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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

James 5



Verse 1

1. ἄγε. See above, James 4:13.

ὀλολύζοντες κ.τ.λ. Comp. Luke 6:24-25, a passage closely related to this. Comp. Isaiah 13:6 ὀλολύζετε· ἐγγὺς γὰρ ἡμέρα κυρίου, where there is the same connexion as here with the day of judgment.

ταῖς ἐπερχομέναις, which are now coming upon you in succession (ἐπί).

Verses 1-6

1–6. The thought of trade suggests the thought of wealth, as in Revelation 18:15 οἱ ἔμποροι τούτων πλουτήσαντες ἀπʼ αὐτῆς.

The rich men who are here addressed are outside ‘the brotherhood.’ This appears clearly both from the character of the address and from the acts ascribed to them, and also from the absence of appeal to any Christian principle, and from the marked contrast to the paragraph which follows, in which ‘the brotherhood’ is again addressed.

The prosperity of the wicked is the insoluble problem of the O.T. Two answers are suggested here:—(a) the perishable character of that on which their prosperity rests; (b) the future retribution. Comp. Zephaniah 1:12; Zephaniah 1:14; Zephaniah 1:18; Job 20, especially James 5:18-19; Psalms 12:5; Proverbs 14:31; Ecclesiastes 5:8; Ezekiel 18:18; Amos 4:1-2.

The picture of the rich oppressor and the persecuted poor is conceived in the spirit of Hebrew prophecy, and it is true to the religious life of the Holy Family. See Luke 1:53 πεινῶντας ἐνέπλησεν ἀγαθῶν, καὶ πλουτοῦντας ἐξαπέστειλε κενούς. It has been in all ages the temptation of irresponsible wealth to oppress and persecute. It was among the evil signs of the times in the pre-exile period, Micah 2:2, Amos 3:10-11; Amos 3:15, and again broke out after the return, Nehemiah 5:1-13. Possibly this keen and cruel trade spirit was an immediate result of Babylonian influence. In the Chaldean tablets the ‘cry’ of the poor against the oppressor is frequently expressed. The slave trade, perhaps the most extensive business in the ancient world, directly tended to heartlessness and oppression; and lending money on usury for agricultural purposes was another process tending to the same result: Ezekiel 18:8; Ezekiel 18:17; Ezekiel 22:12; Isaiah 3:14-15.

Verse 2

2. σέσηπενγέγονενκατίωται. The tense implies that the case indicated by ταλαιπωρίαις is already present. The tarnishing of the gold and silver is an accomplished fact. The words bring out the thought that the wealth wrung from the poor by injustice and cruelty is of no service to the rich man himself: ‘putrescit in arca.’

ὁ πλοῦτος, corresponding in poetical parallelism to τὰ ἱμάτια, wealth in Oriental countries consisting largely of garments: comp. Acts 20:33 ἀργυρίου ἢ χρυσίου ἢ ἱματισμοῦ οὐδενὸς ἐπεθύμησα.

σητοβρωτα here only in N.T. Comp. Job 13:28 ὥσπερ ἱμάτιον σητόβρωτον. The word is not elsewhere found. For the thought see Matthew 6:19-20 μὴ θησαυρίζετε ὑμῖν θησαυροὺς ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς, ὅπου σὴς καὶ βρῶσις ἀφανίζει, κ.τ.λ. and comp. Hor. Sat. II. 3. 119 cui stragula vestis │ blattarum ac tinearum epulae putrescat in arca. The word is formed like σκωληκόβρωτος, Acts 12:23.

Verse 3

3. ὁ χρυσὸς ὑμῶν καὶ ὁ ἄργυρος κατίωται. Arrian, Epict. IV. 6, ὡς ὁπλάρια ἐπικείμενα κατίωται. The precious metals, gold and silver, are not, strictly speaking, subject to rust, but to tarnish or oxidisation, which does not destroy the metal: τοῦ χροίης καθύπερθε μέλας οὐχ ἅπτεται ἰὸς | οὐδʼ εὐρώς, αἰεὶ δʼ ἄνθος ἔχει καθαρόν, Theogn. 451. ὅτι Διὸς παῖς ὁ χρυσός· κεῖνον οὐ σὴς οὐδὲ κὶς δάπτει, Sappho, fr. 142, Wharton. The poetical image therefore must not be pressed with prosaic precision.

ὁ ἰός, first, poison, connected with Lat. virus, from a root meaning to work,—comp. ‘works like poison in the blood’—then rust, especially on iron and brass: σίδηρον γοῦν καὶ χαλκὸν καὶ τὰς τοιουτοτρὸπους οὐσίας εὔροις ἂν ἀφανιζομένας, ἐξ ἑαντῶν μὲν ὅταν ἑρπνώδους νοσήματος τρόπον ἰὸς ἐπιδραμὼν διαφάγοι, Phil. de Mundo, p. 610. 30.

εἰς μαρτύριον ὑμῖν ἔσται, for a witness against you. Comp. Matthew 23:31 μαρτυρεῖτε ἑαυτοῖς. The rust or tarnish of the hoarded gold and silver is a symbol and witness of the destruction coming upon you. Comp. Book of Enoch li., ‘in those days men shall not be saved by gold and by silver.’

φάγεται, eateth or will eat: comp. Sirach 36:18 πᾶν βρῶμα φάγεται κοιλία. It is a Hellenistic form not found in the classics. It is used both of future and present time, and is of interest as supporting the theory of an original identity of the present and future forms. Comp. ἔδομαι, πίομαι, and see Clyde § 33 and Lob. Phryn. 327 and 348.

τὰς σάρκας, pl. Comp. 2 Kings 9:36 καταφάγονται οἱ κύνες τὰς σάρκας τῆς Ἰεζάβελ.

