James Chapter 1 Notes – Winterim with Dr. Moo

I thought I would post my notes from my James winterim at seminary on here in case anyone is interested. They are in “commentary” format, verse by verse. So far it has been an interesting class, and I will probably post some more collected thoughts later on.

James Chapter 1 Notes - Winterim with Dr. Moo
You can download the notes in pdf format as well, it’s a bit more manageable that way for sure. Or you can view them in html format here on the blog.

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Notes from the 2008 Winterim at the Master’s Seminary on James with Dr. Moo
by Nathan Wells

The Letter of


Chapter 1

Testing Your Faith
James 1:2-18 – Argument

1 James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,

To the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad: Greetings.

2[NRW2] Consider[NRW3] it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various[NRW4] trials[NRW5] ,

3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.

4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect[NRW6] and complete, lacking in nothing.

5 But if any of you lacks[NRW7] wisdom[NRW8] , let him ask[NRW9] of God, who gives[NRW10] to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

6 But he must ask in faith without any doubting[NRW11] , for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea[NRW12] , driven and tossed by the wind.

7 For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord,

8 being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

9[NRW13] But[NRW14] the brother[NRW15] of humble circumstances is to glory[NRW16] in his[NRW17] high position;

10 and the rich[NRW18] man is to glory[NRW19] [NRW20] in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away.

11 For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away.

12 Blessed[NRW21] 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.

13[NRW22] Let no one [NRW23] say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.

14 But each one is tempted[NRW24] when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust[NRW25] .

15[NRW26] Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.

16[NRW27] Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.

17 Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights[NRW28] , with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.

18 In the exercise of His will He brought us forth[NRW29] by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits[NRW30] among His creatures.

James 1:19-2:26 Argument[NRW31]

Sub Point vv. 19-27[NRW32]

19[NRW33] This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger[NRW34] ;

20 for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of[NRW35] God[NRW36] .

21 Therefore[NRW37] , putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility[NRW38] receive[NRW39] [NRW40] the word implanted[NRW41] , which is able to save[NRW42] your souls.

22 But prove yourselves doers of the word[NRW43] , and not merely hearers who delude[NRW44] themselves.

23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word[NRW45] and not a doer, he is like a man who looks[NRW46] at his natural face[NRW47] in a mirror;

24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was.

25 But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty[NRW48] , and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.

26[NRW49] If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless.

27 Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit[NRW50] orphans and widows in their distress[NRW51] , and to keep oneself unstained by the world[NRW52] .


[1] New American Standard Bible : 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995)

[NRW1]Trials lead to “Mature and Complete” vv2-4

-Asking for Wisdom (to endure trials) vv5-8

-The Trial of disparity in wealth vv9-11

Persevering under trials leads to Blessing v 12

-Temptation and trials vv13-15

-God’s provision (for trials) vv16-18

[NRW2]See parallels with verse 9 note

[NRW3]Though this seems abrupt, this is not outside the norm for a letter in those days – don’t make Paul the “rule” for letters. All that really is required for a letter in the Ancient word is a “to you from me”

[NRW4]This may imply the general nature of the letter – for it is “various” trials, not a specific one.

[NRW5] James plays on the word here, because the word can refer to tempting, trials, temptation. In verse 2, 12, 13

[NRW6]Faith to testing to perseverance to “complete” – this word is somewhat difficult to translate – τέλειος – mature on the one hand probably is not strong enough, because it invites comparison (“I am more mature than he is”) and relativism. So some want to translate it as “perfect.” But that invites the idea of sinless perfection.

[NRW7]We see some linking in the language, for in verse 4, James ends with λείπω and here he begins with it.

[NRW8]James moves from being “complete” to “wisdom” which is what makes one complete – we need wisdom in order to endure testing, to view testing in the right light – we see this in the book of Wisdom when it speaks of Abraham, that wisdom allowing him to endure (“Moreover, the nations in their wicked conspiracy being confounded, she [wisdom] found out the righteous, and preserved him [Abraham] blameless unto God, and kept him strong against his tender compassion toward his son.” (Wisdom of Solomon 10:5). But we should not come dogmatically on this – for James doesn’t explicitly tell us. But we can at least suggest these connections, but be careful.NOTE: Just because James uses inferences from non-canonical works does not mean he is claiming that they should be in the Bible – they are part of his world and so he uses them – and those parts that he uses we know to be correct because he uses them by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit – James’ work is inspired, not the inter-testamental works (even those parts which he seems to cite).

[NRW9]Here is the “Asker” as also in verse 6 – and in asking, he must not be double.

[NRW10]This is God, the “Giver” – and how does He give? In a whole, and sincere way. God is single in His giving. ἁπλῶς

[NRW11]This is more referring to an attitude that we are one-minded – it is not that we cannot doubt as far as what God wants for us – that we must pray being fully convinced that what we are praying for will happen or is best – but rather that we have undivided faith in God as the giver, not that we are certain that God is intending to answer our prayer in a positive way, but that God will answer.

[NRW12]This is not so much the breakers on the beach, but more the surface of the water, that it just moves around. It is the waves – as in Lk 8:24 where Jesus calms the waves of the sea.

[NRW13]We see some parallels here with verse 2, as a bit of a pattern on how James interacts in his arguments or statements. We have the concept of “Joy” v2 and “glory” v9 and then “ways” v8 or “pursuits” v11

[NRW14]Another transition without any seeming rhyme or reason.

[NRW15]This is not the same word as “poor” but he is obviously talking about a believer for he uses the word “brother” – but it is difficult to interpret because of verse 10, where this brother is contrasted with the rich – and the rich is not explicitly said to be a believer. So is the rich person a believer? In translation, should we preserve the ambiguity of the text? The TNIV has Believers…But the rich” and therefore Dr. Moo thinks it holds on to the ambiguity better than if using the singular in the translation.

Commentaries are split about half and half on this issue, on whether the rich are Christians or not.

[NRW16]The poor have the tendency to view themselves as low, therefore they should remember their standing in Christ – notice James says different things to different audiences.


[NRW17]The TNIV uses plurals here instead of the singulars, and Dr. Moo thinks that helps align the translation with the Greek text – their goal is to translate in contemporary English – not church English, but for the English speaking world. Their guess is that the English language is undergoing the process of “him, he” would not be understood as generic humans. So they used plurals when the text did not seem to be speaking only to men.

[NRW18]We may need to adjust our concept of whether or not we are rich or poor – and most people think themselves as somewhere in the middle. James speaks of extremes to make a point about oneness and equality in Christ. We don’t need to say we are rich because we are in America, because it depends on how we view ourselves. We might view ourselves as poor in our context, and so must follow James’ teaching to the poor. Notice how Biblical James is in his teaching – references to Job etc. Not so much about judgment unto death, but just that riches pass away.

[NRW19]The rich have the tendency to think of themselves to highly, so James reminds them of the humility that must be his because of Christ. THIS IS OPPOSITE OF THE WORLD

[NRW20]Question: Because of the gapping seen here, can we assume that James gaps in regards to the “brother” term?

[NRW21]“A person who is ‘blessed’ may not be ‘happy’ at all. For our emotional state may and will vary with the circumstances of life. But we can be assured that, whatever those circumstances, if we endure them with faith and commitment to God, we will be the recipients of God’s favor” (p. 69-70 – Moo on James)

[NRW22]πειράζω – When tested…do not say ‘God is tempting me “God cannot be tempted by evil and he tempts no one” (verse 14) Each of you is tempted when – NOTE: notice the play on testing and tempting – Dr. Moo thinks there is a switch here in the way it should be translated, tested to tempting.

The Greek word is: πειρασμός

God tests, but He does not tempt.

This is seen also in “Say not thou, It is through the Lord that I fell away: for thou oughtest not to do the things that he hateth.” (Sirach 15:11ff)

“Every testing brings a temptation.” – Dr.Moo


[NRW23]There are some comparisons between the one who doubts God, for God is a giver, and this one who doubts God’s character in thinking that God is evil.

[NRW24]Is it sin right at the temptation? It is a very fine line. For in a perfect world, when we are perfected we will not be tempted by sin. But in another sense, we live in the world of sin, and it is part of sin, and only when we give in to the temptation is it sin. For Christ was tempted in all ways as we are, and without sin. Or looking at a woman with lust, giving the sense that it is possible to look without lust, and therefore the temptation could be there to lust, but still looking without lusting.

