James 3
Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures



1My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. 2For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the 3same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole1 body. Behold2, we put bits in the horses’ mouths, that they may obey us; and3 we turn about their whole body. 4Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds4, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever5 the governor listeth.6 5Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things.7 Behold, how great a matter a little8 fire kindleth! 6And the tongue9 is a fire, a world of iniquity: so10 is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and11 setteth on fire the course of nature12; and it is set on fire of hell. 7For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: 8But the tongue can no man tame;13 it is an unruly14 evil, full of deadly poison. 9Therewith bless we God15, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. 10Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. 11Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? 12Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries16? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh17. 13Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him show out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. 14But if ye have bitter envying 15and strife in your hearts18, glory not, and lie not against the truth19. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. 16For where envying and strife is, there20 is confusion and every evil work. 17But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and21 without hypocrisy. 18And the fruit of22 righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.


ANALYSIS: Caution against the Judaistic bias to fanatical activity of teaching, James 3:1. 2.—The power of the tongue James 3:3, 4 (first half). The depravity of the tongue James 3:5, 6.—The untamableness of the tongue, James 3:7, 8.—The duplicity (German “doubletonguedness,” Doppelzüngigkeit) of the [fanatically excited] tongue, James 3:9–12.—The contrast of false and true wisdom in speech according to their opposite operations, James 3:13–18.

Caution against the Judaistic bias to fanatical activity of teaching.

JAMES 3:1, 2. The exhortation progresses from Judaistic visionariness (James 1) and from Judaistic particularism and exclusiveness (James 2) to Judaistic, fanatical activity of teaching, to the evil, exciting and pernicious tongue-sins of bitter emulation, cursing, envying and party-strife exhibited in a false, devilish wisdom in contrast with true and heavenly wisdom. That this section is an essential point peculiar to the entire Epistle, is evident from the fact that it has been announced already in James 1:17, 26. The fanatical, proselyting and polemical mania for teaching, which is here described by James, had previously been delineated by the Lord Himself, Matth. 23., and by Paul the Apostle in Rom. 2:17; it is here and there illuminated in Acts (James 15) and in the Pauline Epistles (2 Cor. 11:13; Phil. 3:2; Gal. 2.), and it is finally condemned in ReJames 3:2:9. Wiesinger heads this chapter “against the itch of teaching” and adds the observation—that “the author passes on to the ready-tongued teaching and finding fault with others, because this is the false actualization of the πίστις of his readers, whereby they think themselves warranted to dispense with genuine actualization [i. e. the practical exhibition of living faith by good works.—M.]. Nothing is nearer to a faith which consists in knowledge only than conceit of teaching and dogmatical-ness (cf. Rom. 2:17 etc.). Thus James 3. is the carrying out of the censure James had already passed on his readers in James 1:19, 20 and similarly as in James 1:26, 27, where the author had indicated inability to bridle the tongue as the characteristic of a purely imaginary religion and the exhibition of compassionating love as the characteristic of true religion, he now returns to [we ought to say: he now takes up in earnest] this subject, and represents to his readers that the human inability, so strongly developed in them, of taming the tongue, ought to cure them effectually of the desire to teach others.” Huther: “Words had taken the place of works.”

JAMES 3:1. Do not become many teachers.—The exposition of Huther (and of de Wette, Wiesinger) “be not teachers in great numbers,” gives hardly a satisfactory sense. For if reference were made to ecclesiastically ordained offices of teaching (as Wiesinger maintains with reference to 2 Tim. 4:5), the language of the Apostle would hardly convey the rebuke he intends to administer. It is evidently his purpose to censure the false mania for teaching, the dogmatizing contentiousness, which is thoroughly characteristic of the Judaizing Christian. We therefore connect (with Gebser and Schneckenburger) πολλοὶ with γίνεσθαι and so that πολλοὶ and διδάσκαλοι form one idea. Do not end with being a great host of teachers. Luther: “Let not every one dare to be a teacher.” The expression has consequently an ironical colouring and even stronger than the μὴ πάντες of Grotius.

Knowing that we.—They know it and they ought to be conscious of it. [Huther remarks that εἰδότες, being closely joined in the Imperative, is itself hortatory: “knowing, that ye might know.” James says here “we shall receive” and in James 3:2 “we all offend” and thus forcibly practises his precepts James 3:2, 17, 18. Cf. 1 Cor. 6:12.—M.].

A greater condemnation.—Although κρἱμα cannot signify “responsibility” only (so Hottinger and Augusti) the ordinary N. T. usage does not necessitate us to insist with Wiesinger (who remarks however that a sententia damnatoria is out of the question) and Huther on the meaning “punitory sentence.” The fact that James includes himself is certainly against the latter construction. “The humility of love” (Wiesinger) surely could not cause him to assert something, which was inapplicable to Himself, and Huther’s observation that the punitory sentence might be postponed, does not by any means settle the difficulty. κρίμα denotes primarily judgment, then more definitely a Judicial sentence and it generally becomes a punitory sentence by the connection, just as the connection here does not make it so. Moreover, how were the readers of the Epistle to know that all teachers as such have to expect heavy punishment (German, punitory sentences). The increased measure of the sentence may be gathered from various sayings of our Lord (Matth. 23:13 and elsewhere). The increased measure, to be sure, indicates that the severer sentence agreeably to nature may easily turn into a punitive sentence.

JAMES 3:2. For manifoldly we offend all (ἅπαντες).—This assertion is absolutely valid. The Apostle includes himself without any qualification, just as Peter (Acts. 15:11), Paul (Phil. 3:12) and John (1 John 1:8) include themselves in similar assertions. Although πταίειν does not bear directly on the errores, qui docentibus obvenire possint (Grotius), but comprehends moral offences in the widest sense (Huther), the word is so chosen as forthwith to point to moral errors and offences and these occur for the most part in the sphere of teaching (Lehrrede=didactic utterance).

If a man offendeth not in word.—The asyndeton indicates that James progresses in the same sphere of thought and hence aims not at an antithesis, as Wiesinger rightly observes. Although the ἐν λόγῳ may not have to be limited to ἐν διδασκαλίᾳ (cf. James 1:19), as Pott maintains, the context requires us to think of didactic offences which were the soul of Judaizing proceedings.

He is a perfect man.—Supply ἐστί. Every word is here significant; οὖτος denotes the rarity of such a man, ἀνήρ indicates that the Apostle refers in particular to a sphere of males and their doings, τέλειος describes once more the N. T. maturity of faith, principial completion. The proposition may easily be generalized and made to denote the ideal of the Christian life which none can attain here on earth (see de Wette); but James manifestly refers to something attainable, which is evident from what follows.

Able even to bridle the whole body.—This inference is founded on the thought that the tongue is that member of the body over which man finds it most difficult to establish the mastery and that he who does not offend in word, shows that he has established that mastery. Consequently: he who offendeth in no word and thereby shows himself to be the master of his tongue, has obtained the mastery over his whole body. But just as the inference is here not to the physical tongue as such but only as the organ and symbol of readiness of speech, so James does not “set the body as such in opposition to man” as a relative independent power which offers moral resistance to the will of the “Ego” (Wiesinger, Huther), but the body denotes here the organ and symbol of all human action with the exception of speech. The sense in brief is therefore as follows: he who truly masters his words, will also master his works. Life under the law of liberty is most difficult to be evidenced in the mastery of one’s speech. Huther also afterwards acknowledges the figurative in the language of James: “The καρδία indeed is the fountain of evil deeds (Matth. 15:19), but the lust which is rooted therein, has so thoroughly appropriated the members of man and as it were fixed its dwelling in them, that they appear as lusting subjects and may be represented as such in living-concrete language.” But the figures of the horse and the ship, which follow, prove that the reference is not only to opposing sinfulness (the seeming law in the members Rom. 7:23), but also to the naturalness itself which is subordinated to the spirit and needs guiding; for the horse does not resist its rider, and the ship its helmsman, as the old man resists the new. Huther moreover sets here aside several explanations (“the whole connection of the acts and changes of man” Baumgarten, etc.), which are more or less well suited to define the idea on which the “as it were,” in connection with the body needing to be guided, is based. But the organic concretion and membering (Gliederung=articulating) of the lusts of

the heart in the sinfully untuned corporealness must be held fast.

The power of the tongue, James 3:3, 4.

James illustrates the power and import, of the tongue by two comparisons. In James 3:2 he had set it forth as being relatively the most mighty member among the members of the body, he now develops the thought that it is the ruling member, the control of which involves the control of the whole body. He takes for granted that it is only the spirit which can control the body; but the organ of its rule, the instrument to be controlled for the control of the body, is just the tongue. The word is the disposer of acts. “This whole discussion of the wild power of the tongue is not ‘bombast’ (Schleiermacher), but designed to make clear to his readers their perverseness.” Wiesinger. Right, but James knows also a power of the tongue in a good sense.

First figure. JAMES 3:3. But if we put the bit into the mouths of horses.—The Apostle introduces first the figure of horses, because he had already before borrowed therefrom the figurative expression χαλιναγωγῆσαι (James 3:2; James 1:25). Hence the Genitive τῶν ἵππων should probably be joined with τοὺς χαλινοὺς (Theile), and not with τὰ στόματα (Oecumenius and al. Huther). [τῶν ἵππων appears to stand first for the sake of emphasis. Translating literally “But if of horses we put the bits into the mouth” is not English. (Alford). We have therefore expressed the idea in idiomatic English; the distinction of Lange to connect τῶν ἵππων with τοὺζ χαλινοὺζ instead of joining it with τὰ στόματα is really a distinction without a difference. We put bits into the mouths of horses, that is real, material bits; of course, such bits we do not put into the mouths of men. The sense is really the same on either construction. The similitude contains the application.—M.]. The bits [Lange throughout uses the word Zaum=bridle, but χαλινόζ is not the bridle, but its metal mouthpiece. I have therefore uniformly rendered Zaum=bit.—M.] of horses as literal bits are contrasted with the figurative. But both kinds belong to the respective mouths: the horse-bit belongs to a horse’s mouth, the man-bit to a man’s mouth. Thus the principal accent lies certainly on τὰ στόματα. These constitute the tertium comparationis, not “the smallness of the χαλινοι̇, as the majority of commentators suppose” Huther. The apodosis begins with καὶ ὅλον (Wiesinger, Huther); it is not contained in James 3:5 (Theile); nor does it require us to supply something in thought (de Wette). μετάγειν occurs in the N. T. only here and James 3:4—

Second figure.

James 3:4. Behold even the ships.—The organ of guiding, probably connected with the natural unruliness of the horse to be guided, was the principal idea of the first figure: the mouth, the tongue; in the second figure it is the contrast between the smallness of the organ, the fine touch required to influence it and the greatness as well as the storm-tossed condition of the ship to be turned. The small ruder on which the will of man with almost the stillness of spirits, exerts its impulse, governs the whole great ship with all the fearful reaction of the wind and the waves, which like infuriated elementary spirits oppose the firm spirit of the steersman. Hence the first καὶ, as well as ἰδοὺ, denotes intensification. The participial sentence ὅντα brings out the immense weight which the rudder has to overcome; which are so great, or though so great.—ἐλαύνειν to drive on, set in motion, is used elsewhere in the N. T. of navigating proper [cf. Mark 6:48; John 6:19, LXX., for שַׁיִט Is. 33: 21.—M.], but then also of restless agitation 2 Pet. 2:17. Fierce winds are the wild navigators of the ship whom the human navigator opposes with his rudder. They have doubtless a symbolical import, as Bede did think, not however as the appetitus mentium originating within, but as the great temptations (πειρασμοό) of the world, coming from without, the place of whose nativity, to be sure, is within (see James 1:6). The little rudder is here obviously the antitype of the little tongue. [Bede’s exposition may be found useful in point of application, although it is hardly sound in point of exegesis. “Naves magnæ in mari, mentes sunt hominum in hac vita, sive bonorum sive malorum. Venti validi, a quibus minantur, ipsi appetitus sunt mentium, quibus naturaliter coguntur aliquid agere etc.”—M.].

Whithersoever the direction.—Although ὁρμή hardly denotes the impulsus externus, the steerman’s pressure on the rudder (Erasmus and many others), the translation “eager will, desire of something” (Bede, Calvin, Huther etc.) is hardly sufficient; ὁρμή always indicates active will developed into an effort or onset; hence here the direction, the course of the navigator, kept in action by the rudder. On similar comparisons among the classics see Gebser, Theile. [ὁρμή signifies primarily any violent pressure onwards (ὅρνυμι), then the first stir or move towards a thing, then impulse, eager desire in the sense of will. I render “will,” because the will of the steersman directs the impulse given to the rudder and thereby to the ship.—M.].—“The two similitudes of the bit and navigation have often been connected by the ancients in a similar manner, so that Pricæus even thought that James might have borrowed them from Plato or some other Greek writer.” Gebser. Huther further calls attention to the circumstance that the reference here is to the actual εὐθύνων, not to the technical or official εὐθυντήρ.

JAMES 3:5. Thus also the tongue.—A little member like the little rudder.

And boasteth great things.—Since μεγαλαυχεῑ describes absolutely haughty and overbearing conduct, the reading μεγάλα αὐχε͂ι seems to be preferable (see note in Appar. Crit. above). For James had spoken of a great and praiseworthy doing; he could not with οὕτωζ pass at once from the figure of the rudder to the pernicious doing of the tongue. The ἰδού moreover separates the thought under notice from the contemplation of the pernicious operation of the tongue, which follows. The selection of the term simply intimates that the tongue not only does great things, but boasts of the great things. Bede: “Magna exaltat.” The explanation “accomplishes great things” Luther (similarly Oecumenius, Calvin and al.), gives tone to the fundamental idea without preserving the shading [i.e. the gradual shading off—M.]. Persevering to the idea μεγαλαυχεῖ (Huther, similarly Wiesinger) is not based on the context.

The pernicious doing of the tongue.

James 3:3 (second half), James 3:6. Behold how small a fire.—ἡλικον gives prominence to the quantity according to the construction, either in point of greatness or smallness; here in point of smallness (Cajetanus, Huther). de Wette understands it as denoting a great fire; but the Apostle’s design was not so much the aesthetic contemplation of a forest-conflagration, as to point to the wicked origin thereof in a little spark; against this Wiesinger justly lays stress on ἀνάπτει [which is not=consumed, but=lighteth up, kindleth. Seneca (Cont. v, 5) employs very similar language “quam lenibus initiis quanta incendia oriantur.”—M.].—Huther, adverting to corresponding descriptions in Homer, Pindar, Philo etc., points out that the concrete sense of ὕλη=forest, is preferable to the vaguer materia=combustible etc. [The classical descriptions are found in Homer, ll. xi. 115; Plutarch, Sympos. viii. p. 730; Pindar, Pyth. iii. 66; Virgil, Georg. ii. 303.—M.].

JAMES 3:6. The tongue also is a fire.—The figure of a spark or a very small fire producing the conflagration of a forest, is now applied to the incendiary ravages of the tongue. The tongue is fiery as to its nature in general, i. e. the organ of speech, easily inflamed by spiritual fire, by passionate, vehement and consuming impulse. James here passes over the fact that the tongue is destined to become an organ of heavenly fire, Acts 2, for his eye is fixed on the pernicious fire of fanaticism which begins to inflame the Judaistic spirits throughout the world.

It, the world of unrighteousness [that world of iniquity].—Not an elliptical clause, requiring ὕλη to complete it in the sense “the tongue is the fire, the world is the forest.”—Morus and al. This cosmos then is a further designation of the tongue. According to Wiesinger κόσμοζ in general, denotes the sum-total of what is created (Matth. 13:35; Eph. 1:4), “the cosmos of unrighteousness,” hence here “the sum-total of unrighteousness.” So Huther citing ὅλοζ ὁ κόσμοζ τῶν χρημάτων LXX. ProJames 3:17:8. Calvin: “Acsi vocaret mare et abyssum.” Olshausen and al., “it is as it were the unrighteous world itself, which has its seat in the tongue.” See the interpretations of Theile, Estius, Herder, Gebser, Clericus (who with others holds the words to be spurious), in Huther. Oecumenius and many others read κόσμοζ=adornment of unrighteousness: the tongue adorns unrighteousness by rhetorical arts. Wiesinger objects 1. that κόσμοζ is a passive idea, 2. that the sense would be too feeble. The word need not be taken in the sense of “adornment,” but we may nevertheless suppose that James here, as frequently, returns to the original signification of the Greek word. In point of fact it is the tongue which sophistically, rhetorically, poetically, parenthetically and imperatively gives to unrighteousness its worldly, apparently respectable and even splendid form. We therefore suppose that James wanted to say that “the tongue is the form of the world, worldliness, worldly culture, the seemingly beautiful world of unrighteousness.” At all events he could have described it as the sum-total of unrighteousness only in a highly figurative sense. We therefore hold with Tischendorf and Neander against Huther and the majority of commentators, that ὁ κόσμοζ τῆζ ἀδικίαζ does not belong appositionally to what goes before, but belongs to what follows. The addition “the sum-total of unrighteousness” would not explain the proposition “the tongue is a fire.” But it is to be understood that the tongue is prominent among the members as the world of unrighteousness. It is however matter of inquiry what is the meaning of καθίσταται? The following interpretations are idle, to say nothing of their incorrectness: it stands, it is placed, it is set; that of Huther also is inadequate; it sets itself, appears in connection with what follows, as that which polluteth the whole body. In agreement with the full meaning of καθιστάναι and with the context, the word according to the analogy of Heb. 8:3 and other passages, taken absolutely, denotes the presidency, the domination of the tongue among the members. In virtue of its worldly culture, which understands even how to beautify unrighteousness, the tongue rules among the members. But what a contrast between its works and its position! And it is just it, which from its prominence pollutes the whole body.—Before the world it washes all unrighteousness clean, before God or truth it stains and pollutes the whole body, i. e. the tongue, by the preceding, sinful word paves the way to all the sinful acts of all the members. Although σπιλοῦν does not suit πῦρ (notwithstanding Bengel’s explanation “ut ignis perfumum”), it suits the saying “the tongue is the κόσμοζ” as its perfect antithesis. Apparent comeliness is the most essential deformity of life. How it pollutes the life is apparent from what follows. [But there seems really to be no objection to the rendering “makes itself,” which is preferable to Lange’s, because it is founded on better grammar than his and gives a good, clear and unforced sense. καθίσταται is used here as in James 4:4. Huther. “The tongue by acting in and upon the members, makes itself to be the defiler of the whole body. It is so made ἐν τοῖζ μέλεσιν ἡμῶν, which, as their name intimates, ought to move in harmonious melody and amicable concert with each other; and so glorify their maker. But the tongue mars their music by its discord. It is even like an intestine volcano; and sends forth a dark stream of lava, and a murky shower of ashes and smoke, and is thus a source of pollution, sullying and staining as with foul blots (σπιλοῦσα) the beauty of all around it; and also like a volcano, it emits a flood of fire.” Wordsworth.—M.].

And inflameth.—Wiesinger takes καὶ, καὶ in the sense “as well as,” and sets both in the relation of logical subordination to ἡ σπιλοῦσα. We object with Huther, because the following words are not only explanatory but intensive. The tongue inflames

The wheel of the development of life.—That τροχόζ denotes a wheel requires no further proof (see 1 Kings 7:30 etc.; Ezek. 1:15, 19, 20). But the question is what is the meaning of γένεσιζ and what is therefore the meaning of τροχὸζ γενέσεωζ? According to Huther γένεσιζ denotes here “as in James 1:23” (see the passage), birth, the wheel of birth; that is: the wheel revolving from our birth, i. e. life. Similarly Oecumenius. Taking the separate features differently, Calvin and al. reach the same idea: the wheel is the cursus, the genesis is the natura; the two united—life.—Wiesinger (after Kern) passes from the interpretation “it inflameth the revolving wheel,” the spherical course of being (Pott, Schneckenburger), to another: “it inflameth the circumference of our corporeal being” (literally “of that which has become”). As the axis or centre of the circle it diffuses its fire over the whole circumference. However, genesis, taken in the sense of birth, is not life itself but itself only the first revolution of the wheel. Although we need not think (with de Wette following more ancient commentators) of the orb of creation absolutely, or of the cycle of the self-renovation of mankind (תּוֹלְדוֹת גִּלְגַּל, Wolf and al.); it does not follow that genesis here should be taken as birth only, and life only as individual life. The genesis of man rather progresses in an ethical sense through the whole of his earthly existence, and if it is said that the tongue setteth on fire the wheel or the revolution of the development of life, the word in this generality applies not only to individual life, but also to the life of humanity, primarily of course, to the life of the Jewish people, but in its widest sense even to the development of the life of this (earthly) cosmos. The fanatical fire, which at first made the development of the life of individual Jews a continuously growing fire of a burning and revolving wheel, at last seized the development of the life of the whole Jewish nation (for chiliastic worldliness lay at the bottom of the crucifixion of Christ and of the Jewish War) and imperceptibly communicates itself to all mankind and to the earthly κόσμοζ as the causality of the fiery day, the last day—immanent in the world. James is fully right in saying that it is the tongue which changes the wheel of the human development of life into a burning fire-wheel; or we might say: a ship on fire entering the port. Perhaps every man may find in his course of life a proportionate quantity of this feverish fire-impulse (see Ps. 90) “This verb φλογίζειν is ἅπαξ λεγ, in N. T.; it occurs in the LXX. Ex. 9:24. Huther, with whom we should interpret the word of the fire of passion and not with Morus “de damnis quæ lingua dat,” although the self-consumption of this sin of burning passion is also alluded to, and the reference is not to a mere kindling (Michælis). [Alford renders “the orb of creation,” and Wordsworth “the wheel of nature.” The idea in both is really the same. The note of the latter will doubtless be prized; “The τροχὸς γενέσεως is the wheel of nature, the orbis terrarum, the world itself in its various revolutions; in which one generation follows another, and one season succeeds another; and so τροχὸς γενέσεως is used by Simplicius in Epict. p. 94, and other like expressions in authors quoted here by Wetstein, p. 670.—In a secondary sense, this τροχὸς γενέσεως is the wheel of human nature, of human life, of human society, which is compared to a wheel by Solomon Eccl. 12:6; and so Greg. Naz. (in Sentent. ap. a Lapide), and Silius Ital. 3, 6, “rota volvitur ævi,” and Bœthius (de Consol. 2, pr. 1), “hæc nostra vita est rotam volubili orbe versamus.” This wheel is ever rolling round, ever turning apace, whirling about, never continuing in one stay, seeking rest and finding none. So these words of the Apostle are explained by Oecumen., Bede, and Bp. Andrewes, 1, 361; 2, 294, 319.—The functions of a wheel, set on fire by the internal friction of its own axis, are deranged, and so the organization of human society is disturbed and destroyed by the intestine fire of the human tongue; a fire which diffuses itself from the centre and radiates forth to the circumference by all the spokes of slander and detraction, and involves the social framework in combustion and conflagration.—M.].

And itself is inflamed.—Not only once, but habitually (φλογιζομένη Part. Pres.). It is as unwarrantable to change the participle into the preterite as to explain it of the future, as a prophecy of hell-fire (Grotius and al.).

By hell. Gehenna itself uniformly and throughout to be distinguished from Sheol (besides the synoptical gospel found here only), as a symbolically described fire-region (γέεννα τοῦ πυρός) will not be wholly completed before the end of the world. The positive primitive fire of Gehenna is brought about by the immanent heat of devilish passions which proceed from the devil through his kingdom. This devilish heat, therefore, is here described as the causality of that fanatical heat of men (cf. James 3:15). That fiery heat of fanaticism the origin of which the Judaists wanted to refer to God (James 1:13). James refers directly to the devil. And in this manner it exhibited itself by hatred, lying and death and particularly by frenzy. The strongest utterance concerning the evil tongue excepting the sayings of our Lord of the blasphemy of the Holy Ghost and the apocalyptic saying of the blasphemies of the beast (Dan. 7, 8 ReJames 3:13)! Approximating descriptions are produced by Huther, Ps. 52:4; 120:3, 4; ProJames 3:16:26; Sir. 5:15. Wiesinger in addition to the specification of sin according to the members of the body, as here indicated, cites also Rom. 3:13; Col. 3:5. But the latter passage belongs to another chapter; the seeming members (Scheinglieder) of the old man.—But Rom. 6:13, 19 belongs hither.

The untamableness of the tongue, James 3:7, 8.

JAMES 3:7. For every nature of the wild beasts.—γὰρ creates difficulty. Huther thinks that it substantiates, especially with reference to James 3:8, the foregoing judgment expressed concerning the tongue. But the assertion concerning the untamableness of the tongue does not substantiate the assertion concerning the depravity of the tongue. Wiesinger makes γὰρ substantiate even the preceding μεγαλαυχεῖ, while Pott holds that it simply indicates the transition. In our opinion the γὰρ substantiates the words immediately preceding: “itself is imflamed by hell.” Whereby will he prove that assertion? By the untamableness of the tongue. If the nature of the tongue were only animal, man, the power of human nature could tame it as well as every thing animal. But the untamableness of the tongue shows that there is something devilish in its excitement, over which human nature left to itself has no power. Only by the wisdom which is from above James 3:15, can be conquered the wisdom which is from beneath, i. e. devilish wisdom, James 3:15, and that not in the form of taming, breaking in and enslaving, but in the form of free transformation by regeneration. James first specifies what can be tamed,—universal animal nature, then what can tame it—human nature. Man as man is a match for a beast, but if the animal element in man is strengthened by the devils, he can acquire the superiority of the ἀνὴρ τέλειος only by Divine grace. James divides the animal world into four classes. He first mentions together quadrupeds (not beasts in general, Pott, or wild beasts in particular, Erasmus etc.) and birds, that is the higher and more noble species of beasts. Then the dismal creeping beasts (not “animalia terrestria” in general [Pott], not only serpents in particular [Luther, Calvin], but amphibia and worms as in Gen. 24:25), and the stupid sea-animals (not only fishes in the literal sense [Huther], nor sea-wonders [Luther], nor sea-monsters [Stier]). Huther: “The classification is here the same as in Gen. 9:2, which passage may have been before the Apostle’s mind.” James doubtless thought of serpents as the representatives of creeping beasts, with reference to the conjurers of serpents, of trained fishes, dolphins or the like as the representatives of sea-animals. We see here, moreover, that even menageries or the art of taming beasts have some reference to apostolical truth. The opinion of the Apostle really amounts to this: all φύσις, every φύσις, as further specified is subjected to human φύσις; the condition only, that man understand the natures, which are subjected to him and seize them at the right spot of want, docility or dependence. Huther rightly observes that James does not describe the relation of man the individual to individual beasts, but the relation of human nature to animal nature in general.

By human nature—So we must take the Dative [it is the Dative of the agent—M.], not as a dativus commodi. Human nature is here the whole power of mankind, as it is made to depend on itself in dependence upon God, Gen. 1; hence not only the “ingenii solertia” (Hottinger), but that ingenuity regarded as the most proper characteristic of human δύναμις in its superiority to animal power.

Is tamed and hath been tamed.—For this is a process which beginning with the most remote past continues to the most distant future. The beasts are more and more subjected to human nature, while the diabolically excited tongue (to which in the modern world must also be reckoned the pen, so that Satan now speaks more to men by the goose-quill [or the steel-pen—M.] than by the mouth of the serpent) becomes increasingly untamable (see ReJames 3:13:6). δάμαζεσθαι δύναται is by this process illustrated as a fact, and consequently assumed in the two tenses of the verb, and not limited to the present only (Schneckenburger and al.); δαμάςειν moreover denotes not the conquest of our resistance (Huther) which also takes place in conversion, but the translation into a coerced-psychico-physical dependence by the use of appropriate means. If it is said therefore that the tongue cannot be tamed by human nature, this implies also that it cannot be tamed in the form of taming. This expression may also affirm with reference to the animal world that man’s original relation to the beasts has not altogether remained the same (see Gen. 9:2; cf. Gen. 1:28; 2:20). Wiesinger: “In the opinion of James also man’s dominion over the creatures is not lost (cf. Ps. 8:7, 9) but it has been modified like his relation to the earth itself.” James 3:9 also furnishes a parallel to this verse.

JAMES 3:8. But the tongue no one of men.—Estius and al.: the tongue of others; Huther, one’s own tongue. Doubtless primarily one’s own tongue, for the taming of the tongue must proceed from the heart; but the more general sense must not be lost sight of. Before the human tongue diabolically grown wild natural humanity stands as before a dragon, for whom there is not found a Knight St. George among men as they are. Bengel, who interprets: “nemo alius, vix ipse quisque,” overlooks that the antithesis between the natural power of man and a higher power is here postulated. But that which still causes James to utter an expression of indignation, is the pernicious working of the tongue in the Judaistic world of his time.

The turbulent evil.—We interpret κακόν in the positive ethical sense as wickedness or evil and the adjective ἀκατάστατον (see App. Crit.) with reference to James 1:8 and ἀκαταστασία James 3:16 according to the meaning of the word in Luke 21:9; 1 Cor. 14:33; 2 Cor. 6:5; 12:20. The revolutionary conduct of the Judaistic tongues became at that time more and more inflamed in order to prepare for the Jewish people nothing but evil, death and ruin. [Alford thinks that the figure here seems to correspond nearly to what is related of Proteus, that he eluded the grasp of Menelaus under many various shapes. Cf. Hermas, Pastor 2, 3, πονηρὸν πνεῦμά ἐστιν ἡ καταλαλία, καὶ ἀκατάστατον δαιμόνιον.—M.].

Full of death-bringing poison.—The diabolical nature, the death-bringing serpent-virulence of the strife of tongues; contains substantially the same idea, as the opinion expressed in the preceding verse; “inflamed by hell,” Ps. 58:5; 140:4.

The duplicity of the (fanatically excited) tongue, James 3:9–12. The new element which is introduced (but not noticed by Huther and Wiesinger) in James 3:9, is the falseness, the duplicity, the self-contradiction and consequently the self-judgment (i. e. self-condemnation) of the tongue. The serpent-like nature of the tongue, James 3:8, forms an apt transition to the duplicity of the same, inasmuch as it is simultaneously deceitful and venemous.

JAMES 3:9. Therewith bless we the Lord.—(See Appar. Crit.) ἐν is instrumental. Blessing and cursing constitute a familiar antithesis; the blessing, εὐλογεῖν, בָּרַךְ as applied to God, denotes however praising Him. The unusual connection “the Lord and Father” appears to have been stated not without design. Although the Lord here does not directly designate Christ, yet it describes God as the God of revelation, who has finally revealed Himself in Christ as Father. In Him even the Jew praises unconsciously and reluctantly the revelation of God in Christ. (Rom. 9:5).

And therewith curse we men which.—A difficulty, insufficiently noticed by many commentators, arises from the circumstance that the Apostle includes himself in we. In order to escape it, Benson, Gebser and al. suppose that the reference is solely to those who set themselves up as teachers. To be sure the reference is primarily to them, but then also in general to the Judaistic element as a whole. Is the proposition a general confession of sins concerning the abuse of the tongue? or a hypothetical judgment; if we curse men, we do so with the same tongue wherewith we praise God? The design of a particular reproof forbids the former, and the premising of the fact the latter. The difficulty may be solved either by taking the second clause as a question expressive of surprise or by hearing James speak as the representative of his people in the name of his guilty people. [Alford recommends the retention of which instead of who, which would personally designate certain men thus made, while which is generic. This distinction, he continues, which some modern philologists are striving to obliterate, is very important in the rendering of Scripture, and has been accurately observed by our English translators.—M.]. The latter is probably the most natural solution.

Have been created after the likeness of God.—That is, the subjects of this Lord, the children of this Father according to their destination, or also the images representing this Lord and Father. This is the glaring contradiction. Wiesinger and Huther (the latter with reference to Bengel’s “remanet nobilitas indelebilis”) here observe that sinful man also remains created in the likeness of God (Gen. 1:26). Without detracting from the general application of the proposition the Apostle may be thinking of such men, in whom the likeness of God (ὁμοίωσις) i. e. the actuality and visibility of the image, has reappeared [Germ. “has become again,” wieder geworden—M.], i. e. Christians, and particularly according to their majority, Gentile Christians. With regard to them, the contradiction of the cursing Judaists, was perfect; they praised the Father of revelation, they cursed the children of revelation.

JAMES 3:10. Out of the same mouth goeth forth.—It is the sinful mouth as to its fanactical excitement in general, but the mouth of Judaism in particular as at that time it continued traditionally to praise God in the Old Testament and began with talmudical rancor (the source of the later Talmud) to curse the Gospel and its adherents.

It shall not be thus. [οὐ χρή, ἀδελφοί μου, ταῦτα οὕτως γίνεσθαι. These things, my brethren, ought not so to be.”—M.]. This address to the brethren hardly means only: it is not right that these things (denoting the substance) are done thus (denoting the form). χρή has its full weight and denotes at once that the thing must not be done according to the oracle [here of course with reference to the revealed will of God—M.] and that the thing itself is unprofitable (with reference to χράομαι) Moreover the Plural ταῦτα and the emphatic οὕτως are to be noticed. [χρή is ἅπαξ λεγ. in N. T.—M.].

James 3:11. Doth a fountain perchance out of the same chink send forth the sweet and the bitter?βρύειν, ἅπαξ λεγ., to bubble over, overflow [Lange renders “bubble” with an evident attempt to find a word as nearly intransitive as possible, βρύειν is generally intransitive, but it is used transitively by Anacreon, 37, 2 ἵδε πῶς, ἕαρος φανέντος, χάριτες ῥόδα βρύουσιν. It means therefore “to cause to burst forth,” and this is the reason why I render “send forth.”—M.], ὀπὴ, the opening of the fountain [ὀπὴ is probably connected with ὅψ, ὅπτομαι, to see; Wordsworth adds that so the word Ænon (the place of springs) is derived from the Hebrew עַיִן (ayin), an eye, John 3:23.—M.]; the sweet and the bitter describe the heterogeneous waters applied to blessing and cursing. Such an occurrence is unknown in nature, hence in the moral world also it only appears as something monstrously unnatural. The fountain is not exactly man, but the disposition, the heart. Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth (the chink of the fountain) speaketh (Germ: Whereof the heart is full, the mouth overfloweth.—M.]. However here again the reference is not to the moral unnaturalness of this duplicity in general but the concrete bearing of the reproof on Judaism becomes increasingly apparent. It is not the Divine purpose and law that the fountain of Judaism in its historical going forth for the world should send forth such a contradiction between praising God and cursing the children of God. The application to the end of the Christian Middle Ages lies near.

JAMES 3:12. Can a fig-tree, my brethren, yield olives?—The figurative statement of the preceding verse is continued in the figures taken from nature, i. e. the idea that nature does not bring forth that which is contradictory and inconsistent. But if the former figure was meant to say: “your duplicity [double-tonguedness] is like a fountain which sends forth at the same time sweet water and bitter, if it were possible to find such a fountain,” the figures which now follow set forth with still greater distinctness the impossibility of such a contradiction in nature. And this certainly brings out not only the reprehensible and morally unnatural character of duplicity, but it also expresses the idea that one of the two must be false, either the cursing or the blessing; so that if their cursing the images of God be true, their praising God must be lying and hypocrisy (Huther). To this must be added that in the metaphors which follow the reference is to the character itself, as is the case in the saying of our Lord Matth. 7:16.—Thus we infer their double-mindedness of character which is false on the side of godliness (δίψυχος) from their duplicity of speech. It may however seem strange that James should use several examples in order to corroborate the thought that as nature is always at unity with itself, true and consistent, so also ought man to be true and consistent. The multiplying of examples has primarily the effect of illustrating more forcibly the general application of the law of life, which the Apostle had laid down. But the supposition might occur that the examples may have also a symbolical import. The fig-tree, the symbol of a luxurious natural life cannot bring forth olives, the symbols of spiritual life. The vine, the symbol of theocracy and ultimately of Christianity, cannot produces figs, happiness [i.e. outward], the fulness of the Jewish natural life. The meaning whereof would be as follows: if you want to be natural Jews you cannot bring forth the fruits of the children of the Spirit; but if on the other hand, you want to be Christians, you must not cherish Jewish ideals, sit under the fig-tree of outward prosperity and expect to enjoy its fruit. This would explain the last figure after this manner: as the salt-spring or the salt-current is a mixture which cannot yield pure and drinkable refreshment of life, so a mixture of Jewish severity and hardness and Christian vitality cannot produce the pure water of life of the New Covenant. We leave this symbolism undecided as a whole, but maintain at all events that the salt water is designed to denote a mixture, in which the two elements pure by themselves, have been stained and corrupted. Salt water cannot be drunk. This would give a train of thought which beginning with duplicity in speech passed on to double-mindedness and thence again to its final cause, doubleness of belief, the mixture of legalism and evangelical vitality. On similar biblical figurative modes of speech among the ancients, see Gebser, p. 290; Theile, p. 196.

The contrast of false and true wisdom in speech as to their origin, character and opposite operations. James 3:13–18.

VER 13. Who is wise and intelligent among you?—The same words occur in LXX. Deut. 1:13; 4:6. Heb. חָכָס וְנָבוֹן. Wisdom is the knowledge of ends acquired by enlightenment; intelligence (or understanding, German, Einsicht—M.), the knowledge of relations acquired by experience and practice [Wisdom is the gift of God, intelligence and knowledge are the results of education.—M.]. The Apostle’s question sounds like an exclamation of the greatest anxiety; it characterizes the desperately bad spiritual situation of Israel. Their few wise and experienced men are to rise and conjure the storm by the wisdom of gentleness.

Let him show out of a good conversation.—James is here more explicit and definite in describing the works to which he had referred as evidences of faith in James 2. Such as flow from a good or beautiful life, in which it develops itself. And in order to remove all doubt concerning the main object he has at heart, he adds emphatically: in meekness of wisdom. We refer this clause to the whole proposition which precedes it: all the works of this good conversation are to culminate in meekness of wisdom.—The deviating construction of Neander: let him show it by his good conduct; “his works in meekness of wisdom” is recommended by a certain vivacity and pregnancy, but requires the verb to be mentally repeated; the αὐτοῦ also would be rather in the way while the demand of the exhibition of works, so common to James, would be rather obscured, αὐτοῦ is based on τίς, who wants to advance true claims to being wise. Every weakening of the expression ἐν πραΰτητι σοφίας either by reading “meek wisdom” (Bede and al.), or “wise meekness” (Laurentius), affects the full sense of the words: the meekness wherein wisdom evidences itself (Wiesinger somewhat different: which is proper to wisdom and proceeds therefrom), see James 1:19, 20. [Alford: “in that meekness which is the proper attribute of wisdom”—M.]. Wiesinger thinks that it describes the disposition attending the doing; but James obviously calls for the activity of meekness, for meekness itself in corresponding acts. It alone was able to deliver the Jewish Christians as well as the Jews from fanaticism, conjure the storm and save the hope of Israel. See the promise Matth. 5:5.

JAMES 3:14. But if ye have bitter zeal [emulation].—This was the real situation of affairs and on this account James addresses them personally on the subject. We render ςῆλος not jealousy but zeal, for doubtless the reference is primarily to a religious and not to a moral passion. James means the specifically Jewish emulation which was considered by those who exhibited it as enthusiasm for the glory of God, as Paul describes it Rom. 10. The adjective shows that it was a false, unholy zeal; πικρόν indicates passionateness and animosity; this certainly turns zeal into jealousy, for religious zeal becomes zealotical and fanatical through the admixture of jealousy and hostility. Ἐριθεία is really the envy, rivalry and party-strife rooted in venality; so Paul frequently uses the word (Rom. 2:8; 2 Cor. 12:20 etc.). ἔχετε denotes not only an active having but a real fostering.

In your hearts.—“In contrast with the word of the readers who make boast of their wisdom.” Huther.

Boast not.—The offence of their excited teaching, striving, judging and cursing was twofold: firstly a haughty self-elevation or proud demeanour against others, secondly a more or less conscious lying suppression of their better consciousness. But both sins were more aggravated from being directed against the truth itself. According to Wiesinger ἀληθεία denotes Christian truth (because otherwise ψεύδεσθε would be tautological: to lie against the truth). Huther seems to understand by it only the real fact that the condition of the heart is in opposition to the word. But with James theocratical truth and Christian truth converge into one truth of the revelation of God, the effect and import of which are in the lives and consciences of men. The boasting and lying therefore was directed not against a mere object and against a mere fact; but it was a haughty and hypocritical insurrection against the very truth which the zealots, with an evil conscience, professed to protect (see Rom. 2:23). It becomes more and more evident that James addresses not only the Jewish Christians, but his nation in general.

JAMES 3:15. [For] this wisdom is not that.—“Negatio cum vi præmissa” Theile. αὕτη must be taken in connection with ἡ σοφία, the latter is therefore introduced ironically here as in Matth. 11:25; 1 Cor. 2:6; false wisdom the opposite of the true. Luther’s translation: “This is not the wisdom which cometh down from above” must be corrected accordingly. The participle κατερχομένη emphatically denotes the continual coming down, as in James 1:17; it has therefore adjective force and must not be resolved into the Indicative as do Schneckenburger and al. The expression is a little difficult, but it ceases to be so if we consider that it is the purpose of James to give the most emphatic negation to the false pretence that it was ἄνωθεν κατερχομένη. Hence he gives his judgment: it is on the contrary (described false by the use of three adjectives) earthly, sensuous, devilish. It is earthly as to its earthly nature and origin and thus opposed to the heavenly (Phil. 3:19); it is sensuous or properly speaking psychical (Luther has the improper rendering “human;” the Vulgate better “animalis;” Allioli following it “animal;” Stier and de Wette: “sensuous,” which in consideration of the modern idea of “sensuousness” may pass [for want of a better term—M.], having its origin in a psychically restrained passionate constitution deprived of the rule of the Spirit (1 Cor, 2:14: 3:3; Jude 19) and is opposed to the spiritual [pneumatical] wisdom—of the spiritual life excited by the Holy Ghost; it is devilish (δαιμονιώδης is ἅπαξ λεγ.), proceeding from the devil or inspired by accursed devils and is opposed to the Divine. Hornejus has not wrongly delineated the moral sides of these evil characteristics: “terrena, quia avaritiæ dedita est, quæ operibus terrenius inhiat; animalis, quia ad animi lubidines accomodatur; dæmoniaca, quod ambitioni et superbiæ servit, quæ propria diaboli vitia sunt.” These were surely also the characteristics of Judaistic and Ebionite zealotism. The earthly was peculiarly exhibited in their chiliastic claims to the rule of the earth, the psychical in their fanatical and hateful passions, the devilish in their great errors nourished by haughtiness and hypocrisy.

JAMES 3:16. For where is emulation [zeal] and party-strife.—γάρ makes this assertion the proof of the one preceding it. In what goes before James describes a wisdom properly animated by evil zeal and party-strife, and designates it as earthly, sensuous and develish. The proof is that that spirit of emulation and party-strife is so disastrous in its consequences. He does not say “where is such wisdom,” for he has torn the mask of wisdom from this evil spirit of emulation. In its nakedness it is carnal and devilish conduct. ζῆλος occurring here without the adjective πικρός might lead one to think at once of jealousy, but the zeal is sufficiently characterized as evil from being connected with rivalry and party-strife. Everywhere is exhibited the rebellious element. ἀκαταστασία is not only mere disorder but the dissolution of order; in the theocratic sense it denotes rebellion (Numb. 16; ProJames 3:26:28), in church-life a seditious spirit opposing the order of God, who has constituted civil order (Rom. 13:1, etc.) and church order (1 Cor. 14:33).

And all manner of [every] evil work.—φαῦλον might be rendered “foul ” (German “faul”) in an ethical sense. [Shakspeare uses the word in the sense of wicked, abominable. “A foul fault:” “Foul profanation.” The current value of ‘faul’ in German is rotten, lazy, its ethical value denotes moral rottenness, evil.—M.]. Such was the situation of Jewish affairs at that time. The rebellious attitude broke out everywhere in insurrections against the Christians, which were the prelude of the insurrection against the Romans, with numerous episodes of evil work, and all proceeding from the same fountain of diabolical fanaticism.

JAMES 3:17. But the wisdom from above.—See Proverbs; the Wisdom of Solomon; Sirach; Matth. 11; 1 Cor. 8. Its first characteristic is distinguished from the others, as its principle.

Consecrated [pure].—ἁγνή. Really consecrated or hallowed—M.], i.e. not only pure from the influence or even from the inspiration of worldly, carnal and devilish motives, but only chaste, free from the spirit of apostasy into which the fanatical zealots fell, but also animated by the Divine Spirit and therefore wholly consecrated to the service and glory of God; consequently full of a dignified and priestly character. From this principle flow its social virtues. It is peaceable, ironical (Matth. 5:9), equitably disposed (1 Tim. 3:3), gladly yielding ([compliant—M.]. Εὐπειθής the opposite of stubborn, ἀπειθής Tit. 3:5; not “easily persuaded,” but well inclined to enter into the views and reasons of others, compliant). All this as opposed to the contentiousness of false zeal. But it not only resists evil, but overcomes evil with good; it is full of compassion (in the widest sense, in its sympathy with the necessitous James 1:27; 2:13) and good fruits, in which compassion is evidenced. The contrast is exhibited in the seditious character and the foul doings of false wisdom. So stood in those days Christianity over against its enemies and so it was to show itself also in the Jewish Christians over against Judaism. This attitude of wisdom induced James still further to add in its praise ἀδιάκριτος, ἀνυπόκριτος! de Wette, Wiesinger and Huther render the first word ‘without doubting;’ that is, consequently, confident, decided. This would give a good sense if 1. the reference here were not to social conduct and 2. if a certain correspondency between ἀδιάκριτος and ἀνυπόκριτος were not necessary.—Now since the word (as well as that which follows) has to be taken in an active sense, although its primary meaning is passive (not distinguished, undecided, so that the first word might mean “undivided,” “being a unit” [einheitlich], there being only one wisdom—“non duplex” Wetstein; “simple” Neander—and the second undivided, i.e., without any false admixture) the idea “not separatistic, not sectarian” seems to lie nearest (so Baumgarten, Schneckenburger and al.: “quæ non discernit homines;” Luther, Grotius, etc.: “without partiality;” Vulgate: “non judicans;” Semler: “non temere judicans”: With this corresponds then ἀνυπόκριτος, without hypocrisy, without dissembling, sincere Rom. 12:9; 2 Cor. 6:6. [The reader is referred for further information on ἀδιάκριτος to notes on James 1:6–8; 2:4; on ἀνυπόκριτος to James 1:22, 26; 2:1].

