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10 My brothers, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of YHWH, as an example of evil suffering and of longsuffering.
10 Take, brethren, for an example of suffering and of patience, the prophets who spake in the name of the Lord.
11 Indeed we count those blessed who endure. You have heard of the patience of Job, and you saw the end of YHWH-that He is compassionate and He is merciful.
11 Behold, we call them blessed that endured: ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord, how that the Lord is full of pity, and merciful.
11 Consider that we beatify those who have endured. You have heard of the patient suffering of Job. And you have seen the end of the Lord, that the Lord is merciful and compassionate.
12 But above all, my brothers, do not swear, neither by heaven nor the earth, nor any other oath. But let your "Yes"be "Yes,"and [your] "No,""No,"so that you may not fall into hypocrisy.
12 But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by the heaven, nor by the earth, nor by any other oath: but let your yea be yea, and your nay, nay; that ye fall not under judgment.
12 But before all things, my brothers, do not choose to swear, neither by heaven, nor by the earth, nor in any other oath. But let your word ‘Yes’ be yes, and your word ‘No’ be no, so that you may not fall under judgment.
13 Is anyone among you suffering
Vsad? He should pray.
Is anyone in good spirits? He should sing a song of praise.
14 Is anyone among you sick?
He should summon
Vbring in the presbyters of the church, and they should pray over him,
anointing him with oil in the name of the
15 And the prayer of faith will save
Sheal the sick person,
Sour Lord will raise him up.
And if has committed any sins, it
V Sthey will be forgiven him.
16 Confess, V S Nesthen, Vyour sins to one another
and pray for one another so that you may be healed.
Powerful indeed is the effective
Vpersistent prayer of a righteous person.
10a patience fruit of the Spirit Paul lists patience (makrothumia) as one of the fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:22).
11b see : Byz | TR Nes: you saw
3:4f; 5:4,7,9,11 Look Call for Attention James uses the verb idou (V = ecce) several times throughout the work to call special attention to what follows.
7–12 Divisio Textus In → the heading for this section is, "Concerning patience Catena(makrothumia) and perseverance (hupomonê) during suffering, and concerning the truth" ( 1844, 8:34).
10b the prophets Identity of the Prophets Bede understands the "prophets" in a broad sense, from Noah to the apostle James, son of Zebedee. These men offer several different types of examples:
11c compassionate is he and merciful God’s Merciful Nature A standard characterization of God in the Qur'an is "most gracious, most merciful" (Arabic: rahman and rahim); the phrase opens every chapter (sura) in the Qur'an with the exception of one. See also Vocabulary Jas 5:11c and Biblical Intertextuality Jas 5:11c.
11b the end of the Lord Genitive of Agency In the immediate context, the phrase to telos Kuriou is most likely a type of genitive of origin or source: the final result caused by the Lord.
12e fall under judgment Echo James again sounds the theme of judgment. Humans have no right to judge others: judgment is a divine prerogative (e.g., Jas 2:12-13; 4:11-12; 5:9).
12c oath Importance of Oaths in Greco-Roman Society Swearing an oath was an essential practice of the ancient Mediterranean world. An oath is a solemn statement, claim or promise that invokes the gods as witnesses to its truth. The implicit or explicit expectation is that the gods will punish the speaker for perjury. The oath's intention, then, is to guarantee the speaker's words.
Oaths were a regular part of legal and political procedures. In political contexts, one took an oath of office; members of political alliances took oaths to not harm one another. Parties in legal disputes took oaths to abide by the settlement. Representatives of a city took oaths of loyalty to a new ruler. Oaths were also common in more informal contexts involving business or friendships.
Oaths were sworn to the relevant deities. Thus the Hippocratic oath was sworn to all the gods and goddesses, but especially to those concerned with medicine: Apollo the Physician, Asclepius, Hygieia, and Panacea as witnesses. In → 731-47, Medea asks King Aegeus for asylum, and also asks that he swear an oath as a guarantee ( Med.pistis) of his promise. After some persuasion, he asks Medea by which gods he should swear; she names the Earth, the Sun, and the other gods. The supreme oath is said to be one taken by the river Styx, e.g., → 15.38. Finally, Socrates often swears "by the dog" or "by the dog of Egypt," possibly referring to the Egyptian dog-headed god Anubis. Il.
12d let your “yes” be yes Versions of Jesus’ Sayings S, →C and others in the Latin tradition (e.g., → ad loc.) and the Bohairic Coptic, following the reading witnessed in א, add "word" to the verse, resulting in the reading, "Let your word be 'yes, yes' and 'no, no'" ( Tract. Iac.Textual Criticism Jas 5:12d). The addition is presumbably influenced by the version of Jesus' saying in Mt 5:37.
12b do not swear Divine Pedagogy
13–18 The passage focuses on prayer (Literary Devices Jas 5:13–18). After warning the reader that he must ask God in faith, not doubting (Jas 1:5–8) and that he must not ask wrongly (Jas 4:2–3), James here gives examples of proper, effective prayer.
The passage also relates to James' concern with proper speech: after giving many admonitions against improper speech (e.g., Jas 5:9; 5:12), James here gives example of the proper use of speech in praying and singing. See also →James: Speech in James.
The passage presents a holistic view of illness and healing: here, these two elements are closely associated: physical illness and “spiritual illness” (sin) on the one hand, and physical healing and forgiveness of sin, on the other, are closely linked. There is also a strong link between understanding the anointing ritual as providing healing (both spiritual and physical) in this life, and understanding the anointing and prayer as preparation for ultimate healing in the resurrection and eternal life. This holistic emphasis reflects the theme of wholeness and integrity found throughout the letter. See further →James: Perfection / Wholeness in James.
Catholic tradition has drawn out the meaning of Jas 5:14-15 in various ways, primarily through the development of the teaching on the sacrament of the anointing of the sick. The tradition has at various times emphasized the different aspects of James’ integral vision: spiritual healing (Origen, Chrysostom, Council of Trent), physical healing (an early tradition of anointing among the laity, Vatican II’s emphasis on a broader understanding of healing), and the eschatological dimension (the traditional emphasis on “extreme unction” as preparation for eternal life). See also Christian Tradition Jas 5:14f and Theology Jas 5:14f.
This section, and the letter, ends with James' exhortation to community members to turn back a straying fellow-believer (Jas 5:19-20). James thus reinterates his characteristic concern for harmony within the community. The history of interpretation generally interpreted the ambiguous passage to mean that a person who converted another from sin would in turn receive pardon of his own sins; this took its place in a traditional list of ways in which one could seek pardon for sins. See also Christian Tradition Jas 5:19f.
13f Rhetorical Question James frequently uses questions, and here the rapid series of three questions and responses gives the flavor of an oral give-and-take (cf. Jas 3:13 for the same construction; see also Grammar Jas 5:13f).
14c anointing Variants B om. "him" after "anointing"; B. om. “of the Lord”.
14c anointing Related Terms The verb for anointing with oil (aleiphô) is commonly used for physical healing (Mk 6:13) or as a sign of good health (Mk 6:17) in contrast with chriô, the usual Greek term for the ritual anointing of the kings or the prophets in the OT. See also Ancient Texts Jas 5:14c and Biblical Intertextuality Jas 5:14c.
14b over him An Unusual Preposition The use of the preposition epi (ep' auton) with pray (proseuchomai) is unusual. It may have the sense of the presbyters standing over a sick person who is lying down, or it may allude to the sense of invoking God's name over the person (cf. Jas 2:7). It may also allude to the sense of laying hands on the sick person during prayer;
14c in the name of the Lord Instrumental or Circumstantial? The relationship of this phrase to the action of anointing may be understood as:
See also Christian Tradition Jas 5:14c.
14c–15 anointing + save: Link between Anointing and Eschatological Salvation Two passages from the Iliad echo James’ allusions to eschatological salvation:
14c anointing him with oil Sacramentology: Matter of the Anointing of the Sick
14c anointing him with oil Olives and Olive Oil in the Islamic Tradition The Qur'an and subsequent Islamic tradition continue biblical traditions that recognize both the everyday health benefits of olives and olive oil and employ them as eschatological symbols (see Biblical Intertextuality Jas 5:14c; Peritestamental Literature Jas 5:14c; Jewish Tradition Jas 5:14c).
14c anointing him with oil Literary References to Anointing of the Sick
15b raise The G verb egeirô has two possible meanings:
15f Association of Sin and Illness Different scriptures witness to the various ways in which sin and illness are associated.
James says significantly in Jas 5:15, "If he happens to have committed any sins," those sins will be forgiven to the sick person. Thus James sees no necessary, causal connection between sin and sickness.
16a sins Nes (א BA) have tas hamartias, usually rendered in English as "sins." Some miniscules (e.g., 307, 442), Byz, and thus the TR read ta paraptômata, traditionally rendered in English as "trespasses." See comments of Erasmus below at Christian Tradition Jas 5:16a.
16–20 Use in Lectionary →RML (1570) : Rogation Days (Monday and Wednesday before Ascension).
1:3f; 5:11 perseverance Courageous Patience James uses two word families to describe the virtue of patience: the noun hupomonê with the cognate verb hupomenô (used in Jas 1:3–4,12; 5:11) and makrothumeô / makrothumia (Vocabulary Jas 5:7f,10).
Hupomonê is closely connected with testing (peirasmos): the testing of one's faith produces perseverance (hupomonê, Jas 1:4); the blessed person perseveres (hupomenô) through trial until he reaches his eschatological reward (Jas 1:12; 5:11). Job is held out as an example of hupomonê (Jas 5:11). See also Biblical Intertextuality Jas 1:3.
The virtue of hupomonê is regularly discussed in conjunction with the virtue of courage (andreia) in the writing of Aristotle and the Stoics (Ancient Texts Jas 1:3).
10–20 Use in Lectionary →BL : Special and General Feasts: Prophets; 1 of 3 reading options.
11b perseverance of Job Character of Job In the Islamic tradition, Job is considered a prophet. His perseverance figures prominently. The Qur'an parallels James in connecting Job's perseverance with God's mercy, "And (remember) Job, when he cried to his Lord, 'Truly distress has seized me, but thou art the most merciful of those that are merciful'" (→Qur’an 21.83). After recounting Job's affliction and eventual reward (cf. Jb 42), God says, "Truly We found him full of patience and constancy" (→Qur’an 38:44; cf. 38:41-44). See also Biblical Intertextuality Jas 5:11b; Peritestamental Literature Jas 5:11b; Christian Tradition Jas 5:11b.
14c oil Medicinal Uses of Oil in Second Temple Judaism The use of olive oil for medicinal and healing purposes was very common among Second Temple Jews:
Oil was used to drive out spirits who caused illness:
14ff anointing him with oil Depictions of Anointing The sacrament of the anointing of the sick ("extreme unction"), which the Catholic Church considers to be defined in Jas 5:14-15, has been depicted artistically in many ways:
12 do not swear Context? James’ prohibition on swearing oaths has no obvious connection to either the previous discussion on the need for patient endurance in the face of Christ’s imminent parousia (Jas 5:7–11), nor to the following discourse on prayer (Jas 5:13–18). Equally ambiguous is the introductory phrase, “above all” (pro pantôn): the phrase’s comparison is not clear. Thematically, this prohibition of oaths may be seen as the culmination of James’ concern for proper speech in the community (Literary Devices Jas 5:12b).
James’ teaching is clearly based on Jesus’ (Christian Tradition Jas 5:12b, Christian Tradition Jas 5:12d, Christian Tradition Jas 5:12e). James’ admonitions against swearing should be understood in light of the importance of oaths in both Greco-Roman and Jewish cultures, as well as traditional critiques of that practice (Ancient Cultures Jas 5:12c; Ancient Texts Jas 5:12b; Peritestamental Literature Jas 5:12b; Jewish Tradition Jas 5:12b).
In the history of interpretation, early Christians and later Anabaptist traditions understood this verse as an absolute prohibition of all oaths; many Western churches followed Augustine’s interpretation that James only means to prohibit frequent, frivolous, or false oaths; oaths on solemn occasions such as courtroom oaths are licit (Christian Tradition Jas 5:12b; Theology Jas 5:12b).
10a suffering |א : nobility Instead of kakopathia ("suffering"), א reads kalokagathia ("goodness, nobility"). See also Literary Devices Jas 5:10a.
12d But let your "yes" be | But Let Your Word Be: Harmonization with Mt 5:37 א, apparently influenced by the version of Jesus' saying in Mt 5:37, adds "the word" (logos) before the word "your", thus giving the reading, "Let your word be 'yes, yes' and 'no, no.'" S follows this reading (Comparison of Versions Jas 5:12d).
12e into hypocrisy : Byz TR | Nes: under judgment
7f,10 patient Patience vs. Perseverance The verb makrothumeô and its cognate noun makrothumia can mean:
James uses two word families to describe the virtue of patience: hupomonê / hupomenô (used in Vocabulary Jas 1:3f; 5:11) and makrothumeô / makrothumia. Whereas hupomonê is closely connected with a trial (peirasmos), makrothumeô / makrothumia does not necessarily involve testing or suffering, but may simply involve waiting patiently for an event or person. Similarly, the cultural background of the words is strikingly different: makrothumeô / makrothumia is not a significant term in Greek philosophical ethics tradition, while hupomonê is regularly discussed in conjunction with the virtue of courage (andreia; Ancient Texts Jas 1:3). On the other hand, makrothumia is an important quality of God (Biblical Intertextuality Jas 5:7–10).
One can discern these two main elements in James’ use of makrothumeô / makrothumia in Jas 5:7–11.
11c compassionate Hapax Legomenon James' term polusplagchnos is unattested in G or Greek literature before James. It is a hapax legomenon, but its meaning is not difficult to deduce. It is composed of polus, "much, great," and the noun splagchna, "innards," understood as the seat of passions, particularly compassion. Here James is not directly dependent on G, for there we encounter a similar word pair oiktirmôn and polueleos (Neh 9:17; Ps 86:15 (85:15); Ps 103:8 (102:8); Jl 2:13; Jon 4:2).
The Shepherd of Hermas uses the adjective and cognate noun frequently to describe the Lord (→Herm. Vis. 1.3.2 "the Lord's compassion has granted you and your household mercy"; 2.2.8; →Sim. 5.7.4). See also Biblical Intertextuality Jas 5:11c and Islam Jas 5:11c.
