James 4:5
Do you think that the scripture said in vain, The spirit that dwells in us lusts to envy?
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(5) Do ye think . . .?—The tone of the Apostle is changed to one of appeal, which, perhaps (but see below), may be rendered thus: Suppose ye that the Scripture saith in vain, The (Holy) Spirit that dwelleth in us jealously regards us as His own? Our Authorised version does not allow of this apparent reference to the Spirit of God indwelling His human temples (1Corinthians 3:16; 1Corinthians 6:19, et seq.) for “lusteth to envy,” or enviously, would imply evil and not good. It were well that the unfaithful, addressed in James 4:4, should bear the general sentiment of this verse in mind, and not fancy such warnings of holy writ were uttered emptily, in vain.

Many commentators have been puzzled to say whence the words came which are quoted as authoritative by St. James. Surely the substance was sufficient for him, as for other inspired writers, without a slavish adherence to the form: comp. Genesis 2:7 for the inbreathing of the Spirit, with any such chapter as Deuteronomy 32 for His jealous inquisition. It must, however, be noted that a slightly varied punctuation of the verse will give quite another sense to its questioning. (See Wordsworth.) Suppose ye that the Scripture speaketh in vain? Doth the Spirit, which took up His abode in you, lust to envy? And defensible or not as this translation may be, at least it escapes some of the difficulties of the foregoing. (Exhaustive notes, with references to most authorities, are in Alford; or an easy summary of the matter may be read in Plumptre’s St. James.)

James 4:5. Do ye think that the Scripture saith in vain — Without good ground, or that it speaks falsely. St. James seems to refer to many, not to one particular passage of Scripture. The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy — That is, as many understand the words, our natural corruption, excited and influenced by Satan, strongly inclines us to unkind and envious dispositions toward our fellow-creatures. Some, however, suppose that the Spirit of God is intended by the apostle in this clause, and that the sense is, The Spirit of love, that dwelleth in all believers, lusteth against envy, (Galatians 5:17,) is directly opposite to all those unloving tempers which necessarily flow from the friendship of the world. Nearly to the same purpose is Doddridge’s paraphrase of the verse: “Do you think the Scripture speaks in vain in all the passages in which it guards us against such a temper as this, and leads the mind directly to God as the supreme good, teaching us to abandon every thing for him? Or does the Holy Spirit, that dwells in us Christians, lust to envy? Does it encourage these worldly affections, this strife and envying which we have reproved? Or can it be imagined that we, who appear to have so much of the Spirit, have any interested views in the cautions we give, and would persuade you from the pursuit of the world, because we should envy you the enjoyment of it?

No.”4:1-10 Since all wars and fightings come from the corruptions of our own hearts, it is right to mortify those lusts that war in the members. Wordly and fleshly lusts are distempers, which will not allow content or satisfaction. Sinful desires and affections stop prayer, and the working of our desires toward God. And let us beware that we do not abuse or misuse the mercies received, by the disposition of the heart when prayers are granted When men ask of God prosperity, they often ask with wrong aims and intentions. If we thus seek the things of this world, it is just in God to deny them. Unbelieving and cold desires beg denials; and we may be sure that when prayers are rather the language of lusts than of graces, they will return empty. Here is a decided warning to avoid all criminal friendships with this world. Worldly-mindedness is enmity to God. An enemy may be reconciled, but enmity never can be reconciled. A man may have a large portion in things of this life, and yet be kept in the love of God; but he who sets his heart upon the world, who will conform to it rather than lose its friendship, is an enemy to God. So that any one who resolves at all events to be upon friendly terms with the world, must be the enemy of God. Did then the Jews, or the loose professors of Christianity, think the Scripture spake in vain against this worldly-mindedness? or does the Holy Spirit who dwells in all Christians, or the new nature which he creates, produce such fruit? Natural corruption shows itself by envying. The spirit of the world teaches us to lay up, or lay out for ourselves, according to our own fancies; God the Holy Spirit teaches us to be willing to do good to all about us, as we are able. The grace of God will correct and cure the spirit by nature in us; and where he gives grace, he gives another spirit than that of the world. The proud resist God: in their understanding they resist the truths of God; in their will they resist the laws of God; in their passions they resist the providence of God; therefore, no wonder that God resists the proud. How wretched the state of those who make God their enemy! God will give more grace to the humble, because they see their need of it, pray for it are thankful for it, and such shall have it. Submit to God, ver. 7. Submit your understanding to the truth of God; submit your wills to the will of his precept, the will of his providence. Submit yourselves to God, for he is ready to do you good. If we yield to temptations, the devil will continually follow us; but if we put on the whole armour of God, and stand out against him, he will leave us. Let sinners then submit to God, and seek his grace and favour; resisting the devil. All sin must be wept over; here, in godly sorrow, or, hereafter, in eternal misery. And the Lord will not refuse to comfort one who really mourns for sin, or to exalt one who humbles himself before him.Do ye think that the Scripture saith in vain - Few passages of the New Testament have given expositors more perplexity than this. The difficulty has arisen from the fact that no such passage as that which seems here to be quoted is found in the Old Testament; and to meet this difficulty, expositors have resorted to various conjectures and solutions. Some have supposed that the passage is spurious, and that it was at first a gloss in the margin, placed there by some transcriber, and was then introduced into the text; some that the apostle quotes from an apocryphal book; some, that he quotes the general spirit of the Old Testament rather than any particular place; some regard it not as a quotation, but read the two members separately, supplying what is necessary to complete the sense, thus: "Do you think that the Scripture speaks in vain, or without a good reason, when it condemns such a worldly temper? No; that you cannot suppose. Do you imagine that the Spirit of God, which dwelleth in us Christians, leads to covetousness, pride, envy? No. On the contrary, to such as follow his guidance and direction, he gives more abundant grace and favor." This is the solution proposed by Benson, and adopted by Bloomfield. But this solution is by no means satisfactory. Two things are clear in regard to the passage:

(1) that James meant to adduce something that was said somewhere, or which could be regarded as a quotation, or as authority in the case, for he uses the formula by which such quotations are made; and,

(2) that he meant to refer, not to an apocryphal book, but to the inspired and canonical Scriptures, for he uses a term ἡ γραφὴ hē graphē - the Scripture) which is everywhere employed to denote the Old Testament, and which is nowhere applied to an apocryphal book, Matthew 21:42; Matthew 22:29; Matthew 26:54, Matthew 26:56; John 2:22; John 5:39; John 7:38, John 7:42; John 10:35, et al. The word is used more than fifty times in the New Testament, and is never applied to any books but those which were regarded by the Jews as inspired, and which constitute now the Old Testament, except in 2 Peter 3:16, where it refers to the writings of Paul. The difficulty in the case arises from the fact that no such passage as the one here quoted is found in so many words in the Old Testament, nor any of which it can fairly be regarded as a quotation. The only solution of the difficulty which seems to me to be at all satisfactory, is to suppose that the apostle, in the remark made here in the form of a quotation, refers to the Old Testament, but that he had not his eye on any particular passage, and did not mean to quote the words literally, but meant to refer to what was the current teaching or general spirit of the Old Testament; or that he meant to say that this sentiment was found there, and designed himself to embody the sentiment in words, and to put it into a condensed form.

His eye was on envy as at the bottom of many of the contentions and strifes existing on earth, James 3:16, and of the spirit of the world which prevailed everywhere, James 4:4; and he refers to the general teaching of the Old Testament that the soul is by nature inclined to envy; or that this has a deep lodgement in the heart of man. That truth which was uttered every where in the Scriptures, was not taught "in vain." The abundant facts which existed showing its developement and operation in contentions, and wars, and a worldly spirit, proved that it was deeply imbedded in the human soul. This general truth, that man is prone to envy, or that there is much in our nature which inclines us to it, is abundantly taught in the Old Testament. Ecclesiastes 4:4, "I considered all travail, and every right work, that for this a man is envied of his neighbor." Job 5:2, "wrath killeth, and envy slayeth the silly one." Proverbs 14:30, "envy is the rottenness of the bones." Proverbs 27:4, "who is able to stand before envy?" For particular instances of this, and the effects, see Genesis 26:14; Genesis 30:1; Genesis 37:11; Psalm 106:16; Psalm 73:3. These passages prove that there is a strong propensity in human nature to envy, and it was in accordance with the design of the apostle to show this. The effects of envy to which be himself referred evinced the same thing, and demonstrated that the utterance given to this sentiment in the Old Testament was not "in vain," or was not false, for the records in the Old Testament on the subject found a strong confirmation in the wars and strifes and worldliness of which he was speaking.

Saith in vain - Says falsely;" that is, the testimony thus borne is true. The apostle means that what was said in the Old Testament on the subject found abundant confirmation in the facts which were continually occurring, and especially in those to which he was adverting.

The spirit that dwelleth in us - Many have supposed that the word "spirit" here refers to the Holy Spirit, or the Christian spirit; but in adopting this interpretation they are obliged to render the passage, "the spirit that dwells in us lusteth against envy," or tends to check and suppress it. But this interpretation is forced and unnatural, and one which the Greek will not well bear. The more obvious interpretation is to refer it to our spirit or disposition as we are by nature, and it is equivalent to saying that we are naturally prone to envy.

