egarta deya‘qob nesiya liķnišwáta bebodara
iggéret ya‘aqov ha-nasi la‘eidat ha-p'zurah
(THE LETTER OF YA‘QOB NASI TO THE COMMUNITIES IN THE DIASPORA)
1. 1From Ya`aqov,
servant of God and of the prophet Yeshua`,
to the twelve tribes in the Diaspora:
2. 1Consider it nought but joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you come to face unexpected trials of various kinds, 2because you know that the testing of your faith works to produce endurance. 3Allow endurance to perfectly complete its work so that you may be perfect and whole, lacking in nothing. 4But if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God - who gives unreservedly to all and without grudge - and it will be given to him. 5But he should ask while having faith and doubting nothing, because he who doubts is like a wave in the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. 6Let such a man not presume that he will receive anything from Adonai; 7he, being a man of two minds, is unstable in all his ways.
8Blessed is the one who endures under trial, because once he has been proved by the test, he will receive the crown of achievement – the life that God has promised to those who love Him.
9No one being tested should say, “I am being tempted by God.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself tempts no one; 10rather each one, in being lured and hauled in, is tempted by his own desires. 11Then, after desire has conceived, it brings forth wrongdoing; and wrongdoing, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. Don’t stray from the path!
12My brothers and sisters, as an example of long-suffering and patient forbearance we can follow, take the prophets who spoke in the name of Adonai. 13See how we count as fortunate those who have endured! You have heard of the endurance of Iyov, and you saw the end purpose of Adonai – to show that Adonai is most compassionate and merciful!
14Bear up patiently therefore, brothers and sisters, until the coming Day of Adonai. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, and how he bears up patiently, watching over it until it receives the autumn and spring rains. 15So you too, bear up patiently and fortify your hearts, because the coming Day of Adonai is near.
16Don’t allow your troubled sighs to turn you against each other, brothers and sisters, in case you are judged. Look! The Judge stands at the very gates!
3. 1My brothers and sisters, your faith should be in the glory of Adonai, not in people’s appearances. 2Suppose a man comes into your synagogue with gold rings on his fingers and wearing dazzling clothes , and a poor man in filthy clothes also comes in. 3If you show more regard to the man wearing dazzling clothes and say, “Take the seat of honour here,” but say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or “Sit down below my footrest,” 4have you not made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil reasoning?
5If you really do observe the royal commandment according to the Torah, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself,” then you are doing well. 6But if you only act according to how people look, then you commit a sin and are convicted by Torah as transgressors. 7For whoever undertakes to keep the whole of Torah, and yet fails in just one thing, it is as if that person were guilty of breaking all of it. 8For the One who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not commit murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a transgressor of Torah.
9Speak and act in the manner of those who are about to be judged by the Torah of freedom, 10because unmerciful will be the judgment shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!
4. 1Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith, and to be heirs of the kingdom He promised to those who love Him? 2But you have dishonoured the poor! Is it not the rich who are oppressing and exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you to the courts? 3Are they not the ones who blaspheme the good Name which has been called down upon you?
4Let our brothers and sisters in humble positions boast of their high estate, 5and the rich of their low estate, because they will pass away like flowers in the grass. 6For the sun rises with the hot wind and dries the grass, and its flowers fall away, and the beauty of its appearance perishes. So also the rich in their business dealings will fade away to nothing.
7So come now you rich people, weep and wail over the hardships coming your way! 8Your wealth will rot away, and your fine cloaks will become moth-eaten. 9Your gold and silver will corrode; their rust will testify against you, and eat your flesh like fire – such is the treasure you have put aside for yourselves in the last days!
10Behold how they cry out – the wages of the workmen who harvested your lands – the wages you fraudulently withheld. The cries of those same reapers have reached the hearing of Adonai of the Heavenly Battalions! 11You have lived on earth in luxury and indulged in riotous living. But you have fattened your own selves for the coming day of slaughter! 12You have condemned, and you have murdered the innocent; do they not now stand against you?
13So listen, you who say, “One of these days we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, do some business and make some money.” 14Why, you do not even know what your life will be like tomorrow! For you are as a mist, appearing for a little while and then vanishing. 15Instead, your words should be, “If it is Adonai’s will, not only shall we live but we shall also do this or that.” 16As it is now, you boast of your own bragging. All such boasting is evil.
5. 1My beloved brothers and sisters, 2every good act of giving, and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, for whom turning and shifting shadows have no place. 3He resolved to give birth to us through the message of truth, so that in a way we might become the first-fruits of His created works.
6. 1So become doers of the message, not just listeners who only deceive themselves. 2Because if anyone is a listener of the message but not a doer, this one is like a man who looks at his face just as it is in a mirror 3and, having glanced at himself and gone away, he immediately forgets what kind of person he was. 4But the one who gazes into the perfect Torah of freedom, and follows it closely – the one who does not allow himself to forget what he heard, but rather does it – this one will be blessed in his deeds.
7. 1Who is wise and knowledgeable among you? Let him show it by his good conduct, by his works performed with the humility that comes from wisdom. 2But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, stop boasting about it and falsifying the truth. 3This “wisdom” does not come down from above but is earthly, base in nature, and from evil. 4For where there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you find turmoil and all kinds of ugly goings-on.
5But the wisdom that comes from above is first of all pure; then peace-loving, patient, obedient, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 6And righteousness is the fruit of the seed sown in peace by those who create peace.
8. 1What does it profit us, my brothers and sisters, if anyone says he has faith but has no good works? Can such faith save anyone? 2If a brother or a sister is naked, and is short of food on a daily basis, 3and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but you do not provide them with their bodily needs, what use is that? 4In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by good works, is dead.
5But someone will say, “You have faith; I have good works.” Show me your faith without good works, and by my good works I will show you my faith! 6Do you believe that there is one God? Well done! Even demons believe that – and shudder! 7But are you willing to acknowledge, O foolish man, that faith without good works is barren?
8Was not our father Avraham deemed righteous by his deeds, binding his son Yitschaq on an altar? 9Do you see that? Faith worked together with his good works, and through good works his faith was perfected. 10And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “So Avraham trusted in God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. 11So you see that a person is deemed righteous by their good works and not by faith alone.
12In the same way, was not even Rachav the prostitute considered righteous for her deeds, when she showed hospitality to the spies and then sent them off by a different way?
13For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without good works is dead.
9. 1If anyone thinks himself to be religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he is instead indulging his own heart and his religion is empty. 2Religion that is pure and undefiled before God our Father is this: to take care of the fatherless and widows in their hardship, and to keep oneself from being corrupted by the world.
3My brothers and sisters, not everybody should become teachers; you know that we will receive stricter judgment. 4For in many respects we all stumble. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, with the power to keep even his whole body under tight rein.
5Now if we put bridles into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can direct their whole body. 6Take ships as well. They are so large and are driven by strong winds, yet they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the helmsman resolves to go. 7In the same way the tongue is a small appendage, yet boasts great things. Just look how small a fire can set aflame a great forest! 8So also the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity set among our appendages. It corrupts the whole body, sets ablaze the whole course of one’s life, and is itself then set ablaze by fire on the Day of Adonai.
9Many things in the natural world are tamed and have been tamed by humankind, birds as well as beasts, reptiles as well as creatures of the sea, 10but no human being is able to tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
11With the tongue we praise our Sovereign Father, and with it we curse men and women, who have been made in the image and likeness of God. 12Out of the same mouth come forth praise and cursing. It is not fitting, my brothers and sisters, that things should be this way! 13Can a spring produce fresh and salt water from the same vent? 14My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bring forth olives, or a grapevine bring forth figs? Then neither can a salt spring bring forth fresh water.
10. 1Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who slanders his brother or sister or judges them, slanders Torah and judges Torah. And if you judge Torah, you are not a keeper of Torah, but a judge of it. 2There is but one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to preserve and destroy. But you – who are you that you should judge your neighbour?
