Blaine Robison, M.A.
Published 8 December 2013; Revised 8 October 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.
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.
Midrash 5: On Teaching, 3:1-18
1 Let not many become teachers, my brothers, knowing that we shall receive greater judgment.
Let not: 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). many: Grk. polus, adj., extensive in scope, many, much or great. Some versions insert "of you" after "many." become: Grk. ginomai, pres. mid. imp., to transfer from one state or condition to another, to come into being. Considering the rest of the verse Jacob may be using the verb of a formal process of education and ordination.
teachers: pl. of Grk. didaskalos, teacher or instructor who regularly engaged in the imparting of knowledge or skills, a vocation of special status among the Israelites. The Greek term occurs 59 times in the Besekh, all but 9 in the apostolic narratives, and only once in this letter. In the LXX didaskalos only occurs twice, first in Esther 6:1 where the meaning is "reader" (participle form of Heb. qara, to call, proclaim, read, BDB 894). The second occurrence of the noun is in 2 Maccabees 1:10 to denote Aristobulus, the head of the Egyptian Jewish community, who, having dedicated an exposition of the Pentateuch to King Ptolemy Philometor, is called a teacher clearly for this reason.
However, the participle form of the verb didaskō, "one teaching," is used in the LXX to render the participle form of three Hebrew verbs: (1) maskil, part. of sakal (give insight, teach, BDB 968) in Job 22:2; (2) hamlammed, part. of lamad (instruct, teach, BDB 540) in Psalm 94:10; 119:99; 144:1; and (3) moreh, part. of yarah (to throw or shoot and thus "one who throws out," or "points out," "directs," or "instructs," BDB 434) in Proverbs 5:13 and Isaiah 9:15. In contrast with Greek education the Tanakh is more concerned with obedience than imparting information (DNTT 3:766).
The situation is different in the Qumran texts, where moreh occurs more frequently, often with a qualifying phrase like "the righteous one." Two other important Hebrew terms also occur in Jewish literature: rab (lit. "great one") "teacher of the Law," and rabbî ("my teacher") (DNTT 3:766f). In the Besekh didaskalos has a particular usage. Of the 59 times the word appears 44 times the term is applied to Yeshua, either in direct address or by indirect reference. Eight other men are identified with the term: Yochanan the Immerser (Luke 3:12) and Nicodemus (John 3:10), as well as the teachers in Antioch — Barnabas, Simeon, Lucius, Manaen, and Saul [Paul] (Acts 13:1). Paul later affirmed his divine appointment as a didaskalos (1Tim 2:7; 2Tim 1:11).
The LXX usage combined with the Besekh indicates the term didaskalos is applied to two groups of men. First, the apostle John uses didaskalos twice to translate "Rabbi" (Grk. rhabbi, John 1:38; 20:16) and elsewhere didaskalos is used interchangeably with rhabbi (Matt 23:8; John 3:2). A Jewish Rabbi in the first century had the task of expounding the Torah and giving rulings in matters of the law. He had pupils (Heb. talmidim) who studied his teachings and were duty bound to obey his edicts. Second, didaskalos is used of the teachers in the Temple with whom the youthful Yeshua engaged in discussion (Luke 2:46). These teachers were most likely scribes. In Israelite culture a scribe (Grk. grammateus; Heb. sopher) was a legal scholar and a teacher of the Torah. This point is emphasized by the description of scribes as nomodidaskalos "teacher of the law" (Luke 5:17, 21; Acts 5:34; 1Tim 1:7).
Due to Jewish usage of didaskalos at the time it's very likely that Jacob is saying "Let not many of you become rabbis." my: Grk. egō, pronoun of the first person. brothers: pl. of Grk. adelphos, lit. "of the same womb," and in secular Greek meant "brother." Usage in the apostolic writings is generally literal, but figurative uses also abound indicating affinity in common interests or culture. 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), but in the apostolic letters adelphos, often in the plural, refers primarily to disciples of Yeshua and members of believing communities (e.g. 1Cor 1:10; Gal 1:2; Phil 2:25; 1Thess 3:22). The use of "brothers" in reference to men would be appropriate to the subject of becoming rabbi-teachers.
knowing: Grk. oida, perf. part. (the perf. tense of Grk. eidon, to see), to have seen or perceived, hence to know (NASBEC). 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.
that we shall receive: Grk. lambanō, fut. mid., to transition something from one person to another. The verb is first person plural, so Jacob includes himself as a rabbi-teacher subject to accountability, thus "we rabbis shall receive." heavier: Grk. megas, adj., exceeding a standard and therefore impressive, great. Some versions have "stricter" or "strictness" to make the point that God has greater expectations of rabbi-teachers than members of the congregation. judgment: Grk. krima may refer to a judicial decision, decree or verdict, or a sentence of condemnation and the subsequent punishment itself. The term is used here of the judgment of God. Most Bible versions treat the term generally of the evaluation of a judicial process, presumptively divine, but a few versions translate the word as "condemnation," the result of the judicial process (JUB, KJ21, KJV).
The fact that the verb "receive" is future tense, which ordinarily predicts a future event, might lead an interpreter to assume that Jacob intends the eschatological judgment of the Messiah at the Second Coming or the final judgment after the millennium. However, nothing in the context suggests that Jacob is focused on the age to come. The future tense has several uses in Greek and in this verse the gnomic future seems most appropriate. The gnomic future is one in which the statement of fact or performance may be rightfully expected under normal conditions (Dana & Mantey 193). In other words, the future tense has a more temporal application. The judgment may be either by the congregation or God in the present (cf. Matt 7:2; Rom 2:12; 1Cor 5:12-13; 6:1-7; 10:15; 11:13, 34; Col 2:16; 1Pet 4:17). Jacob alludes to the fact that there are standards for rabbi-teachers, which everyone knows and may be inferred from Scripture:
· A rabbi must teach the truth (Matt 22:16).
· A rabbi must teach the instructions given by God to Moses and explain how to make practical application (Ex 18:20; 24:12; Lev 10:11; Deut 4:10, 14; 6:7; 17:11; 33:10; Mic 4:2; Matt 5:19; Rom 2:18; 15:4; 1Cor 10:11).
· A rabbi must not make the beliefs and rules of men equal to or superior to God's instructions (Matt 15:9; Col 2:22).
· A rabbi must not communicate information or doctrines that are patently false, harmful or contrary to Scripture (Deut 18:20-22; Eph 4:14; 1Tim 4:1-4; 2Tim 4:3; Heb 13:9; 2Pet 2:1-3, 13-19).
· A rabbi must teach that which is in accord with the teaching of Yeshua's apostles (Acts 2:42; 15:1; 1Cor 7:10; 14:37; 2Th 3:14; 1Tim 6:2; 2Tim 3:10).
· A rabbi must teach accurately the life and work of Yeshua (Acts 18:25; 28:31).
· A rabbi must teach according to the gifting and grace bestowed by God (Rom 12:7; 1Cor 12:8, 28).
There is one last consideration. Jacob's caution could be related to Yeshua's criticism of certain Pharisees:
"They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, 7 and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men 8 "But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers." (Matt 23:6-8 NASB)
Yeshua was not opposed to the title of Rabbi, and never objected when he was addressed as Rabbi (14 times). His concern was as the seeking of public adoration. In addition, Yeshua did not want his disciples establishing their own independent and competing schools as Hillel and Shammai who were recognized as authorities on Torah. Paul, who gave teachers the third place of importance in the congregation (1Cor 12:28), made a contrasting exhortation to Messianic Jews 15-20 years later when he said "For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food" (Heb 5:12 NASB). Perhaps Messianic Jews had taken Jacob's advice a little too literally.
While the first verse of the chapter seems disconnected thematically from the rest of the chapter, it's likely that Jacob addresses a particular standard for rabbi-teachers, the use of the tongue with wisdom and tact.
2 For in many things we all stumble. If anyone stumbles not in word, this one is a perfect man, able to bridle also the whole body.
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 and in this chapter also in verses 7 and 16. in many things: Grk. polus, extensive in scope, many. we all: Grk. hapas, adj., of every item or person in an aggregate, all or everybody. It's as if Jacob is speaking at a conference of Messianic rabbis and points a finger around an audience to emphasize that no one is exempt.
stumble: Grk. ptaiō, pres., to lose one's footing, to stumble or trip, used figuratively to err, transgress or sin. In Greek the present tense can have a variety of meanings. A present tense verb may indicate action in progress, habitual practice, or action at successive intervals. Since Jacob says "we all" stumble, he cannot be talking about sin, but rather the equivalent of "fall short of the glory of God" (Rom 3:23). In other words, we are all prone to mistake, to do stupid and foolish things. That's just the unfortunate thing about human nature. If: Jacob again sets the stage for a hypothetical situation. anyone stumbles: Grk. ptaiō, pres. The present tense is used again, but in the context of the scenario the emphasis changes. Here the present tense imagines a future event without necessarily predicting it.
not in word: Grk. logos, a vocalized expression of the mind, word, discourse, statement, message or speech. 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." Jacob could be talking about ordinary conversation, but more likely the content of teaching. He then proceeds to use a variety of word pictures to make his point about a particular species of stumbling.
this one is a perfect: Grk. teleios, free from deficiency, omission or corruption, complete or perfect. man: Grk. anēr, an adult male without regard to age or marital status. able: Grk. dunatos, having power, competence or ability. to bridle: Grk. chalinagōgeō, aor. inf., using a device in an animals mouth to control it, to bride or control. also the whole: Grk. holos, a term that signifies something as a complete unit and not necessarily indicative of every individual part; all, whole or entire. body: Grk. sōma, a structured physical unit in contrast to its parts, body of human or animal, whether living or dead, but normally of a living human body. While Greek dualism distinguished between the soul and the body, in Hebraic thought the body represents the whole man. The term is also used over 20 times in Paul's letters for the aggregate of Yeshua's disciples, the Body of Messiah.
Jacob employs a typical Hebraic paradox. First, we all stumble. But, if anyone does not stumble in what he says or what he teaches, then he is perfect. The second proposition is only hypothetical and does not contradict the first. He also implies an impossibility, that is, if one can control his tongue he can control every other significant part of his body. Every divine commandment is violated by employing a part of the body. However, the tongue is the hardest of all bodily parts to control and mastering it should lead to success in complete self-control. Jacob is merely setting up a line of argument to make a point.
3 Now if we put the horses' bridles into their mouths that they may obey us, we turn about their whole body.
Now if: Jacob continues his hypothetical situation by introducing the first of several word pictures. we put: Grk. ballō, pres., to direct toward a position, to put or place. The verb is first person plural, which is clearly rhetorical. the horses': Grk. hippos, horse or steed. The term occurs 17 times in the Besekh and outside this letter all mentions occur in the book of Revelation. On the surface the proposed scenario is unlikely in the extreme because the average Jew would not have owned a horse. Yeshua rode into Jerusalem on a donkey and that was borrowed. In ancient times horses were ridden by kings and high ranking military officers, as well as used for military purposes, whether for mounted cavalry or to pull chariots. God recited a vivid description of the military horse to Job (Job 39:19-25).
Considerable opposition to the horse arose in Israel, seeing horses as symbols of pagan luxury and dependence on physical power for defense. God repeatedly warned Israel not to put their trust in the strength or speed of horses (Ps 20:7; Isa 31:1; Ezek 17:15) or to multiply horses (Deut 17:16). Yet, horses became so common in Jerusalem that the king's house near the city had a special horse gate (2Chron 23:15) and a gate of the city was also called the Horse Gate (Neh 3:28; Jer 31:40). So, Jacob says, just imagine you had a horse.
bridles: Grk. chalinos, a bit or bridle. The ancient horse bridle consisted basically of the mouthpiece, usually a single bar without a joint and cheekpieces that were often quite elaborate. Decorations in bronze or silver might be added depending on the wealth of the owner. into their mouths: Grk. stoma, the bodily organ of the mouth. that they may obey: Grk. peithō, pres. pass. inf., to bring about a convinced state in regard to something, to submit or to conform. us: pl. of Grk. egō. The pronoun is used to agree with the first person of "put." we turn about: Grk. metagō, pres., to cause to undergo a change in direction, here used of directing an animal. their whole: Grk. holos, a term that signifies something as a complete unit and not necessarily indicative of every individual part: all, whole or entire.
body: Grk. sōma. See the previous verse. The term here refers to the body of the horse. Jacob states the obvious. The mouth is the most tender area of the animal and the use of the bridle is effective in directing the animal. God, too, knows where we are tender and can apply pressure to motivate our actions.
4 Behold, also the ships, though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, are yet turned about by a very small rudder, wherever the impulse of the steersman wills.
Behold: Jacob introduces a new word picture to make the same point. also the ships: Grk. ploion in biblical times denoted any vessel that could go out on a body of water. In modern times “ships” are classified as vessels that can traverse oceans, whereas “boats” cannot, and it is this distinction that has probably guided translation of the word in modern Bible versions. The most common ships in Israel of this time were fishing vessels, as well as the merchant ships that plied the Mediterranean. The ancient maritime trade route circled the Mediterranean in a generally counter-clockwise direction and boats did not venture far away from the shoreline. Jacob is not assuming that the recipients of his letter own boats.
though they are so great: Grk. tēlikoutos, remarkable for degree of size relative to something interacting; so great or so large. The size of the ship is set in contrast to the rudder. and are driven: Grk. elaunō, pres. pass. part., apply force for forward movement, to set in motion, drive or row. by strong: Grk. sklēros, unyielding in nature, difficult, hard or strong. winds: Grk. anemos, the wind in the sense of the air currents that circumnavigate the globe and influence weather. In biblical contexts the wind is normally out of the west, although wind can come from any direction. are yet turned about: Grk. metagō, pres. pass. See the previous verse. Here the verb is used of steering a ship.
by a very small: Grk. elachistos, functions as a superlative of Grk. mikros, 'smallest,' thus very small. The comparison is on a scale of size compared to the ship. rudder: Grk. pēdalion, steering device on a ship found at the stern, steering paddle or rudder. wherever: Grk. hopou, adv., used of a place, where. the impulse: Grk. hormē, impulse, used of a pilot's quick response to hazard. of the steersman: Grk. euthunō, pres. part., to steer, of piloting a vessel, lit. "the one steering." wills: Grk. boulomai, pres. mid., may mean (1) to have in one's mind or (2) to reach a decision upon deliberation, to will, to wish or to want.
In reality the pilot steers the ship in the direction determined by the captain or owner of the vessel. However, the captain would give full authority to the pilot when bringing the ship into port.
5 So also the tongue is a little member, and boasts great things. Behold, how much wood is kindled by how small a fire!
So also the tongue: Grk. glōssa means the organ of the tongue, emphasizing the capacity for speech. The term also occurs figuratively of speech, talk or a language spoken by a person. In the LXX glōssa renders Heb. lashon, (tongue, speech, language, BDB 546) where it is used for the organ of speech and figuratively denotes the faculty of speech or language. In Hebrew lashon serves as a substitute term for "nation" when it identifies a particular people group and that meaning carries over into the apostolic use of glōssa. Jacob uses the term in the sense of anatomy and the use of the organ. is a little: Grk. mikros, adj., means relatively limited in extent, in this context in reference to size. member: Grk. melos, a member or limb of a bodily structure. In Hebraic thinking sins were often associated with the body part that engages in the sinful behavior.
and boasts: Grk. aucheō, pres., to boast, brag or express pride to an excessive degree. great things: Grk. megas, exceeding a standard and therefore impressive, great. Behold: Surely you can see?! how much: Grk. hēlikos, superlative of size, here 'how great.' wood: Grk. hulē, wood, both standing as a forest, and cut down, specifically firewood, or wood used for building (BAG). Considering the degree of contrast Jacob probably means a forest, as reflected in all modern versions. is kindled: Grk. anaptō, pres., to cause to be inflamed, to enkindle or kindle. by how small: Grk. hēlikos. The term is repeated to mean how small. Jacob uses the term in wordplay alerting to conflagration beginning with a small amount of tinder (Danker). a fire: Grk. pur, fire, combustion in which fuel or other material is ignited and combined with oxygen, gives off light, heat, and flame.
A Hasidic tale tells of a man who was being slandered by someone in the village. Distraught, he went to the rabbi. The rabbi knew who the slanderer was, so he summoned the bad-mouth and told him to bring a feather pillow. The slanderer was bemused, nevertheless he did as he was told. The rabbi told the man, "cut open the pillow." The man did so and watched the feathers blow everywhere. "Now go and gather them all up," said the rabbi. The man objected saying that it was impossible. "Yes" said the rabbi, "of course it is, but that is just like slander, once it leaves your mouth you do not know where it ends up. It flies on the wings of the wind and you can never get it back." In the Jewish tradition, slander is like murder - it kills a person's reputation. Never will all these terrible feathers be recovered." (from Israel Today Magazine, October 25, 2013)
6 And the tongue is a fire, the world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members, defiling the whole body, and inflaming the course of nature, being inflamed by hell.
And the tongue: Grk. glōssa. See the previous verse. is a fire: Grk. pur. See the previous verse. the world: Grk. kosmos has a variety of uses in the apostolic writings including: (1) the sum total of everything pertaining to existence here and now, the (orderly) universe; (2) the sum total of all beings above the animal level; (3) the planet upon which mankind lives; (4) mankind; and (5) the world as the scene of earthly joys, possessions, and cares; and (6) the world and everything in it as that which opposes God and is ruined and depraved of character (BAG). The last definition applies here as Jacob completes the description.
of iniquity: Grk. adikia means wrongdoing, unrighteousness, wickedness or injustice. The word group (adikia, the adj. adikos, and the vb. adikeō) pictures the unjust man as opposite of the just man. It covers all that offends against morals, custom or decency, all things that are unseemly, unspeakable or fraudulent and is what harms the order of the world. Adikia is rooted in legal thinking. (DNTT 3:573f). The Hebrew vocabulary is far more complex and varied than the Greek. In the LXX adikia, occurring about 250 times and rendering 36 different Hebrew words indicates that sin in ancient Israel was above all an offence against the sacred order of divine justice (1Sam 3:13f). Thus, it affects the community, whose existence is most intimately connected with the preservation of divine justice. Adikia is ultimately sin against community.
In the poetic and prophetic books of the Tanakh the tongue is in particular the organ of sinful man, the tool of falsehood and evil, of arrogance and godlessness (Job 15:5; Ps 139:4; Prov 6:17; Isa 3:8; Jer 9:2). Sins of the tongue are like a lash (Job 15:3), like a sword and bows and arrows (Ps 56:5), or like a poisonous snake (Ps 139:4), causing disaster and destruction, and undermining a man's relationship with God and his neighbor. It is because "death and life are in the power of the tongue" (Prov 18:21) that the admonitions to keep one's tongue from evil (Ps 33:14), and to use one's tongue to intercede for justice and truth (Ps 34:28; 36:30; Prov 15:4) and to praise God (Ps 50:16; 125:2) are so urgent. (DNTT 3:1079).
the tongue is set: Grk. kathistēmi, pres. pass., may mean (1) bring, conduct, take someone somewhere; (2) appoint, put in charge; or (3) make or cause someone to become something (BAG). The last meaning fits here. among: Grk. en, prep., "within, in," but with the locative case of the noun following it, as here, can mean "among." our members: Grk. melos. See the previous verse. defiling: Grk. spiloō, pres. part., cause to be spotted or stained, to spot or defile, here metaphorically of moral or spiritual pollution. the whole: Grk. holos. See verse 2 above. body: Grk. sōma. See verse 2 above. Considering the corporate application in the rest of the chapter it is very likely that Jacob intends a figurative meaning for "whole body" as a local congregation of Messianic Jews or the aggregate of Messianic leaders. and inflaming: Grk. phlogizō, pres. part., to set in a flame, to kindle or inflame (Mounce).
the course: Grk. trochos, a runner; anything spherical, a wheel; drift, course (Mounce). of nature: Grk. genesis, birth, or in an extended sense a lineage, here used idiomatically of a person's life. being inflamed: Grk. phlogizō, pres. pass. part. The tongue just keeps on inflaming, making matters worse. by hell: Grk. geenna, transliterated in English as Gehenna, refers to a place of fiery judgment after death, commonly translated as "hell." Gehenna does not occur in the LXX or other early Jewish literature in Greek (DNTT 2:208), but is a transliteration of Heb. Gey ben Hinnom, the valley of the son of Hinnom, to the south of Jerusalem, where children were once sacrificed to Moloch (Josh 15:8; 2Kgs 23:10; Jer 2:23; 7:31-32; 19:6) and in the first century served as a refuse dump. Rubbish fires were always burning there; hence its use as a metaphor for hell.
Hell is a real place, a physical reality. It is not just a metaphor for a state of separation from God. Yeshua spoke of Hell more than anyone else in Scripture and declared that it was originally prepared for the devil and his angels (Matt 25:41; 2Pet 2:4). Hell is fueled with an unquenchable fire, fire that cannot be put out (cf. 2Kgs 22:17; Isa 1:31; 34:10; 66:24; Jer 4:4; 7:20; 21:12; Matt 18:8). The fire of hell will not degrade in intensity over the course of eternity and it cannot be extinguished by any force other than God’s power. Since the angels had to have been created on the first day (cf. Job 2:1; 38:7; John 8:44; 1John 3:8), Yeshua's pronouncement on the original purpose of Gehenna implies agreement with rabbinic teaching that Gehenna was one of seven things created before the world (Ned. 39b; cf. Isa 30:33, where the Heb. Topheth is regarded as a synonym for Gehenna).
The KJV uses "hell" over 30 times in the Tanakh, but the word being translated is sheol, the underworld that receives all the dead. Sheol is translated in the LXX with hadēs, transliterated in English as Hades. In the Tanakh little is known of sheol, except that it is a place of darkness devoid of joy (Job 17:13; Ps 6:5). However, during the intertestamental period many Jews embraced the doctrine of the immortality of the soul and resurrection, which altered the concept of Hades. Reward and punishment would begin after death and the souls of the righteous would enter heavenly blessedness, while the souls of the ungodly are punished in Hades. This was the position of the Pharisees and the Essenes (Josephus, Wars, II, 8:11, 14). Thus Hades became a place where the unredeemed dead are kept in anticipation of the final judgment.
Hell and Hades should not be confused. As illustrated in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus Hades is a destination immediately upon death (Luke 16:22-26). Hades is always described as being down, thus it is in a subterranean region of the earth (cf. Deut 32:22; Ezek 26:20; Matt 11:23; 12:40; Luke 10:15; Eph 4:9). Since the Bible does not admit to any belief in Purgatory, Hades is not a temporary abode where one’s guilt is purged in order to qualify for the blessing of heaven. Hell should be associated with the lake of fire in Revelation 19:20, which is the place of final punishment after the white throne judgment (Rev 20:14-15). The lake of fire may be located in outer space across the galaxy since Hell is referred to as the “outer darkness” (cf. Matt 8:12; 22:13; 25:30; Jude 13).
Since Jews used "heaven" as a circumlocution for God, so "hell" probably stands for Satan and his demons (see Jacob 3:15). The entire phrase "the wheel of birth being inflamed by hell" probably alludes to the first sinful use of the tongue in the book of Genesis. Sin entered the world because the Serpent, aka Satan, the chief power of Hell, used his tongue to lie. If (or when) we lie we imitate Satan, who is the father of lies and was a liar from the beginning (John 8:44).
7 For every kind of beasts and birds, of creeping animals and marine animals, is tamed, and has been tamed by the human race.
For every: Grk. pas, adj., a term conveying the idea of comprehensiveness; all, whole or every. kind: Grk. phusis, fundamental state of being, nature. MRINT translates as "species," but Jacob is not using terminology of modern taxonomy. of beasts: Grk. thērion, beast or wild animal; i.e. not domesticated. and birds: Grk. peteinon is a generic word for bird, whether clean or unclean. of creeping animals: Grk. herpeton (from the verb herpō, to move slowly), a creeping animal, a reptile. While commonly translated as "reptile" the term also included insects (cf. Gen 1:24). and marine animals: Grk. enalios, marine, living in the sea (Mounce). is tamed: Grk. damazō, pres. pass., to subdue, tame or control. The present tense emphasizes a current activity.
The verb occurs only two times in the Besekh. The other instance is Mark 5:4 where it refers to the inability of people to subdue the Gadarene demoniac. Damazō does not occur at all in the LXX, but is found in Josephus where he records the battle between the Israelites and the Amalekites at Rephidim in the wilderness (Exodus 17). After the victory the Israelites not "only made slaves of the bodies of their enemies, but subdued (Grk. damazō) their minds also" (Antiquities, III, 2:4). and has been tamed: Grk. damazō, perf. pass. The perfect tense gives a historical perspective, no doubt reaching back to Adam.
by the human: Grk. anthrōpinos, belonging to or characteristic of a human being. race: Grk. phusis. The noun is repeated, but with a different emphasis. The two nouns together could be translated as "mankind." We should note that from a biblical point of view there is only one race, the human race (Acts 17:26). Jacob is not using the verb "tame" in the sense of training animals, because only a small number of animals out of the thousands of species have been trained for a practical purpose that benefits or pleases humans. Jacob no doubt intends the concept of dominion as found in the original mandate in the Garden of Eden that mankind "rule [Heb. radah, to have dominion, rule, dominate, BDB 921] over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth" (Gen 1:28).
8 But no one of men is able to tame the tongue; restless, harmful, full of deadly poison.
But no one: Grk. oudeis, a term used to indicate negation of a person as actually existing at a given place or moment; no one or nobody. of men: pl. of Grk. anthrōpos, human being, used generally of male or female, and in the plural of people, men, mankind or the human race. The apparent redundancy, typical of Hebrew writing, is not translated in standard Bible versions and is only rendered in three versions (Darby, LITV & YLT). The word is important in context because Jacob contrasts human beings with animals. is able: Grk. dunamai, pres. mid., to be capable for doing or achieving. to tame: Grk. damazō, aor. inf. See the previous verse. the tongue: Grk. glōssa. See verse 5 above.
restless: Grk. akatastatos, adj., 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 1:8). 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). While Bible versions connect the adjective with the article "a" to make "restless" describe "evil," the adjective more likely describes "tongue." The "unstable" aspect of the term is illustrated in the next verse.
harmful: 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). Bible versions favor "evil" but the tongue itself does not contain sin, anymore than an eye or hand does (cf. Matt 5:29-30, note the "if"). The issue is the use of the tongue. Hebrew has the expression lashon hara (lit. “tongue of the evil”), which in Judaism refers to gossip, backbiting, rumor-mongering, slander and other misuses of speech (Stern). In the Talmud the "evil tongue" is ranked equally with the great sins of idolatry, sexual immorality and murder (Arakin 15b), for which a Jew is supposed to give up his life rather than commit (Sanh. 74a).
full: Grk. mestos, full of, normally of objects filled with a physical substance, but figuratively of being filled with a characteristic, thought or attitude. of deadly: Grk. thanatēphoros, bringing death, lethal, deadly. poison: Grk. ios, poison, venom, corrosion or rust. The term occurs only three times in the Besekh (also in Rom 3:13; Jacob 5:3). Paul uses the term to refer to the poison of a snake (Rom 3:13), quoting David, but consider whom David refers to:
"Rescue me, O LORD, from evil men; preserve me from violent men 2 who devise evil things in their hearts; they continually stir up wars. 3 They sharpen their tongues as a serpent; poison of a viper is under their lips." (Ps 140:1-3)
On the other hand, Jacob uses the word to mean "rust" in 5:3. While all versions agree on "poison" for this verse, the aspect of corrosion should not be overlooked. In other words, the misuse of the tongue invariably has a corrosive effect on relationships. The translation of this verse in most Bible versions gives the impression of Jacob making a declaration contrary to human experience. "Nobody can control their tongue."
Of course, people exercise control over their tongues, even if they sometimes say stupid or harmful things. Even unbelievers control their tongues. If Jacob intended such a universal condemnation he would have to include himself among the offenders. It's on a par with Paul's quotation in his Romans letter of Psalm 14:3, "None is righteous, no, not one" (Rom 3:10 ESV). Paul's comment can't be taken literalistically because in the next chapter he will demonstrate the righteousness of Abraham. In the context of Psalm 14 the "none righteous" refers to the fool who says there is no God (Ps 14:1). Jacob's statement is patently hyperbole and he will go on to explain in what sense the tongue is restless, harmful and full of corrosion.
9 By this we bless the Lord and Father; and by this we curse men, who are made according to the likeness of God:
Jacob now explains what he means by the instability of the tongue. By this we bless: Grk. eulogeō, pres., to invoke divine favor or to express high praise, to bless; in this case the latter meaning. The verb occurs 41 times in the Besekh with a variety of applications. The corresponding Heb. verb is barakh, which lit. means to kneel or to bless (BDB 138). In the Tanakh barakh is an endowment of favor or beneficial power (cf. Gen 1:28), ordinarily transmitted from the greater to the lesser, either from God to man, from man to man or parent to child. However, the verb often occurs in the context of a man blessing God (e.g., Ps 103:1).
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, first translating the divine title Adonai (SH-136, Lord; Gen 15:2), and Heb. words used of men to denote higher rank or authority, primarily adôn (SH-113, master, lord; Gen 18:12). Over 6,000 times kurios replaces YHVH ("LORD" in Christian versions). Kurios does not translate YHVH, but serves as an interpretive circumlocution for all that is implied by use of the divine name (DNTT 2:511f). 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). For the public the title simply expressed respect, but for disciples the title acknowledged Yeshua as master of their lives and the future kingdom.
and Father: Grk. patēr, a male biological parent or ancestor. In the LXX patēr renders ab ("av," father). In the LXX patēr renders ab ("av"), which occurs about 1180 times. In the Tanakh the concept of God as Father occurs only in relation to Israel (Ex 4:22; Deut 1:31; 8:5; 32:6; 2Sam 7:14; 1Chron 17:13; 22:10; 28:6; Ps 89:26; 103:13; Prov 3:12; Isa 63:16; 64:8; Jer 31:9; Hos 11:1; Mal 1:6; 2:10) (DNTT 1:616f). God may be "father" to all in the sense of mankind's creator (Acts 17:28), but God is only Father in a spiritual and covenantal sense in relation to Israel (Rom 9:4). God can be the father of Gentile disciples by virtue of being grafted into the Olive Tree of Israel. Yeshua taught his disciples to begin prayer with "our Father" (Matt 6:9). Paul consistently refers to "our Father" in his letters (Rom 1:7; 1Cor 1:3; 2Cor 1:2; Gal 1:3; Eph 1:2; Phil 1:2; Col 1:2; 2Thess 1:1; 2:16; Philem 1:3), whereas other apostles refer to God simply as "the Father" (Acts 2:33; Jacob 1:17; 1Pet 1:2; 1John 1:2; Judah 1:1).
The Jews in the time of Yeshua blessed God on many occasions for many things. (These may be found in the Talmud tractate Berakoth.) Elizabeth blessed God for Miriam's pregnancy (Luke 1:42). Simeon blessed God for Yeshua's birth (Luke 2:28, 34). Yeshua blessed God before meals (see my commentary on Mark 6:41). Blessing God was a regular practice of Yeshua's disciples (Luke 24:53; 1Cor 4:12; Eph 1:3). Blessing God recognizes His sovereign exaltation and his omnipotent power over all natural processes necessary for sustaining life and making life enjoyable, and attributes the honor due Him for His gracious provision. Since the root meaning of barakh is to kneel, it's not hard to see how we can bless God. We can kneel before Him and acknowledge our utter dependence on Him.
and by this we curse: Grk. kataraomai, pres. mid., to call down curses on someone. In ancient thought the spoken word has intrinsic power which is released by the act of utterance and is independent of it. The person cursed is thus exposed to a sphere of destructive power. In the LXX the kataraomai word group translates two different Hebrew words, arar and qalal (DNTT 1:416), both of which occur in Genesis 12:3, “I will curse [arar] him that curses [qalal] you.” The first word that appears is arar ('to curse,' BDB 76; Gen 3:14), used principally of curses imposed by God or expected to be imposed by God (e.g., Gen 3:17; 4:11; 5:29; 9:25; 27:29; 49:7). The verb arar is used of man's cursing in Isaac's blessing on Jacob, "Cursed be those who curse you" (Gen 27:29).
An extended curse formula using arar appears in Deuteronomy, where blessing and cursing are contrasted (Deut 27:15-26; 28:16-19). The second word qalal (to be slight, swift or trifling, BDB 886) typically occurs on the lips of men. Qalal appears in important Torah legislation. Cursing a blind person is forbidden (Lev 19:4). Anyone who curses is father or mother is to be put to death (Lev 20:9). Cursing God merits the death penalty (Lev 24:11, 15-16). Qahal is used to describe persons as lightly esteemed (2Sam 6:22), but more seriously to treat with contempt or to dishonor (Ex 21:17; 2Sam 19:44; Isa 8:21; 23:9). men: pl. of Grk. anthrōpos. See the previous verse.
Jacob could be alluding to a practice of non-believing Jews cursing Messianic Jews as occurred when the man Yeshua healed of blindness was put out of the synagogue (John 9:22, 34). The attitude of Jewish leaders became more and more virulent against Messianic Jews. Toward the end of the 1st century, as Pharisaic Judaism more aggressively rejected the early Messianic Jewish followers of Yeshua, the grandson of Rabbi Gamaliel was the head of the Beit Din in Yavneh, the new religious center. He formulated the "prayer of the minim" (Birkat Minim), which was inserted into what is known as the eighteen benedictions (Heb. Tefilat HaSh'moneh Esreh) (Shapira 21), thus making 19 benedictions (Berachot 28b). A modern rendering of the benediction-curse is:
"And for slanderers let there be no hope; and may all wickedness perish in an instant; and may all Your enemies be cut down speedily. May You speedily uproot, smash, cast down, and humble the wanton sinners - speedily in our days. Blessed are You, Hashem, Who breaks enemies and humbles wanton sinners." (Siddur 107)
An Israeli scholar explains the historical setting:
"Although there are some who see Minim as a generic term for all who left the Pharisaic norms, most researchers conclude that the term is pointed toward Messianic Jews … The goal of this prayer of the minim was to send away the Notzrim [Nazarenes] from the Jewish society and from the synagogues. The minim did not want to curse themselves or to be cursed by others, and in order not to be in this situation they stopped going to the synagogues and being part of Jewish society. We find further proof of that in the book of John [9:22] in the Brit HaChadasha: "His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders, who already had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue." The term (aposunagōgos genetai) clearly speaks of the goal and the plot to remove Messianic Jews out of the synagogue." (Rivkah Nir, Early Christianity: The First 300 Years. Open University of Israel, 2009; quoted in Shapira 21-22)
Thus, Jacob argues that Messianic leaders should not manifest the hypocrisy of their unbelieving kinsmen. who are made: Grk. ginomai, perf. part., to come into being, to become. according to the likeness: Grk. homoiōsis, likeness or resemblance, from the verb homoioō, to cause to be like. The word occurs only here in the Besekh, but in this context is comparable to Grk. eikōn (image, likeness, representation) which occurs 9 times in Paul's letters. of God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. The phrase "likeness of God" is an allusion to Genesis 1:26, "Let us make man in Our image [LXX eikōn for Heb. tselem], according to Our likeness [LXX homoiōsis for Heb. demuth]." Respect for the image of God is a crucial virtue in Scripture. In the covenant with Noah an important expectation was imposed on all his descendants, "Whoever sheds man's blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man" (Gen 9:6). Thus, an assault upon any person is an assault upon God.
On the surface Jacob's analysis seems strange. A good Jew would never curse God, but, pronouncing curses on people would be considered appropriate when one has been victimized by an enemy. However, Jacob is in perfect accord with Yeshua's teaching that anger resulting in belittling or demeaning men with unwarranted and thoughtless name-calling amounts to murder (Matt 5:22). Since disciples are destined to be conformed to the image of Yeshua (Rom 8:29), who himself is the image of God the Father (2Cor 4:4), dishonoring a another person with contemptible speech is patently wrong.
10 out of the same mouth comes out blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be.
out of the same mouth comes out: Grk. exerchomai, pres. mid., to move away from a place or position, to go or come out. blessing: Grk. eulogia means praise, fine speaking, well-chosen words or blessing. Eulogia also carries the idea of something being bountiful (BAG). In the LXX eulogia renders Heb. b'rakhah, blessing (BDB 139). In the Tanakh a b'rakhah is ordinarily transmitted from the greater to the lesser (Heb 7:7), either from God to man, from man to man or parent to child. The content of Hebrew blessing may be illustrated in the blessing given by Isaac to his son Jacob (Gen 27:28-29; 28:3-4), the blessing given by Jacob to his sons (Gen 49:1-28) and the blessing Moses pronounced on the nation of Israel (Deut 33). Paul recounts some of these acts of blessing in Hebrews (of Melchizedek, 7:1; of Isaac, 11:20; and of Jacob, 11:21). A b'rakhah is also a ritual blessing offered to God expressing acknowledgement of His sovereign provision. See the previous verse.
and cursing: Grk. katara, imprecation or curse. See cursing in the previous verse. The noun katara refers to the content of a curse. In the LXX katara renders the Heb. qelalah (a curse, BDB 887; e.g., Deut 11:26-29; 30:1-19). Ever since God had cursed the ground (Gen 3:17; 5:29), people in Bible times knew the power of the spoken word and feared curses. Jacob worried that his mother's plan to deceive his father Isaac would bring a curse on him (Gen 27:12-13). The story of Balaam in Numbers 22—24 shows the belief that fulfillment of a curse is implied in the act of cursing. As Jacob finishes his thought this inconsistency, perhaps even hypocrisy, simply should not exist within the Body of Messiah.
11 Does the fountain send forth from the same opening the sweet and the bitter?
Does the fountain: Grk. pēgē, a liquid-laden source that issues in a gushing manner or stream, spring. send forth: Grk. bruō, pres., be full to bursting, about in, emit a strong flow, to gush, to send forth. from the same opening: Grk. opē, opening or hole, here of the orifice from which water issues. the sweet: Grk. glukus, sweet, as in pleasant tasting. and the bitter: Grk. pikros, bitter or brackish. The answer to the rhetorical question is obviously "no." Such a thing would be contrary to human experience.
12 Can a fig tree, my brothers, produce olives, or a vine figs? Neither can salt make water sweet.
Jacob offers another rhetorical question containing three absurd illustrations to emphasize truth. Can: Grk. dunamai, pres. mid., to be capable of doing or achieving something. a fig tree: Grk. sukē (for Heb. teenah, which also refers to the fruit of the tree), a fruit-producing plant which could be either a tall tree or a low-spreading shrub. The size of the tree depended on its location and soil. The blooms of the fig tree always appear before the leaves in Spring. There were usually two crops of figs a year. Figs were eaten fresh (2Kgs 18:31), pressed into cakes (1Sam 25:18), and used as a poultice (Isa 38:21).
my brothers produce olives: Grk. elaia, used of the olive tree (Rom 11:17), its fruit (here) and the Mount of Olives (Matt 21:21). The olive is a small evergreen tree or shrub native to the coastal areas of the eastern Mediterranean Basin (the adjoining coastal areas of southeastern Europe, western Asia and northern Africa) as well as northern Iran at the south end of the Caspian Sea. Its fruit, also called the olive, is of major agricultural importance in the Mediterranean region as the source of olive oil. Olive trees are very hardy, resistant to drought, disease and fire, and can live for a very long time. Its root system is very capable of regenerating the tree even if the above-ground structure is destroyed.
or a vine: Grk. ampelos, a climbing plant with tendrils, a vine, specifically a grape vine. figs: pl. of Grk. suka, the fruit of the fig tree. Neither can salt: Grk. halukos, an adj. of water, salty. make water: Grk. hudōr, water as physical element. sweet: Grk. glukus, sweet, as can be determined by the taste buds, here of water. To each of these illustrations the hearer would naturally reply, "Don't be ridiculous!" Hopefully, they got the point.
13 Who is wise and understanding among you? let him show by his good life his works in meekness of wisdom.
Who is wise: Grk. sophos, adj., having a high level of discernment, understanding and insight; thus, wise generally, shrewd, clever, learned or intelligent. In the LXX sophos stands generally for Heb. chakam, wise (DNTT 3:1027). Chakam occurs frequently in the Tanakh (first in Gen 41:8 and often in the wisdom literature) and has a range of meaning, including (1) skilful in technical work, (2) wise in political administration, (3) shrewd, crafty or cunning, (4) learned in the heavenly signs, (5) prudent toward leaders, (6) wise ethically and religiously, and (7) a learner in the school of wisdom, one who fears God (BDB 314). and understanding: Grk. epistēmōn, expert, learned, understanding. The term occurs in the LXX: Deuteronomy 1:13; 4:6 and Isaiah 5:21 for Heb. bin, to discern, have insight; Deuteronomy 1:15 for Heb. yada, knowledge, experience; and Daniel 5:11 for Aram. soklethanu, insight. among you: Who of you would claim these attributes of maturity?
let him show: Grk. deiknumi, aor. imp., to show in order to be observed by another, to point out or to make known. In other words, subject yourself to personal inspection. by his good: Grk. kalos, meeting a high standard, fine or good. life: Grk. anastrophē, movement here and there among people, of behavior based on certain principles or perspectives, conduct, mode or way of life. his works: pl. of Grk. ergon generally means a deed, action or accomplishment with these applications: (a) in contrast to rest; (b) as a practical proof of something; (c) of the deeds of God and Yeshua, specifically miracles; or (d) the deeds of men, exhibiting a consistent moral character (BAG). See the notes on Jacob 2:14-26. in meekness: 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.
of wisdom: Grk. sophia, the term denotes an attribute, never an activity; an unusual ability and knowledge. In early Greek culture sophia was of a practical nature, such as a trade skill, but later concentrated on theoretical knowledge, such as what could both be taught and acquired. In the LXX sophia renders predominately Heb. chokmah, wisdom. Chokmah also occurs frequently in the Tanakh (first in Ex 28:3 and often in the wisdom literature) and has a range of meaning, including (1) skill in war, (2) wisdom in political administration, (3) shrewdness, wisdom, (4) prudence in religious affairs, and (5) wisdom ethically and religiously (BDB 315). The noun often personifies God in the wisdom literature and therefore incumbent on man to acquire. Sophia also stands for other Hebrew words, especially binah, understanding. The fundamental principle of wisdom from a biblical point of view is to fear God (Job 28:28; Ps 111:10; Prov 9:10).
14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfishness in your heart, do not be arrogant and lie against the truth.
