Commentary On Jacob (James)
Chapter One
By Jonathan Mitchell

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1. Jacob (or: James) a slave belonging to God and to [the] Lord, Jesus Christ (or: a slave pertaining to God, even in fact, really, to [the] Lord and Owner [or, perhaps: = Yahweh], Jesus Christ), to the twelve tribes (or: sprouts and branches which sprang forth) who are to be constantly rejoicing within the scattering (or: which are within the midst of the dispersion [= the planting], "To constant joy and gladness!").

As elsewhere, I have rendered the conjunction "kai" as both "and" and "even," or expanding the thought, "even in fact, really," as it is sometimes used. May His Spirit (curiously not mentioned here) give you His insights on this. As the word "Lord" was used for Yahweh in the LXX, I have inserted that possibility here, as well.

Now the question arises, were the twelve tribes still in known existence in the 1st cent. AD, or was Jacob (the correct rendering of the Greek, "Iakobos") using this phrase to indicate "everyone who is a descendant of Jacob/Israel"? Or, was he perhaps speaking enigmatically, using the term as a figure for those who were in relationship to the true God, or for the body of Christ, as John used the term in Rev. ch. 7, where the list omits the tribe of Dan, and omits the tribe of Ephraim (which in the OT prophets was at times used as representing the ten tribes), listing instead Joseph and Manasseh?

Two other things are to be noted in this 1st verse: he expects them to be rejoicing, so it is likely that he is directing his remarks to those who have the joy of the Lord, the followers of Christ (as further evidence see 2:1, below); it is written to those within the scattering.

On this second point, the question is, to which scattering (dispersion) is he referring? Of the those natural Jewish tribes that had been scattered in OT times, who were now Christians? Or, was it in reference to Acts 8:1 or 11:19, to those scattered from Jerusalem in that period? Or was this simply a general letter written to all believers, of what at that time was considered a Christian sect of Judaism? Was Jacob's paradigm that of Christ, the Messiah, being the fulfillment of the Jewish religion, and was he speaking as Paul to those who were Jews of the heart (Rom. 2:28-29)? The views on this vary. It is also noteworthy that Jacob refers to himself as Christ's slave, as did Paul in Rom. 1.

2. My brothers (= fellow Israelites, or, fellow believers; = My family), lead every rejoicing (or: lead the path of all joy) whenever you may fall into – so as to be encompassed by – various trials (or: multi-faceted ordeals; [a tapestry of] tests and provings; or: experiments and attempts of varying hues), Peter said "keep on rejoicing and being glad" about the "burning within and among [them], which... [had] a view toward [their] being put to the test..." (1 Pet. 4:13,12).

Here Jacob uses a verb meaning "to fall," prefixed by a preposition that means around, or a circle, so the colorful picture is of inadvertently stumbling into a situation where there are multi-faceted ordeals on every side that encompasses them with provings – but in the Lord, this is a good thing. Paul said that such things lead "unto your being accounted worthy of God's reign," (2 Thes. 1:4-5). Pressures, ordeals, tests, trials, persecutions and provings seem to have been a main theme in the life of the 1st century Christians.

3. habitually knowing by intimate experience and insight that the thing by means of which your faith, trust and confidence is proved (tested and accepted) is continually producing (or: is progressively working down-in the results of) persistent patient endurance (a steadfast remaining and dwelling under some ordeal or situation; or: a holding up under sustained attacks; or: a relentless giving of sustaining support).

Jacob's list here corresponds to what Paul said, above, of "being accounted worthy" of involvement in God's sovereign activities. Testings and provings have positive results.

4. But patient endurance (remaining under and/or sustained support) must habitually be having a work brought to completion (a complete action; a perfect work; a mature production which reaches its goal) to the intent that you may be (or: can exist as) perfect ones (complete, matured and finished folks who have attained the goal), even ones having an entire allotment (or: whole folks having every part), being left behind in nothing (or: lacking not one thing).

Like young saplings that endure the storm winds, we too grow stronger as He brings on the maturity and fruitfulness in our lives. Here he points out that with such ordeals being brought to completion we have "an entire allotment, having every part" that we need, so that we may attain our goal that He has set for us.

5. So, if any one of you is continually left behind (or: lacking) in regard to wisdom, he must keep on asking (requesting) from the side (= immediate presence) of the God [Who is] continuously giving to everyone singly (one at a time; or: simply; or: = generously) and is not constantly reproaching or demeaning, and it will be given to him.

You might say that God has good form, all we need to do is ask for the wisdom that we need – He won't be upset about it, but will personally attend to it.

6. Yet he must keep on asking in faith and conviction (or: continue making [his] request in union with trust), making not one hesitation from habitually distinguishing and constantly evaluating differences (undecidedly separating throughout; discerning between uncertain points; judging dividedly to produce doubt) within himself, for the person repeatedly making undecided distinctions (making a separation and judging dividedly unto doubt) within himself is like a surge of the sea, being constantly raised and tossed by the wind.

All He asks of us is a little trust and faith (which He Himself imparts to us), and that we ask with the conviction that He hears and will respond. He desires us to be stable, with good footing (which he also effects for us – Rom. 16:25; 1 Thes. 3:13, etc. – yet then to be moving on without hesitation or imbalance. We are in relationship with God, after all, and "making undecided distinctions, or having divided judgment" leads us to doubting Him. This is not the way a rightwised person lives. A person living in the Way pointed out (in right relationship with God) lives with confidence in God.

7. For that man must not habitually suppose (or: normally assume) that he will receive (or: take in hand; seize; get) anything from beside (= from being in the presence of) the Lord [= Yahweh, or, Christ].

A person that is not in a trusting relationship with God will not be able to receive anything from Him. We are saved by grace, through faith and trust. It only follows that without this gift from God, we will not be able to receive His answer to our request. This is a simple fact, not a put-down.

8. A two-souled (or: = divided-willed; or: = emotionally split) adult male [is] unstable (unfixed; inconstant; turbulent) in all his ways.

This is a restatement of the last part of vs. 6. It is another observable fact about humanity. Jacob is not making accusation here, but rather affirming the reality of what he has just been saying.

9. Now let the low (humble; not rising far from the ground) brother (or: fellow member/believer) continually boast (or: be habitually loud-mouthed) in his height (or: exaltation),

10. but the rich, in his lowness (or: humiliation; depression), because he will pass by as a flower of grass (or: = a wildflower).

Here we have a truth about the realm of God's kingdom presented in an apparent paradox. Jesus taught that the way to being exalted in the kingdom was by taking the lower position (Lu. 14:10 ), and Mary holds out promise for the humble person (Lu. 1:52). He said in Matt. 5:3,

"The destitute folks [are] happy in spirit because the reign of the heavens continually belongs to them(or: Blessed [are] those dependent for support on the Spirit, for the kingdom from the sky and the atmosphere is continuing to pertain to them;

The people who need to beg for sustenance [are made] happy by the Breath-effect because the effect of the sovereignty of the heavens is being a source in and for them)! And for the rich it is good to be brought low lest he have difficulty in entering into God's reign (Matt. 19:24). Then 1 Tim. 6 points out further concerns:

“9. Yet those wanting and determining to be rich are continually falling in – into a trial and a trap and many senseless and hurtful strong passions (many over-desires void of understanding and bringing weakness; disadvantageous wants and needs), which things habitually swamp those people, sinking them to the bottom, into ruinous corruption (or: destruction) and loss,

10. for a root of all the bad things (the worthless qualities; the injurious situations; the poor craftsmanship; the ugly personalities; the malicious desires) is the fondness of silver (= love of money; = covetousness) of which some, habitually extending and stretching themselves out to reach, are caused to wander off (or: were led astray) away from the faith and they pierce themselves through with a rod and put themselves on a spit (or: they run themselves through, stabbing themselves all around) for (or: in; to; with; by) many pains.”

11. For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the grass, and its flower falls off, and the beauty of its face (= loveliness of its appearance) loses itself (finds destruction in itself). Thus also, the rich one will be extinguished (faded; withered) in his goings (journeys; business; ventures; way of life).

Jacob points out that we are in a realm where our natural life deteriorates and we grow old. Eventually we fade and our life is extinguished, our involvements end. So the rich should remember that at any time his soul may be "requested," as in the story which Jesus told of the farmer who decided to build a bigger barn (Lu. 12:16-21).

12. Happy and blessed is the adult male [A and other MSS: person] who is continuously remaining under a proving (a putting to the proof; or: a trial; an ordeal), because upon being birthed approved (or: growing and becoming proved and accepted) he will lay hold of the circle of the life (or: life's crown; life's encirclement; or: the wreath which is the Life) which He [some MSS: the Lord (= Yahweh or Christ)] Himself promised to those continuously loving Him.

As to this pertaining to "the adult male," we should keep in mind the historical context of a male-dominated society. Perhaps the enlightenment in Christ motivated the scribes of A and other MSS to use the word "person," but we have no way of knowing which word the original used. If the former, perhaps Jacob was trying to emphasize the maturity of the individual who would remain under a proving, and not run away.

The reward he points to is a wreath, which was given to a winner in the stadium games, such as the person who won the race. This is an echo of Paul in Phil. 3:12-15 where he says,

"I am continuously pursuing down toward [the; or: an] object in view (a mark on which the eye is fixed): into the prize (or: award) of God's invitation to an above place (or: an upward calling having the source from, with qualities and characteristics of, God) within the midst of and in union with Christ Jesus."

But the literal meaning of the phrase is "the circle, or the encirclement, of the life (or: = the [Christ] Life). It is "the Life," which is associated with the Way and the Truth. Having this encircle us is indeed a prize worth running for, a reward for which it is worth remaining under the ordeal. John used this exact same phrase in Rev. 2:10, in the context of being faithful on until death, within the pressures that the called-out in Smyrna would undergo. Interestingly, John in the next vs. goes on to say this death, which he symbolically calls "the second death," would not hurt or injure them – for you see this is a dealing of and in God, and is later defined as "the lake of fire" in Rev. 20:14.

But the best part of this vs. is that the qualifying for this circle of life (= a life which envelops us) is simply that we continuously love Him. And we love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19) – it was He Who implanted His love into us.

13. Let no one, while being continuously probed and put to the proof, be saying "I am constantly being probed and put to the proof (tested; tried) in an ordeal from God," for God is One Who is not put through an ordeal, not probed, not put to the proof or tried, and is [thus] without experience from not having made an attempt, in regard to things of bad quality (or: you see, God exists un-testable, and lacks experience, from worthless situations or evil things or mean people), and so He Himself is repeatedly probing no one, nor constantly putting even one person in a test, to the proof or through an ordeal.

14. Yet each person is repeatedly probed and put to the proof (tested and tried in an ordeal), being continuously dragged (or: drawn) out and entrapped under his own over-covering passion (by his own longing, craving or lust; by what he sets his desires upon).

I have expanded the renderings of the verb "probe, prove, test, try, attempt, become experienced through trying, or put through an ordeal," as well as the noun, in these two verses to give the semantic range of the word. The idea of "tempt" should not be imported into this word, even if it seems to make the interpretation of the text easier. The above English words all fit into a single idea (a composite of those words) which is the meaning of this word. It was widely used in secular literature and in the LXX. The Concordant Version and Dr. Ann Nyland's "The Source NT" concur, as do the majority of the examples given in Kittel's TDNT, and it is the primary meaning in Liddell & Scott.

Here is an important concept to understand. First of all, God is incapable of being probed or tested or tried in regard to worthless situations. Nothing puts Him to the proof from conditions of bad quality, evil things or mean people. He is without experience in these things from not having made an attempt to do or be any of these things.

We, on the other hand, are born into an environment which is full of things that are contrary to our estranged nature, the flesh. And that very estranged nature, the "false persona," is characterized by "over-covering passion, craving, lust and longing" which continually drag and entrap us under our own dead selves. God is behind the trials, tests and ordeals, for He created our environments, but here Jacob reveals to us that the real proving comes from us, ourselves, and thus he assures us that [God] is REPEATEDLY probing no one, nor CONSTANTLY putting even one person in a test, to the proof or through an ordeal. And note carefully that the verb is in the Greek present tense, which signifies repeated, habitual, constant, continuous or progressive action: so it does not say that God NEVER probes someone, or tests them with an ordeal. But He does not do this constantly, or even repeatedly.

"Bread-corn must be crushed, yet would He not be evermore threshing it... [with] the wheel of His cart..." (Isa. 28:28, Rotherham).

God is ultimately responsible for tests and ordeals, for we have only one Creator, one God, and our adversary reports to Him and is controlled by Him (as did satan report to God in Job 1:7; 2:2, and was given limits in what it could do). Yet it is foolish to try to put Him on trial for all the pain, injustice and death that colors all of history. However, He Himself, does not bring the continued ordeals or the repeated tests, but rather it is the worthlessness within folks which brings the constant tests and trials to us.

Recall also that in Lu. 22 Jesus said to Peter,

31. "Simon, O Simon! Look, and consider. The adversary (or: opponent; satan) makes (or: made) A REQUEST concerning you men: to winnow [you folks] as grain!

32. "But I Myself urgently asked concerning you, [Simon], to the end that your trust and faith would not leave from out of [you] (or: = give out). And so at some point, you yourself, upon turning around, make your brothers immovable (or: stabilize and establish your fellow members)."
15. Thereafter, with the over-covering passion conceiving (seizing together so as to become pregnant), it continuously gives birth to failure (or: repeatedly brings forth an offspring of missing the target; progressively bears sin). Now the failure (error; sin; missing of the target), being brought to full term (being finished off; being fully formed with all its parts; being brought to its goal) continues producing (keeps generating; from pregnancy progressively bears forth) death.

So here we have an overview of the process. It starts from within, and our own missing of the target conceives and then gives birth to death. This is a commentary on the Gen. account of Eve and Adam. The pattern continues in the inner estranged humanity, and is worked out in our daily lives until Christ delivers us from this cycle of death.

16. Do not be repeatedly caused to wander (or: Be not continuously deceived), my beloved brothers (= family members; = fellow believers)!

Ideas and concepts can cause us to wander or be deceived. We should guard our minds, or as Prov. 4:23 says, "[More] than any guarding, preserve your heart (= core of your being), for from it [spring the] outflowings of life" (CVOT). Rotherham's footnote says: "Sources (origin and direction)" of life. Jacob continues with specific reasons for this admonition.

17. Every good leaving of a legacy, profitable contributing or excellent dosing, as well as all virtuous giving, and (or: All giving [is] beneficial, and yet), every perfect gift (finished, complete or mature result of giving) is from above, descending from the Father of the lights, beside Whom there is no otherness at [His] side (or: in the presence of Whom is no parallel otherness; [other MSS: along with Whom {is} not one interchange, variation, shifting or mutation]), nor a shadow cast by turning [other MSS: an effect caused by the passing of shadows].

The Greek substantive "dosis" in the first phrase properly means "giving," but it has also been used for specific giving as in "a legacy, a contribution or a dose (of medicine)," in Greek literature. I seems profitable to our understanding of this broad statement by Jacob, to include these uses here. The syntax of the Greek also allows for the parenthetical rendering, which makes an even broader statement. If this latter is taken, then the conjunction "kai," translated "and" in the first rendering, can be used as a contrasting connector, and translated "and yet," to signify that "all giving is good," but the "perfect, mature and complete" gifts come from above, descend from the Father..."

The phrase "Father of the lights" may have been a code word of either the Jewish or the Christian communities, but Jacob does not explain it. The "lights" could refer to the lampstand in the temple, and this in turn is a figure of a called-out congregation (Rev. 1:20). Jesus said that His followers were "the light of the world" (Matt. 5:14). Paul said in Eph. 5:8, "for you folks were once existing being darkness, yet (or: but) now [you are] light, within and in union with [the] Lord." And in Phil. 2:15 he said, "... you folks are continuously shining (giving light; or: appearing; made visible by light) as illuminators (causes of light; or: luminaries) within [the] ordered System (world of secular culture, religion, economics and government)." So I think that we can conclude that Jacob was here referring to our Father.

Then, speaking of the Father, he says that there is "no otherness at His side." When someone is at His side, He is the same as the Father – there is in that place no "wholly other" that the theologians attribute to God. This is astounding. It is similar to what John said in 1 John 3:2,

"... if it (or: He) should be (or: whenever it {or: He} may be) made visible, apparent and manifested, [then] folks like to Him (like-ones to Him; ones like Him; people resembling Him) we will be, because we will see and perceive Him just as (according and exactly as; in the manner that) He constantly exists (or: He is)."

Considering the other MS readings, "along with Whom {is} not one interchange, variation, shifting or mutation," we can see that in His presence there is no changing of position or alternation (no interchange), sameness and continuity (no variation), stability (no shifting) and pureness of being (no mutation). There is only the fullness of having reached the goal.

In the final phrase, we see that there are no shadows in His presence, for the shadows from the Law has been cast out (Heb. 8:5; 10:1; Gal. 4:22-31). There is no turning, for He is the goal, and if He should turn there will always be Light.

18. Being purposed (intended; willed), from pregnancy He brought us forth by a Word (collected thought; message) of Truth and Reality – [placed] into us – to be (or: to continuously exist being) a specific firstfruit of His created beings (or: of the effects of His act of creating; or: from the results of the creation which is Himself).

Our coming into being within Christ was a purposed event. It is the result of His will. The Jerusalem above was our mother (Gal. 4:26), and it was by participation in and with her that she became pregnant and then He brought us forth (we were born again, born from above – the realm of spirit where the New Jerusalem dwells) by a message of Truth, a Word of Reality being placed into us. His goal was that we would be a specific firstfruit of His created beings, or (treating the next to the last phrase as an ablative and the last one in apposition): from the results of the creation which is Himself. In creating all that there is, He took from out of Himself, and formed Himself into a new expression of Himself, and we are a part of that expression, or Logos.

19. You folks have seen and are aware, so understand, perceive and know [this], my beloved brothers. So every person must continuously be quick (swift) into the [position or place] to hear, slow into the [readiness] to make vocal utterance, [and] slow into intrinsic fervor (internal swelling of passion; teeming desire; or: agitation; anger; or: a particular mental bent).

The first statement refers back to vs. 18. The verb of this sentence is both an indicative and an imperative, in form, so I have rendered it both ways in a conflation. The second sentence is an outflow from the first, because they know who they are and perceive their position in Christ and with God. The admonition needs no comment.

20. For you see, an adult male's intrinsic fervor (or: mental bent; temperament; disposition; or: swelling desire and passionate longing; or: anger and indignation) is not working out (producing; bring into effect) God's fair and equitable dealing (rightwised situation which accords to the Way pointed out, in right relationship; the quality of the thing which is right and just).

If we consider the semantic range of the noun which I first rendered "intrinsic fervor" (Greek: "orge"), we can see that none of these meanings produce God's fair and equitable dealing, or relationships which are turned and pointed in the right direction. If a person follows his own mental bent, he will likely be selfish and have no consideration for others. The same applies to his disposition. Swelling desire and passionate longing get us out of balance, and can get us into trouble. Anger or indignation do not bring peace, and often overlook what is right and just.

21. For this reason, putting away from yourselves all filthiness and encompassing superabundance of bad quality (ugliness; baseness; malice; evil; qualities that ought not to be), you folks must receive (take with your hands) in gentleness (meekness) the implanted (ingenerated) Word (collected thought; idea; message), the One being continuously able (or: the one which is constantly powerful) to deliver (rescue; keep safe; heal and make whole) your souls (your inner self and being).

This first clause shows the results of following one's "intrinsic fervor." It leads to all filthiness (impure aspects that result from our estranged existence), which are the result of our false persona, of the law of sin in our members (Rom. 7:23) and of our surrounding environment. The word of admonition from Jacob, here, has in it the power to accomplish the "putting away" of these, for this Word is Christ. It also give us the ability to receive it in gentleness – being implanted into our being – and It (He) has the power and ability to deliver, to rescue, to keep safe and to heal and make whole our inner being, giving us our true persona and eliminating the estrangement.

22. Now you must continuously come to be (or: be progressively birthed) performers of [the] Word (or: makers of collected thought; framers of an idea; authors of a message; producers of reason; [the] Word's doers), and not only hearing ones (listeners; those hearing in an auditorium), continuously deceiving (reckoning aside; miscalculating) yourselves.

Jesus said to His followers in John 15:

14. "You folks are (exist continuously being) My friends! So if you can – or would – [simply] keep on doing (or: be habitually producing) whatever I, Myself, am constantly imparting as the goal in you (or: repeatedly giving as inner direction to you; progressively implanting as the end for you)!..."

I have given the semantic ranges of both the verb "perform... do" and the noun "Word... thought... idea... message... reason." Consider the possible ways that this clause can be translated. They all make sense, but give us different understandings of what Jacob may have meant here – and possibly he meant all of them. It is an outstanding admonition, especially whey you tie it to what Jesus said in John, above.

This reading gives a different admonition:

"So you folks must be progressively birthed to be authors of a message, and not only those in an auditorium, continuously miscalculating yourselves."

Now this is because of the Word He has implanted in us, as stated in vs. 21. I think it also quite significant that to be only a hearer is to reckon aside and miscalculate yourself. So all who simply "go to church and listen" or "sit at home and watch," and yet do not perform the message or author an idea, are deceiving themselves. This is a life that must be lived, and we are co-laborers with the Creator.

23. Because if someone is a hearer of [the] Word (a listener to a thought, idea or message) and not a doer (performer; producer), this one is like (resembles) an adult male contemplating (considering; attentively pondering) in a mirror the face of his birth (genesis; origin; existence; generation; lineage; or: = the face with which he was born):

24. for he contemplated himself and has departed, and immediately forgot of what sort (quality; manner) he was.

The point is that just like we easily forget what we had for lunch last Thursday, if we don't make the message, the Word, the idea of Christ, to be our daily life, we immediately forget what the message was, and go our way thinking that we are living the Way pointed out, following the Path which is Christ.

25. But the one stooping down beside in order to attentively view into (giving a penetrating look into) the perfect (finished; matured; completed; full-grown) law – the one which is freedom (or: the one whose source is, and which has the qualities of, freedom and liberty) – and then remaining (abiding; dwelling) beside [it] – not being birthed (or: coming to be) a hearer of forgetfulness (or: a forgetful listener), but rather a performer of work (a producer of action) – this person will be happy and blessed within his performing and in union with his producing.

In Rom. 8:2 Paul called this law "the principle and law of, and which is, the spirit of 'The Life within Christ Jesus'." In Gal. 5:1 he said "For the [aforementioned] freedom, Christ immediately set us free." Jacob here says that, having taken time to stoop down and attentive view into this new perfect law – which is FREEDOM, which Christ in us – we should be remaining in this place, with this freedom at our side, being a person who actually lives this life. And this will result in our being happy and blessed in this performing and producing. What a thought, what an idea, what a simple message! It is not a message of "works," but a message of the FREEDOM of living it, apart from the bondage of rules, and of do's and don't's, and attending "services," and of "you must be a part of our group."

26. Now if someone habitually supposes [himself] (or: thinks [himself]; presumes; or: constantly appears or seems) to be religious (occupied with rituals and ceremonies), while not habitually guiding his tongue with a bridle, but rather is repeatedly deceiving his heart, the religion (ritual; observance of a religious system) of this person is useless (futile; empty).

27. Pure (clean) and unstained (undefiled) religion, by the side of (= in the presence of) God, even the Father, is this: to habitually visit so as to continuously look upon with the eyes in order to help (or: oversee) orphans and widows within the midst of their pressure (squeezing; distress; ordeal; tribulation); to habitually keep oneself unspotted from the controlling ordered System (or: the world of secular culture, religion, economy and government).

And yet the "church" is full of gossip, back-biting, put-downs, maligning the character of folks, criticism, complaints, murmurings, expressions of dissatisfaction with everything from the weather to the government. You don't see much use of a bridle. And it makes all the ritual and attending of meetings to be futile, empty and useless! Out of the heart flow the issues of a person's life.

And many folks show that they have an empty life – they are deceived, thinking they are in union with Christ, yet remaining estranged to His Life. Instead of there being a community of love, there is a disassociation of hard feelings.

Vs. 27 is in the first part an echo of Matt. 25:35-36. And we should see that these orphans and widows are Him (Matt. 25:40).

But how does the "controlling ordered System" get spots on us, pollute us? It is from the spirits in those systems. The spirit of "the secular paradigm" in our culture, where nothing is sacred. The spirit of control and empty ritual in our religions. The spirit of greed in our economy. The "dominating spirit" in our government. We are in these systems, but we do not need to be a part of the spirits that control them or are embodied by them. We can confront these spirits with the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of Love and Acceptance, the Spirit of forgiveness and of laying down our lives for them, the Spirit of the kingdom and sovereign activity of God.

Jump to Chapter One, Two, Three, Four, Five

Commentary On Jacob (James)
Chapter Two

1. My brothers (= fellow believers, or, fellow Israelites, or, Family), stop, or do not have the habit of, holding the faith of Jesus Christ, our Lord (Master; Owner), Who is the glory (the manifestation Who calls forth praise), in respect of persons (or: do not persist in holding our Lord's [= Yahweh's or Christ's] trust in partiality or favoritism, or in the receiving of faces or personalities, thus affecting the reputation of Jesus Christ).

Here I will mention that the use of the word "brother" had a wider semantic range than just referring to the men in the organization, as my expansions indicate, above. The parenthetical alternate rendering explains the thrust of the verse.

2. For if a gold-ringed adult male, in a shining or radiant robe, may enter into your gathering (or: synagogue), but then a poor person (one reduced to beggary; an indigent) in a dirty or filthy robe (or: shabby clothing) may also enter,

3. and you should look upon (or: gaze upon and regard) the one wearing the shining robe (= expensive, new clothes), and you may say, "You sit here in a fine and beautiful [manner or position] (= in a place of honor)," and to the poor one you may say, "You stand there," or, "You sit under my footstool (= on the floor near my feet; = a place beneath my position),"

4. are you not thoroughly separated and disconnected within yourselves (or: discriminating and making a distinction among yourselves) and have birthed yourselves to become (or: caused yourselves to be) judges having the qualities of evil reasonings (or: decision makers whose motives are wicked designs and harmful logistics)?

Since this is a general letter, I don't think that vs. 2-4 are referring to a specific situation, but rather is an example of showing preferential treatment. Apparently the called-out communities had some problems in adjusting their cultural norms to the New Reality in Christ. Vs. 4 explains that such behavior displays a loss of solidarity that results in their being separated and disconnected within their own minds, and among each other.

They are judging others on outward appearances, rather than seeing Christ in each other and honoring Him equally in all. The last phrase shows that such behavior is also the result of evil reasonings and wicked designs, rather than having the mind and attitude of Christ. In John 7:24 Jesus told folks to stop judging by appearances.

5. Listen and hear, my beloved brothers! Did not God at one point choose (call and speak out; pick out; select) for Himself the poor folks in the System (or: Does not God Himself lay out and collect the beggars and those who slink and cower with wretchedness in the world of society, culture, religion and government) – rich folks in faith, trust, loyalty and conviction, and also heirs (those who possess by distribution of an allotment) of the reign and kingdom which He promised to and assured for those continually loving Him?

The System can refer to the ruling society, their local culture, their economic stratification, or their religious system. In any or all of these, God chose those of low rank. But these became rich in the characteristics of God's reign – to the point that there are heirs (= sons of the King). Note again the qualifying characteristic: those who constantly live their lives with love for God. Many whom Christianity would reject as non-religious, profane or morally outcast, may well be loving God, even if they reject Pharisaical Christianity.

6. But you folks dishonor and devalue the poor. Are not the rich people continuously exploiting you people, repeatedly exercising [their] power and abilities against you? Are they not continually dragging you into courts of law for judicial hearings?

7. Are they not constantly defaming (slandering; speaking abusively of) the beautiful (fine; excellent; honorable; ideal) Name – the one being called upon (= put upon), and conferred on, you folks?

Here Jacob is having in mind those finely-dressed folks to whom the called-out communities are showing a fawning deference. To the very folks who take unfair advantage of them, as well as speaking abusively of "the beautiful Name" (we can presume that he is referring to the Name, Jesus, the one being "conferred on" them).

8. Since, however (or: If, really), you are continuously bringing to its goal (finishing; bringing to fruition; perfecting; ending; bringing to a close; fulfilling) the royal law (or: kingly custom; sovereign distribution; rule fit to guide a king), you are performing beautifully (doing ideally; producing excellently), down from and in accord with the Scripture, "You will love your neighbor (the one near you; your associate) as yourself." [Lev. 19:18]

The Greek word "'ei" can mean either "since," or "if." I chose to put a positive spin with my first rendering, but included the second meaning. You may choose which you think he was doing, speaking the positive into their lives, or questioning the fact of their fulfilling "the royal law" and "rule fit to guide a king." Since he earlier referred to this law as "the perfect law of liberty and rule of freedom," in 1:25, I suggest that we should ask, Did their above behavior of favoritism lead to freedom, or maintain bondage? Another possibility is that he was being somewhat sarcastic.

His reference to Lev. 19:18 echoes what Jesus answered about the greatest commandments in Mark 12:31. In vs. 34 He responds, to the scribe's reply in agreement with Jesus, that he is not far from the reign/kingdom of God.

9. Yet if you habitually show favoritism (accept faces; behave with partiality), you are continuously working error (a miss of the target; a failure; sin) being ones by proof of guilt repeatedly convicted as transgressors (folks stepping aside or across [the line]), under the Law (or: exposed as deviators by the custom).

Favoritism leads to elitism, and we will want to get into that elite group. God makes choice and "elects" a group or a person for a specific job, but He does not show favoritism. Paul admonishes Timothy to "continually doing nothing (constructing not one thing) down from (in accord with; on the level of) inclination (or: a leaning toward [something]) or bias" (1 Tim. 5:21). And in Matt. 5:45-46, Jesus says,

"because He is repeatedly making His sun to rise back up again upon bad (evil; wicked) folks as well as [upon] good (virtuous) folks, and He is habitually sending rain upon fair and equitable people (those in right relationship; those within the Way pointed out; just ones; rightwised ones) as well as [upon] unfair and inequitable people (those not in right relationship; those not in the Way pointed out; unjust ones). You see, if you should happen to love the ones constantly loving you folks, what wage or reward do you continue holding (or: having)?"

In Acts 10:34 Peter tells us that

"God is neither partial nor takes folks at face value (does not receive faces or appearances)."

Jacob's mentioning the Law (or: custom) may have been a reference to Deut. 1:17 or 16:19. All of Christ's emissaries used the Torah or the Prophets to substantiate their points. Paul does this frequently. What is meant here, is that even under the old covenant such behavior as favoritism was condemned. He continues in his comparison in the following verses.

10. For you see, whoever perhaps kept (or: may have guarded and observed) the whole Law, yet possibly at some point stumbled in one thing, had become held (or: caught) within all [its aspects] (or: = is liable for and susceptible to everything).

11. You see, the One saying, "You should (or: may) not commit adultery," also said, "You should (or: may) not murder." [Ex. 20:13] Now if you are not committing adultery, yet you are now being a murderer, you have come to be (you have been birthed) a transgressor of (a deviator from; [p74 and A read: one who stands away from]) law (or: custom).

In vs. 10 the verb "kept" is in the aorist subjunctive. I have rendered this here as a simple past tense, which would indicate that Jacob regarded such things as a thing of the past, since the new covenant had come with Christ (see the book of Hebrews, which compares the old with the new, and shows that Jesus is now the Great High Priest of the living temple, His body). But it could also be rendered as a simple present, for at the time of the writing of this letter the physical temple was yet standing and the Jews were still keeping the Law.

These verses are ominous. If we choose to keep one or more of the old covenant laws, we are held within the old covenant, and come into bondage to all of it. The mixing of any of the Law (Torah – including the "ten commandments") into the administration of grace is a deadly mistake. Paul said that when the commandment came into his life, he died (Rom. 7:9-10). He also gave solemn warnings against such in Gal. 3-5.

12. Thus keep on speaking and thus keep on doing (performing): as those being continuously about to be separated and decided about (evaluated; judged; made a distinction between; scrutinized) through means of a law (or: custom; [p74: word; message]) of freedom and liberty.

Jacob's argument and warning against living under the Law is brought to its logical conclusion: live as folks that are about to be continuously, from time to time, evaluated by a law of freedom and liberty (Gal. 5:1). It is no longer the Law of Moses that will judge them, but the law of the new covenant – for Christ is the end of the Law for those who have become believers (Rom. 10:4).

13. For you see, the separating and deciding (or: scrutinizing and judging) is merciless to the one not performing mercy. Mercy is consistently speaking loudly and boasting down against separating (making decisions; scrutinizing; judging)!

It is important to see that vs. 13 flows directly from vs. 12. We live under the constant judging (evaluating; making decisions about) of the Lord – and this is a good thing, for it is both correctional and can be promotional. So here in vs. 13 he point us toward a life of "performing mercy." We are called to this (to be "containers of mercy {or: instruments of mercy} – Rom. 9:23), to be dispensers of God's mercy to others. It is the balancing ingredient in His judging, for His judging comes from His mercy seat, and we receive favor from this "throne of grace" (Heb. 4:16). Furthermore, recall Paul's words in Rom. 11:32,

"For you see, God encloses, shuts up and locks all mankind (everyone; the entire lot of folks) into incompliance (disobedience; stubbornness; lack of being convinced), to the end that He could (or: would; should) mercy all mankind (may make everyone, the all, recipients of mercy)!"
14. What is the advantage (the furtherance; the increase), my brothers (= fellow believers; = family) if a certain person may keep on claiming to continuously have faith (or: may be now saying [that he is] habitually having trust, loyalty and conviction), yet he may not normally have works (or: keep on possessing actions and deeds)? Is the faith (trust; loyalty; conviction) not continuing able (constantly having power) to deliver (rescue; save; make whole and heal; restore) him?

I made the second sentence in vs. 14 a question, rather than a statement (recall that there was no punctuation in the earliest MSS). The answer to this rhetorical question is "Yes." Even the faith as a grain of mustard seed can move mountains. When the man asked Jesus to help him with his unbelief, Jesus did so and granted the requested healing. Now the answer to the first question would be "No increase, no furtherance along the path, and thus no advantageous benefit." Actions and deeds are needed in order to produce life and gain an increase. A man can say that he has faith to have children, but if he does not have intimate action with his wife, there will not likely be an increase in their family – unless, of course, other actions are taken. But still, whatever faith and trust he does have is God's faith within him, and THAT still has power and ability to restore him, heal him, and make him whole so that with the body coming alongside to encourage him he can let the faith grow into action.

15. Now if a brother or a sister may continuously subsist (or: should begin now in a position under [circumstances]) as naked ones (= without sufficient clothing), and may constantly be deserted (or: wanting) of daily food,

16. yet a certain person out from among you folks may be saying to them, "Be now humbly departing in peace (or: Continue leading [your life] under [these circumstances] in union with harmony), be continuously warming yourselves and be habitually fed and fully satisfy yourselves," but you would not give to them the body's necessities – what is the advantage or resulting benefit?

Here we have a practical example that parallels what Jesus said to the "sheep and the kids (immature goats)" in Matt. 25. Life in the kingdom is not just in words or prayers, but also in deeds. We also have a witness from John that "Little children (little born- ones), we should NOT be habitually loving in word (by a word or thought), nor even in (or: by) the tongue, but rather within action (deed; work) and truth (or: REALITY)" (1 John 3:18).

17. Thus also [is] the faith (the trust, conviction and loyalty): if it should not continue to have works (include actions; possess deeds; have employment), by itself it exists being dead (or: is lifeless; = is a corpse) in correspondence to its own nature (in the sphere of itself).

An example of this is the seed that does not fall into the ground (be implanted) and die: it abides alone (John 12:24), and will not bring forth life, but in time will die.

18. Yet someone will say, "You continuously have (hold) faith, and I continuously have (or: possess) works (actions). You at once show me (exhibit to my eyes) your faith apart from the works or actions, and I, forth from out the midst of my actions and works, will show (exhibit to) you my faith, trust, conviction and loyalty."

What does Jacob mean here? We are not certain even where to put the quotation marks – the translations vary. Is this all what this "someone" is saying, as I've punctuated it, or is it a statement in the first sentence, followed by Jacob's response with, "You at once show me..."? It seems to me that Jacob's straw man is making the point for Jacob in this illustration, the point being that it is the works that demonstrate the faith, and without action faith cannot be shown. It is not a "faith versus works" position. Either reading gives the same point.

19. You continuously believe (or: trust; are convinced) that God is One (or: that God exists being One; that One exists being God; or: that there is one God). [Deut. 6:4] You are performing (doing) beautifully (excellently; ideally) – even the demons (Hellenistic concept and term: = animistic influences) continuously believe (or: presently trust; are constantly loyal; are normally convinced [about this]), and constantly shudder (bristle; shiver; are ruffled).

[comment: in this last phrase Jacob is either making an ontological statement about “demons,” or he is using sarcasm, referring in a derogatory manner to the Jews who also believe this; Jesus used the term "diablos" (devil; one who thrusts- through folks) to refer to Judas in John 6:70; He used the term satan when speaking to Peter in Mark 8:33; this phrase could also refer to the superstitious mindsets of folks who have believed Jewish or pagan myths, or have accepted animistic influences into their thinking]

This seemingly parenthetical statement is in the midst of Jacob's point about faith needing action in order to be productive, which he was making since vs. 15 and which he continues in vs. 20, then on to the end of the chapter. I suggest that vs. 19 needs to be understood in the context of this ongoing topic.

In other words, "So you believe in one God. Wonderful!" You can almost taste the sarcasm. Both his straw man and the demons have faith! Thus, the very negative aspects of the spirit world even have this kind of "faith." Considered otherwise, with my above comment which I include in my translation, he is referring to the Jews who hold this belief in one God, calling them "demons."

20. But are you willing to experientially and intimately know and receive insight, O empty person, that the faith, trust and loyalty, apart from the works and actions, exists being inactive (continues unproductive; [p74 reads: empty; without contents; other MSS: is dead])?

This is saying the same thing as vs. 17, above.

21. Our father Abraham was not placed within the Way pointed out (made fair and equitable; put in right relationship; rightwised; made a just one) from out of works, when offering up his son Isaac upon the altar!

Reading this as a factual statement, rather than as a question, seems more consistent with the context. The works were the outflow of His believing God; He was already in the Way pointed out and pointed in the right direction (which is trust and faith). His works did not put Him there, they demonstrated his faith, as in vs. 18, above. This is affirmed by Paul in Gal. 3:6,

"just as Abraham, 'trusts in God (or: believed by God; experienced confidence by God), and he is/was at once logically considered by Him [that he entered] into a right relationship (or: and it was counted for him into a rightwised relationship with freedom from guilt, fairness, equity and justice which comprise the Way pointed out).'"

