1Μὴ πολλοὶ διδάσκαλοι γίνεσθε, ἀδελφοί μου, εἰδότες ὅτι μεῖζον κρίμα λημψόμεθα. 2πολλὰ γὰρ πταίομεν ἅπαντες. εἴ τις ἐν λόγῳ οὐ πταίει, οὗτος τέλειος ἀνὴρ δυνατὸς χαλιναγωγῆσαι καὶ ὅλον τὸ σῶμα. 3εἰ δὲ τῶν ἵππων τοὺς χαλινοὺς εἰς τὰ στόματα βάλλομεν εἰς τὸ πείθεσθαι αὐτοὺς ἡμῖν, καὶ ὅλον τὸ σῶμα αὐτῶν μετάγομεν. 4ἰδοὺ καὶ τὰ πλοῖα τηλικαῦτα ὄντα καὶ ὑπὸ ἀνέμων σκληρῶν ἐλαυνόμενα μετάγεται ὑπὸ ἐλαχίστου πηδαλίου ὅπου ἡ ὁρμὴ τοῦ εὐθύνοντος βούλεται. 5οὕτως καὶ ἡ γλῶσσα μικρὸν μέλος ἐστὶν καὶ μεγάλα αὐχεῖ. ἰδοὺ ἡλίκον πῦρ ἡλίκην ὕλην ἀνάπτει.
The writer seems to begin a new topic with another prohibition. μή…γινεσθε – μή + present middle imperative is one way to express a prohibition (cf. 1:7, 16). He has used γίνεσθε previously in this way (1:22). The subject is reflected in πολλόι, defining the second person plural signaled by the verb’s ending. διδάσκαλοι functions as the predicate nominative. Once again the vocative ἀδελφοί μου is used to draw attention to and to encourage emotional support for his instruction. εἰδότες signals the explanation for his prohibition – they understand things. He uses the ὅτι clause (indirect discourse marker) to define specifically what they know. Notice the shift to first person plural in the verb λημψόμεθα, as the writer includes himself in this warning. He positions the object μεῖζον κρίμα before the verb, giving it prominence.
In v. 2 he adds further explanation marked by γάρ. He employs a present indicative verb tense πταίομεν to make a declaration (πταίω = “to trip up, stumble; make a false step, mistake”; usually intransitive (BDAG)), again including himself in this with the first person plural. He makes the statement inclusive with the pronominal adjective ἅπαντες. πολλά could be an adverbial accusative (“in many things/ways”). The writer adds an example (v. 3) using a first class condition (εἰ + indicative) and making it a very general condition by employing τις as the subject. The relevance to the initial prohibition (v. 1) now appears as he relates the mistakes to speaking (dative of means or manner ἐν λόγῳ). The subject of the apodosis οὗτος picks up the previous τις. The apodosis is a nominal clause, with εἰμι being the implicit verb. τέλειος ἀνήρ is the predicate nominative. Consider previous uses of τέλειος (1:4, 17, 25). ἀνήρ presumably means “person.” He adds another modifier using the adjective δυνατός + complementary infinitive to illustrate one way in which such perfection or maturity gains expression. This person has the ability or capacity “χαλιναγωγῆσαι” (“to bridle, restrain, control” (cf. 1:26) “even his whole body.” καί is ascensive and ὅλον τὸ σῶμα functions as the object of the infinitive. What is the distinction between πᾶς, ἅπας, ὅλος?
The writer introduces an illustration in v. 3, using δέ to signal a new topic in the discourse. He employs another first class condition (εἰ + indicative (βάλλομεν)). He fronts the object τοὺς χαλινούς (“bit, bridle” BDAG). The genitive modifier τῶν ἵππων probably characterizes τὰ στόματα. The verb βάλλομεν is first person plural, present active indicative, as the writer includes himself in this piece of general knowledge, i.e., where people place bridles – into the mouths (εἰς τὰ στόματα). He expresses the purpose or result of this action with an articulated infinitive (τὸ πείθεσθαι “to obey”) defined by εἰς – could be “in order that” or “so that.” The subject of the infinitive is the accusative αὐτούς and the dative ἡμῖν marks the object. In the apodosis μετάγω means “to guide” (BDAG). καί is ascensive, modifying the object ὅλον τὸ σῶμα, that again is positioned before the verb. He repeats the phrase used in v. 2, but uses the genitive pronoun αὐτῶν to clarify that he refers to the horses’ bodies.
A second illustration follows in v. 4. ἰδού may have the force of “pay attention.” Again καί is ascensive, modifying the subject τὰ πλοῖα. As a neuter plural subject, its verb has a singular ending (μετάγεται – present passive indicative). The subject has two participles, neither of which has an article and so probably are adverbial, perhaps concessive (“although, even though”). This first participle is ὄντα and it has a predicate adjective τηλικαῦτα (“so great, so large” – a form of τηλικοῦτος). The second participle is ἐλαυνόμενα (present passive participle – “being driven, propelled”). It is modified by ὑπό + genitive describing agency (“by harsh/hard winds”). The main verb, being passive, also has an adverbial prepositional modifier (ὑπὸ ἐλαχίστου πηδαλίου), defining the ‘agent’ used to guide a large ship. πηδάλιον refers to a “steering paddle, rudder.” The main verb is also modified by an adverbial clause indicating direction (ὅπου “where”). The subject of the clause is ἡ ὁρμὴ (“impulse, inclination”) and it is defined by the subjective genitive εὐθύνοντος (a present participle of εὐθύνω used substantivally to refer to “the one guiding,” i.e., the pilot). Some manuscripts read the subjunctive form βουληται – “should, might wish/desire,” rather than the indicative βούλεται.
In v. 5 the writer moves to apply his two illustrations (vv. 3-4) to the matter of controlling conversation. He signals this by the adverb of comparison οὕτως (so) linked with the ascensive καί. A number of significant mss. read ωσαυτως, but this does not alter the basic sense. The first clause is an equative clause with the verb ἐστίν. The subject is marked by the article (ἡ γλῶσσα). The predicate nominative is μικρὸν μέλος (“part of the human body”). In the second clause the main verb αὐχεῖ means “to boast” (BDAG). The writer places the object μεγάλα before the verb. Note the alliteration with the letter μ. Some mss. read a compound verb form μεγαλαυχει. Either reading works. ἰδού draws attention to what follows as important. The subject is πῦρ (“fire”) and it is modified by the pronominal adjective ἡλίκος “what size, what magnitude” (BDAG) and can refer to something small or great. The verb ἀνάπτω means “kindle, set on fire, ignite” (BDAG) and its object is ἡλίκην ὕλην “what size a forest.” The writer is making a play on the various senses of ἡλίκος.
6καὶ ἡ γλῶσσα πῦρ. ὁ κόσμος τῆς ἀδικίας ἡ γλῶσσα καθίσταται ἐν τοῖς μέλεσιν ἡμῶν ἡ σπιλοῦσα ὅλον τὸ σῶμα καὶ φλογίζουσα τὸν τροχὸν τῆς γενέσεως καὶ φλογιζομένη ὑπὸ τῆς γεέννης. 7πᾶσα γὰρ φύσις θηρίων τε καὶ πετεινῶν, ἑρπετῶν τε καὶ ἐναλίων δαμάζεται καὶ δεδάμασται τῇ φύσει τῇ ἀνθρωπίνῃ, 8τὴν δὲ γλῶσσαν οὐδεὶς δαμάσαι δύναται ἀνθρώπων, ἀκατάστατον κακόν, μεστὴ ἰοῦ θανατηφόρου. 9ἐν αὐτῇ εὐλογοῦμεν τὸν κύριον καὶ πατέρα καὶ ἐν αὐτῇ καταρώμεθα τοὺς ἀνθρώπους τοὺς καθ’ ὁμοίωσιν θεοῦ γεγονότας· 10ἐκ τοῦ αὐτοῦ στόματος ἐξέρχεται εὐλογία καὶ κατάρα. οὐ χρή, ἀδελφοί μου, ταῦτα οὕτως γίνεσθαι. 11μήτι ἡ πηγὴ ἐκ τῆς αὐτῆς ὀπῆς βρύει τὸ γλυκὺ καὶ τὸ πικρόν; 12μὴ δύναται, ἀδελφοί μου, συκῆ ἐλαίας ποιῆσαι ἢ ἄμπελος σῦκα; οὔτε ἁλυκὸν γλυκὺ ποιῆσαι ὕδωρ.
The writer now applies the metaphor of the damaging potential of fire to the harm the wrong use of language can produce. καί probably is ascensive, i.e., “the tongue also….” This is a nominal clause with πῦρ being the predicate nominative. The nominative phrase ὁ κόσμος τῆς ἀδικίας generates immense discussion as to its role in the clause, as well as way the genitive relates to the head noun. The phrase seems to be some kind of appositional element to ἡ γλῶσσα. ἀδικίας defines κόσμος as an attributive genitive (“an unrighteous world”) or a genitive of content (“a world filled with unrighteousness”). ἡ γλῶσσα is the subject of present passive indicative καθίσταται (see 4:4) meaning “to be appointed, set” in relation to something. The adverbial prepositional phrase ἐν τοῖς μέλεσιν ἡμῶν has a locative sense, “in/among the members of our body.” Although the text of the last part of the verse is uncertain, NA28’s edition has three compounded, adjectival participles, adding further information about ἡ γλῶσσα. The verb σπιλόω means “stain, defile” (BDAG). It is a present active participle, with an accusative modifier ὅλον τὸ σῶμα (cf. vv. 2, 3). The second and third participles are active and passive forms of the present participle of φλογίζω “set on fire” (BDAG). τὸν τροχὸν τῆς γενέσεως is the object of φλογίζουσα and means something like “the wheel of becoming/birth,” or perhaps “the course of existence.” The third participle is passive and is modified by ὑπό + genitive to indicate agency. There is probably a word play on γένεσις…γεέννη.
The writer adds further explanation for his warning in the γάρ clause in v. 7. φύσις means “natural disposition” and the genitive modifier may be partitive, i.e., “every natural disposition among wild animals,…” The initial πᾶσα would have an inclusive sense. τε καί is a common Greek idiom to express the correlative idea of “both…and.” The writer has two sets of genitive modifiers. He repeats the same verb, first in the form of a present passive (“is tameable” δαμάζεται) and then as a perfect passive (“stands in a tamed condition” δεδάμασται), just as he did with the preceding φλογίζω. τῇ φύσει τῇ ἀνθρωπίνῃ is probably a dative of means, i.e., “by human disposition.” Note the lexical repetitions in the verse.
In v. 8 the writer provides the contrast marked by an adversative δέ. He places the object of the infinitive at the beginning of the clause in order to give it prominence and link this observation back to his main topic, the tongue. The negative pronoun οὐδείς “no one” functions as the subject of δύναται. He positions the complementary aorist infinitive δαμάσαι before the verb it modifies. The genitive modifier of τὴν γλῶσσαν, namely ἀνθρώπων, follows the verb and is an example of extreme hyperbaton being separated at such a distance from its head noun. The phrase ἀκατάστατον κακόν contains a neuter accusative substantival adjective κακόν (it has a feminine form and if it were modifiying γλῶσσαν directly its form would be κακήν), appositional to γλώσσαν and modified by the two declension ending adjective ἀκατάστατον (cf. 1:8). It is also possible that this phrase functions as a nominative absolute, effectively a nominal clause meaning “it is an uncontrollable evil.” The second construction μεστὴ ἰοῦ θανατηφόρου also contains a nominative adjective μεστή (“full of”) and its feminine form means that γλώσσαν is the antecedent. Again it could be a de facto nominal clause, i.e., “it is full of….” This adjective normally is completed with a genitive modifier defining what fills something. In this case it is full of “death-bearing/death-dealing poison” (cf. Rom. 3:13). James uses ἰός again in 5:3 with the sense “rust, corrosion.” θανατηφόρος is also a two declension adjective.
The writer shows the basis for his claim in v. 9. ἐν αὐτῇ functions as an adverbial preposition phrase modifying the verb and describing means. The antecedent of the pronoun is γλῶσσα (“by it”). The verb εὐλογοῦμεν is first person plural, present active indicative and by this means the writer includes himself in this statement. τὴν κύριον καὶ πατέρα is the object and probably references the deity. The second clause parallels the first in order of the main elements. καταρώμεθα is another first person plural, present middle indicative from (καταράομαι “curse, execrate” (BDAG). The direct object τοὺς ἀνθώπους is modified by an attributive perfect active participle τούς…γεγονότας. The participle is modified by the adverbial prepositional phrase καθ’ ὁμοίωσιν θεοῦ, indicating that humans stand fashioned “according to divine likeness.” The noun ὁμοίωσις means “state of being similar, likeness, resemblance”( BDAG). The phrase καθ’ ὁμοίωσιν occurs in LXX Gen. 1:26.
The writer develops the contradiction he stated in v. 9. He begins with an adverbial prepositional phrase ἐκ τοῦ αὐτοῦ στόματος indicating the origin of blessing and cursing. αὐτοῦ is the self identifying usage (“same”) – note the smooth breathing. The preposition ἐκ picks up the prefix used in the compound verb ἐξέρχεται. Although the subject is compound (εὐλογία καὶ κατάρα), reflecting the two main verbs employed in v. 9, the verb is singular, agreeing with the first of the two nouns. BDAG indicates that χρή (hapax legomenon in the NT) is an impersonal verb form meaning “it is necessary, it ought.” With the negative οὐ we would say “it is unnecessary.” ἀδελφοί μου is a vocative signaling the importance of this exhortation. This verb takes a complementary infinitive γίνεσθαι. Its subject is the neuter accusative plural ταῦτα. οὕτως is a predicate adverb modifying the infinitive.
He provides another illustration in v. 11 to support his injunction. μήτι marks a question for which a negative answer is anticipated. βρύω means “pour out, emit” (BDAG). The subject is ἡ πηγή “the spring, fountain” and the article is generalizing. The adverbial prepositional phrase expresses origin or source (ἐκ τῆς αὐτῆς ὀπῆς), another usage of the self-identifying function of αὐτῆς, and the noun ὀπή means “opening, hole.” The direct object is the compound expression τὸ γλυκὺ καὶ τὸ πικρόν.
He adds two more illustrations in v. 12. The first is based on the fact that a tree consistently bears one kind of fruit, under natural conditions. He continues with a second interrogative marked as requiring or expecting a negative answer (μή). The vocative ἀδελφοί μου gives the question some prominence. He employs δύναμαι + complementary infinitive (ποιῆσαι) again (cf. v. 8). He juxtaposes the subject of δύναται συκῆ (“fig tree”) with the object of the infinitive ἐλαίας (“olives”). ἤ is a correlative and signals a second illustration, again juxtaposing subject ἄμπελος (“vine”) with σῦκον (“fruit of a fig tree”). The same verb structure is implicit. The final illustration seems to be a general contrast between salt water (ἁλυκόν…ὕδωρ) and sweet water (γλυκύ…ὕδωρ), the first being the subject in the contrast and the second the object of the infinitive ποιῆσαι (with an implied δύναται). The textual evidence is unclear whether the initial particle is οὔτε (nor) implying a negative declarative clause, or ουτως.
13Τίς σοφὸς καὶ ἐπιστήμων ἐν ὑμῖν; δειξάτω ἐκ τῆς καλῆς ἀναστροφῆς τὰ ἔργα αὐτοῦ ἐν πραΰτητι σοφίας. 14εἰ δὲ ζῆλον πικρὸν ἔχετε καὶ ἐριθείαν ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ ὑμῶν, μὴ κατακαυχᾶσθε καὶ ψεύδεσθε κατὰ τῆς ἀληθείας. 15οὐκ ἔστιν αὕτη ἡ σοφία ἄνωθεν κατερχομένη ἀλλ’ ἐπίγειος, ψυχική, δαιμονιώδης. 16ὅπου γὰρ ζῆλος καὶ ἐριθεία, ἐκεῖ ἀκαταστασία καὶ πᾶν φαῦλον πρᾶγμα. 17ἡ δὲ ἄνωθεν σοφία πρῶτον μὲν ἁγνή ἐστιν, ἔπειτα εἰρηνική, ἐπιεικής, εὐπειθής, μεστὴ ἐλέους καὶ καρπῶν ἀγαθῶν, ἀδιάκριτος, ἀνυπόκριτος. 18καρπὸς δὲ δικαιοσύνης ἐν εἰρήνῃ σπείρεται τοῖς ποιοῦσιν εἰρήνην.
In this segment the writer comes back to the issue of σοφός/σοφία (cf. 1:5). He begins with an indefinite question marked by the interrogative τίς. This is a nominal clause, presumably with a form of εἰμι implied. σοφὸς καὶ ἐπιστήμων (“expert, learned” BDAG) function as predicate adjectives, characterizing the subject (cf. Deut. 4.6 λα[ος σοφὸς καὶ ἐπιστήμων τὸ ἔθνος τὸ μέγα τοῦτο). ἐν ὑμῖν means “among you” and has then a spatial sense. The writer answers his question with a hortative construction (δειξάτω – aorist 3rd pers. sing. imperative from δείκνυμι). τὰ ἔργα αὐτοῦ functions as the direct object and ties back to the discussion about faith and works. The first adverbial prepositional phrase ἐκ τῆς καλῆς ἀναστροφῆς (“conduct, behavior”) indicates the source of this revelation. The second adverbial prepositional phrase ἐν πραΰτητι σοφίας expresses means. πραΰτης means “gentleness, humility, courtesy, considerateness, meekness” (BDAG), a wide variety of possible nuances. The genitive σοφίας could be a subjective genitive (the source of the humility/considerateness) or objective genitive (a humility that produces wisdom).
In v. 14 the writer describes a kind of behavior that this kind of wisdom does not produce. δέ marks a new topic (“now”). This is a first class condition, employing an indicative verb ἔχετε. He positions it between the two lexemes that form a compound direct object ζῆλον πικρόν…καὶ ἐριθείαν, creating another example of hyperbaton. ζῆλον is the head noun and πικρόν is the adjective. Paul lists ζῆλος and ἐριθεία among the products of the flesh (Gal. 5:20). ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ ὑμῶν locates these motivational emotions at the decision-making centre of the human being (ἐν is metaphorically locative here). Note that the writer uses the second person plural here. The apodosis has two present middle imperatives κατακαυχᾶσθε καὶ ψεύδεσθε. μή is the usual negative employed with imperatives. κατά + genitive has a hostile nuance.
The writer articulates a strong denial in v. 15 using οὐκ ἔστιν. The subject of this equative clause could be αὕτη with ἡ σοφία (“this wisdom”) as the predicate, modified in some sense by the adverb ἄνωθεν. κατερχομένη would be an additional nominal clause, i.e., “it is not coming down but is….” Alternatively, ἔστιν…κατερχομένη is a periphrastic construction, with the following ἀλλά marking a contrasting nominal clause with three predicate adjectives. In this case the adverb ἄνωθεν modifies the periphrastic verb phrase. There is a third possibility, namely that the participle is adverbial with a causative sense, i.e., “this wisdom is not from above, because it does not come down, but…” (cf. v. 17). Note that the writer links καρδία with the operations of σοφία. οὐκ…ἀλλά indicates that the first option is being rejected in favour of the second. The three adjectives ἐπίγειος (“characteristic of the earth” BDAG), ψυχική (“natural, in accordance with nature” BDAG), and δαιμονιώδης (“originating from the lower spirit-world, demonic” BDAG) are predicate adjectives, whose antecedent is σοφία.
He supplies additional rationale with the γάρ clause in v. 16. He begins with a subordinate locative adverbial clause marked by ὅπου “where.” It is picked up by the following ἐκεῖ that introduces the main clause. The subordinate clause is a nominal clause with ζῆλος καὶ ἐριθεία functioning as predicate nominatives. In the main clause the same nominal structure is repeated with a compound predicate noiminative ἀκαταστασία καὶ πᾶν φαῦλον πρᾶγμα. For ἀκαταστασία see the use of the corresponding adjective ἀκατάστατον in v. 8. The adjective φαῦλος means “morally base” (BDAG) and πᾶν has an inclusive sense. πράγμα (“that which is done or happens” BDAG) is somewhat synonymous with ἔργα (v. 13).
The writer signals a new topic in v. 17 with δέ. This might have a contrastive element as he shifts to a description of ἡ…ἄνωθεν σοφία. This use of the adverb ἄνωθεν might give us some sense of its use in v. 15. πρῶτον is adverbial here with the sense “in the first place, above all” (BDAG), beginning an enumeration of items signaled with μέν (another in a series), followed by ἐπεῖτα (“then next comes…”). The writer lists seven adjectives that characterize this “wisdom from above. ἐπιεικής means “not insisting on every right of letter of law or custom, yielding, gentle, kind” (BDAG). εὐπειθής means “compliant, obedient.” The fifth uses the adjective μεστός followed by a compound genitive modifier ἐλέους καὶ καρπῶν ἀγαθῶν. ἀδιάκριτος means “not divisive, impartial” (BDAG). This list has similarities with Paul’s description of the fruit produced by the Spirit in Gal. 5:22-23. A speaker has the option of using καί repeatedly in such lists or not.
δέ in v. 18 may indicate a kind of conclusion and thus a new topic in this discourse. The passive verb σπείρεται introduces an agricultural image of planting. The subject καρπός indicates the expected outcome of the growing process. The genitive δικαιοσύνης may define what generates the fruit, i.e., subjective genitive, or describe the fruit that is generated (attributive genitive). ἐν εἰρήνῃ may describe manner or means or a spatial relationship. The dative phrase τοῖς ποιοῦσιν εἰρήνην includes a present active substantival participle with a direct object εἰρήνην. The nature of the dative is disputed. It could be a dative of reference (“for those who make peace”), or a dative of agency (“by those who make peace”), or a dative of advantage (“for the benefit of those making peace”). Of course, what the writer means by this sentence is another matter.