March 16, 2006

James 1: Abiding Under Trials

I’ve been thinking a lot about a certain passage in the Epistle of James lately, namely James 1:12-15. It’s a rather simple concept, but in all honestly a pretty hard act to follow. It’s one of those ‘no duh’ sayings --- but a rather telling one at the same time. The first part goes like this:

“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” (ESV)

Upon further study however, I’m not sure if I rather like the NASB’s translation of this verse, or the ESV’s.

“Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which {the Lord} has promised to those who love Him.” (NASB)

James tells us that ‘blessed’ or ‘happy’ is a person who ὑπομένει (hupomeno) --- which comes from the words meno ‘stay, endure, abide’ and hupo ‘under’ hence the translation ‘preserves under.’ The connotation is one of endurance more then preservation, the same word is used in the Gospels, especially in Matthew where it’s put on the lips of Jesus:

“But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”

Matthew 24:13

Of course, interestingly Luke uses the same word to describe the boy Jesus staying behind at the temple in Jerusalem (Luke 2:43) and Paul uses the exact same word in 1 Corinthians:

“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

1 Corinthians 13:7

I like the word also in its ‘abide’ concept, like ‘abiding in the vine’ of John’s Gospel.

It’s the word πειρασμόν which gets you. Both translate this word as ‘trail’ but it is translated elsewhere as ‘temptation’ --- especially in the Gospels --- where it’s used in the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6: “And lead us not into temptation …” and also in Gethsemane on the night of Jesus’ betrayal:

“Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Mark 14:38

In the next verse the idea is clarified directly as being temptation.

I like the word picture brought up by the next portion “for once he has been approved (δόκιμος) …” Similar to the word we transliterate as ‘dogma’ --- δόκιμος is a banking-type term which means ‘approved’ much like a ‘seal of approval’ on a businessman’s operation. It’s legit, by the books, in right standing.

I think we can relate this to some processes we have to go through in the modern world --- like a lengthy loan process, a top secret security clearance (which believe it or not --- I’ve been through) or even a seminary or PhD process. It’s a long, draw out, hard, costly, but in the end you are ‘official’ so to speak. In that sense I like the NASB’s rendering better.

After that approval process we’ll receive the ‘crown of life’ or more literally the στέφανον ‘wreath’ the same type of wreath given to the winner of a race, a reward. This metaphorically lends itself to the idea of everlasting glory, or in essence everlasting life. It’s the same word used to describe the crown of thorns placed on Jesus’ head during his crucifixion --- but this crown is one of life, not of death.

Perhaps I’ll pick up on the next two verses tomorrow.


At March 16, 2006 12:11 PM, Blogger Christopher Heard said...

Are you sure you don't mean "Abiding under Trials"? "Abiding under Trails" seems like an activity for trolls who are intent on ambushing unsuspecting travelers and/or billy goats. ;-)

At March 16, 2006 3:44 PM, Blogger Justin Jenkins said...

Ooops. Shouldn't post so late at night!


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