Lusteth to envy - Strongly tends to envy. The margin is "enviously," but the sense is the same. The idea is, that there is in man a strong inclination to look with dissatisfaction on the superior happiness and prosperity of others; to desire to make what they possess our own; or at any rate to deprive them of it by detraction, by fraud, or by robbery. It is this feeling which leads to calumny, to contentions, to wars, and to that strong worldly ambition which makes us anxious to surpass all others, and which is so hostile to the humble and contented spirit of religion. He who could trace all wars and contentions and worldly plans to their source - all the schemes and purposes of even professed Christians, that do so much to mar their religion and to make them worldly-minded, to their real origin - would be surprised to find how much is to be attributed to envy. We are pained that others are more prosperous than we are; we desire to possess what others have, though we have no right to it; and this leads to the various guilty methods which are pursued to lessen their enjoyment of it, or to obtain it ourselves, or to show that they do not possess as much as they are commonly supposed to. This purpose will be accomplished if we can obtain more than they have; or if we can diminish what they actually possess; or if by any statements to which we can give currency in society, the general impression shall be that they do not possess as much wealth, domestic peace, happiness, or honor, as is commonly supposed - for thus the spirit of envy in our bosoms will be gratified.

5. in vain—No word of Scripture can be so. The quotation here, as in Eph 5:14, seems to be not so much from a particular passage as one gathered by James under inspiration from the general tenor of such passages in both the Old and New Testaments, as Nu 14:29; Pr 21:20; Ga 5:17.

spirit that dwelleth in us—Other manuscripts read, "that God hath made to dwell in us" (namely, at Pentecost). If so translated, "Does the (Holy) Spirit that God hath placed in us lust to (towards) envy" (namely, as ye do in your worldly "wars and fightings")? Certainly not; ye are therefore walking in the flesh, not in the Spirit, while ye thus lust towards, that is, with envy against one another. The friendship of the world tends to breed envy; the Spirit produces very different fruit. Alford attributes the epithet "with envy," in the unwarrantable sense of jealously, to the Holy Spirit: "The Spirit jealously desires us for His own." In English Version the sense is, "the (natural) spirit that hath its dwelling in us lusts with (literally, 'to,' or 'towards') envy." Ye lust, and because ye have not what ye lust after (Jas 4:1, 2), ye envy your neighbor who has, and so the spirit of envy leads you on to "fight." James also here refers to Jas 3:14, 16.

Do ye think that the Scripture saith in vain? Greek, emptily, or vainly, i.e. to no purpose. This question hath the force of a negation, q.d. It doth not speak in vain.

Question. What is it which the Scripture doth not speak in vain?

Answer. Either those truths he had been speaking of before, particularly in the former verse, that the friendship of the world is enmity with God; or, that which follows in this verse, the spirit that dwelleth in us, & c.

The spirit that dwelleth in us; either the Spirit of God, who is said to dwell in believers, 1 Corinthians 3:16,17; or the spirit of men, viz. as defiled by sin, and acted by the devil, who works in men while children of disobedience; and then it is the same as corrupt nature.

Lusteth to envy; either is vehemently carried out to envy, or makes us lust, and carrieth us out to it; or lusteth against envy: so the Greek preposition is often used, as Luke 20:19 Ephesians 6:11 Hebrews 12:4. Under envy he comprehends all other fleshly lusts, but instanceth in this particularly, as having been speaking of it before, Jam 3:14,16; and because it hath so near a connection with other lusts, whereof it is the cause, or concomitant, and so is a principal member of the old man. This latter clause may either be read interrogatively or affirmatively; and then according as we take spirit, either for the Spirit of God, or the human spirit, the sense of the words may be either:

1. Doth the Spirit of God, that dwelleth in us, lust unto envy, i.e. incline and dispose us to so base an affection? The answer is understood: No, and confirmed by the next words, he giveth more grace, gives freely, liberally, and therefore doth not make us envy others any good they have. Nothing is more contrary to the Spirit of God, who abounds in his gifts to us, than to make us envy others theirs. Or:

2. We may understand it without any interrogation, taking the preposition to signify, against; and then the sense is: That good Spirit which is in us teacheth us better things than strife and envy, &c., for it lusteth against envy, i.e. makes us lust against it, carries out our hearts to hate and resist it. And this well agrees with what follows; The Spirit, &c., lusts against envy, but he gives more grace, viz. than to envy the good f others. Or:

3. If spirit here be understood of the spirit of man, corrupt nature, the sense is plain, as the words lie; man’s spirit (especially by the instigation of the devil) lusts, or strongly inclines, to envy, and consequently to other wickednesses, but he (that is, God, Jam 4:4) gives more grace.

Question. Where is any such sentence to be found in the Scripture?

