James 3:2 For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.
A normal, natural reading of the beginning of this verse in English would lead one to believe that James teaches that in many things we offend all people, that is, we offend everybody, everyone etc. That reading regards “all” as the direct object of the verb “offend,” which is what a proper understanding of normal English grammar and syntax would indicate for that phrasing.
An examination of the original text, however, shows that this is a wrong understanding of what James teaches. Regardless of which Greek manuscript families we look at (BGT, BYZ, or SCR), the original reading is the same—the Greek word (ἅπαντες) that is rendered “all” in the verse is in a Greek case (the nominative case) that is *never* the direct object of a verb.
BGT James 3:2 πολλὰ γὰρ πταίομεν ἅπαντες. εἴ τις ἐν λόγῳ οὐ πταίει, οὗτος τέλειος ἀνὴρ δυνατὸς χαλιναγωγῆσαι καὶ ὅλον τὸ σῶμα.
BYZ James 3:2 Πολλὰ γὰρ πταίομεν ἅπαντες. Εἴ τις ἐν λόγῳ οὐ πταίει, οὗτος τέλειος ἀνήρ, δυνατὸς χαλιναγωγῆσαι καὶ ὅλον τὸ σῶμα.
SCR James 3:2 πολλὰ γὰρ πταίομεν ἅπαντες. εἴ τις ἐν λόγῳ οὐ πταίει, οὗτος τέλειος ἀνήρ, δυνατὸς χαλιναγωγῆσαι καὶ ὅλον τὸ σῶμα.
The correct understanding of the first part of James 3:2, therefore, is that we all offend in many things—it is not that we offend all people, everyone, etc.
This is a clear example that shows how reading the Bible in the original languages can greatly help us to interpret it correctly!
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