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17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.
17 But within the wisdom that is from above, certainly, chastity is first, and next peacefulness, meekness, openness, consenting to what is good, a plenitude of mercy and good fruits, not judging, without falseness.
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.
17e not judging, without deceit : V | Latin mss: judging without deceit V reads non iudicans sine simulatione, (i.e., two characteristics: not judging, without hypocrisy), but some manuscripts and many Latin writers (e.g., →; Ep. cath.→Gloss. Ord., → 2-2.45.6) omit STnon and read iudicans sine simulatione (i.e., one characteristic: "judging without hypocrisy").
17 Catalogue of Virtues
17a wisdom from above Explication of a Previous Reference At Jas 3:13, James references the "gentleness of wisdom": here he describes that gentleness in extenso.
17b first of all pure Language of Ritual Purity James again applies language originally used for ritual purity and applies it in an ethical sense: see Jas 1:18; 1:27; 3:6a; 4:8. Here his use of hagnos echoes his use of the cognate verb hagnizô in Jas 4:8c.
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.
17c persuadable Plus in Some Witnesses of V After "persuadable" (suadibilis) some Latin witnesses add bonis consentiens ("agreeing with the good" or "agreeing with good people") a reading that is witnessed in →, Ep. cath.→Gloss. Ord., → 2-2.45.6 ad. 3 and ST→C. See below Vocabulary 3:17c and Christian Tradition 3:17c.
17e not hypocritical Genuine or Impartial?
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."
17f peaceful …by those who make peace: Explication of an Earlier Reference The peaceful characteristic of the wisdom from above (Jas 3:17c) is manifested in the peace-making activity of the Christian (Jas 3:18). This peacefulness directly contrasts with the conflict engendered by the wisdom from below (Jas 3:16). See further Christian Tradition 3:17.
17f [full of] good fruits ...fruit of righteousness is sown: Agricultural Imagery in James James frequently employs agricultural imagery: see Jas 1:11; 3:12; 5:7b; 5:18. Karpos ("fruit," "harvest") is an especially important term for James (Jas 3:17; 3:18; 5:7; 5:18).
17b first of all pure Cultic Purity Language The word "pure" (hagnos) was originally taken from the realm of ritual purity, but was also applied to the moral realm.
17c reasonable A Virtue Complementary to Justice 5.10 [1137b] notes that being reasonable (epieikês) is closely related to being just (dikaion); however, reasonableness is superior because it strives to apply the law according to concrete circumstances, not indiscriminately.
17c reasonable Desired Characteristic of a Bishop The Pastoral epistles include this trait as one of the desired characteristics of an episkopos (1Tm 3:3; cf. Tt 3:2). See also Vocabulary 3:17c; Ancient Texts 3:17c; Christian Tradition 3:17c.
17d full of mercy Development of Jesus’ Teaching For James, mercy goes beyond strict legalism to show compassion and understanding (Jas 2:13: “mercy triumphs over judgment”). This directly reflects Jesus’ teaching (Mt 5:7; 6:12–15). See also Biblical Intertextuality 2:13b and Christian Tradition 3:17.
17d good fruits Comparison with Paul’s Fruits of the Spirit According to Paul, these are the fruits of the Spirit:
James notes many of the same virtues:
→ 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.
3:11–4:6 Use in Lectionary →BL : Wednesday, 32nd Week after Pentecost.
2:13b,3:17 mercy Loving-kindness and Almsgiving
The Greek eleos regularly translates the Hebrew ḥesed, a word referring to God's loving-kindness for his people:
17c reasonable Semantics The adjective epieikês comes from the noun eikos, "what is reasonable" or "seemly". The adjective has the sense of being fair but also not insisting on one's own rights, but being gentle and considerate of others (1Tm 3:3; 1Pt 2:18). The cognate noun epieikeia names the corresponding virtue of epikeia, reasonableness, according to which the strict application of laws must be measured by the resulting good. See below Ancient Texts 3:17c and Biblical Intertextuality 3:17c.
17c Persuadable Intellectual Attitude The adjective eupeithês is a hapax legomenon. It denotes a person who is open to persuasion, especially one willing to listen to reason. It is composed by the adverb eu, "well" or "easily" + the verb peithomai, "be obedient", "be persuaded".
A closely related concept is James' admonition (Jas 1:19) to be "swift to hear".
17de full of mercy …not judging: James Reiterates the Theme of Mercy James' characterization of the "wisdom from above" as "full of mercy" and non-judgmental reiterates a key theme in James: the precedence of mercy over judgment. This theme is expressed explicity in Jas 2:13: "mercy triumphs over judgment," but the point is also implicitly made in James' warnings against judging others (Jas 4:11; cf. Jas 2:4). Here James develops a central teaching of Jesus.
17b pure Keeping Oneself from Immorality NT passages use the word (Greek: hagnos) reflect the sense of keeping oneself away from immorality:
13–18 Divisio textus
17 wisdom from above Characteristics of God’s Wisdom
17a wisdom from above General Interpretations
The former slave Frederick Douglass often quoted Jas 3:17 in his anti-slavery speeches. He used the phrase to describe what he insisted was the true Christian and biblical message of purity and equality, in contrast to perversion of Christianity preached by so-called Christians who used the Bible to defend slavery.
17c peaceful Thomas on the Relationship between Wisdom and Peace
Thomas then arranges the following characteristics into two categories:
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.