6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.- KJV

Trying to get a sense of the intended meaning here. Any grammatical help would be appreciated.

  • @Tony Chan That's what I was looking for but could not find! I'd seen it earlier on and even commented to an answerer, but because I didn't take note of the link, couldn't get back to it. Thank-you!
    – Anne
    Oct 1, 2021 at 17:13
  • 1
    'Wheel' was the translation of the Latin Vulgate by both Wycliffe and Douay Rheims.
    – Nigel J
    Oct 2, 2021 at 7:31

7 Answers 7


The KJV, EGNT (Englishman's Greek New Testament interlinear), J N Darby, Young's Literal and Green's Literal all have 'the course of nature'.

The Wycliffe has 'the wheel of our birth', which is a translation of the Vulgate. The Douay Rheims, also from the Vulgate, has 'the wheel of our nativity'.

Tyndale has 'setteth afire all that we have of nature'.

Τροχια is 'path' and τροχος is 'course' (KJV).

I think, looking at all of this, 'wheel' is a mistranslation, possibly due to the Latin influence. It seems to be not the wheel that James is seeing on fire, but the path on which one travels.

Thus the tongue sets on fire the very path which nature travels on. The flames are behind one and in front of one and one can do nothing but progress on this course, inevitably.

Behold what a great matter a little fire kindleth. Once kindled, it burns all in its path, ferociously - consuming everything.

Best to manage one's tongue and to be the master of it, than set alight the very path on which one must walk.

  • @ Nigel. Good answer +1. Good insight on the path of nature. That's what I was surmising. It seams that it's a state of being which God has ordained that we should walk according to this course of nature. What do you think of a connection to Ezekiel's "wheel within a wheel"?
    – alb
    Aug 22, 2018 at 23:00
  • @alb I understand the 'wheel within a wheel' to be related to the motions of creation - orderly cycles within orderly cycles. But that is only my own personal impression. I cannot substantiate it.
    – Nigel J
    Sep 7, 2018 at 18:21

The phrase translated, "course of nature" in James 3:6 of the KJV is τὸν τροχὸν τῆς γενέσεως in the Greek.

  • τροχός (trochos) is literally, "wheel" and only found in James 3:6. BDAG tentatively suggests that James 3:6 might possible be translated "course or round of existence?"
  • γένεσις (genesis) is literally "birth, lineage, descent". BDAG suggests that the meaning in both James 1:23 and 3:6 is, "state of being" (a) existence (James 1:23) and (b) life, human experience (James 3:6) as used in in the Orphic mysteries with the meaning 'wheel of human origin' ... In James it seems to have list its original meaning and to signify course of life, whole of life

Thus, based on the data and literature cited in BDAG, the operative phrase appears to mean that the tongue sets on fire the entire course of ones life and existence. Note the Hebrew parallelism in James 3:6:

  • the tongue is a world of iniquity
  • the tongue defiles the whole body
  • the tongue sets alight the whole course of existence/nature

Benson observes:

the course, τροχον, the wheel, of nature — “The wonderful mechanism of the human body, and its power of affecting and of being affected by the soul, is in this passage aptly represented by the wheels of a machine which act on each other. The pernicious influence of the tongue, in first spotting, and then destroying, both the bodies and the souls of men, arises from the language which it frames, whereby it inflames men’s passions to such a degree, that, being no longer under the direction of their reason, those passions push them on to such actions as are destructive both of their bodies and souls.” Some writers, by the natural wheel, or course of nature, understand the successive generations of men, one generation going, and another coming, without intermission; according to which interpretation the apostle’s meaning is, that the tongue hath set on fire our forefathers, it inflameth us, and will have the same influence on those who come after us.

Barnes is also helpful:

And setteth on fire the course of nature - The margin is "the wheel of nature." The Greek word also (τροχός trochos) means "a wheel," or any thing made for revolving and running. Then it means the course run by a wheel; a circular course or circuit. The word rendered "nature" (γένεσις genesis), means "procreation, birth, nativity;" and therefore the phrase means, literally, the wheel of birth - that is, the wheel which is set in motion at birth, and which runs on through life. - Rob. Lex. sub voce γένεσεως geneseōs. It may be a matter of doubt whether this refers to successive generations, or to the course of individual life. The more literal sense would be that which refers to an individual; but perhaps the apostle meant to speak in a popular sense, and thought of the affairs of the world as they roll on from age to age, as all enkindled by the tongue, keeping the world in a constant blaze of excitement. Whether applied to an individual life, or to the world at large, every one can see the justice of the comparison. One naturally thinks, when this expression is used, of a chariot driven on with so much speed that its wheels by their rapid motion become self-ignited, and the chariot moves on amidst flames.


nature . Greek. genesis. See James 1:23 .

From my study the course of nature, is the foundation of Gods plans, for a individuals life. Even what we profess in word defiles and is disrupting of Gods good will for us.

James 1:23 (kjv) For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: 

24  For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.

James Moffatts Translation of this is good:

James 3:6

And the tongue is a fire, the tongue proves a very world of mischief among our members, staining the whole of the body and setting fire to the round circle of existence with a flame fed by hell.

This circle reminds me of a compass (to draw circles) that involves Gods plans . Nationally or individually. When we go against His plans for our lives, its sin and detrimental to us.

Isaiah 40:22 It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in:

23 That bringeth the princes to nothing; he maketh the judges of the earth as vanity.


G5164 τροχός trochos trokh-os' From G5143; a wheel (as a runner), that is, (figuratively) a circuit of physical effects: - course.

circle H2329 חוּג chûg khoog From H2328; a circle: - circle, circuit, compassive

We have examples of this in scripture. One that draws on this very analogy of the compass (to draw circles) concerning Paul.

Acts 9:5 (kjv) And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

The prick in this case is that stabilizing point for a compass in order to achieve a perfect circle. Paul's early action against Christians were interfering in Gods plans.

The mouth in what comes from us, can be just as detrimental.

Matthew 15:11 (kjv)

11 Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.

Following the subject spiritually the soul is defiled even by what we say.


τὸν τροχὸν τῆς γενέσεως means the order of existence. Through the temptation from the lying tongue of the serpent, Tropy (order) became entropy (death and decay).

But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. (Gen. 3:4–6, ESV)

τροχός, οῦ m: (a figurative extension of meaning of τροχός ‘wheel,’ not occurring in the NT) an ordered series of events, involving repeated patterns—‘course, pattern.’ τὸν τροχὸν τῆς γενέσεως ‘the course of existence’ Jas 3:6. -- Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, pp. 609–610). New York: United Bible Societies.

γένεσιςd, εως f: the state of existence—‘existence.’ φλογίζουσα τὸν τροχὸν τῆς γενέσεως ‘set on fire the course of existence’ Jas 3:6; οὗτος ἔοικεν ἀνδρὶ κατανοοῦντι τὸ πρόσωπον τῆς γενέσεως αὐτοῦ ἐν ἐσόπτρῳ ‘this one is like a man who sees the face of his existence in a mirror’ Jas 1:23. In Jas 1:23 the term γένεσις is largely redundant, for the reference could only be to a person’s own face. -- Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 156). New York: United Bible Societies.


Other translations read “course of life” and James in these verses stresses that effort is required to control the tongue.

In verses 4-5 James compares the ships rudder as being a very small part of the ship, and that a small fire can set a huge forest on fire, so is the tongue a small part compared to our body, yet it can set the course of nature/wheel of life aflame, thus making the whole life of a person ,a vicious circle –restless evil and full of deadly poison, resulting in the user being condemned by God to death in hell/Gehenna.

James 3:8 (NRSV)

But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison.

Romans 3:13 (NRSV)

“Their throats are opened graves; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of vipers is under their lips.

Proverbs 16:27 (NASB)

A worthless man digs up evil, While [a]his words are like scorching fire.


Course of Nature / Wheel of birth indicates reincarnation and rebirth.

At the 2nd Council of Constantinople in 553AD most evidence of reincarnation was deliberately removed and labelled blasphemy by MAN. Manipulation and omission of holy scripture and the narrated words of the Jesus avatar does not mean that He did not speak about it?

There are still traces of reincarnation left in the current Bible. See YouTube video "Was Reincarnation Deleted From The Bible"


The main thing is that Jesus is God's wisdom and our Savior through faith. We can not tame our tongue. No man can. Only God can. This Is the greatest mystery of all. God's love and mercy. The work of thr Holy Spirit in us.

Our wisdom is only demonical, the pure wisdom is Jesus. He is the answer. Wheel of birth is in a concept in Aramean Bible too. I Wonder if is it an expression of our life; birth to death with sin in us; Original sin is the result of the fall from one generation to the next, we are born with it and die under it unless we accept God's salvation, Jesus.

Every time we curse or speak the things we should not, we light the fire and burn our way to heaven, without God's wisdom we would be dead forever.

  • Welcome to the site, Kristiina. If you care to take the 'Tour' at the bottom of this page, you will see that more is required than just stating one's beliefs or opinions; sources need to be cited / quoted to back up claims. In Hermeneutics, exposition has to be logically shown, leading to a substantiated conclusion. So, if you can expand your answer, and fill it out with sources that back up your claims, that would be really good.
    – Anne
    Oct 1, 2021 at 14:27

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