11a Look, we call blessed those who persevere Echo James echoes his earlier statement, "Blessed is the man who perseveres through trials" (Jas 1:12). In that passage, James specifies that the blessedness of those who persevere consists in their receiving their eschatological reward: the crown of life.
12a above all Ambiguity of the Introductory Phrase There are several possibilities for how the Greek phrase pro pantôn relates to the rest of James' letter:
In any case, the phrase is awkward in its current position.
12b do not swear Theme of Improper Speech This prohibition may be seen as the culmination of James' concern for proper speech in the community:
10b in the name of the Lord Speaking and Acting with Divine Authority
11b perseverance of Job Biblical Portrait of Job The figure of Job as a model of patient endurance is seen primarily in the prose introduction (ch. 1-2) and ending (ch. 42). For example:
By contrast, in the verse dialogue with his friends, which comprises the main portion of the book, Job often complains that the Lord is treating him unfairly (e.g., Jb 7:11-16; 10:18; 23:2). Elsewhere Job is remembered as the paradigmatic righteous man (Ez 14:14). James apparently presumes that his readers will be familiar with other traditions (e.g., as reflected in →T. Job) that emphasize Job's patience and perseverance. See also Peritestamental Literature Jas 5:11b ; Christian Tradition Jas 5:11b; Islam Jas 5:11b.
11c merciful God’s Merciful Nature James uses the term oiktirmôn to describe the Lord, evoking a rich background of references to the merciful Lord, as in the following examples.
12b do not swear Criticism of Frequent and Frivolous Oaths
This passage apparently applies to more trivial oaths, however, since →B.J. 2.139-42 himself also refers to the Essenes' requirement that initiates take solemn oaths (horkous omnuô) when fully entering the community. The Dead Sea Scrolls also evidence oath-taking (e.g., →CD 9.9-12; 15.1-3).
12e so that you do not fall under judgment
16a Confess Nes (א BAC) retains oun ("then") after “confess”.
10a,13a suffering Active Attitude The noun kakopathia in v. 10 means literally “suffering of evil.” Its cognate verb kakopatheô, “to suffer,” we will find slightly further in Jas 5:13. It comes from the noun pathos, “experience, emotion, state,” and kakos, “evil,” (compare by contrast eupatheô, “to enjoy oneself”).
13b in good spirits The verb euthumeô refers to having good courage; thus Acts 27:22: "I urge you now to keep up your courage" (euthumein). It denotes the ability to face difficulties calmly without complaint—cf. → [Mor. 465E - 477F] and V's translation Tranq. an. aequo animo est, lit. having an equal mind.
14a sick The verb astheneô (“being sick”) refers generally to physical illness or weakness (e.g., Mt 10:8; Mt 25:36), in contrast to the broader range of physical, mental, or emotional suffering denoted by the term “suffering” (kakopatheô; V-tristatur, “being gloomy, dismal”), used in v. 13. See also Christian Tradition Jas 5:14b, Christian Tradition Jas 5:14c, Liturgies Jas 5:14b, and Liturgies Jas 5:14c.
13f Declarative or Interrogative? The three opening questions may also be translated as declaratives, e.g., “Someone among you is suffering,” or (as S does) as conditionals: “If someone among you is suffering.”
13–18 pray prayer...plea: Isotopy of Prayer Every verse in this passage refers to prayer; however, the words used are not simple synonyms. The noun euchê (prayer, v. 15) and the corresponding verb euchomai (to pray, v. 16) are generic terms. The verb expressing the prayer of petition is proseuchomai (v. 13, 14, 17,18) or proseuchê (v. 17). More concretely, the noun deêsis (v. 16) stands for a supplication or a particular request. As for psallô ("to sing a hymn," v. 13), it applies to prayer in the form of a hymn, in particular in the liturgical context.
15ab save the sick ...the Lord will raise him up: Syllepsis, Ambiguity between Literal and Metaphorical Meanings In Jas 5:15ab, James likely has an intentional play on the literal and metaphorical meanings of the two verbs.
James may thus suggest an intimate connection between healing from a sickness and eternal salvation: perhaps the physical saving / raising is a sign or foreshadowing of eternal salvation / raising from the dead, or perhaps the physical saving / raising already participates in eternal salvation and raising in a proleptic manner. See further Christian Tradition Jas 5:15a; Christian Tradition Jas 5:15b; Liturgies Jas 5:14f; Theology Jas 5:14f.
14c–15 anointing + save | Anointing and Salvation in Second Temple Judaism James' link between the anointing ritual and eschatological salvation (Literary Devices Jas 5:14f) reflects the Second Temple Jewish connection between anointing with oil and final salvation.
15f Association of Sin and Illness
16a Confess the failings to one another Confession of Sins at Qumran
15f Association between Physical Healing and Forgiveness of Sin
15a prayer of faith will save Centrality of the Prayer
14f Sacramentology: Promulgation of the Anointing of the Sick. Roman Catholic doctrine teaches that Jesus instituted the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick (traditionally known as “Extreme Unction”), and that James "promulgated" the sacrament (Jas 5:14–15).
10a suffering and of patience Hendiadys James here connects two nouns: suffering (kakopathia; Vocabulary Jas 5:10a) and patience (makrothumia; Vocabulary Jas 5:7f,10). One may simply translate, "an example of suffering and patience." Alternatively, one may take the second noun to modify the first by hendiadys, thus leading to a translation of "patient suffering" or "patience in suffering." A close parallel is →4 Macc. 9:8, which links kakopathia and hupomonê.
13a suffering |good spirits: Antithesis The first two questions establish an antithesis between interior suffering and serenity. V, which translates kakopathei with the verb tristatur (evoking affliction or discouragement) only makes this antithesis more precise. Far from focusing on a contrast between sadness and cheerfulness, as is often thought, the phrase evokes rather the opposition between interior grief and a courageous serenity, frames of mind that each lead to a different form of prayer.
7–11 Theme of Patience
Jas 5:7-11 focuses on various aspects of patience (using two words to express the idea: makrothumeô / makrothumia and hupomenô / hupomonê). James' admonitions address two main aspects of patience:
Verse 9a, with its admonition to not speak badly of fellow believers, fits awkwardly within the thematic flow of Jas 5:7-11, leading some commentators to conclude that it originally was an independent saying. The other verses in Jas 5:7-11 focus on patience, while v. 9 echoes James' earlier admonitions that community members not speak badly about one another (see especially Jas 4:11, and earlier admonitions on the dangers of improper speech in Jas 1:19,26, and especially Jas 3:1-12). With its further connection with the theme of judgment ("so that you are not judged"), however, the verse does fit into a further theme of the Jas 5:7-11 passage: eschatological judgment.
The implicit logic seems to be the following: complaining against one's fellow believer is equivalent to judging him. If one judges another person, then one in turn brings judgment on oneself. This judging, in any case, is illicit, since there is only one legitimate judge: Jesus Christ.
By placing this admonition here, James may imply that community members should patiently bear suffering caused by fellow community members, rather than complain against them.
11b the end of the Lord Purpose The meaning of this lapidary phrase (telos Kuriou; V: finis Domini) is ambiguous. The title Kurios may refer either to God the Father or to Jesus. Telos can have two basic meanings in this context:
The phrase is clearly set in parallel to James' reference to Job: "you have heard of the perseverance of Job" and "you have seen the telos Kuriou." The reference, then, is most likely to the Lord's final purpose or result, referring to Job's perseverance. In other words, the reference is to Job's vindication at the end of the book when Job's wealth and family are restored. A prominent interpretive trend, current in James' time, however, understands Job's final vindication as receiving eternal life. References to the resurrection are already apparent: G-Job and →T. Job frequently refer to Job's heavenly reward.
This eschatological interpretation is supported by James' calling those who have persevered "blessed"—a clear reference to Jas 1:12 which speaks of the eschatological crown to be won by those who persevere through their trials.
11c Because compassionate is the Lord and merciful Explanatory Hoti Clause The conjunction hoti introduces an explanatory or causal phrase: the Lord brought about a blessed final result for Job, because the Lord is exceedinly compassionate and merciful.
12b do not swear Criticism of Oaths Against the common Greco-Roman use of oaths as a guarantee for the truthfulness of a statement (Ancient Cultures Jas 5:12c), Stoic and other philosophical schools urged their followers to avoid oaths and rely on the trustworthiness of their own statements:
10a example …of suffering: Persecution of the Prophets A central theme in Second Temple Judaism portrays in further detail the faithful sufferings of the prophets and other biblical figures, e.g., →Mart. Ascen. Isa. and →Vit. Proph. See also Biblical Intertextuality Jas 5:10b.
11b perseverance of Job Portrait of Job The Testament of Job (1st c. BC – 1st c. AD) shows remarkable parallels with James' portrait of Job.
Its central focus is the virtue of hupomonê:
The Testament also emphasizes eternal life as Job's reward for his endurance, paralleling Jas 1:12 and possibly Jas 5:11b (see also Vocabulary Jas 5:11b and Christian Tradition Jas 5:11b).
One sees this interpretive tradition already in G-Jb 42:17, which adds to the account of Job's death the comment, "It is written that he will rise again with those the Lord raises up." Christians read other passages as references to the resurrection: Jb 14:14, "For if a man dies, shall he live again?"; G-Jb 19:26, "may my skin rise up" (cited in →1 Clem. 26.3 as a proof of the resurrection). See also Biblical Intertextuality Jas 5:11b; Christian Tradition Jas 5:11b and Islam Jas 5:11b.
