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4 But let endurance have its perfect work, that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.
4 And let patience have [its] perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, lacking in nothing.
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.
25 But the [one] who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues [in it], and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one shall be blessed in what he does.
2ff Exordium In agreement with →, we see Jas 2:2–4 as the letter‘s exordium, that is, the introduction that presents essential themes that will be developed throughout the letter. Here James exhorts his readers to be attentive to the letter's major themes of developing genuine faith and becoming complete and whole.
2ff Application to the Martyrs →159.1.8 applies this section to Christian martyrs: their patience has reached the point of perfection, since they despise the pleasures of the world, and do not fear hardship or punishment, but only love justice above all things. Serm.
3ff produces perseverance. But Let Perseverance: Sorites This is a "chain-argument," composed of a chain of paired terms, in which the second term is used as the first term of the next pair: testing → perseverance (hupomonê); perseverance → being complete and whole. A similar figure (polyptoton) follows further between v. 4 and 5: leipomenoi "lacking" → tis leipetai "anyone lacks."
Compare Rom 5:3–4: affliction→ perseverance (hupomonê); perseverance →proven character (dokimê); proven character→ hope. And see 2Pt 1:5–7: "supplement your faith with virtue, virtue with knowledge, knowledge with self-control, self-control with perseverance (hupomonê); perseverance with devotion, devotion with mutual affection, mutual affection with love." Cf. also →Herm. Vis. 3.8.7. and Biblical Intertextuality 1:3.
25b hearer of forgetfulness Genitive: Semiticism The use of a noun in the genitive is used as an adjective "forgetful hearer," which is not usual in Greek. It apparently imitates the construct chain in Hebrew.
25a perfect law of freedom Allusion in the Book of Common Prayer
3f,5:11 perseverance Courageous Patience James uses two word families to describe the virtue of patience: the noun hupomonê with the cognate verb hupomenô (used in Jas 1:3–4,12; 5:11) and makrothumeô / makrothumia (Vocabulary Jas 5:7-8,10).
Hupomonê is closely connected with testing (peirasmos): the testing of one's faith produces perseverance (hupomonê, Jas 1:4); the blessed person perseveres (hupomenô) through trial until he reaches his eschatological reward (Jas 1:12; 5:11). Job is held out as an example of hupomonê (Jas 5:11). See also Biblical Intertextuality 1:3.
The virtue of hupomonê is regularly discussed in conjunction with the virtue of courage (andreia) in the writing of Aristotle and the Stoics (Ancient Texts 1:3).
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):
22–25 doers of the word Semiticism The phrase "doers of the word" (poiêtai logou) most likely has a Semitic background. The most obvious referent of this phrase in Greek would be to poets: "makers of words" (e.g., 1.11.2: poiêtai logou). It is thus most likely influenced by the corresponding Hebrew "to do the word" ( ‘śh dbr), which often has the sense of performing words such as commandments (e.g., Ps 148:8: "Lightning and hail, snow and thick clouds…that fulfills his command").
Since for James "word" is equivalent with law (cf. the parallel in Jas 4:11: poiêtês nomou), James is here likely imitating the Scripture passages that refer to the "doing of the law (Torah)" (Jewish Tradition 1:22).
25c that one will be blessed in his doing Echo The one who both hears and does the word and the Law is blessed, just as the one who perseveres through trials is blessed and will receive the crown of life (Jas 1:12). The blessing here doubtless also connotes an eschatological blessing—salvation in the Kingdom (Literary Genre 1:12).
2ff Exordium Encouraging Perseverance This passage may be considered the Letter's exordium (Literary Genre 1:2–4).
It has two main goals:
The Christian tradition of interpretation clarifies James' meaning by distinguishing between different types of trials or temptations, as well as their nature and sources (Christian Tradition 1:2). It also offers deeper reflections on both the virtue of perseverance under trial (Christian Tradition 1:4a)—including the centrality of joy in the Christian life (Christian Tradition 1:2; Theology 1:2–4)—and the ideal of the complete or "perfect" Christian (Christian Tradition 1:4b).
4b so that you might be perfect Complete in Virtues When applied to a person, the adjective "complete" (teleios) can refer to a person mature in years:
The "complete" person in Greek thought may also refer to one who possesses all the virtues.
In Stoic thought:
Along with the Greek tradition, James thinks of the perfect person as one who is able to control his passions, including the passions that lead to uncontrolled and destructive speech; cf. Jas 3:2.
4b so that you might be perfect Wholeness: Cultic, Moral, Radical Discipleship, Spiritual Maturity The concept of teleios (Ancient Texts 1:4a; Ancient Texts 1:4b) covers a broad range of meaning in the biblical tradition.
The Hebrew adjective tâmim is often applied to an unblemished animal that is fit for sacrifice (e.g., Ex 12:5: "The lamb must be a year-old male and without blemish [tâmim]; G translates this word here with teleios).
Tâmim can also be applied to humans whose actions were blameless before God; thus Noah (Gen 6:9) is described as "a good man (ṣadiq) and blameless (tâmim; G translates this as teleios; cf. Sir 44:17). The one who is tâmim is morally upright and follows the Law (Ps 15:2: "He who walks blamelessly [tâmim] and does justice; who thinks truth in the heart and slanders not with his tongue"). The Qumran community often describes its own members as tâmim (e.g., →1QS 9:19: the teacher should teach the members of the community "so that they walk perfectly").
This sense lies closest to the Hellenistic concept of the "perfect" man as one who posesses all the virtues (Ancient Texts 1:4a).
James may well allude to Jesus‘ teaching preserved in the Sermon on the Mount, "So be perfect (teleios), just as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Mt 5:48). "Perfection" here is associated with following Jesus‘ radical commandments recorded in the Sermon. Compare also Jesus‘ challenge to the rich young man, "If you wish to be perfect, go: sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me" (Mt 19:21). Perfection involves a whole-hearted following of Jesus.
Paul associates teleios with the mature follower of Christ: "In respect to evil be like infants, but in your thinking be mature" (1Cor 14:20); "Yet we do speak a wisdom to those who are mature" (1Cor 2:6; cf. Phil 3:15; Col 1:28). Hebrews has this same concept: "But solid food is for the mature" (teleios; Heb 5:14).
2ff Liturgical Reading from Augustine → 159.1 indicates that Serm. Jas 1:2–4 had just been read in the service; Augustine's main theme is Rom 8:30-31. According to Geoffrey 's tabulation of Augustine's lectionary, Jas 1:1–4 was read on the Feast of Martyrs along with Ps 42; 115; 141; Mt 5:7–11; 10:16–28; Lk 21:1–19; 1Jn 3:16; Rv 14:5 (cf. →, 22–57). Note that some of these citations may not have been lections but antiphons or responsories.
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
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.
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
22–25 be doers of the word Theme of Living out Faith in Works This passage introduces James' characteristic focus on action and living out one's faith:
22–25 doers of the word Rhetorical Jewel
James gives literary coherence to this section with the repetition of the key nouns akroatês ("hearer") and poiêtês ("doer"):
v 25c: Conclusion: the doer of works is blessed.
Cf. → 322.
25a perfect law The Divine Law Governing the Universe In Stoic philosophy (and the Platonic-Aristotelian tradition generally), that which is “perfect” is “complete” according to nature (secundum naturam; kata phusin). In this sense, “nature” is quite different from the wild, spontaneous, and anarchic view of nature that we have inherited from Romanticism. Nor is “nature” the mere aggregate of corporeal physical movement—as opposed to the realm of mind— as in much of western philosophy after Galileo. For a Platonist or Aristotelian, “nature” (phusis) is energized form (eidos) or form in the process of being actualized: in other words, it is a complex of matter joined with an intellgible structure (i.e., form) set in motion (i.e., experiencing change). In this sense, “nature” is inherently teleological and ordered; hence in ancient Greco-Roman thought, one can derive ethical predicates by appealing to “nature” in a way that is not possible in modern philosophy (cf. →). 1946
Here Seneca, though equivocating somewhat about the meaning of 'nature,' exemplifies this connection between form, nature, perfection, and reason:
23ff mirror Interpretations of the Mirror
As James moves from gazing into a mirror to speaking of looking into" the perfect law of liberty (Jas 1:25), the tradition naturally associates the mirror with the law and thus with Scripture (both Old and New Testaments).
One can draw several parallels between the description of the New Law in the CCC and James.
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).
4a work A Fundamental Idea The Greek word ergon ("work") is a key concept in James. Its essential meaning is an "action," "work," or "activity." Here the emphasis is on the final effect or result of an activity—in this case the full effect or result of perseverance. The emphasis on the practical result or action is evident in James' other uses of the term ergon (plural erga). In Jas 1:25, the doer of a work (poiêtês ergou) is contrasted with a forgetful hearer. In Jas 2:14–26, James explicates his well-known thesis that "faith without works (actions; erga) is dead." In 3:13, James challenges those who claim to be wise and understanding to demonstrate their wisdom in actions. See also →Ergon ("Work"): Its Philology, Biblical Use and Reception and →James: Erga ("Works") and Cognates in James.
4a perfect work Wholeness: Classical Ideal of Attaining the End (telos) The Greek is ergon teleion. The adjective teleios means something that is complete and whole in its own nature. Aristotle describes several sense of the term "perfect":
The Stoics further associate the perfection of a thing with the reason that pervades the universe:
See further →James: Perfection / Wholeness in James
4a perseverance an Essential Christian Virtue
Jesus‘ teaching links perseverance (hupomonê) with eschatological trials and with ultimate salvation:
Paul also links joy, suffering, perseverance, and testing.
Rom 5:3–5 "But we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance (hupomonê); and endurance, proven character, and proven character (dokimê), hope." See also Literary Devices 1:3; Biblical Intertextuality 1:3.
James and Paul differ in their orientation: for Paul, the process of bearing trials builds one's character in order to hope (in the context of Rom 5) for eschatological salvation through Christ. James has a this-worldly orientation: the process of bearing trials produces a mature and complete person.
4b whole Theme of Wholeness in Paul Paul applies holoklêros holistically to spirit, soul, and body:
After healing a man crippled from birth, Peter declares:
4a perseverance Courageous Perseverance to God and His Law In →4 Macc. 1:11, the martyrs are paradigmatic examples of hupomonê in their patient, but firm and courageous perseverance; they remain faithful to God and his law despite the tortures of the tyrant:
See also →4 Macc. 9:30; 17:12.
4a let perseverance have (V) Uncertainty of Verbal Mode
4a let perseverance have [its] perfect work Various Interpretations
Many commentators see in the reference to a "perfect work" (opus perfectum) a hint that perseverance is a central virtue.
Following God's Commandments is not Impossible
2ff trials MYSTICISM The Spiritual Benefit of Temptation
The Catechism proceeds to cite Origen on the utility of temptation:
13–18 Divisio Textus
See further →James: Medieval Divisio Textus.
18–27 Exhortation to Doing the Word
22–25 that one will be blessed in his doing Rhetorical Elaboration of Jesus' Beatitude with an Example Jas 1:22–25 can be understood as a rhetorical elaboration of Jesus' saying, "Blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe (phulassô) it" (Lk 11:28; cf. Lk 8:21) or the version in Mt 7:24 (cf. Lk 6:47), "Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts (poieiô) on them…" Just as Matthew and Luke elaborate the saying with the parable of a house built on rock or sand (Mt 7:24–27; Lk 6:47–49) so too James elaborates the saying with his example (Greek: parabolê; Latin: similitudo) of the forgetful person who looks into a mirror. → ad 7:26 notes the similarity between James and Jesus' teaching ( Sup. Matt. 1987, 271).
25a law of freedom Philo: the Torah Frees One from the Slavery to Passions Philo often makes the point that those who follow the Torah are actually free, in contrast to those who are enslaved by their passions.
Similarly, much of James' moral teaching focuses on the need to free oneself from the domination of passions such as anger and desire.
25a law Philo and the Natural Law of Reason Philo accepted the Stoic concept of a universal law that orders the universe and is innate in the human mind.
The Torah is a written expression of this eternal law of nature implanted in the soul:
4b perfect and whole James’ Focus on Wholeness and Completeness James' use of the adjectives "perfect" (teleios) and "whole" (holoklêros) signals his central concern with the theme of completeness and wholeness throughout his entire letter.
The basic sense of holoklêros is the integral unity (cf. V : integrus) and completeness of all parts of a whole; often associated with the health of the body (cf. → 2). For Long.teleios, see →James: Perfection / Wholeness in James.
25a law Greco-Roman Views on Law and Word James' identification of the implanted word (Jas 1:21) and the "perfect law of freedom" may well rely on Greco-Roman, especially Stoic, ideas.
The Stoics regularly define "law" (Greek: nomos; Latin: lex) as the standard for determining right and wrong.
The Stoics identified the "word" (logos)—the universal reason governing the universe—with law (nomos); see →James: Philosophical Background of Logos.
Right reason and law are also identified with God.
Elsewhere Greek thought assumes that the ultimate source of law is divine:
1–12 Divisio Textus
See also →James: Medieval Divisio Textus.
13–17 Teaching About That Which Does (not) Come from God
25a perfect law Theme of Wholeness and Perfection James's use of the adjective "perfect" (teleios) recalls his theme of wholeness, integrity, perfection and completion (→James: Perfection / Wholeness in James ; Ancient Texts 1:4a; Ancient Texts 1:4b; Biblical Intertextuality 1:4b; Peritestamental Literature 1:4b; Christian Tradition 1:4a).
Here, James speaks of the perfection of the Torah through Jesus' interpretation: the Torah of the Kingdom. This law is perfected through love (cf. Jas 2:8).
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.
4b so that you might be perfect Wholeness in Philo: Virtues, God’s Gift, and the Patriarchs
Philo follows Stoic doctrine (Ancient Texts 1:4a; Ancient Texts 1:4b) in describing the complete or perfect (teleios) man as one who possesses the virtues perfectly and thus is free from every passion (pathos).
Completeness, or perfection, however, is not a natural characteristic of created things, it is a gift of God‘s grace.
Philo likewise follows the Stoic doctrine that sharply divides the perfect wise man from the rest of humanity. The patriarchs exemplify the wise man:
The whole or "perfect" man is not immune from sinning:
4b perfect and whole, lacking in nothing Various Interpretations
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).
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:
17a every perfect gift Perfection of God’s Gifts teaches similarly:
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:
22–25 be doers of the word and not only hearers Echo in the Liturgy of St. James A priestly prayer in the Liturgy of St. James reflects this passage:
25a law of freedom Aquinas on the Law of Freedom Thomas understands James' "law of freedom" as the "new law" or "law of Christ."
Thomas thus speaks of
The new law (the law of Christ) is therefore called a "law of liberty" in two respects (→ST 1-2.108.1 ad 2):
25a law of freedom Stoicism: True freedom in Following the Divine Will (Law)
25a law of freedom James and Paul on Freedom and the Law
25a law of freedom The Mishnah associates the study of the Torah with freedom:
25a perfect law of freedom Various Interpretations
The law of liberty is further characteristized as the "law of love":
→ ad loc. reflects on the different ways in which the law of freedom leads to greater freedom for the Christian: Comm.
William of Ockham refers to James' law of freedom in his effort to limit papal authority.
Marsilius of Padua, a contemporary of William of Ockham, was also involved in controversies over papal authority. Marsilius held that the Church should have no political and temporal authority, but should be subordinate to the State.