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Bible Commentaries

The Expositor's Greek Testament
James 5

 

 

Verse 1

James 5:1. ἄγε νῦν: See above James 4:13.— κλαύσατε ὀλολύζοντες ἐπὶ ταῖς ταλαιπωρίαις ὑμῶν ταῖς ἐπερχομέναις: according to the original prophetic conception these “miseries” which were to overtake the wicked, were to come to pass in the “Day of the Lord,” i.e., during the Messianic Era; this belief became extended during the development of ideas which took place during the two centuries preceding the Christian Era. Whatever the reasons were which brought about the belief, it is certain that the expression “those days” came to be applied to a certain period which was immediately to precede the coming of the Messiah; without doubt a number of prophetical passages were regarded as suggesting this (see below). The descriptions given of these “days,” which are to foretell the advent of the Messiah, belong to apocalyptic conceptions; in their general outline the “signs” of these times are identical. Prophetical passages such as the following laid the foundation: “The iniquity of Ephraim is bound up; his sin is laid up in store. The sorrows of a travailing woman shall come upon him …”; then, on the other hand, “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death …” (Hosea 13:12-14); again. “… The day of thy watchmen, even thy visitation, is come; now shall be their perplexity. Trust ye not in a friend, put ye not confidence in a guide … for the son dishonoureth the father, the daughter riseth up against her mother … a man’s enemies are the men of his own house” (Micah 7:4-6); another characteristic which played a great part in the later apocalypse is contained in Joel 2:10 ff., “the earth quaketh before them; the heavens tremble; the sun and the moon are darkened, and the stars withdraw their shining.… Cf. Zechariah 14:6 ff.; Daniel 12:1, etc., etc. Throughout the immense domain of apocalyptic literature these themes are developed to an enormous extent; they are familiar to us from the Gospels, Matthew 24, 25; Mark 13:14-27; Luke 21:9-19. In Jewish literature references to them also occur with frequency; this period is called the time of “travail,” and more specifically, the “birth-pangs,” or “sufferings” of the Messiah—Cheble ha-Meshiach, or Cheblo shel Mashiach, see Pesikta rab., xxi. 34; Shabbath, 118a; Sanhedrin, 96b, 97a, etc., etc. See further Oesterley, The Doctrine of the Last Things, chap. 7. The great diffusion and immense popularity which the apocalyptic literature enjoyed makes it certain that the writer of our Epistle was familiar with the subject; the “miseries,” therefore, referred to in the passage before us may quite possibly have reference to the sufferings which were to take place in the time of travail preceding the actual coming of the Messiah.— ὀλολύζοντες: only here in the N.T., but fairly frequent in the Septuagint, Isaiah 13:6; Joel 1:5; Joel 1:13; Jeremiah 4:8, etc.; in the first of these passages the connection is the same as here, … ἐγγὺς γὰρ ἡμέρα κυρίου, and see Luke 6:24, “Woe unto you rich …,” which is strongly reminiscent of the verse before us.


Verse 2

James 5:2. The use of the Hebraic prophetic perfects in this passage is another mark of Jewish authorship. πλοῦτος ὑμῶν: this cannot refer to wealth in the abstract because this would be out of harmony with the rest of the verse which speaks of literal destruction; we have here precisely the same idea, as to actual destruction, as that which occurs in the eschatological passage Enoch, xcviii. 1 ff., where in reference to foolish men “in royalty, and in grandeur, and in power, and in silver and in gold, and in purple …,” it says that “they will perish thereby together with their possessions and with all their glory and their splendour”.— σέσηπεν: ἅπ. λεγ. in N.T., cf. Sirach 14:19, πᾶν ἔργον σηπόμε. νον ἐκλείπει.— σητόβρωτα: ἅπ. λεγ· in N.T., cf. Job 13:28, παλαιοῦται ὥσπερ ἱμάτιον σητόβρωτον; Sirach 42:13, ἀπὸ γὰρ ἱματίων ἐκπορεύεται σής. For the form of the word cf. σκωληκόβρωτος in Acts 12:23.


Verse 3

James 5:3. κατίωται: in Sirach 12:11 we have καὶ γνώσῃ ὅτι οὐκ εἰς τέλος κατίωσεν in reference to a mirror; the Hebrew, which is followed by the Syriac, is corrupt, but evidently read חלאה, which is the same word used in the preceding verse ( ἰοῦται); the Hebrew word may perhaps be used in the sense of “filth” (see Oxford Hebrew Lexicon, s.v.), and possibly this more general term is what was originally intended in the verse before us, since gold cannot strictly be said to rust. The word occurs in one other passage viz., in Sirach 29:10, but unfortunately the Hebrew for this is wanting. The force of the κατα is intensive.— ἰὸς: used in James 3:8 of the poison of the tongue, in a figurative sense; the meaning “rust” is secondary.— εἰς μαρτύριον ὑμῖν ἔσται: this metaphor is quite in the Hebrew style; עד (= μαρτύριον), though generally used of persons, is in a fair number of instances used of inanimate things in the O.T.; cf. in the N.T. Mark 6:11; Luke 9:5.— φάγεται: a Hellenistic form, unclassical, cf. Sirach 33:23 (Sept.) πᾶν βρῶμα φάγεται κοιλία, cf. Sirach 11:19, Sirach 45:21 (Sept.).— τὰς σάρκας ὑμῶν: “The plural σάρκες is used for the fleshy parts of the body both in classical and later writers … while the singular σάρξ is used for the whole body” (Mayor); in the Septuagint we meet with a similar phrase in a number of cases, e.g., Micah 3:3.… κατέφαγον τὰς σάρκας τοῦ λαοῦ μου; 2 Kings 9:36; in these and other instances the Hebrew בשׂר (= σάρξ) is always in the singular (unlike “blood,” which is often used in the plural).— ὡς πῦρ: this comparison must probably have been suggested by the fact that fire, in a literal sense, often figures in apocalyptic pictures, cf., e.g., Enoch, cii. 1, “And in those days when He brings a grievous fire upon you, whither will ye flee, and where will ye find deliverance?” xcvii. 3, where mention is made of “the furnace of fire,” x. 13, “the abyss of fire”; this idea arose originally because “Gehenna” was conceived of as the place of torment, and a fire in the literal sense was constantly burning in the valley of Hinnom; the fire in the place of torment is referred to in Matthew 25:41 τὸ πῦρ τὸ αἰώνιον, Mark 9:44 ὅπου σκώληξ αὐτῶν οὐ τελευτᾷ καὶ τὸ πῦρ οὐ σβέννυται, Judges 1:7 πυρὸς αἰωνίου … See Carr’s interesting note on ὡς πῦρ. ἐθησαυρίσατε.— ἐν ἐσχάταις ἡμέραις: see prefatory note to this chapter.


Verse 4

James 5:4. ἰδοὺ: this interjection, though good Attic, is used by some N.T. writers with a frequency which is unclassical, (Mayor) e.g., in this short Epistle it occurs six times, while on the other hand St. Paul uses it only nine times (once in a quotation) in the whole of his writings; its frequent occurrence is a mark of Jewish authorship, as Jews were accustomed to the constant use of an equivalent interjection ( הנה) in their own tongue.— μισθὸς τῶν ἐργατῶν: μισθός occurs several times in Sir. in the sense of reward, but not in that of wages due; in the same book ἐργάτης occurs twice (Sirach 19:1, Sirach 40:18), but in neither case with the meaning “agricultural labourer,” which is its usual meaning in the N.T., cf. Matthew 9:37, but on the other hand Luke 10:7, ἄξιος ἐργάτης τοῦ μισθοῦ αὐτοῦ.— τῶν ἀμησάντων: ἅπ. λεγ. in N.T.; whatever difference of meaning there may have been originally between ἀμᾶν and θερίζειν they are used as synonyms in the Septuagint, and the same is true, according to Mayor, of classical Greek.— τὰς χώρας ὑμῶν: often, as here, used in the restricted sense of “fields,” cf. for the variety of meaning which it can bear the three instances of its occurrence in Sirach 10:16; Sirach 43:3; Sirach 47:17; for its meaning of “fields,” both in singular and plural, see Luke 12:16; Luke 21:21; John 4:35.— ἀφυστερημένος ἀφʼ ὑμῶν: “which is kept back by you,” “on your part,” or as Mayor renders as an alternative, “comes too late from you”; the ἀφʼ ὑμῶν is not really required, it is omitted by ff. The withholding of wages due was evidently a sin of frequent occurrence, see Leviticus 19:13; Deuteronomy 24:14-15; Job 24:10; Micah 3:10; Jeremiah 22:13; Proverbs 3:27-28; Malachi 3:5; Sirach 31 (34):22; Tobit 4:14.— ἀφυστ. only here in N.T.— κράζει: a thoroughly Hebraic idea which occurs several times in the O.T., cf. for the “crying out” of inanimate things, Genesis 4:10; Job 24:12; Psalms 84:2; Proverbs 8:1; Lamentations 2:18; Habakkuk 2:11.— αἱ βοαὶ: only here in N.T., cf. Exodus 2:23.— εἰς τὰ ὦτα κυρίου σαβαώθ: quoted from Isaiah 5:9; one of the many marks in this section, James 5:1-6, which suggest that it did not originally belong to the N.T.; it is certainly extraordinary that the usual Septuagint rendering, κύριος παντοκράτωρ or κύριος τῶν δυνάμεων, is not used here; though it is true σαβαώθ is sometimes transliterated, it is nevertheless exceptional. “Jahwe Sabaoth” was the ancient Israelite name of Jehovah as war-god.


Verse 5

James 5:5. ἐτρυφήσατε: ἅπ. λεγ. in N.T.; it occurs in Sirach 14:4 for the Hebrew בוע,(59) which means “to revel,” followed by ב. Luther translates: Ihr habt wohlgelebet, “Ye have lived well”; but the German word “schwelgen” so exactly describes the Greek that one wonders why he did not adopt it; the English “to revel” comes nearest to it, and this is the R.V. rendering of the word in the Sir. passage referred to. τρυφᾶν with its compounds is used in a good as well as in a bad sense; for the former see Psalms 37:4; Psalms 37:11; Isaiah 55:2; Isaiah 66:11; Nehemiah 9:25.— ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς: the contrast is between their enjoyment of the good things of the earth and what their lot is to be hereafter; cf. Luke 16:25, “Remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted, and thou art in anguish”.— ἐσπαταλήσατε: only elsewhere in N.T. in 1 Timothy 5:6; it occurs in Ezekiel 16:49 of the women of Jerusalem who are compared to those of Sodom; see also Sirach 21:15; the compound κατασπ. occurs in Amos 6:4; Proverbs 29:21; neither the word itself nor its compound is used in a good sense, expressing as it does the living of a life of wanton self-indulgence.— ἐθρέψατε τὰς καρδίας ὑμῶν: this use of καρδία is thoroughly Hebraic, לב being used in a very wide sense in Hebrew, cf. Psalms 104:15, “… and bread that strengtheneth man’s heart” ( לבב which does not differ from לב in meaning), cf. Judges 19:5.— ἐν ἡμέρᾳ σφαγῆς: there is something extremely significant in this quotation from Jeremiah 12:3, because Jeremiah uses this expression ( יום הרגה) as the day of judgment; and not only so, but this prophet had also coined a new word for Gehenna, viz., “Geharêgah” = “the valley of slaughter” (Jeremiah 7:32; Jeremiah 19:6). These expressions—“day of slaughter” and “valley of slaughter”—belong to Jeremiah (Enoch, xvi. 1 quotes the expression καὶ ἀπὸ ἡμέρας καιροῦ σφαγῆς), and in using the words “day of slaughter” the writer of our Epistle is undoubtedly giving them the meaning that they had originally; the passage before us probably means that these luxurious livers will be revelling in self-indulgence on the very day of judgment, cf. our Lord’s words in Luke 17:27 ff., “They ate, they drank … and the flood came and destroyed them all … after the same manner shall it be in the day that the Son of man is revealed”. The tense ἐθρέψατε is in accordance with Hebrew usage of regarding a thing in the future as having already taken place; it is wholly in the prophetic style.


Verse 6

James 5:6. κατεδικάσατε, ἐφονεύσατε τὸν δίκαιον: this expresses what must often have taken place; the prophetical books often refer to like things; there is no reason for regarding this as some specific case of judicial murder. Cf. Amos 2:6-7; Amos 5:12; Wisdom of Solomon 2:10 ff. The antithesis between the צדיק (“righteous”) and רשׁע (“wicked”) is a commonplace in Jewish theology.— οὐκ ἀντιτάσσεται ὑμῖν: the statement of fact here, instead of the interrogative as read by some authorities, is more natural, and more in accordance with the prophetical style which is so characteristic of this whole passage. This picture of patient acquiescence in ill-treatment is really a very vivid touch, for it shows, on the one hand, that the down-trodden realised the futility of resistance; on the other, that their hopes were centred on the time to come.

