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12 Blessed is the man who endures temptation; because when he is approved, he shall receive the crown of life which YHWH promised to those who love Him.
13 Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.
13 No one should say, when he is tempted, that he was tempted by God. For God does not entice toward evils, and he himself tempts no one.
14 But each [one] is tempted by his own lusts, being drawn away and being seduced [by them].
14 Yet truly, each one is tempted by his own desires, having been enticed and drawn away.
14 But every man is tempted by his own lust; and he covets and is enticed.
15 Then lust, when it conceives, gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.
15 Then the lust, when it hath conceived, beareth sin: and the sin, when it is fullgrown, bringeth forth death.
15 Thereafter, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin. Yet truly sin, when it has been consummated, produces death.
16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers.
16 And so, do not choose to go astray, my most beloved brothers.
16 Do not err, my beloved brethren.
17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.
17 Every excellent gift and every perfect gift is from above, descending from the Father of lights, with whom there is no change, nor any shadow of alteration.
16 Do not be led astray Transitive or Intransitive Meaning? The present middle form used here can be translated:
12 Transitional Verse The relationship of verse 12 to other passages in James is debated. It seems to be a transitional verse, linking the earlier discussion on external trials (Jas 1:2–4)—and more loosely, his discussion of single-minded prayer and the piety of the poor—with the clarification that internal trials (temptations) are not from God (Jas 1:13–15).
12b that the Lord promised Imagery of the Promise James clearly sees a functional equivalence between receiving "the crown of life" and inheriting the "kingdom." The man who perseveres through trials, moreover, is equivalent to "the poor of the world." This latter connection supports the identification of the "humble brother" (Jas 1:9) with the one who endures trials (Jas 1:2–4). James' thought is echoed further (Literary Devices Jas2:5c).
12 Blessed Macarism The saying is a beatitude (macarism), a device commonly used in both ancient Greco-Roman, Hebrew, and early Christian literature. Beatitudes are used frequently in Psalms (e.g., Ps 1:1), and are found frequently in the tradition of Jesus' sayings: the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5:3–12) and Sermon on the Plain (Lk 6:20–23), and 13 times in the →Ev. Thom..
If this verse is considered as a conclusion to the discussion of testing in Jas 1:2–4 (sections Jas 1:5–8 and Jas 1:9–11 taken as more loosely related material), this would fall in with James' technique of finishing a discussion with a general maxim; cf. Jas 2:13; 3:18; 4:17.
14 desire Connection with the Rabbinic Concept of the “Evil Inclination” in Humanity? Some commentators identify epithumia with the rabbinic concept of the evil inclination (yṣr hrʽ) placed by God in the human heart :
This teaching developed from the "two ways" tradition :
For example, →b. Sûk. 52a compares the righteous winning their struggle against temptation to one who conquers a mountain; →b. Sûk. 52b advises that one can melt and smash the evil urge by engaging in Torah study. God will help defeat it.
13ff desire Repeated Theme: The Danger of Desire James' criticism of unrestrained desire (epithumia) and passion in the community recurs in Jas 4:1–5. There James blames the vices of envy and strife on selfish desires, using the closely related term hêdonê (desire for pleasure) and the verbal form epithumeô (Jas 4:2).
12c the Lord Specifying the Subject of “Promised” The original text (witnessed in the most important Greek MSS), likely did not specify the subject of the verb "promised. " To make the subject explicit, C and P (followed by Byz and TR) read "the Lord;" a few Greek miniscules (followed by V and S) read "God."
12b crown Symbolism of the Crown In Greco-Roman culture, the crown (stephanos) was commonly a wreath fashioned from twigs, grass, leaves, or flowers, and thus a sign of life and fertility. Crowning could have religious connotations: priests wore crowns while offering sacrifices (→ 7.1.40) and participants in religious processions wore crowns ( Anab.→ 27.37.13). Political leaders also wore crowns ( Ab Urb. Cond.→ 19) as a sign of their authority, and could be associated with royalty (although the royal crown was more commonly called a "diadem" [ Tim.diadêma]). At the Olympic games, victors were crowned with olive wreaths ( → 5.15.3). The wearing of a crown also connoted a general sense of joy and celebration: brides wore crowns, as did participants in banquets ( Descr.→ 212e). See also Symp.Biblical Intertextuality 1:12b and Peritestamental Literature 1:12b.
12b crown Crown as Eschatological Reward for Endurance
13b cannot be tried by evil Active or Passive? The verbal adjective apeirastos is a cognate of the verb peirazo "to try." It may have an active (“one who does not tempt”) or passive (“one who cannot be tempted”) sense. James' use of the contrastive particle de indicates that the word should be taken as passive, in contrast to the active sense in the following clause, “He himself tempts no one” (Comparison of Versions 1:13-15).
Another possible translation is, “God ought not to be tested by evil [people].” If this is the sense, James may be thinking of passages such as Dt 6:16: “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah” (cf. Marginal References 1:13).
13a Let no one say Diatribe: Imaginary Opponent or Objection James directly quotes an imaginary opponent of his own theological position, who insists "I am tempted by God." This literary technique is common in the "diatribe" genre, wherein an imaginary opponent presents a position that is then corrected by the author. In 1 Corinthians, for example, Paul introduces his imaginary opponent, "But someone may say, 'How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come back?'" (1Cor 15:35), allowing Paul to respond with the correct teaching on the resurrection body (→James: Diatribe Style and James).
The technique however, is also used in Jewish wisdom literature, e.g., Sir 5:3–6: "Do not say, 'Who can prevail against me?' for the Lord will exact punishment. Do not say, 'I have sinned, yet what has happened to me?' for the Lord is slow to anger! Do not be so confident of forgiveness that you add sin upon sin. Do not say, 'His mercy is great; my many sins he will forgive.' For mercy and anger alike are with him; his wrath comes to rest on the wicked."
14f by his own desire + when desire has conceived: Sorites James again uses the device of sorites to highlight the continuity of action: having conceived, desire gives birth to sin, sin when fully grown gives birth to death (Literary Devices 1:3-5).
14 dragged away and lured Passion Controlling a Person Philo parallels James' vocabulary and imagery in several passages:
15b when it is fully grown Etymology and Connotations: A Perfect Sin Our translation renders here a single word: the passive participle apotelestheisa, from the verb apoteleô. With its tel root and the prefix ana it conveys the sense of "perfection" or completion, namely "an accomplished sin", "fully matured sin." Its positive connotation, therefore, contrasts the negative meaning of the whole phrase (Literary Devices 1:15b).
16 Do not be led astray Astronomical Connotations The verb planaô in an active form literally means "to cause to wander" or "to lead astray;" in a moral context it has the sense of leading one away from the truth or the right path; James clearly uses this sense in Jas 5:19a: "if anyone among you strays away from the truth" (Grammar 1:16).
The verb was applied to heavenly bodies which appear to "wander" in their paths across the sky (hence the English word "planets;" see e.g., → 822a). It is possible that James intended his readers to hear an echo of this sense, since the following verse is charged with astronomical allusions ( Leg.Vocabulary 1:17c).
17c no alternation or obumbration of change Various Attempts to Clarify James’ Meaning The vocabulary of this phrase is obscure, giving rise to a number of variant readings. The two best supported:
17c no alternation or obumbration of change Attempt to Clarify James’ Meaning →Copt. Sah. reads: "[there is not any] shadow or change or variation."
17c no alternation or obumbration of change Eternal, Immutable Nature of God The Catholic Catechism cites this passage in its description of the unique, eternal nature of God (Christian Tradition 1:17c):
17a every good giving, every perfect gift Frequent Parallelism Some interpreters have argued that James seeks to contrast two types or aspects of gifts or giving (G: dosis and dôrêma), but most likely this is simply another example of James' fondness for pairing close synonyms. This device may reflect an attempt to emphasize a point or simply for stylistic variation. For example, see
12b crown Crown as a Symbol for Eternal Reward The NT regularly uses the crown or wreath (stephanos; Ancient Cultures 1:12b) to symbolize eternal life as a reward for a life well and faithfully lived. Paul (1Cor 9:24–25) compares the perishable crown for which athletes in a race strive with the imperishabe crown for which believers strive; cf. 2Tm 4:8: "the crown of uprightness which the Lord, the upright judge, will give to me on that Day"; Rv 2:10: "the crown of life"; 1Pt 5:4: "the crown of glory." The image appears already in Ws 5:15–16; cf. G-Zec 6:14.
14 desire Epithumia: Good and Bad Desire
In the NT, epithumia may refer to a natural desire (e.g., of a hungry man for food at Lk 16:21) or a positive desire: "If anyone aspires to the position of a bishop, he desires a good work" (1Tm 3:1).
Opposed to God's Law and God's Will
15b sin ...gives birth to death: Connection between Sin and Death The connection between sin and death is a consistent biblical theme.
14 desire Epithumia a Negative Passion The Jewish Hellenistic tradition in general takes desire (epithumia) as a destructive passion, not neutral desire:
Paralleling James → 142 sees desire as intrinsic to the person: desire is the worst of the passions, for other passions seem to be involuntary and attack the sould from the outside, but Decal. epithumia “alone originates with ourselves, and is voluntary" (tên archên ex hêmôn autôn lambanei kai estin hekousios; 1937, 7:76–79).
James' use of sexual and birth imagery for desire is paralleled in Philo,
15a desire...bears sin Desire as the Source of Sin Second Temple texts agree with James in identifying epithumia as the primary source of sin:
14 dragged away and lured Amplification: The Bait of Pleasure
17a Every good giving Introduction to the Celestial Hierarchy → 1.1 begins with a quotation of Cael. Hier.Jas 1:17 (and possibly a liturgy related to →; cf. Lit. Bas.Liturgies 1:17). Ps.-Dionysius understands the gift as God's illuminating light which enlightens humans and draws them towards union with God.
15b sin …death: Connection of Sin and Death →Conc. Vat. II. Gaud. Spes 18 cites this passage in support of the teaching that humans would have been preserved from bodily death if they had not sinned.
17a every good giving Proof-text for the Necessity of Grace Before Faith The conclusion (redacted by Caesarius of Arles) to the canons of the Second Council of Orange, addressed against Pelagianism, quotes Jas 1:17ab in support of the Council's teaching on grace:
17 Every good giving ...coming down from the Father of lights: Allusion in The Divine Comedy
14 desire Desire (Epithumia) in Greco-Roman Philosophical Traditions
In → 4 [440–41], Plato divides the soul into three "parts": the "appetitive" ( Resp.epithumêtikon), the "spirited (thumoeides), and the rational (logistikon); cf. → 21. Desires ( Conf.epithumiai) are generally associated with the lower part of the soul, the epithumêtikon. → 8 [558 D–559], however, also speaks of "essential" (or "necessary": Resp.anagkaiai) and non-essential desires. The necessary desires are desires for food and good health; the unnecessary are desires which go beyond these natural, healthy desires.
→2.5 [1105 B] classes Eth. Nic. epithumia as one of the passions (pathê), along with anger (orgê), fear (phobos), envy (phthonos), joy (chara) and others. A person cannot be praised or blamed for his passions, since they are not a matter of choice. People go astray (hamartanô) when they pursue desires in excess or in the wrong way (→4.11 [1118b]). Eth. Nic.
James, then, concurs with the Stoic tradition's understanding epithumia as a negative passion that leads to sin, strife, and ultimately death.
13c he himself tries no one God Is Not the Cause of Evil Greek philosophical tradition parallels James in rejecting the claim that the divine can be the source of evil:
14 dragged away and lured Fishing Imagery an Ancient Topos The words exelkô, deleazô, and their cognates are frequently combined:
13b God cannot be tried by evil The Divine Has No Connection with Evil James' claim is supported by Greek philosophers:
16 Do not be led astray Rhetorics: Elocutio
The phrase mê planasthe is used to focus the listener's attention on what is to follow, a rhetorical technique used in many genres and forms, including the diatribe style (→James: Diatribe Style and James).
See also → 4.6.23, "Men, be not deceived…" ( Diatr. 1928, 2:353).
In choosing the verb planaô (to wander aimlessly; to be led astray) James may intend to contrast human waywardness with God's unchangeable nature, referred to in Jas 1:17, especially since both verses use vocabulary that has astronomical connotations (Vocabulary 1:16; Vocabulary 1:17c; Peritestamental Literature 1:17c; Christian Tradition 1:17c).
17c no alternation or obumbration of change Preciosity: Three NT Hapax Legomena Enhancing Divine Transcendence In this one phrase alone, James uses three nouns which do not occur anywhere else in the NT: aposkiasma "shadow;" parallagê "change, variation;" tropê "turn, turning, change." This suggests that James may be employing a more specialized vocabulary—in this case, terms used in astrological writings (Vocabulary Jas 1:17c).
15 conceived …gives birth to sin…fully grown: Stages of Temptation and Sin
The tradition focuses on the developmental sense of James' passage, identifying stages of temptation.
Bede's commentary describes the process.
→ also describes different stages. Iac. Par.
The same stages are evident in other authors.
Compare Dietrich Bonhoeffer's 20th century explication of James.
The moral lesson (moraliter) of James' teaching here, writes →, is that desires are to be resisted at the earliest stage of temptation; the most efficacious remedy against temptation is prayer (20:58). Augustine also refers to this passage in exhorting his listeners to fight against desire ( Comm.→ 59.9; Serm. → 77A.3) Serm.
13ff he himself tries no one ...tried by his own desire: Temptation and the Cause of Evil
→CCC 2846 references Jas 1:13 in its insistence that the petition in the Lord's Prayer ("lead us not into temptation") does not imply that God actively tempts anyone to sin—rather sin always involves a free choice. The petition means, "We ask him not to allow us to take the way that leads to sin" (Christian Tradition 1:13-14).
Following a clear line in the tradition (Christian Tradition 1:2), →CCC 2847 distinguishes between trials that can be spiritually beneficial and temptations towards sin. "The Holy Spirit makes us discern between trials, which are necessary for the growth of the inner man (referencing Lk 8:13–15; Acts 14:22; Rom 5:3–5; 2Tm 3:12) and temptation, which leads to sin and death (referencing Jas 1:14–15).
13–18 Divisio Textus
See further →James: Medieval Divisio Textus.
1–12 Use in Lectionaries — Calendar The beginning of the letter of James is often read on the feast day of James, brother of the Lord:
15b when it is fully grown An Ironic Use of Perfection / Wholeness The participle apotelestheisa, conveys the basic sense of "perfection" or completion (→James: Perfection / Wholeness in James). Here the sense of becoming fully grown is primary. In this instance, James' usual practice of identifying "perfection" and "completeness" as qualities associated with God and virtue is reversed: sin is "perfect" and "complete."
The prefix apo- is repeated in the next word, apokuei, creating assonance and adding to the rhetorical insistence of the sentence.
13c he himself tries no one Parallels in Sirach
13c he himself tries no one Humans, Not God, the Source of Sin and Evil
Philo often describes God using a via negativa, insisting that God does not share in any human suffering, misfortune, or evil:
1–12 Divisio Textus
See also →James: Medieval Divisio Textus.
13–17 Teaching About That Which Does (not) Come from God
17b Father of lights Frequent Allusions Christian writers, attracted by the beauty of the passage, frequently allude to Jas 1:17 by incorportating images and vocabulary without direct quotation:
1:1–5:20 James Depictions of the Author Depictions of James, the author of the epistle, in paintings, statues, manuscript illustrations, engravings, woodcuts, and embroidery on liturgical vestments are particularly prominent in the Middle Ages. A common consensus of the artists is that the author of the epistle is James the Just, leader of the Jerusalem church; he is typically further identified with James, son of Alphaeus, one of Jesus' Twelve (Mk 3:18), and "James the Less" (Mk 15:40). The iconography of James draws particularly on accounts of James recorded in → 23 and Hist. eccl.→ 2, who in turn draw on accounts from Clement of Alexandria and Hegesipus. See also Vir. ill.→James: Introduction.
Several prominent features of these portrayals may be noted:
The following images are noteworthy:
James holds a club.
James, who resembles his brother Jesus, is second from his left. This full-scale copy was the main source for the— unfortunate—twenty-year restoration of the original (1978–1998). It includes several lost details such as Christ's feet, the transparent glass decanters on the table, and the floral motifs of the tapestries that decorate the room's interior. It was first mentioned in 1626 by the author Bartolomeo Sanese as hanging in the Certosa di Pavia, a monastery near Pavia, Italy, but it is unlikely that it was intended for this location. At some point, the upper third of the picture was cut off, and the width was reduced. Giampietrino is thought to have worked closely with Leonardo when he was in Milan. A very fine, full-size copy of this painting, before it was cut down, is installed at Tongerlo Abbey in Westerlo, near Antwerp, Belgium.
The side and central panels describe a a great hall with blue grey walls and three-colored tiles. In the side panels are depicted the half sisters of Virgin Mary, called after their fathers Mary Cleophas (left) and Mary Salome (right) together with their husbands.
Left panel: St. Mary Cleophas and Alphaeus (with the features of Friedrich the Wise with their two sons, the Apostles St. James the Less (at her breast) and Joseph Justus, called St. Barnabas, as annunciator of the Gospel of Matthew depicted with a book.
Central panel: Joseph, who seems to seems to sleep, the Virgin, dressed in blue with yellow lining, Anna and the Christ Child on her knee, who is stretching out his hand towards an apple given to him by Virgin Mary. Anna's three husbands following → are shown in the background in the matroneum: on the left Joachim, who is attracted by the holy women in front of him and whose relation is also shown by the corresponding blue and yellow color of his dress, Cleophas (with the physiognomy and chain of Emperor Maximilian I and Salomas, with the physiognomy of Sixtus Oelhafen von Schöllenbach, secretary of Friedrich III, Maximilian I and Karl V), who are talking to each other. There is an architectural structure by a great stone bench in the foreground of the central panel with two marble columns on the sides, over which is strectched a cloth of gold. On the right column is a tablet with date and signature: [LVCAS CHRONVS FACIEBAT ANNO 1509. The parapet of the matroneum is decorated by a sculptured frieze with dancing putti holding six escutcheons with the six fields of Electorate of Saxony. In the hall are shown the 17 members of the Holy Kinship. In the central panel are shown two more children of Mary Cleophas and Alpheus, the Apostles Simon, patron saint of weavers, dyers, tanners and saddlers and Jude, who went on mission and suffered their martyrdom together and therefore are regularly depicted together. Leg. aur.
Right panel: St. Mary Salome and Zebedee (with the features of Frederick III, Elector of Saxony, and his brother Herzog Johann der Beständige). St. Mary Salome, dressed in gold with dark red lining, is combing her son Saint James the Greater and while Saint John the Evangelist is hiding in her dress.
James is shown holding a Bible, symbolizing his status as a scriptural writer, in one hand. James is depicted in the Mannerist style with elongated form and without any of the traditional iconographic symbols
The risen Jesus appears to James and breaks bread with him (based on an account recorded in → 2, said to be drawn from the Gospel according to the Hebrews). Vir. ill.
James holds a book and club.
James, resembling Jesus, prayers on his knees with outstretched arms. It perhaps reflects Hegesippus' statement that James spent so much time in prayer that his knees were as hard as a camel's.
The inscription bearing the name of the saint has disappeared, but the iconography—facial features and beard shape —suggest that the icon is of James. Byzantine art places him among the founding fathers of the Church. As the creator of the first liturgy containing memorial services and the author of the message, which speaks of the healing power of prayer (Jas 5:14-16), he was also worshipped in ancient times as a healer. In Novgorod, James is prayed for the end of the epidemics. In sacred iconography, the representations of James of Jerusalem alone are very rare. We know the icons of Novgorod in which he is represented with other saints: Nicholas the Thaumaturgist, James the brother of God, Ignatius the bearer of God, end of the 15th c.; James the brother of God, Cosmas and Damian, 2nd quarter of the 16th c. The icon comes from the best workshops in Moscow or Novgorod.
17c alternation or obumbration of change Technical Astronomical Vocabulary
The noun parallagê (from parallassô) has the general sense of variation or a changing motion, especially alternating motion. It can also have a more specific astronomical sense (cf. the technical term "parallax"):
The noun aposkiasma is a hapax legomenon. It comes from the verb apo-skiazô "to throw a shadow from one object upon another" (cf. epi-skiazô "to throw a shadow upon" and kata-skiazô "to throw a shadow down upon"). James alludes to how shadows are cast by the apparent movement of the sun.
The noun tropê means "turning" or "change." It is frequently used in astronomical contexts. The "change" of the sun, e.g., winter or summer solstices:
See also Grammar Jas 1:17c.
17c obumbration of change Genetivus Explicativus? The unclear expression can be understood as "shadow caused by change." James would here allude to how shadows change (lengthening or shortening) accordingly to the position of the sun which changes with the seasons (Vocabulary Jas1:17c).
15a when desire has conceived PERSONIFICATON: Sexual Imagery James personifies the forces of desire, sin, and death (see Rom 7:10–11). His feminine imagery may allude to the portrayal in Prv 5 of folly as a woman who seduces a young man away from the righteous path. The sexual imagery also builds on the sexual connotation of epithumia ("desire"). E.g., Ex 20:17: "You shall not covet (epithumeô) your neighbor's wife").
17c no alternation or obumbration of change Unchangeableness of the Divine The unchangeableness of the divine is a standard assumption in much of Greco-Roman philosophy:
12 Blessed is the man... Current Suffering and Future Glory The structure of James' macarism is similar to macarisms of Jesus: one who currently suffers trials will receive a heavenly reward:
Mt 5:11–12a: "Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you [falsely] because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven" (=Lk 6:22–23); cf. Mt 10:22: "You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures (hupomenô) to the end will be saved."
The NT often compares present suffering with future glory:
On may also find Old Testament parallels where those suffering are admonished to endure in light of an eschatological reward:
17a every perfect gift Perfection of God’s Gifts teaches similarly:
13ff God cannot be tried Active or Passive? V takes the Greek apeirastos in an active sense, "God is not a tempter of evil things/ bad people" (intemptator malorum); S take it as a passive expression: "God is not tempted by the evil (things)" (l’ mnsy bbyšt’; Grammar 1:13b).
12a perseveres through trials Various Interpretations
The tradition often uses Jas 1:12 and Jas 1:2 to contrast James' positive view of "tempation" or "trial" (peirasmos) with negative view of temptation implied in the petition in the Lord's Prayer, "lead us not into temption" (Christian Tradition 1:2)
→ 2.3 takes this verse as a proof (against the position of his opponant Jovianus) that the baptized can be tempted "and fall of their own free choice" ( Adv. Jov.propria corruere voluntate; NPNF2 6:389; PL 23:299). Jerome also mentions Jas 1:22–24 and Jas 2:10 as further proofs of the possiblity of sin after baptism.
13f tried by his own desire Proof-text for Free Will and a Unified Human Nature
15a bears sin Providing an Example and Specifying the Metaphor
15b gives birth to death Earning Eternal Death
→ points out the parallel in James' thought. Ep. cath.
The interpretative tradition understands James' reference as a spiritual death:
16 Do not be led astray Error of Thinking that God Tempts Humans A consensus of patristic and medieval commentators understood this verse to apply to the error of thinking that God tempts people:
17a every good giving Identify of the “Good Gift”
The tradition sees here a reference to God's freely given grace. The passage then became a focus on debates about the relationship between God's grace and human free will.
The Latin tradition distinguishes between "every good thing given" (omne datum optimum) and the "every perfect gift" (omne donum perfectum).
Eriugena, in his commentary on Ps.-Dionysius' Celestial Hierarchy, associated the datum with the goodness of nature, the donum with God's grace:
Eriugena's distinction is followed in much of later medieval tradition:
Jas 1:17–18 together, perhaps seeing in verse 18's reference to God giving birth to us by the word of truth a reference to virginity. → 188.6 also quotes this verse in writing of sexual purity as a gift of God's grace. Ep.→ ad loc. identifies the "good giving" ( Tract. Iac.omne datum) with virginity (col 66).quotes
→ 88 [4.15] alludes to this passage in citing the efficacy of intercessory prayers to saints (NPNF2, 9:87; Fid. orth. , 204).
→ does not distinguish between the good giving ( Comm.donum) and the perfect gift, as did the earlier tradition. He offers a variety of interpretations of the good or perfect gift from the tradition:
14 desire Concupiscense V and the Latin tradition translate desire (epithumia) with concupiscentia.