The Bible in Its Traditions

James 3:11

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11  The spring does not pour forth from the same opening [both ]the sweet and the bitter [water, does it]?

11  Doth the fountain send forth from the same opening sweet [water] and bitter?

Text

Vocabulary

11 spring Literal and Metaphorical Senses The Greek pêgê (V: fons; S: nbywt’) refers to the source of flowing water, either a natural spring or a fountain. It can then be used metaphorically as the source of any thought or activity.

Grammar

11 Does a spring Interro-negation James uses the interrogative particle mêti, indicating an expected negative answer. 

Literary Devices

11f Diatribe Style: Rhetorical Questions In the diatribe style, James asks rhetorical questions, expecting negative responses, "Does a spring pour forth both fresh and brackish water from the same opening?" (3:11). "Can a fig tree, my brothers, produce olives, or a grapevine figs?" (3:12a).

Context

Biblical Intertextuality

11 sweet and bitter The Bitter Water at Marah A Jewish audience likely would have heard an allusion to the account in Ex 15:22-25, where the people find the water at Marah bitter (Greek: pikros) and undrinkable, and the Lord has Moses throw in a piece of wood to "sweeten" (Greek: glukainô) the water.

Suggestions for Reading

1–12 An Ethics of Language The connection of this pericope with Jas 2:14–26 is not obvious. In general, however, it sustains James' concern with proper speech (→Speech in James).  The specific concern of Jas 2:14–26 was the consistency between speech (confession of faith) and action. The major point of Jas 3:1–12 is clear enough: James exhorts his readers to control their tongues.  

Artistry: Coinage of a "Classic"

Structure
  • In contrast with other parts of James that are a collection of materials that have no clear relationship, Jas 3:1–12 is a coherent composition that features substantial rhetorical design (Literary Devices 3:1–12).
Rhetorics
Philosophy

Reception

Among the most notable individual passages:

Text

Vocabulary

11f sweet and bitter Metonymous Use: Drinkable and Undrinkable Water

  • Glukus ("sweet") and pikros ("bitter") literally refers to sweet and bitter taste; cf. Rv 10:9, "Take it, and eat; it will be bitter (pikrainô) to your stomach, but sweet (glukus) as honey in your mouth." The words are applied by extension to water that is drinkable and water that is not drinkable (e.g, brackish water, or salt water). See Herodotus Hist. 4.52; Philo Her. 208 for the contrast of these two words.
  • In Jas 3:12, the comparison is between fresh water (glukus) and salt water (halukos). Herodotus Hist. 7.35 uses both halukos and pikros to describe the Hellespont in his account of how Xerxes lashed the stream as punishment for destroying his bridge.

11 pour forth Image of Overflowing Abundance The Greek bruô has the sense of something being full to the point of overflowing; it can also refer to budding plants. This may well be a conscious allusion to Jesus' teaching: "For from the fullness (perisseuma) of the heart the mouth speaks" (Mt 12:34). 

Literary Devices

11f Comparisons with Nature

Staying True to One’s Nature

To support his point that one should not both bless God and curse others, James draws some analogies from nature:

  • The same opening in a spring does not produce both fresh and brackish / salty water.
  • Fruit trees produce their own fruit, not the fruit of other types of trees.

The point of the comparisons is that nothing in nature acts against its own nature. Thus James argues not simply that it is inconsistent to bless God and curse others, but rather that such behavior contradicts human nature. God gave humans speech in order to worship God (Jas 3:9a) and to facilitate a harmonius life together (cf. Jas 3:17-18).

See also Ancient Texts 3:7a.

Evoking a Visual Similarity

James' image in 3:11 relies on a visual similarity between the human mouth and the opening of a spring: two types of water gushing forth from a single opening correspond with righteous and unrighteous speech coming forth from a single mouth.

Context

Peritestamental Literature

11 sweet and bitter An Apocalyptic Sign: Confusion in Nature

  • 4 Esd. 5.9: the signs of the end times will show chaos in nature ("e.g., the sun shall suddenly shine forth at night"); one of the signs is "salt waters shall be found in the sweet" (in dulcibus aquis salsae invenientur; OTP, 1:532).

James does not allude to these eschatological signs, however. His point is to emphasize the regular order in nature as a foil for a disordered human nature.

11 a spring + from the same opening / Metaphor for Inner and Outer Logos? James' choice of a spring pouring forth through its opening as a metaphor for human speech is not original. Philo uses the image to illustrate the distinction between the inner logos (reason within the human mind) and the outer logos (speech). Philo here draws on a Stoic distinction between an internal logos (endiathetos logos) and a "spoken" or "uttered" word (prophorikos logos; e.g., →SVF 2.43).

  • Philo Migr. 71 "logos has two aspects, one resembling a spring (pêgê), the other its outflow; logos in the understanding (dianoia) resembles a spring and is called 'reason' (logos), while utterance by mouth and tongue is like its outflow, and is called 'speech'" (logos; Colson 1932, 173).

Reception

Liturgies

1–12 Use in Lectionary RCL : Proper 19, Year B.

3:11–4:6 Use in Lectionary BL : Wednesday, 32nd Week after Pentecost. 

Christian Tradition

2b–12 Divisio Textus

  •  Ps.-Andreas Catena groups verses Jas 3:2b–12 under the heading, "That the rash and undisciplined (propetês kai ataktos) tongue brings death to its possessor. It is necessary to master it for the honor (euphêmia) and glory of God" (Cramer 1844, 8:19).

See also →James: Medieval Divisio Textus .

11f Logical Interpretation The Gnomon Novi Testamenti summarizes James' verses thus :

  • v. 11: Two contrary principles cannot come forth from one principle (principium).
  • v. 12: No principle can come forth from any other principle, unless it is of that principle's own species (quod sua speciei sit; Bengel 1759, 1110).

11 spring Allegorical Interpretations The passage was given various allegorical interpretations:

  • Bede Ep. cath. ad loc. (Hurst 1985, 41-43; Hurst 1983, 207) and Lapide Comm. ad loc. (20:157) flesh out the implicit allegory in James: the fresh water is anyone who blesses God through praying or preaching his word; the bitter water is anyone who curses others. Just as when brackish water and fresh water are mixed, the whole become brackish, so too blessings are corrupted when mixed with cursing. They find the principle in 1Cor 5:6: "a little yeast leavens all the dough."
  • Ps.-Andreas Catena ad loc. sees in the mixture of fresh and bitter the mixture of divine things and human ideas in the heretical teachings of false teachers (Cramer 1844, 8:23-24).
  • Ps.-Hilary of Arles Tract. Iac. ad loc. "The spring is the heart of man, the flowing stream of water is his speech (verbum), and the lips of a person are the opening. The fresh water is sound teaching (sana est doctrina), while the bitter water is faulty teaching" (nequam est doctrina; col. 76).

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.