1. The Marks of a Wise Believer, 1:2-27
i] Christian maturityArgument
After the greeting, v1, possibly more a title for the letter than a greeting, James details his first set of instructions, or probably better, sayings, v2-18. These sayings touch on the issue of temptations / tests / trials and the dangers and opportunities that these present to a believer.
i] Context: See 1:1. James immediately gets into his practical advice for living in a broken world, advice controlled by the proposition:
Genuine faith yields good fruit
James wants his readers to possess a genuine unwavering faith, a faith entailing a firm conviction in the knowledge of God, so providing the wisdom to live out a godly life in the face of trials and suffering, as against a life eroded by selfish living. In 1:2-27, James assembles a general series of sayings / instructions, many of which will be further developed in the following chapters. For James, they are the key marks of wisdom, or what we might call the marks of Christian maturity. Davids suggests that the key themes covered in the first chapter are testing, wisdom, wealth, speech and generosity.
James' presents his instructions as a series of stitched sayings, cf., Moo. Commentators divide on whether the book is a collection of unrelated sayings, or sayings carefully arranged within a highly developed thematic work. These notes opt for the middle ground. James, like Proverbs, is a collection of independent sayings arranged thematically. Each saying speaks for itself, but its thematic context, along with related sayings, all play a part in its instruction. Of course, when it comes to the division of the individual instructions / sayings, there is little unanimity amongst commentators.
ii] Background: 1:1.
iii] Structure: The Marks of Christian Wisdom - Christian maturity:
#1. The value of testing times, v2-4;
#2. Wisdom is gained through prayer, v5-8;
#3. The limited value of prosperity, v9-11;
#4. Blessed are those who persevere, v12;
#5. The power of indwelling sin, v13-15;
#6. God only gives good gifts, v16-19a;
The separate instructions / sayings in this passage make the following points: endurance in the face of life's difficulties promotes Christian maturity; v2-4, wisdom aids endurance, v5-8; prosperity is of little value (in the face of life's difficulties??) due to its impermanence , v9-11; those who endure reap the reward of life, v12; testing-times may be divinely sanctioned, but the temptations they promote are not, since these are the product of our own evil desires, v13-15; only good comes from God, not evil, v16-18.
v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.
Text - 1:2
The Marks of Christian Wisdom - Christian maturity, v2-18:
Instruction #1: The value of testing times, v2-4. James encourages believers to endure the difficulties of life, knowing that such challenges can lead to spiritual growth - maturity in the Christian life. As Mitton puts it, testing times clothe us with "the full equipment of the complete Christian."
hJghsasqe (hgeomai) aor. imp. "consider" - consider, count, regard. The aorist is possibly ingressive, "begin to consider".
caran (a) "[pure] joy" - [all] joy [brothers of me]. Emphatic by position. The "all" functions here as an intensifying adjective for "joy", as NIV; "nothing but joy", Barclay. Being "happy" (cf., "count yourselves supremely happy", REB) in the face of trouble is somewhat difficult and may lead to an unrealistic approach to personal hurts. Worse, it can be misunderstood, particularly by the secular authorities, who read irrational behavior as a sign of guilt. Of course, "joy" is probably not actually "happiness", but more in line with spiritual joy as expressed in Judith 8:25, "let us give thanks to the Lord our God, who is putting us to the test as he did our forefathers." So, "consider it a sheer gift, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides", Peterson.
oJtan + subj. "whenever" - Serving to introduce an indefinite temporal clause.
peripeshte (peripiptw) aor. subj. "you face" - you fall into. Possibly just "encounter".
peirasmoiV (oV) dat. "trials" - afflictions. Dative of direct object after the peri prefix verb "to fall into." The meaning can be "adversities / trials", or "temptations". Here "trials", as NIV, seems likely. Note the same problem exists with the Lord's prayer; is it "lead us not into temptation", or "let us not face the trial"?
poikiloiV "of many kinds" - of various kinds, variegated. The genitive is adjectival, attributive, limiting "trials".
ginwskonteV (ginwskw) pres. part. "because you know" - knowing. The participle is adverbial, probably causal, "because you know", NIV, but possibly imperatival, attendant on the imperative verb "consider [it pure joy]", v2; "and know that ....." A believer is able to view trouble positively "because we know that God uses trials to perfect our faith and make us stronger Christians", Moo.
oJti "that" - Introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what they should know.
to dokimion (on) "the testing" - the test, the act of testing / proof, genuine. Nominative subject of the verb "to work out." Here the act of testing, not the result of testing, ie., "genuine", cf., 1Pet.1:7. So, as of the refining process of gold; "as your faith is proved (refined)", TH.
thV pistewV (iV ewV) gen. "of [your] faith" - of the faith [of you]. Adam classifies the genitive as adjectival, verbal, objective, with the genitive hJmwn, "of you", taken as subjective; "you believe." This key word has different shades of meaning in the NT. For Paul, it is dependence / reliance on the one who is dependent / reliant on our behalf, ie., faith in the faith / faithfulness of God in Christ. This is probably how James' generally understands "faith". None-the-less, sometimes he seems to use "faith" in the sense of "the faith", as of doctrine, and "faith", in the sense of acceptance of that doctrine. It is possible that James sometimes uses "faith" in the Old Testament sense of loyalty to God, of "a personal commitment to Jesus Christ in trust [and obedience??], determined loyalty to Him through all kinds of difficulty and opposition", Mitton.
katergazetai (katergazomai) pres. "develops" - works out, results in, brings about, accomplishes. The prefix kata produces a perfective aspect, and along with the durative present, gives the sense "works out perseverance."
uJpomonhn (h) "perseverance" - endurance, staying, fortitude. "Steadfastness / staying-power / constancy....." "Used in this sense of unswerving constancy to faith and piety in spite of adversity and suffering", Ropes.
de "[perseverance]" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step to the conclusion of the argument; "And as for this consistency to faith and piety".
ecetw (ecw) pres. imp. "must" - let [endurance] have. The endurance must promote / achieve a complete work; "it is essential that this endurance should manifest itself to ...", Cassirer.
teleion adj. "finish [its work]" - complete [work, effect]. "Complete" in what sense? Possibly in a temporal sense, as NIV; "this ability must go right on to the end", Barclay. Yet, it is more likely that James has in mind something like "the full equipment of the complete Christian", Mitton. The word commonly means "perfect", but in Jewish literature it means "mature" = "completeness of character", Martin, rather than "perfect", Ropes.
iJna + subj. "so that" - that. Introducing a purpose clause expressing purpose, "in order that", or a hypothetical result "so that".
teleioi kai oJloklhroi adj. "mature and complete" - you may be mature and complete. Predicate nominative. The second adjective, supporting the first, takes the meaning "complete in all its parts". Such completeness is, according to du Plessis,Perfection in the New Testament, reflected in a coherence of faith and works, although something even wider is probably in James' mind. James is referring to the "rounded out" believer, Berkeley.
leipomenoi (leipw) perf. mid. part. "[not] lacking [anything]" - lacking [in nothing]. The participial serves as a substantive standing in apposition to "mature and complete." The prepositional phrase en + mhdeni, "in nothing", serves adjectivally, modifying / limiting "lacking". Of course, perfect completeness, a completeness that lacks nothing in the qualities of discipleship, is an ideal for which we aim, not a reality we achieve.
Instruction # 2: Wisdom is gained through prayer, v5-8. "After encouraging his readers to appreciate whatever adversities come their way, James now exhorts them to pray expectantly for the God-given wisdom that provides the insight necessary to see the divine purpose behind the trials", Vlachos. So, "James turns our attention to one important element in the full equipment of the complete Christian, namely, wisdom. He insists that it is a gift from God, to be received by (the prayer of) faith", Mitton, but is only received by "an asking that is sincere and uncorrupted", Moo. Wisdom is spiritual discernment, it involves having the capacity to understand the mind of Christ and to apply it within the complexities and difficulties of life. This type of knowledge / wisdom is promised a believer, but of course it has to be requested of God, believing that God will carry through on his promise. The believer must not oscillate between doubt and belief like a cork bouncing around in the surf, "for the doubter, being double-minded and unstable in every way, must not expect to receive anything from the Lord", NRSV.
de "-" - but/and. James has provided a connecting particle between v2-4 and v5-8, although the connection is not easily identified. The link possibly lies in the idea that wisdom provides the ability to handle testing times. James' point is, of course, that what is needed is the correct kind of wisdom, ie. divine wisdom rather than a wisdom of human devising. We may be better served not trying to find a link and simply take the particle as a transitional connective indicating the commencement of the next saying / instruction.
ei + ind. "if" - if, as is the case, [anyone of you is lacking wisdom, then let him ask from god]. Introducing a 1st class condition where the proposed condition is assumed to be true.
uJmwn gen. pro. "[any] of you" - [certain] of you. The genitive is adjectival, partitive.
leipetai (leipw) pres. pas. "lacks" - is lacking. Linked to the part., v4; linking words between sayings is a stylistic feature of James. "If anyone is lacking wisdom, that element of the full equipment of the complete Christian that enables them to deal with testing times, then ....." "And if, in the process, any of you does not know how to meet any particular problem, he has only to ask God", Phillips.
sofiaV (a) gen. "wisdom" - Genitive of direct object after the verb "to lack." Not "cleverness", which is what wisdom meant for the Greeks, but certainly "the power to discern right from wrong and good from evil", ie., "moral discernment", Mitton, although probably more in the terms of "spiritual discernment" - knowing the mind of Christ and being able to apply it to life's situations; "the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect", Rom.12:2.
aiteitw (aitew) pres. imp. "he should ask" - let him ask. The present tense is durative, possibly iterative expressing repeated action, although not arm bending; "keep on asking" in the sense of "always pray and do not lose heart"; constancy in prayer, not persistence in prayer.
para + gen. "-" - from beside [god]. Here expressing source / origin.
tou didontoV (didwmi) gen. pres. part. "who gives [generously]" - the one giving. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting God, as NIV. cf. Lk.6:38.
pasin dat. adj. "to all" - Dative of indirect object / interest. Probably "all believers", but certainly "all who ask".
mh oneidizontoV (oneidizw) gen. pres. part. "without finding fault" - [generously and] not reproaching. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting God. Probably in the sense of a gift generously given either without holding the recipient to account for the gift, or assessing the worth of the recipient to receive the gift.
doqhsetai (didwmi) fut. pas. "it will be given" - "You can be quite sure the necessary wisdom will be given him", Phillips.
autw/ dat. pro. "you" - to him. Dative of indirect object.
de "but" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the argument, although often treated here as an adversative.
aiteitw (aitew) pres. imp. "when he/you asks" - let him ask.
en + dat. "he/you must believe" - in [faith]. How do we read the preposition? Is it spatial "in the sphere of faith", or association, "in relationship with faith", or instrumental, "by faith"? If read with the following participle the sense is "in constancy (nothing doubting) of faith", Ropes, ie., adverbial, modal. Faith" as above, possibly loyalty to, but better confidence / dependence / reliance in God, ie., asking in the sure knowledge that God will do what he has promised; see Wallace 161. Here the knowledge that God will provide the wherewithal (wisdom) to stand the time of testing.
mhden diakinomenoV (diakrinw) pres. mid. part. "[he must believe and] not doubt" - nothing doubting, being at variance with oneself. The negated participle is adverbial, modifying aiteitw, "let him ask", modal, expressing the manner of the asking; "with no doubting." The prime meaning of the word is "differentiate / create divisions", but in the middle voice it takes a reflective sense, "dispute with oneself" = "doubt". In the sense of not doubting that God will do what he has promised, but not in the sense that we must be free of doubt, "free from hesitation", Mitton, cf., Rom.4:20 + "double-minded, unstable", v8.
gar "for" - Introducing a causal clause explaining why doubt is a problem; "because ....."
oJ ... diakrinomenoV "he who doubts" - the one doubting. The participle serves as a substantive. "One who lives in an inner conflict between trust and distrust of God", Mussner.
eoiken (eoika) perf. "is like" - resembles, is similar to, is like. Only here and in 1:23 in the NT; it takes a dative (here "waves") since it references something. The perfect takes present force. "Like a cork floating on the wave", Mayor. The illustrative simile expresses the "instability", Ropes, of a person who doubts; "always changing", Moo, "unstable", Johnson, "agitation without making any progress to any result .... to and fro like the doubters mind", Adamson.
kludwni (wn wnoV) dat. "waves" - a wave. Dative of direct object after the verb "to resemble."
qalasshV (hV) gen. "of the sea" - of sea. The genitive is adjectival, attributive, limiting "waves"; "ocean waves."
anemizomenw/ (animizw) pres. pas. part. "blown" - being driven by the wind. This participle, as is the following participle, is adjectival, attributive, limiting "ocean waves".
rJipizomenw/ (rJipizw) pres. pas. part. "tossed by the wind" - [and] being blown away, tossed about. "Don't think you're going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open", Peterson.
"For the doubter, being double-minded and unstable in every way, must not expect to receive anything from the Lord", NRSV, so also NJB. It seems best to take anhr, "man", v8, with its modifying adjectival phrase "double minded unstable in his ways", as referencing / in apposition to oJ anqrwpoV ekeinoV, "this man / person" in v7. So, "let not the / this man who is double minded and unstable ...... be supposing that ...." Most translations agree with the NIV.
gar "-" - for. Introducing a causal clause explaining why a person must ask in faith without doubting. The reason being that the confidence of a double-minded person is misplaced.
mh .. oiesqw (oiomai) pres. imp. "[that man] should not think" - let not [a man] suppose, think. Mitton runs the line that James is denouncing the supposition that God's grace is freely available apart from the worth of the supplicant ("cheap grace"). In truth, the only worth deserving of God's grace resides with Christ alone, cf., God "gives generously to all without finding fault", v5. James is specifically addressing the issue of prayer. Our confidence is misplaced if we think that God is some sort of Santa Claus. What we can be confident about, is that God will answer the prayer of faith, a prayer that rests in the knowledge that God will supply what he has promised.
oJti "-" - that. Introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what he thinks.
para + gen. "from [the Lord]" - [he will receive anything] from [the lord]. Here expressing source / origin.
diyucoV adj. "double-minded" - [he is a man] double-souled = double-minded. James is further developing what he means by "nothing doubting", v6. If James understands "faith" primarily as "allegiance", then it is likely that "double-souled" refers to a "divided heart", Ps.12:2, Hos.10:2, which then explains "doubting"; "The OT blesses those who pursue God with 'a whole heart', Ps.119:2", Moo. Yet, it still seems likely, given the context, that James is describing "doubting in prayer", Johnson.
akatastatoV adj. "unstable" - unstable, no stability, unsettled. Again the image of a bobbing cork on a stormy sea.
en + dat. "in [all he does]" - in [all his ways]. Reference; "with respect to what he does." "Such a one is like a mentally ill person who tries to put (seek!!) a positive and negative answer to the same question (request!!) at the same time", Junkins.
Instruction #3: The limited value of prosperity, v9-11. James now contrasts the rich with the poor, making the point that there is little value in trusting the impermanence of wealth. In the tradition of Wisdom literature, James notes that wealth can smooth the passage of life in uncertain times, but there is little value in trusting the impermanence of prosperity. Let the prosperous believer, as well as the poor believer, boast of their Christian standing, because the life of a prosperous person is but a journey to decay.
de "-" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step to a new saying / instruction.
oJ adelfoV "the brother" - Nominative subject. Obviously "believing brother", as it seems likely that "the one who is rich" = "rich man", is similarly a believer, a "rich brother".
oJ tapeinoV adj. "[the brother] in humble circumstances" - [let] the lowly, humble position [brother]. A believer with limited opportunities due to their social status, poverty, .... is able to find fulfillment in the vagaries of life in the knowledge that social advantage, wealth, .... is transitory. "Let a brother who is in a lower socioeconomic class", Junkins.
kaucasqw (kaucaomai) pres. imp. "ought to take pride" - let boast: to express an unusually high degree of confidence in someone or something being exceptionally noteworthy*. When used in a bad sense, "boast" means "self congratulation", but here obviously not in that sense. As Johnson notes, the issue here rests with the ground of boasting. A person may boast about their achievements, etc., whereas a person with few opportunities in life is left to boast in eternal verities. "Let the one who boasts, boast in this, understanding and knowing the Lord, and doing judgment and righteousness in the midst of the earth", cf., 1Sam.2:1-10. "Be glad", CEV.
en + dat. "in [his high position]" - in [the height / exaltation]. Adverbial, reference / respect; "with respect to his high position." Surely referring to a believer's "present spiritual status which, by virtue of his relation to Christ, the Christian now enjoys", Adamson. "Because God has called him to the true riches", Phillips.
autou gen. pro. "his / their" - of him. The genitive is adjectival, possessive; it is a position which he holds. It can also be treated as verbal, although a bit of a stretch, eg., objective, "he is the object of elevation", or subjective, "he is important", Adam.
de "but" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step to a contrasting position, as NIV, "but"; "the poor brother ought to take pride in their exaltation but on the other hand the rich brother ought to take pride in their humiliation, because for both rich and poor alike, wealth is transitory."
oJ .... plousioV adj. "the one who is rich / the rich should take pride" - the rich should boast. Nominative subject of an assumed verb "to boast." As above, there is debate whether James has in mind secular "rich and powerful" persons, those who oppress, cf., 2:1-6, 5:1-6, or prosperous believers. It is likely that here he has in mind rich believers; "the wealthy member (believer)", REB.
en + dat. "in [his low position / their humiliation]" - in [the humiliation, lowly position of him]. Reference; "with respect to his low position." There is some debate as to what James means by the rich believer taking pride in their humiliation. Is it their "reduced circumstances", Goodspeed, or their "low social status", as NIV, now that they are believers? We are best to follow Moo when he argues that James is encouraging the rich believer to boast in their Christian standing, their spiritual humility, rather than their wealth (being nothing in themselves but everything in Christ). Both rich and poor believers alike possess the same ground for boasting, for the poor it is their exaltation, for the rich it is their humiliation.
oJti "because" - Here causal. Let both rich and poor boast in their Christian standing because "prosperity is as short-lived as a wildflower, so don't even count on it", Peterson.
wV "like" - like. Comparative.
cortou (oV) gen. "a wild flow" - [a flower] of grass [he will pass away]. The genitive is possibly ablative, source / origin, "a flower from the meadow", or adjectival, attributive, "a grass flower" - "a wild flower."