10a take as an example, my brothers Textual Addition
9–12 Use in Lectionary →RML : Friday, Week 7, Year 2.
12b neither by heaven Pharisaic / Rabbinic Debate on the Binding Nature of Oaths The Mishnah distinguishes between vows (nᵉdārîm) and oaths (šᵉbû‘ôt). Several tractates are devoted to legal discussions on vows or oaths: Nedarim (Vows), Nazir (the Nazarite Vow), and Shevu'ot (Oaths), thus showing the importance of vows and oaths for the rabbis.
One frequent topic of discussion is the circumstances under which an oath or vow is not binding, e.g.,
Discussion on this topic certainly dates back to the first-century, as evidenced in passages such as Mt 5:34-37 and Mt 23:16-22.
The original practice of swearing by the name of God (Biblical Intertextuality Jas 5:12b) was avoided in many quarters, perhaps to avoid pronouncing the holy name. Jews then swore by a variety of lesser authorities: by heaven, earth, the Temple, articles on the altar, a person's head (perhaps representing the person's life; cf. →m. Ker. 1.7; →b. Ber. 3a).
Rabbinic literature records a dispute on the binding nature of oaths sworn by these lesser authorities:
A similar distinction between a binding and non-binding vow is evident in Jesus' reference to Pharisaic teaching, "If one swears by the temple, it means nothing, but if one swears by the gold of the temple, one is obligated" (Mt 23:16).
Jesus' teaching rejects this distinction between binding and non-binding oaths. Since all created things have a relationship with God, an oath by a created thing implies an oath to God: "one who swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it; one who swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who is seated on it" (Mt 23:16).
Jesus' teaching goes further, however, in rejecting the need for oaths at all: "Let your 'yes' mean yes, and your 'no' mean no" (Mt 5:37). There should be no need to further verify the truth of a trustworthy person's statements. This then is the implicit logic behind James' less sophisticated version: "do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath." See also Ancient Cultures Jas 5:12c and Christian Tradition Jas 5:12b.
11b end of the Lord Interpretation of Telos Kuriou ("end of the Lord") The tradition offers a variety of interpretations (several commentatators offer more than one).
12b do not swear History of Interpretation: Strict and Modified Comment on James' teaching in later Christian tradition often combined this passage with Jesus' very similar teaching in Mt 5:33-37 (Biblical Intertextuality Jas 5:12b).
Early Christian tradition understood Jesus' commandment forbidding oaths in Mt 5:33-37 and / or Jas 5:12 to be absolute; see → 16.5; 1 Apol.→ 2.32.1; Haer.→ 11.1; Idol.→ 1.4; Praep. ev.→ 17.5; Hom. Matt.→Ps.-Clem. Hom. 3.55.1. Even → 4.3.4 insisted that this commandment should be interpreted literally ( Princ.kata tên lexin têrêteon) ( 295; , 330). Specific comments on Jas 5:12 include:
By the time of Jas 5:12 and in Mt 5:34-37 is modified.however, the understanding of an absolute prohibition of oaths in
→ 180 on Serm. Jas 5:12 ( , 3/5: 314-22); , 657-84) makes the basic arguments that will be taken up by later Christian authors; cf. a similar discussion in → Ep. 157.40; see also Augustine's similar interpretation of the version in Mt 5:34-37 : → Serm. Dom. 1.17.51; cf. →De Mend. 28.
Later interpretation followed Augustine's lead in taking James to limit, rather than prohibit, taking oaths.
Among interpreters who limit the scope of James' prohibition, several specificy that James does not forbid swearing an oath in a court of law when it is necessary.
Groups in the radical Reformation and related traditions revived a strict interpretation of Jesus' prohibition of oaths.
12b do not swear Church Tradition on Swearing Oaths The Catechism of the Catholic Church makes the following points:
14c oil Importance and Meaning of Oil In Ancient Mediterranean culture, olive oil was a staple of daily life and was associated with strength, cleanliness, honor, and good health.
14b Presbyters Informal and Formal Community Leaders In the OT, the term can refer to the leaders of a community, e.g., Ru 4:2: "the elders (G = presbuteroi; M = zqnym) of the city." A key passage is Moses' selection of 70 elders to help him lead the Israelites.
The title "presbyters / elders" is given frequently to official Jewish leaders in the Gospels and Acts, named often alongside the chief priests and scribes (e.g., Mk 14:43; Acts 4:23). The "presbyters / elders" sent by a centurion to Jesus in Lk 7:3 may reflect a more informal use of the term.
The term is used in several NT books to designate church leaders (e.g., Acts 14:23; 15:2; Tt 1:5; 2Jn 1; 3Jn 1; see especially the same phrase “presbyters of the church” in Acts 20:17). A group of presbyters helped to lead the first Jerusalem church (e.g., Acts 15:2). Paul and Barnabas appoint presbyters in their churches (Acts 14:23), as does Paul's co-worker (Tt 1:5). 1Tm 5:18 lists preaching (logos) and teaching as two of the duties of a presbyter; cf. the literal reference in to men older in age.
The terms "presbyter" and "bishop" (episkopos) are not always clearly distinguished: in Paul's letters, the Ephesian presbyters are also called episkopoi. Both terms have a broader literal meaning (presbyter = "elder" in terms of age; episkopos = "overseer") and it is not always clear when the term is to be taken in its broader literal sense and when it refers to a specialized office of the church. See also →Ecclesiastical vocabulary among the first christian communities: episkopoi, presbuteroi, and diakonoi.
14b let them pray Prayers for Healing The OT records several prayers for healing.
The Psalmist often prays for healing.
16a Confess the failings to one another ...so that you may be healed: Confession of Sin in Scripture Confession of sin took place in a variety of contexts.
13a Someone among you is suffering A Different Latin Reading
13b sing psalms Singing at Liturgy The tradition interprets James' word for sing praise (G = psallô; V = psallo) as referring to singing during a worship service.
14c in the name of the Lord Reference to Consecrating the Oil OR Invoking the Lord's Name
15b the Lord will raise him up Oil and Eschatological Salvation / Resurrection Several early Christian texts connect olive oil with the tree of life in the Garden of Eden, and thus with future eternal life:
16a Confess [your] failings to one another Interpretations and Applications
16a Confessing to Priests or Laity? The tradition is divided on whether James refers to confessing sins to priests or to laypeople.
16c Greatly prevails the prayer of a righteous [man] at work What Makes Prayer Prevail? The passage has drawn many comments on what makes prayer effective.
14f pray over him …in the name of the Lord, Sacramentology: Form of the Sacrament. In the Roman Catholic tradition, the prayer said during the anointing is understood as the "form" (forma) of the sacrament:
14b Presbyters Sacramentology: Ministers
15c they will be forgiven him Sacramentology: Effects of the Anointing of the Sick.
Reflecting a the changed approach after Vatican II, →CCC 1520-23 speaks of four effects:
10 an example ...of suffering and of patience: Persecution of the Prophets James assumes his readers' familiarity with the hardships of the prophets (e.g., Jer 1:17-19; Am 7:10-15). In the NT, the persecution of the prophets is a standard trope (Mt 5:12, Mt 23:34-37; Lk 13:33; Acts 7:52; 1Thes 2:14-15; Heb 11:32-38), that can take on an anti-Jewish flavor (e.g., Acts 7:52; 1Thes 2:14-15). The NT and early Christian adversus Iudaeos literature polemically link the "Jewish" persecution of the prophets and the killing of Jesus (e.g., 1Thes 2:14-15; →Barn. 5.11; → 93.4). See also Dial.Peritestamental Literature Jas 5:10a.
12b do not swear Prohibition on Swearing: Biblical Background and Comparison with Gospel Version
Ancient Israelites followed the common ancient practice of calling on divine powers to verify or strengthen the truth of a human statement (Ancient Texts Jas 5:12b).
Even God is portrayed as taking oaths, especially in the context of his covenants with Israel:
Sir 23:9–10: “Do not accustom your mouth to oaths (horkos), or habitually utter the Holy Name. Just as a servant constantly under scrutiny will not be without bruises, So one who swears (omnuô) continually by the Holy Name will never remain free from sin.”
James’ prohibition on oaths is manifestly drawn from Jesus’ teaching on the topic. Mt 5:34–37 records a more detailed version of Jesus’ teaching. Some scholars judge that James’ simpler version is closer to Jesus’ historical teaching; others see Jas 5:12 as a shortened version of the teaching in Matthew.
The versions in Matthew and James share the following essential elements.
Both versions of Jesus’ teaching elaborate the prohibition, apparently in reaction to Jewish traditions that avoided swearing in the name of the Lord in favor of swearing by less powers (Jewish Tradition Jas 5:12b).
Matthew adds rationales for not swearing by heaven (“for it is God’s throne”) and earth (“for it is his footstool”); James lacks rationales. Matthew gives two further examples: do not swear by Jerusalem; do not swear by one’s head. These are lacking in James, who gives a blanket prohibition on swearing “with any other oath” (mête allon tina horkon).
In other words, the validity of one’s words should stand on its own merits, not requiring ouside validation.
Mt 5:37: “Anything more is from the evil one” (ek tou ponêrou).
Jas 5:12d: “lest you fall under judgment” (hupo krisin).
In Matthew, Jesus contrasts his own teaching with what was said “to the ancestors,” “Do not take a false oath (epiorkeô), but make good to the Lord all that you vow” (orkos; Mt 5:33). This is not a direct quotation, but is comparable to teachings in Dt 23:21–23, Lv 19:12, and Nm 30:3–15.