ὡς πῦρ, with φάγεται, R.V.; with ἐθησαυρίσατε, Westcott and Hort. The connexion with ἐθησαυρίσατε is supported by two passages in the O.T. (LXX.) Proverbs 16:27 ἐπὶ δὲ τῶν ἑαυτοῦ χειλέων θησαυρίζει πῦρ. In the Hebr., however, there is no word corresponding to θησαυρίζει, and there may be a confusion between the Hebrew words צָבַר, ‘to heap up’ (elsewhere used to translate θησαυρίζειν ) and צָרַב, ‘to be scorched.’ The rendering of the Hebr. text is: ‘and in his lips there is a scorching fire.’ The other passage is Micah 6:10 μὴ πῦρ καὶ οἶκος ἀνόμου θησαυρίζων θησαυροὺς ἀνόμους καὶ μετὰ ὕβρεως ἀδικίας; in this passage πῦρ is not represented in the Hebrew. Its insertion is due to the similarity of אִשׁ (ish), ‘there is,’ and אֵשׁ (esh), ‘fire.’ The juxtaposition of the two words in the Greek text, especially in the first passage quoted, however, may have suggested the expression in St James. On the other hand it is more natural to take ὡς πῦρ with the words which precede rather than those which follow, and this is the view of most commentators.

ἐν ἐσχάταις ἡμέραις, in last days, days of crisis; the absence of the article marks the general character of the expression, which does not necessarily mean the end of the world. Comp. Genesis 49:1 τί ἀπαντήσει ὑμῖν ἐπʼ ἐσχάτων τῶν ἡμερῶν. Proverbs 31:25 εὐφράνθη ἐν ἐσχάταις ἡμέραις, ‘she laugheth at the time to come’ R.V., Isaiah 2:2 ἔσται ἐν ταῖς ἐσχάταις ἡμέραις ἐμφανὲς τὸ ὄρος Κυρίου, Micah 4:1 (where the Hebrew is the same as in the last passage) καὶ ἔσται ἐπʼ ἐσχάτων τῶν ἡμερῶν ἐμφανὲς τὸ ὄρος Κυρίου, 2 Timothy 3:1 ἐν ἐσχάταις ἡμέραις ἐνστήσονται καιροὶ χαλεποί. Bishop Westcott on 1 St John 2:18 ἐσχάτη ὥρα ἐστίν, points out that in all these passages the expression points to a time of crisis in the distant future, in Genesis 49:1 to the entrance into Canaan, in Isaiah 2:2, Micah 4:1 to the restoration of Israel. In St John the use of the article, ἐν τῇ ἐσχάτη ἠμέρᾳ, gives a definite meaning, as John 11:24 οἶδα ὅτι ἀναστήσεται ἐν τῇ ἀναστάσει ἐν τῇ ἐσχάτῃ ἡμέρᾳ. See also in the same gospel chs. John 6:39-40; John 6:44; John 6:54, John 7:37, John 12:48. But there is a sense in which each age is a ‘last day’ or hour, and in each there are ‘last days’ to come.

Verse 4

4. ἰδού: here as frequently in N.T. a vivid transitional particle. The Jews were agriculturists long before they were traders. It would be a natural step, as they grew in wealth, to acquire land in the countries of the Dispersion. It is probable that the land which Barnabas sold was in Cyprus.

ὁ μισθὸς τῶν ἐργατῶν. Comp. Luke 10:7 ἄξιος ὁ ἐργάτης τοῦ μισθοῦ αὐτοῦ, and Leviticus 19:13, where the rule is given: οὐ μὴ κοιμηθήσεται ὁ μισθὸς τοῦ μισθωτοῦ παρὰ σοὶ ἕως πρωί. More fully Deuteronomy 24:14-15 οὐκ ἀπαδικήσεις μισθὸν πένητος καὶ ἐνδεοῦς ἐκ τῶν ἀδελφῶν σου ἢ ἐκ τῶν προσηλύτων τῶν ἐν ταῖς πολεσίν σου· αὐθημερὸν ἀποδώσεις τὸν μισθὸν αὐτοῦ· οὐκ ἐπιδύσεται ὁ ἥλιος ἐπʼ αὐτῷ, ὅτι πένης ἐστὶ καὶ ἐν αὐτῷ ἔχει τὴν ἐλπίδα, καὶ καταβοήσεται κατὰ σοῦ πρὸς Κύριον,. St James’ words enforce this passage from the law, and by a truly poetical touch transfer the cry for justice from the labourer to the wages unjustly withheld. Like the rust on the hoarded metal, the wage kept back by fraud cries for vengeance. For this poetical figure comp. Habakkuk 2:11, Luke 19:40; and for prophetic denunciation of the same violation of the law see Jeremiah 22:13 παρὰ τῷ πλησίον αὐτοῦ ἐργᾶται δωρεάν, καὶ τὸν μισθὸν αὐτοῦ οὐ μὴ ἀποδώσει αὐτῷ and Micah 3:10.

τῶν ἀμησάντων. ἀμᾶν here only in N. T. for the more usual θερίζειν. It is used in the classics in poetry and late prose of (a) reaping, ἤμων ὀξείας δρεπάνας ἐν χερσὶν ἔχοντες Il. XVIII. 551, and in middle of (b) gathering, ταλάροισιν ἀμησάμενος (γάλα) Od. IX. 247. Curtius regards (a) as the root-meaning, connecting it with Latin meto, but see Lid. and Scott sub voc. The tense marks that the wages were due.

τὰς χώρας ὑμῶν, fields, farm lands, χώρα in the singular meaning a farm or estate: οἱ ἐν τῇ χώρᾳ ἐργάται, Xen. Hier. 10:5.

ἀφυστερημένος, still kept back; the perfect part. denotes that the act continues in its effects to the time implied.

