The Bible in Its Traditions

James 4:4

Byz V TR
Nes TR
S

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.

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.

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.

4a friendship with the world 2Tm 3:4; 1Jn 2:15-17

Text

Literary Devices

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.

Context

Ancient Cultures

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.

Text

Literary Devices

4a Do you not know Paranetic Discourse: Assumption of Shared Knowledge James again alludes to knowledge that he assumes the audience has, but is not necessarily using (Jas 1:3; 2:5,7). See also Literary Devices 1:3.

Vocabulary

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).

  • Jas 1:27: "keep oneself unstained from the world";
  • Jas 4:4: "Do you not know that to be a lover of the world means enmity with God?"

Textual Criticism

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.

Vocabulary

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.

Context

Biblical Intertextuality

4a Adulterers! Drawing on a Prophetic Metaphor

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.”

Text

Literary Genre

4a Adulterers! Diatribe The diatribe style often addresses the audience harshly (cf. Jas 2:20: "senseless person" Literary Devices 2:20).

Reception

Liturgies

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

Context

Biblical Intertextuality

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).

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.

  • In the Pauline tradition, it corresponds to Paul's "spirit / flesh" dichotomy, especially Rom 8:7, "the way of thinking of the flesh is enmity towards God." See also the contrast beween "lovers of pleasure" (philêdonoi; cf. James' reference to "desires for pleasure" in Jas 4:1b) with "lovers of God" (philotheoi; 2Tm 3:4). Paul can also speak of humanity before being reconciled with God through Christ as "enemies (echthroi) of God" (Rom 5:10).
  • The Johannine tradition has a close parallel: "Do not love (agapaô) the world or the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him (1Jn 2:15). In explicating the "things of the world," 1 John refers to desire (epithumia) of the flesh and desire (epithumia) of the eyes (1Jn 2:16). 

The general thought pattern parallels Jesus' teaching:

  • "No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon" (Mt 6:24 = Lk 16:13; māmônā’ is an Aramaic word for wealth or property).

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.

Reception

Liturgies

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

Christian Tradition

4a Adulterers! Adultery Metaphor  Why does James use the term "adulterers" here?

  • Augustine of Hippo Serm.   92 (142).2-3: Scripture uses harsh language (the accusation of adultery) not to insult, but rather to shame a sinful person so that he might turn away from pride and sin and be healed; cf. Serm.  385.6.
  • Caesarius of Arles Serm. 21.6 "He explained why he had said 'adulterers.' The soul (anima) that deserts its Creator to love a creature is an adulterer (adultera). Nothing is more chaste or delightful than love of him; if He is abandoned and another embraced, you become unclean" (inmunda;Mueller 1973, 1:110; Morin 1953, 1:97).
  • Ps.-Oecumenius Comm. Ep. Cath. ad loc. "he says 'adulterers' and 'adultresses' not at all because they actually were, but because they corrupted the divine and noble commands into other, spurious ones" (col 492); cf. Calvin Comm. Iac. ad loc.

Erasmus Iac. Par. draws out the connections in James' thought between:

  • the adultery image and friendship with the world: "Do you not know that God is a jealous lover (zelotypum esse amatorem)? He wants to be loved totally. He wants only himself to be loved. He does not tolerate the world, from whose love he reclaimed you at so high a price, as a rival....Do you not understand that just as a wife immediately loses her husband's love if she sleeps with an adulterer, so a Christian immediately incurs the hostility (inimicitia) of God, who has nothing in common with the world (nihil convenit cum mundo), if he tries to renew his friendship with the world?"
  • the adultery image and the image of the Church as the bride of Christ (Eph 5:23-32; Rv 19:7-8): "Will Christ allow his wife to have another adulterous affair with the devil"? (Bateman 1993, 161; Bateman 1997, 148).

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: