1:1 Ἰάκωβος θεοῦ καὶ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ δοῦλος ταῖς δώδεκα φυλαῖς ταῖς ἐν τῇ διασπορᾷ χαίρειν.
Salutations in letters tend to use few articles. The nominative case defines the sender (Ἰάκωβος). The English name ‘James’ is related to a vulgar Latin form of ‘Iacobus’ (the Latin translation in the Vulgate for Ἰάκωβος), namely ‘Iacomus’. Probably this individual is the half-brother of Jesus to whom he appeared after his resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:7) and the one who led the Jerusalem church after Peter had to leave. δοῦλος modifies Ἰάκωβος, being appositional. The compound genitive θεοῦ καὶ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ precedes the noun it modifies, giving it prominence. It defines who owns this slave (κύριος-δοῦλος are often paired in the sense of master-slave). This slave has two owners, θεοῦ καὶ κυρίου, who collaborate in their authority over him. In this reading, Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ would be appositional to κυρίου and Χριστοῦ would be appositional to Ἰησοῦ. Alternatively, but not as likely, one could read θεοῦ καὶ κυρίου as referring to a single individual, Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, who is being described as ‘God and Lord’.
The syntagm that is in the dative case (ταῖς δώδεκα φυλαῖς ταῖς ἐν τῇ διασπορᾷ) defines the intended audience. In this case it marks the object of χαίρειν, “greetings.” BDF §389 describe χαίρειν as a “salutatory infinitive” that occurs in letters and is elliptical, with a verb such as λέγει/γράφει presupposed. The repeated article ταὶς indicates that the phrase ἐν τῇ διασπορᾷ modifies the head noun φυλαῖς (tribes). Groups of citizens in Greek cities were often organized into φυλή, but here the reference to “twelve tribes” undoubtedly references Israel’s historic constitution. The noun διασπορά means “dispersion, scattering.” In the Septuagint (e.g., Deut. 28:25; 30:4), it refers to God’s judgment upon a rebellious Israel, as they “are scattered among the nations of the earth.” However, by the first century it refers to Jewish people who live outside the boundaries of Judea. It is a very general definition for the writer’s audience. Would the writer be including Christians who are both Jewish and non-Jewish in this address? What are the possible implications of your exegetical decision? And where in the Diaspora would these people be located?
1:2-4 2Πᾶσαν χαρὰν ἡγήσασθε, ἀδελφοί μου, ὅταν πειρασμοῖς περιπέσητε ποικίλοις, 3γινώσκοντες ὅτι τὸ δοκίμιον ὑμῶν τῆς πίστεως κατεργάζεται ὑπομονήν. 4ἡ δὲ ὑπομονὴ ἔργον τέλειον ἐχέτω, ἵνα ἦτε τέλειοι καὶ ὁλόκληροι ἐν μηδενὶ λειπόμενοι.
Because of letters attributed to Paul, we expect a ‘thanksgiving’ section to follow the salutation, but it is lacking in this letter and instead the writer immediately proceeds with instruction. Verses 2-3 present the first command, incorporating several subordinate structures. In the main clause, the writer fronts the object Πᾶσαν χαρὰν, giving it prominence. When πᾶς modifies a noun without an article, it means “complete, total.” There may be a word play in the sequence χαίρειν…χαράν. He employs an aorist middle, second person plural imperative ἡγήσασθε (‘think, consider, regard’). The middle voice indicates a volitional involvement in this mental attitude on the part of the subject. Track the use of present and aorist imperative forms in this letter and see whether the writer is expressing a specific nuance by his choice of one or the other tense form. The vocative ἀδελφοί μου, presumably referring to all believers in the audience without reference to gender, identifies the group for whom the instruction is intended. Christian writers frequently use kinship language to describe relationships among believers, with the assumption that they all have the same divine father. It is unclear whether in this instance “brother” might have a narrower sense of “fellow-Jews,” who also happen to be Christian.
The writer uses a contingent temporal clause marked by ὅταν + subjunctive to provide a temporal modifier for the main verb. It describes “when” or “under what circumstances” one should “think” in this way. The main verb in the temporal clause is an aorist active subjunctive περιπέσητε (περιπίπτω) “encounter, fall in with.” The time is unspecified (“whenever”), but the suggestion is that this will occur at some point and perhaps repeatedly. The dative case marks what is encountered, i.e., πειρασμοῖς… ποικίλοις. The noun is given prominence by preceding the verb and its separation from the adjective is an example of hyperbaton. Note also the alliteration of the π with these three terms. Placing the adjective after the verb gives it some emphasis as well. How should we translate πειρασμοί?
Verse 3 continues with a present active participle γινώσκοντες, adverbial and perhaps causal (“because you know….”). It modifies the main verb in v. 2 and gives a reason for this perspective on testing. ὅτι marks a content clause, indirect speech, that functions as the object of the participle. In the subordinate clause the writer places the subject first, giving it prominence. δοκίμιον is a noun defining a “means used to determine genuineness, testing” (cf. 1 Peter 1:7). The genitive second person pronoun could modify either δοκίμιον or πίστεως. If it modifies the subject, the sense would be “this testing of you,” and it functions as an objective genitive. The genitive πίστεως in this case, might indicate the source of the testing. However, a more normal reading would be to take ὑμῶν (subjective genitive) as modifying πίστεως and to regard πίστεως as an objective genitive. The placement of ὑμῶν in this second option would be a bit unusual. The verb in the content clause is a present middle indicative κατεργάζεται “producing” and it is modified by the direct object ὑπομονήν. What does the middle voice express (reciprocity, intensification)?
The main clause in v. 4 is a third person present imperative, expressing an injunction (έχέτω). The particle δέ marks a new topic in the discourse and could be conjunctive (‘and’) or introduce a second stage (‘now’). Again, the writer places the subject first (ὑπομονή — note how it picks up the last word of the previous clause), followed by the object (ἔργον τέλειον – the writer makes another word play κατεργάζεται ὑπομονήν. ἡ δὲ ὑπομονὴ ἔργον) in the focal point of the clause. Note again the word order of the object, with the adjective following the noun. The verse concludes with a purpose clause marked by ἴνα. The verb is equative (ἦτε) with two predicate adjectives (τέλειοι καὶ ὁλόκληροι) characterizing the subject. Why does he repeat the adjective τέλειος? ὁλόκληρος means “being complete and meeting all expectations” (BDAG, 703; cf. 1 Thess. 5:23). He adds a third modifier, the present middle participle λειπόμενοι which could be adjectival (linked with τέλειοι καὶ ὁλόκληροι) or adverbial, explaining what the two previous adjectives signify, i.e., “because you fall short in no respect” (cf. James 1:5). ἐν μηδενί is an adverbial phrase, with ἐν functioning to specify.
5Εἰ δέ τις ὑμῶν λείπεται σοφίας, αἰτείτω παρὰ τοῦ διδόντος θεοῦ πᾶσιν ἁπλῶς καὶ μὴ ὀνειδίζοντος, καὶ δοθήσεται αὐτῷ. 6αἰτείτω δὲ ἐν πίστει μηδὲν διακρινόμενος· ὁ γὰρ διακρινόμενος ἔοικεν κλύδωνι θαλάσσης ἀνεμιζομένῳ καὶ ῥιπιζομένῳ. 7μὴ γὰρ οἰέσθω ὁ ἄνθρωπος ἐκεῖνος ὅτι λήμψεταί τι παρὰ τοῦ κυρίου, 8ἀνὴρ δίψυχος, ἀκατάστατος ἐν πάσαις ταῖς ὁδοῖς αὐτοῦ.
Whether we should consider vv. 5-8 to be a separate paragraph, or closely connected with the material in v. 4 through the repetition of the verb λείπω can be debated. The writer marks a new topic with δέ, which could have a somewhat adversative nuance, but not necessarily. He employs a first class condition (εἰ + present indicative), indicating that he assumes the condition is real. τις ὑμῶν is the subject and contains the indefinite pronoun modified by a partitive genitive. λείπεται would be a present middle (marking a simple cognitive event) form, with σοφίας functioning as a genitive complement (not a common verbal phrase it seems). The main verb in the apodosis αἰτείτω is a third person imperative, i.e., “he should ask….” This verb can mean to ask through prayer (cf. 2 Chron. 1:11 – Solomon’s request to Yahweh — καὶ ᾔτησας σεαυτῷ σοφίαν καὶ σύνεσιν). παρὰ + genitive has the sense of “ask from someone” so that one might receive something (παρά in LXX – John Lee, JSCS 52(2019):39-52). παρὰ τοῦ διδόντος θεοῦ…καὶ μὴ ὀνειδίζοντος contains two present participles (διδόντος…ὀνειδίζοντος). The first is linked by the single article with θεοῦ as an adjectival modifier and it has an indirect object πᾶσιν. The position of the adverb ἁπλῶς (hapax legomenon in the NT) indicates that it modifies the previous participle and defines the manner in which the deity gives, i.e., simply, genuinely, sincerely, openly. The second participle, connected by καί probably with ἁπλῶς, is adverbial and has the sense “without scolding, finding fault.” It adds a second adverbial modifier defining the manner of God’s giving. A second main clause completes the apodosis, with the main verb being a future passive tense form δοθήσεται. αὐτῷ functions as the indirect object and references the subject of the previous main verb. This terminology reflects similar language in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:7).
The writer continues (v. 6) by repeating αἰτείτω with the adversative particle δέ, indicating further instructions about ‘the ask’. Several modifiers define the verb. First, we have the adverbial prepositional phrase ἐν πίστει, indicating means or manner, and this is a positive indicator. The second is an adverbial, present middle participle διακρινόμενος and indicates how not to make the request. The middle voice indicates that subject’s intellectual involvement in the action. διακρίνομαι means in this context “to be uncertain, be at odds with oneself, doubt, waver” (BDAG, 231.6). However, the verb also occurs in judicial contexts to describe someone who makes a complaint. The participle in turn is modified by the accusative negative adjective μηδέν. This probably is an adverbial accusative, i.e., “wavering in no respect,” or it may be the object, i.e., “lodging no complaint.” Note that participles take μή formations as negatives. These two modifiers of αἰτείτω are contrasting.
An explanatory clause (v. 6b), marked by γάρ, indicates why “doubting” or “complaining” is so problematic. Again, he repeats the previous participle, middle voice, but this time uses it as a substantive (ὁ διακρινόμενος “the doubter/complainant”). ἔοικεν is an old perfect form of εἴκω (BDAG, 355) and means “be like, resemble.” It is completed by a dative complement, in this case κλύδωνι (κλύδων “succession of waves, rough water, surf?” (BDAG, 550); cf. the cognate verb in Eph. 4:14). It is modified by the genitive θαλάσσης, defining what kind of rough water. Both nouns are anarthrous. Even though they lack an article, the present passive participles άνεμιζομένῳ, ῥιπιζομένῳ, are probably adjectival, modifying κλύδωνι. TLG indicates that this is the first attestation of this compound descriptor.
The following verse (7) provides a further explanation (marked by γάρ), applying the “surf” metaphor to this situation. Another third person present middle imperative οἰέσθω continues the series of injunctions (οἴομαι “think, suppose, expect”). It has the negative μή, as is normally the case with imperatives. ὁ ἄνθρωπος ἐκεῖνος means “that person” and is the subject. Demonstrative pronouns when modifying a noun are always in the predicate position. ὅτι marks the content clause of indirect discourse. λήμψεται is the future middle form and the future form of this verb regularly is middle in voice (sense of reciprocity?). The object is the accusative neuter singular indefinite pronoun τι (an enclitic form). παρὰ τοῦ κυρίου parallels the previous παρὰ τοῦ διδόντος θεοῦ used in v. 5. Should we regard κύριος as a reference to Yahweh, following upon LXX usage? If it is intended to refer to κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, as in 1:1, why does the writer switch references?
Verse 8 provides the essential principle that underlies the two previous γάρ clauses. Is this an independent nominal clause, or is it a continuation of v. 7, defining in greater detail the subject of οἰέσθω, or perhaps the noun phrase ἀνὴρ δίψυχος functions as the subject of λήμψεται? NA28 has a comma at the end of v. 7. The writer may switch to ἀνήρ from ἄνθρωπος to create stylistic variety. δίψυχος is a two termination adjective that seems to mean “doubting, hesitating” (BDAG, 253; cf. 4:8) and only occurs in the NT in James (not in LXX; cognate forms do occur in LXX). The writer may have sensed that his audience might not understand this term and so adds an appositional definition ἀκατάστατος ἐν πάσαις ταῖς ὁδοῖς αὐτοῦ. ἀκατάστατος is a two termination, alpha-privative adjective. The cognate verb ἀκαταστατέω means “to be mentally or behaviorally erratic, be unsettled/vacillating” (BDAG, 35) and in some contexts describes the influence of an evil spirit upon a person. The cognate noun ἀκατάστασία describes “opposition to established authority, disorder, unruliness” (BDAG, 35.2). The adjective could refer to a person whose thinking processes are erratic or unstable, resulting in unruly behavior. Since this discussion is about people appealing to God for understanding about their difficult circumstances (1:2-4), “doubtful/complaining or hesitating persons” may not respond well to God’s answer to their request (because they behave in an unruly manner?). ἐν + dative may have a locative sense here. ὁδός probably picks up the previous use of περιπίπτω, i.e., creating an erratic path. ὁδός is a second declension feminine noun and so the article is feminine in gender.
9Καυχάσθω δὲ ὁ ἀδελφὸς ὁ ταπεινὸς ἐν τῷ ὕψει αὐτοῦ, 10ὁ δὲ πλούσιος ἐν τῇ ταπεινώσει αὐτοῦ, ὅτι ὡς ἄνθος χόρτου παρελεύσεται. 11ἀνέτειλεν γὰρ ὁ ἥλιος σὺν τῷ καύσωνι καὶ ἐξήρανεν τὸν χόρτον, καὶ τὸ ἄνθος αὐτοῦ ἐξέπεσεν, καὶ ἡ εὐπρέπεια τοῦ προσώπου αὐτοῦ ἀπώλετο· οὕτως καὶ ὁ πλούσιος ἐν ταῖς πορείαις αὐτοῦ μαρανθήσεται.
These three verses are linked by the motif of the poor and wealthy believers (ἀδελφός). The δέ in v. 9 probably signals a new topic, indicated by another third person present middle imperative (καυχάσθω). The subject ὁ ἀδελφός is modified by an attributive adjective, again in the second position (perhaps imitating Hebrew or Aramaic word order). The adverbial phrase with ἐν expresses the cause for “boasting.” What ὕψος (“high position”) might the writer be referencing? The genitive αὐτοῦ may be an objective genitive, i.e., the high position he is experiencing, or it could be a subjective genitive, i.e., his importance. Note the implied contrast with the description in the following verse.
The δέ in v. 10 probably highlights the contrast implied between ὁ ταπεινός and ὁ πλούσιος. This would indicate that ταπεινός refers to a humble circumstance, not the spiritual virtue of humility. The verb καυχάσθω should be supplied. ταπεινώσις (picking up the previous cognate adjective ταπεινός) means “humiliation” caused by severe external losses. Again, αὐτοῦ could be either objective or subjective genitive, but probably is subjective. Whether the “rich person” is a believer or not is debated. However, given the discussion in chapter 2, probably we should consider such individuals to be part of the community. What then is their “humiliation”? ὅτι introduces a subordinate causal clause. Its main verb παρελεύσεται is a future middle form. It contains a comparison marked by ὡς. The nominative ἄνθος is the subject of the assumed verb παρελεύσεται that completes this comparison clause, i.e., “as a blossom will pass away.” χόρτος refers to grass or hay, and suggests that ἄνθος χόρτου may refer to wild flowers, i.e., flowers that belong to grass or hay.
The writer offers further explanation for his simile in v. 11, marked by γάρ. In the first two clauses the word order is verb-subject, but in clauses three and four, the word order is subject-verb. ἀνατέλλω commonly describes the sun’s rising, but here it is an aorist active tense form, describing a commonly occurring phenomenon (‘gnomic aorist’ that often occurs with natural processes in the NT). The following three verbs share the same tense form and verbal aspect. It is accompanied (σύν) by καύσων, “scorching heat” (BDAG, 536). The same subject continues with the second verb ἐξήρανεν (ξηραίνω), “dry up, wither” (BDAG, 684). ἐξέπεσεν (ἐκπίπτω) “fall off” has ὁ ἄνθος αὐτοῦ as its subject. The referent of the third person genitive pronoun must be χόρτον. εὐπρέπεια means “fine appearance, beauty” (BDAG, 410) and is a hapax legomenon in the NT. ἀπώλετο is an aorist middle tense form from ἀπόλλυμι. καί 2˚ may have a resultative nuance, i.e., “and so….” The ‘punchline’ comes in the final clause marked by οὕτως καί (so also). μαρανθήσεται is a future passive form with the sense “die out, fade, disappear, wither” (BDAG, 616), another hapax legomenon. In classical Greek texts it means “to quench” (a fire), so that it goes out slowly. The adverbial prepositional phrase ἐν could be locative “in his journeys or undertakings,” describing the context.
12Μακάριος ἀνὴρ ὃς ὑπομένει πειρασμόν, ὅτι δόκιμος γενόμενος λήμψεται τὸν στέφανον τῆς ζωῆς ὃν ἐπηγγείλατο τοῖς ἀγαπῶσιν αὐτόν. 13μηδεὶς πειραζόμενος λεγέτω ὅτι ἀπὸ θεοῦ πειράζομαι· ὁ γὰρ θεὸς ἀπείραστός ἐστιν κακῶν, πειράζει δὲ αὐτὸς οὐδένα. 14ἕκαστος δὲ πειράζεται ὑπὸ τῆς ἰδίας ἐπιθυμίας ἐξελκόμενος καὶ δελεαζόμενος· 15εἶτα ἡ ἐπιθυμία συλλαβοῦσα τίκτει ἁμαρτίαν, ἡ δὲ ἁμαρτία ἀποτελεσθεῖσα ἀποκύει θάνατον.
In v. 12 the writer comes back to the theme of “trials/testing” (cf. 1:2). He employs a nominal clause in the form of a beatitude, using the adjective μακάριος as a predicate adjective and anarthrous ἀνήρ as subject. A relative clause marked by ὅς specifies what kind of ἀνήρ the writer has in mind (particularizes it and makes it definite). ὑπομένει is a present indicative active tense form, modified by the object πειρασμόν. He adds a causal clause headed by ὅτι to explain why the beatitude is true. The main verb is a future middle form λήμψεται (v. 7) modified by a direct object τὸν στέφανον. The writer adds an adverbial, aorist middle participle γενόμενος, with a predicate adjective δόκιμος (after he has become proven/after he has passed the test). See the cognate noun τὸ δοκίμιον (v. 2). λήμψεται may reflect the use of the same verb in v. 7. The noun στέφανος has a genitive modifier, ζωῆς, that could be epexegetical in function. As well, the writer uses another relative clause to define the circumstances under which the crown is awarded. ἐπηγγείλατο is an aorist middle tense form, “he has promised.” The subject is not specified, but θεός (vv. 5, 13) probably is to be supplied. The verb takes a direct object (relative pronoun ὅν) and an indirect object (plural substantival present active participle τοῖς ἀγαπῶσιν). The participle has an accusative direct object (αὐτόν). The verbal participle reflects the key verb used in the first great command (Deut. 6:4).
The writer reverts to another third person present active imperative λεγέτω, as he continues his instruction. The word order in the clause is subject-verb, giving prominence to the subject, a negative pronoun (μηδείς, because of the imperative mood). It is modified by the present passive participle πειραζόμενος that probably is adverbial and has a causal, temporal, or contemporaneous nuance. ὅτι marks a content clause of direct discourse that functions as object of the main verb. The adverbial prepositional phrase ἀπὸ θεοῦ could have a causal sense (because of God), but probably indicates ultimate source, although not necessarily the immediate agent. The writer offers further explanation for this instruction, marked by γάρ. He uses an equative clause in which the subject ὁ θεός is defined by a predicate adjective expressing a characteristic. ἀπείραστός is an alpha-privative, two termination adjective, cognate with πειρασμός and πειράζω. This adjective could have an active (“does not tempt”) or passive (“cannot be tempted”) sense. BDAG (100) considers it passive in nuance because of the following clause. It is modified by a genitive adjective κακῶν and the genitive probably indicates separation. δέ probably is adversative, given the ἀπείραστος/πειράζω contrast. The subject receives emphasis through the intensive use of αὐτός. Note the verb-subject word order. The object is the form of the negative pronoun that occurs with indicative verb forms.
I would suggest that δέ in v. 14 marks a new topic (“now”) and introduces another aspect of the explanation. The word order is now subject-verb, with the particularizing pronoun ἕκαστος (each) serving as the subject of the present indicative passive πειράζεται. ὑπὸ τῆς ἱδίας ἐπιθυμίας defines the agent of the passive verb, personifying “desires.” ἰδίας further emphasizes the personal responsibility that each person bears when they succumb to temptation. ἐπιθυμία can define good or bad desires, but here probably they are bad (cf. tenth command). Two present passive, adverbial participles, ἐξελκόμενος (from ἐξέλκω “drag away” (BDAG, 347); used similarly with a moral reference in classical Greek writers) and δελεαζόμενος (δελεάζω “lure, entice” (BDAG, 216); related to the noun δέλεαρ “bait”). The nuance of the participles could be causal, temporal, or contemporaneous. They are nominative because they add background information to the subject-verb action.
Using the adverb εἶτα, referring to something next in order of time, i.e., “then, next,” the writer uses an entirely different metaphor to describe how “desire” transforms into sin. Note again the subject-verb word order. The adverbial, second aorist participle συλλαβοῦσα means “when it has conceived/having conceived.” It prepares the way for the main verb τίκτει, a present indicative active verb signifying “give birth to,” and frames the action of the main verb. The object ἁμαρτίαν is the “new born child.” δέ perhaps is simply conjunctive here (and) introducing the next stage. Again, we have a subject-verb word order, with the subject linked with an adverbial, aorist passive participle ἀποτελεσθεῖσα (cognate with τέλειος), from ἀποτελέω “bring to completion, finish” (BDAG, 123). It may have the sense “fully formed,” given the metaphor of birth and growth that the writer is working with. The main verb ἀποκύει is a present active indicative form and means “give birth to” (BDAG, 114; cf. 1:18). So when sin matures, it produces offspring, namely θάνατον, the direct object (cf. Romans 6:23).
16Μὴ πλανᾶσθε, ἀδελφοί μου ἀγαπητοί. 17πᾶσα δόσις ἀγαθὴ καὶ πᾶν δώρημα τέλειον ἄνωθέν ἐστιν καταβαῖνον ἀπὸ τοῦ πατρὸς τῶν φώτων, παρ’ ᾧ οὐκ ἔνι παραλλαγὴ ἢ τροπῆς ἀποσκίασμα. 18βουληθεὶς ἀπεκύησεν ἡμᾶς λόγῳ ἀληθείας εἰς τὸ εἶναι ἡμᾶς ἀπαρχήν τινα τῶν αὐτοῦ κτισμάτων.
The writer continues his discussion about God’s response to requests for help from his people (cf. v. 5). He begins his discussion with a prohibition (μὴ + present middle imperative). The vocative construction ἀδελφοί μου ἀγαπητοί may signal a return to the previous discussion (v. 5) and a break with the preceding theme of temptation/testing. He used ἀδελφοί μου in 1:2 and will again (cf. 2:1). The adjectival modifier ἀγαπητοί might be construed as further expression of endearment (note the cognate verb ἀγαπῶσιν used in v. 12), but it is cognate with ἀγάπη, an important Christian value (see 1:19 for the same expression). So the writer is correcting a misconception about God and his relationship with his people.
Verse 17 offers the correct perspective. Two nominative phrases, compounded together, form the subjects of the equative clause defined by ἐστιν. Note again that the adjectives are in the second attributive position (ἀγαθή…τέλειον). The repeated uses of πᾶς indicate an inclusive sense (every). Even though the verb has two subjects, it is singular because the genders of the subject nouns, feminine and neuter are mixed and by convention are considered a neuter plural combination. Neuter plural subjects normally take a singular verb form. Alternatively, one could read the first phrase as a verbless nominal clause “Every gift is good.” The verb construction in the second clause could be periphrastic, i.e., εἰμι + present participle (καταβαῖνον). Alternatively, καταβαῖνον, although singular and neuter singular, as an adverbial participle, probably defines ἄνωθεν giving additional information regarding the source of both δόσις and δώρημα. Are δόσις…δώρημα synonyms? Does this repetition have a rhetorical function? ἄνωθεν is a predicate adverb, indicating the source “from whence” something comes (-θεν adds this nuance). ἀπὸ τοῦ πατρὸς τῶν φώτων also gives more specificity to the adverb, defining the source. The genitive τῶν φώτων could have various explanation: genitive of source (the source of lights as creator); objective genitive (the father who has ‘birthed’ lights).
In the relative clause that concludes v. 17, the writer uses ἔνι as the verb form, an abbreviated form of ἔνεστιν (“to be or exist in a certain context” BDAG, 336), modified by the negative οὐκ. A number of mss. read εστιν. The prepositional phrase (παρά + dative) indicates close association (near, beside, with whom). Two nominative nouns function as predicate nouns. παραλλαγή means “change, variation” (BDAG, 768). The phrase ἢ τροπῆς ἀποσκίασμα has various forms in the mss. tradition. P23 is the earliest text and reads παραλλαγη η τροπης αποσκιασματος, but its translation is very uncertain. א* B read η τροπης αποσκιασματος which construes η as an article (not a correlative conjunction) with a genitive phrase modifying παραλλαγή, i.e., “variation that is of the turning of the shadow” (Omanson, Textual Guide, 469). The writer seems to contrast the unchangeableness of God with the constant shifting in the positions of heavenly bodies and the resultant shadows they cast, referencing the previous mention of “lights.” If the reading ὰποσκίασμα (“shadow”) is original, it is the only use in the NT. We then have two nominative nouns joined by the correlative conjunction ἤ and the second noun is modified by the genitive noun τροπῆς (“turning, change”).
Verse 18 offers another declaration without any connecting particle. Presumably, the subject of ἀπεκύησεν is the previous “father of lights.” The verb is an aorist active tense form of ἀποκυέω, “give birth to” (cf. v. 15). The initial aorist passive participle βουληθείς is adverbial and modifies the subject-verb phrase, “intentionally, according to his will.” Because it heads the clause, the participle frames the following action. The dative noun λόγῳ describes means or instrument and it is modified by the attributive genitive ἀληθείας, defining the kind of λόγος it is, or it could be objective genitive, i.e., “the message that gives truth.” The articulated infinitive τὸ εἶναι following εἰς expresses purpose. Infinitives as nouns are always neuter singular. The writer repeats ἡμᾱς so that there is no doubt about the subject of the infinitive (usually expressed in the accusative case). Because the subject of the infinitive is in the accusative, the predicate noun ἀπαρχήν follows suit. It is modified by the indefinite pronoun τινα, an enclitic. The genitive τῶν κτισμάτων is probably a partitive genitive, modifying ἀπαρχήν. In turn the genitive personal pronoun αὐτοῦ indicates who is responsible for these created things (subjective genitive). What is included in the scope of κτίσματα?
19Ἴστε, ἀδελφοί μου ἀγαπητοί· ἔστω δὲ πᾶς ἄνθρωπος ταχὺς εἰς τὸ ἀκοῦσαι, βραδὺς εἰς τὸ λαλῆσαι, βραδὺς εἰς ὀργήν· 20ὀργὴ γὰρ ἀνδρὸς δικαιοσύνην θεοῦ οὐ κατεργάζεται. 21διὸ ἀποθέμενοι πᾶσαν ῥυπαρίαν καὶ περισσείαν κακίας ἐν πραΰτητι δέξασθε τὸν ἔμφυτον λόγον τὸν δυνάμενον σῶσαι τὰς ψυχὰς ὑμῶν.
The writer presents another injunction followed by explanation. ἴστε is a form of οἶδα and could be indicative or imperative in mood. Given the number of imperatives used in this letter, it is probably intended to be an imperative form (perfect imperative; he uses οἴδατε in 4:4). Since it lacks an object, it probably means “be certain,” and the following clause indicates the matter about which certainty is desired. However, note the textual variants, some texts reading the conjunction ωστε (so then) and some reading ιστε δε. Both of these can be explained as scribal errors (spelling or dittography). The subject addressed is a vocative in a nominative form ἀδελφοί μου ἀγαπητοί (cf. v. 16). Texts reading ωστε also omit δέ following ἔστω in order to present smoother syntax. I think δέ here introduces a new topic and has a continuative sense, “now….” The subject of the imperative ἔστω is πᾶς ἄνθρωπος. It is modified by the predicate adjective ταχύς. This command is completed by another articulated infinitive εἰς τὸ ἀκοῦσαι, expressing the sense “with regard to hearing.” It is followed by the parallel βραδὺς εἰς τὸ λαλῆσαι. βραδύς functions as the predicate adjective of an implied ἔστω. A third predicate repeats βραδύς but is followed by a prepositional phrase of reference εἰς ὀργήν, incorporating a regular noun (“slow with regard to anger”).
γάρ at the beginning of v. 20 marks an explanatory clause. ὀργή is another example of a Stichwort. The writer defines this ‘anger’ as human anger. Note how he alternates ἄνδρός with ἄνθρωπος in the previous verse. Why do you think he does this? Is it just stylistic? The writer used the present tense form κατεργάζεται (NA28 – the reading of the Byz. Text!) in 1:3. Note the textual variant ουκ εργαζεται read by most mss. He places the object before the verb, enabling the strong contrast between ὀργὴ…ἀνδρός and δικαιοσύνην θεοῦ. Paul uses this last phrase extensively in Romans. What did James mean by it?
Following this explanation the writer indicates the correct response to evil, based upon the transforming work of the deity in human lives (v.21). The particle διό marks a conclusion to be drawn (also used in Jam. 4:6). The main verb δέξασθε expresses another command (aorist middle imperative). The party addressed is that same as that in v. 19. The action of the main verb is framed by the initial adverbial middle participle ἀποθέμενοι, the action of discarding something (cf. Rom. 13:12; Col. 3:8; 1 Pet. 2:1). It is modified by a compound object ῥυπαρίαν (“dirtiness, filth; moral uncleanness, vulgarity” cf. 2:2; 1 Pet. 3:21 (BDAG)) καὶ περισσείαν (“surplus, abundance” (BDAG)). Both terms come under the influence of the preceding, inclusive πᾶσαν. The second noun has a genitive modifier κακίας. ἐν πραΰτητι (another term used by Paul, Peter, and James) probably modifies δέξασθε and describes the manner in which one receives God’s revelation, i.e., τὸν ἔμφυτον λόγον, the direct object. In Classical Greek writers both virtue and evil can be “natural, implanted” and James acknowledges that “desire gives birth to sin” and God “births us through the word of truth.” So the true word is now implanted, but has to in some sense be received in order to be acted upon. This λόγον is modified by an adjectival participle τὸν δυνάμενον (cf. 4:12) defining its power/capacity and this in turn is described in the complementary aorist infinitive σῶσαι. The infinitive is modified by the definite object τὰς ψυχὰς ὑμῶν. Does this refer to “lives,” “selves,” or “souls”? For σῴζειν ψυχήν see also James 5:20. Note the repeated use of λόγος in vv. 18, 21, referencing the message of the gospel in both instances presumably.
22Γίνεσθε δὲ ποιηταὶ λόγου καὶ μὴ μόνον ἀκροαταὶ παραλογιζόμενοι ἑαυτούς. 23ὅτι εἴ τις ἀκροατὴς λόγου ἐστὶν καὶ οὐ ποιητής, οὗτος ἔοικεν ἀνδρὶ κατανοοῦντι τὸ πρόσωπον τῆς γενέσεως αὐτοῦ ἐν ἐσόπτρῳ· 24κατενόησεν γὰρ ἑαυτὸν καὶ ἀπελήλυθεν καὶ εὐθέως ἐπελάθετο ὁποῖος ἦν. 25ὁ δὲ παρακύψας εἰς νόμον τέλειον τὸν τῆς ἐλευθερίας καὶ παραμείνας οὐκ ἀκροατὴς ἐπιλησμονῆς γενόμενος ἀλλὰ ποιητὴς ἔργου, οὗτος μακάριος ἐν τῇ ποιήσει αὐτοῦ ἔσται.
The use of the particle δέ and the occurrence of λόγος suggests that this section carries forward the ideas expressed in vv. 16-21 about the “word/message.” δέ would be continuative, but signaling a new topic in this discussion. One should be quick to hear, but not slow to act. The injunction uses γίνεσθε, present middle imperative, perhaps with the sense “become,” distinguishing it from the imperative of εἰμι used in v. 19 (ἔστω). ποιηταὶ (1:25; 4:11; cf. Rom. 2:13) functions as a predicate nominative, characterizing the desired outcome. It is modified by the objective genitive λόγου, indicating what is done. This is followed by a prohibition marked by καὶ μή μόνον (a marker of limitation, cf. 2:24 with οὐκ), with the verb γίνεσθε implied. ἀκροατής is a another predicate noun. James puts the desired action before the action to be excluded. παραλογιζόμενοι (“deceiving, deluding” BDAG, 768) probably is an adverbial present middle participle (cf. Col. 2:4). It is completed with the reflexive pronoun ἑαυτούς functioning as object. The third person plural form of the reflexive pronoun is used for second and third person references.
If ὅτι (v. 23) is original then, it marks the following clause as causal and subordinate to the preceding clause in v. 22). The writer uses a first class condition (εἰ + ἐστιν) assuming the reality of the condition. The subject of the condition is the indefinite pronoun τις and ἀκροατὴς is a predicate nominative, modified by the genitive λόγου. καὶ οὐ introduces a second element with a negative and the implied ἐστιν repeated, with another predicate nominative ποιητής. οὗτος is the subject of the apodosis and picks up the indefinite subject of the protasis. Its position prior to the verb ἔοικεν (cf. 1:6) might give it some prominence. This verb commonly is completed with the dative object (ἀνδρί). The present participle κατανοοῦντι (“looking at, staring at, considering” BDAG, 522) is probably adjectival. It takes an accusative object τὸ πρόσωπον that is modified by the genitive τῆς γενέσεως, perhaps here defining a characteristic of the face. αὐτοῦ clarifies whose face is being observed. ἐν ἐσόπτρῳ (“mirror” BDAG, 397; cf. 1 Cor. 13:12) may be instrumental or locative.
γάρ with κατενόησεν indicates that v. 24 is intended to be an explanation of the metaphor used in the previous conditional sentence. Note the interplay between aorist and perfect tense forms. He uses another reflexive pronoun ἑαυτόν as the object. The perfect tense form ἀπελήλυθεν might suggest that this is now his state, i.e., he has left the mirror (“is gone”). καὶ εὐθέως reminds us of its frequent use in the Gospel of Mark as a connector, indicating the next thing in a series of actions, without much intervening action. ἐπελάθετο is the aorist middle form of ἐπιλανθάνομαι “forget, put out of one’s mind” (cf. Phil. 3:13). The object is a relative clause introduced by ὁποῖος, “what sort of” (cf. Gal. 2:6) that is the subject of an equative clause that incorporates the imperfect form ἦν.
Verse 25 begins with a set of compound substantival participles (ὁ…παρακύψας…καὶ παραμείνας; example of the Granville Sharp rule) that introduce the subject, resumed with the following οὗτος. Note the paronomasia in the form of the two compound verbs. παρακύπτω means “to look (into) something” in order to discern its meaning intellectually (BDAG, 767.2; cf. 1 Pet. 1:12). The focus of the study is marked by the preposition είς. In this case the λόγος (v. 22) is here defined as νόμον τέλειον τὸν τῆς ἐλευθερίας. The adjective follows the noun. Note that the noun phrase is anarthrous and this might suggest that it is not referring to “the Law,” i.e., the Torah. Further, τέλειος can connote the idea of “perfect, complete.” “Perfect” could mean “without blemish” (cf. 1:17). If the sense is “complete,” could it mean “fulfilled, accomplished” (cf. 1:4)? The genitive following the article τὸν functions adjectivally and it probably has an objective sense, i.e., a law that enables freedom. παραμένω means “to remain in a state or situation” BDAG, 768.1). οὐκ ἀκροατής is probably a predicate nominative associated with the following adverbial, aorist participle γενόμενος (“having become not a forgetful hearer but….”). The noun is modified by a genitive noun ἐπιλησμονής, functioning as an attributive genitive. This noun is cognate with the previous ἐπελάθετο. ἀλλὰ contrasts with the previous οὐκ, indicating what the person has become, i.e., ποιητὴς ἔργου (objective genitive). It is a predicate nominative modifying an implied, repeated γενόμενος. Finally, we come the essence of the clause, expressed within the frame of these initial participles, οὗτος μαρκάριος…ἔσται. μακάριος is a predicate adjective, modifying οὗτος. The phrase ἐν τῇ ποιήσει αὐτοῦ (subjective genitive) indicates the means by which the blessing occurs, i.e., “by means of his activity” or it could indicate in reference to what blessing accrues.
26Εἴ τις δοκεῖ θρησκὸς εἶναι μὴ χαλιναγωγῶν γλῶσσαν αὐτοῦ ἀλλ’ ἀπατῶν καρδίαν αὐτοῦ, τούτου μάταιος ἡ θρησκεία. 27θρησκεία καθαρὰ καὶ ἀμίαντος παρὰ τῷ θεῷ καὶ πατρὶ αὕτη ἐστίν, ἐπισκέπτεσθαι ὀρφανοὺς καὶ χήρας ἐν τῇ θλίψει αὐτῶν, ἄσπιλον ἑαυτὸν τηρεῖν ἀπὸ τοῦ κόσμου.
Does this conditional statement function as a second, following the one in v. 23 and thus explains what it means to be “a practitioner of the message?” Or, is this an independent statement, dealing with a different topic? It follows the same basic structure, i.e., εἴ τις + present indicative (δοκεῖ) followed by a negative and then a positive, just as the condition in v. 23. δοκέω normally takes a complementary infinitive (εἶναι). θρησκός (“religious” BDAG, 459; cognate with θρησκεία “devotion to a deity, worship”, BDAG, 459) is a predicate adjective used with εἶναι and is nominative because the infinitive of εἰμι takes a nominative as subject when it follows δοκεἰ, not an accusative as it normally does (cf. 1:18). The negative aorist participle χαλιναγωγῶν (“bridling” BDAG, 1076; cf. the variant in B χαλινων) probably is adverbial, perhaps is concessive, but may be causal. μή goes with a participial form. γλῶσσαν αὐτοῦ functions as object of the participle. The correction marked by ἀλλά gives a different evaluation. The second adverbial present participle ἀπατῶν means “deceiving” and takes καρδίαν αὐτοῦ as the object. The apodosis is a nominal clause with ἡ θρησκεία marked by the article as subject. Its genitive modifier τούτου is moved to the front of the clause to give it prominence. μάταιος is a predicate adjective. It has a masculine form because this adjective sometimes appears as a two termination adjective or a three termination adjective.
He continues with θρησκεία as the predicate nominative of the next sentence (v. 27). The subject of the equative clause is the demonstrative pronoun αὕτη. The compounded adjectives καθαρὰ καὶ ἀμίαντος modify θρησκεία. παρά + dative means “in the judgment of” (BDAG, 757 B.2). The present infinitive ἐπισκέπτεσθαι is epexegetical, explaining what true worship/devotion is. It means “to visit, to look after, help” (BDAG, 378) and perhaps this verb helps us to understand the primary work of the ἐπίσκοπος in a house church (cf. Matt. 25:36, 43). It is modified by the compound object ὀρφανοὺς καὶ χήρας. ἐν τῇ θλίψει αὐτῶν probably has a locative sense, i.e., in the situation/circumstances of their oppression. The pronoun αὐτῶν is probably a subjective genitive, i.e., the oppression they experience. A second aspect of “pure devotion” occurs with another expexegetical, present infinitive τηρεῖν (“to keep, preserve”). The object is a singular reflexive pronoun ἑαυτόν. It is modified by the predicate adjective ἄσπιλον. ἀπὸ τοῦ κόσμου expresses separation or perhaps source.