James 3:15: Wisdom Heavenly and Earthly, Part 3

Verse 15:[1] (Jam. 1:17; Phil. 3:19) This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual (or, natural;[2] Jude 19[3]), devilish.

[For not is this (which those wicked masters/teachers were peddling [Estius]: with which they were swelling, while they were being so exacting in searching out the faults of others [Calvin]) wisdom (that is, it is not true wisdom [Grotius, Estius], but false [Estius]) descending from above (or, from the heavenlies [Piscator], from heaven [Menochius, thus Piscator], from the Father of men, James 1:17 [Menochius])] That is, what sort the Holy Spirit works. See John 15:26 (Grotius). He denies that to be true wisdom, which those ambitious and corrupt men were peddling; since it was joined with depraved lusts, etc. (Estius). Now, by wisdom here he understands, either, 1. that which is common to all Christians, that is, that righteousness which embraces all virtues (the majority of interpreters in Estius): or, 2. that of masters/teachers, which pertains to the intellect, and does not necessarily affect the will; which is in men ambitious, avaricious, etc., which in many is commonly mixed and corrupted with perverse opinions, suited to carnal sense (Estius). Others: He confirms what he said against envy and contention, etc., that is to say, to whatever degree this may appear to you and to the world to be wisdom, yet it is not true wisdom, because it is not from God, from whom is all wisdom (Gataker).

[But is earthly] That is, arising from the earth, John 3:31 (Gataker). Suited to souls bent toward the earth (Grotius); seeking earthly wealth (Menochius, similarly Estius). Compare Philippians 3:19 (Grotius, Gataker).

This wisdom, which they pretended so much to, who so criticized on other men’s actions, and inveighed against them, and which was accompanied with strife and envy. Descendeth not from above; i.e. from God the author of wisdom, from whom, though every good and perfect gift descends, James 1:17, and even knowledge and skill in natural things, Isaiah 28:26, 29; yet this wisdom, being sinful, is not from him, because it is earthly, of the earth, of no higher original than from the first Adam, who was of the earth, and earthly, 1 Corinthians 15:47; and likewise because it is employed, and fixeth men’s minds, on earthly things.

[Animal, ψυχική] As in 1 Corinthians 2:14[4] (Piscator). Human, or earthly (Zegers, Erasmus): or, conceived by the power of the unrenewed soul (Piscator): from nature, not from God (Grotius): serving the lusts of the flesh (Estius, similarly Menochius, certain interpreters in Erasmus), after the likeness of brutes, as the word is derived from animals[5] (certain interpreters in Erasmus): wisdom of the flesh or carnal (Drusius), from the cogitations of the soul (Grotius out of the Syriac). By this men are wise in this world, 1 Corinthians 3:18: they are called ψυχικοί, who do not have the Spirit of God, Jude 19 (Grotius).

Sensual; this may be understood either, 1. According to the reading in the text, the word here used being so rendered, Jude 19, agreeable to 1 Thessalonians 5:23,[6] where soul, from whence the word is derived, is opposed to spirit, and taken for the sensitive powers, which men have in common with brutes, in distinction from the intellectual, which go under the name of spirit, and are proper to men: mere reason, without the Divine grace, being apt to degenerate into brutishness, and easily brought to serve the ends of sensual appetite, this wisdom may well be called sensual. Or, 2. According to Jude 19, natural, in opposition to spiritual. The natural man (1 Corinthians 2:14, where the same word, in the Greek, is used as here) is one that lives under the conduct of his own carnal reason, not enlightened, nor regenerated by the Spirit of God; a man of soul, (as the word imports,) or that hath no better, no higher principle in him than his own soul. Accordingly, this wisdom here mentioned, is such as proceeds merely from a man’s own soul, in its natural state, destitute of the light and grace of God’s Spirit, and therefore may be termed natural.

[Diabolical] Or, Satanic (the Arabic in Grotius), inspired by evil spirits (Piscator): The Syriac: from the destroyer: for thus they call the Devil (Grotius): serving ambition and pride (Estius, similarly Menochius), which is properly diabolical (Estius). For the Devil is wont to involve himself in earthly concerns, 2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 2:2 (Grotius). To this threefold wisdom is opposed wisdom spiritual, heavenly, and divine (Drusius), to which that division in 1 John 2:15 corresponds (Estius).

Devilish; because it is of the devil, or such as is in him, and makes men like him, who is a proud spirit, and envious, a liar and slanderer, John 8:44, and who observes men’s faults, not to amend them, but accuse them for them.

[1] Greek: οὐκ ἔστιν αὕτη ἡ σοφία ἄνωθεν κατερχομένη, ἀλλ᾽ ἐπίγειος, ψυχική, δαιμονιώδης.

[2] Greek: ψυχική.

[3] Jude 19: “These be they who separate themselves, sensual (ψυχικοί), having not the Spirit.”

[4] 1 Corinthians 2:14: “But the natural (ψυχικὸς) man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

[5] Ψυχή/soul is related to the verb ψύχω, to breath or blow. In Latin, anima, from which animals receive their name, signifies breath; animals are being which have received the breath of life.

[6] 1 Thessalonians 5:23: “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul (τὸ πνεῦμα καὶ ἡ ψυχὴ) and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

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