JAMES 3:18. Fruit of righteousness.—This difficult expression might be taken literally as follows: the fruit which consists in the life-righteousness as just described (Genit. appos. not only justification, Schneckenburger), is once more turned into seed, it is sown in the world, primarily among erring brethren, in peace, i.e., in the form of peace, in the exhibitions of a peaceful demeanour [not εἰς εἰρήνην, i.e., unto eternal life, de Wette), and then becomes the lot of the children of peace as the harvest of peace and the kingdom of peace. But Wiesinger rightly calls attention to James 1:20. “For the wrath of man worketh not, accomplishes not the righteousness of God,” and adds “that which the readers pretend to realize by their contentious wisdom, can only prosper under the quickening influence of peace.” The righteousness of God in its full manifestation in the world, for which Christians are yearning and for which at that time the Jews in particular were yearning also, is a harvest-fruit which has to be sown by the peaceful demeanour of the peacemakers (τσῖς ποιοῦσιν εἰρήνην Dat. actionis. Huther). The term καρπός, etc., would be therefore “a pregnant expression for: the seed, which yields the fruit of righteousness, is sown.” (Huther). This construction is also favoured by the remark of Huther, made elsewhere, that James is fond of beginning his speech with the teleological leading idea. Huther rightly observes that the sowing is not only teaching proper (Schneckenburger), still it remains a fundamental form of evangelical peace-making. The dat. comm. in τοῖς ποιοῦσιυ “for the children of peace,” is reluctantly given up and Wiesinger would like to connect this meaning with the Dat. actionis. It must be observed, however, that the world-historical harvest of righteousness will affect all men, although it will be a kingdom of peace only to the children of peace. The words of the Apostle therefore were primarily an exhortation addressed to his readers, i.e., to the twelve tribes to this effect: if you really seek the righteousness of God, then prepare the future harvest of righteousness in such wise that as children of peace you scatter the seed by a peaceful behaviour (which includes, to be sure, the peace of the Christian righteousness of faith). Sow peace and you will reap rightousness to your joy. But the idea must be so construed that the Apostle is made at the same time to lay stress on the fact that the harvest of righteousness is prepared under all circumstances. Whether you join in or not: that righteousness, for which you suppose to contend in zealotical party-strife, is now sown with the patience of the sower (see James 5:7) by the peacemakers who are really in the world, by Christians in their exhibitions of peaceful demeanour (ἐν εἰρήνῃ hardly denotes mere mode, but rather the form of the seed, evangelical peace), and at the time of harvest it will appear in its full maturity.


1. The fault which James reproves in the greater part of this chapter, is nothing but a natural manifestation of the egotism of sinful human nature, a fault which, although suppressed, is by no means fully overcome even in Christians. It would seem that, as elsewhere, there were many among the first readers of this Epistle in particular, of whom the author knew or at least was afraid that they were more fond of speaking than of hearing, more fond of teaching others than of receiving instruction themselves. He therefore seizes the fault, described in James 1:19, 26 by the root, at the same time pointing out, that those who set themselves up as teachers, are in the greatest danger of bringing on themselves greater condemnation than their hearers. His doctrine in this respect is in perfect agreement with that of our Lord, Matt. 12:36, 37.

2. There are not a few in our day who set up as teachers and leaders of the congregation without being sufficiently prepared for this important and difficult work, who thus render more difficult the work of the duly appointed servants of the Gospel and scatter the flock without cause; and there are others who suffer themselves to be duly led and to be prepared for the holy ministry, but whose desire to enter the ministry springs from very impure motives. How desirable that both would seriously lay to heart the teaching of James on this subject! [Ministerial preparation is not sufficiently appreciated by the uneducated portions of the laity and not unfrequently made light of by the ecclesiastical authorities. In a new country, like America, the supply of ministers is not equal to the demand and owing to this circumstance men morally and spiritually fitted but intellectually and educationally unfitted, are frequently put in charge of churches, whose best interests are apt to be grievously affected in such incompetent hands. The moral and spiritual qualifications of candidates for the holy ministry is a conditio sine qua non, but their possession cannot cover or supply intellectual and educational deficiency. How can a man preach the Gospel intelligently and beneficially, if he is ignorant of the first principles of correct interpretation, completely at sea in scientific theology and void of all knowledge of Church History and other cognate branches of a theological education? If these lines are read by any minister, who is conscious of his intellectual deficiency, the writer would affectionately entreat him to remember that he ought to be thoroughly equipped for the study of God’s Holy Word and that he cannot teach his people aright, if he does not understand aright. The cacoethes docendi is a great evil in our days and has ruined many a man, who had he only been content to sit awhile on the students’ bench might have been eminently successful in the ministry.—M.]. It is of course self-evident that the Apostle’s warning is not directed against a great number of teachers as such, which on the contrary is in many respects useful and desirable (cf. Eph. 4:11), but rather against an eager pressing into the Ministry of the Word, when men touch the Holy illotis manibus. The language of Homer: “οὐκ αγαθὴ ἡ πολυκοιρανίη, εἶς κοίρανος ἔστω.” [“The rule of many is not good, let there be one ruler”—M.], applies also to Church government.

3. The familiar saying of James “manifoldly we offend all” is frequently but erroneously taken and used as a dictum probans of the doctrine of the universal sinfulness of human nature. The author speaks not of men in general, but of Christians in particular. He considers not so much gross transgression as sins of infirmity and haste; and particularly the danger to which the hearer is less exposed than the teacher, namely the danger of offending in word. The preacher of the Gospel may very easily offend in word, on the one hand by setting forth his own perverse notions instead of the objectively given truth of salvation, or on the other by onesided preaching or by want of clearness and simplicity. Thus he may even, involuntarily give offence and estrange his hearers, or on the other hand, he may lull them into a false sleep of peace and thus do infinitely more harm than good with his preaching. How urgently ought he therefore to press the exhortation that men should not prematurely set themselves up as teachers, since probably they would do much better to continue disciples a little longer! Cf. Heb. 5:12. But this warning ought not to deter any one who sincerely desires to serve God in the ministry of the Word and truly loves the Lord and His Church. By watchfulness and prayer the servant of the Gospel may preserve himself from many sins of the tongue. The best corrective, in this respect, is doubtless the petition Ps. 19:15; 141:3.

4. In order to form a correct estimate of the magnitude of the sins which Christians also commit with the tongue, first of all it must not be forgotten that the faculty of speech is originally a Divine gift bestowed on man. Compare Herder’s Origin of Language (1770), a work which is still very valuable. This idea was not unfamiliar even to the pagans. Cf. Hesiod: ἔργα καὶ ἡμ., 5:79; Horat. Od. 1, 10, James 3:2, 3; Ovid, Fastor., 5:667. See also Dr. J. C. Amman’s Dissertat. de loquela, Amsterd. 1700, and especially Schubert, History of the Soul, 3d ed. 1839, p. 153–163. “The word uttered is only the outward sound of the begetting inward language of ideas through the corporeal medium.” Ennemoser.

5. No Christian moralist may omit to bestow the greatest possible attention on the doctrine of James concerning the sins of the tongue. For speaking is also a doing and a doing of such daily and manifold occurrence, that its good and its evil consequences are all but incalculable. Compare the familiar French proverb: “le style c’est I’homme,” and the motto of the well-known diplomatist Talleyrand “le langage est donné pour cacher ses pensées.” No wonder that the Old Testament abounds in warnings against the perverse use of the tongue; see e.g. Ps. 15:24, 34, and other passages.

6. In saying that “if any man offend not in word, he is a perfect man,” James of course takes for granted, that such a mastery of the tongue is not solely the fruit of a politic wisdom, but rather the fruit of Christian self-control as the product of faith and love. He who has learned from this principle to set a watch before his lips, may with certainty be supposed to have attained so high a degree of discretion and life-wisdom, that to him the performance of any other duty cannot be particularly difficult, still less impossible. Cf. ProJames 3:10:19; 13:3; 17:27. But in order to obtain and to preserve the mastery of one’s tongue, one must before have become master of one’s most violent emotions and remain collected in one’s intercourse with friends and enemies. Ps. 16:32. Cf. the language of Plutarch on this head: “de capienda ex hostibus utilitate,” opp. ed. Reiskii, Tom. 6, p. 355 sq; also “de garrulitate,” Tom. 8, p. 13 sqq.

7. “Plutarch (de Auditione, p. 137, and in conviv. Sept. p. 556, vol. 6, ed. Reiskii) relates that Amasis, King of Egypt sent a sacrifice to Bias and requested him to send back the best and the worst part thereof: Bias sent back the tongue.” Heubner.

8. James who wrote his Epistle as a warning to believers, from the nature of the case could only advert to the harm caused by the abuse of the tongue, not (or only slightly) to the profit that might accrue to the cause of the Lord by the well-ordered use of the power of speech. To realize this light-side of the matter ought to be the daily effort of every Christian, but more particularly that of the Christian teacher.

9. The words of James (James 3:9) would be unmeaning, if he meant that only the first man bore the likeness of God, which by the fall was wholly and eternally lost to his descendants. The ravaging power of sin is manifested not in the potentiality but in the actuality of man’s likeness to God, and the Conf. Belg. art. 14, is therefore right in speaking of small remnants (scintillulæ) of the Divine image in fallen man, which are perfectly sufficient to take away all his excuses. [Art. IX. of the Articles of Religion in the Church of England and the Prot. Ep. Church in the U. S. says: “man is very far gone from original righteousness.”—M.]. Lange (Positive Dogmatik, p. 299) is perfectly right in saying that “man is the image of God, i.e. the visible form of the Infinite in the totality of his being. The Being of God consists in His eternally embracing Himself perfectly in the clearness and liberty of His Being, in that He is the Absolute Spirit. And in like manner the being of the image of God consists in man’s living in himself as a spirit, in his continually taking back the whole manifoldness of his existence into the unity of his consciousness and out of it re-forming it anew.”

10. The doctrine of James (James 3:11, 12) exhibits a remarkable agreement with the sayings of Christ in the Sermon on the Mount (Matth. 7: 16–19; Luke 6:43–45); a new proof that the publication of the fundamental law of the kingdom of heaven could not be forgotten by this servant of the Lord.

11. The bearing of James concerning the wisdom, which is from above (James 3:13 etc.) is remarkable for its recalling not only many of the proverbs of Solomon but also many cognate ideas in Jesus Sirach and the Book of Wisdom. James, although occupying a purely evangelical standpoint, is nevertheless full of the ethical portion of the Old Testament, and in part even of the deutero-canonical writings. However it is impossible to examine the doctrine of this entire chapter more closely without discovering that the author himself has and exemplifies that heavenly wisdom, which in James 3:16, 17 he has so admirably and beautifully delineated as contrasted with earthly wisdom.

12. Very important is the connection of knowledge and life, on which James here insists. He who does not prove his wisdom by works, which have the seal of a meek disposition, contradicts himself and gives the lie to his confession of the Lord, which he is constantly making. He may boast in the possession of the truth but he is an opponent of the truth, if he does not receive it as the principle of his life; cf. 1 John 4:20, 21. His wisdom, as contrasted with that from above, is purely earthly, as contrasted with that of the pneumatical man purely psychical, as contrasted with that of good angels (cf. 1 Pet.1:12), even devilish.

13. “The peaceable scatter in peace the seed of genuine Christian wisdom, which grows into the harvest of righteousness. This applies not only to teachers but to every one who has received from God wisdom and the gift to influence others.” Von Gerlach.

14. The seven qualities which James attributes to the wisdom from above (James 3:17) are nothing but the seven colours of the one ray of light of heavenly truth, which has been revealed and has appeared in Christ Himself. He is therefore supremely entitled to the name “the Wisdom of God” (Luke 11:49).

15. Even the closing sentences of this instruction reëcho notes from the Sermon on the Mount, Matth. 5:8, 9.


A. James 3:1–12

The lust of rule one of the most ancient diseases in the Church of Christ.—Even the manifold warnings of Christ (Matth. 18:1; John 13:12–17 and other passages) have been insufficient hitherto to prevent disputes about precedency among those who confess Him.—The higher the position we hold before others, the greater will be our responsibility.—“Manifoldly we offend all.” The remaining infirmity of the elect.—The truth, solemnity and comfort of this saying.—The use and abuse which may be and at different times have been made of this saying.—How the knowledge of our own, manifold infirmities ought to make us judge others leniently.—No matter how much the Christian may offend, he ought nevertheless to advance.—Christian self-control—Man, lord of the animal creation but not lord of himself.—Even the bravest sailor suffers each time ship-wreck on the rocks of the tongue.—The power of the tongue evident 1, from the harm it can do, 2, from the utter impossibility of wholly subduing it.—The faculty of speech which makes man superior to the beasts is not seldom the means of making him inferior to them—The sad part acted by the evil tongue in every century of the history of the Christian Church.—The sinful tongue is the sinful man. Sinful man is able to raise himself above every other irrational creature but he is unable to raise himself above his own nature.—That which is impossible with men, is possible with God.—The sad want of many men’s conformity to their proper being.—How extremes meet also in the use of the tongue.—That which is never seen united in nature, is often simultaneously found present in men.—Man at once a lord and a slave (James 3:5. “Behold how small a fire kindleth how great a forest.”) Suitable text for a Reformation-sermon. [That is a sermon preached on the festival of the Reformation, which in Germany is kept October 31, the anniversary of Luther’s fastening the 95 theses to the door of the Castle Church of Wittenberg A. D. 1517—M.].—There is not a thumb’s breadth between our strong side and our weak side.—The melancholy inconsistency and the still sadder consistency of the abuse of the tongue.

