Vincent's Word Studies
The Epistle of James
According to the oldest arrangement of the New Testament, the epistle of James stands first in order of all the apostolical epistles. The most competent critics generally agree in designating as its author James, the president of the church at Jerusalem, and known as the Lord's brother.
"No doubt," says Dean Stanley, "if we look at James' influence and authority from the more general point of view, whether of the whole Jewish Christian world or of the whole Gentile Christian world, it sinks into nothing before the majesty of Peter and Paul;" but within the circle of the purely Palestinian Christians, and in Jerusalem, James is the chief representative of the Christian society. The later traditions of the Jewish Christians invest him with a priestly sanctity. His austerities and devotions are described in extravagant terms. He is said to have kneeled until his knees were as hard as the knees of camels, and to have been constant in prayer in the temple. He went barefoot, and practised abstinence from wine, and wore the long hair, the linen ephod, and the unshorn beard of the Nazarites, and even abstained from washing. He was known as "The Just." The people vied with each other to touch the hem of his garment; and he is reputed to have called down rain in the drought, after the manner of Elijah. His chair was preserved as a relic until the fourth century, and a pillar in the valley of Jehoshaphat marked the spot where he fell.
The account of his martyrdom is given by Eusebius from the lost work of Hegesippus, by Josephus, and in the Clementine Recognitions. In Hegesippus and the Recognitions, the story is dramatic and deeply tinged with romance. The narrative of the former "is," says Dr. Schaff, "an overdrawn picture of the middle of the second century, colored by Judaizing traits, which may have been derived from 'the Ascents of James' and other apocryphal sources." It is, substantially, as follows: Having been asked, "What is the gate of Jesus?" he replied that he was the Saviour; from which some believed that Jesus is the Christ. The Jews and Scribes and Pharisees, becoming alarmed, came to James, and besought him to restrain the people from going after Jesus, to persuade against him all that came to the Passover, and, with this view, to stand on the pinnacle of the temple, where he might be seen and heard by all the people. They accordingly placed him there, and said, "O Just One, to whom we all give heed, inasmuch as the people is gone astray after Jesus who is crucified, tell us what is the gate of Jesus?" He answered, with a loud voice, "Why ask ye me concerning Jesus, the Son of man? He sits in heaven, on the right hand of the mighty power, and he is also about to come in the clouds of heaven." Many being convinced, and saying, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" the Scribes and Pharisees said, "We have done ill in furnishing so great a testimony to Jesus. Let us go and cast him down." They went up then and threw him down, and as he was not killed by the fall they began to stone him. And he, turning round, knelt and said, "I beseech thee, Lord God and Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." But while they were thus stoning him, one of the priests, of the sons of Rechab, cried, saying, "Stop! what do ye? The Just One prays for you;" and one of them, one of the fullers, took the club with which he used to press the cloths, and struck it on the head of the Just One. And so he bore witness, and they buried him on the place by the temple.
The epistle was probably written from Jerusalem, where James would be likely to become acquainted with the condition of the Jews, through those who came up at the feasts. Certain allusions in the epistle go to confirm this. The comparison of the double-minded man to a wave of the sea (James 1:6), and the picture of the ships (James 3:4), might well be written by one dwelling near the sea and familiar with it. The illustrations in James 3:11, James 3:12 - the figs, the oil, the wine, the salt and bitter springs - are furnished by Palestine, as are the drought (James 5:17, James 5:18), the former and the latter rain (James 5:7), and the hot, parching wind (James 1:11), for which the name καύσων, was specially known in Palestine.
The epistle is written from a Jewish stand-point. "Christianity appears in it, not as a new dispensation, but as a development and perfection of the old. The Christian's highest honor is not that he is a member of the universal church, but that he is the genuine type of the ancient Israelite. It reveals no new principle of spiritual life, such as those which were to turn the world upside down in the teaching of Paul or of John, but only that pure and perfect morality which was the true fulfilment of the law" (Stanley). Twice only the name of Christ occurs (James 1:1; James 2:1); the word "gospel" not at all; and there is no allusion to Redemption, Incarnation, Resurrection, or Ascension. The rules of morality which he lays down are enforced by Jewish rather than by Christian motives and sanctions. The violation of the "royal law" is menaced with the sentence of the law (James 2:8, James 2:13); and uncharitable judgment is deprecated on the ground of the law's condemnation, and not as alien to the spirit of Christ.
At the same time, the very legalism of the epistle is the outgrowth of the Sermon on the Mount, the language of which it reflects more than any other book of the New Testament. It meets the formalism, the fatalism, the hypocrisy, the arrogance, insolence, and oppression engendered by the sharp social distinctions of the age, with a teaching conceived in the spirit, and often expressed in the forms of the Great Teacher's moral code. "The epistle," says Dr. Scott, "strikes the ear from beginning to end as an echo of the oral teaching of our Lord. There is scarcely a thought in it which cannot be traced to Christ's personal teaching. If John has lain on the Saviour's bosom, James has sat at his feet."
The following correspondences may be noted:
Matthew James Matthew 5:3 James 1:9; James 2:5 Matthew 5:4 James 4:9 Matthew 5:7, Matthew 5:9 James 2:13; James 3:17 Matthew 5:8 James 4:8 Matthew 5:9 James 3:18 Matthew 5:11, Matthew 5:12 James 1:2; James 5:10, James 5:11 Matthew 5:19 James 1:19 seq., James 1:25; James 2:10, James 2:11 Matthew 5:22 James 1:20 Matthew 5:27 James 2:10, James 2:11 Matthew 5:34 seq. James 5:12 Matthew 5:48 James 1:4 Matthew 6:15 James 2:13 Matthew 6:19 James 5:2 seq. Matthew 6:24 James 4:4 Matthew 6:25 James 4:13-16 Matthew 7:1 seq. James 3:1; James 4:11 seq. Matthew 7:2 James 2:13 Matthew 7:7, Matthew 7:11 James 1:5, James 1:17 Matthew 7:8 James 4:3 Matthew 7:12 James 2:8 Matthew 7:16 James 3:12 Matthew 7:21-26 James 1:22; James 2:14; James 5:7-9
The style and diction of the epistle are strongly marked. Links connecting them with the historic individuality of the writer, which are so numerous in the case of Peter, are almost entirely wanting. The expression, "Hearken, my beloved brethren" (James 2:5), suggests the similar phrase, Acts 15:13; and the ordinary Greek greeting, χαίρειν, hail (Acts 15:23), is repeated in James 1:1; the only two places where it occurs in a Christian epistle. The purity of the Greek, and its comparative freedom from Hebraisms, are difficult to account for in a writer who had passed his life in Jerusalem. The style is sententious and antithetic; the thoughts not linked in logical connection, but massed in groups of short sentences, like the proverbial sayings of the Jews; with which class of literature the writer was evidently familiar. His utterance glows with the fervor of his spirit; it is rapid, exclamatory, graphic, abrupt, sometimes poetical in form, and moving with a rhythmical cadence. "It combines pure and eloquent and rhythmical Greek with Hebrew intensity of expression."
List of Greek Words Used by James Only
ἄγε go to James 4:13; James 5:1 ἀδιάκριτος without doubting James 3:17 ἀκατάστατος unstable James 1:18; James 3:8 ἁλυκός salt James 3:12 ἀμάω reap down James 5:4 ἀνέλεος unmerciful James 2:13 ἀνεμίζω to drive with the wind James 1:6 ἀπείραστος that cannot be tempted, or unversed James 1:13 ἁπλῶς liberally, simply James 1:5 ἀποκυέω bring forth, beget James 1:15, James 1:18 ἀποσκίασμα shadow James 1:17 αὐχέω to boast James 3:5 ἀφυστερέω to keep back by fraud James 5:4 βοή cry James 5:4 βρύω to send forth James 3:11 γέλως laughter James 4:9 δίψυχος double-minded James 1:8; James 4:8 εἴκω to be like James 1:6, James 1:23 ἔμφυτος implanted James 1:21 ἐνάλιος in the sea James 3:7 ἐξέλκω to draw away James 1:14 ἐπιλησμονή forgetfulness James 1:25 ἐπιστήμων knowing James 3:13 ἐπιτήδειος needful James 2:16 ὁ εὐθύνων steersman James 3:4 εὐπειθής easy to be intreated James 3:17 εὐπρέπεια grace James 1:11 ἐφήμερος daily James 2:15 θανατηφόρος deadly James 3:8 θρῆσκος religious James 1:26 ἰός poison, rust James 3:8; James 5:3 κακοπάθεια suffering James 5:10 κατήφεια heaviness James 4:9 κατιόω to canker James 5:3 κατοικίζω to cause to dwell James 4:5 κενῶς in vain James 4:5 μαραίνω to fade James 1:11 μετάγω to turn about James 3:3, James 3:4 νομοθέτης lawgiver James 4:12 ὀλολύζω to howl James 5:1 ὄψιμος latter James 5:7 παραλλαγή variation James 1:17 πικρός bitter James 3:11, James 3:14 ποίησις doing James 1:25 πολύσπλαγχνος full of pity James 5:11 προσωπολημπτέω to have respect to persons James 2:9 πρώΐμος early James 5:7 ῥιπίζω toss James 1:6 ῥυπαρία filthiness James 1:21 σήπω to corrupt James 5:2 σητόβρωτος moth-eaten James 5:2 ταλαιπωρέω to be afflicted James 4:9 ταχύς swift James 1:19 τροπή turning James 1:17 τροχός wheel James 3:6 τρυφάω to live daintily James 5:5 ὕλη wood, forest James 3:5 φιλία friendship James 4:4 φλογίζω to set on fire James 3:6 φρίσσω to shudder James 2:19 χαλιναγωγέω to bridle James 1:26; James 3:2 χρή ought James 3:10 χρυσοδακτύλιος adorned with gold rings James 2:2
James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.
Only here and in James 2:1; nowhere in the speeches of James (Acts 15:14, Acts 15:15; Acts 21:20 sq.). Had he used Jesus' name it might have been supposed to arise from vanity, because he was the Lord's brother. In all the addresses of epistles the full name, Jesus Christ, is given.
Properly, hired servant. Compare Philippians 1:1; Jde 1:1.
That are scattered abroad (ἐν τῇ διασπορᾷ)
Lit., in the dispersion; on which see on 1 Peter 1:1. Rev., which are of the dispersion.
Lit., rejoice. The ordinary Greek salutation, hail! welcome! Also used at parting: joy be with you. Compare the same expression in the letter from the church at Jerusalem, Acts 15:23; one of the very few peculiarities of style which connect this epistle with the James of the Acts. It does not occur in the address of any other of the Apostolic Epistles.
My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;
All joy (πᾶσαν χαρὰν)
Joy follows up the rejoice of the greeting. The all has the sense of wholly. Count it a thing wholly joyful, without admixture of sorrow. Perhaps, as Bengel suggests, the all applies to all kinds of temptations.
Lit., whenever: better, because it implies that temptation may be expected all along the Christian course.
Ye fall into (περιπέσητε)
The preposition περί, around, suggests falling into something which surrounds. Thus Thucydides, speaking of the plague at Athens, says, "The Athenians, having fallen into (περιπεσόντες) such affliction, were pressed by it."
Rev., manifold. See on 1 Peter 1:6.
In the general sense of trials. See on Matthew 6:13; and 1 Peter 1:6.
Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.
Rev., proof; but the American Revisers insist on proving, and rightly. See on 1 Peter 1:7.
The compound verb with κατά, down through, indicates accomplishment. The proving will work successfully and thoroughly. This harmonizes with a perfect work, James 1:4.
See on 2 Peter 1:6, and James 5:7.
But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
Perfect work (ἔργον τέλειον)
"This is followed by a perfect man. The man himself is characterized from his condition and work" (Bengel). Work (ἔργον) is the word with which κατεργάζεται, worketh, is compounded. It is the accomplished result of patience in moral purification and ennobling. Compare work of faith, 1 Thessalonians 1:3.
Perfect and entire (τέλειοι καὶ ὁλόκληροι)
The two words express different shades of thought. Τέλειοι, perfect, from τέλος, fulfilment or completion (perfect, from perfectus, per factus, made throughout), denotes that which, h has reached its maturity or fulfilled the end contemplated. Ολόκληροι, from ὅλος, entire, and κλῆρος, a lot or allotment; that which has all which properly belongs to it; its entire allotment, and is, therefore, intact in all its parts. Thus Peter (Acts 3:16) says of the restored cripple, "faith has given him this perfect soundness (ὁλοκληρίαν). Compare the familiar phrase, an accomplished man. Note, also, James' repetition of the key-words of his discourse, rejoice, joy, patience, perfect.
Wanting nothing (ἐν μηδενὶ λειπόμενοι)
Rev., more literally, lacking in nothing. Note James' characteristic corroboration of a positive statement by a negative clause: entire, lacking in nothing ; God that giveth and upbraideth not; in faith, nothing doubting. The conditional negative μηδενὶ, nothing, is used, rather than the absolute negative οὐδενὶ, as implying nothing which may be supposed ; no possible thing.
If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
Omitted in A. V. In pursuing this perfection you will find yourselves lacking in wisdom. One may say, "I know not how to become perfect;" but, if any man, etc.
Note the repetition.
Of God that giveth (τοῦ διδόντος Θεοῦ)
The Greek puts it so that giving is emphasized as an attribute of God. Lit., "Ask of the giving God," or of "God the giver."
Only here in New Testament. Literally the word means simply, and this accords with the following negative clause, upbraiding not. It is pure, simple giving of good, without admixture of evil or bitterness. Compare Romans 12:8, where a kindred noun is used: "He that giveth let him do it with simplicity (ἐν ἁπλότητι)." Compare, also, Proverbs 10:22. Men often complicate and mar their giving with reproach, or by an assumption of superiority.
But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.
Compare Matthew 21:21. Not equivalent to unbelief, but expressing the hesitation which balances between faith and unbelief, and inclines toward the latter. This idea is brought out in the next sentence.
A wave (κλύδωνι)
Rev., surge. Only here and Luke 8:24; though the kindred verb occurs at Ephesians 4:14. The word is admirably chosen, as by a writer who lived near the sea and was familiar with its aspects. The general distinction between this and the more common κῦμα, wave, is that κλύδων describes the long ridges of water as they are propelled in horizontal lines over the vast surface of the sea; while κῦμα denotes the pointed masses which toss themselves up from these under the action of the wind. Hence the word κλύδων here is explained, and the picture completed by what follows: a billow or surge, driven by the wind in lines, and tossed into waves. Both here and in the passage in Luke the word is used in connection with the wind. It emphasizes the idea of extension, while the other word throws forward the idea of concentrating into a crest at a given point. Hence, in the figure, the emphasis falls on the tossing; not only moving before the impulse of the wind, but not even moving in regular lines; tossed into rising and falling peaks.
Driven by the wind (ἀνεμιζομένῳ)
Only here in New Testament.
Only here in New Testament. From ῥιπίς, a fan. Anyone who has watched the great ocean-swell throwing itself up into pointed waves, the tops of which are caught by the wind and fanned off into spray, will appreciate the vividness of the figure.
For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.
That man (ἐκεῖνος)
Emphatic, and with a slightly contemptuous force.
i.e., which he asks for.
A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.
A double-minded man is unstable, etc
The A. V. puts this as an independent apophthegm, which is wrong. The sentence is a comment and enlargement upon that man. "Let not that man think," etc., "a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways." So Rev.
Peculiar to James, here and James 4:8. Not deceitful, but dubious and undecided.
Only here in New Testament. The kindred ἀκαταστασία, confusion, is found James 3:16, and elsewhere.
Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted:
Omitted in A. V. Introducing a contrast with the double-minded.
The brother of low degree (ὁ ἀδελφὸς ὁ ταπεινὸς)
Lit., the brother, the lowly one. Not in the higher Christian sense of ταπεινὸς (see on Matthew 11:29), but, rather, poor and afflicted, as contrasted with rich.
Not strong enough. It is, rather, boast. So Rev., glory. Compare Romans 5:3; Philippians 3:3.
In that he is exalted (ἐν τῷ ὕψει αὐτοῦ)
Lit., in his exaltation. Rev., in his high estate.
But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away.
In that he is made low (ἐν τῇ ταπεινώσει αὐτοῦ)
A form of expression similar to the preceding. Lit., in his humiliation. Both the A. V. and Rev. preserve the kinship between ταπεινὸς and ταπεινώσει, by the word low.
Only here, James 1:11, and 1 Peter 1:24.
For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways.
For the sun is no sooner risen, etc. (ἀνέτειλεν γὰρ ὁ ἥλιος)
By the use of the aorist tense James graphically throws his illustration into the narrative form: "For the sun arose - and withered," etc.
With a burning heat (τῷ καύσωνι)
Rev., with the scorching wind. The article denotes something familiar; and the reference may be to the scorching east-wind (Job 1:19, Sept.; Ezekiel 17:10), which withers vegetation. Some of the best authorities, however, prefer the rendering of the A. V.
Aorist tense. Lit., fell off.
The grace of the fashion (εὐπρέπεια τοῦ προσώπου)
Lit., the beauty of its face or appearance. Εὐπρέπεια only here in New Testament.
Fade away (μαρανθήσεται)
See on 1 Peter 1:4.
Rev., goings. Only here and Luke 13:22. His goings to and fro in acquiring riches.
Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.
Is tried (δόκιμος γενόμενος)
Lit., having become approved. See on trial, 1 Peter 1:7. The meaning is not, as the A. V. suggests, when his trial is finished, but when he has been approved by trial. Rev., rightly, when he hath been approved.
The crown (στέφανον)
See on 1 Peter 5:4.
Of life (τῶς ζωῆς)
Lit., the life: the article pointing to the well-known eternal life. The figure is not that of the athlete's crown, for an image from the Grecian games, which the Jews despised, would be foreign to James' thought and displeasing to his readers. Rather the kingly crown, the proper word for which is διάδημα, diadem. In Psalm 20:3 (Sept.), στέφανος is used of the royal crown. In Zechariah 6:11, Zechariah 6:14, the reference seems to be to a priestly crown, forming part of the high-priest's mitre.
Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:
Of God (ἀπὸ Θεοῦ)
Lit., from God. Not by God, as the direct agent, but by agency proceeding from God. Compare Matthew 4:1, where the direct agency, "by the spirit," "by the devil," is expressed by ὑπό.
Cannot be tempted (ἀπείραστος ἐστι)
Lit., is incapable of being tempted. But some of the best expositors render is unversed in, evil things, as better according both with the usage of the word and with the context, since the question is not of God's being tempted, but of God's tempting. Rev. gives this in margin. Ἀπείραστος, only here in New Testament.
Neither tempteth he (πειράζει δὲ αὐτὸς)
The A. V. fails to render αὐτὸς: "He himself tempteth no man." So Rev.
But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.
Drawn away (ἐξελκόμενος)
Only here in New Testament. This and the following word are metaphors from hunting and fishing. Drawn away, as beasts are enticed from a safecovert into a place beset with snares. Note the present participle, as indicating the progress of the temptation: "is being drawn away."
As a fish with bait. Also the present participle. See on 2 Peter 2:14.
Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.
Note the article, omitted in A. V. The peculiar lust of his own.
Hath conceived (συλλαβοῦσα)
Lit., having conceived.
Bringeth forth (τίκτει)
Metaphor of the mother. Rev., beareth.
When it is finished (ἀποτελεσθεῖσα)
Better, Rev., when it is full grown. Not when the course of a sinful life is completed; but when sin has reached its full development.
Bringeth forth (ἀποκύει)
A different verb from the preceding, bringeth forth. Rev. has rendered τίκτει, beareth, in order to avoid the repetition of bringeth forth. The verb is used by James only, here and at James 1:18. The image is interpreted in two ways. Either (1) Sin, figured as female, is already pregnant with death, and, when full grown, bringeth forth death (so Rev., and the majority of commentators). "The harlot, Lust, draws away and entices the man. The guilty union is committed by the will embracing the temptress: the consequence is that she beareth sin....Then the sin, that particular sin, when grown up, herself, as if all along pregnant with it, bringeth forth death" (Alford). Or (2) Sin, figured as male, when it has reached maturity, becomes the begetter of death. So the Vulgate, generat, and Wyc., gendereth. I am inclined to prefer this, since the other seems somewhat forced. It has the high endorsement of Bishop Lightfoot. There is a suggestive parallel passage in the "Agamemnon" of Aeschylus, 751-771:
"There is a saying old,
Uttered in ancient days,
That human bliss, full grown,
Genders, and dies not childless:
And, for the coming race,
Springs woe insatiate from prosperity.
Cherish within my breast another thought.
The impious deed
Begets a numerous brood alike in kind;
While households ruled by right inflexible
Blossom with offspring fair. Insolence old
In men depraved begetteth insolence,
Which springs afresh from time to time
As comes the day of doom, and fresh creates
In Ate's dismal halls
Fierce wrath from light,
Unhallowed Daring, fiend invincible,
Unconquered, with its parents' likeness stamped."
The magnificent passage in Milton's "Paradise Lost," ii., 760-801, is elaborated from these verses of James.
Do not err, my beloved brethren.
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.
The first words of this verse form a hexameter line, thus:
Πᾶσα δόσις ἀγαθὴ καὶ πᾶν δῶρημα τέλειον.
Such verses, or parts of verses, occur occasionally in the New Testament. Sometimes they are quotations from the Greek poets; sometimes the writer's words unconsciously fall into metrical form. Poetical quotations are confined to Paul, Acts 17:28; 1 Corinthians 15:33; Titus 1:12.
Every good gift and every perfect gift (see Greek above)
The statement that these gifts are from God is in pursuance of the idea that God does not tempt men to evil. The gifts of God are contrasted with the evil springing from man's lust. Two words are used for gifts. Δόσις occurs only here and Philippians 4:15; there in an active sense; but here passive, as in Proverbs 21:14: (Sept.). Δῶρημα is found Romans 5:16. It enlarges slightly upon the other word in emphasizing the gift as free, large, full; an idea which is further developed in James 1:18, of his own will. The Rev., rather awkwardly, endeavors to bring out the distinction by the word boon, for which the American Revisers insist on retaining gift. Boon originally means a petition; favor being a secondary and later sense, as of something given in response to a petition. The word is of Scandinavian origin, and the meaning favor seems to indicate a confusion with the Latin bonus, good; French, bon.
Enlarges upon good, bringing out more distinctly the moral quality of the gift.
And cometh down (καταβαῖνον)
A present participle, to be construed with ἄνωθεν ἐστιν, is from above. Lit., is coming down, from above. As usual, this union of the participle with the finite verb denotes something habitual. Render, descendeth from above. Compare James 3:15.
Father of lights (τοῦ πατρὸς τῶν φώτων)
Lit., the lights, by which are meant the heavenly bodies. Compare Psalm 135:7 (Sept.); and Jeremiah 4:23 (Sept.). God is called "the Father of the lights," as being their creator and maintainer. Compare Job 38:28; Psalm 8:3; Amos 5:8.
Is no variableness (ἔνι)
Abbreviated from ἔνεστι, is in. Stronger than the simple is, and denoting inherence or indwelling. Rev., can be.
Better, Rev., variation. The word is not used, as some suppose, in a technical, astronomical sense, which James' readers would not have understood, but in the simple sense of change in the degree or intensity of light, such as is manifested by the heavenly bodies. Compare Plato, "Republic," vii., 530: "Will he (the astronomer) not think that the heaven and the things in heaven are framed by the Creator in the most perfect manner? But when he reflects that the proportions of night and day, or of both, to the month, or of the month to the year, or of the other stars to these and to one another, are of the visible and material, he will never fall into the error of supposing that they are eternal and liable to no deviation (οὐδὲν παραλλάττειν) - that would be monstrous."
Shadow of turning (τροπῆς ἀποσκίασμα)
This is popularly understood to mean that there is in God not the faintest hint or shade of change, like the phrase, a shadow of suspicion. But the Greek has no such idiom, and that is not James' meaning. Rev., rightly, renders, shadow that is cast by turning; referring still to the heavenly orbs, which cast shadows in their revolution, as when the moon turns her dark side to us, or the sun is eclipsed by the body of the moon.
Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
Rev., brought forth. See on James 1:15, and compare 1 John 3:9; 1 Peter 1:23.
A kind of first-fruits (ἀπαρχήν τινα)
A kind of indicates the figurative nature of the term. Time figure is taken from the requirement of the Jewish law that the first-born of men and cattle, and the first growth of fruits and grain should be consecrated to the Lord. The point of the illustration is that Christians, like first-fruits, should be consecrated to God. The expression "first-fruits" is common in the New Testament. See Romans 8:23; Romans 16:5; 1 Corinthians 15:20, 1 Corinthians 15:23; Revelation 14:4.
Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:
The A. V. follows the reading ὥστε. But the correct reading is ἴστε, ye know, and so Rev. Others render it as imperative, know ye, as calling attention to what follows.
For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.
Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.
Only here in New Testament, but James uses the kindred adjective (James 2:2), "vile raiment." Ῥύπος, filth, occurs in 1 Peter 3:21 - on which see notes; and the verb ῥυπόω, to be filthy, is found in Revelation 22:11.
Superfluity of naughtiness (περισσείαν κακίας)
A translation which may be commended to the attention of indiscriminate panegyrists of the A. V. Περισσεία is an unclassical word, and occurs in three other New-Testament passages - Romans 5:17; 2 Corinthians 8:2; 2 Corinthians 10:15. In all these it is rendered abundance, both by A. V. and Rev. There seems to be no need of departing from this meaning here, as Rev., overjoying. The sense is abounding or abundant wickedness. For haughtiness Rev. gives wickedness, as in 1 Peter 2:1, 1 Peter 2:16, where it changes malice to wickedness. It is mostly rendered malice in both A. V. and Rev. In this passage, as in the two from Peter, Rev. gives malice, in margin. Malice is an adequate translation, the word denoting a malevolent disposition toward one's neighbor. Hence it is not a general term for moral evil, but a special form of vice. Compare the wrath of man, James 1:20. Naughtiness has acquired a petty sense in popular usage, as of the mischievous pranks of children, which renders it out of the question here.
With meekness (ἐν πραΰ́τητι)
Lit., "in meekness;" opposed to malice.
Only here in New Testament. Better, and more literally, as Rev., implanted. It marks a characteristic of the word of truth (James 1:18). It is implanted; divinely given, in contrast with something acquired by study. Compare Matthew 13:19, "the word of the kingdom - sown in his heart." Grafted or graffed is expressed by a peculiar word, employed by Paul only, ἐγκεντρίζω, from κέντρον, a sharp point, thus emphasizing the fact of the incision required in grafting. See Romans 11:17, Romans 11:19, Romans 11:23, Romans 11:24.
Which is able to save (τὸν δυνάμενον σῶσαι)
Compare Romans 1:16, "the power of God unto salvation."
But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.
Used by James only.
From παρά, beside, contrary to, and λογίζομαι, to reckon, and hence to conclude by reasoning. The deception referred to is, therefore, that into which one betrays himself by false reasoning - reasoning beside the truth.
For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass:
With the notion of attentively considering (κατά, down into, or through; compare εἰς, into, James 1:25). Compare Luke 12:24, Luke 12:27; Hebrews 3:1. So that the contrast is not between a hasty look and a careful contemplation (James 1:25, looketh). It is not mere careless hearing of the word which James rebukes, but the neglect to carry into practice what is heard. One may be an attentive and critical hearer of the word, yet not a doer.
His natural face (τὸ πρόσωπον τῆς γενέσεως)
Lit., the countenance of his birth; the face he was born with.
In a glass (ἐν ἐσόπτρῳ)
Better, Rev., a mirror; a metallic mirror. The word occurs only here and 1 Corinthians 13:12.
For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.
He beholdeth (κατενόησεν)
The aorist tense, throwing the sentence into a lively, narrative form: he beheld himself and forgot. Compare James 1:11.
But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.
Whoso looketh (ὁ παρακύψας)
Rev., more strictly, he that looketh. See on 1 Peter 1:12. The verb is used of one who stoops sideways (παρά) to look attentively. The mirror is conceived as placed on a table or on the ground. Bengel quotes Wisdom of Sirach 14:23: "He that prieth in at her (Wisdom's) windows shall also hearken at her doors." Coleridge remarks: "A more happy or forcible word could not have been chosen to express the nature and ultimate object of reflection, and to enforce the necessity of it, in order to discover the living fountain and spring-head of the evidence of the Christian faith in the believer himself, and at the same time to point out the seat and region where alone it is to be found" ("Aphorisms").
Denoting the penetration of the look into the very essence of the law.
The perfect law of liberty (νόμον τέλειον τὸν τῆς ἐλευθερίας)
Lit., the perfect law, the law of liberty. So Rev. The law of liberty is added as defining the perfect law.
Better, Rev., so continueth; i.e., continues looking.
Forgetful hearer (ἀκροατὴς ἐπιλησμονῆς)
The latter word only here in New Testament. Lit., a hearer of forgetfulness; whom forgetfulness characterizes. Rev., very happily, a hearer that forgetteth; a rendering which gives the proper sense of forgetfulness as a characteristic better than A. V., a forgetful hearer.
Doer of the work
Lit., of work, as the noun has no article. Rev., a doer that worketh.
In his deed (ἐν τῇ ποιήσει αὐτοῦ)
More correctly, as Rev., in his doing. Only here in New Testament. The preposition ἐν (in) marks the inner connection between doing and blessedness. "The life of obedience is the element wherein the blessedness is found and consists" (Alford).
If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain.
Seem to be (δοκεῖ)
Rev., correctly, thinketh himself to be. A man can scarcely seem to be religious, when, as Trench observes, "his religious pretensions are belied and refuted by the allowance of an unbridled tongue."
Only here in New Testament, and nowhere in classical Greek. The kindred noun θρησκεία, religion, occurs Acts 26:5; Colossians 2:18; James 1:26, James 1:27; and means the ceremonial service of religion. Herodotus (ii., 37) uses it of various observances practised by the Egyptian priests, such as wearing linen, circumcision, shaving, etc. The derivation is uncertain. Θρέομαι, to mutter forms of prayer, has been suggested, as the followers of Wycliffe were called Lollards, from the old Dutch lullen or lollen, to sing. Hence the adjective here refers to a zealous and diligent performance of religious services.
Used by James only. See James 3:2. Lit., to guide with a bridle. So Plato, "Laws," 701: "I think that the argument ought to be pulled up from time to time, and not to be allowed to run away, but held with bit and bridle."
Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
See on 1 Peter 1:4. The two adjectives, pure and undefiled, present the positive and negative sides of purity.
To visit (ἐπισκέπτεσθαι)
See on Matthew 25:36. James strikes a downright blow here at ministry by proxy, or by mere gifts of money. Pure and undefiled religion demands personal contact with the world's sorrow: to visit the afflicted, and to visit them in their affliction. "The rich man, prodigal of money, which is to him of little value, but altogether incapable of devoting any personal attention to the object of his alms, often injures society by his donations; but this is rarely the case with that far nobler charity which makes men familiar with the haunts of wretchedness, and follows the object of its care through all the phases of his life" (Lecky, "History of European Morals," ii., 98).
To keep (τηρεῖν)
See on 1 Peter 1:4.
See on 1 Peter 1:19.
Vincent's Word Studies, by Marvin R. Vincent .
Text Courtesy of Internet Sacred Texts Archive.