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1 From where [come] wars and disputes among you? Is it not from here, from your lusts, which war in your members?
1 Whence [come] wars and whence [come] fightings among you? [come they] not hence, [even] of your pleasures that war in your members?
2 You lust and you do not have. You murder and are jealous and you cannot obtain. You fight and make war. You do not have because you do not ask.
2 Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and covet, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war; ye have not, because ye ask not.
2 You covet, and do not obtain; you kill and envy, but you cannot possess; you strive and fight, yet you have nothing, because you do not ask.
3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend [it] in [gratifying] your lusts.
3 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may spend [it] in your pleasures.
3 You ask and you do not receive, because you ask badly, so that you may use it toward your own desires.
4 Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world is constituted an enemy of God.
4 Ye adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore would be a friend of the world maketh himself an enemy of God.
4 O you adulterers! Do you not know that the love for worldly things is enmity with God? Whosoever, therefore, esteems worldly things is the enemy of God.
5 Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, "The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously"?
5 Or think ye that the scripture speaketh in vain? Doth the spirit which he made to dwell in us long unto envying?
5 Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?
6 But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble."
6 But our LORD has given us abundant grace. Therefore he said, God humbles the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
7 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
7 Be subject therefore unto God; but resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist Satan, and he will flee from you.
8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse [your] hands, [you] sinners; and purify [your] hearts, [you] double-minded.
9 Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter change into mourning and your joy into dejection.
9 Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.
9 Humble yourselves, and mourn; let your laughter be turned to weeping, and your joy to sorrow.
10 Be humbled before YHWH, and He will exalt you.
10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall exalt you.
11 Do not speak evil of one another, brothers. He who speaks evil against a brother and judges his brother speaks against the law and judges the law. And if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.
11 Speak not one against another, brethren. He that speaketh against a brother, or judgeth his brother, speaketh against the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judgest the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge.
11 Brothers, do not choose to slander one another. Whoever slanders his brother, or whoever judges his brother, slanders the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law, but a judge.
12 There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you who judges the other?
12 One [only] is the lawgiver and judge, [even] he who is able to save and to destroy: but who art thou that judgest thy neighbor?
12 For there is one lawgiver and judge, who is able to save and to destroy: who are you to judge your neighbor?
2f you ask wrongly Thematic Echo: Theme of Prayer James returns to the topic raised in Jas 1:6-8 on proper prayer. There, he criticizes the community for not asking in single-minded faith, but rather with a divided mind, mixed motivations. Here, the person, dominated by passions, asks in the wrong way.
2a You desire Implied Object or Intransitive Meaning? James' reference to desiring (epithumei; cf. the noun form in Jas 1:14-15) is quite generic and does not specify the object of the desire. Yet with his reference to desiring but not having, and to spending on one's passions (Jas 4:2-3), James apparently has the desire for possessions or money in mind; his reference to adulterers (and thus sexual desire) in the next verse, likely has a more metaphorical sense.
Thus envy over possessions, with its ensuing strife and divisions, characterizes James' community. The disparity in the community between rich and poor (Jas 1:9-11; 2:1-13,15-16; 4:13-16; 5:1-6) doubtless plays a role in the ongoing conflicts. See also Ancient Texts 4:2a and Christian Tradition 4:2a.
2a you desire and do not have Unrestrained Desires are Insatiable
2b you kill Metaphorical Interpretation
3a ask wrongly Revisiting the Theme of Faithful Prayer James reiterates his discussion in Jas 1:6-8, which criticizes the community for asking or praying to God with a divided mind, mixed motivations, rather than with single-minded faith.
4a adulteresses Vituperation and the Metaphor of Adultery James uses the word moichalides, the term for females committing adultery, alluding to a prophetic tradition of metaphorically conceiving the divine-human relationship as a marriage (Biblical Intertextuality 4:4a). James thinks of the community as the chosen people (cf. Jas 1:1: "the twelve tribes") who have a covenant relationship with God. Jealousy and inordinate desire for possession violate the covenant law (which commands "do not covet"). The people's choice to become "friends with the world" (Jas 4:4) instead of remaining faithful to the covenant relationship with God is tantamount to adultery; metaphorically, the community is the unfaithful wife. See also Textual Criticism 4:4a and Christian Tradition 4:4a.
