A. Trials in Perspective (1:2-4)


While most NT writers follow their salutations by expressing appreciation for their readers or by thanking God for his provisions, James, taking a cue from the notion of "joy" embedded in the term χαίρειν in v. 1, plunges immediately into exhortation regarding joy. The section contains two impvs., the first of fifty-five occurrences in the letter (assuming ἴστε is an impv. in 1:19)—the highest occurrence per verse of any NT book. The basis for the first exhortation is expressed in the form of a causal clause (v. 3). The second (v. 4), connected to the causal clause by the link words ὑπομονή and τέλειος, is motivated by a ἵνα purpose clause.

Verse 2

Πᾶσαν χαρὰν ἡγήσασθε

Though the obj. usually follows the impv. in James, the phrase πᾶσαν χαράν is placed forward for emphasis with the adj., which occupies the first position in the phrase, receiving the most emphasis: "all joy" (see R 776). Πᾶς functions here adjectively (see BDAG 783d; pace Martin, who considers it adv., "altogether" [12 n. a]). The adj., modifying an anar. noun, may connote

In favor of connotation (1) is a parallel cstr. in Phil 2:29, where Paul exhorts the Philippians to welcome Epaphroditus μετὰ πάσης χαρᾶς (i.e., "with great joy"; cf. Rom 15:13). Trials would therefore not be viewed here as occasions for no other emotional response except joy, as though grief is never to be experienced or expressed (see 1 Pet 1:6). Trials, rather, would be viewed as occasions for great joy (Moo 53).

̔Ηγήσασθε is a 2nd pl. aor. mid. impv. of dep. ἡγέομαι, "consider." With the exception of the pres. ptc. that describes a person in a leading position (ὁ ἡγούμενος), the vb. in the NT always denotes a value judgment. In most of these cases, as here, the vb. means to regard someone or something (as) someone or something: "consider it" joy (BDAG 434b); "count it" joy (ESV). The aor. may view the action

While most major EVV translate the acc. χαράν as an obj. of ἡγέομαι, the noun can be taken in an adv. sense, expressing the joyful manner in which trials should be regarded (e.g., "with joy," Dibelius-Greeven 69). However, since ἡγέομαι never takes an adv. acc. elsewhere in the NT and often takes a double obj. (cf., e.g., Phil 2:6), χαράν is best understood here as a pred. acc., the ὅταν clause containing what is essentially the primary obj. of the vb. (see BDAG 434b; Ropes 131; for a discussion of the pred. acc., see R 480-82). The double obj. and the perspectival sense of ἡγέομαι suggests that James is not merely calling his readers to rejoice during their tribulations but to regard their tribulations as occasions to rejoice: "occasion of joy" (Ropes 131); "a matter of joy" (Martin 14); "ground of rejoicing" (Mayor 33); "an opportunity for great joy" (NLT).

ἀδελφοί μου

A voc. normally follows rather than precedes a 2nd pers. vb., as here (see BDF § 474[6]). Since the voc. is accompanied throughout the letter either by an impv. or a paraenetic question (cf. 2:14; 3:12), James is likely employing ἀδελφοί μου to strengthen the hortatory appeal (Martin 14). The translation "brothers and sisters" (NIV²) is justified both by the general use of the term to include women as well as men (see BDAG 18c) and contextually here since the inclusion of ἀδελφή in 2:15 indicates that women were included among James's readership (see Johnson 176).

ὅταν πειρασμοῖς περιπέσητε ποικίλοις

This indef. temp. clause is punctuated with a triple alliteration where each word begins with π. This alliteration may be an echoing of πᾶς in the first clause. The clause is also crafted into an A B A´ B´ pattern in which the conj. at the beginning of the clause generalizes the vb. in the third position and the adj. at the end generalizes the noun in the second position. Though ὅταν, "when," with the subjunc. introduces contingency (T 112), the immediate and wider contexts of oppression in James suggest that the prospect of trials will indeed be realized (cf. 1:1; 2:6-7; 5:4-6, 7-11; etc.). The notion of indef. repetition that is inherent in ὅταν (see BDAG 730b), coupled with the adj. ποικίλος, , -ον ("diverse") brings out the added implication that the trials will be recurrent.

Περιπέσητε is 2nd pl. aor. act. subjunc. of περιπίπτω, "fall into," NKJV; "encounter," NASB²; "come upon," NJB; "meet," ESV. The vb. lit. means to "fall among" or "fall into" (contrast ἐκπίπτω in v. 11). This explains the locat. πειρασμοῖς ποικίλοις, which answers the question "where?" In tune with the indef. viewpoint of the clause, the aor. tense summarizes this recurrent action without specifying anything about the nature of the action. James speaks in general terms of adversities that are inevitably encountered in life (see Spicq 3.99).

For πειρασμός, -οῦ, , see BDAG 293d. The term can denote either

The inherent mng. of περιπίπτω and the move from πειρασμός to δοκίμιον (testing) in v. 3 favor the latter mng. here (so most commentators; "trials," most EVV). As to what the specific afflictions were that James's readers would inevitably suffer, the adj. ποικίλος, , -ον ("diverse," "manifold," "various"; lit. "multicolored") casts the net widely; and by its unusual position, it does so emphatically (Mayor ccxxxviii; see sim. syntax where the noun and adj. are separated by the vb. in 4:6; 5:17). As ὅταν generalizes περιπίπτω by suggesting that trials will be encountered at various times, the adj. generalizes πειρασμός by suggesting that these trials come in a variety of forms ("various," HCSB; "all sorts of," NET; "of many kinds," NIV²).

