James 1:22-27

James 1:22-27
A Women’s Lectionary – Sixth Sunday after Epiphany A


22 But beA doersB of the word,C

Notes on verse 22a

A “be” = ginomai. This is to come into being, to happen, become, be born. It can be to emerge from one state or condition to another or is coming into being with the sense of movement or growth.
B “doers” = poietes. 6x in NT. From poieo (to make, do, construct, accomplish). This is a maker or doer. It can also mean poet, author, or performer. This is where the word “poet” comes from.
C “word” = logos. From lego (to speak, tell, mention). This is word, statement, speech, analogy. It is a word that carries an idea or expresses a thought, a saying. It could refer to a person with a message or reasoning laid out in words. By implication, this could be a topic, line of reasoning, or a motive. It can be used for a divine utterance or as Word – Christ.

and not merelyD hearersE who deceiveF themselves. 

Notes on verse 22b

D “merely” = monon. From monos (alone, single, remaining, mere, desolate); from meno (to stay, abide, wait, endure). This is merely, only, simply, sole. It can also imply alone.
E “hearers” = akroates. 4x in NT. From the same as akroaterion (place to hear or hold an audience; auditorium, court room); {from akraomai (to listen); perhaps from akouo (listen, hear, understand through hearing) + –terion (a place)}. This is a hearer.
F “deceive” = paralogizomai. Related to “word” in v22. 2x in NT. From para (by, beside, in the presence of) + logizomai (this is to compute or reckon up, to count; figuratively, it is coming to a conclusion or decision using logic; taking an inventory in a literal or figurative sense); {from logos (see note C above)}. This is to use reason that distorts the truth, to miscalculate, deceive, mislead, delude. It can be reasoning that appears sound, but is in reality distorted.

23 For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like thoseG who lookH at themselvesI in a mirror;J 

Notes on verse 23

G “those” = aner. This is man, male, husband, or fellow. It can also refer to an individual.
H “look” = katanoeo. 14x in NT. From kata (down, against, throughout, among) + noeo (to think, understand, conceive, realize, see; one who thinks things through sufficiently to reach a conclusion or value judgment; moral reasoning.); {from nous (mind, understanding, reasoning faculty, intellect, capacity to reflect); from noos (mind); probably from the base as ginosko (to know, recognize, realize, perceive, learn; gaining knowledge through personal experience)}. This is to consider, discern, perceive, notice, observe. It is to think through something thoroughly in order to come to a conclusion – fully concentrated thinking.
I “at themselves” = ho + prosopon + ho + genesis + autos. Literally, “at the face of his birth.” Prosopon is from pros (at, towards, with) + ops (eye, face); {from optanomai (to appear, be seen); perhaps from horao (become, seem, appear)}. This is the face, surface, or front. It can imply presence more generally. Genesis is related to “be” in v22. 5x in NT. From ginomai (see note A above). This is origin, lineage, birth, genealogy, or life. It can be figurative for nature. This is where the word “genesis” comes from.
J “mirror” = esoptron. Related to “themselves” in v23. 2x in NT. From eis (to, into, for, among) + horao (see note I above). This is a mirror or looking glass. It would not have been a mirror as we have them today, but highly polished metal that give a fuzzy reflection.

24 for they look at themselves and, on going away,K immediatelyL forgetM what they were like. 

Notes on verse 24

K “going away” = aperchomai. From apo (from, away from) + erchomai (to come or go). This is to depart, follow, or go off in a literal or figurative sense.
L “immediately” = eutheos. From euthus (immediately, upright, straight and not crooked); {perhaps from eu (good, well, well done, rightly) + tithemi (to place, lay, set, establish)}. This is directly, soon, at once.
M “forget” = epilanthanomai. 8x in NT. From epi (on, upon, against, what is fitting) + lanthano (concealed, hidden, unnoticed; to shut one’s eyes to, unwittingly, unawares). This is to overlook, forget, neglect. It can particularly refer to the impact of not noticing something.

25 But those who lookN into the perfectO law,P

Notes on verse 25a

N “look” = parakupto. 5x in NT. From para (by, beside) + kupto (to stoop, bend forward, bow one’s head); perhaps from kuma (wave, billow, curve, bend); from kuo (to swell as one pregnant). This is to bend beside or stoop. To bend over to peer into.
O “perfect” = teleios. 19x in NT. From telos (an end, aim, purpose, completion, end goal, consummation, tax). This is going through the steps to complete a stage or phase and then moving on to the next one. This is reaching an end and so being complete or “perfect.” It is also full grown or mature.
P “law” = nomos. From nemo (to parcel out). Literally, this is that which is assigned. It can be usage, custom, or law. This word can be used for human or divine law. It can be used specifically for the law of Moses or as a name for the Torah (the first five books of the Bible). Sometimes it is used for scripture as a whole, used of the Gospel, or of any theology. It is also used for the “tradition of the elders,” which would be the oral Torah – the tradition of the laws plus their interpretations as they were passed down over time. We must carefully consider which meaning of “law” is meant when we interpret passages the word is found in.

the law of liberty,Q and persevere,R being not hearers who forgetS

Notes on verse 25b

Q “liberty” = eleutheria. Related to “going away” in v24. 11x in NT.  From eleutheros (a free person, at liberty, not a slave; properly, unshackled – figuratively, it is one who has the freedom to choose their destiny. Also, it is one who does not have obligation or liability); probably from erchomai (see note K above). This is liberty or freedom. Particularly, it would be release from slavery. It can also refer to moral freedom.
R “persevere” = parameno. Related to “merely” in v22. From para (by, beside, in the presence of) + meno (see note D above). This is to remain beside or near, abide with, or continue. Figuratively, it’s persevere in. It could also be maintaining an ongoing close relationship or partnership.
S “forget” = epilesmone. 1x in NT. Related to “forget” in v24. From epilanthanomai (see note M above). This is forgetfulness or negligence. IT can also refer to not noticing something.

but doers who actT—they will be blessedU in their doing.V 26 If any thinkW they are religious,X and do not bridleY

Notes on verses 25c-26a

T “act” = ergon. Literally, “a doer of the work.” From ergo (to work, accomplish, do). This is work, task, deed, labor, effort.
U “blessed” = makarios. From makar (happy); from mak– (to become long or large). This is blessed, happy, fortunate. It is when God’s grace/abundance is extended.
V “doing” = poiesis. Related to “doers” in v22. 1x in NT. From poieo (see note B above). This is an action, performance, or deed.
W “think” = dokeo. From dokos (opinion). This is to have an opinion, seem, appear, think, suppose. It deals with a personal judgment. This is the root of the word “doxology.”
X “religious” = threskos. 1x in NT. Probably from the base of throeo (to be disturbed, unsettled, troubled; feeling the desire to scream from fear, very upset, startled); from throos (noise, tumult). This is religious, devout, or pious. It is one who carefully adheres to religious requirements.
Y “bridle” = chalinagogeo. 2x in NT– both in James. From chalinos (bridle, bit); {from chalao (let down, slacken, loosen); from the base of chasma (gap, gulf, chasm, open space); from chasko (to gape, yawn).)} + ago (lead, bring, carry, drive, go). This is to bridle or restrain. It emphasizes the way that a bridle leads or curbs the one who is bridled.

their tonguesZ but deceiveAA their hearts,BB their religionCC is worthless.DD 

Notes on verse 26b

Z “tongues” = glossa. Root refers to a point that sticks out. This is tongue in a literal sense, but can also refer to language or a nation that speaks a different language. Figuratively, it can also refer to speaking in tongues or speech inspired by the Spirit.
AA “deceive” = apatao. 3x in NT. From apate (deception, cheating, treachery, fraud). This is to deceive, seduce, cheat, delude. It focuses on the method used to lure astray.
BB “hearts” = kardia. Literally the heart, but figuratively mind, character, inner self, will, intention, thoughts, feelings. Also, the center of something. The word heart is only used figuratively in the Old and New Testaments. This is where “cardiac” comes from.
CC “religion” = threskeia. Related to “religious” in v26. 4x in NT. From threskos (see note X above). This is religion or worship. Specifically, it refers to ritual observance.
DD “worthless” = mataios. 6x in NT. From the same as maten (in vain, aimlessly, pointless, fruitless); from mate (a folly) or from massaomai (to chew, gnaw); {from masso (to kneed, squeeze). This is vain, useless, worthless, unproductive, or purposeless. It can also figuratively mean fleeting or refer to idols.

27 Religion that is pureEE and undefiledFF before God,GG the Father,HH

Notes on verse 27a

EE “pure” = katharos. This is clean, clear, pure, unstained; clean in a literal, ritual, or spiritual sense; so, also guiltless, innocent or upright; something that is pure because it has been separated from the negative substance or aspect; spiritually clean because of God’s act of purifying.
FF “undefiled” = amiantos. 4x in NT. From a (not, without) + miaino (to stain, corrupt, pollute; literally, to stain or dye; figuratively, to defile as sin taints one; to contaminate ritually or morally). This is undefiled, unstained, unsoiled. Figuratively, this means pure.
GG “God” = Theos. From Proto-Indo-European origins, meaning do, put, place. This is God or a god in general.
HH “Father” = Pater. This is father in a literal or figurative sense. Could be elder, senior, ancestor, originator, or patriarch.

is this: to care forII orphansJJ and widowsKK in their distress,LL

Notes on verse 27b

II “care for” = episkeptomai. 11x in NT. From epi (on, upon, at, what is fitting) + the base of skopos (a mark or goal like the marker at the end of a race; figuratively, other goals or destinations; also, a watch or sentry); {from skeptomai (to peer out, consider, gaze carefully); perhaps related to skapto (to dig or excavate)}. This is to look at, look out for, see, select, visit.
JJ “orphans” = orphanos. 2x in NT. This is an orphan, more specifically one without a father. Figuratively, it can refer to anyone who is bereaved or beyond being comforted. It is where the word “orphan” comes from.
KK “widows” = chera. Related to “bridle” in v26. Perhaps from the base of chasma (see note Y above). This is widow literally or figuratively.
LL “distress” = thlipsis. From thlibo (to press in on and make narrow, rub together, constrict; figuratively to oppress or afflict). This is pressure that hems us in – used often of internal pressure that makes us feel like we have no other options and are confined or restricted. So, this is persecution, affliction, trouble, distress, and anguish. There is a different word, stenoxoria, that refers to external pressure that we feel from what’s going on.

and to keepMM oneself unstainedNN by the world.OO

Notes on verse 27c

MM “keep” = tereo. From teros (a guard or a watch that guards keep); perhaps related to theoreo (gazing, beholding, experiencing, discerning; looking at something to analyze it and concentrate on what it means; the root of the word “theatre” in that people concentrate on the action of the play to understand its meaning); from theaomai (to behold, look upon, see, contemplate, visit); from thaomai (to gaze at a spectacle; to look at or contemplate as a spectator; to interpret something in efforts to grasp its significance); from theoros (a spectator or envoy). This is to guard, observe, keep, maintain, or preserve. It can also be used figuratively for spiritual watchfulness. It is guarding something from being lost or harmed – keeping an eye on it. Contrast the Greek phulasso, which is to guard something so that it doesn’t escape. Also contrast koustodia, which generally denotes a fortress or military presence. This word can mean fulfilling commands, keeping in custody, or maintaining. It can also figuratively mean to remain unmarried.
NN “unstained” = aspilos. 4x in NT. From a (not, without) + spiloo (this is to stain or defile; figuratively, it can refer to spiritually defile or pollute, a defect or disgrace). This is spotless, undefiled, or pure. Figuratively, it is morally pure.
OO “world” = kosmos. Perhaps from the base of komizo (to carry, convey, recover); from komeo (to take care of). This is order, the world, the universe, including its inhabitants. Literally, this is something that is ordered so it can refer to all creation. It can also refer to decoration in the sense that something is better ordered and, thus, made more beautiful. This is where “cosmos” and “cosmetics” come from.

Image credit: “Helping Hands (1/365)” by Stark, 2013.

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