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2 You lust and you do not have. You murder and are jealous and you cannot obtain. You fight and make war. You do not have because you do not ask.
2 Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and covet, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war; ye have not, because ye ask not.
2 You covet, and do not obtain; you kill and envy, but you cannot possess; you strive and fight, yet you have nothing, because you do not ask.
3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend [it] in [gratifying] your lusts.
3 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may spend [it] in your pleasures.
3 You ask and you do not receive, because you ask badly, so that you may use it toward your own desires.
2f you ask wrongly Thematic Echo: Theme of Prayer James returns to the topic raised in Jas 1:6-8 on proper prayer. There, he criticizes the community for not asking in single-minded faith, but rather with a divided mind, mixed motivations. Here, the person, dominated by passions, asks in the wrong way.
2a You desire Implied Object or Intransitive Meaning? James' reference to desiring (epithumei; cf. the noun form in Jas 1:14-15) is quite generic and does not specify the object of the desire. Yet with his reference to desiring but not having, and to spending on one's passions (Jas 4:2-3), James apparently has the desire for possessions or money in mind; his reference to adulterers (and thus sexual desire) in the next verse, likely has a more metaphorical sense.
Thus envy over possessions, with its ensuing strife and divisions, characterizes James' community. The disparity in the community between rich and poor (Jas 1:9-11; 2:1-13,15-16; 4:13-16; 5:1-6) doubtless plays a role in the ongoing conflicts. See also Ancient Texts Jas 4:2a and Christian Tradition Jas 4:2a.
2a you desire and do not have Unrestrained Desires are Insatiable
2b you kill Metaphorical Interpretation
3a ask wrongly Revisiting the Theme of Faithful Prayer James reiterates his discussion in Jas 1:6-8, which criticizes the community for asking or praying to God with a divided mind, mixed motivations, rather than with single-minded faith.
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 Jas 4:2f), 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.
2 You desire and do not have, [so] you kill Epithumia the Source of All Evils
2b you kill and are jealous Connections Between Jealousy and Killing The Testament of Simeon subtitled, "On Jealousy," (peri phthonou), treats the vices of phthonos and zêlos as equivalents; both lead Simeon to plan the murder of his brother.
In general, Hellenistic Judaism considered phthonos a vice.
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:
2b you kill | you envy: Textual Emendation? James' blunt accusation, "You kill" strikes many commentators as too harsh. Two reasons are generally given:
Thus already → ad loc. ( Annot. Ep. Iac. 2014, 412) and → ad loc. suggested emending the text from Comm. Iac.phoneuete ("you kill") to phthoneuete ("you envy"); see also → (368). There is, however, almost no support for such a reading in the manuscript tradition. Ep. Pauli et al. Ap.
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:
2ff Allusion to the Decalogue? The Decalogue may be in the background of James' thought in these verses:
1–10 Use in Lectionary →RML : Tuesday, Week 7, Year 2.
3a You ask, but do not receive Variety of Interpretations
Several authors address the question of whether James is contradicting Jesus' teaching on prayer in the Gospels, e.g., "Ask and it will be given to you....For everyone who asks, receives" (Mt 7:7-8); "If you ask anything in my name, I will do it" (Jn 14:14). In an influential commentary, Origen makes three points:
Origen's teaching is reproduced in the commentary tradition:
Augustine takes two approaches in answering the question of why Jesus promised, "if you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it," (Jn 14:14) and yet it is clear that the faithful often do not receive that for which they ask.
→ paraphrases, "Either you do not ask from him [God] or if you do, you do not ask for what you ought nor in the way you ought to. For you either ask for something harmful ( Iac. Par.noxia) instead of wholesome or you ask without faith (diffidentes) or you ask it for an ungodly use" (in usum impium petitis; 1993, 160; 1997, 148). See also Christian Tradition Jas 1:5c.
1:1–5:20 James Depictions of the Author Depictions of James, the author of the epistle, in paintings, statues, manuscript illustrations, engravings, woodcuts, and embroidery on liturgical vestments are particularly prominent in the Middle Ages. A common consensus of the artists is that the author of the epistle is James the Just, leader of the Jerusalem church; he is typically further identified with James, son of Alphaeus, one of Jesus' Twelve (Mk 3:18), and "James the Less" (Mk 15:40). The iconography of James draws particularly on accounts of James recorded in → 23 and Hist. eccl.→ 2, who in turn draw on accounts from Clement of Alexandria and Hegesipus. See also Vir. ill.→James: Introduction.
Several prominent features of these portrayals may be noted:
The following images are noteworthy:
James holds a club.
