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^OtosiCAL SE*^ 



Critical Notes to Broadus* Harmony of the Gospels 

Life and Letters of John A. Broadus 

Teaching of Jesus Concerning God the Father 

The Student's Chronological New Testament 

Syllabus for New Testament Study 

Keywords in the Teaching of Jesus 

Epochs in the Life of Jesus 

A Short Grammar of the Greek New Testament 

Epochs in the Life of Paul 

Commentary on Matthew 

John the Loyal 

The Glory of the Ministry 

A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the 

Light of Historical Research 
Practical and Social Aspects of Christianity 

Practical and Social 
Aspects of Christianity 



Prof. A. T. ROBERTSON, M.A., D.D., LL.D. 

Professor of New Testament Interpretation, Southern Baptist 
Tbeological Seminary, Louisville, Ky. 

"The Wisdom that is from Above" 

0^ WT '- 


SSmigjl *9fiS 




Copyright, 191S, by 





In August, 1 91 2, it was my privilege to deliver a 
course of lectures at the Northfield Bible Conference. 
There were many requests for the publication of the 
addresses. I shall never forget the bright faces of 
the hundreds who gathered in beautiful Sage Chapel 
at 8:30 on those August mornings. In August, 19 13, 
the lectures were repeated at the New York Chau- 
tauqua and at the Winona Bible Conference. There 
were renewed appeals for publication, but it was not 
possible to put the material into shape because of 
my work on "A Grammar of the Greek New Testa- 
ment in the Light of Historical Research." I have 
expanded the lectures a good deal and have added 
some introductory discussion about James himself. 
I have in mind ministers, social workers, students of 
the Bible, Sunday-School teachers, and all lovers of 
the word of God and of Tightness of life. Technical 
matters are placed in parentheses or in footnotes so 
that the reader may go on without these if he cares 
to do so. There is a freshness in the Greek text not 
possible in the English, but those who do not know 
Greek may still read this book with entire ease. I 
do not claim that these addresses are a detailed 
commentary on the Epistle of James. They are ex- 
pository talks, based, I trust, on sober, up-to-date 
scholarship and applied to modern life. It is the old 
gospel in the new age that we need and must know 
how to use. There is a wondrous charm in these 



words of the long ago from one who walked so close 
by the side of the Son of Man, who misunderstood 
him at first, but who came at last to rejoice in his 
Brother in the flesh as the Lord Jesus Christ the 
Glory. It is immensely worth while to listen to 
what James has to say about Christianity and the 
problems of every-day life. His words throb with 
power to-day and strike a peculiarly modern note 
in the emphasis upon social problems and reality in 
religion. They have the breath of Heaven and the 
warmth of human sympathy and love. 

A. T. Robertson. 
Louisville, Ky., April, 1915. 



I James, the Servant of God and of the 

Lord Jesus Christ, i : ia 13 

II To the Twelve Tribes Which Are of the 

Dispersion, i : ib 47 

III Joy in Trial. 1:2-11 53 

IV The Way of Temptation, i : 12-18 72 

V The Practice of the Word of God. 1:19-27 87 

VI Class Prejudice. 2:1-13 107 

VII The Appeal to Life. 2:14-26 127 

VIII The Tongues of Teachers. 3:1-12 143 

IX The True Wise Man. 3:13-18 170 

X The Outer and the Inner Life. 4:1-12. 190 

XI God and Business. 4:13-5:6 214 

XII Perseverance and Prayer. 5 : 7-20 240 




James, the Servant of God and op the Lord 
Jesus Christ, i : ia 

i. The Brother of the Lord. 

It will be well to put together the bits of informa- 
tion about James, or Jacob, 1 as he is called in the 
Greek. They are not very numerous, and yet it is 
possible to form a reasonably clear picture of his 

It is here assumed that the James the author of 
the Epistle is the James the brother of the Lord 
(Gal. 1:19). It is hardly conceivable that James 
the brother of John could have written the Epistle, 
since he was put to death as early as A. D. 44 by 
Herod Agrippa I (Acts 12:2). The matters pre- 
sented in the Epistle were hardly acute in the Jew- 
ish Christian world by that date, and there is no 
evidence that this James had attained a special 
position of leadership that justified a general appeal 
to Jewish Christians. 2 

The Epistle belongs to the five "disputed" (dvriXe- 
ybjitva) Epistles (James, Jude, 2 and 3 John, 2 Peter) 
and circulated in the east before it did in the west. 

1 'lanugos. Our "James" comes through the Italian "Giacomo." 
The name is common enough in the first century A. D. 

2 For careful discussion of the authenticity of the Epistle, see 
Mayor, Epistle of James, pp. xlvii-lxvii; Plummer, St. James, pp. 



It occurs in the Peshitta Syriac Version. Origen (In 
Johan. xix. 6) knows it as "the Epistle current as 
that of James" (rq (pepo/xevy 'lanoifiov kmoToXy), and 
Eusebius (H. E. III. xxv. 3) describes it with the 
other four as "nevertheless well-known to most 
people" {yvu)giji(iiv 6' ovv 6[iG)g rolg noXXoig). 

There are many proofs 1 that the Epistle was 
written by the author of the speech in Acts 1 5 : 
13-21, delicate similarities of thought and style too 
subtle for mere imitation or copying. The same 
likeness appears between the Epistle of James and 
the Letter to Antioch, probably written also by 
James (Acts 15:23-29). There are, besides, ap- 
parent reminiscences of the Sermon on the Mount, 
which James may have heard or; at any rate, the 
substance of it. There is the same vividness of 
imagery in the Epistle that is so prominent a char- 
acteristic of the teaching of Jesus. If it be urged 
that the author of the Epistle, if kin to Jesus, would 
have said so, one may reply that a delicate sense of 
propriety may have had precisely the opposite 
effect. Jesus had himself laid emphasis on the 
fact of his spiritual kinship with all believers as 
more important (Matt. 12:48-50). The fact that 
James during the ministry of Jesus was not sympa- 
thetic with his work would also act as a restraining 
force upon him. The brother of Jesus (cf. also 
Jude 1) would naturally wish to make his appeal 
on the same plane as the other teachers of the 
gospel. He rejoices in the title of "servant of God 
and of the Lord Jesus Christ" (deov Kai Kvpiov 'l-qoov 

1 See Mayor on James, p. iv. 


Xpiarov dovXog) just as Paul did later (Rom. 1:1; Phil. 
1:1; Tit. 1:1), and as Jude, the brother of James, 
also did (Jude 1). Paul, however, added the term 
"apostle" (dnooToXog) in Rom. 1 : 1 and Tit. 1:1, which 
James and Jude do not employ. They were none of 
them members of the Twelve, though Paul claimed 
apostleship on a par with the Twelve (1 Cor. 9: if.; 
15:8; 2 Cor. 12: 1 if.). And yet Paul implies (Gal. 
1:19) that James also is an apostle 1 in a true sense of 
that term. Like Paul, he had seen the risen Lord 
(1 Cor. 15: 7). But James, though one of the "pil- 
lars" at Jerusalem, with Peter and John (Gal. 2:9), 
is content with the humbler word "slave" (dovXog). 
He is the bondsman of the Lord Jesus Christ as well 
as of God, and so is a Christian in the full sense of 
the term. He places Jesus on a par with God and 
uses Christ (Xgiorov) as a part of the name. There 
is no "Jesus or Christ" controversy for James. He 
identifies his brother Jesus with the Messiah of the 
Old Testament and the fulfilment of the hopes and 
aspirations of true Judaism. One must perceive 
that the term "Christ" in the mouth of James 
carries its full content and is used deliberately. He 
adds also "Lord" (nvpiov), which has here the Old 
Testament atmosphere 2 of worship. It is not a 
mere polite term for station or courtesy. The 
use of "Lord" by the side of "God" places James 
unquestionably in the ranks of worshipers of Jesus 
Christ as Lord and Saviour. See also James 2:1, 
"faith in our Lord Jesus Christ." 

1 Barnabas is also called an apostle in Acts 14:4, 14. 

2 See Warfield, The Lord of Glory. 


I consider it settled that James was not the 
"cousin" (aveipiog) of Jesus, the son of the sister of 
Mary the mother of Jesus. There is no doubt that 
the Greek word for brother (&deX<p6s) is used for mem- 
bers of a brotherhood in the current Greek of the 
first century A. D., 1 just as we find it so frequently in 
the New Testament. This usage does not apply to 
the "brothers of Jesus" in the Gospels (John 2: 12; 
Mark 6:3; Matt. 13:55; John 7:3). In Matt. 12: 
46, 49 we find the literal and figurative use of 
"brother" side by side. In this looser sense anyone 
may be called "brother." To-day, in some sections 
of the United States, it is a common term between 
strangers who accost each other on trains. In Lev. 
10:4 the first cousins of Aaron are termed "breth- 
ren" (adetyoi) , but this instance does not justify the 
constant use of the word in the Gospels for a definite 
group of persons as "brothers" of Jesus if they were 
only "cousins." Besides, they appear constantly 
with Mary, the mother of Jesus, as members of her 
family. The use of "sisters" (adeX<f>ai) increases the 
argument for the common use of the word (Mark 
6:3; Matt. 13:5-6). There are many other diffi- 
culties in the way of this position of Jerome (Hie- 
ronymian Theory), like the fact of two sisters with 
the same name of Mary and the identification of 
Alphaeus and Clopas. 

The Epiphanian Theory, that James and the other 
brothers and sisters are all children of Joseph by a 
former marriage (step-brother theory), is free from 
the difficulty about the word "brother" and is not 

1 See Deissmann, Light from the Ancient East, pp. 96, 107, 227. 


inconceivable in itself, if there were no critical ob- 
jections to it. Unfortunately there are, for Jesus is 
not called "only-begotten" (novoyevrjc;) of Mary, but 
"first-born" (npuroTOKog) in Luke 2:7: "She brought 
forth her firstborn son." 

Jesus is "only-begotten" of God (John 1: 18), as 
the widow of Nain had an "only -begotten" son 
(Luke 7 : 12) and Jairus an "only-begotten" daughter 
(Luke 8:42). But "first-born" occurs in the true 
sense all through the Septuagint (cf. Gen. 27:19, 
32; 43:33; Deut. 21:15), where there were other 
children. The inscriptions 1 show it in the true 
sense. The New Testament instances of "first- 
born" are all strictly correct from this stand- 
point, even Col. 1:15 and Rom. 8:29.2 "First- 
born" implies other children. Besides, the nat- 
ural meaning of Matt. 1:25 leads to the same 

The Helvidean Theory (brother or half-brother 
theory) that Jesus and James were sons of the 
same mother, Mary, may be said to hold the field 
against the others. In fact, it is most likely that 
both of the other theories grew out of the desire to 
secure a greater imaginary sanctity for Mary under 
the impression that she was more holy if she bore 
only Jesus and did not live as wife with Joseph. 
But this is contrary to all Jewish sentiment, and 
certainly there is nothing in the Gospels to coun- 
tenance this notion, but much to contradict it. We 

1 Deissmann, Light from the Ancient East, p. 88. 

i 2 Suicer, ii. p. 877, quotes from Theodoret ei 7rpwr<5ro/cof, ituq juovo. 


conclude, therefore, that James, the author of the 
Epistle, is the brother of Jesus. 1 

2. In the Family Circle at Nazareth. 

In spite of Origen's opinion (Origen on Matt. 
13: 55) that the sons and daughters of Joseph were 
children of a former marriage, an opinion more 
than offset by the position of Tertullian {de Monog. 
8, de Virg. Vel. 6), we must think of the family- 
circle at Nazareth as composed of five brothers 
(Jesus, James, Joses, Judas, Simon, in Mark 6:3, 
but Jesus, James, Joseph, Simon, Judas in Matt. 
13 : 55) and the "sisters." Every implication is that 
they all passed as sons and daughters of Joseph and 
Mary in the usual sense. The order implies also 
that, while Jesus is the eldest, James comes next 
among the brothers. Unfortunately the names of 
the sisters are not given. We are to think therefore 
of a large home circle in the humble carpenter's 
house in Nazareth. Jesus, the eldest, followed the 
trade of Joseph, the father of the family, and came to 
be known as "the carpenter" (6 tektuv, Mark 6:3). 
Certainly all the children must have learned to 
work with their hands, though we do not know 
whether James adopted that trade or some other. 
He would soon be called upon to help in the sup- 
port of the family, as Joseph seems to be dead 
when Jesus enters upon his ministry, since he is not 
mentioned with Mary and the children in Matt. 13 155 
and Mark 6:3. Joseph was probably older than 

1 For a very sane and clear discussion of the whole subject, see 
Patrick, James the Lord's Brother, pp. 1-21. 


Mary. The family were not peasants and probably 
had all the necessary comforts of the simple primi- 
tive life of a workman in a small town in Galilee. 

Jewish boys usually started to school when six 
years old, but before that the education of James 
had begun in the home. "James, together with his 
brothers and sisters, was brought up in an atmos- 
phere charged with reverence for God and love for 
man, with tenderness, freedom, and joy." 1 The 
Jewish parents did not shirk parental responsibility 
for the religious training of the children, and a large 
family was regarded as a blessing from God. The 
love of God was the first of all lessons taught at 
home and this was followed by the simple elements 
of truth, uprightness, mercy, and beneficence. 2 The 
Jewish mother rejoiced in her children, and James 
was fortunate in having such a mother as Mary 
and such a father as Joseph. 

At school, while religion was the main theme and 
portions of the Old Testament the text-book, there 
was abundant intellectual stimulus. The quick- 
witted boy would be all alive to the great problems 
of faith and duty. The teacher would probably use 
the Aramaic dialect of Galilee even if he had the 
Old Testament in Hebrew. But the boy would soon 
learn to speak the Koine also, the current Greek of 
the world, the language of commerce and of com- 
mon intercourse everywhere. Simon Peter, the 
fisherman, knew and used Greek, as did John, the 
apostle. It was common for people to know two 

1 Patrick, James the Lord's Brother, p. 23. 
1 Ibid., p. 25. 


languages. Paul probably knew Aramaic and He- 
brew, Greek and Latin. Jesus knew and spoke 
both Aramaic and Greek and probably knew the 
Hebrew also. James came to write Greek with a 
great deal of ease and skill. He was in no sense a 
litterateur. He was no Atticist in his style and did 
not try to imitate the classical Greek writers, whom 
he probably never read. Deissmann 1 does call the 
Epistle of James "a little piece of literature," but 
he means "a product of popular literature." Cer- 
tainly there is nothing artificial in content and style. 
Is it mere fancy to think that the same poetic beauty 
shown in Mary's Magnificat (Luke i : 46-55) appears 
in the Sermon on the Mount and in the Epistle of 
James? At least, the rich acquaintance with the 
Old Testament exists in all three. The author of 
the Epistle is gifted with imagination and shows 
knowledge of the Apocryphal books, especially the 
wisdom literature of the Jews, but he is a thorough 
Jew in his outlook and literary method, 2 so much so 
indeed that it is contended by some that James 
wrote the Epistle originally in Aramaic, 3 an unlikely 
supposition. The widespread diffusion of Greek in 
Palestine amply accounts for the author's grasp of 
the language. 4 The epigrammatic and picturesque 
style is due to the writer's individuality, his en- 
vironment, and his reading. His vocabulary is rich 
in words about fishing, husbandry, and domestic 

1 Light from the Ancient East, p. 235. 

2 Milligan, New Testament Documents, p. III. 

* Cf. Mayor, on James, pp. ccv-ccxiii. 

* Milligan, New Testament Documents, p. III. 


life, as one would expect. 1 A man of the force and 
position of James could easily broaden his ac- 
quaintance with the Greek tongue as the years 
went by. The Greek is pure Koine, with few He- 
braisms, though the tone is distinctly that of the 
Old Testament. 2 He speaks like a prophet of old 
in the service of Christ. There is no doubt that 
James came to be a man of culture in a real sense. 

He probably married early, as it was the custom 
of the Jews for men to marry at the age of eighteen. 3 
Paul expressly states that "the brothers of the Lord" 
(oi adeXcpoi rov icvpiov) were married (1 Cor. 9:5). We 
do not know, of course, the age of James when Jesus 
began his ministry. In all probability he had al- 
ready married and had a home of his own in Naz- 
areth. The sisters probably married and settled in 
Nazareth also (Mark 6:3). 

We have no mention of the rest of the children 
going to Jerusalem when the Boy Jesus was taken 
(Luke 2:41-52). Indeed, it is rather implied that 
they were not in the company, but this does not 
mean that James did not have his turn to go when 
he was twelve years old and afterwards. 

There is no reason to believe that James grew up 
to be a Nazirite, as Hegesippus as quoted by Euse- 
bius (H. E. ii. 23) alleges: "He is distinguished from 
others of the same name by the title 'Just, ' which has 
been applied to him from the first. He was holy 

1 Mayor, on James, p. cxcii. 

2 Robertson, A Grammar of the Greek N. T. in the Light of 
Historical Research, p. 123. 

3 C. Taylor, Sayings of the Jewish Fathers, App. 97. 


from his mother's womb, drank no wine or strong 
drink, nor ate animal food; no razor came on his 
head, nor did he anoint himself with oil nor use the 
bath. To him only was it permitted to enter the 
Holy of Holies." The evident legendary details here 
deprive the statement of real value except as wit- 
ness to his genuine piety and to the esteem in which 
he was held by the people generally. Hegesippus 
adds: "His knees became hard like a camel's, be- 
cause he was always kneeling in the temple, asking 
forgiveness for the people," a description of his life 
in Jerusalem after he became a Christian. At any 
rate, like Joseph, his father, he grew up to be a 
just man and came to be known as James the Just. 

3 . A Scoffer of Jesus. 

We are left to conjecture what the brothers and 
sisters of Jesus thought when he went down to the 
Jordan to meet the Baptist. We know that "Mary 
kept all these sayings, pondering them in her heart" 
(Luke 2: 19). 1 Mary had seen the dawning Mes- 
sianic consciousness when Jesus was only twelve 
(Luke 2:49). The reply of Jesus to his mother's 
hint about the wine at the wedding of Cana implies 
that Jesus and his mother had talked over his Mes- 
sianic task (John 2:4). But the brothers accom- 
panied Jesus, his mother, and the small band of six 
disciples to Capernaum after the miracle at Cana, 
and the group remained together for some days 

1 7} 6f Map/a navra awerr/pn (note imperfect tense, linear action) ra 
pf/unrn mwfj&'k'kovaa (putting together, piece by piece, every won- 
drous detail with a mother's brooding love) b> rij napdig ai)Tf/c 


(John 2:12). They may have met at Nazareth 
after the wedding at Cana and thence proceeded to 
Capernaum. It is possible that the brothers, not 
being at Cana, and not being in the secret between 
Jesus and Mary, may not have grasped the sig- 
nificance of the events connected with the baptism 
of Jesus and his entrance upon his Messianic career. 
The presence of the band of "disciples" (iiad^rai, 
learners at the feet of the new Rabbi) argues that 
the brothers must have known something about the 
wonderful claims of Jesus their brother. At any 
rate, it is pleasant to see them all here together in 
Capernaum in fellowship and friendliness, "a proof 
of the closeness of the ties uniting our Lord and 
them. No shadow of estrangement had as yet 
fallen upon their relations." 1 Godet (on Luke 2: 12) 
thinks that Mary and the brothers came on to 
Capernaum eager for more miracles like the one at 
Cana, and may have been keenly disappointed be- 
cause Jesus wrought none. This is possible, but 
hardly as probable as the idea, that it is a friendly 
group in frank fellowship in Capernaum. We are 
left in the dark as to the real attitude of the brothers 
of Jesus when he begins his great work. They may 
have looked upon him as a sort of irregular rabbi or 
a mild enthusiast carried away by the new teaching- 
of John the Baptist. There would be natural pride 
in his work, while it succeeded, without necessary 
belief in his claims. Certainly Mary must have had 
at first the utmost faith, tremulous with expecta- 
tion, in the Messiahship of Jesus. Perhaps the 

1 Patrick, James the Lord's Brother, p. 46. 


brothers were at first only mildly interested or even 
sceptical of the qualifications of one out of their 
own family circle. The brothers may not have been 
free from the jealousy sometimes seen in home life. 
It was not long before hostility toward Jesus sprang 
up in Nazareth itself, according to the vivid narra- 
tive in Luke 4: 16-31, probably soon after the re- 
turn of Jesus from Judaea and Samaria to Galilee, 
certainly after the miracle at Capernaum (Luke 
4:23), as told in John 4:46-54. Probably James 
shared with the rest the first wonder at the words of 
grace (Luke 4: 22) and the quick flash of wrath as 
the pride of the town was pricked (4: 28). Hence- 
forth in Nazareth, despite his growing fame else- 
where, Jesus was persona non grata. His brothers 
felt this atmosphere of hostility very keenly. 

The curtain falls on the family life in Nazareth 
till toward the close of the Galilean ministry, after 
the second general tour of Galilee by Jesus (Luke 
8: 1-3). The tremendous work of Jesus had created 
a wonderful impression. The multitudes in amaze- 
ment asked if Jesus were not the son of David, the 
Messiah (Matt. 12 : 23). The Pharisees in anger and 
chagrin replied that he was in league with Beelzebub 
(12:24). The excitement was intense. Jesus would 
sometimes withdraw to the deserts and pray (Luke 
5: 16). Sometimes Jesus and the crowds would not 
eat (Mark 3:20). News of all this came to "his 
friends" (Mark 3: 21), who are explained in Mark 
3:31 as "his mother and his brothers." Probably 
already vague rumors were afloat that Jesus was 
out of his head. Once people said of Jesus that he 


was "a gluttonous man, and a winebibber" (Luke 
7: 34), but now he is so queer! In the inner circle 
at Nazareth Mary had watched and heard it all. 
What could it mean? Perhaps, Mary argued, his 
reason has been temporarily dethroned by the strain 
and the excitement. She will go and bring him 
home, where he can have quiet and rest. It was 
easier for the brothers to see it so, since they had 
not accepted him as Messiah. Perhaps one may 
have said, "I told you so." At any rate, "they went 
to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside him- 
self" (Mark 3:2i). 1 Jesus is in a crowded house 
in Galilee near the Lake when they come (Mark 
3:19) and readily understands why they have 
come when he is told that his mother and brothers 
are standing without and wish to speak with him 
(Mark 3:31; Matt. 12:46; Luke 8: iof.). It is a 
tragedy of life, pathetic beyond words. The eccle- 
siastics have long ago made issue with him and are 
now violently assailing him. Many of the people 
are following the lead of the Pharisees. And now 
his own mother and brothers have come and wish 
to take him home so as to avoid the scandal and 
shame of his further public ministry. The Pharisees 
say he has a demon and is in league with the devil. 
The "charitable" construction therefore is that he is 
a lunatic. But Jesus does not go out to meet his 
own mother and brothers (James among them). He 
had come to know one of the bitterest of human 
sorrows, a pang to the very heart, to be misunder- 
stood "among his own kin, and in his own house" 

^'Efeffrj?. Cf. our "ecstasy," a "standing out" of oneself. 


(Mark 6:4). It is not surprising, therefore, that 
Jesus found consolation in the fact that many did 
understand him. "And looking round on them 
which sat round about him," 1 when the message 
came, "he stretched forth his hand towards his 
disciples," 2 and said: "Behold my mother and my 
brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my 
Father which is in heaven, he is my brother, and 
sister, and mother." 3 Mother and brothers had 
failed in the crisis to comprehend Jesus and even 
his "sisters" (note "and sister"). But the Father 
in heaven had not veiled his face from Jesus. It is 
not clear that James heard this pathetic rebuke 
from Jesus, as he may have remained standing out- 
side the house. Many have come into spiritual 
fellowship with Jesus who thus have the peculiar 
consolation of taking the place made empty in his 
heart for the time by mother and sister and brother. 
With Mary it was a temporary eclipse and she was 
loyal at the end as she stood by the cross. 4 

Jesus made another and a last visit to Nazareth 
(Matt. 13:54-58; Mark 6:1-6). There was a re- 
vival of interest in him which crystallized into hard 
scepticism, so that Jesus did not many mighty 
works there, and even "marvelled because of their 

1 Mark 3 : 34, xal irepi(3fctpafievo<; rove nepl avrbv KVK?.<f> nadr/fiivovf, 
with all of Mark's particularity and vividness. 

2 CKTtivas ttjv x ei P a \p.vTmt\ knl tov$ /iadrjTa<; avrov (Matt. 12:48), with 
expressive gesture. 

* Matt. 12:49 f. 

* John 19:25, irapa r<J aravpu tov 'Irjoov, close beside it, probably 
means as near as was allowed. Here his mother stood with the other 


unbelief." He was a "prophet without honor" in 
Nazareth as he left for the last time the city of his 
childhood and early manhood. 

The tide at last turned against Jesus in Caper- 
naum (John 6: 22-71) and in Galilee generally. For 
six months he remains away save for a brief visit 
that met with the united hostility of Pharisee and 
Sadducee (Matt. 15:39 to 16:4; Mark 8:10-13). 
The brothers of Jesus meanwhile seem to grow in 
this spirit of dislike toward the elder brother. Six 
months before the death of Jesus they ridicule him 
for his being a virtual refugee from Galilee and for 
his secretive methods, quite inconsistent with his 
claims of Messiahship (John 7 : 2-5). James as the' 
oldest of the brothers was probably the spokesman 
on this occasion. The "advice" was of an extremely 
irritating nature, with the implication that Jesus was 
seeking to gain credit "in public" ("openly," kv napprja- 
oia) while doing his work "in secret" ("in a hidden" 
place, ev kpvtttw). It is not surprising therefore that 
Jesus did precisely the opposite, for he went up to 
Jerusalem, "not publicly, but as it were in secret" 
(John 7:1c). 1 John explains the motive of the 
brothers (4:5), "for even his brethren did not be- 
lieve on him." 2 They have reached the point when 
they are willing to attack Jesus. They belonged to 
the world and did not understand Jesus (John 
7 : 6f.)- It is not necessary to say that James was 
actually a Pharisee, still less an Essene. The use 

1 ov Qavcpaf (cf. (j>avspuaov in 7:4), 0AA0 wf kv Kprmrij) (cf. kv Kpwrrqi 
in 7:4). 

1 It is oiide eirioTcvov and expresses a long standing attitude. 


made of his name by the Judaizers in the contro- 
versy with Paul does not prove this to be true 
(Gal. 2: 12). But certainly he was now in general 
sympathy with the hostile attitude of the ecclesias- 
tics from Jerusalem (both Pharisee and Sadducee). 
The cup that Jesus must drink at Jerusalem has 
this added bitterness in it. It is not particularly 
surprising, when all things are considered, that at 
his death Jesus commended his mother to John the 
Beloved Disciple rather than to any of his brothers 
or sisters. They were all completely out of sym- 
pathy with him and with her. At such an hour 
sympathy counted for far more than blood without 
it. Besides, the brothers may not have been in 
Jerusalem at this time, for they still lived in Naz- 
areth. It is possible, of course, that James may 
have been at the Passover, which was so generally 
attended by the Jews. Certainly he was at Pente- 
cost later (Acts 1: 14). We do not know whether 
Jesus appeared to James in Jerusalem or in Galilee 
(1 Cor. 15:7), though Paul mentions it after the 
appearance to the more than five hundred, which was 
in Galilee. Mary needed immediate attention, and 
was probably taken away from the cross at once by 
John "unto his own home" (elg rd idia), 1 probably the 
Jerusalem home of his mother, certainly not Galilee 
now. John then came back to the cross and saw the 
piercing of the side of Jesus by the Roman soldier 
(John 19:35). But at any rate, it is clear that 
Jesus died upon the cross with James and all his 

1 John 19 : 27. Cf . 1 : 1 1 ; Acts 2 1 : 6. This use of ra Uia for one's 
home appears in the papyri. Cf. B. U. 86 (ii A. U.), 183 (i A. D.). 


brothers and sisters utterly out of touch with him. 
"Doubtless their very intimacy with our Lord 
blinded them to his real greatness." 1 

4. Seeing the Risen Christ. 

It is Paul who tells us of this most interesting 
event (1 Cor. 15: 7). 2 As already stated, we do not 
know where James was when the Risen Jesus mani- 
fested himself to him. Broadus 3 locates the event 
in Jerusalem after the return from Galilee and be- 
fore the Ascension. As a matter of fact, it could 
have been in Galilee perfectly well. James may 
have come to Jerusalem (Acts 1 : 14) because he had 
been converted in Galilee. At any rate, "this ap- 
pearance to James is the only one not made to a 
known believer." 4 But Dale 5 holds that James had 
already been converted before his Brother appeared 
to him, as a result of information from his mother 
or from the apostles. This is, of course, possible, but 
it cannot be insisted on as necessary on the ground 
that Jesus appeared to believers only. The case of 
Saul refutes that position. It is quite possible that 
James may have heard of the report of the Resur- 
rection of Jesus and had thus some preparation for 
the great event when he saw Jesus risen from the 
dead. We are told nothing of what passed between 
the two brothers, but one may be sure that no hard 

1 Patrick, James the Lord's Brother, p. 60. 

2 eneira tydt) 'Ia/cw/Ju. The same verb occurs here as in the other 
appearances of Jesus. 

3 Harmony of the Gospels, p. 229. 

4 Patrick, op. cit., p. 67. 

5 Epistle of James, p. 5. 



or harsh reproof came from Jesus for the indifference 
and even scoffing of James. The brothers of Jesus 
were children of their age, which was a Pharisaic age 
in Palestine. The current expectation was for a 
political Messiah, not a Saviour dying for the sins of 
the world. Even the Twelve Apostles had not risen 
to the conception of a spiritual Messiah, and they 
had given up all hope upon the death of Jesus and 
had themselves to be convinced of the fact of the 
Resurrection of Jesus, a task of much difficulty, 
particularly in the case of Thomas, though they all 
at first scoffed at the stories of Mary Magdalene 
and the other women. So, then, the path of James 
toward faith was not an easy one, but he took it 
and came boldly out on the side of the disciples of 
Christ. It is more than likely that it was through 
James that the other three brothers were . led to 
faith in Jesus as Lord and Saviour (Acts i : 14). 

The Gospel of the Hebrews as quoted by Jerome 
(de Viris Illustribus 2) gives a story to the effect 
that James was already a disciple and present at 
the last Passover with Jesus and took a vow "that 
he would not eat bread from that hour on which he 
had drunk the cup of the Lord till he saw him risen 
from the dead. Again, a little afterward, the Lord 
says, Bring a table and bread. Immediately it is 
added: He took bread, and blessed, and brake it, 
and gave it to James the Just, and said to him, My 
brother, eat the bread; for the Son of Man has risen 
from the dead." Mayor 1 is inclined to credit this 
story in part, but surely it utterly misunderstands 

1 On James, p. xxxvii. 


Luke 22: 18, makes James one of the Twelve, and 
is impossible from any point of view, since not even 
the Twelve expected Jesus to rise from the dead. 
There are difficulties enough connected with the proof 
of the Resurrection of Jesus without burdening the 
narrative with this story. But, let me add, modern 
science has not made faith in the resurrection of Jesus 
impossible, nor has modern research disposed of the 
value of the Gospel accounts of this tremendous 
event. Paul, who testifies to this experience of James, 
is himself the chief witness to the reality of the fact. 
This is not the place to enter upon a discussion of 
this great question, but modern men may and do still 
believe in the Risen Christ with all simplicity and 
sincerity. 1 

5. In the Upper Room at Pentecost 

The simple statement in Acts 1:14 is: "These all 
continued stedfastly in prayer, with the women, and 
Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren." 
So then all four 2 are now disciples and are admitted 
to the inmost secrets of the circle of believers in 
Jerusalem, whither they have now come. Certainly, 
now that they have all come to believe in their 
Brother as in reality the Messiah of Israel risen from 
the dead, they must come to Jerusalem to be with 
their mother in her hour of triumph and joy. No 
one but a mother can understand the fullness of 
satisfaction in Mary's heart now. The sword had 

1 Cf. Orr, The Resurrection of Jesus; Thorburn, The Resurrection 

Narratives and Modern Criticism. 

2 Kal avv Toli adehpoiq aii-ov. 


pierced her own soul (Luke 2:35), as old Simeon 
had prophesied when he saw the Babe in the temple, 
but now the wound has been healed and there is a 
new and richer Magnificat in her heart. It was 
worth all that she had endured to wait with the 
disciples in the Upper Room with her other sons 
for the Promise of the Father, i The breach in her 
family life had been healed. It is clear that the 
heartiest of welcomes greeted the brothers of Jesus. 
They were men of importance in themselves, in par- 
ticular James, who from every standpoint is one of 
the first men of his day. It is possible that the 
coolness of James and the other brothers had in- 
jured the work of Jesus with a good many who 
used this fact against the claims of Jesus. Now 
the accession of these brothers was of the utmost 
value to the band of believers gathered in the 
Upper Room, where Jesus had manifested himself 
before his Ascension. 

The presence of the brothers is mentioned by 
Luke before the choice of Matthias to succeed 
Judas. One may naturally wonder why James was 
not suggested by Peter, since he undoubtedly was 
equal to the Eleven in ability and all other qualities 
save one. But this one defect was fatal. He had not 
been with the Twelve during the ministry of Jesus, 
and so could not be a first-hand witness to his words 
and teachings (Acts 1 : 22). Otherwise we may infer 
that James would have been a welcome addition to 
the Twelve in the place of Judas. 1 

But the significant fact is that James is present 

1 Patrick, op. cit., p. 78. 


during the wonderful days of this Pentecost and is 
rilled, like the rest, with the Holy Spirit. He enters 
upon the new task of world evangelization with the 
new insight and the new influx of divine power. He 
faces the new day with the light of the sun in his 

6. Leadership in the Jerusalem Church. 

If he was disqualified from being one of the 
Twelve, he was not debarred from liberty to serve. 
In fact, he was a practical apostle in Jerusalem 
along with the rest. The Twelve kept no secrets 
from James. He gradually won his way to the love 
and confidence of all the great church in Jerusalem. 
His importance in Jerusalem is recognized by Paul 
on the occasion of his visit to Jerusalem on his re- 
turn from Damascus, 1 for he says: "Other of the 
apostles saw I none, save James, the Lord's brother." 
Here Paul treats him as an apostle and practically 
calls him so. James had probably seen Paul before, 
when he was the leader of the persecution against 
the Christians. He was doubtless glad to see 
this powerful addition to the forces of Christianity, 
but James is probably included in Luke's statement 
of the reception of Paul on this occasion. "And 
they were all afraid of him, not believing that he 
was a disciple" (Acts 9:26). Barnabas alone had 
faith in Paul and the courage to stand by him. If 
James was suspicious of the new convert, so were 
all the rest, and not without reason. It is clear 
from Paul's reference in Gal. 1:18 (loropijoai K7]<ptiv) 

1 Gal. 1 : 19. 


that Peter responded heartily to Paul's advances 
after once opening his heart to him. They had a 
delightful fifteen days together. It is not likely, as 
Farrar 1 argues, that James, being a legalist, held 
aloof from Paul throughout. This is wholly gra- 
tuitous. 2 , 

James is not mentioned again in Acts till 12: 17, 
and in a most significant manner. James, the 
brother of John, has been killed by Herod Agrippa I. 
Peter has been thrown into prison, but has been 
released by the angel of the Lord in response to the 
prayers of the church assembled in the home of 
Mary, mother of John Mark (12: 12). Peter goes 
to the house and tells the astonished group: "Tell 
these things unto James, and to the brethren." 
This is somewhere about A. D. 44. James now 
clearly occupies a position of leadership in the 
church. Peter himself apparently leaves the city, 
for the time being (12:17). There are already 
"elders" (-npeopvTepoi, 11:30) in the church at Jeru- 
salem. We do not know what the position of James 
is, but certainly it is one of great honor and leader- 
ship. The apostles, since James could not be one of 
the Twelve who were charged with the general 
work of evangelization, may have been glad for 
James to be in charge at Jerusalem. Certainly he 
proved himself fully equal to the task. 

James maintains the position of leadership in 
Jerusalem throughout the narrative in Acts. He is 
evidently the President of the Jerusalem Confer- 

1 St. Paul, i. f p. 233. 
1 Patrick, op. cit., p. 83. 


ence (Acts 15: 14-21). He is in charge of the 
church when Paul visits Jerusalem the last time 
(Acts 21:18): "Paul went in with us unto James: 
and all the elders were present." He possessed the 
confidence of this great Jewish church, the mother 
church at Jerusalem, and had the ear of the non- 
Christian Jewish world in a way hardly true of any 
other disciple of Jesus. Jews would listen to James 
who would not heed Simon Peter. 

7. The Writing of the Epistle. 

The Epistle of James was probably written shortly 
before the Jerusalem Conference, most probably just 
before, that is, about A. D. 48 or 49. There is no 
room here for an extended discussion of the proof 
of this statement. In general I agree with the argu- 
ments of Mayor on this point. 1 Plummer 2 is unable 
to decide between A. D. 49 and A. D. 59. Writers 
like von Soden place it at the end of the century, 
and Bruckner puts it in the second century. Spitta 
admits that Paul, in Romans, alludes to the Epistle 
of James, but suggests that the present epistle is a 
Christian adaptation of a Jewish book. But on the 
whole the weight of the argument is towards the 
conclusion that James wrote the Epistle before the 
Conference and without reference to the Judaizing^ 
controversy. Paul, in Galatians and Romans, may 
very well have in mind a misuse of what James, in 

1 See his Commentary on James and his article on the Epistle in 
the Hastings D. B. 

2 Epistle of James (Exp. Bible), p. 6if. See also Patrick, op. cit., 
chap. v. 


chap. 2, says about faith and works, which misap- 
prehension he seeks to correct. The Epistle must 
either be placed between 40 and 50 A. D., before the 
Judaizing controversy arose, or in the middle of 
the second century, after it had died down. 1 The 
early date has the best of it in my opinion. 

If this date for the writing of the Epistle be cor- 
rect, we have no difficulty in seeing how James could 
have written it so early. Already about A. D. 44 
we saw his leadership in the Jerusalem church (Acts 
12:17). No man in the apostolic circles at this 
period had the ear of the Jewish Christians as did 
James. This is seen further in the fact that he is 
asked to preside over the Conference in Jerusalem 
to settle the issues raised by the Judaizers against 
the work of Paul and Barnabas among the Gentiles. 
The Epistle, therefore, seems to come in at this 
stage of the career of James and is the chief expres- 
sion left of his mind and life. 

8. Champion of Paul at the Conference. 

I cannot enter upon a formal discussion of the 
many questions in dispute concerning this great 
event in the apostolic period. I can only briefly 
sketch my own interpretation of the part played by 
James on this occasion. 2 In brief, it is here main- 
tained that in Gal. 2: 1-10 Paul gives a report of 
the private interview with the leaders in Jerusalem 

1 Cf. M. Jones, The N. T. in the Twentieth Century, p. 321. 

2 For a fuller presentation of the matter from the standpoint of 
Paul, see my Epochs in the Life of Paul, chap. vii. I identify the 
visit to Jerusalem in Gal. 2: 1-10 and Acts 15, in spite of the argu- 
ments of Sir W. M. Ramsay to the contrary. 


after the first public meeting (Acts i5:3f. ; Gal. 
2:2) was adjourned because of the violent opposi- 
tion of the Judaizers (Acts 15: 5). In this private 
conference Paul, though anxious to win the public 
support of "James and Cephas and John, the re- 
puted pillars" ('Ia/tw/Jof Kal Krjcpag Kal 'Jcjdvrjg, 01 
doKovvreq otvXol, Gal. 2:9), yet was not willing 
to compromise the great issue at stake, "our liberty 
which we have in Christ Jesus" (2:4) and "the 
truth of the gospel" (2:5). Paul reveals a certain 
amount of embarrassment in his references to the 
three great leaders in Jerusalem, as is manifest in 
the long and broken sentence in verses 6-10. He 
roundly asserts his independence of them and affirms 
that they imparted nothing to him (2:6). It seems 
clear that some of the more timid brethren were 
quite disposed to surrender to the Judaizers for the 
sake of peace and in particular to agree that Titus, 
a full-fledged Greek convert in Paul's company, should 
be circumcised. But Paul gave "the pillars" to under- 
stand that he would not have peace on those terms. 
It is quite possible that James, here mentioned be- 
fore Cephas (Peter) and John as the real leader 
of the group, 1 had not till now clearly understood 
Paul's true position. The Judaizers had in all 
probability counted on James to take their side 
against Paul, "but contrariwise, when they saw 2 
that I had been entrusted with the gospel of the 
uncircumcision as Peter with the gospel of the cir- 

1 Cf. Lightfoot on Galatians, "St. Paul and the Three." 

2 rovvavriov l66vTtc. A hint that they had not always seen it this 


cumcision — they gave to me and Barnabas the right 
hands of fellowship, that we should go unto the 
Gentiles, and they unto the circumcision" (2: 7-9). 
It is much easier to think of James as the author of 
chap. 2 in his Epistle before this event than after 
this pact with Paul. Note also verse 9: "And when 
they perceived the grace that was given unto me." 1 
Now the coast is clear and Paul is sure of victory in 
the open Conference. The stipulation about the 
poor (2:10) was in harmony with Paul's previous 
practice (Acts 11 : 29L). 

In the second meeting of the general Conference 
James evidently presides and sums up the situation 
in favor of Paul after Peter (Acts 15:7-12) has 
shown how they had already agreed to Gentile 
liberty in the case of Cornelius and his household. 
James, with due deliberation (fiera to ovyr\oax avroi^, 
15 : 13), concludes (15 : 14-21) with a pointed endorse- 
ment of Simon (ivfie&v, verse 14, a Quaint Hebraic 
touch) Peter's speech and acceptance of the work at 
Caesarea and among the Gentiles generally as a visi- 
tation of God (6 6sd$ eneaKe-ipaTO, verse 14). He 
clinches the whole matter by showing that the 
prophets (as Amos 9: nf.) agree 2 with this position 
that the Gentiles are to be saved. "Wherefore my 
judgment is," 3 he says as the President of the Con- 
ference, practically offering a resolution for the vote 
of the Conference, "that we trouble 4 not them that 

1 Kgu yvdvrec ri}v %aptv tt/v dodeioav pot, as if a new experience for them. 

2 tovtu avfi^uvovaiv (15:15), a musical word, our "symphony." 
8 (ho i}(j Kpivu. 

* irapevoxfciv is from napa, h, and o^u (from *jAof, a crowd). A 
crowd may be a great annoyance. 


from among the Gentiles turn to God." He has put 
the matter in a very happy form. Surely Jewish 
Christians could but rejoice to see Gentiles "turn 
to God." James proposes the writing of an epistle 
(kmorelXeu) to the Gentile Christians to this effect 
with the added warning "that they abstain from 
the pollution of idols, and from fornication, and 
from what is strangled, and from blood." It is at 
least open to question whether "what is strangled" 
(icai ttviktov) is genuine here, since it is wanting in 
D (Codex Bezae), Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Cyprian, 
as also in 15:28. If so, the prohibition is against 
idolatry (idol-feasts), murder (blood), and immoral- 
ity (fornication), the great vices of heathensim. 1 
But with the text as it stands, "things strangled," 
we seem to have a concession to the Jewish cere- 
monial law and to Jewish prejudices on that point. 
James is not uneasy about Moses, for he is read in 
the synagogues every Sabbath (Acts 15: 21), a ref- 
erence to the habit of the Christians still to worship 
in the Jewish synagogues (cf. James 2:2). The 
"wisdom" of James is manifest in this masterly ad- 
dress, which carried conviction to such an extent 
that the resolution of James was carried unanimously 
by the body of "the apostles and the elders, with the 
whole church" (15: 22), a remarkable outcome, when 
the bitterness of the Judaizers is considered, and a 
distinct tribute to the influence of James. We may 
assume that the Judaizers were silent, since they 
saw that, they were hopelessly defeated. 

1 Cf . Wilson, The Origin and Aim of the Acts of the Apostles, 
P- 53- 


The epistle which was sent to the church at 
Antioch (15:23-29) embodies the ideas of James 
and was probably written by him, since the style 
is like that of his speech and the Epistle that bears 
his name. The letter expressly disclaims responsi- 
bility for the conduct of the Judaizers at Antioch 
(15:24), pointedly condemns their behavior, com- 
mends "our beloved Barnabas and Paul" (25!), 
refers to the messengers Judas and Silas, claims the 
guidance of the Holy Spirit in the stand for Gentile 
freedom (28), and repeats the stipulations in the 
speech of James about the special Gentile sins (29). 
There can be no question that James here entered 
fully into sympathy with the contention of Paul 
that the yoke of Jewish ceremonialism should not be 
imposed upon the Gentile Christians. James is a 
champion of the Pauline doctrine of "grace" as 
opposed to "works." It is interesting to note the 
phrase "the perfect law of liberty" (James 1:25). 
It is difficult to see how, after this Conference, James 
and Paul could misunderstand or oppose each other. 
As we shall see, the real explanation of the apparent 
conflict between James 2 and Rom. 3 is quite other 
than this unnecessary hypothesis. James has now 
given the great weight of his character and influence 
among the Jewish Christians to the endorsement of 
the work of Paul among the Gentiles. James is a 
Jewish Christian, but not a Judaizer. He does not 
wish to impose the burden of the Mosaic ritual upon 
the Gentiles, though he still observes it himself, as 
do the other Jewish Christians, including Paul him- 


9. Misuse of the Name of James. 

In Gal. 2:11 Paul speaks of a visit of Peter to 
Antioch, apparently some time after the events re- 
corded in 2 : 1-10. If it were before the Conference, 
Peter's conduct at Antioch would be largely relieved 
of the charge of cowardice. But, on the whole, we 
must follow the order of time as given by Paul. We 
do not, however, know whether this visit of Peter 
was before the breach between Paul and Barnabas 
over John Mark (Acts 15 : 36-41) or after the return 
of Paul from the second tour (Acts 18: 22L). If the 
latter is true, Barnabas had also come back to An- 
tioch (Gal. 2:13). Patrick 1 thinks that this visit 
was not long after the Conference, probably before 
the breach with Barnabas. At any rate, Peter at 
Antioch practices social equality with the Gentiles, 
just as Paul and Barnabas and the rest of the Jewish 
Christians there did (Gal. 2: 13), and just as Peter 
did in the house of Cornelius, though he apologized 
for the act then (Acts 10: 28), and at Jerusalem 
when called to account for it (n: 1-18). Evidently 
the question of social equality was not raised in the 
Conference at Jerusalem. 

"Certain came from James" (?rpd tov yap eXdelv 
rivaq and 'Iaicu)(3ov) , says Paul (Gal. 2:12). Pat- 
rick 2 admits that they had some connection with 
James and may have borne a commission from 
James, though not to Peter. It is possible, of 
course, that rumors of Peter's liberty in the matter 
of social intercourse may have reached Jerusalem 

1 James the Lord's Brother, p. 188. 

2 Ibid., p. 191. 


(cf. Acts ii : iff.) where the Pharisaic element in the 
church were very sensitive on this point. It is diffi- 
cult, however, to believe that James would have felt 
called upon to send a reprimand to Peter on the 
subject, even granting that James opposed this con- 
duct of Peter. The Judaizers at Antioch seem to 
have claimed the sanction of James and the rest at 
Jerusalem in their opposition to Paul and Barnabas 
(Acts 15: i, 24L), and it is entirely possible that on 
this occasion the visitors from Jerusalem claimed a 
connection with James that was not true. Hort 1 
thinks it probable that James merely meant "to 
send cautions to Peter," with no thought of a re- 
buke, and that the messengers took the matter in 
their own hands and proceeded to frighten Peter 
with threats of a report to James about his conduct 
at Antioch. 

It is undoubtedly true that the horizon of Jeru- 
salem was not that of Antioch, and that Paul would 
have less sympathy for what Peter did under fear of 
consequences at Jerusalem than for James in Jeru- 
salem, who might not fully comprehend develop- 
ments at Antioch. But the Epistle of James and 
his speech at the Conference make me slow to 
believe that he had gone over to the position of the 
Judaizers, as Peter did at Antioch. Paul boldly 
charged Peter, and even Barnabas, not with a 
change of conviction, but with hypocrisy (Gal. 2: 
i3f.). Fortunately, it was only a temporary lapse, 
and both step back to the side of Paul in his cham- 
pionship of a gospel of equality and freedom for all. 

1 Judaistic Christianity, p. 81. 


Paul makes no formal charge against James, and, 
under all the circumstances, I prefer to think that 
James has been misrepresented at Antioch by the 
visitors from Jerusalem, who dared to use his power- 
ful name to whip Peter into line. At any rate, 
James, not Peter, seems to be the master spirit at 
Jerusalem, as Paul is at Antioch. 

10. Befriending Paul on His Last Visit. 

Paul came to Jerusalem for the last time in the 
spring (probably 57 or 58) with a heavy heart. He 
reveals his apprehensions in Rom. 15:31-33, and in 
his address at Miletus (Acts 20: 18-35). He has 
made a brave fight for liberty in Christ almost all 
over the Roman Empire, but the Judaizers have not 
ceased their attacks upon him. In particular, dur- 
ing his long absence from Jerusalem, he has been 
grossly misrepresented there. He has been fre- 
quently warned of trouble if he came, but he is 
determined to come in the hope of setting matters 
right in Jerusalem and so preventing a schism in 
Christianity. He had won at the Conference at 
Jerusalem some seven or eight years before. Hort 1 
thinks that Paul entered the city "with much pre- 
caution and avoidance of observation" under the 
shelter of Mnason (Acts 21: 16). At any rate, the 
brethren received him gladly (21: 17), and on the 
next day Paul made a formal call on "James; and 
all the elders were present" (21 : 18). So here James 
is still at the head of the work in Jerusalem as at 
the Conference. The apostles were present then as 

1 Judaistic Christianity, p. 106. 


they seem to be absent now. This is not a Con- 
ference, but merely a friendly meeting. Paul's re- 
hearsal of his work among the Gentiles meets with 
the most cordial expressions of satisfaction (21: 20). 
Paul is among his friends, who tell him of a gross 
misrepresentation of his position that is current 
among the Jewish Christians at Jerusalem to the 
effect that he teaches that Jewish Christians must 
forsake Moses and the customs of the law (21 : 21). 1 
They do not believe it themselves, and only wish to 
help Paul clear the matter up without interfering 
at all with the decision of the Conference about the 
freedom of the Gentiles (21: 22-25). They suggest 
that Paul join with four men in a Nazirite vow, 
pay the charges for their purification and for his 
own, and let all the Jewish Christians see him in the 
act of worship and ritual observance of the cere- 
monial law, and thus prove "that thou thyself 
also walkest orderly, keeping the law" (21:24). 
The matter seemed simple enough. Paul had not 
opposed the observance of the law on the part of 
Jewish Christians. Galatians was written in de- 
fense of Gentile liberty. There was no effort to 
commit Paul to the necessity of the law for salva- 
tion. As a matter of fact, Paul had kept up his 
observance of the Jewish customs save as they 
affected separation from the Gentiles. So Paul 
accepted the advice and made the offering, "purify- 
ing himself with them" (21:26). Apparently, the 
plan succeeded in setting Paul right with the mass 

1 This "informing" (KaT/jxt/fo/anv, persistent talking) was done by 
the Judaizers, who "dinned" it into the ears of the people. 


of the church in Jerusalem. The trouble that led 
to his arrest arose from the attack of some Jews 
(not Christians) from Ephesus, who accused Paul of 
defaming the temple while in the very act of doing 
worship in the temple. We do not know whether 
the plan of the elders was the plan of James. Cer- 
tainly, if he had disapproved, he would have spoken 
out, as the meeting was at his house. But it was 
all meant in the utmost kindness to Paul, and it is 
not possible to show that it was unwise. The inci- 
dent shows the greatest friendliness between Paul 
and James, and the frankest recognition on Paul's 
part of the great worth and influence of James 
himself. There is no other reference to James in 
the New Testament unless it appears in Heb. 13 : 
7, 17, "them that have the rule over you." 

11. The Story of His Death. 

Clement of Alexandria 1 says that James the Just 
"was thrown from the gable [of the temple], and 
beaten to death by a fuller with a club." Hegesip- 
pus 2 gives a long and legendary account of the death 
of James to the effect that the people of Jerusalem 
who called James the Just were so enraged when 
he bore witness to Jesus as the Son of Man that 
they flung him down from the gable of the temple, 
stoned him, and a fuller clubbed him." "And they 
buried him on the spot by the temple, and his 
monument still remains by the temple." 

But Josephus 3 gives an entirely different and 

1 Hypotyp. vii. apud Eusebius H. E., II. I. 3. 

2 Also preserved in Eusebius H. E., II. xxiii. 4-18. 

3 Ant. xx. ix. I. It is interesting to note that Prof. P. C. Burkitt, 


much more credible narrative of the death of James, 
placing it about A. D. 62 or 63. He charges the 
Sadducees through the high priest Ananus with the 
death of James and adds: "Ananus, therefore, as 
being a person of this character, and thinking that 
he had a suitable opportunity, through Festus being 
dead, and Albinus still on his journey (to Judaea), 
assembles a Sanhedrin of judges; and he brought 
before it the brother of Jesus who is called Christ 
(his name was James) and some others, and 
delivered them to be stoned, on a charge of being 
transgressors of the law." So he won a martyr's 
crown. He was called "the Just" (rdv diicaiov). He 
had accused the wicked rich of killing "the Righteous 
One" (tyovevoare tov diicaiov, James 5:6). 

of Cambridge University, has boldly championed the genuineness of 
Josephus's testimony to Jesus. 


To the Twelve Tribes Which Are of the 
Dispersion, i : ib 

i. Simple Address. 

The writer is wonderfully simple and direct in his 
greeting as compared with Paul in Rom. i: 1-7, for 
instance. There is no principal verb and the nomi- 
native absolute occurs with the infinitive ('IdKOifiog — 
xalpeiv), as is so common in the letters found in 
the papyri. 1 Originally a word like ' 'sends" (emoreX- 
Xet) may have been used also. But this short ad- 
dress is in perfect keeping with the businesslike 
character of James and the pointed, pungent tone 
of the Epistle. 

2. The Readers. 

They are evidently not a local church. "The 
twelve tribes of the Dispersion" naturally refers to 
the Jews who are scattered in the Gentile world 
outside of Palestine. The technical term "Diaspora" 
(dtaoTropd, from SiaoTrelpeiv, to scatter) occurs in only 
two other places in the New Testament (John 7:35; 
1 Pet. 1:1). In John the word has its usual sig- 
nificance. The Jewish leaders scoffed at Jesus as a 
failure in Palestine. Perhaps he meant to go and 
teach the Jews of the Dispersion. The term "twelve 
tribes" in James merely means the Jews as a whole 

1 Cf. Qsuv — ^ai'pav, P. Oxy. 292, circa A. D. 25. 



in the Dispersion, for the tribes were not preserved 
in a distinctive way outside of Palestine. The "Lost 
Ten Tribes" evidently had no significance for James. 
As a matter of fact, they are no more "lost" than 
Judah and Benjamin. The Jews of Palestine, after 
the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, were 
once more scattered abroad as their ancestors had 
been twice before to mingle as "Jews" in various 
parts of the world. Doubtless modern Jews are 
simply a blend of all the twelve tribes. At the time 
when James wrote the Jews were very numerous in 
all the great commercial centers of the world, such 
as Alexandria, Antioch, Babylon, Ephesus, Miletus, 
Pergamum, Rome, Thessalonica. But it is more 
than probable that James has in mind chiefly the 
Eastern Dispersion in Babylonia and Mesopotamia, 
as Peter (i Pet. 1:1) addressed the Western Dis- 

"But was James writing to Jews who were not 
Christians? Was he making an appeal to the non- 
Christian Jews of the Dispersion to become Chris- 
tians? The idea is not without fascination in itself. 
Dr. J. H. Moulton 1 contends that this is precisely 
what James has done, as is shown by the avoidance 
of specific reference to Christ and to the cross so as 
not to give offense to the Jews whom he wishes to 
win. Dr. George Milligan 2 replies that it is not 
possible to think of "a Christian teacher of James's 
position suppressing his distinctive beliefs under any 
circumstances whatsoever." But the author does 

1 The Expositor, VII. iv. p. 45 ff. 

2 The N. T. Documents, p. 112. 


not conceal his view of Jesus. In the very first 
verse he speaks of "the Lord Jesus Christ," and 
these words give his human name Jesus, his title 
Christ (Messiah), and his lordship (deity). Be- 
sides, in 2 : 1 James speaks of Jesus as the object of 
faith, and so of worship, as Moffatt 1 correctly has it : 
"As you believe in our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the 
Glory." See also 5:7, "until the coming of the 
Lord" (cf. 5:8). There are no doctrinal discussions 
of the Cross and the Resurrection, but all this is 
distinctly implied. James also announces himself as 
a Christian in 1 : 1 and could not wish to conceal the 
gospel if he meant to win Jews to Christ. Moreover, 
he draws a distinction between the Christians ("ye") 
and their oppressors ("they," apparently rich Jews) 
in 2 : 7 : "Do not they blaspheme the honorable name, 
by which ye are called?" That "name" is the name 
of Christ. 2 Cf. also 2:6: "Do not the rich oppress 
you, and themselves drag you before the judgment 
seats?" Besides, James claims the readers as be- / 
lievers, "my brethren," in 2:1; 5 : 7f . There are, 
doubtless, passages where James pictures unbeliev- 
ing Jews, as in 2:6f., just mentioned, and, in par- 
ticular, 5 : 1-6, that vivid apostrophe to the rich 
Jews of the time. 

In 1 Peter 1:1 we find the other instance of 
Diaspora or Dispersion. Here Peter seems to mean 
by "the elect who are sojourners of the Dispersion 
in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia," 

1 A New Translation of the N. T. Besides, in 3:9 James speaks 
of "the Lord and Father" (God). 

2 Plummer, Comm., p. 47. 


not merely Jews or Jewish Christians, but all Chris- 
tians, whether Jews or Gentiles, in the spiritual 
Dispersion, "sojourners" from the true Palestine or 
Promised Land (Heaven). Is this the idea of James? 
Zahn 1 takes this position and finds the writer ad- 
dressing Christians in general, whether Jews or Gen- 

But surely the author has in mind simply Chris- 
tian Jews outside of Palestine. The use of the word 
"synagogue" as a place of worship (2:2) on a par 
with "church" (5: 14) argues for this interpretation. 
He is addressing the Christian Jews, who now have 
many problems, and he may have hoped by means 
of these believing Jews to reach the wider circle of 
unbelieving Jews. He speaks of Abraham as "our 
father" (2:21). He assumes that for his readers the 
Mosaic law is still binding (2: 9- 1154: 11). 2 

3. The Occasion. 

This we do not know. Unlike most of Paul's 
Epistles, there are no personal details. We are left 
to conjecture, as in the case of Jude and 1 John. 
The picture drawn in the Epistle is that of Jewish 
Christians of the poorer classes, with a small num- 
ber of richer brethren (1: 10), struggling for life in 
the midst of a social and economic environment 
that was utterly unsympathetic, not to say hostile. 
The process of adjustment was difficult and perilous. 
There were perils to the individual and to the 
church life, and James shows real mastery of the 

1 Einl. i. 5, 6. 

2 Plummer, Comm., p. 46. 


situation that confronted the Jewish Christians in 
the middle of the first century in the scattered re- 
gions where they are found. He writes to them in a 
firm tone, but with manifest understanding and 

4. Character of the Epistle. 

The book, small as it is, is a little gem in concep- 
tion and expression. It reminds one of portions of 
the Book of Proverbs, some of the Psalms, portions 
of the Prophets, the Twelve Patriarchs, the Wisdom 
of Jesus the Son of Sirach, the Wisdom of Solomon, 
Philo, and the Sermon on the Mount. It is quite 
possible that both Paul and Peter had read the 
Epistle of James, at least there are several coinci- 
dences between them. At any rate, there seems to 
be some literary connection between some of Paul's 
Epistles (Rom., 1 Cor., Gal.), 1 Peter and Hebrews, 
and the Epistle of James. Some contend that the 
Epistle makes use of these N. T. books. M. Jones 
(N. T. in Twentieth Century, p. 316) thinks that 
the author had some knowledge of the Stoic philoso- 
phers, but this could have come through Hellenistic 
Judaism, as, for instance, the Wisdom of Solomon 
and Philo. The author, as already shown, writes in 
the smooth and easy Koine of a gifted and culti-^ 
vated Jew of Palestine. One does not have to say 
with Patrick 1 that James "had a wide knowledge of 
classical Greek." He may never have read a line 
of "classical" Greek, but he knew well the current 
Greek of his day and used it with fine skill. It is 

1 Op. cit., p. 298. 


not a labored production and is in no sense arti- 
ficial. The author is full of the Old Testament and 
writes like one of the prophets, and yet he has a 
firm grip upon the essence of the gospel of Jesus 
Christ. The book forms a fine link between the 
Old Testament and the New. James, the brother 
of the Lord Jesus, understands the Old Testament 
and loves Moses still. He seeks to interpret Chris- 
tianity more fully on its ethical and social side to the 
Jewish Christians of his time, who are in sad need 
of help, beset as they are by Jew and Gentile, and 
with an imperfect grasp of the new gospel. They 
find in this Epistle just what they need to make 
practice correspond to profession, to square life with 
creed. The lesson is still needed to-day. There is a 
peculiar modernity about the teaching of James that 
appeals to modern men. who are nothing if not 


Joy in Trial. 1:2-11 

Evidently these early Jewish Christians had their 
share of trial. Who, alas, does not have his por- 
tion? The problem with us all is to learn how to 
find the spring of joy in the midst of sorrow, to be 
happy while we carry our burden. There are always 
perplexities and anxieties without number. The sea 
is restless even in its moments of calm beauty. 

1. Variety in Trials. 1:2. 

There is the tone of an elder brother in this Epis- 
tle, and we see it at the start, when James says "my 
brothers" (adeXcpot fiov). 1 It is no perfunctory phrase 
with him. It is "trials," not "temptations," that 
James here has in mind, though the same word 
(neipaanog) probably means temptation in 1:12. 
The word in the Greek came to have either sense 
though originally it meant only to try, to attempt, 
just as our English word "tempt" was at first 
simply "try." But it is a short step from "try" to 
"make trial of" one when suspicion exists or evil 
desire arises. Hence all through the Greek we find 
the old Greek word (ireipdopai) used in both senses. 
The New Testament usage varies. There are a half 
dozen other passages where the word (neiQaafio^) 

1 The papyri frequently show adetyoq for this religious community 
idea. Cf. Milligan, Greek Papyri, pp. 22, 117. 



has the idea of trial (Luke 22 : 28; Acts 20: 19; Gal. 
4: 14; 1 Pet. 1:6; 4: 12; Rev. 3: 10). In 1 Pet. 1: 6 
the identical expression "manifold trials" appears. 
Oesterley (Expos. Gk. Test.) wrongly insists that 
"temptation" is the meaning in James 1 : 2 on the 
ground that "the writer's Judaism is stronger than 
his Christianity," and he then uses it as an argument 
against the genuineness of the book. A soldier 
(Parry) does have "true joy" in victory over tempta- 
tion, like Wordsworth's Happy Warrior, but that is 
beside the mark here. There is no conflict here with 
the avoidance of temptation urged by Jesus (Matt. 
6:3; Luke 11:4; Matt. 26: 41 ; Luke 22 : 40). James 
refers rather to external trials into which men fall, 
trials that are not only "unwelcome," but also "un- 
sought and unexpected." 1 It is almost the picture 
of a stumble in the dark when one finds oneself sur- 
rounded (negi — TreoTjre) by hostile forces, just as the 
poor man "fell among robbers" (Xx/aralg irepie-neoev, 
Luke 10:30). 

Besides, one may be surrounded by "all sorts of 
trials" at once and not merely "any sort of trial" 
(Moffatt). The word "manifold" (ttoikIao^) is really 
many colored, variegated, spotted, mottled, pied, 
dappled. "It never rains but it pours," we say at 
such a time. The same word (noiKiXog) is applied to 
the sicknesses and torments of body and mind which 
Jesus healed (Matt. 4:24). It is used of the evil 
desires that lead silly women astray (2 Tim. 3 : 6), of 
the lusts and pleasures which once the Cretans 
served (Titus 3:3), of the variety in the manifesta- 

1 Plummor, op. cit., p. 63. 


tion of God's power in connection with the gospel 
(Heb. 2:4), of the many sorts of strange teachings 
then afloat (Heb. 13:9) of which we are now be- 
ginning to learn something (incipient Gnosticism and 
the early stages of Mithraism, for example), of the 
many trials which brought sorrow to the Christians 
(1 Pet. 1:6), and of the many sides to the grace of 
God (4: 10). God has grace for every trial what- s 
ever its color, whether black or blue, yellow or 
green, red or crimson. 

The way to face them all is with joy in the heart 
and a smile on the face. We are not asked to rush,/ 
into trials and to make mock-martyrs of ourselves. 
We are not asked to rejoice because of the trials 
many or few. Much depends on how we treat 
(f]yrj07]ode) the problem of trial, much of which is 
beyond our control, like poverty in wisdom (1:5) 
and in substance (1:9) and like persecution (2 : 6f.). 
We are not to be blind to facts nor to submit tamely 
to what can be cured and should not be endured. 
James is not a Cynic nor a Stoic, but a victorious 
Christian who has learned the lesson that thankful 
joy is easier and wiser than mere dull resignation 
(Plummer, in loco). Each trouble may be met by a 
special kind of joy as its antidote. The common 
idea about "all joy" (ndaav #apdv, omne gaudium) is 
that James thereby means "pure joy," nothing but 
joy. "Greet it as pure joy" (Moffatt). That is pos- 
sible, though it may also mean "bring to bear all 
that joy has to offer." It does not mean (Mayor) 
that all of joy is contained in this view. At any 
rate, it is much to know that joy in suffering is pos- 



sible, as many saints can testify who have reached 
the pure air of fellowship with Jesus in suffering 
(cf. Phil. 3:10), the Brother of James, and of all 
who suffer, wfyo said: "Blessed are they that have 
been persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs 
is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye when 
men shall reproach you, and persecute you, and 
say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my 
sake. Rejoice and be exceeding glad; for great is 
your reward in heaven : for so persecuted they the 
prophets that were before you" (Matt. 5: 10-12). 
This is part of the fellowship of Christ and of the 
saints, the "Sunshine Band" of those who have 
learned to smile in the midst of tears like the sun- 
shine in the rain. .Paul was able to say: "But we 
also rejoice in our tribulations" (Rom. 5:3). This 
is not the joy of the fanatic nor of the fakir nor of 
the rhapsodist. It is the joy of the soul that is at 
peace with God in Christ and has also more than 
earth and hell can take away, the peace that passeth 
all understanding. The disciples rejoiced "that they 
were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the 
Name" (Acts 5:41). Even Marcus Aurelius said: 
"Say not that that which hath befallen thee is bad 
fortune, but that to endure it nobly is good fortune." 

2 . The Product of Trial. 1:3. 

The rule of Christian joy thus expounded stands 
the test of experience. The word "knowing" (ytvo>- 
okovtfx;) is the one used for experimental knowledge 
as opposed to mere intellectual apprehension. The 
tense (present participle) expresses continuous ac- 


quisition of fresh knowledge from experience. It is 
the school of life where we learn most of what we ~ 
really know. The position of James is thus in ' 
thorough harmony with psychology. The command 
to rejoice in the midst of manifold trials, paradoxical 
though it seems, is one that the Jewish Christians 
knew to be true from their experience of grace. 
Johnstone 1 has a fine word: ' 'Affliction lets down a 
blazing torch into his own nature— and he sees 
many things which he little expected to see." One 
qf the marvels of modern science is the use of elec- 
tric light by divers at the bottom of the sea to take 
pictures of sea life. 

It is the biological conception that James has in 
mind. The law of life (nature and grace) works 
through personal experience and not by mechanical 
impartation. What do we learn by experience? 
"That the proving of your faith worketh patience." 
MofTatt has it: "That the sterling temper of your 
faith produces endurance." The notion is plainly 
that of testing (to 8oki\iiov t% moTeug). 2 See the 
same phrase in i Pet. 1:7. Thus James, as Paul, 
regards faith as "the very foundation of religion" 
(Mayor). The verb (doMpitfw) from which the ad- 
jective (doKiiiioq) is derived is common enough for 

1 Lectures on the Ep. of James, p. 73. 

2 Deissmann, Bible Studies, pp. 259 f., makes it plain that to 
6on6fiiov is just the neuter singular adjective used with the article 
as an abstract substantive idea. See Prov. 27:21, font/uov apyvpu. 
Other examples occur in the papyri (Moulton and Milligan, Lexical 
Notes from the Papyri, Expositor, December, 1908, p. 566) and 
Dittenberger, Syll., 588 96. 149, "gives us from ii/B. C. dont/xeiov, a 
noun meaning crucible, which is found in the LXX." 


testing a yoke of oxen (Luke 14: 19), the spirits 
(1 John 4:1), work by fire (1 Cor. 3: 13), genuine- 
ness of love (2 Cor. 8: 8), all things (1 Thess. 5 : 21). 
Peter (1 Pet. 1:7) explains the adjective by the verb 
(tested by fire). Cf. Sirach 2:5: "For gold is tried in 
the fire, and acceptable men in the furnace of adver- 
sity." One is reminded of the Sermon on the Mount. 
"By their fruits ye shall know them" (Matt. 7 : 16). 

Patience {vttojiovti) is patientia (patior), and is 
called by Philo the queen of the virtues. The Jews 
(Oesterley, in loco) had had ample need of this 
virtue in their checkered history. It is just the 
opposite of the "super-man" of Nietzsche, the 
triumph of might over right, the will to get what 
one wishes right or wrong. There is inevitable con- 
flict between selfish militarism and Christianity. It 
is a pity that Christians have left it to Socialists to 
make the most vigorous protest against war. But, 
alas, both Christians and Socialists are swept under 
by the vortex of war nolens volcns. And yet by pa- 
tience James does not mean inertia or lack of ambi- 
tion. It is not complacent self-satisfaction, but the 
triumph of regulated consideration of the welfare of 
others, the victory of love over greed, the joy of 
doing without that others may be happy, the happi- 
ness of enduring ill for the sake of Jesus. It is very 
hard to remain under (vno — jusvw) misfortune, when it 
cannot be helped. James does not mean that we are 
not to try to cure any of the ills of life, not to over- 
come ignorance, poverty, disease, crime. There is 
here no surcease for the war on the evil conditions of 
modern life in home or city or state. But many 


things cannot be changed. Others will be alleviated 
by and by. Meanwhile the Christian can rise to the 
height of patience, of cheerful, joyful patience. It 
is the practice of cheerfulness that we so much 
stand in need of. We do not have to shut our eyes 
to the facts of life and of the human reason and deny 
the existence of sin and sickness. We can conquer 
the bitter results of these evils by the joy in Christ 
that drives away despair. 

This patience is the product (icaTepydfrTaL) of trial. 
We are not born with a supply of patience. It is not 
bestowed in fulness upon us at the new birth. Like 
the manna, we need a fresh supply each morning. 
But the habit of mind termed patience is gradually 
wrought in us by the discipline of experience. Bit- 
terness is a possible fruit of sorrow and hard ex- 
periences. Bitterness is written all over some sad 
faces. That terrible calamity can be missed, will be 
missed, if one walks in the way of him who said:. 
"Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy 
laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon 
you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in 
heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For 
my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Matt. 
n:28f.). It may not be easy and light at first, 
but it becomes so in the presence of Jesus. 

Nobly does Wordsworth interpret it for us all: 

"Who, doomed to go in company with pain, 
And fear and bloodshed, miserable train! 
Turned his necessity to glorious gain; 
In face of these doth exercise a power 
Which is our human nature's highest dower; 


Controls them and subdues, transmutes, bereaves 
Of their bad influence, and their good receives." 

3. Perfection by Patience. 1:4. 

There is no other way than the slow way of life. 
The mushroom springs up in a night and goes as 
quickly away. The oak grows a few inches a year 
and lasts for centuries. The finest product in God's 
garden is the soul of man ripe with the long years of 
toil and sorrow. Luther Burbank has learned some 
of the witchery of nature by watching her ways with 
plant-life. He has shown great patience and has 
much to show for it. Give patience a chance to do 
its work (£%er(o) and keep on giving it a fair show. 
Ole Bull said that if he missed practising on his vio- 
lin one day he noticed the difference in his playing. 
If he missed two days, other musicians noticed it. 
If he skipped three days, all the world knew it. 
"Only, let your endurance be a finished product" 
(Moffatt). It comes to that in all great achieve- 
ments, for the test is endurance. The goal is at the 
end (reXog) of the race where Jesus is the author and 
finisher (dp^ydv nai reXeitoTriv) of the faith which we 
possess (Heb. 12: 2). "We are become partakers of 
Christ, if we hold fast the beginning (ttjv dpxv v ) of 
our confidence firm unto the end" (pegpi r ^ovg, Heb. 
3: 14). "But he that endureth to the end (6 imo- 
fieivag elg rekog), the same shall be saved" (Matt. 
24: 13). 

So patience calls for courage. Discouragement 
leads to impatience and failure. There is need of 
long-suffering (iiaKpo-dv/iia) , Col. 1:11 if we get 
"the finished product" (fyyov). The word for "per- 


feet" here (reXeiog) occurs also in James 1:17, 25; 
3:2. The word, like the substantive (reXog), has a 
double usage (cf. finis and our end), either limit or 
aim. So the perfect (reXeiog) man may be regarded 
in the absolute sense, the limit, as the Perfect Man 
Christ Jesus (Eph. 4: 13), or as on the way to the 
goal (no longer a child, vrjmog, but a developed man, 1 
as in 1 Cor. 2:6; Phil. 3 : 15. "The perfect" (1 Cor. 
13: 10) is still to come, but there is "perfect love" 
(1 John 4: 18). We are to aim after the perfection 
of God himself (Matt. 5:48). Paul's ambition was 
to present each one "perfect in Christ Jesus" (Col. 
1 : 28). Cf. also Col. 4: 12. Here James has his eye 
on the goal which is at the end of the long road. 
He knows full well (3:2) that in many things we all 
stumble, but we must persevere. Patience must do 
its "perfect work" (reXuov epyov), that ye may be 
"perfect" (riXeioi). 

But James takes a latitudinal look at the work of 
patience, not merely the longitudinal view, that ye 
may be "entire, lacking nothing" (oXokXtjooi, tv urjdevi 
Xenrofievoi) , "complete, with never a defeat" (Mof- 
fatt). This word for entire (cf. integer) means com- 
plete in all its parts, whole, not unsound anywhere. 
At the end of the race we are to be fully developed 
and sound to the core in heart and limb. The word 
is used of stones untouched by a tool (Deut. 27: 6), 
of a body without blemish. Epictetus (Bk. Ill, 
chap, xxvi, § 25) uses the word of a vessel which one 
finds "whole" or unbroken and "useful" (oicevog y,iv 

1 Epictetus likewise uses releioq in contrast with fieipaniov (Ench. 
Li. §l): ovk eti si fteipaKiov, aXka avf/p //<!// rt/letoc. 


oXdnXripov Kal ^p?7<rt/zov) . It is used of a complete or 
unbroken household in the papyri (dXoKX-qpov oltciag, 
B. M. Ill, p. 30, iii/A. D.). Philo 1 uses both words 
together as James does here. The substantive (6X0- 
kXtjpio) is used of "the perfect soundness" of the man 
just healed by Peter and John (Acts 3: 16). This 
adjective occurs with "righteousness" (duccuoovvjj, 
Wisd. 15:13) and "worship" or "religion" (evoefieca, 
4 Mace. 17). 2 The adjective is used by Paul in 
his prayer for the Thessalonians (1 Thess. 5:23), 
"preserved entire {oXokX^qov) without blemish" (dne/nr- 
Tog). This is what Jesus does for his glorious 
church, which is to be "without spot or wrinkle or 
any such thing" (Eph. 5:27). Jesus, our High 
Priest, "has perfected (TereXeiuitev) forever them 
that are sanctified" (roi)g ayia^o^vovg, Heb. 10: 14). 
Israel, alas, Isaiah (1:6) found wholly wanting in 
this "soundness." James' ideal is that we shall fall 
short (Xei-ndnevoi, be left) in nothing. Our destiny 
is to dwell in the family of God and to be like Jesus, 
our Elder Brother (1 John 3:2). This ultimate 
divine fulness is not the self-sufficiency (avTdpKeta) of 
the Stoics. 

4. Shortage in Wisdom. 1:5. 

"Defective in wisdom," Moffatt puts it. It is the 
same word (Xei-rreTai) that occurs at the end of verse 

1 de Abr. 47, p. 8, o fiev yap rtleioc oMK?.ripo( ff apxvs, "der ganze 
reife Mensch," Windisch, Handbuch zum N. T., p. 5. 

2 "The 6%6nfa/pof is one who has persevered, or who, having once 
lost, has now regained his completeness: the riXeioc is one who has 
attained his moral end, that for which he was intended, namely, to 
be a man in Christ" (Trench, Synonyms of the N. T., Eleventh 
Ed., p. 77). 


4 and is used with the ablative case (oo<plag). 1 James 
is fond of catching up a preceding word and going 
on with it, even if, as here, in a new sense. "If any- 
one of you lacketh wisdom," James gently hints. 
Who is it that does not feel his shortcoming here, at 
times with painful intensity? 

What does James mean by wisdom {oo<pia, sapien- 
tia) ? It is more than knowledge (yvtioig, or even k-ni- 
yvuxng). It is more than mere intelligent apprehen- 
sion (avveoig) of acquired knowledge. Tennyson 
says: "Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers." 
James shows familiarity with the Wisdom of Jesus, 
the Son of Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 2 and possibly also 
the so-called Wisdom of Solomon. Certainly he 
knows the Book of Proverbs. But he here uses 
wisdom, not in a philosophical or mystical sense. 
With James wisdom is the right use of one's oppor- 
tunities in holy living. It is living like Christ in 
accord with the will of God. In 3 : 13-17 he gives a 
formal discussion of the two sorts of wisdom. Bede 
suggests that we need wisdom to know how to look 
at trial in the true light. Yes, and to give patience 
the chance to do its perfect work. Paul uses wisdom 
in the special sense of God's wisdom as shown in 
the gospel as infinitely superior to the wisdom of the 
world which scouted the Cross of Christ. "We speak 
wisdom among the perfect" (the mature, 1 Cor. 
2:7). In the Old Testament wisdom is sometimes 
the Intelligence of God (Prov. 8:22-30). "Ten 
measures of wisdom came down from heaven, and 

1 Cf. Vulgate indiget sapientia. 

* See Plummer, Comm., pp. 72f., for proof. 


nine of them fell to the lot of the Holy Land" 
(Kiddushim, 49b). With James the source of wis- 
dom is God, not the Jews. So then, when our sup- 
ply runs short, ask of God (aiTeiru) napa tov deov). It 
is like a bank to which we go to get money. 1 God 
is the Banker whose supply of wisdom never gives 
out. Unlike other bankers, he asks no security save 
the name of Jesus. 2 That name gives us full credit 
at the Bank of Heaven. On that basis God "gives 
to all men without question or reproach" (Moffatt). 
"Liberally" (anXug) we have it in the standard ver- 
sions. It is a rather difficult word to translate into 
English. It means simple, single-fold, sincere. Com- 
pare the "single" eye in Matt. 6:22; Luke 11:34- 
In Rom. 12 : 8 it is not clear whether "singleness" or 
"liberality" is the idea, but "liberality" is obviously 
correct in 2 Cor. 8: 2, "the riches of their liberality." 
So in 9: ii, 13, but "singleness of heart" in Eph. 
6:5; Col. 3 : 22. Oesterley finds the notion of James 
to be "singleness of aim, the aim being the impart- 
ing of benefit without requiring anything in return." 
Likewise Bengel interprets it by simpliciter. Either 
idea makes good sense, for surely God gives to us all 
with singleness of purpose and also with wealth of 
liberality. Certainly it is without bargaining on 
God's part, for there is no idea of reciprocity. 
"Without question" (Moffatt) suggests an under- 
standing with God, which is true. It is the normal, 

1 Note, na/ja, by the side of, a personal plea. 

2 The late Mr. J. Pierpont Morgan testified before a committee of 
the U. S. Senate that he loaned money primarily on character, not 

financial ability. 


natural thing for a child of God to do, to come to 
God and ask of him, for he "upbraideth not" (p) 
dvetdifrvTog) . A fool upbraids, the Son of Sirach 
says (Ecclus. 20:15). Instead of upbraiding us for 
asking, the rather we are made to wonder why we 
did not ask sooner. God does not chide us for our 
folly, but gives us good measure of wisdom to take 
its place. This is the literal truth, as many self- 
confessed fools of the world are glad to testify. 
They have left the folly of a worldly, selfish, sinful 
life for the rich joy of the service of God in Christ. 
The change may come in a moment, for, after all, 
this new view of life and the power to live it may 
be had for the asking. "And it shall be given him." 
It will be given on request, with no other identifica- 
tion than the sinner's plea who comes in the name of 
Jesus, the open sesame to the treasures of heaven, 
himself the wisdom of God (1 Cor. 1:30) in whom 
are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge 
hidden (Col. 2:3). God does ask of us that we use 
this wisdom for his glory and for the blessing of 
other lives, the enrichment of other hearts. 

5. Doubting Prayer. 1 : 6-8. 

Jesus (Matt. 7 : 7f.) had urged the disciples to ask 
with the promise that God would answer. 

There is a condition attached to the wide-open 
invitation in James 1:5. It is faith. "But let him 
ask in faith," James adds. By faith (ttIgtic;) James 
means, not a body of doctrine, but trust in God, a 
working confidence in God that leads him to ask 
and to expect to receive what he asks. It is certain 


that God does not answer some prayers, at least 
not in the way expected. Some requests ought not 
to be granted, ought, in fact, never to be made. 
Prayer may be very foolish as well as very wise. 
God does not offer to grant every whim of a spoilt 
and petulant child. But, assuming that one is 
asking for wisdom, which surely is a proper prayer 
for anyone to make, even so he may miss it because 
he does not exercise wisdom in the asking. He 
must not chill the ardor of his desire by hesitation 
and doubt. Let him ask, "nothing doubting" 
(fiTjdev 6iaKgt,v6iievoq) . To doubt is to have a divided 
(did) mind, that draws him two ways, like the poor 
donkey that starved because he could not choose 
between the two stacks of hay. Such a man is like 
a wave 1 of the sea (nXvduvt, daXdooqg, fluctui maris), 
one of the most transitory things imaginable, driven 
by the wind (dveiMfyfiivu, extritisecus, Bengel adds), 
and tossed into sea foam (white-caps) as if blown 
by a fan or bellows (ptm^ofxivoi, from pirn?, fan or 
bellows), a veritable "brain-storm" of perplexity and 

God does answer prayer, but not the prayer of a 
man like that (tKelvo^) who insults the giver of 
whom he asks a favor. Timid faith is quite another 
thing. That Jesus honored in the case of the father 
who first said: "But if thou canst do anything" 
(Mark 9:22). Jesus rebuked him for his "if thou 
canst" (to el dvvq). Then the anxious father cried: 
"I believe; help thou mine unbelief." There are 

1 "Like a cork floating on the wave, now carried towards the shore, 
now away from it" (Mayor). 


many difficulties in the way of trust in God to-day. 
Science has left many minds groping in the dark 
without God, feeling after him if haply they may 
find him, not knowing that he is nigh to each of us. 
We do not have an absentee God. He can and does^ 
hear the cry of his children for help. If 5 S can 
find a response over the wind and the wave to the 
call of the sinking ship, surely it is not strange that 
the Father of our spirits will hear our call to him. 
So it will be, "if ye have faith and doubt not" 
(Mv nianv sxV T£ nal fir) diaKpidrjire) , almost the very 
words used by James. Jesus had to rebuke his 
disciples for their lack of faith (Matt. 8: 26) when 
they thought they were perishing from wind and 
wave. And Simon Peter doubted after he began to 
walk on the water and began at once to sink. "O 
thou of little faith (oXiyomoTs), wherefore didst thou 
doubt?" (edioraoas) says Jesus to Peter (Matt. 14: 
31). Peter had a divided mind. "Let not that 
man think that he shall receive anything of the 
Lord." He does not expect anything and he is not 
disappointed. What a commentary is this sentence 
upon the half-hearted praying, the lack of interest, 
the worldly-minded passive worship of many mod- 
ern Christians. There is no wrestling with God in 
prayer for victory. 

"Double-minded creature that he is, wavering at 
every turn" (Moffatt). The double-minded man (dt- 
ifivxog) is like the two-faced man (Mr. Facing Both 
Ways). Sirach (2: 13) speaks of the sinner coming 
to two paths and unable to choose. Such a man 
perishes at the cross-roads. Of. James 4 : 8 for the 


only other use of the word in the N. T., though com- 
mon enough elsewhere. Such indecision goes into 
duplicity, as Jesus shows about the evil eye and the 
single eye (Matt. 6: 2 2f.). It is a miserable life, as 
anyone knows who leads a double life. The double 
heart leads to the double life with its pretended 
double standard of morals. Clement of Rome 1 says : 
"Wretched are the double-minded, who doubt in 
their heart." No wonder he becomes "unstable in 
in all his ways" (anaTdoTarog ev -ndoaig ralg odolg avrov), 
not able to stand in all his goings. He wobbles and 
finally reels like a drunken man. Such inconstancy 2 
winds up in hypocrisy or abandonment to sin. 3 

6. The Democracy of Faith. 1:9-11. 

James returns to the keynote of "all joy" (verse 2) 
and uses the word "glory" (icavxdodcS). The positive 
note of exultation is the mark of the true Christian 
against the double-minded man. The pessimist is 
not a representative of Christianity. The true op- 
timist is not, however, blind to the facts of life. He 
can glory in God in the midst of all sorts of trials 
and conditions, whether in high or low estate. His 
joy is independent of earthly estate. The Cotter's 
Saturday Night may be as happy as the one in the 
Castle near by. Class distinctions are no cause for 
pride in a spiritual democracy like the church of 

1 Ta?iai7vui><H naiv ol diijmxoi, ol diora^ovTet; ry KUfji)ia. Cf. Resch, 
Agrapha, p. 325 (second ed.). 

2 Bengel gives inconstans. 

3 The faithless lover is called anaraoirig evperfc in the Erotic Frag- 
ment G. 1 (ii/B. C.) A leaden tablet (Audollent, no. 4 b i2) speaks 
of one, tuv rtjv o'ikiov fiov antiTaoraTov notovvra. 


Jesus Christ. We need in Christianity no "princes 
of the church" in the Roman Catholic sense. Pride 
of rank among the Twelve Disciples was a source of 
grief to Jesus. The rich and the poor are one in 
Christ Jesus and all are poor miserable sinners saved 
by grace. 

Johnstone (Lectures on James, p. 88) calls this 
section "Rich Poor and Poor Rich"). That is true 
and is the probable interpretation here. The hum- 
ble (Ta-neivos) 1 brother may, after all, be the richest 
man in the church, rich in grace, in love, in joy, in 
peace, in righteousness, in fellowship. This is "his 
high estate" (tv tw vxpet) , which rises sheer above 
hovel or palace. Thank God that this infinite 
wealth of the spirit is still open to the poor all over 
the world who find the door of competency closed 
in their faces. The pious poor is more than a 
phrase. It is often literal fact. The papyri dis- 
coveries 2 bear eloquent testimony to the words of 
Paul about the membership of the church at Corinth 
(1 Cor. 1:26-29). The papyri letters and other 
documents are chiefly from the middle and lower 
classes and reflect the actual life of the very people 
from whom the gospel made most of its converts 
(the fishermen, the carpenters, the publicans, the 
tent-makers, etc.). There were already some wealthy 
members of the early churches, men like Nicodemus, 

1 There is the utmost contrast between this use of raneivdg and 
that in Epictetus, with whom humility is an object of scorn and 
contempt, a meanness unworthy of man. See Bk. III., chap, ii, 
§ 14. Cf. Sharp, Epictetus and the N. T., p. 130, 133. 

2 Cf . Deissmann, Light from the Ancient East, p. 392 ; St. Paul, 
p. 47. 


Joseph of Arimathea, Barnabas of Cyprus. There 
were "not many mighty," but there were some. 
There soon came to be large numbers of slaves in 
the churches when the gospel spread among the 
Gentiles. But already social problems of an acute 
nature were on hand when James wrote. In fact, 
we see such problems in the early chapters of Acts, 
when Ananias and Sapphira wish to get credit for a 
generosity that they were not willing to show and 
when high feeling arose in the distribution of the 
funds for the Aramaean (Palestinian) and Hellenistic 
widows among the Jewish Christians. At no point 
are people more sensitive than about money. 

So the rich brother (nXovawg) is to be reminded of 
his humiliation (Taneivuoig ) , "in that he is made 
low," placed on a level with the "lowly brother." 
They meet on the level in Christ. Each is as high 
and as low as the other, no more, no less. The rich 
man is not to glory over the poor man, nor is the 
poor brother to cringe in the presence of the rich 
brother. This is the democracy of faith, the univer- 
sality of Christ.. '(.The rich brother is in constant 
peril of pride of possession, and so James reminds 
him of the fate of the beautiful flower of the grass 
(dvdos x°P T0V ) which springs up quickly and withers 
before the burning heat (na-vow, burner, hot wind) 
and falls off. It is a striking adaptation of the 
language of Isaiah (40:6-8), using the imagery for 
another purpose. Peter (1 : 24) says: "All flesh is as 
grass and all the glory of man as the flower of 
grass." Christ brings all men to their true level, 
the common humanity in us all, the Sonship in him 


that makes us heirs of heaven. Moffatt changes "his 
high estate" to "when he is raised" and "in that he 
is made low" to "in being lowered." He seems to 
understand that James refers to the possible "ups 
and downs" of life. It will be easy for the lowly- 
brother in that case to rejoice when he becomes 
rich; but how about the rich brother when he be- 
comes poor? 

Plummer (in loco) refuses to see a "brother" at 
all in the rich man, but only one of the rich Jews 
who oppressed the early Christians, as in 5 : 1-6. But 
that gives an Ebionitic tone to the Epistle. James 
does indulge in irony, but he is apparently sincere 
in his picture here. The rich brother will fade away 
in his goings (nopeiais) as if James has in mind a 
drummer whose business dries up like a flower. 
Riches in sooth have wings and fly away. They are 
sweet like the rose, but soon vanish from us forever. 


The Way of Temptation, i: 12-18 

James powerfully sketches the natural history of 
temptation if yielded to and the glory of victory if 
overcome. The other sense (temptation) of the 
word {-neiQaoiioq) used for trial in 1 : 2 occurs here. 
Moffatt indeed takes "trial" as the idea in 1:12 
also (so does Hort in loco), but certainly in verse 
13 we have to say "temptation." It is most likely 
that the idea of temptation is present in 1:12. 
Here James returns to the discussion of the other 
side of the blessing of trials, namely, the blessing 
of temptation endured. As a matter of fact, he has 
"not really digressed from the subject. He merely 
discussed one aspect of the subject. 

1 . Standing the Test. 1:12. 

"Blessed is the man that endureth temptation." 
We must never forget that Jesus warned us against 
rushing into temptation, not merely in the Lord's 
Prayer (Matt. 6:13; Luke 11:4), but also in the 
Agony of Gethsemane, when Satan had come upon 
him with renewed energy in spite of repeated de- 
feats by Jesus since the wilderness temptations (Matt. 
26:41; Luke 22:40). Jesus urged the disciples to 
pray to be spared temptation. No one knew so well 
as he the power of the evil one. He had wrestled 
with him to the end and had conquered where 
others failed. Temptation is not to be courted, not 
even for the sake of the experience and the possible 



victory. Too many go down in the struggle for any 
to rush into it lightly. "Fools rush in where angels 
fear to tread." 

But, if temptation is thrust upon one, then he 
must fight and he must win as Jesus did. There is 
always a way of escape (i Cor. 10: 13). We must 
find the way out (en(3aoLg). Cf. Job 5: 17: "Behold, 
happy is the man whom the Lord correcteth" (JjXsy- 
|ev). He only is happy (fiatcdpiog, the same word 
used in the Beatitudes in Matt. 5:3-11) who en- 
dures (vnofievet. Cf. v-noiiovq) . That is true patience. 
It is only "when he hath been' approved" (doKifiog) 
after standing the test that "he shall receive the 
crown of life," the victor's crown. The word for 
"approved" suggests the furnace that removes the 
dross and leaves the . pure metal. The refiner of 
silver watches, we are told, till he sees his own 
image in the metal. Then it is pure. The metal is 
tested and approved. 

"The crown of life" (tov ortyavov rrjg £*%)• Cf. 
Rev. 2:10) is probably the wreath of victory in the 
games (cf. 1 Cor. 9:2552 Tim. 2:5), for Greek games 
were common in Palestine in the days of Herod the 
Great, and were practised even in Jerusalem itself 
(Josephus, Ant. 15, 8, if.). It is a crown of kingly 
glory, but it is bestowed as reward of merit to those 
who love the Lord Jesus. We may have a reference 
to a Logion of Jesus not preserved in which he makes 
this promise. "Blessed is he who hath his raiment 
white, for he it is who receiveth the crown of joy 
upon his head." 1 In Prov. 1 : 9 we read that the 

1 Acta Philippi, Apocal. Apocr. Cf. Resch, Agrapha, 1889, p. 254. 


instruction of father and mother "shall be a chap- 
let of grace unto thy head" (cf. also 4:9). In Sir. 
15: 6 we read of "a crown of gladness," and in the 
Testimony of the Twelve Patriarchs (Levi iv. 1) we 
find "crowns of glory." Love is the way to win 
this crown, love and the proof of it in enduring 
temptation and leading "the white life." 

2. Blaming God. 1 : 13. 

Whatever doubt exists in verse 12 about trial or 
temptation vanishes in verse 13. Here it is clearly 
temptation to evil. Hort (in loco) suggests "tempted 
by trial," and Moffatt puts it "tried by temptation." 
Certainly trial becomes a temptation to some men 
who use it as the excuse for doing wrong. "Though 
trial in itself is ordered by God for our good, yet the 
inner solicitation to evil which is aroused by the 
outer trial is from ourselves" (Mayor). Any trial, 
wrongly used, may become a temptation, whereas it 
was meant for our development and perfection. 
Temptation is merely one aspect of trial, and not a 
necessary one. But the word is used of the great 
tempter (1 Thess. 3: 5, 6 neipdfav) . So Jesus was 
tempted (neipa^dfievog) by Satan in the wilderness 
(Mark 1: 13). Satan desired to sift the apostles as 
wheat, to ruin them if possible (Luke 22:31). The 
Pharisees and the Sadducees sought to tempt Jesus 
(Matt. 15: 1). It is the devil's business to seek to 
lure another into wrong. 

When a man is tempted, and yields to the tempta- 
tion, he is eager to blame some one else for his sin. 
If he cannot do otherwise, he will blame God for 


having made him as he is with evil possibilities. 
In particular is this true of sexual sin, which Oesterley 
(in loco) thinks James has specifically in mind here. 
Cf. Matt. 5:28; 1 Pet. a: 11. Adam blamed Eve 
and Eve the Serpent. And even Adam blamed God, 
for he said: "The woman whom thou gavest to be 
with me" (Gen. 3:12). Some dare to say in so 
many words: "I am tempted of God." They hold 
God responsible for their appetites and passions and 
seek to quiet the conscience thus while they give 
way to sin. Others hide behind heredity or en- 
vironment or evil companions. Even Agamemnon 
excused himself for his wrong to Achilles by holding 
Zeus and fate responsible (Horn. Iliad, xix. 86). 
Sirach (15: nf.) says: "Say not thou, It is through 
the Lord that I fell away." The origin of sin is a 
dark problem, but it is a lazy philosophy or a blind 
one that shirks human responsibility or tries to do 
it. It matters not whether sin is the remnant of the 
beast in us (surely some men act at times like the 
tiger) or the response to evil environment or both, 
we are merely cowardly when we blame God for our 
own wrongdoing. 

There is no response to evil in God. He is not 
"man's giant shadow skyward thrown." The abso- 
lute holiness and ethical purity of God should at 
least protect him from the charge of leading us into 
sin. The worst of men, in their darkest moments of 
loneliness, sometimes come face to face with God. 
Then they do not flippantly blame God, but confess 
their sins with broken heart. Two things are true 
about evil and God. One is that God himself (avrog) 


tempts no man to sin. He does send trial, but not 
temptation. We may not understand all the ways 
of God's Providence, but we may rest secure in this: 
The devil does tempt us. That is his business. 
And yet James does not refer to Satan by name 
here, for, after all, we ourselves are responsible, as he 
proceeds to show. It does not help matters with us 
any more than it did with Eve to lay our sin upon 
the devil. The other thing that is true is that "God 
cannot be tempted with evil" (aneipaoToc- ianv Kaitibv). 
He cannot be tempted to do evil himself nor be led 
to tempt others with evil. The phrase does not 
occur elsewhere in the New Testament nor in the 
Septuagint, but it is a paraphrase of a common 
proverb in the early Christian writings. 1 God does 
chastise us (Heb. 12: 4L, -ncudtvu), but he does not 
tempt us. 

All this is in strong contrast to the Greek and 
Roman notions of duty, for the heathen gods were 
credited with all human and even inhuman vices. 
The gods upon Olympus revel in lust and cruelty, 
jealousy and hate. They furnish fit ideals for the 
philosophy of Nietzsche, but do not accord with 
the God of the New Testament, the God of con- 
solation and of peace, of purity and love. 

3. Snared by One's Own Bait. 1 : 14. 

The man himself is responsible for his sin, and he 
need not seek to place the blame elsewhere. The 

1 Cf. Mayor on James (3rd ed., p. 541.)- The Acts of John (Zahn, 
p. 113. 5) has fit/ Keifin^e tov aneipacrTov, and p. IQX>. 18, o yap at netpd- 
fwv tov aneipacTov netpa&i. The devil tried to tempt even Christ, 
the Son of God. 


temptation is not a temptation to him if the man 
refuses to listen to the siren's voice. The man is not 
responsible for the efforts of others to allure him to 
sin, but only in case he listens and yields. Then he is 
really "tempted, when he is drawn away by his own 
lust and enticed." The figure is very bold and im- 
pressive. The word for "drawn away" (k^ekicofievog) 
is used in Oppian for drawing the fish out from its 
original retreat, beguiled from under the rock. Then 
the fish is ready to be snared by the bait (detea&nevog, 
from dikeap, bait). The fish bites at the bait and is 
caught on the hook. So with a man. He is drawn 
out by his own lust for the sin placed before him. In 
the case of sexual sin the impulse is not in itself 
sinful any more than the fish's hunger for food. The 
sexual nature is from God and is meant only for 
blessing for high and holy ends. But the misuse of 
this impulse is very easy and very dreadful in its 
results. Satan sets many kinds of bait for unwary 
boys and girls, men and women, who at first are 
taken off their guard and then are drawn away by 
desire stirred within them toward evil. The evil 
suggestion is entertained and sin is the outcome. 
This very word "entice" (3eXed^a>) is used of hunting 
(trapping with bait), and then it is used of the 
harlot who entices to sin. "My son, if sinners en- 
tice thee, consent thou not" (Prov. 1:10). Philo 
speaks of our being "driven by passion or enticed by 
pleasure." The pitfalls are many in modern life, in 
the country, in the village, and in the city. The 
modern demons of drink, drug, and the brothel are 
busy in finding victims. But the point made by 


James is that the one who yields does so because of 
the sin within one's own heart. One's own evil 
desire plays the part of temptress (Plummer) and one 
is drawn away by it and enticed. "If thou doest not 
well, sin coucheth at the door" (Gen. 4:7) like a 
panther ready to spring upon the intended victim 
caught for the moment off guard. One is reminded 
afresh of the opening chapters of Proverbs, which 
cannot be excelled by any of the modern books on 
sex-instruction, some of which stimulate more im- 
morality than they prevent. Wise warning is needed 
and plain talk is demanded, but not pruriency any 
more than prudery. Alas, and alas, that the paw 
of the modern Moloch draws into the fire so many 
thousands of young men and young women from 
the homes of our land. The best capital of America 
is the children, and we lose too much of it in the 
worst of gambles, the traffic in souls. 

4. The Abortion. 1:15. 

The natural history of sin as the result of tempta- 
tion to which one yields is given with scientific ac- 
curacy and graphic power: "Then the lust, when it 
hath conceived, beareth sin: and the sin, when it is 
full-grown, bringeth forth death." 1 Moffatt renders 
it thus: "Then Desire conceives and breeds Sin, 
while Sin matures and gives birth to Death." It is 
a gruesome picture surely. But who can say that 
it is overdrawn? The Positivist tries to shut God 
out of the world and so to banish human responsi- 
ble full text is worth giving: elra /'/ cntdvfiia ovllafiovoa riicrei 
djtapTtav, y 6i duupria dnoreXeodeioa anonvel ddvarov. 


bility; but, alas, he cannot banish human woe and 
anguish of heart. The Agnostic flings up his hands 
in despair and says he does not know and has noth- 
ing to say in the presence of nature "red in tooth 
and claw." The brutal Militarist adopts the rule 
of physical might wrongly claimed by Nietzsche to 
be the mark of the superman. Spiritual and moral ^/ 
prowess should dominate brute force in man, else he 
becomes only a brute himself. He drops back to the 
law of the jungle and rejects the law of love in the 
kingdom of heaven. The "Christian Scientist" 
blandly shuts his eyes to such errors of mortal mind 
as sin and sickness and sorrow, and, ostrich-like, 
cheerfully denies their reality and seeks to blow 
them away with a puff. But sin is not to be brushed 
aside in such an "old-maidish" way. The startling 
revelations of city life in the midst of Christian 
civilization have led to protest and revolt against 
existing conditions. One proof of it is seen in a book 
like Miss Jane Addams's "A New Conscience and 
an Ancient Evil." Another is seen in the rooting 
out of houses of prostitution from many of our large 
cities, the throttling of gambling, the growth of 
prohibition of the liquor traffic. One good result has 
come from the Great War — the prohibition of vodka 
in Russia and the coming of that mighty empire to 
the side of prohibition. It is not enough to lift up 
hands in holy horror at the power of sin to-day. 
Something must be done to stop real race-suicide 
that stalks through modern life in the shape of fear- 
ful venereal diseases that threaten the very life of 
the race. 


But the words of the verse call for particular re- 
mark. "Then" (elra) is here the historical order 
following the temptation to which one yields. His 
lust (kmdvfiia) drew him forth to the temptation. 
He yields and the result is the conception, which 
embryo develops into sin. This is the first birth, 
and sin is the child of desire (tiktsl apaqriav) . De- 
sire is not in itself sinful, but it easily falls into sin. 
Thus in a true sense desire makes sin where there 
was no sin, and so gives birth to sin. But this is not 
all. Sin in its turn matures (dnoTeXeadeloa, consumma- 
tum, Bengel) and gives birth to death. 1 This second 
child is like a child born dead. When sin is born 
death is involved like an embryonic parasite that 
feeds on sin. Desire, sin, death form the biological 
line or pedigree. The line is short, for "the wages 
of sin is death," as Paul puts it (Rom. 6: 23). 2 The 
picture in James is that of an abnormal birth like a 
misshapen animal. I have seen a five-legged cow, 
the fifth leg on the top of the back standing up 
straight. When sin is born death begins (conception) 
and grows in fascinating power till a new birth comes, 
and, lo, this child is death itself. "The birth of death 
follows of necessity when once sin is fully formed, 
for sin from its first beginnings carried death within" 
(Hort, in loco). 

The law of death in sin applies to other sins be- 
sides the so-called sexual sins which write their his- 

1 Bengel puts it thus: Peccatum morte gravidum nascitur. The 
Targum of Jonathan on Isaiah 62: 10 says that imagination of sin is 

2 ra ui)/6via t the rations of a soldier. The pay of sin is death and it 
is always paid. 


tory so plainly in the body and the mind and bring a 
heritage of woe through all the family history. 
There is here no sowing of wild oats to raise a crop 
of wheat. The fearful fidelity of modern scientific 
knowledge throws a lurid light on this passage in 
James. The sinner makes his bed and lies down 
in it and drags down with him the helpless ones 
who are thrown in his care. As I am writing I re- 
ceive a copy of "Light," a magazine published by 
the World's Purity Federation. This issue for No- 
vember, 1 9 14, contains an article by a woman who 
has lived "Twenty-five Years in the Underworld." 
Her story reads like a commentary on the words of 
James. She claims to have had the best of that 
sordid life, but she concludes: "No matter what 
humiliation a girl has to endure, it is better to endure 
it than to get into this life. There is nothing in it for 
any of them. The very best of us get it hard before 
we die. And, at the best, it is Hell." The issue of 
death is seen, not merely in the diseases of the body, 
but "also in the deterioration of mind and character 
which accompanies every kind of sin" (Mayor, in 
loco). Death and hell then claim their own. 

5. God the Source of Good. 1 : i6f. 

The contrast is sharp. "Be not deceived" Qirj 
■nXavaode) ; do not wander so in your minds as to 
think that temptation and sin and death come from 
God. He is not the source of evil. Rabbi Chaninah 
says: "No evil thing cometh down from above." 
Cf. Jesus in John 8:23 on "above" and "below." 
James is tenderly affectionate in his appeal on this 


point (My beloved brethren). On the contrary, only 
good comes from God. God is good, and he alone 
is absolutely good (Mark 10: 18). 1 In the Greek 
the next sentence runs like a hexameter line if one 
short syllable is considered long by stress of the 
meter. 2 We need not tarry over a fanciful straining 
after poetical lines in prose. Oesterley agrees with 
Ewald in seeing here a quotation from a Hellenistic 
poem. It is far more likely just accidental rhythm 
common enough in good prose. The scholars differ 
also as to how to translate the sentence. Moffatt 
hits it off thus: "All we are given is good, and all our 
endowments are faultless." 3 

"The Father of lights" sets God over against the 
worship of the sun so common among the ancients. 
Plato (Repub. vi. sosff.) compares the sun to the 
idea of the good. Modern science powerfully illus- 
trates this comparison of James in bringing out 
what we owe to the sun in the way of light, heat, 
and life itself. Philo calls God "the Father of the 
all," the lights (the moon and the stars) and all else 
in the universe. "When I consider thy heavens, the 
work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars which 
thou hast ordained; what is man, that thou art 
mindful of him? And the son of man, that thou 
visitest him?" (Psa. 8: 3I). Cf. Phil. 2: 16. God is 

1 'Aya^c is here used in the sense of absolute, not relative, 

inaoa 66aig ayadt) ml nav 66pr)/xa rfheiov. But see Robertson, 
Grammar of the Greek N. T. in the Light of Historical Research, 
p. 1200. 

3 He thus preserves the distinction between M<*i( and Mptf*", 
ayabi) and reXeioc. 


not only light (1 John 1:5), but all true light comes 
from him, all the light that lighteth every man 
coming into the world (John 1:9). 

But the sun appears to move rapidly. Watch the 
sun drop like a ball of fire at sunset and thus cast a 
deepening shadow over the earth. The sundial is one 
of the oldest ways to mark "the shadow that is cast 
by turning" (Tponrjg dnooKiaofia) . Mayor quotes Plu- 
tarch (Percl. 7) for the use of this figure for shadows 
cast on the dial (yvojfxdvuv aTrooniaofioc;) . James is 
here, of course, using popular language, as we still 
do when we say that the sun rises and sets. But 
with our Father of lights there is "no change of 
rising and setting" (Moffatt, -nagaXXayfi) . He "casts 
no shadow on the earth." Even the pole-star, we 
now know, whirls on in space, carrying the worlds 
along with it. But our God is not changeable nor 
whimsical. He does not send now good, now ill. 
He knows how to give good gifts to those that ask 
him, yea, the best of all gifts, the Holy Spirit (Luke 
11: 13). What seems ill is really good if it comes 
from God. If one takes his stand by God's side 
(nap ay) and looks at his life, he sees God's plan as a 
whole for his own life and for God's glory. 

6. The New Birth. 1:18. 

"So far from God tempting us to evil, his will is 
the cause of our regeneration" (Mayor). He is our 
Father in a double sense. We owe our original birth 
to God, in whose image we are made (Gen. 2:7). 
We owe our spiritual birth likewise to God, who 
begat us again to a living hope (1 Pet. 1:3). The 


Mishnah (Surenh., iv. 116) says: "A man's father 
only brought him forth into this world: his teacher, 
who taught him wisdom, brings him into the life of 
the world to come." Happy is the father who leads 
his child also to Christ. But, while the word of 
truth (Aoycj akTjdeiag) is the instrument used in the 
instruction (a pointed lesson for parents, teachers, 
preachers), the actual work of regeneration is due to 
God as Father, yes, and as Mother also, for the 
word "brought forth" (dneicv^aev) is the one used of 
the mother (see by contrast verse 15 above). The 
doctrine of grace here set forth is of a piece with 
that in Paul's writings (Rom. 12:2; Eph. 1:5), those 
of Peter (1 Pet. 1:3), and of John (1: 13). Indeed, 
Jesus himself is quoted as saying : "You did not choose 
me, but I chose you" (John 15: 16). As the seed of 
sin produces death, so the seed of God produces life 
(1 John 3:9). It is interesting to note this piece of 
fundamental theology in so practical a writer as 
James, who lays special emphasis on works as proof 
of life. But James has no such idea as some careless 
and shallow theologians who think that a man can 
galvanize himself into spiritual life by imitative 
ethics. The man must be born again, as Jesus said 
so impressively to Nicodemus (John 3:3). Birth 
precedes growth and development. 

We are not to puzzle ourselves too much over the 
mysteries of spiritual biology. We know that the 
impulse and purpose (fiovX^dtig) 1 comes from God 
(John 1 : 13). What we do know is that God honors 

1 Bengel says: voluntate amantissima, Uberrima, purissima, foecun- 
dissima. Cf. (3ov?.f/ for set purpose, not mere will or wish (i)i?.u). 


and uses the word of truth, both spoken and written. 
If this is true, what a responsibility for diligence and 
urgency in the use of the word of truth. By the 
truth we are set free from sin and error (John 8: 
3 if.). The word of truth is the gospel of salvation 
(Eph. 1 : 13 ; Col. 1:5), the word of life (1 John 1 : 1). 
God's word is truth (John 17: 17) and the words of 
Jesus are spirit and life (John 6: 63). The word of 
truth, when combined with the power of God (2 Cor. 
6:7), quickens into life. So James emphasizes the 
importance of the human element in the new birth 
while rightly making God supreme in the act of 
regeneration. We must reach men with the word 
of God. We must pass it on to the thirsty, the 
hungry, the dying. Every church is or ought to be 
a life-saving station, a rescue mission, a teaching 
center, a power house, a lighthouse radiating knowl- 
edge of God in Christ. 

The purpose (el$ rd elvai) of God in renewing us 
by the word of truth is that we in turn should win 
others. We are not an end in ourselves, though 
God does save us. He saves us that we may serve. 
We are to be a sort of first-fruits {a-nagxv v rtva), 1 not 
the full harvest. There are fields upon fields beyond 
us ready for the reaper. We are just a beginning, 
just a foretaste. We whet the appetite for larger, 
richer blessings. "The trees that are a fortnight to 
the fore are the talk and delight of the town" (J. 

1 The inscriptions (Ditt., Syll, 587 263 ) use the word for the first- 
fruits to Demeter and Kore, but Moulton and Milligan (Vocabulary, 
p. 54) give many examples from the papyri and the inscriptions, 
where "gift" or "sacrifice" seems sufficient. 


Rendel Harris, Present Day Papers, 1901, May, The 
Elements of a Progressive Church). One spring my 
baby boy noticed a tree without leaves when all the 
rest were in leaf. "What is the matter with this 
tree?" he said. Christ has introduced a new order 
into the world. He himself is the real first-fruits 
(1 Cor. 15:20). But there are others through all 
the ages, those that ripen first and fast, show the 
way, give promise of the future. So Epainetus was 
a first-fruit of Asia for Christ (Rom. 16:5), the 
household of Stephanas in Corinth (1 Cor. 16: 15). 
Blessings on the first-fruits for salvation in any 
church, any town, any family (2 Thess. 2 : 13). They 
are the chosen of God, like the 144,000 in the Book 
of Revelation (14:3), the Church of the Firstborn 
(Heb. 12:23). The Jews consecrated their first- 
fruits to God as his in a special sense. All Christians 
are meant to be first-fruits, the promise and earnest 
of better work (Rom. 8: 23). God has in store great 
things for his people. The least that we can do is to 
bring our first and our best, our all, and lay it at 
the feet of Jesus. The new heaven and the new 
earth may not come while we live on earth, but we 
may help heaven to come upon earth by living the 
life of God. 


The Practice of the Word of God. i: 19-27 

Nowhere is James richer than in this wonderful 
paragraph. He has in mind "the word of truth" 
(Adyw aXrideiag) of verse 18, and follows that idea with 
pungent and powerful words that remind one of the 
Sermon on the Mount. It is not clear whether the first 
part of verse 19 belongs in idea to what goes before or 
what follows. "Ye know this, my beloved brethren." 
It makes perfectly good sense either way. It is also 
uncertain whether we have a statement or a com- 
mand, for the form (iots) 1 may be either indicative ' 
or imperative. If you "know it, act on your knowl- 
edge. Let us listen to what the Word has to say, 
since we are renewed by the use of it and be less 
captious in our criticism of its teachings (Mayor). 
Moffatt puts it: "Be sure of that, my beloved 
brothers," and connects it with verse 18. 

1. Brilliant Listening. 1:19a. 

By "swift_ to hear" (raxvg «? rd dKovaai) James 
brings a vivid picture before us. Moffatt has it 
"quick to listen." Sirach (5:11) has a like com- 
mand: "Be swift in thy listening" (raxvg ev atcpodoet 
oov). One thinks of swift feet, fleet of foot, yes, and 
of ear. The Vulgate has velox here. The wild ani- 
mals (and the Indians) of necessity have keen ears 

1 In 4:4 James has oldare as indicative so that lore is probably {/" 
imperative. Cf. also Eph. 5:5; Heb. 12:17. 




and can hear the slightest rustle of a leaf or crackling 
of a twig. The rabbit, so often hunted by man and 
dog, pricks up his ears at the sound of a pin dropping. 
The use of the telephone and wireless telegraphy 
have given added importance to the value of the ear. 
The ancients relied very much on the ear, for the 
reader of books had a wide-awake audience who 
depended on the ear rather than the eye for infor- 
mation. The mechanism of listening is very won- 
derful, the contact between brain and brain through 
the sound waves of speech and the reception of the 
spoken words by the ear. Jesus often said: "He that 
hath ears to hear let him hear." The ear with many 
was, and is, the sole avenue of acquiring knowledge. 
It is no disparagement of books to say that the art 
of conversation is one of the greatest refinements. 
But the very essence of a good conversationalist is 
that he be also a good listener, else he is a consum- 
mate bore. Sydney Smith said of Macaulay that his 
occasional flashes of silence made his conversation 
delightful. In Qoheleth Rabba we read: "Speech for a 
shekel, silence for two; it is like a precious stone." 
Broadus had a great lecture on "The Art of Listen- 
ing." It is a really rare art and one of the most use- 
ful. Poor listening will make poor preaching of a 
really good sermon. Good listening will come near 
to making a good sermon out of a poor one. The 
writer of Hebrews complains that his readers have 
"become dull of hearing" (voOpoi yty6vart ralq d/roaZf). 
The word for "dull" (vwOqoi, from vq and w0ew) means 
no push." They had no push in their ears, no 
energy in listening, already half -asleep. In par- 


ticular do we need to listen when God speaks to us 
in his Word of truth, "a quick and attentive ear to 
catch what God has spoken" (Hort). Inattention is 
irritating and may be deadly. Sirach says: "The 
mind of a sagacious person will meditate on a prov- 
erb; and an attentive ear is the desire of a wise man" 
(3:29). God is constantly speaking to those with 
ears to hear. It is good for the young to learn the 
habit of attention, a help in meeting temptation. 

2. Eloquent Silence. 1 : 19b. 

Another "life-rule" (Lebensregel) of James (Win- 
disch) is "slow to speak" (Ppadvg elg to kakfjoai). The 
Vulgate has tardus. One must not forget Homer's 
"winged words" {-nTegoevra e-nea), for words can be 
laden with messages of joy and life and peace and 
love. Eloquence has its place, real eloquence of the 
soul, words on fire that blaze and burn, words that 
thrill and electrify, words that make life and death 
noble and high, words like those of Jesus that are 
spirit and life (John 6: 63). But, when all is said, 
there is something deeper than mere speech, higher 
than just words, nobler than talk. If speech is 
silvern, silence is often golden. Sorrow may be too 
unutterable for words. Joy may pass beyond all 
speech. The proverb also has it that "many a man 
has had to repent of speaking, but never one of 
holding his peace," unless silence is guilty or cow- 
ardly. But it is easy to be voluble with the tongue 
and slack in life. Sirach says: "Be not violent 
(raxvc;) with thy tongue, and in thy deeds slack 
(vwflpdf) and remiss." Volubility is certainly not a 


sign of power. The silent man, like Moses, is more 
likely to be a man of power and performance. The 
parrot and the owl form good examples of the weak- 
ness of chatter and the wisdom of silence. Zeno 
calls attention to the obvious fact that we have 
two ears and one mouth and should therefore listen 
twice as much as we talk. 

James does not, of course, mean that men should 
be slow and dull talkers after we begin or when we 
should talk. He means slow to talk (elg to), not 
slow in talking (ev tu). Often the least interesting 
men are the very ones who talk most frequently and 
at the greatest length. We are to think twice before 
we speak. Sometimes, if we do that, we shall not 
speak at all. At any rate, we shall be more likely 
to have sense in our speech. We shall speak to more 
purpose if we speak after silence and out of the re- 
flection from silence. McLaren has a good phrase, 
"Spread out our souls to the truth." "Be still and 
know that I am God." Mary "kept (ower^pet) all 
these sayings, pondering (ovvfiaXXovoa) them in her 
heart" (Luke 2: 19). She could only listen to God. 
The Quakers have some ground for their plea for 
meditation in the Christian life. Introspection can, 
of course, be overdone, but the present age is not 
given to reflection and contemplation. Practical 
mysticism is the best type of Christianity. Indeed, 
a Christianity without mysticism is empty and 

It is quite possible (Johnstone) that the free con- 
versational style employed in the early Christian 
meetings was taken advantage of by contentious 


persons, with the result of serious wranglings, as in 
the church at Corinth (cf. 1 Cor. 14). "In the multi- 
tude of words there wanteth not transgression; but 
he that refraineth his lips doeth wisely" (Prov. 10: 
19). Such violent talkers break up the spiritual life 
of a church. The less they know the more they talk. 
They have positive opinions on every subject of 
politics or religion. They know how their neighbors 
should act in the smallest details and criticize every- 
body and everything. They are happiest when all is 
agog with talk of some sort, and the more gossipy it 
is the better they like it. "They cannot think, and \ 
it is a relief to them to hear their own voices" (Dale). 
Epictetus (Ench. xxxiii, §5) has the same idea as 
James: "Let there be silence for the most part or 
let that which is necessary be said in few words." 

3. Dull Anger. 1 : igicf. 

The third "life rule" of James is "slow to wrath" 
(fipadvg eig 6py?/v). There is a clear connection be- 
tween speech and anger. Anger inflames one to hasty 
and unguarded talk. In turn the words act as fuel to 
the flames. The talk inflames the anger and the anger 
inflames the talk. The more one talks the angrier 
he becomes, like a spit-fire. If one stops talking, his 
anger will cool down for lack of fuel. Men who are 
dull enough in listening, who will sleep through any 
sermon, are quick to resent a personal reflection or an 
imagined wrong. There is profound wisdom in the 
plan of Secretary W. J. Bryan for having a period for 
deliberation before war is possible after a casus belli 
arises between nations. Often one's manhood is 


gauged by his quickness to avenge a personal affront 
with murder as the outcome. This is a fine place 
to be dull, when one is tempted to be angry. Anger 
is sometimes justifiable, even necessary. There is 
such a thing as righteous indignation against wrong. 
Jesus "looked round about on them with anger" 
(Mark 3:5), but it was compassionate anger. It is 
possible to be angry and sin not (Eph. 4: 26), but 
we must not cherish anger, must not "let the sun 
go down upon our wrath." Unlike God, we do not 
know all the circumstances in the case. Just getting 
mad is not promoting the kingdom of God. "The 
wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of 
God." Cf. Matt. 5 : 2 if. The euphemistic phrase of 
James is emphatic by its very mildness. Man's 
wrath is set over against God's righteousness. The 
growth of religion and of civilization is marked by 
the self-restraint of the individual and of the state. 
Vengeance is a boomerang in most instances. The 
taking of vengeance into one's own hands brings 
down the house on one's own head. 

At any rate it pays every man and every nation to 
be slow to anger. 

"Boys, flying kites, haul in their white- winged birds; 
You can't do that way, when you're flying words. 
Thoughts, unexpressed, may sometimes fall back dead, 
But God himself can't kill them once they're said." 

Sometimes unpalatable truth has to be spoken, 
hard words have to be said. "Am I become your 
enemy by telling you the truth?" (Gal. 4: 16). But 
the preacher needs to temper rebuke with love and 
anguish of soul. 


4. The Rooted Word. 1:21. 

"The implanted word" (tov ty<f>vTov Xoyov) is prob- 
ably a mistranslation. 1 The common idea of the 
word is "inborn" or "innate" (cf. Wisd. 12:10, 
"their wickedness is inborn"). The word is occa- 
sionally used for second nature or secondary in- 
growth (Hort). The word is sown, not grafted, and 
so "rooted" seems to be the meaning here (Mayor). 2 
See also Rom. 6:5, "united (avfKpvroi) with him in 
the likeness of his death." The figure is that of the 
seed sown in the heart and taking root and growing 
there. So Jesus spoke of the man who hath not root 
in himself (Matt. 13: 21). 3 

Receive the rooted word ; but before doing so one 
must cleanse the heart like a garden of all noxious 
weeds. The imagery is doubtless a mixed metaphor, 
but never mind that, for the thought is clear. The 
"putting away" (dnodi^ievoi) suggests the laying aside 
of a garment, as in Heb. 12:1 one strips for the race. 
In Eph. 4:21 Paul contrasts putting off the old man 
with putting on (kvdvoaodai) the new (cf. also Col. 
3 : 8ff.). Mayor notes the comparison between dress 
and character in the wedding garment (Matt. 22 : 11), 
the white robe of purity (Rev. 3:4, 18). In 1 Pet. 
2:1 we have language similar to that of James, 
"putting away therefore all wickedness." But prob- 
ably James means to carry the figure of the garden 
all through the verse, as Moffatt has it: "So clear 
away all the foul rank growth," the weeds of "filthi- 

1 This translation calls for e/KpvTevrov, not e/Mpvrov. 

2 The Latin insitus likewise has a double use, innate or implanted. 
* oiiK t%ei 6e pi^ai' iv eavrti. 


ness" (pvirapiav) and "overflowing of wickedness" 
(negioaeiav Kaitias). The "filthiness" may mean im- 
purity. Compare Paul's phrase "corrupt speech," 
literally "rotten speech" {Myog oanpdg) in Eph. 4: 29. 
But in Rev. 22 : 11, "And he that is filthy (6 pvnap6$) 
let him be made filthy still," the notion is more gen- 
eral. Another noxious weed that must be gotten out 
of the way is "wickedness" (icaicias), which here may 
have the narrower sense of malice. ' 'What was called 
holy anger was nothing better than spite" (Hort). 
It is even suggested that the "overflowing" (nepia- 
oeiav) is a sort of overgrowth or "excrescence" (Hort), 
but with no idea of admitting that a small amount 
of wickedness or malice is not evil. The precise 
figure is an "ebullition" or "effervescence" of malice. 
Surely one too often sees this picture in actual life. 
Malice bubbles up and runs over into word and 
deed. "The evil man out of the evil treasure in his 
heart bringeth forth that which is evil" (Luke 6: 45). 
He speaks out of the "abundance" (irepiooeviAaTog) of 
his heart. Surely evil runs riot unless it is 
checked and taken out root and branch. Per contra 
one loves to think of the "abundance of grace" 
(Rom. 5:17, 21) and the "abundance of joy" (2 
Cor. 8:2). 

When once the weeds are out of the way "make a 
soil of modesty for the Word which roots itself in- 
wardly" (Moffatt's Translation). Surely the re- 
pentant sinner can only "receive with meekness" 
(ev npavTTjTi) . Hort notes that the temper full of 
harshness and pride destroys the faculty of per- 
ceiving the voice of God. Jesus urged men to come 


to school to him because he is meek and lowly in 
heart (Matt. 11 : 29). Meekness is not a virtue that 
ranks high with all men. Many of the ancients 
counted it a vice, as Nietzsche has taught in our 
generation. But the spirit of Nietzsche's superman is 
not the spirit of Jesus nor of the true gentleman. 
There can be no true culture without gentleness and 
the grace of meekness. 

If the seed of the Word gets root and is allowed to 
grow (compare the wayside, stony-ground, thorny- 
ground hearers in Christ's parable in Matt. 13), the 
tree of life will flourish in the garden of the soul. 
This word is "able to save your souls." It brings a 
present salvation here and now (John 5:34), a new 
life of purity. It helps in the progressive salvation 
of the whole man in his battle with sin and growth 
in grace (2 Tim. 3:15). It leads to final salvation in 
heaven with Christ in God (1 Pet. 1:9). The gospel 
is the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1 : 16), the 
very power of God pulses in it. See Heb. 4: i2f. for 
a wonderful picture of the vital force of the word of 
God, quick and powerful, all electric with the energy 
of the Spirit of God. Men may scoff at and scout 
the message of God, but it saves men's souls. What 
else does that? 

5. Hearers Only. 1:22-24. 

James keeps the balance well. He has shown the 
wisdom of good listening. Now he proves the fu- 
tility of mere listening with no effort to put into 
practice what one hears. There is life in the word 
of God if it is lived. It is quick with life-giving 


energy for those who put it to the test of life. One 
may hear and not heed. The Greek used the same 
word (anovu) for both ideas. One is reminded of the 
Parable of the Sower again, for only one of the four 
classes of hearers brought forth fruit. That is the 
test. "By their fruits ye shall know them." The 
reception of the word will only bring final salvation 
in case the fruit is borne. James knew only too well 
the empty ceremonialism of the Jews who said and 
did not. Jesus (see Matt. 23) arraigned the hy- 
pocrisy of the Pharisees in the most scathing de- 
nunciation of all time. "But be ye doers of the word, 
and not hearers only, deluding your own selves." 
Show yourselves (yiveode) "word-doers" (Hort, 71-0*7/- 
ral Xoyov). One is reminded of Emerson's The 
Thinker, The Sayer, The Doer. By "word" it is not 
clear whether is meant the Torah (Oesterley) or any 
word of authority (Hort) or the rooted word just 
mentioned (Plummer). The latter is most likely, 
though the partial personification of word (Aoyo^) 
here reminds one of the opening verses of the Fourth 
Gospel and of Philo and the Targums. 

The "hearers only" (firf aKQoarui fiovov) did nothing 
else but listen. They were true "sermon-tasters" 
who fed upon the ministry of the word or the written 
word, only to fatten into sloth and spiritual inertia. 
They got the hook-worm disease in religion and be- 
longed to the "shirkers," not the "workers." Rabbi 
Chananiah used to say: "Whosesoever works are in 
excess of his wisdom, his wisdom stands; and whose- 
soever wisdom is in excess of his works, his wisdom 
stands not" (Taylor's Jewish Fathers, p. 63). The 


rabbis said yiere were two crowns, one for doing and 
one for hearing, based on Exod. 24: 7, "we will do, 
and we will hear" ("be obedient," Rev. V.). The 
word for hearers (d/cpoara/) appears nowhere else in 
the New Testament and was used for attendants at 
the lectures of philosophers and other public speakers 
rather than learners or disciples (fiadrjTai). One thinks 
of the public reading of the word in the synagogues. 
But even so, "Act on the Word" Moffatt has it. 
Else it is like pouring water into a sieve. It is in 
one ear and out of the other. 

Some people have a sort of religious dissipation in 
attending revival services and imagine that they 
have accomplished a great deal if they simply go. 
People easily acquire itching ears that love to be 
tickled with some sensation. The word takes no 
root in the hearts of such men. They run from 
church to church to get a new word, a sort of soda- 
water habit. They deceive themselves (napaXoyi^ofie- 
vot), but nobody else. These spiritual "gad-abouts" 
are shallow and skim the surface only. They make a 
sort of moving-picture show, but accomplish nothing 
substantial in their own lives nor in the work of the 
kingdom. They are guilty of a logical fallacy (napa- 
Xoytofiog) and are the victims of their own delusions 
(cf. Col. 2:4). One has thus a case of auto- intoxica- 
tion. He has inoculated himself with the virus of 
his own error. 

And now James draws a wonderfully vivid pic- 
ture of the idle hearers, the hangers-on in revival 
meetings, like the scum that comes first to the sur- 
face, light-hearted, impulsive, nonchalant, without 


depth of purpose or seriousness in life. Such a 
frivolous listener glances at (Karavoovvrt) his face in 
a mirror, taking note to see that he looked natural 
'and proper. A quick look suffices for that, for "his 
natural face" (to Trpoooonov tt\<; yeveaecjg avrov), the face 
of his birth, the only one that he has. If nothing is 
awry about his appearance reflected in the mirror 
(kv eloon-po)), he is satisfied (or dissatisfied) with the 
momentary glance. 1 The mirror was probably of 
metal and the word is often used by the poets 
(Mayor). Here the mirror is the Word of God 
(spoken or written), in which one takes a look at 
himself, and the quick and superficial view brings 
satisfaction or a passing pang. See i Cor. 13: 12 
for the use of mirror for the imperfect knowledge of 
Christ through reflection in the Word of God and 
in life contrasted with the blessed reality when face 
to face with him (Mayor). But here in James the 
man tarries by the mirror for a moment and is soon 
off for good (anehrjkvdev) . 

All that he saw in the Word of God is now out of 
sight and out of mind, like the wayside hearers in 
Christ's parable. If it was a sermon that he heard, 
the impulses for good quickly die away. He is back 
at his business or at his club or even in his home. 
He straightway forgot (kneXddeTo) what he was like 
(bnolog -qv), what sort of man he was in the mirror. 
In particular, any unpleasant features are forgotten. 
The momentary trembling of the conscience no 
longer bothers him. Alas, alas, how easily the 

1 Karev6^aev punctiliar action (aorist). The aorists here are gno- 
mic, and the perfect anMfivdiv adds also a touch of life. 


burning heat of the day withers the tender shoots 
in the stony ground, the weeds and thorns choke 
to death the pious aspirations of the better 

6. Real Students of the Word. 1:25. 

The image of the mirror is carried on into the 
picture of the doer of the word, the "doer that 
worketh," a doer of work (rro^-nfc epyov), "an active 
agent" (Moffatt). The phrase is tautological, but 
very emphatic. He is not only a doer of word 
(Xoyov), but a doer of deeds (sgyov). He has put the 
word into practice and has brought practical result. 
He has transmuted word into deed. This is what 
counts, the practice of the Word of God, not mere 
glancing at the mirror nor chatter about what one 
saw or picked up, not a hearer of forgetfulness 
(aicpoaTT)g kmXrjofiovrjg). It is astonishing what poor 
memories men have for what God says. The Doc- 
trine of Addai gives as an uncanonical saying of 
Jesus this: "That which we preach before the people 
by word we should practise by deed in the sight of 

The sincere listener pauses long enough to become 
interested in the real meaning of the word of God, 
which is now law (vopov) to him, for he wishes to obey 
this word of the Master. These listeners are the joy 
of the preacher's heart, those who turn to the 
Scriptures, like the Bereans, to see if there things 
are so (Acts 17: 11). The word (napaicvxpas) in James 
suggests curiosity and eagerness, as in Sir. 14: 23, of 
the one who looks through the door of wisdom and 


in i Pet. i : 12 of the desire of the angels to peer into 
the problems of the mission of Christ to earth. 1 
The law of God is attractive to the doer of work as 
perfect (riXetov), as the Psalmist has it: "The law of 
the Lord is perfect" (Psa. 19: 7). But it is not a law 
of compulsion, but of freedom (eXevdepiag) . One is 
free to accept or to reject it. Certainly James does 
not have the view of the Judaizers who made the law 
a yoke of bondage even for Gentiles, but rather that 
of Paul, who accented the freedom in Christ (Gal. 
5:1). Jesus held out freedom as the great blessing 
of truth (John 8:32), freedom to exercise one's 
highest functions and faculties held in bondage by 
sin and mere legalism. 

Perhaps the chief emphasis in this verse lies in 
the word "continueth" (irapaneivag) . The man re- 
mains by the side of the roll of the law spread out 
before him and unrolls page after page with the 
keenest interest and zest till he rightly grasps the 
meaning of God. Thus he puts the word into 
practice. He has it stamped on his mind and heart. 
He is a Christian Pragmatist. He, like Brother Law- 
rance, practises the presence of God. He translates 
the word of truth into his own life, and becomes a 
living epistle. This is the Bible that the Twentieth 
Century loves to read. The man who does this is 
"happy in his doing," "blessed in his activity" 
(Moffatt). 2 He is happy in the doing even if it falls 
far short of the ideal in the word of truth. He has 

1 Epictetus (Bk. I, chap, i, § 16) has this: Ko%t#o onb/xevot nai 
irapaaijirTo/iev ai/ve^oc, rig avefiot; nvel. 

2 [ta.Ka.pioi; h> tij KotT/ati avrou. 


tried and he will keep on trying. He can sing the 
song of the shirt, the song of the plow, the song of 
the desk. 

7. Complacent Religiosity. 1 : 26. 

Mere listening may be idle. Mere work may be 
perfunctory. One may be a worker only as well as a 
hearer only. The hearer only deceives himself by an 
error of reason (rrapaXoyt^6fj,evog, 1:22). The worker 
only deceives his own heart (anaruv tcapdiav kavrov) by 
an error of conduct. He leads himself astray, out of 
the path (airarcbv) by the delusion that religion 
(6p7}oiceia) consisted in the performance of religious 
duties (dprjoKeia) , l not in the attitude toward God in 
the heart nor the ethical conduct. Josephus uses it 
also of the attendance of the priests on public wor- 
ship. 2 Paul uses the term for Pharisaism (Acts 
26:5), and in Col. 2:18 for the worship of the 
angels. It is the external aspect of public worship. 
Originally it had the meaning of reverence for the 
gods (Hort), but it soon came to be used for the 
ceremonial rites of worship. In 4 Mace. 5 : 6 the 
word is used for the refusal of the Jews to eat 

In a word, it is applied to one who does faithfully 
the religious chores. The Pharisees form a striking 

1 In P. Rain, 107 (ii/A. D.) we have al dpqaKEiat in the sense of 
religious duties. Dittenberger (Syll., 656) gives Optione'ia from an 
inscription where it means "the keeping of the month Artemision as 
sacred to the tutelary goddess" (Moulton and Milligan, Lexical Notes, 
Expositor, May, 1909, p. 473). 

2 Ant. ix. 13. 3, Iva ael rrj dprioneia napafieivuci. Philo distinguishes 
between evuefieca, dprjenccia, and 6ci6t7jc (M. I. 195). 


illustration of this emphasis on the ceremonial side 
of public worship. The regular attendance at the 
hours of prayer, faithful observance of the rules of 
ritual purification, payment of the tithes, these things 
constituted worship. Finally, these alone constituted 
worship. Religion came to consist in the ceremony 
alone, the letter and not the spirit, the hull and not 
the kernel. Most of the things done were good 
enough. It is best to have the outside of the cup 
clean, but not so important as the inside nor as 
clean water in the cup. Jesus exposed this failing of 
the Pharisees with great incisiveness and power. It 
is easy to mistake form for reality. So men have 
come to count their beads as prayer, to pray 
with prayer wheels. One may attend church regu- 
larly, contribute liberally, come to prayer meeting, 
have family prayers, be a member of the church, 
and yet not be religious. He may have religiosity 
and not religion. One may mistake performance of 
religious functions for the possession of the spirit of 
religion. In the very act of working out the religious 
impulse men often fall into traps. A deacon once 
asked his boy if he had put sand in the sugar and 
rocks in the coffee. If so, he could come on to pray- 
ers. So here the man considers (doicel) that he is a 
religious man (dprjonog, religiosus in Vulgate). He is 
content with his religious status and yet he does not 
control his tongue. He does not bridle (xaXivayuryuv) 
his own tongue, the earliest known use of this strik- 
ing figure, though Aristophanes (Ran. 862) speaks of 
an unbridled mouth (dxdXivov oTOfia). The tongue is 
regarded as an unruly horse that needs bit and 


bridle held fast by the master to control it. The 
tongue is allowed to say whatever a spiteful heart 
prompts. The bitterest words are not felt to be 
inconsistent with personal piety. Such a man con- 
siders himself a pillar of the church in spite of his 
loose tongue and loose living. He performs religious 
duties on Sunday and is a shyster on Monday. He 
deceives himself, but no one else is deceived. Such 
a man's religious service is empty of any value 
with God or man. It is vain {(idTatog) and hollow 
mockery. His own complacency makes the mat- 
ter worse. He is a stumbling-block to those who 
judge religion by him, for he has divorced religion 
from life. 

8. Unspotted from the World. 1:27. 

James does not give a definition of religion in this 
verse, but an illustration of the right sort of reli- 
gious exercise in contrast with the futile religiosity 
already noted. The absence of the article (dprjcnteia) 
shows that he does not mean an inclusive descrip- 
tion. "A religious exercise pure and undefiled" 
(6p7jOKeia Kadapa teal dulavrog) 1 is here given quite the 
opposite of the professional performances of the 
Pharisaic pietists. There is pure religion and the 
counterfeit is a tribute to it. This religion is free 
from pollution. There is in it no alloy of selfishness 
nor other sin. Moffatt renders it "unsoiled," but it 
may have the notion of genuine metal. This stand- 

1 This use of afiiavroq comes from the LXX, not from the Mystery- 
Religions when the initiate came from the Taurobolium in the blood- 
stained robe. 


ard of purity and piety seems impossible, but God 
knows how to estimate the relation between listen- 
ing and doing, between doing and loving, between 
loving and purity of life. The life must pass 
muster with God (wapd tu 8t& nai naryi). At first 
sight one is perhaps depressed by the reflection 
that God's standard of piety is so much higher 
than is ours. What some men consider holy 
worship is to God hollow mockery. But then 
God is our Father. He planted the word of truth 
in our hearts. He has watched it grow. He 
knows the limitations of environment in which the 
tree of life has grown. 

James gives two very practical tests of genuine 
religion. One is mercy toward the suffering. The 
widow and the orphan appeal to the hardest hearts. 
And yet men have been known to spend thousands 
of dollars upon palaces of worship while the poor 
perished in the alley behind the church. The social 
side of practical religion is receiving more attention 
these days than it once did. The very hospitals and 
asylums are an expression of that love for our com- 
mon humanity taught by Jesus. James has no 
sympathy with that cold orthodoxy that is satis- 
fied with singing psalms to Jehovah while the widow 
and the orphan suffer, with no help from the blind 
worshipers nearby. Christianity is inward and spirit- 
ual, not mere perfunctory ritual. But it is not mere 
mystical brooding nor abstract contemplation. The 
cry of the child was heard by Jesus and the cry of the 
mother for the child. To-day the children cry aloud 
in our streets and in our factories for school and play, 


for love and sympathy, for better homes and better 
food, for care of the body and of the soul. Jesus still 
loves the children. Christ discovered the child. The 
modern world at last has begun to find out the child 
that Jesus has placed in the midst of us. There are 
many other forms of social service which the true 
Christian may find right by his door. The neighbor 
in need may even lie at his gate. 

The other test of pure religion offered by James is 
more distinctly personal and more difficult, though 
the first test is met none too well. It is "to keep 
oneself unspotted from the world" (damXov kavrdv 
ripely and tov Koa/xov). Moffatt has it "from the 
stain of the world." It is a high calling surely if one 
is to walk in a world like this free from the stain of 
sin, with no spot (cmiXog) upon garments, body, or 
soul. The Lamb of God was offered as a sacrifice 
without spot. Christ will present his church at last 
without spot (p) l%ovaav o-niXov). 1 James had just 
spoken of the use of the tongue. That also can 
leave a spot or stain (cf . 3:6). There is dirt and 
much of all kinds all about us. The germs of sin 
infest and infect us all. And yet it is not hopeless 
to make a fight for purity in life. We do not give 
up the battle for cleanliness of body, for healthful- 
ness of body, for victory over the germs of disease 
all about us and in us. It is worth while to lead the 
clean, white life of purity. One -has his reward in 
one's own life, in fresh power, in new joy, in richer 

1 Cf. I. G. II. V. 1054 c. 4 (Eleusis c. B. C. 300), tyms %evicovg aoni- 
Xovc, "applied to stones" (Moulton and Milligan, Vocabulary of the 
N. T., p. 86). 


fruitage. He has his reward also in the inspiration 
given to others who are cheered to strive likewise 
against sin, to fight for personal purity, for social 
purity, for better homes and better cities, for a better 
world in which to serve God, for a bit of heaven here 
on earth, for the reign of God in human hearts, for 
likeness to Jesus, the Son of God. 


Class Prejudice. 2 : 1-13 

In this paragraph James recurs to the discussion 
of the "Democracy of Faith" found in 1: 9-1 1. In 
fact, it had never been very far in the background. 
The use of "my brethren" is eminently appropriate 
here, since he is urging the readers to brotherly 
kindness (Mayor). 

1. Face Value in Religion. 2:1/ 

This is a very hard verse to translate at once, for 
we must decide three disputed questions. One is 
whether the verb (firj ex ETf ) is imperative or interrog- 
ative. It is usually taken as imperative in the 
versions, and so most interpreters hold, but Hort 
urges that it is a tame conception compared with 
the indignant query expecting the answer no (firj). 
There is force in this point, as thus James would be 
expressing vehement surprise that such partiality 
could exist among the Jewish Christians. Still, the 
prohibition against such partiality makes perfectly 
good sense. There is little doubt that "the faith of 
our Lord Jesus Christ" (ttjv ttIotiv tov kvq'cov %wv 
'Irjoov Xpiorov) should be rendered "faith in our Lord 
Jesus Christ." It is objective, not subjective, geni- 
tive. For a similar use of the objective genitive with 
faith (maris) one may note Mark 11: 22 (ex ere moTiv 

deov) , Acts 3:16 (t^I TriareC tov ovofiarog avrov) . It is 

not the faith of Jesus that is under discussion, but 



the faith of the readers in Jesus Christ Our Lord. 
This interpretation commits James to the worship 
of Jesus as Lord and Messiah, but that is surely 
what would be expected in one who claimed to be 
a "servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ" 
(i: i). It is true that the standpoint of James is 
nearer to that of the Old Testament than is true of 
Peter, John, and Paul, but after the great Pentecost 
there seems to be no wavering on the great funda- 
mentals of Christianity, though there is rich de- 
velopment and enlargement. The essence of the 
Christology of James is precisely that of Paul, 
though James does not amplify his implications as 
Paul does. James, though so Jewish in background, 
is thoroughly Christian. The heart of Christianity, 
the worship of Jesus as Lord and Saviour, is here, 
though chronologically the Epistle of James pre- 
cedes the teaching of Paul and John in their writ- 
ings. It is like the child and the man (Plummer) 
and not a retrograde movement. It is the outlook 
of Jerusalem, not that of Antioch. What James is 
discussing is not the personal religion of Jesus, but 
the reader's faith in Jesus. 

The third disputed point in the verse is the word 
"glory" (i% dofyg). The English versions generally 
insert the words "the Lord" and make it "the Lord 
of glory," but Bengel makes "the glory" ipse Chris- 
tus. In this he is followed by Mayor, Hort, Oesterley, 
and it is almost certainly true that by "glory" 
{gloria, Vulgate) James has in mind the Shekinah. 
In the Septuagint for Lev. 26: 11 the word for 
Shekinah (<jkt]v^) is just that used in Rev. 21:3: 


"Behold, the tabernacle (oktjvtj) of God is with men." 
In John 1 : 14 we read: "And the Word became flesh, 
and dwelt {eoKr\vwoev) among us (and we beheld his 
glory, glory as of the only-begotten from the 
Father)." Add to this Heb. 1:3, "who, being the 
effulgence of his glory," and the case seems made 
out. 1 In Pirke Aboth iii. 3 we note: "Two that sit 
together and are occupied in words of Thorah have 
the Shekinah among them." Jesus claimed (Matt. 
18:20): "For where two or three are gathered in 
my name, there am I in the midst of them." Jesus 
is thus not only the Way, the Truth, the Life, the 
Resurrection, but also the Glory. James may have 
in mind the Resurrection Glory of Jesus as he ap- 
peared to him. Note in Luke 2:32 what Simeon 
says: "The glory of thy people Israel." 

But all this is by way of emphasis for the main 
point. One who has faith in such a Lord as Jesus is 
should not be guilty of "acts of partiality" (Hort, 
kv Trpoou)7ToX7][i^)iat.g) . The meaning of the phrase is 
clear, though the origin is obscure. 2 The Greek use 
of the word (ttqoctotcov) for mask is illustrated by the 
word for hypocrite (imonpiTijg) . In Lev. 19: 15 we 

1 It is interesting to note that Epictetus (Bk. Ill, chap, xxii, § 29) 
uses ^6^a (riyv dot-av /cat tt)v imtyavetav) in the sense of "glory" (cf. 
Titus 2:13), not the classic sense of "opinion." 

1 The Hebrew n&sa panim (cf . Psa. 82 : 2) originally had the idea 
of lifting the face with a view to comfort. Partiality was a subor- 
dinate development. Cf. Thackeray, Grammar of the O. T. in 
Greek, pp. 43 ff. The Greek idiom (jrpdounov lafifiavetv) has only 
the bad meaning and comes from taking off the mask (npdounov). 
See Luke 20:21; Gal. 2 : 6 f . for the full idiom. See Epictetus, Ench. 
xvii vTconpiTriq el dpafxaroc . . . abv yap tovt' eon, to dodev vnonpiveafiai 
irpdouirov nafa'jf. Here np6ounov means "character" or "part." 


see the full force of the idiom: "Thou shalt not 
respect the person of the poor, nor honor the person 
of the mighty" (ov X^/xrpy Trpoounov tttojxov ovde fiij 6av- 
\ida^q ttqoocjttov dwaorov). See Acts 10: 34, where Peter 
learns that "God is no respecter of persons" (ovk 
zotiv npooijTToXriiiiTTTrjg 6 deog). God does not accept the 
outside appearance for the inner reality, nor should 
we. God is the God of reality. Cf. Heb. 4: i2f. 
A just judge must not be influenced by the bias of 
personal preference, prejudice, rank, power, money 
(Mayor). He must decide the case on its merits. 
There is no room for class prejudice nor for the caste- 
system in Christianity, as there is none in the heart 
of God. Christianity is democratic to the core, that 
is, real Christianity. Organized Christianity has 
sometimes been just the very thing that James here 
condemns. Even in the single church little rifts and 
cliques easily come. 

2. Partiality in Church. 2: 2-4. 

Already the Jewish Christians were in peril from 
this evil. It is in particular a sin of ushers who show 
respect of persons in seating strangers. But pastors 
are in constant danger of the same sin in general 
church relations. The word here for synagogue 
(awaycjyTj) may mean place of worship or the assembly 
itself, as in Heb. 10: 25, "the assembling (kmowa- 
yoyyri) of yourselves together." The word for church 
(eKK^Tjaia) does not occur in the apostolic period 
(Hort) for place of meeting, but synagogue was 
already in common use in both senses. But it is 
not necessary to suppose that James has in mind 


simply a Jewish synagogue, though it is quite pos- 
sible that the Jewish Christians still attended wor- 
ship and heard Moses read in the synagogue (Acts 
15: 2 1), as Christians belonged to the synagogue of 
the Libertines (Acts 6 : 9) and the early Christians 
worshiped still in the temple. The use of "your" 
seems to mean that it is at least a Christian gath- 
ering that James refers to whether meeting in 
the Jewish synagogue or elsewhere. "The growth 
of the Gentile element in the church excited the 
active hostility of the Jews against the whole body 
of Christians, as it troubled the Jewish converts 
themselves" (Westcott on Hebrews, p. xxxviii). 
Finally the Christians had to set up for themselves 
as in Corinth (Acts 18:7) and in Ephesus (Acts 
19: 8f.). We do not know the precise stage reached 
by the Jewish Christians here. James may mean 
some particular instance of trouble in the Disper- 
sion that has come to his notice or he may have 
in mind any Christian gathering in the Dispersion. 
The Gentiles often attended the worship of the 
Jews in the synagogues (Acts 13: 16, 43). The use 
of synagogue for Christian worship occurs rarely, as 
in Hermas, Mand. xi. 9. The time came when 
synagogue was used only for Jews or heretics. 
Epiphanius (Haer. xxx. 18) says that the Ebionites 
call their meeting synagogue, not church (eicicJiTjota). 
One may note also John's use of the term synagogue 
of Satan (Rev. 2 : 9; 3 : 9). 

The picture of the two strangers at church is 
drawn with bold lines and in few words by James, 
yet it is remarkably clear and picturesque. The 


man with a -gold ring or gold-fingered (xpvoodaKTv- 
Xtog) probably makes a display of his ring. If he 
preached he would make most of his gestures with 
that hand. The word occurs nowhere else in the 
New Testament. 1 Mayor quotes Epictetus (Diss. 
i. 22) as speaking of an "old man with gold fingers" 
(yepwv X9 va °v(; <5<iktvXiov<; ex (jiV )- The "fine clothing" 
(kv kadJjrt. Xafx-nga) is literally "brilliant clothing," 
"new glossy clothes" (Hort), "the fine white gar- 
ment worn by wealthy Jews" (Oesterley), like that 
in which Herod Antipas clad Jesus when he sent 

him back to Pilate (nEpifiaX&v eadrjra Xafinpdv). One 

can easily see the distinguished looking stranger as 
he steps in at the same time (icai, also) as "a poor 
man in vile clothing" (tctuxos ev pvnapa lodrjTt), ^in 
dirty clothes" (Moffat), "old shabby clothes" (Hort). 
See Rev. 22: 11 for the same adjective for "filthy" 
(6 pv-rrapog). In James 1 : 21 we had "filthiness" (pvna- 
giav). We have no means of knowing whether these 
two men who suddenly enter church are Chris- 
tians or mere Jews. Both seem to be strangers. The 
courtesies extended are based purely on the appear- 
ance of these two as to dress, not on race or ecclesi- 
astical standing. The poor man (tttuxos) may be one 
reduced to beggary, a tramp or hobo. He may be 
merely a poor working man. He stands in marked 
contrast with the rich man (nXovotog), as in 1: 9-1 1. 
Probably the poor man had on the best clothes 
that he had. Should a man like that come to our 
churches? Would he be welcome in our pews? To 
be sure, cases occur when a bath would help matters 

1 Lucian (Trin. 20) has xP va& X ei P- 


and when plain, but clean, clothes could be provided - 
by Christian people so as to make attendance at 
church free from embarrassment. But there are 
people, especially children, who stay away from both 
Sunday school and church because they do not 
possess decent clothes in which to come. They fear 
the critical eyes and comments of the people at 
church. It is easy to say that people should rise 
above such unfavorable circumstances and come on 
to church to worship God, who reads the heart and 
does not judge men by . their clothes. Yes, but a 
man may conclude that he can worship God just 
as acceptably and more comfortably in some other 
church where the usher does not seem ashamed of 
his coming nor embarrassed by his presence, so that, 
in spite of plenty of empty pews in the grand temple 
of worship, he finds a back seat for him under the 
gallery or in the gallery on a footstool (literally, 
vnd to vTTonodiov fiov is "under my footstool," prob- 
ably on the floor by my footstool) in a corner or a 
place to stand against the wall. Meanwhile the 
poor man has seen the attentions paid the man in 
fine clothes because of his clothes, who is ushered to 
a good seat (naXtig) with the air of a prince. The 
soul of the poor man is all the more embittered 
since he came in perhaps in a sort of desperation 
from the hardness of the world outside, a world 
that has economic and social laws that make the 
battle a difficult one. And now in the temple of 
God the worshipers of Jesus show the same pride of 
wealth and station as at a social function. The 
preacher preaches forgiveness of sins and the com- 


fort of the Holy Ghost, but he and the usher keep 
a sharp eye (eiri(l/i6if>TjTe) upon the man who wears 
the fine clothes, pompous and self-conscious as that 
man probably feels. The soul of the poor man is 
made more bitter still as he leaves the church of the 
rich and the proud to see if he can find God at 
home or the devil in the saloon or other den of 
iniquity. One pity of it all is that so many churches 
have fine, empty, cushioned seats, while the strangers 
who could fill them are not sought for or not properly 
welcomed if they come. It is a pathetic picture that 
James here gives us, that of the stranger at the door 
of the church. Most strangers pass the door of the 
church by with indifference or disgust. The church 
must win the strangers outside unless it is to degene- 
rate into a social club of a few select families. A 
church that only holds its own will soon lose that 
standing. The task of the church is to win the world 
to Christ. And then, when the poor of earth enter, 
it is worse than folly to push them to one side and 
out of doors back into the street. 

This touch of life is one of many modern notes in 
the Epistle of James. The embarrassment of the 
usher in the presence of two such incongruous 
strangers at once is probably due to the fact that he 
knows full well the atmosphere or tone of the church. 
It is aristocratic or select; evangelical and orthodox, 
not evangelistic or missionary; a haven of rest for 
the stately pious, not a rescue station for the lost. 
The officers of the church thus make distinctions 
(6teicpidi]Te) between the attendants at church and 
sort out the congregation according to worldly 


standards. They are "judges of evil thoughts" 
(npirai 6caXoyiafio)v Trovrjqoiv) and act with partiality 
in bestowing courtesies on strangers in the house 
of God. All this is in such marked contrast to the 
spirit and conduct of Jesus that one can hardly 
credit his eyes when he sees it happen in church. It 
is increasingly difficult to get the poor to come to 
some of the churches. The churches themselves may 
sometimes become suspicious that the very poor 
come to church to receive financial help. So the 
breach widens. 

3. Prejudice Against the Poor. 2 : 5-7. 

James now has fewer maxims and a more argu- 
mentative style, like that of Paul. He makes a 
passionate appeal for attention: "Hearken, my be- 
loved brethren." He writes as an impassioned 
speaker speaks (cf. 1:16; 4:13). God's choice of 
the people of Israel seems to be in the background 
(Deut. 14: if.) 1 The Jews had come in many cases 
to look on earthly prosperity as a mark of divine 
favor and poverty as a sign of God's disfavor (cf . Psa. 
73). The Pharisees were lovers of money (<piXdpyv- 
poi, Luke 16:14). But the troubles of the Jews, 
in spite of many wealthy Pharisees and Sadducees, 
had led many of them to see a blessing in poverty. 
See Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, Gad. 
vii. 6: "For the poor man, if, free from envy, he 
pleaseth the Lord in all things, is blessed beyond 
all men." Oesterley (in loco) quotes Chag. 9b as 
saying that poverty is the quality that above all 

1 There the same word e^eM^aro occurs of God with Aadv nepiovaiov. 


befits Israel as the chosen people. Epictetus (Bk. 
IV, chap, i, § 43) says: "Another (thinks the cause 
of his evils to be) that he is poor" (6 6' on nrooxog eonv, 
using nroxog in the sense of "poor," not "beggar"). 
Epictetus (Stob. 10) says further: "Riches (nXovrog) 
are not among the things that are good." Luke 
6:20 has "Blessed are ye poor" (ol nnoxoi) where 
Matt. 5:3 has "poor in spirit." Certain it is that 
the gospel made a powerful appeal to the poorer 
classes of society among Jews and Gentiles. Jesus 
claimed it as part of his Messianic mission "to 
preach good tidings to the poor" (Luke 4: 18), as 
Isaiah (60: if.) had foretold. He asked the mes- 
sengers of John the Baptist to take back to Machae- 
rus the news that "the poor have the gospel preached 
to them" (Luke 7: 22) as one proof of his Messiah- 
ship. Paul enlarges on the choice 1 by God of the 
foolish, the weak, the despised classes to add to his 
own glory. The early churches were largely gath- 
ered from the proletariat. Slaves and masters, rich 
and poor, mingled together in fellowship and broth- 
erly love. The papyri discoveries have shown us the 
world of Jesus and of Paul "in the workaday clothes 
of their calling" (Deissmann, St. Paul, p. 47). Deiss- 
mann adds: "We should be sorry indeed not to have 
been told that Jesus came from an artisan's home in 
country surroundings." The fact that Jesus was a 
carpenter, a workingman in the modern sense of 
that term, should enlist the sympathy and the in- 
terest of all workingmen, all labor men. They 

1 1 Cor. 1 : 27 f . Three times he has here the very word, efetefaTo, 
used by James. 


should heed the Call of the Carpenter. Here James 
boldly champions the cause of the poor as against 
certain rich Jews, probably not members of the 
church, who have oppressed {KaradwaaTtvovaiv) 1 the 
Christians and dragged {eXkovolv) them before courts 
of justice (/cpirripia) . With their own hand (avroi) 
these rich Jews had dragged Christians before tri- 
bunals. Rich Sadducees had done this with Peter 
and John (Acts 4:1). As one of these potentates 
(dvvaorevu)) , yea, as a tyrant (/caTaSwaoTevo)) , Paul 
had once dragged (ovgo)) men and women before the 
Sanhedrin (Acts 8:3; 22:4). He had even tried to 
make them blaspheme (Acts 26: 11). It was not 
necessary to have special laws against the Chris- 
tians. As objects of dislike it was easy enough, as 
Paul found out, to hale them into court. Paul 
came to know only too well how the tables could 
be turned on him when he became a Christian. He 
had to take his own medicine (Acts 13:5°; 16: 19). 
Jesus had indeed foretold that just this fate would 
befall his disciples before the courts of Jews and 
Gentiles (Matt. 10: 17!; John 16: 2). The anger of 
these rich Jews against Jesus and Christians leads 
them actually to blaspheme the name of Christ. 
The Sadducees will not even call the name of Jesus 
when they discuss the case of Peter and John. They 
refer with contempt to "this name" (Acts 4:17), 
though in the threat they have to name Jesus 
(verse 18). The disciples rejoiced "that they were 
counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the Name" 
(Acts 5: 41). So "the honorable name," "the beau- 

1 In Acts 10:38 we have KaraSwaoTEvofiivovg vnb tov chaftohov. 


tiful name" (to icaXdv ovo/ia), "the noble Name" (Mof- 
fatt) came to be the shibboleth of the believers in 
Jesus. His name was to be "the name above every 
name" (Phil 2: of.). It was already the only name 
with power to save (Acts 4:12), as Peter boldly 
informed the Sanhedrim That was the meaning of 
the name Jesus (Matt. 1 : 21). Here one sees afresh 
the Christology of James. The honorable name is 
the name of Jesus, with a possible reference to the 
use of it at baptism in the baptismal formula, "by 
which ye are called," "which is called upon you" 
(to kmKXTjdsv £0' vfidg) . At any rate, they bear the 
name of Christian, given probably as a reproach 
(Acts 11: 26; 26: 28; 1 Pet. 4: 14, 16). This name is 
now their badge of honor and glory. When called 
upon to say: "Anathema be Jesus" (avddepa 'Itjoovs) 
they reply: "Jesus is Lord" (Kvpio$ Irjoovg). 1 Cer- 
tainly the early Jewish Christians had everything to 
make them fear the powerful rich who had frowned 
upon Jesus and his cause. 

And yet James dares to say to the Jewish Chris- 
tians: "But ye have dishonored the poor man" 
(v/xelg 6s TjrifidfTare tov tttuxov). "Now you insult the 
poor" (Moffatt). They had done it out of cringing 
fear of the rich Jews with all their power or out of 
anxiety to please the rich so as to win them with 
fawning flattery. We are not to think that all the 
Jewish Christians had shown such narrowness or 
such cowardice, but some instances had come to the 
notice of James. Per contra note the case of Ananias 
and Sapphira, who wished to gain credit for great 

1 1 Cor. 12:3. 


liberality to the poor by the use of part of the 
wealth, keeping back half though pretending to 
give all. All the early Christians were not poor. 
The cases of Barnabas, Joseph of Arimathea, Laz- 
arus and his sisters Martha and Mary, occur to one 
at once. Jesus did not denounce rich men per se, 
though he did point out with great power the peril 
of wealth. So James is not to be understood as 
denouncing the rich in a wholesale fashion. Con- 
secration is what sanctifies riches, the use of the 
money for the glory of God and the blessing of 
mankind. A man is not a child of the devil just 
because he is rich or poor. God deals with men in 
the raw manhood. "A man's a man for a' that." 
The distinction between the upper and the lower 
classes is partly fictitious and is not a stable con- 
dition. The slums are a dreadful fact and a disgrace 
to modern civilization. People should have decent 
homes, good food, fresh air, and cleanliness in 
clothing. Extreme poverty is a peril to a man's 
soul, as is great wealth. It is not a sin to be rich, but 
dangerous, though most of us are willing to take the 
risk. Epictetus (Stob. 10) says: "It is difficult for a 
rich person to be right-minded or a right-minded 
person rich." Riches and poverty are not essential' 
criteria of character. Over against the slums in our 
cities one may place the pious poor of Scotland, as 
seen in "The Cotter's Saturday Night." Over 
against the wild and reckless nouveaux riches one 
may note the generous givers of millions to missions 
and to education. One must learn to be just to all 
classes and to do justice to all. One needs full 



knowledge of the social conditions about him and the 
courage to apply the gospel of Christ to these con- 
ditions. But let no one imagine that sociology can 
take the place of the gospel of Jesus. Christianity 
is sociological, but sociology is not necessarily Chris- 
tian. We need intelligent sympathy, but most of 
all the love and grace of God in the heart. But 
minister and man must be independent of bondage 
to either rich or poor and stand in the freedom 
of Christ. Professor H. C. Vedder makes a very 
serious charge against modern ministers in his book, 
The Gospel of Jesus and the Problems of Democracy, 
p. 46: "This attitude of the clergy can be explained 
only on the ground of their economic dependence 
upon the privileged classes. They are the hirelings 
of capitalism, and, to do them justice, they earn 
their wages." This is a bitter attack upon the 
ministry, for always championing the cause of 
capital whenever labor has a clash with capital. 
The charge is not always true, as anyone who ob- 
serves should know. Organized labor is sometimes 
in the wrong. Corporations that are unjust to 
labor are often denounced in the pulpit. Let every 
case be met on its merits. Certainly the minister of 
Christ should be on the side of manhood against 
mere money. A man's life is more than money. 

James reminds his readers that God is not ashamed 
of the poor. In fact, he often calls the poor, as the 
world regards them (ra Koofiu), ethical dative), to be 
rich in faith (nXovaiovg kv niorei). After all, this is 
the true riches, that of the spirit, that of fellowship 
with God. So often a turn in the wheel of life 


leaves a man poor to-day who was rich yesterday. 
And death will separate one from all his wealth 
save what he has given away. That is all that he can 
really keep. The wicked rich man may scout the 
poor saint here, but Lazarus will rest in Abraham's 
bosom while the wicked rich man is in torment in 
Hades. But even here the pious poor stand high 
with God, while the wicked rich are despised. The 
poor may be heirs of the kingdom {KXr]gov6^ovq -n?? 
paotXeiag). Think of that — heirs of the Kingdom of 
God, the glorious Messianic Kingdom promised of 
old and now begun, the fulness of which is in the 
future with God, the heavenly kingdom. But even 
here and now the poor saint is a child of the King 
and has riches untold. He has love and joy in his 
heart, a superiority to adversity, an elevation of 
spirit, the peace of God that passes all understand- 
ing, and that is worth more than all the gold of 
Ophir. It is not mere pious platitude on the part of 
James when he writes thus. He is but interpreting 
the soul of mystic Christianity, real Christianity, as 
set forth by Jesus in the "Beatitudes," where those 
only are felicitated dmitdpiot,) who have the joy of 
the spirit independent of outward condition or cir- 
cumstance. After all the piety of the poor is a : 
nation's best asset. The poor will some day, many 
of them, be rich. May they still be pious! The 
upper classes run down and run out, alas, and have 
to be constantly recruited from the lower classes. 
It is the law of life. If we save the masses we may 
save the classes. At any rate, it is a pitiful business 
to see a church of Jesus Christ ashamed of the poor, 



as the world regards them, for Jesus, our Lord, was 
himself poor for our sakes, voluntarily poor: "Though 
he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that 
ye through his poverty might become rich" (2 Cor. 
8:9), rich in God's mercy and grace, rich in char- 
acter, in likeness to Jesus. 

4. The Royal Law. 2 : 8f . 

The poise of James appears again. He has no 
wish to stir the passions and prejudices of the poor 
against the rich. Surely it is not a sin to love rich 
people. They are entitled to the same love as other 
people, many far more because of the noble use 
made of their wealth. If you really {yAvroL, original 
usage) fulfil {teXute, cf. 2:27) the royal law (vdfiov 
fiaoiXiKov), a law fit for kings or such as a king will 
be sure to follow (cf . Psa. 72 ; Zech. 9 : 9) and supreme 
over other laws (Matt. 22:40), you do well (icaXug 
TroieiTe). They should love both rich and poor 
alike. This "royal law" was in the Old Testament 
(Lev. 19: 18) and is here quoted. It was sanctioned 
by Jesus- (Matt. 19: i8f.) as one of the two chief 
commandments on which hang the whole law and 
the prophets (Matt. 22:38-40). Love of God and 
man covers all else. One may compare also the 
Golden Rule as given by Jesus in Matt. 7:12, which 
is just another way of stating the "royal law" of 
loving one's neighbor (rdv ttXtjoiov gov, one near in 
need whether in space or not) as oneself, a very 
high standard for most people. 

The royal law forbids the partiality in church of 
which James has been speaking, this respect of per- 


sons (nqootorroXTffnTTelTe) . It is more than an error of 
judgment or a breach of etiquette. It is an act of 
sin (dfxagriav) , a slip in ethics, a missing of the mark 
that is fraught with grave consequences. It is bad 
enough to be convicted (eheyxofievoi) by the law as 
transgressors (napa-ftdTai, stepping aside) by this 
servile regard for the rich. It is worse to note the 
evil effect on the church and the community. A 
church of a clique is doomed. A church is only of 
use when it is open to the people who need the help 
of the gospel. The church opens its doors to let 
people in; does not put up bars to keep them out. 

5. Stumbling in One Point. 2 : iof. 

At first blush it seems that James has Draconian 
severity in these verses, but it is not the severe 
punishment of small crimes or venial offenses. The 
long list of capital crimes in ancient England shows 
how slowly men have learned to temper justice with 
mercy. Some of the Stoics said that the theft of a 
penny was as bad as parricide. The "Blue Laws" 
of Connecticut come to mind also. James does not 
say that all sins are equal, that one sin is as bad as 
another. As a matter of fact, each man discounts 
his own sins. The rake looks with scorn on the 
grafter. The man guilty of spiritual pride scouts 
the drunkard. It is a hard task to convince a man 
that he is guilty of his own sin. The burden of the 
law was very heavy. The curse of the law (Gal. 
3:13) was more than violation of particular pre- 
cepts, though that was true to the last detail (Deut. 
11: 26, 28, 32; 27: 26), as Jesus explained (Matt. 5: 


i8f.). The Jewish fathers put a hedge or fence 
about the law (Pirke Aboth i. i) and made it very- 
difficult to keep all the law (oXov rdv vojxov, the law 
as a whole, hard enough as it was) plus the tradi- 
tions of the elders, which often contradicted and set 
at naught the commandment of God (Mark 7: 8f.). 
Cf. Sirach 27: 12. Rabbi Hunnah, in a Midrash on 
Num. 5:14, taught that he who committed adultery 
broke all commandments, and some of the rabbis 
placed the Sabbath above all else and held that, if 
one profaned it, he had broken all the command- 
ments. Mayor, per contra, quotes some of the 
rabbis as saying that to keep the law about fringes 
and phylacteries was to keep the whole law. There 
was a constant tendency to make the ceremonial 
cover up moral and spiritual lapses. Augustine 
(Epistle to Jerome, 167) compares this teaching of 
James with the Stoic doctrine of the solidarity of 
virtues and vices alluded to above. But certainly 
James has a higher view than these hairsplitting 
punctilios. Paul saw that the essence of sin lay. 
in the motive (Rom. 14:23), and that desire to 
glorify God should pervade all our acts (1 Cor. 10: 
31). It seems hard to hold one to strict account 
who makes one slip {Txraio-q kv kvi) and hold him 
guilty of all {ttclvtwv lvo%og, held liable [see use of 
ivoxoc, in P. Oxy. 275. A. D. 66] for all). That is 
true only in the sense that James proceeds to explain 
that any violation of law makes one a law breaker 
{■naQafiaT7]<; vdfiov). 1 One does not have to break all 

1 Codex D adds to Luke 6:4: tq avrij rjidpa ftraaa/itvdc riva rpyat.6- 
fiivov T(5 aaPP&T(f> elnev airy, 'Avdpune el /iiv ol6ac ri nouic fianapioc el, 


the laws to become a lawbreaker. One offence 
places one in that category. The matter is put 
with this sharp emphasis because of the com- 
placent self-satisfaction of the perfunctory cere- 
monialist (James 1:26) who may yet commit 
the sin of partiality in church. James is seeking 
to convict such "pious" sinners of their guilt, to 
rouse them out of their smug self-satisfaction. It 
is quite possible that those who were guilty of 
spiritual pride and other sins of the spirit, boasted 
of their freedom from adultery and murder (Hort). 
At any rate, we must not forget that out of the 
heart are the issues of life, that murder springs out 
of hate, and that all of God's laws come from the 
same Will (Mayor). It is disobedience to the Will 
of God that constitutes the essence of sin. It is not 
a light matter to be guilty of any sin. Our only hope 
is in the grace and forgiveness of God. There is no 
room for pride on the part of sinners, setting up 
one sin against another sin. 

6. A Law of Liberty. 2 : i2f. 

But James is not a Pharisaic legalist nor a Judaizer. 
He adds these verses to make it plain that he does 
not have in mind the painful observance of separate 
rules and details. The spirit is greater than the 
letter. Our words {XaXtire) and deeds {-noielre) are 
to be judged by "a law of liberty" (<5ta vdfiov kkevde- 
gia<;. Cf. 1:25), not of bondage. We are under 

el 6e fir) oldaq intKaTaparoQ nal TrapafiaTW el tov vdfiov. But this logion 
does not compare Sabbath breaking with other sins, though it does 
emphasize insight into the motive of the act. 


grace, not the old law. We live in an atmosphere 
of love and of liberty, not of repression and of 
slavery. God watches the real motive in our con- 
duct toward the rich and the poor as in all things. 
"Mercy glorieth against judgment" (KaraKavxarai 
tAeof Kpioewg), mercy triumphs over judgment. God 
shows mercy to us in spite of our shortcomings, for 
Jesus is the pledge of our fidelity and our hope. We 
make so many mistakes that we should have no 
heart to go on if we had to be held to strict account 
every time we stumble in one point. Still, we must 
not overlook the fact that we did stumble. It is 
our duty not to stumble at that point again. So we 
go on our stumbling way toward that goal of per- 
fection which is ever before us. It was Jesus who 
said: "Judge not, that ye be not judged" (Matt. 
7:1). James seems to know this saying, as he lays 
emphasis on the spirit and motive in holy living. 
"I will sing of mercy and judgment" (Psa. 101: 1). 


The Appeal to Life. 2 : 14-26 

We now come to the famous passage that is sup- 
posed by some scholars to be an attack on Paul's 
doctrine of salvation by faith instead of works. 
James is interpreted by many to be a champion of 
works as against Paul's theory of grace. It is an old 
controversy and is the occasion of Martin Luther's 
slighting allusion to the Epistle of James as "a 
veritable epistle of straw." He thought it contra- 
dicted the Epistle of Galatians, which he dearly 
loved as his "wife" (Weib). It is necessary, there- 
fore, to clear the atmosphere a bit before proceeding 
to the exposition. 

1. The Standpoint of James. 

This depends on the date of the Epistle, for the 
discussion of which question see Chapter I. 7. It 
is here assumed that James wrote before the Jeru- 
salem Conference, before 50 A. D. 

(1) Without the Judaizing Controversy in Mind. 
Paul wrote Galatians and Romans, as well as 1 and 
2 Corinthians, in the heat of that controversy to 
answer the contention of the Judaizers that circum- 
cision was essential to the salvation of the Gentiles, 
that Christianity alone was not sufficient, but must 
be supplemented by Judaism. No issue ever stirred 
Paul's nature like this. It is possible that Paul may 



have had in mind a misuse of James 2: 14-26 by 
the Judaizers when he wrote, knowing that James 
in reality agreed with him in the matter (Acts 15: 
14-21; Gal. 2: 1-10). But James clearly is not at- 
tacking Paul nor Paul's theory of grace. He rather 
has in view a perversion of the Christian em- 
phasis on the spiritual side as opposed to the cere- 
monial ritualism of the Pharisees. The pendulum 
swings from one extreme to the other. The Jews 
had laid too much emphasis on religious duties 
(cf. James 1: 26), and some of the Christians went 
to the extreme of thinking that no works at all 
were needed in the Christian life. Some of the 
Jews, on the other hand, had already gone so far as 
to consider creed alone essential. "As soon as a 
man has mastered the thirteen heads of the faith, 
firmly believing therein . . . though he may have 
sinned in every possible way . . . still he inherits 
eternal life." 1 This Jewish unconcern of real piety 
in life is reflected in the lives of some of the Jewish 
Christians and is the occasion of the remarks of 

(2) James's Use of Righteousness or Justification 
(idiKai(l)67j, 2: 21). It is the sense of actual goodness 
as Jesus uses it in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 
6:1) and like sanctification as Paul has it in Rom. 
6 to 8. It is not the "imputed righteousness" of 
Paul in Rom. 3 and 4 (Gal. 3). James has a 
practical purpose, not a theological one. He is 
not discussing the question as to how Abraham 
was set right with God, how faith was "reck- 

1 Maim, on Mishnah, Sanhedrin xi. I. 


oned" (eXoyiadrj) as righteousness (dg ScKatoavvrjv) , 

the point seized on by Paul in the verse. James 
quotes the whole verse (Gen. 15:6), as Paul does, 
but he is concerned with it as proof that, when put 
to the test, Abraham lived up to his faith in that he 
actually "offered up Isaac, his son, upon the altar" 
(James 2:21). It is the deed as proof of faith that 
James emphasizes, though both points are in the 

(3) James's Use of Works (epya). He looks upon 
works as proof of faith, not as means of salvation. 
John the Baptist had demanded "fruits worthy of 
repentance" (Luke 3: 8). Jesus had said: "By their 
fruits ye shall know them" (Matt. 7: 20). Paul will 
discuss death to sin on the part of the believer (Rom. 
6: 1-11). Peter will show how the life will make 
the calling and election sure (2 Pet. 1:10). The 
whole Epistle to the Hebrews is a clarion call to 
hold fast the confession of faith to the end. John 
will insist that those who say they are in the light do 
not walk in darkness (1 John 1:6; 2:9). Certainly 
then James is in harmony with the full drift of the 
gospel message in his insistence on works as proof 
of the new life. Paul, in his contrast between faith 
and works, has in mind the Jewish doctrine of works 
as means of salvation. See 2 Esdras 9: jf. : "Who- 
ever shall be able to escape either by his works or 
by his faith shall see my salvation." And even here 
"by faith" does not mean what Paul has in mind, 
but rather creed, not saving trust. The Pharisees 
taught the value of works of supererogation, the 
"merit" of the fathers, in particular, the merit of 


Abraham whose faith and works were a storehouse 
for the Jews. "We have Abraham to our father." 
That was enough. So the Roman Catholics hold 
that the saints may help us out of purgatory if we 
pay enough for their intercession. Prayer itself be- 
comes an opus operatum, a credit in the balance 
sheet with God. Most Jews held works alone to be 
the means of salvation. The point was keenly dis- 
cussed in the Jewish schools in Jerusalem and 

(4) James's Use of Faith. In this passage he is 
thinking of mere intellectual assent to the unity of 
God or other theological tenets. This was the use 
of "faith" by many of the Jews. After some of 
them became Christians they still got no further. 
It is this idle and empty faith that James is con- 
demning. James does have the other sense of 
trust for the word (ttIotis), as in 2:1, "faith in our 
Lord Jesus Christ," the sense in which Paul uses 
the term when he contrasts it with works (Rom. 
3:20-30). It is quite important to note this dis- 

(5) The Antithesis in James. It is not in reality 
between faith and works, but between live faith and 
dead faith, the two uses of the term just mentioned. 
In verse 18 the point is made absolutely clear. It is 
not personal trust in Christ that James ridicules, but 
an empty theological tenet that does not stand the 
test of actual life. So then James and Paul go off 
at tangents when the same words occur, for they 
are talking about different things. 


2. Not Pious Pretence. 2 : 14-17. 

Once more James corrects a possible misappre- 
hension. He properly places mercy above justice, 
but no one need think for a moment that good deeds 
do not matter. God is full of mercy, but there is a 
limit even with God. He demands some perform- 
ance, not mere profession. "What doth it profit?" 
(T* d<pehog{) James pointedly asks. Cui bono? What 
is the use? What good is it? What boots it for a 
man to say (teyq) he has faith (ntOTiv), but for him 
to have no works (epya) to prove his faithf How 
can men know that he has any faith? The mere 
assertion is all that men have at first. In the be- 
ginning the claim to faith is accepted, but the life 
must confirm the claim if men are to continue to be- 
lieve the claim. God can read the heart, but even 
God demands that the life show the change of heart. 
James asks again: "Can that faith (?] niarig) 1 save 
(otioai) him?" He does not scoff at faith, but at 
such hollow "faith" as this. James here speaks for 
the practical man of the present day who wishes to 
see some real difference in the life of a man who 
becomes a Christian. It is an old demand, as we 
see in 1 John 1 and 2. There is no escape from this 
appeal to life, nor ought there to be. Men are 
judged by their conduct in business during the week 
as much as by their attendance at church on Sun- 
day. James does not say that a Christian has no 
faults, and never sins, or is a hypocrite if he sins 

1 The article here has almost the original demonstrative force. 
James means the kind of faith that rests on mere assertion without 
works to prove it. 


once. He does say that he should have some fruit. 
His illustration in verses 15 and 16 is very forcible 
and shows that he was probably a striking and 
popular preacher (Oesterley). It is a problem that 
is constantly presented to our modern Christians and 
churches. A brother or sister is in need of food and 
clothing. They are out of work because of the 
economic conditions beyond their control. They 
are unable to obtain work. They are not pro- 
fessional beggars. One may pause to admit the 
serious difficulty of knowing how to render real 
assistance to those who come to our doors for help. 
The modern social workers tell us not to give money 
and clothing, but to investigate the case or to have 
the charity organization or some of the rescue 
workers do it for us. The great number of tramps 
and professional beggars with false stories tends to 
harden our hearts to the many cases of real need 
all about us. Some of these are too proud to make 
their real condition known and actually starve to 
death or perish from disease and cold. James here 
assumes that the case is one of real need that de- 
serves sympathy and help. The man who prides 
himself upon the correctness of his professional creed 
and pious standing bestows kind words of sympathy 
and nothing else, sending the suffering brother or 
sister, "ill-clad and short of daily food" (Moffatt), 
out into the bitter cold and shuts the door with a 
sense of satisfaction after such pious platitudes as: 
"Go in peace, be ye warmed and filled" (vndyere 

kv elpr/v-q, depnaiveode tcai xoprd^eade) . He calls his cheap 
words Christian sympathy. It is to make demons 


laugh. The irony of James is very keen. "The 
things needful to the body" (to, kniTr/deia rov oufia- 
tos), the ordinary necessities of life, now become rare 
luxuries to the poor brother or sister. So James 
repeats his query: "What doth it profit?" It is 
pertinent per contra to quote Paul on the necessity 
of love even in beneficence: "And if I bestow all my 
goods to feed the poor, and if I give my body to be 
burned, but have not love, it profiteth me nothing" 
(ovdev dxpeXovfiai, 1 Cor. 13:3). What, indeed! One 
recalls the compassion of Jesus for the hungry mul- 
titudes whom he fed. His heart was not hardened. 
He did not ask them to be satisfied with honeyed 
words and the aroma of dinner. The funny part of 
it all is that such pious pretenders actually think 
that the needy should be grateful for the kind advice 
when sent away without a mouthful to eat. James 
applies his illustration to the point under discussion 
(verse 17). Mere professional faith that talks and 
does not "is dead in itself" (vetcpd eanv icad' kavr'qv). 
There is no life in it and no reality. It is dead on the 
inside and is a mere empty shell of pious pretence. 
There are people who to-day turn to our churches 
for help in the hour of need and get only empty 
words. It will be in vain then to speak about the 
grace of God. 

3. Not Mere Intellectual Assent. 2 : 18, 19. 

It is extremely difficult in verse 18 to follow the 
thought of James. He is usually wonderfully per- 
spicuous, but here we are in doubt as to the punc- 
tuation and the reference in "a man" (rig). Some 


scholars think that it is a delicate way that James 
has of referring to himself, but then James is em- 
phasizing works, not mere faith. Is the sentence a 
question or an assertion? Shall we say "But" or 
"Yea" (for <UAd)? Hort has shown a way out that 
is partly followed by Moffatt. Take the "man" as 
an objector, but let his objection cover only the 
first sentence, the point being to challenge the faith 
of James, since he has put such accent on works. 
"Thou, James, hast thou faith? I also (as well as 
thou) have works" {ov Trior lv !%«?; /cayw epya e%w). 
The objector thus claims to have both faith and 
works, but implies that James has only works and 
no faith. The rest of the verse is then the reply of 
James to the objector. 1 James bursts in with the 
answer to the challenge and rests his claim to faith 
on works as proof. "Show me thy faith apart from 
thy works" (Seli-ov fiot ttjv tt'mjtiv gov x^Pk ™v epywv), 
"and I by my works will show thee my faith" («dyo> 
ooi deii-G) ek Tcbv epywv fiov rr)v nianv). 2 Here James 
pits over against each other the two sorts of faith — 
the true faith which James claims to possess and 
which is proved by works, and the false faith which 
is mere profession and entirely apart from (%<•>?<'?) 
works. The antithesis is complete. The dispute 
turns on how one knows that he has "faith." James 
rests his case on his "works" and in turn challenges 
the objector to prove his "faith" apart from works. 

1 One may compare Paul's habit of answering an imaginary objec- 
tor in the development of his argument. Cf . Rom. 2 : 1 ; o. : 20. 

2 Note the sharp contrast in iriortc by the position at the be- 
ginning and the end of the sentence. 


Now James is ready to drive the point home. He 
proceeds to show that such an empty faith as his 
objector has is mere intellectual assent to proposi- 
tions and is not saving trust that bears fruit in the 
life. "Thou believest that God is one" (ov morsvetg 
ore el$ Oedg eanv). This is one of the statements of 
the unity of God. The usual formula occurs in 
Deut. 6:4 and in Mark 12:29 ("The Lord our 
God, the Lord is one"). The recitation of this 
phrase was not merely the orthodox creed, but was 
supposed to have saving efficacy (cf. the Moslem 
repetition of "Allah"). From the time of the exile 
the repetition of the Shema (Deut. 6 : 4ff .) every 
morning and evening was the duty of every pious 
Israelite. "Whoever reads the Shema upon his 
couch is as one that defends himself with a two- 
edged sword" (Meg. 3a). "They cool the flames of 
Gehinnom for him who reads the Shema" (Ber. 
15b.). Oesterley (in loco) adds that "the very 
parchment on which the Shema is written is effica- 
cious in keeping demons at a distance." These 
statements will help us to understand the atmos- 
phere from which James draws his illustration. And 
yet James does not ridicule this mental assent to 
the oneness of God. "Thou doest well" (mXa? 
noielg). Orthodoxy is better than heresy. Ortho- 
doxy is thinking straight (6pdo6o^ia) and that is 
what we all need to do. Every man is right in his 
own eyes and the rest are a bit "off." But, good as 
monotheism is, it is not enough (cf. Mohamme- 
danism again). What James criticizes is mere in- 
tellectual assent with no vital union with God. 


"The demons also believe" {mi to, dai/iovta morevov- 
olv), also as well as you. The demons know only 
too well that God is and that he is one. They are 
monotheists, not polytheists. They recognized 
Jesus: "What have we to do with thee, Jesus of 
Nazareth? Art thou come to destroy us? We 
know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God" 
(Mark 1:24). Cf. Matt. 8:29; Luke 4:41. The 
demons are thoroughly orthodox on this point, have 
intellectual assent ("faith"), but they are still 
demons. They even shudder {(pgiaaovaLv) at the 
fact and the power of God as they feared Jesus 
(Mark 1:24; Luke 8:29). The word means to 
"bristle," like the Latin horreo, with the hair stand- 
ing on end. "Then a spirit passed before my face; 
the hair of my flesh stood up" (Job 4: 15). So 
Daniel (7: 15) says: "My spirit was grieved" (typ fr 
to iTvevfid fiov). The argument is as complete as it 
can be. 

4. The Obedient Trust of Abraham. 2: 20-24. 

But James applies his illustration again. He 
hammers the objector while he has him. "But wilt 
thou know, O vain man?" (deXetc, tie yv&vai, w dv8pu>- 
ne ksvs), "you senseless fellow" (Moffatt). The 
word (itevog) is used like the Latin vanus (the Vul- 
gate has inanis, Corbey MS. vacue) of boasters or 
impostors, men whose word cannot be depended 
upon. You can know, if you wish to know 1 "that 

1 yvuvai, aorist tense and so punctiliar, know once for all, with 
almost a touch of impatience in the tense. 


faith apart from works is barren" (<5t* 77 -rriari^ x^Q^ 
ribv spycjv apyrj kanv), "faith without deeds is dead" 
(Moffatt), according to some manuscripts (venqd, 
mortua, not apy6<;, otiosa). One may note 2 Pet. 1:8, 
"not idle nor unfruitful" (ovk dgyovg ovde dtcdpnovg) . 
Faith without^works is like a barren woman, without 
children to comfort her. "Children" and "works" 
are sometimes used as parallel. "Wisdom is justified 
by her works" (Matt. 11: 20); "Wisdom is justified 
of all her children" (Luke 7: 35). 

James thus shows irritation at the dulness of his 
objector, but he hopes to make even such a man 
see the point by appealing to the axiomatic case of 
Abraham. The faith of Abraham was one of the 
commonplaces of theological discussion in the rab- 
binical schools (Oesterley). See Sirach 44: 2 off. ; 
Wisd. 10: 5. It is no wonder that Paul (Rom. 4; 
Gal. 3:7) makes use of the case of Abraham. He 
considers it so important that in Romans he devotes 
a whole chapter to the subject. Paul lays chief 
emphasis (Rom. 4: 17-21) on Abraham's faith in 
the promise of a son. Paul also proves that Abra- 
ham had the justifying faith before he was circum- 
cised. James shows that Abraham lived up to his 
faith when put to the test. Both points are true. 
There was abuse of the faith of Abraham. Thus 
Rabbi Nehemiah (Mechilta on Exod. 14:31) says: 
"So Abraham, solely for the merit of his faith, 
whereby he believed in the Lord, inherited this 
world and the other." The Jews came to rely so 
much on the "merit" of Abraham's faith that they 
felt that all they had to do was to say: "We have 


Abraham to our father" (Matt. 3:9). They leaned 1 
on "Father Abraham." In 1 Mace. 2: 52 the same 
use is made of the case of Abraham that we have in 
James: "Was not Abraham found faithful (evpedr) 
morog) in trial, and it was reckoned to him for 
righteousness?" In Heb. 11 the same exposition of 
faith is set forth by the glorious list of heroes who 
exemplified faith. Among these is Abraham, who 
"obeyed to go out" (11:8) to a distant land and 
who offered up his only-begotten son (11:17). 
James appeals confidently therefore to the example 
of Abraham in offering up (dveveyKag) Isaac upon 
the altar (cf. Gen. 22:9). He had shown that he 
served God from love and not merely from fear. 
His faith had stood the severest of all tests, be- 
lieving that God would go with him down into the 
darkness of death and make plain his command 
that was so hard to obey. 

James interprets the case of Abraham with his 
usual pungency. "Thou seest" (flteneu;) or, at least, 
thou oughtest to see. The deduction is inevitable. 
"Faith wrought with his works" {r\ -niong avvqgyei 
rolg epyoig avrov), 2 "faith cooperated with deeds" 
(Moffatt), just the opposite of "apart from works." 
It is thus clear that James did not mean to say that 
Abraham had only works and not faith. It is faith 
and works with Abraham, as he had contended in 
verse 18. It is like Paul's "faith working through 
love," energetic faith (nioTig 61 dydiTTjg evepyovjiivr)) . 

'See Lightfoot's Appendix on "The Faith of Abraham," in his 
Comm. on Galatians. 

2 Note the tense of ovvypytt, imperfect, kept on cooperating. 


So James adds: "by works was faith made perfect" 

(e/c twv «pyo)v 77 Ttlariq kTtXei&drj) , "completed by 
deeds" (Moffatt). Thus with Abraham faith was 
shown to be alive, not dead; fruitful, not barren; 
brought to a good result or end (teXos), not cut 
short with mere profession or promise. So the 
Scripture was fulfilled (enXijoudT), made full or com- 
plete) in the case of Abraham: "And Abraham be- 
lieved (e-rrioTsvoev) God and it (the faith, -neons) was 
reckoned (iXoyiodr], set down to his credit) to him 
for righteousness" (e*? SiKaioovvijv) . Paul, in Rom. 
4, lays emphasis on the verb "believed," and James 
stresses the obedience which proves the reality of 
the trust. Both points are justly made. In each 
instance faith precedes the works. We are set 
right with God by trust, but the life must correspond 
to the new relation with God. It was so with Abra- 
ham. He was called "the friend of God" (<piXo$ 
deov ekXtjOtj). Cf. 2 Chron. 20: 7. "Shall I hide 
from Abraham that thing which I do?" (Gen. 
18:17). With the Arabs the term Khalil Allah 
(Friend of God) is the current name for Abraham. 
Epictetus (Bk. II, chap, xvii, § 29) speaks of looking 
"up into heaven as the friend of God "(<piXov rov deov). 
Plato calls the righteous man "on terms of friend- 
ship with God" (6eo(piX'qg) . Jesus calls his disciples 
"friends" (<f>iXovg), no longer "servants" {dovXovq), in 
John I5:i4f. There cannot be such friendship 
without trust (rriarig) of the most absolute kind, a 
trust that means loyalty to the end. 

One must not think that James discredits faith. 
He does not. He assumes the need of it. In verse 



24 James uses "justified" (dinaiovTai) more in the 
sense of final approval (set right at last) than of the 
initial restoration of peace with God. And even so 
"the faith as a ground of justification is assumed as 
a starting point" (Hort). "Ye see" (opdre), says 
James, leaving his imaginary opponent and turning 
again to his readers. They can see the point whether 
the empty-headed disputant does or not. It is hard 
for a controversialist to see anything but his own 
side of the question. It is "not only by faith" (ovk 
tic niareiog fiovov) that a man is justified. The case 
of Abraham shows that works must follow faith in 
the natural order of grace. James has administered 
a severe rebuke to the antinomians who deny any 
responsibility for holy living and disclaim the force 
of the moral law. There has always been a curious 
type of pietism that ran easily into immorality 
with no compunctions of conscience, a sort of emo- 
tionalism without ethical tone or flavor. Abraham 
was not simply the father of the Jewish people, but 
the father of all the spiritual Israel, the believing 
children of God in all the ages since, who form the 
elect of God and of the earth. 

5. The Case of Rahab. 2:25. 

One wonders why James selects a case like this 
after speaking of Abraham, the father of the faithful 
and God's friend. Oesterley doubts how this verse 
could come from the pen of a Christian. But James 
may have wished to select another example at the 
furthest possible remove from Abraham, a heathen 
and a proselyte, "the first of all the proselytes" in 


the land of Canaan (Hort). Certainly, if a woman 
like Rahab could be saved, no one else need despair. 
She expressed her faith in God: "I know that the 
Lord God hath given you the land . . . the Lord 
your God, He is God in heaven above and in earth 
beneath" (Josh. 2:9, 11). Besides, she showed her 
courage by avowing the cause of Jehovah and of 
Israel, by protecting the messengers (dyyeXovg, spies 
in reality), and by a life of uprightness thereafter. 
It was a crisis in the history of Israel as they came 
to Jericho and Rahab took her stand for God at 
the start. Hence the high honor accorded her. 
She is mentioned in Heb. 11:31 in the famous list 
of heroes of faith. In Matt. 1 : 5 she appears in the 
genealogy of Christ. She was counted one of the 
four chief beauties of Israel along with Sarah, Abi- 
gail, Esther (Mayor). "Eight prophets who were 
also priests are descended from the harlot Rahab" 
(Megilla 14b). Certainly, there is no desire in 
James nor in Hebrews to dignify her infamous 
trade which she renounced, but only to single her 
out as a brand snatched from the burning by the 
power of God. 

6. The Union of Faith and Works. 2:26. 

This is what James pleads for, not the divorce 
between creed and conduct, which is, alas, only too 
prevalent even to-day. There should be an indis- 
soluble marriage between faith and works, a union 
as close as that between spirit and body. "For as 
the body apart from the spirit is dead (rd au\ia %^pk 
Trvevfiarog veicpov tonv), even so faith apart from 


works is dead" (ovrcjg mi t\ rriarig x^Pk epyw veicpd 

toTiv). By "spirit" here James means simply the 
breath of life without which the body is dead. 
"False faith is virtually a corpse" (Hort). By this 
striking paradox James strikes at the root of the 
whole matter and has his last word on the subject. 
Hort remarks that James by the use of the phrase 
"justified by works" (e£ epywv edimiudr)) seems to be 
answering Paul in Rom. 4: i or a misuse of Paul's 
"justified by faith" (Rom. 5: 1), though he does not 
see how James could have seen Paul. I have already 
expressed my own conviction that James and Paul 
are not really answering one another. They are 
discussing different aspects of the subject and touch 
only at points and go off along other lines. In all 
probability each would agree to the statements of 
the other if the language of each were put in the 
proper perspective. Certainly, they agreed when 
they were together in Jerusalem (Acts 15; Gal. 2:1- 
10). But it is important for us that our faith shall 
be real and vital and not hollow and dead. 


The Tongues of Teachers. 3:1-12 

James carries on the discussion of "slow to speak" 
(1: 17). He has just been writing about idle faith 
(nioTig agyfi) in 2 : 14-26, and now he proceeds 
(Plummer) to expound the peril of the idle word 
(pfj^a dpyov), "wrong speech after wrong action" 
(Hort). Indeed, in 1: 26 he had already mentioned 
the failure to bridle the tongue as a sure sign of vain 
religion. Now he expands the matter in a remark- 
able paragraph. The transition is thus not so 
abrupt as at first seems to be the case, and ap- 
parently from the first he planned this discussion 
of the tongue. Probably it comes here (Plummer) 
because controversies about faith and works were 
already rife. Here James speaks "against those who 
substitute words for works" (Plummer), a rather 
large class, alas! "In noble uprightness, he values 
only the strict practice of concrete duties, and 
hates talk" (Reuss), if it is only talk. James has the 
gift of condensation. He can write on talk without 
taking twenty volumes, like Carlyle, to prove that 
if speech is silvern, silence is golden (Plummer). The 
"overvaluation of theory as compared with prac- 
tice" (Mayor) condemned in chapter 2 is still 
present with James as he discusses the tongue. 

1. An Over supply of Teachers. 3: ia. 

We are not here to think simply of official teachers 
like Paul's apostles, prophets, teachers (1 Cor. 12: 



28f. ; Eph. 4: 11). In the Didache (xiii. 2, xv. 1, 2) 
teachers (SiddoKaXot) are placed on a par with 
prophets (npoffirai) and higher than bishops (kirlcnco- 
■noi) and deacons (SidKovot). There is no doubt 
that teaching received tremendous emphasis in the 
work of the early Christians. Jesus is the great 
Teacher of the ages and is usually presented as 
teaching (tiidao/cu). In the Jewish "Houses of 
Learning" (synagogues) teaching was as prominent 
an element as worship. The official teachers passed 
away and the modern Sunday school movement is 
an effort to restore the teaching function in the 
churches. The true preacher should be a teacher 
also, but many preachers are more evangelistic and 
hortatory than didactic. The best preachers com- 
bine all these elements and build up (oUodofxicS) the 
saints in the faith to which they have been won. 
Even the mission work of modern Christianity has 
had to lay new emphasis on the educational side of 
Christian effort. There is no reason why the morn- 
ing service in public worship should not be a teach- 
ing service and the evening service more evangelistic. 
Teachers are necessary. People ' 'having itching ears 
will heap up to themselves (tniaojpevaovoiv eavrolg) 
teachers after their own lusts" (2 Tim. 4: 3). 1 Epic- 
tetus (Bk. Ill, chap, xxiii, §29) says: Rufus "used 
to speak in such a way that each of us as we sat 
thought that someone had accused us to him." 

But James here is thinking of the unofficial 
teachers (diddonaXoi) in the churches. In the Jew- 

1 In Hernias (Sim. 9:22) we read of teachers who OiAovoiv kdeXodi. 
d&oitaXot rival u<f>puvt:<; Svref. Sadly true. 


ish synagogues there was wide latitude allowed for 
strangers and others to speak. Jesus took advan- 
tage of this opportunity and taught freely in the 
synagogues (Matt. 12: off.; Mark 1:39; Luke 6: 
i4ff.). There would be interruption and violent 
opposition at times (cf. John 6: 59-66). Paul used 
the courtesy to strangers to speak in the Jewish 
synagogues and met with open opposition at times 
(cf. Acts 13: 15, 45; 18:6). In Corinth we have a 
striking instance of the evil of promiscuous teaching, 
unrestrained and unregulated (1 Cor. 14). It be- 
came necessary for Paul to rebuke the church for 
unseemly disorder. There were many who were 
only too ready to be carried away by any new- 
fangled doctrine. There is safety in free discussion, 
which acts as a safety-valve and also leaves a de- 
posit of truth. But the acrimonious spirit had a 
fine opportunity to display itself. Men of arrogant 
convictions and little knowledge felt that they "had 
no need to learn anything from their brethren, but 
were fully equipped as teachers" (Johnstone), "de- 
siring to be teachers of the law, though they under- 
stand neither what they say, nor whereof they 
confidently affirm" (1 Tim. 1:7). Some men with a 
certain fluency of speech really had no message and 
only spoke out of vanity and really "thought more 
of the admiration which they might excite by a 
display of their powers than of the light and strength 
which through God's grace they might give their 
brethren" (Dale). Evidently James is here con- 
cerned with these promiscuous, officious, irrespon- 
sible, self-appointed teachers, men with a cock-sure 


explanation of all difficulties, not afraid to rush 
in where angels fear to tread. The world was full 
of roving teachers with every sort of patent "ism" 
to dispense to the public. Both Jews and Athenians 
were eager for something newer than the last stale 
theory (the very latest fad). The synagogues of the 
Jews and the churches of the Christians offered a 
fine platform for these cranks to air their notions. 
Besides, some of the best of men, earnest Christians, 
have a "Lust for Talk" (Sir W. Robertson Nicoll) 
that leads them into all sorts of excesses. 

James, therefore, is pleading for restraint and 
moderation when he says: "Be not many of you 
teachers" (p) noXXoi diddanaXot. ylveade). 1 "Do not 
swell the ranks of the teachers" (Moffatt). Teachers 
are absolutely necessary, but the thing can be 
overdone. Some learners {\ia6i\rai, disciples) are 
needed. Liberty within reasonable limits must be 
allowed, but not rank license. Men must not be 
too eager to teach what they do not know. There 
is no danger of an oversupply of well-equipped 
teachers who are masters of the message of Christ. 
There are still too many who are incompetent, and 
therefore the accent on "teacher- training" in the 
vSunday schools is most timely. The caution of 
James is pertinent to-day, but we must not dis- 
courage timid souls who can learn to teach and 
who ought to undertake it. The greatness of the 
teacher's task must not be overlooked. James 
warns us against its abuse. There is a mental sloth 
that is as bad as this eagerness to be teachers, a 

1 Cf . Vulgate Nvlile plures magistri fieri, not doctores. 


lazy satisfaction with the elements of Christianity 
and failure to grow into the position of teachers of 
the doctrines of grace, continuing as babes unable 
to digest solid food (Heb. 5: 12). 

2. The Peril of Teachers. 3 : ib. 

Teaching has to be done. There is no escape 
from that, but those who teach must understand 
their responsibility. They are doctors (from doceo, 
to teach) of the mind and heart. They cannot 
escape their responsibility, as spiritual surgeons, 
for they deal with the issues of life and death, 
"knowing that we shall receive heavier judgment" 
(eidorsg on fiel^ov KQi\ia Xrjfiijjofieda) . In seasons of re- 
ligious excitement it is particularly desirable that 
men shall bear this fact in mind. There is danger 
for the teacher and for those that hear and are led 
astray by foolish talk. Feeling was probably run- 
ning high in some of the churches, and there was 
occasion for the sobering words of James. "The 
penalty of untruth is untruth, to imbibe which is 
death" (Taylor). One has only to recall the words 
of Jesus: "And I say unto you, that every idle 
word (pri^a dgyov) that men shall speak, they shall 
give account thereof in the day of judgment. For 
by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy 
words thou shalt be condemned" (Matt. 12:36^). 
It is easy to be overconfident, like the complacency 
of the Jews of whom Paul said that each was con- 
fident that he was "a corrector of the foolish, a 
teacher of babes" (Rom. 2:20). "Blind leaders of 
the blind" (Matt. 15 : 14) are they. It is bad enough 


to break one of the least commandments, but who- 
ever does, "and shall teach men so, shall be called 
least in the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 5:19). 
There is no escaping the fact that a heavier penalty 
rests on preachers and teachers who leave a trail of 
error behind them. This point of view explains 
Paul's anxiety in the Pastoral Epistles for the future 
of Christianity, as it had to confront Pharisaism, 
Gnosticism, Mithraism, the Emperor-Cult, and the 
hundred and one vagaries of the age. Certainly, a 
teacher must speak his mind. He must be intel- 
lectually honest and tell what he sees, only he is not 
called upon to give his guesses at truth as truth. 
There is no harm in a teacher's being interesting. 
He ought to be if he can, but not at the expense of 
truth. Freedom of teaching is, moreover, quite con- 
sonant with fidelity to truth. Surely one does not 
have to be a mere traditionalist in order to escape 
wild speculation. He must bring forth things new 
and old if they are true. The severest words that 
fell from the lips of Jesus are against the Pharisees 
who filled the place of teachers for the Jews, but 
who "say and do not," who "sit on Moses' seat" as 
authoritative teachers and yet "strain out the gnat, 
and swallow the camel" (Matt. 23). "Woe unto you 
lawyers! for ye took away the key of knowledge: 
ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were 
entering in ye hindered" (Luke 11: 52). The trag- 
edy of that situation beggars description. The child 
was kept in the dark while at school because the 
teacher did not let in the light. "The hungry sheep 
look up and are not fed." 


3. The Test of Perfection. 3 : 2a. 

Others besides teachers have pitfalls, for teachers 
are not the only errant men. "For in many things 
we all Stumble" {-rroXXd ydg TXTaioyiEv dnavreg). James 
includes himself in this category. The Vulgate reads 
"ye" in verse 1 (swmitis), not willing to admit that 
James ran any risk about the heavier judgment, but 
that is not the correct text. James shows no dispo- 
sition to exempt himself. One and all (anavreg) we 
make many slips, stumble over (7rra/oju£v) something 
in the path. Our falls are only too frequent (noXXd). 
Who is the perfect man ? Seneca (Clem. 1 : 6) says : 
"We all sin" (peccamus omnes). But Epictetus (Bk. 
IV, chap, iv, § 7) uses the word for "sin" (d^aprdvw) 
for merely "commit a fault." He has a weak con- 
ception of sin. Epictetus also (Bk. I, chap, xxviii, 
§ 23) says: "No man stumbles on account of another's 
action." But surely he is in error here. 

Teachers are particularly liable to stumble in 
speech, for precisely in that sphere their activity lies 
(Plummer). This point is common to all {d rig). 
Most assuredly, all men are guilty of sins of speech. 
Each one is sure to stumble there sooner or later. 
This is a very easy test of one's perfection. He can 
be prodded by the tongue. "The scribes and the 
Pharisees began to press upon him vehemently 
(Setvibg kvex^iv), and to provoke him to speak 
(dnooTOfidfriv) of many things; laying wait (evedpev- 
ovreg, ambush) for him, to catch (drjpevoat, as if 
wild game) something out of his mouth" (Luke 11: 
53f.). Yes, but they were all the more angry when 
the one Perfect Man kept control of his tongue. 


Smart lawyers often try to trip a witness in his 
talk. It is hard to be consistent in talk, true in 
talk, clean in speech. "If any stumbleth not in 
word, the same is a perfect (riXeiog) man." "Who- 
ever avoids slips of speech is a perfect man" (Mof- 
fatt). "Thou art snared with the words of thy 
mouth" (-rrayig loxvpa avdgi to, Idia x ei ^V> Prov. 6:2. 
Note avdpi, man, not woman). Cf. Sirach 28: 12-26 
for pungent remarks on speech. "That which pro- 
ceedeth out of the man, this defileth the man" 
(Matt. 15: 11). The chemical reaction to talk is a 
test that we cannot refuse. It is open to the least 
expert to apply to us. Teachers cannot escape this 
inevitable test. The rest of this paragraph consists 
of a series of remarkable illustrations of the power 
of the tongue. 

4. The Bridle and the Horse. 3 : 2b, 3. 

The man who does control his tongue is able to 
bridle the whole body also (cf. 1 : 26), for the body 
goes with the tongue. In fact, nothing is com- 
moner than for one to make a rash statement and 
then to feel compelled to stand by it for the sake of 
imaginary consistency. Hort keenly observes that the 
force of "also" (mi) after "the whole body" is that 
a man who can bridle his tongue can bridle his 
whole body. The tongue is a real Bucephalus and it 
takes an Alexander to master him. It is really won- 
derful how a spirited, impetuous horse can be sub- 
dued by bit and bridle. The spirit does not go out 
of the horse, but his restless energy is under control 
and guidance. James does not mean that a man 


should be dumb and lifeless, without ambition and 
power, but simply that his tongue, like all the rest 
of the body, should be kept in control. This figure 
of bridling the tongue (x a ^ lva 7 0) 7V aai ) , as already 
noted (1:26), is one of the most vivid figures in 
all languages. David said: "I will take heed to 
my ways, that I sin not with my tongue; I will 
keep my mouth with a bridle" (Psa. 39: 1). It 
is not merely that the tongue is so hard to put a 
bridle on (cf. the mouths of some horses), but also 
that the tongue has such an influence on the whole 
body (okov to oojfia), able thus to lead the body by 
the bridle (xaXivayuyrioai) } The horse has to follow 
his mouth, in which the bridle is placed. The pur- 
pose of the bridle is that the horses may obey us 
(elg rd neideodai avrovg rjfilv), and it is thoroughly suc- 
cessful as a rule. "We turn about their whole body 
also" (|U£Tdyo|uev) along with the mouth. So we 
should place bridles in our mouths for the deliberate 
purpose of controlling the tongue. It will not 
happen by accident. The very finest people, like 
blooded horses, are hardest to control. We are 
to repress the impulsive and petulant word. Thus 
we train our own tongues and make it easier to sub- 
due the other members of the body. One member 
cannot be allowed to lead the whole body into sin. 
Pluck it out, if it be the right eye or the right hand 
(Matt. 5: 29). The members of the body are all so 
related as to be affected by what the others ex- 
perience. "The eye cannot say to the hand, I 
have no need of thee" (1 Cor. 12:21). Without 

1 Cf . Hernias, Mand, 12. I. 


this bridle on the tongue there is no true self-control. 
A tongue loose at both ends means a man whom 
everyone shuns as a nuisance. If the bridle is good 
for the horse, it is far more so for the man. The 
difference is that the man has to put (fidXXa) the 
bridle into his own mouth and in his dual capacity 
as rider and horse master himself, the most un- 
manageable of steeds. A garrulous man is a bore 
at best, while a woman with a sharp tongue is a 
terror to the community. Tell no secrets to a talka- 
tive man, and few to anyone save your wife. A man 
who talks to hear himself talk will be sure to tell 
what he ought not to say. The writer of Hebrews 
refuses to go on with too many details about his 
heroes of faith, "for the time will fail me if I tell" 
(Heb. ii : 32), "time will leave me telling" (kmXetyei 
fie yap dt7)yovfievov) . If the audience held the bridle 
the preacher might stop sooner. The phonograph 
can be turned off at will, only so much "canned" 
talk at a time. And yet talk is one of the most 
delightful things in all the world. But there can be 
too much of a good thing, if, forsooth, it is good. 
There are few greater nuisances than the interrupter 
who breaks into a conversation with no regard for 
the courtesies of the occasion. He is as bad as the 
man who monopolizes the conversation and allows 
no one else to talk at all. He needs a stopper, not 
a bridle, in his mouth. 

5. The Rudder and the Ship. 3 : 4. 

With great wealth of imagination James proceeds 
to illustrate still further the power of the tongue 


over the rest of the body. The point is clear from 
the illustration of the bridle and the horse, but it is 
made still clearer by the other figures. The im- 
portance of the subject justifies this piling up of 
metaphors. "This combination of the horse's bridle 
and the ship's rudder as illustrative of the tongue is 
found" (Hort) in Philo and Plutarch. "The argu- 
ment is a fortiori from the horse to the man, and 
still more from the ship to the man, so that the 
whole forms a climax, the point being throughout 
the same, namely, the smallness of the part to be 
controlled in order to have control over the whole" 
(Plummer). The horse is an irrational creature and 
yet can be managed by the bridle. The ship has no 
mind at all and yet is moved "by a very small rudder" 
(vtto kXaxlorov TTi)daXiov) , l "turned about" (nerdyerai. 
Cf. fierdyofiev, verse 3), "whither the impulse of the 
steersman willeth" (onov 7/ opju?) rov evdevvovrog [iovXe- 
rot). The "impulse" may be like "the rush of 
water" (op^ vdarog) in Prov. 21:1 (LXX), which 
is there compared to the king's heart, for God 
"turneth it whithersoever he will," or like the rush 
or onset of the Gentiles and Jews to injure Paul in 
Iconium (Acts 14: 5). Here it is the gentle pressure 
or touch of the hand of the steersman (evdevvovrog, 
dirigentis, Vg.) who guides the ship on its course 
straight ahead, as he decides (jSovAerat, intention, 
purpose rather than mere will, diXei). 2 

1 Only here and Acts 27:40 in the N. T. It is from m/Mc, blade of 
an oar, perhaps kin to jrffa, ttovc. 'EIo.x'otov is the elative superla- 
tive (cf. Wisd. 14. 5). The Vulgate has a modico gubernaculo. 

2 Cf., however, the use of dfto in John 2:8 and 1 Pet. 3: 17. 


The complete mastery of the steersman over the 
ship is accented by the size of the ancient boats in 
comparison with horses. "Behold even the ships" 
(Idov icai rd TrXola), so probably we are to translate 
rather than by "also," which, "though they are so 
great" (rrj^iKavra ovra. Cf. 2 Cor. i : 10), are yet 
turned about by the impulse of the steersman, 
"even when they are being driven by rough winds" 
(«ot vtto avefiGiv oKXrjpibv eXawoneva), if here again we 
translate "even" instead of "also." One is re- 
minded of the boat in which Jesus and the disciples 
were crossing the Sea of Galilee "now in the midst 
of the sea, distressed by the waves" ((3aoavit;6fievov 
vnd Tuv Ki'udrov, Matt. 14:24). The "rough winds" 
{dvtfioi OKXqpoL Cf. Prov. 27:16, LXX), "stiff 
winds" (Moffatt), were particularly dangerous for 
the small (from our standpoint) ships of the an- 
cients. But the steersman could hold to his course 
even over a rough sea. The point of James about 
the size of the ships would apply with far more 
force to-day when modern leviathans of the deep, 
like the Lusitania and the Vaterland, plough the 
waters. There is now less peril from the stiff winds, 
but there is all the more ground for wonder that 
the tiny rudder can control at will the giant of the 
ocean. The steersman can drive the mighty mon- 
ster straight upon an iceberg and sink it in a few 
minutes, as in the crash of the Titanic. Great as 
the ship is, the silent forces of nature are still greater. 
Man has not yet mastered all the powers of nature. 
But the ship, blind to its fate, responded to the will 
of the steersman, who dashed against the iceberg. 


The lesson is only too obvious. One must watch 
the tongue if he is to avoid shipwreck. The tongue 
may dash the whole life in blind rage against God. 
The ship is one of the most beautiful of objects as it 
rides the waves in proud majesty. But more beau- 
tiful still is a life that is not marred by bad or bitter 
words. Plutarch (De Garrulitate, 10) says that 
speech beyond control is like a ship out at sea 
broken loose from its moorings. 

6. The Fire and the Forest. 3 : 5f. 

The power of the tongue over the body in general 
is shown by the bridle and the rudder. Now the 
power of the tongue for evil is specifically illustrated 
by the metaphor of fire. True, the tongue is a little 
member (plkqov fieXoc;), and yet (mi) it "boasteth 
great things" (fiey&Xa avx^l), 1 "can boast of great 
exploits" (Moffatt). It is not a mere empty boast 
that the tongue can make. It is hard to exaggerate 
the power of the tongue which is able to sway 
great multitudes for good or ill, to stir the wildest 
passions of man to uncontrollable fury or to exalt 
men to the highest emotions of their natures. The 
tongue can soothe the dying or damn the living. 
The tongue can sing like a songbird or growl like a 
lion. The tongue can speak words of tenderest love 
or of venomous hate. It can speak like a megaphone 
in trumpet tones or in a whisper almost inaudible 

1 A Theban epitaph (Kaibel, Epigrammata Graeca, 489 1 ) of the 
4th c. A. D. "has the very phrase" (Moulton and Milligan, Vo- 
cabulary of the N. T., 1914, p. 94) of James 3:5 bv fieyal' av]xfoaoa 
iraiyuf Qr)[P]n. Note the alliteration of /« in James. 


save to an eager ear. Plummer tells the story of 
Amasis, king of Egypt, who sent a sacrifice to Bias 
the sage with the request that he send back the 
best part and the worst. He sent back the tongue. 

James adds: "Behold, how much wood is kindled 
by how small a fire" (Idov tjXIkov nip 7\kiKt\v vXtjv avdn- 
rei), "what a forest (vXtjv, silvan, Vg.) is set ablaze 
by a little spark of fire" (Moffatt). 1 The figure is 
that of timber or woodland rather than a pile of 
wood. Mayor quotes Milton: "Into what pit thou 
seest from what height fallen." The inflammatory 
Oriental audience with the high pitch of voice, 
confusion of tongues, and wild gesticulation is aptly 
compared to a forest fire (Oesterley). 2 There is 
pathos in the dreadful forest fires that annually dev- 
astate our country. The damage each year amounts 
to several hundred millions of dollars, besides the 
injury to future generations in the loss of the bless- 
ings from the forests in many ways. In most 
instances these forest fires, which rage with un- 
controllable fury when the wind gets up, are due 
to accident or mischief. A spark from an engine, a 
cigarette thrown in the leaves or a burning match 
cast to one side by a hunter, a smouldering camp- 
fire, a shot from a gun — these and other like causes 

1 Note the double use of yhinoq for how little (quantillus) or how 
large (quantus). The context makes it clear. For the double ques- 
tion, see Mark 15:24. Jesus, in Luke 12:49, uses the word avanru 
about lighting the torch for his own sacrificial death. Cf. P. Giss. I. 
3. 8 (A. D. 117), dvovreg rag kariag avairrufxev (Moulton and Milligan, 
Vocabulary, p. 37). 

2 The Midr. Rabb. on Levit. (xiv. 2) xvi has quanta incendia 
lingua excitat (Mayor). 


explain most of these conflagrations. The situation 
is so serious that the national government has a 
fire patrol to guard the forest reserves. Once a 
prairie fire starts there is hardly any stopping it 
till it burns out. Mice and matches cause over 
twelve hundred fires each year in New York City. 
Only a start is needed, a start long enough to get 
beyond control, and we have the horrible holo- 
causts of Chicago, Baltimore, Boston, San Francisco. 
"A burning fire kindles many heaps of corn" (Sirach 
11:32). The scholiast on this verse adds: "There 
is nothing which more devastates the world than an 
evil tongue." Nero set fire to Rome to see the 
grandeur of the spectacle and he fiddled while the 
city burned. Similar irresponsibility is often seen in 
the reckless use of the tongue. 

So James adds: "And the tongue is a fire" (icai fj 
yXiboaa Trvp). See Prov. 16:27, "And in his lips 
there is a scorching fire." Cf. Sirach 28:21-23. 
"The effect is that of an underground flame, con- 
cealed for a while, then breaking out afresh" (Carr). 
Indeed, "the world of iniquity among our members 
is the tongue" (6 koo\io<; r-qq dSiKtag 7\ yX&ooa Kadiora- 
rai kv rolq \iz\eow t/juwv), "the tongue proves a very 
world of mischief among our members" (Moffatt). 
The tongue was made for good use, and in itself is 
good, but it has been prostituted to evil. So here 
the very word for "is" {Kadiararai. Cf. 4:4, "mak- 
eth himself") brings out this distinction. The tongue 
"is constituted" so, not is so by nature. So now we 
say that a man's tongue has run away with him. 
The tongue has made a career for itself, "the world 


(realm) of iniquity," "the unrighteous world" (Hort). 
It was made the best of members, but has run riot 
till it has become the personification of injustice 
(adaciag) and all sorts of wrong. The Vulgate has 
it here Universitas iniquitatis rather than mundus. 
One thinks of our use of "university" a world in 
itself for good or ill. Jesus spoke of "the mammon 
of unrighteousness," "the judge of unrighteousness." 
So the tongue represents the world of iniquity and 
has become "the chief channel of temptation from 
man to man" (Mayor). "They have set their 
mouth against the heavens, and their tongue walk- 
eth through the earth" (Psa. 73 : 9). This microcosm 
epitomizes the macrocosm of evil. Bengel has it a 
macrocosmo ad microcosmum. The evil wrought by 
the tongue ramifies through the whole of society 
and goes on and on in its deadly influence. 

It "defiles the whole body" (^ omXovaa oXov rd ooj^ia), 
"staining the whole of the body" (Moffatt). 1 The 
Vulgate has maculat. Jesus had said: "That which 
proceedeth out of the mouth, this defileth the man" 
(Matt. 15:11). At first James seems to overstate 
the matter, but modern science reenforces his point. 
It is now known that angry words cause the glands 
of the body to discharge a dangerous poison that 
affects the stomach, the heart, the brain. The effect 
is usually temporary, but sometimes fatal. It is 
literally true that such choler defiles the whole 
body. Hate has the same effect. The chameleon 

1 Cf. Jude 23, iorrtfajfitvov. Cf. also James 1 :2J, iomtov, and 2 Pet. 
2: 13, (nriXot nal fiu/uoi.. One thinks of the smoke and soot of slander 
besmirching all that it touches. 


changes color according to its emotions and en- 
vironment. The tongue not only commits evil by 
lying, by defending sin, and by leading to sin, but 
it leaves a deadly stain in the very body and soul 
of the one who misuses it. "It is the palmary in- 
stance of the principle that the best when perverted 
becomes the worst — corruptio optimi fit pessima" 
(Plummer) . 
The tongue "setteth on fire the wheel of nature" 

(<pXoy'i£ovoa tov rgoxov r% yeveoeog) , "setting fire to 

the round circle of existence" (Moffatt), "the whole 
circle of innate passions" (Oesterley), "the wheel of 
man's creation" (Hort, who adds "one of the hardest 
phrases in the Bible"), "the wheel of birth" like 
the Orphic mysteries (P. Gardner), "sets the whole 
creation in flames" (Johnstone). Perhaps the idea 
is that the tongue at the center (hub) of the wheel 
of nature sets on fire the rest of the wheel. One 
sees just this thing happen in a pyrotechnic display 
where a wheel is set on fire in the center. The more 
it burns the faster it revolves, till the whole wheel 
whirls in a blaze of fire, spitting fire as it whirls, 
regular spit-fire. Certainly, the tongue can set fire 
to all the baser passions in the wheel of life, such as 
envy, jealousy, faction, anger, avarice, lust, murder. 
This fire spreads, not simply through the whole man, 
but may infect "various channels and classes till the 
whole cycle of human life is in flames" (Plummer). 

It is not surprising that James adds: "and is set on 
fire by hell" {^>Xoyi^o\ikvi] vrrd rye; yeevvyg), "with a flame 
fed by hell" (Moffatt), inflammata a gehenna (Vul- 
gate). It is the devil, the slanderer (6 dedfiokos) par 


excellence, who sets on fire "the chariot-wheel of man 
as he advances on the way of life" (Hort). It is first 
inflamed by hell {yeewa, not adr^g ; place of the wicked, 
not the unseen world for all) and then inflames all 
the wheel of nature. The torch is lighted in hell, 
and the hellish flame kindles the tongue, which in 
turn sets fire to the whole nature. Thus the fire 
was started and is habitually replenished (note tense 
of 4>X(yyi^ofiev7j) . The Valley of Hinnom (</>dpayf 'Evvop) 
or Tophet was first just the type of the abode of the 
wicked, and then the continual fires there kept 
burning were transferred to the next world. Cf. "the 
fire of Gehenna" (Matt. 5: 22). But one must not 
forget that, while the tongue can be set on fire of 
hell, it can also be touched by a live coal from God's 
altar. "Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am 
a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a 
people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the 
King, Jehovah of hosts. Then flew one of the 
seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, 
which he had taken with the tongs from off the 
altar; and he touched my mouth with it, and said, 
Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is 
taken away, and thy sin forgiven" (Isa. 6:5-7). 
Let us gain comfort from the experience of Isaiah 
in the contemplation of the solemn warning of 
James. One may note also that tongues as of fire 
sat on the heads of those who were filled with the 
Holy Spirit on the great Day of Pentecost. The 
tongue can be set on fire of heaven and can pass 
on the holy fire of God from soul to soul, thus light- 
ing the light of God in the human life. 


7. Taming of Wild Beasts. 3 : 7L 

James recurs to the beasts (cf. horse and bridle) 
for a broader discussion. The tongue is unbridled 
all too often and is the most unmanageable of wild 
animals. He had just said that the tongue is set 
on fire of hell. "The fact that the tongue is the one 
thing that defies man's power to control it is a sign 
that there is something satanic in its bitterness" 
(Mayor). He uses the language of Oriental exag- 
geration in giving further proof of his strong state- 
ment, a justifiable hyperbole: "For every kind of 
beasts and birds (naoa yap (j>vaig dyp'Mv re icai Trereivtiv) , x 
of creeping things and things in the sea (epneribv re 
ml kvaXiojv), 2 is tamed, and hath been tamed (6a[j,d^- 
erat, icai deddfiaoTat) 3 by mankind (ry (pvoet ry dvdpcj. 

Trivq." 4 "The art of taming is no new thing, but has 
belonged to the human race from the first" (Mayor). 
It is perhaps not strictly true that every conceivable 
animal has been subjected by man, but no one in the 
light of the past and the present can say that any 
animal is untamable. It is now a common enough 
thing to see in a wild animal show, performing 
tigers, leopards, lions, elephants, monkeys, dogs, 
horses, parrots, seals, bears, and even serpents. It 
is not merely that wild animals may be domesti- 

1 Note the pleonastic force of tyvciq like natura. Note also the 
pairs (re /cat). The word dr/pia may include insects like bees. 

2 Cf . Vulgate ser pentium et ceterorum. Note the list in Gen. 1:26; 
9:2; 1 Kings 4:33. 

3 Note change of tense, first durative or linear, then state of 

4 Note use of tyvoiq again and repetition of the article to single 
out the adjective in contrast with the tyvuq of beasts. 


cated (cf. the wolf and the dog), like the zebra and 
the wild turkey (America's contribution to the 
world's barnyard), but they may be taught to do 
acts and tricks that show rudimentary reasoning 
powers. The eye of man can subdue the lion, the 
tiger, the serpent as Jesus subdued the untamable 
demoniac (Mark 5:4), "and no man had strength 
to tame him" (/cat ovdeig loxvaev avrdv dan&oai), Man 
has proved his kingship over the other creatures as 
God gave him dominion (Gen. 1:26). In many 
cases animals have become so domesticated that 
they feel no longer at home elsewhere. Man is 
proud of his lordship over beast and bird and over 
the forces of nature, like wind and wave and elec- 
tricity. Man can swim like a fish (for a little while), 
can run like a deer (for a bit), and can now even fly 
like a bird in the aeroplane with its artificial wings. 
He can talk without wires over thousands of miles 
with unseen persons. He can speed over land and 
sea like the wind. He can send a message around 
the earth with the swiftness of the light. 

But he cannot control his own tongue. "But the 
tongue no man can tame" (ttjv Si ykibaoav ovdei$ Sa\ia- 
aai dvvarcu avdpuTruv) . Here is the language of help- 
lessness, as in the case of the demoniac in Mark 
5:4. Strictly speaking, of course, the tongue is 
merely the organ of speech and speech is under the 
control of the mind. By a bold figure James almost 
personifies the tongue as a separate personality. "It 
combines the ferocity of the tiger and the mockery 
of the ape with the subtlety and venom of the ser- 
pent" (Plummer). It is thus the very chimaera of 


wild beasts ! This is the picture of the tongue in its 
natural state, the tongue of the unregenerate man. 
The Spirit of God can cleanse a man's mouth of 
profanity and unclean speech. "Keep thy tongue 
from evil and thy lips from speaking guile" (Psa. 
34: 13). Paul puts up the bars: "No filthiness, nor 
foolish talking, or jesting, which are not befitting" 
(Eph. 5:4). Once more he says: "Let no corrupt 
speech proceed out of your mouth" (4: 29). Surely, 
if one has such an untamable little animal in his 
mouth as the tongue, he needs to watch it with 
ceaseless care. The evil of the tongue echoes and 
reechoes through a community and often through the 
ages. The evil slander can never be stopped. The 
lie is fleet of foot and eludes truth in a race. 

"It is a restless evil" (aKaraoTarov kclkov), "piague 
of disorder that it is" ( Moffat t), "a disorderly 
evil" (Hort), iniquitum malum (Vulgate). It is un- 
stable and unreliable, inconsistent and quixotic. It 
can never be trusted to the full. It will turn on one 
when off guard like the lion when the keeper turns his 
eye away. It can be brought under no rules that will 

"It is full of deadly poison" (iiearr) lov 0avaTrj<p6pov) . 
It is "death-bringing" {davarrjcpogov, mortifero) 1 poison 
{lov) like the poison of asps under their lips (log donidov 
imb rd xzilr\ avT&v), Psa. 140: 3. "Their poison is like 
the poison of a serpent ; they are like the deaf adder 
that stoppeth her ear" (Psa. 58: 4). The poison of 
the serpent is deposited in a little pocket under the 

1 Cf. LXX, Job 33:23; 4 Mace. 8:17 for the word davarq^poc^ 
Common in Plato and Xenophon. 


mouth. So the tongue is charged with the venom of 
hate as the serpent with poison. The hiss of the 
serpent and the hiss of the goose are often repro- 
duced in the sibilant tongue of slander. 

8. Sweet and Bitter Water. 3 : 9-1 1. 

The inconsistency of the conduct of the tongue is 
graphically portrayed by these verses. Plummer 
happily terms it "the moral contradictions of the 
reckless talker." There is in very truth moral chaos 
if the Christian does not control his tongue. Incon- 
sistency is not an evil per se. If one is wrong he 
ought to be inconsistent enough to change and do 
right. But it is terrible to see a professing Christian 
lightly lapse into loose ancWicentious language. "The 
fires of Pentecost will not rest where the fires of 
Gehenna are working" (Plummer). James had 
spoken (1:8) of the double-minded man (dtyvxog), 
unstable (atcaTdoTaTog) in all his ways. The tongue 
with the gift of double entendre is one of the very 
worst, a word that passes muster in polite circles 
and yet carries to the initiated a sinister or salacious 
meaning. Epictetus (Ench. xxxiii, § 16) says: "But 
dangerous also is the approach to indecent speak- 
ing." But the double tongue (fc-yXuooog) that talks 
one way with one person, another with another, is 
utterly unreliable, the mark of double dealing, hy- 
pocrisy, the slick-tongue, the oily tongue of the two- 
faced man, whose word cannot be depended upon, 
whose word is not as good as his bond. Sirach 
(5:13) says: "Honor and shame are in talk; and 
the tongue of man is his fall." He also (28: 12) has 


this: "If thou blow the spark, it shall burn; if thou 
spit upon it, it shall be quenched; and both these 
come out of thy mouth." It looks as if James had 
seen this passage from the Twelve Patriarchs (Ben- 
jamin 6:5): "The good mind hath not two tongues 
(6vo yXuooac), of blessing and of cursing (evXoylag mi 
Karagaq), of contumely and of honour, of sorrow and 
of joy, of quietness and of confusion, of hypocrisy 
and of truth." We may omit the inconsistency of 
"sorrow and of joy," for that is the lot of all of us, 
but certainly the tongue must not play the part of 
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. "Therewith bless we the 
Lord and Father" (kv avrxj svXoyovfiev rov kvqiov nai 
Trarepa), 1 the only instance of this precise combina- 
tion of words in the Bible, expressing God's power 
and loving approachableness (cf. Matt. 11:25). The 
highest function of human speech (Hort) is the 
praise of God the Father. Note how when Zacharias 
recovered his speech he first praised God (Luke 1 : 
64, kX&Xei evXoyuv rov deov). It is glorious to praise 
God in prayer, in song, in sermon. "O Lord, open 
thou my lips; and my mouth shall show forth thy 
praise" (Psa. 51: 15). "Praise ye Jehovah. Praise 
Jehovah, O my soul. While I live will I praise 
Jehovah: I will sing praises unto my God while I 
have any being" (Psa. 146: if.) 

So far so good. "Bless and curse not" (evAoyeire 
ml [xi] narapdode, Rom. 12: 13). Curse not God in 
anger nor in flippant profanity. The tongue that 
praises God surely will not profane his name. But 

1 Note the instrumental use of iv, as in LXX and koivtj else- 

curse not men "who are made after the likeness of 

God" (rovg Kad' bfio'MOiv deov yeyovorag) , those who are 
like God in their moral and spiritual nature and not 
like the beasts of the field (Gen. i : 26; 2 Cor. 3 : 18). 
And yet, horribile dictu, this is precisely what we do. 
"Therewith curse we men" (tv avry Karapoifitda) . 
James here includes himself in the common run of 
humanity. The tongue exercises this strange power 
of running away with us like a runaway horse with 
the bit in his mouth. The scorn of men for men is 
seen in John 7 : 49 in the sneer of the Pharisees at 
the mob: "This multitude that knoweth not the 
law are accursed" (endparoi). It is most likely, 
however, personal abuse that James here refers to. 
Men who are made in God's image are abused by 
the very tongue that blesses God. We curse other 
children of our common Father, God. James does 
not mean even by implication to approve cursing at 
all. Far from it. It is the wicked man whose 
"mouth is full of cursing" (Psa. 10: 7). If we do not 
love our brother, we do not love God (1 John 4: 20). 
And yet "out of the same mouth cometh forth 
blessing and cursing" (etc rov avrov ardfiaTog eijepxerai 
evXoyia itai Kardpa). We make our tongue a sort of 
combination of Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim. 
"My brethren, these things ought not so to be" (ov 

XP^l, adeX<poi jxov, ravra ovtu>^ yeveadai), 1 a mild state- 
ment all the more effective from its very temperate- 

The point is easy to illustrate. "Doth the foun- 

1 The only instance of Xf*h in the N. T. Elsewhere iel. But note 
Prov. 25:27. It is weaker than Sei (necessity). 


tain (py « % TTijyrj) 1 send forth (/3pv«) 2 from the same 
opening (e« rijg birffg) 3 sweet water and bitter (to yXv- 
kv Kal rb nucpov)?" James was familiar with the 
brackish waters of parts of Palestine. The water of 
the Dead Sea is really bitter (niKg&v), though fed by 
the snows of Hermon and the sweet (yXvicv) springs 
of the Jordan Valley. The waters of Marah were 
bitter (Exod. 15: 23), and one may recall "the water 
of bitterness that causeth the curse" (Num. 5: 18, 
23). See also Rev. 8:11 for the waters that were 
made bitter. Pliny (N. H. ii. 103) tells a fable of a 
fountain of the sun that "was sweet and cold at 
noon and bitter and hot at midnight" (Mayor). It 
is possible to sweeten water, as we see in the great 
filtering plants in our modern cities. Yes, and 
sweet water can become bitter. But water is not 
sweet and bitter at the same time from the same 
fountain. You have sweet water on Hermon and 
salt water in the Dead Sea (also called the Salt Sea) , 
but not both in the same place. 

9. The Vine and the Fig Tree. 3: 12. 

James has not only a new image here, but also a 
new point of view (Hort). He has, in 9-1 1, shown 
the inconsistency of two kinds of speech from the 
same tongue. Now he goes deeper to the heart 
behind the utterance. The comparison is here made 
between the heart and its utterance (tongue). The 

1 fit n expects the answer "No." Tlvyv is fons. 
1 Used chiefly of the budding of plants, but also of the bubbling of 
water, gurgling up. 
1 bnJ} is the cleft in the rock out of which the water bursts (fipvei). 


grape and the fig are the commonest fruits in Pales- 
tine. "Each tree is known by its fruit" (Luke 6 : 44). 
Yes, and Jesus had just said (6:43): "For there is 
no good tree that bringeth forth corrupt fruit; nor 
again a corrupt tree that bringeth forth good fruit." 
It is not uncommon to find the point made some- 
what as James has it. So Epictetus (Diss. ii. 20): 
"How can a vine grow, not vinewise, but olivewise, 
or an olive, on the other hand, not olivewise, but 
vinewise? (^ kXautcjs dXX' dpreAt/cws';). 1 So Jesus: 
"Either make the tree good and its fruit good; or 
make the tree corrupt and its fruit corrupt" (Matt. 
12:33). Once more hear Jesus: "Do men gather 
grapes of thorns or figs of thistles?" (Matt. 7: 16). 
It is the appeal to life. 

It has been charged that James exaggerates the 
evil of the tongue, but one who knows life as it is 
must agree with James. Sirach says: "Curse the 
whisperer and the double-tongued (dioori), for such 
have destroyed many that were at peace" (28: 13). 
Plummer quotes also a clause from the Syriac that is 
not in the Greek: "Also the third tongue, let it be 
cursed; for it has laid low many corpses." Sirach 
(28: 14L) continues: "A third (or backbiting) tongue 
hath unsettled many, and driven them from nation 
to nation; and strong cities hath it pulled down, 
and overthrown houses of great men. A back- 
biting tongue hath cast out capable women, and 
deprived them of their labors." The "third tongue" 
injures three classes (Plummer): the person who 

1 Seneca (Ep. XIII. 2. 25) says: Non nascitur itaque ex malo 
bonum, non magis quam ficus ex olea. 


utters the slander, the one who listens, and the one 
of whom the slander is told. It is a triple sin and 
only sin. "No more can salt water yield fresh" 
(ovre aXvKbv yXvuv noifjaai vdup), James adds, and his 
conclusion falls with the force of a trip-hammer. 
The crisp wisdom of James about the tongue makes 
one wonder afresh if his mother had not taught 
him some of these aphorisms as a child. 


The True Wise Man. 3: 13-18 

The connection between this paragraph about 
wisdom and the preceding discussion of the perils 
of the tongue is very close. James is still thinking 
of the men who supposed that they had true faith, 
but who did not practice it, "men who supposed 
that they had a deeper wisdom and a larger knowl- 
edge than their brethren, and who were continually 
asserting their claim to be teachers" (Dale). But 
Hort considers the passage on the tongue a "long 
digression," a view hardly tenable. These am- 
bitious teachers had overlooked the havoc wrought 
by tongue (and pen). James has given a needed 
warning about that phase of the subject and now 
turns to the subject matter itself. The ambitious 
teacher will do all the more harm if he is not merely 
a bungler of real wisdom, but a disseminator of false 
wisdom. Already the air was full of all sorts of 
fads and fancies that appealed to the unthinking 
and the unwary. The Essenes, the Pharisees, the 
Sadducees, the Epicureans, the Stoics, the Mithraists, 
the Gnostics, the Judaizers, the Cult of Emperor 
Worship, with more or less distinctness were clamor- 
ous for a hearing. There were professional Sophists, 
who traveled over the country with patent solutions 
of all problems. Some appealed to the nervous or 
the neurotic, like "Christian Science" to-day; others 



to the ignorant, like Russellism or Mormonism. 
Paul will later discuss both speech and wisdom "as 
good things liable to grievous abuse" (Hort) in 
1 Cor. 1:5, 17; 2 and 3. 

1. The Call for the Wise Man. 3: 13a. 

"Who is wise and understanding among you?" 
(rig ao(pdg Kot emorrmov kv vfilv y ). The question does 
not mean that nobody is wise and understanding, 
but it calls a halt on the rush of volunteers who 
have apparently a superfluity of wisdom. An over- 
plus of conceit is intolerable for normal persons. 
Job (12:2) has our sympathy when he retorts to his 
officious advisers: "No doubt but ye are the people 
and wisdom will die with you." Once more Job 
(28: 12) asks: "But where shall wisdom be found? 
And where is the place of understanding?" Here, as 
very often in the Old Testament, we have wisdom 
and understanding used together. God gave Solo- 
mon wisdom and understanding (1 Kings 4:29). 
"Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wis- 
dom, and get understanding" (Prov. 4:7). In Psa. 
107:43 we have the question: "Who is wise?" (rig 
oo<pog$. James is thoroughly acquainted with the 
wisdom literature of the Jews, both canonical and 
uncanonical, and is at home in the handling of this 
theme. His words are not many, but they carry 
much of depth and power. 

Many of the professional wise men, then as now, 
were frauds who easily duped the gullible populace. 
They were magicians like Simon Magus, who gave 
it out that he was some great man, and the idle 


crowd took him at his high estimate of himself (Acts 
8: off.). Note also the case of Barjesus (Acts 13: 
8ff.) and the Jewish exorcists (19: i3ff.). Tne suc_ 
cess of these men is one of the most humiliating 
contemplations about our common humanity. Car- 
lyle bluntly called most people fools. But there 
were really wise men then also, like the Magi and 
others, who sought light and truth. Oesterley thinks 
that James by this question appeals to the self- 
respect of his hearers, who are tired of men with 
"the lust of teaching and talking" (Plummer). 
James is still directing blows at sham religion, and 
there is ample cause for such attacks in all the ages. 
Hypocrisy flourishes in all ages and in all climes. 
It has a marvellous vitality, this meanest of para- 

The combination of "wise" (ooQog) and "under- 
standing" (kwrn/fwov) is not without point (cf. Deut. 
4:6; Isa. 5.21). This is the only instance of the com- 
bination in the New Testament. In classic Greek 
the second word was used of a skilled or scientific 
person who had gained technical knowledge of a 
subject. It implies personal acquaintance and ex- 
perience, not mere abstract knowledge or intellectual 
apprehension of the theory of a thing. It is book- 
learning plus practical application as opposed to one 
without this special training. Then the word for 
wise is given by Clement of Alexandria (Strom. I. v.) 
to mean "the understanding of things human and 
divine, and their causes." It is the word found in the 
term "philosophy" and implies thoughtfulness, pene- 
tration, grasp of the relations of things, and the right 


use of one's knowledge for the highest ends. 1 There 
are, forsooth, learned fools, men who have a lumber 
of learning in their heads, but in a disorderly jumble. 
In the use of James the only really wise man is he 
who places God in the center of his life, who serves 
Christ as Lord and Master, who keeps the intellect 
in subjection to the will of God. There are plenty 
of ignorant fools also, men who have neither intel- 
lectual apprehension nor practical wisdom. It is 
hard to tell which is the sadder spectacle, the learned 
fool or the ignorant fool. But certainly a premium 
is not to be placed upon either class. Both classes 
of fools are to be kept out of the ranks of teachers 
and preachers if it can be done. Advice on all sorts 
of subjects is so plentiful that there seems to be an 
abundance of easygoing wisdom. But the world is 
still eager to listen to the True Wise Man if he can 
be found (cf. Van Dyke's "Other Wise Man"). But 
the very reputation for wisdom may lead to posing 
as a wise man. James dares to challenge the candi- 
dates for teachers of wisdom in the churches. Is it 
not possible that not enough care is taken in the 
choice of teachers in the churches and the ordination 
of preachers of the gospel? 

2. The Proof of the Wise Man. 3 : 13b. 

Wisdom is not a matter for mere technical in- 
quiry. One has to stand an examination on wisdom; 
but it is that of life, unwritten and written; that of 
deeds, not of words. "Let him show by his good 

1 2o(j>ia ranks highest of all the words for intellectual attainment 
or endowment (yvwffif, irriyvuoig, kncar^fi^, avveaic, ^povr/aic). 


life his works in meekness of. wisdom" (deify™ kit t^ 
KaX^ avaoTpocprjs to epya avrov ev -npavTqrL oo<piag). This 

test of the wise man is put in a peculiarly Jacobean 
style. The very position of the word "show" is 
emphatic, the first word in the sentence. If one 
may use the vernacular, we are all "from Missouri" 
and "have to be shown" when it comes to each 
other's wisdom. The test is the acid test of deeds, 
not words. We may quibble over words and talk 
like a wise man, but time will prove our words by 
our deeds. One may speak like a wise man and in 
reality be the biggest sort of a fool, yea, of a scoun- 
drel. People have learned to discount mere talk 
when it stands alone. Just being a preacher is not 
enough. One must practise what he preaches. The 
Roman Catholic doctrine relieves the priest from 
the obligation to live the morality which he preaches, 
but surely that is a travesty on the ethics of Chris- 
tianity. It is false ethics and false religion. People 
have a right to hold the preacher to the standard 
of the gospel, just as he has the right to urge upon 
them the highest ideals of conduct. There is a 
wonderful levelling process going on all the time. 
Lincoln said with rare wisdom that a man may fool 
all the people part of the time, and some of the 
people all the time, but not all the people all the 

The greatest asset that the preacher has, after all, 
is his life, a long life of piety and consecration. 
There is no answering that argument, "by his good 
life his works." This is the only proof that counts 
in the long run. The King James Version has 


here "good conversation" (e« t% mXrig dvaorpo^rig) , 
which was good old English (conversatio, conver- 
sari), originally one's conduct or bearing (turn- 
ing oneself about, the precise idea in the Greek 
word). 1 But long ago the English confined the word 
to talk, perhaps because some people did little else 
but talk. But the quaint old English must give 
way to the modern preciseness of speech. It is the 
beautiful (naXog) manner of life that speaks the 
language of business to-day, the flower of a white 
life that adorns the profession of the service of 
Christ. But even so, it must be behaviour that is 
sincere, that finds expression in acts (epya), not 
mere external mannerisms, posing, attitudinizing, 
stage-effect. Nothing is more repulsive than pro- 
fessional pietists who attract attention to themselves 
rather than to Christ the Lord. It is a case pre- 
eminently where actions speak louder than words 
and where words alone do more harm than good. 
Bengel puts it tersely: re potius quam verbis. In 
simple truth the more a man says in claim of su- 
perior wisdom the less he is credited with the pos- 
session of any wisdom. 

But it is not merely a case of deeds versus words, 
but also of "gentleness and modesty versus arrogance 
and passion" (Mayor), "in meekness of wisdom" 
(«v TtpavTTjTi oo(f>iag), "with the modesty of wisdom" 
(Moffatt). Meekness was not ranked high among 

1 Epictetus (Bk. I, chap, vii, § 2) has it avaoTpoQijv ryv (iv) avry 
nadliKovcav. Moulton (Vocabulary, p. 38) notes the absence of the 
word in this sense in the papyri, though the verb avaorpfycodat is 
common. The substantive is frequent in the inscriptions. 


the Greeks. Aristotle (Eth. Nic. IV. v.) considered 
it a second-rate virtue, "the mean between pas- 
sionateness and impassionateness" (Plummer) . Epic- 
tetus (Bk. II, chap, i, ch. 36) says: "But think 
that thou art nobody and that thou knowest noth- 
ing." The Christian conception rests upon the idea 
in the Psalms, where meekness is a favorite trait of 
the devout. "The meek will he guide in judgment; 
and the meek will he teach his way" (25:9). "The 
Lord upholdeth the meek" (147:6). In Sirach 
(3:18) we read: "The greater you are, the more 
you humble yourself" (oo<p \ieyas el, tooovtu raneivov 
oeavrov). But there is no word comparable to that 
of Jesus, who said of himself: "I am meek and lowly 
in heart" (Matt. 11:29, irgavg elfii icai raneivog ry 
mpdia) in his plea for men to come to him as teacher. 
It is an essential prerequisite in the teacher, else he 
is unapproachable and is aloof and cold. Jesus pro- 
nounced a beatitude on the meek (Matt. 5:5), but 
he did more : he exemplified meekness in his life. 

By meekness James does not mean effeminacy or 
weakness (any more than Jesus). He does mean 
the absence of pretentiousness and wilfulness. 
Peter (1 Pet. 3: 15) uses the expression "with meek- 
ness and fear" for the spirit with which one is to 
defend the faith, the "reason for the hope that is in 
you." There can be firmness and courage without 
bumptiousness and bigotry. There are frequent ex- 
hortations in the New Testament along this line 
(cf. Gal. 6: 1 ; 2 Tim. 2 : 24; 1 Cor. 4: 21). The wise 
man wears the crown of modesty. This spiritual 
paradox seems absurd to the merely worldly wise. 


3. The Disproof of the Wise Man. 3 : 14. 

"The possession of wisdom was made a claim to 
teachership" (Hort). So the absence of wisdom is a 
positive disqualification. One may, no doubt, possess 
wisdom and yet not be able to teach. But the lack 
of wisdom is itself a sufficient bar. The wrong spirit 
shows the lack of wisdom. "But if ye have bitter 
jealousy and faction in your heart" (el 6e ZfiXov 
ttikqov e^ere icai igidiav ev ry Kagdla Vjuwv), what then? 
There were many controversialists who had both of 
these vices. Jealousy (tfit-og) is not evil per se. 
It wavers between the good and evil sense and in 
itself is merely zeal «&o, to boil), which may be for 
good or ill. For the good use see 2 Cor. 11:2; Gal. 
1: 14). Sometimes this zeal was not according to 
knowledge (Rom. 10: 2). Envy ((pdovog) is distin- 
guished from zeal (emulation) by Aristotle (Rhet. 
ii. 11. 1). But in the New Testament the bad sense 
of this word prevails (James 4:3; 1 Cor. 2,' 3', Gal. 
5:20; Rom. 13 : 13) and it is listed with the works of 
the flesh. The bitterness (micpov) of jealousy is only 
too well understood by those who give way to this 
petty vice. It tastes bitter and the taste lasts a 
long time. Bitterness is itself punishment enough 
for the victims of the sin (Eph. 4:31). The other 
word, "faction" or "party spirit" (epidia), has an 
uncertain etymology, probably from the word for 
"hireling" (epidog). At any rate, the word is soon 
applied to partisans who court and bribe adherents 
to their candidate. It presents the very quintessence 
of partisanship and of narrow-mindedness. This is 
not a mark of wisdom and is not a thing to boast of 


at any rate. "Glory not" (jii) KaraKavxdade) about it, 
"do not pride yourselves on that" (Moffatt). And 
yet this is precisely what many of the Jewish Chris- 
tians were doing already. Thus they lied against 
the truth, were "false to the truth," as Moffatt has 
it (ipevdeode Kara 1-775- dXrjdeiag) . Such partisan triumph 
is usually obtained by underhand methods and by 
the suppression of part of the truth. There is such 
a thing as "poisoned truth," truth with poison in it. 
So partisan victory often leaves a bitter sting be- 
cause those in defeat know that an unfair advantage 
has been taken of them and of the truth of God. 

It is clear that these opening chapters in the 
Epistle of James reveal a pitiful condition of con- 
troversy among some of the Jewish churches, such 
as Paul has to rebuke in Corinth later (cf. 1 Cor. 
1 to 4). "The whole Christianity of many a dev- 
otee consists only, we may say, in a bitter contempt 
for the sins of sinners, in a proud and loveless con- 
tention with what it calls the wicked world" (Stier). 
The point of James is precisely this. The very con- 
tentiousness which they regarded as supreme proof 
of their qualifications as exponents of the faith is 
here urged by James as absolute proof that they are 
disqualified for the position of teachers. Their bit- 
terness makes it improper for them to talk about love 
and gentleness. Sometimes the very fierceness of 
one's contention for orthodoxy drives some people 
into heresy. It is a sad outcome when one's high 
and holy ambition to teach the things of Christ is 
frustrated by a Christless spirit of wrangling and 
personal abuse. 


4. The Wisdom from Below. 3: 15L 

Wisdom, forsooth, is precisely what we all need 
and desire, but the bitter self-seeking partisans just 
described "do not cherish the truth except as a pos- 
session of their own, or a missile of their own" (Hort). 
"This wisdom" (avrrj i\ aocpia), that claimed by the 
pompous bigots in verse 14, can only be so described 
in terms of courtesy or, more exactly, of irony. It 
is only wisdom so-called and is real folly. It is 
at best worldly wisdom, "earthly" (kmyeiog) , not 
merely in the sense of taking place on earth rather 
than in heaven (John 3: 12), but with the earthly 
horizon and outlook as opposed to the heavenly 
(enovpdvi og) , like those who mind earthly things 
(ja kmyeia (ppovovvreg , Phil. 3: 19). Such a wisdom 
passes for "the wisdom of this world" (^ oofyia tov 
Koofiov tovtov, i Cor. 1: 20; 3: 19), |}ut is distinctly 
not "God's wisdom," "a wisdom not of this world" 
(1 Cor. 2:6f.). "This wisdom" is not merely 
"earthly," but does not come down from above 
(ovk eonv avTTj i] aocpla dvudev KaTEpxofJ-Evri) » more ex- 
actly "is not of a kind that cometh down" - (Hort), 
not such a wisdom, indeed, as God gives (James 
1: 5). 1 It has the smell of earth in the evil sense 
of that term. It is not from above, but in reality 
from below. Jesus said to the Pharisees: "Ye are 
from beneath ; I am from above : ye are of this world ; 
I am not of this world" ('T^Eig ek t&v kcLto lark, eyco 
ek tu)v dvcj elfii ■ v/ielc; ek tovtov tov itoofiov eote, sy<o ovk 
slfil ek tov k6g\lov tovtov. John 8: 23). The antithe- 
sis is complete both in origin and spirit. The axioms 

1 It is terrena, not coelestis. 


of the selfish, like "Look out for 'Number One,' " 
are the wisdom of the devil: "All that a man hath 
will he give for his life" (Job 2:4). 

This selfish wisdom is merely that of the "natural 
man" (tpvxiKij) , not a mark of the regenerate spirit. 
There is no single English word that properly 
renders this word. "Psychic" transliterates it, but 
does not translate it. "Sensual" makes it too much 
a matter of the body, as does "fleshly," like the 
Vulgate animalis. It does not appear in the Septua- 
gint and only six times in the New Testament 
(James 3:15; Jude 19; 1 Cor. 2:19; i5:44 bis > 46). 
The broad distinction between soul and body or 
mind and body (dichotomy) is not so hard to grasp, 
but the threefold division (trichotomy) into spirit, 
soul, and body (-nvev^a, -tyvxr\, ou)fj.a), as in 1 Thess. 
5 : 23, seems to place the psuche below the pneutna. 1 
It seems clear from 1 Cor. 2: 14 that "the spiritual 
man" (6 TTvevnaTatdg) is the regenerate man, while 
"the natural man" (6 rfjvxatog) is the unregenerate 
man, in his unsaved state of sin. So here, therefore, 
this earthly wisdom is that of the unregenerate 
man; it is not sanctified wisdom. He may not be 
"carnal" (oaput ko<; ) , not the slave of the animal pas- 
sions, but merely coldly unspiritual. Such a wisdom 
does not reach the higher levels of the man's nature. 

But it is still worse. Such a wisdom is "demonia- 
cal" (Saifioviudiis) , "devilish" (diabolica, Vulgate), "in 
that it raised up the very devil in the hearts of both 

1 Cf . Jude 19, 4>vxmoi, nvrv/ia fiij ixovreg. See also I Cor. 15:45 
for distinction between irvtvpa and fvxv, and between irvevfiaTtudv and 



opposer and opposed" (Oesterley). It is wisdom 
such as that which demons have (Bengel), not such 
as God gives (1:5). It is the wisdom of those who 
do the will of the flesh (Eph. 2 : 2f.), who follow the 
teaching of demons (1 Tim. 4:1). One is reminded 
of the words of Jesus in John 8 : 44 : "Ye are of your 
father the devil." "Thus the wisdom shared by 
demons answers to the faith shared by demons of 
2: 19" (Hort), the tongue set on fire by hell (3:6). 
It is indeed a keen knowledge of human nature that 
James here reveals, but it is a sad indictment all the 
same. It reads like nature in the rough, red in tooth 
and claw, the law of the jungle, not the law of grace. 
It is Nietzsche's superman, not the love that serves, 
that came to minister, not to be ministered unto. 
The might of right is not understood by those who 
hold that might is right. There is a New Paganism 
to-day in Berlin, in Paris, in London, in New York. 
It is very subtle and very scornful of the pity of 
Jesus. Red blood is a good thing, to be sure, so be 
it that it courses through a clean heart. The sur- 
vival of the fittest is the law of nature, but fittest 
for what? The law of the wolves is to turn and 
devour the wolf that falls in the chase. The philoso- 
phy of Nietzsche is a bit more brutal in its plainness 
of speech than the wisdom of the world usually puts 
it. But even so, its demoniacal character stands out 
more sharply. "I want"; therefore "I have the 
right to get." This is the policy of aggression on 
the part of nations and individuals, of rogues and 
rapists, of grafters and white-slavers, of bank-looters 
and oppressors of labor. 


The further comment of James elucidates his 
point: "For where jealousy and faction are (cf. verse 
14), there is confusion and every vile deed" (e«« 

dKaraoraoia kuX rcdv <pai>Xov npaypa) . Jealousy and fac- 
tion come from the devil. He sows suspicion in the 
churches, in the midst of families, in the hearts of 
those who let him in. James had already (3 : 8) 
accused the tongue of being a restless evil and (1:8) 
had spoken of the unstable man. God is not the 
God of confusion, but of peace (1 Cor. 14:33), so 
that the factions in the churches cannot claim God 
as supporting them any more than nations at war 
have the right to make flippant claims that God is 
on their side in a conflict. Oesterley has a fine 
description of the spirit of the professional contro- 
versialist: "Acute argument, subtle distinctions, 
clever controversial methods which took small ac- 
count of truth so long as a temporary point was 
gained, skilful dialectics, bitter sarcasms, the more 
enjoyed and triumphed in if the poisonous shaft 
came home and rankled in the breast of the op- 
ponent — in short, all those tricks of the unscru- 
pulous controversialist, which are none the less 
contemptible for being clever — this was wisdom of 
a certain kind." But in reality it left the way open 
for "every vile deed," for the word here for "vile" 
(<pavXov) means "worthless," not "immoral." In the 
realm of morals what is merely indifferent soon gets 
to be bad. The Vulgate puts it omne opus pravum. 
So in John 3 : 20 we read: "For every one that doeth 

evil hateth light" (o -navXa -npdoouv fuoel to (pug). 

Bugs and bats hate the light. There is a toboggan 


slide in sin. "The easy way" is the evil way. See 
per contra James 1:17. Anarchy brings moral chaos 
(Plummer) to the soul as to nations. The wiseacres 
of the world play havoc with the souls and bodies of 
men who follow their lead to hell. In every town 
there is a bunch of men who cling together in their 
evil life and profess a wisdom superior to that of 
the gospel. They know it is a lie, but they comfort 
each other and are too proud to break away from 
the gang. But the end will come. There are no 
happy old men save those that are Christians. 

5. The Wisdom from Above. 3: 17. 

There is wisdom from above (dvudev) , that is, from 
God, as James had already said (1 : 5). This is the 
true wisdom, God's wisdom both in source and 
character. James had not, of course, seen Paul's 
remarks on wisdom in 1 Cor. 1 and 2, if he wrote his 
Epistle by A. D. 50. But he had full opportunity 
to be familiar with Proverbs, the Wisdom of Jesus 
the Son of Sirach, and the Wisdom of Solomon. 
"For the Lord giveth wisdom, out of his mouth com- 
eth knowledge and understanding" (Prov. 3:6). 
"Wisdom may praise herself, and glory in the midst 
of her people" (Sirach 24: 1). "For wisdom is more 
mobile than any motion; and she also passeth and 
goeth through all things by reason of her pureness. 
For she is a breath of the power of God, and a pure 
effluence from the glory of the Almighty; therefore 
no defiled thing falls into her. For she is a reflection 
of the everlasting light, and an unspotted mirror of 
the efficiency of God, and image of his goodness" 


(Wisd. 7:24-26). Once more: "For she is more 
beautiful than the sun, and above every position 
of stars, being compared with the light, she is found 
superior" (Wisd. 7:29). But, while James is un- 
doubtedly conversant with the Wisdom literature of 
the Jews, he is no mere copyist. He has the Chris- 
tian standpoint and makes his own contribution to 
the discussion of wisdom. His words are few, but 
fit, and strike right to the heart of the subject. 

It is "first pure" (npcoTov fiev ayvr\ kanv). Purity is 
the inner characteristic of the wise. It (ayvog) is 
pretty nearly like the Latin purus (pure) and means 
not so much cleansed (/cadapog, cf. Matt. 5:8, "the 
pure in heart") as a combination of this idea and 
consecration as holiness (ay tog). 1 It is thus free 
from stain or defilement of any kind (not merely 
sexual purity), like a ray of light, "in holiness and 
sincerity of God" (ev dyiorijTi nai dXinoivia tov Oeov, 
2 Cor. 1: 12). Christ himself is called pure (dyvog, 
1 John 3:3), the ideal toward which we are to strive. 
We must learn to put first things first. In wisdom 
purity of character and motive is absolutely essen- 
tial at any cost. 

"Then peaceable" (enetra np^vLK-q). Important as 
peace is, purity is paramount. Peaceableness is, to 
be sure, the outer characteristic of wisdom, and, if 
one has the bright light of inner wisdom, he will 

1 The word ayv6q is common enough in the inscriptions for cere- 
monial purity and also for ethical purity. It is applied to Athena 
Polias, the "Blessed Virgin of Greek Religion" (Ditt., Syll., 364 20 ). 
tt)v ndr/nov ayvijv napOevov. See Moulton & Milligan, Vocabulary, 

P- 5- 


have it. But wisdom does not desire peace at any 
price nor at the cost of purity. ''All her paths are 
peace" (Prov. 3:17) and the chastening of God's 
hand yields "peaceable fruit unto them that have 
been exercised thereby" (Heb. 12:11). Plummer 
wisely notes that the order of James here is logical 
and not always strictly chronological. One is not 
to compromise with evil and error, but all the same, 
if one is to have no peace till he has absolute purity 
of every sort in his environment, he must needs be 
always at war and never rest at all. An equation of 
common sense must, of course, be struck, though 
there is the constant temptation to get used to un- 
pleasant surroundings and finally to make no pro- 
test at all. Plummer likewise observes that James 
places the emphasis on the spiritual and moral, not 
on the intellectual, just the opposite of modern 
ideals of culture (Kultur) and education. There is 
nothing in the position of James to justify the 
Spanish Inquisition, for instance. The persecutor 
has often consoled himself with the thought that he 
is doing his victim's soul a real service by rescuing 
him from his error. Certainly, if one is pure, it is 
easier for him to be peaceable, provided he also loves. 
"If it be possible, as much as in you lieth, be at 
peace with all men" (Rom. 12 : 18). There is a great 
deal in the New Testament on the subject of peace 
(elpijvii). It is true that Jesus said: "I came not to 
bring peace, but a sword" (Matt. 10: 34), when men 
are wedded to sin and can only be shaken loose by the 
sword of truth. But these are those who let the peace 
of God rule in their hearts as umpire (Col. 3: 15). 


We are to pursue the things of peace (rd r^ elpTjvrjs 
dnl)KG)fiev, Rom. 14: 19) as men of peace, but not to be 
afraid to stand up for truth and righteousness (pur- 
ity) even if we have to fight. 

Then "gentle" (emeucfjg) , "forbearing" (Hort). 
The word is used by Thucydides (viii. 93) of men 
who will listen to reason and (i. 76) of moderation, 
like the Latin dementia. Originally the word meant 
what was fitting, fair, reasonable (eUog), but it 
was also associated with the idea of yielding (eikm), 
"implying one who does not stand on his rights, but 
is ready to give way to the wishes of others" (Mayor). 
Matthew Arnold gathered the idea into his phrase 
"sweet reasonableness." Aristotle (vi. 11) uses it of 
the forgiving man, one who does not stand on strict 
justice, but who listens to merciful consideration. 
Certainly, gentleness is the true mark of the gentle- 
man, who does not stickle over little points, who, in 
a word, is considerate. The Christian wisdom, 
therefore, does not like to give pain. Paul makes 
an appeal "by the meekness and gentleness of 
Christ" (Sid rr/g npavTTjTog nai kmeuciag rov Xqlotov, 
2 Cor. 10:1). See also Acts 24:4; 1 Tim. 3:3; 
Titus 3:2; 1 Pet. 2:18 (gentle masters); and, in 
particular, Phil. 4:5: "Let your forbearance be 
known unto all men." It means the very essence 
of fairness as opposed to unreasonableness (Ps. of 
Sol. 5 : 14). Cf. Paul's panegyric on love (1 Cor. 13). 

It is also "easy to be entreated" (evneidrjg), "con- 
ciliatory" (MofTatt). The word is a common one for 
military discipline (4 Mace. 8:6; Jos. War ii. 20, 7), 
though it does not occur elsewhere in the New Testa- 


ment. As gentle (bmeuefc) refers usually to one in a 
superior position, so this word (eimei07fc) _s used 
mainly of one in an inferior rank (Mayor). The 
good soldier is the one who has learned how to 
execute orders. Philo employs it as the opposite of 
the disobedient (diryfffc). It is tractabilis, not 
morosa. The Vulgate has suadibilis. It is a word in 
common use about children, pupils, all who obey 
laws. If preachers were always gentle, perhaps the 
church-members would be more docile and teach- 
able. This wisdom from above is suaviter in modo, 
fortiter in re. 

It is also "full of mercy and good fruits" {iieorrj 
iXeovg nai Kapnuv ayaduv). This is just the reverse of 
the party-feeling already condemned. Mercy is the 
active principle of compassionate love. One may 
note already 1:8, 27; 2:13 in contrast with 2:15. 
This wisdom bears good ("wholesome," Moffatt) 
fruits, not mere leaves (empty boasting). The 
plural (fruits) shows that there is variety and abun- 
dance for all. It is not satisfied with abstract 
virtue, but wishes to bless others. 

This wisdom is likewise "without variance" (ddta- 
KQiToq), "unambiguous" (Moffatt). The word oc- 
curs nowhere else in the New Testament and has 
puzzled translators a great deal. It is rendered 
"without wrangling," "without judging," "without 
partiality," "without distinctions," "undoubted," 
"without feigning," "without doubtfulness," "unde- 
cided," "unhesitating," "unwavering," "single- 
minded." The Vulgate has non judicans. Some- 
thing can be said for all these renderings. The 


context must decide. 1 If one considers the use of 
the verb in James i : 6 ; 2:4, probably the idea of 
decision is the true one here. It is whole-hearted 
conviction, positiveness in adherence to the truth, 
single-minded devotion rather than the wavering in- 
decision of the false wisdom. It is Principal For- 
syth's idea of "Positive Preaching" for the modern 

It is finally "without hypocrisy" (awnoKpiTog) , 2 
"straightforward" (Moffatt). Here there is no am- 
biguity as to the import of the word. It is not the 
hypocritical wisdom of earth, the spurious invita- 
tion, but the genuine article. It is sincere, "without 
show or pretence" (Mayor). The word is used of 
love (Rom. 12:9; 2 Cor. 6: 6), of faith (1 Tim. 1:5), 
of brotherly love (1 Pet. 1 : 22). The idea here con- 
cerns our relations with men as the preceding ad- 
jective outlined our attitude toward God (Hort). 
This wisdom has the ring of pure gold and passes at 
par value with all men. Surely such wisdom as this 
will always be in demand by modern men who love 
reality and hate pretence. 

6. The Harvest of Righteousness. 3: 18. 

In this verse James gathers up the sum and sub- 
stance of all that he has had to say so far. He has 

1 The verb Sia-KpLvo/iai means to distinguish, but the resultant 
idea is very variable. Moulton and Milligan (Vocabulary, p. 9) 
quote O. G. I. S. 509. 8 (ii/A. D.), ovAe tovto to pkpoq KarkXinov afii- 

2 The Vulgate has sine simulations Of course, vn6-Kpiroq is from 
vno-Kpivopai, like vTro-Kp/rrfc, and is used of the actor's mask and then 
for mere imitation, hypocrisy. 


just spoken of peace and of good fruits. He has, 
been insisting on righteous deeds and not mere 
words, upon a live faith, not a dead creed. "And 
the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace for them 
that make peace" (icapndg di dutaioovvrjs kv sip^vy oirei- 
gerai rolg noiovoiv elpfjvrjv). "And the peacemakers 
who sow in peace reap righteousness" (Moffatt). 
The fruit is righteousness (genitive of apposition). 
The figure of sowing is common enough. It is the 
slow process of soil, seed, plant, blossom, fruit, har- 
vest. This is the life of piety (wisdom) that James 
lays before his readers. The phraseology occurs 
elsewhere (Psa. 1:3). Thus Prov. 11:30: "The 
fruit of the righteous is a tree of life" (LXX has etc 
Kapnov diKcuoovvrjc;) . So in Amos 6 : 2 we have "fruit 
of righteousness." In the New Testament note 
Phil. 1: 11, "filled with the fruit of righteousness," 
and Heb. 12: 11, "peaceable fruit" (leapndv elpqvtitov) . 
There is a difficulty here in the fact that the "fruit" 
instead of the "seed" is "sown" (oTTsiperac) . But 
such a prolepsis of thought is not unknown, as in 
Psa. 97 : 11 : "Light is sown for the righteous." The 
sower sows in peace and the harvest of righteousness 
is gathered in peace. The peace-maker has the 
rainbow promise of his harvest in due time if he 
faint not nor grow weary. "They who make peace 
show likeness to God, the great maker of peace" 


The Outer and the Inner Life. 4:1-12 

Oesterley thinks it inconceivable that these verses 
could have been addressed to Jewish churches at an 
early date, while they were still in the fresh glow of 
the new faith in Christ. He thinks that "these 
verses reveal an appalling state of moral depravity 
in these Diaspora congregations; strife, self- 
indulgence, lust, murder, covetousness, adultery, 
envy, pride and slander are rife; the conception of 
the nature of prayer seems to have been altogether 
wrong among these people, and they appear to be 
given over wholly to a life of pleasure. It must 
have been terrible for the writer to contemplate 
such a sink of iniquity." Yes, but James does not 
say that all the Christians were guilty of these sins. 
It was bad enough in all conscience without over- 
stating the situation. Besides, we have the state of 
affairs in the church at Corinth to guide us as to the 
possibility of sins in a young church, and the state of 
affairs among the Galatian churches is not much 
better (cf. "so soon departing"). Covetousness and 
strife early appear in the church in Jerusalem, as we 
know from Acts 4 and 5. Reaction comes only too 
swiftly, as is noted after all great revivals, for in- 
stance, the years following the late Welsh revival. 
Within a year or two after Paul left Thessalonica 
discipline is sorely needed in the church there, as we 



know from 1 and 2 Thessalonians. The Gentile 
world was given over to immorality of all sorts, and 
Judaism was deadened with formalism. It was no 
easy task to make real spiritual life grow in such an 
atmosphere. And yet this is precisely what Chris- 
tianity undertakes to do. Jesus came that men 
might have life, spiritual vitality, and might have it 
abundantly (John 10: 10; 20:31). James is chiefly 
concerned that his readers may share in this new 
life in Christ and may show the inner reality by the 
outward expression. He never gets away from this 
central conception of Christianity. The appearance 
of sin in hideous forms among the followers of 
Jesus stirs James to intense indignation. Mayor 
notes that the severity of tone in this paragraph 
is accented by the absence of "brothers" (&6eX<f>oi). 

1. The Origin of War. 4: 1, 2a. 

James makes frequent use of the rhetorical ques- 
tion as here when he boldly demands the origin of 
the strife among the churches of the Diaspora: 
"Whence come wars and whence come fightings 
among you?" (nodev iroXefioi Kai rrodev pdxcu tv v/twv;). 
This use of question gives life to style and is the 
mark of a good teacher. Note also the repetition of 
"whence" (rrodev) which gives added piquancy. In 
the Epistle of Clement of Rome (xlvi) to the Church 
at Corinth (about A. D. 97) he seems to refer to this 
passage in James where he asks: "Wherefore are 
these strifes and wraths, and factions and divisions, 
and war among you?" At bottom ecclesiastical 
strife does not differ in origin and spirit from wars 



between nations. Sometimes there is even more 
bitterness. Certainly, no wars have been fiercer 
than the so-called "religious" wars of history. It 
does seem like irony that the Great War should 
have come after so many years of growth of the 
peace sentiment in the world. But Christianity is 
on the side of peace and Christians must keep up 
the fight for peace. The spirit of Jesus is in the 
Lake Mohonk Peace Conference. Jesus left a legacy 
of peace for individuals and for nations who win it 
("My peace I give unto you," John 14: 27). There 
has appeared one evidence of a better public opinion 
in the fact that in the Great War now raging over 
Europe and Asia each nation has sought to justify 
itself in the eyes of the world as not the aggressor, 
but on the defensive. This apology is some conces- 
sion, at least, to enlightened Christian sentiment, 
which will ultimately banish war from the earth 
along with slavery, alcohol, the brothel, and other 
agencies of the devil. Meanwhile, James occupies 
the standpoint of the Christian optimist who fights 
for the highest and the best. So Simon Peter: "Be- 
loved, I beseech you as sojourners and pilgrims, to 
abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the 
soul" (1 Pet. 2:11). We need not press the dis- 
tinction between "wars" (ndXefioi) and "fightings" 
(fidxai), though the first means a state of war and 
the lasting resentment connected with it, while the 
second refers to battles or outbursts of passion 
which occur during a state of war. James does not, 
of course, here refer to wars between nations, but to 
the factional bickerings in the churches, the personal 


wrangles that embitter church life. "Among you" 
(ev vfuv) , he adds, to drive the question home. 

James answers his first question by a second. 
"Come they not hence, even of your pleasures that 
war in your members?" (ovk kvrevdev, en t£>v ydovtiv 
bfiuv tg>v arpaTsvofjbivMv ev roig fieXeocv vfiojv;). James 
sees an intimate connection between strife and 
laxity of life. The case of the church at Corinth is 
a point where factional divisions and gross immoral- 
ity flourished together. Plato (Phaedo 66) says: 
"Wars and factions, and fightings have no other 
source than the body and its lusts. For it is for the 
getting of wealth that all our wars arise, and we are 
compelled to get wealth because of our body, to 
whose service we are slaves." James and Plato 
agree therefore in finding the origin of war in the 
lusts of the body, but they differ in their opinion as 
to how to treat the body. Plato exhorts neglect and 
scorn of the body, while James urges the victory 
of the spirit over the body. "Plato has no idea that 
the body may be sanctified here and glorified here- 
after; he regards it simply as a necessary evil, which 
may be minimized by watchfulness, but which can 
in no way be turned into a blessing" (Plummer). 
The source of all war (private and public) is "the 
pleasures {f\dov(bv) that war (orpaTevofievuv) in your 
members." 1 The same word for "war" between the 
fleshly desires occurs in 1 Pet. 2: n and in Rom. 
7 : 23 Paul uses it (avTiaTparevo/iEvov) of the conflict 

1 Philo (M. 2, p. 205) traces all the tragic wars of Greeks and 
Barbarians to one source {arrb pa? miyf/g), erudv/uiag fy xpT/fiaruv fj 66§ti( 


between the two laws of his nature. The word for 
"pleasure" does not necessarily mean sensual pleas- 
ures (cf. emdvfiiai) , but what is sweet (^vg, rjdovrj) 
and leads to sinful strife (like ambition, love of 
money or of power) . In Titus 3 : 3 Paul combines 
both words, "lusts and pleasures" (emdvpiaig Kai 
■tjdovalt;) .* "The potential pleasure seated in each 
member constitutes a hostile force, a foe lying in 
ambush against which we have continually to be 
on our guard" (Mayor). In the Letter of Aristeas 
(cf. Swete, Introduction to the Old Testament in 
Greek, p. 567) the question is asked: "Why do not 
the majority of men receive virtue?" The answer is 
given: "Because all are naturally without self-con- 
trol and are bent on pleasures" (tnl ra$ r}dov&q). It 
must be said that the philosophy of Hedonism in 
this sense of the term has a powerful hold upon the 
average man. Buddha said trouble came of desire. 
It is not an inspiring picture that James here 
draws, and one would like to believe that he has a 
wider outlook than the Christian community when 
he names this bill of particulars. "Ye lust, and 
have not: ye kill, and covet, and cannot obtain: 
ye fight and war" (imdvuelade, Kai ovk e^ere- <povevere 
Kai ^rjXovre, Kai ov dvvaode kmrvxelv fidx^ode Kai iroXe- 

fielTs). Here Westcott and Hort make a full stop in 
their text, and this is probably correct. The pres- 
ence of "kill" ((povevere) before "covet" (fyXovre) 
gives a great deal of trouble to the commentators 
who find it an anti-climax. Mayor urges the sub- 

1 See both terms also in 4 Mace. 5 : 22, bore naoov t<jv i)6ovuv nat 
iiudvfiiuv Kparriv. See al60 Philo, M. I, p. 445, i)fiovdl # intdvftiai. 


stitution of "envy" (<pdoveZre) for "kill," but there is 
no manuscript authority for it and the difficulty is 
not really mended. Hort has the most probable 
solution by this punctuation: "Ye covet, and have 
not: ye commit murder. And ye envy, and cannot 
attain: ye fight and war." At any rate, the humil- 
iating fact remains that lust, covetousness, envy, 
fighting, murder, are here charged against some of 
the readers of the Epistle. It looks as if some of 
them held to the view that they were entitled to all 
that they could grasp, that Providence was on the 
side of the heaviest battalions, that might consti- 
tuted right. "Lust" {emdvueire) is here used in the 
most general sense, like "covet." The failure to find 
satisfaction (/e<u ovk ex ere ) leads to jealousy (fyXovre), 
fighting (fidxsads), war (noXefieire) , and even murder 
((f>ovevsrs) . Covetousness leads to fights with indi- 
viduals and nations. Lust in the narrow sense and 
murder are common partners. The fight is on in 
every man's life against all that is low and mean. 
He can keep a pure life only by living the victorious 
life. There is also the common oppression of the 
poor by the greedy and grasping in all the ages. 
"No man shall take the mill or the upper millstone 
to pledge: for he taketh a man's life to pledge" 
(Deut. 24:6). So Sirach (34:21^) says: "He that 
taketh away his neighbour's living slayeth him; and 
he that defraudeth the labourer of his hire is a 
blood-shedder." The opposite of all this pitiful 
business is seen in the nobility of love as portrayed 
in 1 Cor. 13. 


2. Asking Amiss. 4: 2b, 3. 

The latter part of verse 2 is a puzzle to the com- 
mentators: "Ye have not, because ye ask not" (ovk 

eX^re, Sect rd \ifi alrelodai v^iag). Oesterley (follow- 
ing Carr) thinks that we have a string of poetical 
quotations ("stromateis"), "not very skilfully strung 
together." Mayor takes it as a mere repetition of 
"ye lust and have not," and says "it is not a further 
step." But surely James does not mean to say that 
the one reason why the impulses to lust, covetous- 
ness, envy, fighting, and murder are not gratified is 
because men do not pray so as to carry their point 
with God and man! That were to make prayer a 
travesty and God a puppet of man's evil desires. 
I must believe that this sentence belongs to verse 3 
in thought and should be so punctuated. We must 
always bear in mind that the original Greek text 
had no punctuation and that we are at liberty to 
punctuate de novo if the context demands it. There 
is, no doubt, a backward look in "ye have not," 
verse 2, but in reality James here starts a new topic, 
that of prayer. There is a delicate hint in the use 
of the middle voice (alrelodai) here that they had not 
put their hearts into their prayers. 1 "Ye ask" with 

1 See Robertson, Grammar of the Greek N. T. in the Light of 
Historical Research, p. 805, for discussion of the distinction between 
aircj and alnvfuu. The Schol. Aristoph. 15. 6 says: rd fiev alru to 
an'Auq tyro, to (Se alrov/xai //d?' ineoiae. That is it exactly. In prayer 
one must seek with passion. The Syro- Phoenician woman, pleading 
for her daughter, said: "Lord, help me" (Matt. 15:25). So Herod 
Antipas said to Salome: Alrr/adv /xe 6 iav dtXric, while she said to her 
mother in eagerness and perplexity: Ti alr^ou/iai. Since the middle 
denotes more earnestness, it is quite frequent in the papyri. 


the mere form of words (ahelTe) and naturally "re- 
ceive not" (ov Xafiftdvere) , "because ye ask amiss" 
(Sioti KdKCog ahelode), "wrongly" (nanus), as in John 
18:23. Their prayers are vitiated by the evil 
purpose, "that ye may spend it in your pleasures" 

(tva ev ralg jjdovalg daTravrjarjTe) , "with the wicked in- 
tention of spending it on your pleasures" (Moffatt). 
Even Epictetus (Cod. Vat. 3) says of the gods: 
"And then shall they give to thee the good things 
when thou rejoicest not in pleasure (V ov fl)> but in 
virtue." How often we all miss it in prayer! We 
ask for what we should not, staking our judgment 
against that of God. We ask with a spirit of rebel- 
lion and not of subjection to the will of God (4: 7). 
We ask, not for the glory of God nor for the blessing 
of others, but for the gratification of our own selfish 
pleasures (ijdovat) even when the things asked for 
are good in themselves. We may even get to the 
point where we dare ask God for what is not good in 
itself. "No asking from God which takes place in a 
wrong frame of mind towards him or towards the 
object asked has anything to do with prayer. It is 
an evil asking" (Hort). God cannot be made a pri- 
vate asset to further our own selfish interests or to 
serve the wicked world (cf. 1 Tim. 6:4f.). "If we 
ask (ahovixeda) anything according to his will, he 
heareth us" (1 John 5: 14). The word in James for 
"spend" (danavdw) means to "consume," to "waste," 
to "dissipate." It is used of the Prodigal Son who 
"spent all" (Luke 15: 14). Prayer is probably the 
poorest of all our spiritual exercises. It should be 
the most constant and the most helpful. It calls 


for searching of heart and all sincerity. It is right 
and proper to pray for our daily bread (Matt. 6 : n), 
provided we do our daily tasks so as to earn our 
daily bread. God does not mean prayer to be a 
substitute for work. Trust is not anxiety (Matt. 
6:31), but it is also not presumption. The use of 
the "name" of Jesus does not cause the door of 
grace to spring open for us unless we put ourselves 
under the rule of Jesus. 

3. The Friendship of the World. 4:4. 

The words "adulterers and" of the Authorized 
Version are not genuine, occurring in late documents. 
The sudden outburst, "ye adulteresses" (fioixaXiSeg) , 
"wanton creatures" (Moffatt), leaves one in doubt 
whether James is singling out one special form of 
sin so common in the world (Hort) or is using the 
word in the figurative sense (Mayor) so frequent in 
the Old Testament for the sin of idolatry (cf. Psa. 
73: 27; Ezek. 23: 27; Hos. 2:2; Isa. 57). Jesus de- 
nounced his age in Palestine as "an evil and adul- 
terous generation" (Matt. 12:39). It will make 
good sense with either interpretation. Oesterley ar- 
gues that "the depraved state of morals to which 
the whole section bears witness must, in part at 
least, have been due to the wickedness and co- 
operation of the women, so that there is nothing 
strange in their being specifically mentioned in con- 
nection with that form of sin with which they would 
be more particularly associated." Such a sin ought 
not, to be sure, to be found among Christians, but 
1 Cor. 5 shows how early it appeared in the church 


in Corinth, a peculiarly licentious city. The pres- 
sure of the easy-going, laissez-faire life of the world 
on this point is hard upon true Christians in all the 
ages. It is not merely that a double standard of 
morals is claimed by men of the world for them- 
selves, though denied to their own wives, but they 
are aggressive against the virtue of the daughters 
and wives of other men. This age-long evil is con- 
doned even by women of the world who are clean 
themselves in a blind surrender to the fact that 
men seem to be hopelessly evil and they let it go 
at that. If the word "adulteresses" is here taken 
literally, as is probable, James makes a bold appeal 
to women of pleasure (rjdovj) to cease from sin and 
to let God rule in their lives. It is surely worth 
while to make such an appeal even to those who 
seem to be hopelessly abandoned to the evil world. 
But it is preeminently worth while to seek to warn 
and to prevent from ruin the young men and women 
of our day. The facts about this "Ancient Evil" 
are presented with fearful plainness and power by 
Miss Jane Addams from the standpoint of the "New 
Conscience." At last American cities are seeing the 
folly of calm acquiescence in the presence of this 
monster evil which should be driven out with lash 
and wjiip. "Know ye not" (ova oldare), says James 
with neat, "that the friendship of the world is 
enmity with God?" (on t\ <piXia rov koojxov l%^9 a T( "-' 
deov kariv ;) Pastors sometimes find men and women 
living in adultery and complacently keeping up their 
church connections. James means to show the utter 
inconsistency of such a course of conduct. 


But, if "adulteresses" is taken in the figurative 
sense, there is still the friendship of the world that 
is enmity with God. The friendship of the world is 
preferred to that of God. World (noa/iog) 1 here is 
riot the earth with all its beauty and charm (God's 
world made by him. Cf. Psa. 19), nor mankind, for 
whom Christ died (John 3: 16), but that world of 
selfish pleasure and sin out of which Christ called 
his disciples and which in turn hated them as it 
hated Christ (John 15: i8ff.)- This "world" will 
only love ((piXecS) as a familiar friend (faAog) those 
who cater to its ideals and standards, who condone 
its slackness of morals and neglect of God. This 
cleavage between the wayward wicked world and 
the kingdom of God is a fact of the utmost signifi- 
cance (John 17: isff.). The Christian has to learn 
the secret of living in such a worldly atmosphere 
without being contaminated by it. One does not 
wish to be considered a religious crank and queer. 
He desires to have influence with his friends and 
business acquaintances. But one cannot be a "hale 
fellow well-met" in sin and every form of worldly 
indulgence and retain his influence for God. The 
time comes when a choice must be made between 
friends, for that sort of life in the world becomes 
incompatible with friendship with God. One must 

1 The k.6o/iuq was originally "order." The order and beauty of 
God's world are attractive to the right-minded man (Rom. 1:20). 
It is applied to the people of the earth (John 1 : 29) and then to the 
believers who are alienated from God (John 8:23; 12:31), this world 
which the devil rules (John 14:30; 1 John 5:19), whose spirit is 
hostile to that of Christ (1 Cor. 2:12), against which James has 
already (1:25) warned his readers. 


make his choice. "If any man love the world, the 
love of the Father is not in him" (1 John 2: 15). 
One cannot run with the hare and the hounds. The 
devil makes no objection to such a double life of 
hypocrisy, but God does. God is gracious and for- 
giving to sinners who repent, but has no mercy for 
presumptuous sinners who defy his kindness and 
keep in touch with the devil and his circles of evil. 
The word "enmity" (e%#pa) is the term for personal 
hostility. Preference for sin constitutes a personal 
offense towards God, who can have no rival any more 
than a true wife can suffer a rival in the affections of 
her husband. ' 'The mind of the flesh is enmity against 
God" (Rom. 8:7). x One must make his choice. 
"No man can serve two masters: for either he will 
hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold 
to one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God 
and mammon" (Matt. 6:24). Plummer argues 
clearly that James does not condemn the scientist's 
love of nature nor the sociologist's enthusiasm which, 
forsooth, is not always shared in by preachers as 
much as is desirable. Preaching often is so given to 
denunciation of sin that it fails to exalt the possi- 
bilities of the right sort of manhood. It thus repels 
the very men that it wishes to attract. So far from 
that, love for man is one of the main proofs of love 
for God (1 John 4: 20). The passion for the souls 
of men is the true mark of the redeemed. Paul 
(Titus 2:12) urges that "denying ungodliness and 
worldly lusts" (rag Ko<jfwca<; kmdvpicu), "we should 

1 ex&pa e'ic deov. The objective genitive in James 4:4, Zx&P a T °v 
deov, has the same import. 


live godly in this present world" (evoefius ^a^fxev ev 
tw vvv aiuvi) or "age" more exactly. "Whosoever 
therefore would be a friend of the world maketh 
himself an enemy of God" (dg kdv ovv PovXrjdq <pilog 
elvai tov tcoofiov, e^pof tov deov Kadio-arai), "who- 
ever, then, chooses to be the world's friend turns 
enemy to God" (Moffatt). One makes his choice 
({iovXrjd^) as he is able to do by the exercise of his 
own will and purpose (fiwX^). But, once and finally 
made, he renders himself {Kadiararai) ipso facto an 
enemy to God (expos' T0V deov). There is no help 
for it so long as God is really the God of purity and 
righteousness. Josephus calls Poppaea, the infamous 
wife of Nero and proselyte to Judaism, a worshipper 
of God {deooeftrjs, Ant. xx. 8. n), but surely such 
"worship" was not acceptable to God. James (2 : 23) 
has termed Abraham "the friend of God" (0<Aof 
deov), but he entered into that relation to God on 
terms of obedience to God as Lord. On no other 
terms is friendship with God possible. It is not a 
question of one's feelings, but of the actual state 
of affairs. "To be on terms of friendship with the 
world involves living on terms of enmity with God" 
(Hort). The word "friendship" ((piXia) does not 
itself occur elsewhere in the New Testament, though 
it is found several times in Proverbs, but the words 
"friend" (<f>iXog) and to "love as a friend" (<f>iXea) 
are common enough. Gildersleeve (Justin Martyr, 
p. 135) notes that Xenophon uses the two verbs for 
love (dya-rrdcj and <piXe<o) as synonymous. 1 But in the 

1 He also remarks that ayan&u is a colder word than 0</*iw and is 
more common in the N. T. to avoid the idea of kissing in Qitea. 


New Testament there is a distinction drawn in 
John 21: 15-17. The one (ayarmw) is the "deeper" 
and richer word, while the other ((piXeo) is the "more 
human" (Moulton and Milligan, Vocabulary of the 
N. T., p. 2). Certainly, one has no right to claim 
intimate family relationship with God as his friend 
while at the same time living in adulterous relations 
with the sinful world that hates God. The "seduc- 
tions of the world" (Plummer) are very real and 
very many, but surrender to them is not consonant 
with the fellowship of God. The law of spiritual life 
is not always understood. Some men wonder why 
they are not spiritually happy, why they do not 
enjoy religion. They are living in sin with the world 
and yet marvel at their lack of communion with 

4. The Yearning of the Spirit for Us. 4 : 5f . 

"Or think ye?" (rj 6oK,etre), says James, as the 
alternative. Either the friendship of the world is 
enmity with God or you think that "the Scripture 
speaketh in vain" {kcvuh; fj ypacprj Acy«). "What, do 
you consider this an idle word of Scripture?" (Mof- 
fatt). This rhetorical question expects an indignant 
denial. Therefore the argument holds that the 
friendship of the world is enmity with God. But 
what is the Scripture? Is it only the passage in 
verse 6 that is referred to? The punctuation of the 
Revised Version allows that. We have two ques- 

Epictetus uses ayandu in the classical sense of "be content," but 
once (Stob. 9) "in a sense approaching that of N. T. love" (Sharp, 
Epictetus, and the N. T., p. 126). 


tions before the one quotation. But it may be that 
the general sense of Scripture is meant by the first 
question. Usually "the Scripture" occurs before a 
direct quotation, as in Rom. 4:3. Some would take 
the rest of verse 5 after the first question as a quota- 
tion, although no such quotation occurs in the Old 
Testament. The general sense appears in various 
parts of the Old Testament, as in Exod. 20:5: "I 
am the Lord thy God, a jealous God" (dedg fyfayrrjs). 
Cf. Isa. 63: 8-16; Zech. 8:2. Oesterley even sees a 
direct allusion to Gal. 5: 17, 21; Rom. 8:6, 8; 1 Cor. 
3:16, and an argument for the late date of the 
Epistle of James. But this is forcing the matter 
rather stiffly. The New Testament writers seem to 
have used chains of quotations (catenae), as, for in- 
stance, in Rom. 3: 10-18. Paul probably makes a 
free paraphrase of Isa. 64 : 4 in 1 Cor. 2 : 9 and of 
Isa. 60: 1, 2 in Eph. 5: 14. Either this is what is 
done here or James is already referring to verse 6, 
a quotation from Prov. 3:34. 

It is not necessary to take the second sentence in 
verse 5 as a question. We may follow the margin: 
"The spirit which he made to dwell in us he yearneth 
for even unto jealous envy," or "with jealousy doth 
He yearn after the spirit which he caused to dwell 
in us" (Hort), or "He yearns jealously for the spirit 
he set within us" (Moffatt), (-n-pd^ <pdovov kmnodei to 
TTvevfia KdTtiKioev kv rjfilv). In one case (the ques- 
tion) we take the Spirit as subject and as the Holy 
Spirit. In the other case (the affirmation) we take 
spirit as object and as our redeemed spirit planted 
in us by God (cf. Rom. 8: 4-16 for both ideas). In 


either rendering it is the Spirit of God (cf . Rom. 8 : 9) 
who dwells in us and helps us strive against the evil 
forces of the world in our own hearts. God has sent 
forth the Spirit of his Son into our hearts (Gal. 4:6), 
who helps us in the fight with the flesh (Gal. 5:16- 
26). It is the doctrine of the Indwelling Spirit of 
God, a very precious doctrine in the New Testament 
(John 7:39; 16:7; Rom. 8:11; 1 Cor. 3:16; Gal. 
4:6; Eph. 3:17; 4:30). The Spirit of God has 
made his home (tcartiKicrev , from olnog and Kara) in 
us. This is our glory and our hope. The word for 
"yearn" (kmno&el) is a very strong one. It is the 
verb in Psa. 42 : 1 (LXX) : "As the hart panteth 
(kmnodti) after the water brooks, so panteth (iniTro- 
del) my soul after thee, O God." Peter uses it of 
the longing of new-born babes after the sincere milk 
of the word (1 Pet. 2:2). So Paul yearns after 
(tTTinodcd) the Philippians (Phil. 1:8). There are 
many interpretations and many ways of punctuating 
the words "unto jealous envy" or "with jealousy" 
(npdg (pdovov) . We may not tarry over them. Prob- 
ably the idea is that the Holy Spirit covets our 
souls. He does not wish the devil to have us. 
Usually this word for "jealous envy" ((pdovog) has 
a bad sense, but the context here makes it clear. 
God is a jealous God. He can brook no rival in 
our hearts. God wishes the whole of our hearts' 
love, not just a part. He claims the rights of a 
loving husband to all our hearts' devotion. In our 
hours of doubt and weakness "the Spirit himself 
maketh intercession for us with groanings which 
cannot be uttered" (Rom. 8: 26, vrrepevrvyxdvei arev- 


ayiwlg dXaX^roig). We may thank God that he is a 
jealous God for his people Israel. He broods over 
his children with a mother's love and longing for 
their growth and development. 

"But he giveth more grace" (iiei&va 6e dlduoiv 
X<*P lv ), literally "greater grace," "yet he gives grace 
more and more" (Moffatt). The words "giveth 
grace" (didaoiv x^9 lv ) come from the quotation fol- 
lowing (Prov. 3:34). The effect of this jealous 
affection on God's part is not to abandon us, but to 
heap more and richer favors upon us. God demands 
of us whole-hearted surrender and service, but he 
pours out the wealth of his love upon us. "God 
resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the hum- 
ble" (6 Oedg vnep7](pdvocg avTiTaooerac rarreivolg tie didu)- 
olv %dpn>). This Septuagint quotation (see also 
1 Pet. 5:5) is a free translation of the idea in the 
Hebrew text. It is the striking figure of God stand- 
ing in the way (avTirdooeTai) , across the path of the 
proud man who carries his head so high above 
others (vnepjj^avoc;) . He will in due time be brought 
low. Pride goeth before a fall, for God is to be met 
along that road. (Cf. Acts 18: 6; Rom. 13: 2.) The 
man of the world feels no need of God and feels 
secure and serene. But he reckons without his 
host. God shows favor (diduoiv x^9 lv ) to the hum- 
ble {ra-nELvolg. Cf. the contrast in 1:10). The 
proud men think themselves the monopolists (Hort) 
of divine favor, but they find out sooner or later 
that they are passed by in favor of the man with 
lowliness of spirit and nobility of life, who makes 
God, not the world, the Lord of his life. This man 


God honors with far more "grace" than the world 
can offer. He will have trouble ("with persecu- 
tions"), no doubt, but "he shall receive a hundred- 
fold now in this time," while "in the world to come 
eternal life" (Mark 10:29^.). The prince in God's 
kingdom and at his court is not the man who 
wears the trappings of earthly rank and station, 
but the one who caught the spirit of Jesus and 
sought to do good to all as he found opportunity. 
Plummer wonders if James had not heard his 
mother recite the Magnificat. Certainly, he here 
echoes the same beautiful spirit. 

5. Choice Between God and the Devil. 4:7, 8a. 

It comes to this at bottom, that a man must de- 
cide whether God is to rule his life or not. It is self 
or God, and that is the same thing as the devil or 
God, for a self without God is ruled by the devil. 
"Be subject therefore unto God" [y-mordy^re. ovv tw 
0£<3), since, as James has shown in verse 6, God gives 
grace to the humble and withstands the proud. 
The idea is like that in Psa. 3 : 7 (LXX) : "Be sub- 
ject to the Lord" {v-noTdyqdi tw k,vqI(S). "The proud 
spirit has to be curbed" (Oesterley). Peter has ex- 
panded this idea in a great passage (1 Pet. 5: 6-9). 
Our only hope is under the leadership of God. The 
devil is the "prince of the world" (6 tov adaiiov dpx^ v - 
John 14:30), and he has plenty of help in the 
world rulers of darkness (Eph. 6: uf.). The proud 
and self-willed are sure to fall into his condemna- 
tion (1 Tim. 3:6). 

"But resist the devil" (dvTiarTjre de t<2 6ia(36Xu>). 


Take your stand (note the aorist tense) in the face 
of (dvTi) the devil, the great hinderer and slanderer 
(didftoXog). The fight is on between the forces of 
God and Satan, and one must take sides. A man 
once said that he wished to be impartial in the 
struggle between God and the devil. That species 
of liberality is out of the question. He that is not 
with Christ is against him. There is no middle 
ground. James does not stop to parley over the 
existence of the devil. He assumes the reality of 
the dread agent of evil who is bent on the destruc- 
tion of all that is good in man. The point to see 
clearly is that there is but one thing to do, and that 
is to fight the devil, not with fire, but with the word 
of God, with the help of the Spirit of God. "Get 
thee hence, Satan," Jesus had to say (Matt. 4: 10). 
"And he will flee from you" (/cat (pev^erat &$' vfiibv) . 
The devil will run if we fight him with the might of 
God. One way to submit to God is to fight off the 

But it is not all negative. The converse is true 
also. "Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh 
to you" (tyy ioars tg5 6eS>, Kai kyyiaei vfilv). The He- 
brew had a technical term for drawing nigh to God 
for the purpose of worship (Exod. 19:22; Jer. 30:21). 
It is not true that the devil is irresistible and that it 
is useless to oppose him (Plummer). This is one of 
the pleas of the devil himself to break down the 
resisting power of the human will and so to take all 
fight out of us. The principle that James here an- 
nounces is true to Scripture, to psychology, and to 
human experience. If we draw nigh to the devil he 


will draw nigh to us. If we resist him he will flee 
from us. If we resist God, even God will finally 
depart from us and leave us to our sins. If we ap- 
proach God in worship he opens his heart to us. 
"Return unto me, and I will return unto you" 
(Zech. 1:3). "To this end the Son of man was 
manifested that he might destroy the works of the 
devil" (1 John 3:8). "The Lord is nigh unto all 
them that call upon him" (Psa. 145:18). God 
first draws nigh unto us (John 16: 16) and when we 
respond, lo, he is there before us. The place of 
safety and of power for the Christian is the Throne 
of Grace. There he has a mighty Friend and Helper 
(Heb. 4: 16). We can draw close to God as a child 
to his father in the dark and feel his Presence. 

6. A Call to Repentance. 4: 8b-io. 

Here James speaks like one of the Old Testament 
prophets. His Epistle, while thoroughly Christian, 
is yet nearer to the standpoint of the Old Testament 
prophets than any other book in the New Testa- 
ment. "Cleanse your hands, ye sinners" (Kadapioare 
Xtigas, afiapTuXoi). The priests washed their hands 
before they entered the tabernacle to worship (Exod. 
30:19-21; Lev. 16:4). It was natural for the 
language to be applied to moral purity: "I will wash 
my hands in innocency: so will I compass thine 
altar, God" (Psa. 26:6). See also Heb. 10:22. 
So Pilate sought to emphasize his own freedom (!) 
from guilt by washing his hands (Matt. 27:4), if 
by so doing he might also soothe his own conscience. 
It is now as it has always been: "Who shall ascend 


unto the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in 
his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a 
pure heart" (Psa. 24: 3L). 

The clean hands signify little in a moral sense, 
however desirable for sanitary and other reasons, 
unless the heart is also clean. Indeed, the Pharisees 
came to make the cleansing of the hands a sub- 
stitute for moral cleanness (Mark 7 : 8ff.). "Purify 
your hearts, ye double-minded" (dyvloare mpSla^, 
dtyvxoi). The word for purification here is the 
common one for ceremonial cleansing (Exod. 19: 10), 
but the idea is figurative, as in 1 Pet. 1:22 and 
1 John 3:3. James seems to refer to Psa. 73: 13: 
"Wash you, make you clean" (Xovoaade icadapoi yiv- 
eade, Isa. 1:16). The double-minded (dtyvxoc Cf. 
James 1 : 8) must no longer halt between two opinions. 
They must forsake the world and give God the 
whole heart. It is a brave word for reality in re- 
ligion and against the hollow mockery of mere lip 

In verse 9 we have a rather unusual exhortation 
for the New Testament. The word for repentance 
(fierdvoLa) does not mean sorrow, but change of mind 
and life. The need for a change implies sorrow for 
the sins of one's life, to be sure. But one may have 
sorrow and still not change his heart and life. The 
thing that counts is the change, not the degree of the 
sorrow. But, certainly, sorrow for sin is appropriate 
and natural for the sinner who turns away from it. 
There is certainly room for the appeal to "be 
afflicted and mourn and weep" (raXanrupiioaTs nai 
TTU'drjoare nai tcXavoare, all aorists with a note of 


urgency in the tense). One is reminded of the "woe" 
of Jesus in Luke 6: 25. We have here a call to the 
godly sorrow described in 2 Cor. 7: 10. There is a 
time to laugh and a time to mourn ; yes, and a time for 
laughter to be turned dteTarpan^ro)) to mourning and 
even for joy to be turned into heaviness (tcar^etav), 1 
like the poor publican with downcast eyes in the 
temple before God (Luke 18: 13). "The words ex- 
press the contrast between the loud unseemly gaiety 
of the pleasure-seeker, and the subdued mien and 
downcast look of the penitent" (Oesterley). 

"Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord" 
(raTTeLvd)di]Te kv&mov Kvglov). This is the only proper 
attitude for the sinner, whether saved or unsaved. 
See the same figure in 1 Pet. 5:6. The proud Phari- 
see in Luke 18: 11 is the picture of all that worship 
should not be. 

"And he shall exalt you" (W mpuaet vfidg). This is 
the law of grace, as is often stated by Jesus: "Every 
one that exalteth himself shall be humbled; and he 
that humbleth himself shall be exalted" (Matt. 
23: 12; Luke 14: 11). But the man that humbles 
himself before the eye of (evumov) the Lord must 
do so because of real apprehension of his own sin 
and need of forgiveness, not for the purpose of 
future exaltation to be obtained by momentary self- 
abnegation. The delicate balance of motives here is 
preserved. The promise will come true, if only one 

1 See again Luke 6:25. Better mourn now than always here- 
after. Karf/Qeia is a classical word that occurs here only in the 
N. T. It expresses the look of one who has his eyes down upon 
the ground. 


really turns to the Lord with sincerity of heart. 
Nothing is more needed to-day than just this pros- 
tration before God. 

7. Captious Criticism. 4: uf. 

Moffatt places these verses just after 2: 13, since 
this "seems to have been its original place." This 
is the position also given by Oesterley. And yet it 
is quite possible that James here merely recurs to 
the subject of the loose tongue, as he had already 
done once (cf. 1 : 26 ; 3 : 2ff.). See also 5:12. He has 
"one word more" on this burning topic, a sort of 
postscript on the tongue, an extremely difficult sub- 
ject to say the last word about. "Speak not against 
one another, brethren" (fir} KaraXaXelre dXX^Xojv, ddeX- 
(poi). The tense of the verb (present durative) im- 
plies that some of them had been doing precisely 
this thing. It is so easy to "talk down on one" 
(/cara/laAwv) , to act as critic (itpivuv, cf. Matt. 7:1) 
of one's brother in Christ. We cannot help form- 
ing opinions of each other, but we can avoid 
captious criticism, sharp and needless censure. 
The point made by James is that this habit 
assumes the right to judge the very law of God. 
It is far easier to play the part of critic (/tpmfr) 
of the law than to be a doer (tto^t^) of the law. 
J Destructive criticism is always the cheaper exercise 
and the more useless. Constructive criticism is more 
creative and much harder. There is one supreme 
lawgiver {vo^oO^t^) and judge, "he who is able to 
save and destroy" (6 dwdfievos ouocu itai d-noXvoai). 
This power belongs to God, the Creator (Matt. 


10: 28; Luke 6:9), not to man, the creature. The 
critic of the law prefers to find flaws in the law 
rather than to undertake to obey it. He assumes 
that he can enact a better law, but it is all assump- 
tion. James shows his impatience with such criti- 
cism by saying: "But who art thou that judgest thy 
neighbor?" (oi> 6i Tt$- el, 6 icpiviov rov TrXr)oiov). See 
Rom. 14:4. In common law we are to give every 
man the benefit of the doubt and to assume his 
innocence till his guilt is proven. But in current 
speech the sharp tongue follows no such rule of 
reason, but creates suspicion and sows hate and 
strife at every turn. 


God and Business. 4:13-5:6 

The arrogance of the sinful heart is clearly shown 
here. Such a heart prefers worldliness to the 
worship of God (see 4: 1-10) and flippantly criti- 
cises one's neighbors with light-hearted satisfaction 
with self and a positive love of fault-finding (4:1 if). 
This easy arrogance faces the future with unconcern. 
No look Godward is taken in their business ventures. 
James "opposes the irreligious sense of travelling 
merchants" (Windisch) 1 . These Jews of the Dia- 
spora had come to have a considerable part of the 
business of the Roman Empire. They professed 
to be servants of God, but in practice they often 
denied and ignored the God of their fathers. 

/. Leaving God out of Account. 4: 13-15. 

One may hope that James alludes to the Jewish 
merchants, not Jewish Christians. Certainly those 
Jewish merchants who became Christians con- 
tinued their business, though not in a Godless fash- 
ion. The merchant has one of the most useful and 
most honorable of all callings, but it seems clear 
that some of the Jewish merchants had already 
brought disfavor upon the business by their sharp 
practices. See Sirach 26:29. "A merchant will 
hardly keep himself from doing wrong; and a huck- 

1 Wider den irreligiosen Sinn der Geschaftsrciscnden. 



ster will not be declared free from sin." This piece 
of moralizing is evidently occasioned by some tricks 
in trade indulged in by Jewish merchants. One is 
bound to admit that some modern Jews retain some 
of the same reputation in certain lines of trade. 
The very term "Jewing" in current use is an illus- 
tration of this trait. There were then as now enough 
Jewish merchants who dealt in business on un- 
ethical lines to create suspicion. But the point that 
James makes is a peril to Christian merchants also. 
The keen competition in all kinds of business is a 
constant temptation to violate the Golden Rule and 
to ignore God as well as the welfare of one's cus- 
tomers in order to make money and to meet a rival 
who is unscrupulous in trade. The Christian 
drummer to-day can do business on a high plane. 
Hustle and enterprise need not condescend to under- 
hand methods. It is a pleasure to note the activity 
of the Gideons, an organization of Christian drum- 
mers who, among other useful things, have placed 
copies of the Bible in the rooms of most American 
hotels. Mr. J. H. Mills, a quaint layman of North 
Carolina, used to say that the Good Samaritan was 
a drummer. In Palestine the Jews held on to the 
agricultural life, but in the Diaspora they were 
merchants and bankers. Philo (In Flaccum VIII) 
gives a picture of the Jewish merchants and bankers 
in Alexandria. Josephus (Ant. XII, 2-5) alludes 
to the Jewish travelling merchant about B. C. 175. 
It is one of the wonders of history how the Jews, 
scattered over the world, finally without a land of 
their own, have yet by their wits maintained them- 


selves as a race and a religion and have been leaders 
in business, in art, in music, in politics, in literature. 
"Come now, ye that say" (aye vvv ol XeyovregY is 
the impatient challenge of James to those who leave 
God out of account in their plans for the future. 
The tone of impatience is due to the conviction 
that one should be so conscious of his own weakness 
as not to boast about the future. "To-day or to- 
morrow we will go into this city, and spend a year 
there, and trade, and get gain" (a^epov r\ avpiov ttoqev- 

odfieda elg T7\v6*t tt\v ttoXlv nai ttoijJoo/iev kicei kviavrbv nai 
kfiTTopevooneda nai Kepdrjoonev). And then we shall 
move on to the next town and work that with our 
wares, for all the world like a modern "fire sale" or 
second-hand clothing store with its bankruptcy or 
fire features. The picture is drawn from life. The 
use of "this city" (rqvde rrjv TToXiv) is merely typical, 
as if James were pointing it out on the map 
(Mayor), and is more vivid than "such and such a 
city." In James 1:11 we read that the rich man 
shall "fade away in his goings" • (h ralg Tropeiaig), an 
allusion to the travels of the rich merchants. We 
see the rapid movements of the Jewish Christians 
illustrated by the travels of Aquila and Priscilla, 
who come from Rome to Corinth (Acts 18 : if .), then 
to Ephesus (18:18), to Rome again (Rom. 16:3), 
and back to Ephesus (2 Tim. 4:19)- The phrase 
"spend a year there" {ttoit\oo\izv IkeI hviavrov) is liter- 

1 The use of aye with ol teyovres causes no trouble as aye is a mere 
interjection. See Robertson, Grammar of the Greek N. T. in the 
Light of Hist. Research, pp. 941, 949- It occurs thus in the LXX. 
Cf. Judg. 19:6; 2 Kings 4:24. 


ally "do a year there," and the idiom occurs also 
in Acts 15:33; 20:3 (cf. Prov. 13:23). The wide 
dispersion of the Jews all over the Roman Em- 
pire gave them business connections that made 
it easy to get new business and to hold the old 
trade. The very word here for "trade" (e^Tcopevao- 
fieda) means to travel into (k[j,nopEvo[Mii) a region to 
get (the business just like a modern drummer 
or commercial traveller. Our word emporium (eju- 
■noQiov) is just this word. The Jews made the very 
Temple itself "a house of merchandise" {olnov 
kfiTTopiov) . So then trading implied travelling for the 
business (Matt. 22:5). In 2 Pet. 2:3a sombre light 
is thrown by this same word. "And in covetous- 
ness shall they with feigned words make merchan- 
dise of you" (y^idg kunopevoovTcu) .* "And get gain" 
{ical Kepd^oofiev) . This is the climax of the whole, 
the aim of the journeys and the trading. "The 
frequent conjunctions separate the different items of 
the plan, which are rehearsed thus one by one with 
manifest satisfaction. The speakers gloat over the 
different steps of the programme which they have 
arranged for themselves" (Plummer). There is no 
harm in planning to make money nor in travel for 
that purpose. The harm lies in the complete 
ignoring of God in all their plans. 

"Whereas ye know not what shall be on the mor- 
row" (oiTiveg T?ig avpiov), 2 "you who know nothing 

1 Transitive use of the verb. 

2 Note the causal use of oinveec, not indefinite, but more definite. 
Westcott and Hort read ra ttjq avpiov in the margin, "the things of 
the to-morrow day" (w^paf, understood). 


about to-morrow" (Moffatt). James has ample 
authority in this statement. "Boast not thyself 
of to-morrow ; for thou knowest not what a day may 
bring forth" (Prov. 27 : i). 1 The prohibition implies 
a carelessness about the future that grew out of 
indifference to God. There is a rabbinical saying 
(Sanhed. 100b) to this effect. "Care not for the 
morrow, for ye know not what a day may bring 
forth." James is condemning those who make 
their plans for the future with God left out of the 
problem, as if all were in their own hands. Jesus 
spoke the wonderful parable of the Rich Fool for 
the benefit of two brothers who were quarrelling 
over the estate: "Soul, thou hast much goods laid 
up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, be 
merry." This was the worldly-wise view of the 
Cyrenaics and the Epicureans and is the standpoint 
of multitudes of modern men who under the influence 
of Monism (like Haeckel) deny the existence of a 
personal God or who act as if there were no God. 
"The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God." 
(Psa. 14: 1). But God replies to the fool, "Thou 
foolish one, this night is thy soul required of thee; 
and the things which thou hast prepared, whose 
shall they be?" Jesus does not contradict this 
position when he says: "Be not therefore anxious 
(nepifivrjariTe) for the morrow; for the morrow will 
be anxious for itself. Sufficient unto the day is the 
evil thereof" (Matt. 6: 34). He is here condemning 
over-anxiety that is as distrustful of God as reckless 
unconcern. There is the golden mean of calm 

1 jiij Kavxu ra fJf avpuw, oil yap yivucneiq ri litjerai /) kniovoa. 


trust in God. We are not to live at haphazard 
without plan or purpose. We are to make plans, 
only we must put God into our preparations. It is 
cowardly to be superstitious in the anticipation of 
evil. Same people knock on wood if they happen 
to boast a bit. Others are superstitious about the 
number thirteen, about Friday, about the moon, 
and a hundred other hallucinations. The point 
with these Jews is not worry or superstition, 
but irreligion. There are multitudes of practical 
pagans to-day who reck not about God, who fear 
not God nor regard man. They carry on their 
business with no thought of God and no fear of 
consequences for their evil practices. They wreck 
a bank or a railroad with equal nonchalance and care 
not for the suffering in the homes of the poor caused 

As a matter of fact we are ignorant of the morrow. 
We do not know the weather of the morrow with 
certainty in spite of our signal service. Many rail- 
road accidents are due to the unknown elements in 
the problems of travel. A faulty rail, a broken tie, 
a weakened wheel, a rolling stone, a careless brake- 
man, a sleeping switchman, a malicious robber, a 
hundred and one things may happen, any one of 
which will cause death to helpless victims. "The 
best laid schemes o' mice and men gang aft a-gley." 

The uncertainty of life is one of the things that a 
wise man must consider and face. A clot of blood 
on the brain may cause instant and unexpected 
death. The heart, driven too hard, may suddenly 
cease to beat. "What is your life?" (noia ?? £<u^ 


vfitiv;). He does not mean manner of life (frog) 
nor the life principle nor eternal life. The question 
concerns all, the good and the wicked alike. The 
question as to the character (noia, of what sort) of 
life pertains to its brevity and uncertainty on earth. 
"For ye are a vapor" (ar/tig ydp eare), "you are but 
a mist" (Moffatt). The word is common for smoke, 
as the "smoke of furnace" (Gen. 19: 28), "vapor of 
smoke" (arfiig kcittvov, Acts 2:19; from Joel 2:30), 
steam or breath. So our "atmosphere." Job la- 
mented (7:7): "O remember that my life is a 
breath" {-nvevjia iiov % &rj). We are a vapor "that 
appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth 
away" (irpog oXlyov (paivofitvr), eneira icai a<pavi£oiievij) . l 

Aristotle (Hist. An. vi. 7) uses these two verbs of 
the appearance (<j>aivETai) and the disappearance 
(acpavifrTai) of a flock of birds as they sweep across 
the sky. The usage occurs also of the eclipse of the 
"sun. The transitoriness of human life should lead 
to full and hearty recognition of God, not to careless 
slighting of Him. 

"For that ye ought to say," more exactly "In- 
stead of your saying" {avri tow Xiyuv v/idg), 2 "If 
the Lord will" (kdv 6 Kvpiog deXxi) " we shall both 
live, and do this or that" (nai tfoonev ml noirioofiev 
tovto ij eKslvo). James does not, of course, mean 
that one should always say these words. That 
gets to be cant or mere clap-trap. It becomes 

1 Note the play on the same verb here. For ""/oof bliyov, see 
1 Tim. 4:8. 

2 A neat Greek idiom, the preposition with the infinitive. Cf. 
Psa. 108:4, ovrl tov ayanav fit. 


repellent to hear one use the name of God flippantly 
and constantly. Besides, it comes to signify little 
or nothing, as one may count his beads or say his 
Pater Nosters with no regard to what he is doing. 
The Jews made a point not to use the name of God 
too familiarly. They often used "the Name" for 
God, and Christians came to refer to Christ in the 
same way, "for the Name" (Acts 5:41). The late 
Jews came, perhaps under Mohammedan influence, 
to use the formula "If the Name wills," when about 
to start upon a journey (Oesterley). The rabbis 
(Plummer) have a story of a Jewish father who at 
the circumcision of his son, boasted that with seven- 
year-old wine he would celebrate for a long time the 
birth of his son, That night Rabbi Simeon meets 
the Angel of Death and asks him "Why art thou 
thus wandering about?" The angel replies: "Be- 
cause I slay those who say, we will do this or that, 
and think not how soon death may come upon 
them." The thing that matters is for us to have 
the right attitude of heart toward God, not the 
chattering of a formula. God does not have to be 
propitiated by a charm or amulet. God should be 
the silent partner in all our plans and work, to be 
consulted, to be followed whenever his will is made 
known. Paul frequently spoke of his plans, some- 
times mentioning God as in Acts 18:21 (God willing, 
roi) Oeov dekovro^) and 1 Cor. 4: 19 (if the Lord will, 
eav 6 Kvpiog OeXTjoq) and 1 Cor. 16:7 (if the Lord per- 
mit, kav b KvpLog smTpe-ny), but also with no mention of 
God in words as in Acts 19: 21 ; Rom. 15 : 28; 1 Cor. 
16:5. But always Paul felt that his movements 


were "in the Lord" (ev ™ Kvpiu) & s i n Phil. 2: 24. 
He never left God out of his life. 

2. Conscious Opposition. 4: 16. 

It is bad enough to ignore God as so many men, 
alas, do. A slight is almost as hard to bear as an 
insult, but not quite. However, a positive refusal 
to do God's known will is worse. "But now" 
(vvv 6e), as is really the case (cf. 1 Cor. 14: 6), "But 
here you are" (Moffatt), instead of your trust in 
God, "ye glory in your vauntings" (Kavxdade kv ralg 
aXa&viaiq vfitbv). In their pride of life (7/ aXafrvia rov 
fliov, 1 John 2:16) they practically defied God. 
The word (aXa&v) meant originally a wanderer 
(dXrf) about the country, a vagabond, a Scotch 
landlouper, a swaggerer, an impostor, a braggart. 
In Job 2 : 8 we find the "children of pride" (viol 
aXa&viov). "And I exalted not myself in arrogance" 1 
(Test. Joseph XVII, 8). And Jesus said: "I am 
among you as one that serveth" (Luke 22:27). 
These men were exalting themselves at the expense 
of God. They were running against the known 
will of God. One of the rabbis says: "It is revealed 
and known before Thee that our will is to do Thy 
will" (Berachoth, 17a). "All such glorying is evil" 
(naoa KavxrjaK; roiavrrj Trovqod kortv), says James. It 
is not wicked (irovr\od) per se to boast (cf. 1:9), but 
such boasting as this is wicked and only wicked 
like the wicked one (6 irov^oog) . It is not impossible 
to know the will of God if one will pay the price. 
"If any man willeth to do (deXy noielv) his will, 

1 kv a?.a{uvip. 


he shall know of the teaching, whether it is of God" 
(John 7 : 17). The way opens out to the one who 
is willing to put God to the test. "The boaster 
forgets that life depends on the will of God" 

3. Negative Sin. 4:17. 

In a way this verse is a summary of the entire 
epistle (cf. 1:22; 2:14; 3:1, 13; 4:11). Hence 
James' "therefore" (ovv) is quite in point. Moffatt 
places this verse at the end of chapter 2. Spitta, 
however, finds no connection in the context and takes 
it as a familiar quotation. This may indeed be a 
reference to the words of Jesus in Luke 12 : 47 : "That 
servant, who knew his lord's will, and made not 
ready, nor did according to his will, shall be beaten 
with many stripes." There is an excusable ignor- 
ance or at least a mollifying ignorance (cf. Luke 
12:48; Acts 3: 17; 1 Tim. 1: 13). There is pallia- 
tion for unconscious sins. But James is dealing 
with failure to obey the will of God. It is conscious 
and wilful sin, but of the negative kind. These sins 
of omission (peccata omission-is) are treated lightly 
by many people. The Talmud in general takes 
this easy position on the subject. Oesterley quotes 
the Jerusalem Talmud (Yoma viii, 6) on Zeph. 1 : 12 : 
"I will search Jerusalem with candles, and I will 
punish the men" which adds: "not by daylight, nor 
with the torch, but with candles, so as not to detect 
venial sins." But he adds also this (Shabbath, 54b) : 
"Whosoever is in a position to prevent sins being 
committed in his household, but refrains from doing 


so, becomes liable for their sins." And in i Sam. 
12 : 23 we read, "God forbid that I should sin against 
the Lord in ceasing to pray for you." Jesus made 
it plain that he considered sins of omission as real 
sins: "These things ought ye to have done, and 
not to have left the other undone" (Matt. 23: 23). 
Hear his tragic words to the deluded sinner at the 
judgment bar: "I was hungry, and ye did not 
give me to eat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me no 
drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me not in; 
naked, and ye clothed me not; sick and in prison, 
and ye visited me not" (Matt. 25: 42!). The 
repetition of "not" here is like the tolling of a 
bell. Hear then James: "To him therefore that 
knoweth to do good and doeth it not, to him 
it is sin" (elSon ovv naXbv txoleIv icai fifj itoiovvti, a\iaoria 
avru) konv). So also Paul urged the Galatians not 
to grow weary in doing the good or beautiful (Gal. 
6:9, to KaXbv ttoiovvtes) . It is so easy to shut one's 
eyes and not to see the opportunities for service. 
It is so easy to let prejudice blind us to the needs of 
the real neighbor, as the priest and the Levite passed 
by on the other side {avTL-naoriXdev) and left the poor 
wounded man to suffer (Luke 10: 3 if.). The point 
that James is anxious to make is that this blindness 
is sin. The man who has learned how to do the high 
and noble deed and then falls short has committed 
a sin. It is a heavy indictment that is here drawn 
against us. We are charged with not coming up 
to the standard of our highest knowledge. Plum- 
mer comments pertinently on the Roman Catholic 
doctrine of Probabilism which seeks to excuse the 



weakness of the flesh and to justify one in his pre- 
ference of the lower in the presence of the higher. 
"So long as it is not certain that the act in question 
is forbidden it may be permitted." Plummer adds: 
"The moral law is not so much explained as ex- 
plained away." Alphonse de Sarasa wrote on "The 
Art of Perpetual Enjoyment" (Ars Semper Gaudendi), 
a piece of special pleading for the indulgence of the 
flesh. "The good is the enemy of the best," and the 
bad is the enemy of the good. Down the steps we 
go to the bottom of the ladder. 

4. Tainted Wealth. 5: 1-3. 

Oesterley finds proof of the "patchwork" character 
of the Epistle in the five paragraphs of the closing 
chapter. But in a "wisdom" book one does not 
expect direct connection between the paragraphs. 
That is not true of the practical portions of the 
Pauline Epistles. In the first eleven verses of this 
chapter the eschatological standpoint is occupied, 
possibly that of Jewish eschatology in 1-6 and that 
of Christian eschatology in 7-1 1 (Oesterley). Note 
"in the last days" in verse 3. James is familiar with 
the prophetic imagery of the Messianic times in 
apocalyptic style, but very pointed in his courageous 
indictment of the follies and iniquities of the wicked 
rich. Johnstone entitles this paragraph "the woes 
of the wicked rich." Mayor says: "It is not the 
careless worldliness of the bustling trader which is 
condemned, but the more deadly worldliness of the 
unjust capitalist or landlord." In verse 7 James 
seems to contrast "the brethren" with the rich of 


verses 1-6. It is worth while to quote Isa. 33:1: 
"Woe to thee that spoilest, and thou wast not 
spoiled; and dealest treacherously, and they dealt 
not treacherously with thee! When thou hast 
ceased to spoil, thou shalt be spoiled; and when 
thou hast made an end to deal treacherously, they 
shall deal treacherously with thee." And Hab. 2:9: 
"Woe to him that getteth an evil gain for his house, 
that he may set his nest on high, that he may be 
delivered from the hand of evil." Note also the 
Book of Enoch 94: 7 : "Woe to those that build their 
houses with sin" ; 96 : 8, "Woe unto you mighty who 
violently oppress the righteous, for the day of your 
destruction will come." Perhaps there is an allu- 
sion to the words of Jesus against the Pharisees 
(Matt. 23: 13-36). The Gospel of Luke is held by 
some to have an Ebionitic tendency because it 
preserves some plain words of Jesus to and about 
the rich (6:24; 18:24). But Jesus is not hostile 
towards the rich, for he had friends and followers 
from the wealthy classes, though he dealt very 
squarely and honestly with them. Some Jews held 
that all the rich were wicked as some modern 
socialists and anarchists do. But certainly Jesus 
did not fawn upon the rich nor curry favor with 
them by flattery or compromise. It is easy to de- 
nounce classes of men en masse. It requires per- 
spicacity and courage to discriminate, to be just, 
and to seek to remedy real ills. The rich Jews had 
already oppressed the Christians and made the 
conditions of life hard. 

The Christians were helpless for any immediate 


relief. They had little or no power in government 
and had to live in the social and economic atmos- 
phere created by those hostile to them. It was not 
a democratic, but an imperialistic age. In holding 
out the consolation that rectification of these grave 
evils will come at the second coming of Christ, 
James does not mean to condone the present situa- 
tion nor to acquiesce in it. But what cannot be 
cured can be endured. Christianity has had a long 
and hard fight in the effort to alleviate the sufferings 
of the poor. Ofttimes grasping men of money have 
used the very church itself as a means of oppression 
instead of an agent of blessing. It is a sad state 
when men and women with real social wrongs come 
to feel that Christianity is a negative factor in their 
struggle or a positive hindrance to success. James 
turns upon these oppressors: "Come now, ye rich, 
weep and howl for your miseries that are coming 
upon you." This "come now" (dye vvv) is like that 
in 4: 13. "Weep and shriek" (icXavoaTe bXoXv^ovreg) , 
Moffatt has it. The word (dXoXvfa) is an onomato- 
poetic word and is used only of violent grief as in 
Isa. 13:6; 14:31. It does not occur elsewhere in 
the New Testament. The apocalyptic writings have 
a good deal to say about the "miseries" (raXanrojpiaig) 
"that were coming" (ralg tTregxo^vaig) upon them 
(cf. Joel 2:ioff.; Zech. i4:6ff.; Dan. 12:1). The 
gospels connect them also with the Day of the 
Lord (Matt. 24: 25; Mark 13: 14-27; Luke 21:9-19). 
Part of the gospel prophecies were fulfilled in the 
destruction of Jerusalem. 

"Your riches are corrupted" (6 ttXovto? v/lmv 


oeo-qnev), 1 "your wealth lies rotting" (Moffatt). The 
perfect tense presents the state of rottenness. This 
ill-gotten gain will not keep. It is already putrid 
and smells to heaven. There is such a thing as 
tainted money, blood-money wrung from the op- 
pressed toilers, money gained by financial legerde- 
main ("high finance") at the expense of helpless 
stockholders whose stock is watered for the benefit 
of the few in control; money made out of the souls 
and bodies of men and women in the saloon and the 
white slave traffic. The ethics of money -making is 
a large question and a vital one in modern life. It is 
raised in an acute form by this passage. Christians 
cannot afford to make money by crushing the life 
out of business rivals on the juggernaut principle. 
The Golden Rule ought to work in business. Christ 
claims control of the money and the making of 
money. The Christian is disloyal to Christ who 
acts on what Rev. John A. Hutton calls the "bulk- 
head" or compartment principle of life and keeps 
his money in a separate bulkhead into which he 
does not allow Christ to enter. Christ claims the 
right of a partner in our business, and not that of a 
silent partner, but an active one. We are in busi- 
ness with Christ and for Christ. The Christian has 
no right to have rotten riches. He should have clean 
money, not filthy lucre. Sound money is more than 
mere phrase. Money represents labor and labor 

1 In Epictetus (see Sharp, Epictetus and the N. T., pp. 57f.) 
oairpdq has the weaker sense of "poor," like the use of "rotten" in 
England. In P. Brit. M. 356 (i/A. D.) "art aan^bv avry ihvvai, the 
idea of aa-p6v is "stale." 


is the sweat of brain and brawn. The gambler 
cannot offer clean money to God. He has robbed a 
man of his money. 

"Your garments are moth-eaten" (to ifidna v/jubv 
ff7/r6/3pwra yiyovev). We have the prophetic perfect 
here and James sees the outcome as a reality in a 
state of completion. It is a vivid picture of fine 
clothes eaten by moths and full of holes, ruined 
beyond repair. In the east these rich garments 
were handed down as heirlooms from generation 
to generation and often formed a considerable part 
of the wealth of a rich man. Paul refers to this 
when he said: "I coveted no man's silver, or gold, 
or apparel" (Acts 20:33). The picture of an old 
moth-eaten garment is forlorn in the extreme. 
"Though I am like a rotten thing that consumeth, 
like a garment that is moth-eaten" (Job 13:28). 
A plutocrat is subject to the fate of all mortals. 

"Your gold and your silver are rusted" (6 %Q va °S 
v[i<bv Kai b dgyvpos Kariuyrai) 1 , "lie rusted over" (Mof- 
fatt). As a matter of fact gold does not rust 
in the ordinary sense, except by chemicals, though 
silver tarnishes rather easily. However, this verb 
(Kanou) is used in Sirach 1 2 : 1 1 of a mirror dimmed 
with rust, but the Hebrew word is used also of filth. 
A dirty mirror is one of the ugliest sights. James 
is using popular language, to be sure, and is not to 
be held to the terminology of science. But scientists 
themselves hardly know how to use language ac- 
curately since radium is found to break down the 

1 The Pindaric construction occurs with this singular verb {xari. 


lines between metals and transmutation (according 
to Sir William Ramsay) actually occurs like the 
alchemy of the ancients. In James 3 : 8 this word 
for "rust" (log) is used for poison. At any rate, 
there rests decay on all mortal things. It is not 
necessary to wait for the Day of the Lord to see 
this fact. "Their rust" (6 log avribv) "shall be for a 
testimony against you" (dg \iaprvpiov vjuv tarai). 
There will be no escape from this telltale rust which, 
like gray hairs, betrays age and the approach of 
death. "And shall eat your flesh as fire" («<u 
(frdyerai rag odpicag v/j,cbv cjg nvp). Westcott and Hort 
place "as fire" (w? nvp) with the next sentence. 
Either punctuation makes good sense, but it is a 
bolder figure as above, for nothing eats up what it 
seizes upon more rapidly or completely than fire. 
Feeding the flames of the furnace as a stoker in the 
great ships is one of the most exhaustive of all tasks. 
Fire licks up all in its reach and will gut modern 
fire-proof buildings (iron and concrete) when once it 
gets started, even the wonderful concrete structures 
of the Edison plant. The plural here (rag odpmg) 
emphasizes the completeness of the work of de- 

"Ye have laid up your treasures in the last days" 
(IdTjoavpio-are ev kox&Tcug rjfiepaig). These wicked rich 
have heaped up treasure like a thesaurus and in the 
end of the day have seen it turn to dust and ashes, 
crumbling between their fingers. There is no vault 
on earth secure against moth and rust and thieves 
(Matt. 6: 19). Those who set their hearts upon the 
wealth of earth are bound to come to grief. Pitiful 


is the state of the man "that layeth up treasure for 
himself and is not rich toward God" (Luke 12: 21). 
The only wealth that lasts is riches toward God, 
and this is open to us all. The only wise use ot 
money is so to use it as to make friends who will 
welcome us in heaven (Luke 16: 9) into the eternal 
tabernacles. The mammon of unrighteousness may 
be so employed. If it is not, one will find that he 
has simply treasured up wrath against the day of 
wrath, to be paid at last with compound interest 
(Rom. 2:5). 

5. Wronged Workers. 5:4. 

The God of all the earth will do right. He is not 
deaf to the cries of those oppressed millions in the 
ages whose piteous appeals for elemental justice 
come to him. This is a terrible indictment of Jew- 
ish capitalists who withheld the meager wages of 
the men who gathered the harvests. "Behold, the 
hire of the laborers who mowed your fields, which 
is of you kept back by fraud, crieth out." The hire 
of the laborers (6 ^uoddg twv Ipyarwv) reminds one of 
the proverb, "The laborer is worthy of his hire" 
(Luke 10:7; 1 Tim. 5:18). The word for "hire" 
(pioddc;) occurs sometimes in the sense of reward 
(e. g., 1 Cor. 3:8, 14), but the original idea is 
that of pay for work done (e. g., Matt. jj>: 8}, 
and so here. The word for laborer {tyyp*rf<r) means 
any kind of workman, but it is conimon in the 
New Testament for agricultural workers. "The 
harvest indeed is plenteous, but the laborers (01 epyd- 
rat) are few" (Matt. 9:37). When the work is done 


it is only simple justice for the workman to receive 
his pay, for the hungry mouths at home have to be 
filled. In the Old Testament the cause of the work- 
man was guarded with special care: "Thou shalt not 
oppress a hired servant that is poor and needy, 
whether he be of thy brethren, or of thy strangers 
that are in thy land within thy gates: in his day 
thou shalt give him his hire, neither shall the sun 
go down upon it: lest he cry against thee unto the 
Lord, and it be a sin unto thee" (Deut. 24: i4f.). 
See also Mai. 3:5, "I will be a swift witness against 
. . . those that oppress the hireling in his wages." 
Tobit charges his son Tobias: "Let not the wages 
of any man, which hath wrought for thee, tarry 
with thee, but give him it out of hand" (Tobit 4: 
14). Sirach (34: 2if.) says: "The bread of the needy 
is the life of the poor : he that def raudeth (anooTeptiv) 
him thereof is a man of blood. He that taketh away 
his neighbor's living slayeth him; and he that de- 
fraudeth a laborer of his hire is a blood-shedder. " 
Certainly, therefore, the Jews were not without ex- 
plicit teaching on this vital point of elemental social 

And yet these men "who mowed" {ayqodvT^v, lit- 
erally, "heap together") 1 their fields had the sad 
experience of not receiving the wages, "of you kept 
back by fraud" (6 d<pvarf.prjiievo^ a<p' v^uyv), "comes too 
late from you" (Mayor). The word means to "fall 
short," "be too late" (vcrrepEO) is like vorepov, "later"). 
Note Heb. 3:1 {voTtpTjutvai) . See P. Lond. 1166 13 

1 At harvest time there is always special demand for laborers at 
higher wages than usual to save the ripe grain before it perishes. 


(A. D. 42) for the very word (a^voTepq) used of "a 
bath insufficiently warmed" (Moulton and Milligan, 
Vocabulary, p. 99). The honest laborers who form 
the foundation of our industrial system are not to be 
treated as beggars or "hobos." They are not 
subjects for charity. They are the human element 
in the industrial problem. Blood is thicker than 
water and is more valuable than gold. The horror 
of war is that it treats men as fodder for cannon 
regardless of the result to the man or those de- 
pendent on him. 

This stolen pay "cries out" (upd^i) and ought to 
cry out, whether the hire is kept back after the 
work is done or whether the employer purposely 
squeezes the laborer down to starvation wages in 
order to make more money for himself. There is a 
just balance to be struck by which both capital and 
labor may receive just remuneration. "The cries 
of them that reaped {al (3oai twv depiodvrav) have 
entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth (elg ra 
u)ra Kvplov lafiacjd elaeXi]Xv8av) . " "The cries of the 
harvesters" (Moffatt) are musical when they sing 
together as they work, content with their wages 
and joyous in their work. But the "cries" here 
heard are of a very different sort. They are the 
angry, resentful outcries of men who have been 
wronged in their very souls by those who should 
have been their protectors and friends, those for 
whom the harvesters have worked. These men cry 
to heaven and they ought to do so. Mayor notes 
four sins that cry to heaven - . A brother's blood 
(Gen. 4:10), the sin of Sodom (Gen. 18:20), the 


oppressed hireling (Deut. 24: 15), the cry of Job 
for justice (16: 18L). But men ought to hear the 
cry of the laborers before they become too clamor- 
ous. It is only right that social injustice should be 
rectified here and now and the transgressors pun- 
ished. We have come upon a time when the hosts 
of labor and capital are like two armed camps, 
ready for instant battle. Even as these words are 
penned the country faces the spectacle of a pro- 
longed war in the mining region of Colorado that 
has gone beyond the power of the State authorities 
to control and that has taxed the resources of the 
national government for a solution. There are 
probably wrongs on both sides. The State cannot 
do everything. It is a vain hope to expect a millen- 
nium in the socialistic State of the radical socialists, 
and yet much that is called socialism is simply 
common humanity and Christian brotherhood taught 
by Jesus, chief of all, and reenforced in the Epistles. 
It is undoubtedly true that society has paid more 
attention to the making of money than to the men 
who toil to make it. The social test of modern 
Christianity is to do justice to the laboring men 
without doing injustice to the capitalists. The 
conditions of life must be made easier. If corpora- 
tions have no souls, the men who toil at the forge 
have. Men are entitled to a bit of heaven here 
and now in their own hearth and home. Somehow 
many of the laborers have come to feel that the 
churches do not sympathize with the struggles of 
the laboring classes to better their hard lot, but 
fawn upon the very rich who sometimes grind the 


toilers to the earth. It is easy to be extreme and 
unjust to one side or the other. The main thing is 
to be faithful to God and man, to man as man. 
The poorest of men is worth more than a sheep, 
yes, and than gold and silver. The soul is without 
price and the soul dwells in the body. We must 
shake the shackles free from men and women who 
cry out to God. The Lord God of Sabaoth has 
heard their cries and will punish the offenders in 
due time, but that fact does not absolve us from 
our present duty in the midst of conditions that 
call for action. Wronged workers have a right to a 
hearing at the bar of public opinion. They will 
cry on till they are heard. 

6. The Wanton Use of Money. 5 : $f. 

Evidently James is all ablaze with passion as he 
faces the situation of his readers. These Jewish 
plutocrats, some of them shysters, had made their 
money out of the blood and sweat of the toiling 
poor (cf. modern sweat-shops). And then they 
spend it in a way to anger the wronged workers 
still more. They live in the most luxurious ex- 
travagance and waste of money while the cold, 
half -naked, hungry toilers who made the wealth go 
unpaid. It is no wonder that such laborers grow 
bitter at heart. It is a vivid and even ghastly pic- 
ture of the wicked rich who revel at the cost of 
human happiness, who with careless indifference 
shut their eyes to the misery all around them due 
to their own injustice. Christianity endeavors to 
make this cold cynicism impossible, to persuade to 


be just and, if need be, go the second mile in eager- 
ness to help rather than to hang back and higgle 
over the first. During the dreadful days of the 
strike at Lawrence, Mass., a daughter of one of 
the wealthy mill owners braved the criticism of her 
social circle and boldly went among the very men 
who cursed her father as the cause of it all. She 
went as an angel of mercy to bind up the broken 
hearts and lives. "Ye have lived delicately on the 
earth, and taken your pleasure" (h-pv^a-re kttt rift 
y?7£ Kai koTraraX^aaTe) , "ye have revelled on earth 
and plunged into dissipation" (Moffatt). The 
sound of revelry by night has no melody to the 
ears of the man whose wife and children are starving 
because he does not get a square deal from his 
employer. In Hermas (Sim. 6. i) both of these 
verbs are used together ("reminiscence of this pas- 
sage," Mayor) of those who gave themselves up to 
the lusts of the world. See also i Tim. 5:6: "She 
that giveth herself to pleasure is dead while she 
liveth." One is reminded of the picture of the 
beggar Lazarus who lay at the rich man's gate 
while he feasted within. The conditions will be 
reversed in heaven if the poor are Christians and 
the rich man is unsaved (Luke 16: 25). That hope 
is not to be despised, but James is not content to 
spare the rich now while they inflict such wrongs 
on men whom they employ. 

"Ye have nourished your hearts in a day of 
slaughter" (kdpeipaTe rag /capd/a? v/uov kv fy/epa oQayjft). 
We have here a hard phrase to understand. Homer 
uses the verb (rpe^w) of turning milk into cheese 


(Od. ix. 246). But we cannot feel sure (cf. Luke 
21:34). And what is "the day of slaughter"? 
Moffatt boldly renders thus: "You have fattened 
yourselves as for the Day of Slaughter." That is at 
least comprehensible. At any rate, when Jerusalem 
was destroyed the Romans slew the rich Jews indis- 
criminately whether they remained in the city or 
flew in despair to the Romans who were bent on 
plunder (cf. Josephus, War, v. 10, 2). The pious 
poor in all the ages have suffered at the hands of 
the rich and the mighty. Even in America religious 
liberty came as the result of fierce struggle. Political 
freedom was bought with the price of blood. Eco- 
nomic justice will be won only by tears and blood. 

The very limit is reached. "Ye have condemned, 
ye have killed the righteous one; he doth not resist 
you" (icaTediitdoaTe, kipovevoare tov diiccuov. Ovk avTirdo- 
atrai vfilv). Many take these words to refer to the 
death of Jesus as the culmination of iniquity when 
the rich Pharisees and Sadducees obtained the death 
of the poor Carpenter of Nazareth. Peter charged 
the Jews with Christ's death in these words: "But 
ye denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked 
for a murderer to be granted unto you, and killed 
the Prince of Life" (Acts 3: 14L). Certainly the 
application to Jesus has a deal of verisimilitude. 
Stephen used similar language: "And they killed 
them which showed before the coming of the Right- 
eous One; of whom ye have now become betrayers 
and murderers" (Acts 7:52). "The Righteous One" 
(6 61*010$) is thus seen to be one of the titles given 
Jesus by the early disciples. There is no reason 


why James should not have referred to the death 
of Jesus in these words. But the Book of Wisdom 
has similar language about the righteous poor who 
are oppressed by the wicked rich and the parallel is 
so clear that probably James refers directly to it. 
See Wisdom 2:ioff. : "Let us oppress the poor 
righteous man; let us not spare the widow, nor 
reverence the ancient grey hairs of the aged. . . . 
Let us lie in wait for the righteous; because he is 
not for our turn, and he is clear contrary to our 
doings; he upbraideth us with our offending the 
law." It was so in the days of the prophets. Hear 
Amos as he thunders against the evils of his day. 
"They have sold the righteous for silver, and the 
needy for a pair of shoes; they that pant after the 
dust of the earth on the head of the poor" (surely 
the most greedy of men for real estate, if they even 
seek that on top of the head of the poor!). The 
picture is one of the oppression of the good man 
who is unresisting and allows himself to be robbed. 
The horrors of war to helpless women and children 
come before us. 

It is curious that in the legendary account 1 of the 
death of James, who was later called also "the Just" 
(6 dixaiog), we are told that the Jews ran upon James 
crying: "Oh! oh! even the righteous one has gone 
astray — let us stone the righteous one" (w & itai b 

diKaiog h-nXavi)dr] — \tQaou\Ltv tov diitaiov). One of the 

priests vainly cried out: "Stop! What are you 
doing? The righteous one is praying for you." 
According to this story, James himself finally met 

1 Eusebius, H. E. ii. 23 (taken from Hegesippus). 


the very fate of those unfortunate victims of Jew- 
ish greed and hate of whom Jesus is the chief illus- 
tration. Progress in behalf of human rights is won 
only by slow advances here and there. But in the 
end of the day the cause wins. The stars in their 
courses fight against Sisera and all the enemies of 
man and God. 


Perseverance and Prayer. 5:7-20 

The purpose of James in writing his Epistle comes 
out clearly here. He wishes to hearten the Jewish 
Christians in the midst of their trials as well as to 
make a protest against the oppressions to which 
they were subjected. "The storm of indignation is 
past, and from this point to the end of the Epistle 
St. James writes in tones of tenderness and affec- 
tion" (Plummer). He has denounced the persecu- 
tors, and now turns to the brethren who are under 
the heel of the money -devil. 

1. Patience Till the Parousia. 5: 7L 

"Be patient therefore, brethren, until the coming 
of the Lord" (fiatcpodviiTJaare ovv, adeX<poi, "ug rr/g trapov- 
oiag tov Kvqiov). 1 Moffatt has it "till the arrival of 
the Lord." The example of the righteous man, 
whether Christ or the typical righteous poor man, 
argues (ovv) strongly for longsuffering (fiaKQo-dvftecj is 
"long-tempered" like our "sweet-tempered," "quick- 
tempered," and is the opposite of "short-tempered," 
so Mayor) . In the Christian race one cannot afford 
to be short of wind. He has a long run and must 
hold out till the goal is reached (cf. Heb. 12: 1-3). 

1 In P. Par. 26, B. C. 163, note ev Mt//0« irapovoiac ("visits to 



* One is reminded of the opening note of the Epistle 
of James (1 : 2-4), where he urged joy in the midst 
of varied trials. The wicked rich deserve all the 
fierce denunciation that James has just bestowed 
and all the penalty that God will inflict, but the 
suffering Christians must not engage in mere re- 
crimination. James does not discourage protest 
against wrong nor the effort to remove evil. But 
there is a residuum of suffering and pain in the cup 
of all of us. When all else is done, in the end of the 
day we must drink that cup. Let us do it with the 
spirit of soldiers who fall in the trenches at the post 
of duty. It is better to do it without flinching and 
without making a wry face. Men (and even women) 
have undergone major operations without anes- 
thesia. God is full of "longsuffering" toward us 
(Rom. 2:451 Pet. 3:20), and men have shown the 
same spirit (James 5 : 10; 2 Cor. 6:6). The patience 
in James 1 : 3L is just "remaining under" (vnoiiovrj) , 
but here the point is to do it and make no fuss about 
it, not to call attention to what one is suffering, to 
be a martyr without insisting on being recognized as 

The early Christians were so eager for the second 
coming (napovoia) of the Lord Jesus that they were 
impatient for his return and some of them com- 
pletely upset about it, though Jesus had emphasized 
the utter uncertainty of the time and had urged 
watchfulness and readiness. By a skilful turn 
(Plummer) James "makes the unconscious impa- 
tience of primitive Christianity a basis for his 
exhortation to conscious patience." Some of them 


no longer had a taste for the slow work of plowing, 
sowing, and reaping, forgetting what Jesus had said 
of the gradual growth of the Kingdom of God from 
seed to harvest. So James, probably with the words 
of Jesus in mind, says: "Behold, the husbandman 
waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth" {l6oi> 
6 ygwpydf huSix 8 ™ r ° v Ti i tuov Kapnov tt}$ yijg). The 
farmer, tiller of the soil (yewpydf), has much to dis- 
courage him in the making and selling of his crops. 
The soil has to be kept up to its level of fertility 
and must be properly prepared. The seed must be 
of good quality and has to be sown at the proper 
season. The weeds will come and the harvest is 
dependent on the sun and the rain. He cannot 
hasten the process. When he has done the most 
scientific farming, he can only wait in expectancy 
(t/£<j£££T<M, note Ik). 1 Often, perhaps daily, the farmer 
goes and watches the growth of the grain, "being 
patient over it" (naKpodv/iuv 'm' avrCi), bending over it 
as a fond father. He knows that he cannot hasten 
the season. The "early" rain (npoiftov) made pos- 
sible the sowing of the seed. The "latter" rain 
(uxpinov) will make possible a harvest. Meanwhile he 
can do nothing but wait "till it receive" (ew? x&Pv) 
the final touch from God's hand. By force of cir- 
cumstances the farmer has to exercise long-suffering 
toward his crop of wheat. 

"Be ye also patient" (iiaKpodvfiTJaare mi vfitl^). 
James applies his illustration with directness and 
power. "Ye also," as well as the husbandman. He 

1 Note P. Oxy., 939 (iv/A. D.), line 27, iK&o~r/{ u/jac indextyevot 
tt/v [o]?)i> ty/l-iv ("hourly expecting thy arrival"). 


does it, for nature has taught him her secrets. "Ye" 
should do so, for Jesus has shown you the way. 
"Establish your hearts" (arrjpi^aTe rag tcapdiag v/itiv). 
Peter is charged with just this task when he has 
turned (Luke 22:32). God strengthens us (1 Pet. 
5: 10; 1 Thess. 3: 13), but we must do our share. 
"For the coming of the Lord is at hand" (ore ^ 
■napovoia tov Kvpiov rfyy 1 kev) . The word "is at hand" 
{fp/yutev) is the one that John the Baptist used of 
the nearness of the Kingdom of Heaven which had 
come right upon them (Matt. 3:2). So Peter (1 Pet. 
4:7) says: "The end of all things has drawn near." 
Paul (Phil. 4: 6) says: "The Lord is nigh" (or near). 
There is no doubt that the early Christians hoped 
that Jesus would come back quickly and thus re- 
lieve them from the ills of an impossible social 
system (Rom. 13:11; 1 Cor. 15:5; 1 Thess. 4:15; 

1 John 2: 18). But they did not at all feel sure 
that Jesus was coming right away (1 Thess. 5:2; 

2 Thess. 3: iff.; 2 Cor. 5:1-10; Phil. 1:21-23). 
When 2 Peter is written scoffers are already asking, 
"Where is the promise of his coming?" (2 Pet. 3:4.) 
The answer is given that one day with the Lord is as 
a thousand years and a thousand years as one day. 
Back to their tasks they must go, back to the 
building up of the Kingdom of God in the midst of 
a world of woe and sin, on with the conflict till 
Jesus comes, on with the long siege against human 
greed and inhumanity to man. Patience is the 
word, patience and prayer, pluck and praise, power 
and peace in the end. 


2. Folly of Recrimination. 5:9. 

If things do not go to suit us, the natural way is 
to blame somebody else for what has befallen us. 
We generally exculpate ourselves from all responsi- 
bility. There is a naive illustration of this propen- 
sity in John 12:19: "Behold, ye prevail nothing; 
lo, the world is gone after him." At the Triumphal 
Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem the Pharisees, thinking 
that their cause against Jesus is lost, turn and blame 
each other for the outcome. So then "murmur not, 
brethren, one against another" (p) orevd&re, ddeX^oi, 
Kar' aXXrjXuv) . Literally it is, "groan not, brothers, 
against one another." See Rom. 8:23: "We our- 
selves groan (arevd^onev) within ourselves." It is 
rather the inward and unexpressed feeling than the 
outward expression of dissatisfaction (cf. James 4: 
11). The secret grudge is taken out in groans and 
murmurs. In Mark 7:34 Jesus is said to have 
groaned (toTeva&v) as he looked up to heaven and 
prayed, perhaps out of sheer weariness at the burden 
of sin and sorrow that was upon him. It is hard to 
be content and to smother resentment at known or 
suspected wrong. The suppressed volcano may eas- 
ily break out into a violent eruption. "They will 
run here and there for meat, and grudge if they be 
not satisfied" (Psa. 59: 15). The murmur of a mob 
is often senseless, and in all events we must bear in 
mind that we bring down condemnation on our own 
heads. "That ye be not judged" (iva fir) Kpidqre), says 
James. He recurs to this point in 5 : 12. Probably 
the words of Jesus in Matt. 7 : 1 are recalled by 
James. "Behold, the judge standeth before the 


doors" (idov 6 KQirrjc, Trpd T(hv 6vpiG)v eoT7]Kev). He will 
hear all complaints and set everything right. The 
picture appears to be that in the Mishna (A b. iv. 
16): "This world is as if it were a vestibule to the 
future world; prepare thyself in the vestibule, that 
thou mayest enter the reception room." Jesus is 
the Judge who stands at the Door through which 
all must pass. The conception is eschatological and 
apocalyptic. See Matt. 24:33: "Know ye that he 
is nigh, at the doors" (sni dvpai^. In Rev. 3:20 
Jesus is represented as saying: "Behold, I stand at 
the door and knock." Let him in now, that you 
and he may sup together. Let him in now, else 
you may stand before him hereafter as culprit and 
helpless and hopeless. "Kiss the Son, lest he be 
angry, and ye perish in the way" (Psa. 2:12). 
Treat kindly one another so that you will not need 
the Son to act as Judge between you. 

3 . Examples of Patience. 5 : 1 of . 

James, like a practical preacher, loves to illus- 
trate his points. He has a fitting one right to hand 
in "the prophets who spake in the name of the 
Lord" {rovg TTQo<priTag, 01 khdXrjoav kv ra bvofiarc Kvplov). 
They spoke in the name, with the authority, and so 
with the power of the Lord. The idiom is common 
enough in the Septuagint and, indeed, in the papyri 
(Deissmann, Bible Studies, p. 198). They spoke as 
the representatives of Jehovah. Mayor seems a 
bit perplexed over the failure of James to mention 
Jesus as the supreme example of suffering, as is 
done by Peter (1 Pet. 2: 21), who spoke of Christ 


leaving us an example (vnoypaniiov) , and by Paul 
(Phil. 2: 5-1 1), and by the author of Hebrews (12: 
1-5). Perhaps James may have thought it was 
particularly pertinent for these Jewish Christians to 
be reminded of the prophets as an "example of suf- 
fering and patience" (vTrofoiyfia rfjg Ka/co-nadiag mi rfjg 
fiaKQoBvficag) . Certainly, they endured evil (/ca/corrafl/a) 
in abundance and had great need of long-suffering 
(lianQodvfiia) . It was common enough to appeal to 
them for this purpose. Jesus did it with keenest 
irony at the mock heroic monuments built later to 
the memory of the martyred prophets (Matt. 5: 12; 
2 3 : 34» 37)- Stephen did it with so sharp a tongue 
that the Sanhedrin stoned him to death for his 
courage and proved the truth of his words by their 
own acts (Acts 7:52). Elijah says to Jehovah: 
"The children of Israel . . . have slain thy prophets 
with the sword" (1 Kings 19: 10, 14). Jeremiah 
says also: "Your own sword hath devoured your 
prophets like a destroying lion" (Jer. 2:30). As 
patterns of patience "take" (XdfteTe) Noah, Abra- 
ham, Jacob, Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah. These illus- 
trate in various ways the patience of which the 
readers of the Epistle of James stand in sore need. 

"Behold, we call them blessed that endured" (ISnv 
liaKo.pi^o[iev rovg vTrofitivavraq) . He had already done 
that in James 1 : 12. Jesus had promised salvation 
to the one who endured to the end (Matt. 24: 13). 
Men usually felicitate the survivors of a catastrophe. 
Often they become popular heroes. 

In particular, "ye have heard of the patience of 
Job" (ttjv vnofiovTiv 'Iw/3 rjicovoaTe) . Job was the most 


frequently quoted instance in the Old Testament 
times and is a perfectly obvious one for James. 
And yet Job did have passionate outbursts of indig- 
nation at the jibes and superfluous advice of his tor- 
menting friends and even of his wife when God 
seemed to have deserted him. But it must be 
remembered Job did not curse God and die. He 
waited for God to speak and make it all plain. Job 
hardly exhibited longsuffering (jiaicpodviua), but he 
clearly did show patience (imofiovrj) . He was not 
exactly meek, but he revealed the endurance of a 
sensitive man. Though Job is the most famous 
instance of patience in the Old Testament, yet he 
is nowhere else cited as such in the New Testament. 
We need not discuss the question whether Job is par- 
able or fact, as the point is here precisely the same. 
Ye "have seen the end of the Lord, how that the 
Lord is full of pity, and merciful" (to reXog Kvpiov 
elders, otl TrokvonXayxvog Iotiv 6 ttvpiog mi oi/mp/zwv) . 
The outcome in the case of Job proves the point. 
It turned out all right with Job. So he illustrates 
the pity and mercy of the Lord; "the end of the 
Lord" is seen in the conclusion like a novel that 
turns out happily at last. In the midst of the 
stress and storm of Job's life (Sturm und Drang) 
and his violent outbursts of emotion and exalted 
feeling God is sympathetic (TroXvanlayxvog) and com- 
passionate (oIktlqluov) . God has understood Job 
and watched his endurance all the while. The 
story is so well known that James does not have to 
tell it, but can depend upon his readers to see the 
point of the illustration. 


4. Profanity. 5:12. 

This little paragraph seems to come in rather 
abruptly, with no connection with what precedes. 
As a result, Oesterley regards it as "a fragment of a 
larger piece" which James here tears from its con- 
text, perhaps a saying from Jesus. But Plummer 
is more likely correct in thinking of it as an appen- 
dix after rounding out the Epistle, coming back to 
the blessedness of trial with which topic the Epistle 
opens. The exhortations need not have a close 
connection with each other. As a matter of fact, 
James has spoken more against the sins of speech 
than any other single sin. Plummer well says: "He 
has spoken against talkativeness, unrestrained speak- 
ing, love of correcting others, railing, cursing, boast- 
ing, murmuring" (1:19, 26; 3: 1-12; 4: 11, 13; 
5:9). He now recurs to the sins of speech to say a 
few words against one of the commonest evils of 
which he has not spoken specifically. He evidently 
is thinking of the words of Jesus as we have them in 
Matt. 5 : 34-37, though it is not an exact quotation. 1 
He may, indeed, as Resch holds, give another ver- 
sion of the same logion (cf. 2 Cor. 1 : 17). But there 
was ample ground for this prohibition, as the Jews 
had learned how to split hairs on the subject of 
profanity. The third commandment was plain 
enough on the subject and it was supported by the 
Pharisees and the Essenes. The Essenes, indeed, 

1 Plummer notes that the Epistle of James shows more coinci- 
dences with the words of Jesus than all of Paul's epistles, and that 
all of them deal with the morality of the gospel, with conduct and 
life. This is all just as the circumstances would lead us to expect. 


opposed all oaths, even before courts, and were said 
to have been excused by Herod from taking the 
oath of allegiance (Jos., Ant. xv. 10. 4). And yet, 
as Mayor notes, this is not consistent with the oath 
of initiation which the Essenes took (Jos., War ii. 
8. 7). The Jewish view is well represented by 
Sirach 23: 7-11 and by Philo (M. 2, p. 184). The 
early Christians found trouble with this verse of 
James, as with the words of Jesus on the same 
point. See list of quotations from the early writers 
in Mayor. Augustine sees no harm in oaths before 
courts if it were not for the danger of committing 
perjury. And yet it may be seriously questioned if 
Jesus or James is thinking of oaths in courts of 
justice, since Jesus himself did not refuse to answer 
when put on oath by the high priest before the 
Sanhedrin (Matt. 26:63^). Besides, solemn assev- 
eration is allowed in the Old Testament (Deut. 
6: 13; 10: 20; Psa. 65: 16). It is far more likely the 
flippant use of oaths (profanity) that is here con- 
demned. There were, and are still, alas, all sorts of 
devices by which more or less pious people felt 
justified in calling on the name of the Lord in 
ordinary speech. It is to-day one of the saddest 
things in life to note how common profanity is in the 
ordinary speech of men and of boys, mannish boys 
who imitate the men about them. It is positively 
disheartening to hear it on the streets, in the street- 
cars, in the trains. 

If one is puzzled, as was Augustine, over the 
words "above all things" (npd navruv), on the ground 
that profanity is not worse than adultery and 


murder, we may take it either as a kind of hyperbole 
(as Augustine) or as a sort of "elative" superlative 
(not literally before all, but only "very important") 
as limited to the forms of impatience in the preceding 
context like i Pet. 4: 8, where the same idiom (vpn 
ttcLvtuv) occurs (so Mayor). But, if the strict inter- 
pretation be insisted on, one has only to consider 
what the sin of profanity really is. It is a blasphe- 
mous use of the name of the Most High God. The 
fact that it is usually done without thinking miti- 
gates the offense, but sometimes the full bitterness 
of profanity is meant. Few things are worse than 
sulphurous speech like the very fumes of hell. For 
my part, I should not press the words "above all 
things" too far in this context. 

"Swear not, neither by the heaven, nor by the 
earth, nor by any other oath" (/*?? dfivvere, urjre ibv 

ovpavov \vf\TZ ttjv yrjv firjre dXXov riva oqkov). 1 Cer- 
tainly this is plain enough to be understood. It is 
conclusive and inclusive and leaves no room for the 
milder forms of profanity for which Christians 
sometimes excuse themselves. "But let your yea 
be yea, and your nay, nay" (rjro) Si v^v to No/ vai 
Kal to Ov ov), "let your 'yes' be a plain 'yes,' your 
'no' a plain 'no' " (Moffatt). This, and nothing 
more. But there is the trouble. The need for 

1 The use of the present imperative in prohibition rather than 
the aorist subjunctive implies that the thing was being done. That 
is probably true, for church members have been known to be guilty 
of this sin. However, it is possible for this tense to prohibit the 
habit rather than the single act. "Keep on not swearing." See 
Robertson, Grammar of the Greek N. T. in the Light of Hist. Res., 
p. 851-854. 


emphasis and the love of strong assertion lead one 
so easily to go beyond the bounds of good taste 
and of decency. Edersheim (i. p. 583) has a Midrash 
quotation: "The good man's yea is yea, and his nay 
nay." In calmer moments one knows that the 
value of his statement rests at bottom on his own 
character for veracity. His mere word is enough 
and, in truth, all that one can offer. Violent ex- 
pletives throw discredit on one's ordinary state- 
ments and suspicion on the one that he seeks to 
bolster up with artificial means. Profanity is one 
of the worst and most useless of sins. It brings 
good to none and harm to all, in particular to the 
one who uses it. "That ye fall not under judgment" 
(Jva pi) vnd kqIolv neoTjTe). The Judge is at the door 
(James 5 : 9) and there is no escape. 

5. Worship and Excitement. 5: 13. 

Plummer has a very keen and pertinent heading 
for his chapter on this verse, and it is noteworthy 
that he devotes an entire chapter to this one verse, 
a verse that is little understood by most interpre- 
ters. His heading is this: "Worship the Best Outlet 
and Remedy for Excitement. The Connection be- 
tween Worship and Conduct." Certainly oaths are 
not the way to express one's emotions, whether one 
be angry or merely excited, least of all when one 
has the miserable habit of profanity and is unaware 
of his foul speech. And yet it is not wrong to ex- 
press one's feelings. There is no merit in the self- 
repression of the Cynic or the Stoic. "Let the 
expression of strongly excited feelings be an act of 


worship" (Plummer). This is an intensely practical 
point. "Is any among you suffering?" (KaKonadel 
rig kv vfiiv;). And what church or community does 
not have one or more of these occasional or chronic 
sufferers ? The word (mno-nadu) has a wider meaning 
than mere bodily sickness. Paul uses it for suffer- 
ing hardship as a good soldier (2 Tim. 2:3, 9; 4: 5). 
It includes any kind of ill of body or mind. It 
means literally having had experiences and refers 
to the natural depression as a result of such mis- 
fortunes. The remedy is not in despondency or in 
suicide. The remedy lies in prayer. "Let him 
pray" (npooevxeodu) , let him pray as a habit (present 
tense of durative action). Prayer is a blessing to 
the heart and to the mental life. It is good to talk 
with God. The worry disappears in God's presence 
and often the very ill itself disappears. But if it 
does not go, he gives us grace sufficient to bear the 
burden. So then prayer is the proper outlet for the 
depressed Christian. Here lies one of the great 
blessings of public worship in the house of God. 
The tired soul finds rest in prayer in the house of 
prayer. There is comfort in secret prayer and in 
family worship, but the man makes a tremendous 
psychological blunder who cuts himself off from the 
spiritual tonic of the public worship of God. Those 
in charge of that worship should never fail to have 
such in mind — such spirits who come to church 
seeking comfort and strength. 

But some hearts are overjoyed and feel like giving 
expression to their joy in unusual ways, almost in 
ecstasy. "Is any cheerful?" (evdvfiel rig]). There 


are many in happy mood, in good spirits or "good 
cheer" (cf. Acts 27:22, 25). These are in good 
health of soul and mayhap also of body. "Let 
him sing praise" (ipaXMroj). The word originally 
meant to play on a stringed instrument (Sir. 9:4), 
but it comes to be used also for singing with the 
voice and the heart (Eph. 5:19; 1 Cor. 14:15), 
making melody with the heart also to the Lord. 
There is a wondrous exaltation of soul in the public 
praise of God. The combination of instruments 
and of voice enables the soul of man to pour itself 
out toward God in richness of praise. This is far 
better than the reckless, unrestrained ecstasy of 
overwrought emotionalism. Plummer notes prop- 
erly that there is no merit or demerit per se in 
excitement. The wild dervish commands only as- 
tonishment, not sympathy. Religious excitement 
may become the occasion of bringing discredit upon 
Christianity, even when it represents real fervor 
and an element of worship. The spirit of man 
cannot always be restrained. Under the preaching 
of Wesley and Whitefield the audiences were some- 
times carried to excesses of emotion. But far better 
this than the deadness and coldness of mere formal- 
ism. Revivals occasionally have been marked by 
such excesses, like the "Jerks" in Kentucky a hundred 
years ago, when, however, real change of life took 
place. There is wisdom in the words of James here. 
Let the religious emotions find expression in prayer 
and praise. The effect is not only good for the 
moment, but is good for conduct and life as a whole. 
If we could only manage somehow to turn some of 


the energy that goes into dancing into religious 
worship, certainly the effect would be more whole- 
some all round. People cannot help a measure of 
excitement. Some of it is good for them. There is 
tonic in communion with God, tonic for soul and 

6. God and Medicine. 5:14-18. 

Few subjects have excited more interest in recent 
years than the subject here presented. So many 
subsidiary issues are raised that it is difficult to 
treat the question adequately in a few pages. The 
career of Alexander Dowie, with his work at Zion 
City, is still fresh in the mind of the public. The 
man undoubtedly performed some wonderful cures, 
but turned out to be a mountebank if not worse. 
Many varieties of "faith-cures" have been before 
the world. The so-called Christian Science move- 
ment is now the most prominent of them all, com- 
bining an idealistic philosophy and pantheistic 
religion. This combination takes up various as- 
pects of Buddhism, Gnosticism, and a dash of 
Christian verbiage, with the vital elements of 
Christianity gone, and uses some of the well-known 
ideas of modern psychology as to the influence of 
the mind on the body.? As a whole it is a hopeless 
jumble of absurdities and inconsistencies and is 
hostile to the worship of Jesus. 'It leads astray a 
certain type of mind without clear reasoning proc- 
esses and fattens on the fees for mental healing, a 
portion of which go to the Mother Church in Bos- 
ton. There is only the most superficial parallel 


between what James here describes and what the 
Christian Science "healer" practises. There is in 
James an absence of all mercenary ideas. There is 
no "commercialized use of prayer," to use the legal 
phrase of one of the New York courts. There is 
also the use of olive oil, /the best medicine known 
to the ancient world, and still one of the best re- 
medial agencies, whether used internally or ex- 
ternally. The disciples of Jesus on their tour of 
Galilee had the double ministry of preaching and 
healing (Matt. 10: 7L) and they anointed the sick 
with oil (Mark 6: 13). In Isa. 1 : 6 the prophet says 
that the bruises were "neither bound up, neither 
mollified with oil." So the Good Samaritan bound 
up the wounds of the poor victim of the robbers and 
poured oil and wine upon him (Luke 10: 34). 

A number of questions come bristling for discus- 
sion as we proceed with this passage in James. The 
use of the word church (1% eKK^riata^) rather than 
synagogue, as in 2:2, is to be observed. The local 
church undoubtedly had a close kinship to the 
Jewish synagogue in origin and worship. The very 
phrase "elders" (rovg npeopvTepovs) of the church 
occurs also in Acts 20: 17 and in the plural like 
bishops at Philippi (Phil. 1:1). There was a 
council of elders in the synagogue (Luke 7:3), and 
the word appears in an official sense in the Egyptian 
papyri (Deissmann, Bible Studies, pp. i54f., 233L). 1 
But a more vital question for our subject is whether 
these elders come in an official capacity to perform 
an ecclesiastical "anointing" (dXeiipavreg kkaiu) with 

1 The phrase 6 Tvpea^irspo^ rf/g ko>/x//c occurs in a Ptolemaic papyrus. 


oil or whether they come to pray as brothers in 
Christ and rub with the olive oil (cf . Isa. i : 6) as 
medicine. Mayor quotes Philo (Sonm, M. i. 666), 
Pliny (N. H. xxiii. 34-50), and Galen (Med. Temp., 
Book ii) in praise of oil as a medicine. In Herod's 
last illness he was recommended a bath of oil (Jos., 
War i. 33, 5). There is therefore no doubt as to the 
ancient opinion about and use of oil as a medicine. 
It is probable that one will decide this question 
according to his predilections. For my own part, 
I incline to the view that we have here, not a sacra- 
mental or priestly function on the part of these 
elders, but the double duty of ministry of the word 
and of medicine (with prayer) . The nearest parallel 
in modern life is the medical missionary, who goes 
with the word of life and the healing balm of modern 
science. He heals the sick with the physician's 
skill and the prayer of faith. Paul helped the sick 
(Acts 20:35) at Ephesus and often healed the sick, 
and yet he worked side by side with Luke, the be- 
loved physician, as in the island of Melita (Acts 28: 
8f.). There is certainly no indication that what is 
called "extreme unction" was practised or urged by 
James and the Apostolic Christians. That was a 
late development in the Greek and Roman Catholic 
churches that is foreign to the tone of this Epistle. 
There is here no such superstition as sending for a 
minister, when death is at hand, to perform a 
magical ritual ceremony to stave off death. Mayor 
has a full statement of the chief facts about the 
"sacrament" of unction in later centuries. Mayor 
suggests that the cases of the failure of the simple 


use of oil as a medicine probably led finally to the 
special consecration of the oil or the use of relics. 
But in James we seem to have not a ceremony or 
ecclesiastical function, but rather the simple use of 
oil as a medicine and prayer "in the name of the 
Lord." To-day we have a more advanced medical 
science, which is, however, by no means final and 
infallible. We separate the functions of the minister 
and the physician. We prefer the doctor to the oil, 
but we still need God with the doctor. It is a great 
error for one to think that God is not to be called 
upon because we have a skilled physician. The 
minister still has a place, and a very important 
place, in the problem of therapeutics, particularly in 
those many cases of a more or less nervous type 
when the influence of the mind on the body is very 
pronounced. Often in the most severe illness the 
deciding factor is not medicine, but hope, as any 
doctor will say. The minister should make friends 
with the physician and be at his service and co- 
operate with him. The minister needs to be careful 
to be a help, and not a hindrance, in cases of sickness. 
He should be a sedative and an inspiration to the 
patient, not an irritant or an excitant. It is a 
just ground of complaint that physicians have 
against those preachers who lend themselves to the 
schemes of "quack" doctors with patent medicines 
for all sorts of ills. 

But to come back to the use of prayer. James 
says: "And the prayer of faith shall save him that is 
sick, and the Lord shall raise him up" (/cat ^ evxu rr\<; 
7rlOT£u)<; aojoei tov Kdfxvovra, km kyegel avrbv 6 Kvptog). 


The credit is here given to prayer and the power 
of God. One is not to infer that James gives no 
credit to medicine. The oil was good, God works 
through medicines and without medicine. The best 
that we still know on this subject is just this: 
Prayer and medicine or God and the doctor. The 
promise of James is unconditioned, like those of 
Jesus in Mark 11: 24; John 14: 14. But the very 
essence of prayer is acquiescence in the will of God, 
not a demand on God's acquiescence with us. By 
"save" (ocogec) here James means "cure," as often 
in the Gospels (Mark 5 : 23 ; 6 : 56 ; 8 : 35, etc.). The 
prayer of faith is the only kind that is real prayer, 
and it is trust in God with full acknowledgment 
of God's power and love. Some men have always 
had the idea of a God so aloof from the world that 
he cared nothing about it or was powerless to help. 
There is nothing in modern scientific knowledge in- 
consistent with an immanent, yet transcendent, God 
who holds the key of life in himself. The wondrous 
laws of nature are all of God and there are many more 
that we do not yet understand. Science has vastly 
increased our sense of wonder about God and his 
world. We have only skirted the fringes of knowl- 
edge. It is idle to say that God, if he really sent his 
Son to redeem men from sin and all earthly woe, 
does not care if we suffer in t>ody and mind. The 
Father's hand rests upon us all. He can be reached. 
He is not far from any of us and he loves us. 

"And if he have committed sins, it shall be for- 
given him" {tcav anaprlag y ttsttol^k^, dcpEdijoerai avrio), 
not by being healed in body nor because he is healed 


of his sickness. The two things do not correspond 
nor does one follow because of the other. What 
James means, undoubtedly, is that the cured man, 
convicted of his sins and out of gratitude to God for 
his goodness, repents of his sins and is forgiven. 
This is what should always happen in such cases, 
but often it occurs that men who profess repentance 
on a bed of sickness forget it when they get up. 
This is sheer ingratitude and a horrible outcome. 
But certainly, if the sick man is a sinner, he should 
be prayed for. It is the time of opportunity to get 
him to listen to the voice of God. No undue ad- 
vantage need be taken of one's situation, and yet it 
is wise to speak plainly then. Sickness is a great 
leveller and brings us all down. 1 Beyond any doubt, 
Roman Catholics have made good use of their 
asylums and hospitals. Other denominations are be- 
ginning to take a real interest in this aspect of 
Christian activity. In the hour of sickness it is a 
great mercy to fall into the hands of those who love 
God and where the love of Jesus is mingled with 
the highest medical science. 

It is a good time to confess our sins to one another 
as well as to God, when we fall sick. "Confess 
therefore your sins one to another" (kt-o/jioXo-ytiode 
ovv aXkrikotq rag afiapriag). Clearly if the sick man, 
conscious now of his own weakness, is not willing to 
confess his sins (trespasses, iraga-nrd^ara, some MSS. 
have it) against others, God will not forgive him. 

1 Note nav (= even if) here instead of xal kdv and the rare peri- 
phrastic perfect subjunctive active y nsnoir/Kuc. The condition is 
the third class (undetermined with prospect of determination). 


As Mayor points out, James expands the words of 
Jesus about forgiving those who have trespassed 
against us (Matt. 5: 23; 6: 14), so as to bring out 
both sides of the subject. Let the sick man ask 
forgiveness of those whom he has wronged. Then 
let them forgive him and pray for him. "Pray one 
for another" («:eu -rrpooevxeode v-rrep aAA^Awv). The 
Roman Catholics sometimes appeal to this passage 
as a justification for auricular confession to the 
priest, Bellarmine, for instance, but Luther has a 
pointed answer: "A strange confessor. His name is 
'One Another.' " Cajetan "speaks the language of 
common sense" (Mayor) and admits that James has 
no such custom in mind. What James urges is 
public confession, in particular to those wronged, 
not private and secret confession to a priest. The 
Roman Catholic Confessional is one of the most 
dangerous of ecclesiastical institutions. It puts un- 
told power for harm into the hands of the priest. 
It is difficult to conceive how a husband or father 
could be willing for wife or daughter to make secret 
confession to a priest. The abuses of the confes- 
sional make a horrible chapter in human history. 
Not merely are things wrung out that should not be 
told, but evil is suggested that would never be 
thought of. The original form of absolution was 
"precatory rather than declaratory" (Plummer). 
But it is a great good to the soul to open the heart 
and make a frank confession to the church or to the 
persons who have been injured. Great sorrow 
would be avoided if men would only have the man- 
hood to do this thing. Tertullian (On Penance viii) 


well says: "Confession of sins lightens as much as 
concealment aggravates them." Confession of sin 
was one of the cardinal tenets in the preaching of 
John the Baptist. The Romanists demanded pen- 
ance for sins publicly confessed and private enmity 
(Plummer) took advantage of it for purposes of 

Then it is a good time to pray "that ye may be 
healed" (oncog ladrjTe). Then the power of God is 
with men to heal both soul and body. Many a 
revival has started in a church because those who 
have been estranged have buried the hatchet and 
see eye to eye again. There is power in prayer when 
the soul is open to God as can be true only when 
hate disappears from the heart. "The supplication 
of a righteous man availeth much in its working" 
(ttoAv loxvet dirjoig dticaiov evepyov/j,ev7]) , "the prayers of 

the righteous have a powerful effect" (MofTatt). 
This short sentence is clearer in the Greek than in 
any of the English renderings. Plummer suggests: 
"Great is the strength of a righteous man's supplica- 
tion, in its earnestness." The word for "supplica- 
tion" (depots) is more specific than the usual term 
term (evxv) an d suggests a sense of need. But the 
crucial word is the participle (evepyovfievrf) , which 
may be either middle or passive. 1 Our word "ener- 
getic" is derived from the verbal adjective (kvep- 
yrjTifcog) of this word. The notion of "energy" is 
present at any rate. The great word in modern 
science is this very word energy, which is made 

1 See extensive discussion in Mayor. The N. T. usage favors the 
middle, but the passive is also in use and either makes good sense. 


luminous by electricity and radium. The only 
prayer worth while is one with "energy" in it, 
whether "inwrought" (taking evepyovnivT] as passive) 
by the Spirit of God or at work (middle voice) 
through the spiritual passion of the man's own 
soul. Such a prayer has much force (ttoXv laxvei) in 
it and is not a mere ceremony nor rattle of meaning- 
less words. The emphasis on "a righteous man" 
(dLnaiov) here does not mean that God will not hear 
the cry of a sinner for mercy, but probably that a 
righteous man is more likely to put the proper 
energy into his prayer. We may sadly reflect that 
our prayers often have no power with God because 
they have no energy when said. There is no power 
in the dynamo. The engine has gone dead. The 
steam is not high enough to move the driving wheel. 
Oesterley quotes aptly the words of Rabbi Ben 
Zakkai in Berachoth, 34b, when prayers for a sick 
child are desired: "Although I am greater in learn- 
ing than Chaninah, he is more efficacious in prayer; 
I am indeed the Prince, but he is the Steward who 
has constant access to the King." There are men 
who have power in prayer. They have it because 
they live close to God. With a great price they 
have won this high prerogative. Ofttimes they are 
the humblest of men in earthly station and store. 
Very mechanical surely is the idea of Rabbi Isaac 
(Jebamoth, 64a), who says: "The prayer of the 
righteous is comparable to a pitchfork; as the 
pitchfork changes the position of the wheat so the 
prayer changes the disposition of God from wrath 
to mercy." 


James has a typical case to illustrate his point. 
"Elijah was a man of like passions with us" (JKXeiag 
dvdgo)7Tog r\v bfioioiradf}c; -rjfxlv), "with a nature just like 
our own" (Moffatt). James emphasizes the human 
frailties (dfJMoiradrig) of Elijah to show that he does 
not refer to ceremonial or sacramental rites when 
he urges prayer for the sick. Such prayer is the 
privilege, not merely of the elders of the church, but 
of any good man who has the ear of God. That 
power is not a function of ecclesiastical position, but 
the reward of holy living and trust in God. Elijah 
had his weaknesses as we all have, but God heard 
him. The point for us is that, if God heard Elijah, 
he will hear any of us who puts the same amount of 
spiritual energy into his prayer. "He prayed fer- 
vently" (npooevxzj TrpooTjv^aro) . l There is no use to 
pray in any other way. Elijah prayed seven times 
before the rain came. Half-hearted prayer defeats 
itself (cf. doubting prayer in 1 : 6ff.). Many modern 
men have no faith in prayer of any kind save as a 
wholesome reaction on the mind of the one who 
prays. They scout the idea that the God of the 
universe would condescend to listen to the feeble 
chatter of such worms in the dust as men. They 
conceive it as impossible that God would alter in the 
least his will in any particular because, of such insig- 
nificant requests. Least of all do they admit the 
possibility that God would change the weather in 
response to the prayer of one or many individuals. 
They argue that the laws of the weather are fixed 

1 This idiom, common in the LXX in translation from the He- 
brew infinitive absolute, appears also in the common Greek. 


by the laws of nature and that God does not alter 
his own laws. A very pretty network of impossi- 
bilities is fixed up, but all the same the experience 
of Christians breaks right through all these en- 
tanglements. A real God is greater than his own 
laws and his own will is the chief law of his nature. 
God is not an absentee God and he is our Father 
and loves for us to tell him our troubles. Certainly 
God knows how to work his own laws. We do not 
have to think that Elijah had the matter of drouth 
and rain in his own hands, at his beck and call (tov 
jtfi Ppet-ai mi ovk e[3pe&v). Far from it. Elijah won 
in prayer by strenuous prayer and perseverance, not 
by lightly informing God of his wishes. Besides, 
when rain came in response to the prayer of Elijah, 
it came out of clouds, as rain always does. God 
made the clouds gather from the west (the Mediter- 
ranean) till the rain came. As the hot winds from 
the east and the south brought the drouth, so the 
west winds brought the rain. Many times in my 
own experience I have known people to pray for 
rain and the rain came. This very thing happened 
last summer (19 14). The rain may not have come 
in response to the prayer. Of that I do not know, 
but it came the very night in which prayer was 
made for it at the prayer meeting. The difficulty 
in the matter of rain is no greater than in cases of 
sickness. The root of the trouble is the lack of 
trust in God, the broken relation with God, the 
loss of power with God. 


7. Rescue Work or Restoring the Erring. 5: igf. 

James makes a last appeal to his readers and it 
has a touch of tenderness. "My brethren" (AdeX- 
(pot (jlov). In verse 16 he spoke of the case of a sick 
man who is brought to confess his sins and is led 
to God. Here he seems to refer specifically to the 
case of a brother who has fallen into error. There 
are such sad instances that puzzle many a pastor by 
their indifference, hardness, and even scorn of 
Christ. "If any among you err from the truth, and 
one convert him" (kav rig ev v\iiv TrXavrjOr/ a-nb rrj^ 
dXrjdelag icai kmoTpeipq rig avrdv) . The condition (third 
class) is put delicately only as a supposed case, not 
assumed as true and yet as probable, alas. "Err" 
is from the Latin err are (to wander, to go astray). 
The Greek word here (nXavrjdq) suggests the picture 
of one who is lost in the mountains, who has missed 
his path, 1 without passing on the question of his 
own part in the process. That is now neither here 
nor there, for he is lost. Our "planet" is this word 
from the notion that these luminaries were wander- 
ing stars, not fixed like the rest. We now know 
that none of the stars are "fixed," but they all 
move with great speed. But, whatever the cause, it 
is not impossible for brethren to go astray "from the 
truth." One way to treat them is to kick them out 
of the way down the hill. Another way is to go 
after them with hammer and tongs to beat them 

x The passive voice does not have its technical force here as in 
Rev. 18:23, but rather is more like the middle in sense as in Deut. 
22:1 and probably (Mayor) in Luke 21:8; 2 Pet. 2:15. The pas- 
sive is constantly making inroads on the middle in the kolvt). 


back into the path. Another way is to give them 
up in disgust and to wash our hands of all responsi- 
bility. It must be confessed that often it is very 
hard to do anything else, since brethren act with 
so much independence and resent any effort to 
show them a better way. When they start away, 
so often they go the whole way. But there is a 
more excellent way, the way of love. See, not only 
i Cor. 13, but also Gal. 6 : iff. We are our brothers' 
keepers in spite of all they say and all that we may 
feel. Ye that are spiritual have a call to mind 
the broken lives all about you. There is no nobler 
work than this rescue work, to "turn a sinner from 
the error of his way" (6 imoTpEipag dfjbaprcjXov eic irXavqc; 
bdov avTov). 1 It is so hard to get a man back on the 
right track. He, like all lost men, wanders round 
and round in his old tracks of sin and error. He is 
the victim of his own logical fallacies and sinful 
delusions. Though a giant, he is bound by the 
cords of the Lilliputians, the bonds of habit which 
he does not break. It is enough to discourage any 
social worker in the slums or in the tenement dis- 
tricts of our cities to see the hopeless conditions in 
which the victims live. Drugs have fastened some 
with clamps of steel. Drink has fired the blood of 
others. The cigarette has deadened the will of 
these. Immorality has hurled these others to the 
pit. They stumble into the rescue halls, "cities of 
refuge" in our cities. Happy are those who know 

1 Note 6 cniorpiipac, the aorist participle describing the worker 
for souls. 


how to save souls like these, who have known 
better days and who have gone down into the 
valley of sin and sorrow. But it is worth while to 
save souls like these for whom Jesus died. Let the 
rescue worker know (yivooKiro), by personal ex- 
perience, in truth) that he "shall save a soul from 
death" (ouoei i/w£??v etc davdrov), from a living death 
in which such a soul already finds itself and from 
eternal death as well. That is the reward of the 
winner of souls. 

But it is not alone those who go down into the 
depths of gross sin, the "pick-me-ups" of life, that 
are to be won back. There are many who live in 
accord with the outward ethical standards of life 
who turn away from the knowledge of Jesus, who go 
after the strange gods of gold, of "knowledge falsely 
so-called," of materialistic monism, of "New 
Thought," of "Christian Science," of "Russellism," 
of any new fad in science or philosophy or religion, 
of any new form of old wives' fables that lead men 
astray. These are in reality more difficult to win 
back to the truth as it is in Jesus, for they have the 
pride of knowledge and look with compassionate 
condescension on those who still worship Jesus as 
God and Saviour from sin. 

The worker for souls has one more joy. He 
learns to see the good side of human nature. The 
bad side is there beyond a shadow of doubt. No 
man knows that better than the worker for the 
redemption of human souls. But this fact does not 
make him a pessimist or a cynic. He sees the 
angel in the stone. He learns the love that "shall 


cover a multitude of sins" (KaXvxpei nkrjdog apaprtibv), 1 
"hides a host of sins" (Moffatt), covers with a veil 
(icaXvipei) the sins of the poor soul who wandered 
away and is now brought back. See i Pet. 4 : 8 for 
the same idea. This is not the Jewish doctrine of 
merit in good works balancing evil ones, as Oesterly 
holds. Mayor also thinks that the idea is that the 
man who rescues another saves his own soul. But I 
cannot agree to that interpretation, so out of har- 
mony with the teaching of Jesus and the whole 
trend of the gospel message. We do not need to go 
back to these "blind guides" of Pharisaism to find 
the key to this verse and that in 1 Pet. 4:8, where 
we read that "love covers a multitude of sins." It 
is the love that no longer sees the sins of the saved 
sinner. We see the true idea in Prov. 10: 12 : "Hate 
stirreth up strife, but love covereth all transgres- 
sions." See also Psa. 85:2: "Thou hast forgiven 
the iniquity of thy people; thou hast covered all 
their sin." In Luke 7 : 47 Jesus speaks of the love 
of the converted woman as proof that she has been 
forgiven much. James presents the joy of the 
winner of souls who throws the mantle of love over 
the sins of the repentant sinner, the joy of the 
Shepherd who has found the lost sheep out on the 
mountain and is returning with him in his arms, 
the joy of the Father who welcomes home the 
prodigal boy with the best robe and the fatted calf, 
the joy in the presence of the angels that one sinner 
has repented and turned unto God. That is heaven 
on earth. The preacher who has missed this joy 

1 The Vulgate has it operiet multitudinem peccatorum. 


of winning souls has missed the greatest reward in 
his ministry. If he has this, he can do without 
much else. He can stand many rebuffs, small 
salary, lack of help, if only he has this meat to 
eat that satisfied the soul of Jesus when he led 
one poor abandoned woman into the light and life 
of God. 


Only the best of the modern books are here men- 
tioned : 

Beyschlag, W. Der Brief des Jakobus. Meyer- 
Kommentar. Sechste Aufiage. 1898. 

Brown, Charles. The General Epistle of James. A 
Devotional Commentary. Second edition. 1907. 

Carr, Arthur. The General Epistle of St. James. 
The Cambridge Greek Testament. 1896. 
1/ Dale, R. W. Discourses on the Epistle of James. 

Hollmann, G. Der Jakobusbrief. Die Schriften des 
Neuen Testament. 1907. 

Hort, F. J. A. The Epistle of St. James, 1 : 1 to 

4:7- i9°9- 
Johnstone, R. Lectures Exegetical and Practical. 

187 1. Edition two in 1889. 
• Knowling, R. J. Commentary on the Epistle of St. 

James. The Westminster Series. 1904. 
- Mayor, J. B. The Epistle of St. James. Third 

Edition. 19 10. The ablest volume on James. 
Meinertz, Der Jakobus Brief und sein Verfasser. 

1905. Roman Catholic interpretation. 
Oesterley, W. The General Epistle of James. The 

Expositor's Greek Testament. 191 o. 
Patrick, W. James, the Lord's Brother. 1906. 
Plummer, A. The General Epistle of St. James. 

The Expositor's Bible. 1891. 


Soden, H. von. Der Brief des Jakobus. Hand- 

Commentar. 1893. 
Spitta, F. Der Brief Jakobus. 1896. 
Weiss, B. Der Jakobusbrief und die neuere Kritik. 

Windisch, H. Handbuch zum Neuen Testament 


BS2785 .R649 

Practical and social aspects of 

Princeton Theological Seminary-Speer Library 

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