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68

CHAPTER VI.
THE RELATION OF THIS EPISTLE
TO THE BOOKS OF ECCLESIASTICUS AND OF THE WISDOM OF SOLOMON.
THE VALUE OF THE APOCRYPHA, AND THE MISCHIEF OF NEGLECTING IT.

"But if any of you lacketh wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing doubting: for he that doubteth is like the surge of the sea driven by the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord; a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways."—St. James i. 5-8.

THE previous section led us to the question as to the relation of this Epistle to certain Christian writings, and in particular to the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans, and to the First Epistle of St. Peter. The present section, combined with the preceding one, raises a similar question—the relation of our Epistle to certain Jewish writings, and especially the Books of Ecclesiasticus and the Wisdom of Solomon.

The two sets of questions are not parallel. In the former case, even if we could determine that the writer of one Epistle had certainly seen the Epistle of the other, we should still be uncertain as to which had written first. Here, if the similarity is found to be too great to be accounted for by common influences acting upon both writers, and we are compelled to suppose 69 that one has made use of the writing of the other, there cannot be any doubt as to the side on which the obligation lies. The Book of Ecclesiasticus certainly, and the Book of Wisdom possibly, had come into circulation long before St. James was born. And if, with some of the latest writers3636   Grätz, Noack, Plumptre, F. W. Farrer. on the subject, we place the Book of Wisdom as late as A.D. 40, it nevertheless was written in plenty of time for St. James to have become acquainted with it before he wrote his Epistle. Although some doubts have been expressed on the subject, the number of similarities, both of thought and expression, between the Epistle of St. James and Ecclesiasticus is too great to be reasonably accounted for without the supposition that St. James was not only acquainted with the book, but fond of its contents. And it is to be remembered, in forming an opinion on the subject, that there is nothing intrinsically improbable in the supposition that St. James had read Ecclesiasticus. Indeed, the improbability would rather be the other way. Even if there were no coincidences of ideas and language between our Epistle and Ecclesiasticus, we know enough about St. James and about the circulation of Ecclesiasticus to say that he was likely to become acquainted with it. As Dr. Salmon remarks on the use of the Apocrypha generally, "The books we know as Apocrypha are nearly all earlier than the New Testament writers, who could not well have been ignorant of them; and therefore coincidences between the former and the latter are not likely to have been the result of mere accident."3737   The Speaker's Commentary, Apocrypha, vol. i., p. xli. (Murray, 1888).

But it will be worth while to quote a decided expression of opinion, on each side of the question 70 immediately before us, from the writings of scholars who are certainly well qualified to give a decided opinion. On the one hand, Bernhard Weiss says, "It has been incorrectly held by most that the author adheres very closely to Jesus Sirach.... But it must be distinctly denied that there is anywhere an echo of the Book of Wisdom."3838   Introduction to the N.T., vol. ii., pp. 114, 115 (Hodder and Stoughton, 1888). On the other hand, Dr. Edersheim, after pointing out the parallel between Ecclus. xii. 10, 11, and James v. 3, concludes, "In view of all this it cannot be doubted that both the simile and the expression of it in the Epistle of St. James were derived from Ecclesiasticus." And then he gives some more coincidences between the two writings, and sums up thus: "But if the result is to prove beyond doubt the familiarity of St. James with a book which at the time was evidently in wide circulation, it exhibits with even greater clearness the immense spiritual difference between the standpoint occupied in Ecclesiasticus and that in the Epistle of St. James."3939   The Speaker's Commentary, Apocrypha, vol. ii., pp. 22, 23 (Murray 1888). And Archdeacon Farrar quotes with approval an estimate that St. James "alludes more or less directly to the Book of the Wisdom of Solomon at least five times, but to the Book of Ecclesiasticus more than fifteen times.... The fact is the more striking because in other respects St. James shows no sympathy with Alexandrian speculations. There is not in him the faintest tinge of Philonian philosophy; on the contrary, he belongs in a marked degree to the school of Jerusalem. He is a thorough Hebraiser, a typical Judaist. All his thoughts and phrases move normally in the Palestinian sphere. 71 This is a curious and almost unnoticed phenomenon. The "sapiential literature" of the Old Testament was the least specifically Israelite. It was the direct precursor of Alexandrian morals. It deals with mankind, and not with the Jew. Yet St. James, who shows so much partiality for this literature, is of all the writers of the New Testament the least Alexandrian, and the most Judaic."4040   The Early Days of Christianity, vol. i., pp. 517-18. Dr. Salmon leaves the question undecided (Introduction to N.T., p. 511).

