James 3

The Power of the Tongue

1Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters,
Grk “brothers.” See note on the phrase “brothers and sisters” in 1:2.
because you know that we will be judged more strictly.
Grk “will receive a greater judgment.”
2For we all stumble
Or “fail.”
in many ways. If someone does not stumble
Or “fail.”
in what he says,
Grk “in speech.”
he is a perfect individual,
The word for “man” or “individual” is ἀνήρ (anēr), which often means “male” or “man (as opposed to woman).” But it sometimes is used generically to mean “anyone,” “a person,” as here (cf. BDAG 79 s.v. 2).
able to control the entire body as well.
3And if we put bits into the mouths of horses to get them to obey us, then we guide their entire bodies.
Grk “their entire body.”
4Look at ships too: Though they are so large and driven by harsh winds, they are steered by a tiny rudder wherever the pilot’s inclination directs. 5So too the tongue is a small part of the body,
Grk “a small member.”
yet it has great pretensions.
Grk “boasts of great things.”
Grk “Behold.”
how small a flame sets a huge forest ablaze.
6And the tongue is a fire! The tongue represents
Grk “makes itself,” “is made.”
the world of wrongdoing among the parts of our bodies. It
Because of the length and complexity of the Greek sentence, a new sentence was started here in the translation.
pollutes the entire body and sets fire to the course of human existence – and is set on fire by hell.
The word translated hell is “Gehenna” (γέεννα, geenna), a Greek transliteration of the Hebrew words ge hinnom (“Valley of Hinnom”). This was the valley along the south side of Jerusalem. In OT times it was used for human sacrifices to the pagan god Molech (cf. Jer 7:31; 19:5–6; 32:35), and it came to be used as a place where human excrement and rubbish were disposed of and burned. In the intertestamental period, it came to be used symbolically as the place of divine punishment (cf. 1 En. 27:2, 90:26; 4 Ezra 7:36).

7 For every kind of animal, bird, reptile, and sea creature
Grk (plurals), “every kind of animals and birds, of reptiles and sea creatures.”
is subdued and has been subdued by humankind.
Grk “the human species.”
8But no human being can subdue the tongue; it is a restless
Most mss (C Ψ 1739c Maj. as well as a few versions and fathers) read “uncontrollable” (ἀκατασχετόν, akatascheton), while the most important witnesses (א A B K P 1739* latt) have “restless” (ἀκατάστατον, akatastaton). Externally, the latter reading should be preferred. Internally, however, things get a bit more complex. The notion of being uncontrollable is well suited to the context, especially as a counterbalance to v. 8a, though for this very reason scribes may have been tempted to replace ἀκατάστατον with ἀκατασχετόν. However, in a semantically parallel early Christian text, ἀκατάστατος (akatastatos) was considered strong enough of a term to denounce slander as “a restless demon” (Herm. 27:3). On the other hand, ἀκατάστατον may have been substituted for ἀκατασχετόν by way of assimilation to 1:8 (especially since both words were relatively rare, scribes may have replaced the less familiar with one that was already used in this letter). On internal evidence, it is difficult to decide, though ἀκατασχετόν is slightly preferred. However, in light of the strong support for ἀκατάστατον, and the less-than-decisive internal evidence, ἀκατάστατον is preferred instead.
evil, full of deadly poison.
9With it we bless the Lord
Most later mss (Maj.), along with several versional witnesses, have θεόν (qeon, “God”) here instead of κύριον (kurion, “Lord”). Such is a predictable variant since nowhere else in the NT is God described as “Lord and Father,” but he is called “God and Father” on several occasions. Further, the reading κύριον is well supported by early and diversified witnesses (Ƥ20 א A B C P Ψ 33 81 945 1241 1739), rendering it as the overwhelmingly preferred reading.
and Father, and with it we curse people
Grk “men”; but here ἀνθρώπους (anqrōpous) has generic force, referring to both men and women.
made in God’s image.
10From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. These things should not be so, my brothers and sisters.
Grk “brothers.” See note on the phrase “brothers and sisters” in 1:2.
11A spring does not pour out fresh water and bitter water from the same opening, does it? 12Can a fig tree produce olives, my brothers and sisters,
Grk “brothers.” See note on the phrase “brothers and sisters” in 1:2.
or a vine produce figs? Neither can a salt water spring produce fresh water.

True Wisdom

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct he should show his works done in the gentleness that wisdom brings.
Grk “works in the gentleness of wisdom.”
14But if you have bitter jealousy and selfishness in your hearts, do not boast and tell lies against the truth. 15Such
Grk “This.”
wisdom does not come
Grk “come down”; “descend.”
from above but is earthly, natural,
Grk “soulish,” which describes life apart from God, characteristic of earthly human life as opposed to what is spiritual. Cf. 1 Cor 2:14; 15:44–46; Jude 19.
16For where there is jealousy and selfishness, there is disorder and every evil practice. 17But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, accommodating,
Or “willing to yield,” “open to persuasion.”
full of mercy and good fruit,
Grk “fruits.” The plural Greek term καρπούς has been translated with the collective singular “fruit.”
impartial, and not hypocritical.
Or “sincere.”
18And the fruit that consists of righteousness
Grk “the fruit of righteousness,” meaning righteous living as a fruit, as the thing produced.
is planted
Grk “is sown.”
in peace among
Or “for,” or possibly “by.”
those who make peace.

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