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18 Exercising His will He begat us by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.
18 For by his own will he produced us through the Word of truth, so that we might be a kind of beginning among his creatures.
18 It is he, who begot us of his own will with the word of truth, that we should be the firstfruits of his creatures.
21 Therefore laying aside all filthiness and abundance of evil, in meekness receive the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
21 Wherefore putting away all filthiness and overflowing of wickedness, receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
21 Because of this, having cast away all uncleanness and an abundance of malice, receive with meekness the newly-grafted Word, which is able to save your souls.
12–18 Use in Lectionary →RML : Tuesday, Week 6, Year 2
17–27 Use in Lectionary →RCL : Proper 17, Year B
17–21 Use in Lectionary →RML (1570) : 4th Sunday after Easter
21b implanted word Stoic Philosophy: Innate Moral Concepts The Stoics taught that the faculty of reason (logos) is not fully developed in the human soul until later in life (see Prooem. 2; [→SVF 2.83]), but that already from the beginning certain preconceptions (prolêpsis) are innate in the soul, including our innate sense of right and wrong.
21a put away Literal and Metaphorical Meanings: Allusion to Baptism? The literal meaning of the Greek apotithêmi is to take off one’s clothes (see → 4.78.4). Metaphorically it is often used in the NT to admonish believers to put off various kinds of ethical evil (see Hist.Rom 13:12; Col 3:8; 1Pt 2:1). This metaphorical sense may allude to the physical act of taking off one’s clothes during the baptismal ceremony (Literary Devices 1:21a).
21a all sordidness Specification as "Earwax"?
21b receive the implanted word The Word as the Gospel The NT often refers to receiving (dechomai) the word of God as a synonym for accepting the gospel message. Jesus' parable speaks of those who receive the word with joy (Lk 8:13); Samaria received the word of God (Acts 8:14); cf. Acts 11:1; 17:11; 1Thes 1:6; 2:13 (Christian Tradition 1:21b).
21b implanted Innate or Simply Firmly Established Qualities? The Greek emphutos literally means "implanted," and refers metaphorically to things innate or natural in humans. → 237d speaks of our innate desire for pleasure ( Phaedr.emphutos epithumia hêdonôn) in contrast to opinions that are acquired (epiktêtos doxa; 1913, 444–45).
The word is sometimes used in the sense of something firmly established, but not necessarily inborn or innate:
21c save your souls Eschatological Salvation
James uses the verb "to save" sôᵢzô in four other passages:
In some passages (Jas 2:14; 4:12; 5:15), James speaks of saving the person; in others (Jas 1:21; 5:20) of saving the soul. It is thus likely that James thinks of the soul (G= psuchê) not as an immaterial spirit apart from the body (James uses the term "spirit"—pneuma—for this: 2:26), but rather as a term for the whole of the human person, body and spirit (cf. Heb. nefeš): cf. 1Cor 15:45: "The first man, Adam, became a living soul," which is a quote of Gn 2:7 (wayᵉhî hā-’ādām, lᵉnefeš hayyâ = kai egeneto ho anthrôpos eis psuchên zôsan).
21b receive Imperative Aorist The Greek dechomai means "to receive" (e.g., a gift), "to welcome a person" (cf. Lk 16:4), or "to receive a teaching" (e.g., Lk 8:13: "receive the word with joy"). The aorist aspectual form of the imperative suggests that the action take place once, completely. Thus it should be translated simply as "receive," and should not convey continuous duration (e.g., "be receptive to," "keep receiving," etc.). Nevertheless, the reception history of this passage shows that this continuous, durative interpratation of receiving the word was not necessarily excluded (not all languages have aspectual markers; Christian Tradition 1:21b). In this verse, then, the verb may be understood to denote:
21a all sordidness and abundance of wickedness Creating an Impression of Comprehensive Evil James uses two strong phrases to create an impression of the pervasive and comprehensive evil of the world:
18b first-fruits Cultic Purity Language James' language is full of allusions to Israel's worship and Israel's concept of purity. Here James calls church members, “a sort of first-fruits” (aparchê) of his creatures,” alluding to the first portion offered in a sacrifice. James employs purity language elsewhere:
Even the pervasive concept of "wholeness" (expressed especially with the word teleios: see Jas 1:4,17,25; 3:2; cognates and verbal expressions in Jas 1:15; 2:8,22; 5:11) is cultic, alluding to the requirement that a sacrifice should be whole (teleios; cf. Literary Devices 1:27; Ancient Cultures 1:18b).
18a word of truth Possible Referents of “the word of truth” The term "word of truth" (logos alêtheias) may refer to several concepts found in Scripture. Its meaning is closely connected with how the exegete understands the phrase: "he gives birth to us." Does the "us," refer to (1) all humanity, (2) Israel, or (3) Christians?
The three options as not necessarily mutually exclusive. In the Hellenistic Jewish-Christian context presupposed by the Letter of James, one could well understand the word (logos) as the rational power through which the cosmos was created and is upheld, the Torah as the written expression of that cosmic logos, and the Christian message as the Lord Jesus' interpretation of the Torah (Christian Tradition 1:18a).
18a Of his own will God’s Free Creation uses the same participle (the passive of boulomai) to express God's careful planning of his creation:
18a word The Role of God’s Logos in Creation, Especially of Humans
→ 6 teaches that God used his Migr.logos as an instrument (organon) to fashion the world ( 1932, 134–35).
The human mind is thus in contact with divine reason:
21a sordidness S's Use of Ritual Purity Language S translates "sordidness" with ṭnpwt’ ("uncleanness"). The word is also used at Dn 11:31 ("the abomination that makes desolate") and in several NT texts, e.g., Gal 5:19 and Eph 4:19, where it translates the Greek akatharsia ("impurity").
21b the implanted word The Word Implanted in Human Nature S adds "in our nature" (bkynn) after "implanted," supporting the interpretation that James here refers to a characteristic implanted in all human beings, rather than a special grace given to Christians (Christian Tradition 1:21b). S uses this same word in Jas 3:7: "Every kind (kyn’) of beast…nature (kyn’) of human beings."
18a by the word of truth Identify of the Word? The tradition offers several possibilities concerning the identify of “the word of truth.”
→Gloss. Ord. glosses the “word” with doctrina evangelii: the teaching of the Gospel (col. 1271);
→ “the Gospel” (598). Notes
Cornelius à Lapide lists several other interpretive options, including a sacramental sense: it refers to the “word” spoken in the sacraments (e.g., in baptism, “I baptize you,” in penance, “I absolve you,” or the words of consecration during Mass). This refers to Scholastic sacramental theology, wherein a specific verbal formula is necessary (along with proper matter and intention) to effect the sacrament.
Here is the moral sense:
→ ad loc. “The moral sense (moraliter) of the passage is that it teaches about the divine sonship in which Christians become heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, sharers of the divine nature. God is the father, the seed is prevenient grace, breathed upon through the passion and merits of Christ, the mother is our will, whose seed is the consent to the grace and vocation of God: the offspring is the new person (homo novus) living a life of grace” (20:70). Comm.
18a Of his own will He gave us birth God's Unmerited Election Commentators, both Catholic and Protestant, find here a reference to God's unmerited grace in salvation:
→ 16.4 connects the passage with the Christian's ability to call on God as Father. Serm. Cant.
18b first-fruits Identity of the “First-Fruits” The tradition offers two main options for the identity of the “first fruits.”
Several authors interpret “first fruits” as humanity; in particular, “first fruits” refers to humanity’s privileged place over the rest of creation.
Similarly: → 140.62. Ep.
In referencing this passage, the tradition is careful to distinguish the “giving birth” of Christians from God’s begetting of his Son: → 2.3.6 ( Cons. 1903, 87); → ad loc. ( Ep. cath. 1985, 17); → ad loc.; Catena→ ad loc. (col. 465); Comm. Ep. Cath. Jac.→ 2.1 ( Loc. Theo. 2008, 1:156).
→ 3.23.2 “There is this difference between an adopted son of God and the natural Son of God, that the latter is “begotten not made”; whereas the former is made (filius Dei naturalis est genitus non factus, filius autem adoptivus est factus), according to Jn. 1:12: “He gave them power to be made the sons of God.” Yet sometimes the adopted son is said to be begotten, by reason of the spiritual regeneration which is by grace, not by nature (spiritualem regenerationem, quae est gratuita); wherefore it is written (Jas 1:18): ‘Of His own will hath He begotten us by the word of truth’” (voluntarie genuit nos verbo veritatis; ST 1947, 4:2142).
21a all sordidness and abundance of wickedness Distinction: Inner and Outer Vices
Many interpreters see here James' admonition to prepare oneself to receive God's world:
Building on James' reference to the implanted word, many see here an agricultural image: the person must clear away the weeds of sin before the word can grow:
21b with gentleness A Virtue Opposing Anger
18b first fruits Literal and Metaphorical Meanings
18a gave birth to us Birth Imagery The Greek verb—apokueô—literally denotes the act of giving birth. In its metaphorical use, it is similar to the English "engender."
James' use of birth imagery contrasts strongly with his previous use of that imagery:
Having just described God as the Father of lights (Jas 1:17), James' use of a feminine methaphor is striking.
21c save your souls Eschatological Salvation James uses the verb sôᵢzô ("save") in four other passages:
In some passages (Jas 2:14; 4:12; 5:15), James speaks of saving the person; in others (Jas 1:21; 5:20) of saving the soul. It is thus likely that James thinks of the soul (G= psuchê) not as an immaterial spirit apart from the body, but rather as a term for the whole of the human person, body and spirit.
21c,5:20b soul Multivalent Term The Greek psuchê is a multivalent term.
James' understanding of psuchê is not philosophically precise. The parallelism of Jas 4:8 identifies the dipsuchos (literally "two-souled") person with the sinner; the opposite of the dipsuchos is the person with a purified heart. The soul here is understood as the seat of the thought and will, and thus, for James, essentially equivalent with the "heart" (G= kardia; cf. heart at Jas 1:26; 3:14; 5:5,8).
James' use of psuchê is likely similar to its use in the Gospel tradition: "For whoever wishes to save his life (psuchê) will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it" (Mk 8:35). The soul here is considered as the whole life of the person, including both the earthly, bodily existence and the transcendent existence that survives bodily death. Cf. also the usage of its Hebrew analogue, nepeš, which rendered psuchê in G: e.g., 1Cor 15:45: "The first man, Adam, became a living soul," which is a quote of Gn 2:7 (wayᵉhî hā-’ādām, lᵉnefeš hayyâ = kai egeneto ho anthrôpos eis psuchên zôsan). This transcendent element is clear in a further Synoptic saying,"And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna" (Mt 10:28).
Jesus' reference to destroying soul and body in Gehenna is thus equivalent to James' reference to death: a sinner who is turned away from the error of this way will save his soul from this eschatological death.
James also speaks of the "spirit" (pnuema = rûaḥ; see Vocabulary 2:26a). Here pneuma is clearly the "life-force" of the physical body. James speaks further of the "the spirit which [God] made to live in us" (Jas 4:5). The relationship between pneuma and psuchê for James is not clear.
18b first fruits Cultic Terminology In ancient Greek religion, "first fruits" (aparchê) is a technical term referring to the first part of a religious sacrifice or offering; it also refers to the first portion of anything that was held sacred or consecrated to the gods before the rest was put to secular use (see → 1.92, 4.71; see also Hist.Biblical Intertextuality 1:18a, Peritestamental Literature 1:18b).
18a word The Rich Philosophical Background of Logos Logos has a rich variety of meanings in ancient Greek philosophy, all occuring within the general semantic field of language and reason (→James: Philosophical Background of Logos ).
18–21 Drawing on a Common Christian Baptismal Exhortation?
Some scholars explain these parallels by suggesting that Peter and James draw on a common Christian teaching associated with the spiritual renewal of life at baptism. Other posit some literary relationship between Peter and James.
One should also note other NT uses of the verb "to put away" (apotithêmi) which may originally have been baptismal exhortations. All passages refer to "putting away" one's old sinful life; many specify sinful vices (e.g., anger, slanderous speech) that James also warns against. Several also parallel James' use of "all" and "every", emphasizing the exhortation to make a complete change of life.
21c able to save your souls Salvation of the Soul through the Logos
13–18 Divisio Textus
See further →James: Medieval Divisio Textus.
18–27 Exhortation to Doing the Word
21b,3:13b gentleness Virtue opposite to Anger; Trait of Socrates
21b gentleness A Characteristic of God
18a Of his own will Willing in Greek Philosophy Although the verb boulomai is common; its use here may have a background in Greek philosophy.
The Stoics identified the cognate noun boulêsis as one of the three good emotional states (eupatheia) that are the opposite of the vices. According to → 7.116: Vit. Phil.
Under the heading of boulêsis, the Stoics grouped the following virtues. Each one promotes good relationships between humans, while the vice of epithumia leads to conflicts. Thus for → 7.116 these are: Vit. Phil.
James thus uses the verb boulomai to emphasize God's free choice to create (i.e., he did not create out of necessity; Peritestamental Literature 1:18a).
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.
21b,3:13b gentleness Moses, Sirach, Jesus, Christians
The wise lawgiver Moses is known as having been most gentle, meek, and humble (Vocabulary 3:13b):
Christians maintained this tradition of Moses' exceeding humility (e.g., → 82.3). Ep.