The Bible in Its Traditions

James 4:8

Byz Nes V S TR

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse [your] hands, [you] sinners; and purify [your] hearts, [you] double-minded.

8c double-minded Jas 1:8

Reception

Christian Tradition

8–11 Divisio Textus The Ps.-Andreas Catena comments on Jas 4:8-11 under the heading, "On repentance for salvation (peri metanoias pros sôterian), and on not judging [one's] neighbor" (Cramer 1844, 8:30).

Context

Biblical Intertextuality

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.

Text

Literary Devices

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:

Context

Biblical Intertextuality

8 Cleanse [your] hands +and purify [your] hearts: Cultic Purity Language

Ritual Purity

In G, "cleanse" (katharizô) refers to making people or objects ritually pure, it also refers to cleansing of sin. 

  • Lv 16:19: The priest cleanses (katharizô; Hebrew: pi‘el of ṭhr) the altar with the blood of a bull and a goat.
  • Lv 16:30: On the Day of Atonement, the priest makes atonement on behalf of the people "to cleanse (katharizô; Hebrew: pi‘el of ṭhr) you from all your sins before the Lord, and you will be cleansed."

In G, "purify" (hagnizô) refers to making oneself or an object ritually pure for worship:

  • Nm 8:21: "So the Levites purified themselves (Hebrew: Hithpael of ḥṭ’) themselves and washed their garments" cf. Jn 11:55: many went up to Jerusalem "before Passover to purify themselves." 
  • Nm 31:23 speaks of objects made clean (katharizô) by passing them through fire, and purified (hagnizô) by water (Nm 31:23). 

Application to Moral Purity

Other biblical texts parallel James in regularly applying cultic purification to moral purification:

  • 1Pt 1:22: "you have purified (hagnizô) yourselves [lit.: "purified your souls"] by obedience to the truth for sincere mutual love." 
  • 1Jn 3:3: "Everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure (hagnizô), as he is pure (hagnos)."

Image of Clean Hands

Clean hands are used as a symbol of moral purity:

  • 2Sm 22:21: "The Lord rewarded me according to my righteousness (dikaiosunê); according to the cleanness (kathariotês) of my hands he rewarded me."
  • Jb 17:9: "and the faithful (pistos) hold to his own way, and may one with pure (katharos) hands take courage."
  • Ps 18:20 (G-17:21): "And the Lord will reward me according to my rightousness (dikaiosunê), and according to the cleanness (kathariotês) of my hands...."

Image of Clean / Purified Hearts

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:

  • Gn 20:5: "I did this with a pure heart (kathara kardia) and righteousness of hands."
  • Ps 51:10 (G-50:12): "A clean heart (katharan kardian) create in me, O God."
  • Sir 38:10: "Flee wickedness and purify (euthunô) your hands; cleanse (katharizô) your heart of every sin."

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).

Reception

Christian Tradition

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:

  • Aquinas ST 1.9.1 "These things are said of God in Scripture metaphorically (metaphorice). For as the sun is said to enter a house, or to go out, according as its rays reach the house, so God is said to approach to us, or to recede from us, when we receive the influx of His goodness, or decline from Him" (English Dominicans 1947, 1:38).

8a draw near to God Ways of "Drawing Near" to God

Meaning of Drawing Near

  • Bede Ep. cath. ad loc. "Draw near (appropinquate) to the Lord by following his footsteps through humility, and he will draw near to you by freeing you from your difficulties through his mercy" (Hurst 1985, 51; Hurst 1983, 214).
  • Gloss. Ord. (V) ad loc. "[Draw near] by good works, through humility" (per bona opera, per humilitatem) (cols. 1293-94).
  • Erasmus Iac. Par. ad loc. paphrases the verse, "Attach yourself (applicate vos) to God through godly pursuits (piis studiis), through chaste and holy prayers, and he in turn will attach himself to you" (Bateman 1993, 162; Bateman 1997, 150).

Lapide Comm. ad loc. suggest the following ways in which one can approach God:

  • withdrawing from, and resisting, the devil;
  • by humbling ourselves;
  • by purifying ourselves from sin by penance;
  • by loving God and practicing works of love (opera charitatis);
  • through prayer and through striving after perfection (studium perfectionis; 20:182).

8c double-minded Explaining "Double-mindedness"

  • Bar Salibi Ep. Cath. ad loc. elaborates, "you who have one thing in your hearts and another in your mouth" (Sedlacek 1910, 99. Syriac-ibid., 129).

Liturgies

4:7–5:9 Use in Lectionary BL : Thursday, 32nd Week after Pentecost.

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

Context

Biblical Intertextuality

8a draw near Close Relationship with the Holiness of God

A Close Relationship with 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).

Drawing near the Holiness of God

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).

Reception

Liturgies

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

Christian Tradition

8b Cleanse [your] hands Metaphor of Ritual Purity in 1 Clement and Hermas

Metaphor of Ritual Purity

James' image of approaching God in a ritually pure state is reflected in other early Christian writers who may have used James:

  • 1 Clem. 29.1 “And we should approach him with devout souls, raising pure (hagnos) and undefiled (amiantos; cf. Jas 1:27) hands to him" (Ehrman 2003, 1:86-87).
  • Herm. Sim. 8.7.5 applies katharizô, like James, to repentance: "they purified themselves and repented quickly when they heard my commandments" (Ehrman 2003, 2:376-77).

See also:

  • Herm. Sim. 7.2 "repent and cleanse themselves from all worldly desires" (epithumiai tou aiônos;Ehrman 2003, 2:352-53).
  • Herm. Sim. 9.23.5 "repent…cleanse yourselves from this demon" (Ehrman 2003, 2:444-45).
  • Herm. Mand. 9.6-7 "any man who is of two minds and does not repent will be saved only with difficulty. And so cleanse your heart from doublemindedness" (Ehrman 2003, 2:274-75). See also Literary Devices 4:8bc.

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: