The Bible in Its Traditions

James 4:1–2

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From where [come] wars and disputes among you? Is it not from here, from your lusts, which war in your members?

Whence [come] wars and whence [come] fightings among you? [come they] not hence, [even] of your pleasures that war in your members?

1b your pleasures Jas 1:14-15
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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.

Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and covet, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war; ye have not, because ye ask not.

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.

2b you kill Jas 2:11,5:6 2 desire...quarrel and war Jas 3:14-16; Gal 5:19-21; 2Cor 12:20

Text

Vocabulary

1b members Of Your Body The Greek is melos. The primary referent is a part of the human body: see Philo Flacc. 176; 1Cor 12:12. James also uses the term at Jas 3:5 in reference to the tongue.

Suggestions for Reading

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.

Grammar

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

Literary Devices

2f Sorites and Asyndeton James again employs a chain argument (see Jas 1:3): "You desire, and do not have....You do not have because you do not ask...you ask but do not receive" (Jas 4:2-3). His style in this verse is abrupt, lacking clear conjunctions, as if to imitate the disorder of passions.

Context

Biblical Intertextuality

2b you kill and are jealous Allusion to the Story of Joseph? Joseph's older brothers were jealous (zêloô, the same word used here) of him (Gn 37:11), leading to plans of murder (Peritestamental Literature 4:2b).

Reception

Christian Tradition

2a you desire and do not have Unrestrained Desires are Insatiable

  • Ps.-Andreas Catena (attr. to Dionysius) comments that even when a person has sufficient possessions, but sees his neighbor with greater possessions, he too contentiously desires (philoneikeô) more (Cramer 1844, 8:25).
  • Calvin Comm. Iac. "He seems to intimate that the soul of man is insatiable, when he indulges wicked lusts (improbis cupiditatibus); and truly it is so; for he who suffers his sinful propensities (appetitus) to rule uncontrolled, will know no end to his lust. Were even the world given to him, he would wish other worlds to be created for him" (Owen 1849, 329; Reuss and Erichson 1896, 414).

2b you kill Metaphorical Interpretation

  • Ps.-Oecumenius Comm. Ep. Cath. "One should understand that he does not speak here of 'murder' and 'war' in a physical sense (sarkikon). For this is hard to believe even in the case of thieves; how much more so in the case of those who to some extent are believers and approach the Lord. Rather, as it seems to me, he says 'to kill' about those who by undertaking such insolent deeds, are killing their own souls; on account of those deeds war against piety (eusebeia) also occurs among them" (col. 492).

History of Translations

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.

  • RSV: "You desire and do not have; so you kill. And you covet and cannot obtain; so you fight and wage war".

Text

Vocabulary

1a wars and battles Literal and Figurative Meanings

In Classical Greek

  • Polemos ("war") typically refers to conflict between nations. E.g., Thucydides Hist. 1.1.1: "the war (polemos) waged by the Peloponnesians and the Athenians" (Smith 1923, 2-3);  cf. Mt 24:6: "wars (polemoi) and rumors of wars."
  • Machê refers to battles. E.g., Thucydides Hist. 2.23.1: "the Athenians did not come out to do battle" (Smith 1923, 302-39).

The terms polemoi and machai are regularly combined in ancient Greek literature (e.g., Homer Il. 1.177). 

Metaphorically

The terms can also be applied to private conflicts within communities: e.g.,

V  translates machai with lites, which can mean a lawsuit -- this may allude to the legal actions in Jas 2:6; cf. Lapide Comm. ad loc.

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."

The Vulgate, in fact, translates both epithumia (Jas 1:14-15) and hêdonê (Jas 4:1) with concupiscentia (also using the verbal form in Jas 4:2). 

Context

Ancient Texts

1 Whence wars and quarrels among you Comparison with Plato's View of Desires in The Phaedo

  • Plato Phaed. 66 has close verbal parallels with James: "For nothing causes us wars (polemoi), revolts and battles (machai) other than the body (to sôma) and its appetites (epithumiai). The context of this passage is Socrates' teaching that the body, with its attachment to the senses, is a hindrance to the soul and its quest for true knowledge. Thus, "all wars are caused (parechei) by the acquisition of money (ktêsis tôn chrêmatôn) and we're compelled to acquire money because of the body, being slaves to its service" (Emlyn-Jones 1914, 326-27).  

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.

  • Plato Tim. 69D-71D, 90: The reasoning faculty resides in the head; the part of the soul partaking of courage (andreia) and spirit (thumos) is in the chest, the passions, including pleasure (hêdonê) and fear (phobos) are below the chest.
  • Philo Leg. 1. 70 (cf. 3.116): the reasoning part of the soul (logikon) is located in the head, the spirited part (thumikon) of the soul is located in the chest, and seat of desire (epithumêtikon) is the stomach (cf. Jas 3:2b: the complete man is able to control his entire body; 192-93). See also Peritestamental Literature 4:1a; Peritestamental Literature 4:1b.

Peritestamental Literature

1b your pleasures soldiering Conflict Between Reason and the Passions

Philo

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). 

  • Philo Leg. 3.116 "reason (logos) is at war (machetai) with passion (pathos), and cannot remain in the same place with it" (378-79).  For when reason (logos) prevails, pleasure (hêdonê) is gone, and when pleasure conquers (nikaô), reason is an exile."

4 Maccabees

For the author of 4 Maccabees, reason allows one to control the passions, including desire for pleasure. 

  • 4 Macc. 1:30: "Reason (logismos) is the guide of the virtues and the supreme master of the passions" (tôn pathôn autokratôr).
  • In 4 Macc. 5:23, the law and wisdom are closely related to reason. Following the law helps a person to control the desire for pleasure: "it teaches temperance (sôphrosunê), so that we are in control of all our pleasures (hêdonai) and desires" (epithumiai). See also 4 Macc. 6:35. 

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.

Two Spirits Anthropology

James may also have been influenced by a "two spirits" anthropology evident at Qumran and elsewhere.

  • →1QS 3:17-19: "He created man to rule the world and placed within him two spirits so that he would walk with them until the moment of his visitation: they are the spirits of truth and of deceit"  (DSSSE 1:75); cf. T. Jud. 20.1-2; T. Ash. 1:5. See also Peritestamental Literature 1:8.

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.  

  • T. Sim. 2:6-7 "I was jealous (zêloô) of Joseph…I fixed my heart against him, to destroy (anelein) him, because the Prince of Error, having sent out the spirit of jealousy (zêlos), blinded my mind " (OTP 1:785-86).
  • T. Sim. 3:2 "For envy dominates the whole of a man's mind...it keeps prodding him to destroy the one whom he envies" (OTP 1:786).
  • T. Sim. 4:5 "Guard yourselves therefore, my children, from all jealousy (zêlos) and envy" (phthonos; OTP 1:786).

In general, Hellenistic Judaism considered phthonos a vice.

  • Ps.-Phoc. 70  "Do not envy others their goods" (mê phthoneois agathôn hetarois; van der Horst 1978, 92-93).

Reception

Christian Tradition

1–7 Divisio textus

  • Ps.-Andreas Catena identifies Jas 4:1-7 as a section under the heading: "That strife (eris) and instability (akatastasia) and enmity towards God arise from desire and love of pleasure" (philêdonia; Cramer 1844, 8:24).

See also →James: Medieval Divisio Textus.

Theology

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:

  • CCC 2737 “‘You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions’ (Jas 4:3; cf. the whole context: Jas 1:5–8; 4:1–10; 5:16). If we ask with a divided heart, we are ‘adulterers’ (Jas 4:4); God cannot answer us, for he desires our well-being, our life. ‘Or do you suppose that it is in vain that the scripture says, ‘He yearns jealously over the spirit which he has made to dwell in us?’’ (Jas 4:5). That our God is ‘jealous’ for us is the sign of how true his love is. If we enter into the desire of his Spirit, we shall be heard.”

1a Whence wars and whence battles The Search for True Peace

  • In a reflection on the peace-making mission of Third Order Franciscans, Pope Benedict XV's 1921 encyclical notes humanity's cry for peace after the ravages of World War I and continuing class conflicts (Benedict XV Sac. Prop. 15). Peace treaties between states and between classes will not be lasting unless they are based on a peace of the heart. Benedict notes that this peace is only possible when inner passions are controlled, citing Jas 4:1
  • In an encyclical published the following year (1922), Pius XI Ubi Arc. 23 cites the same passage in his reflection on the root causes of continuing bitterness between the victorious and defeated nations of World War I, class warfare, and the general lowering of moral standards at both the individual and international levels. 

Liturgies

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

3:13–4:3,4:7–8a Use in Lectionary RCL : Proper 20, Year B.

3:16–4:3 Use in Lectionary RML : 25th Sunday in Year B.

Text

Textual Criticism

2b you kill | you envy: Textual Emendation? James' blunt accusation, "You kill" strikes many commentators as too harsh. Two reasons are generally given:

  • it is jarring in the midst of James' softer accusations ("You desire and do not have, you murder, and are jealous");
  • it seems unlikely that James would accuse fellow Christians of killing.

Thus already Erasmus Annot. Ep. Iac. ad loc. (van Poll-van de Lisdonk 2014, 412) and Calvin Comm. Iac. ad loc. suggested emending the text from phoneuete ("you kill") to phthoneuete ("you envy"); see also Cajetan Ep. Pauli et al. Ap. (368). There is, however, almost no support for such a reading in the manuscript tradition.

Context

Ancient Texts

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:

  • Plato Phaedr. 14 [238A] "desire irrationally drags us towards pleasures (epithumia alogôs helkousê epi hêdonas; Fowler 1913, 444-45). Cf. Jas 1:14. Plato also speaks of the "innate desire for pleasures" (emphutos ousa epithumia tôn hêdonôn; 237D).
  • The Stoics considered both to be among the main four negative passions (pathê; e.g., Diogenes Laërtius Vit. Phil. 7.111).
  • Plutarch Amat. 4 [Mor. 750E] "The object (telos) of desire (epithumia) is, in fact, pleasure (hêdonê) and enjoyment (apolausis; Minar 1961, 316-17).
  • See also Aristotle Eth. Nic. 3.11.1-4 [1118b].

Biblical Intertextuality

1b pleasures Worldly Value in the New Testament

  • Hêdonê occurs rarely in G, with the exception of the philosophically oriented 4 Maccabees.
  • In the NT, the desire for pleasure (hêdonê) is understood as a "worldly" value, thus one directly opposed to God. In a long list of vices, Paul contrasts those who are "lovers of pleasure" (philêdonoi) with those who are lovers of God (2Tm 3:4); cf. version of Jesus' parable of the sower warns against the "anxieties and riches and pleasues (hêdonai) that choke the seed of the word.
  • In a similar fashion, the NT also understands desire (epithumia; used by James as virtual synonym for hêdonê) as a passion opposed to God; correlates the two: "slaves to various desires (epithumiai) and pleasures (hêdonai).

2ff Allusion to the Decalogue? The Decalogue may be in the background of James' thought in these verses:

  • After accusing his readers of dissension and even murder, James labels them an adulterous people. James earlier referred to the commandments in the Decalogue against murder and adultery in his discussion on the Law (Jas 2:11).
  • The key verb word epithumeô (Jas 4:2a) is used in the G of the Decalogue, e.g.,  "You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife" (Ex 20:17 / Dt 5:21).

Peritestamental Literature

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.

Philo

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. Diogenes Laërtius Vit. Phil. 7.111). He identifies epithumia as the source of all sin (cf. Philo Spec. 4.84; cf. Peritestamental Literature 1:15a), but also shows a close connection between epithumia and hêdonê in his thought.

  • Philo Decal. 153 "For all the wars of Greeks and barbarians between themselves or against each other, so familiar to the tragic stage, are sprung from one source (apo mias pêgês), desire (epithumia), the desire for money or glory or pleasure" (chrêmatôn ê doxês ê hêdonês; Colson 1937, 82-83).
  • Philo Decal. 151: Consider the passion whether for money or a woman or glory or anything else that produces pleasure (hêdonai): are the evils which it causes small or casual?" (Colson 1937, 80-83).

4 Maccabees

  • 4 Macc. 1:20 "Of the passions, the two all-embracing kinds are pleasure (hêdonê) and pain (ponos), and each of these inheres in the body as well as the soul."
  • 4 Macc. 1:25 lists several subcategories of vices under hêdonê: "vices of the soul: pretentiousness (alazoneia) and avarice and seeking the limelight (philodoxia) and contentiousness and backbiting, vices of the body being a voracious appetite for all kinds of food and gluttony and gormandizing in private" (OTP 2:545).
  • 4 Macc. 5:23 assumes that desire can be controlled by the discipleine of following the Law: "it teaches us temperance (sôphrosunê) so that we are in control of all our pleasures and desires" (hêdonai and epithumiai; OTP 2:550).

Testaments

The Testament literature also takes hêdonê as a vice: T. Jud. 13.6, 14.2; T. Dan. 5.2; T. Ben. 6.3. It is associated with sexual sin and drunkeness.

Reception

Liturgies

1–10 Use in Lectionary RML : Tuesday, Week 7, Year 2.

Christian Tradition

1a wars and battles What Kind of Wars and Battles? The commentary tradition interprets the fights and disputes in different ways: 

Disputes within the Community

  •   Calvin Comm. Iac. ad loc. takes those terms not as warfare between nations, but as the slander and fraud taking place within the community. 
  • Erasmus Iac. Par. ad loc. identifies envy as one of the passions causing conflict. "If these passions were not on active duty and at the head of an army in your limbs, your tongue would not be savaging a neighbour nor your hand be robbing a brother…One person longs for fame (concupiscit gloriam); another pants for lucre. This one is eager for a kingdom; that one hotly pursues pleasure. When you do not obtain what each of you passionately desires (vehementer appetit), you thrust your competitor aside. You envy (invidetis) him when he reaches his goal; you fight with him when he seems on the point of reaching it. When you are unable to obtain what you are vehemently seeking, your mind is in torment and torn to pieces in a riot of conflicting cares. In these circumstances nobody is at peace with himself or another. Passions run riot within your breast (Cupiditates tumultuantur in pectore). Tongue, hands, and the other members fight and war with the neighbour outside" (Bateman 1993, 160; Batemen 1997, 147-48).
  • Lapide Comm. notes that the first Christians did not fight wars, and James refers originally to lesser disputes, though he foresaw actual wars after the time of Constantine. He notes that Aquinas took disputes (lites) to refer to litigants who seek to win their cases through deceit (20:170). He notes further that, contrary to the teaching of Erasmus and the Anabaptits, a just war (bellum justum) is licit for Christians (20:171).

Conflicts between Nations

  • Lapide Comm. ad loc. quotes several classical authors supporting James' point that wars are caused by desire, including Tacitus Hist. 4.74: "you possess gold and wealth, which are the chief causes of war" (20:171).
  • Newman Serm. Notes ad Mt 18:21-35, thus explicates the passage, "For what is a greater or wider scourge of man than war, dissensions and litigation and though these miseries arise in a great measure from covetousness, they arise still more from passion, from a sense of injuries, from a fierce determination to retaliate, from a thirst for revenge" (180).
  • Pius XI Ubi Arc. 24, published in 1922, quotes this passage in analyzing the root causes of international strife: "The inordinate desire for pleasure (voluptatum cupiditatibus), concupiscence of the flesh, sows the fatal seeds of division not only among families but likewise among states; the inordinate desire for possessions, concupiscence of the eyes, inevitably turns into class warfare and into social egotism; the inordinate desire to rule or to domineer over others, pride of life, soon becomes mere party or factional rivalries, manifesting itself in constant displays of conflicting ambitions and ending in open rebellion, in the crime of lese majeste, and even in national parricide" (similarly, Benedict XV Sac. Prop. 15).

Other Interpretations

  • Jerome Pelag. 2.19 cites this as a proof-text that all humans sin.
  • Friends Conf. 21: A confession of the Society of Friends ("Quakers") takes this passage as a rationale for the Friends' pacifism: "wars and fighting come of the lusts, that war in the members. Therefore Christ commands us not to resist evil..." (CCFCT 3:147; Barclay 1857, 91).

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.

Suggestions for Reading

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 :

  • it expands the topic of contrasting wisdoms (Jas 3:13-18), focusing on the negative results of following worldly wisdom: strife, jealousy dissension and even murder within the community;
  • it also develops the related topic of the selfish desire that leads to sin and death (Jas 1:14-15) and applies the theme of proper asking (prayer; Jas 1:5-8).

Thematic Structure

James' exhortation to the community may be analyzed in the following way: 

  • Jas 4:1-5: A sharp criticism of the community's vices: they are dominated by their passions, they desire covetously, they kill, they envy, they fight. James, ever the teacher, however, does not merely condemn the vices, but simultaneously teaches the community their cause: their social strife is caused by their unrestrained passions, they cannot fulfill their desires because they ask with the wrong motivation. The accusation culminates in Jas 4:4, where James accuses them of adultery and enmity with God. Jas 4:5 is a scriptural witness to James' accusations.
  • Jas 4:6: A transitional verse, affirming God's opposition to the proud, but his readiness to help the humble.
  • Jas 4:7-10: A call to conversion. The community is called to submit themselves to following God's will, purifying their hearts to an exclusive obedience to God, not the ways of the world (vv. 7-8). They should lament their sins and humble themselves, and the Lord will raise them up again.
  • Jas 4:11-12: Returning to the topic of divisions in the community, James admonishes members to avoid speaking badly of one another. 

Reception 

While the pericope presents one famous crux interpretativaJas 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:

Context

Ancient Texts

1b desires James Within the Philosophical Disputes on the Morality of Pleasure The Greco-Roman philosophical schools offered a variety of understandings of pleasure.

Plato: Different Types of Pleasure

  • Plato Resp. 3 [389E] teaches that pleasures of drink, sex, and food are to be controlled through the virtue of temperance (self-control; sôphrosunê; Emlyn-Jones and Preddy 2013, 1:236-37). 
  • Plato Resp. 9 [580D-588A] speaks of three types of pleasure, corresponding with the three parts of the soul: the "appetitive" (epithumêtikon) part finds pleasure in making money, the "spirited" (thumoeides) part finds pleasure in receiving honors and the rational (logistikon) part finds pleasure in learning and finding the truth. The pleasures of the rational part are the true pleasures.

Aristotle: Pleasure is Good in Itself

  • For Aristotle Nic. Eth. 7 [1153B], pleasure itself must be a good, but one must distinguish between different kinds of pleasures. Bodily pleasure is not bad in itself, but becomes bad when pursued excessively [1154a]. For a noble (kalos) person, "actions in conformity with virtue must be essentially pleasant (hêdeiai)" (Aristotle Nic. Eth. 1.8.13 [1099a];Rackham 1934, 40-41).

Epicurus: Pleasure the Goal of Life

  • Epicurus apud Diogenes Laërtius Vit. Phil. 10.129-31 took pleasure as "the alpha (archê) and omega (telos) of the blessed life (makariôs zên). Pleasure is our first and kindred (suggenikon) good. It is the starting point of every choice (hairesis) and aversion (phugê)....When we say, then, that pleasure is the end and aim (telos), we do not mean the pleasures of the prodigal or the pleasures of sensuality....By pleasure we mean the absence of pain in the body and of trouble in the soul" (Hicks 1925, 2:654-57).

Stoicism: Pleasure is an Irrational Passion to be Avoided

The Stoic tradition regards pleasure as completely negative.

  • Hêdonê is a passion (pathê); passion being defined as "an "impulse (hormê) which is excessive and disobedient to the dictates of reason (apeithê tôᵢ hairounti logôᵢ), or a movement of soul which is irrational (alogon) and contrary to nature (para phusin)." For the Stoics, the four primary passions are desire (epithumia), fear (phobos), distress (lupê), and pleasure (hêdonê; Long and Sedley 1987, 1:410-11; →SVF 3.378 [92]).
  • Desire and fear are primary: one desires what appears to be good, and one fears what appears to be bad. Hêdonê results whenever we attain the object of our desire or avoid the object of our fears  (Long and Sedley 1987, 1:411; →SVF 3.378 [92]).
  • Diogenes Laërtius Vit. Phil. 7.116: The opposite of the desire for pleasure is joy (chara); cf. Jas 1:2.

James understanding of the desire for pleasure, then, appears to be closest to that of the Stoic school.