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.
1 Ἰάκωβος θεοῦ καὶ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ δοῦλος ταῖς δώδεκα φυλαῖς ταῖς ἐν τῇ διασπορᾷ χαίρειν. 2 Πᾶσαν χαρὰν ἡγήσασθε, ἀδελφοί μου, ὅταν πειρασμοῖς περιπέσητε ποικίλοις, 3 γινώσκοντες ὅτι τὸ δοκίμιον ὑμῶν τῆς πίστεως κατεργάζεται ὑπομονήν. 4 ἡ δὲ ὑπομονὴ ἔργον τέλειον ἐχέτω, ἵνα ἦτε τέλειοι καὶ ὁλόκληροι ἐν μηδενὶ λειπόμενοι.
1 James, a servant of God and the Lord Jesus Christ to the twelve tribes in the dispora. Greetings.
2 Consider it complete joy, my brothers, whenever you encounter trials of various kinds, 3 For you know that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 And let patience produce a complete work, in order that you may be complete and whole, lacking in nothing.
For a discussion on the διασπορά see Bauckham, Richard. James: Wisdom of James, Disciple of Jesus the Sage. New Testament Readings. London ; New York: Routledge, 1999, pp. 11–28. In this he says:
Most scholars tend to think of the diaspora as the western Diaspora: the Jews who lived in the Mediterranean area, subject to the Roman Empire. But to Jews of the time, the eastern Diaspora in the lands across the Euphrates, to the east of the Roman Empire, was just as important. The western Diaspora consisted largely of descendants of the tribes of Judah, Benjamin and Levi, but the easter Diaspora consisted not only of descendants of these southern tribes, in Babylonia, but also - probably in at at least as large numbers - descendants of the northern tribes, in the lands to the north of Babylon. To encompass the whole Diaspora, ‘the twelve tribes in the diaspora’ was precisely the phrase needed. Of course, ‘the twelve tribes’, with its echo of the ancient constitution of the people of Israel as a whole, could probably never be a purely matter-of-fact term in Jewish ears. In particular, it evoked the hope of the regatherings of all the tribes in the land of Israel by God in the Messianic tribes.
James 1:2–4 is very close to 1 Peter 1:6–7, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
One of the main ideas of the letter is wholeness. James introduces the goal of a person who encounters various trials in life is to become a whole person.
Martin has some a helpful 3 points on the use of τέλειος here:
Download this as a PDF here