Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary - Alford
James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.ΙΑΚΩΒΟΥ ΕΠΙΣΤΟΛΗ
Chap. 1:1.] Address and greeting. James (for all questions who the Author of this Epistle was, see the Prolegomena. I assume here that which I have there endeavoured to establish, that it is “James the Lord’s brother,” the first president or bishop of the church at Jerusalem, an Apostle, but not one of the Twelve), servant (not necessarily, as Huther, an official appellation; but implying, as he also confesses, devotion to God and His work alone, irrespectively of self-will or other men’s will. Œc. says, ὑπὲρ πᾶν δὲ κοσμικὸν ἀξίωμα οἱ τοῦ κυρίου ἀπόστολοι τὸ δοῦλοι εἶναι χριστοῦ καλλωπιζόμενοι, τοῦτο γνώρισμα ἑαυτῶν βούλονται ποιεῖσθαι, καὶ λέγοντες, καὶ ἐπιστέλλοντες καὶ διδάσκοντες. Similarly Didymus, and Incert. in Catena) of God, and of the Lord Jesus Christ (not ‘of the God and Lord, J. C.,’ but as Œc., θεοῦ μέν, τοῦ πατρός· κυρίου δέ, τοῦ υἱοῦ. Huther remarks, that in all the addresses of Epistles, the whole name Ἰησοῦς χριστός is given. St. James mentions our Lord only here and ch. 2:1 in this Epistle, and not at all in his speeches in Act_15 and 21 Bengel says, “Videri potuisset, si Jesum sæpe appellaret, id ex ambitione facere, cum esset frater Domini. Atque eo minus novit Christum secundum carnem”), to the twelve tribes (of Israel: nor can there be any reasonable doubt that this Epistle was addressed to Jewish Christians in the first place. Not however to them, as distinguished from Gentile Christians: for the two classes appear to have been not as yet distinct. If the later date of the Epistle be taken (see Prolegg), then the Jewish Christians are addressed as the nucleus and kernel of all Christendom. But to my mind, the former is more probable) which are in the dispersion (“Legimus, occiso a Judæis B. Stephano, quia facta est in illa die persecutio magna in ecclesia quæ erat Hierosolymis, et omnes dispersi sunt per regiones Judææ et Samariæ, præter Apostolos. His ergo dispersis qui persecutionem passi sunt propter justitiam, mittit Epistolam.” This is hardly correct; but more probable than De W.’s view that the words are used merely to describe the scattered and distressed state of the Christians, as διασπορά did of the Jews. The most likely reference of διασπορά is to the literal and actual Jewish dispersion, as in reff.: and the Epistle must be considered as addressed, from the head of the mother church in Jerusalem, to the Jewish believers, residing among the dispersed tribes of Israel), greeting (the formula χαίρειν is not found in the address of any other apostolical Epistle; but it occurs in the Epistle drawn up under the direction of James to the Gentile churches in Acts 15:23).
2-12.] Exhortations regarding the endurance of trials.
2.] Think it all joy (χαράν, following up χαίρειν, a characteristic of the style of this Epistle: so ὑπομονήν· ἡ δὲ ὑπομονή, ver. 3; λειπόμενοι· εἰ δέ τις λείπεται, ver. 4 f.; διακρινόμενος· ὁ δὲ διακρινόμενος, ver. 6; ἀπεἰραστός ἐστι … πειράζει δέ, ver. 13; βραδὺς εἰς ὀργήν· ὀργὴ γάρ, ver. 19 f.; τὸν ἔμφυτον λόγον.… γίνεσθε δὲ ποιηταὶ λόγου, ver. 21 f.; τούτου μάταιος ἡ θρησκεία· θρησκεία καθαρὰ κ.τ.λ., ver. 26 f.;—yea, and that when &c. πᾶσαν, as in reff., not “all (of it) joy,” eitel Freude, as Luther: but “all sorts of,” “every kind of,” “all conceivable,” “rem revera omnique ex parte lætam,” as Theile, in Huther. Bengel’s idea is good, that ‘all’ is used as applying to all kinds of temptations; transferred from the subject to the predicate), my brethren (this is the constant address in our Epistle. It betokens community of origin and of faith), whensoever ye fall into (περιπίπτειν is used of becoming unexpectedly surrounded by adverse circumstances of any kind: so in reff.: so ὅστις ἂν τοιαύταις ξυμφοραῖς περιπέσῃ, Plato, Legg. ix. p. 877 c: μεγάλοις ἀτυχήμασιν ὑπʼ Αἰτωλῶν, καὶ μεγάλαις συμφοραῖς περιπεσόντες, Polyb. iv. 19. 13: περιπεσὼν βιαίοις πληγαῖς, ib. iii. 116. 9. Herodotus also uses the expression, cf. vi. 16, and Thuc. ii. 54) various temptations (the πειρασμοί here are not only what we properly call temptations, but any kind of distresses which happen to us, from without or from within, which in God’s purpose serve as trials of us: the latter word being, in this its now common general meaning, a word derived from the Christian life. See ref. 1 Pet., which is strictly parallel. Œc. says, after Chrys. (in Catena), τὴν κατὰ θεὸν λύπην καὶ τοὺς πειρασμοὺς τούτους καὶ ἐπαινετοὺς οἶδε καὶ χαρᾶς ἀξίους· δεσμὸς γὰρ οὗτοί εἰσιν ἀῤῥαγής, καὶ αὔξησις ἀγάπης καὶ κατανύξεως. Then, after quoting Sir. 2:1: John 16:33: and Matthew 7:14, … οὐ γάρ ἐστιν ἐκτὸς γυμνασίων οὔτε κοσμικῶν οὔτε τῶν κατὰ θεὸν στεφάνων ἀξιωθῆναι):
3.] Ground of this joy: knowing (as you do) that the proof of your faith (δοκίμιον, or δοκιμεῖον, Plato, Tim. p. 65 c. Pott explains it, “quo quid exploratur;” Heisen, “quo rei, quæ sub examen vocatur, manifestatur sinceritas, eaque probatur omne id intrinseca virtute possidere, quod extrinsecus specie et nomine præ se fert.” So in Dion. Hal. Rhetor. ii., δεῖ δὲ ὥσπερ κανόνα εἰναι καὶ σταθμήν τινα καὶ δοκίμιον ὡρισμένον πρὸς ὅ τις ἀποβλέπων δυνήσεται τὴν κρίσιν ποιεῖσθαι: so, but joining with the idea of a test that of amelioration and perfecting also, Herodian ii. 10. 12, δοκίμιον δὲ στρατιωτῶν κάματος ἀλλʼ οὐ τροφή. The word must be taken here as abstract, ‘the proving,’ not as concrete, ‘the medium of proof,’ viz. the temptations. See further on 1Peter 1:7) worketh (reff.) endurance (ὑπομονή, “perseverantia, quod magis est quam patientia,” Theile. But does not St. Paul, Romans 5:3, Romans 5:4, state precisely the converse, viz. that ἡ θλῖψις ὑπομονὴν κατεργάζεται, ἡ δὲ ὑπομονὴ δοκιμήν? Doubtless: but it is really the same that is said: θλῖψις there = τὸ δοκίμιον here. As De Wette observes, the thought is not carried to its end as in Rom., but the Apostle breaks away at ὑπομονήν to exhort respecting it):
4.] but (q. d. and be not weary of enduring: but) let endurance have a perfect work (σκόπει, οὐκ εἶπε τὴν ὑπομονὴν ὁριστικῶς, ὅτι ἔργον τέλειον ἔχει, ἀλλὰ προστακτικῶς, ἐχέτω· οὐ γὰρ προϋποκειμένην ἀρετὴν ἐξαγγέλλει, ἀλλὰ νῦν ἐγγινομένην· ὡς χρὴ γενέσθαι νομοθετεῖ. Œc. In fact, from the repetition of ἔργον from κατεργάζεται, it is much as if he had said ἡ δὲ ὑπομονὴ κατεργαζέσθω σωτηρίαν τέλειον. The allusion seems to be to our Lord’s saying Matthew 24:13, ὁ δὲ ὑπομείνας εἰς τέλος, οὗτος σωθήσεται. So that the words are to be taken simply and literally; ὑπομονή as the abstract, endurance, and ἔργον as the work wrought out (see reff.) by ὑπομονή in its continuance: not as by De Wette after Erasmus (“Tolerantia non habebit laudem absolutam, nisi quemad-modum in malis tolerandis fortis est et alacris, ita in bonis operibus exercendis sibi constet”), Calov., Morus (“Tolerantia adjunctum habeat factum”), Pott (“Perseverantiæ fructus sit perfectum virtutis studium”), al., to be understood as if ὑπομονή were ὁ ὑπομένων, and ἔργον the aggregate of ἔργα. And τέλειος is not to be understood as = εἰς τέλος ὑπομένων, but in its ordinary sense of ‘perfect,’ fully brought out and accomplished. And as Bengel remarks, “Perfecta est patientia, quæ gaudet”), that ye may be perfect (for the work of God in a man is the man. If God’s teaching by patience have had a perfect work in you, you are perfect: His is a λόγος ἔμφυτος, ver. 21. And the purpose of that work is, to make as perfect) and entire (that in which every part is present in its place: so we have ὁλόκληρος καὶ ὑγιής, Plato, Tim. p. 44 c: τὸ βασίλειον ὂν ἐν ὁλοκλήρῳ τῷ γένει, Corp. Inscrip. 353. 26. The word is much used in Philo (see also Athenæus vii. p. 700 and Pollux i. 1 in Wolf here) of sacrifices and sacrificing priests, in a technical sense, of which however there is no trace here), deficient in nothing (the subjoining a negative corroboration to a positive clause is characteristic of St. James: cf. vv. 5 and 6. The expression here is illustrated by Raphel from Polyb. p. 1202, 1. 15, ἐν τῇ πρὸς Ῥωμαίους εὐνοίᾳ παρὰ πολὺ τἀδελφοῦ λειπόμενος. Here however there is no comparison with others, only one implied with that ὁλοκληρία which ought to be their ultimate state).