"You know that as soon as the sun rises, pouring down its scorching heat, the flower withers. Its petals wilt and, before you know it, that beautiful face is a barren stem. Well, that's a picture of the 'prosperous life'. At the very moment everyone is looking on in admiration, it fades away to nothing", Peterson. There is another name for this in Western societies, it's called RETIREMENT, although I think I'm more like a fading thistle, than a fading flower.
gar "for" - Introducing a causal clause explaining why the flower withers.
sun + dat. "with [scorching heat]" - [the sun rose] with [the burning heat]. Expressing association / accompaniment.
exhranen (exrainw) aor. "withers" - [and] dried up, dried out. James uses three verbs to express what happens to the "flower / grass" when confronted by the sun's "scorching / blazing / burning" heat. It withers the flower, makes it fall and destroys its beauty.
ton corton (oV) "the plant" - the grass. Probably referring to wild flowers growing in a field.
tou proswpou (on) gen. "-" - [and the flower of it fell, and the beauty] of the face [of it]. The genitive is adjectival, attributed; "its beautiful appearance", Adam.
apwleto (apollumi) aor. "destroyed" - perished, was destroyed, came to ruin.
ouJtwV adv. "in the same way" - thus, so. Establishing a comparison.
maranqhsetai (marainw) fut. pas. "will fade away" - [also the rich man] will waste / wither / fade away. "The reference is to the loss of riches and earthly prosperity, not to eternal destiny", Ropes. "Fading glory" is probably in James' mind, rather than "fade and die", Goodspeed.
en taiV poreiaiV "while he goes about [his] business" - in the goings, journey [of him]. The preposition en is adverbial, taken as introducing a temporal clause in the NIV, or attendant circumstance, "in the context of." "Figurative .... refers to the experiences and fortunes of the rich", Ropes. "So the life of a rich man is a journey to decay", Barclay.
Instruction #4: Blessed are those who persevere, v12. God's reward is life (eternal life / the good life??) for those who stay true to Christ in their life's journey in the face of testing times. "The verse is primarily expositional, providing the motivation to endure trials", Vlachos. As far as James is concerned, what matters in uncertain times is an ongoing reliance on the living Lord, for in Christ there is transcendent life, life that transcends the impermanence of our present existence - this shadow-land.
We face two problems with this verse. First, we again have to decide whether the word peirasmoV means "test" ("a heavy ordeal, .. distress and strain"), or "tempt" ("an enticement to do evil", Mitton). It seems likely that "test" is intended in this verse (the testing times we live in), whereas v13-18 seeks to draw a distinction between divine testing and temptations to evil. Second, there is little agreement as to the division of this saying unit, eg., Mitton, 1:12-15; Johnson, 1:9-12, 13-21; Davids, 1:12-18; Adamson, 1:12-21; Martin, 1:12-19a. Dibelius, Ropes and Moo treat v12 as an isolated saying, followed by the saying unit v13-18, probably two separate sayings. This seems the most likely intended division of the text.
makarioV adj. "blessed" - blessed [the man]. Predicate adjective. Possibly in the sense of "happy", but often with the idea of the a divine endowment, so "blessed", as NIV. "God will bless you if you don't give up", CEV. Given the wisdom background of this treatise, a more general sense is probably best; "Happy are those who remain faithful under trials", TEV, ie., life goes better for us, now and always, if we maintain our reliance upon the Lord.
uJpomenei (uJpomenw) pres. "perseveres" - [who] endures. The present tense is durative. "Showing constancy" under pressure, Ropes. "Blessed is the man who stands up under trial", Berkeley.
peirasmon (oV) "under trial" - trial / temptation. Accusative direct object of the verb "to endure." As noted above, "temptation" is possible and adopted by some translators, eg., Junkins, NCV. Better "test" in the sense of "trials"; "being tested", CEV.
oJti "because" - Here causal, as NIV.
genomenoV (ginomai) aor. part. "when he has [stood the test]" - having become [approved]. The participle is probably temporal, as NIV. "Approved" in the sense of having stood the test.
lhmyetai (lambanw) fut. "he will receive" - Encapsulating the idea of reward, an idea with dubious connotations. If the reward is given for obedience to Christ in the face of testing times then it is more than dubious since "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." On the other hand, reward that rests on the perseverance of faith, an ongoing reliance (faith) in the faithful one when all about us implies that he is less than faithful, is anything but dubious; it's good news!
thV zwhV (h) gen. "[the crown] of life" - [the crown] of life [which he promised the ones loving him]. The genitive is adjectival, epexegetic / of definition, limiting "crown" by specifying its nature. God's reward is life for those who are in a relationship with him in Christ. Of course, the text does not specifically say "eternal life". In a wisdom framework, life is here and now so "the crown of life" could well be "the fullness of life under God in the present".
Instruction #5: The power of indwelling sin, v13-15. "God, James has said, promises a blessing to those who endure trials. Every trial, every external difficulty, carries with it a temptation, an inner enticement to sin. God may bring, or allow, trials; he is not, James insists, the author of temptation. Enticement to sin comes from our own sinful natures", Moo, v13-15. In the face of life's difficulties, we are often tempted to sin. Jesus well understands suffering and is well able to share our pain. One thing we can be sure of, God is not the source of the temptation; God tempts no one. Note James' use of peirazw, "to test", to stitch this saying with the previous one.
peirazomenoV (peirazw) pres. pas. part. "When tempted" - being tempted. The participle is probably adverbial, temporal, as NIV. Although anarthrous, Adams suggests it is adjectival, attributive, "no one who is tested should say." See "test / tempt" above. Here obviously "tempt", although some translators do not agree, cf., NJB.
legetw (legw) pres. imp. "[no one] should say" - let [no one] say.
oJti "-" - that. Introducing a dependent statement, direct speech. "I am being tempted by God", Barclay.
apo + gen. "God is tempting me" - [i am being tempted] from / by [god]. Expressing a divine / heavenly source of temptation without actually blaming God, or suggesting he is the instrument of temptation, ie., "a looser and more remote relation of agency", Ropes.
gar "for" - Introducing a causal clause explaining why we should not say ....
apeirastoV adj. "[God] cannot be tempted [by evil]" - [god] is untemptable / untempted / having no experience. A hapax legomenon predicate adjective. The meaning is somewhat obscure, but generally understood as "not subject to temptation", Zerwick; "God is incapable of being tempted by evil", Moffatt. Yet, this seems a rather strange statement and so it is more likely that the clause means either i] taking an active sense, "for God is not one who tempts with evil, he doesn't tempt anyone", or ii] a passive sense, "God is unable to be tempted to do evil, and he himself tempts no one", cf., Dibelius. The passive sense is supported by the fact that the following clause is introduced by de, "but/and", which may serve here to introduce what is a correction of a previous false statement. Either way, it answers the believer who is trying to shift the blame for their sin, a kind of "God made me do it", line. Note Davids take, "God ought not to be tested by evil persons" - another possible approach.
kakwn gen. adj. "by evil" - of evil. The genitive is possibly adverbial, means, "by evil things / persons", possibly ablative, expressing separation or source, or simply adjectival, limiting that which God is untemptable of, namely, doing evil. "God cannot be tempted to do evil", Cassirer.
perazei (perazw) pres. ind. "[nor] does he tempt [anyone]" - [he himself (emphatic statement)] tempts [no one].
de "but" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step to a contrasting point. "On the contrary".
ekastoV "each one [is tempted when]" - each [is tempted]. "Every person is enticed to commit evil ...."
uJpo + gen. "by" - by. Expressing agency.
epiqumiaV (a) "evil desires" - [the = their own] lusts, strong desires. "Passions", Knox.
exelkomenoV (exelkw) pres. pas. part. "he is dragged away" - being lured, drawn away. This, and the following participle, is adverbial, either temporal, as NIV, "when he is seduced and enticed by his own evil desire", Barclay, or instrumental, expressing means, "by means ...." It could also be adjectival modifying "evil desire", "by his own evil desire which lures and entices."
deleazomenoV (deleazw) pres. pas. part. "enticed" - being enticed, allured. Used of catching something by the use of a bait. "That drag us off and trap us", CEV.
eita "then" - Temporal; "Then the next thing that happens is that ....", Barclay.
sullabousa (sullambanw) aor. part. "after [desire] has conceived" - having seized / helped / conceived [the desire gives birth to sin] . The participle is obviously adverbial, temporal, as NIV. The meaning "conceived" seems best. The imagery of illicit sex is being employed, of desire as a seductress, of lust conceiving and giving birth to a bastard child, namely, sin. Evil desires, plus human willingness, give birth to sin and sin to death; Beware!
apotelesqeisa (apotelew) aor. pat. "when it is full grown" - [and the sin] having come to full growth, maturity. Again the participle is adverbial, best treated as temporal, as NIV.
apokuei (akokuew) pres. "gives birth to [death]" - brings forth [death]. Variant future tense, "will give birth to" is possible. "Sin in the long run means death", Phillips.
Instruction #6: God only gives good gifts, v16-18. This saying serves as a counter to the previous saying. James has made the point that God is not the author of temptation, or of anything evil; now he puts the positive side of this truth. God is the "one who gives good gifts to his people - and, preeminently, the gift of the new birth", Moo, v16-18. Through his "word of truth", the gospel, God gave us "birth", he gave us new life, he redeemed us, and in doing so, made us a "first-fruits", a kind of downpayment of his redemptive plan for all creation.
This saying is usually taken with v13-15, but it is properly a saying in its own right. James often uses the vocative adelfoi "brothers" to introduce a new saying.
mh planasqe (planaw) pres. pas. imp. "Don't be deceived" - do not be deceived [my beloved brothers]. Is James referring back (the deception of a "God made me do it" approach), so Martin, Mitton, Dibelius, or is he referring forward (God is the source of all that is good), or both, so Moo? Presumably the second option, but why the warning? Possibly either an eschatological, or moral warning, ie., God's gifts are good and by implication evil people will not inherit them, 1Cor.6:9, so Davids. Better, "don't be misled", Junkins / Barclay, leading to misunderstanding, ie., an intellectual failure, "Do not err", Ropes. Even better, it is possibly a rhetorical device "make no mistake about this", NJB, even possibly serving to introduce a quote, see v17a.
The first part of this verse is possibly a quoted proverb: "every gift is good and every present perfect", Ropes, or as we would say "don't look a gift horse in the mouth", cf., Davids.
agaqh .... teleion "[every] good [and] perfect [gift]" - [every] good [endowment and every] perfect, complete [gift]. If referencing the context, wisdom may be in James' mind, but it is more likely that good gifts in general is the intended sense. "All we are given is good and all our endowments are faultless", Moffatt.
estin katabainon (katabainw) pres. part. "coming down" - is coming down [from above]. A periphrastic present construction, ie., "coming down from above = "comes from heaven", rather than "is from above, coming down from the Father ...", as NIV. The construction possibly emphasizes the durative nature of the present tense. "Every complete gift that we have received must come [comes] from above, from the Father of lights", Phillips.
apo + gen. "from" - Expressing separation; "away from."
twn fwtwn (wV wtoV) gen. "[the Father] of heavenly lights" - [the father] of lights. The genitive is usually treated as verbal, objective, but possibly adjectival, attributive / idiomatic, limiting "the Father", eg., "the Father who created all the lights in the heavens", CEV. The image is somewhat obtuse, but it is generally held to refer to the heavenly bodies and thus of God's good and perfect creation.
para + dat. "[who]" - with [whom]. Association. The relative pronoun "whom" takes a dative of respect / reference; "with him".
ouk eni (enestin) pres. "does not [change]" - there is no [variation / change]. "With God, there is no change", Barclay, but change with regard to what? Probably in his grace, his good gifts, so "there is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle", Peterson, ie., God's good grace is always constant.
h] "-" - or [of turning shadow]. Ropes, in trying to make sense of this rather obtuse metaphor, reads this conjunction as an article. Numerous variant readings exist, the main one being parallagh h] trophV aposkiasmatoV, and so further confuse the matter. The quoted variant only makes sense when h is read hJ (as an article) rather than h], "or", "variation which is of /consist in / belongs to the truth of the shadow", Metzger. Dibelius suggests an additional h], "or", was intended , so: "who himself is without change and knows neither turning nor eclipse." Hort suggested that aposkiasmotoV is actually a corruption of the original aposkiasma autoV, with autoV, "he", introducing the next verse, as NIV.
trophV (h) gen. "like shifting [shadows]" - [shadow] of turning. The genitive "of turning" is adjectival, attributive, limiting "shadow", as NIV. Note the emphatic position of the genitive noun standing in front of the predicate nominative aposkiasma, "shadows". Lenski thinks it is adverbial, expressing cause; "a shadow due to turning. "Turning" may be technical, referring to a lunar or solar eclipse, thus the moving shadow of an eclipse, but there is no evidence that the word has such a technical meaning. Somehow, for James, the metaphor illustrates change, something that God is not subject to. So, the NIV expresses the idea that God does not change as does a shifting shadow. There is the possibility that the metaphor relates to the image of God as the Father of light, such that God doesn't change and become dark like a shadow; "never makes dark shadows by changing", CEV. The NIV approach seems best; "with him there is no variation, no play of passing shadows", REB.
What does James mean by "birth through the word of truth that will bring a kind of first-fruits"? A number of possibilities present themselves (see below), but we are probably best to follow Moo who feels that the "birth" is most likely redemptive, enacted through "the word of truth", namely the gospel, producing within God's creation "a kind of first-fruits", namely believers, "a foretaste, or down payment, of a redemptive plan that will eventually encompass all of creation", Moo.
gar "-" - for. Variant, probably not original, attempting to improve the grammar.
"He" - Variant autoV, as noted above; "he, having willed."
boulhqeiV (boulomai) aor. pas. part. "chose" - having willed, deliberately willed, decided after counsel. As it stands, the participle is adverbial, modal, and emphatic by position. The stress is not on God being willing, but on what he willed. If autoV, "he" is original, then it is emphatic, and the participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "he / God"; "he, in the exercise of his will (NASB) / in fulfillment of his purpose (NRSV) / of his set purpose (NEB) / of his own choice (REB) / by his decision (Johnson) / in accordance of his will (Dibelius) ....., gave us birth."
apekuhsen (apokuew) aor. "to give [us] birth" - he gave birth to [us]. The difficulty here centers on whether James has in mind a cosmological birth, ie., we were created by God, or a soteriological birth, ie., we were saved by God. Bede argued for regeneration by baptism, but this is unlikely. Moo, following Donald Verseput, argues that "the Father of lights" phrase echoes the Jewish morning prayer which moves from acknowledging God as creator to acknowledging him as redeemer. So, it is likely that James has in mind spiritual birth. None-the-less, it is possible that James is saying little more than God created us by his word; "he brought us forth".
logw/ (oV) dat. "through the word" - by word. Instrumental dative, expressing means. "Word" in the sense of "message", CEV. What word? The saving word = "word of truth" = "the gospel", is the most popular understanding. None-the-less, we do have to accept the possibility that "the word" here is "God's creative word" = "word of truth", with "first-fruit of his creatures" referring to "the honor and dominion which was given to human beings", Dionysius, cf., Dibelius . This Edenic image well illustrates James' proposition that God gives good gifts to his people. By accepting this argument we are not devaluing James' faith. There is little doubt that James understands the gospel, but as a piece of wisdom literature in the tradition of Proverbs, he is concerned with practical advice for the business of living with one foot in heaven and the other on earth. We don't need to continually spiritualize what is a very practical how to book. The meaning of "word" / "law" constantly crops up in James and commentators generally understand it to mean the "gospel", but it seems more often to refer to the ethical guidelines for Christian living revealed in both the Old and New Testaments, summarized in the law of love. In simple terms, the "word" entails the totality of God's instructions to believers; his manual for life. As for "works", the word will tend to refer to the doing of this ethic.
alhqeiaV (a) "of truth" - The genitive is adjectival, attributive, limiting "word"; "by a divine word which encompasses truth." As noted above, the "word of truth" is often understood to mean "the gospel of truth" = "the gospel", a message that gives life / new birth, but it is more likely the totality of God's "truthful word."
eiV to einai "that [we] might be" - for [us] to be. This preposition, with the articular infinitive (of the verb to-be), forms a purpose clause, "in order that ...."
tina "a kind of" - As of an approximate representation of, "a figurative expression of", Ropes.
aparchn (h) "first-fruits" - [a certain] first-fruit. Predicate adjective. The word refers to that portion of the harvest which belongs to God, the first and best part of the harvest. So, James is most likely using the image of the "first-fruits" to refer to humans as the best part of God's creation. As noted above, the idea is usually spiritualized to mean those born by means of the message of truth, ie., those set-right before God by means of the gospel of truth, cf. Rev.14:4.
twn ... kitismatwn (a atoV) gen. "of [all he] created" - of the creatures [of him]. The genitive is adjectival, partitive. Also often spiritualized to mean "the first pioneers of a much larger company who will follow their lead", Mitton; "a foretaste, or down payment (`first-fruits'), of a redemptive plan that will eventually encompass all of creation", Moo. Probably the old Adam is in mind, as created by the hand of God, not the new Adam in Christ; see above.