James, who resembles his brother Jesus, is second from his left. This full-scale copy was the main source for the— unfortunate—twenty-year restoration of the original (1978–1998). It includes several lost details such as Christ's feet, the transparent glass decanters on the table, and the floral motifs of the tapestries that decorate the room's interior. It was first mentioned in 1626 by the author Bartolomeo Sanese as hanging in the Certosa di Pavia, a monastery near Pavia, Italy, but it is unlikely that it was intended for this location. At some point, the upper third of the picture was cut off, and the width was reduced. Giampietrino is thought to have worked closely with Leonardo when he was in Milan. A very fine, full-size copy of this painting, before it was cut down, is installed at Tongerlo Abbey in Westerlo, near Antwerp, Belgium.
The side and central panels describe a a great hall with blue grey walls and three-colored tiles. In the side panels are depicted the half sisters of Virgin Mary, called after their fathers Mary Cleophas (left) and Mary Salome (right) together with their husbands.
Left panel: St. Mary Cleophas and Alphaeus (with the features of Friedrich the Wise with their two sons, the Apostles St. James the Less (at her breast) and Joseph Justus, called St. Barnabas, as annunciator of the Gospel of Matthew depicted with a book.
Central panel: Joseph, who seems to seems to sleep, the Virgin, dressed in blue with yellow lining, Anna and the Christ Child on her knee, who is stretching out his hand towards an apple given to him by Virgin Mary. Anna's three husbands following → are shown in the background in the matroneum: on the left Joachim, who is attracted by the holy women in front of him and whose relation is also shown by the corresponding blue and yellow color of his dress, Cleophas (with the physiognomy and chain of Emperor Maximilian I and Salomas, with the physiognomy of Sixtus Oelhafen von Schöllenbach, secretary of Friedrich III, Maximilian I and Karl V), who are talking to each other. There is an architectural structure by a great stone bench in the foreground of the central panel with two marble columns on the sides, over which is strectched a cloth of gold. On the right column is a tablet with date and signature: [LVCAS CHRONVS FACIEBAT ANNO 1509. The parapet of the matroneum is decorated by a sculptured frieze with dancing putti holding six escutcheons with the six fields of Electorate of Saxony. In the hall are shown the 17 members of the Holy Kinship. In the central panel are shown two more children of Mary Cleophas and Alpheus, the Apostles Simon, patron saint of weavers, dyers, tanners and saddlers and Jude, who went on mission and suffered their martyrdom together and therefore are regularly depicted together. Leg. aur.
Right panel: St. Mary Salome and Zebedee (with the features of Frederick III, Elector of Saxony, and his brother Herzog Johann der Beständige). St. Mary Salome, dressed in gold with dark red lining, is combing her son Saint James the Greater and while Saint John the Evangelist is hiding in her dress.
James is shown holding a Bible, symbolizing his status as a scriptural writer, in one hand. James is depicted in the Mannerist style with elongated form and without any of the traditional iconographic symbols
The risen Jesus appears to James and breaks bread with him (based on an account recorded in → 2, said to be drawn from the Gospel according to the Hebrews). Vir. ill.
James holds a book and club.
James, resembling Jesus, prayers on his knees with outstretched arms. It perhaps reflects Hegesippus' statement that James spent so much time in prayer that his knees were as hard as a camel's.
The inscription bearing the name of the saint has disappeared, but the iconography—facial features and beard shape —suggest that the icon is of James. Byzantine art places him among the founding fathers of the Church. As the creator of the first liturgy containing memorial services and the author of the message, which speaks of the healing power of prayer (Jas 5:14-16), he was also worshipped in ancient times as a healer. In Novgorod, James is prayed for the end of the epidemics. In sacred iconography, the representations of James of Jerusalem alone are very rare. We know the icons of Novgorod in which he is represented with other saints: Nicholas the Thaumaturgist, James the brother of God, Ignatius the bearer of God, end of the 15th c.; James the brother of God, Cosmas and Damian, 2nd quarter of the 16th c. The icon comes from the best workshops in Moscow or Novgorod.
1–12 Internal and External Conflicts Overall, James again emphasizes the connection between the microcosm of the individual person and the macrocosm of the community: disorder and strife (caused by passions and conflicting desires) within the person manifest themselves in disorder and conflict in the community. This section expands earlier topics :
James' exhortation to the community may be analyzed in the following way:
While the pericope presents one famous crux interpretativa—Jas 4:5, a challenging verse that defies clear interpretation, raising a host of textual, grammatical, and interpretative issues, cf. Textual Criticism Jas 4:5b; Grammar Jas 4:5b; Christian Tradition Jas 4:5a; Christian Tradition Jas 4:5b—several texts have drawn special attention in the interpretive tradition: