:10, where what David speaks by way of interrogation, Peter explains by way of assertion. The apostle having shown the disease of the tongue, comes now to remove the cause, viz. men’s opinion of their own wisdom; (they censure others, because they take themselves to be wiser than others); and to point out the remedy, godly meekness, which is the truest wisdom. By wisdom and knoledge the same thing may be meant; or if they be taken for several things, (as sometimes there may be great knoledge where there is but little wisdom), yet these masterly censors he speaks of pretended to both, and were so rigid toward others because so well conceited of themselves: the sense is: You pretend to be wise and knowing, but if you would approve yourselves as such indeed,

show out of a good conversation, & c.

His works; let him show as the testimony of his wisdom, not his words in hard censures, but his works, viz. good ones, and those not done now and then, or on the by, but in the constant course and tenor of his life; or show his works to be good, by their being not casual, but constant, and his ordinary practice in his whole conversation.

With meekness of wisdom; i.e. meek and gentle wisdom, which can bear, and answer, and teach, and admonish, and rebuke mildly and sweetly, with long-suffering, as well as doctrine, 2 Timothy 4:2: and then it notes the quality of this wisdom, or such meekness as proceeds from wisdom, or is joined with it, there being some which is foolish, affected, carnal, viz. that which is opposed to zeal; whereas true meekness is only opposed to fierceness and rashness: and thus it notes the cause of meekness.

Who is a wise man. Meaning, not in things natural and civil, or merely moral, but in things spiritual: and he is a wise man, who is both wise to do good, and wise unto salvation; who has learned to know his own ignorance, folly, and stupidity; for the first lesson in the school of spiritual wisdom is for a man to know that he is a fool: and he is a wise man who considers his latter end, thinks of a future state, and what will become of him in another world; and who builds his faith and hope of eternal salvation on the sure and only foundation, the rock Christ Jesus; and who takes up a profession of religion upon principles of grace, and with views to the glory of God, and, upon mature deliberation, reckoning the cost, and what he must expect to meet with; and which he holds fast, without wavering, and yet does not depend upon it; and who walks circumspectly, and with wisdom, towards them that are without; and who observes both providences and promises, for the encouragement of his faith; and keeps looking to the mark for the prize, preferring heavenly things to earthly ones.

And endued with knowledge amongst you? as he is, who is endued with the knowledge of himself; of the impurity of his nature, and the plague of his heart; and of his impotency and inability to do any thing that is spiritually good of himself; and of the imperfection and insufficiency of his righteousness to justify him before God; and of his lost state and condition by nature, how deserving of the wrath of God, and obnoxious to the curses of the law; and how miserable he must be without the grace of God and righteousness of Christ: and who is also endued with the knowledge of Christ, so as to see a fulness, suitableness, and ability in him as a Saviour; so as to love him, approve of him, as such, and trust in him; which knowledge is always practical and soul humbling; and the least degree of it saving; and though it is imperfect, it is growing, and will at last come to perfection: now such a man is a Gnostic, in the best sense; for this question is put with a view to the Gnostics of those times, who valued themselves upon their knowledge, and despised practical religion and godliness: hence it follows,

let him show out of a good conversation his works, with meekness of wisdom; such an one ought to perform good works, and he will perform them; and it is right in him to show them forth, that they may be a means of others glorifying God upon the sight of them; and that they may be evidences of the truth of faith in themselves to others; and that they may be for the imitation of others; and that they may put to silence, and stop the mouths of false accusers, and adorn the Gospel, and recommend religion: and these should be shown forth "out of a good conversation"; not in a single act or two, but in a series and course of living; which may be said to be good, when it is ordered aright, according to the word of God, and is honest among the Gentiles, and upright and holy; and is as becomes the Gospel of Christ, and is worthy of the calling of God to grace and glory; and when it is influenced by the grace of God: and the works shown out of it, and in it, are done in faith, from love in the strength of Christ, and are directed to the glory of God: and all this should be "with meekness of wisdom"; in a wise and humble manner, without trusting to, and depending upon, such works for justification and salvation; and without glorying in them, and boasting of them; acknowledging the deficiency and imperfection of them, and his own weakness in the performance of them; and ascribing them to the power and grace of God, by the assistance of which they are performed.

{9} 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.

(9) The eighth part, which goes with the former concerning meekness of mind, against which he sets envy and a contentious mind: in the beginning he shuts the mouth of the main fountain of all these mischiefs, that is, a false persuasion of wisdom, whereas nonetheless there is no true wisdom, but that which is heavenly, and shapes our minds to all types of true discipline and modesty.

Jam 3:13. With this verse apparently begins a new section, which, however, stands in close connection with the warning in Jam 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, Sir 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. Jam 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 ἡ 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 (Jam 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. Jam 1:19), of which what follows is a further explication.

[182] Luther inaccurately translates the passage: “who shows with his good conversation his works in meekness and 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.

13–18. The false Wisdom and the true

13. Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you?] The adjective corresponding to “endued with knowledge” (literally knowing or understanding) is not found elsewhere in the New Testament, but occurs in the LXX. of Deuteronomy 1:13; Deuteronomy 1:15; Deuteronomy 4:6; Isaiah 5:21. So far as a distinction is intended, it expresses the intellectual, as “wise” does the moral, aspect of wisdom. Both qualities were required in one who claimed to be, as in James 3:1, a “Master” or “Teacher,” and St James, in strict sequence of thought, proceeds to point out how the conditions may be fulfilled.

out of a good conversation] The tendency of modern usage to restrict the meaning of the substantive to “talk” is in this instance, where the immediate context suggests some such meaning, specially unfortunate, as lowering the range of the precept. Better by, or out of, his good (the word expresses the nobler form of goodness) conduct. Comp. the use of the word in Galatians 1:13; 1 Peter 1:15; 1 Peter 1:18, and elsewhere.

with meekness of wisdom] Better, in meekness, as expressing not something super-added, but the very form and manner in which the noble conduct was to be shewn. The “meekness” thus defined is thought of as belonging to “wisdom” as its characteristic attribute. St James is hence led back to the thought with which the Epistle opened, that wisdom is the crown and consummation of the character of a true believer; and lest a counterfeit wisdom should be taken for the true, he proceeds to give the notes of difference between them.

Jam 3:13. Τίς, who?) All wish to appear wise; though all are not so: see App. Crit. on this passage.[44]—δειξάτω, let him show) by deed, rather than by words.—καλῆς ἀναστροφῆς, a good conversation) The opposite is found in Jam 3:16. This good conversation itself is described, Jam 3:17-18, compared with 1 Peter 2:12.—ἐν πραΰτητι σοφίας, with meekness, with which true wisdom is connected.

[44] Inferior authorities read εἴ τις.—E.

Verses 13-18. - WARNING AGAINST JEALOUSY AND FACTION. Ver. 13 contains the positive exhortation to meekness; ver. 14 the negative warning against jealousy and party spirit; and then the following verses place side by side the portraits of the earthly and the heavenly wisdom. Verse 13. - Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? (τίς σοφός καὶ ἐπιστήμων ἐν ὑμῖν;); better, who is wise and understanding among you? 'Απιστήμων is found here only in the New Testament. In the LXX. it is joined with σοφὸς (as here) in Deuteronomy 1:13; Deuteronomy 4:6. "The ἐπιστήμων is one who understands and knows: the σοφὸς is one who carries out his knowledge into his life" (Dr. Farrar, who aptly quotes Tennyson's line, "Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers"). Out of a good conversation (ἐκ τῆς καλῆς ἀναστροφῆς); better, as R.V., by his good life. "Conversation" is unfortunate, because of its modern meaning. Meekness (πραύτης); cf. James 1:21. James 3:13Wise and endued with knowledge (σοφός καὶ ἐκπισπήμων)

A rendering needlessly verbose, yet substantially correct. Probably no very nice distinction was intended by the writer. It is somewhat difficult to fix the precise sense of σοφός, since there is no uniformity in its usage in the New Testament. In classical Greek it primarily means skilled in a handicraft or art. Thence it runs into the sense of clever, in matters of common life, worldly wise. Then, in the hands of the philosophers, it acquires the sense of learned in the sciences; and, ironically, abstruse, subtle, obscure, like the English cunning, which originally meant knowing or skilful, and is often used in that sense in the English Bible (see Genesis 25:27; 1 Samuel 16:16).

In the New Testament σοφός is used - 1. In the original classical sense, skilled in handicraft (1 Corinthians 3:10). 2. Accomplished in letters, learned (Romans 1:14, Romans 1:22; 1 Corinthians 1:19, 1 Corinthians 1:26; 1 Corinthians 3:18). So of the Jewish theologians and doctors (Matthew 11:25), and of Christian teachers (Matthew 23:34). 3. In a practical sense, of the practice of the law of piety and honesty; so Ephesians 5:15, where it is joined with walking circumspectly, and 1 Corinthians 6:5, where it is represented as the quality adapted to adjust differences in the church. 4. In the higher, philosophical sense, of devising the best counsels and employing the best means to carry them out. So of God, Romans 16:27; 1 Timothy 1:17; Jde 1:25; 1 Corinthians 1:25. In this passage the word appears to be used in the sense of 3: practical wisdom in pious living.

Ἐπιστήμων occurs only here in the New Testament. In classical Greek it is often used like σοφός, in the sense of skilled, versed; and by the philosophers in the higher sense of scientifically versed, in which sense it is opposed by Plato to δοξαστής, a mere conjecturer. In this passage σοφός would seem to be the broader, more general, and perhaps more dignified term of the two, as denoting the habit or quality, while ἐπιστήμων indicates the special development and intelligent application of the quality to particular things. The Rev., wise and understanding, gives the distinction, on the whole, as nearly as is necessary.

Conversation (ἀναστροφῆς)

See on 1 Peter 1:15.

Meekness of wisdom

On meekness, see on Matthew 5:5. The meekness which is the proper attribute of wisdom.

"Knowledge is proud that she has learned so much,

Wisdom is humble that she knows no more."

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