What is “patience” (KJV), “perseverance” (NIV) or “steadfastness” (ESV)? (ref. James 1:4)

James 1:4 ESV And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

James 1:4 KJV But let patience have her perfect work that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

James 1:4 NIV Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.


What is “patience” (KJV), “perseverance” (NIV) or “steadfastness” (ESV)?

Patience may be a virtue, but you don’t get it overnight. This isn’t fast food faith here and we’re not going to rush patience. In Jas 1:3 we focused on testing. We saw, among other things, that the positive result of testing is patience/perseverance. As we move into this verse we’re going to explore a bit this concept of patience/perseverance. Here are some condensed dictionary definitions:

“Patience” is the capacity, quality, or fact of being patient. To be “patient” means to bear or endure pain, difficulty, provocation, or annoyance with calmness, tolerance, understanding without becoming hasty or impulsive.

To “persevere” means to persist in or remain constant to a purpose, idea, or task in the face of obstacles or discouragement. “Perseverance” is the persistence to continue on a course of action, belief, or purpose with an attitude of steadfastness.

“Steadfast” is a quality marked by firm, dependable, unbendable determination or resolution; it is unshakable and unswerving. The root word, “stead,” literally means to be fixed, as in fixed in place. “Steadfastness” therefore is the quality of being steadfast.

Hupomone is the interlinear transliteration of the word rendered “patience” (KJV), “perseverance” (NIV), or “steadfastness” (ESV) in Jas 1:4. The word appears 31 times in the New Testament. The ideas conveyed by the word “perseverance” seem to be consistent with that of “patience.” Both terms speak to enduring a difficulty while remaining steadfast in one’s purpose and belief. My own interlinear Bible translates the hupomone as “endurance.”

It is critical that we understand the words we are using if we are to accurately know what a passage is really saying. That said, as we go through the next few questions I may use the terms “perseverance,” “patience” and “endurance” interchangeably.

This post is an excerpt (Question 4.1) from my book Ask James one.


About Lance Ponder

Christian author of "Ask James one"; public speaker; husband and father. Available to speak on Creation and the Gospel.
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8 Responses to What is “patience” (KJV), “perseverance” (NIV) or “steadfastness” (ESV)? (ref. James 1:4)

  1. Todd Beal says:

    I’m probably missing something here Lance, so rather than presume I’ll ask for clarification. Why do you distinguish between the individual meanings of these three words only to then use them interchangeably, as if they are simply nuanced variations of the same meaning? Each of these three words definitely compliments the other two, but, at the same time, is fundamentally different from the other two, in both application and meaning. They are not interchangeable.

    • Lance Ponder says:

      An excellent question. Thank you.

      In the book you see this question right after a breakdown of the Greek with synonyms and the whole bit. In that part you can see the various possible word choices. More precisely, though, is that the study makes use of three specific translations and compares and contrasts how those translations treat certain words and phrases. This is one case where each of those translations chose a different word in English. Since each of the English words has different nuances, as you said, it leads to various types of followup questions. I didn’t say the words were interchangeable – the translators did that. 😉

      • Todd Beal says:

        Understood.  So then why the following?

        | It is critical that we understand the words we are using if we are to accurately know what a passage is really saying. That said, as we go through the next few questions I may use the terms “perseverance,” “patience” and “endurance” interchangeably. |

        Do you mean that you are forced to use these three words interchangeably due to the specific translation within which they occur, or are you assuming that contextually, for some reason, they truly are interchangeable?

        • Lance Ponder says:

          Mostly the former. The point is not to make the words truly interchangeable, but to recognize the variations in translations exist and to explore further what to make of it where it seems important. Several times in this study there are word variations among translations where the followup questions can and do vary depending on which translation we concentrate on.

          This is a little off topic, but were I rewriting this book I would probably drop the NIV altogether and quote the NET or possibly the WEB instead. I am uncertain about keeping the ESV as the go-to for all the verses quoted outside of the source text (Jas 1). But, if we chase this rabbit trail we might not get back out of Wonderland, eh?

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