James 3:6
Parallel Verses
New International Version
The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one's life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

King James Bible
And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.

Darby Bible Translation
and the tongue [is] fire, the world of unrighteousness; the tongue is set in our members, the defiler of the whole body, and which sets fire to the course of nature, and is set on fire of hell.

World English Bible
And the tongue is a fire. The world of iniquity among our members is the tongue, which defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature, and is set on fire by Gehenna.

Young's Literal Translation
and the tongue is a fire, the world of the unrighteousness, so the tongue is set in our members, which is spotting our whole body, and is setting on fire the course of nature, and is set on fire by the gehenna.

James 3:6 Parallel
Commentary
Clarke's Commentary on the Bible

The tongue is a fire - It is often the instrument of producing the most desperate contentions and insurrections.

A world of iniquity - This is an unusual form of speech, but the meaning is plain enough; World signifies here a mass, a great collection, an abundance. We use the term in the same sense - a world of troubles, a world of toil, a world of anxiety; for great troubles, oppressive toil, most distressing anxiety. And one of our lexicographers calls his work a world of words; i.e. a vast collection of words: so we also say, a deluge of wickedness, a sea of troubles; and the Latins, oceanus malorum, an ocean of evils. I do not recollect an example of this use of the word among the Greek writers; but in this sense it appears to be used by the Septuagint, Proverbs 17:6 : Του πιστου ὁλος ὁ κοσμος των χρηματων, του δε απιστου ουδε οβολος, which may be translated, "The faithful has a world of riches, but the unfaithful not a penny." This clause has nothing answering to it in the Hebrew text. Some think that the word is thus used, 2 Peter 2:5 : And brought the flood, κοσμῳ ασεβων, on the multitude of the ungodly. Mr. Wakefield translates the clause thus: The tongue is the varnisher of injustice. We have seen that κοσμοςsignifies adorned, elegant, beautiful, etc., but I can scarcely think that this is its sense in this place. The Syriac gives a curious turn to the expression: And the tongue is a fire; and the world of iniquity is like a wood. Above, the same version has: A little fire burns great woods. So the world of iniquity is represented as inflamed by the wicked tongues of men; the world being fuel, and the tongue a fire.

So is the tongue among our members - I think St. James refers here to those well known speeches of the rabbins, Vayikra Rabba, sec. 16, fol. 159. "Rabbi Eleazar said, Man has one hundred and forty-eight members, some confined, others free. The tongue is placed between the jaws; and from under it proceeds a fountain of water, (the great sublingual salivary gland), and it is folded with various foldings. Come and see what a flame the tongue kindles! Were it one of the unconfined members, what would it not do?" The same sentiment, with a little variation, may be found in Midrash, Yalcut Simeoni, par. 2, fol. 107; and in Erachin, fol. xv. 2, on Psalm 120:3 : What shall be given unto thee, or what shall be done unto thee, thou false tongue? "The holy blessed God said to the tongue: All the rest of the members of the body are erect, but thou liest down; all the rest are external, but thou art internal. Nor is this enough: I have built two walls about thee; the one bone, the other flesh: What shall be given unto thee, and what shall be done unto thee, O thou false tongue?"

Setteth on fire the course of nature - Φλογιζουσα τον τροχον της γενεσεως· And setteth on fire the wheel of life. I question much whether this verse be in general well understood. There are three different interpretations of it:

1. St. James does not intend to express the whole circle of human affairs, so much affected by the tongue of man; but rather the penal wheel of the Greeks, and not unknown to the Jews, on which they were accustomed to extend criminals, to induce them to confess, or to punish them for crimes; under which wheels, fire was often placed to add to their torments. In the book, De Maccabaeis, attributed to Josephus, and found in Haverkamp's edition, vol. ii., p. 497-520, where we have the account of the martyrdom of seven Hebrew brothers, in chap. ix, speaking of the death of the eldest, it is said: Ανεβαλον αυτον επι τον τροχοι - περι ὁν κατατεινομενος· "They cast him on the wheel, over which they extended him; πυρ ὑπεστρωσαν και διηρεθισαν τον τροχον προσεπικατατεινοντες· they put coals under it, and strongly agitated the wheel." And of the martyrdom of the sixth brother it is said, cap. 11: Παρηγον επι τον τροχον, εφ' οὑ κατατεινομενος εκμελως και εκσφονδυλιζομενος ὑπεκαιετο, και οβελισκους δε οξεις πυρωσαντες, τοις νοτοις προσεφερον, και τα πλευρα διαπειραντες αυτου, και τα σπλαγχνα διεκαιον· They brought him to the wheel, on which, having distended his limbs, and broken his joints, they scorched him with the fire placed underneath; and with sharp spits heated in the fire, they pierced his sides, and burned his bowels.

The fire and the wheel are mentioned by Achilles Tatius, lib. 7, p. 449. "Having stripped me of my garments, I was carried aloft, των μεν μαστιγας κομιζοντων, των δε πυρ και τροχον, some bringing scourges, others the fire and the wheel." Now as γενεσις often signifies life, then the wheel of life will signify the miseries and torments of life. To set on fire the wheel of life is to increase a man's torments; and to be set on fire from hell implies having these miseries rendered more active by diabolic agency; or, in other words, bad men, instigated by the devil, through their lies and calumnies, make life burdensome to the objects of their malicious tongues. The wheel and the fire, so pointedly mentioned by St. James, make it probable that this sort of punishment might have suggested the idea to him. See more in Kypke.

2. But is it not possible that by the wheel of life St. James may have the circulation of the blood in view? Angry or irritating language has an astonishing influence on the circulation of the blood: the heart beats high and frequent; the blood is hurried through the arteries to the veins, through the veins to the heart, and through the heart to the arteries again, and so on; an extraordinary degree of heat is at the same time engendered; the eyes become more prominent in their sockets; the capillary vessels suffused with blood; the face flushed; and, in short, the whole wheel of nature is set on fire of hell. No description can be more natural than this: but it may be objected that this intimates that the circulation of the blood was known to St. James. Now supposing it does, is the thing impossible? It is allowed by some of the most judicious medical writers, that Solomon refers to this in his celebrated portraiture of old age, particularly in Ecclesiastes 12:6 : "Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern." Here is the very wheel of life from which St. James might have borrowed the idea; and the different times evidently refer to the circulation of the blood, which might be as well known to St. James as the doctrine of the parallax of the sun. See on James 1:17 (note).

3. It is true, however, that the rabbins use the term גלגל תולדות gilgal toledoth, "the wheel of generations," to mark the successive generations of men: and it is possible that St. James might refer to this; as if he had said: "The tongue has been the instrument of confusion and misery through all the ages of the world." But the other interpretations are more likely.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

the tongue.

Judges 12:4-6 Then Jephthah gathered together all the men of Gilead, and fought with Ephraim: and the men of Gilead smote Ephraim, because they said...

2 Samuel 19:43 And the men of Israel answered the men of Judah, and said, We have ten parts in the king, and we have also more right in David than you...

2 Samuel 20:1 And there happened to be there a man of Belial, whose name was Sheba, the son of Bichri, a Benjamite: and he blew a trumpet, and said...

2 Chronicles 10:13-16 And the king answered them roughly; and king Rehoboam forsook the counsel of the old men...

2 Chronicles 13:17 And Abijah and his people slew them with a great slaughter: so there fell down slain of Israel five hundred thousand chosen men.

Psalm 64:3 Who whet their tongue like a sword, and bend their bows to shoot their arrows, even bitter words:

Psalm 140:3 They have sharpened their tongues like a serpent; adders' poison is under their lips. Selah.

Proverbs 15:1 A soft answer turns away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.

Proverbs 16:27 An ungodly man digs up evil: and in his lips there is as a burning fire.

Proverbs 26:20,21 Where no wood is, there the fire goes out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceases...

Isaiah 30:27 Behold, the name of the LORD comes from far, burning with his anger, and the burden thereof is heavy: his lips are full of indignation...

a world.

James 2:7 Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which you are called?

Genesis 3:4-6 And the serpent said to the woman, You shall not surely die...

Leviticus 24:11 And the Israelitish woman's son blasphemed the name of the Lord, and cursed. And they brought him to Moses...

Numbers 25:2 And they called the people to the sacrifices of their gods: and the people did eat, and bowed down to their gods.

Numbers 31:16 Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the LORD in the matter of Peor...

Deuteronomy 13:6 If your brother, the son of your mother, or your son, or your daughter, or the wife of your bosom, or your friend...

Judges 16:15-20 And she said to him, How can you say, I love you, when your heart is not with me? you have mocked me these three times...

1 Samuel 22:9-17 Then answered Doeg the Edomite, which was set over the servants of Saul, and said, I saw the son of Jesse coming to Nob...

2 Samuel 13:26-29 Then said Absalom, If not, I pray you, let my brother Amnon go with us. And the king said to him, Why should he go with you...

2 Samuel 15:2-6 And Absalom rose up early, and stood beside the way of the gate: and it was so...

2 Samuel 16:20-23 Then said Absalom to Ahithophel, Give counsel among you what we shall do...

2 Samuel 17:1,2 Moreover Ahithophel said to Absalom, Let me now choose out twelve thousand men, and I will arise and pursue after David this night...

1 Kings 21:5-15 But Jezebel his wife came to him, and said to him, Why is your spirit so sad, that you eat no bread...

Proverbs 1:10-14 My son, if sinners entice you, consent you not...

Proverbs 6:19 A false witness that speaks lies, and he that sows discord among brothers.

Proverbs 7:5,21-23 That they may keep you from the strange woman, from the stranger which flatters with her words...

Jeremiah 20:10 For I heard the defaming of many, fear on every side. Report, say they, and we will report it. All my familiars watched for my halting...

Jeremiah 28:16 Therefore thus said the LORD; Behold, I will cast you from off the face of the earth: this year you shall die...

Matthew 12:24,32-36 But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow does not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils...

Matthew 15:11-20 Not that which goes into the mouth defiles a man; but that which comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man...

Mark 7:15,20-22 There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him...

Mark 14:55-57 And the chief priests and all the council sought for witness against Jesus to put him to death; and found none...

Acts 6:13 And set up false witnesses, which said, This man ceases not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law:

Acts 20:30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.

Romans 3:13,14 Their throat is an open sepulcher; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips...

Romans 16:17,18 Now I beseech you, brothers, mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which you have learned...

Ephesians 5:3,4 But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becomes saints...

Colossians 3:8,9 But now you also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth...

2 Thessalonians 2:10-12 And with all delusion of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth...

Titus 1:11 Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre's sake.

2 Peter 2:1,2 But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you...

2 Peter 3:3 Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts,

3 John 1:10 Why, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith...

Jude 1:8-10,15-18 Likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities...

Revelation 2:14,15 But I have a few things against you, because you have there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam...

Revelation 13:1-5,14 And I stood on the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns...

Revelation 18:23 And the light of a candle shall shine no more at all in you...

Revelation 19:20 And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that worked miracles before him...

it is.

Luke 16:24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water...

Acts 5:3 But Peter said, Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?

2 Corinthians 11:13-15 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ...

2 Thessalonians 2:9 Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,

Revelation 12:9 And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceives the whole world...

Library
January the Twenty-Sixth the Fire of Envy
"Where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work!" --JAMES iii. 13-18. In Milton's "Comus" we read of a certain potion which has the power to pervert all the senses of everyone who drinks it. Nothing is apprehended truly. Sight and hearing and taste are all disordered, and the victim is all unconscious of the confusion. The deadly draught is the minister of deceptive chaos. And envy is like that potion when it is drunk by the spirit. It perverts every moral and spiritual sense.
John Henry Jowett—My Daily Meditation for the Circling Year

Whether Wisdom Should be Reckoned among the Gifts of the Holy Ghost?
Objection 1: It would seem that wisdom ought not to be reckoned among the gifts of the Holy Ghost. For the gifts are more perfect than the virtues, as stated above ([2705]FS, Q[68], A[8]). Now virtue is directed to the good alone, wherefore Augustine says (De Lib. Arb. ii, 19) that "no man makes bad use of the virtues." Much more therefore are the gifts of the Holy Ghost directed to the good alone. But wisdom is directed to evil also, for it is written (James 3:15) that a certain wisdom is "earthly,
Saint Thomas Aquinas—Summa Theologica

Whether Our Atmosphere is the Demons' Place of Punishment?
Objection 1: It would seem that this atmosphere is not the demons' place of punishment. For a demon is a spiritual nature. But a spiritual nature is not affected by place. Therefore there is no place of punishment for demons. Objection 2: Further, man's sin is not graver than the demons'. But man's place of punishment is hell. Much more, therefore, is it the demons' place of punishment; and consequently not the darksome atmosphere. Objection 3: Further, the demons are punished with the pain of fire.
Saint Thomas Aquinas—Summa Theologica

Whether a Religious Sins More Grievously than a Secular by the Same Kind of Sin?
Objection 1: It would seem that a religious does not sin more grievously than a secular by the same kind of sin. For it is written (2 Paralip 30:18,19): "The Lord Who is good will show mercy to all them who with their whole heart seek the Lord the God of their fathers, and will not impute it to them that they are not sanctified." Now religious apparently follow the Lord the God of their fathers with their whole heart rather than seculars, who partly give themselves and their possessions to God and
Saint Thomas Aquinas—Summa Theologica

Cross References
Psalm 120:2
Save me, LORD, from lying lips and from deceitful tongues.

Psalm 120:3
What will he do to you, and what more besides, you deceitful tongue?

Proverbs 16:27
A scoundrel plots evil, and on their lips it is like a scorching fire.

Isaiah 50:11
But now, all you who light fires and provide yourselves with flaming torches, go, walk in the light of your fires and of the torches you have set ablaze. This is what you shall receive from my hand: You will lie down in torment.

Matthew 5:22
But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, 'Raca,' is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell.

Matthew 12:36
But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.

Matthew 15:11
What goes into someone's mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them."

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