ἀφʼ ὑμῶν, according to most editors to be taken with ἀφυστερημένος, but even in that case ἀπό would differ from ὑπό, indicating not the agent but the source of the injustice, ‘on your part’ or ‘by your fraud.’ Comp. Acts 2:22 ἀποδεδειγμένον ἀπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ, where see Page. Luke 17:25 ἀποδοκιμασθῆναι ἀπὸ τῆς γενεᾶς ταύτης. In several passages the MSS. vary between ἀπό and ὑπό, as Mark 8:31, Luke 6:18, Acts 4:36, Romans 13:1. In Modern Greek ἀπό is regularly used of the agent, and in common speech with the accus., ἀπὸ τὸν θεὸν ἔγειναν τὰ πάντα, Corfe, Mod. Grk Gram. p. 142. Another interpretation, however, connects ἀφʼ ὑμῶν with κράζει, the wage cries from you, with whom it is placed, οὐ μὴ κοιμηθήσεται παρὰ σοί (Hebr. lodge with thee), Levit. loc. cit. For this construction comp. Genesis 4:10 φωνὴ αἵματοςβοᾷἐκ τῆς γῆς, Exodus 2:23 ἀνέβη ἡ βοὴ αὐτῶν πρὸς τὸν θεὸν ἀπὸ τῶν ἔργων.

κράζει, frequently used of the appeal against injustice or of the cry for deliverance: Judges 4:3 καὶ ἐκέραξαν οἱ υἱοὶ Ἰσραὴλ πρὸς Κύριον, Psalms 21:5 πρὸς σὲ ἐκέκραξαν καὶ ἐσώθησαν. Comp. also Isaiah 5:7 ἔμεινα τοῦ ποιῆσαι κρίσιν ἐποίησε δὲ ἀνομίαν καὶ οὐ δικαιοσύνην ἀλλὰ κραυγήν, ‘he looked … for righteousness but behold a cry’ R.V. In the Hebr. there is a play on the contrasted words ‘righteousness’ and ‘a cry.’

Κυρίου Σαβαώθ, here only in N.T.; in LXX. either untranslated as here, or rendered by Κύριος παντοκράτωρ, 2 Samuel 5:10; 2 Samuel 7:27, or κύριος τῶν δυνάμεων, Psalms 24:10, Lord of hosts, either as commanding the armies of Israel or as Lord of the heavenly powers.

εἰσελήλυθαν. This aoristic termination of the perfect occurs Luke 9:36, John 17:6-7, Acts 16:36, and elsewhere in N.T. This approach to uniformity in the forms of the aorist and perfect tenses is one of the marks of the post-classical period. See Simcox, The Language of the N.T., p. 35.

Verse 5

5. ἐτρυφήσατε, ye lived delicately. The force of these aorists should be observed; the whole past is reviewed as on a judgment day. τρυφᾶν, here only in N.T. The strengthened form κατατρυφᾶν is beautifully used Psalms 37:4 κατατρύφησον τοῦ κυρίου, and 11 πραεῖςκατατρυφήσουσιν ἐπὶ πλήθει εἰρήνης. Comp. also Isaiah 55:2 ἀκούσατέ μου καὶ φάγεσθε ἀγαθά, καὶ ἐντρυφήσει ἐν ἀγαθοῖς ἡ ψυχὴ ὑμῶν, and Eur. Ion 1375 χρόνον γὰρ ὅν μʼ ἐχρῆν ἐν ἀγκάλαις | μητρὸς τρυφῆσαι καί τι τερφθῆναι βίου | ἀπεστερήθην φιλτάτης μητρὸς τροφῆς, Plato Legg. 695 D βασιλικὴ καὶ τρυφῶσα παιδεία.

The whole picture may be compared with the parables of Dives and Lazarus, Luke 16:19 f., and the Rich Fool, Luke 12:16 f.

ἐσπαταλήσατε, ye lived a life of wantonness. Comp. 1 Timothy 5:6 ἡ δὲ σπαταλῶσα ζῶσα τέθνηκεν, the only other passage where the word occurs in N.T. ὅς κατασπαταλᾷ ἐκ παιδὸς οἰκέτης ἔσται, ἔσχατον δὲ ὀδυνηθήσεται ἐφʼ ἑαυτῷ, Proverbs 29:21, is a mistranslation of the Hebr. “He that delicately bringeth up his servant from a child shall have him become a son at the last” R.V. ἐν πλησμονῇ ἄρτων καὶ ἐν εὐθηνίᾳ ἐσπατάλων αὔτη (Sodom) καὶ αἱ θυγατέρες αὐτῆς, Ezekiel 16:49, οἱ καθεύδοντες ἐπὶ κλινῶν ἐλεφαντίνων καὶ κατασπαταλῶντες ἐπὶ ταῖς στρωμναῖς αὐτῶν κ.τ.λ. Amos 6:4. The word is well explained Clem. Alex. IV., Strom. p. 450 ὅσα σπαταλῶσα ἐπιθυμεῖ ἡ ψυχὴ ἡμῶν οὐκ ἀρκουμένη τοῖς ἀναγκαίοις περιεργαζομένη δὲ τὴν χλιδήν.

ἐθρέψατε τὰς καρδίας ὑμῶν. καρδία (לֵב ) is used in a wide sense in Hebrew psychology. It is the centre or seat of the vital powers generally, here in the lower physical sense of appetite. Comp. Judges 19:5 στήρισον τὴν καρδίαν σου κλάσματι ἄρτου: Acts 14:17 ἐμπιπλῶν τροφῆς καὶ εὐφροσύνης τὰς καρδίας ὑμῶν.

ἐν ἡμέρᾳ σφαγῆς. See Jeremiah 12:3 ἅγνισον αὐτοὺς εἰς ἡμέραν σφαγῆς, where the correct rendering of the Hebrew is: “pull them out like sheep for the slaughter, and prepare them for the day of slaughter” R.V. (The first clause is not represented in the LXX.) The context in Jeremiah, a protest against the prosperity of the wicked, has a close relation to this passage. St James reminds the evil rich man that the day of retribution is at hand.

Verse 6

6. κατεδικάσατε, ye condemned. Another reference to the courts, κριτήρια ch. James 2:6, which were used as instruments of oppression.

ὀφονεύσατε τὸν δίκαιον, ye slew the just one. Either (a) some special case of martyrdom is referred to, or (b) τὸν δίκαιον points to a class, the article generalising. See Winer, p. 132 and comp. 2 Corinthians 12:12 τὰ σημεῖα τοῦ ἀποστόλου, Matthew 12:35 ὁ ἀγαθὸς ἄνθρωποςἐκβάλλει ἀγαθά, or (c) by τὸν δίκαιον Jesus Christ is intended. Comp. Acts 3:14 ὑμεῖς δὲ τὸν ἅγιον καὶ δίκαιον ἠρνήσασθε κ.τ.λ. Of these (a) appears to be the preferable interpretation. One actual instance of such cruelty and oppression best explains the vehement and indignant protest of the apostle. Such an incident may be explained by the motives named in Wisdom of Solomon James 2:10-20 καταδυναστεύσωμεν πένητα δίκαιονἐνεδρεύσωμεν τὸν δίκαιον ὅτι δύσχρηστος ἡμῖν ἐστικαταδικάσωμεν αὐτόν, ἔσται γὰρ αὐτοῦ ἐπισκοπὴ ἐκ λόγων αὐτοῦ. The words found a striking parallel in the death of James himself: Eus. H. E. II. 23 καὶ ἔλεγον ἀλλήλοις· Λιθάσωμεν Ἰάκωβον τὸν δίκαιον. καὶ ἤρξαντο λιθάζειν αὐτόν, κ.τ.λ. Plato Rep. 362 A describes the fate of the man δοκῶν μὲν εἷναι ἄδικος διὰ βίου ὢν δὲ δίκαιος. In the end μαστιγώσεται, στρεβλώσεταιτελευτῶν πάντα κακὰ παθὼν ἀνασχινδυλευθήσεται.

οὐκ ἀντιτάσσεται ὑμῖν, he resists you not. The non-resistance of the innocent righteous is in the spirit of our Lord’s words, Matthew 5:39 ff. ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν μὴ ἀντιστῆναι τῷ πονηρῷ, κ.τ.λ. Comp. also the picture of the suffering servant of Jehovah, Isaiah 53:7 ff. ὡς πρόβατον ἐπὶ σφαγὴν ἤχθη, καὶ ὡς ἀμνὸς ἐνανίον τοῦ κείροντος ἀφωνος οὔτως οὐκ ἀνοίγει τὸ στόμα. Comp. Book of Enoch, ch. ciii., ‘to those who hate us have we humbled our neck; but they have shewn no compassion towards us.’ If the clause be pointed interrogatively the meaning would be either (a) Doth not the Lord (ὁ κύριος understood) oppose you? or (b) Doth not he oppose you by his testimony at the judgment seat of Christ?

Verse 7

7. The death of the righteous martyr raises once more the thought of μακροθυμία, this time with hopes of the παρουσία. The Book of Enoch again has a parallel: ‘Wait with patient hope; for formerly you have been disgraced with evil and with affliction, but now shall you shine like the luminaries of heaven. You shall be seen and the gates of heaven shall be opened to you. Your cries have cried for judgment and it has appeared to you,’ ch. civ.

οὖν. Therefore, because this grievous persecution is directed against you.

ἕως τῆς παρουσίας τοῦ κυρίου. The recognised expression for the advent or presence of Christ. In the gospels the use of παρουσία is confined to our Lord’s discourse in Matthew 24. In St Paul’s epistles it occurs six times, in 1 and 2 Thess., and in 1 Corinthians 15:23 (in 1 Corinthians 1:8 the true reading is ἡμέρᾳ), it occurs in 2 Pet. three times, namely James 1:16, James 3:4; James 3:12, and 1 John 2:28. There is no LXX. authority for the word.

Another Pauline word for the appearing of Christ is ἐπιφάνεια, 2 Thessalonians 2:8, and five times in the Pastoral Epistles.

The whole expression ἕως τῆς παρ. not only marks the limit—the terminus ad quem—but also suggests a reason for long-suffering.

ὁ γεωργός. The metaphor suggests patience, toil, co-operation (κοινωνία εἰς τὸ εὐαγγέλιον, Philippians 1:5), faith, reward. ὡς ὁ ἀροτριῶν καὶ πρόσελθε αὐτῇ (σοφία) καὶ ἀνάμενε τοὺς καρποὺς αὐτῆς, Sirach 6:19.

τὸν τίμιον καρπὸν τῆς γῆς indicates the naturalness of the development till the end comes. The ripening of events, the parable of the Fig Tree, Matthew 21:19-22, of the Seed growing secretly, the Tares, the grain of Mustard Seed, the Hidden Leaven, Mark 4:26, Matthew 13:24-35, teach the same lesson.

ἕως λάβῃ. For the omission of ἄν in this construction see Mark 14:32, Luke 15:4 ἕως εὔρῃ αὐτό, Luke 22:34 ἕως τρίς με ἀπαρνήσῃ εἰδέναι, 2 Thessalonians 2:7 and Revelation 6:11; Revelation 20:5. When ἕως is followed by οὗ or ὅτου the sequence of the subjunctive is frequent. The construction is used of an event conceived as possible, but uncertain in regard to the time of its occurrence. See Winer, p. 387, Green, p. 166.

(ὑετὸν) πρόϊμον καὶ ὄψιμον. See Deuteronomy 11:14; Jeremiah 5:24; Joel 2:23; Hosea 6:3. In Hebrew the former rain is lit. ‘sprinkling,’ יורֶה, the latter lit. ‘gathered,’ מֵלִקוֹשׁ, from the gathering of the harvest. The former rain begins as a rule at the end of October or beginning of November, lasting often through January and February. By that time the ground is softened and ploughing made possible. The latter rains, on which the growth of the crop depends, fall in March and April. In 1885 the rainfall in Palestine was Jan. 7:79 in.; Feb. 2:90 in.; March 5:47 in.; April 6:52 in.; from May to Nov. less than 1 in.; in Dec. 6–27 in., Pal. Expl. F. Quart. St., April, 1894. The fertility of Palestine is wholly dependent on the rainfall. “Its uncertainty caused it to be a special subject of prayer. At the present day Moslems, Christians and Jews unite in fasts, processions and prayers for the ‘showers that water the earth,’ ” Thomson, The Land and the Book, p. 91. As contrasted with Egypt, which is ‘watered with the foot,’ Palestine is a land that ‘drinketh water of the rain of heaven.’ Hence ‘rain in due season’ is the promised reward of faithfulness in Israel, Deuteronomy 11:10-14 .

Verse 8

8. ἡ παρουσία τοῦ κυρίου ἤγγικεν, a Christian watchword, cited in its Aramaic form ΄αρὰν ἀθά, 1 Corinthians 16:22, and Philippians 4:5 τὸ ἐπιεικὲς ὑμῶν γνωσθήτω πᾶσιν ἀνθρώποις· ὁ κύριος ἐγγύς: where as here the παρουσία is a motive for forbearance and fairness of judgment; see below.

Verse 9

9. μἡ στενάζετε, a strengthened expression for μὴ καταλαλεῖτε, ch. James 4:11. Comp. Matthew 7:1 μὴ κρίνετε ἵνα μὴ κριθῆτε: and see Philippians 4:5.

κριτής κ.τ.λ. Note the same close connexion between slander and the presence of the Judge, ch. James 4:11. For κριτής in connexion with the παρουσία see Acts 10:42; 2 Timothy 4:8; Hebrews 12:23. For the effect of the παρουσία on conduct see Matthew 24:46-51; Luke 12:40. With the phrase πρὸ τῶν θυρῶν comp. Matthew 24:33 ἐγγύς ἐστιν ἐπὶ θύραις, Mark 13:29, Revelation 3:20 ἔστηκα ἐπὶ τὴν θύραν.

Verse 10

10. κακοπαθείας, here only in N.T. Comp. infra James 5:13 κακοπαθεῖν, ‘to endure hardship’; and 2 Timothy 2:3; 2 Timothy 2:9; 2 Timothy 4:5.

μακροθυμίας, longsuffering, a late Greek word found in Plutarch, elsewhere only in LXX. and N.T., 10 times in St Paul’s epistles, in Hebrews 6:12, and of divine longsuffering, 1 Peter 3:20 and 2 Peter 3:15. Trench defines it as a “long holding out of the mind before it gives room to action or passion—generally passion.” The μακρόθυμος is βραδὺς εἰς ὀργήν. Here it is endurance under persecution, a noble self-restraint which refuses to take vengeance, Matthew 5:22-24; Matthew 5:39-41. In 1 Maccabees 8:4 it is used of the Roman patience which conquered the world, κατεκράτησαν τοῦ τόπου παντὸς τῇ βουλῇ αὐτῶν καὶ μακροθυμίᾳ. For a description of the divine μακροθυμία (though the word itself does not occur in the passage) Trench refers to Wisdom of Solomon 12:20-21.

οἳ ἐλάλησαν ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι Κυρίου, added to indicate a parallel between the prophets and the suffering Christians to whom St James writes, comp. Matthew 5:12. Like the prophets they are on the side of God against the world. Comp. Isaiah 1:10 πεποίθατε ἐπὶ τῷ ὀνόματι Κυρίου, Jeremiah 23:25 προφητεύουσιν ἐπὶ τῷ ὀνόματί μου, Ezekiel 16:14 ἐξῆλθέν σου ὄνομα ἐν τοῖς ἔθνεσι. By ὄνομα Κυρίου is meant that by which the Lord is known, every manifestation of Him, that which formed the basis and substance of the prophetic teaching.

Verse 11

11. τοὺς ὑπομείναντας, those who endured, indicating special instances of endurance; τοὺς ὑπομένοντας would signify a class, generally ‘those who endure.’

ὑπομονήν. See ch. James 1:3 and also Trench N. T. Synonyms, Second Series.

τὸ τέλος Κυρίου, that which in the end Jehovah brought to pass for Job: ὃ γὰρ αὐτὸς ἠθέλησεν καὶ ἐποίησεν, Job 23:13; comp. James 5:7 of the same ch. ἐξαγάγοι δὲ εἰς τέλος τὸ κρίμα μου. For the genitive see Winer, pp. 309, 310. Others render this expression ‘the end of the Lord Jesus,’ the result of His sufferings. But such a reference would be less appropriate here, and if that meaning had been intended the expression would have been more explicit.

πολύσπλαγχνος. Here only in N.T., but σπλάγχνα, lit. the larger and more important internal organs, especially the heart, is frequently used in the sense of pity and compassion: Philippians 1:8 ἐπιποθῶ πάντας ὑμᾶς ἐν σπλάγχνοις Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, where see Bp Lightfoot, Luke 1:78 σπλάγχνα ἐλέους, ‘a compassionate heart,’ Colossians 3:12 σπλ. οἰκτιρμῶν, Philemon 1:7 τὰ σπλ. τῶν ἁγίων ἀναπέπαυται διὰ σοῦ, and elsewhere. The verb σπλαγχνίζεσθαι is only found in the synoptic gospels, and is there used always to express the Lord’s compassion as a motive for healing.

With this verse the epistle as a whole connected subject appears to end. What follows is in the nature and manner of a postscript. It contains special warnings needed for the Churches, which had not fallen into the preceding argument.

Verse 12

12. πρὸ πάντων marks the importance of what follows.

μὴ ὀμνύετε κ.τ.λ. This emphatic rule is founded on the Lord’s words, recorded by St Matthew only, Matthew 5:33 ff. μὴ ὀμόσαι ὅλως κ.τ.λ. Comp. Matthew 23:16-22. The only oath enjoined in the Mosaic code is that by which an accused person cleared himself from the charge, Exodus 22:11; Leviticus 5:1; Leviticus 6:3; Numbers 5:19-22. Comp. Deuteronomy 6:13; Deuteronomy 10:20; Psalms 63:11. But such was the sanctity attached to an oath that it could not be demanded on a trivial accusation; a denial was sufficient (τὸ ναὶ ναὶ καὶ τὸ οὐ οὐ), or the word amen or σὺ εἶπας (see Matthew 26:63-64) constituted an oath. By a curious inconsistency an oath taken by heaven, earth, Jerusalem or any other creature came to be regarded as invalid (Mishnah, Shebuoth IV. 13, as cited by Dr Ginsburg, Kitto’s Encyc. under ‘Oath’), compare our Lord’s words, Matthew 23:16-22.

