VINCENT'S WORD STUDIES
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Robertson's Word Pictures in the NT - Greek NT
To bridle. See on ch. i. 26.
Bits (calinouv). Only here and Apoc. xiv. 20. It may be rendered either bit, as A.V., or bridle, as Rev., but bridle is preferable because it corresponds with the verb to bridle (ver. 2) which is compounded with this noun.
Horses. The position in the sentence is emphatic.
We turn about (metagomen). Used by James only.
So great. As the ship which conveyed Paul to Malta, which contained two hundred and seventy-six persons (Acts xxvii. 37).
Fierce (sklhrwn). More literally, and better, as Rev., rough. The word primarily means hard, harsh.
Helm (phdaliou). Better, rudder, as Rev. The rudder was an oar worked by a handle. Helm and rudder were thus one. The word occurs only here and Acts xxvii. 40.
The governor listeth (h ormh tou euqunontov bouletai). Lit., the impulse or desire of the steersman wisheth. 'Ormh, impulse, only here and Acts xiv. 5, of an assault, onset.
The governor (tou euqunontov). Rev., steersman. Lit., of him who is guiding. Only here and John i. 23. From 'Ormh, straight.
How great a matter a little fire kindleth (hlikon pur hlikhn ulhn anaptei). The word ulh (only here in New Testament) means wood or a forest, and hence the matter or raw material of which a thing is made. Later, it is used in the philosophical sense of matter - "the foundation of the manifold" - opposed to the intelligent or formative principle nouv, mind. The authorized version has taken the word in one of its secondary senses, hardly the philosophical sense it would seem; but any departure from the earlier sense was not only needless, but impaired the vividness of the figure, the familiar and natural image of a forest on fire. So Homer:
"As when a fire Seizes a thick-grown forest, and the wind Drives it along in eddies, while the trunks Fall with the boughs amid devouring flames." Iliad, xi., 156.
Hence, Rev., rightly, "Behold how much wood or how great a forest is kindled by how small a fire.
This, too, is the rendering of the Vulgate: quam magnum silvam.
Defileth (spilousa). Lit., defiling. Only here and Jude 23. See on 2 Peter ii. 13.
Setteth on fire (flogizousa). Lit., setting on fire. Only in this verse in New Testament.
The course of nature (trocon thv genesewv). A very obscure passage. Trocov (only here in New Testament), from trecw, to run, applies generally to anything round or circular which runs or rolls, as a wheel or sphere. Hence, often a wheel. Used of the circuit of fortifications and of circles or zones of land or sea. From the radical sense, to run, comes the meaning course, as the course of the sun; and from this a place for running, a race-course. Genesewv rendered nature, means origin, beginning, birth, manner of birth, production, and is used by Plato for the creation, or the sum of created things. It also means a race, and a generation or age. In the New Testament it occurs but twice outside of this epistle, viz., at Matt. i. 1, "the book of the generation of Jesus Christ," where the meaning is origin or birth; the birth-book of Jesus Christ. The other passage is Matt. i. 18, according to the best texts, also meaning birth. In Jas. i. 23, as we have seen, proswpon thv genesewv is the face of his birth. We may then safely translate trocov by wheel; and as birth is the meaning of genesiv in every New Testament passage where it occurs, we may give it the preference here and render the wheel of birth - i.e.., the wheel which is set in motion at birth and runs on to the close of life. It is thus a figurative description of human life. So Anacreon: "The chariot-wheel, like life, runs rolling round."
Tertullian says: "The whole revolving wheel of existence bears witness to the resurrection of the dead." The Rev., which gives nature, puts birth in margin. This revolving wheel is kindled by the tongue, and rolls on in destructive blaze. The image is justified by the fact. The tongue works the chief mischief, kindles the most baleful fires in the course of life.
Beasts (qhriwn). Quadrupeds. Not beasts generally, nor wild beasts only. In Acts xxviii. 4, 5, the word is used of the viper which fastened on Paul's hand. In Peter's vision (Acts x. 12; xi. 6) there is a different classification from the one here; quadrupeds being denoted by a specific term, tetrapoda, four-footed creatures. There qhria includes fishes, which in this passage are classed as ejnaliwn, things in the sea.
By mankind (th fusei th anqrwpinh). Rather, by the nature of man, fusiv, as before, denoting the generic character. Every nature of beasts is tamed by the nature of man. Compare the fine chorus in the "Antigone" of Sophocles, 343-352:
"The thoughtless tribe of birds, The beasts that roam the fields, The brood in sea-depths born, He takes them all in nets, Knotted in snaring mesh, Man, wonderful in skill. And by his subtle arts He holds in sway the beasts That roam the fields or tread the mountain's height; And brings the binding yoke Upon the neck of horse with shaggy mane, Or bull on mountain crest, Untamable in strength."
Unruly (akatasceton). Lit., not to be held back. The proper reading, however, is ajkatastaton, unsettled. See on kaqistatai, hath its place, ver. 6. Rev., correctly, restless.
Deadly (qanathforou). Lit., death-bearing, or bringing. Only here in New Testament.
Poison (iou). Rendered rust at ch. v. 3; and found only in these two passages and in Rom. iii. 13, in the citation of Ps. cxl. 3.
Which. Not who, which would designate personally certain men; whereas James designates them generically.
Place (ophv). Rather, opening or hole in the earth or rock. Rev., opening. Compare caves, Heb. xi. 38. The word is pleasantly suggestive in connection with the image of the eye of the landscape. See above. Sweet water and bitter. The readers of the epistle would recall the bitter waters of Marah (Exod. xv. 23), and the unwholesome spring at Jericho (2 Kings ii. 19-21).
In the New Testament sofov is used - 1. In the original classical sense, skilled in handicraft (1 Cor. iii. 10). 2. Accomplished in letters, learned (Rom. i. 14, 22; 1 Cor. i. 19, 26; iii. 18). So of the Jewish theologians and doctors (Matt. xi. 25), and of Christian teachers (Matt. xxiii. 34). 3. In a practical sense, of the practice of the law of piety and honesty; so Eph. v. 15, where it is joined with walking circumspectly, and 1 Cor. vi. 5, where it is represented as the quality adapted to adjust differences in the church. 4. In the higher, philosophical sense, of devising the best counsels and employing the best means to carry them out. So of God, Rom. xvi. 27; 1 Tim. i. 17; Jude 25; 1 Corinthians i. 25. In this passage the word appears to be used in the sense of iii. practical wisdom in pious living.
'Episthmwn occurs only here in the New Testament. In classical Greek it is often used like sofov, in the sense of skilled, versed; and by the philosophers in the higher sense of scientifically versed, in which sense it is opposed by Plato to doxasthv, a mere conjecturer. In this passage sofov would seem to be the broader, more general, and perhaps more dignified term of the two, as denoting the habit or quality, while ejpisthmwn indicates the special development and intelligent application of the quality to particular things. The Rev., wise and understanding, gives the distinction, on the whole, as nearly as is necessary.
Conversation (anastrofhv). See on 1 Pet. i. 15.
Meekness of wisdom. On meekness, see on Matt. v. 5. The meekness which is the proper attribute of wisdom.
"Knowledge is proud that she has learned so much, Wisdom is humble that she knows no more."
Strife (eriqeian). A wrong rendering, founded on the mistaken derivation from eriv, strife. It is derived from eriqov, a hired servant, and means, primarily, labor for hire. Compare Tobit ii. 11: My wife did take women's work to do (hriqeueto). Thus it comes to be applied to those who serve in official positions for their own selfish interest, and who, to that end, promote party spirit and faction. So Rom. ii. 8: them that are contentious (ex eriqeiav), lit., of faction. Rev., factious. Also, 2 Corinthians xii. 20. Rev., here, rightly, faction.
From above. Compare ch. i. 17.
Sensual (yucikh). See on Jude 19.
Devilish (daimoniwdhv). Or demoniacal, according to the proper rendering of daimwn (see on Matt. iv. 1). Only here in New Testament. Devilish, "such," says Bengel, "as even devils have." Compare ch. ii. 19.
Evil (faulon). An inadequate rendering, because it fails to bring out the particular phase of evil which is dominant in the word: worthlessness, good-for-nothingness. In classical Greek it has the meanings slight, trivial, paltry, which run into bad. In the New Testament it appears in this latest stage, and is set over against good. See John iii. 20; v. 29; Tit. ii. 8. Rev., vile, which, according to its etymology, Lat., vilis, follows the same process of development from cheap, or paltry, to bad.
Easy to be intreated (eupeiqhv). Only here in New Testament.
Without partiality (adiakritov). Only here in New Testament and very rare in classical Greek. Rev., without variance or doubting. See on ch. i. 6.