James 4
Pulpit Commentary
From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?
Verses 1-12. - REBUKE OF QUARRELS ARISING FROM PRIDE AND GREED. A terribly sadden transition from the "peace" with which James 3. closed. Verse 1. - Whence wars and whence fightings among you? The second "whence" (πόθεν) is omitted in the Received Text, after K, L, Syriac, and Vulgate; but it is supported by א, A, B, C, the Coptic, and Old Latin. Wars... fightings (πόλεμοι...μάχαι). To what is the reference? Μάχαι occurs elsewhere in the New Testament only in 2 Corinthians 7:5, "Without were fightings, within were fears;" and 2 Timothy 2:23; Titus 3:9, in both of which passages it refers to disputes and questions. It is easy, therefore, to give it the same meaning here. Πόλμοι, elsewhere in the New Testament, as in the LXX., is always used of actual warfare. In behalf of its secondary meaning, "contention," Grimm ('Lexicon of New Testament Greek') appeals to Sophocles, 'Electra,' 1. 219, and Plato, 'Phaed.,' p. 66, c. But it is better justified by Clement of Rome, § 46, Ινα τί ἔρεις καὶ θυμοὶ καὶ διχοστσασίαι καὶ σχίσματα πόλεμος τε ἐν ὑῖν - a passage which has almost the nature of a commentary upon St. James's language. There is then no need to seek an explanation of the passage in the outbreaks and insurrections which were so painfully common among the Jews. Lusts (ἡδονῶν); R.V., "pleasures." "An unusual sense of ἡδοναί, hardly distinguishable from ἐπιθυμίαι, in fact taken up by ἐπιθυμεῖτε (Alford). With the expression, "that war in your members," comp. 1 Peter 2:11, "Abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul." Ver. 2 gives us an insight into the terrible difficulties with which the apostles had to contend. Those to whom St. James was writing were guilty of lust, which actually led to murder. So the charge in 1 Peter 4:15 evidently presupposes the possibility of a professing Christian suffering as a murderer or thief. Ye kill. The marginal rendering "envy" supplies a remarkable instance of a false reading once widely adopted, although resting simply on conjecture. There is no variation in the manuscripts or ancient versions. All alike have φονεύετε. But, owing to the startling character of the expression in an address to Christians, Erasmus suggested that perhaps φθονεῖτε, "ye envy," was the original reading, and actually inserted it in the second edition of his Greek Testament (1519). In his third edition (1522) he wisely returned to the true reading, although, strangely enough, he retained the false one, "invidetis," in his Latin version, whence it passed into that of Beza and others. The Greek φθονεῖτε appears, however, in a few later editions, e.g. three editions published at Basle, 1524 (Bebelius), 1546 (Herwagius), and 1553 (Beyling), in that of Henry Stephens, 1576; and even so late as 1705 is found in an edition of Oritius. In England the reading obtained a wide currency, being actually adopted in all the versions in general use previous to that of 1611, viz. those of Tyndale, Coverdale, Taverner, the Bishops Bible, and the Geneva Version. The Authorized Version relegated it to the margin, from which it has been happily excluded by the Revisers, and thus, it is to be hoped, it has finally disappeared. Ye kill, and desire to have. The combination is certainly strange. Dean Scott sees in the terms a possible allusion to "the well-known politico-religious party of the zealots," and suggests the rendering, "ye play the murderers and zealots." It is, perhaps, more probable that ζηλοῦτε simply refers to covetousness; cf. the use of the word (although with a better meaning) in 1 Corinthians 12:31; 1 Corinthians 14:1, 39.
Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.
Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.
Verse 3. - An evident allusion to the sermon on the mount, Matthew 7:7, "Ask, and it shall be given to you... for every one that asketh receiveth." And yet St. James says, "Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss;" for our Lord elsewhere limits his teaching, "All things whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer believing," etc. (Matthew 21:22). Αἰτεῖτε... αἰτεῖσθε. The active and middle voices are similarly interchanged in 1 John 5:15, on which Dr. Westcott writes as follows: "The distinction between the middle and the active is not so sharply drawn; but generally the personal reference is suggested by the middle, while the request is left wholly undefined as to its destination by the active." That ye may consume it upon your lusts; render, with R.V., that ye may spend it in your pleasures; ἡδοναί, as in ver. 1.
Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.
Verse 4. - Ye adulterers and adulteresses. Omit μοιχοὶ καί, with א, A, B. The Vulgate has simply adulteri; the Old Latin (ff), fornicatores. Similarly the Syriae. Very strange is this sudden exclamation, "ye adulteresses!" and very difficult to explain. The same word (μοιχαλίς) is used as a feminine adjective by our Lord in the expression, "an evil and adulterous generation" (Matthew 12:39; Matthew 16:4; Mark 8:38); and in this possibly lies the explanation of St. James's use of the term. More probably, however, it should be accounted for as a reminiscence of Ezekiel 23:45, where we read of Samaria and Jerusalem under the titles of Aholah and Aholibah: "The righteous men, they shall judge them after the manner of adulteresses, and after the manner of women that shed blood; because they are adulteresses, and blood is in their hands." It is remarkable too that in Malachi 3:5 the LXX. has μοιχαλίδες, although the Hebrew has the masculine, and men are evidently referred to. If, then, in the Old Testament the Jewish communities were personified as adulteresses, it is not unnatural for St. James to transfer the epithet to those Judaeo-Christian communities to which he was writing; and the word should probably be taken, just as in the Old Testament, of spiritual fornication, i.e. apostasy from God, shown in this case, not by actual idolatry, but by that "friendship of the world" which is "enmity with God," and by "covetousness which is idolatry." Φιλία. The word occurs here only in the New Testament. With the thought of this verse, compare our Lord's words in John 15:18, 19.
Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?
Verses 5, 6. - The difficulty of the passage is well shown by the hesitation of the Revisers. The first clause is rendered, "Or think ye that the Scripture speaketh in vain?" but as an alternative there is suggested in the margin, "Or think ye that the Scripture saith in vain?" as if the following clause were a quotation from Scripture. And of this following clause three possible renderings are suggested.

(1) In the text: "Doth the Spirit which he made to dwell in us long unto envying? But he giveth more grace. Wherefore the Scripture saith," etc.

(2) Margin 1: "The Spirit which he made to dwell in us he yearneth for even unto jealous envy. But he giveth," etc.

(3) Margin 2: "That Spirit which he made to dwell in us yearneth for us even unto jealous envy. But he giveth," etc. Further, it is noted in the margin that some ancient authorities read "dwelleth in us," i.e. κατώκησεν, which is the reading of the Received Text, and so of the A.V. resting upon K, L; א and B being the primary authorities for κατώκισεν. With regard to the first clause, the rendering of the R.V., "speaketh," may be justified by Hebrews 9:5. It is possible that St. James was intending to quote Proverbs 3:34 immediately, but after the introductory formula, η} δοκεῖτε ὅτι κενῶς ἡ γραφὴ λέγει, he interposes with the emphatic question, "Is it to envy," etc.? and does not arrive at the quotation till ver. 6, when he introduces it with a fresh formula of quotation, διὸ λέγει, a looseness of construction which is quite natural in a Hebrew. Other views, for which it is believed there is less to be urged, are the following:

(1) that the words, πρὸς φθονόν, κ.τ.λ., are a quotation from some (now lost) early Christian writing. On this view the passage is parallel to Ephesians 5:14, where a portion of a Christian hymn is introduced by the words, διὸ λέγει.

(2) That St. James is referring to the general drift rather than to the exact words of several passages of the Old Testament; e.g. Genesis 6:3-5; Deuteronomy 32:10, 19, etc.

(3) That the allusion is to some passage of the New Testament, either Galatians 5:17 or 1 Peter 2:1, etc. Passing on to the translation of the second clause, πρὸς φθονόν κ.τ.λ., it must be noted that φθονός is never used elsewhere in the New Testament or in the LXX. (Wisd. 6:25; 1 Macc. 8:16) or in the apostolic Fathers except in a bad sense. True that Exodus 20:5 teaches us that God is a "jealous God," but there the LXX. renders קנא by the far nobler word ζηλωτής: cf. Wolf, 'Curae Philippians Crit.,' p. 64, where it is noted that, while ζῆλος is a vex media, the same cannot be said of φθονός, which is always vitiosa, and is never used by the LXX. ubi vox Hebraica ׃תסך סעדנךמךרפצך סעתאלךר סךנךמוה לךשׁ מעךדּ דא קנאה This seems to be a fatal objection to the marginal readings of the Revised Version, and to compel us to rest content with that adopted in the text, "Doth the Spirit which he made to dwell in us long unto envying?" or rather, "Is it to envying that the Spirit... longs?" πρὸς φθονόν being placed for emphasis at the beginning of the sentence.
But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.
Verse 6. - God resisteth the proud. The connection of this with ver. 4 is very close, and is favorable to the view taken above as to the meaning of the first clause of ver. 5, as the words appear to be cited in support of the statement that whosoever would be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. The quotation is from Proverbs 3:34, LXX., Κύριος ὑπερηφάνοις ἀντιτάσσεται, ταπεινοῖς δὲ δίδωσι χάριν. St. James's version agrees with this exactly, except that it has ὁ Θεὸς instead of Κύριος (the Hebrew has simply "he," ran). The passage is also quoted in precisely the same form by St. Peter (1 Peter 5:5), and with Θεὸς instead of ὁ Θεός by St. Clement of Rome. In St. Peter the quotation is followed by the injunction, "Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God .... Your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom withstand (ω΅ι ἀντίστητε) steadfast in the faith." There is clearly a connection between this passage and the one before us in St. James, which proceeds, "Be subject therefore unto God; but resist the devil (ἀντίστητε δὲ τῷ διαβόλῳ), and he will flee from you." This passage, it will be felt, is the simpler, and therefore, probably, the earlier of the two (cf. James 1:3).
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
Verses 7-10. - Exhortation based on the preceding, quite in the style of a prophet of the Old Testament. Verse 7. - Read, but resist, etc. (ἀντίστητε δέ), א, A, B, Coptic, Vulgate.
Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.
Verse 8. - Draw nigh to God (ἐγγίσατε τῷ Θεῷ). A phrase used of approach to God under the old covenant (see Exodus 19:22; Exodus 34:30; Leviticus 10:3). Equally necessary under the new covenant is it for those who draw near to God to have "clean hands and a pure heart" (Psalm 24:4). Hence the following injunction: "Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double-minded."
Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.
Verse 9. - St. James's version of "Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted" (Matthew 5:4). Be afflicted. Ταλαιπωρήσατε: only here in the New Testament, occasionally in the LXX. Heaviness. Κατήφεια: another ἄπαξ λεγόμενον, apparently never found in the LXX. or in the apostolic Fathers; it is, however, used by Josephus and Philo. It is equivalent to "dejection," and "exactly describes the attitude of the publican, who would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, Luke 18:13 (Plumptre)."
Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.
Verse 10. - Humble yourselves, etc. A further parallel with our Lord's teaching, St. James's words being perhaps suggested by the saying recorded in Matthew 23:12, "Whosoever shall humble himself shall be exalted" (ὑψωθήσεται, as here, "He shall lift you up," ὑψώσει). In the sight of the Lord (ἐνώπιον). The article (τοῦ) in the Received Text is certainly wrong. It is wanting in a, A, B, K. The anarthrous Κύριος is used by St. James here and in James 5:4, 10 (with which contrast ver. 14), and 1 l, as equivalent to the "Jehovah" of the Old Testament, which is represented in the LXX. by Κύριος without the article.
Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge.
Verses 11, 12. - Warning against censorious depreciation of others. Verse 11. - Speak not evil. Καταλαλεῖν: only here and 1 Peter 2:12; 1 Peter 3:16. Vulgate, detrahere. But the context shows that the writer is thinking rather of harsh censorious judging. R.V., "Speak not one against another." And judgeth; rather, or judgeth; η} (א, A, B, Vulgate, Syriac, Coptic) for καὶ of the Textus Receptus. Speaketh evil of the law. What law? According to Dean Plumptre, "the royal law of Christ, which forbids judging (Matthew 7:1-5)." Alford: "The law of Christian life: the old moral Law, glorified and amplified by Christ: the νόμος βασιλικός of James 2:8; νόμος τῆς ἐλευθερίας of James 1:25." Huther: "the law of Christian life which, according to its contents, is none other than the law of love."
There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?
Verse 12. - To play the part of a censor is to assume the office of a judge. But this is an office which belongs to God and not to man (cf. Romans 14:3, 4). The first words of the verse should be rendered as follows: "One only is the Lawgiver and Judge:" the last words, καὶ κριτής, omitted in the Received Text, being found in א, A, B, and most versions, the Latin, Syriac, and Coptic. In the last clause also the Received Text requires correction. Read, Σὺ δὲ τίς εῖ (insert δὲ, א, A, B, L, K, Latin, Syriac, Coptic) ὁ κρίνων τὸν πλήσιον (א, A, B).
Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain:
Verses 13-17. - DENUNCIATION OF OVER-WEENING CONFIDENCE IN OUR OWN PLANS AND OUR ABILITY TO PERFORM THEM. Verse 13. - Go to; Ἄγε, properly, the imperative, but here used adverbially, a usage common in Greek prose, and found again in James 5:1. (For the word, comp. Judy. 19:6; 2 Kings 4:24; and for similar instances of the singular where more than one person is referred to, see Wetstein, col. 2. p. 676.) The Received Text (Stephens) requires some correction in this verse. Read, σήμερον η} αὔριον with א, B; the futures πορεύσομεθα ποιήσομεν ἐμπορευσόμεθα and κερδήσομεν (B, Latt., Syriac) instead of the subjunctives; and omit ἔνα after ἐνιαυτόν, with a, B, Latt., Coptic. Continue there a year; rather, spend a year there, ἐνιαυτὸν being the object of the verb and not the accusative of duration. For ποιεῖν, used of time, cf. Acts 15:33; Acts 18:23; Acts 20:3; 2 Corinthians 11:25. The Latins use facto in the same way; e.g. Cicero, 'Ad Attic.,' 5. 20, "Apamea quinque dies morati... Iconii decem fecimus."
Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.
Verse 14 fortifies the rebuke of ver. 13 by showing the folly of their action; cf. Proverbs 27:1, "Boast not thyself of tomorrow (τὰ εἰς αὔριον), for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth." Whereas ye know not; rather, seeing that, or, inasmuch as ye know not, etc. (οἵτινες οὐκ ἐπίστασθε). The text in this verse again in a somewhat disorganized condition, but the general drift is clear. We should probably read, Οἵτινες οὐκ ἐπίστασθε τὸ τῆς αὔριον ποίαἡ ζωὴ ὑμῶν ἀτμὶς γὰρ ἐστε ἡ πρὸς ὀλίγον φαινομένη ἔπειτα καὶ ἀφανιζομένη, R.V., "Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. What is your life? For ye are a vapor, our that appeareth for a little time and then vanisheth away."
For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.
Verse 15. - For that ye ought to say (ἀντὶ τοῦ λέγειν); literally, instead of your saying; ἀντὶ τοῦ, with the infinitive, "saepe apud Graecos" (Grimm). This verse follows in thought on ver. 13, ver. 14 having been parenthetical. "Go to now, ye that say... instead of your saying (as ye ought), If the Lord will," etc. Once more the text requires correction, as the futures ζήσομεν and ποιήσομεν should be read (with א, A, B), instead of the subjunctives of the Received Text. It is generally agreed now that the verse should be rendered," If the Lord will, we shall both live and do this or that." But it is possible to divide it differently, and to render as follows: "If the Lord will, and we live, we shall also do this or that." Vulgate, si Dominus voluerit et si [omit si, Codex Amiat.] vixerimus, faciemus, etc. (cf. Winer, 'Grammar of N.T. Greek,' p. 357).
But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil.
Verse 16. - But now. As is actually the case, "ye glory in your vauntings." ἈλαζονείΑ: only here and in 1 John 2:16; in the LXX., in 2 Macc. 9:8 and Wisd. 5:8. It is a favorite word with St. Clement of Rome. On its meaning and distinction from ὑπερηφανία and other kindred words, see Trench on ' Synonyms,' p. 95; and cf. Westcott on the 'Epistles of St. John,' p. 64. The vice of the ἀλάζων "centers in self and is consummated in his absolute self-exaltation, while the ὑπερήφανος shows his character by his overweening treatment of others. The ἀλάζων sins most against truth; the ὑπερήφανος sins most against love." This extract will serve to show the fitness of ἀλαζονεία rather than ὑπερηφανία in the passage before us. The verse should be rendered, as in R.V., "But now ye glory (καυχᾶσθε) in your vauntings: all such glorying (καύχησις) is evil." Καύχησις is the act, not the matter (καύχημα), of glorying.
Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.
Verse 17. - Conclusion of the section. "Some have supposed a direct reference to Romans 14:23, 'Whatsover is not of faith is sin.' We can scarcely assume so much; but the correspondence is very remarkable, and St. James supplements St. Paul. It is sin to doubt whether a thing be right, and yet do it. It is also sin to know that a thing is right, and yet to leave it undone" (Dean Scott, in the 'Speaker's Commentary').

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