Blaine Robison, M.A.
Published 21 March 2013; Revised 19 December 2018
Scripture Text: The Scripture text used in this commentary is prepared by Blaine Robison and based on the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament. The essentially literal translation seeks to reflect the Jewish character of the author and writing. All other Scripture quotations are from the NASB Updated Edition (1995), unless otherwise indicated. Click here for Abbreviations of Bible Versions. Quotations marked with the initials "BR" indicate the translation of the commentary author.
Sources: Bibliographic data for works cited and resources consulted may be found at the end of the commentary. Works without page numbers are cited ad loc. Important Jewish sources include:
• The Septuagint (LXX) is the Jewish translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, which was in use among Jews by the mid-2nd century BC. The LXX with English translation may be found here.
• Citations for Josephus, the first century Jewish historian (Yosef ben Matityahu), are from The Works of Flavius Josephus (c. 75-99 A.D.) trans. William Whiston (1737). Online.
• Citations for Philo of Alexandria, the Jewish philosopher (20 B.C.─A.D. 50) are from The Works of Philo Judaeus, compiled by Peter Kirby, found online at Early Jewish Writings.
Syntax: Unless otherwise noted the meaning of Greek words is from F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (2009), and the meaning of Hebrew words is from The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (1981), abbreviated as "BDB." See the Greek Guide for the meaning of grammar abbreviations. The numbering system of the Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible is identified with "SH" (Strong's Hebrew number) and "SG" (Strong's Greek number). Strong's Online. Parsing data for Greek words is taken from Anthony J. Fisher, Greek New Testament.
Terminology: In order to emphasize the Jewish nature of the apostolic writings and message I use the terms Jacob (James), Yeshua (Jesus), Messiah (Christ), Tanakh (Old Testament), and Besekh (New Testament).
Please see the Introduction for background information on the letter.
1 Jacob, a servant of God and of the Lord Yeshua, Messiah, to the twelve tribes which are in the Diaspora: Greetings.
Jacob: Grk. Iakōbos is a Grecized form of Iakōb ("Jacob"), which transliterates the Heb. Ya'akov ("Jacob"). Iakōbos is often used in the writings of Josephus for the patriarch (BAG 368). The name is rendered inaccurately as "James" in Christian Bibles. (See the Introduction for more information on the background of the apostle and the translation history of his name.) The name of Jacob was greatly esteemed in Israel so it is not surprising that six men besides the patriarch bear this name in the apostolic narratives: Jacob the father of Joseph, Yeshua's step-father (Matt 1:12), Jacob the brother of John and son of Zebedee (Mark 1:19); Jacob the son of Alphaeus (Mark 3:18); Jacob the Less (Mark 15:40); Jacob the father of Judas (aka 'Thaddaeus,' Luke 6:16; Acts 1:13) and Jacob the brother of Yeshua (Matt 13:55). The patristic writers accepted Yeshua's brother, as the author of this letter.
None of the apostolic narratives identify Jacob as a disciple of Yeshua during his earthly ministry nor do they describe at what point Jacob accepted his half-brother as the Messiah. Jacob may have initially shared the opinion of his siblings and mother that Yeshua had "lost his senses" (Mark 3:21). The apostle John reports that on the eve of Sukkot in the Autumn of 29 Yeshua's brothers (no mention of number or names) encouraged him to reveal himself:
"Then his brothers said to him, 'Depart from here, and go into Judea, that your disciples will also see your works you are doing. For no one does anything in secret, but he seeks to be in the open. If you are doing these things, reveal yourself to the world.' For his brothers were not believing in him." (John 7:3-5 BR)
By this time the brothers must have heard many reports of Yeshua's miracles and appear ready to believe if he would be more open about his identity. As other Jews of the time they would welcome the Messiah to end Roman rule. The statement "his brothers were not believing" does not necessarily connote uniformity. There is a Jewish saying that illustrates this point: "If five sons are faithful and two are not, you may cry, ‘Woe is me, for my sons are unfaithful!’” (Stern 386).
A significant piece of evidence that points to Jacob coming to that belief is the record of the church father Hippolytus (170-236), On the Seventy Apostles. In the Winter of 29-30 Yeshua sent out seventy men (Luke 10:1-11) to announce the Kingdom and gave them the same instructions that he had given the Twelve for their first mission (Matt 10:5-15). Jacob, the half-brother of Yeshua is named first in the list of Hippolytus. There is no reason to dispute this record. We know that Yeshua made a personal appearance to Jacob after his resurrection (1Cor 15:7) and that Jacob joined with the eleven apostles and the other believers in Jerusalem to await empowerment by the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:14). In time, Jacob assumed the leadership of the Jerusalem congregation and became a prominent leader of the Body of Messiah (Acts 12:17; 15:1, 13; 21:18; 1Cor 9:5; Gal 1:19; 2:9, 12).
Jacob, the Lord's brother, perceived his calling as to the "circumcised” (Gal 2:9). While commentators normally take the term to mean Jews in general, it is more likely a technical term for the Circumcision Party, Hebraic Jews aligned with the Pharisees (Act 15:5; cf. the use of the term in Acts 10:45; 11:2; 15:1; Rom 4:12; 15:8; Gal 2:12; Col 4:11; Titus 1:10). Except for his contribution to the Jerusalem Council, the Besekh says nothing more of Jacob's ministry or death. Josephus records that the death of Jacob was at the instigation of Ananus, who was the high priest.
"Ananus, who, as we have told you already, took the high priesthood, was a bold man in his temper, and very insolent; he was also of the sect of the Sadducees, who are very rigid in judging offenders, above all the rest of the Jews, as we have already observed; when, therefore, Ananus was of this disposition, he thought he had now a proper opportunity … so he assembled the Sanhedrim of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others, [or, some of his companions]; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned." (Ant. XX, 9:1)
Jeremias lists the term of Ananus as AD 62 (378), so the date of Jacob's death by this account would be 62-63 A.D.
a servant: Grk. doulos can mean either slave or servant. In the LXX doulos translates the Heb. word ebed, which similarly described someone enslaved after being captured in war or in order to pay a debt, whether voluntarily or involuntarily (cf. Ex 21:7; Lev 25:39,44,47). In addition, ebed identified those that served God, especially service in the temple (DNTT 3:593ff). The great Hebrew and Jewish heroes of the faith were distinguished with the honorific, including Abraham (Gen 18:3; 26:24), Isaac (Gen 24:14), Jacob (Deut 9:27), Job (Job 1:8), Moses (Ex 4:10), Caleb (Num 14:24), Joshua (Josh 24:29), Samson (Judg 15:18), Samuel (1Sam 3:10), David (2Sam 3:18), Elijah (2Kgs 9:36), Jonah (2Kgs 14:25), Hezekiah (2Chr 32:16), Nehemiah (Neh 1:11), Isaiah (Isa 20:3), Zerubbabel (Hag 2:23), Daniel (Dan 6:20) and all the Hebrew prophets (Jer 25:4).
In his earthly ministry Yeshua was the preeminent servant of the Lord (Php 2:7), but besides Jacob other notable spiritual leaders are named, including Miriam (Luke 1:38), Simeon (Luke 2:29), Apollos (1Cor 3:5), Timothy (Php 1:1), Epaphras (Col 1:7), Tychicus (Col 4:7), Peter (2Pet 1:1), John (Rev 1:1) and particularly the apostle Paul (Rom 1:1). of God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. In secular Greek writings a number of deities, always represented in anthropomorphic form, were called theos. In ancient polytheistic culture theos was not one omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, Creator and ruler of the universe and certainly not spirit as described in Scripture (John 4:24). In the LXX theos renders primarily Elohim (over 2300 times), but also the tetragrammaton YHVH (over 300 times). As with many other Greek words the LXX infused new meaning into theos (DNTT 2:67-70).
and of the Lord: Grk. kurios may mean either (1) 'one in control through possession,' and therefore owner or master; or (2) 'one esteemed for authority or high status,' thus lord or master. In the LXX kurios occurs over 9,000 times. In the overwhelming majority of instances (over 6,000 times), kurios replaces the Hebrew tetragrammaton Yod-Hey-Vav-Hey. In addition, kurios translates the divine title Adonai ("Lord"). In contrast to its use for deity kurios also renders Heb. adon (owner, master) 310 times, 190 of which refer to men in general recognition of superiority (DNTT 2:511).
Kurios is the principal title by which disciples and members of the public addressed Yeshua during his earthly ministry, over twice as many times as any other title (e.g., Rabbi, Teacher, Master). The frequent use of kurios to address Yeshua in the flesh would not have considered deity. Unbelieving Jews would have called him kurios out of respect. However, expectant Jews would call Yeshua adon because the Messiah would rule over Israel. Since "Lord" is here distinguished from "God," then the ordinary meaning of "master" is likely intended.
Yeshua: Grk. Iēsous, a transliteration of the Hebrew name Yeshua ("Jesus" in Christian Bibles). Yeshua is a contraction of the Hebrew name Y'hoshua ("Joshua"), which means "YHVH [the LORD] is salvation" (BDB 221). The meaning of his name is explained to Joseph by an angel of the Lord "You shall call his name Yeshua, for he will save his people from their sins" (Matt 1:21). The English rendering of "Jesus" originated with the Mace New Testament in 1729. By virtue of His incarnation and Jewish mother, Yeshua must still be a Jew. For more information on the meaning our Lord's name, his identity, and the history of translation of the name see my web article Who is Yeshua?
Like other rabbis of his time Yeshua gathered disciples, developed a close relationship with them, taught his disciples and others using methods common to the scribes and rabbis of the day, and expected his disciples to change and conform to his will. Unlike other rabbis Yeshua taught as one possessing independent authority (Matt 7:29). He did not need to speak in the name of one of the Sages or one of the two prominent authorities of the day, Hillel and Shammai. Yeshua never appealed to any other authority other than his Father or the Scriptures. This is the "Jesus" Jacob knew. By virtue of His incarnation and Jewish mother, Yeshua must still be a Jew.
Messiah: Grk. Christos, the expected fulfiller of the hopes of Israel for an end-time deliverer and ruler, "Jewish Messiah." In Greek culture christos comes from chriein, to rub lightly, and in its secular use had no religious connotation at all. Christos as an adjective described someone smeared with whitewash, cosmetics or paint, and was anything but an expression of honor. As a personal reference it even tended toward the disrespectful (DNTT 2:334). Christos was chosen by the Jewish translators of the LXX to render the Heb. title Mashiach and in so doing infused new meaning into the Greek word. Mashiach lit. means ‘anointed' or ‘poured on.’ Mashiach was used in the Tanakh for (1) the patriarchs (1Chr 16:16-22; Ps 105:15); (2) the High Priest, Lev 4:5; (3) the King of Israel, 1Sam 12:3; 2Sam 22:51; and (4) the Messianic Prince, Ps 2:2 and Dan 9:25-26 (BDB 603). This last usage defined the term among first century Jews.
The significance of being known as "The Anointed One" is that Israelite kings were crowned and priests were ordained in a ceremony of anointing with olive oil, which invested them with the authority of their positions. There was no comparable concept in Greek culture. Yeshua's anointing was not in the customary manner. He was first anointed with the Holy Spirit to fulfill the ministry prophesied in Isaiah 61:1 (Matt 3:16; Luke 4:18; Acts 10:38). Then he was anointed with nard in preparation for the ministry of being an atoning sacrifice (Mark 14:3-8; John 12:3). Finally he was anointed with the power of resurrection to assume his rightful place on the throne of David as King and Judge over the earth (Luke 1:32; Acts 3:18-26; 10:40-42; 13:30-34; 17:31; Eph 1:18-23).
Among Christians "Christ" is generally used first and foremost to mean the second person of the triune Godhead as presented in Christian creedal statements. Sometimes Christians use "Christ" as a last name, which is strange since no one would say "David King." It cannot be emphasized too many times that the title Christos was the invention of Jews long before Yeshua was born and not by Gentile Christians. In fact, "Christ" is not a translation of Christos, but a transliteration. The Christos of the apostles was both high priest and king of the Jews who fulfilled all the promises made to the patriarchs and the nation of Israel and will be the priestly king reigning from Jerusalem in the age to come.
While Yeshua is described by a variety of titles (Lord, Redeemer, Savior, Son of God, Son of Man, Rabbi, Emmanuel, Lamb of God, Mediator, Apostle, Prophet and the Word) the predominate title (531 times in the Besekh) is Christos. The importance of this title is the authority it represents. Yeshua is the supreme ruler over the Kingdom of God. All authority has been given to him in heaven and earth (Matt 28:18). Yeshua's authority extends to all the nations of the earth as was prophesied in Genesis 49:10, "The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until Shiloh [i.e. Messiah] comes, and to him shall be the obedience of the nations." The essential part of the Great Commission is to bring about recognition of Yeshua's ruling authority and obedience to everything he taught (Matt 28:20; cf. Ezek 37:24).
One other comment needs to be made concerning Jacob's mention of whom he serves. In typical Jewish fashion he makes a clear distinction between God (theos) and Yeshua (kurios and christos). Nowhere do the apostles refer to Yeshua as theos (God) and they always carefully distinguish between the Messiah's possession of divine attributes and the oneness of the God of Israel. A quick concordance search indicates that wherever "Messiah" or "Yeshua" and "God" appear together in the same verse they are always clearly distinguished, many identifying Yeshua as the Son of God. Some verses make the contrast especially sharp, such as Acts 2:36, "God has made him both Lord and Messiah." (See also Acts 4:10; 20:21; Rom 1:7; Col 1:3; 1Thess 1:3; 1Pet 1:2; 4:11; Jude 1:25; Rev 1:1).
Lest the reader misunderstand my point, there is no equivocation in apostolic writings that Yeshua is the image of the invisible God and agent of creation (Rom 1:4; 2Cor 4:4; Col 1:15-17; Heb 1:2-3), but the apostles do not say, "God is Yeshua." Such a statement would confuse the Son with the Father. The enigma of John 1:1 ("the Word was with God and the Word was God") is captured in Philippians 2:6, "although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped."
to the twelve: pl. of Grk. dōdeka, the number twelve. tribes: Grk. phulē, a grouping based more narrowly on blood kinship and is often used in Scripture to refer to the tribes of Israel. In this context the "twelve tribes" refers to those family clans who descended from the twelve sons of Jacob and his four wives. Jacob's wife Leah gave birth to six sons - Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar and Zebulun. Rachel delivered Joseph and Benjamin. Bilhah gave Jacob his sons Dan and Naphtali and Zilpah bore Gad and Asher. After the family's sojourn in Egypt where they multiplied into a great host (Ex 1:7), they were from that time known as Israel or Israelites.
Jacob's mention of twelve tribes rebuts the misbelief that ten tribes were exiled and then lost. Moreover, Yeshua promised his apostles authority over the twelve tribes of Israel "when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne” (Matt 19:28; cf. Luke 22:30). Paul in his defense to King Agrippa referred to the twelve tribes as in existence at that time (Acts 26:7). For more on this subject see my web article The Twelve Tribes of Israel.
which are in the Diaspora: Grk. diaspora, dispersion experienced by a group, scattering or dispersion. Diaspora is a technical term for all the lands outside Israel where Jews lived. By the first century A.D. there were numerous Jewish settlements in Asia Minor, Egypt, Greece, Italy and the islands of the Aegean, that had resulted from emigration (sometimes voluntary and sometimes forced) from Babylon (Tarn & Griffith 219). Josephus reported that "the ten tribes are beyond Euphrates till now, and are an immense multitude, and not to be estimated by numbers” (Ant. XI, 5:2). All of these settlements became the starting point for the apostles to proclaim the fulfillment of prophetic promises, since the good news of salvation was for the Jew first.
What should be carefully noted is that Jacob is not writing to any "church" or to "Christians" (however defined today), and certainly not to Gentiles. He is writing a pastoral letter to Messianic Jews who by whatever circumstance lived outside of the Land of Israel. See my web article The First Christians. Little considered by Christian commentators is that the population of Messianic Jews at the time of this letter was quite large, and during the apostolic era very likely provided the majority of membership in local congregations. Christian scholarship generally assumes Gentile disciples were in the majority simply because they became the majority in the second century. Historical revisionism also took place due to Christian minimizing the Jewishness of the apostolic writings.
The Besekh provides several clues to the strength of the Messianic Jewish population. First, Jews were given the priority in hearing the good news, both in principle (Acts 1:8; Rom 1:16) and practice (Acts 2:1-11; 9:20; 13:5, 14; 14:1; 17:1, 10; 18:4, 19; 19:8). Second, all the apostles, prophets, evangelists who proclaimed the good news, as well as the early congregational overseers in major communities were Jews. (See my commentary on Romans 16 and Hippolytus, AD 170-236, On the Seventy Apostles) Third, three apostolic letters are specifically addressed to Messianic Jews: this letter (Jacob 1:1), Paul's letter to the Hebrews (title in Grk. MSS, and the content) and the two letters of Peter to Messianic Jews in the Diaspora (1Pet 1:1; 2Pet 3:1).
Fourth, Luke provides a specific census when Paul comes to Jerusalem and Jacob reports that there were "many tens of thousands" of Jewish disciples (Acts 21:20; CJB, CEV, MW). The CJB has "Judeans" in the verse instead of "Jews" because Jacob refers to the local population. The Greek word in the verse for the number is muriades, the plural form of murias, which in ordinary usage equaled 10,000 (BAG). Idiomatically, then, the plural form can refer to a very great number, tens of thousands (Rienecker 1:321). Based on first century Roman census data and Luke's use of muriades David Stern estimates that at least 400,000 Messianic Jews were alive in the world before the fall of Jerusalem, perhaps as many as one million. (See the Community section of the Introduction to this letter for a complete explanation.)
Greetings: Grk. chairō, pres. inf., an expression of greeting tantamount to assuring the other of one's good will, a kind of introductory social ointment. This manner of beginning the letter is fitting for the wide audience Jacob addressed. Jacob will write of many ethical matters that apparently arose from Jews generally and from his own congregation in Jerusalem, and in his view bore consideration by all Messianic Jews.
Midrash 1: On Trials, 1:2-18
2 My brothers, when you might encounter various trials, consider every joy,
My brothers: pl. of Grk. adelphos, lit. "of the same womb," and in secular Greek meant "brother." In the LXX adelphos renders Heb. ach (SH-251), a male sibling (Gen 4:2; 20:5), a male relative of the same tribe (Gen 13:8; Num 16:10) or the people of Israel (Ex 2:11; 4:18). In the apostolic narratives adelphos primarily refers to blood siblings or fellow Israelites (Matt 4:18; 5:22-24; Mark 3:22; Acts 1:14; 3:22; 7:13). The plural noun is often used in the apostolic letters to address members of the congregation (e.g. Rom 1:13; 1Cor 1:10; 2Cor 1:8; Gal 1:2; Php 1:12; 1Th 1:4; 2Th 1:3; Heb 3:12; 2Pet 1:10; 1Jn 3:13), which can be taken literally as references to the Jewish constituency of the congregation, and in the Diaspora fig. of God-fearing Gentiles who had become disciples.
Danker says the plural vocative case (direct address) indicates "brothers and sisters" and a number of versions employ this greeting. Since Jacob is addressing the Messianic members of the twelve tribes, it's inconceivable that the vocative case would not include the women, given the amount of hortatory material in this letter. Against this interpretation is that there is a word for "sisters" (Grk. adelphē), which Jacob does not use. More likely is that "brothers" refers to the leaders of congregations and heads of households. The fact that Jacob addresses "brothers" does not exclude women from the application of his exhortations.
when: Grk. hotan, conj., temporal marker; when, whenever. you might encounter: Grk. peripiptō, aor. subj., to fall in with the effect of being surrounded, to fall among or to encounter. The subjunctive mood denotes mild contingency or probability; it looks toward what is conceivable or potential. Jacob speaks of a hypothetical circumstance. various: pl. of Grk. poikilos, with many features, of various kinds. trials: Grk. peirasmos may mean either (1) a means to determine quality or performance or (2) exposure to possibility of wrongdoing. Danker includes this verse in his list for "temptation," but the great majority of Bible versions apply the first meaning and render the noun as either 'tests,' 'trials' or 'troubles.' Of the other Messianic Jewish versions the CJB has "temptations," the MW has "testings," the OJB has "nisayonos" (tests, trials), and the TLV has "trials." The common distinction between tests and temptation is that God tests (Deut 8:2; Jdg 2:21-22; 3:1) and Satan tempts (Matt 4:3; Mark 1:13; 1Th 3:5).
The LXX uses peirasmos to translate the place name Massah (Ex 17:7; Deut 4:34; Ps 95:8) and in the sense of the trials (Heb. hamassot) God brought upon Egypt (Deut 7:19; 29:3). The "various kinds of trials" is illustrated both by the ten plagues God wrought on Egypt and the trials Israel experienced in the wilderness and later during the time of the judges. Trials can be occasions of temptation because the disciple is faced with the choice of glorifying and obeying God regardless of the circumstances or listening to the deceptive voice of satan to disobey God and become bitter over the experience. The Talmud expresses a similar attitude. "R. Joshua b. Levi said: He who joyfully bears the chastisements that befall him brings salvation to the world" (Taan. 8a).
consider: Grk. hēgeomai, aor. mid. imp., may mean either (1) to function in a leadership capacity, to lead, or (2) 'deem to be,' to think, consider or deduce. The second usage applies here. Many versions insert the pronoun "it" after the verb even though not present in the Greek text. every: Grk. pas, adj., comprehensive in scope, but without statistical emphasis; all, each, every. The adjective gives emphasis to each part of a totality. Some versions translate the adjective as a superlative, such as "exceeding," "great," "pure," and "sheer." joy: Grk. chara, may mean (1) joy, as an emotional response or (2) bringer of joy. The noun is derived from the verb chairō, to be in a state marked by good feeling about an event or circumstance, be glad, rejoice. In the LXX chara appears only in the later writings (principally Wis. and 1—4 Macc.) and is chiefly a translation of the Hebrew words simchah, joy, gladness, and sason, joy, rejoicing (DNTT 2:356).
In the Hebraic perspective chara is properly the awareness of God's grace and favor; i.e., joy is "grace recognized" (HELPS SG-5479). Almost all versions translate the verse as "consider it all joy when you suffer various trials" or words to that effect. Unfortunately, this translation might imply that Jacob is recommending masochism. "I'm so glad I'm suffering." Masochistic interpretation of trials would be repugnant to the Jewish mind and is certainly contrary to Scripture. Instead there are many exhortations in Scripture for people to rejoice in the midst of trials:
"Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls, 18 Yet I will exult in the LORD, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation." (Hab 3:17-18)
"Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great" (Matt 5:11-12)
"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!" (Php 4:4; cf. 1Th 5:16)
"In everything give thanks." (1Th 5:18)
"Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name." (Heb 13:15)
My translation is intended to support the link with the next verse that completes the thought. Jacob could be suggesting that his readers consider causes of joy in contrast to the trials. In other words, as the song title says, Count Your Blessings (#771, Sing to the Lord, Lillenas Pub. Co., 1993). The command to "consider" means that difficult circumstances are not to be allowed to determine a person's attitude and response. Rather, the disciple is being exhorted to view his circumstances through a different lens than a non-believer would. Bearing in mind the next verse a trial can bring joy as an ultimate result, because spiritual fruit will be gained if we keep the right attitude.
Jacob's instruction was likely inspired by the Jewish practice of offering b'rakhah (a blessing or benediction) every day for every good thing that comes from God. (These may be found in the Talmud tractate Berakoth.) Simply put, a blessing is an expression of gladness for God's goodness. Blessings are even offered in times of mourning. Although not specifically commanded in Torah, the ancient Hebrews observed 30 days (Heb. shloshim) of mourning after death of a relative (Gen 37:34; 38:12; Num 20:29; Deut 34:8; Dan 10:2) and that is still Jewish practice. Jews facilitate the expression of grief through the practice of Shiva (Heb. "seven"), a seven-day period following the burial in which friends visit the bereaved and share in the grief and offer comfort (Gen 50:10; 1Sam 31:13).
During the Shiva the family and friends deliberately inject into conversation with the grieving person their memories of all the good times they had with the deceased loved one. In addition, the Sages instituted the practice of ten men gathering to remember the deceased and offering ten blessings to God during the seven days, patterned after the practice of offering ten blessings at a bridegroom's wedding celebration (Keth. 8b). These blessings give glory to God for His greatness and goodness. This Jewish practice follows the example of the Psalmists who even when complaining about adversaries and misfortunes would still end their musical poems with praise to God.
3 knowing that the testing of your faithfulness produces patience.
knowing: Grk. ginōskō, pres. part., may mean (1) to be in receipt of information with the focus on awareness, to know; or (2) to form a judgment or draw a conclusion, to think, understand or comprehend. The verb has nuances of both meanings in this context. The verb likely reflects the ability to dispassionately assess one's circumstances. that: Grk. hoti, conj. that serves as a link between two sets of data, whether (1) defining a demonstrative pronoun; that; (2) introducing a subordinate clause as complementary of a preceding verb; (3) introducing a direct quotation and functioning as quotation marks; or (4) indicating causality with an inferential aspect; for, because, inasmuch as. The second usage applies here.
the testing: Grk. dokimion may refer to either the process or the outcome of testing, here the former (Danker). The term occurs only twice in the Besekh (also 1Pet 1:7). The word does not occur in Classical Greek literature or Jewish literature of the time, but only in much later literature. A related word dokimos (approved by testing) does occur in early Greek and Jewish sources (BAG). It's very possible that Jacob coined this spelling.
of your faithfulness: Grk. pistis, occurring 12 times in Jacob's letter, incorporates two primary facets of meaning, first that which causes trust and faith, i.e., faithfulness or reliability, and second, trust or confidence in an active sense (BAG). Pistis is used in the LXX to twice render Heb. emun (Deut 32:20; Prov 13:17; 'faithfulness,' BDB 53), but renders Heb. emunah ('firmness, steadfastness, fidelity,' BDB 53) over 20 times (mainly of men's faithfulness, 1Sam 26:23; 2Kgs 12:15; 22:7; 1Chr 9:22, 26, 31; 2Chr 31:12, 15, 18; 34:12; Prov 3:3; 12:17, 22; Jer 5:1, 3; 7:28; 9:3; Hos 2:20; but also of God's faithfulness, Ps 33:4; Lam 3:23; Hab 2:4).
Pistis also translates Heb. aman (to confirm, to support, Jer 15:18), amanah ('fixed support,' Neh 9:38; 11:23; SS 4:8) and emet (firmness, faithfulness, truth, Prov 14:22; Jer 28:9; 33:6). The LXX usage emphasizes that the Hebrew meaning of faithfulness is the intended usage of pistis. The apostles build on this meaning and represent pistis as composed of two elements. The first element of faithfulness is confidence or trust: "And without faith[fulness] it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him” (Heb 11:6; cf. Heb 4:2). True faith leads one to seek God and then trust Him to respond with His good gifts. The second element of faithfulness involves commitment, constancy and obedience, which includes following God's direction for life and producing works of righteousness (cf. Eph 2:8-10).
produces: Grk. katergazomai, pres. mid., to cause an outcome, here with the focus on result. patience: Grk. hupomonē, the capacity for resolute continuance in a course of action, endurance, perseverance or steadfastness. Another translation would be "knowing that the testing of your faithfulness produces patience." The stated purpose of testing of God's people in Scripture is to determine whether they really love God and will obey His instructions (Ex 16:4; Deut 8:2; 13:3; Judg 2:22). After testing God would then do good for them (Deut 8:16). For the righteous testing reinforces the resolve to be steadfast in loyalty to God. This is why Paul could say,
"we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance." (Rom 5:3 ESV)
4 And let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
And let patience: Grk. hupomonē. See the previous verse. have: Grk. echō, pres. imp., to possess something with the implication of the object being under one's control or at one's disposal, to have. The present tense indicates an ongoing activity and the imperative mood exhorts the recipients to get started on the project. its perfect: Grk. teleios, free from deficiency, omission or corruption, complete or perfect. work: Grk. ergon may mean (1) task assignment; (2) deed, action or (3) a work or product. Here Jacob continues the Hebraic idea of perfection as a right relationship to God expressed in undivided obedience and unblemished life (Rienecker).
that you may be: Grk. eimi, pres. subj., to be, a function word used primarily to declare a state of existence, whether in the past ('was, were'), present ('are, is') or future ('will be'), often to unite a subject and predicate (BAG). perfect: Grk. teleios, meaning as already stated. and complete: Grk. olokleros, complete in all its parts, entire. The word indicates the entirety of all of the spiritual virtues (Rienecker). lacking: Grk. leipō, pres. mid. part., to be deficient in something, to lack. in nothing: Grk. mēdeis, nothing or lit. "in nothing lacking" (Marshall). The whole tenor of this verse is of pressing toward a goal.
5 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 him.
But if any of you lacks: Grk. leipō, pres. mid. See the previous verse. wisdom: Grk. sophia means wisdom. In Greek culture sophia referred to practical knowledge, e.g., the sophia of a carpenter, but later incorporated theoretical knowledge (DNTT 3:1027). In the LXX sophia was used to translate the wisdom possessed by a specialist in a particular field (Ex 36:1f), or economic shrewdness (Prov 8:18). Over and above these elements sophia is concerned with the learned and perceptive ability that enables a man to master life (Prov 8:32-36) (DNTT 3:1028). let him ask: Grk. aiteō, pres. imp., to ask for in expectation of a response. of God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. See verse 1 above. who gives: Grk. didōmi, pres. part., to give, the motivation for which must be supplied from the context.
to all liberally: Grk. aplōs, adv., with unmixed motivation, sincerely, graciously. Danker translates as "without shaming." and without: Grk. mē, lit. "not," a particle of qualified negation. It differs from the other standard negative particle, oú, in that oú is objective, dealing only with facts, while mē is subjective, involving will and thought. With mē the negation concerns a supposition and thus prohibits or forbids (DM 265f). reproach: Grk. oneidizō, fut. pass., to find fault in a demeaning fashion, whether of abusing verbally so as to shame, or putting to shame in severe reproof. It's absolutely unthinkable that God would ever respond to a prayer request by calling it "stupid." and it will be given him: Like riches, true wisdom originates from God (Prov 2:6).
6 But let him ask in faithfulness, nothing doubting, for he who doubts is like a surge of the sea, driven by the wind and tossed.
But let him ask: Grk. aiteō, pres. imp. See the previous verse. Jacob offers an exhortation with the force of a command. in faithfulness: Grk. pistis. See the note on verse 3 above. In this context Jacob probably emphasizes the trust aspect of pistis, but the faithfulness aspect should not be discounted. Yeshua stressed the relationship between doing God's will, that is obeying His instructions, and understanding revelation from God (John 7:17). nothing: Grk. mēdeis, adj. with a negative intention, 'no, nothing or not at all.' The use of the adjective is parallel to its use in verse 4 above. doubting: Grk. diakrinō, pres. mid. part., to dispute or contend with, to hesitate or to waver.
Jacob is talking about wavering in trust of God's sovereign care. He is talking about a thoroughly negative attitude, not the unbelief that precedes belief in the Messiah as Thomas (John 20:27) or merely having questions and hesitating before full commitment (e.g., Grk. distazō, Matt 28:17; Grk. dialogismos, Luke 24:38). The doubting may question whether God will even answer, or whether the answer will consider one's needs and interests.
for: Grk. gar, conj., is generally accepted as a contraction of ge ("yet") and ara ("then"), and in a broad sense means "certainly it follows that." Gar often functions to connect statements in narratives with preceding statements. Jacob employs a literary pattern in which an exhortation is expressed in the imperative mood followed the reason expressed in the indicative and introduced with gar. He employs gar in this fashion 15 more times in his letter. he who doubts: Grk. diakrinō, pres. mid. part. Jacob repeats the verb to offer a vivid comparison. The present tense indicates an ongoing activity, not just a one-time occurrence. In addition, the verb being a participle indicates a character quality of the person and not just his actions.
is like: Grk. eoika, perf., to be like, to resemble. a surge: Grk. kludōn, wavy tumult, rough surf, a depiction of water washing over the side of a boat. of the sea: Grk. thalassa (corresponding to Heb. yam), used of both a sea, such as the Mediterranean, and inland bodies of water, i.e., lake. The English word "sea" normally refers to a body of salt water and "lake" to a body of fresh water, although local convention can override this rule. Thalassa (as its Hebrew counterpart) simply refers to a body of water deep enough and wide enough to require a boat to cross it. driven by the wind: Grk. anemizō, pres. pass. part., to be driven by the wind. and tossed: Grk. hripizō, pres. pass. part., to move here and there by blowing, to toss. The axiom may allude to the time when Yeshua and his disciples were in a boat storm-tossed on the Sea of Galilee (Matt 8:23-25).
7 For let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord.
For: Grk. gar, conj. See the preceding verse. In the situation mention above Yeshua asked his disciples, ""Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?” (Matt 8:26) The disciples did not understand Yeshua's sovereign control over the situation and assumed that he did not care about their plight. Having the knowledge of Scripture the disciple should not question either the benevolence of God or His ability to take care of His people. That being said, God responds to trusting faithfulness. If a disciple were to neglect this important virtue then he should not expect his prayers to be answered.
8 a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
a double-minded: Grk. dipsuchos, indecisive, wavering, lit. 'two-souled.' The opening phrase is lit. "a two-souled man." man: Grk. anēr (Heb. adam), an adult man without regard to marital status. unstable: Grk. akatastatos, marked by lack of stability, in reference to character, unpredictable, capricious. BAG has 'unstable, restless,' descriptive of vacillation. Mounce adds 'inconstant; unquiet, turbulent.' In the Besekh the term occurs only in this letter (also 3:8). Akatastatos occurs once in the LXX to render Heb. sa'ar (to storm, storm-tossed, BDB 704) in Isaiah 54:11. The word also occurs twice in the Greek Tanakh of Symmachus (late 2nd cent.): once in Genesis 4:12 to translate Heb. nud (to move to and fro, to wander, vagabond, BDB 626) and once in Lamentations 4:14 to translate Heb. nua (to quiver, waver, totter, wander, BDB 631).
in all his ways: pl. of Grk. hodos, a route for traveling, such as a road or highway, but used idiomatically here for one's conduct or way of life. Jacob's conclusion is reminiscent of Elijah's words: "How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him” (1Kgs 18:21). Too often in Israel's history people wanted it both ways. The opposite of double-minded is single minded, which is the practical meaning of being pure in heart. The true disciple puts God first in his affections. David said, "I hate those who are double-minded, But I love Your law" (Ps 119:113). Jacob is not describing a psychological state of a split personality, but a wavering between what God wants and what the individual desires.
Paul characterizes this conflict as flesh versus Spirit in Romans 8. "Flesh" is a metaphor for human desires, whether sinful or not. A desire may be for something Torah does not prohibit, but if it conflicts with God's will, then a single-minded disciple surrenders that desire to God.
9 But let the brother of low degree glory in his high position;
But let the brother: Grk. adelphos. See verse 2 above. of low degree: Grk. tapeinos may mean modest in one's manner or expression or at a relatively low level in circumstance or status. The latter meaning applies here. glory: Grk. kauchaomai, pres. mid. imp., to have or express pride in being intimately associated or involved with some person, thin, or circumstance, lit. "boast." in his high position: Grk. hupsos, position at a relatively high point in status, exaltation or elevation; lit. "in the height of him." The metaphors of humble and high" illustrate the two spheres in which disciples dwell, the earthly and the heavenly. While a disciple may not have significant status in the earthly sphere he nevertheless has a high status in the heavenly kingdom.
10 and the rich, in that he is made low, because as the flower of the grass, he will pass away.
and the rich: Grk. plousios, possessing abundance, rich or wealthy. In ancient society possession of material things and status were closely associated. in that he is made low: Grk. tapeinosis, noun, either (1) experience of reversal from higher to lower level in the sense of humiliation or (2) the condition of being of little or no account, low status or lowliness. The first meaning applies here. because: Grk. hoti, conj. See verse 3 above. Here the conjunction indicates causality, thus 'because.' as the flower: Grk. anthos, flower or a wild flower. of the grass: Grk. chortos, green growth, as associated with a field or meadow, grass.
he will pass away: Grk. parerchomai, fut. mid., may mean either (1) to move spatially from one position to another, to go past or pass by, (2) or to come to an end and so no longer be on the scene, to pass away. Here the latter meaning applies in the sense of death as the natural conclusion to the proverbial saying. The transitoriness of man is likened frequently to the grass of the field (Ps 37:2; 90:5; 92:7; 102:4, 11; 103:15; 129:6; Prov 27:25; Isa 40:6-8; 51:12; Matt 6:20; 1Pet 1:24). As the old saying goes, "you can't take it with you." People may accumulate wealth, mistake it as approval by God and become distracted by it. Jacob reminds disciples that in the age to come there will be a great reversal, similar to the story of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-23).
11 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 goings.
For: Grk. gar, conj. See verse 6 above. the sun: Grk. hēlios (Heb. shemesh), the sun, the star that is the central body of the solar system, created on the fourth day to "govern the day" (Gen 1:16-19). Its mean distance from the earth is about 93 million miles, which assures the right balance of heat, light and photosynthesis to sustain all of earth's physical and biological processes. In both the solar system and on the earth "there is nothing hidden from its heat" (Ps 19:6). The sun moves in an orbit through the Milky Way Galaxy (Ps 19:5-6), at a speed that scientists estimate to be 600,000 mph (BBMS 165).
arises: Grk. anatellō, aor., to rise up, to rise. The aorist tense, while normally describing action in the past, here functions in a gnomic sense of indicating what generally happens (Rienecker). The action described is from the point of view of an observer on the earth and alludes to the apparent movement of the sun to the mid-point in the sky. with the scorching wind: Grk. kausōn, burning or scorching heat. The Heb. term sharav is the hot, dry wind which blows across Israel from the deserts east of the Land in the spring and (less often) in the fall (Stern). Weather like this made Jonah faint and he wanted to die (Jonah 4:8).
and withers: Grk. xērainō, aor., to cause a dry, non-functioning condition, to dry or wither. the grass: Grk. chortos. See the previous verse. and the flower: Grk. anthos. See the previous verse. in it falls: Grk. ekpiptō, aor., to fall off, in the sense that the petals fall off the stem after drying up. and the beauty: Grk. euprepeia, attractive or impressive. Marshall has 'comeliness.' of its appearance: Grk. prosōpon, that which forms the prominent identifying part of a person or thing, here the outward appearance. perishes: Grk. apollumi, aor. mid., to cause severe damage, here with the focus on loss of existence, so 'perish.' So also will the rich man: Grk. plousios. See verse 10 above. fade away: Grk. maraiomai, fut. pass., to wither or to waste away. The word picture of the rich "withering" continues the comparison to the drying flowers. in his goings: Grk. poreia, the process of going to a destination, trip or journey, often in the sense of a business trip. See the note on 4:13.
12 Blessed is the man who endures a trial, for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord promised to those who love him.
Blessed: Grk. makarios, enjoying special advantage, blessed, privileged, fortunate or happy. The Grk. word translates Heb. esher, which means happiness, joyfulness, blessedness and fortunate all at the same time (BDB 81). Esher comes from the root word ashar, which means to go (straight), or to walk. Some translations use the word "happy” but this is inadequate because the root of the English word "happy” is "hap” which means chance. For most people without God happiness comes as a result of good luck. However, the Hebrew viewpoint is that a "blessing” is a purposeful endowment (cf. Gen 1:28), ordinarily transmitted from the greater to the lesser. Blessedness can never be self-imposed nor come by accident. The only source of blessing is from God. is the man who endures: Grk. hupomenō, pres., to endure, to patiently and triumphantly endure, to show constancy in the circumstances (Rienecker).
a trial: Grk. peirasmos. See verse 2 above. for when he has been: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. part., to become. The verb would be lit. trans. "when having become" (Marshall). approved: Grk. dokimos, approved after testing. he will receive: Grk. lambanō, fut. mid. ind., refers to the transfer of something from one position or person to another, to take hold of, to receive. the crown: Grk. stephanos referred to a wreath or crown, often made from palm branches and a symbol of distinction. In the apostolic writings the term is used of a literal crown, e.g., the crown of thorns, a winning athlete's wreath (1Cor 9:25) and a crown worn by the overcomers in Revelation 3:11. In the LXX stephanos translates the Heb. atarah, the royal crown and corresponding figurative uses (e.g., 2Sam 12:30; 1Chr 20:2; SS 3:11) (DNTT 1:405).
of life: Grk. zōē, alive in contrast with being dead. The crown of life is a euphemism for "eternal life," which is the ultimate prize and the quality of life manifested in glory, honor and immortality. which the Lord: the word "Lord" is not in the Greek text. promised: Grk. epaggellō, aor. mid., to promise something in the sense of a commitment, lit. "he promised." to those who love him: Grk. agapaō, pres. part, to have such an interest in another that one wishes to contribute to the other's well-being, and may be translated as 'have concern for,' 'hold in esteem' or 'love.' In the Greek culture agapaō had no emotional content and simply meant to honor or to welcome and was connected to hospitality, such as honoring a guest in one's home or welcoming a king's visit to a village. When on rare occasions, it refers to someone favored by a god, it is clear that the verb indicates a generous move by one for the sake of the other (DNTT 2:539).
There were three other Greek words for love: phileō, an emotional bond in close relationships, whether family or friendship; storgē, love of family and eros, sexual love. In the LXX agapaō renders the Heb. ahev (SH-157, BDB 12), which includes the meanings of all the different Greek words for love plus love for God and God's love for individuals and His people Israel. Agapaō does not mean strictly an unselfish love as commonly thought, since Yeshua commented that even sinners have agapaō for others who return it (Luke 6:32). In the apostolic writings agapaō indicates a sacrificial love with Yeshua as the principal example (Eph 5:25). The present tense here indicates an ongoing relationship with the Lord.
13 Let no man say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God," for God is unable to be tempted with evils, and He tempts no one.
Let no man: Grk. mēdeis, lit., "let nobody." The adjective is masculine but is used generically. say: Grk. legō, pres. imp., to make a statement or utterance, whether oral or in written form. The verb "say" functions as quotation marks for the text since ancient writings did not contain punctuation. when he is tempted: Grk. peirazō, pres. pass. part., may mean (1) to make an effort to do something in the face of uncertainty about the outcome, to try or to attempt; (2) to make trial of the quality or state of someone's character or claims, including an inducement to sin, to tempt; or (3) to act in a manner that amounts to defiance of another's resources for retribution, to tempt. Considering the rest of the verse the second meaning applies here.
I am tempted: Grk. peirazō, pres. pass. by God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. In secular Greek writings theos was used for a number of deities, always represented in anthropomorphic form. In the LXX theos renders the generic designations of God, El (which occurs over 200 times) and Elohim (which occurs over 2300 times), as well as the tetragrammaton YHVH, over 300 times. As with many other Greek words the LXX infused new meaning into theos (DNTT 2:67-70). Throughout the Tanakh "God" associated Himself with Abraham and his descendants through Isaac. In Exodus 29:45, God says, "I will dwell among the sons of Israel and will be their God." for: Grk. gar, conj. See verse 6 above. God: This God of Israel.
is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 4 above. unable to be tempted: Grk. apeirastos, adj., non-temptable or untempted. with evils: pl. of Grk. kakos, adj., may mean (1) morally or socially reprehensible, something that violates community standards, thus bad, wrong or evil; or (2) causing harm with focus on personal or physical injury, bad, injurious or harmful. In the LXX kakos is used predominately to render Heb. ra, which has the same dual meaning (DNTT 1:562). Kakos here refers to evil as a moral quality. and He: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. tempts: Grk. peirazo, pres. no one: Grk. oudeis, adj., no one or nobody. The NASB/NIV has "anyone." For a person to make such a slander would be breaking the third commandment, which prohibits taking the Lord's name in vain. Sirach has a similar saying.
"Do not say, "Because of the Lord I left the right way"; for he will not do what he hates. Do not say, "It was he who led me astray"; for he had no need of a sinful man. … He has not commanded any one to be ungodly, and he has not given any one permission to sin" (Sirach 15:11-12, 20 RSV).
14 But each one is tempted, when he is drawn away by his own desire, and enticed.
But: Grk. de, conj., used to indicate (1) a contrast to a preceding statement or thought, "but;" (2) a transition in presentation of subject matter, "now, then;" or (3) a connecting particle to continue a thought, "and, also" (BAG). In this verse the conjunction introduces a contrast. each one: Grk. hekastos, adj., each one or every one. is tempted: Grk. peirazo, pres. pass. ind. See the previous verse. when he is drawn away: Grk. exelkō, pres. pass. part., to draw out, to draw away, to lure. by his own: Grk. idios, one's own. desire: Grk. epithumia, may mean either (1) a strong feeling or interest, 'desire' or (2) an inordinate or improper desire, 'craving.' In the LXX epithumia occurs about 50 times and normally translates the Heb. avvah to express (a) a morally neutral desire (e.g. Deut 12:15, 20); (b) a praiseworthy desire (e.g. Gen 31:30; Prov 10:24; 13:12); or (c) an evil desire opposed to God's will (e.g. Num 11:4, 34, Deut 5:21; 9:22).
While the KJV, MSG and NASB translate the noun as "lust," its common association with sexual sin makes it a poor choice in this context. Several versions have "desire" (CEV, ESV, NKJV, NRSV, and RSV), including the other three Messianic Jewish versions (CJB, MW and TLV). A few versions render epithumia with "evil desire" (GNB, HCSB, NCV, NIV, NLT), but as a point of origin, the desire does not have to be evil. In other words, the originating desire might be good, such as providing for one's family, but the means to fulfill that desire may be wrong. and enticed: Grk. deleazō, pres. mid. part., to entire or catch by the use of bait. These words were applied to the hunter or especially, the fisherman who lures his prey from its retreat and entices it by bait to his trap, hook or net (Rienecker).
Temptation only works because the person has a desire to which the temptation can appeal. Temptable desire is frequently associated with those things to which the person feels entitled or reflect some weakness of personality. If desire has not been satisfied in a normal manner or in a manner preferred by the person, then desire is susceptible to suggestion for improper fulfillment. Suggestions for improper fulfillment may come from a demonic source (Jacob 3:15) or the world (Jacob 4:4). The Talmud says, "Temptation at first is like a spider's thread, but eventually like a cart rope" (Sanh. 99b).
15 Then the lust, when it has conceived, bears sin; and the sin, when it is full grown, brings forth death.
Then: Grk. eita, adv., introducing what is next in a sequence, 'then,' or 'next.' the lust: Grk. epithumia. See the previous verse. when it has conceived: Grk. sullambanō, aor. act. part., to take possession of by capture, usually in a legal sense, but here the verb refers to a woman becoming pregnant, lit. "having conceived." bears: Grk. tiktō, pres., to cause to come into being, usually of delivering a child from the womb. sin: Grk. hamartia refers to a behavioral action, as well as its result, every departure from the way of righteousness, both human and divine. In Greek culture hamartia meant to miss, to miss the mark, to lose, not share in something, be mistaken. A mistake is the result of ignorance. Hamartia essentially meant to fail and could mean anything from stupidity to law-breaking, anything that offends against the right, that does not conform to the dominant ethic, to the respect due to social order and to the polis (DNTT 3:577).
In the LXX hamartia translates a whole range of Hebrew words for guilt and sin, particularly Heb. chata (lapse, sin). In the Tanakh a sin is an offense against the religious and moral law of God. In ancient Israel sin was tantamount to rejecting God's covenant. Hamartia is not displaying the imperfections that separate humanity from divinity, but violating the clear instructions of God. Hamartia is the dominant word for sin in the apostolic writings. The degree of intentionality is not a factor in defining sinful behavior, only whether the express requirements or prohibitions of Torah commandments have been violated. Religious people may erect their own codes for determining prohibited behavior, but God's judgment is based strictly on the commandments He gave to mankind as recorded in Scripture.
Jacob employs the word picture of human birth and in so doing personifies sin. A number of times in his letter to the Romans Paul personifies hamartia (Rom 3:9; 5:21; 6:14, 17, 18, 20, 22, 23; 7:14). A personification is the attribution of human characteristics to a thing or abstraction. Personifications are common in Hebraic-Jewish literature. For example:
"Raba observed, First he [i.e., evil inclination] is called a passer-by, then he is called a guest, and finally he is called a man [i.e., occupier of the house]." (Sukk. 52b)
The first personification in Scripture is of sin when God says to Cain, "sin [Heb. chata, a feminine noun] is crouching at the door; and its [her] desire is for you, but you must master it" (Gen 4:7). Sin is a beguiling temptress who seeks to lure the unsuspecting into a trap that will result in death (cf. Prov 5:3-5). and the sin: Grk. hamartia, as herein stated. when it is full grown: Grk. apoteleō, aor. pass. part., to bring to completion, to perform or to accomplish. brings forth: Grk. apokueō, pres., to be pregnant with, signifies the close of pregnancy, here employed as a birthing metaphor. death: Grk. thanatos, the cessation of life, usually in the natural physical sense of death, but here used as a metaphor of stillbirth and implies harm done to a relationship with God. There is no implication of the sin preventing receipt of God's mercy and therefore eternal death.
16 Be not mistaken, my beloved brothers.
Be not mistaken: Grk. planaō, pres. pass. imp., may mean (1) in active voice, to cause to go astray, in the sense of leading one from a standard of truth or conduct; or (2) in the passive voice of a physical departure from a customary course, stray or wander about; or (3) in a metaphoric extension of the idea of physical departure, go astray, be mistaken. Danker applies the third meaning here. my beloved: Grk. agapētos, held in affection, esteemed or dear. brothers: pl. of Grk. adelphos, voc. case. See verse 2 above. Jacob presents his appeal from a heart of love and kindly intended. Jacob is not exhorting any specific individual, but addressing an all too common challenge to serving God.
17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom can be no variation, nor turning shadow.
Every good: Grk. agathos, achieving a high standard of excellence in meeting a need or interest, beneficial, useful, helpful or good. gift: Grk. dosis may refer to the act, 'giving,' or the object, 'gift.' Marshall prefers to the former meaning, but Danker and Rienecker prefer the latter. and every perfect: Grk. telios, free from any deficiency, omission or corruption, 'complete' or 'perfect.' gift: Grk. dōrēma, gift. is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 4 above. from above: Grk. anōthen, adv., from above as an allusion to heaven or God. coming down: Grk. katabainō, pres. part., proceed in a direction that is down, come or go down. The first clause of the verse states a universal principle. It is noteworthy that Jacob does not use the words normally associated with spiritual gifts, charisma (Rom 12:6) and pneumatikos (1Cor 12:1).
from the Father: Grk. patēr, a male biological parent or ancestor. In Greek culture patēr was used of biological relation, of the patriarch of a family, as a title of honor for an old man or a philosopher, and of a deity to emphasize his authority and his power to beget. In the LXX patēr renders ab ("av"), which occurs about 1180 times. In the Tanakh the concept of God as Father occurs only a small number of times and only in relation to Israel (Deut 1:31; 8:5; 32:6; 2Sam 7:14; 1Chr 17:13; 22:10; 28:6; Ps 89:26; 103:13; Prov 3:12; Isa 63:16; 64:8; Jer 31:9; Mal 1:6; 2:10) (DNTT 1:616f). Without God's adoption man is an orphan (Gal 4:5; Eph 2:12), but when man acknowledges God as his Father, then he inherits God's understanding and truth.
of lights: pl. of Grk. phōs, that which serves as a revealing or disclosing medium, light. The plural form of the word generally refers to the light given to heavenly bodies (Rienecker). Jacob emphasizes that the God and Father of Israel is also the Creator of the heavens. with whom can be no: Grk. ou, no or not, lit. "with whom there is no." The negative particle ou is an emphatic denial of the possibility, as well as the fact. variation: Grk. parallayē, 'variation,' from the verb parallasso, to cause to alternate or change. The term is used in Greek literature of seasons and generally denotes some regularity or system in change (Rienecker). nor turning: Grk. tropē, a turning, in imagery relating to movement of heavenly bodies. shadow: Grk. aposkiasma, shadow caused in the natural realm by blocking sunlight. With God there is not only no darkness (1Jn 1:5), but not even a shadow of darkness.
Stern suggests the Jacob uses astronomical language alluding to either an eclipse or phases of the moon. He goes on to say that Jacob's cosmology was more Copernican ('heliocentric,' the earth revolves around the sun) than Ptolemaic ('geocentric,' the sun revolves around the earth). Such oversimplification ignores the fact asserted by the noted physicist Sir Fred Hoyle that from a physical standpoint there is no difference between these two models (See Gerald E. Aardsma, Geocentricity and Creation, Institute for Creation Research, 2002; and Tom Willis, "The Cosmos," CSA News, April 2000). Jacob states the simple observational fact as repeated numerous times in Scripture that the heavenly bodies (sun, moon, planets, and stars) all move in relation to the earth and thus he cannot be labeled as strictly Copernican. The geocentricism of the Bible has not been disproved in any scientific sense.
Jacob means, of course, that unlike the seasons and the heavenly lights, God does not change (Mal 3:6, Heb 6:7; 13:8). The moon can block light from the sun, but nothing can block the light of God's benevolence; nothing can interrupt the flow of His goodness (Rienecker).
18 Having willed He brought us forth by the word of truth, for us to be a kind of first fruits of His creatures.
Having willed: Grk. boulomai, aor. pass. part., may mean (1) to have in one's mind or (2) to reach a decision upon deliberation, lit. "having purposed" (Marshall). God's decision came about because of His grace. He brought us forth: Grk. apokueō, aor., to be pregnant with and signifies the close of pregnancy, thus 'to give birth to' or 'to deliver.' The birthing language contrasts with the negative kind of birthing described in verse 15 above. Jacob is speaking of an experience identified as a "new birth" in John 3:3. by the word: Grk. logos, a vocalized expression of the mind, here the mind of God. The noun is lit. "a word." In Greek philosophical writings logos took on the meaning of a common universal law or truth and that which gives order in the universe. In the LXX logos stands principally for Heb. dabar, "word, report, command."
of truth: Grk. alētheia, that which is really so, truth as opposed to deception or false testimony. Yeshua is the truth (John 1:14, 17; 8:32; 14:6; 15:26). In Scripture "word" is often combined with "of God" or "of the LORD" to indicate inspired prophetic speech (DNTT 3:1087). Here Jacob uses the "word of truth" with the same intention as the message of the divine messenger of God.
for us to be: Grk. eimi, pres. inf. See verse 4 above. a kind of first fruits: Grk. aparchē, making a beginning in sacrifice by offering something as first fruits, an allusion to the first fruit offerings of the barley harvest at Passover time (Reishit Katzir) or of the wheat harvest at Shavuot (HaBikkurim). The former first fruits symbolized Yeshua's resurrection (1Cor 15:20) and the latter first fruits symbolize the empowerment of disciples by the Holy Spirit (Rom 8:23). The metaphor is also used of those newly born in Yeshua (1Cor 16:15; cf. Rev 14:4). Since aparchē is singular the pronoun "we" could be rhetorical and refer to Jacob. In other words, he refers to his spiritual birth after hearing and experiencing the word of truth from his brother Yeshua. Jacob's experience was common of all believers.
of His creatures: pl. of Grk. ktisma, which refers to that which is created by God or to creatures created by God. Ktisma occurs only three other places in the apostolic writings (1Tim 4:4, Rev 5:13 and 8:9). Jacob uses the term to mean animals.
Midrash 2: On Listening, 1:19-27
19 You know this, my beloved brothers. But let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger;
You know this: Grk. oida, perf. imp. (the perf. tense of Grk. eidon, to see), to have seen or perceived, hence to know. The verb is used for various kinds of knowledge: (1) to know someone or about someone; (2) to be intimately acquainted with or stand in a close relation to someone; (3) to know or understand how to do something, be able; (4) understand, recognize, or come to know by experience; and (5) to remember (BAG). In the LXX oida occurs frequently to render Heb. yada (SH-3045; e.g., Num 11:16; Deut 1:39; Josh 2:4; 2Sam 19:6), which has a wide range of meaning, but in most occasions refers to a personal knowledge, whether of knowing persons or knowing by experience, as well as knowing by learning (DNTT 2:395). To the Hebrew mind "knowing" is not philosophical or theoretical, but based in reality.
my beloved: Grk. agapētos, lit. "beloved of me." See verse 16 above. Jacob stresses the close bond he feels to his correspondents. brothers: pl. of Grk. adelphos. See verse 2 above. let every: Grk. pas, adj. See verse 2 above. man: Grk. anthrōpos, human being, man or mankind, here of an adult male. In the LXX anthrōpos renders three Hebrew words: (1) adam, SH-444, used for a human male or generically for man and woman and as a contrast to animals (e.g., Gen 1:26, 27); (2) ish, SH-376, adult male or husband (Gen 2:23, 24) and (3) enosh, SH-582, man or mankind, often signifying the aspect of weakness and mortality (Job 5:17; Ps 8:4-5) (DNTT 2:564).
be: Grk. eimi, pres. imp. See verse 4 above. swift: Grk. tachus, exhibiting swiftness, quick reaction to a situation. to hear: Grk. akouō, aor. inf., the sensory act of hearing with the ears, metaphorically of paying attention, but also probably with the sense of comprehension or understanding. Jacob addresses a weakness of men of which women often complain, "He doesn't listen to me."
slow: Grk. bradus, slow in movement, taking one's time in reacting. to speak: Grk. laleō, aor. inf., to make an oral statement, lit. "slow into speaking. and slow to anger: Grk. orgę, strong condition of displeasure with the behavior of another, the inward attitude of anger or indignation. Jacob offers sensible advice to guide all relationships in the Body of Messiah. In modern communication theory this principle is called "active listening." Conflict often occurs as a result of unilaterally stating our assumptions as if they were facts and not taking the time to hear another person's point of view.
20 for the anger of man works not the righteousness of God.
for: Grk. gar, conj. See the note on verse 6 above. the anger: Grk. orgę. See the previous verse. of a man: Grk. anēr (Heb. adam), an adult man without regard to marital status; lit. "of a man." The term here is obviously intentional to narrow the focus in contrast to the use of anthrōpos in the previous verse. Nevertheless, Jacob makes an important distinction between men and God. works: Grk. ergazomai, pres. mid. ind., to work as effort in the course of activity or the effect or result of effort. not: Grk. ou, adv. the righteousness: Grk. dikaiosunē, a state that is in accord with standards for acceptable or anticipated behavior, uprightness, righteousness, justice. In the LXX dikaiosunē normally renders Heb. tsedaqah (SH-6666), first used in Genesis 15:6 of Abraham's faithfulness being considered as righteousness.
In the Tanakh the concept of tsedaqah refers to right or ethical character and behavior that is in keeping with the covenantal relationship with God. So, righteousness is more relational than legal. In the Tanakh tzedakah also carries the sense of salvation (deliverance) and judgment (justice). Righteousness primarily has human relationships as its focus and therefore righteousness strengthens the community. of God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. See verse 1 above. Righteousness is often used to describe the character of God (Ps 5:8; 35:24; Isa 5:16; 42:21; Jer 9:24), as well as the Davidic king, the Messiah (Ps 72:1; Jer 23:5) (DNTT 3:354). Righteousness for humans is rarely ever achieved by anger. Labeling human behavior as "righteous indignation" is a generally an excuse for carnality.
21 Therefore, putting away all filthiness and overflowing of wickedness, receive with humility the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
Therefore: Grk. dio, an inferential conj., therefore or for this reason. putting away: Grk. apotithēmi, aor. mid. part., to put off, to strip off. It is a metaphor of putting off of clothes (Rienecker). all filthiness: Grk. hruparia, dirtiness, filthiness. The word was used of dirty clothes, but also moral defilement. and overflowing: Grk. perisseia, overabundance, excess. of wickedness: Grk. kakia, evil wickedness. receive: Grk. dechomai, to receive, to accept. with humility: Grk. prautēs, meekness, mildness, gentleness. It is the humble and gentle attitude which expresses itself in a patient submissiveness to offense free from malice and desire for revenge. The word stands in contrast to anger mentioned in the previous verse (Rienecker). the implanted: Grk. emphutos, implanted. It is the word for an "implanting" not at birth but later in life. It is used metaphorically to mean "sent into a man to be, or grow to be, a part of his nature."
word: Grk. logos. See verse 18 above. which is able to save: Grk. sōzō, aor. act. inf., to deliver, or rescue from a hazardous condition, often in the sense of bodily harm. In the Besekh sōzō frequently refers to rescue from spiritual peril, including deliverance from God's wrath on the Day of the Lord. your souls: Grk. psuchē, that which animates the physical life or the seat and center of the inner life of man in its many and varied aspects (BAG). Psuchē corresponds to the Heb. nephesh, "breath," and designates that which makes man or beast, into a living being. In Hebrew thought a person is a soul-body. Thus, "soul” does not refer to a non-physical part of a human being, but rather to the whole person. Human beings live as "souls;” they do not have souls (e.g., Acts 2:41; 7:14; 27:37; and 1Pet 3:20).
22 But be doers of the word, and not only hearers, deluding your own selves.
But: Jacob makes a contrast with the preceding thought. be: Grk. ginomai, pres. mid. imp., to undergo a state of change or development, to become or to come into being. The present tense indicating continual action calls for a habit of life. doers: Grk. poiētēs, one who performs according to directives. of the word: Grk. logos. See verse 18 above. Generally the exhortation pertains to Word as preserved in Scripture and more specifically the words that Jacob has written. and not only hearers: Grk. akroatēs, member of an audience, one who hears. Jacob alludes to the practice of synagogue worship with the hearing of the Torah which was read aloud (cf. Luke 4:16; Acts 13:15; 15:21; 2Cor 3:15). Jacob would include his own letter, since the apostolic writings were read loud in congregational meetings (cf. Col 4:16; 1Thess 5:27; 1Tim 4:13; Rev 1:3).
deluding: Grk. paralogizomai, pres. mid. part., to reason beside the point, to misjudge, to miscalculate, to deceive one's self, to cheat in reckoning, to deceive through fallacious reasoning (Rienecker). your own selves: pl. of Grk. heautou, reflexive pronoun of the second person. lit. "yourselves." The adj. "own" is redundant. Jacob echoes Yeshua's teaching, "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter" (Matt 7:21). Stern points out that the entire letter emphasizes deed over creed, action over profession; and this is the usual Jewish approach to religion, morals and life.
23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man beholding his natural face in a mirror;
For: Grk. gar, conj. See verse 6 above. if anyone is a hearer: Grk. akroatēs. See the previous verse. of the word: Grk. logos. See verse 18 above. In other words, if the disciple only sits in the pew and hears the sermon or the Scripture read. and not a doer: Grk. poiētēs. See the note on the previous word. The disciple who acts on what he has heard (or read in Scripture). he is like a man: Grk. anēr. See verse 20 above. beholding: Grk. katanoeō, pres. part., to pay close attention to, to take a close look at. his natural: Grk. genesis, birth.
face: Grk. prosōpon, that which forms the prominent identifying part of person. The expression "natural face" refers to the face the disciple was born with, but serves as a literary device to make a point since no one can see his face as it was at birth. in a mirror: Grk. esoptron, a reflective surface used as a mirror. Throughout the biblical period mirrors were round and made of polished metal, such as bronze or copper (Ex 38:8; Job 37:18). Glass mirrors became available only in the late Roman period. Paul comments on the unclear image of a metal mirror (1Cor 13:12).
24 for he beholds himself, and goes away, and immediately forgets what manner of man he was.
for: Grk. gar, conj. See verse 6 above. he beholds: Grk. katanoeō, aor. See the previous verse. The aorist tense would be "he saw himself." himself, and goes away: Grk. aperchomai, perf., to be in movement from a position with or without mention of a destination; to 'go away,' 'depart' or 'leave.' The perfect tense would be "has gone away." and immediately: Grk. eutheōs, adv., immediately, forthwith, right away. forgets: Grk. epilanthanomai, aor. mid., to lack remembrance of something, to forget. what manner: Grk. hopoios, correlative pronoun, 'of what sort.' of man he was: lit. "he was." The words "of man" are not in the Greek text. Jacob depicts the passive use of a mirror to check grooming, but implies there should be a more active use. The reality is that a mirror only reflects the surface, not what is below the surface.
25 But he who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and continues, not being a hearer who forgets but a doer of the work, this man will be blessed in his doing.
But: Grk. de, conj. See verse 14 above. Jacob introduces a contrast to the scenario of verses 23-24. he who looks into: Grk. parakuptō, aor. act. part., to bend over, to stoop down and to look into in order to see something exactly and to recognize (Rienecker), lit. "having looked into." The verb indicates close observation. the perfect: Grk. teleios essentially means to be complete. In the LXX teleios occurs 20 times; seven times as equivalent for the Heb. root salem, to be sound, and seven times for tamim, complete, sound. The stress lies on being whole, perfect, intact. It is used of the heart that is wholly turned towards God (1Kgs 8:61; 11:4), and of the man who has bound himself wholly to God (Gen 6:9; cf. Deut 18:13). The thought of totality is also shown in the mention of total depopulation (Jer 13:19), and in the fact that whole-offerings can be called teleai (Jud 20:26; 21:4).
law: Grk. nomos may mean either a principle or standard relating to behavior or codified legislation, i.e. law. The usage of nomos in the Besekh has a much deeper meaning. In the LXX nomos translates torah, but torah does not mean simply "law” or "laws” as the English word conveys. Torah means "direction," "teaching” or "instruction" and comes from the root yarah, which means to throw, to shoot (as in arrows), or to cast (as in lots) (BDB 435f). In the Tanakh torah not only refers to commandments, statutes and ordinances decreed by God and given to Moses, but also custom or manners of man, e.g. direction given by priests (Deut 24:8; 33:10). Torah sets forth the way a person is meant to live in an ethical and moral way in order to enjoy life to the full and to please God.
In normal Jewish usage in the time of Yeshua the term Torah had a variety of specific applications. Torah could mean the commandments given through Moses (Matt 12:5), the entire Pentateuch (Matt 22:40) or generally as a synonym for Scripture (Matt 5:18). Jacob's use of nomos refers to the written commandments of God and he rightly points out that the Torah is complete. Jacob's reminder of the perfection of the Torah implies the warning against adding or taking away from it with man's traditions (Deut 4:2; 12:32). the law: Grk. tēs, a reflexive pronoun whose antecedent is "law." The word nomos is not repeated in the Greek text.
of liberty: Grk. eleutheria, the absence of constraint relating to personal choice or action, freedom, liberty. Jacob uses "freedom" as an attribute of Torah (Rienecker). The Torah (God's instruction) provides freedom in that whatever is not prohibited may be freely chosen. For example, Adam had the freedom of choosing from any tree in the Garden to eat, except one. Those areas in the Torah that constrain behavior are meant to assure the well-being of individuals and the community. and continues: Grk. paramenō, aor. part., to remain in close association with someone, to remain or continue in a state or condition, lit. "having continued." not being: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. part., to come into being, to become, to exist through application of will or effort, to undergo a state of existence or change, lit. "not having become" (NASB).
a hearer: Grk. akroatēs. See verse 22 above. who forgets: Grk. epilēsmonē, forgetfulness. The word is a noun, not a verb. The genitive case of the noun would be lit. "of forgetfulness," i.e., "a forgetful hearer." but a doer: Grk. poiētēs. See verse 22 above. of the work: Grk. ergon may refer to a deed or action in contrast to rest, or deeds exhibiting a consistent moral character. Here Jacob uses ergon as a function of nomos, i.e., the work of Torah. Some Bible versions render the noun as a verb, depicting action of the doer (ESV, HCSB, NIV, NRSV, RSV) or as an adjective describing the doer ("effectual," NASB). Besides the HNV, the DRA, KJV, NKJV and MW translate the phrase literally as "doer of the work." The CJB has "doer of the work it requires." Jacob's point is that the work of the Torah is to serve as a mirror, similar to the metaphor of "tutor" used by Paul (Gal 3:24). With the divine reflection the individual can make whatever changes may be required in his character or behavior.
this man: Grk. outos, masc. pronoun, lit. "this one." will be blessed: Grk. makarios, enjoying special advantage, blessed, privileged, fortunate or happy. In the LXX makarios translates Heb. esher, which means happiness, joyfulness, blessedness and fortunate all at the same time (BDB 81). Esher comes from the root word ashar, which means to go (straight), or to walk. Two versions use the word "happy” (NCV, NLB) but this is inadequate because the root of the English word "happy” is "hap” which means chance. For most people without God happiness comes as a result of good luck. However, the Hebrew viewpoint is that a "blessing” is a purposeful endowment (cf. Gen 1:28), ordinarily transmitted from the greater to the lesser. Blessedness can never be self-imposed nor come by accident. The only source of blessing is from God.
in his doing: Grk. poiēsis, doing. Jacob is not saying that God will bless the faithful disciples with riches for being obedient. Rather, the faithful disciple knows that in his obedience he has the favor of God. There is no better condition than to know one has God's approval.
26 If anyone thinks himself to be religious, while he does not bridle his tongue, but deceives his heart, the religion of this man is vain.
If: Grk. ei, conj., a contingency marker, generally used to introduce a circumstance assumed to be valid for the sake of argument. anyone: Grk. tis, indefinite pronoun. thinks: Grk. dokeō, pres., to entertain an idea or form an opinion about something on the basis of what appears to support a specific conclusion, 'to think' or 'to opine.' himself to be religious: Grk. thrēskos, adj., religious, one devoted to the worship of God. while he does not bridle: Grk. chalinagogeō, pres. act. part., using a device in an animal's mouth to manage it, bridle or control. his: Grk. autos, masc., personal pronoun. tongue: Grk. glōssa, the organ of speech, the tongue. In Hebraic thought a part of the body typically stands for the whole. Jacob will go on to speak more on the evil use of the tongue in chapter three.
but deceives: Grk. apataō, pres. part., to mislead or to deceive. his: Grk. autos, masc. heart: Grk. kardia, the pumplike organ of blood circulation, here used metaphorically as the center for personhood, character, cognition, emotion and volition. In other words he deceives himself. Self-deception occurs when one doesn't want to face the truth and excuses sin in himself (cf. Jer 37:9; 42:20; 49:16; 1 Cor 3:18; Gal 6:3). the religion: Grk. thrēskeia, the worship of God or religion, especially as it expresses itself in a religious service or ritual (BAG). Paul uses the term in Acts 26:5 to describe his religious devotion as a Pharisee and then negatively in his letter to the Colossian congregation to refer to zeal in worship of angels and self-imposed asceticism (Col 2:18, 23). Jacob refers to the religion of the self-deceiver.
of this man: Grk. houtos, masc., demonstrative pronoun. is vain: Grk. mataios, without purpose, futile. Jacob's point is that without self-control any religious devotion is a sham and unacceptable to God. David expressed a similar sentiment (Ps 34:13; 39:1; 141:3).
27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.
Pure: Grk. katharos may mean (1) free from contamination, clean, cleansed; or (2) free from guilt or blame or moral impurity. Either sense may be translated as 'clean.' religion: Grk. thrēskeia, See the previous verse. and undefiled: Grk. amiantos, free from contamination, undefiled, pure. before: Grk. para, prep., has the root meaning of beside or alongside of. The dative case of the next word gives para the sense of 'in the presence of' or 'before.' God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. See verse 1 above. and the Father: Grk. patēr. See verse 17 above. is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 19 above. this: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pron. to visit: Grk. episkeptomai, pres. mid. inf., to pay attention to, to take an interest in, but with the focus on effort to be helpful the meaning would be 'look in on' or 'visit.'
the fatherless: pl. of Grk. orphanos, deprived of parents, with the implication of being left to one's own resources, orphaned. While being orphaned often came about because of the death or disappearance of a father, the word also applies to the loss of a mother. The translation of "fatherless" no doubt is based on the proximity of the next word. and widows: pl. of Grk. chēra, a woman bereft of a spouse. in their: pl. of Grk. autos, pers. pron. affliction: Grk. thlipsis, which comes from the verb thlibō, to press, squeeze or crush. The noun, then, means oppression, distress, or affliction. In the LXX thlipsis rendered a number of Hebrew terms, especially tsarah (straits, distress, affliction, trouble, BDB 865). The terms all denote need, distress, and various afflictions depending on the context, e.g. war, exile and personal hostility (DNTT 2:807).
Thlipsis occurs 45 times in the apostolic writings and is translated by Bible versions as either tribulation or affliction. The usage in the Besekh is clearly the same as in the Tanakh. The first usage of thlipsis is Matthew 13:21 where Yeshua describes seed sown on rocky soil as the man who receives the word of God with joy, but then falls away because of affliction or persecution. Throughout the apostolic writings tribulation is treated as a normal and expected experience for the saints (Acts 7:11; 14:22; John 16:33; Rom 5:3; 8:35; 12:12; Eph 3:13; Php 1:17; Col 1:24; 1Th 1:6; 3:3-4; 2Th 1:4; 2Tim 3:12; Heb 10:33; Rev 1:9; 2:9-10; 7:14). The source of tribulation for the saints is not God but Satan or the world (John 15:18-23; 1Pet 5:8).
In ancient times widows and orphans faced the affliction of poverty, as in the story of the widow who put her last cent to the Temple (Mark 12:42). Most frequently in ancient history death in wartime was perhaps the most frequent cause of children being orphaned and women being widowed. and to keep: Grk. tēreō, pres. inf., to maintain in a secure state. oneself: Grk. heautou, masc. reflexive pron., himself. unspotted: Grk. aspilos, spotless or unblemished, such a lamb of highest quality, without defect. The word is used in a moral sense. from: Grk. apo, prep. with the root meaning of "off, away from," generally used to denote separation (DM 101).
the world: Grk. kosmos has a variety of uses in the Besekh and other Jewish literature, including (1) personal adornment, particularly of a woman; (2) the orderly universe; (3) the earth as the place of habitation; (4) the world as mankind, sometimes in reference to a segment of population; and (5) representative of people and values opposed to God (BAG). In the LXX kosmos occurs five times for Heb. adi (SH-5716), ornaments (Jer 2:32; 4:30); once for Heb. keli (SH-3627), ornaments , jewelry (Isa 61:10), twice for Heb. tipharah (SH-8597), beauty, glory, ornament (Prov 20:29; Isa 3:18), but five times for Heb. tsaba, the "hosts of heaven and earth," i.e., the stars (Gen 2:1; Deut 4:19). The meaning of kosmos as "the world of mankind" is found only in Apocryphal writings (DNTT 1:522).
Jacob might be engaging in a play on words with "unspotted" and using kosmos in the sense of external adornments, as found in some Jewish literature (Philo, Josephus, and Test. Judg. 12:1) and in 1 Peter 3:3 (cf. 1Tim 2:9). But, Jacob doesn't mention clothing, so he likely means kosmos as the inhabitants of the earth who are living outside of and even opposed to the law of God. He may have drawn inspiration from Isaiah:
"Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from My sight. Cease to do evil, 17 Learn to do good; seek justice, reprove the ruthless, defend the orphan, plead for the widow" (Isa 1:16-17).
Stern suggests that Jacob is reducing the Torah to two commandments, one requiring a practical expression of love toward those who can offer little or nothing in return, and the other calling for inward spiritual and outward ethical purity as the prerequisite to right action. However, Jacob does not say that reduction is his intention as Yeshua did when he said that the two commandments to love God and neighbor are the chief commandments upon which the Law and Prophets depend (Matt 22:40). Jacob's passion is simply applied religion, as John's exhortation:
"We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoever has the world's goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth." (1Jn 3:16-18)
Adamson: James Adamson, The Epistle of James. William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1976. The New International Commentary on the New Testament.
BAG: Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. trans. W.F. Arndt & F.W. Gingrich. The University of Chicago Press, 1957.
BBMS: Henry Morris, The Biblical Basis for Modern Science. Baker Book House, 1984.
BDB: The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. London: Oxford University Press, 1907. Reprinted by Associated Publishers and Authors, Inc., 1981.
DM: H.E. Dana & Julius R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament. The Macmillan Co., 1955.
Danker: F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, University of Chicago Press, 2009.
DNTT: Dictionary of New Testament Theology. 3 Vols., ed. Colin Brown, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1975.
Friedman: David Friedman, James the Just: Presents Applications of the Torah. Messianic Jewish Publishers, 2012.
Jeremias: Joichim Jeremias, Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus. Fortress Press, 1975.
Marshall: Alfred Marshall, NASB-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English. Zondervan Pub. House, 1986.
Mounce: William D. Mounce, Mounce Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament. 2011. Online.
Rienecker: Fritz Rienecker, A Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, Vol. 2. Zondervan Pub. House, 1980.
Ross: Allen P. Ross, Introducing Biblical Hebrew. Baker Academic, 2001.
Stern: David Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary. Jewish New Testament Publications, 1996.
Tarn & Griffith: Sir William Tarn and G.T. Griffith, Hellenistic Civilization. 3rd Edition. Edward Arnold Publishers, Ltd., 1952.
TLV: Tree of Life Bible: New Covenant. Messianic Jewish Family Bible Project. Destiny Image Publishers, Inc., 2011.
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