On the JST of James

A COMMENTARY ON JOSEPH SMITH’S REVISION OF JAMES

Kevin Barney

1. James 1:2

My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations many afflictions;

    The Greek word peirasmos “testing” (rendered here as “temptations” in the KJV) can mean either a trial from without or a temptation from within. Smith takes it in the former sense, “many afflictions” where the Greek literally and similarly says “various trials.” Many modern translations have something like the NIV “trials of many kinds.” 

    Paradigm Classification A-1 (English Paraphrase of KJV Text)

2. James 1:4

But let patience have her  its perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

    The Greek word hupomone rendered here as “patience” is indeed a feminine noun, but that is grammatical gender as opposed to personal gender, which is not usually reflected in this literal way by “her” in translation. Apart from some older translations in the KJV tradition, virtually all modern translations join the JST in rendering the pronoun “its” and not “her.”

    Paradigm Classification A-1 (English Paraphrase of KJV Text)

3. James 1:12

Blessed is the man that endureth resisteth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.

    The Greek verb hupomonein rendered in the KJV “endureth” can indeed have the stoic sense of “being patient under something,” but it can also have the more active sense of “standing one’s ground in the face of something.” The JST favors the latter nuance, actively resisting temptation as opposed to enduring it in a stoic way.

    Paradigm Classification A-1 (English Paraphrase of KJV Text)

4. James 1:21

Wherefore lay apart aside all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness, the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.

    The verb apotithemi literally refers to taking off one’s clothes and setting them aside, but it is also used metaphorically to mean “putting something away from oneself.” The Anchor Bible similarly renders “put aside therefore.” Luke Timothy Johnson, The Letter of James, A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (New York: Doubleday, 1995), 201. A number of other modern translations also use the word “aside” here.

    Paradigm Classification A-1 (English Paraphrase of KJV Text)

5. James 1:27

Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the vices of the world.

    The language added by the JST is intended to make it clear that “the world” (Greek kosmos) is not being used neutrally but with a negative connotation. The JST adds “vices of” to make the negative nuance of the word more explicit for the reader. MSG has “godless world” to be more clear, and NLV similarly has “from the sinful things of the world.”

    Paradigm Classification A-1 (English Paraphrase of KJV Text)

6. James 2:1

My brethren, ye cannot have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with and yet have respect of to persons.

    This passage is framed as a negative command. The Anchor Bible (at page 217) has “My brothers, do not hold the faith of Jesus Christ our glorious Lord together with acts of favoritism.” The JST turns this from a negative command to a statement of impossibility.

    Paradigm Classification A-1 (English Paraphrase of KJV Text)

7. James 2:2

 For Now if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment;

    The principal meaning of the conjunction gar is as a marker of cause or reason (usually translated “for” as in the KJV here), but it can also be a marker of clarification, “you see,” or a marker of inference “certainly, by all means, so, then.” The JST “now” as a conjunction seems to be changing the function of the conjunction here from causal “for” to one of inference with “now” meaning something like “as a consequence of the fact.”

    Paradigm Classification A-1 (English Paraphrase of KJV Text)

8. Janes 2:4

Are ye not then partial in yourselves partial judges, and are become judges of evil in your thoughts?

    Verse 4 is the apodosis to a series of “if” clauses in verses 2 and 3 positing the situation of different treatment of the well off and the poor in their church meetings. This text has two separate clauses: “If so, have you not made distinctions among yourselves” and “become judges with evil motives?” (NET). But KJV “partial” standing alone is simply unclear, so the JST combines the “partial” of the first clause and the “judges” of the second clause to get a clearer reference to “partial judges.” Some modern translations do something similar, like CEB “evil-minded judges” and CEV “like a crooked judge.”

    Paradigm Classification A-1 (English Paraphrase of KJV Text)

9. James 2:10

For whosoever shall, save in one point, keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.

    KJV “offend” is a rendering of the Greek verb ptaein, literally meaning “to stumble.” KJV “offend in one point” would be better rendered “fail in one thing” (so the Anchor Bible). The JST intends no change in meaning. Rather, “save in one point” is simply a partial negation of the following “keep the whole law” and is clearer than KJV “yet offend in one point.”

    Paradigm Classification A-1 (English Paraphrase of KJV Text)

10. Janes 2:14

What doth it profit is it, my brethren, though for a man to say he hath faith, and have hath not works? can faith save him?

    The change from “what doth it profit” to “what profit is it” was intended to avoid the italicized “doth it.” The change from “though a man say” to “for a man to say” is a modernization of a somewhat archaic phrasing. The change from “have” to “hath” is an assimilation to the preceding archaic verb form in “hath faith.”

    Paradigm Classifications A-2, A-3 and A-4 (Suspicion of Italicized Text, Modernization and Assimilation)

11-12. James 2:15-16

If For if a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye he give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit is your faith unto such?

    We mentioned previously at James 2:2 that the conjunction gar is most commonly rendered “for” in English, and so the JST appears to be positing the presence of that conjunction here, resulting in the first word of the passage being “For” (in a causative sense). This revision combines two verses, so the capitalized “And” at the beginning of the second verse is replaced by lower case “and.” The expression “a brother or sister” is disjunctive and therefore singular, and so the JST deletes “unto them” with its plural pronoun and singularizes the plural “ye” with “he.” The italicized words “doth it” are replaced by adding “is your faith unto such” following the verb “profit.”

    Paradigm Classifications A-1 and A-2 (English Paraphrase of KJV Text and Suspicion of Italicized Text)

13. James 2:17

Even so faith, if it hath have not works, is dead, being alone.

    In James 2:14 the JST assimilated the verb form “have” to a prior occurrence of “hath” in that verse. Here there is only one occurrence of the archaic verb form, so the JST modernizes “hath” to “have.”

    Paradigm Classification A-3 (Modernization)

14. James 2:18

Yea, a man may say, Thou hast I will show thee I have faith, and I have without works: but I say, shew show me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew show thee my faith by my works.

    There is considerable doubt about where the words of the interlocutor (“someone” or “a man” in the KJV) end and the reply of James begins. Some see the quotation running to the end of verse 18 or even 19. The majority view is reflected in the JST revision; “Yea, a man may say, I will show thee I have faith without works,” with the following text being the reply of James. The JST makes this very explicit with “but I say.” The interlocutor is saying essentially “Hey, some have faith, others have works, don’t expect everyone to have both.” The balance is then the response of James to the interlocutor: “show me thy faith without works, and I will show thee my faith by my works.”

    Paradigm Classification A-1 (English Paraphrase of KJV Text)

15. James 2:19

Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble; thou hast made thyself like unto them, not being justified.

    The text here is meant to be sarcastic, but that nuance is obscured by the KJV, which renders kai as “also,” when in fact it should be intensive, “even.” The sense is something like “You believe God is one; Congratulations! Even the demons believe that much.” The JST then adds a clause to make it explicit that the interlocutor has placed himself in the same position as the demons.

    Paradigm Classification A-1 (English Paraphrase of KJV Text)

16. James 2:20

But Therefore wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead and cannot save you?

    The conjunction de, most commonly rendered “but” as here in the KJV, may be rendered “then” (or “therefore” as here in the JST) as a development in an argument. Faith without works being “dead” is an abstraction; the JST adds a clause to be explicit about its meaning: “and cannot save you.”

    Paradigm Classification A-1 (English Paraphrase of KJV Text)

17. James 2:22

Seest thou how faith works wrought with his works faith, and by works was faith made perfect?

    This would appear to be a common-sense change. The Greek verb rendered “wrought” here is sunergei, literally “works together with.” That is, the concept of “work” is inherent in the verb itself, and so “works” would seem a more logical subject of that verb as opposed to “faith” (which is not a work). That is, “works work together with faith” as opposed to “faith works together with works.”

    Paradigm Classification A-1 (English Paraphrase of KJV Text)

18. Janes 2:23

And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend friend of God.

    Ancient Greek manuscripts do not represent capitalization in the modern sense; whether to capitalize a word is a decision of the translator. Although a handful of modern translations capitalize the word with the KJV, the vast majority of modern translations (like the JST) do not.

    Paradigm Classification A-1 (English Paraphrase of KJV Text)

19. James 2:24

Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.

    The Greek text of this verse begins with horate hoti “you see that.” The English word “how” does not correlate with anything in the Greek text and is superfluous. The vast majority of modern English translations do not use the word “how” here.

    Paradigm Classification A-1 (English Paraphrase of KJV Text)

20. James 2:25

 Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot was justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?.

    The JST changes this from a rhetorical question to a simple statement of fact. How best to handle this is a question that relies on the judgment of the translator. While most translations treat it as a question, CEV, ERV, EXB, GW, GNT, ICB, PHILLIPS, TLB, MSG, NOG, NCV, NIRV, NLV, NLT, TPT, VOICE and WE like the JST do not. 

    Paradigm Classification A-1 (English Paraphrase of KJV Text)

21. James 2:26

For. as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

    There is a kai (“and, also”) not at the end of the passage but in the middle that could be rendered as “also” in this verse, but this is a judgment call on the part of the translator. Many modern translations, like the NIV (similar to the JST), omit it.

    Paradigm Classification A-1 (English Paraphrase of KJV Text)

22. James 3:1

My brethren, be not many masters strive not for the mastery, knowing that in so doing we shall receive the greater condemnation.

    This is a case where the KJV translation is so obscure that Smith is simply doing his best to try to make the words make some kind of sense in English. The NET gives the correct sense of this passage: “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, because you know that we will be judged more strictly.” The word “be” as an imperative, the litotes in “not many” (meaning “few”) and especially the archaic “masters” for “teachers” (Greek didaskoloi) make the passage thoroughly opaque in the KJV, so the JST represents a good faith effort to make some sense of the existing wording.     Paradigm Classification A-1 (English Paraphrase of KJV Text)

Comments

  1. J. Stapley says:

    I appreciate the continued work on this, Kevin. Thank you.

  2. Jacob H. says:

    all these would make for a great prolegomenon to a forceful argument as to why church membership should read beyond the KJV, at the very least in the CES setting

  3. Mark Ashurst-McGee says:

    I join with J. and with commenters of previous posts in THANKING you for this pathbreaking work.
    I am SO EXCITED that you are pressing on beyond the Pauline epistles. You are on a roll!

  4. BCC Press should consider this series for publication.

  5. Kevin Barney says:

    Thanks guys, I appreciate the encouragement. I’ve already got a good jump on 1 Peter…

  6. Terry H says:

    Greg J
    While a lot of people would applaud this action, I’d like to point out that Kevin also did a three volume New Testament with additional footnotes that’s incredibly valuable. I can’t remember where to find it on the internet, but there were a few bound copies sold. I have it saved on a few of my computers and always refer to it whenever I’m dealing with the New Testament in teaching. This is just the same quality.

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