4a friendship with the world Friendship and Ethical Values In a Hellenistic context, friendship involves a sharing of common interests (at the lower level) and at the higher levels involves shared virtue Ancient Texts 2:23c. To have friendship with the world, then, involves sharing the values of the world. In the immediate context (Jas 3:13-4:3), James condemns the worldly values of jealousy and a competitive desire for possessions that causes conflict in the community. See also Biblical Intertextuality 4:4a and Christian Tradition 4:4a.
5b lives : Byz TR | Nes : he made live
Katoikeô occurs frequently in the NT and G, while katoikizô is attested only here in the NT, and rarely in the G. Thus katoikizô is almost certainly the original reading; later scribes preferred the more familiar katoikeô.
5a in vain Echo The Greek here, kenôs, is the adverbial form of the word used in Jas 2:20 to refer to the senseless person (kenos).
5b which lives in us Traditional Reading Differs from Critically Established Reading All major interpretive traditions V S Byz TR read katoikeô ("to live"), but manuscript evidence suggests that katoikizô ("to cause to live") is the original reading in Greek. See also Textual Criticism 4:5b.
6a grace As a Gift The word charis (V = gratia; S = ṭybwt’) has rich connotations in Hellenistic, Jewish, and Christian traditions. The basic meaning is any attractive quality.
This passage fits in well with James' characterization of God as a liberal giver of gifts (Jas 1:5: the God who gives to all without hesitation; Jas 1:17: every good gift is from God). This characterization is in sharp contrast to the characterization of the community as dominated by a spirit of selfish jealousy. See also Biblical Intertextuality 4:6a.
6c humble Lowliness of Heart James evokes here the humble, lowly person (tapeinos) discussed earlier in the letter (Jas 1:9-11). The term can refer either being poor in an economic sense, or to having a humble character, especially humility before God. In the contrast with the rich, the focus is on the economic sense in Jas 1:9; while here, in contrast to the arrogant, the accent is on the lowliness of heart. See also Vocabulary 1:9; Ancient Cultures 1:9-11; Biblical Intertextuality 1:9; Peritestamental Literature 1:9; Christian Tradition 1:9.
6c opposes the arrogant Greco-Roman Criticism of Arrogance In Greco-Roman literature, the gods oppose the arrogant. → 6.7.1-3 records that Salmoneus was arrogant and impious ( Bib. hist. asebês), boasting that the machine he made produced thunder claps louder than those of Zeus. Zeus killed him with a lightning bolt for his impiety ( 1967, 340-43).
7b Resist the devil NT Parallels Other NT passages parallel James' exhortation to resist the devil; Ephesians especially makes evident the underlying military metaphor (Literary Devices 4:1-7):
9d joy Two Types of Joy? In Jas 1:2 the reader is exhorted to consider it nothing but joy when he experiences various trials. Here "joy" (G= chara; V = gaudium; S = ḥdw’) is apparently "worldly" joy, a happiness associated with those live in accordance with worldly standards.
11b speaking against SUBCATEGORY Inclusion in NT vice lists The noun form (katalalia) is found in NT vice lists:
12a and judge : Nes | Byz TR: Ø P74 and Byz lack the phrase "and judge." The TR also omits it.
12c another : Byz TR | Nes: neighbour Byz reads the generic "another" (heteron) instead of "neighbour" (plêsion).
In the current context, James stresses that it is the Lord alone (not presumptous humans) who is the the only lawgiver and judge.
12b able to save and to destroy ECHO of the Jesus Tradition One may detect an echo here of Jesus' characterization of God in Mt 10:28: "And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna." "For whoever wishes to save his life (psuchê) will lose it, but whoever loses (apollumi) his life for my sake will find it" (Mt 16:25).
The word "destroy" can refer to physical death (e.g., Mt 2:13; 12:9), but also to eschatological destruction: Mk 1:24 (destruction of an unclean spirit); Rom 14:15 (destruction of a weak brother); Mt 10:28.
12a one lawgiver and judge God is the Ultimate Source of Political Authority
2 and do not have, you kill Alternative Punctuation The Greek text lacks conjunctions, cf. also NAB: "You covet but do not possess. You kill and envy but you cannot obtain".
