Tag Archives: william varner

Book Review: James: Evangelical Exegetical Commentary by William Varner

William Varner’s new commentary on James in the EEC Series by Logos is a goldmine of theological treasures. This commentary is extremely thorough and covers a wide range of exegesis from textual criticism to preaching and devotional use. It is not easy to encounter a commentary that addresses all these issues well but from my use of this commentary since its release I can say that Dr. Varner has succeeded. I have encountered a variety of commentaries on James but this one is by far the most thorough. Here is a summary from Logos on the EEC series:

The publication of the EEC by Logos marks the first time a major Bible commentary series has been published in digital form before its print counterpart—and the first time it has been published with a digital format in mind.

Because it will be published by Logos, the EEC will be fully integrated into the most advanced biblical and theological library available anywhere, powered by Logos Bible Software. It will be accessible wherever Logos Bible Software’s platform is available, including Windows, Mac, and iOS devices like the iPhone and iPad. Users who purchase the EEC will also be able to access it online at Biblia.com, and on any future platform where Logos is available.

With the Logos edition, the EEC is completely searchable and full of hyperlinks for easy navigation—including links for Scripture references, cross-references, footnotes, and more. It contains accurate metadata and extensive tagging done by real humans, who understand that when you search for sacrament, results for Lord’s Supper and Communion and Eucharist should appear, too.

Introduction

The introduction is a standard one covering authorship, recipients, date, occasion, themes etc. One of the strengths is Varner’s outline of James. There has been much debate in scholarship regarding the structure of James, which usually boils down to that James is loosely related. Using discourse analysis he presents a convincing argument for the following structure of James:

Commentary

Each section of the commentary is generally broken down into nine sections:

  • Introduction
  • Outline
  • Original Text
  • Textual Notes
  • Translation
  • Commentary
  • Biblical Theological Comments
  • Application and Devotional Implications
  • Selected Bibliography

Each section is full of information and is very helpful for the exegete. The detail given to each section does not leave anyone wanting from the student needing assistance in the grammar in James to the pastor needing help teaching James today. The selected bibliography at the end of each section is also very helpful.

The end of the commentary includes three excursuses:

  1. Excursus on Scot McKnight’s Treatment of James 2:18
  2. Excursus on James 3:1–12: Can The Tongue Really Be Controlled?
  3. Excursus on Wisdom in James

Faith and Works

On the issue of faith and works being compatible with Paul’s teaching on justification by faith Varner takes the eschatological judgement of works on the last day. Following the argument of both Moo and Beale Varner says that “While James uses “justify” and “justification” to refer to God’s ultimate declaration of a person’s righteousness, Paul uses it to refer to the initial securing of that righteousness by faith.”[1] He shows that this understanding is also used by Jesus in Matthew 12:37 that the believer will be judged based on his works in an eschatological sense. He concludes, “Paul wants to make clear that one ‘gets into’ God’s kingdom only by faith; James insists that God requires works from those who are ‘in.’”[2]

The Law

Varner sees no difference between the “word” and “law” in James. In a helpful discussion on these topics he points out that James’ sees the law in the same way that Jesus presented the law in the Gospels. This “Jesus-shaped” understanding of the law allows the reader to see the connection between the “word of truth”, “implanted word”, “perfect law”, “royal law”, and “law of freedom”. He concludes by saying, Some readers may think it is necessary to make a distinction between the various synonyms for “word” and “law” in James. I am convinced, however, that James would not intend a semantic or even theological distinction between the Torah and Jesus’ teaching. James bases his argument on the Torah as it was understood, interpreted, and applied by the new King over the reconstituted twelve tribes, our glorious Lord Jesus the Messiah.”[3] I think the comparison with Jesus’ understanding of the law gives the reader a helpful explanation of what James is talking about.

