Fire and Brimstone

In reading through James in many different translations, this verse and the surrounding passage really struck me in a Biblically fearful type of way.

Whether you know Greek or not, which do you think best gets the message across, especially with some literary flare, which I think is good for this passage? (The Message isn’t included here. No pun intended.) I remember us translation geeks doing this now and then. These selections of translations are just a little off the beaten path.

I read this in the NRSV. Then when I looked at many others, I found a couple that I like even better with one clearly the easiest for me to understand and appreciate. These are in alphabetical order.

James 3:6 The tongue is that kind of flame. It is a world of evil among the parts of our bodies, and it completely contaminates our bodies. The tongue sets our lives on fire, and is itself set on fire from hell.

James 3:6 The tongue is a fire, a world of evil. Placed among the parts of our bodies, the tongue contaminates the whole body and sets on fire the course of life, and is itself set on fire by hell.

James 3:6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell.

James 3:6 And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is placed among our members as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole body, sets on fire the cycle of nature, and is itself set on fire by hell.

James 3:6 And the tongue is a fire, representing in our body the whole wicked world. It pollutes our whole being, it sets the whole course of our existence alight, and its flames are fed by hell.

#3 has antiquated words like member and iniquity, and I don’t understand “the course of nature”. #4 is similar.

#2 comes across well, but it’s nothing special here. It’s my 2nd or 3rd favorite.

#5 really does it for me with literary flair that contributes to understanding the verse.

There is such an abundance of sin in the tongue that it may be called a world of iniquity. How many defilements does it occasion! How many and dreadful flames does it kindle! So is the tongue among the members that it defileth the whole body. Observe hence, There is a great pollution and defilement in sins of the tongue. Defiling passions are kindled, vented, and cherished by this unruly member. And the whole body is often drawn into sin and guilt by the tongue. Therefore Solomon says, Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin, Ecclesiastes 5:6. The snares into which men are sometimes led by the tongue are insufferable to themselves and destructive of others. It setteth on fire the course of nature. The affairs of mankind and of societies are often thrown into confusion, and all is on a flame, by the tongues of men. Some read it, all our generations are set on fire by the tongue. There is no age of the world, nor any condition of life, private or public, but will afford examples of this. And it is set on fire of hell. Observe hence, Hell has more to do in promoting of fire of the tongue than men are generally aware of. It is from some diabolical designs, that men’s tongues are inflamed. The devil is expressly called a liar, a murderer, an accuser of the brethren; and, whenever men’s tongues are employed in any of these ways, they are set on fire of hell. The Holy Ghost indeed once descended in cloven tongues as of fire, Acts 2. And, where the tongue is thus guided and wrought upon by a fire from heaven, there it kindleth good thoughts, holy affections, and ardent devotions. But when it is set on fire of hell, as in all undue heats it is, there it is mischievous, producing rage and hatred, and those things which serve the purposes of the devil. As therefore you would dread fires and flames, you should dread contentions, revilings, slanders, lies, and every thing that would kindle the fire of wrath in your own spirit or in the spirits of others.

–Matthew Henry

I will probably post the translations tomorrow (Sunday) night or Monday.

4 Responses to “Fire and Brimstone”

  1. 1 ElShaddai Edwards

    I certainly won’t quibble with your choice ;>! But here also is the New Jerusalem Bible:

    The tongue is a flame too. Among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a whole wicked world: it infects the whole body; catching fire itself from hell, it sets fire to the whole wheel of creation.

  2. 2 Scripture Zealot

    That’s a really nice one too.

    Here is the list. You seem to have gotten #5, which I new you would.

    1. GW
    2. ISV
    3. NKJV
    4. NRSV
    5. REB


  3. 3 Nathan Stitt

    These are the kind of posts that used to be common back when I started blogging. Also, a comment from ElShaddai, I hope you are doing well; miss your blog!

    I liked the first and last versions best I think, and the NJB is awesome as usual. I should read it more often.

  4. 4 Scripture Zealot

    Interesting, the first and last are my secondary and primary translations now although NLT is right up there with HCSB as fourth.

    I didn’t see NJB at or Bible Gateway but Bibleworks has it. I need to put it in my main list for comparison.

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