James Hardy Ropes.

A critical and exegetical commentary on the Epistle of St. James online

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Intfrttational Critiral Cgmmtnfarg

on tlic ^oig Scriptttvcg of tlie (S)l^ anlr


The Rev. FRANCIS BROWN, D.D,, D.Litt., LL.D.

President and Professor of Hebrew and Cognate Languages,
Union Theological Setninary, New York,



Sotnetime Master of University College, Durham.

Planned and for Years Edited by

The Late Rev. Professor CHARLES AUGUSTUS BRIGGS, D.D., D.Litt.

The Late Rev. Professor SAMUEL ROLLES DRIVER, D.D., D.Litt.


The International Critical Commentary











Copyright, 1916, by

Published February, 1916


A COMMENTARY like the present draws frankly from
its predecessors, just as these in their turn used ma-
terials quarried by earlier scholars, whom they do not
name on each occasion. The right to do this is won by con-
scientious effort in sifting previous collections and reproducing
only what is trustworthy, apt, and instructive for the under-
standing of the text. If new illustrations or evidence can be
added, that is so much to the good.

So far as I am aware, the solution I have given of the textual
problem of i", the "shadow of turning," is strictly new. It
is a matter of no consequence in itself, but acquires interest
because it bears directly on the relation of the Sinaitic and
Vatican manuscripts, and because Dr. Hort candidly recognised
this reading of X and B, as hitherto understood, to present a
grave, although unique, obstacle to his and Dr. Westcott's

To some other discussions, of the nature of detached notes,
in which material is freshly or fully collected, I have ventured
to call the reader's attention in the Table of Contents. It may
also be not improper to remark that the account of extant
ancient commentaries on James in Greek and Latin (pages
110-113) runs counter to some recent statements.

The explanation offered of "thou" and "I" in 2^^, which
seems to me to solve the problem of that passage, is not
strictly new, but has been overlooked in most current works
on the epistle. In the light of modem geographical knowledge
the reference in 5^ to "the early and latter rain" gains a
greater importance than has generally been observed.

The summary of the epistle (pages 4/.) may make more



clear and intelligible than I have been able to do elsewhere the
measure of unity which the epistle shows, and the relation of
its parts.

A marked defect of tliis commentary, although one not
pecuHar to it, is that its rabbinical illustrations ought to be
fuller. The glaring technical inconsistencies in the mode of
referring to such passages as are cited will betray at once that
they are drawn from various secondary sources and not from
original and systematic research. It would be a great service
to New Testament scholars to provide them with a new and
adequate set of Horae hebraicae, and nowhere is the need so
great as in James and the Gospel of Matthew.

These two writings are sources from which a knowledge of
primitive Palestinian Christianity can be drawn, and they rep-
resent a different line of development from that of the Hel-
lenistic Christianity which finds expression in Luke, Paul, and
John. The grounds of the distinction are other than those
which the Tubingen School believed to have controlled early
Christian liistory, but they are no less clear or far-reaching.
A just understanding of these tendencies requires a sound
view not only of the origin and meaning of the Epistle of James,
but of its history in the church. And here the critical question
is that of the Shepherd of Hermas. The view stated below
that Hermas betrays no knowledge of James and is not de-
pendent on him was forced on me, I am glad to say, by the
study of the facts, against a previous prejudice and without at
first recognising where it led; but it is in truth the key to the
history. If Hermas really read the Epistle of James so often
that he knew by heart its most incidental phrases, now working
them into his own writing and again making them the text
for long expansions, the place of the epistle in early Chris-
tianity becomes an insoluble riddle.

The notes on textual criticism in the commentary are intended
to treat chiefly those selected variants which make a difference
in the sense ; the materials employed do not ordinarily go be-
yond the apparatus of Tischendorf. I hope later to treat the
criticism and history of the text of James in the light of all the


evidence, including as nearly as may be the whole body of
extant minuscule Greek manuscripts.

To many friends who have helped me in countless ways and
from great stores of thought and knowledge I would gratefully
express the obligation that I owe them.

James Hardy Ropes.

Harvard University,
October 15, 1915.





I. The Epistle 1-74

§ I. The Purpose and Contents of the Epistle . . 2-5
(o) Purpose, p. 2 ; (b) Contents, pp. 2-5.

§ 2. The Literary Type of the Epistle of James . . 6-18
Epistle, pp. 6-10 ; Diatribe, pp. 10-16 ; Wisdom-litera-
ture, pp. 16-17; Protrepticus, p. 18.

§ 3. Literary Relationships 18-24

(a) Wisdom-literature, pp. 18/. ; (b) Other Jewish
works; Apostolic Fathers, pp. 19-21 ; (c) New Testa-
ment books, pp. 21-23.

§ 4. Language 24-27

§ 5. The Ideas and Historical Background of the

Epistle 27-43

(a) The ideas, pp. 28-39 S (^) The situation, pp. 39-43.

§ 6. The Origin of the Epistle 43-52

(a) History of opinion as to the author, pp. 43-47;
(b) Conclusions, pp. 47-52.

Appendix on James the Lord's Brother and Other

Persons Named James 53-74

§ I. New Testament persons named James, pp. 53/. § 2.
The history of opinion, pp. 54-59. § 3. The decisive
considerations, pp. 59-62. § 4. The tradition con-
cerning James the Lord's brother, (a) The New
Testament, pp. 62-64. (b) Other tradition, pp. 64-74.

11. Text 74-S6

§ I. Greek Manuscripts 74-75

§ 2. Versions 75-84

§ 3. Use of the Authorities S4-86




III. History of the Epistle in the Church .... 86-109
§ I. Absence of Mention in Writers Before Origen 87-92

§ 2. The Greek Church 92-95

§ 3. The Syrian Church 96-100

§ 4. The Western Church 100-103

§ 5. Order of the Catholic Epistles 103-104

§ 6. Later History 104-109

IV. Commentaries, Ancient and Modern 110-115

§ I. Patristic and Medieval 110-113

(a) Greek, pp. 110-112; {b) Latin, pp. 112/.;
(c) Syriac, p. 113.

§ 2. Modern 113-115


Chapter I 117-185

•K&c, in the singular, pp. 1 29-131.
The meaning of crowns, pp. 150-152.
The text of V, pp. 162-164.

Chapter II 185-225

Chapter III 226-251

The wheel of nature, pp. 236-239.

Chapter IV 252-282

"If the Lord will," pp. 279-280.

Chapter V 282-316

The reprobation of sivcaring, pp. 301-303.
Anointing with oil, pp. 305-307.

INDEX 317-319


Blass = F. Blass, Grammallk des
Griechisch, -1902.

Blass-Debrunner = A. Debrunner,
Friedrich Blass' Gram-
matik des neutesta-
mentlichen Griechisch,
merte vollig neugear-
beitete Auflage, 19 13.

Bultmann = R. Bultmann, Der
Stil der Paulinischen
Predigt und die ky-
nisch-stoische Diatribe
(Forschungen zur Re-
ligion und Literatur
des Alten und Neuen
Testaments, xiii),

Burton, Moods and Tenses = E. D.
Burton, Syntax of the
Moods and Tenses in
New Testament Greek,

Buttmann = A. Buttmann, A
Grammar of the New
Testament Greek ,
Thayer's translation,

DB = Dictionary of the Bible.

DCA = W. Smith and S. Chcet-
ham, A Dictionary of
Christian Antiquities,

EB = Encyclopa:dia Biblica,


Gebser = A.R.CebseT,Der Brief des
Jakobus, Berhn, 1828.

GgA = G'ottingische gelehrte An-

Goodspeed, Index = E. J. Good-
speed, Index patristi-
ctis, 1907.

Hadley-Allen = J. Hadley, A Greek
Grammar for Schools
and Colleges, revised
by F. D. Allen, 1884.

Hamack, CaL = A. von Hamack,
Die Chronologic der
altchristlichen Littera-
tur bis Eusebius (Ge-
schichte der altchrist-
lichen Litteratur bis
Eusebius, Zweiter
Theil), 1897, 1904.

Hatch, Essays = Edwin Hatch, Es-
says in Biblical Greek,

HDB = J. Hastings, A Diction-
ary of the Bible, 1898-

Heisen = H. Heisen, Novae hypo-
theses inter pretandae
epistolae Jacob i, Brem-
en, 1739.

Herzog-Hauck, PRE = A. Hauck,
Realencyklopddie fiir
Protestantische Theol-
ogie und Kirche, be-
griindct von J. J. Ilcr-
zog, 1896-1913.



Hort, "Introduction," "Appendk"
= B. F. Westcott and
F. J. A. Hort, The
New Testament in the
Original Greek: Intro-
diiclion, Appendix,
iSSi, =1896.

JE = The Jewish Encyclopedia,


JTS = The Journal of Theolog-
ical Studies.

Kriiger = K. W. Kriiger, Grie-
chische Sprachlehre fUr
Schulen, ^1861-2.

Leipoldt, GnK = J. Leipoldt, Ge-
schichte des neutesta-
mcntlichen Kanons,

Lex. = J. H. Thayer, A Greek-
English Lexicon of the
New Testament, 1886.

L. and S. = H. G. LiddeU and R.
Scott, A Greek-English
Lexicon, '1883.

Mayor = J. B. Mayor, The Epis-
tle of St. James, 1892,
^1897, ^1910.

Meyer = Kritisch-exegctischer
Kommentar iiber das
Neue Testament be-
griindet von Heinr.
Aug. With. Meyer.

J. H. Moulton, Prolegomena — A
Grammar of New Tes-
tament Greek. Vol I.
Prolegomena, 1906,

NkZ =Neue kirchliche Zeit-

NTAF = The New Testament in
the Apostolic Fathers
by a Committee of the
Oxford Society of His-
torical Theology, 1905.

ol. = olim (used to indicate

Gregory's former nu-
meration of Greek
Mss., in Prolegomena,

OLBT = Old-Latin Biblical Texts,

Pauly-Wissowa, RE = G. Wissowa,
Paulys Realencyclo-
padie der classischcn
Altertumswissenschaft ;
neue Bearbeitung,

Pott = D. J. Pott, in Novum
Testamcnlum Greece,
editio Koppiana, Got-
tingen, '1816.

SB = Stadia bihlica et ec-

clesiastica ; Essays
chiefly in Biblical and
Patristic Criticism,

Schmidt, Synonymik = J. H. H.
Schmidt, Synonymik
der griechischen
Sprache, 1876-86.

Schiirer, GJV = E. Schiirer, Ge-
schichte des jiidischen
Volkes im Zeitalter
Jesu Christi, ^1901-9.

Taylor, SJF = C. Taylor, Sayings
of the Jewish Fathers,

Trench, Synonyms = R. C. Trench,
Synonyms of the New
Testamejit, '-1894.

TS = Texts and Studies, Con-

tributions to Biblical
and Patristic Litera-
ture, 189 I-.

TU = Texte und Untersuchun-
gen zur Geschichte der
altchristlichen Litera-
tur, 1 882-.



Vg = Vulgate.

Westcott, CNT = B. F. Westcott,
A General Survey of the
History of the Canon
of the New Testament,

Winer = G. B. Winer, A Gram-
mar of the Idiom of the
New Testament, Thay-
er's translation, ^1873.

Zalin, Einleitiing = Theodor Zahn,
Einlcitung in das Nene
Testament, '1906-7.

CnK = Geschichte des
Kanons, 1888-92.

Grundriss = Grmtdriss der
Geschichte des Neutes-
tamentlichen Kanons,
1901, ^1904.

The commentaries named on pp. 113-115 are frequently referred to by
the author's name.

The page numbers sometimes given with citations from Philo are those
of Mangey's edition.

The Psalms are regularly cited by the Hebrew numbers, both fo'r Psalms
and verses.



The Epistle of James is a religious and moral tract having
the form, but only the form, of a letter. It contains counsels
and reflections on a variety of topics relating to personal char-
acter and right conduct, but attains a certain unity from the
writer's own traits of sincerity, good sense, and piety, which
are manifest in every paragraph. The epistle has been as-
signed to many dates and several places of origin, and is held
by many to be a genuine writing of James the Lord's brother;
but it is probably the pseudonymous production of a Christian
of Jewish origin, living in Palestine in the last quarter of the
first century or the first quarter of the second. The precise
limits of the period within which it was written cannot be

The epistle reflects the conditions of Jewish life in Palestine,
and almost all the ideas have their roots -in Jewish thought, but
in much of the language, style, and mode of expression gener-
ally, and in some of the ideas, Hellenistic influences are unmis-
takable and strong. The interweaving of the two strains con-
tributes much to the freshness and effectiveness of the epistle
as a hortatory essay.

Our first certain knowledge of the book is from two sources
of about the same date; namely, Origen (c. 185-c. 254) and
the pseudo-clementine Epistles to Virgins, written in Palestine
in Greek in the early decades of the third century. After
Origen the Epistle of James seems soon to have become widely
accepted in the Greek church as a part of the N. T. In the
West the translation into Latin, made before 350, gives the
earliest evidence of acquaintance with the epistle by Latin-
speaking Christians. In Syria the Greek original was known


as early as the latter half of the fourth century, and it was
first translated into Syriac (as a part of the Peshitto) in the
early part of the fifth.

§ I. The Purpose and Contents of the Epistle.

(o) Purpose.

The writer of the Epistle of James has in mind in his coun-
sels the general needs of such Christians as he is acquainted
with or of whose existence he is aware. The epistle does not
treat of the special concerns of any particular church nor owe
its origin to any specific occasion. The author addresses any
Christians into whose hands his work may fall and touches
upon subjects of wide and general interest. It cannot be said
that the epistle has any more specific "purpose" than the gen-
eral aim of edification. In the selection of topics the writer
was governed partly by his own special interests at the mo-
ment, partly by what he drew from his own experience of the
life about him as to the needs of human nature in general.
Doubtless here, as always, the impulse to expression arose from
the consciousness of having something to say which by its
freshness either of form or substance would interest readers
and strike home. There is no attempt in the epistle to give a
full or systematic account of the author's ideas on any subject.

(6) Contents.

Like the ancient Wisdom-literature of the Hebrews, with
which (in spite of entire difference of style) the writer probably
shows some familiarity, much of the epistle is in aphoristic form.
Such sentences, having their meaning complete in themselves,
gain comparatively little illumination from the context; they
are the well-rounded and compact results of whole trains of
previous thought, and are successful in suggesting these to the
reader's mind. In trying to interpret by a paraphrase, or to
show the connection of ideas, it is difficult to avoid ascribing to
the writer what he has not said, and elaborating thoughts
hinted at, rather than fairly implied, by the text {cf. the full
and instructive Paraphrases of Erasmus, and the attempts to


summarise the epistle found in the commentaries and the books
on Introduction).

The aphorisms are not generally isolated, but are gathered
in paragraphs; and these often have unity and show connec-
tion and progress of thought. The paragraphs are grouped
loosely under more or less definite points of view, and in chs.
2 and 4^-5® we find an approach to the fuller discussion of a
topic from various sides. In some instances the connection be-
tween smaller divisions is made by the skilful use of the same
or a similar word at the close of one sentence and the opening
of the next (thus, i^^- ^at/aetz^, x^pdv, i^f- XeiTro/xevoi^ XetVe-
Tai; ii2f- nreipaayLou^Treipa^oixevo'^; i^^^- Xoyov^ Xoyov; 516^-
7r/30creu;)^eo-^e, Berjcri^ ; cf. the connection made by 3"-** be-
tween the divergent subjects of chs. 3 and 4). It is notewor-
thy that in the later chapters, where there is more continuity
in the flow of thought, this method of "capping" sentences
rarely occurs.

Beneath the whole epistle plainly lie two pervading and
strongly felt principles : (i) the hatred of sham of every kind ;
(2) the conviction that God and the world are incompatible as
objects of men's allegiance. Neither of these principles could
serve as a title to the tract, but they bind its somewhat mis-
cellaneous contents together in a sort of unity.

These general characteristics recall the spirit of the Hellen-
istic diatribes, among which the Epistle of James seems to find
its fittest literary classification. There, as here, the aim to
pierce through appearance and pretense to reality is a leading
motive, and in the first two chapters of James we read what
Christian earnestness thought it worth while to say on this
favourite theme of the sometimes superficial or possibly flip-
pant, but commonly serious even if unconventional, Greek pop-
ular street preacher;* while James's discussion, in his last two
chapters, of the two incompatible aims of human striving also
treats a familiar topic of these moralists. f

*P. Wendland, Die hellcnistisch-romiscke Kultur in ihren Beziehungen zu Judenltim und
Christenlum*, 1912, p. 76 (Diogenes), p. 85 (later moral preachers).

t Wendland, op. cit., p. 85; A. Bonhotler, Epiktet urtd das Neue Testament (Rcligionsge-
schichtliche Vcrsuche und Vorarbciten, x), 1911, pp. 3Si/.


These contacts make more intelligible the structure of the
epistle. Familiarity with these great discussions, which had
been given in public for centuries, would cause contemporary-
readers to see fitness in a series of topics which to us seem in-
congruous, to recognise the naturalness of transitions which
strike us as awkward and abrupt, and to detect a latent unity
which for us is obscured by the writer's habit of making no
introductory announcement of his successive themes. It must,
however, be emphasised that the writer's method is hortatory,
not expository (about 60 imperatives occur in the 108 verses) ;
his goal is nowhere so definitely formulated in his mind as to
forbid a swift and unexpected leap to inculcate some important
object of Christian endeavour (so in ch. 5) . In such cases we can-
not assume completely to trace the real sequence of his thought.

The following summary of the epistle is an attempt to indi-
cate for the several larger divisions the point of view which may
have led to the grouping of the paragraphs.

i^. Epistolary Salutatio7i.


(i) i^-i*. In the formation of character.

(a) 1 2-^. The real nature of trouble is as an aid to a

well-rounded character.

(b) i^ -^ Real prayer requires unwavering faith.

(c) i^-". Poverty is real wealth.

(d) i^^. The endurance of trouble brings the crown of life.

(e) ii3-i8^ The real cause of sin is not temptation sent

by God, but lies within yourself.

(2) 1^^-228. In religious instruction and public worship.

(/) i"-25. Hearing is indeed better than talking, but the

real response to the word of God is not to listen

only but to obey,
(g) 1 26-27^ Real worship is inconsistent with reckless

speech; the best worship is kindly service and

inner purity.


(h) 2^-^. To court the rich and neglect the poor in the
house of worship reverses real values.

(i) 2*-". For such conduct it is a futile excuse to urge
that the law of love requires it.

(j) 2"-26. Equally futile is it to pretend in excuse that
the possession oi faith dispenses from works.

II. 3^-1^ ON THE teacher's CALLING.

(a) 3i-i2_ Against ambition to be teachers. The teacher

is under heavier responsibility than others; yet
the tongue (the teacher's organ) is as powerful as
the little rudder in a great ship, as dangerous as a
little fire in a great forest, and is untamable.

