James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.
Verse 1. - SALUTATION. James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. (On the person who thus describes himself, see the Introduction.) It is noteworthy that he keeps entirely out of sight his natural relationship to our Lord, and styles himself simply "a bond-servant of God and the Lord Jesus Christ." That, and that alone, gave him a right to speak and a claim to be heard. Δοῦλος is similarly used by St. Paul in Romans 1:1; Philippians 1:1; Titus 1:1 by St. Peter in 2 Peter 1:1; and by St. Jude ver. 1. It is clearly an official designation, implying that his office is one "in which, not his own will, not the will of other men, but only of God and of Christ, is to be performed" (Huther). To the twelve tribes, etc. Compare the salutation in Acts 15:23, which was also probably written by St. James: "The apostles and the elder brethren unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch, and Syria, and Cilicia, greeting."
(1) Ξαίρειν is common to both, and not found elsewhere in apostolic greet-tugs. (It is used by Ignatius in the opening of all his epistles except that to the Philadelphians.)
(2) The letter in the Acts is addressed to Gentile communities in definite regions; St. James's Epistle, to Jews of the dispersion. So also his contemporary Gamaliel wrote "to the sons of the dispersion in Babylonia, and to our brethren in Media, and to all the dispersion of Israel" (Frankel, 'Monatsschrift,' 1853, p. 413). Ταῖς δώδεκα φύλαις (cf. δωδεκάφυλον in Acts 26:7; Clem., 'Rom,' l, § 55; 'Prefer. Jacob.,' c.i.). Such expressions are important as tending to show that the Jews were regarded as representing, not simply the tribes of Benjamin and Judah, but the whole nation, including those so often spoken of as "the lost tribes" (cf. 1 Esdr. 7:8). Διασπορᾷ. The abstract put for the concrete. It is the word used by the LXX. for the "dispersion" (2 Macc. 1:27; Jud. 5:19; cf. Deuteronomy 28:25, etc.), i.e. the Jews "so scattered among the nations as to become the seed of a future harvest" (Westcott on St. John 7:35). (On the importance of the dispersion as preparing the way for Christianity, see the 'Dictionary of the Bible,' vol. 1. p. 44:1.) It was divided into three great sections:
(1) the Babylonian, i.e. the original dispersion;
(2) the Syrian, dating from the Greek conquests in Asia, Seleucus Nicator having transplanted largo bodies of Jews from Babylonia to the capitals of his Western provinces;
(3) the Egyptian, the Jewish settlements in Alexandria, established by Alexander and Ptolemy I., and thence spreading along the north coast of Africa. To these we should, perhaps, add a fourth -
(4) the Roman, consequent upon the occupation of Jerusalem by Pompey, B.C. 63. All these four divisions were represented in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost (see Acts 2:8-11) - a fact which will help to account for St. James's letter. The whole expression, "the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad," makes it perfectly clear that St. James is writing
(1) to Jews, and
(2) to those beyond the borders of Palestine.
My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;
Verses 2-18. - THE SUBJECT OF TEMPTATION. This section may be subdivided as follows: -
(1) The value of temptation (vers. 2-4).
(2) Digression suggested by the thought 'of perfection (vers. 5-11).
(3) Return to the subject of temptation (vers. 12-18). Verses 2-4. - The value of temptation. Considered as an opportunity, it is a cause for joy. Verse 2. - My brethren. A favorite expression with St. James, occurring no less than fifteen times in the compass of this short Epistle. Count it all joy, etc.; cf. 1 Peter 1:6, "Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, ye have been put to grief in manifold temptations, that the proof of your faith (τὸ δοκίμιον ὑμῶν τῆς πίστεως)... might be found unto praise," etc. The coincidence is too close to be accidental, although the shade of meaning given to δοκίμιον is slightly different, if indeed it has any right in the text in St. Peter (see Herr, vol. it. p. 102). Here it has its proper force, and signifies that by which the faith is tried, i.e. the instrument of trial rather than the process of trial. Thus the passage in ver. 3 becomes parallel to Romans 5:3, "tribulation worketh patience." With regard to the sentiments of ver. 2, "Count it all joy," etc., contrast Matthew 6:13. Experience, however, shows that the two are compatible. It is quite possible to shrink beforehand from temptation, and pray with intense earnestness, "Lead us not into temptation," and yet, when the temptation comes, to meet it joyfully, Περίπέσητε. The use of this word implies that the temptations of which St. James is thinking are external (see Luke 10:30, where the same word is used of the man who fell among thieves). 1 Thessalonians 2:14 and Hebrews 10:32, 33 will show the trials to which believing Jews were subject. But the epithet "manifold" would indicate that we should not confine the word here to trials such as those.
Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.
Verse 3. - Patience. Υπομονή in general is patience with regard to things, μακροθυμία is rather long-suffering with regard to persons (see Trench on 'Synonyms,' p. 186, and compare the notes on James 5:7, etc.).
But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
Verse 4. - Patience alone is not sufficient. It must have scope given it for its exercise that it may have its "perfect work." That ye may be perfect (ἵνα ῆτε τέλειοι); cf. Matthew 5:48, "Be ye therefore perfect." Both τέλειος and ὁλόκληρος were applied to the initiated, the fully instructed, as opposed to novices in the ancient mysteries; and as early as 1 Corinthians 2:6, 7 we find τέλειος used for the Christian who is no longer in need of rudimentary teaching, and possibly this is the thought here. The figure, however, is probably rather that of the full-grown man. Τέλειοι, equivalent to "grown men" as opposed to children; ὁλόκληροι, sound in every part and limb (cf. ὁλοκληρίαν in Acts 3:16). From this τέλειος assumes a moral-complexion, that which has attained its aim. Compare its use in Genesis 6:9 and Deuteronomy 18:13, where it is equivalent to the Latin integer vitae, and the following passage from Stobaeus, which exactly serves to illustrate St. James's thought in vers. 4 and 5, Τὸν ἀγαθὸν ἄνδρα τέλειον εϊναι λέγουσιν, διὰ τὸ μηδεμίας ἀπολείπεσθαι ἀρετῆς The "perfection" which is to be attained in this life may be further illustrated from Hebrews 12:23 - a passage which is often misunderstood, but which undoubtedly means that the men were made perfect (πνεύμασι δικαίων τετελειωμένων), and that not in a future state, but here on earth, where alone they can be subject to those trials and conflicts by the patient endurance of which they are perfected for a higher state of being. The whole passage before us (vers. 2-6) affords a most remarkable instance of the figure called by grammarians anadiplosis, the repetition of a marked word at the close of one clause and beginning of another. "The trial of your faith worketh patience; but let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, lacking in nothing. But if any man lack wisdom, let him ask of the giving God... and it shall be given him; but let him ask in faith, nothing doubting, for he that doubteth," etc.
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.
Verses 5-11. - Digression suggested by the thought of perfection. There can be no true perfection without wisdom, which is the gift of God, and must be sought from him. It is possible that the thought and connection of the passage is due to a reminiscence of Wisd. 9:6, "For though a man be never so perfect (τέλειος) among the children of men, yet if thy wisdom be not with him, he shall be nothing regarded." But whether this be so or not, the teaching is manifestly founded on our Lord's words with regard to prayer, Matthew 7:7, "Ask, and it shall be given you;" and Mark 11:23, "Have faith in God. Verily I say unto you, Whoever shall say... and shall not doubt (διακριθῇ) in his heart," etc. Τοῦ διδόντος Θεοῦ. The order of the words shows that God's character is that of a Giver: "the giving God." His "nature and property" is to give as well as to forgive. Man often spoils his gifts,
(1) by the grudging way in which they are given, and
(2) by the reproaches which accompany them.
God, on the contrary, gives to all
(1) liberally, and
(2) without upbraiding Ἁπλῶς: only here in the New Testament, but cf. ἁπλότης in Romans 12:8; 2 Corinthians 8:2; 2 Corinthians 9:11, 13. Vulgate, affluenter; A.V. and R.V., "liberally." It is almost equivalent to "without any arriere pensee." Μὴ ὀνειδίζοντος: cf. Ecclus. 41:22, Μετὰ τὸ δοῦναι μὴ ὀνείδιζε
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.
Verse 6. - The A.V. "nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea," is unfortunate, as suggesting a play upon the words which has no existence in the original. Render, with R.V., nothing doubting: for he that doubteth is like the surge of the sea. Κλύδων, the surge; ἀνεμιζόμενος and ῤιπιζόμενος both occur here only.
For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.
Verses 7, 8. - The A.V., which makes ver. 8 an independent sentence, is certainly wrong. Render, Let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord, double-minded man that he is, unstable in all his ways. So Vulgate, Vir duplex animi, inconstans in omnibus viis. (The Clementine Vulgate, by reading est after inconstans, agrees with A.V.) Another possible rendering is that of the R.V. margin, "Let not that man think that a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways, shall receive," etc. But the rendering given above is better. Double-minded; δίψυχος occurs only here and in James 4:8 in the New Testament. It is not found in any earlier writer, and was perhaps coined by St. James to represent the idea of the Hebrew, "an heart and an heart (בְלֵב וָלֵב)" (1 Chronicles 12:33). It took root at once in the vocabulary of ecclesiastical writers, being found three times in Clement of Rome, and frequently in his younger contemporary Hermas. St. James's words are apparently alluded to in the Apost. Coust., VII. 11, Μὴ γίνου δίψυχος ἐν προσευχῇ σου εἰ ἔσται η} οὑ: and cf. Clem., 'Romans,' c. 23. The same thought is also found in Ecclus. 1:28, "Come not before him with a double heart (ἐν καρδίᾳ δίσοῃ)." Unstable; ἀκατάστατος, only here and (probably) James 3:8.
A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.
Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted:
Verses 9-11. - A very difficult passage, three interpretations of which are given, none of them entirely satisfactory or free from difficulties.
(1) "But let the brother of low degree glory in his high estate [i.e. his Christian dignity]; but let the rich [brother glory] in his humiliation" (i.e. in being poor of spirit, Matthew 5:3).
(2) "But let the brother," etc. (as before); "but the rich man [rejoices] in his humiliation" (i.e. in what is really his degradation; cf. "whose glory is in their shame," Philippians 3:19).
(3) "But let the brother,... but let the rich [grieve] in his humiliation." The ellipse of ταπεινούσθω in this last is very harsh and unexampled, so that the choice really lies between (1) and (2). And against (1) it may be urged
(a) that the "rich" are never elsewhere spoken of as "brothers" in this Epistle. See James 2:6; James 5:1, and cf. the way in which they are spoken of in other parts of the New Testament (e.g. Luke 6:24; Matthew 19:23; Revelation 6:15); and in Ecclus. 13:3;
(b) that in ver. 11 the thought is, not of riches which make to themselves wings and fly away, but of the rich man himself, who fades away;
(c) that ταπείνωσις is elsewhere always used for external lowness of condition, not for the Christian virtue of humility (see Luke 1:48; Acts 8:33; Philippians 3:21). On the whole, therefore, it is best to adopt (2) and to supply the indicative: "but the rich man [not ' brother'] glories in his humiliation;" i.e. he glories in what is really lowering. Because as the flower, etc. A clear reference to Isaiah 40:6, which is also quoted in 1 Peter 1:24.
But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away.
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.
Verse 11. - Ἀνέτειλε . ἐξήρανε ἐξέπεσε... ἀπώλετο. Observe the aorists here and in ver. 24. The illustration or case mentioned by way of example is taken as an actual fact, and the apostle falls into the tone of narration (see Wirier, 'Grammar of New Testament Greek,' § 40:5, 6. 1). Render, For the sun arose with the scorching wind, and withered the grass; and the flower thereof fell away, and the grace of the fashion of it perished. Καύσων may refer to
(1) the heat of the sun, or
(2) more probably, the hot Samum wind, the קָדִים of the Old Testament (Job 27:21; Ezekiel 17:10, etc.).
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.
Verses 12-18. - Return to the subject of temptation. Ver. 2 taught that temptation regarded as an opportunity should be a cause for joy. Ver. 12 teaches that the endurance of temptation brings a blessing from God, even the crown of life. Comp. Revelation 2:10, the only other place in the New Testament where the "crown of life" is mentioned; and there also it stands in close connection with the endurance of temptation. Elsewhere we read of the "crown of righteousness" (2 Timothy 4:8), and the "crown of glory" (1 Peter 5:4). The genitive (τὸν στέφανον τῆς ζωῆς) is probably the gen. epex.," the crown, which is life." Ὁ Κύριος of the Received Text has but slight authority. It is wanting in A, B, א, ff, and is deleted by the Revisers, following all recent editors. Render, which he promised, etc. The subject is easily understood, and therefore, as frequently in Jewish writings (e.g. 1 Maccabees), omitted from motives of reverence.
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:
Verse 13. - God is not the author of temptation; cf. Ecclus. 15:11, 12, "Say not thou, It is through the Lord that I fell away: for thou oughtest not to do the things that he hateth. Say not thou, He hath caused me to err: for he hath no need of the sinful man." From God; ἀπὸ Θεοῦ (the article is wanting in א, A, B, C, K, L). Contrast ὑπὸ τῆς ἰδίας ἐπιθυμίας. Ἀπὸ Θεοῦ is a more general expression than ὑπὸ Θεοῦ, which would refer the temptation immediately to God. Ἀπὸ Θεοῦ is frequently used as a kind of adverb divinitus. Cannot be tempted; ἀπείραστος: an ἅπαξ λεγόμενον. Syriac, "is not tempted with evils;" Vulgate, inten-tator malorum; R.V., "cannot be tempted of evil;" R.V. margin, "is untried in evil." Alford has a good note on this word, in which he points out that it has but two meanings:
(1) that has not been tried;
(2) that has not tried.
The rendering of the Vulgate is thus etymologically possible, but is against the context. The use of the word may, perhaps, be extended somewhat wider than the renderings given above would allow, so that it may be paraphrased as "out of the sphere of evils" (Farrar). Neither tempteth he, etc. Here the writer has in his mind the conception of a direct temptation from God. Αὐτός is emphatic. Render with R.V., And he himself tempteth no man.
But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.
Verse 14 states the true origin of temptation. While the occasion might be of God "in the order of his providence and of our spiritual training," the inclination is not of him. Compare with this verse the description of the harlot in Proverbs 7:6-27. Here lust is personified, and represented as a seducing harlot, to whose embraces man yields, and the result is the birth of sin, which in its turn gives birth to death.
Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.
Verse 15 shows where temptation passes into sin. Ἐπιθυμία, lust, is clearly not in itself "true and proper sin," but it is no less clear that, as our Article IX. says it "hath of itself the nature of sin." With this whole passage we should compare St. Paul's teaching on ἐπιθυμία, ἀμαρτιὰ, and θανατός, in Romans 7:7-11. Ἀποκύειν occurs only here and in ver. 18; translate, gendereth.
Do not err, my beloved brethren.
Verses 16-18. - The connection of thought with what goes before appears to be this. God cannot be the author of temptation, which thus leads to sin and death, because all good and perfect gifts, and these only, come from him. Verse 16. - Do not err; better, be act deceived; μὴ πλανᾶσθε. The same formula is also found in 1 Corinthians 6:9; 15:83; Galatians 6:7.
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.
Verse 17. - Every good gift, etc. The words form a hexameter verse, though this is probably accidental, and no sign that they are a quotation. Δόσις and δώρημα should be distinguished. "Every kind of gift that is good, and every one that is perfect in its kind" (Dean Scott). Δόσις and δῶρον occur together in the LXX. in Proverbs 21:14. They are expressly distinguished by Philo, who says that the latter involves the idea of magnitude and fullness, which is wanting to the former (see Lightfoot on 'Revision,' p. 77) "Every good gift and every perfect boon, R.V. The Father of lights (ἀπὸ τοῦ Πατρὸς τῶν φώτων). The word must refer to the heavenly bodies, of which God may be said to be the Father, in that he is their Creator (for "Father," in the sense of Creator, cf. Job 38:28). From him who "made the stars also" comes down every good and perfect gift, and with him "there can be no variation, neither shadow that is cast by turning." These last words appear to fix the meaning of φῶτα, as τροπή is used in the LXX. as in classical writers for the changes of the heavenly bodies (see Job 38:33; Deuteronomy 33:14; Wisd. 7:18). Οὐκ ἔνι, "there is no room for." It negatives, not only the fact, but the possibility also (cf. Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11).
Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
Verse 18. - Begat; literally, brought forth; ἀπεκύησεν. The word has been already used of sin in ver. 15. The recurrence of it here points to the connection of thought. The offspring of sin has been shown to be death. God, too, who is both Father and Mother (Bengel), has his offspring. But how different! Us (ημῦς). To whom does this refer?
(1) To all Christians.
(2) To Christians of the apostolic age.
(3) To Jewish Christians, to whom the Epistle is specially addressed.
Probably (3). Just as Israel of old was Jehovah's firstborn (Exodus 4:22), so now the germ of the Christian Church, as found in these Judaeo-Christian communities, was to be "a kind of firstfruits." The thought may be illustrated from a striking parallel in Philo ('De Creat. Princ.'): Τὸ σύμπαν Ἰουδαίων ἔθνος ... τοῦ σύμπαντος ἀνθρώπων γένους ἀπενεμηυη οῖα τις ἀπαρχή τῷ ποιῃτῇ πατρί. Transfer this from the Jewish to the Judaeo-Christian communities, and we have the very thought of the apostle. By the word of truth (cf. 1 Peter 1:23, where, as here, the new birth is connected with the Word of God). A kind of firstfruits of his creatures (ἀπαρχή). The image is taken from the wave sheaf, the firstfruits of the harvest, the earnest of the crop to follow. St. Paul (according to a very possible reading) has the same figure in 2 Thessalonians 2:13, "God chose you as firstfruits (ἀπαρχήν);" see R.V. margin. Elsewhere he applies it to Christ, "the Firstfruits of them that are asleep" (1 Corinthians 15:20). "His creatures (κτισμάτων)." It does not appear to be absolutely necessary to extend the use of this word so as to include the irrational creation as well as mankind. בדיה is frequently used in rabbinical writings for the Gentile world, and κτίσμα may be given the same meaning here, and perhaps κτίσις in Mark 16:15; Romans 8:19, etc.; Colossians 1:23.
Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:
Verses 19-27. - EXHORTATION
(1) TO HEAR RATHER THAN TO SPEAK,
(2) NOT ONLY TO HEAR, BUT ALSO TO DO. Verse 19. - The text requires correction. For ὥστε... ἔστω πᾶς of the Textus Receptus, read, Ἴστε ἀδελφοί μοι ἀγαπητοι ἔστω δὲ πᾶς, א, A, B, C, Latt. Ἴστε is probably indicative, and refers to what has gone before. "Ye know this, my beloved brethren. But let every man," etc. The verse gives us St. James's version of the proverb, "Speech is silver. Silence is golden." Similar maxims were not infrequent among the Jews. So in Ecclus. 5:11, "Be swift to hear; and let thy life be sincere; and with patience give answer;" cf. 4:29, "Be not hasty in thy tongue, and in thy deeds slack and remiss." In the rabbinical work, 'Pirqe Aboth,' 1. 12, we have the following saying of Rabbi Simeon, the son of Gamaliel (who must, therefore, have been a contemporary of St. James): "All my days I have grown up amongst the wise, and have not found ought good for a man but silence; not learning but doing is the groundwork; and whoso multiplies words occasions sin." This passage is curiously like the one before us, both in the thoughts and in the expressions used.
For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.
Verse 20 gives the reason why men should be slow to wrath. Because man's wrath does not work God's righteousness δικαιοσύνην Θεοῦ), the righteousness which God demands and requires.
Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.
Verse 21. - With the form of expression in this verse, comp. 1 Peter 2:1, "Putting away, therefore, all wickedness (ἀποθέμενοι οῦν πᾶσαν κακίαν), and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil-speakings, as new-born babes long for the spiritual milk," etc. Filthiness (ῤυπαρὶαν). Here only in the New Testament, never in LXX.; but the adjective ῤυπαρός is the word used of the "filthy garments" in Zechariah 3:3, 4 - a narrative which illustrates the passage before us. Karts is not vice in general, but rather that vicious nature which is bent on doing harm to others (see Lightfoot on Colossians 3:8). Thus the two words ῤυπαρία and κακία comprise two classes of sins - the sensual and the malignant, Engrafted; rather, implanted. The word is only found again in Wisd. 12:10, where it signifies "inborn." St. James's teaching here is almost like a reminiscence of the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:3, etc.). The "implanted Word" is the gospel teaching. "The seed is the Word of God" (Luke 8:11).
But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.
Verse 22. - They are not merely to receive and hear the Word; they must also act upon it. Compare St. Paul's teaching in Romans 2:13, "For not the hearers (ἀκροαταὶ) of a law are just before God, but the doers of a law shall be justified." Ἀκροατής occurs nowhere else except in these passages. Deceiving your own selves (παραλογίζειν); to lead astray by false reasonings; only here and in Colossians 2:4. Not uncommon in the LXX.
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:
Verses 23, 24. - Illustration from life, showing the folly of being led astray. His natural face (τὸ πρόσωπον τῆς γενέσεως αὐτοῦ); literally, the face of his birth. The expression is an unusual one, but there is no doubt of its meaning. In a glass; rather, in a mirror, ἐν ἐσόπτρῳ: cf. 1 Corinthians 13:12, Δἰ ἐσόπτρου. The mirror of burnished brass.
For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.
Verse 24. - Observe the tenses; literally, He considered (κατενόησε) himself, and has gone away (ἀπελήλυθε), and straightway forgot (ἐπελάθετο) what he was like (compare note on ver. 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.
Verse 25. - Application of the illustration in the form of a contrast. Looketh into (παρακύψας). For the literal sense of the word, see John 20:5, 11; Luke 24:12. The figurative meaning occurs only here and in 1 Peter 1:12. Properly it signifies to "peep into." See its use in the LXX., Genesis 26:8; Proverbs 7:6; Ecclus. 21:23. When used figuratively, it conveys the idea of looking into, but scarcely with that intensive force which is often given to it and for which ἐγκύπτειν would be required (see Dr. Field's 'Otium Norvicense,' p. 147). Its use in St. Peter, loc. cit., is easy enough to explain. Angels desire even a glimpse of the mysteries. But what are we to say of its use hero? Is it that, though the man took a good look at himself in the glass (κατανοεῖν, consider, is a very strong word; cf. Romans 4:19), yet he forgot what he was like, while the man who only peeps into the law of liberty is led on to abide (παραμείνας) and so to act? The perfect law of liberty; rather, the perfect law, even the law of liberty; νόμον τέλειον τὸν τῆς ἐλευθερίας. The substantive is anarthrous, yet the attributive has the article. This construction serves to give greater prominence to the attributive, and requires the rendering given above (see Winer, § 20:4). The conception of the gospel as a "law" is characteristic of St. James (cf. James 2:8, "the royal law," and James 4:11). A forgetful hearer (ἀκροατὴς ἐπιλησμονής); i.e. a hearer characterized by forgetfulness, contrasted with ποιητὴς ἐργοῦ, a doer characterized by work.
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.
Verse 26. - Seem (δοκεῖ); seems to himself rather than to others; translate, with R.V., thinketh himself to be. Vulgate, Si quis Putat se esse. Religious (θρῆσκος). It is difficult to find an English word which exactly answers to the Greek. The noun θρησκεία refers properly to the external rites of religion, and so gets to signify an over-scrupulous devotion to external forms (Lightfoot on Colossians 2:18); almost "ritualism." It is the ceremonial service of religion, the external forms, a body of which εὐσεβεία is the informing soul. Thus the θρῆσκος (the word apparently only occurs here in the whole range of Greek literature) is the diligent performer of Divine offices, of the outward service of God, but not necessarily anything more. This depreciatory sense of θρησκεία ισ well seen in a passage of Philo ('Quod Det. Pot. 'Jus.,' 7), where, after speaking of some who would fain be counted among the εὐλαβεῖς on the score of diverse washings or costly offerings to the temple, he proceeds: Πεπλάνηται γὰρ καὶ οϋτος τῆς πρὸς εὐσεβείαν ὁδοῦ θρησκείαν ἀντὶ ὁσιότητος ἡγούμενος (see Trench on 'Synonyms,' from whom the reference is here taken). "How delicate and fine, then, St. James's choice of θρῆσκος and θρησκεία! 'If any man,' he would say, 'seem to himself to be θρῆσκος, a diligent observer of the offices of religion, if any man would render a pure and undefiled θρησκεία to God, let him know that this consists, not in outward lustrations or ceremonial observances; nay, that there is a better θρησκεία than thousands of rams and rivers of oil, namely, to do justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with his God (Micah 6:7, 8); or, according to his own words, ' to visit the widows and orphans in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world'" (Trench on 'Synonyms,' p. 170: the whole passage will well repay study. Reference should also be made to Coleridge, 'Aids to Reflection,' p. 15). Bridleth not (μὴ χαλιναγωγῶν). The thought is developed more fully afterwards (see James 3:2, etc., and for the word, cf. Polyc., 'Ad Philippians,' c.v.).
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.
Verse 27. - God and the Father; rather, our God and Father. The article (τῷ) binds together Θεῷ and Πατρί, so that they should not be separated, as in the A.V. To visit the fatherless... and to keep himself unspotted. Observe that our duty towards our fellow-men is placed first; then that towards ourselves. Ἐπισκέπτεσθαι is the regular word for visiting the sick; cf. Ecclus. 7:35, "Be not slow to visit the sick (μὴ ὄκει ἐπισκέτεσπθαι ἀῥῤωστον)." The fatherless and widows (ὀρφανοὺς καὶ χήρας). These stand here (as so often in the Old Testament) as types of persons in distress; the "personae miserabiles" of the Canon Law (see e.g. Deuteronomy 10:18; Psalm 68:5; Psalm 82:3; Isaiah 1:17; and cf. Ecclus. 4:10). "Be as a father unto the fatherless, and instead of an husband unto their mother; so shalt thou be as the son of the Most High, and he shall love thee more than thy mother doth." To keep himself unspotted. Man's duty towards himself. (For ἄσπιλον, cf. 1 Timothy 6:14; 1 Peter 1:19; 2 Peter 3:14.) From the world. This clause may be connected either with τηρεῖν or with ἄσπιλον, as in the phrase, καθαρὸς ἀπὸ in Acts 20:26.