With the whole of this section cf. the words in The first book of Clement, which is called The Testament of our Lord Jesus Christ, 12: “The harvest is come, that the guilty may be reaped and the Judge appear suddenly and confront them with their works”.


Verse 7

James 5:7. ΄ακροθυμήσατε οὖν: the verb, as well as the adjective, is used both of God and man, e.g., Romans 2:4; 2 Corinthians 6:6; it expresses the attitude of mind which is content to wait; when used of God it refers to His long-suffering towards men (e.g., Sirach 18:11); it is possible that in the present connection this is also implied in view of James 5:9.—Perhaps οὖν was added in order to join it on to the preceding section; it is omitted by the OL MS. s.— ἕως τῆς παρουσίας τοῦ κυρίου: see above, introductory words to this section. παρουσία does not occur in the Septuagint, being (with τοῦ κυρίον) specifically Christian; but with τοῦ θεοῦ, instead of τοῦ κυρίου, it occurs in Test. of the Twelve Patriarchs, Jud. xxii. 2, ἕως παρουσίας τοῦ θεοῦ τῆς δικαιοσύνης (the words are omitted in the Armenian Version).— γεωργός: Cf. Sirach 6:18; Test. of the Twelve Patriarchs, Issach. James 5:3 ff.— καρπόν: used in the sense of “produce of the soil”.— ἕως λάβῃ: the context shows that the subject must be “the earth,” not “the fruit,” for the simple reason that the fruit is not in existence when the “former” rains descend; the great importance of the “former” rains (called both יורה and מורה) was that they moistened the earth (commencing about the month of October) after it had been hardened by the blazing summer sun, and thus enabled it to receive the seed; without the “former” rains to moisten the earth one might as well sow seed on rocks. The subject might possibly be “the husbandman” as he may be said in a certain sense to receive the rain, but the most obvious subject, and that upon which the meaning of the verse most naturally depends, is the earth.— πρόϊμον καὶ ὄψιμον: Cf. Deuteronomy 11:14, and often, יורה ומלקושׁ.


Verses 7-11

James 5:7-11. The section 7–11 is a Christian adaptation of the earlier Jewish conception of the Messianic Era; in place of αἱ ἐσχάται ἡμέραι there is παρουσία τοῦ κυρίου, the one a specifically Jewish, the other a specifically Christian expression; the two expressions, which represent, as it were, the titles of Jewish and Christian Eschatology respectively, are sufficient to show the difference of venue regarding these two sections. It is characteristic of one type of apocalyptic literature that the central figure of the Messiah is not mentioned, while another type lays great emphasis on the Messianic Personality; James 5:1-6 represents the former of these; that it contains no trace of Christian interpolation is the more remarkable in that it is utilised by a Jewish-Christian writer and is incorporated in Christian literature. The fact is additional evidence in favour of its being a quotation,—one of several which our Epistle contains. It is christianised by the addition to it of James 5:7-11, which, though interspersed with O.T. reminiscences, is specifically Christian. A similar christianising of Jewish material by adding to it is found, though on a much smaller scale, in Revelation 22:20, ἀμήν ἔρχου κύριε ἰησοῦ, which forms a response to the preceding ναί, ἔρχομαι ταχύ. Dr. Schiller-Szinessy (in Encycl. Brit., art. “Midrash”) discovered that the Hebrew equivalent of the words ἀμήν ἔρχου (= אמן בא) indicated acrostically a primitive hymn, which still appears in all the Jewish prayer books, and is known from its opening words as En Kelohenu (“There is none like our God”; see Singer’s The Authorised Daily Prayer Book, p. 167). This hymn consists of five verses of four lines each; the first word of each line in the first verse begins with (60), of the second verse with מ, of the third with נ, of the fourth with ב, and of the fifth with (61), thus making a four-fold repetition of the formula אמן בא (= “Amen, Come”). This formula is the short title of the hymn referred to and “is actually written instead of the hymn in the place where it is to be used after the Additional Service for the New Year, and again towards the conclusion of the additional service for the eighth day of Solemn Assembly …, at the end of the Feast of Tabernacles” (Taylor, The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, pp. 78 ff., and see Box in Church and Synagogue, iii., pp. 41 ff.). The formula “Amen Bo” belonged to Jewish Eschatology, and possibly took its origin from the phrase עולם הבא (= “The age to come,” a common expression for the Messianic Era); it is christianised by the Jewish-Christian writer in the Apocalypse by the addition of κύριε ἰησοῦ, just as in the passage before us the second, obviously Christian, section James 5:7-11, is added on to the former, quite as obviously Jewish, in order to make the whole Christian.


Verse 8

James 5:8. στηρίξατε τὰς καρδίας: a Hebrew idiom, סעד לב; in the O.T. mostly of strengthening the body with food.— παρουσία τοῦ κυρίου ἤγγικεν: see above; cf. Matthew 3:2; Luke 21:28; Philippians 4:6; 1 Peter 4:7; 1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 4:15; 1 John 1:18.


Verse 9

James 5:9. μὴ στενάζετε: “A strengthened expression for μὴ καταλαλεῖτε James 4:11” (Carr); it refers to the inward feeling of grudge against another. The word shows that it is not only the righteous who are addressed in this section.— κριτὴς πρὸ τῶν θυρῶν ἕστηκεν: Cf. Revelation 3:20. For the idea of the Judge standing at the door see Matthew 24:33, … γινώσκετε ὅτι ἐγγύς ἐστιν ἐπὶ θύραις, Matthew 25:10 ff. (the parable of the Ten Virgins). In its origin the idea is antique; cf. the following from the Mishna (Ab. iv. 16): “This world is as if it were a vestibule to the future world; prepare thyself in the vestibule, that thou mayest enter the reception-room”; this saying is one of Jacob of Korsha’s who lived in the second century A.D.— ἕστηκεν: for the tense see above.


Verse 10

James 5:10. ὑπόδειγμα: Cf. Sirach 44:16 and especially John 13:15, ὑπόδ. ἔδωκα ὑμῖν … of our Lord.— τῆς κακοπαθείας: ἅπ. λεγ. in N.T. cf. 4 Maccabees 9:8. It means “endurance” rather than the R.V. “suffering”; this goes better with μακροθυμίας, “patience”. The rendering “endurance” has support from the papyri, see Deissmann, Neue Bibelst., pp. 91 f.— ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι: although this use of the phrase is paralleled by its use in the papyri (see Deissmann, Bibelst., pp. 143–5: Neue Bibelst., pp. 25, 26), it is more probable that in this case it comes through the Septuagint from the Hebrew בשׁם; cf. above James 2:7.


Verse 11

James 5:11. μακαρίζομεν: Cf. 4 Maccabees 18:13, used in reference to Daniel.— ἰώβ: Job occupies a high place of honour in post-biblical Jewish literature, cf. the pseudepigraphic work “The Testament of Job”.— τὸ τέλος κυρίου: the final purpose of Jehovah with regard to Job; it could not refer to Christ, for the whole passage is dealing with O.T. examples.— πολύσπλαγχνος: ἅπ. λεγ. in N.T.— οἰκτίρμων: only elsewhere in N.T. in Luke 6:36; cf. Sirach 2:11 and often in the Septuagint.


