Lesson 08=====The Letter of James=====James 3:13-18
Last revised: 3/20/03

Go directly to:
Scripture Passage Diagram Exegesis Application Bibliography
What is this? What is this? What is this? What is this? What is this? What is this?

To display any Greek and/or Hebrew text contained in this page, download and install the free BSTGreek/Hebrew True Type fonts from Bible Study Tools.
Some hyperlinked files are in the Adobe Acrobat PDF format. They can only be viewed by using the free Adobe Acrobat Reader available at 


The Greek Text
        13 Tiv" sofo;" kai; ejpisthvmwn ejn uJmi'n; deixavtw ejk th'" kalh'" ajnastrofh'" ta; e[rga aujtou' ejn prau?thti sofiva". 14 eij de; zh'lon pikro;n e[cete kai; ejriqeivan ejn th'/ kardiva/ uJmw'n, mh; katakauca'sqe kai; yeuvdesqe kata; th'" ajlhqeiva". 15 oujk e[stin au{th hJ sofiva a[nwqen katercomevnh ajlla; ejpivgeio", yucikhv, daimoniwvdh".  16 o&pou ga;r zh'lo" kai; ejriqeiva, ejkei' ajkatastasiva kai; pa'n fau'lon pra'gma. 17 hJ de; a[nwqen sofiva prw'ton me;n aJgnhv ejstin, e[peita eijrhvnikhv, ejpieikhv" eujpeiqhv", mesth; ejlevou" kai; karpw'n ajgaqw'n, ajdiavkrito", ajnupovkrito". 18 karpo;" de; dikaiosuvnh" ejn eijrhvnh/ speivretai toi'" poiou'sin eijrhvnhn. 

Scripture Text Translations:

Form Oriented
Translations:
Mixed Method
Translations:
Content Oriented
Translations:
KJV
13 Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. 14 But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. 15 This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual,F15 devilish. 16 For where envying and strife is, there is confusionF16 and every evil work. 17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality,F17 and without hypocrisy. 18 And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace. 
---------------
Footnotes:
F15: sensual: or, natural 
F16: confusion: Gr. tumult, unquietness 
F17: partiality: or, wrangling 
RSV
      3:13 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good life let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 3:14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 3:15 This wisdom is not such as comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. 3:16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 3:17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, without uncertainty or insincerity. 3:18 And the harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
NLT
       3:13 If you are wise and understand God's ways, live a life of steady goodness so that only good deeds will pour forth. And if you don't brag about the good you do, then you will be truly wise! 3:14 But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your hearts, don't brag about being wise. That is the worst kind of lie. 3:15 For jealousy and selfishness are not God's kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and motivated by the Devil. 3:16 For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and every kind of evil. 3:17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no partiality and is always sincere. 3:18 And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of goodness.
NKJV
        13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. 16 For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. 17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. 18 Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. 
NRSV
        13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. 15 Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. 16 For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace forF19 those who make peace.
----------------
Footnotes:
F19: Or by
GNT
        3:13 Are there any of you who are wise and understanding? You are to prove it by your good life, by your good deeds performed with humility and wisdom.R15 3:14 But if in your heart you are jealous, bitter, and selfish, don't sin against the truth by boasting of your wisdom. 3:15 Such wisdom does not come down from heaven; it belongs to the world, it is unspiritual and demonic. 3:16 Where there is jealousy and selfishness, there is also disorder and every kind of evil. 3:17 But the wisdom from above is pure first of all; it is also peaceful, gentle, and friendly; it is full of compassion and produces a harvest of good deeds; it is free from prejudice and hypocrisy. 3:18 And goodness is the harvest that is produced from the seeds the peacemakers plant in peace. 


CROSS REFERENCES:
R15: +23.13 Si 19.20-30. 
NASB
       3:13 Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. 3:14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfishF57 ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and {so} lie against the truth. 3:15 This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural,F58 demonic. 3:16 For where jealousy and selfishF59 ambition exist, thereF60 is disorder and every evil thing. 3:17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable,F61 full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. 3:18 And the seedF62 whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace byF63 those who make peace. 


FOOTNOTES:
F57: Or {strife} 
F58: Or {unspiritual} 
F59: V 14, note 1 
F60: I.e. in that place 
F61: Or {willing to yield} 
F62: Lit {fruit of righteousness} 
F63: Or {for} 
NIV
        13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such "wisdom" does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. 
        17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness. 
BBE
        13 Who has wisdom and good sense among you? let him make his works clear by a life of gentle wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter envy in your heart and the desire to get the better of others, have no pride in this, talking falsely against what is true. 15 This wisdom is not from heaven, but is of the earth and the flesh and the Evil One. 16 For where envy is, and the desire to get the better of others, there is no order, but every sort of evil-doing. 17 But the wisdom which is from heaven is first holy, then gentle, readily giving way in argument, full of peace and mercy and good works, not doubting, not seeming other than it is. 18 And the fruit of righteousness is planted in peace for those who make peace.


 

Click icon for diagram of Greek text.---Block Diagram---Click icon for diagramming instructions.

(94)  3.13  Who is wise
                        and
                 learned
                      among you?

(95)        Let him show his deeds
                                done in the humulity wisdom produces
                       out of his good conduct

      3.14       But
               if you possess bitter jealousy
                                   and
                              selfish ambition
                         in your hearts,
(96)        stop glorying
               in it
                 and
(97)        ---- lying
               against the Truth.
 

(98)  3.15  This wisdom is not coming down from above
                 but
(99)        ---- ------ is earthy,
                         sensual,
                         demonic;

      3.16       For
                     where jealousy
                                and
                           selfish ambition exist,
(100)       there is disorder
                          and
                   every foul deed.

      3.17  But
(101)       the wisdom from above is first of all pure,
                                     then         peaceable,
                                                gentle,
                                                ready to obey,
                                                full of mercy
                                                               and
                                                        good fruits,
                                                impartial,
                                                unhypocritical;

      3.18       and
(102)       the fruit of righteousness is being sown
                                         in peace
                                         for/by those practicing peace.

 

Summary:
        The rhetorical structure of this periocope is rather well defined. The first two statements (94 and 95) introduce the thesis position of the author. Then a contrast between false wisdom (statements 96 - 100) and true wisdom (statements 101 - 102) follows.
        The thesis position (statements 94 and 95) is set up by a rhetorical question (94), followed by a challenge to prove the existence of wisdom (95). The evidence of true wisdom is found not in intellectual sharpness. Rather, it's presence is verified in attitude and action. These two criteria will be used to expose both false wisdom (statements 96 - 100) and true wisdom (statements 101 - 102).
        This approach to wisdom reflects James' Jewish background and follows an ancient Jewish view found both in the Old Testament and the intertestamental Jewish wisdom literature. His position also reflects very negatively upon traditional understanding of wisdom in the ancient Greek tradition. The false wisdom section (statements 96-100) directly attacks traits (attitude and actions) that were viewed positively in some of the Greek tradition.

Exegetical Issues:

Literary Setting Questions:

        The conclusions drawn about the relationship of 3:1-12 and 3:13-18 in Lesson 07 will be assumed here. For details, see the Literary Setting Questions section in Lesson 07.

1.  Compare 3:13-18 to 1:5-8. What are the distinctive emphases on wisdom in these two passages?

 
Jas. 3:13-18. 13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. 15 Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. 16 For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace. Jas. 1:5-8. 5 If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you. 6 But ask in faith, never doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind; 7 8 for the doubter, being double-minded and unstable in every way, must not expect to receive anything from the Lord.

 

Study of 3:13

2.  From an online concordance study of the gospels, describe the view of wisdom reflected in the ministry of Jesus?
 
 
 
 

3.  How does James' perspective on wisdom compare to that of Jesus?

 
Jas. 3:13-18. 13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom.  Mt. 11:16-19. 16 "But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another, 17 "We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.' 18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, "He has a demon'; 19 the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, "Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds." 

 
 
 

4.  From an online concordance study of the letters of Paul, describe the view of wisdom reflected in the ministry of Paul?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

5.  How does James' perspective on wisdom compare to that of Paul in 1 Corinthians?

 
Jas. 3:13-18. 13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom.  1 Cor. 1:18-31.  17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power. 18 For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart." 20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, 23 but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God's weakness is stronger than human strength. 26 Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, F8 not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, 29 so that no one might boast in the presence of God. 30 He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 in order that, as it is written, "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord."  1 Cor. 2:1-16. 1 When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. 3 And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. 4 My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God. 
        6 Yet among the mature we do speak wisdom, though it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to perish. 7 But we speak God's wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 But, as it is written, "What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him" 10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For what human being knows what is truly human except the human spirit that is within? So also no one comprehends what is truly God's except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. 13 And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual. 14 Those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God's Spirit, for they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 Those who are spiritual discern all things, and they are themselves subject to no one else's scrutiny. 16 "For who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?" But we have the mind of Christ. 
1 Cor. 3:18-21. 18 Do not deceive yourselves. If you think that you are wise in this age, you should become fools so that you may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, "He catches the wise in their craftiness," 20 and again, "The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile." 

 

5.  How does James' view of wisdom compare to that in early Christianity, as expressed at the end of the first Christian century by Clement of Rome?

 
Jas. 3:13-18. 13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. 15 Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. 16 For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace. 1 Clement 38:2. 38:2 Let not the strong man despise the weak, and let the weak pay regard to the strong. Let him that is rich minister to him that is poor. Let him that is poor praise God that he hath given unto him one by whom his want may be supplied. Let the wise show his wisdom, not in words, but in good deeds; let him that is humble not bear witness to himself, but leave another to bear witness to him. Let him that is pure in the flesh boast not of it, knowing that it is another that giveth him the power of continence. 

 
 
 

Study of 3:14-16

6.  From the diagram of 3:14-16 identify the following aspects about false wisdom.

      3.14       But
               if you possess bitter jealousy
                                   and
                              selfish ambition
                         in your hearts,
(96)        stop glorying
               in it
                 and
(97)        ---- lying
               against the Truth.
 

(98)  3.15  This wisdom is not coming down from above
                 but
(99)        ---- ------ is earthy,
                         sensual,
                         demonic;

      3.16       For
                     where jealousy
                                and
                           selfish ambition exist,
(100)       there is disorder
                          and
                   every foul deed.

       In both James and Paul (especially in 1 Corinthians; see above question 5), the negative view of 'wisdom' evidently alludes to an understanding of wisdom that arose from ancient Greek sources. Most especially the Sophists (in Greek called sofisthv"; note the close connection to the Greek word for wisdom, sofiva) by the beginning of the Christian era had defined wisdom as superior skill in language and knowledge that enables a successful, especially monetary, lifestyle (TDNT, 7:470ff). Traveling as itenerate philosophers from town to town they developed flowery, eloquent speaking skills to proclaim their superior wisdom. For a fee listeners could sit in their lectures and learn the secrets to successful living. Typically the content of their so-called philosophy (note the Greek word for this, filosofiva) was more a sham, than something of value. The valuing of superior knowledge as wisdom quickly led to elitism and arrogance.
        Some commentators (see Peter Davids, James, NIGTC, 150ff) are convinced that 3:14-16 is directed toward a group of false teachers in the Christian community who had adopted this understanding of wisdom and thus were creating problems. This is based on the phrase "if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts (eij zh'lon pikro;n e[cete kai; ejriqeivan ejn th'/ kardiva/ uJmw'n). While this is not completely certain, James does strongly attack this view of wisdom.

        Attitude:
              In statements 96-97:

              In statement 100:

        Actions:
              In statements 96-97:

              In statement 100:

       Source:
             In statements 98 and 99:
 
 

7. From the above translations, summarize the characterizations of false wisdom in statement 99.

(99)        ---- ------ is earthy,
                         sensual,
                         demonic;

 
 
 
 

Study of 3:17-18

8. From an online concordance study of 'wisdom' in a sampling of the Psalms and Proverbs in the Old Testament, describe the ancient Israelite view of wisdom.
 
 
 
 
 
 

9. From the description of wisdom in Proverbs 8, summarize the idea of wisdom, especially in regard to its source and how it manifests itself.

1 Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice? 2 On the heights, beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand; 3 beside the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals she cries out: 4 "To you, O people, I call, and my cry is to all that live. 5 O simple ones, learn prudence; acquire intelligence, you who lack it. 6 Hear, for I will speak noble things, and from my lips will come what is right; 7 for my mouth will utter truth; wickedness is an abomination to my lips. 8 All the words of my mouth are righteous; there is nothing twisted or crooked in them. 9 They are all straight to one who understands and right to those who find knowledge. 10 Take my instruction instead of silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold; 11 for wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare with her.

12 I, wisdom, live with prudence, and I attain knowledge and discretion. 13 The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate. 14 I have good advice and sound wisdom; I have insight, I have strength. 15 By me kings reign, and rulers decree what is just; 16 by me rulers rule, and nobles, all who govern rightly. 17 I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me. 18 Riches and honor are with me, enduring wealth and prosperity. 19 My fruit is better than gold, even fine gold, and my yield than choice silver. 20 I walk in the way of righteousness, along the paths of justice, 21 endowing with wealth those who love me, and filling their treasuries.

22 The Lord created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of long ago. 23 Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth. 24 When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water. 25 Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth 26 when he had not yet made earth and fields, or the world's first bits of soil. 27 When he established the heavens, I was there, when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, 28 when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep, 29 when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth, 30 then I was beside him, like a master worker; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, 31 rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the human race.

32 "And now, my children, listen to me: happy are those who keep my ways. 33 Hear instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it. 34 Happy is the one who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors. 35 For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the Lord; 36 but those who miss me injure themselves; all who hate me love death."


 
 
 
 
 

10. Compare the above translations of verse 18. What are the two interpretative issues in the verse?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Application of the Text:

1. What kind of wisdom do your attitudes and actions reflect?
 
 

2. Describe you understanding of wisdom. Which of the two views of wisdom in James does it relate to more closely?
 
 

3. What can be concluded about a Christian community exhibiting the negative attitudes and actions described in 3:14-16?
 
 

4. How much peace do you attempt to sow?
 
 

For Further Study:

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


Created by  a division of All rights reserved©