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7 For every kind of both beasts and birds, of both reptiles and sea creatures, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind.
7 For the nature of all beasts and birds and serpents and others is ruled over, and has been ruled over, by human nature.
8 But no man can tame the tongue. [It] is an unrestrainable evil, full of deadly poison.
8 But the tongue can no man tame; [it is] a restless evil, [it is] full of deadly poison.
8 But no man is able to rule over the tongue, a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
9 With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who are created according to [the] likeness of God.
9 Therewith bless we the Lord and Father; and therewith curse we men, who are made after the likeness of God
9 By it we bless God the Father, and by it we speak evil of men, who have been made in the likeness of God.
10 Out of the same mouth come blessings and curses. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.
11 The spring does not pour forth from the same opening [both ]the sweet and the bitter [water, does it]?
11 Doth the fountain send forth from the same opening sweet [water] and bitter?
12 It is not possible, my brothers, [for] a fig tree to make olives, or a vine [to make ]figs, [is it]? Thus no spring is able to produce [both] salt and sweet water.
12 Can a fig tree, my brethren, yield olives, or a vine figs? Neither [can] salt water yield sweet.
12 My brothers, can the fig tree yield grapes? Or the vine, figs? Then neither is salt water able to produce fresh water.
10a mouth Metonymy Here James switches from the tongue to the mouth as a figure for the power of speech.
7b tamed by human nature Allusions to the Genesis Creation Account Given his allusion to the four categories of animals in the creation account (Gn 1:26) in 3:7a, James' reference to "taming" animals likely alludes to the divine command to "have dominion over" (Greek: archô) all other living creatures (Gn 1:28). James again alludes to the creation account ( Gn 1:26-27 : humans created in God's likeness) in Jas 3:9b.
8a But the tongue Emphatic Anastrophe James begins this sentence with the object of the verb, emphasizing the power of the tongue that is so difficult to control.
8a tongue To Tame the Tongue The Hellenistic moral tradition often counseled against speaking too much. See above Ancient Texts 1:19c.
8b uncontrollable evil Allusion to Prov 26:28? The original text of James (akatastaton kakon) may allude here to Prv 26:28: "A false tongue hates truth, and an unguarded mouth works instability" (akatastasia).
8a tongue Wisdom Literature: Admonitions to Control One’s Speech Biblical wisdom literature frequently admonishes the reader to control his speech (Biblical Intertextuality 1:19c; Biblical Intertextuality 1:26b).
8c full of death-bearing poison Biblical Allusions?
9f with it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse humans Proper Use of Technology in Proper Speech → 122 welcomes the development of motion pictures, radio, and television, as these technologies can be used for good in the fields of education, art, recreation, and the spread of the Gospel. Yet, citing Mir. Pr.Jas 3:9-10, he notes that these technologies can also be used for morally bad purposes.
11 spring Literal and Metaphorical Senses The Greek pêgê (V: fons; S: nbywt’) refers to the source of flowing water, either a natural spring or a fountain. It can then be used metaphorically as the source of any thought or activity.
11 Does a spring Interro-negation James uses the interrogative particle mêti, indicating an expected negative answer.
11f Diatribe Style: Rhetorical Questions In the diatribe style, James asks rhetorical questions, expecting negative responses, "Does a spring pour forth both fresh and brackish water from the same opening?" (3:11). "Can a fig tree, my brothers, produce olives, or a grapevine figs?" (3:12a).
11 sweet and bitter The Bitter Water at Marah A Jewish audience likely would have heard an allusion to the account in Ex 15:22-25, where the people find the water at Marah bitter (Greek: pikros) and undrinkable, and the Lord has Moses throw in a piece of wood to "sweeten" (Greek: glukainô) the water.
12b Neither can salty [water] produce sweet water V Nes: A Compressed Expression The grammar of this phrase is very compressed, reading (in Nes) literally: "neither salty produces sweet water." In analogy with the image in Jas 3:11 (a spring does not produce both brackish and sweet water from the same opening) and taking the verbs "can" as implied from 3:12a, one may translate, "neither can salty [water] produce sweet water" or "neither can a salty [spring or fountain] produce sweet water." See also Textual Criticism 3:12b.
12a olives Cultural and Religious Significance James' reference to olives in his analogy would have been familiar to his Mediterranean readers; on the cultural and religious significance of olives (especially in connection with olive oil and anointing), see Ancient Texts 5:14c; Biblical Intertextuality 5:14c; Peritestamental Literature 5:14c.
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:
7b human nature Hellenistic Jewish Adoption of the Phrase The Greek anthrôpinê phusis (Ancient Texts 3:7b) was taken up in Hellenistic Judaism:
8c full of death-bearing poison Biblical Allusions Several Second Temple texts pick up on the biblical connection between deceitful tongues and the poison of snakes (Biblical Intertextuality 3:8c).
9a bless the Lord Liturgical Blessing A prayer blessing the Lord begins the Liturgy of the Eucharist in the Roman Catholic Mass:
12b no spring produces salty and sweet water Explanatory Variants The likely original text (as given in Nes) reads elliptically "neither salty produces sweet water." Various textual traditions added words, apparently in an attempt to clarify the meaning.
See also Grammar 3:12b.
12a grapevine Symbolism
Together with the fig tree, owning grapevines was a proverbial sign of self-sufficiency, security, and peace in ancient Israel. See above Biblical Intertextuality 3:12a.
In Isaiah's parable, the vineyard symbolizes Israel,and the Lord is the owner (Is 5:1-7). Although the Lord carefully tends the vineyard, it produces only wild grapes, a symbol of the people's unfaithfulness and corruption. Jesus took over this basic symbolism in his parable of the vineyard (Mk 12:1-12) See also Ps 80:8, Jer 2:21; Hos 10:1 for Israel as a grapevine.
In the Gospel of John (Jn 15:1-17) Jesus applies the imagery to himself: "I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower." His disciples are the branches; those that did not bear fruit would be cut off and burned; branches that did bear fruit would be pruned so that they would bear even more fruit. See also Ancient Cultures 3:12a.
8b uncontrollable : Byz TR | Nes: unstable
א , A, and B read akatastatos ("unstable"); cf. also V.
8c poison and "rust": Polysemy or Homonymy? The dictionaries vary in deciding whether the noun ios is a case of polysemy (one word with two meanings) or a case of homonymy, i.e. the two nouns have no etymological relation. James uses ios in both meanings:
11f sweet and bitter Metonymous Use: Drinkable and Undrinkable Water
11 pour forth Image of Overflowing Abundance The Greek bruô has the sense of something being full to the point of overflowing; it can also refer to budding plants. This may well be a conscious allusion to Jesus' teaching: "For from the fullness (perisseuma) of the heart the mouth speaks" (Mt 12:34).
8b uncontrollable Echo James' original text read akatastasos ("unstable"). See also Textual Criticism 3:8b. James uses the same word to describe the double-minded man in Jas 1:8; the noun form is used in Jas 3:16, which can be translated as "instability."
James thus connects the instability of the double-minded person (who is caught between his attraction to sin and his attraction to God) with the instability of a person's tongue (which speaks both good and evil: cf. Jas 3:9). This internal instability within a person results in instability within the community: "For wherever there is jealousy and rivalry, there is instability and every low-minded practice" (Jas 3:16).
11f Comparisons with Nature
To support his point that one should not both bless God and curse others, James draws some analogies from nature:
The point of the comparisons is that nothing in nature acts against its own nature. Thus James argues not simply that it is inconsistent to bless God and curse others, but rather that such behavior contradicts human nature. God gave humans speech in order to worship God (Jas 3:9a) and to facilitate a harmonius life together (cf. Jas 3:17-18).
See also Ancient Texts 3:7a.
James' image in 3:11 relies on a visual similarity between the human mouth and the opening of a spring: two types of water gushing forth from a single opening correspond with righteous and unrighteous speech coming forth from a single mouth.
12a Can a fig tree Acting According to One’s Nature Hellenistic authors often used agricultural analogies to make the point that all things, including human beings, should act according to their nature in order to reach their fulfillment.
Stoic thought makes a clear distinction between the the nature of a good person and the nature of a bad person (phaulos).
Seneca applies this teaching to moral context: an action is good or bad based on its own nature, not on human opinion:
9b come into existence according to the likeness of God Moral Application of Gn 1:26-28
James uses the phrase kath' homoiôsin theou gegonotas, alluding to G-Gn 1:26: "Let us make humans in our image (kat' eikona) and in our likeness (kath' homoiôsin)." G uses the verb poieiô for creating, while James uses the perfect of gignomai. James is unusual in the biblical tradition in his reference to the "likeness" (homoiôsis); most references back to the creation accounts (e.g., Gn 5:1; 9:6) recall the phrase "in our image" (kat' eikona).
James alludes to Gn 1:26-28 (humans, make in God's image and likeness, so as to rule over all other living creatures); cf. Gn 5:1. James' reference reinforces the similar allusion in Jas 3:7: humans are able to tame every other creature, alluding to God's commandment "to have dominion over" the rest of creation (Biblical Intertextuality 3:7b).
Gn 9:6 reads, "Anyone who sheds the blood of a human being, by a human being shall that one's blood be shed; For in the image of God have human beings been made." The implication is that it is a horrendous crime to kill someone who is created in God's image. Two justifications for this view are possible:
9b curse humans who have come into existence according to the likeness of God Moral Implications of Human Creation in the Divine Image In Second Temple Jewish texts one finds further expansions of the two moral implications of the divine image: (1) the one who disrespects humans made in the divine image disrespects the creator of that image; (2) humans should be treated well because they are made in the divine image (Biblical Intertextuality 3:9b; Theology 3:9b).
11 sweet and bitter An Apocalyptic Sign: Confusion in Nature
James does not allude to these eschatological signs, however. His point is to emphasize the regular order in nature as a foil for a disordered human nature.
11 a spring + from the same opening / Metaphor for Inner and Outer Logos? James' choice of a spring pouring forth through its opening as a metaphor for human speech is not original. uses the image to illustrate the distinction between the inner logos (reason within the human mind) and the outer logos (speech). Philo here draws on a Stoic distinction between an internal logos (endiathetos logos) and a "spoken" or "uttered" word (prophorikos logos; e.g., →SVF 2.43).
9a God Variations of the Divine Name The Sahidic Coptic and some Syriac, Vulgate, and Boharic Coptic manuscripts, read theos ("God") instead of kurios (Textual Criticism 3:9a).
7 every nature of beast ...has been tamed: Examples of Tamed Animals The tradition illustrates James' statement that all species have been tamed with specific examples:
7a every nature of beasts and of birds Allegorical Interpretation → ad loc. holds that James wishes to to show that the human tongue surpasses various animals in their vices. Each point is supported by a scriptural proof-text: Ep. cath.
→Gloss. Ord. (V) ad loc. quotes interpretation (col. 1286).
8b uncontrollable evil Dangers of Uncontrolled Speech
In his discussion on the dangers of speaking too much, Gregory the Great quotes this passage together with Jas 1:19 and Jas 1:26. He connects these texts with Jesus' teaching in Mt 12:36, "on the day of judgment people will render an account for every careless word they speak."
10b ought not to be A Expression from the Classical Greek The classical Greek impersonal expression ou chrê is rare in Koine Greek, where it was largely replaced by dei. It does not appear elsewhere in the NT or in G.
7f every nature of beast ...no human: Contrastive Comparison and Hyperbole In the previous verse, James established the meaning of "tongue": by metonymy, it stands for uncontrolled speech (Literary Devices 3:6a). Here James uses a contrastive comparison to emphasize the difficulty of controlling the tongue: although humans can tame wild animals, they cannot control their own speech. James' word choice creates an absolute contrast: every kind of animal has been tamed, but no human being can tame the tongue.
James' use of hyperbole to emphasize his point here is clear from the following, since he assumes that humans do have the ability to control their tongue:
It is unlikely that James literally believed that all animals have been tamed. Rather, James exagerrates, using hyperbole to drive home his point about the difficulty of controlling one's speech.
9 bless the Lord ...curse humans: Reiterating Central Themes of James: Contrastive Comparisons James' reference to blessing the Lord and cursing humans builds on several themes prominent in James:
James closely connects worship of God and practical ethics, for example:
Blessing the Lord while cursing the humans is an example of what James calls double-mindedness (Jas 1:8). The person displays an inner conflict; he is divided, attempting to follow both values associated with God and values associated with "the world" (cf. Jas 4:4). This internal division is a variation of James' overriding theme that all division is sinful: his goal is unity and integrity both within each person and within the community. See also →James: Perfection / Wholeness in James .
9f curse Cursing in Ancient Cultures
The curse (Greek verb: kataraomai; noun: katara): is a wish that harm or disaster befall another person. Motives for cursing vary and include envy or desire to avenge a past wrong. Other curses involve future actions, cursing those who would transgress some sacred law. This category may also involve a self-curse. Often a divine power is invoked to carry out the curse. Many formal curses were inscribed on thin lead sheets (Greek: katadesmos; Latin: defixio).
In addition to these more formal, written, or ritualized curses, there were doubtless many informal curses.
Following are some examples of curses found in literature:
7a nature of beast Use of Hellenistic Terminology The Greek word phusis, generally translated as "nature," can also denote what modern science might call a "species"; thus → 6.1.1 uses Hist. plant.phusis to refer to different classes of plants.
For Aristotle, phusis is an auto-motive force that brings about growth oriented to a relative state of stasis (i.e., the telos):
See further →. 1946
7b tamed by human nature Common Stoic Topos: Human Ability to Control Nature The human ability to control and benefit from nature is a common Stoic topos.
7a every nature of beast Classes of Animals Dividing animals into four classes is common in Scripture. Following are the four general classes together with their usual names in G:
The paradigmatic reference occurs in the creation account of Gn 1:26-28, which employs ichthus, peteinon, ktênon, and herpeton. Many other lists occur, commonly using the four-fold division: e.g., Gn 9:2; Dt 4:17-18; Ps 148:10; Hos 4:3; Acts 11:6 (all from G).
James' use of peteinon, thêrion, and herpeton is standard in G. His use of the adjective enalios for "sea creatures," however, is unusual: it is unattested elsewhere in Greek Bible. An interesting parallel is → 345: Ant.pontou t' einalian phusin, "the watery brood of the sea" ( 1891, 34-35), which occurs within a discussion of the human dominance over animals.
9f bless the Lord + curse humans / Application of Jesus’ Teaching?
9a bless the Lord and Father Reference to the Liturgical Worship of God With the phrase "bless the Lord," James likely refers to prayers said during liturgical worship.
James likely refers to the blessing formula used in prayers:
For the combination of Lord and Father, see
9b curse Prevalence of Cursing in the OT In G kataraomai means to invoke a curse on someone:
Passages often pair the promise of God's blessings with the threat of his curses:
12a fig tree Symbolism
Owning one's own fig tree was a proverbial sign of self-sufficiency and calm in ancient Israel: "Every one sat under his vine and fig tree, with no one to disturb them" (1Mc 14:12; cf. 1Kgs 5:5). See also Jl 1:12 for the opposite symbolism.
The fig tree also figured in visions of eschatological plenty: "the people shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks...Every man shall sit under his own vine or under his own fig tree, undisturbed" (Mi 4:3-4; cf. Zec 3:10).
Jesus' parables refer to fig trees (cf. Mt 24:32: sprouting leaves as a sign of summer); especially significant are references to their ability to produce fruit (cf. Lk 13:6-9). Jesus' cursing of a fig tree has been seen as a symbolic foreshadowing of the coming destruction of the Jerusalem Temple (Mk 11:12-14,20-25).
Jesus' teaching recorded in Luke connects this principle explicitly with speaking:
Moreover, Mk 11:12-13,20-21: in Jesus' enacted parable, he curses a fig tree that does not produce fruit.
It is unclear, however, whether James relies on Jesus' teaching here or on common themes of the Greek philosophical tradition (Ancient Texts 3:12a).
10a Out of the same mouth come forth blessing and cursing Relationship of Blessing and Cursing
In contrast to James' wholly negative view of cursing, Philo sees its benefits:
9a bless the Lord Blessing Formulas in Rabbinic Prayers Phrases blessing the Lord are common in rabbinic prayers:
9b made according to the likeness of God Moral Implications of the Divine Image Rabbi Akiva thus comments on the central biblical principle of Lv 19:18, "Love your neighbor as yourself":
2b–12 Divisio Textus
See also →James: Medieval Divisio Textus .
9b likeness of God Reflection on God's Image in Humans
Later commentators reflect on whether the likeness of God in humans is still discernable:
11f Logical Interpretation The Gnomon Novi Testamenti summarizes James' verses thus :
11 spring Allegorical Interpretations The passage was given various allegorical interpretations:
9b made according to the likeness of God The Catechism's Teaching on the Divine Image in Humans The Catechism teaches:
The image of God is the fundamental basis of human dignity, which distinguishes humanity the rest of creation (→CCC 356-57).
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.
9f we bless ...we curse: Condemnation of Hypocrisy and Double-mindedness
12 Allegorical Interpretations of Figs, Olives, and Grapes According to → ad loc.: Ep. cath.
12a grapevine Cultural Value of the Grape Grapes were an important crop in ancient Mediterranean cultures. They were eaten directly, dried to make raisins, used as a source of leaven for baking bread, or fermented to make wine, a dietary staple. A good harvest from the grapevines was essential to the prosperity of these societies (cf. Jl 2:22). Sir 39:31 (G-39:26) identifies "the blood of the grape" as one of the basic necessities of life.
10a Out of the same mouth Integrity in Speech Many biblical passages support James' point that human speech must be integral and not divided:
9a Lord V S Nes: The Title "Lord" in James On James' application of the title "Lord" to both God the Father and to Jesus, see →James: The Title Kurios in James.
8a the tongue no human can tame Debate on Sin, Free Will, and Grace
Augustine reports that Pelagius had argued that this passage should be taken ironically, so that James is really reproaching his reader, "You can tame wild animals; can you not tame your tongue?" Augustine, however, argues that James meant the phrase literally: No human is able to control his tongue, and this knowledge should drive us to seek God's grace.