James 1:1-5:20

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[edit] Summary

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[edit] Historical setting

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[edit] Discussion

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  • James. The name translated here as James is actually the Greek Jacobus (translation of Hebrew Iacob), which we would normally translate into English as Jacob.
  • Verse 1:2: Temptations. Peirasmos, the Greek word translated in verse 2 as "temptations," has a broader meaning than the way the English word is usually used today. Other primary meanings include "test" and "trial." So the phrase here can refer to anything that puts our faith to the test, not just temptations to sin. While the phrase "falling into temptation" today might be understood as doing something wrong, that isn't the implication here.
  • Verse 1:2: Trials. For most of us, facing tests, trials and temptations isn't something we pursue. Even so, James is telling us here that we should welcome such trials. In fact, the suggestion here, especially when coupled with Matthew 10:22 ("he that endureth to the end shall be saved"), is that they are essential to being saved. The process is this: Having our faith tested brings endurance ("patience" in the King James Version), and the endurance brings about completeness/perfection/wholeness. James says three ways what the endurance brings about — and they all mean basically the same thing, so James appears here to be giving strong emphasis to the results of steadfastness. The trials of life, then, are not something to dread, but, according to verse 2, a cause for joy.
  • Verse 1:3: Patience. The Greek word translated as "patience" in verse 3 is hupomone, which has a stronger meaning than the current meaning of "patience." It is strongly related to the idea of enduring, persevering or being steadfast. In fact, the word is a form of the word hupomeno, which is translated as "endureth" in Matthew 10:22: "but he that endureth to the end shall be saved."
  • Verse 1:8. "Double minded" (verse 8) is a translation from the Greek work dipsuchos, literally double souled, meaning wavering or divided. Contrast with "thy eye be single" Matt 6:22 (see also D&C 88:67) and "that your minds become single to God" D&C 88:68. See also James 4:8.
  • Verses 1:12-14. To what degree does the Greek word translated "tempt" here (peirazo) mean the same as the Hebrew word translated "tempt" in the Old Testament (e.g., Genesis 22:1; the Hebrew word is nasa)? Perhaps not as much as the English translations would suggest. The Hebrew word seems most often to mean "test" as is "assay," to test the quality of something. The Greek seems most often to mean "to try to get someone to do evil."
  • Verse 2:1. The Greek word adelphoi, translated in verse 1 as "brethren," usually means "brothers" but can also mean "brothers and sisters."
  • Verse 2:1. What is being condemned in verse 1 is not faith in Jesus Christ, but the type of faith that would cause a person to behave as explained in the following verses. The Joseph Smith Translation clarifies this by saying, "ye cannot have the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, and yet have respect to persons." (The 1828 Webster's dictionary defines the phrase "respect of persons" to mean "partial regard; undue bias to the prejudice of justice.") Modern translations of this part of the verse include "don't hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ of glory with partiality" (World English Bible). A few translations, including the New Revised Standard Version, put this in the form of a question, "do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ?" For the Greek word prosopolepsia, translated in the KJV as "respect of persons," modern English translations usually use the word "partiality," "prejudice" or "favoritism."
  • Verse 2:2-3. The words "vile" and "gay," used in verses 2 and 3 to describe clothing, have changed in meaning since the KJV was published. The references are to filthy or shabby clothing in verse 2, and the clothing an upper-class person would wear (literally, radiant clothing) in verse 3.
  • Verse 2:17: Faith and works. See exegesis for Eph 2:8-10 for a discussion of faith, grace and works. Also compare 2 Ne 25:23, "it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do."
  • Verse 2:17: Faith and works. A quote and cross-references on faith without works from Dallin H. Oaks, “Be Not Deceived,” Ensign, Nov. 2004, 43: "I will conclude by describing another subtle form of deception—the idea that it is enough to hear and believe without acting on that belief. Many prophets have taught against that deception. The Apostle James wrote, “Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves” (James 1:22). King Benjamin taught, “And now, if you believe all these things see that ye do them” (Mosiah 4:10). And in modern revelation the Lord declares, “If you will that I give unto you a place in the celestial world, you must prepare yourselves by doing the things which I have commanded you and required of you” (D&C 78:7)."
  • Verse 2:21: Justified by works. This is often construed as a contradiction to claims claims by Paul (e.g. Rom 4:1-3). Some scholars (see Ralph P. Martin's discussion in the Word Biblical Commentary for this verse) point to what seems to be a different sense of the word "justified" being used by each writer: whereas Paul is saying that faith is what essentially makes it possible for us to be declared in a right relationship with God, James is saying that the proper kind of faith leads to good works which can be seen and pointed to as an demonstrable example of proper faith (which cannot be divorced from good works; cf. verse 22).
  • Verse 2:23: The scripture was fulfilled. See Gen 15:6. It seems that Paul quotes this Old Testament passage as an example of someone being justified for faith only (Rom 4:3; cf. Rom 4:22; Gal 3:6-9). It might be that James is clearing up a misunderstanding of Paul's teaching, or at least a Pauline-like interpretation of Gen 15:6.
  • Verse 2:23: The Friend of God. Compare Wisdom of Solomon 7:14, 27. Note also similarities to Wisdom of Solomon 3:13-18 and James 3:13-18.
  • Verse 2:25: Rahab and Abraham. Although the only similarity between Rahab (see Josh 2:1-21) and Abraham explicitly noted here is that they both had faith which lead to good works, there may be implicit similarities between the two. For example, Abraham showed Rahab-like hospitality to the three strangers in Gen 18. Furthermore, Abraham and Rahab are both "converts" (Abraham left the land of Ur and forsook the idolotrous ways of his father; Rahab, according to some Jewish traditions, became a faithful follower YWHW, married Joshua, and became the ancestral mother of the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel).


[edit] Points to ponder

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[edit] I have a question

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  • Verse 1:1. Why do we translate the name of the author as James?
  • Verse 1:1. Why is James writing to the twelve scattered tribes, who were already lost?
  • Verse 1:1. Is there something else going on here, with "Jacob" writing to the descendants of Jacob=Israel?
  • Verse 1:13: Neither tempteth he any man. How can this verse be reconciled with Gen 22:1 where it says that God tempted Abraham? Is there a difference between tempting and testing, trying or proving? (Cf. Abr 1:25.)
  • Verse 4:3. What does it mean to "ask ... that ye may consume it upon your lusts"?
  • Verse 5:14-15: Forgiveness of sins? Verses 14-15 seem to be about blessing the sick. Why does verse 15 include the statement "if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him"? How is this related to healing? What does this suggest about the relationship between physical sickness and sin? What does this suggest about the relationship between faith needed to be healed physically and the faith needed to receive a forgiveness of sins?


[edit] Relation to other scriptures

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[edit] Related scriptures

[edit] Parallel passages

[edit] Text transmission

[edit] Joseph Smith Translation

The Joseph Smith Translation made changes to the following verses in James. This list is complete:[1]

  • James 1:2, 4, 12, 21, 27
  • James 2:1-2, 4, 7, 10, 14-20, 22, 24-26
  • James 3:1
  • James 4:15


[edit] Complete outline and page map

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James


[edit] Resources

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[edit] Translations

  • Amplified • The Amplified Bible, 1987 update
  • NASB • New American Standard Bible, 1995 update
  • NIV • New International Version
  • NRSV • New Revised Standard Version
  • RSV • Revised Standard Version

[edit] Cited references

  • Wayment, Thomas A., ed. The Complete Joseph Smith Translation of the New Testament. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 2005. (ISBN 1590384393) BX8630 .A2 2005.

[edit] Other resources

  • Verse 2:23: The Friend of God. See John 15:14-15.
  • Verse 4:8: Double mindedness. Soren Kierkegaard discusses double-mindedness at length in Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing. James 4:8 is referenced explicitly in Chapter 3. Many modern readers also find Chapter 6 particularly interesting--a sort of spiritual check-up on the purity of their heart.
  • Verses 4:6-10. A quote from Dallin H. Oaks, “Be Not Deceived,” Ensign, Nov. 2004, 43 on leading a double life: "As we look about us, we see many who are practicing deception. We hear of prominent officials who have lied about their secret acts. We learn of honored sports heroes who have lied about gambling on the outcome of their games or using drugs to enhance their performance. We see less well-known persons engaging in evil acts in secret they would never do in public. Perhaps they think no one will ever know. But God always knows. And He has repeatedly warned that the time will come when “[our] iniquities shall be spoken upon the housetops, and [our] secret acts shall be revealed” (D&C 1:3; see also Morm 5:8; D&C 38:7)."


[edit] Notes

Footnotes are not required but are encouraged for factual assertions that average readers cannot easily evaluate for themselves, such as the date of King Solomon’s death or the nuanced definition of a Greek word. In contrast, insights rarely benefit from footnoting, and the focus of this page should always remain on the scriptures themselves rather than what someone has said about them. Links are actively encouraged on all sections of this page, and links to authoritative sources are preferable to footnotes.

  1. Wayment, The Complete Joseph Smith Translation of the New Testament, p. 301-03.



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