New International Version
The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one's life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
King James Bible
And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.
Darby Bible Translation
and the tongue [is] fire, the world of unrighteousness; the tongue is set in our members, the defiler of the whole body, and which sets fire to the course of nature, and is set on fire of hell.
World English Bible
And the tongue is a fire. The world of iniquity among our members is the tongue, which defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature, and is set on fire by Gehenna.
Young's Literal Translation
and the tongue is a fire, the world of the unrighteousness, so the tongue is set in our members, which is spotting our whole body, and is setting on fire the course of nature, and is set on fire by the gehenna.
James 3:6 Parallel
CommentaryClarke's Commentary on the Bible
The tongue is a fire - It is often the instrument of producing the most desperate contentions and insurrections.
A world of iniquity - This is an unusual form of speech, but the meaning is plain enough; World signifies here a mass, a great collection, an abundance. We use the term in the same sense - a world of troubles, a world of toil, a world of anxiety; for great troubles, oppressive toil, most distressing anxiety. And one of our lexicographers calls his work a world of words; i.e. a vast collection of words: so we also say, a deluge of wickedness, a sea of troubles; and the Latins, oceanus malorum, an ocean of evils. I do not recollect an example of this use of the word among the Greek writers; but in this sense it appears to be used by the Septuagint, Proverbs 17:6 : Του πιστου ὁλος ὁ κοσμος των χρηματων, του δε απιστου ουδε οβολος, which may be translated, "The faithful has a world of riches, but the unfaithful not a penny." This clause has nothing answering to it in the Hebrew text. Some think that the word is thus used, 2 Peter 2:5 : And brought the flood, κοσμῳ ασεβων, on the multitude of the ungodly. Mr. Wakefield translates the clause thus: The tongue is the varnisher of injustice. We have seen that κοσμοςsignifies adorned, elegant, beautiful, etc., but I can scarcely think that this is its sense in this place. The Syriac gives a curious turn to the expression: And the tongue is a fire; and the world of iniquity is like a wood. Above, the same version has: A little fire burns great woods. So the world of iniquity is represented as inflamed by the wicked tongues of men; the world being fuel, and the tongue a fire.
So is the tongue among our members - I think St. James refers here to those well known speeches of the rabbins, Vayikra Rabba, sec. 16, fol. 159. "Rabbi Eleazar said, Man has one hundred and forty-eight members, some confined, others free. The tongue is placed between the jaws; and from under it proceeds a fountain of water, (the great sublingual salivary gland), and it is folded with various foldings. Come and see what a flame the tongue kindles! Were it one of the unconfined members, what would it not do?" The same sentiment, with a little variation, may be found in Midrash, Yalcut Simeoni, par. 2, fol. 107; and in Erachin, fol. xv. 2, on Psalm 120:3 : What shall be given unto thee, or what shall be done unto thee, thou false tongue? "The holy blessed God said to the tongue: All the rest of the members of the body are erect, but thou liest down; all the rest are external, but thou art internal. Nor is this enough: I have built two walls about thee; the one bone, the other flesh: What shall be given unto thee, and what shall be done unto thee, O thou false tongue?"
Setteth on fire the course of nature - Φλογιζουσα τον τροχον της γενεσεως· And setteth on fire the wheel of life. I question much whether this verse be in general well understood. There are three different interpretations of it:
1. St. James does not intend to express the whole circle of human affairs, so much affected by the tongue of man; but rather the penal wheel of the Greeks, and not unknown to the Jews, on which they were accustomed to extend criminals, to induce them to confess, or to punish them for crimes; under which wheels, fire was often placed to add to their torments. In the book, De Maccabaeis, attributed to Josephus, and found in Haverkamp's edition, vol. ii., p. 497-520, where we have the account of the martyrdom of seven Hebrew brothers, in chap. ix, speaking of the death of the eldest, it is said: Ανεβαλον αυτον επι τον τροχοι - περι ὁν κατατεινομενος· "They cast him on the wheel, over which they extended him; πυρ ὑπεστρωσαν και διηρεθισαν τον τροχον προσεπικατατεινοντες· they put coals under it, and strongly agitated the wheel." And of the martyrdom of the sixth brother it is said, cap. 11: Παρηγον επι τον τροχον, εφ' οὑ κατατεινομενος εκμελως και εκσφονδυλιζομενος ὑπεκαιετο, και οβελισκους δε οξεις πυρωσαντες, τοις νοτοις προσεφερον, και τα πλευρα διαπειραντες αυτου, και τα σπλαγχνα διεκαιον· They brought him to the wheel, on which, having distended his limbs, and broken his joints, they scorched him with the fire placed underneath; and with sharp spits heated in the fire, they pierced his sides, and burned his bowels.
The fire and the wheel are mentioned by Achilles Tatius, lib. 7, p. 449. "Having stripped me of my garments, I was carried aloft, των μεν μαστιγας κομιζοντων, των δε πυρ και τροχον, some bringing scourges, others the fire and the wheel." Now as γενεσις often signifies life, then the wheel of life will signify the miseries and torments of life. To set on fire the wheel of life is to increase a man's torments; and to be set on fire from hell implies having these miseries rendered more active by diabolic agency; or, in other words, bad men, instigated by the devil, through their lies and calumnies, make life burdensome to the objects of their malicious tongues. The wheel and the fire, so pointedly mentioned by St. James, make it probable that this sort of punishment might have suggested the idea to him. See more in Kypke.
2. But is it not possible that by the wheel of life St. James may have the circulation of the blood in view? Angry or irritating language has an astonishing influence on the circulation of the blood: the heart beats high and frequent; the blood is hurried through the arteries to the veins, through the veins to the heart, and through the heart to the arteries again, and so on; an extraordinary degree of heat is at the same time engendered; the eyes become more prominent in their sockets; the capillary vessels suffused with blood; the face flushed; and, in short, the whole wheel of nature is set on fire of hell. No description can be more natural than this: but it may be objected that this intimates that the circulation of the blood was known to St. James. Now supposing it does, is the thing impossible? It is allowed by some of the most judicious medical writers, that Solomon refers to this in his celebrated portraiture of old age, particularly in Ecclesiastes 12:6 : "Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern." Here is the very wheel of life from which St. James might have borrowed the idea; and the different times evidently refer to the circulation of the blood, which might be as well known to St. James as the doctrine of the parallax of the sun. See on James 1:17 (note).
3. It is true, however, that the rabbins use the term גלגל תולדות gilgal toledoth, "the wheel of generations," to mark the successive generations of men: and it is possible that St. James might refer to this; as if he had said: "The tongue has been the instrument of confusion and misery through all the ages of the world." But the other interpretations are more likely.
Treasury of Scripture Knowledge
LibraryJanuary the Twenty-Sixth the Fire of Envy
"Where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work!" --JAMES iii. 13-18. In Milton's "Comus" we read of a certain potion which has the power to pervert all the senses of everyone who drinks it. Nothing is apprehended truly. Sight and hearing and taste are all disordered, and the victim is all unconscious of the confusion. The deadly draught is the minister of deceptive chaos. And envy is like that potion when it is drunk by the spirit. It perverts every moral and spiritual sense. …
John Henry Jowett—My Daily Meditation for the Circling Year
Whether Wisdom Should be Reckoned among the Gifts of the Holy Ghost?
Whether Our Atmosphere is the Demons' Place of Punishment?
Whether a Religious Sins More Grievously than a Secular by the Same Kind of Sin?
Save me, LORD, from lying lips and from deceitful tongues.
What will he do to you, and what more besides, you deceitful tongue?
A scoundrel plots evil, and on their lips it is like a scorching fire.
But now, all you who light fires and provide yourselves with flaming torches, go, walk in the light of your fires and of the torches you have set ablaze. This is what you shall receive from my hand: You will lie down in torment.
But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, 'Raca,' is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell.
But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.
What goes into someone's mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them."
Jump to PreviousBody Course Cycle Defiles Defileth Evil Fire Gehenna Getting Hell Iniquity Life Making Members Nature Parts Placed Putting Round Sets Setting Tongue Unclean Unrighteous Unrighteousness Wheel Whole Within World
Jump to NextBody Course Cycle Defiles Defileth Evil Fire Gehenna Getting Hell Iniquity Life Making Members Nature Parts Placed Putting Round Sets Setting Tongue Unclean Unrighteous Unrighteousness Wheel Whole Within World
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