The Bible in Its Traditions

James 1:11

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Nes V TR
S

11  For the sun arose with burning heat and withered the grass, and its flower fell off, and its beautiful appearance perished. So the rich man also shall fade away in his pursuits.

11  For the sun ariseth with the scorching wind, and withereth the grass: and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his goings.

11  For as the sun rises with its burning heat and causes the grass to wither, and the flower to fall and its beauty to perish: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways.

10f like the wildflower Is 40:6-7; Ps 103:15

Text

Vocabulary

11c wither away NT Hapax Legomenon The Greek verb, marainô, "to die out, fade, disappear, wither" is a hapax in the whole NT. The verb does occur in G. It is an appropriate choice in James' context, as it refers to plants withering in G (cf. Jb 15:30—a passage applied metaphorically to God's judgment on the wicked; or Ws 2:8).

Reception

Theology

9ff humble brother...rich one Identity of Poor and Rich: Liberationist Perspective

  • Elsa Tamez notes that many North American and European commentaries attempt to relativize James' sharp condemnation of the rich, e.g., by arguing that the rich are non-Christians, or that James' sharp contrast is due to his rhetorical style, or that "the poor" refers to anyone who is not attached to wealth. A liberationist perspective, however, is not interested in such a defense of "the rich," but rather reads from the perspective of those who are truly poor and oppressed by the wealthy (Tamez 2002,21, 36–37).

Text

Vocabulary

11d pursuits Literal or Metaphorical Journeys The Greek poreia has a range of meanings from the literal, "journey," to the metaphorical, "way of life." This metaphorical sense parallels the thought in Jas 1:8: the double-minded man is unstable "in all his ways" (Comparison of Versions 1:11d).

11a scorching heat Alternative Translation The Greek kausôn may be translated as "scorching heat," but its more usual meaning in G is a hot wind from the desert (e.g., Is 49:10; Jon 4:8).

Grammar

11a the sun rose …and dried…fell…was destroyed: Gnomic Aorists The verbs in this verse are gnomic aorists. That is, although they are aorist in form—which normally indicates a single complete action, usually in the past—they are understood to express a general truth (Smyth 1920 §1931). Thus, they are usually translated in the present tense. This technique may also communicate the sense, as Wesley Notes notes, of "the certainty and suddenness of the event" (i.e., the humbling of the rich man; 597).

Context

Ancient Cultures

9ff boast in his exaltation Social Status of Rich and Poor James reverses the actual social statuses of contemporary Greco-Roman society. In that society, the rich bore high favor and corresponding privileges, while the humble and poor received no such special attention or were actively despised: the word tapeinos connotes anything insignificant, poor, or lowly, and even moral inferiority (Ancient Cultures 2:1–4; Ancient Cultures 4:4a). See "Social status of rich and poor in Greco-Roman society" in →James: Rich and Poor.

Reception

Comparison of Versions

11d pursuits "In His Ways” or “With His Riches”  Calvin Comm. Iac. ad loc. (Owen 1849, 286; Reuss and Erichson 1896, 389) agrees with Erasmus Annot. Ep. Iac. (390) in preferring the reading poriais ("in his riches" or "with his riches") over the reading poreiais ("in his ways"). Their suggested emendation was based on achieving a better sense of the passage's meaning, not on manuscript evidence.

Text

Vocabulary

11c the beauty of its face Semiticism James' hê euprepeia tou prosôpou appears to be a Semiticism. The pleonastic prosôpon imitates the Hebrew panîm, which can also mean "surface"; see for example Gn 2:6; Prv 24:31 or Ps 104:30. S employs an explanatory translation: šûprā’ dᵉḥēzwê, "beauty of its appearance" (cf. the Hebrew cognate, ḥāzôn, "vision").

Context

Biblical Intertextuality

11c the beauty of its appearance is destroyed Biblical Parallels The temporary nature of beauty is a frequent theme in the Bible, cf. Na 1:4: "the bloom of Lebanon withers." James may be making a direct allusion to Ps 103:15 or Jb 14:1–2. Likewise, James' remarks call to mind Jesus' teaching that the wildflowers, though they are clothed more splendidly than Solomon today, are "thrown into the oven tomorrow" (Mt 6:28-30; Lk 12:27-28).

Reception

Liturgies

1–12 Use in Lectionaries — Calendar The beginning of the letter of James is often read on the feast day of James, brother of the Lord:

  • BL: October 23.
  • Georgian church: December 28.

1–11 Use in Lectionary RML : Monday, Week 6, Year 2.

Christian Tradition

1–12 Divisio Textus

See also →James: Medieval Divisio Textus.

9ff Various Interpretations

Identity of the Humble

Reading this passage in the context of Jas 1:2–4 discussion on enduring trials,  interpretative tradition often understands the referent of James' "the humble brother" as anyone who suffers hardships:

  •  Bede Ep. cath. ad 1:9–10. identifies the "humble" as "everyone who endures adversities humbly for the Lord (omnis qui adversa humiliter pro domino suffert; Hurst 1985, 11; Hurst 1983, 186).
  •  Ps.-Oecumenius Comm. Ep. Cath. identifies James' referent as those humbled before God (col. 460–61).
  •  Gloss. Ord. Interlinear gloss on 1:9: "The one made poor and oppressed among the wicked understands this humiliation as exaltation before God" (hanc humilitationem intelligat apud Deum exaltationem; cols. 1267–68).

Some commentators make more specific applications

Identity of the Rich
  •  Calvin Comm. Iac. takes "the rich one" as a specific example that stands for the general category of "all those who excel in honor; or in dignity, or in any other external thing" (Owen 1849, 285; Reuss and Erichson 1896, 388).

Not Every Rich Person Condemned

  •  Bede Ep. cath. ad 1:11 comments that James "is talking not about every rich man but one who trusts in the uncertainty of riches" (qui confidit in incerto divitiarum). Bede cites the parable of Lazarus and the rich man (Lk 16:19–31), noting that Abraham, who himself was rich, did not condemn the rich man for his wealth but rather because "he had scorned being merciful and humble" (misericors et humilis; Hurst 1985, 12; Hurst 1983, 186).
  •  Gloss. Ord. ad 1:10 "He calls 'rich' the one who places all hope in riches (qui totam spem in divitiis ponit). To have wealth is not harmful, but rather to love wealth" (non nocet habere divitias, sed amare; col. 1267).
Fleetingness of Life
  •  Erasmus Iac. Par. emphasizes the fleetingness of life for both the lowly and the rich: "Therefore, let neither the man who is poor be dejected by his lowly estate nor the man who is rich be made insolent by this fortune. Let each reflect that neither the evils that burden the needy nor the goods which make the wealthy complacent are lasting…Therefore, let no Christian glory in things of the present, which are neither solid nor lasting, but let him look instead to those things which are everlasting and delight the eyes of God" (Bateman 1993, 139; Bateman 1997, 124–25).

Temporal or Eternal Rewards and Punishments?

  • Patristic and medieval interpreters often understood James to refer to eternal reward and punishment. Thus  Bede Ep. cath. (Hurst 1985, 11–13; Hurst 1983, 185-86) and the Gloss. Ord. (col. 1267) understand James to refer to the eternal punishment of the proud rich and the eternal reward of the humble. Bede compares the humble man with Lazarus of Jesus' parable, who suffered in this world but received eternal rest, and the rich with the rich man who was condemned to eternal torment  (Lk 16:19-31).  Bede and the Glossa further interpret the scorching heat of the sun (1:11a) as the severity of the divine judge, who condemns the unjust rich; cf. also Bar Salibi Ep. Cath. ad 1:11 (Sedlacek 1910, 90; Syriac–ibid., 117).
  • Interpreters such as Calvin Comm. Iac. (Owen 1896, 285–86) and Erasmus Iac. Par. (Bateman 1993, 139) in contrast, understand the humbling of the rich to refer to this world. Thus too Wesley Notes: the rich man "is humbed by a deep sense of his true condition" (597).

Allegorical Interpretation

  • Gloss. Ord., building on the comments of Bede, interprets,  "The just one flourishes like a palm tree (Ps 92:12 [G-91:13]), the unjust as grass. The flower of the just awaits hope as its fruit; the root of the just one is love (charitas) which remains immovable; the root of evil is lust (cupiditas), its flower temporary pleasure" (delectatio temporalium; col. 1268).
  • Gloss. Ord. ad 1:11 "The 'journeys' are the temporal things of a rich life by which he seeks to be blessed, which are soon destroyed. The heat of the sun is the advent of the severe judge either in the unexpected coming of his death, or in judgement in a general sense. In this judgement, however, the just man, as a fruitful tree, will perdure."

True Humility

  •  Bernard of Clairvaux Serm. Cant. 34.(2).3: Bernard comments that only the truly humble person is able to take pride in his high position. When a person is humiliated by unfortunate circumstances, he may react in three ways: (1) with anger, (2) with patience, or (3) with cheerfulness. It is only the one who is able to say to God, "It was good for me that you humiliated me" receives God's grace (cf. Jas 4:6) and is able to take pride in his "high position" (Walsh and Edmonds 1980, 3:162–63).

Suggestions for Reading

9ff The Poor and the Rich James introduces here a central theme of the letter: the relationship between the rich and poor (→James: Rich and Poor).

Redaction History?

Some scholars believe that Jas 1:9–11—with its reflection on the humble and the rich—was originally an independent unit, arguing that it has little or no connection with the previous and following sections of James.

Thematic Unity

The precise relationship between this pericope (Jas 1:9–11) and other passages in James is debated, although it is clear that for James there is a close connection between the person who endures trials (Jas 1:2–4),  the person who is not double-minded (Jas 1:5–8), and the "humble" (tapeinos) person (Literary Devices 1:9–10).

  • Jas 1:2–4: James speak of falling into various trials. The poor and humble person is one who bears many trials (e.g., hunger, lack of social status and honor, oppression by the rich), and James urges him to accept these trials as positive.
  • Jas 1:5–8: The poor and humble person is one who is not double-minded. God's wisdom, and a single-minded faith in God, is needed in order to endure trials. The rich man, in contrast, is double-minded, and lacks a genuine faith in God, as James will show explicitly later in the discourse (e.g., Jas 4:13–16). 

Interpretation

  • The key term tapeinos refers both to low economic and social status and a character trait (Vocabulary 1:9).
  • The interpretive tradition has often understood "the rich" to refer to any prideful or haughty person (Christian Tradition 1:9-11); a liberationist perspective emphasizes a more concretely economic understanding of the terms "humble" and "rich" (Theology 1:9-11).
  • James builds on rich biblical themes concerning the reversal of fortunes and the fleeting character of wealth (Biblical Intertextuality 1:9–10).
  • A key interpretive issue is whether the humbling of the rich refers to their eternal condemnation or to a humbling in this world (Christian Tradition 1:10a).

Visual Arts

1:1–5:20 James Depictions of the Author Depictions of James, the author of the epistle, in paintings, statues, manuscript illustrations, engravings, woodcuts, and embroidery on liturgical vestments are particularly prominent in the Middle Ages. A common consensus of the artists is that the author of the epistle is James the Just, leader of the Jerusalem church; he is typically further identified with James, son of Alphaeus, one of Jesus' Twelve (Mk 3:18), and "James the Less" (Mk 15:40). The iconography of James draws particularly on accounts of James recorded in Eusebius of Cesarea Hist. eccl. 23 and Jerome Vir. ill. 2, who in turn draw on accounts from Clement of Alexandria and Hegesipus. See also →James: Introduction

Several prominent features of these portrayals may be noted:

  • Following the tradition that he was the first bishop of Jerusalem, James is often portrayed anachronistically in bishop's vestments.
  • James is often portrayed holding a fuller's club, alluding to the tradition that James was beaten to death with a such a club. Variations show him holding different types of clubs. Another related tradition shows James holding a bow such as one used by hat-makers of the Middle Ages.
  • James bears a striking physical resemblance to his brother Jesus.
  • One artistic tradition, based on accounts found in the preface to the Gloss. Ord. and de Voragine Leg. aur., portrays the infant James as part of a large extended family. According to this legend, St. Anne, mother of the Virgin Mary, had three children named Mary with three different husbands. James and his brothers Joses (Joseph), Simon, and Jude (cf. Mk 6:3) are the sons of Mary (daughter of Anne and Cleophas; cf. Jn 19:25) and Alphaeus (cf. Mk 3:18). James and his brothers are thus cousins of Jesus (son of Mary, daughter of Anne and Joachim) and of St. John the Evangelist and James the Greater (sons of Mary, daughter of Anne and Salomas).

The following images are noteworthy:

  • A painting of James in the Armenian Sts. James Cathedral, Jerusalem: James is dressed in episcopal robes, wears a miter and holds a crozier (Gowler 2014, 54).
  • Blessed James Apostle. In the Stav. Bib. (1093-97) illuminations of the apostle James are at the introduction to the Catholic epistles (f. 197 r→) and at the beginning of his epistle (f. 197 v→.). The apostle stands, holding a book.
  • Apostle James the Less, statue, south portal of Chartres Cathedral, early 13th century.

Anonymous, James Among Other Apostles (sculpture on limestone, early 13th c.),  South Portal, Chartres Cathedral, France

© D.R. Photo Mary Ann Sullivan→ 

James holds a club.

  • Leonardo da Vinci (1495-98), The Last Supper, Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan. 

Giampietrino (1495–1549), The Last Supper (oil on canvas, ca. 1520, after Leonardo da Vinci [1452–1519], The Last Supper [1495-1498]),  298 cm x 770 cm

Royal Academy of Arts, London, exhib. Magdalen College, Oxford

Public Domain © Wikicommons→ 

James, who resembles his brother Jesus, is second from his left. This full-scale copy was the main source for the— unfortunate—twenty-year restoration of the original (1978–1998). It includes several lost details such as Christ's feet, the transparent glass decanters on the table, and the floral motifs of the tapestries that decorate the room's interior.  It was first mentioned in 1626 by the author Bartolomeo Sanese as hanging in the Certosa di Pavia, a monastery near Pavia, Italy, but it is unlikely that it was intended for this location. At some point, the upper third of the picture was cut off, and the width was reduced. Giampietrino is thought to have worked closely with Leonardo when he was in Milan. A very fine, full-size copy of this painting, before it was cut down, is installed at Tongerlo Abbey in Westerlo, near Antwerp, Belgium. 

  • Lucas Cranach the Elder (1509), Infant Saint James among his relations, a triptych in the Stadelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt, Germany. The infant Jesus, his mother Mary, and Mary's mother St. Anne are portrayed in the center. To the right is St. Anne's other daughter Mary, her husband Zebedee, and sons John the Evangelist and James the Greater. To the left is another of St. Anne's daughters named Mary with her husband Alphaeus; their children James, Joses (Joseph), Simon, and Jude are in the left and center panels.

Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472–1553), The Holy Kinship, (mixed media on lime, Wittenberg, 1509), Altarpiece, central panel: 100.4 × 121.1 cm; wings: 40 × 120 cm

Städel Museum — 1398, Frankfurt am Main

Public Domain © Wikicommons→

The side and central panels describe a a great hall with blue grey walls and three-colored tiles. In the side panels are depicted the half sisters of Virgin Mary, called after their fathers Mary Cleophas (left) and Mary Salome (right) together with their husbands.

Left panel: St. Mary Cleophas and Alphaeus (with the features of Friedrich the Wise with their two sons, the Apostles St. James the Less (at her breast) and Joseph Justus, called St. Barnabas, as annunciator of the Gospel of Matthew depicted with a book.

Central panel: Joseph, who seems to seems to sleep, the Virgin, dressed in blue with yellow lining, Anna and the Christ Child on her knee, who is stretching out his hand towards an apple given to him by Virgin Mary. Anna's three husbands following de Voragine Leg. aur. are shown in the background in the matroneum: on the left Joachim, who is attracted by the holy women in front of him and whose relation is also shown by the corresponding blue and yellow color of his dress, Cleophas (with the physiognomy and chain of Emperor Maximilian I and Salomas, with the physiognomy of Sixtus Oelhafen von Schöllenbach, secretary of Friedrich III, Maximilian I and Karl V), who are talking to each other. There is an architectural structure by a great stone bench in the foreground of the central panel with two marble columns on the sides, over which is strectched a cloth of gold. On the right column is a tablet with date and signature: [LVCAS CHRONVS FACIEBAT ANNO 1509. The parapet of the matroneum is decorated by a sculptured frieze with dancing putti holding six escutcheons with the six fields of Electorate of Saxony. In the hall are shown the 17 members of the Holy Kinship. In the central panel are shown two more children of Mary Cleophas and Alpheus, the Apostles Simon, patron saint of weavers, dyers, tanners and saddlers and Jude, who went on mission and suffered their martyrdom together and therefore are regularly depicted together.

Right panel: St. Mary Salome and Zebedee (with the features of Frederick III, Elector of Saxony, and his brother Herzog Johann der Beständige). St. Mary Salome, dressed in gold with dark red lining, is combing her son Saint James the Greater and while Saint John the Evangelist is hiding in her dress.

  • Paolo Veronese (Caliari) James as Bishop (1500s). Burghley House Collection, Lincolnshire, UK. The Bridgeman Art Library. James with crozier and miter, holding a book.

Paolo Veronese Cagliari (1528-1888), Saint James, (oil on canvas, ca. 1578), 200 X 85 cm, One of the volets of the organ of the church of San Jacopo, Murano, Venice — the other is a portrait of St. Augustine.

Burghley House Collection, Lincolnshire, UK, © A Graduate of Pomona→

  • Saint James the Less, painting by El Greco (c. 1612), Museo del Greco, Toledo, Spain. 

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El Greco (Domenikos Theotokópoulos) 1541-1614, The Apostle James the Greater, (Oil on canvas, 1610-1614), 100 cm X 80 cm

 Museo de El Greco→ (Toledo, Spain), © Wikicommons, 

James is shown holding a Bible, symbolizing his status as a scriptural writer, in one hand. James is depicted in the Mannerist style with elongated form and without any of the traditional iconographic symbols

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Nicolò Bambini (1651-1736), San Giacomo Minore (Oil on canvas, 1722-1723), Communion of St James (Series of the Twelve Apostles), Presbytery: right wall, center, Saint Stae,Venezia, © Chorus Venezia→ 

The risen Jesus appears to James and breaks bread with him (based on an account recorded in Jerome Vir. ill. 2, said to be drawn from the Gospel according to the Hebrews).

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Angelo de' Rossi (1671 – 1715), Jacobus Minor (Sculpture on marble, 1710-1711), Gli Apostoli, (h: 424 cm), Nef, San Giovanni in Laterano, Roma, © Wikicommons

James holds a book and club.

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James Tissot (French, 1836-1902), James the Lesser, (Opaque watercolor over graphite on gray wove paper, 1886-1894), 30.6 x 23.5 cm, Brooklyn Museum, 00.159.237, © Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2008

James, resembling Jesus, prayers on his knees with outstretched arms. It perhaps reflects Hegesippus' statement that James spent so much time in prayer that his knees were as hard as a camel's.

Eastern Orthodox traditions

  • James the Just, Russian icon, 16th century. Novgorod. James is depicted in episcopal robes and holds a book.

Anonymous, James the Just, (pigments on wood, mid. 16th c.), icon, Novgorod or Moskow, Novgorod

Public Domain © Wikicommons→,

The inscription bearing the name of the saint has disappeared, but the iconography—facial features and beard shape —suggest that the icon is of James. Byzantine art places him among the founding fathers of the Church. As the creator of the first liturgy containing memorial services and the author of the message, which speaks of the healing power of prayer (Jas 5:14-16), he was also worshipped in ancient times as a healer. In Novgorod, James is prayed for the end of the epidemics. In sacred iconography, the representations of James of Jerusalem alone are very rare. We know the icons of Novgorod in which he is represented with other saints: Nicholas the Thaumaturgist, James the brother of God, Ignatius the bearer of God, end of the 15th c.; James the brother of God, Cosmas and Damian, 2nd quarter of the 16th c. The icon comes from the best workshops in Moscow or Novgorod.

  • Martyrdom of James the Just. Illustration from the Menologion of Basil II. (PG 117:6-612). Late 10th, early 11th c. AD. Vatican Library. Vat.gr. 1613. Image 131.→  

For discussion of visual depictions, see Gowler 2014, 53-62; Bedford 1911.

Comparison of Versions

11d pursuits Literal or Metaphorical? V translates the Greek poreia as a literal journey (iter); S in a more metaphorical manner (hwpk’: "behavior, manner of life"). Poreia can have both meanings, but James' meaning is likely more metaphorical: it corresponds to the ending of the related passage in Jas 1:5–8, "in all of his ways" (hodois).