Verse 12

James 5:12. f1πρὸ πάντων …: The most natural way of understanding these words would be to take them in connection with something that immediately preceded, but as there is not the remotest connection between this verse and the section that has gone just before, this is impossible here; the verse must be regarded as the fragment of some larger piece; it is not the only instance in this Epistle of a quotation which has been incorporated, only in this case the fragmentary character is more than usually evident. That it is not a quotation from the Gospel, as we now have it (Matthew 5:33-37), must be obvious, for if it were this, it would unquestionably approximate more closely to the original; on the other hand, its general similarity to the Gospel passage proves that there must be a relationship of some kind between the two. Probably both trace their origin to a saying of our Lord’s which became modified in transmission, assuming various forms while retaining the essential point. An example of a similar kind can be seen by comparing together Matthew 10:26; Luke 8:17 and the fourth of the New Oxyrhynchus Sayings: λέγει ἰησοῦς πᾶν τὸ μὴ ἔμπροσθεν τῆς ὄψεώς σου καὶ τὸ κεκρυμμένον ἀπὸ σοῦ ἀποκαλυφθήσεται. οὐ γάρ ἐστιν κρυπτὸν οὐ φανερὸν γενήσεται καὶ τεθαμμένον οὐκ ἐγερθήσεται (Grenfell and Hunt’s restoration). In any case the verse before us must originally have been preceded by a context which contained various precepts of which this was regarded as the most important, on account of the words πρὸ πάντων.— μὴ ὀμνύετε …: this was a precept enjoined by many of the more devout Jews; Pharisees avoided oaths as much as possible, the Essenes never swore; a very good pre-Christian example of the same precept is contained in Sirach 23:9-11, ὅρκῳ μὴ ἐθίσῃς τὸ στόμα σου, καὶ ὀνομασίᾳ τοῦ ἁγίου μὴ συνεθισθῇςἀνὴρ πολύορκος πλησθήσεται ἀνομίας …— ἤτω: Cf. 1 Corinthians 16:22, the only other occurrence of this form in the N.T.


Verse 13

James 5:13. κακοπαθεῖ: See note on James 5:10; it refers perhaps rather to mental worry or distress, while ἀσθενεῖ refers to some specific bodily ailment.— εὐθυμεῖ: only found elsewhere in Acts 27:22; Acts 27:25 in the N.T.— ψαλλέτω: refers both to playing on a stringed instrument (Sirach 9:4) and to singing (Ephesians 5:19), and is also used of singing with the spirit (1 Corinthians 14:15).


Verse 14

James 5:14. ἀσθενεῖπροσκαλεσάσθω, etc.: Cf. Sirach 38:14, καὶ γὰρ αὐτοὶ κυρίου δεηθήσονται, ἵνα εὐοδώσῃ αὐτοῖς ἀνάπαυσιν καὶ ἴασιν χάριν ἐμβιώσεως. In regard to the practice of primitive Christianity in the matter of caring for the sick Harnack says: “Even from the fragments of our extant literature, although that literature was not written with any such intention, we can still recognise the careful attention paid to works of mercy. At the outset we meet with directions everywhere to care for sick people, 1 Thessalonians 5:14.… In the prayer of the Church, preserved in the first epistle of Clement, supplications are expressly offered for those who are sick in soul and body (1 Clem. 59, τοὺς ἀσθενεῖς ἴασαιἐξανάστησον τοὺς ἀσθενοῦντας, παρακάλεσον τοὺς ὀλιγοψυχοῦντας).… Epistle of Polycarp, 6:1; Justin Martyr, lxvii.…”; he also quotes Lactantius, Div. Inst., vi. 12: “Aegros quoque quibus defuerit qui adsistat, curandos fovendosque suscipere summae humanitatis et magnae operationis est” (Expansion … i. 147 f. first English ed.). A like care was characteristic of the Rabbis, who declared it to be a duty incumbent upon every Jew to visit and relieve the sick whether they were Jews or Gentiles (Git., 61 a, Soṭah, 14 a); “the Ḥaberim, or Ḥasidic associations, made the performance of this duty a special obligation” (Jewish Encycl., xi. 327).— τοὺς πρεσβυτέρους τῆς ἐκκλησίας: both the words “presbyters” (= “priest”) and “ecclesia” were taken over from the Jews, being the Greek equivalents for זקנים and קהל. While, however, the word πρεσβύτερος was, without question, in the Christian Church taken over from the זקן in the Jewish Church, it is well to recall the extended use which attached to it according to the evidence of the papyri. The phrase πρεσβύτερος τῆς κώμης occurs on a papyrus belonging to the time of the Ptolemies, and is evidently an official title of some kind; οἱ πρεσβύτεροι is found together with ἱερεῖς of an idolatrous worship (100:40 B.C.); and in the second century A.D. οἱ πρεσβύτεροι occurs in reference to “elders” of villages in Egypt. The Septuagint translators were therefore probably using in this case a word which had a well-known technical sense. Deissmann believes it possible, therefore, that the Christian congregations of Asia Minor got the title of πρεσβύτερος from the minor officials who were so called, and not necessarily from the Jewish prototype (Op. cit., pp. 153 f.). This might well be the case in various centres, though not all (as for example, Babylonia), of the Diaspora, but not in Palestine. It is, of course, an open question as to whether our Epistle was written from Palestine or not; see, further, Deissmann (Neue Bibelst. pp. 60 ff.). As regards ἐκκλησία, Harnack remarks that “originally it was beyond question a collective term (i.e., קהל); it was the most solemn expression of the Jews for their worship as a collective body, and as such it was taken over by the Christians. But ere long it was applied to the individual communities, and then again to the general meeting for worship.… Its acquisition rendered the capture of the term ‘synagogue’ a superfluity, and once the inner cleavage had taken place, the very neglect of the latter title served to distinguish Christians sharply from Judaism and its religious gatherings even in terminology.… Most important of all, however, was the fact that ἐκκλησία was conceived of, in the first instance, not simply as an earthly but as a heavenly and transcendental entity” (op. cit., pp. 11 ff.); “ קהל (usually rendered ἐκκλησία in LXX) denotes the community in relation to God, and consequently is more sacred than the profaner עדה (regularly translated by συναγωγή in the LXX).… Among the Jews ἐκκλησία lagged far behind συναγωγή in practical use, and this was all in favour of the Christians and their adoption of the term” (ibid.). In the verse before us it is the combination of these two terms, οἱ πρεσβύτεροι τῆς ἐκκλησίας which points to a developed organisation among the communities of the Diaspora, and therefore to a late date for this part of the Epistle.— ἀλείψαντες ἐλαίῳ: a common Jewish usage, see Isaiah 1:6; Mark 6:13; Luke 10:34. As oil was believed to have the effect of curing bodily sickness, so it became customary to use it preparatory to Baptism, possibly with the idea of its healing, sacramentally, the disease of sin; that it was joined to Baptism as an integral part of the sacrament is certain. Prayer was, of course, an indispensable accompaniment.— ἐν ὀνόματι …: Cf. Mark 16:17; Luke 10:17; Acts 3:6; Acts 3:16; Acts 4:10; Acts 16:18; and on the formula, the note above, James 2:17.