Let us endeavour to form an opinion for ourselves; and the only way in which to do this with thoroughness is to place side by side, in the original Greek, the passages in which there seems to be coincidence between the two writers. Want of space prevents this from being done here. But some of the most striking coincidences shall be placed in parallel columns, and where the coincidence is inadequately represented by the English Version the Greek shall be given also. Other coincidences, which are not drawn out in full, will be added, to enable students who care to examine the evidence more in detail to do so without much trouble. Two Bibles, or, still better, a Septuagint and a Greek Testament, will serve the purpose of parallel columns.

It will be found that by far the greater number of coincidences occur in the first chapter, a fact which suggests the conjecture that St. James had been reading Ecclesiasticus shortly before he began to write. In the middle of the Epistle there is very little that strongly recalls the son of Sirach. In the last chapter there are one or two striking parallels; but by far the larger proportion is in the first chapter.

72

ECCLESIASTICUS. ST. JAMES.
1. A patient man will bear for a time, and afterward joy shall spring up unto him (i. 23).
  My son, if thou come to serve the Lord, prepare thy soul for temptation (πειρασμόν). Set thy heart aright, and constantly endure.... Whatsoever is brought upon thee take cheerfully, and be patient when thou art changed to a low estate. For gold is tried (δοκιμάζεται) in the fire, and acceptable men in the furnace of adversity (ii. 1-5).
Count it all joy, my brethren, when ye fall into manifold temptations (πειρασμοῖς), knowing that the proof (τὸ δοκίμιον) of your faith worketh patience. And let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, lacking in nothing (i. 2-4).
  Blessed is the man that endureth temptation (πειρασμόν); for when he hath been approved (δόκιμος γενόμενος), he shall receive the crown of life (i. 12).
2. If thou desire wisdom (σοφίαν), keep the commandments, and the Lord shall give her unto thee (i. 26).
  I desired wisdom (σοφίαν) openly in my prayer.... The Lord hath given me a tongue for my reward (li. 13, 22).
  Thy desire for wisdom (σοφίας) shall be given thee (vi. 37. Comp. xliii. 33). [A fool] will give little, and will upbraid (ὀνειδίσει) much (xx. 15).
  After thou hast given, upbraid (ὀνείδιζε) not (xli. 22. Comp. xviii. 18).
But if any of you lacketh wisdom (σοφίαν), let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not (μὴ ὀνειδίζοντος); and it shall be given him (i. 5).
3. Distrust not the fear of the Lord; and come not unto Him with a double heart (i. 28).
  Woe be to fearful hearts, and faint hands, and the sinner that goeth two ways (ii. 12).
  Be not faint-hearted when thou makest thy prayer (vii. 10. Comp. xxxiii. 2; xxxv. 16, 17).
But let him ask in faith, nothing doubting: for he that doubteth is like the surge of the sea driven by the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord; a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways (i. 6-8. Comp. iv. 8).
4. Exalt not thyself, lest thou fall, and bring dishonour upon thy soul (i. 30).
  The greater thou art, the more humble thyself, and thou shalt find favour before the Lord (iii. 18. Comp. xxxi. 1-9).
But let the brother of low degree glory in his high estate; and the rich in that he is made low (i. 9, 10).
73 5. Say not thou, It is through the Lord that I fell away: for thou oughtest not to do the things that He hateth. Say not thou, He hath caused me to err: for He hath no need of the sinful man (xv. 11, 12). Let no man say, when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, and He Himself tempteth no man (i. 13).
6. Be swift in thy listening (ταχὺς ἐν ἀκροάσει σου); and with patience give answer (v. 11). Let every man be swift to hear (ταχὺς εὶς τὸ ἀκοῦσαι), slow to speak, slow to wrath (i. 19).
7. Thou shalt be to him as one that hath wiped a mirror (ἔσοπτρον), and shalt know that it is not rusted (κατίωται) for ever (xii. 11).
  Like as bronze rusteth (ἰοῦται), so is his wickedness (xii. 10).
  Lose money through a brother and a friend, and let it not rust (ἰωθήτω) under the stone unto loss (xxix. 10).
He is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a mirror (ἐν ἐσόπτρῳ).... Your gold and your silver are rusted (κατίωται); and their rust (ἰός) shall be a testimony against you (i. 23; v. 3).
8. He that looketh in (ὁ παρακύπτων) through her windows, i.e. the windows of wisdom (xiv. 23).
  A fool peepeth in (παρακύπτει) at the door (xxi. 23).
He that looketh into (ὁ παρακύψας) the perfect law (i. 25).
9. A prey of lions are wild asses in the wilderness; so the fodder of the rich are the poor (οὕτω νομαὶ πλουσίων πτωχοί: xiii. 19. Comp. xiii. 3, 17, 18). But ye have dishonoured the poor man (τὸν πτωχόν). Do not the rich (οἱ πλούσιοι) oppress you, and themselves drag you before the judgment-seats? (ii. 6).

It will be observed that of these nine examples all come out of the first two chapters of St. James, and six are from the first two chapters of Ecclesiasticus. This fact is worth considering in estimating the probabilities of St. James being under the influence of this earlier and popular book. Owing to recent reading, or some other cause, he seems to have been specially familiar with the opening chapters of Ecclesiasticus. 74 Probably most persons who study these coincidences will be of the opinion that Bernhard Weiss is needlessly cautious and sceptical when he refuses to assent to the common opinion that in some portions of the Epistle St. James closely follows the Wisdom of Jesus, the son of Sirach. The strongest coincidence is the seventh in the table. The word for "to rust" (κατιόω) occurs nowhere else either in the Septuagint or in the New Testament, and the passages in Ecclesiasticus and St. James "are the only Biblical passages in which the figure of rust as affecting unused silver and gold occurs" (Edersheim). The fifth instance is also very striking.

Let us now look at some of the coincidences between the Book of the Wisdom of Solomon and the Epistle of St. James.

WISDOM. ST. JAMES.
1. The hope of the ungodly is like thistle-down carried away by the wind; like a thin froth that is driven away by the blast, and like smoke is dispersed by the wind (v. 14. Comp. μαρανθῆναι in ii. 8). He that doubteth is like the surge of the sea driven by the wind and tossed.... As the flower of the grass he shall pass away.... So also shall the rich man fade away (μαρανθήσεται) in his ways (i. 6, 10, 11).
2. In eternity it weareth a crown and triumpheth (iv. 2). When he hath been approved he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord promised to them that love Him (i. 12).
3. The alterations of the solstices and the change of seasons (τροπῶν ἀλλαγὰς καὶ μεταβολὰς καιρῶν: vii. 18). With whom can be no variation, neither shadow of turning (παρ' ᾧ οὐκ ἔνι παραλλαγὴ ἢ τροπῆς ἀποσκίασμα: i. 17).
4. Let us oppress (καταδυναστεύσωμεν) the poor righteous man.... Let us examine him with despitefulness and torture (ii. 10, 19). Ye have dishonoured the poor man. Do not the rich oppress (καταδυναστεύουσιν) you, and themselves drag you before the judgment-seats? (ii. 6).
5. For the lowest is pardonable by mercy; but mighty men shall be mightily chastised (vi. 6). For judgment is without mercy to him that hath showed no mercy: mercy glorieth against judgment (ii. 13).
75 6. What hath pride profited us? or what good hath riches with our vaunting (ἀλαζονείας) brought us? All those things are passed away like a shadow, and as a post that hasted by, etc. etc.; even so we, as soon as we were born, came to an end" (v. 8-14). Go to now, ye that say, To-day or to-morrow we will go into this city, and spend a year there, and trade and get gain: whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. What is your life? For ye are a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.... But now ye glory in your vauntings (ἀλαζονίαις): all such glorying is evil (iv. 13-16).
7. Let us lie in wait for the righteous (τὸν δίκαιον).... Let us condemn him (καταδικάσωμεν) with a shameful death (ii. 12, 20). Ye have condemned (κατεδικάσατε), ye have killed the righteous one (τὸν δίκαιον); he doth not resist you (v. 6).

It will at once be perceived that these parallels are neither so numerous nor so convincing as those which have been pointed out between Ecclesiasticus and the Epistle of St. James; but they are sufficient to make a primâ facie case of considerable probability, whatever date we assign to the Book of Wisdom. This probability is strengthened by the fact that this book, with the rest of the Apocrypha or deutero-canonical writings, constituted to a large extent the religious literature of the Jews of the Dispersion; and therefore in writing to such Jews St. James would be likely to make conscious allusions to writings with which his hearers would be sure to be familiar; a consideration which strengthens the case as regards the coincidences with Ecclesiasticus, as well as regards those with the Wisdom of Solomon. Even if the probability as to the Alexandrian origin of Wisdom were a certainty, and if the conjectural date A.D. 40 were established, there would be nothing surprising in its becoming well known in Jerusalem within twenty years of its production. It is, therefore, far too 76 strong an assertion when Weiss declares that "it must be distinctly denied that there is anywhere [in the Epistle of St. James] an echo of the Book of Wisdom." All that one can safely say is that the evidence for his acquaintance with the book does not approach to proof.

But the use of these two books of the Apocrypha by writers in the New Testament does not depend upon the question whether St. James makes use of them or not. If this were the place to do it, it might be shown that other coincidences, both of language and thought, far too numerous and too strong to be all of them accidental, occur in the writings of St. Peter, St. Paul, and St. John.4141   See Dr. Salmon's General Introduction to the Apocrypha in the Speaker's Commentary, vol. i., pp. xli., xlii. Such things also occur outside the New Testament in the Epistles of Clement and of Barnabas; while Clement of Alexandria frequently quotes Ecclesiasticus with the introductory formula, "The Scripture saith."

These facts go a long way towards proving that the neglect of the Apocrypha which is so prevalent among ourselves is a thing which cannot be defended, either by an appeal to Scripture or by the practice of the primitive Church; for both the one and the other show a great respect for these deutero-canonical writings. That the New Lectionary omits a good deal of what used to be read publicly in church is not a thing to be lamented. We gladly sacrifice portions of the Apocrypha in order to obtain more of Ezekiel and Revelation. It is the neglect of them in private reading that is so much to be deplored. Passages which are too grotesque and too unspiritual to be edifying when read to a mixed congregation are nevertheless full of instruction, and throw most valuable light both on the Old and on the New Testament. The Apocryphal writings, instead 77 of being a worthless interpolation between the Old Testament and the New, like a block of paltry buildings disfiguring two noble edifices, are among our best means of understanding how the Old Testament led up to the New, and prepared the way for it. They show us the Jewish mind under the combined influences of Jewish Scriptures, Gentile culture, and new phases of political life, and being gradually brought into the condition in which it either fiercely opposed or ardently accepted the teaching of Christ and His Apostles. A huge chasm yawns between Judaism as we leave it at the close of the Old Testament canon, and as we find it at the beginning of the Gospel history; and we have no better material with which to bridge the chasm than the writings of the Apocrypha. This is well brought out, not only in the commentary on the Apocrypha already quoted more than once, but also in a valuable review of the commentary from which some of what follows is taken.4242   Edinburgh Review, No. 345, January, 1889, pp. 58-95.

The neglect of the Apocrypha has not been by any means entirely accidental. It is partly the result of a deliberate protest against the action of the Council of Trent in placing these books on a level with the books of the Old and New Testament. In the seventeenth century we find the learned John Lightfoot writing, "Thus sweetly and nearly should the two Testaments join together, and thus Divinely should they kiss each other, but that the wretched Apocrypha doth thrust in between." And the fact that many people are now unable to recognize or appreciate an allusion to the Apocrypha is by no means the most serious result of this common neglect of its contents. Appreciation of the Bible in general, and especially of those books 78 in which the Old and New Testaments come most in contact, is materially diminished in consequence. The Apocrypha is not a barrier, but a bridge; it does not separate, but unite the two Covenants. What thoughtful reader can pass from the Old to the New Testament without feeling that he has entered another world? He is still in Palestine, still among the Jews; but how different from the Palestine and the Judaism of Ezra, and Nehemiah, and Malachi! He "finds mention of persons, and sects, and schools of which he can find no trace in the Old Testament. He comes upon beliefs and opinions for which the earlier canon does not even furnish a clue. He discovers institutions long settled, and dominating the religious life of the people, of which the Old Testament supplies not even the name. He finds popular ideas, religious terms and phrases in current use wholly unlike those of ancient psalmists and prophets." And there is no literature that can explain all these changes to him either so surely or so fully as the Apocrypha. It supplies instances of the early use of New Testament words, of old words in new senses. It throws light upon the growth of the popular conception of the Messiah. It illuminates still more the development of the doctrine of the Logos. Above all, it helps us to see something of the evolution of that strange religious system which became the raw material out of which the special doctrines of Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes were formed, and which had a powerful influence upon Christianity itself.

The neglect of the Apocrypha has been greatly increased by the widespread practice of publishing Bibles without it, and even of striking out from the margins of these mutilated Bibles all references to it. And this mischief has lately been augmented by the fact that 79 the Revised Version omits it. Yet no portion of the Bible was in greater need of revision. The original texts used by the translators of 1611 were very bad; and perhaps in no part of the Authorized Version are utterly faulty translations more abundant. A comparison of the quotations given above with the text of the Authorized Version of Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus will show that considerable changes have been made in order to bring the quotations into harmony with the true readings of the Greek text, and thus give a fair comparison with the words of St. James.

Books which the writers of the New Testament found worthy of study, and from which they derived some of their thoughts and language, ought not to be lightly disregarded by ourselves. We cannot disregard them without loss; and it is the duty of every reader of the Bible to see that his apprehension of the Old and New Testaments is not hindered through his ignorance of those writings which interpret the process of transition from the one to the other. Neglect of the helps to understanding His Word which God has placed easily within our reach may endanger our possession of that wisdom which St. James here assures us will be given to every one who asks for it in faith.

A discussion of that heavenly wisdom, and of the efficacy of prayer offered in faith, will be found in the expositions of later passages in the Epistle.4343   See on iii. 13-18, and on v. 13-18. In connexion with this subject the Inaugural Lecture of Professor Margoliouth, on The Place of Ecclesiasticus in Semitic Literature (Clarendon Press, 1890), and his defence of the position there maintained in the pages of the Expositor, should be studied. It is possible that from the language of Ecclesiasticus we may be able to demonstrate that the late date assigned by recent critics to certain books in the Old Testament is quite untenable for the language of them is centuries older than that of Ecclesiasticus.


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