Lesson 03=====The Letter of James=====James 1:13-18
Last revised: 3/11/03

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The Greek Text
        1:13 mhdei;" peirazovmeno" legevtw o&ti  jApo; qeou' peiravzomai. oJ ga;r qeo;" ajpeivrastov" ejstin kakw'n, peiravzei de; aujto;" oujdevna. 1:14 e&kasto" de; peiravzetai uJpo; th'" ijdiva" ejpiqumiva" ejxelkovmeno" kai; deleazovmeno"1:15 ei\ta hJ ejpiqumiva sullabou'sa tivktei aJmartivan, hJ de; aJmartiva ajpotelesqei'sa ajpokuvei qavnaton. 
        1:16 Mh; plana'sqe, ajdelfoiv mou ajgaphtoiv. 1:17 pa'sa dovsi" ajgaqh; kai; pa'n dwvrhma tevleion a[nwqevn ejstin katabai'non ajpo; tou' patro;" tw'n fwvtwn, par j w|/ oujk e[ni parallagh; h] troph'" ajposkivasma. 1:18 boulhqei;" ajpekuvhsen hJma'" lovgw/ ajlhqeiva" eij" to; ei\nai hJma'" ajparchvn tina tw'n aujtou' ktismavtwn.

Scripture Text Translations:

Form Oriented
Translations:
Mixed Method
Translations:
Content Oriented
Translations:
KJV
        13 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: 14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. 15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. 16 Do not err, my beloved brethren. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. 18 Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. 
RSV
        13 Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself tempts no one; 14 but each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full-grown brings forth death. 16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. 17 Every good endowment and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. 18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.
NLT
        13 And remember, no one who wants to do wrong should ever say, "God is tempting me." God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else either.14 Temptation comes from the lure of our own evil desires.15 These evil desires lead to evil actions, and evil actions lead to death. 16 So don't be misled, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Whatever is good and perfect comes to us from God above, who created all heaven's lights.F4 Unlike them, he never changes or casts shifting shadows. 18 In his goodness he chose to make us his own children by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his choice possession.
-------------
Footnotes:
F4: Greek from above, from the Father of lights
NKJV
        13 Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. 16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. 18 Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures. 
NRSV
        13 No one, when tempted, should say, "I am being tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one. 14 But one is tempted by one's own desire, being lured and enticed by it; 15 then, when that desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and that sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death. 16 Do not be deceived, my beloved.F5 17 Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.F6 18 In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures.
-------------------
Footnotes:
F5: Gk my beloved brothers
F6: Other ancient authorities read variation due to a shadow of turning
GNT
        13 If we are tempted by such trials, we must not say, "This temptation comes from God." For God cannot be tempted by evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But we are tempted when we are drawn away and trapped by our own evil desires. 15 Then our evil desires conceive and give birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. 16 Do not be deceived, my dear friends! 17 Every good gift and every perfect present comes from heaven; it comes down from God, the Creator of the heavenly lights, who does not change or cause darkness by turning. 18 By his own will he brought us into being through the word of truth, so that we should have first place among all his creatures.
NASB
        13 Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted byF14 God"; for God cannot be tempted byF15 evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. 15 Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin isF16 accomplished, it brings forth death. 16 Do not be deceived,F17 my beloved brethren. 17 Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shiftingF18 shadow. 18 In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be aF19 kind of first fruits amongF20 His creatures. 
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Footnotes:
F14: Lit from
F15: Lit of evil things
F16: Lit is brought to completion
F17: Or misled
F18: Lit shadow of turning
F19: Or a certain first fruits
F20: Lit of
NIV
        13 When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. 
        16 Don't be deceived, my dear brothers. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.
BBE
        13 Let no man say when he is tested, I am tested by God; for it is not possible for God to be tested by evil, and he himself puts no man to such a test: 14 But every man is tested when he is turned out of the right way by the attraction of his desire. 15 Then when its time comes, desire gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is of full growth, gives birth to death. 16 Do not be turned from the right way, dear brothers.17 Every good and true thing is given to us from heaven, coming from the Father of lights, with whom there is no change or any shade made by turning. 18 Of his purpose he gave us being, by his true word, so that we might be, in a sense, the first-fruits of all the things which he had made.


 

---Click icon for diagram of Greek text.---Block Diagram---Click icon for diagramming instructions.
     1.13               when being tempted
(16)      Let no one say,
                          "I am tempted by God";
               for
(17)      God is incapable of being tempted by evil
               and
(18)      He does not tempt anyone.

     1.14      Rather
(19)      each person is tempted
                            by his own passion
                            when he is lured and enticed;
     1.15      then
                     when conceived
(20)      passion gives birth to sin,
               and
                 when fully matured
(21)      sin produces death.

