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James 3:1-12

Context
The Power of the Tongue

3:1 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, 1  because you know that we will be judged more strictly. 2  3:2 For we all stumble 3  in many ways. If someone does not stumble 4  in what he says, 5  he is a perfect individual, 6  able to control the entire body as well. 3:3 And if we put bits into the mouths of horses to get them to obey us, then we guide their entire bodies. 7  3:4 Look 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. 3:5 So too the tongue is a small part of the body, 8  yet it has great pretensions. 9  Think 10  how small a flame sets a huge forest ablaze. 3:6 And the tongue is a fire! The tongue represents 11  the world of wrongdoing among the parts of our bodies. It 12  pollutes the entire body and sets fire to the course of human existence – and is set on fire by hell. 13 

3:7 For every kind of animal, bird, reptile, and sea creature 14  is subdued and has been subdued by humankind. 15  3:8 But no human being can subdue the tongue; it is a restless 16  evil, full of deadly poison. 3:9 With it we bless the Lord 17  and Father, and with it we curse people 18  made in God’s image. 3:10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. These things should not be so, my brothers and sisters. 19  3:11 A spring does not pour out fresh water and bitter water from the same opening, does it? 3:12 Can a fig tree produce olives, my brothers and sisters, 20  or a vine produce figs? Neither can a salt water spring produce fresh water.

1 tn Grk “brothers.” See note on the phrase “brothers and sisters” in 1:2.

2 tn Grk “will receive a greater judgment.”

3 tn Or “fail.”

4 tn Or “fail.”

5 tn Grk “in speech.”

6 tn The word for “man” or “individual” is ἀνήρ (anhr), 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).

7 tn Grk “their entire body.”

8 tn Grk “a small member.”

9 tn Grk “boasts of great things.”

10 tn Grk “Behold.”

11 tn Grk “makes itself,” “is made.”

12 tn Because of the length and complexity of the Greek sentence, a new sentence was started here in the translation.

13 sn 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).

14 tn Grk (plurals), “every kind of animals and birds, of reptiles and sea creatures.”

15 tn Grk “the human species.”

16 tc Most mss (C Ψ 1739c Ï as well as a few versions and fathers) read “uncontrollable” (ἀκατασχετόν, akatasceton), 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 (akatastato") 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.

17 tc Most later mss (Ï), 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 (Ì20 א A B C P Ψ 33 81 945 1241 1739), rendering it as the overwhelmingly preferred reading.

18 tn Grk “men”; but here ἀνθρώπους (anqrwpous) has generic force, referring to both men and women.

19 tn Grk “brothers.” See note on the phrase “brothers and sisters” in 1:2.

20 tn Grk “brothers.” See note on the phrase “brothers and sisters” in 1:2.



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