11. 1But above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear oaths – neither by heaven nor by the earth, nor by anything else. 2Let your “Yes” be yes, and your “No,” no, in case you are judged.
12. 1Is anyone among you depressed? He should pray. Anyone happy? He should sing psalms of praise. 2Is anyone among you sick? He should summon the elders of the community and they shall pray over him, having anointed him with olive oil in the name of Adonai. 3And the prayer offered in faith will heal the one who is sick, and Adonai will restore him to health. If he has committed any sins, they will be forgiven. 4Therefore confess your sins to one another and pray on behalf of one another, so that you may be healed. The petitionary prayer of a righteous person is very strong and effective.
5Eliyahu was a human being just like us, yet he solemnly prayed that there would be no rain, and indeed it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. 6Again he prayed, and the skies gave rain, and the earth brought forth its fruits.
13. 1My beloved brothers and sisters, take note of this: let it be that everyone is quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger, 2for human anger does not serve God’s righteous purpose. 3Therefore, weed out all immorality and anything that is left of evil; in humility receive the message planted within you, which is able to deliver you.
14. 1Where do quarrels and fights among you come from? Don’t they come from your desires that are ready to do battle within the parts of your body? 2You long for something but don’t have it; so you kill. You covet, but you cannot secure what you want; so you fight and war. You do not have, because you do not ask! 3And when you do ask, you do not receive, because your asking is ill-conceived; you ask in order that you may spend your gain on your pleasures.
4Adulterous brides! Don’t you realise that friendship with the material world means enmity with God? Whosoever resolves to befriend the material things of this world makes himself an enemy of God!
5Or do you think that Scripture speaks in vain? Does the spirit which dwells within us yearn only to envy? 6The gift He has freely given us is greater than that – therefore it says: “God resists the proud, but grants favours to the humble.”
7Submit yourselves then to God, but resist evil, and it will flee from you. 8As the prayer says:
“Draw near to God,
and He will draw near to you.
Wash your hands clean, you sinners;
purify your hearts,
you of two minds.
9Afflict your souls,
mourn and weep.
Let your laughter be turned into mourning,
and your joy into dismay.
10Humble yourselves before Adonai,
and He will lift you up.”
15. 1My brothers and sisters, if anyone among you should wander from the truth and someone brings that person back, 2know this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his ways will deliver that person from death, for firm guidance from a just person will bring about the forgiveness of many sins.
3But if someone strays, and you have the opportunity to point out their fault privately to them, but you do not, then you share in their guilt.
4Therefore anyone who knows the good he should do and doesn’t do it, commits a sin.
16. 1Endure patiently therefore, until the coming Day of Adonai, so that you may become whole and complete. 2Weed out from within you everything that has not been planted by the Father of the heavenly lights, so that you may be delivered; 3become doers of the Message, whose words are praise and prayer, not slander or judgment; 4and let your thoughts be for the glory of Adonai, and not for favouritism, jealousy or covetousness.
5Above all I say to you, my beloved brothers and sisters, do not fear the Day which is to come; rather, keep the Torah of Adonai and we shall come through the test. 6Rejoice in the Way that you follow, and let your light shine as beacons along the shores of the Great Sea.
7Let God’s blessing of peace remain always with you, and may His wisdom be given to your children, and your children’s children. 8In the name of Adonai God of Israel and of all nations, who alone has the power to deliver us, peace be with you.
Table of sources of the ‘Iggeret Ya`aqov’
Many Christian commentators have remarked that topics in the Letter of James seem to jump from one subject to another, and then back again. It is as if the original had been torn up, and then someone recovered the pieces and tried to put them back together again. The Iggeret Ya`aqov was therefore an attempt to reconstruct the work, and remould it into some kind of logical order - hence the differences between it and the Letter of James.
Table of differences
There is very little difference in the wording of the Letter of James in the New Testament, and the Iggeret Ya`aqov in The Exhortations. The table below is a comparison between those verses in the Letter of James and the Iggeret Ya`aqov which are different. Specific words that are different are in bold.
© Shmu’eil ben Naftali
(International Talmidi Version
First Published 2003)