See vs. 23, below.

22. Are you normally seeing that the faith, trust and loyalty continued to work together with his actions and works, and forth from out of the actions (or: works), faith (trust, loyalty and conviction) was brought to its goal (was perfected; was matured; was finished)?

Works, living a life of doing mercy and producing love, is the goal of faith, and is the finished demonstration that faith exists in the person. A changed life is evidence that the new birth has occurred – it does not produce the new birth. And vs. 22 explains that this existing faith, trust and loyalty "continued to work together with his actions." Faith produced the actions, then worked with them, and so out of the actions faith was brought to its purpose, its goal, and its intended end. The goal is having Christ formed within so that we – joined with Him – become the New Being, the new creation.

23. And thus the Scripture was made full, the one saying, "Now Abraham believed (or: put trust and confidence) in God (or: became persuaded by God; adhered to God), and he was counted into the Way pointed out by Him (or: he was considered rightwised by Him; he was reckoned fair, equitable and just in Him; alternately: and it was counted to him into {or: for} righteousness)," [Ex. 15:6] and he was called "God's friend." [Isa. 41:8]

This quote confirms my rendering vs. 21 as a statement rather than a question.

24. Are you folks normally observing (or: perceiving) that humanity (or: a person) is normally being rightwised (from time to time being placed in right relationship in the Way pointed out; progressively made fair and equitable; normally justified) forth from out of the midst of actions and works, and not only from out of faith and trust?

Here, rendering vs. 24 as a question flows with the statement in vs. 25. We are told in Heb. 10:1 that the Law "is not even once able (or: never has power) at any point to perfect (bring to the goal, finish, complete or mature) those folks repeatedly coming near (approaching) by offering the same sacrifices every year, on into the whole length (or: extended or stretched into the unbroken continuance) [of its existence]." The Law is the epitome of "actions and works." So the answer to the question of vs. 24 is, "NO!"

25. Now in this same vein, even Rahab the prostitute, taking under [her roof] and welcoming the agents (messengers), and then later exiting them by a different way, was not rightwised (placed in right relationship in the Way pointed out; made fair and equitable; justified; or: shown to be righteous) forth from out of works. You see, she said to the spies "I know that Yahweh has given you the land... For we heard how Yahweh dried up the waters of the Red Sea..." (Joshua 2:9, 10).

Her faith came from hearing the word. Her faith is recorded in Heb. 11:31.

26. You see, just as the body apart from a breath-effect (or: spirit) is lifeless (dead), thus also the faith and trust apart from actions and works [i.e., the living it out] is (exists being) lifeless (dead).

The subject here is faith, not works. Faith and trust are kept alive by action, just like breathing keeps the body alive. Faith, like a seed sitting alone on a shelf, can abide alone and eventually die. But in the planting of faith (the seed) a plant is brought to birth. The work of planting did not produce the seed or the plant, but the work of planting it was necessary to bring the seed to its goal: a new plant. But the plant came from the seed. Dig all you want to, if there is no seed there will be no plant. But we are co-laborers with Christ (the Seed; the Faith), we go out and sow the Seed in the world.

Jump to Chapter One, Two, Three, Four, Five

Commentary On Jacob (James)
Chapter Three

1. My brothers (= fellow members), do not continue to become many teachers (or: stop becoming a bunch of instructors; or: let not many of you folks proceed to be made teachers), seeing, and knowing, that we shall receive [a] greater effect from the decision (or: will take more intense scrutiny and evaluation; will get a stronger result of the separation; will receive heavier judgment),

The verb form of "become" is present imperative, and either middle or passive, thus the varied renderings. He is saying that not everyone should desire to have a place of being a teacher because of the responsibility which that function carries. And although it may be considered a place of honor and preeminence, God has a greater expectation for the performance of this function, and so teachers will experience a "greater effect from [His] decision" after evaluation of their work – the judgment may be more intense, and heavier, commensurate to the responsibility.

2. for we all are tripping and stumbling (= making mistakes) many times [and] are causing many to entangle their feet, lose balance, and stumble. If anyone is not continually stumbling in word (or: collected thought; reason; or: = what he says), this one is a mature male adult (or: a perfect husband; = complete and finished person), with power and able also to guide the whole body [as] with a bridle.

God's fairness will require more from teachers since their mistakes can cause many to become entangled, lose their balance, and stumble. It is the mature person that has both the power and ability to guide what he says. What a teacher says to a group of believers guides that whole body of believers.

"So to everyone to whom much was given, much will be sought for from him (at his side or situation); and to whom they set much alongside (or: committed to and put in charge of much), of him they will more excessively request and demand." (Lu. 12:48)
3. Now if we are thrusting the bridle bits into the horses' mouths to make them continually yield themselves to us, we also continually lead together (or: change the course of and direct) their whole body.

4. Consider also the ships, being of so great size, and being constantly driven under rough and hard winds. They are continually steered under (or: by) the smallest rudder, wherever the impulse of the helmsman (the one presently guiding straight and right) continues determining and intending.

Jacob continues in his illustrations of how something small can have influence upon something big.

5. Thus also, the tongue is a little member of the body, and yet is continuously making a great boast [other MSS: constantly brags about great things] – consider how great a forest a little fire progressively sets ablaze (or: lights up)!

6. Well the tongue [is] a fire; [its fuel is] the System of injustice (or: the ordered and decorated but dominating world of secular culture, religion, politics and government which is unjust; or: The tongue, also, [is] fire: the world of disregard for what is right). The tongue is placed down within our members, continuously spotting (staining; = defiling) the whole body, and repeatedly setting on fire the wheel of birth (= the cycle of the origin [of life], or of generation; the wheel of genesis), as well as being continuously set on fire by (or: under) the garbage dump (the depository of refuse; Greek: Gehenna).

In vs. 5 and 6 he is showing how important is our tongue – what we say. Our words can start a fire in the congregation, and the problem is that we usually have the dominating system of the world (our culture, our politics, our religion, our news media, etc.) as the source for what we say. He compares our carnal talk to getting its fuel from the garbage dump. The result is the defiling of the whole called-out community (the body), and causing destruction on every aspect of peoples' lives. Our tongue is the match that cause the whole forest to burn.

The phrase "the wheel of birth" is a literal rendering. William Barclay renders this, "the ever-recurring cycle of creation." This is enigmatic, and Jacob does not explain it, but I suggest that he is giving a picture of the recurring damage – from birth to death, throughout the whole of life – that the tongue repeatedly causes, as round and round we go, constantly dipping into garbage which we then spew upon others.

7. For every nature, both of wild animals and of flying creatures, both of creeping animals and of those in the salt sea, is continuously being restrained (tamed) and has been restrained by the nature of man (the human nature).

8. But the tongue – an unruly (un-restrainable; other MSS: unfixed; unstable; restless), worthless (ugly; bad; malicious; unrefined; harmful; base) [member], full of death-bearing venom – no one of humanity is able (continues having power) to subdue, restrain or tame.

9. With it we continuously speak well of (or: speak a good word about; bless) the Lord [other MSS: God] and Father, and with it we constantly curse (pray down upon) those men having been born “according to (down from and corresponding to) God's likeness.” [Gen. 1:26-27]

10. Out of the same mouth is continuously coming forth blessing and cursing. My brothers, there is no need (or: it is not necessary) for these things thus to be repeatedly birthed (or: to keep on happening in this way).

11. A spring (or: fountain) is not continuously bursting forth the sweet and the bitter (or: cutting and pricking; [p74: salty]) out of the same hole (or: opening).

12. My brothers, a fig tree is not able to produce olives, nor a grape-vine figs, neither brine to produce sweet water.

Vs. 7-12 expand his thoughts on what we say, and how our ability to speak is unruly and what we commonly say is worthless and often contains "death-bearing venom" – we are like serpents, and often speak from that source. What an indictment! The world of words in which we live "no one of humanity is able (continues having power) to subdue, restrain or tame." We are inundated from every side, from local gossip and complaint to international broadcasts.

We are religious, we "bless God," and we are profane, we curse our brothers – all out of our same mouth, from our inner life. But he tells us that "there is no need (or: it is not necessary) for these things thus to be repeatedly birthed (or: to keep on happening in this way)." Vs. 11 and 12 give two illustrations from nature that such behavior is unnatural. It comes from our alienated selves, our old estranged nature. He is calling us to live from the New Human, the Christ within us, not from the law of sin in our members. It is only the Christ life that can accomplish this.

13. Who [is] wise and understanding (adept) among you? Let him at once exhibit (show; present to the sight) his works and actions out of beautiful behavior (fine, ideal, excellent and appropriate conduct) in gentleness (or: meekness) of wisdom.

Here he calls to the higher being within to exhibit actions from the beautiful and ideal life of Christ, Who is gentleness, wisdom and appropriate conduct.

14. Yet if you folks continuously have bitter rivalry (or: jealousy) and selfish ambition (or: faction) in your heart, do not habitually boast (exult) and lie (speak falsely or deceitfully) concerning the truth or reality (or: are you not now vaunting against and falsifying the truth?).

I have given the last clause both as a statement, and as a question. The first is saying that even if you find ugliness in your heart, don't make it worse by lying about it, or speaking deceitfully about the truth of the situation, or about the reality of this life in Christ.

As a question it asks that if you harbor rivalry, jealousy, selfish ambition or faction in your heart, is this not "vaunting [yourself] against" the truth in Christ, and in the end making Christ as the Truth to be false, in you? And yet, it seems that we see this as much in the "churches" as in society, so I suppose that is why Jacob brought this up in his general letter.