Paul apparently alludes to a version of Jesus’ saying in a discussion in 2Cor 1:17–18: “do I make my plans according to human considerations, so that with me it is ‘yes, yes’ (to nai nai) and ‘no, no’ (to ou ou)? As God is faithful, our word to you is not ‘yes’ and ‘no’” (2Cor 1:17–18).
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.
14b let them pray over him Prayers and Anointing of the Sick Many liturgical texts contain prayers for consecrating oil. In general, the oil for anointing the sick is pure olive oil (G: elaion; L: oleum); chrism or myron (oil mixed with perfume; G: chrisma, muron; L: unguentum) is used for post-baptismal anointings.
The Sacramentary of Sarapion is a mid-fourth century Egyptian liturgical book.
The sacramentary also has two other prayers for blessing oil:
The Testamentum Domini is a church order from the 4th-5th centuries, originally written in Greek and preserved in Syriac.
The Apostolic Tradition is a church order dating to the first part of the 3rd century.
In the 20th century, Anglican, Lutheran, United Church of Christ, and Presbyterian churches have developed rituals involving the use of healing oil (→, 37-40; Anglicans revived the anointing rite found in the first 1549 Book of Common Prayer, but not in later editions).
The revised Roman Rite Ritual of Anointing (→Rit. Rom. An.) offers several options for the prayer after anointing:
14f Effect of the Anointing: Physical and Spiritual Healing Two major interpretations of the effect of the anointing ritual in Jas 5:14-15 are evident in the tradition (1) a holistic view, emphasizing both spiritual and physical healing or (2) an emphasis on spiritual healing (forgiveness of sin).
All three of the above passages are in the context of Caesarius' admonishing people to attend church regularly; he closely links anointing with the reception of the Body and Blood of Christ.
Origen's list is found in an adapted and expanded form in → 20.8. Cassian's list in turn forms the basis for a list in a 7th century Irish work used in the Merovingian Empire, The Penitential of Cummean, an influential manual for confessors that details penances for various sins (cf. Coll.→Poen. Big. pref.). Another list virtually identical to Cummean's is found in → 13. All these works quote Hom.Jas 5:14-15, but cite it as an example of the efficacy of intercessory prayer.
14c anointing him with oil Foundational Text for the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick? The Council of Trent taught that James "recommended to the faithful and promulgated" (fidelibus commendatum ac promulgatum) the sacrament of "extreme unction" in Jas 5:14-15 (→DzH 1695; cf. Theology Jas 5:14c). The exact relationship between this passage and the sacrament, however, has been a subject of controversy within the tradition.
Several decrees from the Carolingian era seek to regulate the practice of anointing the sick, perhaps as a response to the custom of lay anointing. Reference is made to Jas 5:14-15:
14c anointing him with oil Connotations of Oil in Scripture
The use of olive oil (H= šmn, yçhr; G= elaion) is well attested throughout the Scriptures.
It was a general sign of
Other OT passages combine prayers for supernatural healing with a use of natural remedies: the Lord promises to heal Hezekiah in response to his prayers (Is 38:5), but Isaiah also ordered: “Bring a poultice of figs and apply it to the boil for his recovery” (Is 38:21). A similar combination is found in the wisdom literature: “My son, when you are ill, do not delay, but pray to God, for it is he who heals….Then give the doctor (iatros) his place lest he leave; you need him too” (Sir 38:9-12).
In his own healings, Jesus occasionally makes use of natural elements: he uses saliva (Mk 7:33; 8:23; Jn 9:6) and often physical touch (Mk 1:41; 3:10; 5:28–31,41; 6:56; Lk 6:19); his disciples employed olive oil in their healings (Mk 6:13) and also employed physical touch (Acts 3:7; 5:15; 19:11–12).
15f Association of Healing and Forgiveness of Sin
In its holistic view of the human being, several OT passages presuppose a close connection between healing and forgiveness of sin, just as some connection between sin and illness was assumed.
Jesus presumes the connection between disability and sin in his healing of the paralytic (Mt 9:1–8). In two further passages, however, Jesus denies a causal relation: those who suffer oppression or accident are no worse sinners than those who do not (Lk 13:1–5) and disability can be an opportunity to reveal God's works (Jn 9:3).
Jesus’ own healing is holistic. His healing of the paralytic is associated with forgiveness of sin in Mt 9:1–8 (cf. Mk 2:17: “It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick. I came to call not the upright, but sinners).” His healings are regularly associated with a call for faith (cf. Mk 2:5; 5:34,36; 9:23), and are understood as signs that the Kingdom of God has come near (cf. Mt 11:5–6). See also Theology Jas 5:15b.
14c anointing him with oil Type of Oil and Method of Anointing
Christian tradition distinguishes different types of oil for liturgical use.
→CCC 1294 distinguishes the meaning of the oils used in the different sacramental anointings.
By medieval times, the sick were anointed on various parts of the body as representative of the various senses: