James 3:7: Government of the Tongue, Part 6

Verse 7:[1] For every kind (Gr. nature[2]) of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind (Gr. nature of man[3])…

[For every nature of beasts, etc.] Or, of wild animals (Erasmus, Vatablus, Piscator, etc.). Of the earth, which by ferocity or venom do injury (Estius). Although θηρία be also vipers among the Medical Writers, whence θηριακὰ/ theriaca;[4] and θηρίον is a venomous beast, Acts 28:4, the same as ἔχιδνα, a viper, in verse 3. To this pertains also the following ἑρπετὰ/serpents, and perhaps also πετεινὰ/birds and ἐνάλια, things of the sea [since writers of credit relate that there are serpents both flying, and of the see and swimming]. And, that venom is either primarily regarded here, or at least included, it is evident from the correlative in the following verse. But then φύσις here shall be a natural quality, or faculty, engendered in these things, of such a force, venomosity, etc., which, nevertheless, φύσις ἀνθρωπίνη, that is, the nature of man, subdues. Otherwise φύσις here, as in the work of Hesychius, is able to be the same thing as οὐσία/essence, or γένος/genus; so that it might be translated every kind, etc., and ἀνθρωπίνη φύσις, mankind, that is, men of every generation and time (Hammond).

[And of serpents] Correctly. For human industry both captures them, and draws venom from them (Grotius). To this testify Rondelet,[5] Aldrovandus,[6] and Pliny,[7] concerning crocodiles, great snakes, asps, and other serpents, and also concerning dolphins and whales (Tirinus).

[Every kind…is tamed, etc., δαμάζεται καὶ δεδάμασται] He says this in such a way as to show that this is continual; even as it is done now, so it shall ever be done, δαμάζειν, חשל, to subdue or overcome[8] (Grotius). It is tamed and has been tamed, etc. (Beza, Piscator), either by feeding, or discipline, or fear, or bits and halters, or whips, or hunger and starvation, or other animals hostile to themselves (Tirinus). Δαμάζειν here is, either to tame, or rather, to subdue, because fish and serpents are not wont to be tamed (Hammond).

[By human nature] That is, by men (Menochius), or, by human ingenuity (Erasmus). Τῇ φύσει, etc., is in the place of, ὑπὸ τῆς φύσεως, by the nature (Piscator). Now, that πᾶσα φύσις, every kind, is to be understood of kinds of individuals, not of individuals of kinds. Objection: But Tigers are untamed. Response: Ammianus[9] relates that a Tame Tiger was sent from India to the Emperor Anastasius: Pliny, Natural History 8:17, and Dio[10] relate that Tigers were tamed under Augustus;[11] Capitolinus relates the same under Gordian;[12] Lampridius,[13] under Heliogabalus[14] (Gataker).

Every kind; some of every kind. Of beasts; wild beasts, such as are most fierce and untractable. And of birds; though so movable and wandering, the very vagabonds of nature. And of serpents; which are such enemies to mankind. And of things in the sea; the inhabitants, as it were, of another world, really of another element. Is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind; either made gentle, or at least, brought into subjection to man by one means or other. He useth both tenses, the present and the past perfect, to note that such things not only have been, but still are; and that not as the effects of some miraculous providence, as in the case of Daniel, Daniel 6, and Paul, Acts 28, but as that which is usually experienced, and in man’s power still to do.

[1] Greek: πᾶσα γὰρ φύσις θηρίων τε καὶ πετεινῶν, ἑρπετῶν τε καὶ ἐναλίων, δαμάζεται καὶ δεδάμασται τῇ φύσει τῇ ἀνθρωπίνῃ·

[2] Greek: φύσις.

[3] Greek: τῇ φύσει τῇ ἀνθρωπίνῃ.

[4] An antidote to a poisonous bite.

[5] Guillaume Rondelet (1507-1566) was an anatomist and physician, with a particular interest in botany and zoology. He served as Regus Professor of medicine at the University of Montpellier, France.

[6] Ulisse Aldrovandi (1522-1605) was an Italian naturalist, and is regarded by some as the father of “natural history”.

[7] Gaius Plinius Secundus, or Pliny the Elder (23-79), distinguished himself as a learned author, a distinguished Roman Procurator, and a courageous soldier. His Natural History was an attempt to cover the entire field of knowledge as it stood in Pliny’s day, an encyclopedic work.

[8] Deuteronomy 25:18: “How he met thee by the way, and smote the hindmost of thee, even all that were feeble (הַנֶּחֱשָׁלִים) behind thee, when thou wast faint and weary; and he feared not God.”

[9] Ammianus Marcellinus (c. 330-c. 390) was Roman noble, soldier, and historian. He wrote a history of Rome from the time of Nerva (c. 96) to his own day.

[10] [10] Dio Cassius was a Roman historian of the third century AD. His Historiæ Romanæ is an important sourse of information concerning that period.

[11] Augustus reigned from 27 BC to 14 AD.

[12] Casaubon produced a critical edition of Scriptores Historiæ Augustæ (Augustan History), a series of biographies on the various emperors from 117-284 AD. It includes Julius Capitolinus’ (writing probably in the early fourth century) biographies of the emperors Balbinus (238) and Gordian (also 238).

[13] Ælius Lampridius (fourth century) was a Roman historian.

[14] Heliogabalus reigned from 218 to 222.

James 3:6: Government of the Tongue, Part 5

Verse 6:[1] And (Prov. 16:27) the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that (Matt. 15:11, 18-20; Mark 7:15, 20, 23) it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course (Gr. wheel[2]) of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.

[And, etc., καὶ ἡ γλῶσσα πῦρ, ὁ κόσμος, etc.] And (either, indeed, or, so also: καὶ/and in the place of οὕτω καὶ, so also: For the apodosis of the preceding similitude is continued here [Piscator]) the tongue (understanding is [Beza, Piscator, etc.]) a fire (by the comparison already mentioned [Estius], similar to fir [Piscator], on account of its extraordinary swiftness in doing grievous harm [Menochius], unless it be kept with circumspection; that is to say, it is the cause of evils and tumults great and many [Estius]: understand here, and [Beza, Piscator]) a world (or, a universe [Vulgate], a heap and mass [Beza, Erasmus, Zegers], a repository [Vatablus], the fount and mother [Castalio], a thing altogether full: So we say, malorum Ilias, an Iliad of evils [Piscator], and an Ocean of sins [Castalio]) of iniquity (Piscator, etc.), or, of sins (Castalio). Evidently causatively, because it begets sins of every kind, either by perpetration, like detractions, curses, perjuries; or by direction, persuasion, etc.; or by supplying the occasions and instigations, like intoxications, fornications, murders, etc. (Estius): it kindles the flames of hatreds, discords, seditions, wars. The deceitful tongue is compares to burning coals, Psalm 120:3, 4. Burning fire is in the lips of him, that is, of the wicked man[3] (Grotius). Others: And the tongue is a fire, and a world of sin, even as it is kindling (Tremellius out of the Syriac). Either the Syriac states the Ellipsis from the Antithesis, which Ellipsis he industriously supplies out of the preceding verse or reads, καὶ ὁ κόσμος τῆς ἀδικίας ὕλη, a world of iniquity, wood (Tirinus, Junius). Or rather he read, and indeed optimally, ἡ γλῶσσα πῦρ τῷ κόσμῳ τῆς ἀδικίας, etc., the tongue is a fire to the world of iniquity, etc. The tongue is wont to be compared to Fire. And so the translator of Ecclesiasticus, explaining the comparison just now mentioned, says, Just as a small fire consumes many heaps of crops, so there is nothing more devastating to the world than an evil tongue. You see here also that world is put in the place of material that fire burns (Grotius). The Syriac maintains that there is a twofold comparison here, 1. of the tongue with a small fire: 2. of the world of sin with branches, that is, with wood or fuel; so that, just as fire ignites and consumes wood, so also the tongue a world of sin, that is, it ignites and burns this present age, corrupt and inclined to all vices, like dry kindling (Estius).

And, etc.: The application of the similitude in the foregoing words. The tongue is a fire, i.e. hath the force of fire, and resembles it in the mischief it doth. A world of iniquity; a heap or aggregation of evils, (as the natural world is an aggregation of many several beings,) as we say, an ocean, or a world, of troubles, meaning, a great multitude of them. And the words may be understood, earlier with an ellipsis of the word matter, expressed just before, and supplied here; and the pointing a little altered, they may be thus read, And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity (or an unrighteous world, viz. which lies in wickedness, 1 John 5:19) is the matter, namely, which it inflames. A wicked world is fit fuel for a wicked tongue, and soon catcheth the fire which it kindles. Or rather, as they stand plainly, without any such defect: The tongue is a world of iniquity, i.e. a heap or mass of various sorts of sins; though it be but a little piece of flesh, yet it contains a whole world of wickedness in it, or is as full of evils as the world is of bodies.

[The tongue, etc., οὕτως—καθίσταται, etc.] Thus (understanding, I say [Beza, Piscator]) the tongue is constituted (or, is ordered [Beza, Piscator], that is, is placed [Beza]: is existing [Tremellius out of the Syriac], stands [Arabic], is [Castalio]) in our members (Montanus, etc.), or, among our members (Beza, Piscator). It is one of such a large number of members, and indeed very small, and yet it brings to pass such great things, just like a Bridle, a Helm, a Flame. See Euripides [in Grotius]. There is a proverb, from a spark, fire (Grotius).

[Which defiles (that is, which infects with vices [Estius, similarly Menochius): σπιλοῦν is to defile, Wisdom of Solomon 15:4;[4] Jude 23,[5] מכתם in the Syriac; σπίλωμα also is used of any filthy matter, Isaiah 28:8: When it is transferred to the Soul, it signifies to infect with vices, very much like μιαίνειν, Hebrews 12:15[6] [Grotius]) the whole body] That is, the whole man (Menochius, Tirinus), and all his actions (Tirinus): or, the whole society of the Church, the kingdom, etc. (Hammond). The mouth pollutes the flesh, Ecclesiastes 5:6, namely, when it is come from flatteries to adulteries. But here σῶμα/body is more rightly taken for the body of the Church, which by the tongue of one and another is often driven into most grievous dissensions (Grotius).

It defileth the whole body; infecteth the whole man with sin, Ecclesiastes 5:6, as being the cause of sin committed by all the members of the body; for though sin begin in the soul, yet it is executed by the body, which therefore seems here put (as James 3:2) for the man.

[And, etc., καὶ φλογίζουσα τὸν τροχὸν τῆς γενέσεως] I think that it is to be written τρόχον. The books of those times did not have accents, which afterwards each added according to his own will (Grotius). Setting on fire (that is, as if ravaging with fire [Estius], bringing into danger, or burning with many annoyances, as millstones set fire to the entire mill-house, when then catch fire due to excessive motion [Vatablus]: φλογίζειν, חֲרַךְ, to singe or char, in Daniel 3:27,[7] לָהַט, to set ablaze, in Psalm 97:3:[8] in Hesychius, καίειν, to kindle [Grotius]) the wheel (or, circuit [Vorstius], course [Castalio], circle [Arabic, Illyricus, Pagnine, Castalio]) of nativity (Montanus, Erasmus, Tigurinus, Piscator, Vatablus), or, of geniture (Beza, Pagnine), of time (Castalio), or, established[9] (Illyricus, Pagnine), or, of nature (Arabic), understanding our (Arabic, Vatablus), that is, the wheel born, begotten, not made. He understands [either] the entire body, which is the vehicle of the soul; or, the whole man (Vatablus): or, the whole course of our life (Estius, similarly Menochius, Tirinus, Castalio), the period and, as it were, circle (Menochius), which, after the likeness of a wheel, is perpetually turned from birth to death (Tirinus, thus Estius). Γένεσις/genesis properly means nativity, or origin: but in this place it is put for the lifetime of a man, just as the Hebrews call men children, or sons (Castalio). Γένεσις signifies actions, activities, events: see on Matthew 1:1.[10] Τρόχος is a wheel, by the rotation of which the Hebrews express worldly affairs, as in Buxtorf’s[11] Epistolary Instruction,[12] Epistle 1. Therefore, τρόχος γενέσεως signifies the circle, or succession, of affairs, that is, of men or mankind; and the kindling of this denotes the same thing as the kindling of the world in the beginning of the verse (Hammond). Γένεσις/genesis is nature, as we said on James 1:23.[13] The course of nature is a periphrasis of life. Varro,[14] Fortune does not permit to anyone an unhindered course, sent forth from the inmost prison, through a clear plain, unto the goal.[15] Thus also the Old Man, βίου καμπτὴρ, the lap of life, in Herodas’[16] Mime-iambics. Such also is that, I have lived, and I have finished the course that fortune has given[17] (Grotius). [Others thus render it:] It sets on fire the goings forth of our generations (or, the successions of our genealogies [Syriac (in Boder)]), which run like wheels (Tremellius out of the Syriac).

And setteth on fire the course of nature; or, setteth on fire the wheel of geniture, or nativity, (in allusion to a wheel set on fire by a violent, rapid motion,) meaning the course of nativity, i.e. the natural course of life, as the face of nativity or geniture, James 1:23, for the natural face: the sense is, it inflames with various lusts, wrath, malice, wantonness, pride, etc., the whole course of man’s life, so that there is no state nor age free from the evils of it. Whereas other vices either do not extend to the whole man, or are abated with age, or worn away with length of time; the vices of the tongue reach the whole man, and the whole time of his life.

[It is set on fire of Gehenna] That is, by infernal fire (Estius, similarly Menochius); or, by the devil (Estius, Piscator, Menochius), who is so called, either, through Metonymy of place for the thing placed, because this is his seat and hall; or, because he always carries about hellish punishment (Estius): or, by fire (the Arabic in Grotius): see Daniel 7:9.[18] The Present here is put in the place of the Future, unless it is to be written φλογισομένη, as the Syriac appears to have read it. Just as it sets on fire, so also it is itself, that is, with the body, the fire of Gehenna. The sense is the same as Matthew 5:22;[19] see also Matthew 18:9;[20] Mark 9:47 (Grotius). An ill tongue is the instrument of the devil (Estius).

And it is set on fire of hell; i.e. by the devil, the father of lies and slanders, and other tongue sins, Job 1:10; John 8:44; Revelation 12:10; the tongue being the fire, the devil, by the bellows of temptations, inflames it yet more, and thereby kindles the fire of all mischiefs in the world.

[1] Greek: καὶ ἡ γλῶσσα πῦρ, ὁ κόσμος τῆς ἀδικίας· οὕτως ἡ γλῶσσα καθίσταται ἐν τοῖς μέλεσιν ἡμῶν, ἡ σπιλοῦσα ὅλον τὸ σῶμα, καὶ φλογίζουσα τὸν τροχὸν τῆς γενέσεως, καὶ φλογιζομένη ὑπὸ τῆς γεέννης.

[2] Greek: τροχὸν.

[3] Proverbs 16:27.

[4] Wisdom of Solomon 15:4: “For neither did the mischievous invention of men deceive us, nor an image spotted (σπιλωθὲν) with divers colours, the painter’s fruitless labour…”

[5] Jude 23: “And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted (ἐσπιλωμένον) by the flesh.”

[6] Hebrews 12:15: “Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled (μιανθῶσιν)…”

[7] Daniel 3:37: “And the princes, governors, and captains, and the king’s counsellors, being gathered together, saw these men, upon whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed (הִתְחָרַךְ; ἐφλογίσθη, in Theodotion), neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them.”

[8] Psalm 97:3: “A fire goeth before him, and burneth up (וּתְלַהֵט; καὶ φλογιεῖ, in the Septuagint) his enemies round about.”

[9] That is, the established circuit.

[10] Matthew 1:1: “The book of the generation (γενέσεως) of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.”

[11] John Buxtorf the Elder (1599-1664) labored as Professor of Oriental languages at Calvinistic Basel. His scholarship in Hebrew and Rabbinic learning was such that he was known as Master of the Rabbis.

[12] Institutio Epistolaris Hebraica.

[13] James 1:23: “For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face (τὸ πρόσωπον τῆς γενέσεως αὐτοῦ) in a glass…”

[14] Marcus Terentius Varro, or Varro Reatinus (116-27 BC), was a scholar, called “the most learned of the Romans”.

[15] Saturæ Menippeæ 52.

[16] Herodas (third century BC) was a Greek poet. Probably written in Alexandria, his poems were intended to capture popular life in verse.

[17] Virgil’s Æneid 4:653, 654.

[18] Daniel 7:9: “I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire (ὁ θρόνος αὐτοῦ φλὸξ πυρός οἱ τροχοὶ αὐτοῦ πῦρ φλέγον, in Theodotion).”

[19] Matthew 5:22: “But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire (τὴν γέενναν τοῦ πυρός).”

[20] Matthew 18:9: “And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire (εἰς τὴν γέενναν τοῦ πυρός).” Thus also Mark 9:47.

James 3:5: Government of the Tongue, Part 4

Verse 5:[1] Even so (Prov. 12:18; 15:2) the tongue is a little member, and (Ps. 12:3; 73:8, 9) boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter (or, wood[2]) a little fire kindleth!

[Thus, οὕτω] An Apodosis of similitude joined by way of ἐπισύναξιν/ conclusion, as in James 1:11 (Piscator). Others: Οὕτω is set down here without a preceding ὡς/as or ὥσπερ, just as, and is the formula for introducing the second or third part of the division; or, the formula of transition from the one part of the discourse concerning the tongue as restrained, verses 2-4, to the other part of the discourse concerning the tongue as unrestrained, in this verse, and it is best able to be rendered, similarly (Hammond).

Even so, etc.: The accommodation of the former similitudes.

[A small…member] With respect to the human body (Grotius, similarly Estius), and much more with respect to the body of society (Grotius).

The tongue is a little member, i.e. one of the lesser, in comparison of the body.

[And, etc., καὶ μεγαλαυχεῖ[3]] And in a headstrong manner it carries itself (Menochius out of Gagnæus); that is, after the likeness of an untamed and rampaging horse it exults (Menochius); it excites great tumults, and puts whole peoples and kingdoms into confusion (Menochius, similarly Hammond), so that with good reason a bridle is to be put into that. The agreement with what follows is worthy of note (Menochius). Isocrates and other writers of fine Greek[4] make use of this word. In the Glossa, μεγαλαυχῶ, to make much of, to glory. In the Septuagint, Psalm 12:3, γλῶσσαν μεγαλορήμονα, the tongue talking big. Similarly Psalm 17:10; Daniel 7:20 (Grotius). [Therefore, they translate it in this way:] And great things (or, in a lordly manner [Erasmus, Beza, Piscator]) it boasts (Erasmus, Illyricus, Tigurinus, Pagnine, Vatablus, Zegers), or, it glories (Montanus), carries itself (Beza, Piscator). The metaphor proceeds from the horse lifting its neck on high with great pride (Beza, Piscator). You have examples in 2 Kings 18:26 and Isaiah 14:13 (Beza). It holds its neck loftily, as the proud are wont to do (Vorstius). Others: And it has great strength (Castalio). It has very great influence in both directions, bad and good. I would prefer this, because greatest power of the tongue over the rest of the body, which he signified by the similitudes of the bit and of the helm, is shown, not from the vice of vain boastin, but from this, that it brings to pass great things (Estius).

And boasteth great things; the Greek word signifies, according to its derivation, the lifting up of the neck (as horses, mentioned verse 3, are wont to do in their pride) in a way of bravery and triumph; and hence it is used to express boasting and glorying, but here seems to imply something more, viz. not only the uttering big words, but doing great things, whether good and useful, as in the former similitudes, or evil, as in what follows; or its boasting how great things it can do: q.d. The tongue, though little, is of great force and efficacy, and it will tell you so itself; it not only boasts what its fellow members can do, but especially what itself can.

[Behold, etc., ἰδού—ἡλίκην ὕλην ἀνάπτει] Behold, a little (or, how small a [Valla, Erasmus, Vatablus]) fire how much (or, how great [Vulgate]) a matter (that is, a heap of wood [Beza, thus Piscator], from which a fire is kindled [Piscator]; or, a wood [Vulgate], but the conflagration of forests is rare, while the argument here is taken from daily occurrences [Beza]: Ὕλη does not necessarily signify a forest, but all which is able to be burned: This appears in Ecclesiasticus 28:10[5] [Grotius]) kindles! (Piscator, Beza, etc.). A little spark, hardly worthy of regard, has often consumed a whole city (Beza). Thus Ben Sirach, Burning fire kindles many heaps[6] (Grotius).

Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! another similitude, in which he sets forth the evil the tongue, as little as it is, doth, where it is not well governed, as in the former he had shown the good it may do, when kept under rule. A matter; the word signifies either any combustible stuff, or, as in the margin, wood, that being the ordinary fuel then in use. A little fire kindleth; even a spark, the smallest quantity or particle, which may do great mischief, when lighting in suitable matter.

[1] Greek: οὕτω καὶ ἡ γλῶσσα μικρὸν μέλος ἐστί, καὶ μεγαλαυχεῖ. ἰδού, ὀλίγον πῦρ ἡλίκην ὕλην ἀνάπτει.

[2] Greek: ὕλην.

[3] From αὐχέω and μεγάλα, to boast great things.

[4] For example, Æschylus’ Agamemnon 1528; Polybius’ Histories 12:13:10

[5] Ecclesiasticus 28:10: “As the matter (τὴν ὕλην) of the fire is, so it burneth: and as a man’s strength is, so is his wrath; and according to his riches his anger riseth; and the stronger they are which contend, the more they will be inflamed.”

[6] Ecclesiasticus 11:32: “Of a spark of fire a heap of coals is kindled: and a sinful man layeth wait for blood.”

James 3:4: Government of the Tongue, Part 3

Verse 4:[1] Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth.

[Behold, etc., ἰδοὺ καὶ, etc.] Behold also the ships, although they be so great (Estius, thus Beza, Piscator, etc.). Those great vessels, Isaiah 33:21. The Kings of Egypt had palace-barges, the length of which was half a stadium.[2] Καὶ/and here is in the place of just as, as in Job 5:7[3] (Grotius).

[And, etc., καὶ ὑπὸ σκληρῶν ἀνέμων ἐλαυνόμενα] And by winds fierce (or, rough [Erasmus, Vatablus, Piscator, Estius], powerful [Vulgate, Montanus, Estius], vehement [Castalio, similarly the Arabic]) they be driven (Erasmus, Pagnine, Vatablus, Drusius, etc.), or, be carried (Zegers, Erasmus), be shaken about (Beza, Piscator), or, impelled (Montanus, Castalio); and this adds difficulty to the steering, that they are tossed here and there by billows (Grotius).

[They are carried about, etc., μετάγεται ὑπὸ ἐλαχίστου πηδαλίου, ὅπου ἂν ἡ ὁρμὴ τοῦ εὐθύνοντος βούληται] They are turned about by a very small helm (concerning which Aristotle propounds a question, and renders an answer, Mechanics[4] 2:5 [Grotius]) withersoever the impetus (or, mind [Illyricus], drive [Pagnine], impulse [Beza], that is, zeal [Beza, Menochius], or effort of the one willing [Menochius]: or, the will [Tremellius out of the Syriac]: Ὁρμὴ here signifies will, not τὴν πρώτην κίνησιν, the first motion, as the Philosophers take it; but as the Historian often take it [Grotius]) of the one directing (or, guide, or governor [Beza, Tremellius, Piscator, etc.]: ὁ ἐυθύνων, one steering, here is in the place of ἐυθυντὴς, a governor, a Participal in the place of a Verbal, after the manner of the Hebrews: Also, the Greeks call the governor of a ship ἰθυντῆρα, a pilot, and the Latin Poets call him rectorem [Grotius]) willeth (Monantus, Erasmus, Tigurinus, etc.).

Behold also the ships, etc.: The other similitude, in which a man is compared to a ship, the tongue to the rudder, the governing the whole body to the turning about the ship. As the rudder is but a small thing, in comparison of the much greater bulk of a ship, and yet, being itself turned, turns the whole ship (though so great, and driven of so fierce winds) which way soever the steersman pleaseth: so likewise the tongue, though little to the whole man, (which may withal be driven, and acted by storms of furious passions,) yet if it be itself under government, the rest of the man will be so too.

[1] Greek: ἰδού, καὶ τὰ πλοῖα, τηλικαῦτα ὄντα, καὶ ὑπὸ σκληρῶν ἀνέμων ἐλαυνόμενα, μετάγεται ὑπὸ ἐλαχίστου πηδαλίου, ὅπου ἂν ἡ ὁρμὴ τοῦ εὐθύνοντος βούληται.

[2] That is, a little more than three hundred feet.

[3] Job 5:7: “Yet man is born unto trouble, as the sparks (וּבְנֵי־רֶשֶׁף, and the sons of flame) fly upward.”

[4] Aristotle’s authorship of Mechanics is disputed.

James 3:2: Government of the Tongue, Part 1

Verse 2:[1] For (1 Kings 8:46; 2 Chron. 6:36; Prov. 20:9; Eccles. 7:20; 1 John 1:8) in many things we offend all. (Ps. 34:13; Ecclus. 14:1;[2] 19:16;[3] 25:8;[4] Jam. 1:26; 1 Pet. 3:10) If any man offend not in word, (Matt. 12:37) the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.

[In, etc., πολλὰ γὰρ πταίομεν, etc.] For many things (or, in many things [Erasmus, Beza, Piscator, etc.], κατὰ/in/through is understood here [Piscator]: much [Arabic, Æthiopic]) we offend (or, we slip [Erasmus, Illyricus, Tigurinus, Pagnine], we cause to stumble [Beza], we fail or sin [Castalio, Arabic, Drusius]: The present tense of the verb denotes recurrence and frequency: Πταίειν, to stumble, is less than to fall, Romans 11:[5] Therefore, he signifies lesser or lighter sins, committed through ignorance, imprudence, and various impure affections and intentions [Estius]: Πταίειν, to slip, is here used of any error that is able to come in the way of teachers [Grotius]) all (Montanus). He does not say ye cause to stumble, nor ye cause to stumble certain ones, but, we cause to stumble all (Augustine in Gataker). Others: All, that is, a great many, as the following things show. It is the custom of great men through a certain sort of modesty to add themselves to their inferiors. For which reason Paul, conscious of no evil in himself, yet does not say that he is completely free from it, that is, from errors, 1 Corinthians 4:4, in which place see what things have been said. This mortal condition does not allow a man to be pure from all blemishes, says Lactantius.[6] See Philo[7] [in Grotius] and Ecclesiastes 7:20; but nevertheless these things are to be understood in such a way that you might mindful of them in one way in that imperfect time, in another way under the Gospel (Grotius). The Fathers opposed this passage to the error of the Pelagians, who were affirming that it is possible for a man to live without sin (Estius). Even the justified, with the special help of ordinary grace, are not able to avoid all sins for a long time (Tirinus). No mortal man is perfectly pure, 1 Kings 8:46; Job 14:4; Proverbs 20:9; Ecclesiastes 7:20; 1 John 1:8, 10 (Gataker). He means this: It is of enough concern to render to God an account of our life (Menochius). Beware, therefore, lest we increase our guilt, by desiring to be masters/teachers (Estius), and we undertake to render an account of another’s life (Menochius). Others: It could be a concession; that is to say, It shall be that you will find among the brethren what you censure; for no one is free from vice, nor are you perfect, etc. But I prefer that he exhorts to gentleness, on account of our infirmities. The kindness, of which we have need, we unjustly deny to others (Calvin).

For in many things we offend all: there is no man absolutely free from sin, 1 Kings 8:46; Job 14:4; Proverbs 20:9; Ecclesiastes 7:20; 1 John 1:8, 10; and therefore we must not be too critical in other men’s actions, having so many failings ourselves, Galatians 6:1.

[If any man in word (or, speech [Beza, Piscator]) offend not[8]] That is, by speaking in such a way that he never strikes too grievously, rarely too lightly. For it is impossible for a man living among men to avoid altogether all faults of words. Here, upon the occasion of the preceding admonition, he begins to treat of the uses and abuses of the tongue. Although in many things, says he, we offend all, nevertheless a slip in words is very easy in the case of all men, and very dangerous in the case of a doctor/teacher and the doctrine of religion (Estius). Who does not say what he does not think to be proven, and observes the occasions upon which a thing is either to be spoken or withheld. This admonition is especially directed against quarrelsome disputants, as what follows shows (Grotius). After he said that all sin, now he shows that the disease of abusive language is odious beyond other sins (Calvin).

If any man offend not in word; know how to govern his tongue aright, speak what, and when, as he ought.

[This man is perfect[9]] That is, eminent (Grotius), or mature (Gataker), 1 Corinthians 2:6;[10] 14:20[11] (Grotius, Gataker); Philippians 3:15 (Grotius); Hebrews 5:14; 6:1; James 1:4: perfect, not simply and absolutely, for this has regard to both thoughts and affections: or, he says this by way of concession, if anyone be such (Gataker), or he speaks of perfection compared and of parts (Gomar): that is to say, he is endowed with true prudence. A Synecdoche of genus (Piscator). He is perfect with a perfection of the whole compared to the parts: it can be assumed that he is willing to dispose rightly his remaining actions (Estius). For it is a difficult thing (Menochius), and an extraordinary virtue (Calvin), to restrain the prurient tongue (Menochius, similarly Calvin). In the discipline of the Jews, there were, as Philo testifies, 1. ἀσκηταὶ, those practicing, disciples, who were exercising themselves in virtue: 2. τέλειοι, the perfect, who show actually and in deeds that they have already truly and fully learned (Cameron).

The same is a perfect man; either sincere, in opposition to the hypocrisy of those that pretend so great zeal in correcting others, when they are alike or more guilty themselves: or rather, we may understand it comparatively, and with respect to others, of one that hath made good proficiency in religion, and is of greater attainments than others: see 1 Corinthians 2:6.

[And able, etc., δυνατὸς χαλιναγωγῆσαι,[12] etc.] Being able (or, as being one that is able [Beza, Piscator, etc.]: He is in fact apt [Grotius]) to lead about with a bridle (or, to keep in servitude [Tremellius out of the Syriac], to bridle [Arabic, Castalio], to control with a bridle [Erasmus, Pagnine, Beza, Piscator, etc.]: See James 1:26[13] [Grotius]) even the whole body (Montanus, etc.), either, 1. the body of the Church. For it commonly happens that the common people follow the tongue of the Doctor/Teacher. Σῶμα/body in the place of Church, 1 Corinthians 12:20, 25, 27; Ephesians 4:12, 16; Colossians 1:18. Just as this title with some justice agrees with the Church universal, so also in its own way with individual Churches: for even every society in Law is called a body (Grotius). Or, 2. the body properly so called, that is, the other members of the body (certain interpreters in Estius, similarly Tirinus), or the whole (Menochius). Indeed, he has not yet named the tongue, but he speaks of actions (Estius). Or, 3. the body of actions (Estius, similarly Tirinus), and of motions (Tirinus). He understands all the actions or functions of the whole body, as far as they are referred to the habits and offices of piety (Vorstius). He restrains, directs, and leads to his ends, just as bridle in the case of a horse, and a helm in the case of a ship (Tirinus).

And able also to bridle the whole body; to govern all the other parts, (eyes, ears, hands, etc.,) as to those actions which are performed by them. No member of the body being more ready to offend than the tongue, he that can rule that, may rule all else.

[1] Greek: πολλὰ γὰρ πταίομεν ἅπαντες. εἴ τις ἐν λόγῳ οὐ πταίει, οὗτος τέλειος ἀνήρ, δυνατὸς χαλιναγωγῆσαι καὶ ὅλον τὸ σῶμα.

[2] Ecclesiasticus 14:1: “Blessed is the man that hath not slipped with his mouth, and is not pricked with the multitude of sins.”

[3] Ecclesiasticus 19:16: “There is one that slippeth in his speech, but not from his heart; and who is he that hath not offended with his tongue?”

[4] Ecclesiasticus 25:8: “Well is him that dwelleth with a wife of understanding, and that hath not slipped with his tongue, and that hath not served a man more unworthy than himself…”

[5] Romans 11:11: “I say then, Have they stumbled (ἔπταισαν) that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.”

[6] Divinæ Institutiones 6:13. Lucius Cælius Firmianus Lactantius (c. 240-c. 320) was a trained rhetorician, who, upon his conversion to Christianity, employed his rhetorical gifts in the defense and explication of the Christian faith. His Divinæ Institutiones is one of the early attempts at a systematic theology.

[7] De Agricultura.

[8] Greek: εἴ τις ἐν λόγῳ οὐ πταίει.

[9] Greek: οὗτος τέλειος ἀνήρ.

[10] 1 Corinthians 2:6: “Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect (ἐν τοῖς τελείοις): yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought…”

[11] 1 Corinthians 14:20: “Brethren, be not children (παιδία) in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men (τέλειοι/perfect).”

[12] From χαλινός and ἄγω, to lead by a bridle.

[13] James 1:26: “If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth (χαλιναγωγῶν) not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.”

James 3:1: Not rashly Taking the Teaching Role

Verse 1:[1] My brethren, (Matt. 23:8, 14; Rom. 2:20, 21; 1 Pet. 5:3) be not many masters, (Luke 6:37) knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation (or, judgment[2]).

[Do not, etc., μὴ πολλοὶ διδάσκαλοι γίνεσθε] This is to be connected with James 1:26, 27, where he relates two indications of a sincere soul, 1. the restraint of the tongue; 2. mercy and purity of life. He treated of the latter in chapter 2; he treats of the former in this chapter (Gataker). The hurtfulness of the intemperate tongue, of which he had admonished them in chapter 1, he addresses here with amplification and greater vehemence, beginning with masters/teachers, in whose case a slip of the tongue is especially dangerous (Estius). Be not many (or, more [Estius, Vulgate, Calvin], that is, than is needful [Zegers, similarly Beza]) doctors/teachers, or masters (Beza, Piscator, Estius). [They explain in a variety of ways:] Do not teach diverse things, lest ye be authors of sects (Augustine in Estius). Others: Let no one solicit the office of Doctor/Teacher (Grotius, similarly Estius out of Erasmus, Menochius, Tirinus), that is, of Bishop, eminently so called, τοῦ προεστῶτος τοῦ κοπιῶντος ἐν λόγοις, governing and laboring in teaching.[3] Not because the estate is lacking in illustriousness, but because few are suitable. Διδάσκαλοι/ masters/teachers, רבים/Rabbis, מורים, men revered. There is a similar admonition in Ecclesiastes 7:16 (Grotius). Many, and especially the Jews, as Matthew 23 testifies, unto whom he writes these things, were seeking the bishop’s chair out of ambition; and they, little and poorly educated, desired to teach others, even to teach their own tenets (Estius). He wills that there be some masters, but not many. As in the case of Physicians, so with Teachers/Doctors, a multitude is deadly (Drusius). Others: By masters here he understand censors, or reprehenders, of others, who wanted to be esteemed as masters of morals (Calvin). He indicates that well-known vice, whereby one severely condemns others, but is lenient toward himself (Beza). The sense: Use not magistracy and authority in judging and reprehending others. That saying in Matthew 7:1 is similar, Judge not, etc. (Piscator). Now, in this place not all censure and rebuke of others is prohibited (Gomar, Gataker), as it is evident from Leviticus 19:17; Matthew 18:15; Ephesians 5:11 (Gomar); 1 Thessalonians 5:12, 13 (Gataker): but only that which is faulty, either in substance, if it be false; or in manner, if it be sharper than necessary, or preposterous, which, with its own vices neglected, inquires more readily and rigidly into the spots of others; or in its end (Gomar), which arises from ambition, as when we grasp at reputation from the reprehension of others, which is excessive and monstrous; when one malignantly seeks what he might draw unto an ill construction, and weighs the sayings and doings of all with the greatest rigor, and insolently boasts himself in disparaging the faults of others (Calvin). In this place, he rebukes Judaizing Christians, and especially the Gnostics, who were laying claim to authority over others, like the Pharisees, Matthew 23, and who were pursuing, despising, and judging non-Judaizing Christians as transgressors of the law, Colossians 2:16; and thus they were arrogating to themselves the office and magistracy proper to Christ, Romans 14:10; James 4:12 (Hammond). They sin against this rule, 1. who think little of others and their endowments, and much of themselves and their own, Isaiah 65:5; Luke 18; 2 Corinthians 10:10; 2. who haughtily cast aside others’ thoughts, instructions, and admonitions, John 9:34, and desire all to surrender to their opinion; 3. who carefully search out the deeds and habits of others with the neglect of their own, Matthew 7:3; 1 Peter 4:15, or rashly judge; or, exaggerate infirmities and slips, Romans 14:10, by those doubting of sincerity; 4. who impose heavier burdens on others than on themselves, or than God has imposed, Matthew 23:4; Luke 11:46 (Gataker).

Be not many masters; let not every man make himself a master of other men’s faith and manners, a censor, or supercilious reprover of their failings and infirmities, Matthew 7:1. All reproof is not here forbidden, neither authoritative by church officers, nor charitative by private brethren; but that which is irregular, either in the ground of it, when that is false; or the manner of it, when it is masterly and imperious, or preposterous, as when we reprehend others and are no less reprehensible ourselves, Romans 2:21; or in the end of it, when we seek to advance our own reputation by observing or aggravating others’ faults, etc.

[The greater, etc., μεῖζον κρίμα ληψόμεθα] The greater (or, weightier [Beza, Piscator]) judgment (that is, punishment [Piscator, thus Vatablus, Vorstius]: Metonomy of the efficient, as in 1 Corinthians 11:31, 32 [Piscator]) we shall obtain (Montanus), or, we shall receive (Valla, Erasmus), we shall bear (Beza, Piscator), that is, as occasion or danger of condemnation (Menochius): if we be not engaged in our duty (Castalio), if we teach not as is suitable (Vatablus), if our manners correspond not to our teaching (Drusius); or, when we catch at the vain glory of treaching, when we think little of others compared with ourselves, when we teach bad things or badly (Tirinus). If we assume the office of teaching, we heap up punishments for ourselves in the judgment of God, since there are a sufficient number of things otherwise, in which we sin (Estius). God shall require more from us, who are Teachers of others, than from others. But if this is true in the case of those that in the judgment of others are acceptable, how much more so in the case of those thrust themselves in? as Chrysostom notes (Grotius) [whose words see in Grotius]. Others: The sense: However much more severe and arrogant we are as unjust censors, so much more grievously shall we be punished (Beza, similarly Gataker, Piscator), both by men retaliating with the same, Luke 6:38, and by God, Romans 2:2, 3 (Gataker).

Knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation; by how much the more severe and rigid we are in judging others, the greater will be our judgment, not only from men, who will be apt to retaliate, but from God himself, Matthew 7:1-3; Luke 6:37, 38; Revelation 2:2, 3. See the like expression, Matthew 23:8, 14.

[1] Greek: Μὴ πολλοὶ διδάσκαλοι γίνεσθε, ἀδελφοί μου, εἰδότες ὅτι μεῖζον κρίμα ληψόμεθα.

[2] Greek: κρίμα.

[3] 1 Timothy 5:17: “Let the elders that rule well (καλῶς προεστῶτες) be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine (οἱ κοπιῶντες ἐν λόγῳ καὶ διδασκαλίᾳ).”

James 3 Outline

We must not rashly take upon ourselves to reprove others, 1. The importance, difficulty, and duty of governing the tongue, 2-12. True wisdom will show itself in meekness, peaceableness, and charity, in opposition to strife and envying, 13-18.