So great was the fear of offending by a false oath that pious Jews before the time of Christ discountenanced swearing altogether: Sirach 23:9-11 ὅρκῳ μὴ ἐθίσῃς τὸ στόμα σου, καὶ ὀνομασίᾳ τοῦ ἁγίου μὴ συνεθισθῇςἀνὴρ πολύορκος πλησθήσεται ἀνομίας, καὶ οὐκ ἀποστήσεται ἀπὸ τοῦ οἴκου αὐτοῦ μάστιξ, κ.τ.λ. The Pharisees avoided oaths as much as possible, the Essenes entirely,—a rule which even Herod was obliged to recognise by exempting the Essenes from the oath of allegiance, Joseph. Ant. xv. 10. 4. For the whole subject see Kitto’s Encycl., under ‘Oath.’

ἤτω. For this rare form see Veitch sub voc. εἰμί. In Plat. Rep. 361 ἔστω is now read or ἴτω.

The construction with the accusative is more classical than the idiom used Matthew 5:34-35 ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷἐν τῇ γῇ.

Verse 13

13. κακοπαθεῖ. See above, James 5:10.

ψαλλέτω. The word implies the accompaniment of a musical instrument. For psalmody among the Jews see Bp Lightfoot’s note on Colossians 3:16. He shews by quotation from Philo that it had reached a high development at this epoch: ποιοῦσιν ᾄσματα καὶ ὕμνους εἰς θεὸν διὰ παντοίων μέτρων καὶ μελῶν ἃ ῥυθμοῖς σεμνοτέροις ἀναγκαίως χαράττουσι, Philo, de Vita Cont. § 3 (II. p. 476); πάννυχοι δὲ διατελέσαντες ἐν ὕμνοις καὶ ᾠδαῖς, Philo in Flacc. 14 (II. p. 535). For the hymnody of the first Christians see Acts 4:24; Acts 16:25, 1 Corinthians 14:15; 1 Corinthians 14:26. It is probable that fragments of Christian hymns are to be found in the epistles, as in Ephesians 5:14 and 1 Timothy 3:16.

Verses 13-20

13–20. Deeply important practical rules relating to (a) Prayer as a force in life, (b) Intercessory prayer, (c) Confession, (d) Conversion.

Verse 14

14. ἀσθενεῖ, is sick, a special form of the more general κακοπαθεῖ. For the word see Matthew 10:8, Luke 4:40.

Note the aorists προσκαλεσάσθωπροσευξάσθωσιν of single acts contrasted with προσευχέσθω and ψαλλέτω, the continuous exercise of prayer and psalmody.

τοὺς πρεσβυτέρους τῆς ἐκκλησίας, probably the earliest mention in the N.T. of the presbyters of the Church. The term and the office were undoubtedly in the first instance transferred from the Jewish to the Christian Church. The Jewish πρεσβύτεροι are frequently named with the chief priests and scribes: together they constituted the Sanhedrin, Mark 14:53 οἱ ἀρχιερεῖς καὶ οἱ πρεσβυτέροι καὶ οἱ γραμματεῖς. So in the Christian Church an important question is referred to ‘the Apostles and Presbyters’ in Jerusalem, Acts 15:6. Christian Presbyters are also mentioned, Acts 11:30; Acts 14:23; Acts 15:2, &c.

τῆς ἐκκλησίας, also a term which connects Christianity with Judaism, comp. Matthew 18:17 ἐὰν δὲ παρακούσῃ αὐτῶν, εἰπὲ τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ, a direction which must have been understood in the first instance to refer to the ruling body of the synagogue, the collegium presbyterorum, but which could naturally be transferred to that Church which our Lord calls τὴν ἐκκλησίαν μου, as distinct from the Jewish Church. See note in this series on Matthew 16:18; Matthew 18:17.

ἐπʼ αὐτόν, over him. ἐπί denotes the direction of the act. Comp. Luke 23:28 μὴ κλαίετε ἐπʼ ἐμέ, Acts 19:13 ἐπεχείρησαν δέ τινες καὶ τῶν περιερχομένων Ἰουδαίων ἐξορκιστῶν ὀνομάζειν ἐπὶ τοὺς ἔχοντας τὰ πνεύματα τὰ πονηρὰ τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ, a passage which bears a close relation to this. For besides the positive direction given for the use of prayer and the ordinary remedies for sickness there is an implicit warning against superstitious usages such as were practised by Jewish exorcists, and which from the remotest ages had been prevalent in Babylonia and other regions where the Jews were now settled. The Kouyunjik gallery of the British Museum contains many specimens of terra cotta tables (often bilingual, Accadian and Assyrian) containing ceremonies and incantations for the sick; some are against evil spirits, some for special diseases of the head or eyes.

ἀλείψαντες ἐλαίῳ. The remedial use of oil was very general in ancient times, and is still prevalent in many countries. See Isaiah 1:6 οὐκ ἔστιν μάλαγμα ἐπιθεῖναι οὔτε ἔλαιον οὔτε καταδέσμους, Mark 6:13 καὶ ἤλειφον ἐλαίῳ πολλοὺς ἀρρώστους καὶ ἐθεράπευον. Comp. also Luke 10:34. The aorist participle is sometimes as here used to express an action contemporaneous with the principal verb. See Monro, Hom. Gram. p. 48, § 77. The anointing was to be accompanied with prayer. The doctrine of extreme unction seems to have been based upon this passage. But as leading Roman Catholic theologians have themselves seen (see Beyschlag ad loc.), St James is not here speaking of those who are at the point of death, but of sick persons whose recovery is contemplated.

ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι. Comp. Acts 3:6 ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ τοῦ Ναζωραίου περιπάτει, and Acts 19:13, cited above.

Verse 15

15. εὐχὴ τῆς πίστεως. The prayer which is based upon faith, which proceeds from faith. Comp. Matthew 21:22 καὶ πάντα ὅσα ἂν αἰτήσητε ἐν τῇ προσευχῇ πιστεύοντες λήμψεσθε.

σώσει τὸν κάμνοντα. κάμνειν here and Hebrews 12:3 only in the sense of being sick. σώσει, here in the sense of physical recovery as in Matthew 9:22, Mark 5:23, and John 11:12. The difficulty that such means have not been and could not be always efficacious in the recovery of the sick is resolved by the consideration that prayer is always subject to the condition of deo volente. Such a prayer unanswered might well result in a higher σωτηρία than the recovery of bodily health.

ἐγερεῖ αὐτὸν ὁ κύριος. This also must refer to the raising from the bed of sickness—it is an expansion of σώσει. The unconditional promise is startling, but again ἐὰν ὁ κύριος θέλῃ is to be understood.

κἂν ἁμαρτίας ᾖ πεποιηκώς κ.τ.λ. The underlying thought here is that sin is the hindrance to recovery. For ἀφεθήσεται see Matthew 16:19; Matthew 18:18, and John 20:23 ἄν τινων ἀφῆτε τὰς ἁμαρτίας ἀφέωνται αὐτοῖς· ἄν τινων κράτητε κεκράτηνται.

For the analytic form ἦ πεποιηκώς see Winer III. xlv.

Verse 16

16. ἐξομολογεῖσθεὅπως ἰαθῆτε. It is disputed whether ἰαθῆτε be used of physical healing or in a figurative sense. The context certainly points rather to the first explanation. St James urges the practice (note the present imperatives) of mutual confession and intercessory prayer as appointed means of recovery from sickness.

πολὺ ἰσχύει κ.τ.λ. In its primary sense this clause is to be taken with the preceding words. Prayer of a righteous man is a strong force, an effective remedy in its working. ἐνεργουμένη, middle not passive, as the following examples seem to shew: 2 Corinthians 1:6 εἴτε παρακαλούμεθα, ὑπὲρ τῆς ὑμῶν παρακλήσεως τῆς ἐνεργουμένης ἐν ὑπομονῇ τῶν αὐτῶν παθημάτων ὦν καὶ ἡμεῖς πάσχομεν, James 4:12 ὁ θάνατος ἐν ἡμῖν ἐνεργεῖται, Ephesians 3:20 κατὰ τὴν δύναμιν τὴν ἐνεργουμένην ἐν ἡμῖν. See also Colossians 1:29, 1 Thessalonians 2:13, 2 Thessalonians 2:7.

The participle may indicate either (a) the cause, or (b) the time of the effectiveness of the prayer; that is (a) through its working, or (b) while it is working, is in activity.

As an instance of such effective prayer, which must have been often present to St James’ mind, see Acts 12:12, when St Peter, delivered from prison, came to the house of Mary, οὖ ἦσαν ἰκανοὶ συνηθροισμένοι καὶ προσευχόμενοι. See James 5:17 ἀπαγγείλατε Ἰακώβῳ καὶ τοῖς ἀδελφοῖς ταῦτα. St James’ own practice strikingly agreed with his words here: μόνος εἰσήρχετο εἰς τὸν ναόν, ηὑρίσκετό τε κείμενος ἐπὶ τοῖς γόνασι, καὶ αἰτούμενος ὑπὲρ τοῦ λαοῦ ἄφεσιν, ὡς ἀπεσκληκέναι τὰ γόνατα αὐτοῦ δίκην καμήλου, Hegesip. ap. Eus. H. E. II. 23.

The great physician, Sir Andrew Clark, two days before his death, said in answer to a question: “Not value prayers! Prayer is that which moves more than medicine; prayer is all powerful: it is the basis of love. Pray for me always.”

Verse 17

17. Ἡλίας. For the historical account see 1 Kings 17, 18. In those chapters, however, there is no mention made of the two prayers of Elijah; and the duration of the famine is there limited to less than three years, 1ki18:1. In Luke 4:25 the account agrees with this, marking the tradition followed by the family at Nazareth.

ὁμοιοπαθὴς ἡμῖν, of like passions with us, constituted as we are. Therefore we may expect the like result to prayer. For ὁμοιοπαθής see Acts 14:15; and Plato Tim. 45 c, where it is used synonymously with συμφυής.

προσευχῇ προσηύξατο. One of the few Hebraisms in this epistle. Comp. Luke 22:15 ἐπιθυμίᾳ ἐπεθύμησα, Acts 4:17 ἀπειλῇ ἀπειλησώμεθα, Matthew 15:4 θανάτῳ τελευτάτω, and also Plat. Sympos. 195 Β φεύγων φυγῇ τὸ γῆρας, Soph. Oed. R. 65 ὕπνῳ εὔδοντα. See also Sirach 48:1 ff. καὶ ἀνέστη Ἠλείας προφήτης ὡς πῦρ καὶ ὁ λόγος αὐτοῦ ὡς λαμπὰς ἐκαίετο.

τοῦ μὴ βρέξαι. The genitive of aim or object, here corresponding with the use of ἵνα after verbs of request or petition: as Matthew 14:36 παρεκάλουν αὐτὸν ἵνα μόνον ἅψωνται, and frequently. (a) For this final use of τοῦ with the infinitive, comp. Matthew 2:13 μέλλει γὰρ Ἡρώδης ζητεῖν τὸ παιδίον τοῦ ἀπολέσαι αὐτό, Luke 24:29 εἰσῆλθεν τοῦ μεῖναι σὺν αὐτοῖς. With this compare the use of the Latin gerund and gerundive, e.g. Marii miserunt Romam oratores pacis petendae, Liv. ix. 45 (Madvig, § 417 obs. 5).

