James 3:13: Wisdom Heavenly and Earthly, Part 1

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Verse 13:[1] (Gal. 6:4) Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation (Jam. 2:18) his works (Jam. 1:21) with meekness of wisdom.

[Who, etc., τίς σοφὸς καὶ ἐπιστήμων, etc.] In the beginning of the chapter, he pled against ambitious Teachers, on occasion of whom he discusses many things concerning the vices of the tongue. He returns now his intended course, and teaches of what character Teachers ought to be (Estius). Others: Hitherto the disease of the tongue; here follows the remedy (Gataker). It is the question of one preparing to instruct, which sort is found in James 2:20 (Piscator), or rather, which sort is found in Psalm 25:12[2] and 34:12.[3] Τίς is the same as ἐίτις, if there be a man, 1 Peter 3:10 (Gataker). Who is wise and experienced, etc. (Montanus), or, understanding (Castalio), learned (Arabic, thus Tremellius out of the Syriac), furnished with knowledge (Erasmus, Pagnine, Beza, Piscator, Estius, etc.). Thus we have σοφίαν/wisdom and σύνεσιν/ understanding in Colossians 1:9; see Hosea 14:9:[4] but σοφὸς appears to be used of one who knows many things, ἐπιστήμων of one who also has τὸν τρόπον τῆς παιδείας, the temper for education, who is able to instruct others (Grotius). The sense: Is there not one among you who desires to be considered wise? that is, if anyone be wise, etc., let him show, etc. (Piscator, similarly Gataker). He touches upon the Gnostics (Hammond), or, those that thought proudly of themselves, and caught at the reputation of learning and wisdom; and that because they were reflecting negatively upon others with harsh censures, and were bearing no injuries. He demonstrates, therefore, that those completely miss the mark, and that wisdom does not consist in these things; but in gentleness, although this be viewed as foolishness by the world (Gataker).

[Let him show, etc., δειξάτω, etc.] Let him demonstrate (or, let him produce, as in John 10:32[5] [Grotius]) out of a good conversation (that is, out of his very life and manners [Menochius, similarly Estius], not out of words, but deeds; neither out of some good actions performed sometimes and by intervals, but out of a constant course and tenor of life [Gataker]: Ἀναστροφὴ/ conversation/conduct is here in the same sene as in Galatains 1:13;[6] Ephesians 4:22;[7] 1 Timothy 4:12;[8] Hebrews 13:7:[9] The Preposition ἐκ, out of, here signifies the Occasion [Grotius]) their works (that is, good works, especially beneficence toward one’s neighbors [Estius]) with (or, in [Montanus, Tremellius]) mildness, or gentleness, of wisdom (Beza, Piscator, thus Erasmus, Pagnine, Montanus, Castalio, etc.), or, gentle wisdom (Tremellius out of the Syriac, Vatablus, Beza, Grotius), by Hypallage,[10] that is, mild, placid, and moderate (Beza); which gently listens, responds, admonishes, rebukes, and teaches (Menochius): which he sets over against the arrogant and rude tempers described in the preceding verses, and rash judges (Beza). Thus, …the gentle wisdom of Lælius.[11] The sense: In life together let him produce works that testify to his gentle wisdom. Hence the thought is not much different than that in Proverbs 11:2[12] (Grotius). He uses σοφίας, of wisdom, that is, σοφῆς/wise, for there is also a gentleness that is foolish, carnal, or affected (Gataker). It belongs to gentleness to moderate anger, and not easily to be moved by the injuries of adversaries or scorners: which virtue is required in a Doctor/ Teacher, 2 Timothy 2:25 (Estius).

Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? i.e. if there be a wise man, etc. See Psalm 25:12, and 1 Peter 3:10, where what David speaks by way of interrogation, Peter explains by way of assertion. The apostle having shown the disease of the tongue, comes now to remove the cause, viz. men’s opinion of their own wisdom; (they censure others, because they take themselves to be wiser than others;) and to point out the remedy, godly meekness, which is the truest wisdom. By wisdom and knowledge the same thing may be meant; or if they be taken for several things, (as sometimes there may be great knowledge where there is but little wisdom,) yet these masterly censors he speaks of pretended to both, and were so rigid toward others because so well conceited of themselves: the sense is, You pretend to be wise and knowing, but if you would approve yourselves as such indeed, show out of a good conversation, etc. His works; let him show as the testimony of his wisdom, not his words in hard censures, but his works, viz. good ones, and those not done now and then, or on the by, but in the constant course and tenor of his life; or show his works to be good, by their being not casual, but constant, and his ordinary practice in his whole conversation. With meekness of wisdom; i.e. meek and gentle wisdom, which can bear, and answer, and teach, and admonish, and rebuke mildly and sweetly, with longsuffering, as well as doctrine, 2 Timothy 4:2: and then it notes the quality of this wisdom, or such meekness as proceeds from wisdom, or is joined with it, there being some which is foolish, affected, carnal, viz. that which is opposed to zeal; whereas true meekness is only opposed to fierceness and rashness: and thus it notes the cause of meekness.

[1] Greek: Τίς σοφὸς καὶ ἐπιστήμων ἐν ὑμῖν; δειξάτω ἐκ τῆς καλῆς ἀναστροφῆς τὰ ἔργα αὐτοῦ ἐν πρᾳΰτητι σοφίας.

[2] Psalm 25:12: “What (τίς, in the Septuagint) man is he that feareth the Lord? him shall he teach in the way that he shall choose.”

[3] Psalm 34:12: “What (τίς, in the Septuagint) man is he that desireth life, and loveth many days, that he may see good?”

[4] Hosea 14:9: “Who is wise, and he shall understand these things (מִ֤י חָכָם֙ וְיָ֣בֵֽן אֵ֔לֶּה; τίς σοφὸς καὶ συνήσει ταῦτα, in the Septuagint)? prudent, and he shall know them? for the ways of the Lord are right, and the just shall walk in them: but the transgressors shall fall therein.”

[5] John 10:32: “Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed (ἔδειξα) you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me?”

[6] Galatians 1:13: “For ye have heard of my conversation (ἀναστροφήν) in time past in the Jews’ religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it…”

[7] Ephesians 4:22: “That ye put off concerning the former conversation (ἀναστροφήν) the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts…”

[8] 1 Timothy 4:12: “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation (ἐν ἀναστροφῇ), in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.”

[9] Hebrews 13:7: “Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation (τῆς ἀναστροφῆς).”

[10] That is, an abnormal, unexpected word order.

[11] Horace’s Satires 2:1. Gaius Lælius Sapiens (born c. 188 BC) was a Roman statesman, remembered for his friendship with the Roman general, Scipio the Younger, and Terence. He was respected for his oratorical abilities and his wisdom.

[12] Proverbs 11:2: “When pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly (צְנוּעִים/modest/humble) is wisdom.”

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