(22) 1.16 Don't be led astray,
               my dear brothers.

     1.17 All good giving
               and
(23)      every perfect gift is from above
                               coming down
                                  from the Father of lights
                                              with whom there is no variation
                                                                      or
                                                                 shadow
                                                                     cast by turning.

     1.18       Of his own accord
(24)      He gave us birth
                by the Word of Truth
                so that we might be a certain first-fruit of His creation.
 

Summary:
      The first part (vv. 13-16) of 1:13-18 deals with the origin of temptation and reflects perspectives that were common in the Judaism of the first Christian century. The second part (vv. 17-18) affirms in strong language the complete goodness and graciousness of God as he relates to humanity, especially his own people. Commonly used patterns of ancient Jewish scribal argumentation are reflected in this section. The common link between the two segments is the emphasis upon God. First, from a denial that He is involved in anything negatively oriented toward us, then positively from the standpoint of His actions toward us.
       One significant interpretative issue structurally in the passage is the role of verse 16 (statement 22 in the above block diagram). Some commentators see it connected to what precedes as a climactic statement, while others see it as introducing what follows. Which ever view that is adopted will basically determine the precise meaning of the admonition against being deceived -- over either the nature of temptation, or the nature of God.
 

Exegetical Issues:

Literary Context Concerns:
1. Describe the possible connection of 1:13-18 with 1:2-12.

Note carefully the use of the noun (testing, peirasmov") as a boundary definer in 1:2-12 (verses 2 and 12), then the verb (tempt, peiravzw) from the same root stem in 1:13. Especially compare the Bible in Basic English translation above in both passages.

 
 
 
 
 

Study of 1:13-16
2. Explain James' view on temptation and its origin in relation to the view of temptation in Genesis 3:1-24. Are they the same, especially at the point of the origin of temptation? Are they different? If so, how?

Gen. 3:1-24 (NRSV). 1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God say, "You shall not eat from any tree in the garden'?" 2 The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; 3 but God said, "You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.' " 4 But the serpent said to the woman, "You will not die; 5 for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."
        6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves. 8 They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.
        9 But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, "Where are you?" 10 He said, "I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself."
        11 He said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?" 12 The man said, "The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate." 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, "What is this that you have done?" The woman said, "The serpent tricked me, and I ate."14 The Lord God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this, cursed are you among all animals and among all wild creatures; upon your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. 15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel."
        16 To the woman he said, "I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you." 17 And to the man he said, "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten of the tree about which I commanded you, "You shall not eat of it,' cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; 18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return."
        20 The man named his wife Eve, because she was the mother of all living. 21 And the Lord God made garments of skins for the man and for his wife, and clothed them. 22 Then the Lord God said, "See, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever" 23 therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove out the man; and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a sword flaming and turning to guard the way to the tree of life.

Jas. 1:13-16 (NRSV). 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself tempts no one; 14 but each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full-grown brings forth death. 16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 

3. For a reflection of Jewish thought prior to James about temptation and its origin, compare James 1:13-16 to Sirach 15:11-20. Are they similar, especially at the point of the origin of temptation? Are they different? If so, how? Is James closer to the OT or to Sirach?

Sirach 15:11-20 (NRSV). 11 Do not say, "It was the Lord's doing that I fell away"; for he does not do what he hates. 12 Do not say, "It was he who led me astray"; for he has no need of the sinful. 13 The Lord hates all abominations; such things are not loved by those who fear him. 14 It was he who created humankind in the beginning, and he left them in the power of their own free choice. 15 If you choose, you can keep the commandments, and to act faithfully is a matter of your own choice. 16 He has placed before you fire and water; stretch out your hand for whichever you choose. 17 Before each person are life and death, and whichever one chooses will be given. 18 For great is the wisdom of the Lord; he is mighty in power and sees everything; 19 his eyes are on those who fear him, and he knows every human action. 20 He has not commanded anyone to be wicked, and he has not given anyone permission to sin.

Jas. 1:13-16 (NRSV). 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself tempts no one; 14 but each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full-grown brings forth death. 16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.


 
 
 

4.  Compare Paul's depiction of sin and death in Rom 7:7-24 to that of James. Are they similar, especially at the point of the origin of temptation? Are they different?

Rom. 7:7-24 (NRSV). 7 What then should we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet, if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, "You shall not covet." 8 But sin, seizing an opportunity in the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. Apart from the law sin lies dead. 9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived 10 and I died, and the very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity in the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good. 13 Did what is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, working death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.
        14 For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am of the flesh, sold into slavery under sin. 15 I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. 17 But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. 21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, 23 but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with my mind I am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin.

Jas. 1:13-16 (NRSV). 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself tempts no one; 14 but each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full-grown brings forth death. 16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.


 
 
 
 
 
 

5. What pictural language, i.e., metaphors, does James use in 1:14 to describe how 'passion' works? Compare the above translations of verse 14.
 
 
 

6. What is the metaphoral backdrop for James' depiction of how 'passion' leads to death in 1:15? Compare the above translations of verse 15.
 
 
 

7. What does James mean by 'death' in verse 15?
 
 
 
 

8. If James 1:16 comes as the climactic statement of 1:13-16, then describe what possible deception James is warning against?
 
 
 
 

Study of 1:17-18
9. Compare the above translations of verse 17a. A seven syllable hexameter literary structure exists in the underlying Greek text as illustrated below.

 1-2-3-4-5-6-7
pa'sa dovsi" ajgaqh;
pasa dosis agathe

 1---2-3-4-5-6-7
pa'n dwvrhma tevleion
pan dorema teleion

        Most scholars view this as intentional wording by James as a way to emphasize that absolutely everything good is coming down from God.
 
 
 
 

10. What does the phrase "Father of lights" mean in verse 17? What insight does Ps. 136:1-9, especially vv. 7-9 provide?

Psalm 136:1-9  (NRSV). 1 O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever. 2 O give thanks to the God of gods, for his steadfast love endures forever. 3 O give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his steadfast love endures forever; 4 who alone does great wonders, for his steadfast love endures forever; 5 who by understanding made the heavens, for his steadfast love endures forever; 6 who spread out the earth on the waters, for his steadfast love endures forever; 7 who made the great lights, for his steadfast love endures forever; 8 the sun to rule over the day, for his steadfast love endures forever; 9 the moon and stars to rule over the night, for his steadfast love endures forever;


11. What does the expression "no variation or shadow due to change" in verse 17 mean? Compare the above translations in light of the comments below:

Pheme Perkins, "The Book of James," Interpretation Commentary (online version):
"Several astronomical terms describe the nature of God. The "father of lights" created the stars (Apoc. Mos. 36:38; cf. Ps. 136:7). In God there is no parallage ("variation") or tropes aposkiasma ("shadow of turning"). The exact reference of these expressions is unclear. The term parallage can refer to any change or succession of events including the revolutions of the stars (Epictetus, Discourses 1.14.4). Trope can refer to the apogee of a heavenly body (Wisd. Sol. 7:18). Therefore the expression appears to refer to the revolution of the fixed stars and to the different lengths of shadow east by the sun depending on the time of year. In antiquity the motions of the stars were thought to be eternal and, unlike earthly things, never subject to decay or alteration. God is greater than the eternal astronomical bodies because no type of change occurs in God. Consequently, God's goodness will never change (R. Martin). This argument may have been directed originally against ancient belief in astrology. The "stars" cannot cause evil things to come down from heaven because of the unchanging goodness of their Creator."
 

David Bartlett, "James," Westminster Bible Companion (online version):
"James draws on a creation metaphor (that is, figurative expression) in referring to God as the "Father of lights" the, creator of the stars. First-century people observed with keen interest the movements of the heavenly bodies and their waxing and waning. James affirms that their creator and governor is exalted above any such change. Unlike the created heavenly bodies that shift in position and are darkened by the shadows of eclipse, God neither changes nor is changed by anything outside God's own self. As a familiar hymn, "Great is Thy Faithfulness," puts it, "there is no shadow of turning with thee." For this reason, it cannot be said that God, the giver of good gifts, could also inflict evils upon us (such as temptation). Such change would be contrary to the nature of God, whose constancy is one of goodness and love."


 
 
 

12. From statement 24 in the block diagram of Jas. 1:18 identify the following:

      Source of spiritual birth:

      Means of spiritual birth:

      Purpose of spiritual birth:
 

13. What does "a kind of first fruits of his creatures" in Jas. 1:18 mean? Compare the above translations for insights. Note especially the footnotes in some of the translations.
 
 
 
 
 

14. In 1:17-18, James made use of an ancient Jewish scribal pattern of argumentation called "light/heavy". The 'heavy argument,' often alluding to past confirmable experience, provided evidence for the 'light argument' referring to present and/or future experiences. Identify both sides of this thought structure:

   Light argument:
 

  Heavy argument:
 
 

Application of the Text:

1. When you face temptation, how do you cope with the responsibility for sin that may come out of it in your life?
 
 
 

2. Describe your image of God.
 
 
 

3. How much do you trust God to do nothing but good in your life?
 
 
 
 

For Further Study:

See the Bibliography listing for James under Bibliography, especially Individual Volumes and Articles.
 


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