But if you have: Grk. echō, pres., generally means to have control of something, but here the verb has the sense of experiencing a condition, a psychological state. bitter: Grk. pikros. See verse 11 above. jealousy: Grk. zēlos, a passionate interest or intense interest in something or someone, which can manifest itself positively or negatively. In the LXX zēlos renders the Heb. qinah, ardor, zeal or jealousy, from the color produced in the face by deep emotion (BDB 888). and selfishness: Grk. eritheia, interest in gaining advantage over another, selfish ambition, selfishness. In Greek classical writings the term denoted a self-seeking pursuit of political office by unfair means. Its meaning in the Besekh is a matter of conjecture (BAG). The meaning of strife or contentiousness cannot be excluded. Marshall translates as rivalry.
in your heart: Grk. kardia, the pumplike organ of blood circulation, here used metaphorically as the center for personhood, character, cognition, emotion and volition. do not: Grk. mē, a negation that prohibits or forbids. be arrogant: Grk. katakauchaomai, pres. mid. imp., to boast, in the sense of having a felling of advantage or superiority. and lie: Grk. pseudomai, pres. mid. imp., to state what is false or to endeavor to create a false impression by lying. The present tense of the two commands indicates an intention to stop an activity in progress based on the condition of "if." against the truth: Grk. alētheia may mean (1) truthfulness, dependability, uprightness in thought and deed, (2) truth as opposed to what is false, or (3) reality as opposed to mere appearance (BAG). Danker has "that which is really so." Jacob probably uses "truth" in reference to his analysis and instruction and his prohibition amounts to a strong warning to avoid divine reaction.
15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.
This is not the wisdom: Grk. sophia. See verse 13 above. that comes down: Grk. katerchomai, pres. mid. part., to go down or to come down, generally of moving in a geographical context. from above: Grk. anōthen, from above, an idiomatic expression for heaven or God. but is earthly: Grk. epigeios, adj., of the earth as opposed to the heavenly. Mounce interprets as "low, groveling." The term represents the values of the dominant culture. unspiritual: Grk. psuchikos, adj., at the level of physical impulse or direction, physical, unspiritual, worldly. The term denotes the life of the natural world and whatever belongs to it, in contrast to a supernatural world, which is characterized by pneuma, spirit (BAG). demonic: Grk. daimoniōdēs, adj., that which is characteristic of unclean spirits hostile to God and his people, devilish or demonic. Jacob cites the three adjectives "earthly, unspiritual and demonic" as describing the true nature of jealousy and selfishness mentioned in the previous verse.
16 For where jealousy and selfishness are, there is confusion and every worthless practice.
For where jealousy: Grk. zēlos. See verse 14 above. and selfishness are: Grk. eritheia. See verse 14 above. there is confusion: Grk. akatastasia, disorder or instability that threatens civic stability, turmoil or disturbance. and every worthless: Grk. phaulos, displaying insensitivity about what is right and proper, bad, low-grade. BAG has worthless, bad, evil, base, especially in a moral sense. practice: Grk. pragma, something that involves or presumes action by a responsible party, deed, matter or thing, here bad activity. Paul uses pragma for a lawsuit in 1 Corinthians 6:1, and that meaning cannot be excluded here, since lawsuits frequently spring from these negative motivations.
17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial, unfeigned.
But the wisdom: Grk. sophia. See verse 13 above. The use of sophia here may qualify as a personification of God. from above: Grk. anōthen, i.e., heaven. is first: Grk. prōtos, having primary position in a numerical or list sequence, or standing out in significance or importance, first. pure: Grk. hagnos, adj., having a quality befitting a relationship with deity, pure, holy, blameless. then peaceable: Grk. eirēnikos, conducive to a harmonious and salutary relationship, peaceable peace-loving. gentle: Grk. epieikēs, practicing restraint, gentle, yielding, tolerant, courteous, kind. reasonable: Grk. eupeithēs, persuadable, ready to listen. full of: Grk. mestos, full of, here of a characteristic, thought or attitude. mercy: Grk. eleos, kindness expressed for one in need, compassion, mercy or pity. In the LXX eleos normally represents Heb. chesed, which means proper covenant behavior, the solidarity which the partners in the covenant owe one another. Chesed results in one giving help to the covenant partner in his need. See the note on Jacob 2:13.
and good: Grk. agathos, achieving a high standard of excellence in meeting a need or interest, beneficial, useful, helpful or good. fruits: pl. of Grk. karpos, the edible product of a plant, especially of a tree, grown for agricultural purposes. In the LXX karpos is used figuratively to refer to the fruit of the womb, i.e., offspring, as well as the result, outcome or product of some action. The fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23 would be a comparable expansion of "good fruits." impartial: Grk. adiakritos, mixed or indistinguishable, in reference to human relations, not divisive, impartial. unfeigned: Grk. anupokritos, without pretending like an actor; without pretence, unfeigned, genuine, sincere. Such wisdom reflects the character of God.
18 And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by the ones making peace.
And the fruit: Grk. karpos. See the previous verse. of 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. tzedaqah (SH-6666), first used in Genesis 15:6 of Abraham's faithfulness being considered as righteousness (DNTT 3:354). In the Tanakh the concept of tzedaqah 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. The term also carries the sense of salvation (deliverance) and judgment (justice). Righteousness primarily has human relationships as its focus and therefore righteousness strengthens the community.
is sown: Grk. speirō, pres. pass., to broadcast seed on the ground to begin the cultivation process. The fruit of righteousness only comes about by submission to God's plan for spiritual husbandry. in peace: Grk. eirēnē in Greek literature primarily denoted an absence of war (DNTT, II, 776f). Eirēnē was used in the LXX to translate shalom, which has a much broader meaning. Shalom represents communal welfare or even personal well being, the source of which is God alone (cf. Rom 15:33; 1Cor 14:33). The term denotes the status of a relationship and not necessarily an emotional state.
by the ones making: pl. of Grk. ho poieō, pres. part., to do or perform something. peace: Grk. eirēnē. The "ones making peace" would equal "the peacemaker" (Grk. eirēnopoios, one who promotes peace and concord) in Matthew 5:9. Jacob's association of righteousness with peace may be an allusion to Psalm 85:10, "righteousness and peace have kissed each other." Similarly Isaiah 32:17 says, "the work of righteousness will be peace." Shalom can only thrive where there is righteousness.
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.
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.
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.
NASBEC: New American Standard Bible Exhaustive Concordance, Updated Edition. Foundation Publications, Inc., 1998.
Shapira: Itzhak Shapira, The Return of the Kosher Pig: The Divine Messiah in Jewish Thought. Lederer Books, 2013.
Siddur: The Complete ArtScroll Siddur, ed. Rabbi Nosson Scherman. Mesorah Publications, 2001.
Stern: David Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary. Jewish New Testament Publications, 1996.
Copyright © 2013-2018 Blaine Robison. All rights reserved.