The Bible in Its Traditions

James 1:3–4

Byz Nes V TR

knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.

For you know that the trial of faith will increase your patience.

3 produces perseverance Ps 34:19 ; Prv3:12; Rom 5:3-4
Byz S
Nes V TR

But let endurance have its perfect work, that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.

And let patience have [its] perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, lacking in nothing.


Literary Genre

2ff Exordium In agreement with Wuellner 1978, we see Jas 2:2–4 as the letter‘s exordium, that is, the introduction that presents essential themes that will be developed throughout the letter. Here James exhorts his readers to be attentive to the letter's major themes of developing genuine faith and becoming complete and whole.

Literary Devices

2ff,12 perseverance Introducing the Theme Jas 1:2–4,12 introduces the theme of perseverance, which is further explicated in Jas 5:7–11: the exhortation to wait patiently for the coming of the Lord.


Christian Tradition

2ff Application to the Martyrs Augustine of Hippo Serm. 159.1.8 applies this section to Christian martyrs: their patience has reached the point of perfection, since they despise the pleasures of the world, and do not fear hardship or punishment, but only love justice above all things. 


Literary Devices

3ff produces perseverance. But Let Perseverance: Sorites This is a "chain-argument," composed of a chain of paired terms, in which the second term is used as the first term of the next pair: testing → perseverance (hupomonê); perseverance → being complete and whole. A similar figure (polyptoton) follows further between v. 4 and 5: leipomenoi "lacking" → tis leipetai "anyone lacks."

Compare Rom 5:3–4: affliction→ perseverance (hupomonê); perseverance →proven character (dokimê); proven character→ hope. And see 2Pt 1:5–7: "supplement your faith with virtue, virtue with knowledge, knowledge with self-control, self-control with perseverance (hupomonê); perseverance with devotion, devotion with mutual affection, mutual affection with love." Cf. also Herm. Vis. 3.8.7. and Biblical Intertextuality 1:3.


Christian Tradition

3 perseverance Liberationist Perspective  Tamez 2002 writes that James' concept of perseverance should not be undestood in a passive or submissive sense. Rather, James calls for a "militant patience" that actively resists oppression (43–46).



3f,5:11 perseverance Courageous Patience James uses two word families to describe the virtue of patience: the noun hupomonê with the cognate verb hupomenô (used in Jas 1:3–4,12; 5:11) and makrothumeô / makrothumia (Vocabulary Jas 5:7-8,10).

Hupomonê is closely connected with testing (peirasmos): the testing of one's faith produces perseverance (hupomonê, Jas 1:4); the blessed person perseveres (hupomenô) through trial until he reaches his eschatological reward (Jas 1:12; 5:11). Job is held out as an example of hupomonê (Jas 5:11). See also Biblical Intertextuality 1:3.

The virtue of hupomonê is regularly discussed in conjunction with the virtue of courage (andreia) in the writing of Aristotle and the Stoics (Ancient Texts 1:3).

Suggestions for Reading

2ff Exordium Encouraging Perseverance This passage may be considered the Letter's exordium (Literary Genre 1:2–4).


It has two main goals: 


The Christian tradition of interpretation clarifies James' meaning by distinguishing between different types of trials or temptations, as well as their nature and sources (Christian Tradition 1:2). It also offers deeper reflections on both the virtue of perseverance under trial (Christian Tradition 1:4a)—including the centrality of joy in the Christian life (Christian Tradition 1:2; Theology 1:2–4)—and the ideal of the complete or "perfect" Christian (Christian Tradition 1:4b).

Literary Devices

3 since you know Paraenetic Discourse: Appeal to Shared Knowledge James appeals to knowledge that he expects his hearers to share with him; in this case, he reminds his hearers of the nature of trials. This appeal to shared knowledge is a common technique in paraenetic discourse, as in 1Thes 4:1–2 and Seneca Clem. 13.15: "I am exhorting you far too long, since you need reminding (admonitione) rather than exhortation." Paraenesis is used in deliberative rhetoric to persuade the hearer to follow a certain course of action, in this case to perservere in various trials (→James: Introduction §Literary Genre).


Ancient Texts

4b so that you might be perfect Complete in Virtues When applied to a person, the adjective "complete" (teleios) can refer to a person mature in years:

  • Xenophon Cyr. 1.2.4 refers to four ages of men: boys, youth, those of mature years (teleioi), and those too old for military service.

The "complete" person in Greek thought may also refer to one who possesses all the virtues.

  • Plato Leg. 2.653a says that the teleios person is one who has attained the central virtue of prudence (phronêsis).

In Stoic thought:

The Stoics closely associate the teleios man with the "wise man" (sophos; Ancient Texts 1:5a); see Jas 3:13

Along with the Greek tradition, James thinks of the perfect person as one who is able to control his passions, including the passions that lead to uncontrolled and destructive speech; cf. Jas 3:2.

Biblical Intertextuality

4b so that you might be perfect Wholeness: Cultic, Moral, Radical Discipleship, Spiritual Maturity The concept of teleios (Ancient Texts 1:4a; Ancient Texts 1:4b) covers a broad range of meaning in the biblical tradition.

Wholeness (Perfection) of the Sacrifice

The Hebrew adjective tâmim is often applied to an unblemished animal that is fit for sacrifice (e.g., Ex 12:5: "The lamb must be a year-old male and without blemish [tâmim]; G translates this word here with teleios).

Moral Wholeness (Perfection)

Tâmim can also be applied to humans whose actions were blameless before God; thus Noah (Gen 6:9) is described as "a good man (ṣadiq) and blameless (tâmim; G translates this as teleios; cf. Sir 44:17). The one who is tâmim is morally upright and follows the Law (Ps 15:2: "He who walks blamelessly [tâmim] and does justice; who thinks truth in the heart and slanders not with his tongue"). The Qumran community often describes its own members as tâmim (e.g., →1QS 9:19: the teacher should teach the members of the community "so that they walk perfectly").

This sense lies closest to the Hellenistic concept of the "perfect" man as one who posesses all the virtues (Ancient Texts 1:4a).

Wholeness (Perfection) of a Whole-hearted Following of Jesus’ Radical Commandments

James may well allude to Jesus‘ teaching preserved in the Sermon on the Mount, "So be perfect (teleios), just as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Mt 5:48). "Perfection" here is associated with following Jesus‘ radical commandments recorded in the Sermon. Compare also Jesus‘ challenge to the rich young man, "If you wish to be perfect, go: sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me" (Mt 19:21). Perfection involves a whole-hearted following of Jesus.

Wholeness of Maturity in the Faith

Paul associates teleios with the mature follower of Christ: "In respect to evil be like infants, but in your thinking be mature" (1Cor 14:20); "Yet we do speak a wisdom to those who are mature" (1Cor 2:6; cf. Phil 3:15; Col 1:28). Hebrews has this same concept: "But solid food is for the mature" (teleios; Heb 5:14).



2ff Liturgical Reading from Augustine Augustine of Hippo Serm. 159.1 indicates that Jas 1:2–4 had just been read in the service; Augustine's main theme is Rom 8:30-31. According to Geoffrey Willis's tabulation of Augustine's lectionary, Jas 1:1–4 was read on the Feast of Martyrs along with Ps 42; 115; 141; Mt 5:7–11; 10:16–28; Lk 21:1–19; 1Jn 3:16; Rv 14:5 (cf. Willis 1962, 22–57). Note that some of these citations may not have been lections but antiphons or responsories.


Ancient Texts

3 perseverance A Type of Courage The classical Greek tradition saw hupomonê not as a passive endurance of trials, but as an active act of courage:

  • Aristotle Eth. Nic. 3.7.6 "the courageous man endures (hupomonei) the terrors and dares the deeds that manifest courage" (ta kata tên andreian; Rackham 1934, 158–59).
  • The Stoics (Stobaeus Anth. 2.5b2) defined courage (andreia) as the virtue that "concerns instances of standing firm" (peri tas hupomonas; Inwood and Gerson 2008, 204).



4a work A Fundamental Idea The Greek word ergon ("work") is a key concept in James. Its essential meaning is an "action," "work," or "activity." Here the emphasis is on the final effect or result of an activity—in this case the full effect or result of perseverance. The emphasis on the practical result or action is evident in James' other uses of the term ergon (plural erga). In Jas 1:25, the doer of a work (poiêtês ergou) is contrasted with a forgetful hearer. In Jas 2:14–26, James explicates his well-known thesis that "faith without works (actions; erga) is dead." In 3:13, James challenges those who claim to be wise and understanding to demonstrate their wisdom in actions. See also →Ergon ("Work"): Its Philology, Biblical Use and Reception and →James: Erga ("Works") and Cognates in James.


Ancient Texts

4a perfect work Wholeness: Classical Ideal of Attaining the End (telos) The Greek is ergon teleion. The adjective teleios means something that is complete and whole in its own nature. Aristotle describes several sense of the term "perfect":

  • Aristotle Metaph. 5. [1021b]  "That outside of which it is impossible to find even a single one of its parts…That which, in respect of goodness or excellence (kat' aretên kai to eu) , cannot be surpassed in its kind; e.g., a doctor and a musician are "perfect" when they have no deficiency in respect of the form of their peculiar excellence…Goodnessis a kind of perfection (aretê teleiôsis tis) is a kind of perfection…Things which have attained their end (telos), if their end is good, are called perfect" (teleios; Tredennick 1935, 1:266).

The Stoics further associate the perfection of a thing with the reason that pervades the universe:

  • Seneca Ep. 124.13  "That alone is perfect which is perfect according to nature as a whole (quod secundum universam naturam perfectum) and nature as a whole is possessed of reason" (Gummere 1917, 3:444)

See further →James: Perfection / Wholeness in James

Biblical Intertextuality

4a perseverance an Essential Christian Virtue

A Necessary Virtue for the Last Days

Jesus‘ teaching links perseverance (hupomonê) with eschatological trials and with ultimate salvation:

  • Lk 21:19: "By your perseverance you will secure your lives."
  • Mk 13:13: "by your perseverance (verbal form: hupomenô) you will gain your lives."

In the NT, hupomonê is often singled out as a necessary characteristic for believers undergoing trials (see Lk 8:15; Rom 2:7; 8:25; 15:4-5; 2Cor 1:6; Col 1:11; 1Thes 1:3; Heb 12:1).

Paul and James on the Links between Joy, Testing, and Perseverance

Paul also links joy, suffering, perseverance, and testing.

James and Paul differ in their orientation: for Paul, the process of bearing trials builds one's character in order to hope (in the context of Rom 5) for eschatological salvation through Christ. James has a this-worldly orientation: the process of bearing trials produces a mature and complete person.

4b whole Theme of Wholeness in Paul Paul applies holoklêros holistically to spirit, soul, and body:

  • "May the God of peace himself make you perfectly holy, and may you entirely (holoklêros), spirit, soul, and body (pneuma, psuchê, sôma) be preserved blameless" (1Thes 5:23).

After healing a man crippled from birth, Peter declares:

  • "the faith that comes through it (i.e., Jesus' name) has given him this perfect health" (holoklêria; Acts 3:16).

Cf. James' concern for integral health of body and soul in Jas 5:13–18. See further →James: Perfection / Wholeness in James.   

Peritestamental Literature

2f trials …testing: Connection between Trials, Testing, and Perseverance James' connection between trials (peirasmos), testing (dokimion, see Jas 1:12 dokimos) and perseverance (hupomonê) are noted in other texts.

  • T. Jos. 2.6–7 "In ten testings (peirasmos) he showed that I was approved (dokimos), and in all of them I was patient (makrothumeô), because patience is a powerful medicine, and perseverance (hupomonê) provides many good things (OTP 1:819; de Jonge 1978, 146).

4a perseverance Courageous Perseverance to God and His Law In 4 Macc. 1:11, the martyrs are paradigmatic examples of hupomonê in their patient, but firm and courageous perseverance; they remain faithful to God and his law despite the tortures of the tyrant:

  • "Not only was all mankind stirred to wonder by their courage (andreia) and fortitude (hupomonê)…overcoming the tyrant by their fortitude" (hupomonê; OTP 2:544).

See also 4 Macc. 9:30; 17:12.


Comparison of Versions

4a let perseverance have (V) Uncertainty of Verbal Mode 

  • V: habeat (subjunctive).
  • Other Latin mss: habet (indicative). The Gloss. Ord., with some other Latin manuscripts (G R S), reads the indicative habet (perseverance has [its] complete result). A medieval corrector comments that the Gloss. Ord. here is commenting on the text, not copying a manuscript (Dahan 2012, 73); Lapide Comm. ad loc. notes and discusses both readings. C follows the indicative reading.

Christian Tradition

3 perseverance Perseverance in the Christian Tradition

Passive and Active Elements of Perseverance

The tradition describes hupomonê (V: patientia) as a virtue involving both a more passive endurance and a more active perseverance, closely connected with courage (Ancient Texts 1:3).

  •  Augustine of Hippo Pat. 2 discusses how the patient person will endure evil rather than commit an evil action. "The patience of man, which is right and laudable and worthy of the name of virtue, is understood to be that by which we tolerate evil things with an even mind" (aequo animo).
  • For Tertullian Pat. 3 the way that Christ bore his hardships and suffering is the greatest example of patience.
  •  Aquinas ST 2-2.136.4, following Cicero, identifies perseverance (patientia) as part of the cardinal virtue of fortitude (fortitudo). He further defines it, quoting Gregory the Great, as "to suffer with an equal mind (aequanimiter) the evils inflicted by others." 
  •  Calvin Comm. Iac. ad loc. similarly defines hupomonê as ”fortitude (fortitudo) of mind in bearing evils" (Owen 1849, 280).

Perfection Involves Action

  •  Palamas Hom. 32.2 "We cannot become perfect (teleioutai) just through involuntary (akousios) suffering. Voluntary actions are necessary as well, such as chastity (sôphrosunê), righteousness, love towards God and neighbor, and so on, because we must have these virtues to attain perfection. So the godly apostle also tells us, 'Let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, lacking nothing.' His precise meaning is that if you want to demonstrate (endeiknusthai) that your faith in God is perfect, you must not only courageously bear (pherete gennaiôs) what befalls you from without (exothen), but you should also be active in works pleasing to God (ta thearesta energeite), difficult though this may be. When action and suffering (praxis kai pathos) coincide in the cause of good (ep' agathôᵢ) they make godly men perfect" (Veniamin 2009, 252).

4a let perseverance have [its] perfect work Various Interpretations

The Perfect Work is Love

  •  Ps.-Hilary of Arles Tract. Iac. ad loc. glosses "perfect work" as the "love of God and neighbor" (dilectio Dei et proximi) which he identifies with "the perfect love that drives out fear (1Jn 4:18) i.e., the fear of temptation" (timorem temptationis; col. 63).

Persevering Until the End

  •  Calvin Comm. Iac. ad loc. understands the phrase to mean that the Christian must persevere to the end: he should not give up on the virtue of perseverance.
  •  Lapide Comm. offers a similar interpretation: let perseverance be "constant, continuous, and complete" (sit constans, continua, et plena), even to the point of death and martyrdom.

Perseverance as a Central Virtue

Many commentators see in the reference to a "perfect work" (opus perfectum) a hint that perseverance is a central virtue.

  •  Ps.-Hilary of Arles Tract. Iac. ad loc.: patientia is the "perfect work" (opus perfectum); it is the guardian of souls as Jesus teaches, "By your perseverance, you will secure your lives" (Lk 21:19).
  • Nicholas of Lyra Post. ad loc. notes that it would be natural for one being persecuted to respond with sadness (tristitia) and then anger (ira) and hate (odium) towards the persecutor. The virtue of perseverance (patientia), however, would work to root out these harmful passions.
  • Thomas Aquinas ST 1-2.66.4 ad 2 "Patience is said to have 'a perfect work,' by enduring evils, wherein it excludes not only unjust revenge, which is also excluded by justice; not only hatred (odium), which is also suppressed by charity; nor only anger (ira), which is calmed by gentleness; but also inordinate sorrow (tristitia inordinata), which is the root of all the above."
  • For Luther Lect. Rom. ad 2:7 other virtues can bring about good works, but only patience can bring about a perfect work—one that is done not out of desire for glory or self-love but only for love of God.  Luther Lect. Heb. 6:1 also associates James' perfect work with the reference in Heb 6:1 to maturity.

Perfect Patience in Rejecting Revenge

  •  Ris Menn. Art. 29.1: The passage is cited in support of the belief that Christians must never seek to avenge a wrong done to them, but rather to endure wrongs patiently.

Following God's Commandments is not Impossible

  • In his anti-Lutheran polemic, Herborn Ench. 7 quotes the passage in support of his thesis that "the precepts of God are not impossible for the Christian person who assents to God's grace" (Praecepta Dei homini christiano gratiae assentienti non sunt impossibilia).


2ff trials MYSTICISM The Spiritual Benefit of Temptation

  • CCC 2847 "The Holy Spirit makes us discern between trials (probationem), which are necessary for the growth of the inner man, and temptation (tentationem), which leads to sin and death. We must also discern between being tempted and consenting to temptation (cf. Jas 1:14–15). Finally, discernment unmasks the lie of temptation, whose object appears to be good, a 'delight to the eyes' and desirable, when in reality its fruit is death (cf. Gn 3:6)."

The Catechism proceeds to cite Origen on the utility of temptation:

  • CCC 2847 "'God does not want to impose the good, but wants free beings…There is a certain usefulness to temptation. No one but God knows what our soul has received from him, not even we ourselves. But temptation reveals it in order to teach us to know ourselves, and in this way we discover our evil inclinations and are obliged to give thanks for the goods that temptation has revealed to us'" (Origen Or. 29.17; cf. Origen's extended discussion in Or. 29).

See also Christian Tradition 1:2; Theology 1:13–15.



3 testing Operative or Resultative Meaning The Greek dokimion can refer either:

  • (1) to the process of testing (as in testing a metal for its genuineness);
  • (2) or to the state of having been tested and approved.

See for example,

  •  T. Jos. 2.7 "In ten testings (peirasmoi) he showed that I was approved (dokimos; Test. Patr., 146; OTP , 1: 819);
  • V's translation probatus: "proved" or "proven."

Here, there is an implied metaphor to refining gold by fire (cf. 1Pt 1:6–7); thus the process of testing is intended. In Jas 1:12, by contrast, the state of having been approved is intended: the person who courageously endures a trial becomes dokimos, tested and approved as genuine.

3 faith Jamesian Idiolect: Two Meanings Pistis in James has two basic senses:

  • (1) faith as trust in God;
  • (2) faith as belief in certain propositions.

Here, meaning (1) is the primary sense: the testing of one's trust in God builds up the virtue of perseverance (→James: Faith in James).

4b perfect and whole James’ Focus on Wholeness and Completeness James' use of the adjectives "perfect" (teleios) and "whole" (holoklêros) signals his central concern with the theme of completeness and wholeness throughout his entire letter.

The basic sense of holoklêros is the integral unity (cf. V : integrus) and completeness of all parts of a whole; often associated with the health of the body (cf. Ps.-Lucian of Samosata Long. 2). For teleios, see →James: Perfection / Wholeness in James.



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.

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. 1613. Image 131.→  

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


Peritestamental Literature

4b so that you might be perfect Wholeness in Philo: Virtues, God’s Gift, and the Patriarchs

 Wholeness and the Virtues

Philo follows Stoic doctrine (Ancient Texts 1:4a; Ancient Texts 1:4b) in describing the complete or perfect (teleios) man as one who possesses the virtues perfectly and thus is free from every passion (pathos).

  •  Philo Leg. 3.131 "You observe how the perfect (teleios) man always makes perfect freedom from passion (teleian apatheian) his study" (Colson 1929, 1:388-89).

Wholeness a Gift of God's Grace

Completeness, or perfection, however, is not a natural characteristic of created things, it is a gift of God‘s grace.

  •  Philo Plant. 93 "perfection (teleion) is found in no part of creation, though by special grace (charis) of the First Cause it is ever and anon displayed upon its face" (Yonge 1996, 3:260–61).
  •  Philo Plant. 37 "the bountiful God plants in the soul as it were a garden of virtues and of the modes of conduct corresponding to each of them, a garden that brings the soul to perfect (teleios) happiness" (Yonge 1996, 3:230-31).

The Patriarchs: Models of Wholeness

Philo likewise follows the Stoic doctrine that sharply divides the perfect wise man from the rest of humanity. The patriarchs exemplify the wise man:

  •   Philo Sacr. 43: Abraham gave to his son Isaac, "the real wealth, the perfect (teleios) virtues…the possessions of the perfect (teleios) and true-born only" (Colson 1929, 2:127).

Wholeness Does Not Exclude Sinning

The whole or "perfect" man is not immune from sinning:

  • Philo Spec. 1.252 "even the perfect man (teleios), in so far as he is a created being (hêᵢ genêtos), never escapes from sinning" (ouk ekpheugei to diamartanein; Colson 1939, 7:245).

Biblical Intertextuality

3 testing of your faith Testing to Reveal True Character The theme of a person being tested by trials is common in the Old Testament, particularly in the wisdom literature.

  • Sir 2:1–5 teaches, "My son, when you come to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for trials (peirasmos).…Accept whatever befalls you, in crushing misfortune be patient; for in fire gold is tested" (dokimazô).
  • Similarly in Ws 3:5-6, "Chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed, because God tried (peirazô) them and found them worthy of himself. As gold in a furnace, he proved (dokimazô) them."

Earlier traditions speak of God testing (peirazô).

  • The 40 years of wandering in the desert were God’s test of the Israelites, “testing (using the cognate ekpeirazō) you to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commandments” (Dt 8:2; cf. Jgs 2:22). 
  • Perhaps the most famous example of example of divine testing occurs when God “tests” the faith of Abraham by commanding him to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice (Gen 22:1; see also Heb 11:17).

This theme is likewise echoed in Paul's letter to the Romans, who yet clarifies that joyous perseverance is possible only through  justifying faith in Jesus Christ.

  • Rom 5:1–5: "Through him we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice (kauxômetha, lit. 'boast') in our hope of sharing the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice (kauchômetha) in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance (hupomonên), and endurance produces character (dokimên, lit. 'provenness'), and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us" (RSV).

For Peter, perseverance is a means of entering into Christ's suffering—and therefore his resurrection:

  • 1Pt 2:19–24: "For one is approved if, mindful of God, he endures pain while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it, if when you do wrong and are beaten for it you take it patiently? But if when you do right and suffer for it you take it patiently, you have God's approval. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. He committed no sin; no guile was found on his lips. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he trusted to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed" (RSV).
  • 1Pt 4:13–15: "But rejoice in so far as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory and of God rests upon you" (RSV). Cf. Biblical Intertextuality 1:2.

In Jas 1:2, James does not identify God as the cause of the testing. His word choice (peripiptô, "falls into") rather implies that trials are an inevitable part of life that every person must encounter (cf. Jas 1:13). See also Theology 1:2–4


Christian Tradition

4b perfect and whole, lacking in nothing Various Interpretations

Maxiumus the Confessor: One who Controls Sensory Desires through Ascetic Practice and Contemplation

  •  Maximus the Confessor Quae. Thal. 58.4–5 "In this passage, 'perfect" (teleios) indicates the one who through self-control (di' egkrateias) fights against the voluntary trials and who through patience (di' hupomonês) perseveres during involuntary trials; 'complete' (holoklêros)  indicates the one who achieves ascetic practice with knowledge (praxin meta gnôseôs), and contemplation (theôrian) without neglecting the practice of asceticism... Such as person is 'tested' by the experience of opposition arising from the sensory world (dokimos men dia tên peiran tôn kat' aisthêsin enantiôn). He becomes 'perfect as one who fights unyieldingly against both the sensory pleasures and grief through self-control and endurance (di' egkrateias kai hupomonês).' And he becomes 'complete' as one who preserves unharmed, in the stability of their rational identity, the permanent states of mind (hexeis) that combat the sensory dispositions, which war against each other. By these permanent states I mean ascetic practice and contemplation" (phêmi de tên praxin kai tên theôrian; Constas 2018, 404–5).

Other Interpretations

  • Ps.-Hilary of Arles Tract. Iac. ad loc. paraphrases this phrase as "complete in body and soul in the love of God" (corpore et anima perfecti in dilectione Dei).
  •  Gloss. Ord. ad 1:3: an interlinear gloss reads, "that you be perfect, not lacking in torments, and in the future be whole (integri), receiving complete beatitude" (plenam beatitudinem).
  • Wesley Notes paraphrases "complete and whole" as "adorned with every Christian grace."

See also Ancient Texts 1:4a and Ancient Texts 1:4b.