Verse 3

γινώσκοντες ὅτι

Nom. pl. masc. (agreeing with the pl. subj. of περιπέσητε) of the pres. act. ptc. of γινώσκω ("know"). The cognitive γινώσκω, linked with the perspectival ἡγέομαι in v. 2, marks a key theme in the opening chapter, namely having a proper understanding of reality. Ὅτι typically means "that" when it follows vbs. of thinking (see R 1035). Here the conj. introduces an obj. clause, describing the end result of trials (on this use, see BDF § 397[1]). Γινώσκω occurs slightly less often in James than οἴδα (the former here and in 2:20; 5:20; the latter in 1:19; 3:1; 4:4, 17). There does not appear to be a distinction in mng. between the two; both γινώσκω ὅτι and οἴδα ὅτι are used by James to introduce a fact that forms the basis of an affirmation or, as here, an exhortation (cf. γινώσκοντες ὅτι in Rom 6:6). The ptc. is pres., describing action contemporaneous with the impv. ἡγήσασθε (Wallace 631 n. 45), and causal (rather than generic, pace McKnight 77 n. 41), indicating the reason trials are to be regarded as occasions for joy ("because you know," NRSV; "for you know," NLT; "in the knowledge that," REB). The use of εἰδότες ὅτι in 3:1 to introduce a prior assumption upon which an imperative is based suggests that the participial phrase here is used similarly. James, it seems, reinforces a tradition regarding trials with which he assumes his readers are familiar (Matt 5:10-12?).

τὸ δοκίμιον ὑμῶν τῆς πίστεως

Δοκίμιον, -ου, τό, "testing," "means of testing," "genuineness" (as a neut. adj.) is a rare term appearing elsewhere in BGk. only in 1 Pet 1:7; LXX Ps 11:7a; Prov 27:21a. There are three possible renderings of τὸ δοκίμιον:

Rendering (1) comports both with Peter's use of the substantivized neut. adj. in 1 Pet 1:7 (perhaps as a synonym of δόκιμον; see Turner, Insights 168-69) to denote the result of testing. However, a notion of a refined state of being does not suit the chain-linking logic where the term appears to be in some sense causative. In support of rendering (2), the noun in LXX Prov 27:21a is used to denote the means of purging (δοκίμιον ἀργύρῳ καὶ χρυσῷ πύρωσις, "a crucible is for silver and fire for gold"). Furthermore, the idea of cause is often found in nouns possessing the verbal suf. -ιον (MH 341). The rendering may also find support in Paul's parallel statement in Rom 5:3 that ἡ θλῖψις ὑπομονὴν κατεργάζεται. There, suffering is the means by which endurance is produced. Nevertheless, if James is emphasizing the means by which endurance is produced, we might have expected a rdg. sim. to Paul's where he repeats the term: "Consider it an occasion for joy whenever you encounter various trials because trials produce endurance." Such a rendering would seem to be particularly expected in light of James's word-linkage of ὑπομονή in vv. 3-4. In rendering (3) James is not depicting the means of testing so much as the overall process of testing. This understanding fits nicely into the context since both the multiplicity of trials and the progressive notion inherent in κατεργάζομαι suggests that a process is in view.

While the gen. pers. pron. in the NT may stand before, between, or after the art. and the noun that it qualifies (see R 779), the gen. ὑμῶν regularly follows the head noun (see R 502-3). Here, however, it is placed forward for emphasis. The pl. stresses James's concern for the faith of the community, not just for that of the individual. This is the first occurrence of πίστις in the letter, "faith" (all EVV). The term appears 16 times overall, clustering 11 times in 2:14-25. The noun can refer to what one believes (cf. 2:14, 17, 18, 20, 22, 24, 26). Here the term denotes belief (i.e., trust) in God (cf. 1:6; 2:1, 5, 19, 23; 5:15). The phrase τῆς πίστεως is an obj. gen., being the obj. of the trans. verbal idea in δοκίμιον (for this use, see T 210-12). The next clause indicates that this "testing of faith" is not intended to discover whether faith exists; the trial is intended to refine and strengthen the faith that already exists (Moo 54-55).

κατεργάζεται ὑπομονήν

3rd sg. pres. mid. indic. of dep. κατεργάζομαι, "produce" (most EVV), "bring about," "achieve" (see BDAG 531 b, c). While the pres. tense is progressive, implying that a process is in view (for the progressive pres., see Burton §§ 8-10), the κατά pref. is perfective, stressing the outcome of what is produced by the testing ("complete its work," LN 68.23). The linear sense thus combines with the perfective notion to depict the process leading up to the attained outcome. This idea along with the εργ- root in the vb. anticipates ἔργον τέλειον in v. 4.

The noun ὑπομονή, -ῆς, , "patience," "endurance," "fortitude," "staying power," is rare in the Gospels but is common in the letters and Revelation as a virtue particularly vital for an oppressed community (cf., e.g., Rom 8:25; Rev 3:10). In general, ὑπομονή differs from μακροθυμία (on which, see comments on 5:7) in that the former is used mostly in contexts of adverse circumstances, the latter of adverse people (see Trench, Synonyms 195-98). Etymologically, the term conveys the idea of "remaining under," and this notion of "staying-power" (Ropes 135) or "nerving oneself ... to hold fast" (F. Hauck, TDNT 4.583-84) is appropriate to the context. While the noun is usually art. in the NT, the anar. occurrence here perhaps places emphasis on fortitude as a quality or frame of mind as distinct from the act of enduring (Mayor 36; for the absence of the art. and a qualitative sense, see on 1:1).