Answer. No where in so many words; but which soever of these ways we take the words, we find the sense in the Scripture. Joshua’s envying Eldad and Medad’s prophesying, for Moses’s sake, seems to be an instance of this lust, Numbers 11:29, (compared with Genesis 6:5 8:21, where the general inclination of man’s heart by nature is said to be evil), and Moses’s not envying them an instance of the two former. Do ye think that the Scripture saith in vain?.... Some think that the apostle refers to a particular passage of Scripture in the Old Testament, and that he took it from Genesis 6:3 as some; or from Exodus 20:5, as others; or from Deuteronomy 7:2 or from Job 5:6 or from Proverbs 21:10 others think he had in view some text in the New Testament; either Romans 12:2 or Galatians 5:17 and some have imagined that he refers to a passage in the apocryphal book:

"For into a malicious soul wisdom shall not enter; nor dwell in the body that is subject unto sin.'' (Wisdom 1:4)

and others have been of opinion that it is taken out of some book of Scripture then extant, but now lost, which by no means can be allowed of: the generality of interpreters, who suppose a particular text of Scripture is referred to, fetch it from Numbers 11:29 but it seems best of all to conclude that the apostle has no regard to any one particular passage of Scripture, in which the following words are expressly had, since no such passage appears; but that his meaning is, the sense of the Scripture everywhere, where it speaks of this matter, is to this purpose: nor does it say this, or any thing else in vain; whatever is written there is to answer some end, as for learning, edification, and comfort, for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness; neither with respect to what is before suggested, that what is asked in a right manner, and for a right end, shall be given; and that the love of the world, and the love of God, are things incompatible; nor with respect to what follows:

the spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy? that is, the depraved spirit of man, the spirit of an unregenerate man; that as it is prone to every lust, and prompts to every sin, the imagination of the thought of man's heart being evil, and that continually, so it instigates to envy the happiness of others; see Genesis 6:5 or this may be put as a distinct question from the other, "does the spirit that dwelleth in us lust to envy?" that is, the Holy Spirit, who dwells in the hearts of his people, as in his temple: the Ethiopic version reads, "the Holy Spirit": and then the sense is, does he lust to envy? no; he lusts against the flesh and the works of it, and envy among the rest; see Galatians 5:17 but he does not lust to it, or provoke to it, or put persons upon it; nor does he, as the Arabic version renders it, "desire that we should envy"; he is a spirit of grace; he bestows grace and favours upon men; and is so far from envying, or putting others upon envying any benefit enjoyed by men, that he increases them, adds to them, and enlarges them, as follows.

{4} Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?

(4) The taking away of an objection: in deed our minds run headlong into these vices, but we ought so much the more diligently take heed of them: whose care and study shall not be in vain, seeing that God resists the stubborn and gives the grace to the modest and humble that surmounts all those vices.

Jam 4:5-6. The views of expositors differ widely in the interpretation of these verses. At first sight the words following λέγει appear to be a quotation from the O. T. which James has in view. That of the older and some of the more recent expositors assume this to be the case, although they differ from each other, some combining πρὸς φθόνον directly with λέγει, but others including it in the quotation Against this explanation, however, is the circumstance that the words supposed to be here quoted nowhere occur in the O. T. Such a passage has accordingly been sought for, where a similar thought is expressed, but almost every expositor has fixed upon a different passage. Many expositors seek to remove the difficulty by supposing that James does not here quote any single definite passage, but only a sentiment contained in the O. T. generally, or in several of its expressions. Opposed to this idea, however, is, first, the uncertainty whether James will confirm by it the statement contained in what precedes or in what follows; and secondly, the formula of quotation pointing to a definite passage, particularly as λέγει is not = λαλεῖ. But, moreover, the clause μείζονα δὲ δίδωσιν χάριν is against the view here indicated, since these words cannot be reckoned as part of the quotation, because James only afterwards quotes the O. T. passage from which they are derived; but, also, they cannot be considered as a statement of James not belonging to the quotation, because δέ closely connects them to what directly precedes.


The various O. T. passages which have been conjectured are as follows:

Genesis 4:7 (Rauch); Genesis 6:3; Genesis 6:5 (Grotius); Genesis 8:21 (Beza, Ernest Schmid); Numbers 11:29 (Witsius); Psalm 37:1; Psalm 73:3 (Lange); Psalm 119:20 ff. (Clericus); Proverbs 21:10 (Michaelis); Song of Solomon 8:6 (Coccejus); from the Apocrypha Wis 6:12 (Wetstein), and others. Benson supposes that James has in view the N. T. passage, Matthew 6:24; Stäudlin, that he has in view that passage and also Galatians 5:17; Storr, the latter passage only; and Bengel, 1 Peter 2:1 ff. Semler thinks that the passage is here cited from the “Testimony of the Twelve Patriarchs;” and Gabler, that the words are borrowed from a lost prophetical book. In recent times, Engelhardt (Remarks on Jam 4:5-6, in the Ztschr. f. d. Luth. Theol., by Delitzsch and Guericke, 1869, Part II.) has expressed the opinion that Isaiah 63:8-11, Psalm 132:12-13, and Hosea 1:2; Hosea 1:1-5, form the groundwork of these words of James. Wolf, Heinsius, and Zachariae refer the words to the thoughts contained in what follows; Theile, de Wette, Brückner (also first edition of this commentary), to the thoughts contained in what precedes—that the friendship of the world is enmity with God.

If the words πρὸς φθόνον ἐπιποθεῖ κ.τ.λ. do not form the quotation belonging to ἡ γραφὴ λέγει, it is to be assumed that James here already had in view the scripture adduced after διὸ λέγει in Jam 4:6, but that he did not yet state it, because the sentiment expressed in those words obtruded itself upon him in confirmation of οὐ κενῶς (Wiesinger). πρὸς φθόνον cannot, as Gebser and others suppose, be united with λέγει; for if one takes it to be equivalent to de invidia or contra invidia, there is this against it, that in what goes before there is no mention of envy; or if it is taken adverbially, then it appears as an appendage dragging after οὐ κενῶς, which would be added the more unsuitably, because, as de Wette correctly remarks, it cannot be perceived what meaning can be attached to the assurance that the scripture does not speak enviously. Most expositors rightly refer it to ἐπιποθεῖ, which, without the addition, would be too bare; it is added to this idea as an adverbial and more exact statement = in an envious, jealous manner, for the sake of strengthening it. It is linguistically incorrect to explain πρὸς φθόνον ἐπιποθεῖν = ἐπιθυμεῖν κατὰ φθόνον, Galatians 5:17 (thus Luther: “the spirit lusteth against envy;” Bengel, Stier; also Lange: “the spirit longeth over against and in opposition to envy”), since πρός, although it may be used in a hostile relation (Luke 23:12; Acts 6:1), yet does not in itself express a hostile reference. The explanation of many ancient and some recent expositors (Bede, Calvin, Beza, Grotius, Hottinger, Gabler, Bouman, and others), taking πρὸς φθόνον = ad invidiam, is also unsuitable; for, on the one hand, ἐπιποθεῖν is not = proclivem esse, and, on the other hand, it is contradicted by the connection in which there is not the slightest allusion to envy. With the correct explanation of πρὸς φθόνον, τὸ πνεῦμα ὃ κατῴκησεν (κατῴκισεν) ἐν ὑμῖν is either subjective, “the Spirit of God,” or objective, “the spirit of man.” In the first case ἐπιποθεῖ has no object. De Wette, Brückner (so also Schneckenburger and some of the other expositors) supply ἡμᾶς as the object. Engelhardt, on the contrary, will supply no object, thinking “the supposed translation of the verb קִנֵּא is conclusive against an object;” but קִנֵּא requires an object no less than ἐπιποθεῖν, as it is, as well as the other, a relative (not an absolute) verb. By this interpretation ἐν ὑμῖν is to be understood of Christians, in whom the Holy Spirit (according to Engelhardt: “by the covenant of baptism”) has taken up His abode. In the second case, the subject is not expressed. Wiesinger supplies ὁ Θεός. There is no difficulty in this completion, the less so as the preceding ἡ γραφή, which, in connection with λέγει, is personified (comp. Galatians 3:8, προιδοῦσα ἡ γραφή), points to God, with whom it is, as it were, identified. This second explanation would deserve the preference before the first, as it is not apparent why James here, instead of simply God, should name the Holy Spirit, whom he has not elsewhere mentioned in his whole Epistle, and because the specification of an object belonging to ἐπιποθεῖ, which is essentially required for the thought, can scarcely be wanting. Certainly, in this second interpretation, ὃ κατῴκησεν ἐν ἡμῖν added to πνεῦμα is difficult, not so much on account of the formation of the expression, as because this addition appears to be a very unimportant remark. But it is otherwise with the reading κατῴκισεν, as then the relative clause marks “the right of propriety as the ground of explanation of envious love” (Wiesinger). According to this view, the passage is to be explained: Or think you that the scripture says in vain—(rather God) enviously desires the spirit which He has made to dwell in us, but He gives the greater grace—wherefore it says, etc.

It is yet to be remarked that δοκεῖν has the same meaning as in chap. Jam 1:26; κενῶς, that is, without contents, corresponding to the truth; comp. κενοὶ λόγοι, Ephesians 5:6 (Plato, Lach. 196b). The adverbial import of πρὸς φθόνον is justified by the usage of the Greek language; see Pape’s Wörterb.: the word πρός; Winer, p. 378 [E. T. 529]; Buttmann, p. 292 f. [E. T. 340]. The verb ἐπιποθεῖν is also elsewhere in the N. T. construed with the accusative. The idea that God cherishes an “envious and loving longing” (Wiesinger) after the spirit of man, corresponds to the circle of ideas in the O. T., from which also the preceding μοιχαλίδες is to be explained.


