The Bible in Its Traditions

James 4:5

Byz V S
Nes
TR

Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, "The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously"?

Or think ye that the scripture speaketh in vain? Doth the spirit which he made to dwell in us long unto envying?

Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?

Text

Textual Criticism

5b lives : Byz TR | Nes : he made live

  • P and Byz reads the intransitive verb katôᵢkêsen (ind. aorist of katoikeô), making "the spirit" the subject (thus, "the spirit lives").
  • The better manuscripts (e.g., P74 א B), however, read the causative verb katôᵢkisen (ind. aorist of katoikizô "to cause to dwell", "to make to live"), implying another subject that is not explicit (the present translation provides "He", i.e. God as the implied subject). See also Grammar 4:5b

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

Literary Devices

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). 

5a Scripture speaks Standard Introductory Formula James use a standard formula for introducing a scriptural quotation: hê graphê legei (cf. Rom 4:3; 9:17; 10:11; 11:2; Gal 4:30; 1Tm 5:18).

Reception

Comparison of Versions

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.

Context

Ancient Texts

5b Enviously A Vice in Hellenistic Culture

Envy is not Characteristic of the Gods

  • According to Plato Phaedr. 247A, envy (phthonos) is not a characteristic of the gods, it is excluded from the heavenly procession of chariots driven by the gods, as each has his assigned place (Fowler 1913, 474-75). Cf. Ps.-Phoc. 71, "The heavenly ones are also without envy toward each other" (aphthonoi Ouranidai kai en allêlois telethousin; referring to heavenly bodies such the sun and moon;van der Horst 1978, 92-93). Cf. also Clement of Alexandria Str. 7.2.7, "But neither does envy (phthonos) touch the Lord, who without beginning was impassible" (apathous anarchôs;  ANF 2:525; Früchtel et al. 1970, 7).

A Human Vice

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.

5b spirit Discussion on the Spirit’s Identity

The Holy Spirit

  • Bede Ep. cath. takes the spirit as the Holy Spirit; thus 5b is a rhetorical questions expecting a negative reponse, "Does the spirit of grace with which you were signed on the day of your redemption desire this, that you envy one another?" (Hurst 1985, 49; Hurst 1983, 212); also Calvin Comm. Iac. ad loc.
  • Ps.-Hilary of Arles Tract. Iac. ad loc.  also explicitly names the spirit "the grace of the Holy Spirit which you received in baptism"; this spirit has a desire against envy (adversus invidiam; col 78).
  • Erasmus Iac. Par. ad loc. offers a variation on this interpretation, paraphrasing, "the evangelical Spirit which now dwells in you is jealous (zelotypus) and, so to speak, envious. He demands more, he wants his love returned passionately even if this means disregarding your wife, your children, your very life. He does not tolerate a dwelling-place stained with worldly passions" (Bateman 1993, 161; Bateman 1997, 148).
  • Ps.-Andreas Catena (attributed to Severian): "The spirit that is in us yearns and incites us towards our natural affinity (tês pros theon oikeiotês) with God; turning us away (apostrphô) from the friendship of the world" (Cramer 1844, 8:29).

Zealous God

  • Cajetan Ep. Pauli et al. Ap. ad loc. takes it as referring to God as the divine Spirit who is jealous of "the world" that is drawing souls away from faith in him to love of the world, connecting this passage with James' references to adultery. He finds this same sense in Ex 20:5: "I am a jealous (zelotes) God" (369).
A Person's Soul Affected by Envy

The Syriac tradition takes it as the human soul affected by envy:

  • Isho'dad of Merv Comm. Cath. Ep. comments that when a person's soul (npš’) seeks good things, but cannot obtain them, "then it is moved to envy, which is an anger against our fellows; and how often also against God" (Gibson 1913, 37; Syriac-ibid., 50).
  • Bar Salibi Ep. Cath. ad loc. "Whenver the soul, which he calls 'the spirit' is captured in envy and pride" (Sedlacek 1910, 98; Syriac, 128).

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.”

Liturgies

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

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

Christian Tradition

5a Scripture speaks Debate over the Scriptural Reference Commentators have offered a wide range of interpretations of James' reference to Scripture here:

Scripture Reference is in 5a Only

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:

  • (1) Bede Ep. cath. ad loc. thinks it refers to passages forbidding the Israelites from intermingling with pagan tribes (e.g, Ex 23:32-33; Ex 23:24), in illustration of the point that the faithful should have no interaction with the wicked. Ps.-Hilary of Arles Tract. Iac. ad loc. suggests a reference to Is 1:15: "Though you pray the more, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood!" Ps.-Hilary thus apparently takes James to be referring back to Jas 4:3: "You ask, but do not receive, because you ask wrongly." Ps.-Hilary further sees a reference to some in the community as murderers (see Jas 4:2) who will thus need to cleanse their bloodstained hands (Jas 4:8b) (col. 78-79).
  • Calvin Comm. Iac. ad loc. takes it to refer to Scripture's support of the principle (in Jas 4:4) that friendship with the world is enmity wtih God.
5b Refers to an Unknown 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:

Text

Vocabulary

5b enviously Vice Phthonos is understood generally as a vice in ancient Greek ethics, Hellenistic Judaism, and early Christianity. See also Ancient Texts 4:5b; Peritestamental Literature 4:2b; Christian Tradition 4:5b.

Reception

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:

Christian Tradition

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:

  • Mand. 3.4: it is closely associated with the "spirit of truth" (pneuma tês alêtheias);
  • Mand. 10.2.4: doublemindedness (dipsuchia) and irascibility (oxucholia) in a person grieves the holy spirit;
  • Mand. 11.6, 11-13: the holy spirit is contrasted with an earthly (epigeion) spirit that is associated with desires (epthumiai);
  • Mand. 11.8: the spirit that comes from above (to pneuma to anôthen) is meek, gentle, and humble (praus, hêsuchios, tapeinophrôn. Cf. Jas 3:17;
  • Mand. 11.7-10: a true prophet has the holy spirit.