5.] But (q. d. but this perfection and entireness, this defect in nothing, will not be yet attained; and you will find, when you aim at it, that you are lacking in the very first requisite) if any of you (εἰ is not “quandoquidem,” as Estius, but εἴ τις is as usual ‘if any,’ and nearly = ὃστις ἄν) is deficient in (of, gen. as in ch. 2:15) wisdom (τὸ αἴτιον τοῦ τελείου ἔργου σοφίαν λέγει, Œc. Huther quotes from the Etym. Mag., γνῶσις μὲν ἐστὶ τὸ εἰδέναι τὰ ὄντα· σοφία δέ, καὶ τὸ τὰ ὄντα γινώσκειν καὶ τὸ τὰ γνωστὰ πράττειν. For what is meant by wisdom here, see ch. 3:15-17), let him ask (either supply ‘it,’ or take the verb absolutely, which is better: so E. V., see below) from God who giveth (the part. is put first because it is that which is to be brought out in the sentence: q. d. ‘from the giver, God.’ Thus asking and giving are put forward as belonging to us and God in the abstract, and we do not want any Object, as τὴν σοφίαν, supplied) to all men simply (so Romans 12:8, ὁ μεταδιδούς, ἐν ἁπλότητι: but perhaps ἁπλότης may also signify liberality. See note on that place. It is not however necessary here to render “benigne,” as Bede, Casaubon, al.: nor “affluenter,” as Erasm., Grot., Est., al.; nor “candide,” “sincere,” as Pott, Theile, al.; nor = συντόμιος, καθάπαξ, as Hesychius: but we must interpret by what follows, and understand it of simply giving, and adding nothing afterwards which may take off from the graciousness of the gift) and upbraideth not (in what sense is rather doubtful. Many (Morus, Carpzov, Storr, al.) interpret it of sending away with a refusal: but as Huther remarks, though καταισχύνειν may bear this meaning, ὀνειδίζειν is never found so used: certainly not in Sir. 20:15, ἄφρων … ὀλίγα δώσει καὶ πολλὰ ὀνειδίσει. By far the greatest part of Commentators understand it of reproaching by the recounting of benefits bestowed. But this again does not reach the full and general nature of the expression here: nor does it find any justification in that of Demosthenes, p. 316. 10, ὑπομιμνήσκειν τὰς ἰδίας εὐεργεσίας μικροῦ δεῖν ὅμοιόν ἐστι τῷ ὀνειδίζειν: for it is one thing to say that such reminding is almost equivalent to ὀνειδίζειν, and another and a widely different one to use ὀνειδίζειν in this sense, which is never done. The real meaning here is just as in Sir. 20:15 above, and in Sir. 41:22, μετὰ τὸ δοῦναι μὴ ὀνείδιζε, viz. upbraiding with any kind of reproaches, as God might well do, so unworthy are we to approach Him with any request. This of course would include that other: but as Semler, “Non tantum significat molestam commemorationem beneficiorum, sed etiam qualemcunque reprehensionem.” So De Wette and Huther), and it shall be given to him (viz. σοφία, see 3 Kings 3:9-12. The whole verse seems to be written in remembrance of Matthew 7:7-12).
6.] But let him ask in faith (persuasion that God can and will give: cf. Matthew 21:22, πάντα ὅσα ἐὰν αἰτήσητε ἐν τῇ προσευχῇ πιστεύοντες λήμψεσθε: and cf. εὐχή τῆς πίστεως, ch. 5:15), nothing (μηδέν is adverbial, as in Mark 5:26: Luke 4:35: Acts 4:21; Acts 10:20, μηδὲν διακρινόμενος as here: so also 11:12 al. In all these places it will of course admit of being understood ‘in nothing,’ the accus. of reference: but it is simpler to believe that it had got past this and become an adverb) doubting (cf. Matthew 21:21, from which this is evidently taken, ἐὰν ἔχητε πίστιν καὶ μὴ διακριθῆτε, &c. Huther says well, “διακρίνεσθαι is not = ἀπιστεῖν (Luke 24:11), but includes in it the essential character of ἀπιστία: while πίστις says ‘Yes,’ and ἀπιστία ‘No,’ διακρίνεσθαι is the union of ‘Yes’ and ‘No,’ but so that ‘No’ is the weightier: it is that inward giving way which leans not to πίστις, but to ἀπιστία. The deep-lying ground of it is pride, and so far Thl. is right in saying, διακρινόμενος δὲ ὁ μεθʼ ὑπεροψίας αἰτῶν· ὑβριστὴς ὁμολογουμένως ὁ διακρινόμενος: whereas Œc. in the words, λέγων ἐν σεαυτῷ ὅτι πῶς δύναμαι αἰτῆσαί τι παρὰ τοῦ κυρίου καὶ λαβεῖν, ἡμαρτηκὼς τοσαῦτα εἰς αὐτόν, brings out a point which belongs not to διακρίνεσθαι, but to a yet weak faith”): for he that doubteth is like (reff.) a wave of the sea (reff. The verb κλυδωνίζεσθαι occurs Ephesians 4:14 and Isaiah 57:20, οἱ ἄδικοι … κλυδωνισθήσονται) driven by the wind (a word no where else found. The corresponding ἀνεμοῦσθαι occurs in Hippocr., Plato (Tim. p. 83 a), Ælian, Lucian, al. It explains itself) and tossed about (ῥιπίζεσθαι, from ῥιπή (ῥιπαὶ ἀνέμων, Pind. Pyth. ix. 85: Soph. Antig. 137 al.; κυμάτων ἀνέμων τε, Pind. Pyth. iv. 346), to be blown about by wind: so τί δέ, εἰ μὴ πρὸς ἀνέμου ῥιπίζοιτο τὸ ὕδωρ, Philo de Mundo, § 18, vol. ii. p. 620: δῆμος ἄστατον κακόν, καὶ θαλάσσῃ πάνθʼ ὅμοιον ὑπʼ ἀνέμου ῥιπίζεται, Dio Chrys. Orat. xxxii. p. 368 b. The more usual meaning of the verb (from ῥιπίς), to kindle (ῥιπίζεται, κατακαίεται, Hesych.), is not applicable here. The word forms a synonym with ἀνεμίζεσθαι; and the use of these synonymous expressions so close to one another is again a characteristic of St. James. A good explanation of the figure is quoted by Wiesinger from Heisen: “Modo ad litus fidei speique jactatur, modo in abyssum diffidentiæ revolvitur; modo in sublime tollitur fastus mundani, modo imis arenis miscetur nunc desperationis nunc afflictionis” &c.):
7.] for (takes up and repeats the former γάρ: not as Calvin, “non ergo existimet,” nor as Huther, = namlich) let not that man (said with a certain slight expression of contempt) think (cf. Matthew 5:17, μὴ νομίσητε ὅτι κ.τ.λ.) that he shall receive any thing (sc. τῶν αἰτουμένων: some things, as life, food, raiment, &c., he does continually receive) from the Lord (i. e. as usually in this Epistle, from God. So ch. 4:10, 15; 5:4, 10, 11: see at each of those places. On the other hand, ὁ κύριος, ch. 5:7, 14, 15, is used of Christ. Hofmann remarks that where the Father is not expressly distinguished from the Son by the context, the Godhead, in its unity, is to be understood by ὁ θεός: and the same may be said of ὁ κύριος).
8.] He is a man with two minds, unstable (cf. Dio Chrys. above. Hippocrates uses it of fevers which observe no fixed periods: Demosth. p. 303, of the wind, ἀκατάστατον ὥσπερ ἐν θαλάττῃ πνεῦμα. We have, ἀκαταστασία ch. 3:16, and in Luke 21:9: 1Corinthians 14:33: 2Corinthians 6:5; 2Corinthians 12:20) in all his ways (such is the best way of taking this sentence, making it all predicate and all to apply to ὁ ἄνθρωπος ἐκεῖνος as its subject. The common way, to take ἀνὴρ δίψυχος as a new subject, as E. V., “a double-minded man is unstable,” has this against it, that it makes the very unusual word δίψυχος, found here and in ch. 4:8 for the first time in Greek literature, to be a mere usual epithet and word of passage. Another way, taken by Beza, al., is to make ἀνὴρ δίψυχος, ἀκατάστ. κ.τ.λ., all subject, and in apposition with ὁ ἄνθρωπος ἐκεῖνος,—“ut qui sit animo duplici,” &c. There is no objection to this, but that it does not so well suit the abrupt and predicative style of St. James. How De Wette can say that it would require the article, I cannot imagine: the art. would be only admissible in two cases: 1. if (ὁ) ἀνήρ were subject, and δίψυχος, ἀκατάστ.… predicate; 2. on the rendering of the E. V., “The (a) double-minded man (generic) is,” &c. But then we should surely not have ἀνήρ, but ἄνθρωπος. From this passage the use of δίψυχος spread onwards in the Fathers: we have very early, in the Apostol. Constt. vii. 11, μὴ γίνου δίψυχος ἐν προσευχῇ εἰ ἔσται ἢ οὔ: in Clem.-rom. i. 23, p. 260, ταλαίπωροί εἰσιν οἱ δίψυχοι, οἱ διστάζοντες τὴν ψυχήν. The διακρίνεσθαι arises out of the διψυχία: this causes him, as Sir. 2:12, ἐπιβαίνειν ἐπὶ δύο τρίβους. Cf. also Sir. 1:27, μὴ ἀπειθήσῃς φόβῳ κυρίου, καὶ μὴ προσέλθῃς αὐτῷ ἐν καρδίᾳ δισσῇ, and Tanchuma Rabba in Deuteronomy 26:17, “Ne habeant (qui preces ad Deum facere velint) duo corda, unum ad Deum, aliud vero ad aliam rem directum”).
9.] The connexion appears to be this: we must not pray before God, we must not be before God, double-minded; in our trials, we shall get no heavenly wisdom, if this is so. This double-mindedness, one soul drawn upwards to God, the other drawn downwards to the world, causes nothing but instability, and cannot result in that joy which is to be our attitude in trial. And it arises from misapprehension of our appointed state in trial: the poor and humble forget the exceeding honour thus done to them, which ought to be to them ground of boasting, far more worthy than (see below) the rich in this world have in their riches which shall so soon fade away: whereas (ver. 12) he that is tried shall receive a crown of life from the Lord. But (contrasted with the διψυχια above) let the brother (the Christian believer) who is low (poor and afflicted; not merely, low in station: this explanation goes with the view that ὁ δὲ πλούσιος below is Christian also) glory in his exaltation (which he has obtained by being admitted into the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings, and which he has further in reversion in the glorious crown of life hereafter, ver. 12):
10.] but the rich (not ὁ ἀδελφὸς ὁ πλούσιος, nor is the πλούσιος to be understood any otherwise than in the rest of the Epistle, cf. ch. 2:6 f.; 5:1 ff. There are difficulties either way; but on mature consideration I find those on the usual hypothesis, of the πλούσιος being also a brother, insuperable. For in that case, 1. a most unnatural change in the sense is necessary at ὅτι: ‘Let the rich brother glory in his humiliation, for, or because, considered merely as a rich man,’ &c.: so that ὁ πλούσιος is a Christian brother at first, and then a mere rich man in the next clause: 2. such a meaning will not suit οὕτως καὶ ὁ πλούσιος ἐν ταῖς πορείαις αὐτοῦ μαρανθήσεται, which is simply predicated of ὁ πλούσιος, the subject enunciated in ὁ δὲ πλούσιος above, and cannot with any probability be supposed to be said of him merely quoad his riches. Whereas on the other view the difficulties are no more than arise from a confessedly elliptical parallelism. After ὁ δὲ πλούσιος we must supply, not necessarily καυχάσθω, but rather καυχᾶται: ‘Let the ταπεινός glory in his exaltation, whereas the rich man glories in his debasement,’ cf. Philippians 3:19, ὧν ἡ δόξα ἐν τῇ αἰσχύνῃ αὐτῶν. The above view, as far as πλούσιος is concerned, is adopted by the author of the Comm. on the Lamentations in Jerome’s works (“Quod autem dicit, filiam Edom gaudere et lætari quod pervenerit ad eam calix Domini, per ironiam legendum est, et est illud in epistola Jacobi apostoli.… ‘dives autem in humilitate sua,’ subauditur a superiore glorietur, quod non tamen ad gloriam, sed ad humilitatem ejus et damnationem pertinet”), Bede, Lyra, Thomas Aq., Beza, Wetst., Pott, Hottinger, Huther, al.: but impugned by De Wette, Wiesinger, Stier, al.) glories (see above) in his humiliation (cf. ref. Phil.: in that which is in reality his debasement, just as in the other case the lowly Christian is called on to boast in what is in reality his exaltation. Thus, and thus only, the parallelism coheres. On the ordinary view, the ὕψος of the ταπεινός brother is, that which is really but not apparently his exaltation, whereas the ταπείνωσις of the πλούσιος brother is that which is apparently but not really his debasement); because as a flower of the grass (reff.) he shall pass away.
11.] For (justification of ὡς ἄνθος χόρτου παρελεύσεται) the sun arose (it is given in the form of a tale, a narration of what happened and ever does happen: see Isaiah 40:7, from which the whole is adapted) with the heat (or, the hot east wind, the קָדִים: this interpretation seems approved by ref. Jonah, καὶ ἐγένετο ἅμα τῷ ἀνατεῖλαι τὸν ἥλιον, καὶ προσέταξεν ὁ θεὸς (κύριος ὁ θ. Α) πνεύματι καύσωνι (-νος ΑΒ): see Winer, Realw. art. “Wind.” But καύσων in ref. Matt. and Isaiah 49:10, is evidently only heat: and considering, 1. the relation between that Gospel and St. James, and, 2. that the LXX, when the Kadim is intended, almost always add ὁ ἄνεμος or τὸ πνεῦμα, I prefer the other meaning, the arid scorching which accompanies the increasing power of the sun), and dried up the grass, and the flower thereof fell away (all from Isaiah), and the beauty of its appearance (so πρόσωπον in reff., the external appearance of any thing) perished: thus also shall the rich man (the same as was spoken of ver. 10: not ὁ πλοῦτος αὐτοῦ, but the πλούσιος himself) wither (reff.: the verb continues the similitude) in his ways (cf. ref. Psalm and Proverbs 2:8. Luther’s translation, in seiner Habe, rests on the reading πορίαις).
12.] We now return to the suffering and tempted Christian, who has his μακαρισμός, and a possession more precious and more sure than worldly wealth. Blessed is the man (no stress on ἀνήρ, cf. vv. 7, 8, 20) who endureth (the emphasis is on ὑπομένει, which distinguishes this saying from that in ver. 2; it is not the mere περιπεσεῖν πειρασμοῖς, but the ὑπομένειν πειρασμόν, which is felicitated. There is no reason to read ὑπομενεῖ, as Bengel. The blessing is categorical, and as well expressed by the present as by the future) temptation: because when he has become approved (by the trial: when he has undergone the δοκίμιον, ver. 2. This δόκιμος γενόμενος, as connected with that verse, furnishes some support to the reading which omits τῆς πίστεως there. The δοκίμιον is of himself, and it is he that becomes δόκιμος by it) he shall receive the crown of life (τῆς ζωῆς is gen. of apposition: the crown is life eternal: τῆς ζωῆς, ‘vitæ illius,’ of that life of which we know, which is glorious and eternal. No image derived from athletes must be thought of in the verse, as is done by many: such an image would be foreign to the ideas of Jews, with whom the receiving a crown from God was a familiar image, irrespective of any previous contest for a prize: cf. Psalm 21:3: Wisd. 5:16, λήψονται τὸ βασίλειον τῆς εὐπρεπείας καὶ τὸ διάδημα τοῦ κάλλους ἐκ χειρὸς κυρίου), which He promised to them that love Him (who promised it, is understood: God, repeatedly, in substance: whenever a kingdom is foretold as the future inheritance of His people: τοῖς ἀγαπῶσιν αὐτόν, cf. 2Timothy 4:8, and the same words again in ch. 2:5. It is a formula frequently occurring in the law and the Prophets: cf. Exodus 20:6: Deuteronomy 7:9: Judges 5:31: Nehemiah 1:5: Psalm 5:11; 144:20: Daniel 9:4: Sir. 31 (34):16; 47:22).
13-15.] The truth respecting temptation.
13.] Let no one when tempted (in the manner hitherto spoken of through the chapter. There is no warrant for changing in the slightest degree the reference of the word. The ‘tentatio’ is a trying of the man by the solicitation of evil: whether that evil be the terror of external danger, or whatever it be, all πειράζεσθαι by means of it arises not from God, but from ourselves—our own ἐπιθυμία. God ordains the temptation, overrules the temptation, but does not tempt, is not the spring of the solicitation to sin) say that (ὅτι recitantis) I am tempted from God (by agency proceeding out and coming from God: very different from ὑπὸ θεοῦ, which would represent God as the agent: as indeed He is in πειράζει δὲ αὐτὸς οὐδένα below. See Winer, § 47 b. b note. Thus the man would transfer his own responsibility to God. There does not seem to be any allusion to the fatalism of the Pharisees, as Schnecken-burger, al. seem to think: the fault is one of common life, and is alluded to Sir. 15:11, μὴ εἴπῃς ὅτι διὰ κύριον ἀπέστην): for God is unversed in things evil (the meaning usually given, “untempted,” or “not able to be tempted,” is against the usage of the word. It occurs in four forms, ἀπείρᾶτος, ἀπείρᾶτος, ἀπείρητος (Ion.), and ἀπείραστος; and in all of them seems to have but two meanings: 1. that has not been tried: so οὐδὲν ἀπείρατόν ἐστί τινι, Dem. p. 310; πόντος ἀπείρατος ὢν τοῖς Ἕλλησι, Luc. Tox. 3: 2. that has not tried: so οὐκ ἀπείρατος καλῶν, Pind. Ol. 10 (11). 18; ἀλλοδαπῶν οὐκ ἀπείρατοι δόμοι, id. Nem. 1. 33; κακῶν ἀπείρατος (that has never experienced adversity), Plut. παῤῥησίας, ἔρωτος ἀπείρατος, unversed in free speaking, in love, Lucian, Plut. See Palm and Rost’s Lex., and numerous other examples in Wetstein. And even if we chose here to depart from usage, and suppose that ἀπείραστος is not a later form of ἀπείρατος, but a verbal from πειράζω, to be interpreted by the meaning of that verb in the context, we should get a meaning for ἀπείραστος entirely foreign from the context: viz. that God is not tempted of evil, whereas there is no question here of God being tempted, but or God tempting. Some have endeavoured to escape this by giving ἀπείραστος an active sense—“God is not one who tempteth to evil.” So Schol. in Cramer’s Catena: ὅτι ὁ θεὸς πειράζων ἐπʼ ὠφελείᾳ, οὐκ ἐπὶ τῷ κακοποιῆσαι· διὸ καὶ ἐλέχθη ὅτι ὁ θεὸς ἀπείραστός ἐστι κακῶν: so the Æthiopic version: the vulg., “Deus intentator malorum est:” Luther, al. This doubtless it may have: we find μηροὶ καλυπτῆς ἐξέκειντο πιμελῆς, Soph. Ant. 1011: τὠμῷ τἀνδρὶ μεμπτός, id. Trach. 446: ὕποπτος Τρωϊκῆς ἁλώσεως, Eur. Hec. 1117. But there are two objections: 1. that this sense would be tautological, the succeeding clause only repeating the assertion: 2. that thus the gen. κακῶν can only mean ‘of evil men:’ ‘God is no tempter of evil men,’ which is out of the question. It seems then that we must take refuge in the ordinary meaning of the word, and render it ‘unversed in,’ ‘having no experience of.’ And thus De Wette and Huther. Œc. takes the words as in the citation from Plutarch above: τὸ θεῖόν τε καὶ μακάριον οὔτε αὐτὸ πράγματα ἔχει, οὔτε ἑτέροις παρέχει: which is decidedly wrong. Taken as above, ἀπείραστος does not carry a negation of πειράζει, but forms a paronomasia with it: and the sentiment is just as in the passage of Sir. above quoted, which goes on πᾶν βδέλυγμα ἐμίσησεν κύριος), but (the δέ takes up the contrast again from πειράζομαι: ‘not so, but.’ I may observe that the δέ is against the ordinary acceptation of ἀπείραστος, on which it ought to be καί) HE tempteth no man (the αὐτός does not, as commonly supposed, bring out God’s action in distinction to His not being tempted—‘as He is not tempted, so neither does He himself tempt any man’ (see this urged in Wiesinger): but brings out this, that the temptation indeed takes place, but from another cause. Huther gives the sense well: “Let none say when he is tempted to evil, From God am I tempted: for God hath no part in evil: but as to the temptation, He tempteth no man” &c.):
14.] but each man is tempted, being (slightly causal, ‘in that he is’) drawn out and enticed by his own lust (the image, if we are justified in supposing that a fixed one was contemplated from the first, seems to be, as Pott observes (in Huther), “ἐπιθυμία, ἁμαρτία, et θάνατος personarum vim habent: imaginem meretricis suppeditant voces συλλαβεῖν, τίκτειν, ἀποκύειν, necnon et ἐξέλκειν atque δελεάζειν.” The participles ἐξελκόμενος and δελεαζόμενος are abundantly illustrated by the Commentators, e. g. in Wetst. by Xen. Mem. ii. 1. 4, τὰ … ζῶα.… τούτων γὰρ δήπου τὰ μὲν γαστρὶ δελεαζόμενα … τῇ ἐπιθυμίᾳ τοῦ φαγεῖν ἀγόμενα πρὸς τὸ δέλεαρ, ἁλίσκεται. And Herod. ii. 70, of taking the crocodile, ἐπεὰν νῶτον ὑὸς δελεάσῃ περὶ ἄγκιστρον κ.τ.λ.… ὁ κροκόδειλος … ἐπεὰν ἐξελκυσθῇ ἐς γῆν κ.τ.λ. Schneckenburger says, “ἐξέλκειν et δελεάζειν sunt verba e re venatoria et piscatoria in rem amatoriam et inde in nostrum tropum translata:” only we must not here interpret ἐξέλκειν which precedes δελεαζ., as in Herod. above, “to draw to land,” but rather as Schulthess, “elicere bestias ex tuto, ubi latent, in locum hamis retibusque expositum.” But, as Huther observes, it is hardly likely that the original reference of the words would be distinctly before the Apostle as he used them. Cf. Aristot. Polit. v. 10, παρὰ τῆς γυναικὸς ἐξελκυσθείς, “ab uxore sollicitatus.” In the Test. XII. Patrum, p. 702 (Kypke), Joseph says of Potiphar’s wife, εἰς πορνείαν με ἐφελκύσατο. And cf. Homer’s αὐτὸς γὰρ ἐφέλκεται ἄνδρα σίδηρος, Od. π. 294: and, which is the nearest correspondence of all, Plut. de Sera Numinis Vindicta (in Huther), τὸ γλυκὺ τῆς ἐπιθυμίας ὥσπερ δέλεαρ ἐξέλκειν (ἀνθρώπους). With regard to the matter treated, and the proper sense of ἐπιθυμία here, it seems to me that Huther is right in setting aside the difficulties which Hofmann (Schriftb. i. p. 415) and after him Wiesinger, have found in this passage as compared with Romans 7:7. St. James is not here speaking of the original source of sin in man, but of the actual source of temptation to sin, when it occurs. The ἁμαρτία of St. Paul, the sinful principle in man, is not here in question: we take up the matter, so to speak, lower down the stream: and the ἐπιθυμία here is the ἐπιθυμία there, itself the effect of sin (abstr.) in the members, and leading to sin (concrete) in the conduct):
15.] then lust having conceived, bringeth forth sin: and (δέ brings out the new subject) sin, when completed, bringeth forth death (it has been questioned whether ἁμαρτία is here in one, or in two senses. De Wette holds that the first ἁμαρτία is the purpose, or inner act, of sin,—the ἀποτελεσθεῖσα carrying this ἁμαρτία out into an act, which act brings forth death, the wages of sin. But this is decidedly wrong. Wiesinger has disputed it, and insisted rightly that the inner act is the union of the will with the ἐπιθυμία, the τίκτει denoting extrusion into outward act: then the second ἁμαρτία,—which Huther rightly maintains to be, not as Wiesinger, after Calvin, “cursus peccandi completus,” but the sinful act when brought to perfection in all its consequences, in a series of results following on one another and bringing a man under bondage to his sin,—being thus perfected, brings forth eternal death. The imagery is throughout consistent. The harlot ἐπιθυμία, ἐξέλκει and δελεάζει the man: the guilty union is committed by the will embracing the temptress: the consequence is that she τίκτει ἁμαρτίαν, sin, in general, of some kind, of that kind to which the temptation inclines: then, ἡ ἁμαρτία, that particular sin, when grown up and mature,—herself ἀποκύει, ‘extrudit,’ as if all along pregnant with it, Death, the final result of sin. So that temptation to sin cannot be from God, while trial is from Him. The one, being δοκίμιον ἡμῶν, κατεργάζεται ὑπομονήν· ἡ δὲ ὑπομονή, ἔργον τέλειον ἔχουσα, τὴν ζωήν: the other, being ἐξέλκυσις κ. δέλεαρ arising from ἐπιθυμία, τίκτει ἁμαρτίαν· ἡ δὲ ἁμαρτία ἀποτελεσθεῖσα ἀποκύει θάνατον. The English reader will not fail to remember Milton’s sublime allegory in Paradise Lost, where Satan, by his own evil lust, brings forth sin: and then by an incestuous union with Sin (which doubtless may be said to lie here also in the background, no cause being assigned for the ἀποκύει) causes her to bring forth Death. As regards the single expressions, συλλαβοῦσα τίκτει is a regular LXX formula for וַתַּהַר וַתֵּלֶד: cf. reff. Gen., also 30:17 al. fr. ἀποκύειν, or ἀποκυεῖν (either is allowable, see Winer, § 15) is found principally in later Greek: Wetst. gives examples from Maximus Tyr., Herodian, Lucian, Phlegon,—all with this meaning.
For ἀποτελεσθεῖσα, cf. Polyb. ii. 58. 7, τὸ μέγιστον ἀοέβημα κατὰ προαίρεσιν ἀπετέλεσαν).
16-18.] The idea that God tempts to sin has been as yet only negatively contradicted. But so far is it from this being so, that He is the Author of all good.
16.] Do not err (some have ended the paragraph with these words: some have begun a new one. But Theile (in Huther) rightly remarks of this formula, “Ubi antecedentia respicit, nunquam finit cohortationem, sed ita interpositum est, ut continuet et firmet, nunc illustrando, nunc cavendo.” It occurs in reff.: see also 1John 3:7 (μηδεὶς πλανάτω ὑμᾶς). Still we must not take Theile’s further exposition, “Nolite in alterum errorem abstrahi, ut nempe bona quoque a summo numine abjudicetis:” for this does not lie in the context), my beloved brethren (both this earnest address, and the caution, shew how important the Writer feels this to be, which he is about to enunciate):
17.] every good gift (δόσις, properly the act of giving: but the ideas of the giving and the gift are so convertible, that it as often has the passive meaning: as πρᾶξις, and other similar words. So in ref. Prov., δόσις λάθριος ἀνατρέπει ὀργάς, δώρων δὲ ὁ φειδόμενος θυμὸν ἐγείρει ἰσχυρόν) and every perfect gift (we cannot express δόσις and δώρημα by two words in English. There is a slight climax in δώρημα, as there is in τέλειον compared with ἀγαθή: it brings out the gratuitous and ‘proprio motu’ element in the gift, as is done again by βουληθείς below. πᾶσα and πᾶν are taken by Raphel, Bengel, al. in an exclusive sense, “nothing but good gifts and perfect gifts” &c. This is perhaps allowable, but it weakens the force of the sentence and spoils the context, the object of which is to shew, not that God’s gifts are all good, but that all good gifts come from Him. So that πᾶσα and πᾶν are better kept in their ordinary senses, and the stress laid, in each case, on the adjectives, ἀγαθόν and τέλειον) descendeth from above (ἄνωθέν ἐστιν καταβαῖνον belong together, not as E. V., Grot., Wolf, al., ἄνωθέν ἐστιν, καταβαῖνον. This is shewn by ἄνωθεν κατερχομένη, ch. 3:15. ἐστιν serves to bring out the essential quality of the gift; is, by its nature, sent down from above. Wies. quotes from Bereschith Rabba, 51. 1, “Dixit R. Chanina, Non est res mala descendens desuper”), from the Father of the lights (of heaven) (it seems now generally agreed that by τὰ φῶτα here is meant the heavenly bodies, and by πατήρ the creator, originator, as in Job 38:28, τίς ἐστιν ὑετοῦ πατήρ; Being this, being the Father of those glorious fountains of light, and thus (see below) purer and clearer than they all, it cannot be that He should tempt to evil. Our very life, as renewed in Christ, is of His begetting, and we are a firstfruit of His new world.
Various meanings have been given to τῶν φώτων—spiritual light, Grot.: illumination, with reference to the Urim, Heisen: “luminum spiritualium in regno gratiæ et gloriæ,” Bengel: “omnis perfectionis, bonitatis, sapientiæ et prosperitatis,” Wolf, Benson, al.: “omnis et præstantiæ et bene compositi ordinis,” Calv. As regards the word φῶτα, we have, Psalm 135:7 ff., τῷ ποιήσαντι φῶτα μεγάλα … τὸν ἥλιον … τὴν σελήνην καὶ τοὺς ἀστέρας κ.τ.λ.: Jeremiah 4:23, ἐπέβλεψα ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν, καὶ ἰδοὺ οὐθέν, καὶ εἰς τὸν οὐρανόν, καὶ οὐκ ἦν τὰ φῶτα αὐτοῦ. In Genesis 1:14, Genesis 1:16 they are φωστῆρες), with (‘chez,’ ‘apud,’ bei: see reff.) whom there is (ἔνι, abbreviation of ἔνεστι: see reff. Not = ἔστι, but carrying the meaning ‘inest,’ ‘there is in Him’) no change (πόθεν δέ, says Arrian on Epict. i. 14, p. 62, πρὸς τὴν αὔξηαιν καὶ μείωσιν τῆς σελήνης, καὶ τὴν τοῦ ἡλίου πρόσοδον καὶ ἄφοδον, τοσαύτη παραλλαγὴ καὶ ἐπὶ τὰ ἐναντία μεταβολὴ τῶν ἐπιγείων θεωρεῖται. This sentence confirms what Gebser (in Huther, al.) has observed, that παραλλαγή never occurs as an astronomical term: seeing it is used in its common sense, even where the heavenly bodies are being spoken of. Besides which, it is not at all probable that St. James should write to the dispersed Jewish Christians in the technical language of astronomy. I take then the word in its ordinary sense, ‘change:’ that uncertainty of degree of light which we see in the material heavenly bodies, but which is not in God their Creator. So in Wetst., we have Theophrastus speaking of a παραλλαγή τις εὐοσμίας καὶ ἀοσμίας: Plato, Rep. vii., of the absurdity of one who looks on the order and symmetry of the heavenly bodies, and νομίζοντα γίνεσθαί τε ταῦτα ἀεὶ ὡσαύτως, κ. οὐδαμῆ οὐδὲν παραλλάττειν σῶμά τε ἔχοντα καὶ ὁρώμενα: Plotinus, Enn. vi. 6. 3, of a παραλλαγὴ ἡμερῶν πρὸς νύκτας: Diogenes Laert. vii. 145 , of the moon eclipsing the sun, καὶ πάλιν παραλλάττουσα) or shadow (ἀποσκίασμα, the dark mark of shadow,—σκίασμα, the result of σκιάζεσθαι, cast ἀπό, from, any object) of turning (arising from turning. Here again we must look for a common-sense, not for an astronomical meaning of the word. τροπαὶ ἡλίου are, it is true, the solstices: but they have nothing to do with any darkening of the sun. So that I would take τροπή in the general sense of turning, or revolution, in which the heavens are ever found: by means of which the moon turns her dark side to us, in a constant state of παραλλαγή and τροπῆς ἀποσκίασμα: by means of which the moon is eclipsed by the shadow of the earth, and the sun by the body of the moon, or, if you will, though this is hardly so likely to have been in view, is hidden from us during the night. From all these God, the Father of lights, is free; as 1John 1:5, ὁ θεὸς φῶς ἐστιν, καὶ σκοτία ἐν αὐτῷ οὐκ ἔστιν οὐδεμία. It only remains to repudiate altogether, as inadmissible, the meaning given by Œc., the metaphorical acceptation of ἀποσκίασμα, ἀντὶ τοῦ οὐδὲ μέχρις ὑπονοίας τινὸς ὑποβολή, not a shadow of any change. So Hesych. (ἀλλοιώσεως καὶ φαντασίας ὁμοίωμα), Wolf, Lösner, Morus, Rosenm., al.).
18.] The greatest example of this position, that all good and perfect gifts come from Him: mentioned not merely as an example, but as leading on to the following context. Because He willed it (the aor. part. is, 1. contemporary with the verb: 2. slightly causal, involving the condition of the act which follows. It was of His own mere will, ‘proprio motu,’ and the emphasis is on this word. “Exprimit quod Deus pro suo beneplacito nos genuerit, atque ita sibi fuerit causa. Unde sequitur, naturale esse Deo benefacere.” Calvin) begat He (ἀποκύειν or -εῖν (see above, ver. 15), here in the sense generare, as there parere. Cf. 1Peter 1:23: 1John 3:9. The spiritual birth, not the natural, is meant, as is evident by what follows) us (ἡμᾶς, twice repeated, signifies the Writer and his readers, not Christians in general: not especially as Jewish Christians, Ἰουδαίῳ πρώτῳ,—for that is not (see below) the reference here) with the word of truth (the gen. is one of apposition: cf. John 17:17, ὁ λόγος ὁ σὸς ἀλήθειά ἐστι. And the word of truth is the gospel, preached, and ἔμφυτος as below: cf. 1Peter 1:23, ἀναγεγεννημένοι … διὰ λόγου ζῶντος θεοῦ. The failure of the articles does not alter the sense. It is especially a characteristic of the abrupt sententious style of our Apostle. Cf. ποιηταὶ λόγου, ver. 22, where λόγος must be ‘the word;’ and indeed passim. Œc. makes λόγος personal: ἵνα μή τις ὑπολάβῃ ὁμοίως ἡμῖν καὶ τὸν υἱὸν ἀποτεκεῖν αὐτόν, καὶ μεθʼ ἡμῶν καὶ τὸν υἱὸν γεγεννῆσθαι, ἐπάγει τό, λόγῳ ἀληθείας, πάντα γὰρ κατὰ τὸν θεῖον Ἰωάννην διὰ τοῦ υἱοῦ ἐγένετο: and so Athanasius, Serm. iii. advers. Arianos, vol. ii. p. 483; and Bernard, Serm. ii. ad Fratres (?): which is clearly wrong), that we should be (aim, but not the primary aim, of the ἀποκυῆσαι. His gracious purpose with regard to us in particular was, that we should be, &c. His great purpose with regard to all Christians is not here in question. Hence ἡμᾶς is repeated) a kind of firstfruit (“τινα similitudinis est nota, nos quodammodo esse primitias,” Calv. It does not appear to be intended as Bengel, “ ‘Quædam’ habet modestiam, nam primitiæ proprie et absolute est Christus.” Rather, I should say, it would point to the early date of our Epistle, in which an idea afterwards so familiar is thus introduced as it were with an apologetic explanation. The figure in ἀπαρχή is from the appointment of the law by which the firstborn of man, of cattle, of fruits &c., were to be consecrated to God; and the word must be taken with this sacred meaning, not merely as a ‘verbum commune’ indicating priority. The first Christians, to whom St. James is writing, were as firstborn of the great family, dedicated as firstfruits to God. Wiesinger beautifully says, “The thought fully given would be this: they by Regeneration were dedicated as the firstfruits of a sacrificial gift which shall only be completed with the offering up of all κτίσματα”) of His creatures (τὰ κτίσματα αὐτοῦ manifestly extends wider than merely to the great multitude of the regenerated whom no man can number; it embraces all creation, which we know shall partake in the ultimate glorious perfection of the sons of God: cf. Romans 8:20, Romans 8:21. Obviously, the κτίσματα are not the καινὴ κτίσις, as Grot. and many others). Wiesinger has an important note, shewing from this verse what must be the right understanding of much which follows in this Epistle. “This passage,” he says, “is among those which reveal the depth of Christian knowledge in which the practical and moral exhortations of the Writer are grounded: lying as it does expressly (διό, ver. 21) at the basis of them. We will here bring together in a few words the teaching of the passage, for the sake of its important bearing on the rest of the Epistle. It teaches us, 1. as a positive supplement to vv. 14, 15, that the life of man must be renewed, from its very root and foundation: 2. it designates this renewal as God’s work, moreover as an imparting of the life of God (ἀπεκύησε), as only possible by the working of the Spirit, only on the foundation of the objective fact of our Redemption in Christ, which is the content of the λόγος ἀληθείας: 3. it sets forth this re-generation as an act once for all accomplished (ἀπεκύησεν, aor.) and distinguishes it from the gradual penetration and sanctification of the individual life by means of this new principle of life imparted in the re-generation: 4. it declares also expressly that the re-generation is a free act of God’s love (βουληθείς) not induced by any work of man (Ephesians 2:8, Ephesians 2:9: Titus 3:5), so that man is placed by God in his right relation to God, antecedently to all works well-pleasing to God: for this the expression ἀπεκύησεν involves: cf. ἐξελέξατο, ch. 2:5, and in so far as this ἀπεκύησεν necessarily implies the justification of the sinner (the δικαιοῦσθαι of St. Paul), it is plain also, that St. James cannot, without contradicting himself, make this δικαιοῦσθαι, in the sense of St. Paul, dependent on the works of faith. 5. λόγος ἀληθείας is specified as the objective medium of re-generation: and herewith we must have πίστις as the appropriating medium on the part of man himself: of the central import of which πίστις in St. James also we have already seen something (vv. 3, 6), and shall see more (ch. 2:5, 14 ff.). 6. Together with this act of re-generation proceeding from God, we have also the high destination of the Christian, which the Apostle gives so significantly and deeply in εἰς τὸ εἶναι κ.τ.λ. And that which God has done to him, is now in the following verses made the foundation of that which the Christian has on his part to do: by which that which we said under (3) and (4) receives fresh confirmation. This passage is one to be remembered, when we wish to know what the Apostle understands by the νόμος τέλειος (1:25; 2:12), and what he means, when (2:14 ff.) he deduces δικαιοῦσθαι from the works of faith. As regards the dogmatical use, which some make of this passage, wishing to shew that regeneration is brought about by the word, as distinguished from the Sacrament of Baptism (Titus 3:5-7), we may remark, that seeing that λόγος ἀληθείας designates the gospel, as a whole, without any respect to such distinction, nothing regarding it can be gathered from this passage. The word of the Lord constitutes, we know, the force of the Sacrament also. ‘Accedit verbum ad elementum et fit Sacramentum.’ And is it meant to be inferred that the readers of this Epistle were not baptized?”
19-27.] Exhortation to receive rightly this word of truth. (See the general connexion in the Prolegomena.)
19.] First, as to the reading. For the external evidence, see the digest. It is of a kind which can hardly be rejected. And all internal considerations make the same way. It is hardly possible that the simple and obvious ὥστε should have been altered into the difficult ἴστε. Whether the connexion with the last verse was plain, is not a consideration which usually entered into the minds of transcribers. They were much more likely to attempt to establish some connexion, plain or not, especially when so unusual a word as ἴστε admitted of change to so obvious an one as ὥστε. Next, comes the question how ἵστε is to be taken, whether imperatively or indicatively. If the former, the sense will be, ‘Know, my beloved brethren’ (either what has preceded or what follows: if the latter, then the introduction of ἔστω κ.τ.λ. with a δέ gives it as a generally received saying, possibly as a reference to ref. Sir., γίνου ταχὺς ἐν ἀκροάσει σου, καὶ ἐν μακροθυμίᾳ φθέγγου ἀπόκρισιν: if the former, the imperative sense seems hardly applicable). On the whole I much prefer the indicative sense, for which we have a precedent in reff. Heb. and Eph., the only other places where the form occurs in the N. T. And taking this indicative sense, I refer the word not to what follows, but to what precedes, making it an appeal to their knowledge of the momentous facts which he has just stated: You are well aware of this: but (i. e. and having this knowledge &c.). Thus we bring ἴστε here into strict accord with its meaning in those two other places, where it is, “Ye are aware;” appealing to a well-known fact. Ye know it, my beloved brethren: but (consequently) let every man he swift to hear (the word of truth which has so great power for good and for life: we need not actually supply τὸν λόγον τῆς ἀληθείας as Est., al., De W., Wiesinger do: the verb is absolute and general, having only reference to the word of truth), slow to speak (λαλῆσαι need not refer only to the caution μὴ πολλοὶ διδάσκαλοι γίνεσθε, ch. 3:1, though it includes that, being general. The meaning is, be eager to listen, not eager to discourse: the former may lead to implanting or strengthening the new life, the latter to wrath and suddenness of temper, so often found in the wake of swift rejoinder and ready chattering. Œc. reminds us that τὶς ἀνὴρ θεῖος φησίν, ὁ λαλήσας μετέγνω πολλάκις, ὁ δὲ σιωπήσας οὐδέποτε), slow to wrath (Bengel and others interpret ὀργή, “ira sive impatientia erga Deum,” and so nearly Calvin: but the reference is more general, as the precept is. The quick speaker is the quick kindler. See below. We have in Philo de Confus. Ling. § 12, vol. i. p. 412, βραδὺς ὠφελῆσαι, ταχὺς βλάψαι: but the words occur in contrast only here in the N. T.):
20.] for the wrath (any wrath, all wrath) of man (ἀνήρ is used by our Apostle without any such definite precision as has been supposed here by Bengel, “Sexus virilis maxime iram alit:” or Thomus, “Non dicit pueri, quæ cito transit.” Cf. ἀνὴρ δίψυχος, ver. 8, and reff.) worketh not (ἐργάζεται and κατεργάζεται would differ here slightly in sense: the latter would signify more ‘worketh out,’ ‘bringeth to issue or existence,’ the former, ‘practiseth,’ ‘worketh habitually,’ and each of these would throw its own shade of meaning on δικαιοσύνη—see below) the righteousness of God (if ἐργάζεται, = that which is righteousness in God’s sight = τὸ δίκαιον ἐνώπιον τοῦ θεοῦ: if κατεργάζεται, = that righteousness, to produce which is God’s end in begetting us to a new life. In other words, the more general ethical sense is given by ἐργάζεται: the more particular theological one by κατεργάζεται. At all events, we must not interpret δικ. θεοῦ the state of righteousness before God, as some, or that righteousness in another, into which God begets men by his word of truth, as Hofmann (Schriftb. 1. 548 f.) and Wiesinger. When this latter asks, What relevance here has the remark that anger doeth not that which is right in the sight of God?—an easy answer can be given. Be not intemperately zealous, hastily rash to speak and to be angered, even in God’s behalf (for this is implied): be humble, ready to listen, for your angry zeal, your quick speaking, work not God’s righteous purposes—serve not Him, are not carriers forward of that righteousness which is the characteristic of His kingdom, ch. 3:18. How many an endeavour, which might have ended in ἐργάζεσθαι δικαιοσύνην θεοῦ, has been diverted and blighted by hasty speaking and anger, and ended only in disgracing ourselves, and Him whom we would have served, before men! So Bengel, “Ira plane impedit justitiam Dei; tametsi sibi dum fervet, quam maxime operari eam videatur. Purius sine ira fit”).
21.] Wherefore (consequence from ver. 20: seeing that ὀργή excludes you from having a share in the righteous work of God) putting off (reff.: aor., because it must be done as a single act, antecedently to that which follows. The previous putting off is the condition of the subsequent reception) all filthiness (ῥυπαρία is here figurative, as ῥυπαρός and ῥυπαρεύω in ref. Rev.: in the other reff. the word occurs in its literal sense. Some Commentators take it here as standing alone: Others join it with καὶ περισσείαν, as belonging to the genitive κακίας, which seems better for the context, which concerns not the putting away of moral pollution of all kinds, but only of that kind which belongs to κακία: see below. And thus taken it will mean that κακία pollutes the soul, and renders it unfit to receive the ἔμφυτος λόγος. It is very possible that the agricultural similitude in ἔμφυτος may have influenced the choice of both these words, ῥυπαρία and περισσεία. The ground must be ridded of all that pollutes and chokes it, before the seed can sink in and come to maturity: must be cleaned and cleared) and abundance (“superfluity” is perhaps too strong; it is, if the above figure be allowed, the rank growth, the abundant crop. Beza, Erasm. Schmid, al. take it as = περίσσωμα, “excrementum;” Pott, Schneckenb., De Wette, al., as “efflorescence,” as Lösner, “ramos in vite vel arbore abundantes, falceque resecandos;” Michaelis, al. take it as the remnant of κακία surviving from old times = περίσσευμα Mark 8:8. But the usual meaning seems preferable, as being both philologically correct, and suiting in its simplicity the solemn character of the exhortation) of malignity (evil disposition towards one another, as in reff. The word carries on the ὀργή above: which springs from (see note on ref. Eph.) κακία, evil disposition, which is inherent in our hearts, and requires putting off before we can receive the word of God. That this is so, is evident from ἐν πραΰτητι which follows. However the exhortation may apply in the wider sense, it is not its sense here, as the context plainly shews), in mildness (towards one another, reff.: not “modestia et facilitas mentis ad discendum composita,” Calv., nor “docili animo,” Grot., al.: see above on κακία) receive (cf. reff. and παραδέχονται, Mark 4:20, of the good ground) the implanted word (the word spoken of is beyond doubt the same as the λόγος ἀληθείας above—i. e. the gospel, in its fulness. But the epithet makes some little difficulty. First of all, it clearly is not, as Œc. seems to take it, “innate:” τὸν διακριτικὸν τοῦ βελτίονος καὶ τοῦ χείρονος, διʼ ὃ καὶ λογικοὶ ἐσμὲν καὶ λεγόμεθα: and so in the Apostolical Constt. viii. 12, νόμον δέδωκας ἔμφυτον, for this would stultify δέξασθε, we having it already. Nor must ἔμφυτος be taken as proleptic, “ita ut inseratur,” as Calvin, Semler, De Wette (but doubtfully), al. Nor again can it mean ‘the word which has been planted in the whole of Christendom,’ seeing that individuals are here being dealt with: but the allusion is apparently to the parable of the sower, and it is the word implanted (= which has been sown), the word whose attribute and ἀρετή it is to be ἔμφυτος, and which is ἔμφυτος, awaiting your reception of it to spring up and take up your being into it and make you new plants), which is able to save your souls (cf. Romans 1:16, where the εὐαγγέλιον is said to be δύναμις θεοῦ εἰς σωτηρίαν παντὶ τῷ πιστεύοντι. “Magnificum cœlestis doctrinæ encomium, quod certam ex ea salutem consequimur. Est autem additum, ut sermonem illum instar thesauri incomparabilis et expetere et amare et magnificare discamus. Est ergo acris ad castigandam nostram ignaviam stimulus, sermonem cui solemus tam negligenter aures præbere, salutis nostræ esse causam. Tametsi non in hunc finem servandi vis sermoni adscribitur, quasi aut salus in externo vocis sonitu inclusa foret, aut servandi munus Deo ablatum alio transferretur. Nam de sermone tractat Jacobus, qui fide in corda hominum penetravit: et tantum indicat, Deum salutis auctorem evangelio suo eam peragere.” Calvin. Observe ψυχάς. It is the ψυχή which carries the personality of the man: which is between the πνεῦμα drawing it upwards, and the σάρξ drawing it downwards, and is saved or lost, passes into life or death, according to the choice between these two. And the λόγος ἔμφυτος, working through the πνεῦμα and by the divine πνεῦμα, is a spiritual agency, able to save the ψυχή. And σῶσαι, the aor., because the power is to complete the work and to have done it for ever).
22.] The ταχὺς εἰς τὸ ἀκοῦσαι and δέξασθε are qualified, at the same time that they are enforced, by a caution. But be ye (not, ‘become ye,’ any more than in Matthew 6:16; Matthew 10:16; Matthew 24:44: John 20:27: Romans 12:16. In all these places no other meaning will suit the context but simply “be ye:” with reference indeed to some future act by which the word γίνεσθαι gets its propriety; but ‘become’ in English carries a very different meaning, viz. that of change into the state mentioned from some other previous one, which is in none of these cases implied) doers of the word (viz. of the λόγος ἔμφυτος, the λόγος τῆς ἀληθείας. Theile remarks well, “Substantiva plus sonant quam participia;” the substantive ποιητής carries an enduring, a sort of official force with it: ‘let this be your occupation.’ For the expression, see reff.), not hearers only (ἀκροατής in classical Greek carries rather the idea of attentive observance with it, which cannot be the case either here or in ref. Rom.), deceiving yourselves (see note on ref. Col. παραλογίζεσθαι is used here probably as allusive to λόγος, and means, to deceive by a false logical conclusion. The ‘hearer only’ does this, when he infers that the mere sound of the word received in his outward ear will suffice for him. Cf. ἀπατῶν καρδίαν αὐτοῦ, ver. 26. Hesych. gives ἀπάτη λογισμοῦ as the explanation of παραλογισμός. See Suicer, sub voce).
23-25.] Justification of παραλογιζόμενοι, and of the foregoing exhortation.
23.] Because, if any is a hearer of the word and not (the hypothesis being one of fact, that he ἀκούει καὶ οὐ ποιεῖ, οὐ is used, where we should rather expect μή, and where in the exhortation, μή has been used. Strictly, it is ‘if any one is a hearer, and a not-doer’) a doer, this man (the demonstrative pronoun points more markedly at the individual in whom the hearing and not-doing are united: see reff.) is like to a man (ἀνδρί general again: see vv. 8, 12, &c. Huther quotes a curious comment from Paes: “Viri obiter tantum solent specula intueri, muliebre autem est curiose se ad speculum componere”) contemplating (reff. Probably the example was meant to have a general reference: for though it may be true, as De Wette says, that many men remember well their appearance in the mirror, the common rule is that men forget it. Had a particular case of one who looks and forgets been intended, the next sentence would not surely have been introduced with the aor. and γάρ, but with καί and participles) the countenance of his birth (i. e. as E. V., “his natural face:” the face he was born with. The expression is to be explained apparently as Wiesinger: “Not that he can see in the glass any other than his natural face, but the addition τῆς γενέσεως αὐτοῦ serves more plainly to point out the sphere of mere material perception from which the comparison is taken, as distinguished from the ethical sphere of ἀκροᾶσθαι, and at the same time hints at the easy translation of the remark from the one department to the other, in which ‘the word of God is a mirror in which we may and ought to see our moral visage,’ as De Wette.” Various other explanations have been given: by Pott, “Formam vultus nativam transeundo animadvertit: supple, non item maculas vultui haud ἐκ γενέσεως insitas, sed propria culpa adspersas:” Luther, Michaelis, Benson, Knapp imagine a contrast to be intended between his natural face and τὸ τοῦ πνεύματος πρόσωπον: Schulthess, between the natural face and a mask: &c. Whether the gen. αὐτοῦ (not αὑτοῦ) belongs to πρόσωπον or to τῆς γενέσεως, is uncertain as the words stand: more probably however to the latter: cf. τοῦ υἱοῦ τῆς ἀγάπης αὐτοῦ, Colossians 1:13) in a mirror (see reff.: and Pind. Nehemiah 7:20):
24.] for (this seems to stamp the example as a general one, applying to all, not merely taking some possible man who may do this: see above) he contemplated himself (on the aorr. see above, ver. 11), and has departed (the perfect in the midst of aorr. is to be noted. We might have had all aorr.: but seeing that the departing begins a permanent state of absence from the mirror, that is chosen to be designated by a perfect. The forgetting is also a permanent state; but the Apostle rather chooses in this case to bring out the act itself, as one immediately (εὐθύς) and suddenly taking place. For similar conjunctions of perfects with aorr., cf. Luke 4:18: Mark 15:44: Hebrews 2:14 and note: 1Corinthians 15:4: and Winer, § 40. 4), and immediately forgot of what appearance he was (viz. in the mirror. It is to be observed, that the κατανοεῖν answers to the hearing of the word: the ἀπεληλυθέναι to the relaxing the attention after hearing—letting the mind go elsewhere, and the interest of the thing heard pass away: and then the forgetfulness in both cases follows. In the next verse we pass to one who looks and does not depart).
25.] But he who looked into (here we have the figure mingled with the reality, the comparison being dropped. The aor. participles are continued on from the former construction in ver. 24. Probably the verb παρακύψαι here, to stoop and look in, has reference to a mirror being placed on a table or on the ground, to contemplate which steadily, a man must put his face near to it. But we must not perhaps urge this too strictly: see ref. 1 Pet.: where it is used of looking closely into any thing. It is here the opposite of κατενόησεν, attention bestowed for a time only and then withdrawn. And this opposition is strengthened by καὶ παραμείνας) the perfect law which is (the law) of our (Christian) liberty (τὸν νόμον τέλειον, not, the gospel as contrasted with the law, nor the covenant of faith as more perfect than that of legal obedience: but, the rule of life as revealed in the gospel, which is perfect and perfecting, but not in contrast with the former law as being not perfect, and not able to make perfect: that distinction is not in view here: see below. The whole Epistle is founded on this perfect law of Christ, more especially on that declaration of it contained in the sermon on the mount: see Prolegg. And that this law here is meant, the λόγος ἔμφυτος, λόγος ἀληθείας, as it is a rule of conduct, is evident from what follows, where deeds, and they only, are spoken of. It is the law of our liberty, not as in contrast with a former law of bondage, but as viewed on the side of its being the law of the new life and birth, with all its spontaneous and free development of obedience. Huther remarks, “Ever in the O. T. the sweetness of the law was subject of praise (Psalm 19:8-11), but the life-giving power belonged to the law only in an imperfect manner, because the covenant on which it rested, was as yet only one of promise, and not of fulfilment”) and remains there (remains looking in, does not depart as the other. There is a paronomasia in the παρα- repeated. Schneckenburger tries to give it the sense of ἐμμένειν in Acts 14:22: but as Wiesinger remarks, the matter spoken of here is not so much observing the law in act, as observing it in attention—not letting it pass out of the thoughts. That leads to action, as below), being (not, having become: see above on γίνεσθε, ver. 22: the former οὗτος being omitted, this part. carries with it a slightly inferential force: ‘cum sit’) not a forgetful hearer (the expression ἀκροατὴς ἐπιλησμονῆς is a Hebraism, the genitive indicating the quality: see below on ch. 2:4, κριταὶ διαλογισμῶν πονηρῶν) but a doer of work (ἔργον, not sing. for plur. as Grot., “effector eorum operum quæ evangelica lex exigit:” but abstract, of work, something which brings a result with it), this man (see on οὗτος above, ver. 23) shall be blessed in his doing (cf. Sir. 19:20, ἐν πάσῃ σοφίᾳ ποίησις νόμου. The words imply that even in the act there is blessing: ἐν not being instrumental, but taken in its proper meaning: the life of obedience is the element wherein the blessedness is found and consists).
26, 27.] The Apostle is still on the command in ver. 19. As yet he has been exemplifying the ταχὺς εἰς τὸ ἀκοῦσαι in connexion with the βραδὺς εἰς ὀργήν. From this he passes to that which is again so nearly connected with it,—the βραδὺς εἰς τὸ λαλῆσαι.
26.] If any man imagines that he is (reff.: not “videtur,” as Calv.: our E. V. “seem” is ambiguous: it may mean ‘to others,’ whereas δοκεῖ means only, ‘to himself:’ ‘thinks that he is’) religious (in the sense of ‘observant of God’s outward service,’ not = εὐσεβής, but marking the external manifestation of εὐσέβεια. We have no word at all adequately expressing θρῆσκος. See reff.), not bridling (reff. Plato, Legg. iii. 701 c, has ἀχάλινον κεκτημέυος τὸ στόμα) his tongue but deceiving his heart (see above on παραλογιζόμενοι ἑαυτούς, ver. 22: “Scil. eo quod nimiam dicendi licentiam et linguæ intemperantiam pro vera θρησκείᾳ habet,” Pott. Calvin adds, “Hoc vitium nominatim oportuit taxari, quum de legis observatione sermo esset. Nam qui crassiora vitia exuerunt, huic morbo sunt ut plurimum obnoxii. Qui neque adulter erit, neque fur, neque ebriosus, quin potius externa sanctimoniæ specie fulgebit, aliorum famam lacerando se jactabit, zeli quidem prætextu, sed obtrectandi libidine”), of this man (cf. on οὗτος above, ver. 23) the religious service is vain (idle and fruitless).
27.] Religious service pure and unpolluted (the two adjectives seem merely to bring out the positive and negative sides of purity, as in the two members of the apodosis below) in the estimation of (reff. and Romans 2:13: Galatians 3:11) Him who is our God and Father (thus with the τῷ: if without it, ‘(our) God and Father.’ That the paternal relation here ascribed to God must be understood as referring to us, is evident, were it only from the reference which Chrys. (in Caten.) recognizes: οὐκ εἶπεν ἐὰν νηστεύητε, ὅμοιοι ἐστὲ τῷ πατρὶ ὑμῶν· οὐδὲν γὰρ τούτων παρὰ θεὸν(-ῷ?) οὐδὲ ἐργάζεταί τι τούτων ὁ θεός· ἀλλὰ τί; γίνεσθε οἰκτίρμονες ὡς ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς· τοῦτο θεοῦ ἔργον· ἐὰν οὖν τοῦτο μὴ ἔχῃς, τί ἔχεις; ἔλεον θέλω, φησί, καὶ οὐ θυσίαν) is (consists in) this, to visit (“Visitare in necessitate est, porrigere manum ad eos allevandos qui premuntur”) orphans (perhaps in reference to πατρί which has preceded: so Psalm 67:5, God is called ὁ πατὴρ τῶν ὀρφανῶν κ. κριτὴς τῶν χηρῶν) and widows in their affliction (shews at the same time the reason for the ἐπισκέπτεσθαι, and the object of it),—to (there is no copula. These asyndeta are found in our Epistle especially, where various particulars are enumerated which go to make up a whole, or apply to the description of one thing: as e. g. ver. 19, ch. 3:6: cf. also ch. 5:5, 6) preserve himself (the reflexive ἑαυτόν refers back as its subject to τις, as if it were ἐπισκέπτεσθαί τινα ὀρφανοὺς κ.τ.λ.) unspotted from (belongs to τηρεῖν, see ref. Prov. and cf. προσέχειν ἀπό, Matthew 16:6, Matthew 16:12) the world (ὁ κόσμος, not merely earthly things as far as they tempt to sin: still less the “indoles qualis plerorumque est improba;” nor again, as Œc., κόσμον ἐνταῦθα τὸν δημώδη καὶ συρφετὸν ὄχλον ἀκουστέον, τὸν κατὰ τὰς ἐπιθυμίας τῆς ἀπάτης αὐτοῦ φθειρόμενον: but, as in ch. 4:4, the whole earthly creation, separated from God and lying in sin, which, whether considered as consisting in the men who serve it, or the enticements which it holds out to evil lust (ἐπιθυμία), is to Christians a source of continual defilement. They, by their new birth unto God, are taken out of the world; but at the same time, by sin still dwelling in them, are ever liable to be enticed and polluted by it: and therefore must keep themselves (cf. 1Timothy 6:14), for fear of such pollution. This keeping is indeed in the higher sense God’s work: cf. John 17:15: but it is also our work, 1Timothy 5:22. The Commentators compare Isocr. ad Nicocl. p. 36, ἡγοῦ τοῦτο εἶναι θῦμα κάλλιστον καὶ θεραπείαν μεγίστην, ἐὰν βὲλτιστον καὶ δικαιότατον σεαυτὸν παρέχῃς. Also Psalm 50:8-15: 1Samuel 15:22: Psalm 40:7 f.: Sir. 35:2).