(b) 313-18^ The true wise man's wisdom must be meek

and peaceable; such wisdom alone comes from
above, and only peaceable righteousness receives
the divine reward.



(i) 4^-5^. Worldliness in rivalry with God as the aim of life.

(a) 4^-12. The cause of the crying evils of life is the pur-

suit of pleasure, an aim which is in direct rivalry
with God and abhorrent to him.

(b) 4^3-^^. The practical neglect of God seen in the

trader's presumptuous confidence in himself ; and
the futility of it.

(c) 5^-^ The practical neglect of God seen in the cruelty

and luxury of the rich; and the appalling issue
which awaits it.

(2) 5^-2". Counsels for the Christian conduct of life.

(d) 5^-". Constancy and forbearance ; and their reward.

(e) 5i2-i8_ 'pjjg religious expression of strong emotion ;

and the efficacy of prayer.
(/) s^'-^". The privilege of service to the erring.


§ 2. The Literary Type of the Epistle of James.*

The character of James as an epistle is given it solely by i\
wliich (see note ad loc.) has the conventional form usual in the
opening sentence of a Greek letter. But the address (however
interpreted) "to the people of God, in their dispersion" {ral^i
BcoSeKa ^uXat? iv ttj htacnropa) implies that what follows is a
literary tract intended for any Christian into whose hands it
may fall, not a proper letter sent to a definite individual or
even to a definite group of persons.

With this corresponds the epistle itself. The author's treat-
ment of his themes is plainly governed by the conditions of
life with which he is familiar, but nothing implies any definite
or restricted circle within the Christian church as the persons
to whom the letter is sent. The terms used are in part drawn
from local conditions, but the exhortations themselves could
apply anywhere where there were Christians. As a letter proper
would be a substitute for a conversation, so such an epistle as
this corresponds to a public address prepared for delivery to
an indefinite number of audiences and equally suitable for all
of them. A letter proper is written to be sent to the person or
persons addressed. A tract is, in more or less formal fashion,
published. The same piece of writing might, indeed, be in itself
fit for either use ; in that case the author's purpose could be
learned only from the form of the epistolary address. But in
the present instance neither contents nor address indicates that
the letter was ever intended to be sent to any specific church
or churches.

On the history of the epistolary form in classical and Christian lit-
erature, see R. Hirzel, Dcr Dialog, 1895, esp. i, pp. 300-308, 352-358,
ii, p. 8; H. Peter, Dcr Brief in der romischen Litteratur (Abhand-
lungen der phil.-hist. Classe der Kgl. Sachsischen Gesellschaft der
Wissenschaften, xx), 1901 ; K. Dziatzko, art. "Brief," in Pauly-Wis-
sowa, RE, 1899; A. Deissmann, Bibclshidien, 1895 (Eng. transl. 1901),
art. "Epistolary Literature," in EB; H. Jordan, Ceschichte der altchrist-
lichen Liter at ur, 191 1.

* C. F. G. Heinrici, Der lillerarische Charakler der neulestamentlichen Schriflen, 1908,
brings out many noteworthy points of view with regard to the various aspects of these ques-
tions, and was one of the first in recent times to call attention to their importance.


The Epistle as a form of literature, in distinction from its use
as the convenient instrument of personal intercourse, seems to
have its roots in the Greek literary history of the fourth and
third centuries before Christ. Eminent men of a still earlier
period had written letters, often long and weighty, and these
had sometimes been collected. Such were those of Isocrates,
of which some genuine representatives may perhaps be included
in the extant collection bearing his name. Especially Aristotle,
t32 2 B.C., wrote letters, and his tracts of counsel to Alexander
and to Themison, King of Cyprus, gained by virtue of their
personal dedication something of the character of letters. Epi-

Online LibraryJames Hardy RopesA critical and exegetical commentary on the Epistle of St. James → online text (page 1 of 31)