Knowledge of sin is not sin – but can we say that God does not know sin as we do, for we know it experientially and God does not? Thinking is an action, and so are those impure thoughts sin? But we go back to Christ, that He has some though of sin, and yet was without sin.

James’ point seems to assume that the desire will be there, but we should not allow it to give birth to sin, and therefore death.

What of God not being tempted, with Jesus being tempted? It falls into the same category as Jesus and omnipresence.

[NRW25]James is not ignoring Satan, but James, as a pastor, is reminding us of our own responsibility. We cannot blame others, we must look at ourselves. In us there is a tendency to turn away from God, rather than towards Him.

[NRW26]James uses a picture of “birth” as a counterpart of the “life” of verse 12 for verse 15 ends in “death”

[NRW27]This is another transition, and it is difficult to know what James is doing here.

“God does not tempt, but He gives good and perfect gifts” – Dr. Moo

Possibly to be seen as, even in the midst of the trials, God does not only NOT tempt us, but He gives us the provision to endure the trials.

[NRW28]i.e. The Creator

[NRW29]Again we see the “birthing” terms as used in verse 15

[NRW30]James implies that Christians that are converted, are not the final work, but that God is going to do more, for we are “first fruits”

[NRW31]Basic point: The Word that gives new birth (now) and saves (in the future) [“gospel”] must be obeyed [“law”] 1:19-27

Application: The Word (as “law”) forbids all forms of discrimination 2:1-13

Theological Issue: Our Ultimate Standing with God is bound up with doing the Word 2:14-26


New Birth through the Word of Truth v 18

-To Word “planted” in us v 21

-To “Accept the Word” v 21

-To Do the Word! V 22

—In Personal Morality, Godly Values, and Social Justice


I. “Recognize” the Word for what it is

a. It is God’s (1 Thess. 1-2)

b. It is powerful (Heb. 4:12)

c. It is available (Rom. 10:8-9)

II. “Internalize” the Word (get to the point where you naturally respond to life inline with God’s Word, for you have a renewed mind) Luke 8:1-15

III. “Live” the Word

a. Mt. 7:24-27

Rom. 6:17
Our Goal as pastors should not just be to tell people what the Word says, but that they would be renewed in their minds.

[NRW33]Dr. Moo does not think the “Word of God” is implied here as the object of listening and speaking (because of slow to anger). Also because of the “proverbial” nature of this saying: Sir. 5:11-13 Prov. 17:28 Prov. 17:27

[NRW34]This helps us to see that James is speaking generally be quick to hear and generally slow to speak in everyday life, because if he was speaking specifically about the Word (as in don’t many of you become teachers), it doesn’t seem that he would have added this part about anger, because that does not fit in the context of the Word.

[NRW35]This is not really a literal rendering, because the Greek does not have a preposition – it uses a noun the genitive case. We can have interlinear literal translations. Sometimes even though there is ambiguity of the Greek, we cannot preserve it – in English “of” means something, and normally is not as ambiguous as we think.

[NRW36]The behavior that God approves of, or desires. That is the normal Old Testament understanding – don’t read Paul into James. The TNIV has, “the righteousness that

God desires” in order to make sure that no one thinks of Paul when they read it. But in Romans they left it “the righteousness of God.”

[NRW37]This brings the teaching about the Word of God again after the two verse hiatus.

[NRW38]Something interesting, the critical text editors put a comma, separating “humility” from “receive” (“πραΰτητι, δέξασθε”) and yet most English translations ignore it and put humility with receive.

[NRW39]What does this mean? Accepting is more passive than “doing” God is working, but then right after he implores us to “DO” the Word.

[NRW40]Many times we use this word “receive” as a word for conversion – but James is not referring to conversion (for he is writing to Christians), but rather a continuing receiving, accepting of the Word in allowing it to transform our lives (for it has been implanted already).

[NRW41]Or “planted in you” – some say “inherent” or “innate” – but really you run into problems because it seems it is only those who are Christians, not something just in everyone. And this brings us to think that James is thinking of the Jer. 31:31-34 Prophecy, God putting the Law on His people’s hearts. Or even the parable of Jesus about the seeds on different types of ground.

[NRW42]There are many uses of “save” and “salvation” which refer to conversion, but there are also many which use the word to refer to the ultimate “salvation” (already, not yet) such as “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.” (Romans 5:9)“… for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed.” (Romans 13:11)

What if we don’t receive this Word? Will we be saved? It seems there is a Biblical tension here – we are saved, justified, but there also is the fact that if we are not obedient to the Lord, that we will not be saved on the last day (or be proved to not have been saved in the first place – we should not have a false sense of security, living a life of sin and thinking we are saved). We have assurance, but WITHOUT presumption, a zealous pursuit of holiness WITHOUT anxiety.

[NRW43]Not just passively receive, but DO the Word. James is very careful to look at all sides here.

[NRW44]Deceiving themselves about their spiritual status, about their relationship with the Lord, they think that they belong to Christ, but their failure to accept the Word planted in them, shows they do not belong to the Lord.

[NRW45]Notice James use of “word” here and his use of “law” in verse 25 – God’s Word is one seamless whole. You can’t have one part of the Word without the others. You can’t be a person who picks and chooses. Law and Gospel are two sides of the same coin.

[NRW46]What is the point? Is it what we look at, or how we look or the impact of our looking?

James uses two different words for “look” – κατανοέω vs. παρακύπτω Is it superficially looking verses meditation? No, these words don’t really convey that sense (κατανοέω actually can mean “contemplate”).

So it seems James is thinking more about the result of our looking, that we just look in the mirror and they forget what they look like. Or looking in the mirror and you are all disheveled, but don’t do anything about it – verses the one who looks in the mirror and sees their messed up hair and does something about it (brushes it, styles it). So also, we should look in the Word, see ourselves, and do something about it.

[NRW47]What does this mean?

Some say: “the face we are born with” (Adamic nature) or

“the face of our existence” (our actual face) It seems that the more natural meaning is just a simple illustration, being just our face that we would actually see when we look in a mirror.

[NRW48]This is equivalent, in James’ vocabulary, to “the Word.”

[NRW49]Verse 26 and 27 seem to be a “Jumping Off” text.

Verse 26 is on “Controlling the Tongue” we see the topic of “speech, speaking, saying” brought up many times in the book: 1:19-20; 2:12, 14, 16, 18; 3:1-12; 4:11-12, 13, 15; 5:9, 12

Then v 27 on “Visiting Orphans and Widows” seen in 2:1-3, 15-16; 5:1-6

and then “Keeping from being polluted by the world” 3:6 and 4:4

[NRW50]ἐπισκέπτομαι – This can mean “to exercise oversight in behalf of, look after, make an appearance to helpnot just a literal “visit” alone.

[NRW51]Be careful not to just think “widows and orphans” here but more about having a sincere concern for the weak, the oppressed, those who cannot help themselves which leads them to act. Social justice comes to mind, but might not be the best term to use to refer to what James is speaking about. Finding ways to imitate God in His own concern for the weak.

“This should leave thoughtful Christians to be deeply concerned about global warming…Climate change is going to hit the poor and the marginalized the hardest.” – Dr. Moo

“I am not endorsing Al Gore” – Dr. Moo

Well, maybe this should at least cause us to become educated about global warming, even if we come to the position that it isn’t a problem. But it is a good point. It is difficult to know how to import biblical principals into government etc., but we must wrestle with these issues.

How should this effect our view on immigration law? Don’t separate your thoughts about world issues from the biblical worldview. Look through biblical eyes. And interesting verse concerning global warming is God’s promise to Noah: “While the earth remains, Seedtime and harvest, And cold and heat, And summer and winter, And day and night Shall not cease.” (Genesis 8:22)

[NRW52]This falls under the broad category of godly values, in contrast to the values or the world.


2 Responses to James Chapter 1 Notes – Winterim with Dr. Moo

  1. Jim Darlack says:

    Great notes! Keep on posting them. Thanks.

  2. Tato says:

    These notes are helpful… thanks.

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