The Bible in Its Traditions

James 3:16

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16  For where jealousy and strife [exist], there unrest and every evil deed [are].

16  For wherever envy and contention is, there too is inconstancy and every depraved work.

16  For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.

16 instability Jas 1:8; 3:6

Reception

Theology

13–17 Who is wise and knowing among you? Papal Application to Bishops Pope Clement XIII in his 1761 encyclical In Dominico Agro quotes Jas 3:14-17 (at Clement XIII Dom. ag. 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.

  • Clement XIII Dom. ag. no. 6: Clement insists that "it is the bishop's duty to watch carefully that nobody breaks the bond of unity and creates schisms by proudly acting in his own interests."

Text

Literary Devices

16 instability Echo: Inner and Outer Instability James' term "instability" (akatastasia) echoes his use of the cognate akatastatos in Jas 1:8 (the double-minded man is unstable in all of his ways) and Jas 3:8b (the tongue is an unstable [according to NES the original reading] evil). One again sees James' connection between division and instability within the community, and instability and division within the human heart. See below Christian Tradition 3:16.

Context

Ancient Texts

16 base deed Controlled by Passions The adjective phaulos is the Stoic term for the ordinary person who lacks virtues, in contrast to the excellent (spoudaios) wise person (e.g., Stob. Anth. 2.99.3-8). Aristotle Rhet. 2.11.1 also describes the person who experiences the negative type of jealousy (phthonos) as phaulos. James, like the Greek tradition, has in mind a person who is dominated by his passions for base physical pleasures (epithumia; Jas 1:14-15; hêdonai; Jas 4:1-3). See below Biblical Intertextuality 3:16.

16 instability Inner and Outer Instability The Greek akatastasia can refer to both to an inner instability (Ancient Texts 1:8) and to social disturbances and disorder.

See below Literary Devices 3:16.

Text

Literary Devices

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."

Context

Biblical Intertextuality

16 instability and every base deed Vices in NT Context Instability (akatastasia) is generally used in the NT to denote social disorder and conflict:

  • Lk 21:9: “wars and insurrections” (akatastasiai)
  • 1Cor 14:33, referring to disorder (akatastasia) in community worship: “he is not the God of disorder but of peace.”
  • 2Cor 12:20: akatastasiai is one of many vices that engender discord.

“Base” (phaulos) is used to describe wickedness in general (cf. Jn 3:20 and Rom 9:11), as opposed to its more specific usage in Hellenistic thought (Ancient Texts 3:16). 

Reception

Christian Tradition

16 instability Inner or Outer Instability?

Inner Instability

Patristic and medieval tradition understood James' reference as one of internal disorder or instability:

  • Bede Ep. cath. "the instability of his mind (inconstantia mentis) wavering this way and that" (Hurst 1985, 45; Hurst 1983, 209). Cf. V's translation: inconstantia.
  • Aquinas ST 2-2.53.5 teaches that instability (inconstantia) is one of the vices opposed to the cardinal virute of prudence (prudentia). Instability "denotes withdrawl from a definite good purpose." A person knows that something is good, but withdraws from it due to a strong attraction to some pleasure. But this attraction is not acted upon "except through a defect of reason (per defectum rationis)." Since one's reason is not strong enough to resist the sensual attraction, he is unstable or inconstant.  Specifically, "envy and anger cause inconstancy by drawing away the reason to something else" (→ ST 2-2.53.6 ad 1). Why then, → ST 2-2.53.6 asks, did Gregory the Great [→ Moral. 31.88] classify instability as a subcategory under lust (luxuria)? Although instability is caused by lack of reason,  ultimately it derives from lust, since "lust causes inconstancy by destroying the judgment of reason entirely" (English Dominicans 1947, 3:1412-13).

External Instability

13–18 Who is wise and knowing Application to Teachers The tradition regularly connects Jas 3:13-18 with James' reference to teachers in Jas 3:1: the admonitions in this section are aimed at teachers.

Bede

  • Bede Ep. cath. ad loc.: having criticized the faults of the tongues of wicked teachers in Jas 3:1-12, James turns now to a comparison of good and bad teachers. The good teacher has a meek heart and well-controlled tongue, as opposed to wicked teachers who love to boast, are eager for conflict, and who are envious of other teachers (Hurst 1985, 43; Hurst 1983, 208). Cf. the similar interpretation in the Gloss. Ord. (V) ad loc. (cols. 1287-88).

Erasmus: Two Types of Teachers

Erasmus Iac. Par. ad loc. distinguishes sharply between those teachers guided by the wisdom from above and those guided by the wisdom from below (Bateman 1993, 158-59; Bateman 1997, 144-46).  Erasmus' critiques of corrupt teachers doubtless have both the clergy and the scholastic professors of contemporary Europe in mind.

Teachers Led by the Wisdom from Below
  • “A contentious and stubborn style of teaching (contentiosa pertinaxque doctrina)” that “generates nothing but faction and discord”;
  • they teach with “syllogistical subtleties (in argutiis syllogismorum) and “rhetorical trappings” and “throw up a smoke-screen of intricate questions”;
  • they “speak to win the favour of princes”;
  • they have “a heart corrupted by contentions or by envy and the stubborn desire to win”;
  • they are motivated by “a desire for glory” and “a passion for money.”
Teachers Led by the Wisdom from Above
  • These teachers follow the “evangelical philosophy” (philosophia evangelica);
  • they are “calm-minded and unaffected by the tumult of the passions”;
  • this teacher testifies “to the kind of person he is by the godliness and integrity of his character (piis et integris moribus) rather than by his words”;
  • they teach “in sincerity of life and gentleness of character” (in synceritate vitae, in lenitate morum) having no other object in mind than the salvation of their hearers.

Liturgies

3:11–4:6 Use in Lectionary BL : Wednesday, 32nd Week after Pentecost. 

3:13–4:3,4:7–8a Use in Lectionary RCL : Proper 20, Year B.

13–18 Use in Lectionary RML : Monday, Week 7, Year 2.

3:16–4:3 Use in Lectionary RML : 25th Sunday in Year B.

Christian Tradition

13–18 Divisio textus

Visual Arts

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 Eusebius of Cesarea Hist. eccl. 23 and Jerome Vir. ill. 2, who in turn draw on accounts from Clement of Alexandria and Hegesipus. See also →James: Introduction

Several prominent features of these portrayals may be noted:

  • Following the tradition that he was the first bishop of Jerusalem, James is often portrayed anachronistically in bishop's vestments.
  • James is often portrayed holding a fuller's club, alluding to the tradition that James was beaten to death with a such a club. Variations show him holding different types of clubs. Another related tradition shows James holding a bow such as one used by hat-makers of the Middle Ages.
  • James bears a striking physical resemblance to his brother Jesus.
  • One artistic tradition, based on accounts found in the preface to the Gloss. Ord. and de Voragine Leg. aur., portrays the infant James as part of a large extended family. According to this legend, St. Anne, mother of the Virgin Mary, had three children named Mary with three different husbands. James and his brothers Joses (Joseph), Simon, and Jude (cf. Mk 6:3) are the sons of Mary (daughter of Anne and Cleophas; cf. Jn 19:25) and Alphaeus (cf. Mk 3:18). James and his brothers are thus cousins of Jesus (son of Mary, daughter of Anne and Joachim) and of St. John the Evangelist and James the Greater (sons of Mary, daughter of Anne and Salomas).

The following images are noteworthy:

  • A painting of James in the Armenian Sts. James Cathedral, Jerusalem: James is dressed in episcopal robes, wears a miter and holds a crozier (Gowler 2014, 54).
  • Blessed James Apostle. In the Stav. Bib. (1093-97) illuminations of the apostle James are at the introduction to the Catholic epistles (f. 197 r→) and at the beginning of his epistle (f. 197 v→.). The apostle stands, holding a book.
  • Apostle James the Less, statue, south portal of Chartres Cathedral, early 13th century.

Anonymous, James Among Other Apostles (sculpture on limestone, early 13th c.),  South Portal, Chartres Cathedral, France

© D.R. Photo Mary Ann Sullivan→ 

James holds a club.

  • Leonardo da Vinci (1495-98), The Last Supper, Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan. 

Giampietrino (1495–1549), The Last Supper (oil on canvas, ca. 1520, after Leonardo da Vinci [1452–1519], The Last Supper [1495-1498]),  298 cm x 770 cm

Royal Academy of Arts, London, exhib. Magdalen College, Oxford

Public Domain © Wikicommons→ 

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. 

  • Lucas Cranach the Elder (1509), Infant Saint James among his relations, a triptych in the Stadelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt, Germany. The infant Jesus, his mother Mary, and Mary's mother St. Anne are portrayed in the center. To the right is St. Anne's other daughter Mary, her husband Zebedee, and sons John the Evangelist and James the Greater. To the left is another of St. Anne's daughters named Mary with her husband Alphaeus; their children James, Joses (Joseph), Simon, and Jude are in the left and center panels.

Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472–1553), The Holy Kinship, (mixed media on lime, Wittenberg, 1509), Altarpiece, central panel: 100.4 × 121.1 cm; wings: 40 × 120 cm

Städel Museum — 1398, Frankfurt am Main

Public Domain © Wikicommons→

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 de Voragine Leg. aur. 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.

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.

  • Paolo Veronese (Caliari) James as Bishop (1500s). Burghley House Collection, Lincolnshire, UK. The Bridgeman Art Library. James with crozier and miter, holding a book.

Paolo Veronese Cagliari (1528-1888), Saint James, (oil on canvas, ca. 1578), 200 X 85 cm, One of the volets of the organ of the church of San Jacopo, Murano, Venice — the other is a portrait of St. Augustine.

Burghley House Collection, Lincolnshire, UK, © A Graduate of Pomona→

  • Saint James the Less, painting by El Greco (c. 1612), Museo del Greco, Toledo, Spain. 

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El Greco (Domenikos Theotokópoulos) 1541-1614, The Apostle James the Greater, (Oil on canvas, 1610-1614), 100 cm X 80 cm

 Museo de El Greco→ (Toledo, Spain), © Wikicommons, 

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

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Nicolò Bambini (1651-1736), San Giacomo Minore (Oil on canvas, 1722-1723), Communion of St James (Series of the Twelve Apostles), Presbytery: right wall, center, Saint Stae,Venezia, © Chorus Venezia→ 

The risen Jesus appears to James and breaks bread with him (based on an account recorded in Jerome Vir. ill. 2, said to be drawn from the Gospel according to the Hebrews).

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Angelo de' Rossi (1671 – 1715), Jacobus Minor (Sculpture on marble, 1710-1711), Gli Apostoli, (h: 424 cm), Nef, San Giovanni in Laterano, Roma, © Wikicommons

James holds a book and club.

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James Tissot (French, 1836-1902), James the Lesser, (Opaque watercolor over graphite on gray wove paper, 1886-1894), 30.6 x 23.5 cm, Brooklyn Museum, 00.159.237, © Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2008

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.

Eastern Orthodox traditions

  • James the Just, Russian icon, 16th century. Novgorod. James is depicted in episcopal robes and holds a book.

Anonymous, James the Just, (pigments on wood, mid. 16th c.), icon, Novgorod or Moskow, Novgorod

Public Domain © Wikicommons→,

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.

  • Martyrdom of James the Just. Illustration from the Menologion of Basil II. (PG 117:6-612). Late 10th, early 11th c. AD. Vatican Library. Vat.gr. 1613. Image 131.→  

For discussion of visual depictions, see Gowler 2014, 53-62; Bedford 1911.

Suggestions for Reading

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."

Structure

Rhetoric
  • Jas 3:13: Thesis. The true wise man demonstrates his wisdom by good actions performed with gentleness.
  • Jas 3:14-15: Counter example. Those motivated by jealousy and contentiousness show that their boastful claims to be wise are false. Rather, they follow a distorted "wisdom from below" that focuses only on earthly values. Living out such values results in conflict in the church community.
  • Jas 3:17: Characteristics of true wisdom specified. True wisdom is peaceable, gentle, and results in good actions ("fruits"), in contrast to the divisive outcomes of earthly wisdom.
  • Jas 3:18: Conclusion. A peaceful community, acting with righteousness, is the result of following true wisdom.
Thematic Organization: Antithesis between Above and Below, Peace and Division. 

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.

Reception

Much of the interpretive tradition understands this section as a continuation of James' admonition to teachers in Jas 3:1-12 (cf. especially Jas 3:1). See also Christian Tradition 3:13-18.