From:  Over 50 Interpreters Explain the Book of James                Return to Home 

By Roland H. Worth, Jr.  © 2017



List of All Sources Quoted At End of File






CHAPTER 1:1-15






1:1                                                       Translations

Weymouth:     James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ: to the twelve tribes who are scattered over the world. All good wishes.

WEB:              James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are in the Dispersion: Greetings.

Young’s:         James, of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ a servant, to the Twelve Tribes who are in the dispersion: Hail!

Conte (RC):    James, servant of God and of our Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes of the dispersion, greetings.                                                          


1:1                   James.  According to the superscription, this Epistle is written by a certain James, who describes himself only as one who, by serving the exalted Lord Jesus, has dedicated his life to the exclusive service of God.  He must, accordingly, have occupied a very high position in the congregation, because he thinks that the mere use of his name, which was a very common one, would suffice to identify him, and accordingly he can have been none other than the best known James, who in later times stood at the head of the congregation in Jerusalem, as Peter originally did.  [9]

                        a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.  A unique phrase; the closest parallel is Titus 1:1, “Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ.”  [45]

The term servant is used not in any sense of servitude, but rather as expressing consecrated devotion, springing from the full acceptance of the gospel as the truth.  [1]

The co-ordinate mention of God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ implies their co-equal dignity.  [50]

                        servant.  Properly, hired servant.  Compare Philippians 1:1; Jude, verse 1.  [2]

                        Or:  Greek, bondservant.  One brought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:20; 7:23), bound for life, who must be continually engaged in the service of his Master. [50] This is the strict and narrowest use of the term, but it can be used more expansively, as Vincent (above) takes it, of anyone in another’s service.  [rw]

                        Rosenmann observes, that from this expression it cannot be inferred either that James “was”, or was “not” of the twelve Apostles.  And, on the other hand, from the omission of [the word apostle], it cannot be concluded that he was “not” an Apostle.  For (as Benson observes) he was writing to persons to whom his qualifications were well known; therefore it was unnecessary to insert it.  Thus neither does St. John mention his Apostleship, any more than St. Paul in his Epistles to the Philippians, Thessalonians, and to Philemon.  [11] 

                        Jesus Christ.  Not mentioned again save in 2:1.  [21]

                        In the Gospels our Lord is usually spoken of by his personal name, “Jesus;” while “Christ” is purely a title, the Anointed One, or Messiah, the promised deliverer of Israel and of the world.  In the Epistles and in Revelation this name is comparatively rare, and its place is usually taken by “Jesus Christ,” or by “Christ,” which tends to become a purely personal name.  Acts uses “Jesus,” “Christ,” or “Jesus Christ.”  In the Pauline Epistles, “Christ Jesus” is also used occasionally.  Prof. Sanday, &c., on Romans 1:1, draw the following distinction:  “In Christ Jesus the first word would seem to be rather more distinctly a proper name than in Jesus Christ,” in which “Christ would seem to have a little of its sense as a title still clinging to it.”  [45] 

                        to the twelve tribes.  According to Galatians 6:16; Romans 2:29, this address might refer to Christians as the “true Israel,” the real inheritors of the “promise.”  But the question naturally arises whether the writer would be likely to refine in this manner when writing an address.  [16]  But if they were all Jews--or the overwhelming percentage--what would be more normal than a passing reference to their shared Jewish ancestry?  [rw]                

                        which are scattered abroad.  Literally, “who are in the dispersion,” in different lands, whether of a voluntary or of an involuntary nature, by war, commerce, or pleasure.  [3] --second of three usage’s

                        The body of the Jews then scattered throughout the Roman Empire.  [1]

                        As the entire Epistle shows how intimately the author is acquainted with the circumstances of the readers, it was natural that it should be sent to certain circles of the believing Jews in the Dispersion, concerning whom James will have received more complete information.  The author, however, presupposes that conditions in other portions of the Diaspora will not be different, and that the word of admonition from the head of the original congregation, addressed to them, will, as a matter of course, be communicated to believers in other places also.  [9]

                        The epistle as encouragement for those in all ages who are scattered due to adversity, persecution, or circumstances.  Apply here that of the prophet Ezekiel, “Thus saith the Lord      God, Although I have cast them far off among the heathen, and although I have scattered them among the countries, yet will I be to them as a little sanctuary in these countries where they shall come” Ezekiel 11:16.  God has a particular care of his outcasts:  “Let my outcasts dwell with thee, Moab,” Isaiah 16:3-4.  God’s tribes may be scattered; therefore we should not value ourselves too much on outward privileges.  And, on the other hand, we should not despond and think ourselves rejected, under outward calamities, because God remembers and sends comfort to His scattered people.  [5]

                        greeting.  It seems to answer to the Hebrew salutation, peace, which was comprehensive of all happiness; and so is this here to be understood.  [28]

                        That is, wishing you all blessings, temporal, spiritual, and eternal.  [47]

                        The salutation is the same as in the Epistle purporting to come from the Church over which St James presided, in Acts 15:23.  The literal meaning of the word is to rejoice, and the idiomatic use of the infinitive is a condensed expression of the full “I wish you joy.”  It was primarily a formula of Greek letter-writers, but it had been used by the LXX for the Hebrew “peace” in Isaiah 48:22; Isaiah 57:21, and appears in the superscription of the letters of Antiochus in 2 Maccabees 9:19.  It is the word used in the mock salutations of the soldiers in the history of the Passion, “Hail, King of the Jews” (Matthew 26:49; 27:29; 28:9).  It is not used in any other of the Epistles of the New Testament, St Paul and St Peter using the formula “grace and peace.”  [38]


                        In depth:  Weakness of the “lost tribes” theory.  Weakness of the “lost tribes” argument against the text referring to Jewish Christians in particular.  [The description used] of Israel, as in Acts 26. 7; the Sacred Scriptures nowhere recognizes the modern notion of “the ten tribes” being “lost,” the N.T. name “Jews,” or “Israelites,” including the whole of the “seed of Jacob.”  [3] 

                        That some of the ten tribes remained in, and some of them returned to, the land of Israel, we are assured from the mention made of the children of Israel, that were come again out of their captivity ([1] Esdras 6:21), and the sin-offering made by Ezra, at the dedication of the temple, of twelve goats, “according to the number of the tribes of Israel” (5:17), and from these following words, 8:25, “The children of those which had been carried away, which were come out of the captivity, offered twelve goats for a sin-offering:” and, lastly, from the mention of the twelve tribes by the apostle Paul, who “instantly served God day and night” (Acts 26:7).  [4]

                        The Jews, though mainly of the tribes of Judah, Levi, and Benjamin, included families from the other tribes, e.g. Anna (Luke 2:36) was of the tribe of Asher.  But the Jews claimed to be “the twelve tribes” as being ecclesiastically the exclusive representatives of the ancient Israel.  In Acts 26:7 Paul, in his speech before Agrippa, speaks of “our twelve tribes.”  [45]

                        Much of the scattered tribes voluntarily remained in exile, but that the Israelites—collectively—still counted themselves as twelve tribes can be shown from both Biblical and non-Biblical usage [47]:  That the twelve tribes were actually in existence when James wrote his epistle, will appear from the following facts.  1st, Notwithstanding Cyrus allowed all the Jews in his dominions to return to their own land, many of them did not return, but continued to live among the Gentiles, as appears from this, that in the days of Ahasuerus, one of the successors of Cyrus, who reigned from India to Ethiopia, over one hundred and twenty-seven provinces (Esther 3:8), the Jews were dispersed among the people in all the provinces of his kingdom, and their laws were diverse from the laws of all other people; so that, by adhering to their own usages, they kept themselves distinct from all the nations among whom they lived.

2d, Josephus considered the twelve tribes as being in existence when the Old Testament Scriptures were translated into Greek, (namely, in the time of Ptolemy Philadelphus, about two hundred and fifty or two hundred and sixty years before Christ,) as he says that six persons were sent out of every tribe to assist in that work.

3d, On the day of Pentecost, as mentioned [in] Acts 2:5, 9, there were dwelling at Jerusalem devout men out of every nation under heaven, Parthians, Medes, &c: so numerous were the Jews, and so widely dispersed through all the countries of the world.

4th, When Paul traveled through Asia and Europe, he found the Jews so numerous, that in all the noted cities of the Gentiles they had synagogues, in which they were assembled for the worship of God, and were joined by multitudes of proselytes from among the heathens.  

6th, Josephus (Antiq., 50. 14. c. 12) tells us, that in his time one region could not contain the Jews, but they dwelt in most of the flourishing cities of Asia and Europe, in the islands and continent, not much less in number than the heathen inhabitants. 

            From all which it is evident that the Jews of the dispersion were more numerous than even the Jews in Judea; and that James very properly inscribed his letter to the twelve tribes which were in the dispersion, seeing the twelve tribes really existed then, and do still exist, although not distinguished by separate habitations, as they were anciently in their own land.



1:2                                                       Translations

Weymouth:     Reckon it nothing but joy, my brethren, whenever you find yourselves hedged in by various trials.

WEB:              Count it all joy, my brothers, when you fall into various temptations.

Young’s:         All joy count it, my brethren, when ye may fall into temptations manifold.

Conte (RC):    My brothers, when you have fallen into various trials, consider everything a joy                                                           

1:2                   My brethren.  The constant form of address in this Epistle; his readers were his brethren, both on account of their nationality and of their Christian faith; both in the flesh and in the Lord.  [51]

                        count it all joy.  Nought but joy,” i.e., a matter of entire rejoicing.  So we say, it is “all for the best.”  [20] 

It is implied that troubles and afflictions may be the lot of the best Christians, even of those who have the most reason to think and hope well of themselves.  [5]

                        He does not mean that we are to court disaster or to seek for trouble or to deny the reality of pain and sorrow, but we are to regard all these adversities as tests of faith and as means of moral and spiritual growth.  We are to rejoice, not because distresses come, but in view of their possible results.  They may produce “patience,” which is not mere passive submission, but steadfast endurance and triumphant trust.  We are urged therefore to allow “patience” to do its full work in producing a maturity of character in which every virtue is fully developed and no grace is lacking.  [7]              

                        when ye fall into.  Not go in step by step, but are precipitated, plunged. Or when ye fall among, as he that went down towards Jericho fell among thieves, Luke 10:30.  When ye are so surrounded that there is no escaping them, being distressed, as David was, Psalms 116:3.  [29]

                        ye.  Seeing that they are “the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad,” the width of that superscription makes it improbable that the recipients were undergoing any common experience. It is the more noteworthy, therefore, that at the very outset James gives this exhortation hearing upon trials and troubles. Clearly it is not, as we often take it to be, a counsel only for the sorrowful, or an address only to a certain class of persons, but it is a general exhortation applicable to all sorts of people in all conditions of life, and indispensable, as he goes on to say, for any progress in Christian character.  “Let patience have her perfect work” [verse 4] is an advice not only for sad hearts, or for those who may be bowed down under any special present trouble, but for us all.  [27] –1 of only 4 usages

                        divers.  The word “divers” here refers to the various kinds of trials which they might experience--sickness, poverty, bereavement, persecution, etc. [31]

temptations [various trials, NKJV].  Trials suited to develop their character, and if rightly borne, to make them better.  [14]

                        The Christian is bidden to pray “lead us not into temptation” (= trial); but for him, trial, when it comes, may be made to yield “peaceable fruit” (Hebrews 12:11).  Out of bitter may come sweet.  [24]

                        It is the same word as the Lord uses when He says to His Apostles, “Ye are they that have continued with me in my temptations” (Luke 22:28).  [41] 

                        The “temptations” may mean—1.  Afflictions and losses in this world:  these are called temptations because they try and prove our patience and submission to our Father’s will:  and inasmuch as they will, if taken rightly, wean our hearts from earth and fix them on heaven.  2.  Again, the Spirit may be speaking here of persecutions for Christ’s take such as those to which Matthew alludes (5:11), which of course in themselves are temptations to fall away.  3.  The word may mean what we commonly call temptations, that is, Satan trying to lead us into sin.  This again may be a source of joy because then he is winning a conquest through God’s grace over his great enemy.   

                        “Temptations” are generally understood to refer to the persecutions to which the Christians were subjected, yet manifold renders the term inclusive of more.  [16]



1:3                                                       Translations

Weymouth:     Be assured that the testing of your faith leads to power of endurance.

WEB:              knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.

Young’s:         knowing that the proof of your faith doth work endurance.

Conte (RC):    knowing that the proving of your faith

exercises patience.


1:3                   Knowing this.  “Inasmuch as ye recognize” &c.  The tense implies a constantly recurring recognition.  [37]

                        Being well assured of the fact, the reason or ground of the joy.  [51]

                        that the trying of your faith.  The word for “trying” implies at once a “test,” and a “discipline” leading to improvement. The same phrase meets us, in conjunction also with “divers temptations,” in 1 Peter 1:7.  Each was, perhaps, quoting what had become an axiom of the Church’s life.  [38]

                        These temptations are regarded as the tests or proofs of faith, and in this consists their value.  By them faith is being tested as gold in the furnace, and is thus recognized and purified.  [51]

Let persons enter into the spirit of Christianity now, as the Christians did in the Apostles’ days, and they will be treated precisely as they were, so far at least as the laws of the land will admit of it:  and, if they be not persecuted unto death, it will not be from there being any more love to piety in the carnal heart now, than there was then; but from the greater protection which is afforded by the laws of the land, and from a spirit of toleration which modern usages have established.  [10]

of your faith.   Of your firm confidence and trust in the Gospel.  Faith here is not used objectively for the doctrines of Christianity; but subjectively for our personal persuasion of the truth of the Gospel.  [51]

                        worketh.  Produceth.  [51]

The calling our spiritual and moral power into successful action increases the power, just as the muscle is hardened by exercise.  Hence the perfectness of our Christian life is much the result of time, trial, and experience.  [39]

patience.  In its usual Scriptural sense of steadfast endurance.  [14]

                        The ship that lies at anchor, with a strong cable and a firm grip of the flukes in a good holding-ground, and rides out any storm without stirring one fathom’s length from its place, exhibits one form of this perseverance, that is patience.  The ship with sails wisely set, and a firm hand at the tiller, and a keen eye on the compass, that uses the utmost blast to hear it nearer its desired haven, and never yaws one hairbreadth from the course that is marked out for it, exhibits the other and the higher form.  And that is the kind of thing that the Apostle is here recommending to us--not merely passive endurance, but a brave, active perseverance in spite of antagonisms, in the course that conscience, illuminated by God, has bidden us to run.  [27]            



1:4                                                       Translations

Weymouth:     Only let endurance have perfect results so that you may become perfect and complete, deficient in nothing.

WEB:              Let endurance have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Young’s:         and let the endurance have a perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire -- in nothing lacking.

Conte (RC):    and patience brings a work to perfection,

so that you may be perfect and whole, deficient in



1:4                   But let patience.  He must learn to “endure hardness” (2 Timothy 2:3), and bear meekly and even gladly all the trials which are to strengthen him for the holy war.  “You cannot,” says the old German divine, “prevent the birds flying over your head, but you can from making nests in your hair;” and the soul victorious over some such trying onset is by that very triumph stronger and better able to undergo the next assault.  [46]

                        have her perfect work.  Produce its full and appropriate effects, through your enduring to the end all the trials which God appoints to you.  Matthew 24:13.  [14]

                        Give it full scope, under whatever trials befall you.  [15]

                        Better, and let endurance have a perfect work, there being sequence of thought but not contrast.  The word for “perfect” expresses the perfection of that which reaches its end, and so implies, possibly, a reference to our Lord’s words in Matthew 10:22.  The form of the counsel implies that the work might be hindered unless the will of those who were called to suffer co-operated with the Divine purpose.  [38]

                        “Perfect,” in this verse, is teleioi, finished, brought to an end, complete. It is the strongest adjective in the Greek language, descriptive of a work actually and absolutely finished.  [48]

                        The Syro-Phoenician woman (Mark 7:26) is an illustration of the testing of faith, endured to the end.  [50]

                        that ye may be.  I.e., in order to accomplish this goal.  [rw]    

perfect.  The word is used in the N.T. of Christians who have attained maturity of character and understanding (Colossians 1:28, 4:12; Philippians 3:15).  [50] 

The word “perfect” has been misinterpreted by some as if it meant an assumed Christian perfection or sinlessness.  It does not mean that, but it means the perfect work of patience, enduring to the end, when self will is subdued and the will of God is fully accepted.  The result is that there is no deficiency in the practical life of the believer.  [23]

and entire [complete, NKJV].  Fully developed in all the attributes of a Christian character.  [21] 

                        wanting [lacking, NKJV] nothing.     Of St. James’s perfect man we may note [that] he is not a sudden product, even by faith, but a growth from trial, persistence, and experience. [39]

                        [The process] must not be broken off in the middle of its operation but must be allowed to continue till the metal of the soul is fully refined.  There is a story, often repeated, that someone was observing a silversmith smelting silver [and] asked him how long the process took.  “Till I can see clearly my own image reflected on the surface,” was the answer.  [41]



1:5                                                       Translations

Weymouth:     And if any one of you is deficient in wisdom, let him ask God for it, who gives with open hand to all men, and without upbraiding; and it will be given him.

WEB:              But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach; and it will be given to him.

Young’s:         and if any of you do lack wisdom, let him ask from God, who is giving to all liberally, and not reproaching, and it shall be given to him.

Conte (RC):    But if anyone among you is in need of wisdom, let him petition God, who gives abundantly to all without reproach, and it shall be given to him.


1:5                   If.  The connection of this verse with the preceding is not very obvious.  It may be as follows:  You may by your trials be thrown into a state of perplexity; you may want wisdom; if so, ask it of God.  [51]

any of you lack wisdom.  To feel and act right under all circumstances, especially in trials.  [14] 

                        ‘Wisdom’ is not knowledge, though it involves knowledge, for the most learned persons are often the least wise.  ‘Wisdom’ is the right use of knowledge.  [49]

Wisdom is necessary for the due discharge of every office of life:  but it is more particularly necessary for a Christian, on account of the many difficulties to which he is subjected by his Christian profession.  For no sooner does he give himself up to the service of his God, than his friends and relatives exert themselves to draw him back again to the world.  [10]    

Wisdom, unlike the Torah, was not regarded as the exclusive possession of the Jews, though these had it in more abundant measure, e.g., it is said in Kiddushin, 49 b: “Ten measures of wisdom came down from heaven, and nine of them tell to the lot of the Holy Land”.  [36]      

                        It is the same as the wisdom of the Book of Proverbs, in which [it] is inseparably joined [with] the knowledge of the will of God and the doing of it.  Thus it comprehends, as we may say, all moral excellence.  Thus, “with the lowly is wisdom” (11:2); “With the well-advised is wisdom” (13:10); “The fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom” (13:10); “the fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom” (15:33); “He that getteth wisdom loveth his own soul” (19:8), &c.  [41]  

                        Cf. Wisdom of Solomon (9:6), “For even if a man be perfect among the sons of men, yet if the wisdom that cometh from thee be not with him, he shall be held in no account.”  [45]

                        let him ask of God.  By believing, fervent prayer.  [28]

We should not pray so much for removal of an affliction as for wisdom to make a right use of it.  And who is there that does not [lack] wisdom under any great trials to guide him in his judging of things, in the government of his own spirit and temper, and in the management of his affairs?  To be wise in trying times is a special gift of God, and to Him we must seek for it.  [5]

                        In one of Cicero’s moral books, in speaking of the things which we could properly ask of the gods, he enumerates such things as wealth, honor, or health of body, but he adds it would be absurd to ask wisdom of any god, for it would be totally out of his power to give such a thing to his worshippers, whereas we Christians, and even the sincere and faithful Jews in the old times, believed that it was the first thing we have to ask of the true God.  [41] 

                        To obtain ‘wisdom,’ the first thing you have to do is to recognize it to be a gift.  ‘Wisdom’ seems to be such a natural development of mind that we cannot easily get rid of the idea that if we only think enough—think long enough and think deeply enough, we shall think ourselves into wisdom.  But to the ‘wisdom’ such as God gave Joseph in the sight of Pharaoh—that ‘wisdom’ of which some asked, ‘Whence hath this man wisdom?’—the wisdom ‘which is first pure’—the ‘wisdom’ no science, no self-discipline, no effort will secure—the road is prayer, only prayer, communion with the Unseen.  Now the way to ‘ask’ is practically twofold. There is making it the subject of your stated prayer, and there is also the secret prayer in the heart, darted forth just at the moment when the emergency occurs and the need is felt.  [49]

                        that giveth to all men.  That ask aright.  [15]

                        Who ask according to God’s directions.  [14]

                        James has an arrangement of words in the original which can scarcely be reproduced in an English translation, but which may be partially represented thus:  “Let him ask of the giving God.”  That represents not so much the divine giving as an act, but, if I may so say, as a divine habit.  [27]

liberally.  Literally, simply, in contrast with giving with the upbraiding, as follows.  There are givers that insult and rebuke while they give, and whom it is an agony to approach with a request.  But to those who ask aright, God is ready; there need not be any fear that he will refuse or give with [insults].  [39]

“Open thy mouth wide and I shall fill it” [Psalms 81:10].  “If ye, being evil, give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?”  “It shall come to pass that before they call I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear” (Isaiah 65:24).  [41]

and upbraideth not.  Either with their past wickedness, or present unworthiness.  [15]

Does not reproach, rebuke, or treat harshly.  He does not coldly repel us, if we come and ask what we need, though we do it often and with [passion].  Compare Luke 18:1-7.  The proper meaning of the Greek word is to rail at, reproach, revile, chide; and the object here is probably to place the manner in which God bestows his favors in contrast with what sometimes occurs among men.  We shall never be reproached in an unfeeling manner, or meet with a harsh response.  [31]

This is added, lest any one should fear to come too often to God.  Those who are the most liberal among men, when any one asks often to be helped, mention their formal acts of kindness, and thus excuse themselves for the future.  Hence, a mortal man, however open-handed he may be, we are ashamed to weary by asking too often. But James reminds us, that there is nothing like this in God; for he is ready ever to add new blessings to former ones.  [35]

                        and it shall be given him.  Patience is more in the power of a good man than wisdom; the former is to be exercised, the latter to be asked for.  [26]

                        Compare Jeremiah 29:12-13, “Then shall ye call upon me, and go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.  And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with your whole heart.”  See also Matthew 7:7-8; Matthew 21:22; Mark 11:24; 1 John 3:22; 1 John 5:14.  This promise in regard to the wisdom that may be necessary for us, is absolute; and we may be sure that if it be asked in a proper manner it will be granted us.  About many things there might be doubt whether, if they were granted, they would be for our real welfare, and therefore there may be a doubt whether it would be consistent for God to bestow them; but there can be no such doubt about wisdom. That is always for our good; and we may be sure, therefore, that we shall obtain that, if the request be made with a right spirit.  [31]



1:6                                                       Translations

Weymouth:     But let him ask in faith and have no doubts; for he who has doubts is like the surge of the sea, driven by the wind and tossed into spray.

WEB:              But let him ask in faith, without any doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven by the wind and tossed.

Young’s:         and let him ask in faith, nothing doubting, for he who is doubting hath been like a wave of the sea, driven by wind and tossed.

Conte (RC):    But he should ask with faith, doubting nothing. For he who doubts is like a wave on the ocean, which is moved about by the wind and carried away;


1:6                   But.  As an essential prerequisite to our obtaining an answer to our prayers.  [51]

let him ask in faith.  The hearty and loving trust that God is ready and willing.  [39]

The prominence thus given to faith at the very outset of the Epistle must be borne in mind in connection with the subsequent teaching of James 2:14-26.  Faith, i.e. trust in God, as distinct from belief in a dogma, is with him, as with Paul, of the very essence of the spiritual life.  [38]

                        Interpreted as a general statement:  The object of the prayer is not here named, where only the necessary condition of prayer is treated of.  [8]

                        That is, in confidence that God will grant what is asked.  [16]   

Believing that God is; that he has all good; and that he is ever ready to impart to his creatures whatever they need.  [18]

Interpreted specifically of the “wisdom” that is explicitly mentioned:  In confidence that God will do as he has declared, and give to those who thus ask Him the wisdom which they need.  [14]

                        Ancient Jewish concept of faith [36]:  [Faith] as used in this Epistle, refers to the state of mind in which a man not only believes in the existence of God, but in which His ethical character is apprehended and the evidence of His good-will towards man is acknowledged; it is a belief in the beneficent activity, as well as in the personality, of God; it includes reliance on God and the expectation that what is asked for will be granted by Him.  The word here does not connote faith in the sense of a body of doctrine.

            This idea of faith is not specifically Christian; it was, and is, precisely that of the Jews; with these אמונה (Emûnah) is just that perfect trust in God which is expressed in what is called the “Creed of Maimonides,” or the “Thirteen principles of faith”; it is there said: “I believe with perfect faith that the Creator, blessed be His name, is the Author and Guide of everything that has been created, and that He alone has made, does make, and will make all things”. 

In Talmudical literature, which, in this as in so much else, embodies much ancient material, the Rabbis constantly insist on the need of faith as being that which is “perfect trust in God”; “those who are lacking in faith,” (cf.Matthew 6:30) are held up to rebuke; it is said in Sotah, ix. 12 that the disappearance of “men of faith” will bring about the downfall of the world.  Faith therefore, in the sense in which it is used in this Epistle, was the characteristic mark of the Jew as well as of the Christian. 

                        nothing wavering [with no doubting, NKJV].  Not doubting the truth of his declarations.  [14]

                        Compare Matt. 21:21.  Not equivalent to unbelief, but expressing the hesitation which balances between faith and unbelief, and inclines toward the latter.  This idea is brought out in the next sentence.  [2]

                        It seems as if the Apostle had here the words of the Lord before him:  “Whatsoever things ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them and ye shall have them” (Mark 11:24).  [41]

                        For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea.  Never at rest.  [34]

Not fixed or settled in purposes, plans, or efforts.  [14]

                        Revision, surge.  Only here and Luke 8:24; though the kindred verb occurs at Ephesians 4:14.  The word is admirably chosen, as by a writer who lived near the sea and was familiar with its aspects.  The general distinction between this and the more common κῦμα, wave, is that κλύδων describes the long ridges of water as they are propelled in horizontal lines over the vast surface of the sea; while κῦμα denotes the pointed masses which toss themselves up from these under the action of the wind.  Hence the word κλύδων here is explained, and the picture completed by what follows: a billow or surge, driven by the wind in lines, and tossed into waves.  Both here and in the passage in Luke the word is used in connection with the wind.  It emphasizes the idea of extension, while the other word throws forward the idea of concentrating into a crest at a given point.  Hence, in the figure, the emphasis falls on the tossing; not only moving before the impulse of the wind, but not even moving in regular lines; tossed into rising and falling peaks.  [2]

                        driven with the wind and tossed.  Better, driven by the winds and blasts, both words describing the action of a storm at sea, the latter pointing especially to sudden gusts and squalls.  The image, true at all times and for all nations, was specially forcible for a people to whom, like the Jews, the perils of the sea were comparatively unfamiliar. Compare the description of the storm in Proverbs 23:34 and the comparison of the wicked to the “troubled sea” in Isaiah 57:20.  Popular speech likens a man who has no steadfastness to a ship drifting on the troubled waves of life.  St James goes one step farther and likens him to the unresting wave itself.  In Ephesians 4:14 the same image describes those who are “carried about by every wind of doctrine.”  So far as St James wrote from personal experience we trace, perhaps, a recollection of stormy nights upon the Sea of Galilee.  If we could identify him with the son of Zebedee, we might think of him as remembering such a night as that of Matthew 8:24 or John 6:18.  [38]

So he that comes to God with unsettled convictions and hopes, is liable to be driven about by every new feeling that may spring up in the mind.  At one moment, hope and faith impel him to come to God; then the mind is at once filled with uncertainty and doubt, and the soul is agitated and restless as the ocean.  Compare Isaiah 57:20.  Hope on the one hand, and the fear of not obtaining the favor which is desired on the other, keep the mind restless and discomposed [= disturbed and agitated].  [31]

                        Another possibility:  It may be that the Apostle has in his mind not only doubting as to whether he will receive (as all seem to agree that he has), but also hesitancy as regards his request if it is for some spiritual grace.  He is not quite sure that he would like to receive it.  He has reservations.  He does not with his whole soul desire the grace that his lips ask for.  [41] 



1:7                                                       Translations

Weymouth:     A person of that sort must not expect to receive anything from the Lord--

WEB:              For let that man not think that he will receive anything from the Lord.

Young’s:         for let not that man suppose that he shall receive anything from the Lord--

Conte (RC):    then a man should not consider that he would receive anything from the Lord.


1:7                   For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.  The man whose mind is divided, who is not properly persuaded either of his own wants or God’s sufficiency.  Such persons may pray, but having no faith,     they can get no answer.  [8]

Such a distrustful, shifting, unsettled person is not likely to value a favor from God as he should do, and therefore cannot expect to receive it.  In asking for heavenly wisdom we are never likely to prevail if we have not a heart to prize it above rubies, and the greatest things in this world. [5]

This warning supposes that the doubter fancies that he will receive an answer to his prayers; but it is a vain delusion: his expectations will be disappointed.  [51]    

of the Lord.  It is a question whether the Divine Title is used in the Old Testament sense, for the Father, or, as generally, though not exclusively, in the New Testament, for the Son.  On the whole, looking (1) to the meaning of the word in James 5:7, 5:14-15, (2) and to the frequent use of “God” and “the Father,” where Christ is not meant, there seems a balance of evidence in favor of the latter meaning.  Christ also, not less than the Father, is thought of as giving or not giving, in answer to prayer.  Possibly, however, the word was used without the thought of a distinction between the Divine Persons.  [38]    



1:8                                                       Translations

Weymouth:     such a one is a man of two minds, undecided in every step he takes.

WEB:              He is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

Young’s:         a two-souled man is unstable in all his ways.

Conte (RC):    For a man who is of two minds is inconstant in all his ways.


1:8                   A double minded man.  A man of no fixed, decided purpose.  [22]

                        The same word ( δίψυχος) is applied, James 4:8, to those who have not a heart pure and simply given up to God.  The word does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament, or in the Septuagint.  It may be translated “having two souls,” as we speak of “a double-tongued” man.  Such a man has, as it were, two souls, of which the one holds one opinion, the other holds another.  Sirach 2:12, “Woe be to fearful hearts, and faint hands, and the sinner that goeth two ways!  [26]

                        The double-minded man is one who has two such opposite modes of thought and conduct alternately prevailing as to seem to be two different individuals at different times.  He is “unlike himself.”  So a young Persian explained to Cyrus his two opposite courses of conduct under different influences by saying, “I must have two souls.”  The word two-souled was probably St. James’s invention, but it was so expressive as to be adopted by the early Christian writers.  So the Apostolic Constitutions say, “Be not two-souled in thy prayer, as to whether it shall be fulfilled or not.”  And Clement of Rome says, “Wretched are the double-souled, who divide their souls in two.”  [39]

                        is unstable.  “Unstable,” perhaps with the meaning of “inconsistent,” attempting at once to serve the world and God.  [41]

                        The Greek word is found in the LXX of Isaiah 54:11, where the English version has “tossed with tempest.”  It is not found elsewhere in the New Testament, except as a various reading in James 3:8, but the corresponding noun is often used both literally and figuratively (Luke 21:9; 1 Corinthians 14:33; 2 Corinthians 6:5, 12:20; James 3:16 and the LXX of Proverbs 26:28).  There is a slight change of imagery, and the picture brought before us is that of a man who does not walk straight onward, but in “all his ways” goes to and fro, now on this side, now on that, staggering, like a drunken man.  [38]    

                        in all his ways.  That is, not merely in regard to prayer, the point particularly under discussion, but in respect to everything.  The hesitancy which manifested on that one subject would extend to all; and we might expect to find such a man irresolute and undetermined in all things.  [31]

                        This necessarily arises from his double-mindedness.  Where there is a want of unity in the internal life, it is also wanting in the external life (Huther).  The man is actuated sometimes by one impulse, and sometimes by another; and thus will be perpetually running into inconsistencies of conduct.  He wants [= lacks] decision of character.  [51]



1:9                                                       Translations

Weymouth:     Let a brother in humble life rejoice when raised to a higher position.

WEB:              But let the brother in humble circumstances glory in his high position.

Young’s:         And let the brother who is low rejoice in his exaltation.

Conte (RC):    Now a humble brother should glory in his exaltation.


1:9                   Let.  The connection with the preceding is not obvious.  It appears to be this:   we must avoid all doubting of God in prayer, all double-mindedness; we must exercise confidence in Him, and realize His gracious dealings in all the dispensations of His Providence; and, whether rich or poor, we must place implicit trust in Him.  [51]

the brother of low degree.  Low degree is to be taken literally, as poor or oppressed.  Let such a one glory in his inner integrity, and perhaps also in the hope of future exaltation in the Messianic kingdom.  [16]

                        Now we hear what it was that so often made the Christian brethren in foreign lands to doubt their faith.  It was their low and oppressed condition, which seemed to stand in such a glaring contradiction to the time of redemption, which they had promised themselves from the Messiah.  Christianity, we know, among Jews and Gentiles (cf. 1 Cor. 1:26), had found acceptance in the lower circles; and if their rich associates, who had remained in their unbelief, even before this already despised and oppressed the poor, they thought that they could now abuse the renegades to their hearts’ content.  But the believers are to know that, in contrast to these they could boast of the greatest advantage in the possession of redemption, which has already been given them through Christ, and which has been guaranteed them for the future.  [9]

                        Rejoice [glory, NKJV] in that he is exalted.  In his privileges and hopes as a Christian.  [34]

To be a child of God, and an heir of glory.  [15]   

                        Paradox for both the poor and the rich:  “I know thy poverty,” said the Spirit unto the Church in Smyrna, “but thou art rich” (Revelation 2:9); and to the Laodiceans, “Thou sayest, I am rich . . ., but thou art poor” (Revelation 3:17).  [46]



1:10                                                     Translations

Weymouth:     but a rich man should rejoice in being brought low, for like flowers among the herbage rich men will pass away.

WEB:              and the rich, in that he is made humble, because like the flower in the grass, he will pass away.

Young’s:         and the rich in his becoming low, because as a flower of grass he shall pass away.

Conte (RC):    and a rich one, in his humiliation, for he will pass away like the flower of the grass.


1:10                 But the rich.  In worldly possessions.  [14]

                        [This would be a] Christian, who would be a special mark for persecutors, and would have much to lose by persecution.  Some scholars on account of the disparagement of the “rich” in 2:6-7, 5:1-6, suppose that the rich heathen are meant, and take the construction somewhat differently, e.g. “the rich man glories in that which is really his humiliation,” verses 2-3.  But this view is improbable. [45]

                        Although most of the early Christians were poor, yet there were several among them who were rich; and to them there were addressed special exhortations; as when St. Paul says:  ‘Charge them that are rich not to trust in uncertain riches’ (1 Timothy 6:17).  [51]

                        in that he is made low.  Spiritually, by being brought into a lowly and humble state of mind.  The apostle exhibits, in this and the preceding verse, the two sides of Christian character which are appropriate to the two conditions of rich and poor.  [14]

                        Is humbled by a deep sense of his true condition.  [15, 47]

                        Or:  Though he be made low by affliction and distress, his true exaltation must be, like that of the poor man,             inward.  [16]

                        There were indeed not many rich or mighty among the early Christians (1 Corinthians 1:26), yet even before the death of Christ we read of a Nicodemus, a Zacchaeus, and a Joseph of Arimathaea.  [50]

                        because as the flower of the grass.  In the Hebrew, “flower of the field.”  The LXX, which James follows, perhaps intended this phrase to mean “the flowers found among the grass;” or they may have given what they supposed to be a literal rendering of the Hebrew without troubling themselves to think what it mean. [45] 

he shall pass away.   A common figure in the O.T., expressive of the instability of earthly blessings.  ‘All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: the grass withereth, and the flower fadeth’ (Isaiah 40:6-7).  [51]

A general truth applicable to all, but especially neglected by the rich.  [50]



1:11                                                     Translations

Weymouth:     The sun rises with his scorching heat and dries up the herbage, so that its flowers drop off and the beauty of its appearance perishes, and in the same way rich men with all their prosperity will fade away.

WEB:              For the sun arises with the scorching wind, and withers the grass, and the flower in it falls, and the beauty of its appearance perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in his pursuits.

Young’s:         for the sun did rise with the burning heat, and did wither the grass, and the flower of it fell, and the grace of its appearance did perish, so also the rich in his way shall fade away!

Conte (RC):    For the sun has risen with a scorching heat, and has dried the grass, and its flower has fallen off, and the appearance of its beauty has perished. So also will the rich one wither away, according to his paths.


1:11                 For the sun is no sooner risen.  When the fierce sun of summer arises the grass in Palestine dies.  [22]  

                        with a burning heat.  The figure is borrowed from Isa. xl. 6-8; Ps. xc. 6, ciii. 15; Job xiv.2.  [16]

                        Some understand the burning heat here to be that of the sun’s rays only, others that the burning heat is the hot blast from the desert to the south or the east of Palestine, most probably the latter, for it is the most scorching.  The Dean of Rochester says more probably it is the burning wind, blowing like the host blast of a furnace from the torrid wilderness, for this, rather than the mere power of the sun’s rays, is the scourge of Palestine, scorching and shriveling up the vegetation.  In Job 27:21 we read “a burning wind shall catch him (the rich man) and he shall depart.”  [41]

                        Rev., with the scorching wind.  The [Greek] article denotes something familiar; and the reference may be to the scorching east-wind (Job 1:19, Sept.; Ezek. 17:10). which withers vegetation.  Some of the best authorities, however, prefer the rendering of the A.V.  [2]

                        but it withereth the grass and the flower thereof falleth.  The reader will remember the words of the Lord, “Consider the lilies of the field. . . .  I say unto you that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”  [41]  

                        The aorist tenses, in the original, give liveliness to the picture, and signify how suddenly the grass withered.  [50]

                        and the grace of the fashion of it [its beautiful appearance, NKJV] perisheth.  A very graphic description.  On account of the blighting of the planet, we see the flower not only fading, but actually falling off.  The grace and beauty of its appearance is destroyed.  [50]

                        so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways [pursuits, NKJV].  In his wanderings in pursuit of business or pleasure, perhaps with a special reference to the activity manifested by the Jews in trading.  [50]

                        Earthly glory is transient; and a man may well rejoice in what leads him to feel this, and secure the glory which is abiding.  Thus will the poor be kept from envying the rich, and the rich from glorying in their wealth and despising the poor.  [14]

                        Of course allusion is here made to the man who trusts in his riches.  However his temporal life may be easy and prosperous, his spiritual life shall wither and decay.  In the words of the Lord:  “The cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, shall choke the word, and it will be unfruitful” (Mark 4:19).  [41]

                        Or:  Laurentius incorrectly understands by the sun “Christ,” and by the rising of the sun  the day of the Lord:”  thus the whole is an image of the judgment destroying the rich, yet so that the individual parts are to be retained in their appropriate meaning.  [8]

                        his ways [pursuits, NKJV].  [Ways:]  better, “goings”; perhaps used of the journeyings of rich merchants (James 4:13).  [24]

                        Or:  Only elsewhere in the New Testament, Luke 13:22, in the sense of “journey;” it is sometimes taken in this literal sense here, of the journeyings of merchants.  This seems awkward.  In the O.T. a man’s “steps” or “goings” are often a figure for the course and conduct of his life, e.g., Psalms 17:5, “My steps have held fast to thy paths;” cf. also the phrase “going out and coming in,” Isaiah 37:28; so probably here.  [45]  

                        Or—the emphasis is on the wealth passing away rather than the rich man himself?  Not the rich brother, observe, is to fade thus, though his wealth will so pass away.  The warning is rather (as in Mark 10:24) “for them that trust in riches.”  Even “the mammon of unrighteousness,” well used, will make for us “friends that may receive us into everlasting habitations” (Luke 16:9).  And he who, out of the possessions wherewith God has blessed him, “deviseth liberal things, by liberal things shall stand” (Isaiah 32:8).  There seems, moreover, looking closely at the text, a special fitness in its exact words: for they mean that the rich shall perish in their journeyings for the sake of gain.  [46]



1:12                                                     Translations

Weymouth:     Blessed is he who patiently endures trials; for when he has stood the test, he will gain the victor's crown--even the crown of Life--which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.

WEB:              Blessed is the man who endures temptation, for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord promised to those who love him.

Young’s:         Happy the man who doth endure temptation, because, becoming approved, he shall receive the crown of the life, which the Lord did promise to those loving Him.

Conte (RC):    Blessed is the man who suffers temptation. For when he has been proven, he shall receive the crown of life which God has promised to those who love him.


1:12                 Blessed.  There is a difference between happiness and bliss or blessedness.  Mere happiness cannot satisfy the spiritual nature of man, for happiness is a selfish impulse seeking a complete life in the world.  Blessedness can only be found where there is peace, resulting from the assurance of forgiveness of sins and from Christian contentment.  [50]

is the man.  Whether poor or rich.  [16]

                        that endureth temptation.  Bears his trials with a right spirit.  [14]

                        The writer here returns to the thought in verse 2.  [16]

                        The temptation or trial here must not be limited to what are usually called the trials of life, but must also refer to temptation to sin.  Blessed is the man who when tempted to think that life is not worth living, looks to the trials of the Son of God, and how unflinchingly He bore Himself under them, and overcame them by submitting to the will of God in them.  And blessed is the man who, when tempted to fall from God by sin, looks to the Son of God enduring the assaults of Satan in the wilderness, and beating him back by the sword of the Spirit, the word of God.  [41]

                        Not merely falleth into divers temptations, but endureth them, cometh out of them unscathed, does not succumb under them.  A man who has been tempted, and has come victorious out of the temptation, is a far nobler man than one who preserves a moral character, because he has never been tempted.  Temptations impart a manliness, a strength, a vigor to virtue.  Victory over temptation is a higher attainment than untried innocence.  Untried innocence is the negative innocence of children: righteousness approved by trial is the positive holiness of apostles, martyrs, and confessors. ‘Behold,’ says St. James elsewhere, ‘we count them happy that endure’ (James 5:11).  [51]

                        for when he is tried [has been approved, NKJV].  He is approved because he has victoriously endured, and this approval is the reason why “he shall receive the crown of life.”  [50]

                        he shall receive.  Not now, but at the last; as St. Paul says, “I have fought the good fight, . . . henceforth there is laid up for me at the crown of righteousness, which the Lord the Righteous Judge shall give me at that day” (2 Timothy 4:8)—not at the time of trial, or even the time of death, but at the time of the Second Advent. [41]

                        The crown of life is promised not only to great and eminent saints, but to all those who have the love of God reigning in their hearts. [5]

                        According to this the apostle here suggests a twofold condition of receiving the crown of life--(a) believing patience, (b) believing love.  In the same way he elsewhere often associates together faith, love, hope, and patience.  [6]

                        the crown of life.  Eternal life is called "a crown:"  1. For the perpetuity of it; for a crown hath neither beginning nor ending.  2. For the plenty; because as the crown compasseth on every side, so there is nothing wanting in this life.  3. The dignity; eternal life is a coronation day. (Bishop Lake.)  [29]

                        The same phrase occurs in Revelation 2:10.  We read also of “crowns” of righteousness (2 Timothy 4:8) and glory (1 Peter 5:4).  [45]

This crown consists in life eternal (1 John 2:25).  The nearest parallels to our passage are Revelation 2:10; 2 Timothy 4:8; 1 Peter 5:4.  Although eternal life begins in this present life (John 3:36; 5:24; 17:3), and is enhanced at the time of the believer’s death (Philippians 1:23), its fullness is only attained in the completed kingdom of God.  The believer will not receive this crown at the time of the trial, nor even at the particular judgment of approval that awaits him at death, but, as we learn from 2 Timothy 4:8 and 1 Peter 5:4, at the time of the Second Advent.  [50]    

crown.  There can be no crown of victory without a battle.  And the very enduring of temptation, which is this battle, is declared to be blessed.  Though Satan may, and sometimes doth indeed, get a point upon the Child of God, yea, to the extent of deep wounds, as in the instances of David, and of Peter; yet it is the end, which crowns the action.  Soldiers in battle, may be hardly put to it at times [= heavily endangered], and sometimes taken prisoners, and sometimes receive dreadful wounds; yet, if victory at length is obtained by them, they lose sight of former skirmishes, prisons, or wounds, in the joy of a complete conquest at last. [25] 

If these words were found in one of St. Paul’s Epistles, the reference would be to the Grecian games—to the crown of laurel which was bestowed on the victor in these games.  But here there can be no such reference; as these games were discountenanced by the Jews, and regarded as polluting.  The reference is to the conqueror’s crown, or to the royal diadem; it is a figure not uncommon in the O.T. (Psalms 21:3).  So also in the Book of Wisdom:  ‘The righteous live for evermore, their reward also is with the Lord, therefore shall they receive a beautiful crown from the Lord’s hand’ (Wisdom 5:16-17).  As has been beautifully said: ‘Earthly trials are the flowers of which the heavenly garland is made’ (Bishop Wordsworth).  [51]

of life.  Life here is used in the same sense as in John 17:3:  “And this is life eternal, that they should know thee the only true God, and him whom, thou didst send, even Jesus Christ.”  [1]

                        which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him.  The tense of the verb (“which the Lord promised”), as if referring to some special utterance, may lead us to think of such words as those of John 14:21, 14:23.  A more general promise of the same kind to those that love the Lord is found in Sirach 34:16 [KJV:  “For the eyes of the Lord are upon them that love him, he is their mighty protection and strong stay, a defense from heat, and a cover from the sun at noon, a preservation from stumbling, and an help from falling.”]  [??]

                        Or:   It is highly probable that in this verse we have a record of the oral teaching of the Lord Jesus, such as we have in Acts 20:35.  [50]


                        In depth:  Crowns as Roman royal and military awards [20].  ‘Here is an allusion to the crowning of victors in war, or in the games.  After a victory, the general assembled his troops, and, in presence of the whole army, bestowed rewards on those who deserved them.  The highest reward was the civic crown, corona civica.  Given to him who had saved the life of a citizen, with the inscription ob civem servantum; it was of oak leaves, and, by the appointment of the general, presented by the person who had been saved, to his preserver, whom he ever after respected as a parent.  [Compare 1 Thess. 2: 19, 20].  Under the emperors it was always bestowed by the prince.  The person who received it, wore it at the spectacles, and sat next to the senate.  When he entered, the audience rose up, as a mark of respect. 

The corona vallaris, or castrensis, was given to him who first mounted the rampart, or entered the camp, of the enemy.  It was golden, and given by the general:  as also the corona navalis, to him who first boarded an enemy’s ship, and the corona muralis, to him who first scaled the walls in an assault. 

When an army was freed from a blockade, the soldiers gave to their deliverer, a crown, made of the grass which grew in the place where they had been blocked up; hence called graminea corona obsidionalis.  This, of all military honors, was esteemed the greatest. 

Smaller rewards [were given such] as bracelets, necklaces, etc.  These presents were conferred by the general, in presence of the army; and such as received them, after being publicly praised, were placed next him.  They ever after kept them with great care, and wore them at the spectacles, and on all public occasions.’  Roman Antiquites.  Adam.  [20] 



1:13                                                     Translations

Weymouth:     Let no one say when passing through trial, "My temptation is from God;" for God is incapable of being tempted to do evil, and He Himself tempts no one.

WEB:              Let no man say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God," for God can't be tempted by evil, and he himself tempts no one.

Young’s:         Let no one say, being tempted -- 'From God I am tempted,' for God is not tempted of evil, and Himself doth tempt no one.

Conte (RC):    No one should say, when he is tempted, that he was tempted by God. For God does not entice toward evils, and he himself tempts no one.


1:13                 Let no man say when he is tempted.  Neither with his mouth, nor so much as in his heart, cast the blame of his sins upon God, to clear himself.  [28]

                        This warning is very necessary, for nothing is more common among men than to transfer to another the blame of the evils they commit; and they then especially seem to free themselves, when they ascribe it to God Himself.  [35]

                        I am tempted of God.  We may not use those words, but we are all inclined to excuse our wrong-doing on the ground of some circumstance or inheritance which is logically related to the providence of God, which therefore comes from God.  [7]

                        Man would fain shift off responsibility for his sins upon Providence, or his condition, or his nature, or Adam’s fall.  Adam excuses his sin by charging Eve with the seduction and Eve the serpent, but the enticement comes from the weakness within or the triumph of the lower nature over the higher.  [40]

                        These conditions of life in which we find ourselves have been ordained for a test, and not as a temptation; for God, who Himself can be induced by nothing to do any thing evil, certainly cannot cause others to do evil.  That which converts the test into a temptation is solely the sinful lust that comes from our own hearts.  [9]

                        Those who have embraced this attitude:  [The attitude is presented] in the utterer’s own words, implying that there were errorists who declared outright that we have above us an evil Infinite.  Others, as Huther well remarks, disown the responsibility for wickedness, by imputing its causation to God.  So in Homer’s Iliad, “But I am not the cause, but Jupiter and Fate.”  And in the comic poet, Plautus, “God was the impeller to me.”  And Terence, “What if some god willed this?”  So the Gnostics, descending from Simon Magus, held all sins to be predestinated, and were strenuously opposed by Justin Martyr and the early Church, as thereby making God responsible for sin.  Predestination, as Pressense truly says, was viewed by the early Church as a heresy.  To this saying our apostle opposes a true analysis of the inward nature of our temptations and yieldings to sin.  [39]

                        for God cannot be tempted.  Evil is contrary to His nature.  [19]

                        There is nothing in Him that has a tendency to wrong; there can be nothing presented from without to induce Him to do wrong:  (1) There is no evil passion to be gratified, as there is in men; (2) There is no want of power, so that an allurement could be presented to seek what He has not; (3) There is no want of wealth, for He has infinite resources, and all that there is or can be is his, Psalms 50:10-11; (4) There is no want of happiness, that he should seek happiness in sources which are not now in his possession. Nothing, therefore, could be presented to the divine mind as an inducement to do evil.  [31]

                        “Cannot be tempted” is a single word in the Greek.  The word only occurs here in the New Testament; it is unusual in Greek literature generally, and its meaning is a matter of controversy.  The most probable rendering is that common to the A.V. and to the R.V. text, on which we are commenting.  Another translation is that of the R.V. margin, “God is untried in evil,” i.e. “has no experience of evil, does not know from His own experience what it is to feel or follow the promptings of an evil nature.”  Either view gives the same general sense.  It is absurd to think of God as tempting men, in the sense of trying to induce them to do evil, because such tempting on His part would imply that He took pleasure in evil.  So far from that, He is either (according to the view taken) unversed in evil, or cannot even feel in the suggestion of evil any temptation; how then can He take an active delight in trying to bring about evil?  [45]   

                        with evil.  Evil has no power over God, and no alliance with him.  [13]                                     That it is the special temptation to lust, and not, as at verse 2, the temptations arising from affliction which are here spoken of, is evident from verse 14.  [6]

neither tempteth he any man.  To commit sin:  that is not God’s design in sending trials, or in any thing He does:  what He does is designed to promote holiness and happiness.  If men commit sin, or grow worse under any of his dealings, they pervert and abuse them; the fault is theirs, not His.  [14]


                        In depth:  In what sense does God tempt/not tempt?  One approach:  the difference between internal and external sources of temptation [10]:  There are temptations necessarily connected with the Christian life, and which often, through the weakness of our nature, become the “occasions” of sin:  and there are other temptations which are the direct and immediate “cause” of sin.  The former are external; the latter are within a man’s own bosom.  The former may be referred to God as their author, and be considered as a ground of joy:  the latter must be traced to our own wicked hearts; and are proper grounds of the deepest humiliation.  This distinction is made in the passage before us.  In the foregoing verses the former are spoken of (verses 2, 12); in the text, the latter. 

                        Argument that there are two kinds of “temptation:  only that designed to test our loyalty to Him can be described as of Divine origin [23]:  There are two sources of temptations.  There are temptations, the trial of faith which comes from God for our own good; there is a temptation of the flesh, of inward evil, which is not of God, but of the devil.  Trial of faith God permits, but when it comes to temptations of evil, to do evil, to be tempted in this fashion, God never is the author of that. God cannot be tempted with evil, nor tempteth He any man. 


                        In depth:  Could Jesus be tempted to sin [23]?  This passage [“God cannot be tempted with evil”] settles the question with which so many believers are troubled: “Could the Lord Jesus Christ sin?”  They generally quote in connection with this Hebrews 4:15, that He was tempted in all points as we are.  They claim that “all points” includes temptation to sin coming from within.  Even excellent Christians are at sea about this question. 

Our Lord Jesus Christ is very God. Being manifested in the flesh does not mean that He laid aside His Deity. James says, “God cannot be tempted with evil,” for God is absolutely holy.  Therefore our Lord could not be tempted with evil.  He had nothing of fallen man in Him; the prince of this world (Satan) came and found nothing in Him.  Furthermore, the correct translation of Hebrews 4:15 is as follows: But was in all points tempted like as we are, apart from sin. In all other points our blessed Lord was tempted, but never by indwelling sin, for He was absolutely holy in His human nature, given to Him by the Holy Spirit.



1:14                                                     Translations

Weymouth:     But when a man is tempted, it is his own passions that carry him away and serve as a bait.

WEB:              But each one is tempted, when he is drawn away by his own lust, and enticed.

Young’s:         and each one is tempted, by his own desires being led away and enticed.

Conte (RC):    Yet truly, each one is tempted by his own desires, having been enticed and drawn away.


1:14                 But every man is tempted.  A universal rule.  This is the way it always is.  [rw]

                        When he is drawn away of [by, NIKJV] his own lust.  His desire to obtain something which he cannot without doing wrong.  [14]

                        We are therefore to look for the cause of every sin in (not out of) ourselves.  [15]

The word lust has here its wider significance, of all desire toward sense gratification as used in 1 John 2.16, 17:  “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the vainglory of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.  And the world passeth away and the lust thereof.”  [1]

his own lust.  Even the suggestions of the devil do not occasion danger, before they are made our own.  Every one has his own peculiar lust, arising from his own peculiar disposition, habit, and temperament.  [26]

Not all “lusts” (“desires”) are evil, but even the most legitimate ones can be twisted into a rationale for evil if we do not guard our actions:  There is no sin in the mere desire for gain or enjoyment, which may suggest an evil impulse, but there is sin when this desire leads to wrong action.  The exposition of these verses has been based upon the view that “lust,” or rather “desire,” is used here in a bad sense as inclination to evil.  If so, the treatment of the subject is not exhaustive.  In many temptations, the suggestion or impulse arises from an innocent desire for advantages, lawful in themselves, but only to be obtained, in the special circumstances, by wrongdoing.  The desire to provide for a family may prompt a man to avail himself of opportunities of making unfair profits.  If the man yields, it is not through any positive inclination to evil, but through the lack of loyalty to righteousness.  Such cases do not seem to be in the Apostle’s mind. [45]

                        Drawn away . . . and enticed.  Only here in New Testament.  This and the following word are metaphors from hunting and fishing.  “Drawn away,” as beasts are enticed from a safe covert into a place beset with snares.  “Enticed” as a fish with bait.  [2]

                        and enticed.  If it’s not “interesting” to us it is going to be ignored.  Hence Satan has to shape his temptations of us in a form that is the most likely to gain a positive response.  [rw]

                        The Greek has the figure of catching fish, drawing the fish alluringly from the rocks.  The “smell” draws him out, the smell smelled good:  he was drawn out by his own desire to take the bait.  The devil got you with his bait and you [blame] it on the Lord.  The desire brings sin, and sin death.  That is the natural history of sinful desire.  The fish came out of the cool rocks smelling and soon he is dead up on the bank.  [43]    



1:15                                                     Translations

Weymouth:     Then the passion conceives, and becomes the parent of sin; and sin, when fully matured, gives birth to death.

WEB:              Then the lust, when it has conceived, bears sin; and the sin, when it is full grown, brings forth death.

Young’s:         afterward the desire having conceived, doth give birth to sin, and the sin having been perfected, doth bring forth death.

Conte (RC):    Thereafter, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin. Yet truly sin, when it has been consummated, produces death.


1:15                 Then when lust.  The inward desire of the soul after forbidden objects, here considered as the parent of sinful deeds.  [14]       

                        When I was a little boy going around hunting up the eggs, my mother would say, “Willie, be sure you leave a nest egg, or the hen will leave the nest.”  Good Lord, help us all to take every nest egg out of our hearts, so the devil will quit the nest.  So long as you leave a nest egg the devil will lay more and hatch them out, and you will have an everlasting brood of snakes in your heart.  [48]

                        hath conceived.  The sinful desire is the conception; the sinful deed the birth; moral and eternal death the final result.  [22]

                        it bringeth forth.  The image is interpreted in two ways.  Either (1) Sin, figured as female, is already pregnant with death, and, when full grown, bringeth forth death (so Rev., and the majority of commentators).  “The harlot, Lust, draws away and entices the man.  The guilty union is committed by the will embracing the temptress:  the consequence is that she beareth sin. . . . Then the sin, that particular sin, when grown up, herself, as if all along pregnant with it, bringeth forth death” (Alford).  Or (2) Sin, figured as male when it has reached maturity, becomes the begetter of death.  So the Vulgate, generat, and Wycliffe, gendereth.  It has the high endorsement of Bishop Lightfoot.  [2]

                        sin.  We are therefore to look for the causes of every sin chiefly in ourselves; in our appetites, passions, and corrupt inclinations.  [47]

                        and sin when it is finished [full-grown, NKJV].  In its consequences.  [14]

                        [When it is] fully developed or matured.  There is no distinction here between the internal and the external act; as if it were sin in the form of the external act which worketh death.  St. James speaks of sin in general, whether in the heart or in the life.  Sin may be developed in the heart as well as in the conduct.  [51]

                        bringeth forth death.  Eternal death, which is, to all who continue in sin, its proper result.  [14]

                        Notice the genealogy of sin [in this verse:]  Lust is the parent of sin, and sin when matured is the parent of death.  [33] 

                        The result [is] inevitable; just as much so, and as naturally, as the work of poison on the body.  There are antidotes for both, but they must be given in time; the door of mercy stands not always open, nor will the “fountain opened . . . for sin and uncleanness” (Zechariah 13:1) flow on for ever.  “Because,” says the Wisdom of God (Proverbs 1:24-26), “I have called, and ye refused . . . I also will laugh at your calamity.”  “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), and their paymaster is the devil.  [46]

                        It also cripples our ability to effectively steer others away from their own weaknesses:  The consciousness of sin will always come across his mind, when he is speaking, checking him, incapacitating him.  ‘Who am I to speak?  I, who am living myself so sinfully!’  And that conviction will stop his mouth; it will make his words hollow.  And men are keen judges of each other.  They very soon discover what is unreal in all your fine talking.  [49]







1          [Anonymous].  Teacher’s Testament/Nelson’s Explanatory Testament

            Thomas Nelson & Sons;  New York: 1912


2          Marvin R. Vincent, D.D.  Word Studies in the New Testament.  Charles

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3          Robert Young.  Commentary on the Holy Bible.  A. Fullarton & Co; 

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4          Daniel Whitby, D.D. and Moses Lowman.  A Critical Commentary and

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Philadelphia; Wiley & Putnam, 163 Broadway, New York:  1846.


5          Matthew Henry.  Vol. IV:   Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole           Bible.  New York:  Fleming H. Revell Company; Reprint.


6          Rev. Dr C. G. Barth.  The Bible Manual.  London:  James Nisbet and Co.,



7          Charles R. Erdman.  The General Epistles.  Philadelphia:  The Westminster

            Press, 1918.


8          Joh. Ed. Huther, Th. D., Critical and Exegetical Handbook to the

            General Epistles of James, Peter, John, and Jude    [Meyer’s Commentary

            on the New Testament].  New York:  Funk & Wagnalls, Publishers, 1887.


9          Professor Bernhard Weiss, D.D.  A Commentary of the New Testament             Vol. IV.  New York and London:  Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1906.


10        Charles Simeon, M.A.  Horae Homileticae  Vol. XX.  London:      Holdsworth

            and Ball, 1833.


11        Rev. S. T. Bloomfield, M.A.  Recensio Symoptica Annotations Sacrae

            [Bloomfield’s Critical Digest  Vol. VIII].  London:  C and J Rivington, 1828.                  

12        George Leo Haydock.  Haydock’s Catholic Family Bible and Commentary

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York:  Charles Scribner, 1863.


14        Anonymous  [Justin Edwards].  The New Testament of Our Lord and      Saviour Jesus Christ.  New York:  American Tract Society, 18--.  [NOTE:

This edition has more notes, but Edwards’ name is attached to     a shorter

edition of the same material at UTS, Richmond, Virginia:  CB/971KE/1851.


15        John Wesley, M.A.  Explanatory Notes upon the New Testament.  Cincinnati,

            Ohio:   Carlton & Lanahan; New York:  E. Thomas:  18--.


16        Orello Cone, D.D.  International Handbooks to the N.T.  Vol. 3:  The      Epistles.  New York:  G. P. Putnam’s Sons / Knickerbocker Press, 1901.


17        Philip Doddridge, D.D.  The Family Expositor (Paraphrase and Version of

the New Testament [American edition]).  Amherst, Ms.:  J. S. & C. Adams,

and L. Boltwood; New York:  J Leavitt, 1834.


18        Adam Clarke, LL.D., F.S.A., etc.  The New Testament of our Lord and

            Saviour Jesus Christ  Vol. VI.  New York:  Abingdon Press, [n.d.].          


19        Donald Fraser, M.A., D.D.   Synoptical Lectures of the Books of Holy    Scripture  Vol. II.  New York:  Wilbur B. Ketcham, 1885.


20        Rev. William Jenks, D.D.  The Conprehensive Commentary of the Holy

Bible.  Philadelphia:  J. B. Lippincott & Co., 1838 copyright; 1847 printing. 


21        Rev. Robert Jamieson, D.D., Rev. A. R. Fausset, A.M., Rev. David Brown, D.D.  A Commentary, Critical and explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments  Vol. II.  Hartford:  S. S. Scranton Company, 1871.


22        Barton W. Johnson.  People’s New Testament.  1891.


23        Arno Gaebelein.  Annotated Bible.  1920s.


24        John R. Dummelow.  Dummelow’s Commentary on the Bible.



25        Robert Hawker.  Poor Man’s Commentary.  1828.


26        Johann A. Bengel.   Gnomon of the New Testament.  1742.


27        Alexander MacLaren.  Exposition of the Holy Scriptures.  18--.


28        Matthew Poole.  English Annotations on the Holy Bible.  1685.


29        John Trapp.  Complete Commentary.  Written 1600s; 1865-1868 edition.


30        Joseph Sutcliffe.  Commentary on the Old and New Testaments.  1835.


31        Albert Barnes.  Notes on the New Testament.  1870.


32        James Gray.  Concise Bible Commentary.  1897-1910.


33        F. B. Meyer.  Thru The Bible (Commentary).  1914 edition.


34        John and Jacob Abbott.  Abbott’s Illustrated New Testament.  1878. 


35        John Calvin.  Commentaries.  Written in 1500s.  Printing:  1840-1857.


36        William R. Nicoll, editor.  Expositor’s Greek Testament.   1897-1910.


37        Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges:  James, 1 Peter, 2         Peter, Jude.  Each individual volume:  1896.


38        Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges:  James. 

E. M. Plumptre.  1890.          


39        D. (Daniel) D. Whedon.   Commentary on the New Testament; volume 5:

Titus to Revelation.  New York:  Hunt & Eaton, 1880.


40        Ariel A. Livermore.  The Epistles to the Hebrews, the Epistles of James,

Peter, John, and Jude and the Revelation of John the Divine[:]  Commentary and Essays.  Boston:  Lockwood, Brooks and Company. 1881.


41        M[ichael] F. Sadler.  The General Epistles of SS. James, Peter, John, and

Jude.  Second Edition.  London:  George Bell and Sons.  1895.


42        Robert S. Hunt.  The Epistle to the Hebrews and the General Epistles.  In

the Cottage Commentary series.  London:  Joseph Masters, 1865.


43        A. T. Robertson.  New Testament Interpretation (Matthew to Revelation): 

            Notes on Lectures.  Taken stenographically.  Revised Edition by William M.

            Fouts and Alice M. Fouts.  Louisville, Kentucky:  1921.  Mimeographed.           


44        William G. Humphry.  A Commentary on the Revised Version of the New

Testament.  London:  Cassell, Petter, Galpin & Company, 1882. 


45        W. H. Bennett.  The General Epistles:  James, Peter, John and Jude.  In the

Century Bible series.  Edinburgh:  T. C. & E. C. Jack, 1901.


46        E. G. Punchard.  “James” in Ellicott’s New Testament Commentary for

English Readers.  1884.


47        Joseph Benson.  Commentary on the Old and New Testaments.  1811-1815.


48        William B. Godbey.  Commentary on the New Testament.  1896-1900.   



49        James Nisbett, editor.  Church Pulpit Commentary.  1876.  [Note:  this is not

            “The Pulpit Commentary.”]  At:           commentaries/cpc/


50        Revere F. Weidner.  Annotations on the General Epistles of James, Peter,

            John, and Jude.  In the Lutheran Commentary series.  New York:  Christian

            Literature Company, 1897.


51        Schaff’s Popular Commentary on the New Testament.  1879-1890.