STARKE:—He who wants to teach others in spiritual things, ought to be first well established himself. A man must be a pure and obedient sheep of Christ before he can become a shepherd. Hos. 4:6.—Many, although they have not Divine wisdom and experience but possess only a literal knowledge, acquired not in the school of the Holy Ghost, but from the books and writings of men, straightway presume to be guides of the blind etc. Rom. 2:18.

QUESNEL:—If all men have to observe caution in speech, how much more those, whose office requires them frequently and religiously to discourse of holy things? Rom. 15:18.—Men must fairly strive to attain evangelical perfection, especially if they seek to be employed in the Ministry, 2 Tim. 3:17.—

OSIANDER:—If a man is able to govern his tongue so effectually as not to utter any thing censurable, he is doubtless equally able so to govern and guide his body as not to indulge in any vice, Job 27:4, 5.—Many men are more unruly than a horse—men whom God by the infliction of severe punishment has to make somewhat orderly. David cautions us against this disposition Ps. 32:9.—If irrational creatures suffer themselves to be guided and ruled, how much rather ought rational creatures suffer it likewise? Is. 1:3.

LUTHER:—The tongue guides men either to virtue or to vice, 1 Cor. 15:33.—The tongue of a Christian is ruled only with the bridle of faith and love, Ps. 116:10.

QUESNEL:—Who knows not how to govern his tongue, is like a passenger on a ship without rudder in the open sea exposed to the fury of the storm.—If the rudder of our body is controlled by the Spirit of God, we sail in safety on the sea of the world, Rom. 8:14.

CRAMER:—Many have fallen by the edge of the sword, but infinitely more by evil tongues, Sir. 28:21.

LANGII OP:—How easily may an uncircumcised and untamed tongue cause discord in a whole family, so that the best of friends fall out with one another! Sir. 28:15, 16.—God has distinguished us from the brutes by the use of the tongue, and we are distinguished from one another by the good or evil use we make of it, Ps. 119:23.

HEDINGER:—Evil tongues and bad lungs have caused the death of many. The former spiritually and mostly. How much murder is committed with the tongue? how forward and swift is this poor member to wound the conscience? Whoso is wise puts a lock to his lips. Sir. 22:33—O God, create us a new tongue, that we may praise Thee! ProJames 3:18:21.—

QUESNEL:—There is no sin, of which the tongue may not be the cause and instrument, and which as a poisoned seed it may not contain, Matth. 15:18.—Think, O ye liars and slanderers, how shameful and hurtful a member ye carry in your mouth! Ps. 57:5.—Whoso desires to be delivered from the sins of the tongue must particularly apply himself to work in faith at the bottom of his heart by repentance and renovation, Matth. 12:33.—As the Holy Spirit did set on fire the tongues of the Apostles with godly zeal, so contrariwise the spirit of hell sets on fire the tongues of the ungodly with venom and great malice to crush the good name and reputation of their neighbour, Acts 2:3, 4, 11.—The diligence of men is able to change the wildest natures of beasts! but none is able to change the sinful nature of men, save the Wisdom and Omnipotence of God, Ez. 36:26.—God must needs take a coal from His altar and touch our tongue or it cannot be tamed. We stammer by nature like Moses, until God makes us eloquent, Is. 6:5.—The tongue of the hellish serpent has thrown us into the greatest confusion, but the tongues of the Holy Ghost show us again the way to eternal peace, Acts 2:4, 38.—We shun serpents, yet consort with people that carry poison in their mouths, Ps. 44:4; 55:22.—How ill-suited it is that those should engage in the praises of God, the whole of whose lives dishonours God! A golden collar cannot be so ill-becoming to a sow covered with filth and dirt as the praise of God to a filthy sinner, Am. 5:23.—

LANGII OP.:—The nobility of human nature is very exalted and no man may offend it in word or deed without sinning against God, Gen. 9:6.—We ought to honour the image of God in every man be he never so bad, 1 John 4:12.

STARKE:—Man is so perverse, that there is nothing left in the world which is like him. He wants to render impossibilities possible, to do good and evil at the same time, which is contrary to the whole order of nature, Eccl. 1:15; Ps. 58:4.—If we want to show others their follies and sins, we must not do it in boisterous scolding, but in compassionating brotherly love, 2 Tim. 2:24, 25.—Words are fruits enabling us to form an estimate of the heart, i.e. the tree which bears them; if this is pure, the others are not bad, Matth. 12:23.

STIER:—Future accountability is solemn and difficult even in the case of our own soul. Who would lightly undertake to be accountable for the souls of others? Indeed is it not written, “Many are called but few chosen”—who will call himself in order to fall with so much more surety into condemnation? Many did it then, and alas! many do it now. “But howsoever, let me, I pray thee, also run after Cushi,” said Ahimaaz the son of Zadok, and would not be dissuaded when he was told “thou hast no good tidings ready.” He stuck to his “let me run.” (2 Sam. 18:19–23). There are many such teachers and runners, who are not sent. They surely are not the true teachers and masters that shall shine as the brightness of the firmament.(Dan. 12:3),—but they will stand illy.—“Manifoldly we offend all”—James includes himself in this confession in order to put to shame the proud brethren. Not indeed that he intended to expose the supposed errors of his Divinely-inspired Epistle to their criticism or now to ours, but he rather meant solemnly to assert respecting life in general apart from the sacred office, that the perfect man who does not even trip in a word, cannot be found anywhere. Even the Apostles were assuredly not sinless, holy and infallible in their daily and hourly private life; the promise of the Holy Ghost to guard them from all error related only to their sacred office, just as it was with reference to their office and the principal and fundamental truths of their message that the seventy as well as the twelve were told “He that heareth you, heareth me.”—Although the proud tongue may boast, I can be silent, or I can thoroughly dissemble myself—it is a thing beyond its control, there it is brought to shame. The most expert hypocrite can never reach such a point of dissembling as to prevent its failing him even in a word; the heart runs over, the hell within bursts out on the tongue. Our speech is and remains the nearest, surest and most irresistible effluence of the heart. What follows lastly from James’s sermon against the sins of the tongue? Whither they lead—to the world full of unrighteousness, whence they come—from the inward abyss of corruption—he has shown; it is not difficult to apply here the only remedy.

HEUBNER:—We are more on our guard with respect to sins in deed than with respect to sins in word.—Whoso fails to govern his tongue is like a rider on an unruly horse, or like a sailor in a ship without a rudder.—The tongue is a channel which transmits the evil of hell.—An unconditional impossibility to tame the tongue does not exist. If thy tongue is cursing, it is unfitted for praise.

VIEDEBANDT:—The rule of the tongue is more important than the rule of the world.—What an evil full of deadly poison is many a newspaper tongue!—If Satan has your heart, he also rules your tongue. The tongue and the heart are only a span apart.

NEANDER:—James attacks the being of mock piety at all points. Such is that pious cant which while it utters the praises of God in words, hatefully censures and condemns men, in whom the image of God ought to be honoured, aside.—Thus James points out the fundamental idea of this whole Epistle, that everything depends on that disposition which gives direction to a man’s whole life, the recognition of which truth was as remote as possible from that tendency, attacked by him at all points, which only considers the outward, single acts, and the appearance of things.

JAKOBI:—The Apostle shows from the harmony, visible in universal creation, that it is unnatural and therefore ungodly and therefore displeasing to God if the same tongue is used in the service of heaven and hell, and if praises and curses proceed out of the same mouth God, says another Apostle, is a God of order. Because the fig-tree, the olive tree and the vine bear fruit each according to its kind, figs, olives and grapes, and because sweet fountains and salt fountains always send forth the same kind of water and because of this order in nature, God rejoices in all his works (Ps. 104:31), and looking down from heaven upon the earth, behold, all things are very good. Therefore it cannot be good and well-pleasing to God, if contrary to the Divinely appointed order the gifts and faculties intrusted to man are employed in opposite uses, if the same tongue which has just stammered the praise of God, utters shameful words, folly and unseemly jests. Therefore as long as this continues to be done among Christians, so long as we who have just had on our tongue the sweet word of God, indulge in bitter revilings of those who share with us the greatest of all blessings, as long as out of the same opening of the mouth there flow such sweet and such bitter streams, so long the sad dissension of sin continues in us and we do not yet stand in the unity and truth of the Divine life.

LISCO:—The sins of the tongue: 1. They are of all sins the most corrupt; 2, They are of all sins, the most difficult to be avoided.—He who governs himself solves the problem of the Christian life.—The tongue 1, is the communicator of our thoughts and 2, ought to be solely the mediator of good.

PORUBSZKY: (James 3:1, 2):—Religious conversation in social life.—(James 3:3–12). The tongue of scandal.

BECK:—Three golden rules for a Christian’s life: 1, have humility in your heart (James 3:1, 2), 2, have truth in your mouth (James 3:3–9), 3, practise faithfulness in your life (James 3:10–12).

W. HOFACKER (Sermons p. 635):—Our speaking tongue one of the greatest gifts of God’s grace.

James 3:1–10. Epistle for the 16th Sunday after Trinity in the Grand Duchy of Hesse and elsewhere.

GEROK:—Watch thy tongue: 1, It looks so little and so small 2, Yet worketh such great things for all; 3, Kindles many a fire of hell, 4, Yet heaven has ordered it so well [German: 1, Sie ist nur klein und scheint gering 2, und richtet an so grosse Ding; 3, sie hat maneh Höllenfeuer entflammt 4, und führt doch ein so himmlish Amt.—M.].

RUPERTI:—Several oft-forgotten duties to be practised by the Christian in order that he may become master of his tongue in his intercourse with others.

ALT:—The evil word towards one’s neighbour.

B. James 3:13–18

VJames 3:13–18. Epistle for Quinquagesima Sunday in the Grand Duchy of Hesse and elsewhere.

The difference between abstract knowledge of Christian truth and true life-wisdom.—The tree is known by its fruit.—Meek wisdom the crown of Christian virtue.—The intimate union of truth and love on Christian ground. The wisdom which is from above, and the wisdom which is from beneath; the sevenfold more exalted character of the former and the threefold baseness of the latter.—The wisdom from above: 1, how it is evidenced, 2, how it is rewarded, 3, how it is learned.—The harvest feast of the peaceable: 1, the seed, 2, the fruit, 3, the harvest-joy; here in its beginning, hereafter in its perfection,—James himself is in his Epistle a continuing proof of the truth of what he says, James 3:13–18.

STARKE:—The possession of a natural, wise, prudent understanding is a great gift of God, but to be truly enlightened with the light of truth is invaluable, ProJames 3:3:13; 2 Cor. 4:6.

CRAMER:—Our Christianity is then inseparable, for a good understanding have all they that do His commandments, Ps. 111:10.—Many men’s meekness is a worm-eaten fruit of nature. They are rather tamed lions than meek sheep of Christ, Matth. 11:29.—

NOVA BIBL. TÜB.:—Wisdom and meekness are noble virtues which ought to regulate the whole of our conversation; they are the springs of all other virtues, ProJames 3:19:2.—Those who are ready to dispute and quarrel and are ever at odds with their neighbour, exhibit an infallible token that they are still lacking true wisdom, ProJames 3:18:6 20:3.—

QUESNEL:—A teacher above all things should be an enemy of all disputing and contention, 2 Tim. 2:24.