The principal objections of Engelhardt—that the two members of the 5th and 6th verses are not in congruity, and that the scripture adduced in Jam 4:6 does not prove the thought expressed in Jam 4:4—are solved by the observation that the friendship of the world, in which man opposes himself to the will of God, is pride, and that those to whom God gives grace are none other than the humble, who disdain to be the arrogant friends of the world. It is erroneous when Engelhardt denies that an emphasis rests on οὐ κενῶς, so that the grammatical construction forbids to make the idea πρὸς φθόνον κ.τ.λ. intervene as a contrast to κενῶς; the asyndeton form is, besides, wholly suitable to James’ mode of expression; moreover, Engelhardt on his part finds himself constrained to supply a transitionary thought before μείζονα δὲ δίδωσιν. That James does not quote the scripture intended by him directly after the first λέγει, but defers it because he wished to emphasize that it was not vain and empty, may well surprise us, but it is to be explained from the liveliness peculiar to James. Moreover, in Romans 11:2-4, although not in the same, yet in a similar manner, the passage quoted is separated from the form of quotation: τί λέγει ἡ γραφή, and in such a manner that the formula itself is taken up again by an ἀλλά, referring to the intervening remark, before the intended passage. When Engelhardt thinks that the words in consideration are to be recognised as the quotation, because they are words which do not elsewhere occur in James, apart from this being anything but conclusive, it is, on the contrary, to be observed that πνεῦμα understood of the human spirit already occurs in chap. Jam 2:26, and that the words πρὸς φθόνον ἐπιποθεῖν do not occur in the passages of the O. T. which James, according to Engelhardt’s opinion, had in view.Jam 4:5. ἡ γραφὴ λέγει πρὸς φθόνον …: this attributing of personality to Scripture is paralleled, as Lightfoot points out (Galatians 3:8), by the not uncommon Jewish formula of reference מה ראה “Quid vidit”. According to Lightfoot the singular γραφὴ in the N.T. “always means a particular passage of Scripture; where the reference is clearly to the sacred writings as a whole, as in the expressions, ‘searching the Scriptures,’ ‘learned in the Scriptures,’ etc., the plural γραφαί is universally found, e.g., Acts 17:11; Acts 18:24; Acts 18:28.… Ἡ γραφὴ is most frequently used in introducing a particular quotation, and in the very few instances where the quotation is not actually given, it is for the most part easy to fix the passage referred to. The biblical usage is followed also by the earliest fathers. The transition from the ‘Scriptures’ to the ‘Scripture’ is analogous to the transition from τὰ βιβλία to the ‘Bible’ ” (ibid., pp. 147 f.). In the present instance the “Scripture” is nowhere to be found in the O.T.; it is, however, reflected in some Pauline passages, Galatians 5:17; Galatians 5:21, and cf. Romans 8:6; Romans 8:8; 1 Corinthians 3:16 : ἡ γὰρ σὰρξ ἐπιθυμεῖ κατὰ τοῦ πνεύματος, τὸ δὲ πνεῦμα κατὰ τῆς σαρκός (Galatians 5:17); τὸ πνεῦμα τοῦ Θεοῦ οἰκεῖ ἐν ὑμῖν (1 Corinthians 3:16). It is difficult not to see a Pauline influence in our passage; and what is certainly noteworthy is the fact that the two Agrapha which the Epistle contains (Jam 1:12 and the one before us) are both closely connected with St. Paul, Jam 1:12 = 2 Timothy 4:8; 2 Timothy 4:5 = Galatians 5:17. But that which is conclusive against the “Scripture” here referring to the O.T. is the fact that the doctrine of the Spirit is not found there in the developed form in which it is represented here; the pronounced personality of the Spirit as here used is never found in the O.T. The reference here must be to the N.T., and this is one of the many indications which point to the late date of our Epistle, or parts of it. As early a document as the Epistle of Polycarp (110 A.D.) refers once to the N.T. quotations as “Scripture”; and in the Epistle of Barnabas (about 98 A.D. according to Lightfoot, but regarded as later by most scholars) a N.T. quotation is prefaced by the formula “It is written”.—πρὸς φθόνον ἐπιποθεῖ …: on this very difficult text see, for a variety of interpretations, Mayor’s elaborate note; the best rendering seems to be that of the R.V. margin: “That Spirit which he made to dwell in us yearneth for us even unto jealous envy”. The words witness to the truth that the third Person of the Holy Trinity abides in our hearts striving to acquire the same love for Him on our part which He bears for us. It is a most striking passage which tells of the love of the Holy Spirit, as (in one sense) distinct from that of the Father or that of the Son; in connection with it should be read Romans 8:26-28; Ephesians 4:30; 1 Thessalonians 5:19.5. the spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?] The words present a two-fold difficulty: (1) They are quoted as Scripture, and yet no such words are found either in the Canonical or even in the Apocryphal Books of the Old Testament. (2) It is by no means clear what they mean in themselves, or what is their relation to the context. If we can determine the latter point, it may, perhaps, help us in dealing with the former, (a) The better MSS., it may be noted, to begin with, give a different reading of the first words: The Spirit which he planted (or made to dwell) in us. If we adopt this reading, it makes it all but absolutely certain that what is predicated of the Spirit must be good, and not, as the English version suggests, evil. (b) The Greek word for “lusteth” conveys commonly a higher meaning than the English, and is rendered elsewhere by “longing after” (Romans 1:11; Php 1:8; Php 2:26; 2 Corinthians 9:14), or “earnestly desiring” (2 Corinthians 5:2), or “greatly desiring” (2 Timothy 1:4). New Testament usage is accordingly in favour of giving the word such a meaning here. The verb has no object, but it is natural to supply the pronoun “us.” Taking these data we get as the true meaning of the words, The Spirit which He implanted yearns tenderly over us. (c) The words that remain, “to envy,” admit of being taken as with an adverbial force. “In a manner tending to envy,” enviously. The fact that “envy” is elsewhere in the New Testament and elsewhere condemned as simply evil, makes its use here somewhat startling. But the thought implied is that the strongest human affection shews itself in a jealousy which is scarcely distinguishable from “envy.” We grudge the transfer to another of the affection which we claim as ours. We envy the happiness of that other. In that sense St James says that the Spirit, implanted in us, yearns to make us wholly His and is satisfied with no divided allegiance. He simply treats the Greek word for “envy” as other writers treated the word “jealousy,” which though commonly viewed as evil, was yet treated at times as a parable of the purest spiritual affection (2 Corinthians 11:2; Galatians 4:17-18). The root-idea of the passage is accordingly identical with that of the jealousy of God over Israel as His bride (Jeremiah 3:1-11; Ezekiel 16, Hosea 2:3), of His wrath when the bride proved faithless. Those who had been addressed as “adulteresses” (James 4:4), were forgetting this. All that they read of the love or jealousy of God was to them as an idle tale. For “in vain” read idly, emptily.

There remains the question, in what sense does St James give these words as a quotation from “the Scripture”? No words at all like them in form are found anywhere in the Old Testament, and we have to suppose either (1) that they were cited from some lost book that never found a place in the Hebrew Canon, a supposition, which, though not absolutely impossible, is yet in a very high degree unlikely; or, which seems the more probable explanation, that St James having in his mind the passages above referred to, and many others like them, and finding them too long for quotation, condensed them into one brief pregnant form, which gave the essence of their meaning. A like manner of quoting as Scripture what we do not find in any extant book, is found in Clement of Rome (c. 46), “It has been written, ‘Cleave to the saints, for they who cleave to them shall be sanctified.’ ” As points of detail it may be noted (1) that the Greek word for “yearning” or “longing” occurs in the LXX. version of Deuteronomy 32:11, and is followed in James 4:13-17 by an account of the manner in which the love so shewn had been turned to jealousy by the sins of Israel; and (2) that Genesis 6:5, as in the LXX., “My spirit shall not abide for ever with men,” may have suggested the “indwelling” of which the first member of the sentence speaks.

I have given, what seems on the whole, the most tenable explanation of a passage which is admitted on all hands to be one of extreme difficulty. It does not seem desirable to discuss other interpretations at any length, but two or three may be very briefly noticed. (1) The words have been rendered “The Spirit (i. e. the Holy Spirit) that dwelleth in us lusteth against envy,” the contrast being assumed to be parallel to that between the works of the Spirit and those of the flesh in Galatians 5:17. There is no sufficient authority, however, for giving this meaning to the preposition. (2) The “spirit” has been referred to man’s corrupt will, as “lusting to envy,” in its bad sense, but the description of the Spirit as “implanted” or “dwelling” in us, is against this view. (3) In concurrence with the last interpretation, the question “Do ye think that the Scripture speaks in vain?” has been referred to what precedes the statement, that the friendship of the world is enmity with God; but this is at variance with the usual way in which quotations from the Old Testament are introduced in the New.Jam 4:5. Κενῶς) in vain, without effect, so that it matters nothing to guilt or to salvation. Whatever things the Scripture says are serious. We ought to reverence every word.—λέγει, saith) not λαλεῖ, speaks, saith the things which follow.—πρὸς φθόνον) against envy. This noun (φθόνος) does not occur in the Septuagint, and it does not seem probable that James should have wished to make so great a change in this verse, and yet, in Jam 4:6, have made an exact quotation from another passage. We may infer from this, that the quotation here is from the Scriptures of the New Testament: for the writings of the New Testament, as well as the Old, are reckoned in the Scriptures; 2 Peter 3:16. Some refer it to Genesis 6:5; Genesis 6:3; or to Numbers 11:29; or to Proverbs 21:10; or to some lost book. But the words of James are near enough to Galatians 5:17, and following verses; where φθόνοι, envyings, are placed among the works of the flesh, and the spirit is said to have desires contrary to the flesh, and they who are led by this spirit are not under the law, but under grace. But this passage agrees especially with 1 Peter 2:1-2; 1 Peter 2:5. Laying aside—ENVYINGS, DESIRE the milk of the word—a SPIRITUAL HOUSE. And that which here follows. But He giveth more grace, agrees with that, the Lord is gracious, Jam 4:3. He who has this passage of St Peter well impressed upon his mind, will altogether recognise the reference of St James to it. Nor does the chronological order of the epistles stand in the way. Thus James not only concurs with St Peter, but also with St Paul.—φθόνον) The friendship of the world necessarily produces envy: the Spirit, which has taken up His dwelling in us, does not bear envy.—τὸ πνεῦμα) The Spirit of grace and love.—κατῴκησεν) takes up His dwelling.—ἐν ἥμῖν, in us) Sons, of the New Testament.Verses 5, 6. - The difficulty of the passage is well shown by the hesitation of the Revisers. The first clause is rendered, "Or think ye that the Scripture speaketh in vain?" but as an alternative there is suggested in the margin, "Or think ye that the Scripture saith in vain?" as if the following clause were a quotation from Scripture. And of this following clause three possible renderings are suggested.

(1) In the text: "Doth the Spirit which he made to dwell in us long unto envying? But he giveth more grace. Wherefore the Scripture saith," etc.

(2) Margin 1: "The Spirit which he made to dwell in us he yearneth for even unto jealous envy. But he giveth," etc.

(3) Margin 2: "That Spirit which he made to dwell in us yearneth for us even unto jealous envy. But he giveth," etc. Further, it is noted in the margin that some ancient authorities read "dwelleth in us," i.e. κατώκησεν, which is the reading of the Received Text, and so of the A.V. resting upon K, L; א and B being the primary authorities for κατώκισεν. With regard to the first clause, the rendering of the R.V., "speaketh," may be justified by Hebrews 9:5. It is possible that St. James was intending to quote Proverbs 3:34 immediately, but after the introductory formula, η} δοκεῖτε ὅτι κενῶς ἡ γραφὴ λέγει, he interposes with the emphatic question, "Is it to envy," etc.? and does not arrive at the quotation till ver. 6, when he introduces it with a fresh formula of quotation, διὸ λέγει, a looseness of construction which is quite natural in a Hebrew. Other views, for which it is believed there is less to be urged, are the following:

(1) that the words, πρὸς φθονόν, κ.τ.λ., are a quotation from some (now lost) early Christian writing. On this view the passage is parallel to Ephesians 5:14, where a portion of a Christian hymn is introduced by the words, διὸ λέγει.

(2) That St. James is referring to the general drift rather than to the exact words of several passages of the Old Testament; e.g. Genesis 6:3-5; Deuteronomy 32:10, 19, etc.

(3) That the allusion is to some passage of the New Testament, either Galatians 5:17 or 1 Peter 2:1, etc. Passing on to the translation of the second clause, πρὸς φθονόν κ.τ.λ., it must be noted that φθονός is never used elsewhere in the New Testament or in the LXX. (Wisd. 6:25; 1 Macc. 8:16) or in the apostolic Fathers except in a bad sense. True that Exodus 20:5 teaches us that God is a "jealous God," but there the LXX. renders קנא by the far nobler word ζηλωτής: cf. Wolf, 'Curae Philippians Crit.,' p. 64, where it is noted that, while ζῆλος is a vex media, the same cannot be said of φθονός, which is always vitiosa, and is never used by the LXX. ubi vox Hebraica ׃תסך סעדנךמךרפצך סעתאלךר סךנךמוה לךשׁ מעךדּ דא קנאה This seems to be a fatal objection to the marginal readings of the Revised Version, and to compel us to rest content with that adopted in the text, "Doth the Spirit which he made to dwell in us long unto envying?" or rather, "Is it to envying that the Spirit... longs?" πρὸς φθονόν being placed for emphasis at the beginning of the sentence. Do ye think (δοκεῖτε)

See on James 1:26.

The scripture (ἡ γραφὴ)

See on Mark 12:10. Properly, a passage of scripture.

In vain (κενῶς)

Only here in New Testament.

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