Verse 15

James 5:15. εὐχὴ τῆς πίστεως: Cf. Matthew 21:22.— σώσει: for this sense cf. Matthew 9:22; Mark 5:23; John 11:12.— κάμνοντα: in this sense only here in the N.T., though it is used in a somewhat similar sense in Hebrews 12:3.— ἐγερεῖ: it seems most natural to take this as referring to the sick man being raised up from his bed of sickness, though the use of κάμνειν in Hebrews 12:3 suggests the possibility of spiritual comfort being also included.— κύριος: this must probably refer to Christ, though the O.T. reference in the context would justify the contention that Jahwe is meant.— κἂν. Cf. Mark 16:18; Luke 13:9, as showing that this does not necessarily mean “even if”.— ἁμαρτίας πεποιηκώς ἀφεθήσεται αὐτῷ: Cf. Sirach 38:9-10, τέκνον, ἐν ἀρρωστήματί σου μὴ παράβλεπε, ἀλλʼ εὖξαι κυρίῳ, καὶ αὐτὸς ἰάσεταί σε· ἀπόστησον πλημμελίαν καὶ εὔθυνον χεῖρας, καὶ ἀπὸ πάσης ἁμαρτίας καθάρισον καρδίαν; The Jewish belief on this subject may be illustrated by the following: in Test. of the Twelve Patriarchs, Simeon, James 2:11 ff., because Simeon continued wrathful against Reuben, he says, “But the Lord restrained me, and withheld from me the power of my hands; for my right hand was half withered for seven days”; in Gad. James 5:9 ff. the patriarch confesses that owing to his hatred against Joseph God brought upon him a disease of the liver, “and had not the prayers of Jacob my father succoured me, it had hardly failed but my spirit had departed”. That sin brings disease was, likewise in the later Jewish literature, an article of faith, indeed here one finds specified what are the particular sicknesses that particular sins bring in their train. According to Rabbinical teaching there are four signs by means of which it is possible to recognise the sin of which a man has been guilty: dropsy is the sign that the sin of fornication has been committed, jaundice that of unquenchable hatred, poverty and humiliation that of pride, liver complaint (?) ( אסכרה) that of back-biting. In Shabbath, 55 a, it says: “No death without sin, no chastisement without evil-doing,” and in Nedarim, 41 a it says: “No recovery without forgiveness”. Leprosy may be due to one of eleven sins, but most probably to that of an evil tongue (see Weber, Jüdische Theologie, pp. 245 f.).


Verse 16

James 5:16. ἐξομολογεῖσθεἁμαρτίας: see critical note above. Confession of sins has always played an important part in Judaism; the O.T. word for confession of sins is תודה,(62) the later term, which denotes more particularly the liturgical form of confession, is וידוִי. Private as well as public confession was enjoined, and many forms of confession, both general and particular, exist, among others one for the sick; it was the duty of the Rabbis to urge the sick person to confess his sins. Confession is regarded as a meritorious act: according to Sanhedrin, 103 a, it has the effect of enabling the worst sinners to inherit everlasting life (see, among other authorities, Hamburger’s Realencycl. des Judent, article “Sündenbekenntniss”.). For the custom of the early Church cf. Didache, iv. 14, xiv. 1.— προσεύχεσθε ὑπὲρ ἀλλήλων: the need of intercessory prayer is strongly emphasised in O.T., N.T. and the later Jewish literature, see above and the next note.— πολὺ ἰσχύει δέησις δικαίου ἐνεργουμένη: one is reminded of the well-known instance of Rabbi Johanan ben Zakkai (end of first century, A.D.) who, when in need of the prayers of a righteous man on behalf of his sick child, said, “Although I am greater in learning than Chaninah, he is more efficacious in prayer; I am, indeed, the Prince, but he is the steward who has constant access to the King” (Berachoth, 34 b). A curious saying of Rabbi Isaac is contained in Jebamoth, 64 a: “The prayer of the righteous is comparable to a pitchfork; as the pitchfork changes the position of the wheat so the prayer changes the disposition of God from wrath to mercy” (quoted in Jewish Encycl., x. 169). With δικαίου cf. δίκαιον in James 5:6. On ἐνεργουμένη see Mayor’s elaborate note.


Verse 17

James 5:17. ἡλείας: Elijah plays an immense part in the later Jewish literature, see Hamburger, op. cit., article “Elias”. With his mention here cf. Sirach 48:1 ff.— προσευχῇ προσηύξατο: Hebraism cf. Luke 22:15; John 3:29, etc., etc.


Verse 18

James 5:18. With this and the preceding verse cf. Ta‘anith, 24 b, where we are told of how Rabbi Chaninah, on being caught in a shower of rain, prayed: “Master of the Universe, the whole world is pleased, while Chaninah alone is annoyed”; then the rain immediately ceased. On arriving home he prayed: “Master of the Universe, shall all the world be grieved while Chaninah enjoys his comfort?” Whereupon the rain came down again (see Jewish Encycl., vi. 215).


Verse 19

James 5:19. πλανηθῇ: “The passive aorist is used with a middle force in classical writers, as well as in the LXX, Deuteronomy 32:1; Psalms 119:176; Ezekiel 34:4” (Mayor).— ἀπὸ τῆς ἀληθείας: Cf. Mark 12:14, … ἐπʼ ἀληθείας τὴν ὁδὸν τοῦ θεοῦ διδάσκεις, this seems to be the way in which ἀληθεία is here used, cf. John 3:21; John 5:33; John 8:32.— ἐπιστρέψῃ: excepting here (and in the next verse) and Luke 1:16-17 this word is always used intransitively in the N.T. (cf. however Acts 26:18).


Verse 20

James 5:20. γινώσκετε: taking this as an indicative one may regard the words that follow as a quotation, a course which commends itself owing to the comparatively large number of quotations with which the Epistle abounds; at the same time it must be remembered that the weight of MS. evidence is in favour of γινωσκέτε.— καλύψει … (Hebrew כפר) cf. 1 Peter 4:8, one of the strongest of the many marks of Jewish authorship which the Epistle contains; according to Jewish doctrine good works balance evil ones; the good work of converting a sinner is reckoned here as one of the most efficacious in obliterating evil deeds; on the whole subject see Introduction IV., § 2.

 


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Bibliography Information
Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on James 5:4". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/egt/james-5.html. 1897-1910.

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Sunday, December 15th, 2019
the Third Week of Advent
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