The RSV assumes that James employs asyndeton here (Literary Devices 4:2-3), and supplies the conjunctions to avoid the awkward phrase "you kill and envy," where the extreme action of killing precedes the less extreme action of envying.
6c to the humble gives grace Application to Marriage
8c hearts Anthropological Importance of the Heart In biblical anthropology, the heart is the source of one's inner life, thinking, feeling, and will. See Biblical Intertextuality 1:26,3:14.
12a lawgiver and judge Characterization of the Lord in G The Lord is frequently designated as the lawgiver (using the verb form nomotheteô) in G: e.g., Ex 24:12; Ps 25:8 [24:8]; Ps 119:33 [118:33]). The Lord's role as judge is also frequently stated: Ps 7:11; 49:6; Sir 35:14 [35:12]; Heb 12:23.
A strong case can be made, however, that James has in mind the Lord Jesus as lawgiver and judge. The passage here is parallel with Jas 5:9, and there the eschatological judge who stands at the door is almost certainly the Lord Jesus (cf. →James: The title kurios in James).
1:27c,3:6,4:4 world Negative Connotations The word kosmos is negative in James's worldview, expressing a realm or state opposed to God (Biblical Intertextuality 1:27; Christian Tradition 1:27; Christian Tradition 4:4b).
4a Adulterers Plus in Byz TR It is probable that originally there was only one vocative: "adulteresses" (moichalides); cf. Nes and V. Several manuscripts (e.g., the second corrector of א, P, and Ψ ), followed by Byz and part of the Syriac tradition, add moichoi (the term for male adulterers) in order to balance out James' exclusive reference to female adulterers (moichalides). See also Literary Devices 4:4a.
1a wars and battles Literal and Figurative Meanings
The terms polemoi and machai are regularly combined in ancient Greek literature (e.g., → 1.177). Il.
The terms can also be applied to private conflicts within communities: e.g.,
1b pleasures Metonymy for "Desire" In ancient Greek usage, hêdonê refers to sensual pleasure (Ancient Texts 4:1b), but, by metonymy, it may also refer to the desire for sensual pleasure. It is in this latter sense that James uses it.
For James, hêdonê is virtually equivalent to epithumia, "desire" (see Jas 1:14-15 for his understanding of this word) as he uses the verbal cognate of this noun in explicating this passage in Jas 4:2: "You desire (epithumeô), but do not have."
4b would wish A Stress on Free Will The verb boulomai carries the connotation of deliberate planning. James' word choices strongly emphasize that a person freely chooses to accept worldly standards. James uses this same verb in Jas 3:4 to illustrate the free will of the pilot to direct his ship as he wishes, as well as the will of God which gave us birth (Jas 1:18). James reiterates the point of Jas 1:13-15: one is led into sin by one's own desire, not by God.
9a Bear hardship A State of Suffering and Sadness The verb talaipôreô means, “to experience hardship or sorrow” (from tlênai, “to endure,” and pôreô, “to lament,” or pêma, “misery”). The verb is usually intransitive ,“to be afflicted”; but it can also be transitive, “to afflict” someone. Commentators suggest two basic ways to translate this verb. It connotes either,
The present context suggests the second meaning: “afflict [yourselves].”
→ 2.334 uses it to describe the Israelites as they flee the Egyptian pursuit (2:310); A.J.→Herm. Vis. 3.7.1 applies it to the miserable state of one who once believed but has since left the true path because of being double-minded (2:210); cf. V's translation: miseri estote.
In Jas 5:1, the noun form is used for the impending miseries to come upon the rich. In the prophets, it is often used to refer to the hardships that the people will suffer as punishment for their unfaithfulness to God (Mi 2:4; Jl 1:10; Jer 4:13).
9b mourn and weep Collocation The verb pentheô "to mourn over" is often combined with weeping (klaiô): Jesus' disciples mourn and weep over his death (Mk 16:10); the merchants mourn over the destruction of Babylon (Rv 18:15). The word is also often used to describe the mourning over the disasters that will come upon Israel as a result of their failure to follow the Lord (Am 1:2; 8:8; Jl 1:9-10; Is 24:4; Jer 4:28); as is the word weeping (klaiô; Jl 1:5; Is 22:4; Lam 1:1). The noun form (penthos) is used later in the verse.
