14. ζῆλον πικρόν, in strong contrast to πραϋ̓τητι σοφίας.
ἐριθείαν (ἐριθίαν W. H.), party spirit, intrigue, contention. The derivation is from ἔριθος, a day labourer; ἐν δʼ ἐτίθει τέμενος βαθυλήιον· ἔνθα δʼ ἔριθοι | ἤμων ὀξείας δρεπάνας ἐν χερσὶν ἔχοντες, Il. XVIII. 550; πότνιʼ Ἀθηναία, ποῖαί σφʼ ἐπόνασαν ἔριθοι, Theocr. Id. XV. 80. ἐριθεία rare in classics, see Arist. Pol. VIII. (v.) 2. 6 where it is used in the derived sense of party spirit or faction. Aristotle also uses the verb ἐριθεύεσθαι, Pol. VIII (v.) 3. 9, comp. Polyb. x. 22. 9; ἐριθεύεσθαι τοὺς νέους, to inveigle the young men into party measures. Not in LXX., in N.T. see Rom 2:8, τοῖς δὲ ἐξ ἐριθίας, Gal 5:20, Php 1:17 οἱ δὲ ἐξ ἐριθίας, Jam 2:3 μηδὲν κατʼ ἐριθίαν.
Curtius, Etym. § 343, refers ἔριθος to the root αρ- the fundamental meaning of which is movement in direction of something with a view to attainment, as in ἀρέσθαι, ἄρνυμαι, μίσθαρνος. The last word explains ἔριθος, earning wages, and also ἐριθία in the sense of struggle for party ends &c. It may be added that there is no etymological connexion between ἐριθεία and ἔρις.
εἰ δὲ ζῆλον πικρὸν ἔχετε. If you have (as you have in fact) bitter zeal (πικρόν emphatic by position, and added because zeal is not in itself evil), do not go on glorying and lying against the truth, i.e. the truth which heavenly wisdom shews—the truth of Christ, the Christian faith. Bitter emulation and contentiousness are absolutely inconsistent with the truth as Christ taught it. St James therefore calls upon the brotherhood to give up that life of emulation and quarrelling and show by a true and noble life what the heavenly σοφία is. The warning is addressed to zealots, whether converted or unconverted Jews (St James had influence with both). The spirit of misdirected zeal, already a danger in the Church, developed into the Judaistic opposition to St Paul. The tendency was to boast of the privileges of Israel: comp. Rom 4:1-2; 2Co 11:18 ff.