The Rendering of τέλειος

One aspect I think misguides readers in James’ is the translation of τέλειος as perfect. Often times, such as the case here, the explanation of the word describes the way James is using it but the translation is still the word perfect. Perfection in the English language often denotes a negative sense or this moral achievement without any blemish. James uses τέλειος throughout to signify the completeness and totality of what he is talking about. In James 1:4 the word is used to describe the complete nature of the person who endures trials. Using the word perfect in translation hides this meaning and often times gives the reading a negative connotation when James is exhorting the believe to endure because we are to be whole and complete in the same way God is. Varner explains this well by saying, “As τέλειος means “complete,” so ὁλόκληρος means “complete in all its parts,” with no part missing.”[4] Indeed, he rightly compares this passage with Matthew 5:48 and shows that James’ using this word in the same way as Jesus, “to be τέλειος is to be a complete person with integrity, not like the divided man who is about to be described in 1:6–8”[5] This is just a minor quibble and in no way takes away from the commentary itself. I just hope that at some point the translation of τέλειος as perfect in most cases would be abandoned because of the often times negative connotations it brings in that a person must now be “super good” in his actions.

Conclusion

Overall, one would be hard pressed to come across a more complete commentary on James. The strength of this commentary is that Varner thoroughly covers the nitty gritty Greek grammar/exegesis of the text but also provides a biblical theological summary and pastoral reflections. It is not everyday that you can find a commentary that does this well but this one succeeds. Varner’s thorough research and knowledge in the many areas this commentary covers shines throughout. Even where one may disagree with him, Varner is always charitable in his disagreements and provides ample evidence for his own reading. If I were to buy one commentary on James this would be it. You can purchase the commentary here.


  1. William Varner, James, ed. H. Wayne House, W. Hall Harris, III and Andrew W. Pitts, Evangelical Exegetical Commentary, Jas 2:21 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2012).  ↩

  2. ibid.  ↩

  3. William Varner, James, ed. H. Wayne House, W. Hall Harris, III and Andrew W. Pitts, Evangelical Exegetical Commentary, Jas 2:8 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2012).  ↩

  4. William Varner, James, ed. H. Wayne House, W. Hall Harris, III and Andrew W. Pitts, Evangelical Exegetical Commentary, Jas 1:4 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2012).  ↩

  5. ibid  ↩

Blogging Through James: James 1:12-15

http://www.instapaper.com/e2?url=https://brianrenshaw.com/blog/2013/4/25/blogging-through-james-james-112-15&title=Blogging%20Through%20James:%20James%201:12-15

This semester I am taking Greek Exegesis of James with Dr. Plummer. Our final exam is coming up at the beginning of May. In preparation for this I am creating a short, running commentary on the text. For the reader of this blog it may seem that there is no rhyme or reason to what I choose to include but it is primarily covering aspects that I think will be pertinent for my final exam and what I want documented. Also see my post about the Greek vocabulary of James in formatted PDF and a flashcard app for mobile devices. Feel free to post any comments or questions or email me. The translation and notes are my own and do not necessarily reflect the view of Dr. Plummer.

James 1:12-15

NA28 Text
Parsing of Key Words
Definitions of Key Words (BDAG)
Grammar
Translation
Notes

NA28 Text

12 Μακάριος ἀνὴρ ὃς ὑπομένει πειρασμόν, ὅτι δόκιμος γενόμενος λήμψεται τὸν στέφανον τῆς ζωῆς ὃν ἐπηγγείλατο τοῖς ἀγαπῶσιν αὐτόν. 13 μηδεὶς πειραζόμενος λεγέτω ὅτι ἀπὸ θεοῦ πειράζομαι· ὁ γὰρ θεὸς ἀπείραστός ἐστιν κακῶν, πειράζει δὲ αὐτὸς οὐδένα. 14 ἕκαστος δὲ πειράζεται ὑπὸ τῆς ἰδίας ἐπιθυμίας ἐξελκόμενος καὶ δελεαζόμενος· 15 εἶτα ἡ ἐπιθυμία συλλαβοῦσα τίκτει ἁμαρτίαν, ἡ δὲ ἁμαρτία ἀποτελεσθεῖσα ἀποκύει θάνατον.

Parsing of Key Words

The parsing in this passage is straightforward

Definitions of Key Words (BDAG)

  • δόκιμος – pertaining to being genuine on the basis of testing, approved (by test), tried and true, genuine
  • γίνομαι – has the sense to experience a change in nature and so indicate entry into a new condition . The one who is endures trials becomes approved and…
  • ἐπιθυμία – in a negative sense – a desire for something forbidden or simply inordinate, craving, lust
  • ἐξέλκω – to drag away, with connotation of initial reluctance, drag away
  • δελεάζω – to arouse someone’s interest in something. by adroit measures, lure, entice
  • συλλαβοῦσα τίκτει – together means to give birth
  • ἀποτελέω – to bring an activity to an end, bring to completion, finish

Grammar

  • ΜακάριοςWallace – (Anarthrous) First Predicate Position: When, however, the same construction has been determined from the context to express a predicate relation, the adjective is in the first (anarthrous) predicate position to the noun (e.g., ἀγαθὸς βασιλεύς = a king is good). Though much less common than the attributive relation, in equative clauses (viz., a clause in which an equative verb is stated or implied), this is not too uncommon.1
  • ὅτι – introduces a causal clausal stating the reason for the testing
  • γενόμενος – could be a causal participle (because he is approved) or adverbial (when/after he is approved). Either way the result is the same. Varner opts for a sense of both saying, “This causal/temporal clause complex points to the testing nuance of the πειρα – word group rather than the tempting aspect, which is its nuance in Jas. 1:13. Saying that one has stood the test or that he has been approved is actually another way of saying that he endures and does not become a further condition of receiving the crown.”2
  • τῆς ζωῆς – epexegetical (appositive) genitive; BDF – The use of the appositive genitive, i.e. of the genitive used in the sense of an appositive, conforms in the NT to classical usage3
  • κακῶν – genitive of means (by)
  • ἀπείραστόςVarner – The force of the verbal adjective ending in -τος is to express possibility. Coupled with the alpha privative prefix the form then connotes the idea of impossibility4
  • τίκτει and ἀποκύει are synonyms just saying “to give birth”. James is not embedding any difference by using two different words.

Translation

12 Blessed is the man who endures trials because when he is approved he will receive the crown of life, which is promised to those who love him. 13 Let no one say, “I am tempted from God” because God is not tempted by evil and he tempts no one. 14 Each person is tempted when he is dragged and lured by his own desires. 15 Then when the desire is conceived it gives birth to sin and when sin runs its course it gives birth to death.

Notes

Enduring trials helps bring about the whole and complete Christian. When the believer endures these trials he will receive eternal life. This continues to show James’ idea of τέλειος. Faith and works are essential, saying one just has faith but doesn’t endures trials is disproving his faith. The believer who is who endures trials because of his faith. The wholeness of God is also present here in that later we will see that God is the giver of ever good and complete gift and here we are told that God is not tempted by evil. God is not divided therefore it is impossible for him to tempt the believer with evil. James shows the double natured aspect of the person because the believer is dragged away by his own evil desires.


  1. Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics – Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament, 310 (Zondervan Publishing House and Galaxie Software, 1999). ↩

  2. William Varner, James, ed. H. Wayne House, W. Hall Harris, III and Andrew W. Pitts, Evangelical Exegetical Commentary, Jas 1:12 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2012). ↩

  3. Friedrich Blass, Albert Debrunner and Robert Walter Funk, A Greek Grammar of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 92 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961). ↩

  4. William Varner, James, ed. H. Wayne House, W. Hall Harris, III and Andrew W. Pitts, Evangelical Exegetical Commentary, Jas 1:13 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2012). ↩

Download the PDF here

Blogging Through James: James 1:9-11

This semester I am taking Greek Exegesis of James with Dr. Plummer. Our final exam is coming up at the beginning of May. In preparation for this I am creating a short, running commentary on the text. For the reader of this blog it may seem that there is no rhyme or reason to what I choose to include but it is primarily covering aspects that I think will be pertinent for my final exam and what I want documented. Also see my post about the Greek vocabulary of James in formatted PDF and a flashcard app for mobile devices. Feel free to post any comments or questions or email me. The translation and notes are my own and do not necessarily reflect the view of Dr. Plummer.

James 1:9–11

NA28 Text
Parsing of Key Words
Definitions of Key Words
Grammar
Translation
Notes

NA28 Text

9 Καυχάσθω δὲ ὁ ἀδελφὸς ὁ ταπεινὸς ἐν τῷ ὕψει αὐτοῦ, 10 ὁ δὲ πλούσιος ἐν τῇ ταπεινώσει αὐτοῦ, ὅτι ὡς ἄνθος χόρτου παρελεύσεται. 11 ἀνέτειλεν γὰρ ὁ ἥλιος σὺν τῷ καύσωνι καὶ ἐξήρανεν τὸν χόρτον, καὶ τὸ ἄνθος αὐτοῦ ἐξέπεσεν, καὶ ἡ εὐπρέπεια τοῦ προσώπου αὐτοῦ ἀπώλετο· οὕτως καὶ ὁ πλούσιος ἐν ταῖς πορείαις αὐτοῦ μαρανθήσεται.

Parsing of Key Words

  • ἀνέτειλεν – Aor Act Ind 3S ἀνατέλλω
  • ἐξήρανεν – Aor Act Ind 3S ξηραίνω
  • ἐξέπεσεν Aor Act Ind 3S ἐκπίπτω

Definitions of Key Words

  • παρέρχομαι – to disappear gradually, die out, fade, disappear, wither of plants
  • πορεία – way of life, conduct (see Pr 2:7 & 1 Cl 48:4)
  • μαραίνω – to disappear gradually, die out, fade, disappear, wither

Grammar

  • v. 9 δὲ – marking a slightly new development but still continuing a similar theme.
  • Καυχάσθω – generally takes its object as ἔν τινι in or about a person or thing (BDAG).
  • v. 11 – the καὶ connection “constrains the connected elements to be closely associated with what comes before” [1] and then the final οὕτως καὶ shows emphasis relating the rich man and the flower of the grass

Translation

9 Let the humble brother boast in his exaltation 10 and the rich (brother) in his lowly state, because like a flower of the grace it will pass away. 11 For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass, and its flower falls, and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed, so too the rich (brother) will fall away in his way of life.

Notes

Is the rich man a believer or an unbeliever? In the context of the verse I opt for the rich man as a believer. In Jas 1:9, Καυχάσθω is assumed in Jas 1:10. I would also argue that ἀδελφὸς should go along with πλούσιος too.

Also see Varner:

“While the language reminiscent of Isaiah 40:6–7 is strong, it should be noted that the verbs (παρελεύσεται in 1:10;μαρανθήσεται in 1:11) are not used of eternal punishment in other biblical passages. There is also the possibility that the fading away refers to the riches and not the eternal passing of the rich person. If we also view Jeremiah 9:23–24 as the background, it should help us to understand that the boast is not ironic but is one in which believers are encouraged to anticipate a day when riches will mean little in light of living in accordance with God’s will (4:17). Finally, the idea that a person should boast or take pride in his own condemnation seems hard to take seriously. Therefore, the entire passage is both an encouragement to poorer believers, as well as a stern warning to richer believers.” [2]


  1. Runge, Steven. Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament : a Practical Introduction for Teaching and Exegesis. Peabody Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers Marketing, 2010., 26  ↩

  2. William Varner, James, ed. H. Wayne House, W. Hall Harris, III and Andrew W. Pitts, Evangelical Exegetical Commentary, Jas 1:10 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2012).  ↩

Download the PDF here

Blogging Throught James: James 1:5-8

This semester I am taking Greek Exegesis of James with Dr. Plummer. Our final exam is coming up at the beginning of May. In preparation for this I am creating a short, running commentary on the text. For the reader of this blog it may seem that there is no rhyme or reason to what I choose to include but it is primarily covering aspects that I think will be pertinent for my final exam and what I want documented. Also see my post about the Greek vocabulary of James in formatted PDF and a flashcard app for mobile devices. Feel free to post any comments or questions or email me. The translation and notes are my own and do not necessarily reflect the view of Dr. Plummer.

James 1:5–8

NA28 Text
Parsing of Key Words
Definitions of Key Words
Grammar
Translation
Notes

NA28 Text

5 Εἰ δέ τις ὑμῶν λείπεται σοφίας, αἰτείτω παρὰ τοῦ διδόντος θεοῦ πᾶσιν ἁπλῶς καὶ μὴ ὀνειδίζοντος, καὶ δοθήσεται αὐτῷ. 6 αἰτείτω δὲ ἐν πίστει μηδὲν διακρινόμενος· ὁ γὰρ διακρινόμενος ἔοικεν κλύδωνι θαλάσσης ἀνεμιζομένῳ καὶ ῥιπιζομένῳ. 7 μὴ γὰρ οἰέσθω ὁ ἄνθρωπος ἐκεῖνος ὅτι λήμψεταί τι παρὰ τοῦ κυρίου, 8 ἀνὴρ δίψυχος, ἀκατάστατος ἐν πάσαις ταῖς ὁδοῖς αὐτοῦ.

Parsing of Key Words

  • ὀνειδίζοντος – Pres Act Part Gen Sing Masc ὀνειδίζω
  • δοθήσεται – Fut Pass Ind 3S δίδωμι
  • ἔοικεν – Perf Act In 3S ἔοικα
  • ἀνεμιζομένῳ – Pres Mid/Pass Part Dat Sing Masc ἀνεμίζω
  • ῥιπιζομένῳ – Pres Mid/Pass Part Dat Sing Masc ῥιπίζω
  • οἰέσθω – Pres Mid/Pass Imv 3S οἴομαι

Definitions of Key Words

  • ὀνειδίζοντος – to find fault in a way that demeans the other, reproach, revile, mock, heap insults upon
  • ἁπλῶς – This word is often times translated “generously” (ESV) but the connotation here is probably closer to “without hesitation” or “single intent”. BDAG says, “pert. to being straightforward, simply, above board, sincerely, openly.” Citing Shepherd of Hermas and 2 Clement (Hm 2:4 without having second thoughts about the donation (s.ἁπλότης 1) ἁ. τι τελέσαι fulfill someth. without reservation Hm 2:6a, cp. b. Pray wholeheartedly, with confidence προσευχὰς ἀναφέρειν 2 Cl 2:2. ) The use here is then referring to the single, whole nature in which God gives his gifts. The idea of wholeness of James’ is a major theme in his letter and this idea is present here. See also the discussion in Varner[1].
  • δίψυχος – Varner on the use of δίψυχος, “Whileδίψυχος may very well be a neologism, the practice conveyed by the word was not novel to the reader of Israel’s sacred texts. The concept of “doubleness” is found in Psalm 12:2: “with a double heart [ἐν καρδίᾳ καὶ ἐν καρδίᾳ ] do they speak,” as well as in 1 Chronicles 12:33 and 1 Kings 18:21. It is the opposite of what is commanded in Deuteronomy 4:29: “You shall seek there the Lord your God and you shall find Him when you seek Him with your heart and with all your soul [ἐξ ὅλης τῆς ψυχῆς σου].” In the appropriate Hebrew parallels, the theme of doubleness is an essential one in the sectarian documents of the DSS.179 Although apparently introduced by James, the word was quickly taken up by subsequent writers, because it appears more than forty times in Shepherd of Hermas.”[2]

Grammar

  • λείπεται σοφίαςσοφίας is a genitive of separation (cf. Jas 2:15 – λειπόμενοι τῆς ἐφημέρου τροφῆς ). BDF – The genitive of separation has been driven out for the most part by ἀπό orἐκ (both are classical in addition to the regular genitive)
  • ἐν πίστει – is showing the manner in which one should ask.

Translation

If anyone is lacking wisdom, let him ask from God who gives without hesitation and reproach and it will be given to him. Let him ask in faith without doubting. For the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea being tossed and driven by the wind. For this man does not supposed that he will lack anything from the Lord. A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.[3]

Notes

The idea of wisdom and wholeness intersect here. Wisdom is the God given ability to make choices in situations. A whole person is one where his whole being is dedicated to God, this includes seeking the wisdom from above in faith. Wisdom plays a prominent role in James and it is a good and complete gift given from God with a single intent. If one is doubting the God who gives it reveals a heart that is “double-minded” and he is a person who is trying to use both worldly wisdom and God given wisdom. God desires us to be wholly dedicated to him and this should reflect the believers action in requesting wisdom from God.


  1. This meaning certainly fits in with James’ call for singleness and his aversion to doubleness throughout his discourse. In other words, God’s willingness to give “without hesitation” contrasts vividly with the unanswered prayers of the person who prays “with hesitation.” With this support from sources outside the NT and also from the context, it is difficult to understand why the versions still cling to the “generously” translation. William Varner, James, ed. H. Wayne House, W. Hall Harris, III and Andrew W. Pitts, Evangelical Exegetical Commentary, Jas 1:5 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2012).  ↩

  2. William Varner, James, ed. H. Wayne House, W. Hall Harris, III and Andrew W. Pitts, Evangelical Exegetical Commentary, Jas 1:8 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2012).  ↩

  3. For the punctuation of v. 8 see Varner on James 1:8  ↩

Download the PDF here