CRAMER:—Cunning is not wisdom. Hence little wisdom in the fear of God is better than much wisdom allied to contempt of God, Sir. 19:21—

QUESNEL:—The wisdom of the world is very different from the wisdom of the Gospel. It is only cunning wisdom whose end is to rule on earth, but which is ruled itself by nothing but brutal lusts, 1 Cor. 1:21; 2:7, 8.—Sin punishes itself even in this world, because man in the service of it does not enjoy his life on account of the great trouble and annoyance to which sin puts him, Ps. 32:10.—

CRAMER:—As smoke causes pain to the eyes and prevents their seeing distinctly, so it happens to reason and wisdom, for if it is disturbed by the passions, it cannot see any thing and decide what is white or black, right or wrong.—The most simple Christian who practises these seven qualities of virtue will be wiser than the seven sages of Greece. Remember only one for each day of the week.—Those who scatter the poison of their evil heart in anger, contention and brawling, will reap from it the unhappy fruit of eternal trouble, tribulation and anguish, Rom. 2:8, 9.—Be content, ye peacemakers, if your souls are afraid to dwell with those that hate peace, (Ps. 120:6), remember that ye shall hereafter dwell forever in a peaceable habitation, Is. 32:18—

STIER:—To be only prudent and understanding does not amount to much and is a very doubtful and suspicious thing, but to be wise and prudent, that is the right thing.—Every good gift as well as true wisdom is from above, but that which is passed oft for it with lying against the truth, all false wisdom is not from heaven, but earthly; not from the Spirit of God but human, from man’s soul, flesh and blood; not from Christ the King of the kingdom of God, the destroyer of the works of the devil, but rather devilish still, from the influence and seduction of evil spirits. Indeed on this profound saying of James might be written a history of all knowledge falsely so called, of all so-called philosophy or even theology.—All the trouble and confusion in the Church, all the disorder and unruliness or rebellion of self-will opposing the Spirit of God originates in the brawling of carnality; hence schism, factions, sects, hence other evils and particularly also evil hypocrisy under coërced unity. Even in the world and in things earthly a family and many a city give unceasing testimony that good cannot mature under the influence of envy and contention, but that these conduce to nothing but evil. Still more lamentable and ravaging are the contentions concerning God’s Word in the house and city of God, the carnal wrangling of brethren and members in Christ.—Many are officiously engaged in imparting to others opinions, which are their truths and in disputing away errors—but where is the good fruit of all these efforts ? whom have they improved thereby, converted and won for the kingdom of heaven? On the other hand look at many quiet people in the land: they make no noise, they do not deal in great things, they walk everywhere in meekness and gentleness—but wherever they go they carry something along with them, which passes from them like a breath of life;—the words which they utter at the right time, are seeds—all their walk and work burst into fruitfulness around them with a silent, deep power, and many things are recorded on high as the fruit of their righteousness, whereof men know and suspect nothing. Grace works by them, they live in love and this is their deep power.—“Fruits, gentlemen, fruits that shall make men whole.” It was this which the king of Prussia demanded of the University of Königsberg, and truly it was a great royal word, a Solomonic word, in its time. Wholesome, healthy fruits will grow where healthy seed has been sown, but the seed itself had before grown as the produce of ripe fruit; thus righteousness is sown and transmitted from one to another.

HEUBNER: (James 3:15).—This is a description truly applicable to those who by their writings,—either immoral, provoking vice, or irreligious, undermining the faith of Christians—especially if they exhibit skill and genius, have exerted the influence of devils upon the world. The subtle and disguised ones are the worst; subtle poison insinuates itself most thoroughly.—Earthly wisdom effects nothing good for eternity.—

NEANDER.:—Holy Scripture often designates, by the name of the flesh, all evil, whatever is opposed to the Spirit of God, to the Divine life. If the word is used in this general sense, it includes also man’s spiritual nature, reason and the soul, as far as it has not been made subject to the Divine Spirit, but persists in its selfish being, pretends to be something by itself, independent of God, without (extra) God and hence opposed to Him. The term flesh in this biblical sense includes all these ideas. Its meaning is by no means restricted to what we call flesh, sensuality in the narrower sense of the word. Now if we take flesh in this more general sense, biblical usage distinguishes it from that which in the narrower sense is designated as psychical, i.e., the spiritual [part of man], as far as it is made not to conform to God, but to conform to the world [German: “In sofern es nicht vergöttlicht ist, sondern verweltlicht.”]. Reason however cultivated remains still within the sphere of the psychical [i.e. the rational soul not only not influenced by the Divine Spirit but rather influenced by the physical and the cosmical. The German for psychical is seelisch, as stated before.—M.]. The seed of whatever is truly good in action, proceeding from righteousness, can only prosper where peace reigns and with those, the end and aim of whose actions is peace. Where all is strife, nothing truly Christian can prosper.

JAKOBI (on the feast of the ingathering of the harvest):—What a description of wisdom! Truly such wisdom cometh from above, from the Father of Light with whom every thing is light, and pure and holy; thence it cometh as the best and most perfect light, communicated by Him, in whom is treasured up the fulness of all good, communicated by the Son of Eternal Wisdom and Love to all those, who renouncing earthly, human and devilish wisdom, and looking to Him alone in simplicity of faith, suffer Him to create in them a pure heart and receive a new sure spirit, the spirit of truth, which is also for this very reason the spirit of true wisdom.

PORUBSZKY:—Wisdom in action.—Envy sets us at variance 1, with God, 2, with man, 3, with ourselves.—

BECK:—Heavenly wisdom the fountain of earthly peace.

SCHMALTZ: The fire of discord.

KÖSTLIN:—Of true, Christian wisdom as contrasted with false, earthly wisdom.

ALT:—With the wisdom of Christians we will overcome the evil of time.

[James 3:2. BARROW:—To offend originally signifies to impinge (infringe), to stumble upon somewhat lying across our way, so as thereby to be cast down, or at least to be disordered in our posture, and stopped in our progress: whence it is well transferred to our being through any incident temptation brought into sin, whereby a man is thrown down, or bowed from his upright state and interrupted from prosecuting a steady course of piety and virtue. By an opposite manner of speaking (Ps. 37:23, 24) our tenor of life is called a way, our conversation walking, our actions steps, our observing good laws uprightness, our transgression of them tripping, faltering, falling. By not offending in word, we may then conceive to be understood such a constant restraint and such a careful guidance of our tongue, that it doth not transgress the rules prescribed by the Divine law, or by good reason; that it thwarteth not the natural ends and proper uses for which it was framed, to which it is fitted; such as chiefly are promoting God’s glory, our neighbour’s benefit, and our own true welfare.—

—A constant governance of our speech according to duty and reason is a high instance and a special argument of a thoroughly sincere and solid goodness.—

—The offences of speech are various. 1. Some of them are committed against God, and confront piety; 2. others against our neighbour, and violate justice, charity, or peace; 3. others against ourselves, infringing sobriety, discretion, or modesty; 4. some are of a more general and abstracted nature, rambling through all matters, and crossing all the heads of duty.—

Cf. on this subject Dr. Barrow’s sermon on this text; Bp. Butler on the Government of the Tongue, an abstract of which is here given; Bp. Taylor’s Sermons on the Good and Evil Tongue; On Slander and Flattery; On the Duties of the Tongue.

Abstract of Butler’s Sermon on the Government of the Tongue. (Bohn’s edition.)

“One of the most material restraints under which virtue places us in the obligation of ‘bridling the tongue.’ ” Let us then ask

1. What vice is opposed to this precept? and

2. When can a man be fairly said to act up to it?

1. The vice alluded to is not evil-speaking from malice, nor from selfish design. It is talkativeness or a disposition to talk at random without thought of doing either good or harm. Now talkative persons, when other subjects fail them, will indulge in scandal or divulge secrets; or, further, they will go on to invent matter, and all in order to engage attention; and if a quarrel ensue, they will defame and revile their enemy, but without malice.

As all our faculties may be made instruments of evil, so also the tongue. Deliberate and wilful falsehood, indulged in from malice or revenge, does not arise from having no government of the tongue. But there is a vicious habit, without malice, which arises from a desire to arrest attention; and in these people the very least thing excites the tongue, and so gives birth to innumerable evils, especially to strife. Its effects are often as bad as those of malice or envy; it wrongly distributes praise and blame, and, being used at random, always does harm.

2. In what does the government of the tongue consist? We are to measure our faculties by the end for which they have been given to us. The end of speech clearly is to communicate our thoughts to each other, either for real business or for enjoyment. In this secondary use, it contributes to promote friendship, and so is serviceable to virtue and its tendency is to general good.

Corresponding to these two uses is the abuse of speech. As to its primary end, deceit in business does not come within our scope. It is in its secondary sense that it becomes the object of our inquiry, for the government of the tongue relates chiefly to what we call Conversation. Certain cautions are to be observed in governing the tongue. First, that there is a fit time to speak and a time to keep silence. This rule is too often forgotten; and they who forget it, too often, if they amuse at all, amuse at their own expense. The times for silence are when they are in company of their superiors, or when the discourse is of subjects above themselves; and these obvious rules are generally passed over by those who in their talkative mood forget that the very essence of conversation is that it should be mutual, and talkative persons are generally disregarded. Men, then, should be silent, both when they have nothing to say, or nothing but what were better left unsaid.—

In talking on indifferent subjects, the first rule is not to spend too much time on them; the second, to be quite sure, that they are indifferent. Conversation about other people and their matters is often very dangerous; as in such cases we cannot always be indifferent and neutral, or escape being drawn into rivalry. But as we cannot entirely avoid speaking of others, we should take care that what we say, be true. It is important to know the characters of the bad as well as the good, and abuse will scarcely follow, if these two rules be observed: 1st, That to speak evil of a man undeservedly is worse than to speak good of him undeservedly, for the former is a direct injury to the person as well as to society. 2nd, That a good man will always speak all the good which he can of his fellows, and never any harm unless he has some positive reason for so doing; for example, just indignation against villany, or to prevent the innocent from being deceived. For we must always study justice: and we do justice to society at large by exposing bad characters.

Those who observe the above cautions and precepts have due government over their tongues.—M.].

[James 3:3. WORDSWORTH:—St. James follows up the metaphor of the preceding verse with an argument a fortiori. We can rule irrational animals with a bit; how much more ought we to be able to govern ourselves! And if we rule our tongues, we do in fact govern the whole man; for the tongue is to man what a bit is to horses, and a rudder is to ships; it rules the whole; let it therefore be governed aright.—M.].

[James 3:5. VIRGIL, Georgic 2, 303.

“Nam sæpe incautis pastoribus excidit ignis,

Qui furtim pingui primùm sub cortice tectus

Robora comprendit, frondesque elapsus in altas

Ingentem cœlo sonitum dedit; inde secutns

Per ramos victor, perque alta cacumina regnat

Et totum involvit flammis nemus; et ruit atram

Ad coelum piceâ crassus fuligine nubem;

Præsertim si tempestas à vertice sylvis

Incubuit, glomeratque ferens incendia ventus;”

For the benefit of those not familiar with Latin, I subjoin Davidson’s translation. The quotation itself mutatis mutandis forcibly illustrates the incendiary ravages of the tongue.

“For fire is often let fall from the unwary shepherds

Which at first secretly lurking under the unctuous bark,

Catches the solid wood, and shooting up into the topmost leaves,

Raises a loud crackling to heaven: thence pursuing its way,

Reigns victorious among the branches and the lofty tops,

Involves the whole grove in flames, and darts the black

Cloud to heaven, condensed in pitchy vapor;

Chiefly if a storm overhead rests its fury on the woods,

And the driving wind whirls the flames aloft.”—M.].

[James 3:6. WORDSWORTH:—That world of iniquity, that universe of mischief, as containing within it the elements of all mischief; as the world contains within itself mineral combustibles and volcanic fires, and electric fluid, which may blaze forth into a conflagration.

—By the faculty of speech man is distinguished from the rest of creation: by it his thoughts are borne, as upon eagles wings, to the remotest shores, and are carried to distant ages; by it they are endued with the attributes of omnipresence and immortality; by it men are reclaimed from savage ignorance; by it cities are built and are peopled, laws promulgated, alliances formed, leagues made; by it men are excited to deeds of heroic valor, and to prefer eternity to time, and the good of their country to their own; through it the affairs of the world are transacted; it negotiates the traffic of commerce, and exchanges the produce of our soil and climate for that of another; it pleads the cause of the innocent, and checks the course of the oppressor; it gives vent to the tenderest emotions; it cheers the dreariness of life. By it virtuous deeds of men are proclaimed to the world with a trumpet’s voice; by it the memory of the dead is kept alive in families. It is the teacher of arts and sciences, the interpreter of poetic visions, and of subtle theories of philosophy; it is the rudder and helm by which the state of the world is steered; it is the instrument by which the Gospel of Christ is preached to all nations, and the Scriptures sound in the ears of the Church, and the world unites in prayer and praise to the Giver of all good, and the chorus of Saints and Angels pours forth hallelujahs before His throne.

Such being the prerogatives of speech, it is a heinous sin to pervert the heavenly faculty, to insult the Name of the Giver Himself, or to injure man, made in the image of God. All true Christians will put away profane and impure language, calumny and slander, injurious to God’s honour, the welfare of society, and their own eternal salvation. They will abhor it worse than pestilence, and they will pray to Him from whom are the preparations of the heart, and who maketh the dumb and the deaf, the seeing and the blind, who quickened the slow speech of His servant Moses, and put words of fire into his mouth, and whose Spirit on the Day of Pentecost descended in tongues of fire on the Apostles, and filled them with holy eloquence, so to direct their thoughts and words, that both now and hereafter they may ever sing His praise.—M.].

[James 3:10. VAYIKRA RABBA: § 33:—“Rabbi Simeon, the son of Gamaliel, said to his servant Tobias, Go and bring me some good food from the market: the servant went and brought tongues. At another time, he said to the same servant, Go and buy me some bad food: the servant went and bought tongues. The master said, What is the reason that when I ordered thee to buy me good and bad food, thou didst bring tongues? The servant answered, From the tongue both good and evil come to man:, if it be good, there is nothing better; if bad, there is nothing worse.”—M.].

[James 3:13. PYLE:—Whatever Christian convert or Jewish zealot, therefore, would be indeed a master of religious wisdom, let him show his wisdom first in the suppression of this wretched habit, and in reducing himself to a meek and charitable disposition towards his brethren.—M.].

[James 3:14. BP. HALL:—Never brag vainly that ye are Christians: and do not shame and contradict that truth which ye profess, by a real denial of the profession thereof.—M.].

[James 3:16. WORDSWORTH:—Strife and party-spirit would destroy Sion, and can build up nothing but Babel. Cf. Bp. Sanderson I. pp. 214, 350; and see Clemens Rom. I. capp. 3–9.—M.].


Be calm in arguing, for fierceness makes

Error a fault and truth discourtesy:

Why should I feel another man’s mistakes

More than his sickness or his poverty?

In love I should: but anger is not love;

Nor wisdom neither; therefore gently move.


[—Fortiter in re, leniter in modo.—M.]

[On the meaning and use of the term “wisdom from above” see Schoettgen; illustrations:

1. SOHAR, Yalcut Rubeni f. 19: “The wisdom from above was in Adam more than in the supreme angels: and he knew all things.”

2. Sohar Chadath, f. 35: “The angels were sent from above and taught him (Enoch) the wisdom that is from above.”—Ibid. f. 42, 4. “Solomon came, and he was perfect in all things, and strongly set forth the praises of the wisdom that is from above.

For particular texts consult the following, besides the above:

James 3:1. BP. BULL: The priest’s office difficult and dangerous. Visitation Sermon. Works 1, 137.

James 3:2. BARROW: Not to offend in word, an evidence of a high pitch of virtue. Works 1.

James 3:14–17. ABP.WHATELY: Party-spirit. Bampton Lecture 33.

James 3:16. SOUTH: The nature, causes and consequences, of envy. Sermons, 5, 389.

James 3:17. LEIGHTON: The nature and properties of heavenly wisdom. Works, 3, 86.—M.].


[1] James 3:1. Lange: Become not many teachers, my brethren, since ye know, that we shall [as such] receive a greater [a more severe] condemnation [judicial sentence.]

[… knowing that we shall receive greater condemnation.—M.]

James 3:2. [Cod. Sin. has δυνάμενος for δυνατός.—M]

Lange: For manifoldly we offend all; if a man offendeth not in word he is a perfect man, able even to bridle the whole body.

[For oftentimes we all offend … word, this man is a perfect man, able to bridle also the whole body.—M.]

[2]James 3:3. [Rec. reads ἰδού against the most authentic codd. C. and Griesbach read ἴδε. A. B. G. Sin. and al. Lachmann and Tisch. have εἰ δέ. [So Alford, Wordsw. Ecce enim, Syr. Si autem, Vulg.—M.]

[3] James 3:3. [B. C. εἰς τό. [So Cod. Sin. Alf. Rec. πρὸς with A. K. L. (?)—M.]

Lange: But if we put bits into the horses’ mouths, in order that they may obey us, we guide also their whole body.

[… the bits into the mouths of horses in order to their obeying us, we also turn about their whole body.—M.]

[4]James 3:4. [ἀνέμων σκληρῶν. B. C. K. Cod. Sin. σκληρ. ἀνέμ. Rec. A. L.—M.]

[5]James 3:4. [ὅπου ἄν Rec.—ὅπου Sin. B.—M.]

[6] James 3:4. Cod. Sin. B read βούλεται for βούληται.—M.]

Lange: Behold even the ships, although they are so great and are [moreover] tossed about by fierce winds, even they are guided with a very small rudder, whithersoever the direction [course] of the steersman [guide] may wish.

[.. though so great and driven by … are turned about by a very small rudder, whithersoever the will of the steersman may wish.—M.]

[7]James 3:5. The reading μεγάλα αὐχεῖ A. C.* recommended by Tischend, is preferable to μεγαλαυχεί.

[8] James 3:5. The difference between ἡλίκον and ὀλίγον keeps balancing between the authorities and the critics. In point of sense both amount to the same thing with the exception that ἡλίκον, the more difficult reading, gives also the stronger expression: what a fire, i. e. what a little fire. [ἡλίκον is decidedly the more authentic reading. It is in A.** B. C.* Cod. Sin. Vulg. received by Lachmann, Tisch., Alford, Wordsw., de Wette, Huther and others. Alford maintains that ἡλίκος is “quantulus” as well as “quantus” and cites Lucian, Hermot. 5.—M.]

Lange: Thus also the tongue is a little member and boasteth great things.—Behold what a little fire—what a forest it doth kindle [Jerusalem on fire.]

[… Behold how small a fire kindleth how great a forest.—M]

[9]James 3:6. [Cod. Sin. omits καὶ before γλῶσσα.—M.]

[10]James 3:6. οὕτως before the second ἡ γλῶσσα is wanting in [A. B. C. K. Cod. Sin.—M.]

[11]James 3:6. [Cod. Sin. reads καὶ σπιλοῦσα for ἡ σπιλοῦσα Rec. and many others.—M.]

[12] James 3:6. [Cod. Sin. reads ἡμῶν after γενἐσεως—M.]

Lange: The tongue also is a fire; it, the world [the adornment of the world, worldliness [Germ.: “Weltformigkeit”] of unrighteousness. The tongue steppeth forth [rules] among our members, it, which defileth the whole body and inflameth the [revolving] wheel of the development of life, and itself is inflamed by hell.

[And the tongue is a fire, that world of iniquity. The tongue makes itself in our members the polluter of the whole body [Wordsworth], and setteth on fire the wheel of nature, and itself is set on fire by hell.—M.]

James 3:7. Lange: For every nature of the wild beasts and of the birds of the creeping creatures and of sea-creatures is tamed and hath been tamed by human nature.

[… of beasts and birds [lit. winged things], of creeping things and things in the sea …—M.]

[13]James 3:8. [δύναται δαμάσαι ἀνθρώπων. Cod. Sin. A. K.—M.]

[14] James 3:8. ἀκατάστατον is on good grounds preferred by Lachm. Tisch. according to A. B. Vulg. and Cod. Sin. to ἀκατάσχετον, Rec. C. G. K.

Lange: But the tongue no one of men is able to tame, the [causing restlessness and disquiet; Germ: “unruhstiftend”—] evil full of death-bringing poison.

[… it is a restless evil, full of death-bringing poison.—M.]

[15] James 3:9. A. B. G. Tisch. Lachm. [and Cod. Sin] read τὸν κύριον.

Lange: With it praise [bless] we the Lord and Father [also as Father] and with the same curse we men, who after the image [similitude] of God are created [have become, destined to become His children.]

[Therewith bless we the Lord and Father, and therewith … have been created after the likeness of God.—M.]

James 3:10. Lange: … praising and cursing.

[… goeth forth [Stier, de Wette, Allioli and al.]—M.]

Lange: It shall not be thus, my brethren, that these things come thus to pass.

[16]James 3:12. οὕτως is opposed by the most important witnesses. The immediate sequel in Text. Rec. becomes modified into οὔτε ἁλυκὸν γλυκὺ ποιῆσαι ὕδωρ. Cod. Sin. favours οὕτως etc. [Syr. “ita etiam aqua salsa non fieri potest dulcis.”—M.]

[17] James 3:12. [Cod. Sin. omits καὶ before γλυκὺ.—M.]

Lange: Doth the fountain, perchance, bubble out of the same opening sweet and bitter [water]? A fig-tree, my brethren, surely cannot produce olives, or the vine figs? [Thus] nor can [any fountain] salt [water] give sweet water.

[Doth a fountain, perchance, out of the same chink [Alford] send forth the sweet and the bitter? Can a fig-tree, my brethren, yield olives … nor can salt [water] yield sweet water.—M.]

James 3:13. Lange: Who is wise and intelligent among you? Let him show through good conduct his works [that is] in gentleness of wisdom.

[… intelligent among you [Bengel, Stier, de Wette, al] … out of a good conversation his works in meekness of wisdom.—M.]

[18] James 3:14. [Cod. Sin. ταῖς καρδ.—M.]

Lange: But if ye harbor bitter zeal and quarrelsomeness in your hearts, boast not yourselves …

[But if ye harbor bitter emulation and party-strife … boast not.—M.]

[19] James 3:14. [Cod. Sin. κατὰ τῆς ἀληθείας καὶ ψεύδεσθε.—M.]

James 3:15. Lange: For this wisdom is not that which cometh down from above, but an earthly, sensuous [soulish (Germ. seelisch, almost impossible to render in English without a circumlocution), passionate], devilish one.

[This wisdom is not that which is coming from above, but earthly, sensuous, devilish.—M.]

[20] James 3:16. [Cod. Sin. has καὶ after ἐκεῖ; so A.—M.]

Lange: For where is emulation and quarrelsomeness, there is seditious work and all manner of ovil doing.

[… emulation and party-strife, there is perturbation and every evil deed.—M.]

[21]James 3:17. A. B. C. Sin. and al. omit καὶ after ἀδιάκριτος.

[22] James 3:17. τῆς before δικαιοσύνης is omitted in A. B. C. L. [and Cod Sin.—M.]

Lange: But the wisdom from above is first of all consecrated [theocratically pure or chaste, free from apostasy], then peaceable, equitably disposed [philanthropical, humane], gladly yielding, full of compassion and good fruits, without separatism, without hypocrisy.

[… first pure, then peaceable, equitable, compliant, … undistinguishing, without hypocrisy.—M.]

James 3:18. Lange: But the [future] fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by them.…

My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.
Lange, John Peter - Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical

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