James 1:25: The Right Reception of the Word, Part 7

Verse 25: But (2 Cor. 3:18) whoso looketh into the perfect (Jam. 2:12) law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, (John 13:17) this man shall be blessed in his deed (or, doing[1]).[2]

[Whoso, etc., ὁ δὲ παρακύψας εἰς νόμον τέλειον τὸν τῆς ἐλευθερίας] But whoever will have looked out (or, will have examined [Estius out of the Vulgate]: Παρακύπτειν here, as in Psalm 33:14[3] and 1 Peter 1:12,[4] is in any manner to look upon; and the Syriac here rightly posits חר, although properly it is used of those that gaze out through a window, as in Genesis 26:8;[5] 1 Chronicles 15:29;[6] Proverbs 7:6;[7] Song of Solomon 2:9[8] [Grotius]: or, will have looked into [Illyricus, Pagnine, Beza, Piscator, Æthiopic], has thoroughly looked into [Castalio, thus Estius, Menochius], that is, who with a desire to look upon [Erasmus, Estius, Menochius], turns his head [Erasmus], inclines himself [Estius out of Gagnæus], with his body leaning forward [Menochius, Beza], with his face turned downward [Menochius]; so that he might inquire close up and thoroughly [Laurentius, similarly Beza], as the word is taken in Luke 24:12;[9] John 20:4, 5,[10] 11, 12;[11] 1 Peter 1:12 [Laurentius, thus Gataker]: To the idle observer, or hearer, of the word he opposes the industrious hearer [Estius]) unto the law, namely, perfect, or, which is of liberty (Erasmus, Vatablus, etc.). By the name of Law he understands, either, 1. the whole doctrine of God, as it was familiar to the Jews: which he calls perfect and of liberty, by Antithesis. For, while it is proclaimed only externally, but is not inscribed in the heart by the Spirit of God, it was mutilated, and, as it were, a lifeless body; and it, separated from Christ, gendereth to bondage, according to Galatians 4:24, stirring diffidence and fear. But Christ is the end and perfection of the Law;[12] and the Spirit of Christ, who regenerates us, brings at one and the same time the grace and testimony of divine adoption, so that He might free us from fear[13] (Calvin). Or, 2. the moral Law of God (Gomar, Gataker, Beza, thus Piscator, Dieu), which he sets over against the ceremonial Law, in the observation of which they were hesitating (Beza, Gataker): see Hebrews 7:19; 9:9; 10:1; which is called, 1. perfect, as in Psalm 19:7; Romans 12:2 (Gataker), because it contains the perfect rule of living (Gataker, similarly Beza). 2. Of Liberty; and that, either, 1. because freely and without respect of persons it condemns whatever transgressors, sparing no one. It is a Periphrasis, and a Genitive of adjunct. Compare James 2:12, 13 (Piscator, Gomar). Or, 2. from the subject, which is consistent with Christian liberty, Galatians 5:13, 14, in which manner it best squares with the design of this epistle; which is, that Christians might be taught not to abuse Christian liberty unto license, and contempt of the Law of God, but unto obedience. Or, 3. from the adjunct, that is to say, the free Law (Gomar); that is, free from the yoke of the ceremonies (Gomar, similarly Beza), which had been conjoined to it under the Old Testament, Galatians 5:1. Or, 4. from the effects of it in those regenerated, whom it liberates, both, from its condemnation and rigor through the satisfaction of Christ (Gomar); and, from the dominion of sin, on account of the conjoined grace of Christ; because the Law is the norm of life, of which the Holy Spirit makes use, that they might know and fulfill their duty (Gomar), and obey the Law (Gomar, Dieu); not by servile fear (Gomar), but freely (Dieu), or by voluntary obedience, Romans 7:25; 8:15 (Gomar), which only is true liberty. See John 8:36; 2 Corinthians 3:17. To this that saying in the book of Aboth[14] has regard, Whoever taken upon himself the yoke of the Law, by it he is withdrawn from the yoke of royal dominion, that is, tyranny has no power over him, and from the yoke of the way of the earth, that is, sins and earthly lusts no longer rule over him (Dieu). Or, 3. he undoubtedly understands (Vorstius) the Law of the Gospel (Vorstius, Menochius, thus Hammond, Estius), which is called the law of faith, Romans 3:27 (Vorstius), and the law of Christ[15] (Estius): which is called perfect, either, because it perfects (Estius, Vorstius), namely, a man in conscience with respect to the service of God (Vorstius); or, compared to the Law of Moses, which is not perfect (Grotius): and of liberty, either, because it frees believing Jews from the yoke of the Mosaic Law (Estius); or rather, because it is the law of love (Menochius, similarly Estius), which makes liberos,[16] that is, the sons of God (Estius): which conveys with itself the spirit of true liberty and of divine adoption; whoever is provided with this, freely and willingly obey God (Vorstius): while the Law of Moses was characterized by fear and bondage (Menochius, similarly Estius), and was not able to lead its observers either unto liberty (Vorstius), or unto perfection (Vorstius, similarly Estius). Compare Galatians 4 (Estius); 2 Corinthians 3:6; Hebrews 7:19 (Grotius, Vorstius); and Hebrews 8 and 9 (Estius, Vorstius).

But whoso looketh into; viz. intently and earnestly, searching diligently into the mind of God. The word signifies a bowing down of the head to look into a thing; and is used of the disciples’ looking into Christ’s sepulchre, Luke 24:12; John 20:5; see 1 Peter 1:12; and seems to be opposed to looking into a glass, which is more slight, and without such prying and inquisitiveness. The perfect law of liberty; the whole doctrine of the Scripture, or especially the gospel, called law, Romans 3:27, both as it is a rule, and by reason of the power it hath over the heart; and a law of liberty, because it shows the way to the best liberty, freedom from sin, the bondage of the ceremonial law, the rigour of the moral, and from the wrath of God; and likewise the way of serving God freely and ingenuously as children; and because, being received into the heart, it is accompanied with the Spirit of adoption who works this liberty, 2 Corinthians 3:17. It is called a perfect law, not only as being entire and without any defect, but as directing us to the greatest perfection, full conformity to God, and enjoyment of him, 2 Timothy 3:16, 17.

[And he will have continued, καὶ παραμείνας] And continuing (Montanus). And he will have persisted (Tremellius out of the Syriac, thus the Arabic). And he will have continued thus (Beza, certain interpreters in Estius), so that in the place of οὗτος, this man,[17] which follows, and pertains to what follows, and so appears to be redundant, because it is soon repeated, might be read οὕτως/thus, to be joined to this part (Estius out of Gagnæus and Cajetan, similarly Beza). But I am unwilling to change anything as a result of conjecture (Beza). And he will have continued (Erasmus, Illyricus, Tigurinus, Pagnine, Beza, Piscator), understanding, in it (Pagnine, Beza, Piscator, Tremellius out of the Syriac), namely, the Law (Beza, Estius): which makes whoever thus contemplates the Law to fulfill it in deed. This is opposed to the and he went his way, in the preceding verse (Estius). There is to be a continual gazing, just as women do, who take counsel from the mirror to place well individual hairs (Grotius).

And continueth therein; perseveres in the study, belief, and obedience of this doctrine, (Psalm 1:2,) in all conditions, and under all temptations and afflictions. This seems to be opposed to him, who, when he hath looked in a glass, goes away, James 1:24. By which are set forth slight, superficial hearers, who do not continue in Christ’s word, John 8:31.

[He being not, etc., οὗτος οὐκ ἀκροατὴς ἐπιλησμονῆς—οὗτος μακάριος ἐν τῇ ποιήσει, etc.] He, because he was not a hearer forgetful (or, of forgetfulness [Montanus, Grotius, Estius, etc.]: It is a Hebraic expression [Grotius, thus Estius, Piscator], like γενέσεως, of nature, in verse 23[18] [Gataker]: It is a Genitive of adjunct [Piscator]: The word ἐπιλησμονῆς/ forgetfulness is used by Cratinus,[19] as the Scholiast of Aristophanes and Suidas[20] testify [Grotius]), but a doer of the work (that is, of those works which Evangelical Law requires, a Singular in the place of the Plural [Grotius]), he, I say (there is here in the Pronoun οὗτος a lovely ἀναφορὰ/anaphora/repetition [Grotius, similarly Piscator], or an Epanalepsis[21] [Piscator]), shall be blessed (with the blessedness, either, of the heavenly fatherland [certain interpreters in Estius]; or rather, 2. of the way, which consists in justification, which is called μακαρισμὸς/blessedness in Romans 4:[22] and in the certain expectation of eternal felicity; just as he is called blessed in James 1:12 [Estius]) in the work (either, deed [Vulgate], or, working, or, that I might speak thus, action: For he does not understand any one deed, but the execution of the Law through works [Estius]) his[23] (Piscator, Beza, etc.), that is, thus conducting himself, showing faith by works (Beza): or, on account of the action, that is, actions, of him. But περὶ τῆς ποιήσεως, concerning the making, Exodus 32:35.[24] In which place, and in some others, מַעֲשֶׂה/deed/work is translated ποιήσεις (Grotius). Or, through those things which he will do (Vatablus). In in the place of for. Therefore, it denotes, not the cause and efficient, but the consequence, and way, walking along which they may be blessed (Gomar); or, in their works, that is, whatever he will do will fall out prosperously to him, in accordance with Psalm 1, to which there appears to be an allusion here (Grotius); or, that is to say, not in simple and bare knowledge, but in the works unto which that is referred (Menochius).

He being not a forgetful hearer; Greek, hearer of forgetfulness, by a Hebraism, for a forgetful hearer; it answers to him in the former verse, that forgetteth what manner of man he was; and implies, not only not remembering the truths we have heard, but a not practising them, as appears by the next clause. But a doer of the work; viz. which the word directs him to do: the singular number is put for the plural; he means, he that reduceth what he hears into practice, Psalm 103:18. This man shall be blessed in his deed; this is opposed to bare hearing, and the doer of the work is said to be blessed in or by his deed, as the evidence of his present begun blessedness, and the way to his future perfect happiness.

[1] Greek:  ποιήσει.

[2] Greek:  ὁ δὲ παρακύψας εἰς νόμον τέλειον τὸν τῆς ἐλευθερίας καὶ παραμείνας, οὗτος οὐκ ἀκροατὴς ἐπιλησμονῆς γενόμενος ἀλλὰ ποιητὴς ἔργου, οὗτος μακάριος ἐν τῇ ποιήσει αὐτοῦ ἔσται.

[3] Psalm 33:14:  “From the place of his habitation he looketh (הִשְׁגִּיחַ/gazeth) upon all the inhabitants of the earth.”

[4] 1 Peter 1:12:  “Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into (παρακύψαι).”

[5] Genesis 26:8:  “And it came to pass, when he had been there a long time, that Abimelech king of the Philistines looked out (וַיַּשְׁקֵ֗ף אֲבִימֶ֙לֶךְ֙ מֶ֣לֶךְ פְּלִשְׁתִּ֔ים; παρακύψας δὲ Αβιμελεχ ὁ βασιλεὺς Γεραρων, in the Septuagint) at a window, and saw, and, behold, Isaac was sporting with Rebekah his wife.”

[6] 1 Chronicles 15:29b:  “…Michal the daughter of Saul looking out (נִשְׁקְפָה; παρέκυψεν, in the Septuagint) at a window saw king David dancing and playing: and she despised him in her heart.”

[7] Proverbs 7:6:  “For at the window of my house I looked through (נִשְׁקָפְתִּי; παρακύπτουσα, in the Septuagint) my casement…”

[8] Song of Solomon 2:9b:  “…behold, he standeth behind our wall, he looketh forth (מַשְׁגִּיחַ; παρακύπτων, in the Septuagint) at the windows, shewing himself through the lattice.”

[9] Luke 24:12a:  “Then arose Peter, and ran unto the sepulchre; and stooping down (παρακύψας), he beheld the linen clothes laid by themselves…”

[10] John 20:5:  “And he, stooping down to look in (παρακύψας), saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in.”

[11] John 20:11, 12a:  “But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping:  and as she wept, she stooped down to look (παρέκυψεν) into the sepulchre, and seeth two angels in white sitting…”

[12] Romans 10:4.

[13] See Romans 8:14-17.

[14] Pirkei Aboth is a tractate of the Mishnah dealing with only with ethics.

[15] Galatians 6:2.

[16] That is, free men, or children.

[17] James 1:25:  “But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he (οὗτος) being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man (οὗτος) shall be blessed in his deed.”

[18] 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, the face of his nature) in a glass…”

[19] Cratinus (519-422 BC) was an Athenian comic poet.

[20] Suidas was the compiler of the Suda, an encyclopedia containing more that thirty thousand entries concerning the ancient Mediterranean world.  It was probably composed in tenth-century Byzantium.

[21] That is, the repetition of a word at the beginning and ending of a clause or sentence.

[22] Romans 4:6, 7, 9:  “Even as David also describeth the blessedness (τὸν μακαρισμὸν) of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, saying, Blessed (μακάριοι) are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered….  Cometh this blessedness (ὁ μακαρισμὸς—οὗτος) then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness.”

[23] That is, in his work.

[24] Exodus 32:35:  “And the Lord plagued the people, because they made the calf ( עַ֚ל אֲשֶׁ֣ר עָשׂ֣וּ אֶת־הָעֵ֔גֶל; περὶ τῆς ποιήσεως τοῦ μόσχου, in the Septuagint), which Aaron made.”

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