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14 But if you have bitter jealousy and strife in your heart, do not boast and lie against the truth.
14 But if you hold a bitter zeal, and if there is contention in your hearts, then do not boast and do not be liars against the truth.
14 But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth.
15 This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic.
15 For this is not wisdom, descending from above, but rather it is earthly, beastly, and diabolical.
15b demonic Reference to Supernatural Powers See Ancient Texts 2:19b
14b do not boast Thinking Oneself Better Than Others The word katakauchaomai has the sense of boasting at the expense of another (cf. Rom 11:18a: "boast against the branches") James' implicit point is that those who are claiming to be wise should not consider themselves better than others who supposedly lack wisdom. By retaining jealousy and a spirit of rivalry they reveal themselves to be not truly wise and thus lying against the truth. For true wisdom is accompanied by gentleness and humility (Jas 3:13).
Quite possibly James is still addressing those who consider themselves to be wise teachers (Jas 3:1) and thus are "boasting against" rival teachers or against community members whom they regard as less wise than they. Cf. → 3.22. See also Past.Christian Tradition 3:17c.
14b do not boast and lie against the truth Implicit Challenge to Those Claiming to Be Wise With his rhetorical question, "Who is wise and understanding among you?" James implictly challenges those claiming to be wise (likely the same people as those desiring to be teachers in Jas 3:1) to prove that they truly have wisdom. The truly wise one can demonstrate his wisdom through his gentle conduct (Jas 3:2); the ones who implicitly claim to be wise yet still act with jealousy and rivalry show that they are in fact lying—their actions demonstrate that they lack wisdom.
13–17 Who is wise and knowing among you? Papal Application to Bishops in his 1761 encyclical In Dominico Agro quotes Jas 3:14-17 (at → no. 7) to warn his fellow bishops that teachers of Catholic doctrine must not only be accomplished in theology, but must also be humble and motivated by love. He condemns the diversity of teachings in the Church, and recommends that all teaching should be based on the Council of Trent's Roman Catechism in order to preserve unity. Dom. ag.
15a wisdom coming down from above Echo James alludes to his earlier teaching: "every good thing given, every perfect gift, is from above" (Jas 1:17). There James contrasts worldly desire (epithumia) with the purity of God's gifts; here James specifies that wisdom (cf. Jas 1:5) is one of those gifts.
15b earthly, unspiritual, demonic James’ References to Demonic Powers James' reference to earthly wisdom as "demonic" (daimoniôdês) is connected with his reference in Jas 2:19 to demons (daimonia), and in Jas 4:7 to the devil (diabolos).
Although many commentators identify Gehenna (see Jas 3:6d) as the dwelling place of demons and the devil, it is not clear that this view was current in the first century. James certainly understands demons, demonic wisdom, and the devil as powers opposed to God, but the realm of evil for James is the world (cf. Jas 1:27; 4:4; cf. "earthly, unspiritual, demonic wisdom" in this passage). James most likely understands Gehenna primarily as the realm of eschatological punishment. James may assume that the devil is the chief demon; he certainly understands him as a tempter to evil (see Jas 4:7: "resist the devil": i.e., resist his temptations to do evil). See also Biblical Intertextuality 4:7b and Peritestamental Literature 4:7b.
1:5,3:13,15,17 wisdom Ambiguity of “Wisdom”
When James uses the word "wisdom" (sophia) in an unqualified sense (Jas 1:5; 3:13), he understands it as the "wisdom from above" (Jas 3:15a; 3:17a), that is, a good gift from God (cf. Jas 1:17). Cf. Jewish Tradition 1:5a; Christian Tradition 1:5b.
By contrast, Jas 3:15b speaks of a "wisdom" that is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. One may interpret this passage in two ways.
14a rivalry Or "selfish ambition"? The noun eritheia comes from the verb eritheuô ("to spin wool"), which gained the idiomatic meaning of intriguing for office. It has the sense of either:
15b earthly Connotation: As Opposed to Heavenly The primary meaning of the Greek epigeios is "earthly" as opposed to "heavenly" (1Cor 15:40). It thus has the sense of temporary existence (cf. 2Cor 5:1; see also → 8 [546a]). The focus is on physical, temporary reality. See also Rep.Biblical Intertextuality 3:15b.
15b demonic Of the Demons?
The adjective damoniôdês could mean that the wisdom is "demon-like" or it could mean that the "wisdom" is directly inspired by demons. This latter sense is supported by S's translation: "from (mn) the demons." So it is possible that James is thinking of supernatural beings who influence one's thoughts and actions in this world.
On the other hand, the adjective "demonic" does not necessarily connote the sense of supernatural beings who reside in a separate realm of pure evil.
13–18 Frequent use of parallelism In his teaching on the distinction between the two types of wisdom (one from "above, one from "below"), James often parallels two elements:
Jas 14a: "bitter jealousy and rivalry";
Jas 14b: "do not boast and lie against the truth";
Jas 16a: "jealousy and rivalry";
Jas 16a: "instability and every low-minded practice";
Jas 17d: "full of mercy and good fruits."
14a bitter jealousy Echo "Bitter" (pikros) is also used at Jas 3:11 for "bitter" water. James verbally links internal bitterness (jealousy) with a bitter external expression (bitter water symbolizing immoral speech in 3:11).
14a jealousy Positive and Negative Assessments of zêlos
The word zêlos, translated here as “jealous,” has a positive sense for Aristotle. → 2.11.1 [1388a] distinguishes between Rhet.zêlos and phthonos. One who is zêlos when he sees that another possesses a valued good, and he thus is motivated to obtain the good for himself, without envy for the other. He who is pthonos, on the other hand, is envious and wishes to deprive the other of what good he has ( 1926, 243).
Both zêlos and phthonos are negative for the Stoics. → 7.111 reports that both are considered passions under the category of "grief" ( Vit. Phil.lupê): pthonos is "grief at another's prosperity" (ep' allotriois agathois), while zêlos is "grief at the possession by another of that which one desires (epithumei) for oneself" ( 1925, 216).
15b unspiritual Merely Natural Life Force psuchikos is the adjectival form of psuchê, often translated as "soul." In ancient Greek thought, psuchê does not denote a transcendent spiritual reality, but rather the natural "life force" that animates a physical body; thus for (e.g., → 2) plants and animals as well has humans have souls; humans are distinguished by their possession of a rational soul. In this sense, De an.psuchikos refers to the natural life force of this world (Biblical Intertextuality 3:15b; Christian Tradition 3:15b).
14a jealousy and rivalry Vices Leading to Divisions in Paul's Churches
In the NT, zêlos can have a positive sense as a strong emotion, thus Paul: “I testify with regard to them that they have zeal for God” (Rom 10:2).
In general, however, jealousy (zêlos) and rivalry (eritheia) appear together in lists of vices:
For Paul, the “flesh” opposes the realm of the Spirit (Gal 5:17; cf. 1Cor 1:17–30; 1Cor 3:18–20; Gal 5:18–22; see also Jesus’ remarks at Lk 10:21). Paul’s concept corresponds to James’ notion of “the world” (Jas 1:27; 4:4) and its wisdom (Jas 3:15). The “flesh” is focused on the satisfaction of selfish desires and pleasures and thus subject to jealousy and rivalry:
In Paul’s passages, jealousy and rivalry characterize the factions that have divided his churches. James has similar concerns, as he strongly condemns division in the congregation (Jas 2:1–12). See also Ancient Texts 3:14a and Christian Tradition 3:14a.
15b earthly Pauline Parallel Use of the Word Paul’s sense of the word “earthly” (Vocabulary 3:15b) in Philippians closely parallels that of James. Speaking of certain people who are “enemies of the cross of Christ,” Paul describes them thus:
This worldly mindset is focused on satisfying the passions and thus does not have room for spiritual concerns.
15b unspiritual Natural Life Apart from God’s Spirit James teaches that unspiritual (psuchikos) “wisdom” lacks the supernatural gift of God’s wisdom and is thus dominated by worldly desires.
In Paul’s thought, the Spirit plays essentially the same role that God’s wisdom plays in James. Paul indicates that the “natural” (psuchikos) person cannot understand “what pertains to the Spirit of God” since spiritual knowledge “is judged spiritually” (1Cor 2:14). This contrast applies also in the eschatological age: there the “natural body” (sôma psuchikon; note V’s translation: corpus animale) becomes the “spiritual body” (sôma pneumatikon) of the resurrection.
Similarly, Jude 18–19 equates those who live according to the “desires (epithumiai; cf. Jas 1:14–15) of their godless deeds” with those who “live on the natural plane (psuchikoi), devoid of the Spirit” (pneuma).
James’ worldview is in line with that of Paul and Jude: the person who lacks God’s wisdom (the Spirit in Paul and Jude) is enslaved by negative passions.
14a rivalry Source of Rivalry in Envy and Anger
15b unspiritual Differing Interpretations
In the anthropology of Valentinian Gnosticism, humanity is divided into three types (see e.g., → 1.7.5) Haer.
Cf. also → 5.9 [5:3], esp. 5.9.44 (ANF 5:52-56): Haer.sarkikos, psuchikoi, pneumatikoi.
James' worldview, in contrast tends to divide into only two options: those who follow the wisdom of the world, and those who humbly accept the wisdom of God. James of course differs in other ways from Gnostic anthropology.
→ ad loc. explains that unspiritual (Latin: Ep. cath.animalis) "is not derived from [the word] animal but from anima [soul, the life-giving principle]; points out a similar derivation in Greek (psuchikos from psuchê). For Paul, continues, the word psuchikos refers to "the person who, having no spiritual grace, knows only how to think about or do those things which are naturally implanted in the sense of the flesh and soul." This is why a contentious and proud wisdom is called "earthly, animal, and diabolical" ( 1985, 44-45; 1983, 209). See also Ancient Texts 3:15b; Biblical Intertextuality 3:15b.
James description of the wisdom may be the source of a traditional identification of the three sources of evil, or temptation to evil, rendered traditionally in English as "the world, the flesh, and the devil." For example:
15b earthly, unspiritual, demonic An Explanatory Expansion A literal translation of S-Jas 3:15b is “earthly, from the thoughts (ḥwšb’) of the soul (npš’), and from demons.”
→ ad loc. distinguishes sharply between those teachers guided by the wisdom from above and those guided by the wisdom from below ( Iac. Par. 1993, 158-59; 1997, 144-46). Erasmus critiques of corrupt teachers doubtless have both the clergy and the scholastic professors of contemporary Europe in mind.
15b worldy, unspiritual, demonic Pneumatology Aquinas explains how James can refer to wisdom as "earthly, unspiritual, demonic" when scripture teaches (Is 11:2) that wisdom is a gift of the Holy Spirit.
3:11–4:6 Use in Lectionary →BL : Wednesday, 32nd Week after Pentecost.
15b demonic “Wisdom” of the Demons
The Pauline tradition similarly holds that those doctrines which lead people away from the faith are inspired by demons (1Tm 4:1): “some will turn away from the faith by paying attention to deceitful spirits and demonic (daimonios) instructions.”
13–18 Divisio textus
14a jealousy Comments on Jealousy
15b earthly Interpretations of Earthly Wisdom The Shepherd of Hermas closely parallels James' thought:
15b demonic Interpretations of "Demonic"
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.
13–18 True Wisdom Results in Peace James puts and end to his bravura piece on language with a rhetorical question refocusing his readers on his main topics: works (Literary Devices Jas 3:13b). The heart of this section is James' antithesis between the "wisdom from above" and a "wisdom from below."
Characteristically, James insists that wisdom must be demonstrated in practical action in order to be shown as genuine (Literary Devices 3:13b). A community led by the "widom from below" is characterized by jealousy, rivalry, and conflicts; a community led by the "wisdom from above" is characterized by peaceful, mutually respectful relationships between community members.
In his ethical exhortation draws on teachings paralleled in Greco-Roman, ancient Jewish, the teachings of Jesus, and early Christian sources. James most likely draws on all of these sources in expressing his own unique teaching.