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#Iste, ajdelfoiv mou ajgaphtoiv: e[stw de; pa'" a[nqrwpo" tacu;" eij" to;
ajkou'sai, bradu;" eij" to; lalh'sai, bradu;" eij" ojrghvn.
20 ojrgh; ga;r ajndro;" dikaiosuvnhn qeou' oujk ejrgavzetai. 21 dio; ajpoqevmenoi
pa'san rJuparivan kai; perisseivan kakiva" ejn prau?thti, devxasqe to;n
e[mfuton lovgon to;n dunavmenon sw'sai ta;" yuca;" uJmw'n.
22 Givnesqe de; poihtai; lovgou kai; mh; movnon ajkroatai; paralogizovmenoi eJautouv". 23 o&ti ei[ ti" ajkroath;" lovgou ejsti;n kai; ouj poihthv", ou|to" e[oiken ajndri; katanoou'nti to; provswpon th'" genevsew" aujtou' ejn ejsovptrw/. 24 katenovhsen ga;r eJauto;n kai; ajpelhvluqen kai; eujqevw" ejpelavqeto oJpoi'o" h\n. 25 oJ de; parakuvya" eij" novmon tevleion to;n th'" ejleuqeriva" kai; parameivna", oujk ajkroath;" ejpilhsmonh'" genovmeno" ajlla; poihth;" e[rgou, ou|to" makavrio" ejn th'/ poihvsei aujtou' e[stai.
26 Ei[ ti" dokei' qrhsko;" ei\nai mh; calinagwgw'n glw'ssan aujtou' ajlla; ajpatw'n kardivan aujtou', touvtou mavtaio" hJ qrhskeiva. 27 qrhskeiva kaqara; kai; ajmivanto" para; tw'/ qew'/ kai; patri; au&th ejstivn, ejpiskevptesqai ojrfanou;" kai; chvra" ejn th'/ qlivyei aujtw'n, a[spilon eJauto;n threi'n ajpo; tou' kovsmou.
|(25) 1.19 Know this,
my dear brothers.
every person be quick to listen,
If someone thinks himself
(37) 1.27 religion . . . is this:
(1) to see after orphans
The rhetorical structure of the passage is relatively easy to determine and is reflected in the threefold paragraphing of most recent English translations of vv. 19-27.
Verses 19-21 hang together as a literary unit made up of a couple of admonitions with the tone of a warning (core statements 25 and 26) and followed a causal defense ("for") of the admonitions (core statement 27) and then by an application ("Therefore") in the tone of a positive admonition (core statement 28) as a corrective.
The second pericope, verses 22 - 25, grows out of the positive admonition in core statement 28 along the lines of the axiom, "Correct listening leads to correct obedience." Internally, the pericope begins with a twofold admonition (core statements 29 and 30), in which obeying the Word follows hearing the Word. The following statements (31-35) set up a defense ("for") of these admonitions. The defense is first developed from a negative view (statements 31-34), then from a positive view through a beatitude (statement 35). The conditional if-clause in statement 31 sets up a scenario of just listening without obeying. Such a person is compare to a man in the everyday life situation of using a mirror to examine his face (statements 31-34). If the use of the mirror doesn't result in making changes to his appearance, then the time spent with the mirror is useless. The positive side of the defense is seen in the elaborately structured beatitude in statement 35 where divine blessing is invoked on the one who both correctly listens and obeys.
The third pericope, verses 26-27, proposes some 'tests' of correct obedience. Again the negative (statement 36) is followed by the positive (statement 37). The first 'test' is in the area of controlling one's tongue. Failure to keep one's speech under control reflects serious spiritual problems deep down inside the individual. This can amount to a disasterious spiritual self-deception and/or deception of other people. The positive 'tests' are set forth in statement 37 in the sacrifical language of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem. Two traditional Jewish reflections of genuine piety are set forth: (1) ministry to the helpless ones of society (orphans and widows) and (2) personal holiness.
1. One of the crucial interpretative assumptions for correct understanding of this passage has to do with whether this passage addresses day to day Christian interaction, especially at the point of dialogue with others. Or, whether this passage is addressing the issue of public worship of the believing community where the Word of God is proclaimed.
For those with the ability to read German, see my sermon, "Predigthören," under Sermons in the Spiritual Resources section of Cranfordville.com. This sermon was originally preached at the Evangelisch-Freikirchliche Gemeinde in Bonn Germany and then later published in the German Baptist national magagine, Die Gemeinde. An English translation of this text is also available entitled "Sermon Listening." Both texts are in the Adobe PDF format.
Inside verses 19-27, look for signals indicating which of these assumptions is the better one. List them below.
Study of 1:19-21:
2. Examine the above translations for the different translations of the first expression in verse 19 (that is, core statement 25). Identify the two approaches to translation, where this statement is actually translated rather than ignored:
Declarative statement:3. Which one of these translation patterns links statement 25 with the preceeding passage of 1:13-18?
4. Compare James 1:19-20 to the words of Rabbi Simeon ben Gamaliel I in Pirke Aboth 1.17:
James 1:19-20. 19 You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for your anger does not produce God's righteousness.How do James' words compare to Jewish wisdom expressions of his own day? Rabbi Simeon was the son of Paul's Jewish teacher, Gamaliel.
Pirke Aboth. 17 Simeon his son said: All my days I have grown up among the Wise, and I have not found anything better than silence; and not study is the chief thing but action; and whoso makes many words occasions sin.
5. Compare the above translations of verse 20. Which phrase is treated
6. Compare James 1:22-25 to Matt. 7:21-24 and Rom. 2:13. What is the common link among these passages?
James 1:22-25 (NRSV). 22 But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. 23 For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; 24 for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. 25 But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act — they will be blessed in their doing.
Matt. 7:21-24 (NRSV). 21 "Not everyone who says to me, "Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, "Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?' 23 Then I will declare to them, "I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.'
Rom. 2:13 (NRSV). 13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous in God's sight, but the doers of the law who will be justified.
7. Compare the above translations of the phrase "every evil growth"
in 1:21. Describe what this phrase is talking about.
Study of 1:22-25.
8. What is the logical basis for the use of the analogy in statement
31-34? That is, how is looking a one's face in the mirror like being only
a hearer of the Word?
9. What is the meaning of the phrases "implanted Word" (statement 28),
"the Word" (statements 29, 31), and the "fautless law of liberty" (statement
10. Compare Jas. 1:25 to Luke 11:28 and John 13:17. What is the connection of these passages to one another?
James 1:25 (NRSV). But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act — they will be blessed in their doing.
Luke 11:28 (NRSV). But he said, "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!"
John 13:17 (NRSV). If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.
Study of 1:26-27.
11. Compare 1:26 to Jas. 3:1-12. What insights about the tongue does 3:1-12 provide?
James 1:26 (NRSV). If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless.
James 3:1-12 (NRSV). 1 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. 2 For all of us make many mistakes. Anyone who makes no mistakes in speaking is perfect, able to keep the whole body in check with a bridle. 3 If we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we guide their whole bodies. 4 Or look at ships: though they are so large that it takes strong winds to drive them, yet they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. 5 So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great exploits.
How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is placed among our members as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole body, sets on fire the cycle of nature, and is itself set on fire by hell. 7 For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, 8 but no one can tame the tongue — a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and brackish water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brothers and sisters,yield olives, or a grapevine figs? No more can salt water yield fresh.
12. Compare 1:27 to Deut. 14:29, 24:17-22; Acts 6:1-16; 1 Tim. 5:3-16. What was the ancient Jewish attitude toward orphans and widows?
James 1:27 (NRSV). Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
Deut. 14:29 (NRSV). the Levites, because they have no allotment or inheritance with you, as well as the resident aliens, the orphans, and the widows in your towns, may come and eat their fill so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work that you undertake.
Deut. 24:17-22 (NRSV). 17 You shall not deprive a resident alien or an orphan of justice; you shall not take a widow's garment in pledge. 18 Remember that you were a slave in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you from there; therefore I command you to do this. 19 When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be left for the alien, the orphan, and the widow, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all your undertakings. 20 When you beat your olive trees, do not strip what is left; it shall be for the alien, the orphan, and the widow. 21 When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, do not glean what is left; it shall be for the alien, the orphan, and the widow. 22 Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I am commanding you to do this.
Acts 6:1-6 (NRSV). 1 Now during those days, when the disciples were increasing in number, the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food. 2 And the twelve called together the whole community of the disciples and said, "It is not right that we should neglect the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3 Therefore, friends, select from among yourselves seven men of good standing, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this task, 4 while we, for our part, will devote ourselves to prayer and to serving the word." 5 What they said pleased the whole community, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, together with Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. 6 They had these men stand before the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.
1 Tim. 5:3-16 (NRSV). 1 Do not speak harshly to an older man, but speak to him as to a father, to younger men as brothers, 2 to older women as mothers, to younger women as sisters—with absolute purity.
3 Honor widows who are really widows. 4 If a widow has children or grandchildren, they should first learn their religious duty to their own family and make some repayment to their parents; for this is pleasing in God's sight. 5 The real widow, left alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day; 6 but the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives. 7 Give these commands as well, so that they may be above reproach. 8 And whoever does not provide for relatives, and especially for family members, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. 9 Let a widow be put on the list if she is not less than sixty years old and has been married only once; 10 she must be well attested for her good works, as one who has brought up children, shown hospitality, washed the saints' feet, helped the afflicted, and devoted herself to doing good in every way. 11 But refuse to put younger widows on the list; for when their sensual desires alienate them from Christ, they want to marry, 12 and so they incur condemnation for having violated their first pledge. 13 Besides that, they learn to be idle, gadding about from house to house; and they are not merely idle, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not say. 14 So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, and manage their households, so as to give the adversary no occasion to revile us. 15 For some have already turned away to follow Satan. 16 If any believing woman has relatives who are really widows, let her assist them; let the church not be burdened, so that it can assist those who are real widows.
13. What was the situation of orphans and widows in the ancient Jewish world? In first century Hellenism?
Describe the Easton's Bible Dictionary listing for Jewish and Christian views under:
(Lamentations 5:3), i.e., desolate and without protectors. The word occurs only here. In John 14:18 the word there rendered "comfortless" (RSV, "desolate;" marg., "orphans") properly means "orphans." The same Greek word is rendered "fatherless" in James 1:27.
"to be treated with kindness (Exodus 22:22; Deuteronomy 14:29; 16:11,14; 24:17,19-21; 26:12; 27:19, etc.). In the New Testament the same tender regard for them is inculcated (Acts 6:1-6; 1 Timothy 5:3-16) and exhibited."
Describe the Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible listing (online) for Jewish and Christian views of widow:
[hnmla; chvra]. Many references to the widow indicate that hers was an unfortunate state and that she was frequently subjected to harsh treatment. As an object of public concern she is often linked with the orphan or fatherless. When judgment and destruction threaten or are imagined as having come, she is included among its victims. A special class of widows is found in the early Christian community. Cities may be symbolically designated as widows.
1. Laws concerning widows
2. Harsh treatment of widows
3. The widow as an object of compassion
4. Special class of widows in the Christian community
5. Symbolical use of the term
1. Laws concerning widows. "In every code except the Hebrew, the widow has rights of inheritance but in Hebrew law she is completely ignored" (see the work of T. J. Meek in the bibliography). One reason for this strange neglect may be the Hebrew belief that death before old age was a calamity, a judgment for sin which was extended to the wife that was left. It was therefore a disgrace to be a widow (Ruth 1:20-21; Isa. 54:4: "the reproach of your widowhood"). On the other hand, several laws do consider her plight or recognize her existence. The law of levirate marriage, whatever its primary purpose, gives her considerable security (see MARRIAGE § lg; INHERITANCE). A childless widow could return to her father's house, at least if she was the daughter of a priest (Lev. 22:13; cf. Ruth 1:8), where she might wait for a levirate marriage, even with a late husband's brother who was too young for marriage or not yet born (Gen. 38:11; Ruth 1:11). But if there were no brothers or if they were too poor to support the widow, she was without other recourse. The law gave her some recognition, nonetheless. If she took an oath, it stood, since she had no husband who might revoke it (Num. 30:9). The widow could remarry (Lev. 21:14; Ruth 1:9, 13 I Sam. 25:1; Ezek. 44:22).
2. Harsh treatment of widows. The stern condemnations voiced by the prophets and other writers against injustice include attacks upon the mistreatment of widows (Isa. 1:23c; 10:2; cf. Job 22:9; 24:3; 31:16; Ps. 94:6). In the day of judgment God will take swift action against those who oppress hired laborers and the widow and the orphan (Mal. 3:5). The prominence of these strong words of denunciation abundantly testifies to the prevalence of oppressive treatment of the widow in biblical society. "Widow" in Hebrew resembles the word meaning "be mute," !la, suggesting the muteness induced by disgraceful widowhood. Her plight may have been aggravated by the possibility that she wore identifying garments (Gen. 38:14, 19).
3. The widow as an object of compassion. The biblical concern for the widow is evidence that she needed it because of her inferior position in the community. She evidently had only the protection which public compassion afforded her by acts of charity and justice. The Law and the Prophets, as well as some of the Writings of the OT, contain evidence of this situation. It appears also in NT writings. As a member of the covenant community the widow must receive the same merciful treatment as that which is given to the sojourner and the fatherless (Deut. 14:29); her garment must not be taken in pledge (24:17; cf. Amos 2:8), because she may own only one, in all likelihood. The process of gathering grain and grapes should take into account the hunger of the widow and leave some of the harvest for gleaning purposes (Deut. 24:19-21). The Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow are to be given the tithe of the produce in the third year (26:12; cf. 27:19).
The widow is under the special care of God, who provides her with food and clothing (Deut. 10:18). So gracious will be the kindness of God that he will sustain the fatherless children and preserve the widows if they put their trust in him (Jer. 49:11). God is declared to be the "father of the fatherless and protector of widows" (Ps. 68:5). He watches over the forlorn and needy, the fatherless and those without husbands (146:9). Jesus reaffirmed the biblical view of God's concern for the widow by speaking with anger of those who devour widow's houses and then make long prayers (Luke 20:47). This biblical emphasis is interestingly paralleled by a passage in the so-called "Legend of King Keret" (see bibliography): "Thou [the king] didst use to judge the cause of the widow ... to drive out them that prey upon the poor" (Krt. C:45). God's compassion for the widow must be reflected in the concern of the faithful for her welfare (Jas. 1:27).
4. Special class of widows in the Christian community. Judging from the language of I Tim. 5:3, 9, there appeared in the early church a group of women called "real widows" (cf. Acts 6:1; 9:39). This was a group to which not all women who were widows could belong. The passage cited states that the "real widow" is to be honored. She must learn her religious duties as these relate to life in her own family, and help her parents. She sets her hope on God and engages in prayer day and night. She must be at least sixty years of age and married only once. Her duties include rearing of children, showing hospitality, "washing the feet of the saints," and helping the needy. Younger widows should not be enrolled as "real widows," for they will desire to marry again I Tim. 5:11). The existence of this order of widows is attested by early church leaders, such as Ignatius (Smyr. 13:1) and Polycarp (Phil. 4:3).
5. Symbolical use of the term. The term for "widow" is applied to the city of Babylon. To her will come both widowhood and loss of children (Isa. 47:9)—loss, i.e., of her population. Desolated Israel is to be of good cheer and to forget the "reproach of [her] widowhood" (54:4d). Sad at heart, one poet says that Jerusalem sits lonely; she has become like a widow (Lam. 1:1). Another cries out: "Our mothers are like widows," and then mentions poverty and servitude as proof of this (5:3-4). A Christian seer hears an angel cry out that Babylon is fallen and another voice exclaim that she is complacent, confidently declaring: "I am no widow, mourning I shall never see" (Rev. 18:7d).
From a concordance listing for "orphans" (21 uses) in the NRSV, summarize the biblical admonitions.
From a concordance listing for "widows" (32 uses) in the NRSV, summarize the biblical admonitions.
Application of the Text:
1. How hard is it for you to be attentive in church?
2. How consistently do you apply in daily living what you learn from
3. How well would you "pass the test" of the three areas of piety described
For Further Study:
See the Bibliography listing for James under Bibliography,
especially Individual Volumes and Articles.