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55

CHAPTER V.
THE RELATION OF THIS EPISTLE
TO THE WRITINGS OF ST. PAUL AND OF ST. PETER.
THE DATE OF THE EPISTLE.
THE DOCTRINE OF JOY IN TEMPTATION.

"Count it all joy, my brethren, when ye fall into manifold temptations, knowing that the proof of your faith worketh patience. And let patience have its perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, lacking in nothing."—James i. 2-4.

THIS passage at once raises the question of the relation of this Epistle to other writings in the New Testament. Did the writer of it know any of the writings of St. Paul or of St. Peter? It is contended in some quarters that the similarity of thought and expression in several passages is so great as to prove such knowledge, and it is argued that such knowledge tells against the genuineness of the Epistle. In any case the question of the date of the Epistle is involved in its relation to these other documents; it was written after them, if it can be established that the author of it was acquainted with them.

With Dr. Salmon2828   Introduction to the N.T., pp. 509-10, 4th Ed. we may dismiss the coincidences which have been pointed out by Davidson and others between expressions in this Epistle and the Epistles to the Thessalonians, Corinthians, and Philippians. Some critics seem to forget that a large number of words 56 and phrases were part of the common language, not merely of Jews and early Christians, but of those who were in the habit of mixing much with such persons. We can no more argue from such phrases as "be not deceived" (1 Cor. vi. 9; xv. 33; Gal. vi. 7, and James i. 16), "but some one will say" (1 Cor. xv. 35, and James ii. 18), "a transgressor of the law" (Rom. ii. 25, 27, and James ii. 11), "fruit of righteousness" (Phil. i. 11, and James iii. 18), or from such words as "entire" (1 Thess. v. 23, and James i. 4), "transgressor" used absolutely (Gal. ii. 18, and James ii. 9), and the like, that when they occur in two writings the author of one must have read the other, than we can argue from such phrases as "natural selection," "survival of the fittest," and the like that the writer who uses them has read the works of Darwin. A certain amount of stereotyped phraseology is part of the intellectual atmosphere of each generation, and the writers in each generation make common use of it. In such cases even striking identity of expressions may prove nothing as to the dependence of one author upon another. The obligation is not of one writer to another, but of both to a common and indefinite source. In other words, both writers quite naturally make use of language which is current in the circles in which they live.2929   It is quite possible that both St. Paul and St. James derive the phrase "a transgressor of the law" from the remarkable addition to the canonical Gospels which is found in Codex D (Beza) after Luke vi. 4: "The same day He beheld a certain man working on the Sabbath, and said to him, Man, if thou knowest what thou art doing, blessed art thou; but if thou knowest not thou art accursed and a transgressor of the law." Note that in Rom. ii., where the phrase occurs twice (vv. 25, 27), the address "O man" also occurs twice. Comp. Gal. ii. 18, and see A. Resch, Agrapha; Aussercanonische Evangelienfragmente (Leipzig, 1889), pp. 36, 189-92.

57 Some of the coincidences between the Epistle of James and the Epistle to the Romans are of a character to raise the question whether they can satisfactorily be explained by considerations of this kind, and one of these more remarkable coincidences occurs in the passage before us. St. James writes, "Knowing that the proof of your faith worketh patience." St. Paul writes, "Knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, probation" (Rom. v. 3). In this same chapter we have another instance. St. James says, "Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only" (i. 22). St. Paul says, "Not the hearers of a law are just before God, but the doers of a law shall be justified" (Rom. 13). There is yet a third such parallel. St. James asks, "Whence come fightings? Come they not hence, even of your pleasures which war in your members?" (iv. 1). St. Paul laments, "I see a different law in my members, warring against the law of my mind" (Rom. vii. 23).3030   In order to do justice to these coincidences one must look at them in the original Greek; but to those who cannot read Greek the accuracy of the Revised Version gives a very fair idea of the amount of similarity.
   1. γινώσκοντες ὅτι τὸ δοκίμιον ὑμῶν τῆς πίστεως κατεργάζεται ὑπομονήν (James i. 3): εἰδότεσ ὅτι ἡ θλίπσις ὑπομονὴν κατεργάζεται, ἡ δὲ ὑπομον δοκιμήν (Rom. v. 3).

   2. γίνεσθε δὲ ποιηταὶ λόγου καὶ μὴ ἀκροαταὶ μόνον (James i. 22): οὐ γὰρ οἱ ἀκροαταὶ νόμου δίκαιοι παρὰ τῷ θεῷ, ἀλλ' οἱ ποιηταὶ νόμοι δικαιωθήσονται (Rom. ii. 13).

   3. ἐκ τῶν ἡδονῶν ὑμῶν τῶν στρατευομένων ἐν τοῖς μέλεσιν ὑμῶν (James iv. 1): ἕτερον νόμον ἐν τοῖς μελεσίν μου ἀντιστρατευόμενον τῳ νόμῳ τοῦ νοός μου (Rom vii. 23).

The effect of this evidence will be different upon different minds. But it may reasonably be doubted whether these passages, even when summed up together, are stronger than many other strange coincidences in 58 literature, which are known to be accidental. The second instance, taken by itself, is of little weight; for the contrast between hearers and doers is one of the most hackneyed commonplaces of rhetoric. But assuming that a primâ facie case has been established, and that one of the two writers has seen the Epistle of the other, no difficulty is created, whichever we assume to have written first. The Epistle to the Romans was written in A.D. 58, and might easily have become known to St. James before A.D. 62. On the other hand, the Epistle of St. James may be placed anywhere between A.D. 45 and 62, and in that case might easily have become known to St. Paul before A.D. 58. And of the two alternatives, this latter is perhaps the more probable. We shall find other reasons for placing the Epistle of St. James earlier than A.D. 58; and we may reasonably suppose that had he read the Epistle to the Romans, he would have expressed his meaning respecting justification somewhat differently. Had he wished (as some erroneously suppose) to oppose and correct the teaching of St. Paul, he would have done so much more unmistakably. And as he is really quite in harmony with St. Paul on the question, he would, if he had read him, have avoided words which look like a contradiction of St. Paul's words.

It remains to examine the relations between our Epistle and the First Epistle of St. Peter. Here, again, one of the coincidences occurs in the passage before us. St. James writes, "Count it all joy, when ye enter into manifold temptations; knowing that the proof of your faith worketh patience;" and St. Peter writes, "Ye greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, ye have been put to grief in manifold temptations, that the proof of your faith ... might be 59 found" (1 Peter i. 6, 7). Here there is the thought of rejoicing in trials common to both passages, and the expressions for "manifold temptations" and "proof of your patience" are identical in the two places. This is remarkable, especially when taken with other coincidences. On the other hand, the fact that some of the language is common to all three Epistles (James, Peter, and Romans) suggests the possibility that we have here one of the "faithful sayings" of primitive Christianity, rather than one or two writers remembering the writings of a predecessor.

In three places St. James and St. Peter both quote the same passages from the Old Testament. In i. 10, 11 St. James has, "As the flower of the grass he shall pass away. For the sun ariseth with the scorching wind, and withereth the grass; and the flower thereof falleth," where the words in italics are from Isaiah xl. 6-8. St. Peter (i. 24) quotes the words of Isaiah much more completely and consecutively, and in their original sense; he does not merely make a free use of portions of them. Again, in iv. 6 St. James quotes from Prov. iii. 34, "God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble." In v. 5 St. Peter quotes exactly the same words. Lastly, in v. 20 St. James quotes from Prov. x. 12 the expression "covereth sins." In iv. 8 St. Peter quotes a word more of the original, "love covereth sins." And it will be observed that both St. James and St. Peter change "covereth all sins" into "covereth a multitude of sins."

Once more we must be content to give a verdict of "Not proven." There is a certain amount of probability, but nothing that amounts to proof, that one of these writers had seen the other's Epistle. Let us, however, assume that echoes of one Epistle are found in the 60 other; then, whichever letter we put first, we have no chronological difficulty. The probable dates of death are, for St. James A.D. 62, for St. Peter A.D. 64-68. Either Epistle may be placed in the six or seven years immediately preceding A.D. 62, and one of the most recent critics3131   B. Weiss, Introduction to the N.T., vol. ii., pp. 106, 150 (Hodder and Stoughton, 1888). places 1 Peter in the middle of the year A.D. 50, and the Epistle of James any time after that date. But there are good reasons for believing that 1 Peter contains references to the persecution under Nero, that "fiery trial" (iv. 12) in which the mere being a Christian would lead to penal consequences (iv. 16), and in which, for conscience' sake, men would have to "endure griefs, suffering wrongfully" (ii. 19), thereby being "partakers of Christ's sufferings" (iv. 13). In which case 1 Peter cannot be placed earlier than A.D. 64, and the Epistle of James must be the earlier of the two. And it seems to be chiefly those who would make our Epistle a forgery of the second century (Brückner, Holtzmann) who consider that it is James that echoes 1 Peter, rather than 1 Peter that reproduces James. There is a powerful consensus of opinion3232   Beyschlag's revision of Meyer's Brie des Jacobus (Göttingen, 1888), p. 22. that if there is any influence of one writer upon the other, it is St. James who influences St. Peter, and not the other way.

We must not place the Epistle of St. James in or close after A.D. 50. The crisis respecting the treatment of Gentile converts was then at its height (Acts xv.); and it would be extraordinary if a letter written in the midst of the crisis, and by the person who took the leading part in dealing with it, should contain no allusion 61 to it. The Epistle must be placed either before (A.D. 45-49) or some time after (A.D. 53-62) the so-called Council of Jerusalem. There is reason for believing that the controversy about compelling Gentiles to observe the Mosaic Law, although sharp and critical, was not very lasting. The modus vivendi decreed by the Apostles was on the whole loyally accepted, and therefore a letter written a few years after it was promulgated would not of necessity take any notice of it. Indeed, to have revived the question again might have been impolitic, as implying either that there was still some doubt on the point, or that the Apostolic decision had proved futile.

In deciding between the two periods (A.D. 45-49 and 53-62) for the date of the Epistle of St. James, we have not much to guide us if we adopt the view that it is independent of the writings of St. Peter and of St. Paul. There is plenty in the letter to lead us to suppose that it was written before the war (A.D. 66-70) which put an end to the tyranny of the wealthy Sadducees over their poorer brethren, before controversies between Jewish and Gentile Christians such as we find at Corinth had arisen or become chronic, and before doctrinal controversies had sprung up in the Church; also that it was written at a time when the coming of Christ to judgment was still regarded as near at hand (v. 8), and by some one who could recollect the words of Christ independently of the Gospels, and who therefore must have stood in close relationship to Him. All this points to its having been written within the lifetime of James the Lord's brother, and by such a person as he was; but it does not seem to be decisive as to the difference between c. A.D. 49 and c. A.D. 59. We must be content to leave this undecided. But it is 62 worth while pointing out that if we place it earlier than A.D. 52 we make it the earliest book in the New Testament. The First Epistle to the Thessalonians was written late in A.D. 52 or early in 53; and excepting our Epistle, and perhaps 1 Peter, there is no other writing in the New Testament that can reasonably be placed at so early a date as 52.

"Count it all joy, my brethren, when ye fall into manifold temptations." "My brethren," with or without the epithet "beloved," is the regular form of address throughout the Epistle (16, 19; ii. 1, 5, 14; iii. 1, 10, 12; v. 12), in one or two places the "my" being omitted (iv. 11; v. 7, 9, 19). The frequency of this brotherly address seems to indicate how strongly the writer feels, and wishes his readers to feel, the ties of race and of faith which bind them together.

In "Count it all joy," i.e. "Consider it as nothing but matter for rejoicing,"3333   This rendering has been questioned; but it is justified by such expressions as πᾶσαν ἀληθείην μυθήσομαι, "I will tell nothing but what is true" (Hom. Od. xi. 507). See Pastoral Epistles in this series, p. 392. we miss a linguistic touch which is evident in the Greek, but cannot well be preserved in English. In saying "joy" (χάραν) St. James is apparently carrying on the idea just started in the address, "greeting" (χαίρειν), i.e. "wishing joy." "I wish you joy; and you must account as pure joy all the troubles into which you may fall." This carrying on a word or thought from one sentence into the next is characteristic of St. James, and reminds us somewhat of the style of St. John. Thus "The proof of your faith worketh patience. And let patience have its perfect work" (i. 3, 4). "Lacking in nothing. But if any of 63 you lacketh wisdom" (4, 5). "Nothing doubting: for he that doubteth is like the surge of the sea" (6). "The lust, when it hath conceived, beareth sin; and the sin, when it is full grown, bringeth forth death" (15). "Slow to wrath: for the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God" (19, 20). "This man's religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before our God and Father is this" (26, 27). "In many things we all stumble. If any man stumbleth not in word" (iii. 2). "Behold, how much wood is kindled by how small a fire! And the tongue is a fire" (iii. 5, 6). "Ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not" (iv. 2, 3). "Your gold and your silver are rusted; and their rust shall be for a testimony against you" (v. 3). "We call them blessed which endured: ye have heard of the endurance of Job" (v. 11).

It is just possible that "all joy" (πᾶσαν χάραν) is meant exactly to balance "manifold temptations" (πειρασμοῖς ποικίλοις). Great diversity of troubles is to be considered as in reality every kind of joy. Nevertheless, the troubles are not to be of our own making or seeking. It is not when we inflict suffering on ourselves, but when we "fall into" it, and therefore may regard it as placed in our way by God, that we are to look upon it as a source of joy rather than of sorrow. The word for "fall into" (περιπίπτειν) implies not only that what one falls into is unwelcome, but also that it is unsought and unexpected. Moreover, it implies that this unforeseen misfortune is large enough to encircle or overwhelm one. It indicates a serious calamity. The word for "temptations" in this passage is the same as is used in the sixth petition of the Lord's Prayer; but the word is not used in the same sense in both places. In the Lord's Prayer all kinds of temptation are included, 64 and especially the internal solicitations of the devil, as is shown by the next petition: "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the tempter." In the passage before us internal temptations, if not actually excluded, are certainly quite in the background. What St. James has principally in his mind are external trials, such as poverty of intellect (ver. 5), or of substance (ver. 9), or persecution (ii. 6, 7), and the like; those worldly troubles which test our faith, loyalty, and obedience, and tempt us to abandon our trust in God, and to cease to strive to please Him. The trials by which Satan was allowed to tempt Job are the kind of temptations to be understood here.3434   See F. D. Maurice, Unity of the N.T. (Parker, 1854), p. 318. They are material for spiritual joy, because (1) they are opportunities for practising virtue, which cannot be learned without practice, nor practised without opportunities; (2) they teach us that we have here no abiding city, for a world in which such things are possible cannot be a lasting home; (3) they make us more Christlike; (4) we have the assurance of Divine support, and that no more will ever be laid upon us than we, relying upon that support, can bear; (5) we have the assurance of abundant compensation here and hereafter.

St. James here is only echoing the teaching of his Brother: "Blessed are ye when men shall reproach you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for My sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad; for great is your reward in heaven" (Matt. v. 11, 12). In the first days after Pentecost he had seen the Apostles acting in the very spirit which he here enjoins, and he had himself very probably taken 65 part in doing so, "rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonour for the Name" (Acts v. 41. Comp. iv. 23-30). And as we have already seen in comparing the parallel passages, St. Peter (1 Peter 1, 6) and St. Paul (Rom. v. 3) teach the same doctrine of rejoicing in tribulation.

As St. Augustine long ago pointed out, in his letter to Anastasius (Ep. cxlv. 7, 8), and Hooker also (Eccl. Pol. V. xlviii. 13), there is no inconsistency in teaching such doctrine, and yet praying, "Lead us not into temptation." Not only is there no sin in shrinking from both external trials and internal temptations, or in desiring to be freed from such things; but such is the weakness of the human will, that it is only reasonable humility to pray to God not to allow us to be subjected to severe trials. Nevertheless, when God, in His wisdom, has permitted such things to come upon us, the right course is, not to be cast down and sorrowful, as though something quite intolerable had overtaken us, but to rejoice that God has thought us capable of enduring something for His sake, and has given us the opportunity of strengthening our patience and our trust in Him.

This doctrine of joy in suffering, which at first sight seems to be almost superhuman, is shown by experience to be less hard than the apparently more human doctrine of resignation and fortitude. The effort to be resigned, and to suffer without complaining, is not a very inspiriting effort. Its tendency is towards depression. It does not lift us out of ourselves or above our tribulations. On the contrary, it leads rather to self-contemplation and a brooding over miseries. Between mere resignation and thankful joy there is all the difference that there is between mere 66 obedience and affectionate trust. The one is submission; the other is love. It is in the long run easier to rejoice in tribulation, and be thankful for it, than to be merely resigned and submit patiently. And therefore this "hard saying" is really a merciful one, for it teaches us to endure trials in the spirit that will make us feel them least. It is not only "a good thing to sing praises unto our God;" it is also "a joyful and pleasant thing to be thankful" (Ps. cxlvii. 1).

And here it may be noticed that St. James is no Cynic or Stoic. He does not tell us that we are to anticipate misfortune, and cut ourselves off from all those things the loss of which might involve suffering; or that we are to trample on our feelings, and act as if we had none, treating sufferings as if they were non-existent, or as if they in no way affected us. He does not teach us that as Christians we live in an atmosphere in which excruciating pain, whether of body or mind, is a matter of pure indifference, and that such emotions as fear or grief under the influence of adversity, and hope or joy under the influence of prosperity, are utterly unworthy and contemptible. There is not a hint of anything of the kind. He points out to us that temptations, and especially external trials, are really blessings, if we use them aright; and he teaches us to meet them in that conviction. And it is manifest that the spirit in which to welcome a blessing is the spirit of joy and thankfulness.

St. James does not bid us accept this doctrine of joy in tribulation upon his personal authority. It is no philosopher's ipse dixit. He appeals to his readers' own experience: "Knowing that the proof of your faith worketh patience." "Knowing" (γινώσκοντες), i.e. "in that ye are continually finding out and getting 67 to know." The verb and the tense indicate progressive and continuous knowledge, as by the experience of daily life; and this teaches us that proving and testing not only brings to light, but brings into existence, patience. This patience (ὑπομονή), this abiding firm under attack or pressure, must be allowed full scope to regulate all our conduct; and then we shall see why trials are a matter for joy rather than sorrow, when we find ourselves moving onwards towards, not the barrenness of Stoical "self-sufficiency" (αὐτάρκεια), but the fulness of Divine perfection. "That ye may be perfect and entire,3535   On the strength of the word for "entire" (ὁλόκληρος), which occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, excepting 1 Thess. v. 23, it has been asserted that the writer of this Epistle must have seen that passage. The adjective is used in the Septuagint of whole, unhewn stones, saxis informibus et impolitis (Deut. xxvii. 6), and in Josephus of entire animals used for sacrifice (Ant. III. ix. 2). It is fairly common in Plato and Aristotle. The substantive ὁλοκληρία occurs in Acts iii. 16, of the "perfect soundness" given to the impotent man, and in the Septuagint (Isa. i. 6), of the "soundness" which was wholly wanting in Israel. If St. James did not get his knowledge of the word simply from his knowledge of the Greek language, which is manifestly very complete, he probably derived it from the Septuagint. It is absurd to base an argument as to acquaintance with 1 Thessalonians on so common a word. lacking in nothing," is perhaps one of the many reminiscences of Christ's words which we shall find in this letter of the Lord's brother. "Ye therefore shall be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matt. v. 48).


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