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2 For we all stumble in many [ways]. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a mature man, able also to bridle the whole body.
2 For we all offend in many ways. If anyone does not offend in word, he is a perfect man. And he is then able, as if with a bridle, to lead the whole body around.
2 For in many things we all stumble. Anyone who does not offend in word, this one is a perfect man, and able also to subdue his whole body.
3 Consider that we put bits in horses' mouths that they may obey us, and we guide their whole body.
3 Now if we put the horses` bridles into their mouths that they may obey us, we turn about their whole body also.
3 For so we put bridles into the mouths of horses, in order to submit them to our will, and so we turn their whole body around.
4 Consider also the ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the impulse of the pilot desires.
4 Behold, the ships also, though they are so great and are driven by rough winds, are yet turned about by a very small rudder, whither the impulse of the steersman willeth.
4 Behold also the ships, great as they are, when driven by severe winds, they are turned about with a very small rudder, wherever the pilot wishes.
5 Even so the tongue is a small member and it boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles!
5 So the tongue also is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how much wood is kindled by how small a fire!
5 So also the tongue certainly is a small part, but it moves great things. Consider that a small fire can set ablaze a great forest.
2b perfect man Theme of Completion and Wholeness James again picks up the theme of wholeness and perfection, first discussed at Jas 1:4, "that you may be complete and whole, lacking in nothing" (cf. →James: Perfection / Wholeness in James).
The Greek teleios echoes Jesus' teaching ("Be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Mt 5:48), just as it ties in with the Stoic doctrine that the person who has all the virtues is perfect and complete. Here James refers specfically to the teacher as the "complete man" (Ancient Texts 1:4a; Ancient Texts 1:4b; Biblical Intertextuality 1:4b; Peritestamental Literature 1:4a).
2b in word Internal and External Logos The Stoics distinguished between an internal logos (endiathetos logos) and a "spoken" or "uttered" logos (prophorikos logos) (→SVF 2.43). Here James seems to have in mind the latter, while Jas 1:18,21 likely refers to the former; cf. → 71. See also this distinction in Migr.Jas 3:11 (Peritestamental Literature 3:11).
4f,5:4,7,9,11 Look Call for Attention James uses the verb idou (V = ecce) several times throughout the work to call special attention to what follows.
1–12 An Ethics of Language The connection of this pericope with Jas 2:14–26 is not obvious. In general, however, it sustains James' concern with proper speech (→Speech in James). The specific concern of Jas 2:14–26 was the consistency between speech (confession of faith) and action. The major point of Jas 3:1–12 is clear enough: James exhorts his readers to control their tongues.
Among the most notable individual passages:
2a in many [ways] Adverbial Use of the Adjective The plural adjective polla may thus nuance the verb "to stumble":
Since James immediately refers to going astray in the specific aspect of speech, the latter translation makes better sense.
2a stumble Metaphor for Sinning The Greek ptaiô, literally meaning "to stumble," is also used at Jas 2:10. The literal sense of stumbling was expanded to making a mistake, suffering a misfortune, or sinning. In this way, it would also resonate with the Greek hamartanô, which literally means to miss a target, but is figuratively used to denote sinning (Ancient Texts 3:2a; Biblical Intertextuality 3:2a; Peritestamental Literature 3:2a).
2b does not stumble in word Irony? Interpreters disagree on whether this statement is to be taken at face value as an actual possibility, or whether James means it ironically or hyperbolically, in the sense, "If someone would be able to not go astray in speaking [though this is impossible]..."
Given the centrality of the theme of wholeness (perfection) in James, however, one should take James' word at face value. James clearly thinks it possible to be a "perfect man": "so that you may be complete (perfect) and whole, lacking in nothing" (Jas 1:4). But "pefect" here does not mean flawless but complete, perfected, fully matured. For the Stoics, the "complete" man is able to control his passions. Nonetheless, Jesus' teaching in Mt 5:48—"be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect"—is undoubedtly at work here. Cf. Ancient Texts 1:4a; Ancient Texts 1:4b; Peritestamental Literature 1:4a; Biblical Intertextuality 1:4a.
4a driven by fierce winds Image from Greco-Roman Moral Tradition: Chaotic Storms James again employs the image of fierce winds at sea first used at Jas 1:6 to evoke the inner state of a man with conflicting thoughts. Here too James alludes to a Greco-Roman moral tradition, appropriated by Hellenistic Judaism, in which the passions are symbolized as fierce storms on the sea (e.g., →4 Macc. 7:1–3). See also Ancient Texts 3:4b; Peritestamental Literature 3:3-4.
5c small fire ignites such a wood Traditional Image James draws on a conventional image:
5b boasts : Byz TR | Nes : claims great [things]
There is little difference in meaning.
3a See : Byz S TR | V Nes: For if
Ide is more in keeping with James' regular style, although it may be due to iotacism, as eide would have been pronounced the same as ide. The mss. evidence favors ei de. See below Comparison of Versions 3:3a.
5c small : Byz TR | Nes: such: Clarification James uses the ambiguous adjective hêlikon for both "so small" and "so large" (Vocabulary 3:5c). To clarify his meaning the first hands of A (apparently) and C, along with Ψ and Byz replace hêlikon with oligon ("small") before "fire" (Comparison of Versions 3:5c).
2b word Semantic Range of Logos Literally meaning “word,” logos has a rich range of meaning (→James: Philosophical background of logos).
In this context, the most natural referent is speech, since a discourse concerning the ability to control one’s tongue immediately follows this verse (Jas 3:2–5). Since James is discussing teachers, logos could also be translated as "teaching" in the sense of the content of one's teaching; cf. Lk 10:39: "[Mary] sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak" (lit.: "listening to his logos"). → ad loc. takes it in this sense: Tract. Iac.doctrina recte fidei (col. 75).
5c such a wood Palestinian Setting? Some commentators, including those who argue for a Palestinian provenance for James, argue that James does not refer to a forest fire (there being few forests in Palestine), but rather a brush fire that might have been set by a farmer to clear his fields of grass, thorns, or weeds (cf. Ex 22:5 (6); Zec 12:6). See also Vocabulary 3:5c.
2a stumble Metaphor for Sinning In the scriptural tradition, the metaphorical sense of ptaiô as sinning is attested, but not common (Literary Devices 3:2a):
5c such a wood Symbolism of the Forest Fire A forest fire is often used a symbol of great destruction in Scripture. The following passages use it to symbolize God's wrath.
5c–6a a small fire ignites such a great wood + tongue is a fire | Metaphor: Destructive Nature of the Tongue James' metaphor is common in Second Temple literature:
3a See Following some miniscules, part of the Byz tradition reads ide ("see"). The TR reads idou: "behold!" V (si autem) follows the first hand of א in reading ei de ("and if" or "but if"). See above Textual Criticism 3:3a.
5c such ...such: TR Byz V (Explanatory Variants) James (as witnessed in Nes) uses the ambigious adjective hêlikon for both "so small" and "so large" (Vocabulary 3:5c). To clarify his meaning:
1–4 bridle his entire body also Reason Controls the Passions Some commentators understood James to refer to the Greek philosophical principle that reason (logos) must control the passions of the body:
2:14–3:2a Divisio Textus
See also →James: Medieval Divisio Textus.
2c body Connotations of "Body"
→ ad loc. lists other options: James uses "body" to mean an aggregate group, hence "body of sins" or "body of passions" (20:79). Comm.
5c wood Forest or Matter The noun hulê has a range of meanings.
5c such a [size of] fire ignites such a wood (Nes) An Ambigious Adjective The adjective hêlikos generally means "how large" (cf. Col 2:1), but can also mean "how small" (cf. →5). James (as witnessed in Nes) takes advantage of this ambiguity to contrast, "how small" ( Hermot. hêlikon) a fire with "how great" (hêlikon) a wood [i.e., forest]. See also Literary Devices Jas3:5c; Textual Criticism 3:5c.
2f bridle his entire body also Long-drawn Metaphor of Bridling a Horse Jame again uses the Greek chalinagôgeô, meaning literally "to bridle a horse," first used at Jas 1:26; the word here sets up the image of bridling a horse in 3:3. James here draws on an extensive classical literary and philosophical background (Literary Devices 1:26; Ancient Texts 1:26b).
References to riders controlling horses and pilots controlling ships are common in Greco-Roman philosophical and moral texts as illustrations of the principle that right reason should control unruly forces, such as the passions.
2a we all stumble Universal Fallibility
The most common classical meaning of this word is literally to stumble against something → 31.11.5, citing a proverb warning against stumbling twice against the same stone) or, metaphorically, to err ( Hist.→ 160d: to stumble in one's mind). Theaet.
This idea of univeral sinfulness is commonplace in Hellenistic moral discourse:
4b wherever the impulse of the steersman wishes Use of Stoic Terminology?
Wishing (Greek: boulomai) is often connected in Stoic and other Greek philosophical discourse with a deliberate rational choice, as contrasted with a descision based on passions:
See also Ancient Texts 1:18a.
2a we all stumble Universal Sinfulness
2b perfect man Completion and Wholeness (Perfection) In ancient Greek and Hellenistic Jewish philosophy, the "complete man" possesses all the virtues; the "complete man" and the "wise man" are closely connected (cf. Ancient Texts 1:4a; Ancient Texts 1:4b; Peritestamental Literature 1:4a; Ancient Texts 3:2b).
3f horses + Ships: Hellenistic Judaism’s Appropriation of Images of Greco-Roman Moral Discourse Like James, Hellenistic Judaism appropriated images taken from Greco-Roman moral discourse, often using the images of the chariot driver and the ship's helmsman. See Ancient Texts 3:4b.
Human Reason Controls the Passions
2a we all stumble Universal Sinfulness
This passage was a common proof-text to demonstrate that all humans sin, including baptized Christians.
Several authors conclude that James refers to venial or light sins.
Many commentators connect these lighter sins specifically with the sins of speech that James turns to in Jas 3:3–12.
An awareness of universal sinfulness serves a moral purpose, writes →: it can be the basis for a profound humility, and sharpen one's resove to commit few sins (20: 137). Comm.
2b–12 Divisio Textus
See also →James: Medieval Divisio Textus .
2b does not stumble in word How Can One Avoid Sinning in One's Speaking?
The interpretive tradition often specifies ways in which one might possibly stumble in one's speech:
3f horses’ mouths ...ships: Various Interpretations of James’ Analogies
5f claims great [things] …such a small fire: What Are the "Great Things"?
Several interpreters see understand James to give an ambiguous interpretation of the power of the tongue in v 5:
Much of the Latin tradition (e.g., Codex Amiatinus, →Gloss. Ord. (S), →C) read exaltat (exalt) instead of exultat (claim or boast about great things). → knows both readings, and connects them with an ambiguous understanding of the tongue: it can be used both for great good and great evil. He then contrasts the destructive fire of the tongue with the refining fire described elsewhere in Scripture: Ep. cath.
2a we all stumble Universality of Sin This text was cited as a proof-text against the Pelagian position that Christians no longer needed to pray for the forgiveness of their own sins:
Later teaching continues to see it as a proof-text for universal sin, including post-baptismal sin:
See above Christian Tradition 3:2a.
5b–6 Also the tongue is fire Allusions in Dante's Divine Comedy → cantos 26–27 allude to the images of the tongue and fire in Div. Comm. Inf.Jas 3:5–6 (→). In the eighth bolgia sinners are punished for giving evil advice— a sin of the tongue. Their punishment is to be enveloped in a tongue of flame:
5f the tongue is a fire Illustration of Dante's Inferno 26–27 Several artists portray the scenes in → 26 and 27, where Dante and Virgil encounter the souls of those who gave false counsel, punished by being wrapped in tongues of fire ( Div. Comm. Inf.Literature 3:5b-6).
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.
2b perfect man The Meaning of "Perfect" Commentators try to clarify what James means by "perfect," especially since James has just insisted that all people stumble in many ways.
2a we all stumble Universal Sinfulness The sinfulness of all humans is a common topos in Scripture:
See Ancient Texts 3:2a.
2b stumble in word Controlling One’s Tongue The biblical wisdom tradition warns of the need to control one's tongue (Biblical Intertextuality 1:19c; Biblical Intertextuality 1:19bc; Biblical Intertextuality 1:26).