15. This is not the wisdom continuously coming down from above, but rather [is] upon the earth (or: earthly; terrestrial), pertaining to or proceeding from the soul (soulful; having the mind, will and emotions as its source; = natural), pertaining to, or proceeding from, or having the characteristics of demons [Hellenistic term and concept; = influences thought of in that period and culture as being animistic or personified].

[comment: note that the three adjectives "earthly," "natural/soulish," and "demonic" are tied together to this same context, as being of the same sphere of being – or, fruit of the same tree]

So those negative characteristics noted in vs. 14 do not come from heaven (above; figure of the realm of spirit), but rather from the realm of earth. They come from the soul: from our mind, will and emotions, and Jacob goes on to say that the terrestrial and the realm of the soul are also the same realm of what the Hellenistic world called "demonic," which is simply the realm of the distorted; the sphere of corrupted thinking along with unloving attitudes and behaviors. Jealous rivalry, faction and selfish ambition fall into the category of "demonic."

16. For where [there is] jealousy (rivalry) and selfish ambition (faction; intrigue), in that place [is] instability (disorder; an unsettled state) and every ignoble (base; vile; worthless) practice.

These are simply the fruit of estrangement from God, and alienation from His reign – the unregenerated human condition.

17. But the wisdom from above is (constantly exists being) indeed first (or: primarily) pure, thereafter peaceable (pertaining to peace and harmony), suitable (fair; reasonable; yielding; unassertive), compliant (easily persuaded; receptive; reasonable), full of mercy (= practical help) and good fruits, non-separating (not discriminatory; unwavering; non-contending), unpretending (or: not hyper-critical; not judging from a low point of view; not focussing on tiny distinctions; not overly judgmental; not under-estimating of reality).

It is interesting that Jacob calls these qualities – which we might call character traits – "the wisdom from above," which could mean from God or heaven. They are the traits of a person that is in the Way pointed out, who has the qualities of Christ. This could be another list of the "fruit of the Spirit."

18. Now the fruit of fair and equitable dealing (justice and right relationship in accord with the Way pointed out; the condition of being rightwised, or turned in the right direction) is continuously being sown in peace and harmony by and for those habitually performing (making; doing; producing) peace and harmony.

This fruit is from the Tree of Life. Again, it is the fruit of the Spirit, which results in equity and fairness, rightwised relationships, justice, and being turned in the right direction – which is the Way that has been pointed out.

The method and the environment of sowing the seeds of this fruit is peace and harmony. It comes from the inner being of those that live in peace and harmony, and make it a practiced way of life. This is another description of the body of Christ, or of the New Being that is within the new creation.

Jump to Chapter One, Two, Three, Four, Five

Commentary On Jacob (James)
Chapter Four

1. From what situation (place; source) [arise] battles (or: wars; situations of combat) and fights (quarrels; strife; controversies) among you folks? Are they not from this source (or: place): from out of your sensual pleasures (enjoyments and gratifications) [which are] themselves continually performing as soldiers within your members?

What? You mean it's not from demons? Well, yes they are, if you realize that distorted sensual pleasures are what the Hellenistic culture classed as "demonic." Note that Jacob says that they are operating in their members. This is what Paul described in Rom. 7:23 as a law in his members,

"yet I constantly see (or: observe) a different principle (or: law), within my members, [which is] by the Law (or: custom; or: [= Torah]) repeatedly taking the field to wage war against my mind (or: to wage war in opposition to, and in the place of, the law of my mind), and repeatedly taking me prisoner and leading me into captivity within the principle (or: in union with the law) of the Sin (the failure; the error; the miss of the Target; the deviation from the goal) – the one continuously existing (or: now being) within my members."

Paul uses the same metaphor of a war within each of us, where our alienated self battles against the New Being. It is the law of sin within each of us that creates the battles among us.

2. You folks are continuously strongly desiring to possess, and yet continuously you do not have; you continue murdering and are repeatedly jealous (boil with rivalry), and so you are perpetually unable to hit the mark (to attain or master [something]). You are habitually quarrelling and fighting. (or: You people constantly have full longing, desire and lust – and still you are not presently holding or possessing – and so you repeatedly murder. You are progressively envious, boiling with rivalry, and yet continue having no power to obtain [your goal], so you are constantly striving and having controversies – even doing combat and waging wars!) You continue not having [your desires] because you yourself do not continue asking (or: you are not normally asking for yourselves).

Either reading of the Greek text is a sobering criticism. Do we read the "murdering" part literally, or figuratively (as John described hate as being murder – 1 John 3:15)? I suggest the latter, as it is tied in with jealousy. Such negative inward attitudes and thoughts are the opposite of hitting the mark: the love of Christ for humanity. Jealousy and rivalry bring conflicts of interest (which are obviously self-centered), and this results in quarrelling and fighting since there are divided interests. Paul encounter this at Corinth, as well, where there were factions that each held to one emissary over against another, to the point the Paul said "Christ is divided!" (1 Cor. 1:13a, taking the Greek as a statement, rather than a question. If His body is divided, then the Christ is divided).

The last sentence leads into vs. 3. First they are not "continuing" to ask, and then they are asking for the wrong purpose. For all of these reasons they do not posses their desires. History has shown that these desires were from the estranged and alienated old nature, and they became political – which lead to physical wars and blood shed, all in the name of Christ. What blasphemy was lived out by those who thought they were doing God a favor. The words of Jesus were truly prophetic, that those who would kill others would think that they were doing God a service (John. 16:2).

3. You continue asking (requesting), and yet are not receiving because you are asking inappropriately (worthlessly requesting; or: = asking for a wrong purpose) to the intent that you may spend (= waste) it in (or: on) your pleasures.

Again, self-centered and carnal requests that go astray from the heart of God and His purpose in the ages.

4. Adulterers and adulteresses (= Folks unfaithful to Christ or God as your husband)! Have you not seen, and are you not aware, that the System's friendship (the affection whose source is this world of religion, secular culture, economy and government) is a source of enmity with God (or: hostility and hatred with regard to God; [Aleph reads: exists being alienation to God])? Whoever, then, may have been made to want (to intend; to purpose) to be the System's (or: world's) friend is continuing to be established (habitually set down; progressively rendered or constituted) [as] God's alienated and hostile person.

Keeping in mind that Jacob was writing a general letter to those scattered among, and influenced by, other cultures, he may have referred to personal immoral behavior among the called-out communities. Yet, these folks would also be aware of Isa. 1:21, "How has she become a prostitute, a town [= Jerusalem] faithful? Full of [right] judgment [was] Zion. Righteousness, it was lodging in her, yet now, murderers!" (CVOT). Israel committed adultery by turning to the false gods of paganism. This may have been that to which Jacob was here referring.

Through Constantine, the "church" became very friendly with the political System, and then with pagan religious systems, as Christianity became the state religion, and this blending led to the darkness of the Middle Ages. It set up a church system that was at enmity with the love of God, and thus, with God Himself. As codex Aleph reads, it became "alienation to God." The last sentence of vs. 4 applies today as it did back then: friendship with the institutional church, or with a political system, and their systems of control and governmental stratifications demonstrates a lack of being reconciled to God and sets us in a stance that is alien to the heart of God. Instead of the unification that is in Christ, it creates an "us-and-them" mentality and view of humanity.

5. Or are you supposing that the Scripture is speaking void of effect (emptily; vainly)? The breath-effect (or: spirit) which housed-down in us normally sets its desire (longing; affection; yearning) upon [something], [with a view] toward ill-will, malice, envy and jealousy! (or: The Spirit – which He causes to dwell in union with us – is constantly longing and progressively yearning [for us]: to the point of bubbling up zeal and enthusiasm. or: Is the spirit and attitude which lives within us periodically longing toward envy?)

My first rendering of the second half of this vs. is saying that our estranged attitude and alienated spirit (i.e., the human condition before regeneration in Christ) leads us toward the negative.

The second rendering takes "the pneuma" as referring to the Hold Spirit, and so translates the positive end of the word which has semantic range from "zeal/enthusiasm" to "jealousy/envy" (Greek: phthonos).

The third alternative reads as a question, and is asking either if our reconciled, born- from-above spirit would be thus longing, or it asks us to search our hearts to see what kind of spirit or attitude is operating in us.

6. Yet He is constantly and progressively giving greater (= more abundant; more intense; larger; more frequent) grace and favor, therefore it is saying "God continuously sets Himself in opposition to, and aligns Himself against, those that show themselves above (the proud; the assuming), but He habitually gives grace and favor to the low ones (the unassuming ones; the humble ones; those of low rank)." [Prov. 3:34]

The first clause is an echo of Paul in Rom. 5:20, "But where the Sin (the failure; the divergence and missing of the target) increases (or: abounded to be more than enough; becomes more intense) THE GRACE (or: joyous favor) at once super-exceeds (or: hyper-exceeded) over and above, surrounding to excessive abundance and overflow."

Observe how Jacob sets his first statement in contrast to the quote from Prov., saying that this latter is a consequence of the former. Because His grace is sufficient, He sets Himself in opposition to those that might be tested with pride, or to those who show themselves as being above others. Consider the situation with Paul in 2 Cor. 12:

7. And now, in the excess of the unveilings (or: with the transcendence of the revelations; by the extraordinary amount and surpassing nature of the disclosures), through this [situation] and for this reason – so that I could not be progressively exalted (or: would not continue being overly lifted up [in myself or by others]) – something with [its] point in [my] flesh is given in me (or: an impaling-stake for the human nature was given for me; or: a thorn to the natural realm, and a splinter by alienated humanity, was assigned to me): an agent of the adversary, to the end that he (or: it) could (or: should; would) repeatedly beat me in the face (or: slap me on the ear) with his (or: its fist. [comment: this personification of the irritation may well be metaphorical and may refer to his social or cultural-religious situation]

8. I called the Lord [Christ or Yahweh] alongside for relief, ease and comfort, and entreated [Him] three times over (or: about) this, so that he (or: it) would (or: should) at once stand away and withdraw from me,

9. and yet He has said to me – and His declaration stands, "My grace is continuously sufficient in you (or: My joyous favor is constantly adequate to ward [it] off for you), for you see, ability (or: the [other MSS read: My] power) is habitually brought to its goal (or: finished; perfected; matured) within the midst of weakness (or: in union with lack of strength and infirmity)..."

I suggest that it was God that was "continuously setting] Himself in opposition" to Paul, in vs. 7 above, through His agent of adversity "so that [he] could not be progressively exalted (or: would not continue being overly lifted up [in myself or by others])." And although Paul three times entreated God over this situation, God's reply was that His grace continues sufficient in him, and for him.

7. Consequently, you must be subjected by (or: be at once placed and arranged under in; be humbly aligned with and to) God. So stand in opposition to the [or: your] adversary (or: take a stand [as in battle] against the one trying to thrust you through [with a weapon]), and he will flee (take flight) away from you!

Here Jacob draws the logical conclusion: we must be subjected by God, for we all have that seed of pride in our alienated false persona. The question that next arises is, What, who or where is our adversary? If it is those who, as in Proverbs, "show themselves above (the proud; the assuming)" then we can simply take a stand in opposition, along with God, and they will take flight. If it is pride within ourselves, then this may only take flight as we align ourselves with the One who sends a goad into our lives, as with Paul. The context of vs. 7 is vs. 4-6. God's adversaries are the friendship with the system, and pride – both of which are within the called-out communities of "the twelve tribes," and within us. These two mindsets and emotions are those things that thrust us through, they are the "devil" within us.

8. Draw near in God (or: Approach by God; Be close at hand for God; Be or stay near to God), and He will draw near in you (or: be or stay near to you; be close at hand for you)! You failing folks (ones missing the target; sinners), cleanse [your] hands (= your actions)! You two-souled folks (or: double-minded ones; people with split affections and loyalties), purify (make of one substance) [your] hearts!

Jacob is addressing those of the assembled bodies, and speaking to issues that they, like everyone else, have. They are already in God, or they could not draw near. His admonition also suggests that they can approach God, by God (the dative case here, with no expressed preposition in the Greek), for God and to God. God makes Himself available as the instrument of our approach to Him, even though we are yet failing, deviating, missing the goal, sinning. Through Him we can cleans our hands (figure of our works and actions), and in Him we can make our hearts (= cores of our beings) of one substance and no longer be "two-souled."

9. You must endure labor and hardships, and be miserable and wretched; you must mourn, and you must cry. Your laughter must be converted into mourning, and joy into dejection with [your] eyes cast down.

10. You must be made low (humbled; demoted) in the Lord's sight (= in [Yahweh's, or Christ's] presence), and then He will lift you up (elevate you).

In vs. 9 he uses the imperative, which I have expressed using the word "must." These adverse conditions are His tool to transform us. Notice the passive voice in the second statement of this verse. This suggests something happening to us. These things need to happen to correct our actions and unify our being, and they are a part of our "drawing near" in Him.

He sums up in vs. 10 what he began in vs. 4. God's making us low, demoting us and humbling us in His presence and before His eyes of fire and feet of burning bronze as He walks among His called-out communities (Rev. 1:14, 15, 20), is what does this. When His refining work (Mal. 3:1-6) is finished, then He will lift us up to a higher place.

11. Brothers (= believers in God’s household) do not be continuously (or: stop constantly) speaking down (or: gossiping or babbling; wearing someone down by talking; talking a person down) against one another. The one habitually speaking down against a brother (= a fellow believer, or, a fellow Israelite; or: = a member of God’s household), and continuously judging (separating and making decisions about) his brother, is continuously speaking down against law, and thus keeps on judging (making separations and then decisions about) law. Now if you continue judging law, you are not being a performer (a doer) of law, but rather, a judge (one who makes separations and decisions).

Speaking down against someone is not an expression of love. And wearing someone down by talking is also inconsiderate! Gossiping and judging our fellow believers is operating under the Law. It is an expression that is contrary to the Way pointed out; is opposed to rightwised living; and is thus contrary to what even the law was about, and is making an evaluation of law (or: what is right). Yet at the same it is also not doing what the Law says, but rather is elevating the one doing this to the position of being a judge of other people. Paul speaks against this in Rom. 2:1, and in 14:10 asks, "Why are you constantly judging (discriminating against; separating away; making a decision about) your brother (= fellow believer)?" and in 14:13 says, "No longer, then, should we continue judging (making decisions about; discriminating against; separating away) one another."

12. There is one Lawgiver and Separator (Decider; Evaluator; Judge): the One being continuously able and powerful to deliver (rescue; heal; save; restore to wholeness), as well as to cause loss (or: bring a condition of utter ruin; or: cause [something or someone] to be lost; or: destroy). So you, who are you, the one continuously judging the one near you (repeatedly separating the neighbor; or: presently making decisions about [your] associate)?

Judging folks is God's business, not ours. Our doing so is presumptuous and contrary to His instructions to us. What we should be doing is discerning all things by the Spirit of God, or as Paul says in 1 Cor. 2:15,

"Yet the spiritual person (one dominated by and focused on spirit or the realm of the Spirit, and characterized by the qualities of spirit: the Wind which continuously moves across the land) is, on the one hand, continuously sifting and re-evaluating (habitually separating and deciding from above on; progressively holding things up for close examination of) all things..."
13. Come now, those continuously saying, "Today or tomorrow we will travel into this or that city and produce (make; perform; do [something]) one year there, and then we can trade (or: conduct business) and make a profit,"

14. – namely, those who are not in the habit of putting their attention upon the thing of tomorrow (or: who are not normally versed in or acquainted with the morrow; or: are not now standing upon tomorrow). Of what sort [is] your life? You see, you folks are (or: exist being) a vapor (a mist), progressively (or: repeatedly) appearing for a little while (toward a little space), and thereupon continually (or: repeatedly) being made to disappear –

Jacob now turns to their outlook on life and their normal plans for the near future. Vs. 13 gives the natural person's way of life. It is "today or tomorrow," "this or that," etc. In other words, nothing specific – we'll see what happens. He goes on in vs. 14 to say that these are not in the habit of putting their attention upon tomorrow. Next he asks of them this question, "Of what sort [is] your life?" – or, What kind of life are you living? Then he answers the question: they are like a cloud that appears a while, then are continually made to disappear. There is no substance to their way of life; there is no continuity.

15. Instead of that, you should be saying, "If the Lord [= Yahweh, or, Christ] should will (or: intend), we also will live and will do (or: produce) this or that."

Herein lies both purpose and stability: the mind, intent and will of the Lord; the leading of the Spirit. Seeing what the Father is doing, and then doing the same.

16. Yet now you continue speaking loudly (boasting; gloating) in your empty, bragging speech and displays. All such boasting is bad (harmful; painfully laborious; miserable).

Again, Jacob sees emptiness in the called-out folks – bragging about being the "elect of God," no doubt. Boisterous, yet showing nothing. Proclaiming to have Christ, yet bearing no fruit.

17. So for one (or: in a man; to a person) having seen and thus knowing to be continually performing [the] beautiful (doing [the] ideal; making [the] good; producing [the] excellent), and then not habitually performing (doing) [it], in him it is a failure (for him it is error; to him it is sin; by him it is a missing of the target and a deviation from the goal).

Here he returns them, and us, to substance: the outflow of faith – performing the beautiful, doing what is ideal, producing excellence. This equates to feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and those in prison.

But having the revelation to do this and having a knowledge that this is what Christ expects of us, and then not by habit performing and doing it is what equates to failure, to falling short of the goal, and entering into error.

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Commentary On Jacob (James)
Chapter Five

1. Continue leading on now, you wealthy folks, burst into tears while continuously uttering cries of distress upon your repeatedly recurring hardships (difficulties and wretchedness which must be endured).

2. Your riches have rotted; your garments have come to be moth-eaten.

3. Your gold and silver have been corrupted with poison (or: corroded and covered with oxidation), and their venom (or: corrosion) will be unto you a witness (or: evidence) and will eat your flesh (= the enslaved and alienated self; = the human nature that has been molded by and conformed to the System) as fire. You folks pile up a treasure hoard in the midst of last days!

4. Consider and look to the worker's wage – that having been withheld by you which belongs to those mowing your farms – which constantly utters (or: shouts) a cry, and now the outcries and shouts of those gathering in the harvest have entered into the ears of the Lord of hosts (= Yahweh of Armies)!

He now moves to another general category: the wealthy. He prophesies that difficult times are repeatedly coming upon them. Their days of luxury are coming to a close – figured by wealth that has decayed away and lost its value (rotted), by moth-eaten garments, and now even their gold and silver (their hoarded treasures) are poisoning their lives and bringing sickness to their bodies, as well as disintegrating the estranged self which had conformed itself to the domination System of political, social and economic power in order to gain such riches.

The coming last days of which Jacob speaks were the times of the close of the Jewish age with its old covenant, which was done away at the cross, and the resultant coming destruction of Jerusalem, which Jesus prophesied. The end of that world would affect even those that had been scattered away from that City during the times of Acts 8 through 11, to whom he was now writing. Trouble for their area would also come in later years.

Why was this time of judging coming? For the same reason that Yahweh judged Israel in the past – for their injustice and lack of caring for the widows, orphans and the poor. Vs. 4 speaks to their failures and mistakes. They had cheated those who worked for them.

5. You folks live a soft life in delicate luxury (or: You self-indulge) and take excessive comfort and live in wanton pleasure upon the land. You nourish your hearts in the midst of (or: = fatten yourselves up for) a day of slaughter!

We are not told to which day of slaughter he was referring, but the taking of excessive comfort and nourishing their hearts speaks of a lack of care for those in need – a reminder of Matt. 25:42-45, and of the parable of the Rich Man (figure of the Jewish leadership of that time) in Lu. 16.

6. You oppose fairness, equity and justice, while you degrade the way pointed out; you murder the fair and equitable person (the just one; the one in accord with the way pointed out; the righteous; or: the innocent); he is not normally setting himself opposed to you (or: is He not now aligning Himself against you, and resisting you folks?).

This kind of behavior by God's people always brought judgment. The last clause says either that the just person is humbly enduring injustice, or it is saying that God is aligning Himself against the unfair folks to bring them judgment.

7. Be patient (long-tempered; long-passioned; slow to rush; or: Have long-term feelings and emotions), then, brothers, during the continuance of the Lord's [= Yahweh's, or, Christ's] presence and His being alongside. Consider! The worker of the land repeatedly receives (takes into his hands) the precious fruit of the land, being patient (slow to rush and with long-term feelings) upon it during the continuance where it can receive “an early as well as a latter (or: late) rain.” [Deut.11:14]

Jacob calls for patience during this time of the Lord's dealing with the unjust, while His presence continues bringing fairness and equity – reward and pay for what has been done, either way. He then uses the metaphor of the farmer who is patient in waiting to harvest his crop. The rains of both blessings and judgments must have their seasons.

8. You, too, be patient (be slow to rush while maintaining long-term feelings); establish (place supports and make stable; firmly set) your hearts, because the Lord's [= Yahweh's or Christ's] presence has drawn near (has approached and now exists close to us).

This may be a reference to His presence that was to come upon Jerusalem in AD 70, or to similar situations that were to come to the areas of the dispersion. He calls for patience during this time, and admonished them to prepare their hearts and give support to one another in preparation for this.

9. Brothers, do not be groaning down against (or: sighing in relation to; or, may = complaining about or blaming) one another, so that you may not be separated and have a decision made (or: be put asunder, scrutinized and judged). Consider! The Decider (the Separator, Evaluator and Judge) has taken a stand, and now continues standing before the doors.

This sounds like Israel in the wilderness murmuring against Moses when things were hard. Here he is saying that they should not blame their associates or complain that something is their neighbor's fault – they will be evaluated about such behavior, and a decision may be made about their need of purification from such. He calls to their attention that the Parousia (the presence of the Lord for judgment) is close at hand, and in fact has taken a stand. It is a foolish time to act amiss.

10. Brothers, take the prophets who spoke within [the authority of], and in union with, the Name of the Lord [= Yahweh] as an example to be copied: of experiencing worthless responses and bad conditions while suffering from harmful treatment and evil – as well as of patience (long-suffering; slow-rushing; long-term feelings).

He may be referring to the prophets of OT times, or of recent events of persecution from the Jews (e.g., the stoning of Steven), or from others. These folks had patience during their times of ill treatment.

11. Consider! We are calling happy and blessed those remaining under (or: patiently and humbly enduring; or: steadfast and supporting). You heard [about] the persistent remaining under (steadfast, patient and humble endurance) of Job, and you saw the Lord's [= Yahweh's] goal (the end attained by the Lord; the Lord's completion), because “the Lord [= Yahweh] is great of tender affections (literally: great of internal organs; full of guts) and is empathetically compassionate.” [Ex. 34:6]

Paul refers to this as one aspect of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22). Job saw only God behind his troubles, so he patiently endured them, seeking God for the answers. He did not speak abusively of satan (God's agent of destruction and persecution), and in fact did not mention satan (which means: adversary) at all, nor even the raiding Sabeans (Job. 1:15). Apparently Job's endurance was a well-known fact.

But these called-out folks are considered happy and blessed because of the Lord's abundance of tender affections and empathetic compassion to them, during their burdensome experiences. We should recall this when afflictions come upon us.

12. Now before all things (= above all; but especially; or: before all mankind), my brothers, do not be in the habit of promising by swearing [to, or, by] either the heaven (or: atmosphere; sky), nor the earth (or: land), nor any other oath. But let your affirmation continually be, "Yes," and the negative, "No," to the intent that you may not fall under a process of judging (or: fall by an act of separating for a decision, or by scrutinizing, or by discriminating).

He is saying, "Don't let this practice be a part of your way of life." Don't call upon heaven or earth to back up your promises. Promise from the heart, and simply say "Yes," or "No." Swearing in this way can lead into a process of judging (either upon yourself, or from you upon others), and it can cause you to fall by evaluating the situation (and then rationalizing about your responsibilities in it), or by focusing on minute details of the arrangement (to see if you can get out of some aspect of what you promised), or by your discriminating against someone in your heart or in your actions (in relation to your agreement). Swearing by the sky or the land implies that there is inadequate integrity within you to do according to your word.

13. Is anyone among you folks continually experiencing bad things (misfortune; ugly situations; evil)? Let him be habitually thinking with a view to ease and well-being and repeatedly speak toward goodness (or: pray). Is someone normally cheerful and in good spirits? Let him play a stringed or percussion instrument and make music or sing psalms.

Along with your patient endurance and remaining under the hard situation to give support, let your thoughts, words and actions project goodness, ease and well-being into the situation. This kind of prayer will have a positive effect. And then, with this creating a cheerful mood and an uplifted attitude, express this by making music and singing.

14. Is anyone among you habitually experiencing weakness or normally infirm? Let him at once call to himself the older folks of the called-out community, and then let them speak well-being (or: pray goodness) upon him, anointing (or: massaging) him with olive oil in union with and in [the authority of] the Lord's [= Yahweh's, or, Christ's] Name,

15. and then faith's impartation of well-being (or: the prayer which comes from trust; the desire of conviction) will deliver (restore to health; rescue; save) the one being continuously labored to weariness and exhaustion, and the Lord [= Christ, or, Yahweh,] will cause him to rise, and if it may be he has been making mistakes (performing amiss; doing acts which miss the goal) it will be forgiven to him (sent forth for him; let go off in him).

Here there is a call to community: don't try to go through habitual weakness or illness on your own. The older folks in the called-out community will be experienced in speaking well-being, and in doing goodness to you. Let them give you a massage with olive oil while speaking ease to your spirit, in the Name of the Lord.

This brings faith's impartation of well-being, which comes from the group whom you have invited to be with you, which will bring strength and healing, and the Lord will cause you to rise up – and will even cause any mistakes to flow away from you.

16. Consequently, be continuously confessing fully (or: openly speaking out similarly about) your failures (errors; misses of the target; sins) to one another, and be habitually speaking well-being over (or: praying and thinking goodness on behalf of) one another, in a manner so that you may be cured (or: would be healed). A binding need (or: a petition and an entreaty out of need) of a person within the Way pointed out (of a fair and equitable person; of one in right relationship; of a rightwised and rightly aligned man; of a just one) – which progressively works inwardly and itself continuously creates energy from union – constantly exerts much strength.

Jacob is advising openness within the community, and the habit of acknowledging to one another our failures and mistakes, and then speaking well-being and goodness over one another.

Next he makes a fascinating statement: either a binding need, or an entreaty that comes from a need, of a person that lives in rightwised relationships with God and others, and who accords to the Way which has been pointed out to us, "constantly exerts much strength" from the progressive inward work and the created energy which come from union with God and with the community. The very need creates inward energy and then exerts strength toward its own fulfillment! This comes from union with God, and with His community. The petition (which can be either or both to God and to the community) is an expression of faith with a view to the meeting of the need.

17. Elijah was a person (a human being) of like experiences and emotions with us, and with a thought toward things being well, he spoke toward goodness (or: prayed) for it to not rain, and it did not rain upon the land [for] three years and six months.

18. And back again he spoke toward goodness (or: offered prayer), and the sky (or: atmosphere; heaven) gave rain, and then the land germinated and produced her fruit.

The first point I see here is that the prophet Elijah is considered to be just like us. The next point is that both God's withholding rain and His giving of rain are expressions of goodness (prayer – Greek: pros-eu-chomai, "thinking, speaking or acting toward having goodness, and things going well and with ease"). His decisions are always with a view toward our goodness – even if they result in correction.

There is an enigmatic reference to a time period, here: three and one half years. We see this symbolic number in the figures of the Unveiling given through John in Rev. chapters 11, 12 and 13. In ch. 11 there is inference to Elijah in vs. 6. Perhaps Jacob was aware of John's prophecy, and was here issuing a subtle warning of what was to come in Jerusalem in a "time of correction" within the next couple of decades.

19. My brothers (= Dear family), if someone among you may be led astray (caused to wander) away from the Truth and reality, and someone should (or: would) turn him back,

20. continue knowing from experience and realize that this one turning back a sinner (a failure; one missing the goal; one living in error or under a mistake) out of [the] straying of his way (or: from the midst of his path of wandering), will deliver (rescue; save; make healthy and whole) a soul (= a person) from out of the midst of death, and “will cover [the] fullness of [his] mistakes (errors; failures to hit the target; deviations; sins).” [Prov. 10:12]

Jacob ends this general letter with an admonition toward "saving the lost." Here it is for rescuing someone who has been caused to wander away from the new Reality (or: the Truth which is Jesus Christ). He does not specify a reason or what it was that might cause a person to stray from the Way pointed out, but simply acknowledges the reality that this might happen.

Vs. 20 tells us that we should realize that such a rescue of the person making this mistake will deliver that person from out of the midst of death. Not save him from a future death, but rescue him "from out of the midst of" death. Here is another definition of what the 1st century writers meant when they spoke of death. A classic example is in the return of the prodigal in Lu. 16:25, where the father said, "this my son was dead, and is alive again, he was lost, and is found." It was not speaking of physically being in a grave, but of the separation from the called-out community – from not abiding in the Vine (John 15:6). Turning this person back is the same as grafting him back into the Vine, the source of Life. This is an act of Love, which "will cover [the] fullness of [his] errors and deviations."

[Jacob was written circa A.D. 47-48 – Based on the critical analysis of John A.T. Robinson]

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