James' meaning here, however, is that the community members should sorrow over their sins (for this sense: 1Cor 5:2; →T. Reu. 1:10) as part of their repentance (Jas 4:7-10). See also Biblical Intertextuality 4:9c and Christian Tradition 4:9c.
11f lawgiver and judge Vocabulary on Law and Judging The criterion that enables one to judge (G = krinô; V = judico; S = d’n) between good and evil is the law (G = nomos; V = lex; S = nmws’). Therefore, the ultimate judge (G= kritês; V = judex; S =dynh) is the divine lawgiver (G = nomothetos; V = legislator; S = s’m nmws’, lit.: the one who sets down the laws, who is the source of the law).
12b able to save and to destroy Connotations of "to save" James several times uses the verb “to save” (sôzô; V= liberare; S = ap‘el of ḥy’):
James’ use of sôzô focuses on a final, eschatological salvation. This sense is evident in the current context, which refers to the divine power of salvation or destruction possessed by the one lawgiver and judge.
8c double-minded Echo James alludes to the discussion in Jas 1:5-8 on the double-minded person who lacks faith and is divided by his conflicting thoughts (see Biblical Intertextuality 1:8; Peritestamental Literature 1:8; Jewish Tradition 1:8; Christian Tradition 1:8). In this current context, James specifies double-mindedness as allowing desires and jealousy in one's mind.
Hermas makes explicit in various passages the connections James assumes here: a call to "cleanse themselves from all worldly desires" (epithumiai tou aiônos; →Herm. Sim. 7.2) is equivalent to the call to "cleanse your heart from doublemindedness" (→Herm. Mand. 9.6-7). See below Christian Tradition 4:8c.
8bc cleanse [your] hands …purify your hearts: Cultic Purity Language James applies the language of cultic worship (cf. Jas 1:18b; 1:27; 3:6c; 3:17b) to moral purity; cf. his similar appropriation of the cultic sense of teleios (cf. Biblical Intertextuality 1:4a). This passage has specific verbal echoes with:
1 Whence wars and quarrels among you Comparison with Plato's View of Desires in The Phaedo
While Plato and James agree that desires (epithumiai) are negative and a great source of evil, it is far from clear whether James would agree with the Platonic view that the body itself is a negative hindrance to the soul. Plato's own views towards epithumiai are in fact more nuanced; in the Republic, he distinguishes between "necessary" and unnecessary desires (Ancient Texts Jas 1:14).
1b within your members Bodily Locations of Psycho-Spiritual Faculties The Platonic philosophical tradition locates the passions and the reasoning faculty, corresponding to the tripartite division of the soul, in different parts of the body.
5b Enviously A Vice in Hellenistic Culture
7a Submit yourselves + to God: Stoic Sense of Submitting to God
9d dejection Looking Downward
The word thus connotes the image of a person with downcast eyes; apporopriate for James' picture of one who is repenting. The word is not used elsewhere in the NT or in G. See also Christian Tradition 4:9c.
9d dejection Looking Downward
The word thus connotes the image of a person with downcast eyes; apporopriate for James' picture of one who is repenting. The word is not used elsewhere in the NT or in G. See also Christian Tradition 4:9c.
4a Adulterers! Drawing on a Prophetic Metaphor
6c God opposes the arrogant Exhortation to a Godly Humility James quotes Prv 3:34, G replacing kurios with theos. 1Pt 5:5 also quotes this passage (also writing theos instead of kurios), in a similar context of exhorting community members to act humbly towards one another; similarly →1 Clem. 30:2. The quotation draws from G, as the Hebrew of Prv 3:34 differs significantly: "Those who scoff, he scoffs at, but the lowly he favors."
8 Cleanse [your] hands +and purify [your] hearts: Cultic Purity Language
In G, "cleanse" (katharizô) refers to making people or objects ritually pure, it also refers to cleansing of sin.
In G, "purify" (hagnizô) refers to making oneself or an object ritually pure for worship:
Other biblical texts parallel James in regularly applying cultic purification to moral purification:
Clean hands are used as a symbol of moral purity:
A clean heart is also a common biblical symbol, although the words katharos / katharizô are commonly used, instead of James' hagnizô. This symbol can be combined with purity / cleanness of hands:
James' connection here with the Jesus' tradition is also important: "Blessed are the pure of heart (katharoi têᵢ kardiaᵢ), for the will see God" (Mt 5:8).
James, however, is not reading Leviticus directly, but reading Leviticus through the filter of Jesus' own interpretation. One may discern clear echoes of Jesus' teaching: "Stop judging, that you may not be judged" (Mt 7:1; cf. Lk 6:37-42). James is also guided by Jesus' selection of Lv 19:18 as a central commandment of the Torah (e.g., Mk 12:28-34), and on Jesus' characterisitic emphasis in mercy (e.g., Mt 5:7; Mt 6:14-15).
1b your pleasures soldiering Conflict Between Reason and the Passions
Building on Plato's image of the tripartite soul (Ancient Texts 4:1b), Philo describes a conflict beween the reasoning facutly of the soul (logistikon) on the one hand, and both the spirited (thumikon) and desiring (epithumêtikon) faculties. These latter two parts Philo calls irrational (alogos).
For the author of 4 Maccabees, reason allows one to control the passions, including desire for pleasure.
The image in James may be one of the desires for pleasure fighting one another, or it may, in line with these Hellenistic Jewish examples, be an internal struggle between the desires for pleasure and the implanted word (Jas 1:21), itself identified with the "perfect law of freedom," the Torah as the natural law written on the heart.
James may also have been influenced by a "two spirits" anthropology evident at Qumran and elsewhere.
2 You desire and do not have, [so] you kill Epithumia the Source of All Evils
2b you kill and are jealous Connections Between Jealousy and Killing The Testament of Simeon subtitled, "On Jealousy," (peri phthonou), treats the vices of phthonos and zêlos as equivalents; both lead Simeon to plan the murder of his brother.
In general, Hellenistic Judaism considered phthonos a vice.
6c the arrogant Arrogance Associated with Envy and Strife Arrogance is often associated with envy (phthonos) and jealousy or rivalry (zêlos) in the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs:
1. →T. Reu. 3.2-6 identifies arrogance (huperêphania) as one of the seven "spirits of error" (planê). Among the other spirits are
2. →T. Jud. 13.2 "Do not pursue evil impelled by your lusts (epithumia), by the arrogance (huperêphania) of your heart, and do not boast the exploits and strength of your youth" (OTP 1:798; 1978, 65).
3. →T. Gad. 3.3: The person who hates "envies (phthonei) the successful person, relishes slander, loves arrogance" (huperêphania; OTP 1:815; 1978, 128).
7b the devil Devil and Covetousness as the Source of Sin
→Apoc. Mos. thus agrees with James on the origin of sin, as in Jas 1:15, "desire gives birth to sin"; in light of this passage and Jas 3:5, it is likely that James also agrees that the devil is the ultimate source of sin. See also Vocabulary 4:7b; Biblical Intertextuality 4:7b; Peritestamental Literature 4:7b; Christian Tradition 4:7b.
10 Humble yourselves Humility Contrasting with Envy, Hatred and Jealousy Some manuscripts of →T. Gad. 5.3 contrast humility (tapeinôsis) with envy (zêlos; "humility kills envy); others contrast it with jealousy (phthonos); others with hatred (OTP 1:815; 1978, 130). See also Peritestamental Literature 1:9.
1–7 Divisio textus
See also →James: Medieval Divisio Textus.
5b spirit Discussion on the Spirit’s Identity
The Syriac tradition takes it as the human soul affected by envy:
8a he will draw near to you In his discussion of God's immutability, Aquinas quotes this passage as an apparent proof that God is mutable (mutabilis). In his reply, Aquinas clarifies the metqphorical nature of the biblical language:
8a draw near to God Ways of "Drawing Near" to God
→ ad loc. suggest the following ways in which one can approach God: Comm.
8c double-minded Explaining "Double-mindedness"
9f Various Interpretations The tradition emphasizes various points it its interpetation:
9c Let your laughter be turned into mourning A Warning against Frivolity The tradition uses the verse to warn against immoderate laughter, or even laughter in itself. This advice is often directed towards members of religious communities.
10 exalt you Connotations of Exaltation
11f speak against Disparaging Fellow Community Members
In general, the tradition interprets this passage to refer to church members who, out of arrogance or envy, are judgmentally condemning the faults of fellow church members, thus causing dissension in the church.
11 speaks against the law and judges the law How Does the Slanderer Speak Againt the Law and Judge the Law?
→ understands James to refer to a failure to follow an Old Testament law. He offers two options: Ep. cath.
1–5 you ask wrongly Right Disposition in Prayer Under the heading, "Why do we complain of not being heard [in prayer]," the Catechism answers by drawing on Jas 4:1-5:
1a Whence wars and whence battles The Search for True Peace
4:7–5:9 Use in Lectionary →BL : Thursday, 32nd Week after Pentecost.
6a Yet greater grace does he give Transition This is a transitional verse, linking the criticism in Jas 4:1-5 (God opposes the proud) with the call to repentence and humility (God gives a "greater gift" to those who humble themselves).
The adjective meizona which modifies charin is placed as the first element of the sentence to emphasize the contrast with the preceding phrase
10 Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you. Echo: the Humble in James James' verb (tapeinoô) recalls his earlier exhortation that the lowly (tapeinoi) should take pride in their high position (Jas 1:9), and that the Lord gives grace (charis) to the humble (tapeinoi; Jas 4:6). The lowly are associated with both those who are economically poor and those who are humble in their dependence on God.
Here James' thought reflects Jas 1:10, where the rich one should be humbled. The rich, then, are associated with those who are dominated by their jealous passions (Jas 4:1-2), those who are "friends of the world" (Jas 4:4), the arrogant opposed by God (Jas 4:6).
With the reference to the Lord raising up (hupsoô) the one who humbles himself; James picks up the thought of Jas 1:9. The theme of God's raising up of the lowly can be found in Job 5:11 and above all in Hannah's song (1Sm 2:7-8) and the Magnificat (Lk 1:48-53). See also Vocabulary 1:9; Ancient Cultures 1:9-11; Biblical Intertextuality 1:9; Peritestamental Literature 1:9; and Christian Tradition 1:9.
11f judging his brother Echoing the Theme of Judging James returns to his central theme of judging (cf. →James: Judging). His concern is emphasized in his diction: he uses the verb "to judge" (krinô) four times, and the noun "judge" (kritês) twice.
2b you kill | you envy: Textual Emendation? James' blunt accusation, "You kill" strikes many commentators as too harsh. Two reasons are generally given:
Thus already → ad loc. ( Annot. Ep. Iac. 2014, 412) and → ad loc. suggested emending the text from Comm. Iac.phoneuete ("you kill") to phthoneuete ("you envy"); see also → (368). There is, however, almost no support for such a reading in the manuscript tradition. Ep. Pauli et al. Ap.
7b devil Malignant Spirit The noun diabolos in the Classical Greek means a "calumniator," "false accuser," "slanderer." In G, it renders Hebrew śāṭān, the noun with the same connotations of the enemy in the legal context. In the NT, the term refers first of all to the malignant spiritual beings, synonymous to demon (cf. Mt 4:1,5 or Jn 13:2).
James' reference to the devil should be connected with his references to demons (Jas 2:19), hell (Gehenna; Jas 3:6), and the demonic wisdom of the world (Jas 3:15). See also Biblical Intertextuality 2:19c; Christian Tradition 2:19c; Vocabulary 3:6; Vocabulary 3:15; Biblical Intertextuality 3:15b. Here the devil is taken as the personification of the demonic wisdom of the world, a "wisdom" governed by selfish passions and desires.
2a desire Desire in the Greco-Roman Philosophical Tradition The Greek verb epithumeô (noun form: epithumia) is closely related with pleasure (hêdonê) in Greek philosophy:
1b pleasures Worldly Value in the New Testament
2ff Allusion to the Decalogue? The Decalogue may be in the background of James' thought in these verses:
4a friendship with the world NT: Contrast Between Loving the World and Loving God The principle that friendship with the world (i.e., accepting the "wisdom" or values of the world) means enmity with God (and godly values) is common in the NT.
The general thought pattern parallels Jesus' teaching:
The lack of verbal correspondence between Jesus' teaching and James' teaching, however, makes it doubtful that James consciously intended an allusion. See also Ancient Cultures 4:4a and Christian Tradition 4:4a.
7b devil Character: Tempter, Ruler of the World
James earlier identifies a person's epithumia as the source of temptation to sin (Jas 1:15); possibly James agrees with →Apoc. Mos. 19:3 in identifying the devil as the ultimate source of epithumia (Peritestamental Literature 1:15a). With James' close connection of sin and death (Jas 1:15-16; Jas 5:20), he apparently agrees with those seeing a close connection between the devil and death (Ws 2:24; Heb 2:14).
In Ws 2:24, the devil is associated with jealousy (phthonos): "But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world, and they who are allied with him experience it."
In his close connection of the devil with the "wisdom of the world" (Jas 3:15). James no doubt follows the biblical tradition that identifies the devil as the ruler of the world (see Mt 4:8-9; Jn 12:31; 2Cor 4:4), with "world" understood not necessarily as the created world itself, but rather as the realm that resists God, see Jas 1:27 and Jas 3:6. See also Vocabulary 3:6.
8a draw near Close Relationship with the Holiness of God
In addition to the generic sense of approaching near an object or destination, this verb eggizô also describes a close relationship with God: "For what great nation is there that has gods so close (eggizô) to it as the Lord, our God, is to us whenever we call upon him?" (Dt 4:7). "I am a God near at hand, says the Lord, and not a God afar off" (Jer 23:23).
More significantly for James, the word also is regularly applied to approaching the holiness of the Lord, especially in the holy places (e.g., Mt. Sinai, the Temple). Before coming near (eggizô) to the Lord's presence in the burning bush, Moses must first remove his sandals (Ex 3:5); the priests who "come near" (eggizô) to the Lord at Mt. Sinai must first sanctify themselves, lest they be destroyed (Ex 19:22); after Aaron's sons are killed when they approach the Lord with "strange fire," the Lord says, "Among those who are near me (tois eggizousin), I will be shown holy" (Lv 10:3).
The term is then used in a metaphorical sense for Christians approaching the holiness of God. Contrasting the imperfect Levitical priesthood with the perfected priesthood of Jesus, Hebrews argues that people are truly able to come near to God through the high priest Jesus, "for the law brought nothing to perfection; on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God" (Heb 7:19).
James correlates the drawing near image with the ritual purity language (cleanse your hands, purify your hearts): one must prepare oneself (by being cleansed of sin) in order to draw near to God, just as the priest must become ritually pure before entering God's holy presence (Christian Tradition 4:8a).
1a Whence wars and battles The Desire for Pleasure is at the Origin of Conflicts The Hellenistic Jewish tradition also finds the desire for pleasure as one of the roots of conflicts and various evils in the world.
In his discussion on the Decalogue, Philo describes the four main passions (pathê) listed by the Stoics: desire (epithumia), pleasure (hêdonê), fear (phobos), and distress (lupê) (cf. → 7.111). He identifies Vit. Phil.epithumia as the source of all sin (cf. → 4.84; cf. Spec.Peritestamental Literature 1:15a), but also shows a close connection between epithumia and hêdonê in his thought.
7b he will flee from you Moral Behavior Causes the Devil to Flee In the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs the partriarch Jacob exhorts his sons to follow the law and live a morally upright life, so that the devil (diabolos; also called Belial, from Heb. bᵉlîya‘al) will flee from them.
11f speak against Katalaleô with Other Vices in the Testament of Gad The Testament of Gad connects speaking badly with other vices mentioned by James:
1–10 Use in Lectionary →RML : Tuesday, Week 7, Year 2.
1a wars and battles What Kind of Wars and Battles? The commentary tradition interprets the fights and disputes in different ways:
3a You ask, but do not receive Variety of Interpretations
Several authors address the question of whether James is contradicting Jesus' teaching on prayer in the Gospels, e.g., "Ask and it will be given to you....For everyone who asks, receives" (Mt 7:7-8); "If you ask anything in my name, I will do it" (Jn 14:14). In an influential commentary, Origen makes three points:
Origen's teaching is reproduced in the commentary tradition:
Augustine takes two approaches in answering the question of why Jesus promised, "if you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it," (Jn 14:14) and yet it is clear that the faithful often do not receive that for which they ask.
→ paraphrases, "Either you do not ask from him [God] or if you do, you do not ask for what you ought nor in the way you ought to. For you either ask for something harmful ( Iac. Par.noxia) instead of wholesome or you ask without faith (diffidentes) or you ask it for an ungodly use" (in usum impium petitis; 1993, 160; 1997, 148). See also Christian Tradition 1:5c.
4a Adulterers! Adultery Metaphor Why does James use the term "adulterers" here?
→ draws out the connections in James' thought between: Iac. Par.
5a Scripture speaks Debate over the Scriptural Reference Commentators have offered a wide range of interpretations of James' reference to Scripture here:
Some commentators translate 5a as "Do you think that Scripture speaks without sense?" 5b, then, is taken as a rhetorical question, not a scriptural citation. Two options follow from this reading: (1) 5a refers implicitly to specific scriptures, or (2) it refers to the general teaching of Scripture:
Some commentators take 5a as introducing a Scriptural quotation in 5b. Since the exact phrase is not extant in any Scriptural manuscript, various interpretations arise:
6c God opposes the arrogant, but to the humble gives grace A Favorite Verse of the Tradition This verse, whether in reference directly to Prv 3:34 or its citation in 1Pt 5:5 or Jas 4:6, is cited often by early Christian preachers exhorting their congregations to practice humility. Already it appears in →1 Clem. 30.2.
Several authors take "God resists the proud" to indicate that pride is the greatest sin.
7a Submit yourselves, therefore, to God Meaning of Submission
7b Resist the devil
The Devil the Adulterer
12a lawgiver Jesus or God the Father as Lawgiver
A theme in early Christian tradition is Jesus as the author of the "new law" (in contrast to the "old law" of Israel).
James, as frequently noted, makes extensive use of Jesus' sayings from the Sermon on the Mount traditions and understands the "law of freedom" as the law as interpreted by Jesus (especially as found in the Sermon on the Mount materials). See also Biblical Intertextuality 4:12a.
8b Cleanse [your] hands Metaphor of Ritual Purity in 1 Clement and Hermas
James' image of approaching God in a ritually pure state is reflected in other early Christian writers who may have used James:
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 → 23 and Hist. eccl.→ 2, who in turn draw on accounts from Clement of Alexandria and Hegesipus. See also Vir. ill.→James: Introduction.
Several prominent features of these portrayals may be noted:
The following images are noteworthy:
James holds a club.
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.
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 → 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. Leg. aur.
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.
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
The risen Jesus appears to James and breaks bread with him (based on an account recorded in → 2, said to be drawn from the Gospel according to the Hebrews). Vir. ill.
James holds a book and club.
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.
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.
1–12 Internal and External Conflicts Overall, James again emphasizes the connection between the microcosm of the individual person and the macrocosm of the community: disorder and strife (caused by passions and conflicting desires) within the person manifest themselves in disorder and conflict in the community. This section expands earlier topics :
James' exhortation to the community may be analyzed in the following way:
While the pericope presents one famous crux interpretativa—Jas 4:5, a challenging verse that defies clear interpretation, raising a host of textual, grammatical, and interpretative issues, cf. Textual Criticism 4:5b; Grammar 4:5b; Christian Tradition 4:5a; Christian Tradition 4:5b—several texts have drawn special attention in the interpretive tradition:
1b desires James Within the Philosophical Disputes on the Morality of Pleasure The Greco-Roman philosophical schools offered a variety of understandings of pleasure.
The Stoic tradition regards pleasure as completely negative.
James understanding of the desire for pleasure, then, appears to be closest to that of the Stoic school.
5 the spirit which lives in us Identity of the Spirit in Hermas →Herm. Mand. 3.1 closely parallels James, exhorting the reader to speak the truth, "so that the spirit that God made to live in this flesh (to pneuma ho ho theos katôᵢkisen en tê sarki tautê) may be recognized as true by everyone (see also →Herm. Sim. 5.6.5). Elsewhere, Hermas speaks of "the holy spirit that dwells in you" (→ Mand. 10.2.5). Some characteristics of this spirit:
11a speak against Connotations The Greek katalaleô literally means, “to speak against.” It thus has a range of connotations:
→Herm. Sim. 8.7.2 describes the "doubleminded" (dipsuchoi) as katalaloi. "They have no peace within themselves, but are always causing dissension" ( 2003, 2:374-75).