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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.
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).
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
10–20 Use in Lectionary →BL : Special and General Feasts: Prophets; 1 of 3 reading options.
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).
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
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:
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
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:
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.,
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.
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:
→ 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:
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.