posted on Jul, 2 2012 @ 04:03 PM
In the middle of his New Testament letter (ch3 vv13-18), James has a passage explaining the effects of “the wisdom from above”.
It begins in v13, when he appeals to those who are “wise and understanding”.
He’s returning to the theme he was expounding at the end of ch2, that a man needs to be able to “show his works”.
This should be done in “meekness”; he’s just been complaining about the aggressive use of the tongue, and “meekness” is the opposite of
Meekness is one of the qualities that comes with Wisdom.
The nature of this Wisdom can best be defined by contrast with its opposite.
There is a wisdom which is not “from above”, but is EPIGEIOS (“having an earthly nature”), PSYCHIKE (“having a nature that belongs to the
human soul”), and DAIMONIODES (“having a demonic nature”).
The immediate product of this kind of false wisdom is “jealousy and selfish ambition”.
One effect of jealousy and selfish ambition is that people boast and are false to the truth.
Another effect is “disorder and every vile practice”.
On the other hand, the wisdom from above is 1)pure, 2)peaceable, 3)gentle, 4)open to reason, 5) “full of mercy and good fruits”, 6) “without
uncertainty or insincerity”.
Finally (seventhly?) “the harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace”.
It’s a very interesting exercise to place this passage alongside Paul’s teaching as found in Galatians ch5 vv15-26.
Just as James was advising the “wise” man to “show his works in the meekness of wisdom”, so Paul tells those who “live by the Spirit” that
they also need to “walk by the Spirit”.
The nature of “walking by the Spirit” can best be defined by contrast with its opposite.
“The desires of the Spirit” are opposed, in Paul’s teaching, by” the desires of the flesh”.
Paul lists a number of “works of the flesh”, and they fall into two groups.
Half of them are concerned with aggressive and contentious behaviour towards other people; they include enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness,
dissension, “party spirit” (that is, a tendency to form factions), and envy.
Comparing this with what James wrote, we can see that jealousy and selfishness are included in this list, while boastfulness and being false to the
truth belong there in principle, as aggressive offences against other people.
The rest of Paul’s list includes fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, drunkenness, “carousing and the like”.
All these would be well summed-up by James’ phrase “disorder and every vile practice”.
On the other hand, there is the “the fruit of the Spirit”, described in nine words;
Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
How does this compare with the effects of “the wisdom from above”?
The “self-control” mentioned by Paul corresponds to the quality of purity, which James places at the beginning.
The next three items in James’ list- “peaceable, gentle, open to reason”- can be matched against three of Paul’s words- “peace, gentleness,
Paul has “kindness and goodness” while James has “full of mercy and good fruits”.
Finally, “without uncertainty or insincerity” would be a very reasonable definition of what Paul means by PISTIS (“faithfulness”).
How do we account for the similarity between the two patterns?
My favoured explanation is that James had a copy of Galatians in front of him, and he was deliberately re-writing the “fruit of the Spirit”
passage in language that he found more congenial. This view is encouraged by the fact that James himself twice uses the word “fruit”- “good
fruits” and “the fruit (KARPOS) of righteousness”.
If I’m right, then the most important difference between the two is that James is unwilling to bandy the word “Spirit” as freely as Paul does.
Instead he offers the euphemistic substitute “the wisdom from above”, just as Matthew writes “kingdom of heaven” where the other gospels have
“kingdom of God”.
After that, James appears to be following the same outline as Paul.
He finds other ways of describing the opposite of what God provides.
His list of the bad effects of the “wrong” wisdom looks like a summary of Paul’s “works of the flesh”..
Finally he gives his own version of “the fruit of the Spirit”.
If James’s list of the “fruit” is based on Paul’s, two of the differences between them are particularly interesting.
One is that he omits any mention of the “love” and “joy” which Paul places at the beginning of the list. Does this present James as a crusty
old curmudgeon? Or is it simply that he prefers to work towards the Jewish sacred number seven instead of the Greek sacred number nine?
The other difference is that the climax of James’ list is the “fruit of righteousness”, which he prefers to Paul’s talk of “no law”.
Otherwise, as I said before, they seem to be talking about much the same thing.
It seems to me that James is re-presenting Paul’s teaching, with a slight change in emphasis, and a much more radical change in the terminology.
This has implications for the way we understand his intentions in the rest of the letter.