The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

My Notes On James 1:22-27

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 6, 2010

James 1:22-27 is used as the Epistle reading for the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite.  I’ve included brief notes on verses 19-21.


Last sunday’s Epistle reading was taken from James 1:17-21.  In my post on that reading I went into some detail about the background.  One should consult that post-both the background and the notes.


Jas 1:19  You know, my dearest brethren. And let every man be swift to hear, but slow to speak and slow to anger.

You know, my dearest brethren.  This makes better sense as an imperative, as in the NAB and RSV: “know this, my beloved brethren” (RSV).  For these and other moral imperatives found in this verse see Sirach 5:11-17; Matt 5:22; Col 3:8-9; Eph 4:25-31.

Jas 1:20  For the anger of man worketh not the justice of God.

“Does not promote the peace and harmony which is the fruit of the observance of God’s commandment of love of the neighbor (cf. Ps 15:1-3).” [Father Richard Kugelman, C.R., James And Jude, New Testament Message, vol. 19, pg. 20]

Jas 1:21  Wherefore, casting away all uncleanness and abundance of naughtiness, with meekness receive the ingrafted word, which is able to save your souls.

Casting away, could also be translated as “put away” (see Eph 4:22; Col 3:8; 1 Pet 2:1).

Receive the ingrafted word.  Contrasts nicely with “casting away” at the beginning of the verse.  The word is only able to save your souls when it is put into action, as the next verse makes clear.

Jas 1:22  But be ye doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.

Technical Note:

Be ye doers of the word.  The Greek γίνομαι (ginomai) is an imperative, “become doers”.  The Greek ποιηται λογου (doers of the word) means literally producers or composers of the word.  The idea is not that they bring the word into existence, rather, they are called upon to bring it to fruition, like a composer manifesting his talent.

And not hearers only.  The Greek ἀκροατής (akroatai=hearers) is found three times in this chapter (vss 22, 23, 25), and only once elsewhere in the NT (Rom 2:13).

Deceiving you own selves. The word translated as “deceiving” is used elsewhere only in Col 2:4, where it refers to being deceived by false teachers.

St James has been admonishing his audience to persevere in trials (1:2-8), regardless of their state in life (1:9-11), and not to succumb to temptation (1:12-18), for persevering in the face of temptation will bring the promised crown of life (1:12). He then goes on to write: “Wherefore, casting away all uncleanness and abundance of naughtiness, with meekness receive the ingrafted word, which is able to save your souls” (vs 21).  This means that they must “be (better: become) doers of the word, and not hearers only.”  Merely listening to the word of God and placing one’s faith in it is not enough, since it demands a response.  Indeed, the word “become” implies the necessity of growth, faith is not a once-for-all ossified state; a mere declaration one can make without further action.  “What shall it profit, my brethren, if a man say he hath faith, but hath not works? Shall faith be able to save him?  And if a brother or sister be naked and want daily food: And one of you say to them: Go in peace, be ye warmed and filled; yet give them not those things that are necessary for the body, what shall it profit? So faith also, if it have not works, is dead in itself”(2:14-17).

Deceiving your own selves.  Suggests that they are misguided concerning the meaning and demands of the faith which comes by hearing (Rom 10:17; Gal 3:2; Col 1:3-5).

Jas 1:23  For if a man be a hearer of the word and not a doer, he shall be compared to a man beholding his own countenance in a glass.
Jas 1:24  For he beheld himself and went his way and presently forgot what manner of man he was.

23. Beholding his own countenance in a glass (i.e., a mirror).  The Greek phrase translated as της γενεσεως αυτου reads literally “his natural face.”   The word natural contrasts nicely with the statement in verse 18 which states that God “of his own will hath he begotten us by the word of truth.”  A contrast is being drawn between the natural and the spiritual man.  God begets to new life through His word (1 Pet 1:23), but the mere hearer of the word does not come to new life.

Jas 1:25  But he that hath looked into the perfect law of liberty and hath continued therein, not becoming a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work: this man shall be blessed in his deed.

One can root out the implanted word by negligence and return to all uncleanness and abundance in naughtiness (vs 21).  The thought here is similar to 2 Peter : “For, speaking proud words of vanity, they allure by the desires of fleshly riotousness those who for a little while escape, such as converse in error: (false teachers) Promising them (those who listen) liberty, whereas they  themselves are the slaves of corruption. For by whom a man is overcome, of the same also he is the slave.  For if, flying from the pollutions of the world, through the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they be again entangled in them and overcome: their latter state is become unto them worse than the former.  For it had been better for them not to have known the way of justice than, after they have known it, to turn back from that holy commandment which was delivered to them.  For, that of the true proverb has happened to them: The dog is returned to his vomit; and: The sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire” (2 Pet 2:1822. Words in italics are mine).

Jas 1:26  And if any man think himself to be religious, not bridling his tongue but deceiving his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.

An obivious warning against self deception (‘think,’ “deceiving“).  The reference to “deceiving” takes us back to verse 22, and relates to the theme of forgetting in verse 24-25.  This particular section of the letter began with the imperative phrase “know this” (vs 19, not part of the lectionary reading).

Jas 1:27  Religion clean and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their tribulation and to keep one’s self unspotted from this world.

A statement that builds upon the admonishment of  verses 21-22.  “Clean” recalls the admonition in vs 21 to cast away filthiness etc.  Note the reference to God as Father and the the injunction to visit the fatherless.  The word tribulation brings up themes dealt with in last weeks reading (see the link above, under Background).

5 Responses to “My Notes On James 1:22-27”

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