(b) It also expresses result, e.g. Luke 24:16 οἱ ὀφθαλμοὶ αὐτῶν ἐκρατοῦντο τοῦ μὴ ἐπιγνῶναι αὐτόν. This usage is closely connected with the final use, for in Hebrew thought every result was regarded as purposed and predetermined. See note on Matthew 1:22 in this series.

(c) It is used regularly after words constructed with a genitive, as 1 Corinthians 16:4 ἐὰν ᾗ ἄξιον τοῦ κἀμὲ πορεύεσθαι.

(d) In some passages it appears [1] as the object of verbs where the accusative would be required in Classical Greek, as 1 Corinthians 2:2 οὐ γὰρ ἔκρινα τοῦ εἰδέναι τι ἐν ὑμῖν, or [2] as the subject of the verb, Acts 10:25 ὡς δὲ ἐγένετο τοῦ εἰσελθεῖν τὸν Πέτρον. In Psalms 106:23 (LXX.) there is an instance of a triple use of this infinitive: καὶ εἶπε τοῦ ἐξολοθρεῦσαι (objective) αὐτούς, εἰ μὴ ΄ωυσῆς ὁ ἐκλεκτὸς αὐτοῦ ἔστη ἐν τῇ θραύσει ἐνώπιον αὐτοῦ τοῦ ἀποστρέψαι (final) ἀπὸ θυμοῦ ὀργῆς αὐτοῦ, τοῦ μὴ ἐξολοθρεῦσαι (consecutive). These and similar expressions may indeed be explained as extensions of recognised genitival uses, but it is better to regard them as illustrating the gradual forgetfulness in language of the origin of idioms. In illustration of this comp. the use in French of the infinitive with de either as subject or object of a verb: e.g. il est triste de vous voir,—on craint d’y aller; the adoption of the (Latin) accusative in the same language as the sole representative of the Latin cases; sometimes the single case form which survives in a modern language is the genitive, e.g. Romaic ὁποῦ or ποῦ, ‘who.’ The extension of ἵνα (νά) with the subjunctive in Modern Greek to the various uses of the infinitive is another instance of this generalising tendency. This extended use of τοῦ with the infinitive, however, is not more remarkable than that the Greek infinitive, originally a dative expressing purpose, should come to be joined with a genitive of the article and so revert to its original meaning. “The Greek Infinitive is a survival from a period when the Dative of purpose or consequence was one of the ordinary constructions of the language,” Monro, Hom. Gram., § 242. See note on χαίρειν, James 1:1.

βρέξαι. In classics generally transitive. Very rare in this sense.

Verse 18

18. ἐβλάστησεν: in the other three passages of the N.T. where βλαστἀνω occurs, viz. Matthew 13:26, Mark 4:27, Hebrews 9:4, it bears an intransitive sense as usually in the classics.

Verse 19

19. ἀδελφοί μου introduces another and a last topic closely connected with prayer, namely Conversion.

τῆς ἀληθείας. The clause ἐάν τις ἐν ὑμῖν makes it clear that the truth spoken of is the Christian truth, the saving truth of the gospel, almost equivalent to ἡ πίστις. Comp. 1 Timothy 6:10 ῥίζα γὰρ πάντων τῶν κακῶν ἐστὶν ἡ φιλαργυρία, ἧς τινες ὀρεγόμενοι ἀπεπλανήθησαν ἀπὸ τῆς πίστεως, 21 ἀντιθέσεις τῆς ψευδωνύμου γνώσεως, ἥν τινες ἐπαγγελλόμενοι περὶ τὴν πίστιν ἠστόχησαν, 2 Timothy 2:18 οἵτινες περὶ τὴν ἀλήθειαν ἠστόχησαν, λέγοντες ἀνάστασιν ἤδη γεγονέναι, καὶ ἀνατρέπουσι τήν τινων πίστιν. Therefore the conversion spoken of here is not conversion from heathenism or Judaism, but from some perversion of the Christian truth or morality such as is indicated in the passages cited.

Verse 20

20. σώσει ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ ἐκ θανάτου, shall save his soul (i.e. the soul of the convert) from death.

καὶ καλύψει πλῆθος ἁμαρτιῶν. Comp. Proverbs 10:12 ‘love covereth all transgressions’ R. V., where καλύψει is a literal rendering of the Hebr. חְּכַםֶּה ‘cover’ in the sense of ‘forgive.’ The LXX. translation of the passage is incorrect, but it is accurately cited 1 Peter 4:8 ἀγάπη καλύπτει πλῆθος ἁμαρτιῶν. Comp. 1 Corinthians 13:7 (ἡ ἀγάπη) πάντα στέγει. The meaning here is, will cover the multitude of his convert’s sins, i.e. bring him through repentance within the range of divine forgiveness. The reference is undoubtedly to the passage in Proverbs, and ἀγάπη is virtually in thought the subject of καλύψει. Such an act as conversion is the highest act of ἀγάπη.

St James himself had this blessedness of converting many: ὅσοι δὲ καὶ ἐπίστευσαν, διὰ Ἰάκωβον. πολλῶν οὖν καὶ τῶν ἀρχόντων πιστευόντων, ἦν θόρυβος τῶν Ἰουδαίων καὶ γραμματέων καὶ Φαρισαίων λεγόντων ὅτι κινδυνεύει πᾶς ὁ λαὸς Ἰησοῦν τὸν χριστὸν προσδοκᾶν, Hegesip. ap. Eus. H. E. II. 23.

The abrupt termination of the Epistle may be accounted for by the character of the document. It may be regarded as a series of decisions on the duties, temptations and difficulties of the Christian life suggested by actual facts which had been brought to the Apostle’s notice; hence it takes the form of a charge or message to the Churches rather than that of an epistle in the ordinary sense of the word. The message ended, the conclusion comes without the usual epistolary greetings.


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Bibliography Information
"Commentary on James 5:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.

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