James 1:21: The Right Reception of the Word, Part 3

Verse 21: Wherefore (Col. 3:8; 1 Pet. 2:1) lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, (Acts 13:26; Rom. 1:16; 1 Cor. 15:2; Eph. 1:13; Tit. 2:11; Heb. 2:3; 1 Pet. 1:9) which is able to save your souls.[1]

[Wherefore] This also refers to those things, to which those things in verse 19 refer (Grotius).

[Casting aside (similarly Beza, Piscator, etc.): He does not say, restraining, but putting off, or, throwing away, not as if a garment, Acts 7:58,[2] but as an unclean rag, Isaiah 64:6, as in Isaiah 30:22; Ezekiel 18:31: ἀποθέμενοι] Thus Ephesians 4:25;[3] 1 Peter 2:1;[4] whence ἀπόθεσις, the putting away, in 1 Peter 3:21 (Gataker).

Wherefore lay apart; not only restrain it, and keep it in; but put off, and throw it away as a filthy rag, Isaiah 30:22: see Ephesians 4:22; Colossians 3:8;[5] 1 Peter 2:1.

[All uncleanness, ῥυπαρίαν] The word is not found elsewhere in the Apostolic lettes (Estius). But ὁ ῥυπῶν, he which is filthy, is in Revelation 22:11;[6] and ῥύπος σαρκὸς, the filth of the flesh, in 1 Peter 3:21.[7] This is the same as μολυσμὸς/filthiness in 2 Corinthians 7:1, and as μίασμα/pollution in 2 Peter 2:20 (Gataker). Ῥύπος and ῥυπαρία signify filth in the Glossa. And they are wont to be used of the filth of the body, 1 Peter 3:21; thence they are transferred to the soul, and signify all that by which the soul is polluted, as it is seen in Isaiah 4:4.[8] Also in Job 14:4, טָמֵא/unclean is translated ῥύπος/filth. The Syriac here has טנפותא, from the Syriac verb טנף, which signifies to soil or pollute, and is found also in Song of Solomon 5:3[9] (Grotius). [They translate it:] uncleanness (Vulgate, thus Erasmus, Illyricus, Tigurinus); filth, or filths (Montanus, Estius, thus Pagnine, Castalio, Beza, Piscator, Erasmus). They understand, either sexual impurity (Œcumenius in Estius), or avarice (Estius, Menochius), which also the Latins call filth: or rather, whatever sort of sin (Estius), foulness of both flesh and spirit equally (Zegers); or, lusts for earthly things, which supply the wood and kindling of anger (Menochius). Question: How are we able to put off all filthiness? Responses: 1. To will is to do. God regards what you will, and not what you are able, to be done, Augustine.[10] 2. This is the goal, neither are you to leave off until you have put off all. 3. All, that is, of every sort, as in 2 Corinthians 7:1; 1 Peter 2:20 (Gataker).

All, of every kind. Filthiness; or, sordidness; a metaphor borrowed from the filth of the body, 1 Peter 3:21, and thence transferred to the soul; and it here seems to imply, not only sensuality or covetousness, but all sorts of lusts, whereby men are defiled, 2 Corinthians 7:1; 2 Peter 2:20.

[And superfluity of wickedness, καὶ περισσείαν κακίας] He appears to have desired to express the force of the Hebrew word עָרְלָה, which properly signifies foreskin; but is transferred to all things that ought to be rejected as useless. In a Manuscript it is περίσσευμα/superfluity (Grotius). [Thus they translate it:] And superfluity (or, abundance, or overflow [Vulgate, Estius, Erasmus in Beza, as in Romans 5:17;[11] 2 Corinthians 8:2[12] [Gataker], or, excrement [Beza, Piscator]: There is an allusion, either, 1. to the filth and superfluities of the body [Erasmus]: It is not compared to the vitious humors, like phlegm, etc., which are able to be removed and absorbed, but unto excrements [Gataker]: Or, 2. to artisans, who are wont to trim excesses [Vatablus]: Or, 3. to farmers, who from their cultivated fields remove stones, vicious herbs, etc. [Estius, similarly Calvin]) of malice (Erasmus, Vatablus), that is, malice overflowing and superabounding (Estius, Vatablus): or, evil abundance, that is, whatever illy abounds, and deserves to be cut back (Menochius). Under the name of κακίας/malice/wickedness he comprehends as much hypocrisy and contumacy, as all perverse lusts; now, this he here teaches to reside in that soul, and indeed most copiously (Calvin).

And superfluity of naughtiness; i.e. that naughtiness which is superfluous. That is said to be superfluous or redundant, which is more than should be in a thing; in which respect all sin is superfluous in the soul, as being that which should not be in it: and so this intimates that we are not only to lay apart more gross pollutions, but all the lusts of the flesh, and relics of old Adam, as being all superfluities which may well be spared, or excrements, (as some render the word, agreeably to the former metaphor,) which should be cast away.

[In gentleness receive ye the ingrafted word, ἐν πρᾳΰτητι δέξασθε τὸν ἔμφυτον λόγον] With mildness, or gentleness (which is opposed to wrath, and to contention, which renders us unteachable [Estius]; and to fierceness and high spirits, as in Isaiah 57:15 [Beza, similarly Calvin, Gataker]; and to obstinacy: By this word is signified humility [Gataker], modesty [Calvin, Gataker], and docility [Calvin]: For meekness makes us teachable, especially with respect to those things that surpass the capacity of our nature [Estius]; and it causes us to submit ourselves obligingly to God, and to allow ourselves to be governed by Him [Calvin], and it disposes our souls to Evangelical doctrine [Menochius]: See Psalm 25:9; Isaiah 66:2; Matthew 11:5, 27, etc.; 18:3, 4 [Gataker]: or, obligingly [Castalio], or, with a teachable spirit, just as πραότης appears to be taken in Psalm 45:4[13] [Grotius]) receive ye[14] (as in Luke 8:13;[15] Acts 11:1;[16] 17:11;[17] and that, both into the head, in understanding, Proverbs 1:2, 3, etc.; 24:32; Matthew 13:23, and into the heart, in faith and obedience, Matthew 11:14; Luke 8:13; 2 Thessalonians 2:10: It is not sufficient to hear, etc. [Gataker]) the ingrafted (or, that ingrafted[18] [Beza, Piscator]) word (Erasmus, Illyricus, Tigurinus, etc.). Namely, which was previously mentioned (Gataker); the word of God (Estius), both of the Law (Piscator, Gomar), and of the Gospel (Piscator, thus Estius, Menochius, Tirinus, Grotius, Gomar, Cappel). What the Latins call insitionem/ingrafting, Theophrastus[19] and other Greeks call ἐμφυτείας. In the Glossa, ἔμφυτον is ingrafted. The Syriac has here דנציבא, that is, skillfully propagated from cuttings (Grotius). The article is added here, contrary to common custom. So also Acts 2:47[20] (Casaubon). Ἔμφυτος is used like σύμφυτος, planted together, in Romans 6:5 (Gataker). This word he thus designates, either, 1. that is to say, not feigned, but natural and true (Vatablus): or, 2. because it is ingrafted and transplanted (Beza), by the labor of Apostles and Ministers (Grotius, Beza, similarly Tirinus), externally and in the ears; but internally through the Holy Spirit (Tirinus, similarly Cappel); in the souls (Grotius, Tirinus, Cappel) of believers, or of the elect, according to that of Jeremiah 31:33, 34, I will put the laws in their mind, etc., so that the Gospel might be set over against the Law, which was not ἔμφυτον/ingrafted, but came to a man externally, and only admonished him concerning duty (Cappel). Or, 3. so that he might indicate that the word of God, faith, and grace, are not innate in us; but are from elsewhere, suppose from heaven, ingrafted, and therefore supernatural and gratuitous (Tirinus): or, 4. so that he might teach how the word is to be received by us, that is, in such a way that it is united and combined with us; like food to a man that it nourishes, or leven to the dought that it levens, and a shoot to a tree that it might bring forth fruit. See Deuteronomy 6:6; 11:18; Psalm 119:11 (Gataker), and what things were said on Matthew 13:3; 1 Corinthians 3:6 (Grotius). Others: I take ἔμφυτον/ ingrafted in the place of ἐμφύτως/naturally, an Adjective in the place of an Adverb. Thus are explained those passages of Homer, Iliad δ, —τότε μοι χάνοι εὐρεῖα χθών, then for me may the earth yawn wide;[21] and Odyssey β, —Λύσε ἀγορὴν αἰψηρὴν, he dismissed the hasty assembly, in the place of αἰψηρῶς, hastily. See Eustathius’[22] Odyssey 93. Is ἔμφυτον used in the place of ὥστε εἶναι ἔμφυτον, so as to be ingrafted, as Calvin explains (Casaubon)? Receive ye the ingrafted, etc., that is, receive ye in such a way that it might be ingrafted, that it might be made a living graft, whereby it might join with our heart. There is an allusion to seed, which often upon dry places, or to shoots, which, cast upon the earth, wither (Calvin). [The sense:] Receive it as seed, which, with the soil well cleared, is sown deeply, that finally it might bear fruit (Vorstius).

And receive; not only into your heads by knowledge, but into your hearts by faith. With meekness; with humility, modesty, and gentleness, which makes men submissive to the truth of the word, and ready to learn of God even those things which are above their natural capacity, Psalm 25:9; Isaiah 66:2; Matthew 11:5, 27: this is opposed to wrath, which makes men unteachable. The ingrafted word; either which is ingrafted or implanted, viz. ministerially, by the preachers of the gospel, 1 Corinthians 3:6, 7; principally by the Spirit of God, who writes it in the heart, Jeremiah 31:33. And thus it may be taken particularly for the word of the gospel, in opposition to the law, which came to men’s ears from without, and admonished them of their duty, but was not written in their hearts, or ingrafted thereto from them unto obedience to it. Or, that it may be ingrafted, i.e. intimately united to, or rooted in, the heart by a vital union; or made natural to it, (as some render the word,) the heart being transformed by the power of it, and conformed to the precepts of it, 2 Corinthians 3:18; Romans 6:17.

[Which is able to save (that is, to conduct unto eternal salvation [Estius], that is, if it be received in faith [Estius, thus Calvin]) your souls[23]] That is, you, through a Hebraism (Gataker, thus Piscator), as in 1 Peter 3:20 (Gataker): or, to souls κατ᾽ ἐξοχὴν, preeminently, he ascribes both salvation, as in 1 Peter 1:9, and damnation, Matthew 16:25[24] (Piscator, Gataker), yet not excluding the body (Piscator). Indeed, the body in a certain manner is excluded, because the body in time perishes, with the soul in the meantime unharmed. See James 5:15, 20 (Gataker). It is a sharp goad to chasten our idleness; that is to say, The Word, to which we so negligently lend our ears, is the cause of our salvation (Calvin). See Romans 1:16 (Grotius); 2 Corinthians 2:16 (Gataker).

Which, viz. when received by faith, is able to save, instrumentally, as being the means wherein God puts forth his power in saving them, Romans 1:16. Your souls; yourselves; the soul, as the noblest part, is by a synecdoche put for the whole person: see 1 Peter 1:9.

[1] Greek:  διὸ ἀποθέμενοι πᾶσαν ῥυπαρίαν καὶ περισσείαν κακίας, ἐν πρᾳΰτητι δέξασθε τὸν ἔμφυτον λόγον, τὸν δυνάμενον σῶσαι τὰς ψυχὰς ὑμῶν.

[2] Acts 7:58b:  “…and the witnesses laid down their clothes (ἀπέθεντο τὰ ἱμάτια αὐτῶν) at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul.”

[3] Ephesians 4:25:  “Wherefore putting away (ἀποθέμενοι) lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.”

[4] 1 Peter 2:1:  “Wherefore laying aside (ἀποθέμενοι) all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings…”

[5] Colossians 3:8:  “But now ye also put off (ἀπόθεσθε καὶ) all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.”

[6] Revelation 22:11a:  “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still:  and he which is filthy, let him be filthy (ὁ ῥυπῶν ῥυπωσάτω) still…”

[7] 1 Peter 3:21:  “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh [οὐ σαρκὸς ἀπόθεσις ῥύπου], but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ…”

[8] Isaiah 4:4:  “When the Lord shall have washed away the filth (צֹאַת; ῥύπον, in the Septuagint) of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning.”

[9] Song of Solomon 5:3:  “I have put off my coat; how shall I put it on?  I have washed my feet; how shall I defile them (אֲטַנְּפֵם)?”

[10] On Psalm 47.

[11] Romans 5:17:  “For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance (τὴν περισσείαν) of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.”

[12] 2 Corinthians 8:2:  “How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance (ἡ περισσεία) of their joy and their deep poverty abounded (ἐπερίσσευσεν) unto the riches of their liberality.”

[13] Psalm 45:4:  “And in thy majesty ride prosperously because of truth and meekness (πραΰτητος, in the Septuagint) and righteousness; and thy right hand shall teach thee terrible things.”

[14] Greek:  δέξασθε.

[15] Luke 8:13:  “They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive (δέχονται) the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.”

[16] Acts 11:1:  “And the apostles and brethren that were in Judaea heard that the Gentiles had also received (ἐδέξαντο) the word of God.”

[17] Acts 17:11:  “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received (ἐδέξαντο) the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.”

[18] Greek:  τὸν ἔμφυτον.

[19] Theophrastus (372-287 BC) was a disciple of Aristotle and his successor at the Lyceum.  He wrote Historia Plantarum.

[20] Acts 2:42 may be intended.

[21] That is, widely.

[22] Eustathius (d. 1198) was Archbishop of Thessalonica.  He wrote commentaries on Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey.

[23] Greek:  τὰς ψυχὰς ὑμῶν.

[24] Matthew 16:25:  “For whosoever will save his life (ψυχὴν/soul) shall lose it:  and whosoever will lose his life (ψυχὴν/soul) for my sake shall find it.”

Leave a Comment