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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.
17 Elijah was a human, a mortal person like us,
and he prayed fervently that it would not rain V Supon the earth,
and it did not rain upon the earth for three years and six months.
18 And he prayed again, and heaven gave rain,
and the earth produced its fruit.
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.
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).
17a Elijah Scriptural Exemplum of Powerful Prayer To illustrate his point about the power of the prayer of the righteous, James uses the scriptural example of Elijah. This is one of several scriptural exempla employed by James: Abraham (Jas 2:21-24), Rahab (Jas 2:25), the prophets (Jas 5:10), Job (Jas 5:11). See also Literary Devices Jas 2:21a.
17b with prayer he prayed S lacks the Greek's repitition of the verb (this repitition apparently imitating the Semitic absolute infinitive); instead using the simple perfect: "he prayed." See also Grammar Jas 5:17b.
10–20 Use in Lectionary →BL : Special and General Feasts: Prophets; 1 of 3 reading options.
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:
16a Confess Nes (א BAC) retains oun ("then") after “confess”.
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).
17b with prayer he prayed Semitism The Greek proseuchêi prosêuchato (lit.: "in his prayer he prayed"), pairing the dative of a verbal noun with its cognative verb, imitates the Semitic infinitive absolute construction. This construction serves to strengthen the intensity of the action, thus the translation "fervently." This is one indication of the strong Semitic background of the letter.
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.
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.
17 Elijah ...prayed that it would not rain: Example of Elijah
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:
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: