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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.
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.
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:
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:
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).
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).
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."
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:
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:
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
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.