From:  Over 50 Interpreters Explain the Book of James                Return to Home 

By Roland H. Worth, Jr.  © 2017



List of All Sources Quoted At End of File










5:1                                                       Translations

Weymouth:     Come, you rich men, weep aloud and howl for your sorrows which will soon be upon you.

WEB:              Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming on you.

Young’s:         Go, now, ye rich! weep, howling over your miseries that are coming upon you.

Conte (RC):    Act now, you who are wealthy! Weep and wail in your miseries, which will soon come upon you!


5:1                   Go to now [Come now, NKJV].  The words are nearly the same as those we have met with before in James 4:9, but there is in them less of the call to repentance, and more of the ring of prophetic denunciation.  [38]

                        ye rich men.  As to riches two questions should be asked:  How are they secured?  How are they used?  The persons whom James condemned [were] Christians, or, more probably, unconverted Jews; beyond doubt they belonged to a class with which we are all familiar to-day.  They had amassed their wealth by fraud and cruelty; they were spending it in selfish luxury.  [7]

The apostle does not speak this so much for the sake of the rich themselves, as of the poor children of God, who were then groaning under their cruel oppression.  [15, 47]

weep and howl.  Literally, ‘weep, howling over your miseries.’  [51]

The word for “howl,” not found elsewhere in the New Testament, is found in three consecutive chapters of Isaiah (13:6, 14:31, 15:3), which may well have been present to St James’ thoughts.  [38]

We must bear in mind that Orientals are extremely demonstrative in the expression of emotion.  [45]

for your miseries that shall come upon you.  That this prediction was exactly fulfilled by the slaughter and spoiling of the rich Jews throughout Galilee and Judea [in the Jewish Revolt], Josephus will not suffer us to doubt:  for he informs us, that “the zealots spared none but those who were poor and low in fortune;” and that they were so insatiably rapacious, that they searched all the houses of the rich, killing the men, and abusing the women.  [4]

These miseries in the Jewish war fell heavily upon the rich.  They as a class belonged to the moderate party, who, having much to lose, wished to avoid a war with the Romans, and therefore were especially persecuted by the Jewish zealots, who became the ruling party.  [51]


In depth:  The twin issues of who the following section is addressed to and whether it includes an implicit call to repentance [51].  Whoever may be the persons referred to in the preceding paragraph, we consider that the rich who are here addressed were unbelieving and wicked men not belonging to the Christian community.  Some indeed consider that they are rich Christians (so Erdmann); but the crime charged upon them of condemning and killing the just cannot be applicable to believers.

Hence, Stier correctly remarks:  ‘The rich men, whom St. James must here meant, are those already mentioned in James 2:6-7:  those who practiced violence on the disciples of Christ, the confessors of the Lord of glory, and blasphemed that good name by which they were called.  To them St. James predicts, as a prophet and in the style of the old prophets, the impending judgment to which Jerusalem was doomed, the desolation of the land, and all the misery which he, like the Lord Himself, speaks of as His coming to judgment and salvation.’

It has also been disputed whether we have here a pure and unmixed denunciation of evil, or a call to repentance.  Certainly there is in the words no invitation to repentance, but a mere declaration of vengeance.  ‘They are mistaken,’ observes Calvin, ‘who consider that St. James here exhorts the rich to repentance.  It seems to be a simple denunciation of God’s judgment, by which he meant to terrify them, without giving them any hope of pardon, for all that he says tends only to despair.’  But this must not be too absolutely assumed, for we learn in the case of Nineveh that all God’s denunciations are likewise exhortations to repentance.  

                        And:  Calvin and others of his school fail to see in this passage an exhortation of the rich to penitence, but only a denunciation of woe upon them; in the sense, however, that all prophecy, whether evil or good, is conditional, there is sufficient room to believe that no irrevocable doom was pronounced by “a Christian Jeremiah.”  [46]



5:2                                                       Translations

Weymouth:     Your treasures have rotted, and your piles of clothing are moth-eaten.

WEB:              Your riches are corrupted and your garments are moth-eaten.

Young’s:         your riches have rotted, and your garments have become moth-eaten.

Conte (RC):    Your riches have been corrupted, and your garments have been eaten by moths.


5:2                   Your riches.  The union of the two chief forms of Eastern wealth in this and the following verse, reminds us of the like combination in Matthew 6:19, “where moth and rust doth corrupt.”  Compare Paul’s “I have coveted no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel” (Acts 20:33).  [38]

And:  The riches of the ancients consisted much in large stores of corn, wine, oil, and costly apparel.  These things the rich men in Judea had amassed, like the foolish rich man mentioned Luke 12:18, little imagining that they would soon be robbed of them by the Roman soldiers, and the destructive events of the war.  [47]

            are.  The verbs in Greek are in the perfect.  In a prophetical manner the future is described as having already taken place, as in Isaiah liii. 3-10.  [50]

corrupted.  Some suppose, on account of the term ‘corrupted,’ that riches in grain are to be understood, which are liable to corruption; but this is refining too much:  the word ‘corrupted’ is evidently a figurative term used to denote the perishable nature of the riches.  The fact is stated, in a prophetical manner, in the past tense, as having already occurred—‘your riches are corrupted,’ denoting the certain and impending nature of the calamity.  [51]

            A suitable provision for the time to come cannot be forbidden; but the reference here is to cases in which great quantities had been laid up, perhaps while the poor were suffering, and which were kept until they became worthless.  [31]

and your garments are motheaten.  As the fashions in the East did not change as they do with us, wealth consisted much in the garments that were laid up for show or for future use.  See Matthew 6:19.  Q. Curtius says that when Alexander the Great was going to take Persepolis, the riches of all Asia were gathered there together, which consisted not only of a great abundance of gold and silver, but also of garments, Lib. vi. c. 5.  Horace tells us that when Lucullus the Roman was asked if he could lend a hundred garments for the theater, he replied that he had five thousand in his house, of which they were welcome to take part or all.  Of course, such property would be liable to be moth-eaten; and the idea here is, that they had amassed a great amount of this kind of property which was useless to them, and which they kept until it became destroyed.  [31]

                        However much these possessions might currently look glorious, in God’s sight they already looked worn out and exhausted:  As expanded in the eloquent gloss of Bishop Wordsworth, “Your wealth is moldering in corruption, and your garments, stored up in vain superfluity, are become moth-eaten:  although they may still glitter brightly in your eyes, and may dazzle men by their brilliance, yet they are in fact already cankered; they are loathsome in God’s sight; the Divine anger has breathed upon them and blighted them; they are already withered and blasted.”  [46]



5:3                                                       Translations

Weymouth:     your gold and your silver have become covered with rust, and the rust on them will give evidence against you, and will eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded up wealth in these last days.

WEB:              Your gold and your silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be for a testimony against you, and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up your treasure in the last days.           

Young’s:         your gold and silver have rotted, and the rust of them for a testimony shall be to you, and shall eat your flesh as fire. Ye made treasure in the last days!

Conte (RC):    Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be a testimony against you, and it will eat away at your flesh like fire. You have stored up wrath for yourselves unto the last days.


5:3                   Your gold and silver is cankered [corroded, NKJV].  The other treasures in which their riches consisted.  [51]

and the rust [corrosion, NKJV] of them.  These metals do not literally rust, but do tarnish from long disuse. The idea is that they show they have been hoarded, not used.  [22]

shall be a witness against you.  The doom that falls on the earthly possessions of the ungodly shall be, as it were, the token of what will fall on them, unless they avert it by repentance.  [38]

The "lack of use" interpretation:  The tarnish shows that you have hoarded instead of using.  [22]

A witness against you that you have not used them for any good or charitable purpose.  [41] 
                        A different approach:  Some render this:  the rust which you have allowed to accumulate on them from want of use shall testify against you in the judgment as an evidence of your parsimony and sinful hoarding.  But such a meaning is contrary to the context: it is of the destruction of the rich that St. James here speaks, not of the evidence of their crime.  Hence, then, the meaning is: the rust of them shall be a testimony to your destruction; the like destruction shall befall you which befalls your gold and silver.  [51]

and shall eat your flesh as it were fire.  Will occasion you as great torment as if fire were consuming your flesh.  [15, 47]

Fire being the emblem of judgment: like fire shall the rust eat your flesh.  So also we speak of the devouring fire.  ‘The Lord shall swallow them up in His wrath, and the fire shall devour them’ (Psalms 21:9).  [51]

The last words have been sometimes taken as belonging to the next clause, “as fire ye laid up treasure,” but the structure of the English text is preferable.  The underlying image suggested is that the rust or canker spreads from the riches to the very life itself, and that when they fail, and leave behind them only the sense of wasted opportunities and the memories of evil pleasures, the soul will shudder at their work as the flesh shudders at the touch of fire.  We may perhaps trace a reminiscence of the “unquenchable fire” devouring the carcases in Gehenna, as in Mark 9:44.  [38]

Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days.  When it is too late; when you have no time to enjoy them.  [15]

                        These words may also admit of two explanations: — that the rich, as they would always live, are never satisfied, but weary themselves in heaping together what may be sufficient to the end of the world, — or, that they heap together the wrath and curse of God for the last day; and this second view I embrace.  [35]

the last days.  The last days as referring to those of Jerusalem:  Instead of laying up treasure in heaven you have continued to pile up earthly treasure to the last, a matter of extreme folly. What James then thought of as "the last days," the end of his nation, country and Jerusalem, was close at hand.  [22]

Not in the last days of your life; but either in the days that shall precede the coming of Christ, or in the last days of the Jewish nation, when those awful judgments threatened by the prophets and predicted by Jesus Christ will be poured out upon the unbelieving and ungodly Jews.  We must not forget that it is to Jews that St. James writes; and ‘the last days’ is a Jewish expression for the age of the Messiah, and hence is fitly employed by the sacred writers to denote the end of the Jewish economy.  The zealots during the Jewish war regarded it as a crime to be rich, and their insatiable avarice induced them to search into the houses of the rich, and to murder their inmates.  [51]

                        Or:  every one is always potentially living in the last days:  Some expositors have seen in this verse an instance of James’s belief that he was “living in the last days of the world’s history;” and compared his "delusion" with that of Paul and John (1 Thessalonians 4:15, and 1 John 2:18).  But there was no mistake on the part of the inspired writers; freedom from error in their Sacred office must be vindicated, or who shall sever the false gospel from the true?  The simple explanation is an old one—the potential nearness of Christ, as it is called.  In many ways He has been ever near each individual, as by affliction, or death, or judgment; but His actual return was probably nearer in the first ages of faith than in the brutality of the tenth century or the intellectual pride of the nineteenth.  His advent is helped or hindered by the state of Christendom itself: “one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8), there is:  neither past nor future in His sight; only the presence of His own determination: and nought retards Christ’s Second Coming so much as the false and feeble Christianity which prays “Thy kingdom come” in frequent words, but waits not as the handmaid of her Lord, with “loins girded about and lights burning” (Luke 12:35), “until the day dawn, and the day star arise” (2 Peter 1:19).  [46]



5:4                                                       Translations

Weymouth:     I tell you that the pay of the labourers who have gathered in your crops--pay which you are keeping back--is calling out against you; and the outcries of those who have been your reapers have entered into the ears of the Lord of the armies of Heaven.

WEB:              Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you have kept back by fraud, cry out, and the cries of those who reaped have entered into the ears of the Lord of Armies.

Young’s:         lo, the reward of the workmen, of those who in-gathered your fields, which hath been fraudulently kept back by you -- doth cry out, and the exclamations of those who did reap into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth have entered.

Conte (RC):    Consider the pay of the workers who reaped your fields: it has been misappropriated by you; it cries out. And their cry has entered into the ears of the Lord of hosts.


5:4                   Behold, the hire of the labourers.  The evil was one of old standing in Judæa.  The law had condemned those who kept back the wages of the hired labourer even for a single night (Leviticus 19:13).  Jeremiah (Jeremiah 22:13) had uttered a woe against him “that useth his neighbour’s service without wages.”  Malachi (James 3:5) had spoken of the swift judgment that should come on those who “oppressed the hireling in his wages.”  [38]

who have reaped down your fields.  The workers had carried out their obligation.  It was the abusive and greedy employer who had acted treacherously. [rw]

which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth [cries out against you, NASB].   There was no legitimate reason for what they did.  They simply had the power and used it—more properly, abused it.  [rw]

Another display of arrogance was the oppression of the poor, an offence more than once referred to with displeasure in the Epistle.  Though the law of Moses contained so many provisions for the protection of poor Israelites, it is evident, from the Gospel histories, that the rich Jews in the days of our Lord treated the poor with scorn.  (Luke 16:14, 19-21).  [19]

Crieth:  that is, for assistance to the defrauded, or rather for vengeance on the defrauders; like as Abel’s blood crieth unto God (Genesis 4:10).  Compare with this the words of Malachi, which some suppose St. James had here in view:  ‘I will be a swift witness against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, saith the Lord of hosts’ (Malachi 3:5).  [51]

and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears.  Judgment has not been carried out on the oppressor—but God knows full well what is going on.  The oppressor is living in the delusion caused by the current success of their abuse, not caring in the least what will be done in retribution at some future date.  [rw]

Four sins are mentioned in Scripture as crying to Heaven:  the murder of a brother (Genesis 4:10), the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:20), the oppression of Israel in Egypt (Exodus 2:23-24), and the withholding of wages (Leviticus 19:13; Deuteronomy 24:15).  [50]

of the Lord of sabaoth.  I.e., Lord of Hosts.  Sabaoth is the Hebrew.  See Romans 9:29.  [13]

The divine Name thus used was pre-eminently characteristic of the language of the Prophets.  It does not appear at all in the Pentateuch, nor in Joshua, Judges, or Ruth; and probably took its rise in the Schools of the Prophets, founded by Samuel.  Whether its primary meaning was that Jehovah was the God of all the armies of earth, the God, as we say, of battles, or that He ruled over the armies of the stars of heaven, or over the unseen hosts of angels, or was wide enough, as seems probable, to include all three ideas, is a question which cannot be very definitely answered.  It is characteristic of James that he gives the Hebrew form of the word, as also Paul does in citing Isaiah 1:9 in Romans 9:29.  For the most part the LXX renders it by “Almighty” (Pantokratôr), and in this form it appears in Revelation 4:8, where “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty” answers to “Lord God of sabaoth,” or “of hosts” in Isaiah 5:3.  This title is specially characteristic of Malachi, in whom it occurs not less than 23 times.  [38]

The point being made:  And “by representing the cries of the reapers defrauded of their hire as entering into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth, that is, hosts, or armies, the apostle intimates that the great Ruler of the universe attends to the wrongs done to his creatures, and is affected by them as tender-hearted persons are affected by the cries of the miserable; and that he will, in due time, avenge them by punishing their oppressors.  Let all oppressors consider this!” — Macknight.  [47] 



5:5                                                       Translations

Weymouth:     Here on earth you have lived self-indulgent and profligate lives. You have stupefied yourselves with gross feeding; but a day of slaughter has come.

WEB:              You have lived delicately on the earth, and taken your pleasure. You have nourished your hearts as in a day of slaughter.

Young’s:         ye did live in luxury upon the earth, and were wanton; ye did nourish your hearts, as in a day of slaughter.

Conte (RC):    You have feasted upon the earth, and you have nourished your hearts with luxuries, unto the day of slaughter.


5:5                   Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth.  The second sin is luxury or self-indulgence.  [51]

God does not forbid us to use pleasure; but to live in them as if we lived for nothing else is a very provoking sin; and to do this on the earth, where we are but strangers and pilgrims, where we are but to continue for a while, and where we ought to be preparing for eternity--this, this is a grievous aggravation of the sin.  [5]

and been wanton [substituted:  in please and luxury, NKJV].  Their sin consisted not only in the injustice by which their wealth was secured, but in the prodigal luxury in which it was spent.  [7]

ye have nourished [fattened, NKJV] your hearts.  That is, yourselves.  [51]

as in a day of slaughter.  You live as if it were every day a day of sacrifices, a festival.  [5]

Many of the best MSS. omit the particle of comparison, ye nourished your heart in the day of slaughter.  With this reading, the “day of slaughter” is that of the carnage and bloodshed of war, such a “sacrifice” as that which the Lord of Hosts had, of old, by the river Euphrates (Jeremiah 46:10), or the “great slaughter” in the land of Idumæa (Isaiah 34:6).  The “rich men” of Judæa, in their pampered luxury, were but fattening themselves, all unconscious of their doom, as beasts are fattened, for the slaughter.  The insertion of the particle of comparison suggests a different aspect of the same thought.  A sacrifice was commonly followed by a sumptuous feast upon what had been offered.  Compare the union of the two thoughts in the harlot’s words (“I have peace-offerings with me; this day have I paid my vows”) in Proverbs 7:14.  Taking this view James reproaches the self-indulgent rich with making their life one long continuous feast.  The former interpretation seems preferable, both on critical and exegetical grounds.  [38]



5:6                                                       Translations

Weymouth:     You have condemned--you have murdered-- the righteous man: he offers no resistance.

WEB:              You have condemned, you have murdered the righteous one. He doesn't resist you.

Young’s:         ye did condemn -- ye did murder the righteous one, he doth not resist you.

Conte (RC):    You led away and killed the Just One, and he did not resist you.


5:6                   Ye have condemned.  They pretend to act legally indeed, they condemn before they kill; but unjust prosecutions, whatever color of law they may carry in them, will come into the reckoning when God shall make inquisition for blood, as well as massacres and downright murders.  [5]

                        This is a charge against the rich of injustice or of procuring unjust decisions from the legal tribunals against righteous men, perhaps by influence or bribery or both.  [16]

and killed the just.  Indefinitely and collectively, the just for any just man, viz. such as were innocent and just in comparison of their persecutors.  [28]

It was easy for the wealthy to control the processes of law for condemning and defrauding the helpless poor; the latter were being “killed” not necessarily with the sword, but by lack of food and improper conditions of labor and by the crushing monotony of ceaseless toil; but the silent appeal of their patient helplessness was unheeded.  The rich oppressors were deaf to all entreaties.  [7]

Take it either [literally], or metaphorically of usurers and extortioners, that not only rob, but ravish the poor that are fallen into their nets, Psalms 10:9, that is, their bonds, debts, mortgages, as Chrysostom interpreteth it; there is neither equity nor mercy to be had at their hands; hence they are called meneaters, cannibals, &c.  One saith there is more justice to be found in hell than here among men; for in hell no innocent person is oppressed.  [29]

and he doth not resist you.  This notes not only the patience of such in bearing injuries, but their weakness, and being destitute of human help against their adversaries’ power.  [28]

After the example of his Lord, he commits his cause to God, knowing that He will execute judgment in his behalf.  Compare 1 Pet. 2:23.  [14]

They were treating the poor who were righteous with the same contempt that the unbelieving religious leadership in Jerusalem had toward Jesus.  The Just, or Just One, may mean the Lord Jesus, whom these rich men were as it were slaying, crucifying afresh, when they were persecuting His members (Matthew 25:40; Acts 9:4).  If this be the right meaning, then the words, “He doth not resist you,” may be taken to mean, “He no longer strives with you, He hath left you to yourself, He hath ‘given you over to a reprobate mind,’ ” the most hopeless state of all, utter misery and ruin (Isaiah lxvi. 4; Hosea 4:17).  But the words “He doth not resist you,” may also mean “they who are the Body of Christ” (for being one body, they may be regarded as an individual), they in their poor estate are unable to resist you:  then the Apostle seems to imply, “Do not think, that because ye have your own way uncontrolled now, it will be always so; the time is coming when all this will be changed.”  [42] 

The far less likely option that the text is not discussing the treatment of the righteous poor, but God having given up hope for the unrighteous who acted this way.  The present tense makes this passage somewhat difficult to understand.  We know Christ did not resist His murderers, for He went to His death “as a lamb that is led to the slaughter” (Isaiah liii. 7; 1 Peter 2:23); so now also James means to say:  He does not resist these Jews in running to their destruction.  He does not stand in their way of filling up the measure of their wickedness (Matthew 23:32), for the impending judgment is inevitable.  [50]  


                        In depth:  The case in favor of  the description “the just” having Jesus specifically in mind [41].  By many this is supposed to mean the Lord Jesus, Whose Name among the Christian Jews was emphatically the Just One.  Thus Ananias said unto Paul, “that thou shouldst know his will, and see that Just One” (Acts 22:14).  And Stephen speaks of those who “shewed before the coming of the Just One” (Acts 7:52).  And no doubt it was the rich among the people, the chief priests and rulers, “the fat bulls of Bashan,” as they are called in the twenty-second Psalm, who crucified the Lord.

                        The objection of course is from the words which follow, “He doth not resist you,” but it is evident that this can only refer to open resistance, which the Lord did not oppose to the Jewish Rulers in Church and State, but allowed them to persecute His Church, and go in their own bad way till vengeance came upon them to the uttermost.  And no doubt many unbelieving Jews would urge against the glorification of Christ, that if He was at the right hand of God, and all things put under His feet, He would not suffer His enemies to enjoy their triumph.  They little knew how short that triumph now was [during the Great Revolt and destruction of Jerusalem].

                        That the word “the Just” refers to Christians in general is scarcely possible.  If so it would, we think, not be in the singular number.        


                        In depth:  The case against the term “the just” having Jesus specifically in mind [38].  The words have been very generally understood as referring to the death of Christ, and on this view, the words “he doth not resist you” have been interpreted as meaning, “He no longer checks you in your career of guilt; He leaves you alone (comp. Hosea 4:17) to fill up the measure of your sin.”  St James, it has been inferred, uses the term “the Just One” as Stephen had done (Acts 7:52), as pointing emphatically to “Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1).

Fuller consideration, however, shows that such a meaning could hardly have come within the horizon of St James’s thoughts:

(1)  That single evil act of priests, and scribes, and the multitude of Jerusalem, could hardly have been thus spoken of in an Epistle addressed to the Twelve Tribes of the dispersion, without a more distinct indication of what was referred to.  To see in them, as some have done, the statement that the Jews, wherever they were found, were guilty of that crime, as accepting and approving it, or as committing sins which made such an atonement necessary, is to read into them a non-natural meaning.

(2)  The whole context leads us to see in the words, a generic evil, a class sin, characteristic, like those of the previous verse, of the rich and powerful everywhere.

(3)  The meaning thus given to “he doth not resist you” seems, to say the least, strained and unnatural, especially as coming so soon after the teaching (James 4:6) which had declared that “God does resist the proud.”

(4)  The true meaning of both clauses is found, it is believed, in taking “the just” as the representative of a class, probably of the class of those, who as disciples of Christ the Just One, were reproducing His pattern of righteousness.  Such an one, like his Master, and like Stephen, St James adds, takes as his law (note the change of tense from past to present) the rule of not resisting.  He submits patiently, certain that in the end he will be more than conqueror.

It is not without interest to note that that title was afterwards applied to St James himself (Euseb. Hist. ii. 23). The name Justus, which appears three times in the New Testament (Acts 1:23; Acts 18:7; Colossians 4:11), was obviously the Latin equivalent of this epithet, and it probably answered to the Chasidim or Assideans (1 Maccabees 2:42; 7:13; 2 Maccabees 14:6) of an earlier stage of Jewish religious history.  It is as if a follower of George Fox had addressed the judges and clergy of Charles II’s reign, and said to them, “Ye persecuted the Friend, and he does not resist you.”

(5)  It is in favor of this interpretation that it presents a striking parallel to a passage in the “Wisdom of Solomon,” with which this Epistle has so many affinities.  There too the writer speaks of the wealthy and voluptuous as laying snares for “the just” who is also “poor,” who calls himself “the servant of the Lord,” and boasts of God as his Father (Wisdom 2:12-16).  Compare also the description of the ultimate triumph of the just man in Wisdom 5:1-5.



5:7                                                       Translations

Weymouth:     Be patient therefore, brethren, until the Coming of the Lord. Notice how eagerly a farmer waits for a valuable crop! He is patient over it till it has received the early and the later rain.

WEB:              Be patient therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. Behold, the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient over it, until it receives the early and late rain.

Young’s:         Be patient, then, brethren, till the presence of the Lord; lo, the husbandman doth expect the precious fruit of the earth, being patient for it, till he may receive rain -- early and latter.

Conte (RC):    Therefore, be patient, brothers, until the advent of the Lord. Consider that the farmer anticipates the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently, until he receives the early and the late rains.


5:7                   Be patient therefore, brethren.  The connection with the preceding paragraph is obvious and direct.  St. James, having pronounced the doom of the rich oppressors, now proceeds to comfort the oppressed.  [51]

Bear your afflictions without murmuring, your injuries without revenge; and, though God should not in any signal manner appear for you immediately, wait for him.  [5]

therefore.  An inference from what precedes; seeing that there is a day of vengeance when the unbelieving and ungodly rich will be punished for their injustice, luxury, and oppression, and consequently a day of deliverance to them.  [51]

unto the coming of the Lord.  What is wrong will then be redressed; what is evil will then be removed.  The night may be dark and lonely; but the longest night comes to a close.  By the Lord here is meant Christ, according to the analogy of Scripture, and the general expectation of the coming of Christ by believers (2 Thessalonians 2:1-2).  Though St. James applies the title ‘Lord’ chiefly to God, yet he had previously applied it to Christ (James 2:1).  [51]

Interpreted as the coming of the Lord in temporal judgment.  Two different meanings have been attached to the phrase ‘coming of the Lord.’  Some understand by it the coming of Christ in spirit to destroy Jerusalem, when the Romans were employed as the instruments of His vengeance upon the unbelieving Jews, and to which reference is made in the previous verses.  Others, with greater probability, understand by it His coming in person to judge the world, or what is usually termed the second advent.  How far the sacred writers distinguished between the destruction of Jerusalem and the future judgment—the type and the antitype—we have no means of ascertaining.  [51]

Interpreted as the physical coming of the Lord at the end of earth time.  Many wrongs may be righted, many social customs may be improved, before the visible reappearing of the Savior, but his coming is “the blessed hope,” both for the Church and the world; then justice will be meted out to oppressor and oppressed; then will begin an age of righteousness and peace.  [7]

With the exception of 2 Corinthians 7:6-7; 2 Thessalonians 2:9; Philippians 1:26, the Greek word Parousia is always used in the New Testament to denote the visible return of Jesus from Heaven, the Second Advent of Christ as opposed to His First Advent.  [50]

Interpreted as foreshadowing the coming of the Lord in judgment at the fall of Jerusalem and His coming at the end of earth time.  In a certain sense there was a coming of Christ at the destruction of Jerusalem, and the beginning of judgment upon Israel, but this was but a type of Christ’s final coming in His own glorified person, with His holy Angels (Matthew 16:27; Mark 8:38).  [50]

And:  This “coming” or parousia is only mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament in verse 8, in Matthew (4 times), in the Pauline Epistles (15 times), in 2 Peter (1:16; 3:4, 12), and in 1 John (2:28).  The same event is also spoken of as the “Revelation of Jesus Christ,” 1 Peter 1:7, &c., and the “Manifestation (of the Lord,” &c., in the Pastoral Epistles, e.g. 1 Timothy 6:14.  Thessalonians and 1 Peter are largely taken up with this subject.  The first generation of Christians expected to witness in the near future (verses 8 and 10) the personal reappearance of Christ on the earth to close the old dispensation by punishing unbelievers, and delivering the Christians.  These expectations were partly realized when the fall of Jerusalem closed the old Jewish dispensation by the destruction of the Temple and the final cessation of the Levitical worship of Jehovah.  At the same time misery and ruin befell the Jewish nation which had rejected and crucified our Lord.  As regards any more exact fulfillment, the statements of the N.T. must be interpreted according to the principle laid down in 2 Peter 3:8, “One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”  Cf. also verse 3 and 1 John 2:18.  [45]     

Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth.  The farmer can’t tell whether the harvest is coming at a certain time even after the plants have started to grow.  He does know it will come sometime this year.  It won’t be a matter of waiting an unknown period of years for it.  In contrast the Christian awaits, not knowing what the time frame is that the Lord has set.  But he does know that when the right time occurs in His eyes (not necessarily in ours) that He will decisively act and bring all things to an end.  [rw]

and hath long patience [waiting patiently, NKJV] for it.  Many a farmer, on many an occasion, has wished the growing season would finally come to an end, and that the harvest time had arrived.  A degree of patience is learned by all since all the worrying has never speeded things up by one day or one week.  [rw]

until he receive the early and latter rain.  I.e., the rain at sowing and growing.  [13] 

The “early rain” fell in the months from October to February; the latter, from March to the end of April.  Compare Deuteronomy 11:14; Jeremiah 3:3, 5:24; Joel 2:23.  An ingenious allegorizing interpretation finds in the “early” rain the tears of youthful repentance; in the “latter,” those of age.  [38]

James exhorts his suffering brethren to be like the husbandman who has to wait between the sowing time and the harvest.  But here is another wrong interpretation.  The latter rain of which James speaks has been foolishly interpreted as meaning a spiritual latter rain, another Pentecost.  This is one of the star arguments of present day Pentecostalism with its supposed revival of apostolic gifts.  The former and latter rain of which James speaks has no such meaning; it is purely the rainfall in nature.  In Palestine there are two distinct rainy seasons, one in the spring, the other in the fall. (See Deuteronomy 11:14.)  [23] 



5:8                                                       Translations

Weymouth:     So you also must be patient: keeping up your courage; for the Coming of the Lord is now close at hand.

WEB:              You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.

Young’s:         be patient, ye also; establish your hearts, because the presence of the Lord hath drawn nigh.

Conte (RC):    Therefore, you too should be patient and should strengthen your hearts. For the advent of the Lord draws near.


5:8                   Be ye also patient.  “Let your faith be firm, without wavering, your practice of what is good constant and continued, without tiring, and your resolutions for God and heaven fixed, in spite of all sufferings or temptations.”  [5]

stablish [strengthen, NASB] your hearts.  In the faith and practice of the gospel.  [14]

Possess your souls in patience; ‘be ye steadfast and immoveable.’  ‘Not the weak, but the strong hearts are qualified to cherish patience’ (Huther).  We need strength of mind to be patient; endurance is an evidence of strength.  [61]

for the coming of the Lord.  For the deliverance of His friends and the destruction of His enemies.  [14]

draweth nigh [is at hand, NKJV].  Case that the physical return of Jesus at the time of the physical resurrection is in mind [28]:  As before, His coming to the general judgment, which is said to be nigh, because of the certainty of its coming, and the uncertainty of the time when it will come, and because it is continually drawing on, and the whole time of the world’s duration till then is but short in comparison of the eternity following; and likewise because the particular judgment of every man is nigh at hand.  See Philippians 4:5; Hebrews 10:37. 

As judgment on the city of Jerusalem and traditional Judaism [31]:  The most natural interpretation of the passage, and one which will accord well with the time when the Epistle was written, is, that the predicted time of the destruction of Jerusalem [in] Matthew 24 was at hand; that there were already indications that that would soon occur.  The Epistle was written, it is supposed, some ten or twelve years before the destruction of Jerusalem, and it is not improbable that there were already some indications of that approaching event. 

How believers could simultaneously believe that there was a “return” in the relatively near future but simultaneously that the physical return of the Lord might, however, still be in the distant future [51]:  ‘Lest any,’ observes Calvin, ‘should object, and say that the time of deliverance was too long delayed, he obviates this objection, and says, The Lord was at hand, or, which is the same thing, The coming of the Lord draweth nigh.’

Here, also, two different interpretations are given: some referring this phrase to Christ’s coming in spirit to destroy Jerusalem, and which was close at hand; and others referring it to His coming to judge the world—to the second advent, properly so called.  We give the preference to this latter view, as the natural meaning of the words.

But, it is asked, how can St. James say that Christ’s second coming draweth nigh?  Some solve the difficulty by saying that it was so in the sight of God, with whom ‘one day is as a thousand years,’ and that faith enabled believers to see things as God saw them.  But St. James mentions this coming for the comfort of the oppressed, and therefore he must allude to a coming in their estimation near at hand.

Others refer it to the then general expectation of the Lord’s advent Believers were then taught to live in constant expectation of the coming of the Lord.  This event was indeed shrouded in uncertainty, and our Lord refused to give any revelation as to its time (Acts 1:7); but it was not by the primitive Church regarded, as it is by us, as far removed into the distant future, and as wholly improbable to happen in their days, but as an occurrence which might any time take place—even before that generation had passed away.

‘The longing of the apostolic Church “hasted unto” the coming of the Lord.  All Christian time appeared only as the point of transition to the eternal, and thus as something passing quickly away’ (Neander).  Hence the exhortations of the sacred writers: ‘Let your moderation,’ says St. Paul, ‘be known unto all men; the Lord is at hand’ (Philippians 4:5). ‘The end of all things,’ says St. Peter, ‘is at hand; be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer’ (1 Peter 4:7). 



5:9                                                       Translations

Weymouth:     Do not cry out in condemnation of one another, brethren, lest you come under judgement. I tell you that the Judge is standing at the door.

WEB:              Don't grumble, brothers, against one another, so that you won't be judged. Behold, the judge stands at the door.   

Young’s:         murmur not against one another, brethren, that ye may not be condemned; lo, the Judge before the door hath stood.

Conte (RC):    Brothers, do not complain against one another, so that you may not be judged. Behold, the judge stands before the door.


5:9                   Grudge not [Do not grumble, NKJV].  Say in preference, Murmur not. “Grudge” has curiously changed its meaning from an outward murmur to an inward feeling.  It has unfortunately been retained both here and in 1 Peter 4:9.  See also Psalms 59:15, specially the Prayer Book version, “They will . . . grudge if they be not satisfied”—i.e., complain and murmur.  [46]

                        This refers not so much to the feeling of envy—‘be not envious to each other’—as to impatience and irritability of temper, which are often the effects of severe or protracted trials.  It requires great grace to avoid all murmuring and petulance in suffering; especially it is a difficult attainment calmly to endure great pain; but God giveth more grace.  [51]

one against another, brethren.  Murmuring gives rise to mutual recrimination.  [51]

lest ye be condemned [judged, ESV, NASB].  Or judged. Their murmuring against their brethren led them to find fault with them, and thus to accuse them falsely; and this exposed them to the righteous judgment of God, who is the Avenger of all those who are wrongly condemned.  There is here one of those manifest references in this Epistle to the Sermon on the Mount . The sentiment is precisely similar to the maxim of our Lord:  ‘Judge not, that ye be not judged’ (Matthew 7:1).  [51]

behold, the judge.  Who will punish all sin, and render to all their just reward.  [14]

By the Judge we are to understand Christ.  Christ is at hand; He is even at the door, ready to render to every man according to his works.  ‘Before the door,’ denoting the nearness of the advent.  Compare Matthew 24:33:  ‘Likewise, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the door.’  In a different sense, in the Book of Revelation, but still denoting nearness, Christ is represented as before the door: ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock’ (Revelation 3:20).  St. James had previously exhorted believers to patience in the endurance of trials by the consideration of this nearness of the advent; now he warns them by the same consideration against all murmuring and rash judgment of each other.  [51]

standeth before the door.   He is as if that close.  Not far distant.  But, so to speak, “just beyond where your eyes can see."  [rw]



5:10                                                     Translations

Weymouth:     In illustration, brethren, of persecution patiently endured take the Prophets who have spoken as messengers from the Lord.

WEB:              Take, brothers, for an example of suffering and of patience, the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.

Young’s:         An example take ye of the suffering of evil, my brethren, and of the patience, the prophets who did speak in the name of the Lord.

Conte (RC):    My brothers, consider the Prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of departing from evil, of labor, and of patience.


5:10                 Take, my brethren.  Consider this example.  [rw]

the prophets.  These are the bright ones in the cloud of witnesses, of whom the Epistle to the Hebrews (Hebrews 12:1) speaks, who, like Daniel, “stopped the mouths of lions”; like Jeremiah and Elijah, “escaped the edge of the sword;” “out of weakness were made strong”; who “were stoned,” like Zachariah; “sawn asunder,” like Isaiah; “slain with the sword,” like Urijah and John; “of whom the world was not worthy.”  Thus the saints of the Old Covenant are held up for honor and imitation to those of the New.   [46]

who have spoken in the name of the Lord.  Therefore you can trust their message as fully accurate and reliable:  They did not invent it; rather they revealed the message God wished conveyed to us.  [rw] 

for an example of suffering affliction.  The very men that gloried in having prophets, yet could not bear their message.  Nor did either their holiness or their high commission screen them from suffering.  [15]

Thus Moses, of whom it was witnessed that he “chose rather to suffer afflictions with the people of God than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season” (Hebrews 11:25).  Thus Elijah, “Lord, they have slain thy prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life to take it away” (1 Kings 19:14).  Some suppose that it refers also to the Christian prophets, but this is not probable.  [41]

and of patience.  There is a sense in which the Lord is ever at hand and present.  But He shall come again at the end of this age.  Then all wrongs shall be righted and the oppressed avenged.  Everything comes to him who can wait for it; do not judge the Lord by His unfinished work.  [33] 



5:11                                                     Translations

Weymouth:     Remember that we call those blessed who endured what they did. You have also heard of Job's patient endurance, and have seen the issue of the Lord's dealings with him--how full of tenderness and pity the Lord is.

WEB:              Behold, we call them blessed who endured. You have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the Lord in the outcome, and how the Lord is full of compassion and mercy.

Young’s:         lo, we call happy those who are enduring; the endurance of Job ye heard of, and the end of the Lord ye have seen, that very compassionate is the Lord, and pitying.

Conte (RC):    Consider that we beatify those who have endured. You have heard of the patient suffering of Job. And you have seen the end of the Lord, that the Lord is merciful and compassionate.


5:11                 Behold [Indeed, NKJV], we count them happy [blessed, NKJV].  In spite of all the terrible times these folks went through, we still have the highest esteem for them--and rightly so.  [rw]

which endure.  Because they have fought their good fight, and finished their course, and are waiting the time of their perfecting at the coming of Christ (Hebrews 11:39-40).  [41]

The heathen philosopher Solon called no one “happy” upon earth; but, with the mystery of pain around him, cried sadly, “Look to the end.”  And the sated and weary soul of Solomon had no better thought than to praise “the dead which are already dead, more than the living” (Ecclesiastes 4:2).  How different the teaching of St. James, himself taught by the example of the suffering Christ:  verily, “he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than” the greatest and the wisest who know not of its light and peace (Matthew 11:11).  [46]

Here we have another reference to the Sermon on the Mount; as the sufferings to which St. James primarily alludes arose from persecution:  ‘Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Rejoice and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you’ (Matthew 5:10, 12).  [51]

Ye have heard of the patience [perseverance, NKJV] of Job.  He was not very patient, if by patience we mean freedom from complaint and irritation and anger, but here the thought is of steadfast “endurance,” the quality of invincible faith in God; this Job possessed, and His whole life story is an illustration of how, in the end, the Lord always shows His pity and mercy and vindicates His justice and his love toward those that trust and “wait for” Him.  [7] 

If, however, it be asked, Why does the Apostle so much commend the patience of Job, as he had displayed many signs of impatience, being carried away by a hasty spirit?  To this I reply, that though he sometimes failed through the infirmity of the flesh, or murmured within himself, yet he ever surrendered himself to God, and was ever willing to be restrained and ruled by Him.  Though, then, his patience was somewhat deficient, it is yet deservedly commended.  [35]  If for no other reason:  could any of us have done halfway as well?  [rw]

Job displayed his patience not only in his afflictions, but especially in his persistent trust in God (Job 1:21), as shown by his replies to his friends (Job 2:10; 13:15; 16:19-20; 19:25-27).  [50] 

of Job.  Job being introduced here among the historical examples of patience, is assumed to have been a real person as in fact he is (Ezekiel 14:14), and not to be an allegorical character.  [41]

This is the only NT reference to Job, though the book is quoted, 1 Corinthians 3:19.  [24]

Job’s friends were so certain of his misdeeds, that they would not hear his self-defense; if God tried his endurance, man surely afflicted his patience.  We can hear the three in council against him, becoming more zealous as they believe themselves the defenders of God’s justice.  (See Job 4-22)  They are shocked at Job’s obstinacy, and annoyed into vehement accusation against him, because he will “hold fast” to his “integrity.” It is a damning proof to them of his guilt.  [46]

and have seen the end of [intended by, NJKJV] the Lord.  The end which the Lord gave.  [21] 

Meaning, probably, the end or result to which the Lord brings the sufferings of his people.  [34] 

that the Lord is very pitiful [compassionate, NKJV], and of tender mercy.  God is frequently called merciful in the Old Testament, but in the New only here and in Luke 6:36.  [16]


                        In depth:  Could “the end of the Lord” refer to Jesus’ death on the cross [38]?  The words have received two very different interpretations.  (1) They have been referred to the “end” which the “Lord” wrought out for Job after his endurance had been tried, as in Job 42:12. 

(2) The “end of the Lord” has been understood as pointing to the death and resurrection of Christ as the Lord who had been named in James 5:7, the highest example of patience in the Old Testament being brought into juxtaposition with the Highest of all Examples. On this view the passage becomes parallel with 1 Peter 2:19-25.

The clause that follows is, however, decisively in favor of (1), nor is there any instance of a New Testament writer using the term “end” of the passion and death of Christ.  Matthew 26:58, which is the nearest approach to such a use, is scarcely in point. 

5:12                                                     Translations

Weymouth:     But above all things, my brethren, do not swear, either by Heaven or by the earth, or with any other oath. Let your 'yes' be simply 'yes,' and your 'no' be simply 'no;' that you may not come under condemnation.

WEB:              But above all things, my brothers, don't swear, neither by heaven, nor by the earth, nor by any other oath; but let your "yes" be "yes," and your "no," "no;" so that you don't fall into hypocrisy.

Young’s:         And before all things, my brethren, do not swear, neither by the heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath, and let your Yes be Yes, and the No, No; that under judgment ye may not fall.

Conte (RC):    But before all things, my brothers, do not choose to swear, neither by heaven, nor by the earth, nor in any other oath. But let your word ‘Yes’ be yes, and your word ‘No’ be no, so that you may not fall under judgment.


5:12                 But above all things.  i.e. should take special care they did not, and watch diligently against a sin so many were addicted to, and into which they might so easily fall.  [28]

                        The writer evidently attached great importance to the prohibition which it contains, as “above all things” indicates.  [16]

As if he had said, Whatever you forget, do not forget this.  [15]

my brethren.  I’m not talking to the outsider who isn’t likely to care what I say.  I’m talking to those who should and, if they are wise, will.  [rw]

swear not.  However provoked.  [15]

The injunction here is against a habit prevailing among the Jews of attempting to establish truth, or the appearance of truth by an oath.  See Matt. 23:16-22; Mark 14:71.  [1]

neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath.  If you can imagine it—don’t swear by it.  Nothing.  Nowhere.  Period.  Aimed at those who would either wish to wiggle their way around the prohibition or insisted that only one of these represented a truly binding oath in which only truth must be expressed. [51]

but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay.  He refers here to the needless and heedless swearing in ordinary conversation, a practice so common in ancient times, and of which so many ill-bred persons of modern times are guilty.  [50]

lest ye fall into condemnation [judgment, NKJV].  Expose yourselves to God’s judgments.  [47]


In depth:  Making the prohibition refer exclusively to reaction to abuse or persecution.  It would be interesting to study the philosophy or the psychology of swearing.  The practice may spring from a desire for emphasis particularly when one is provoked and seeks to express disapproval and disgust.  This explanation may account for the connection in which these words are found.  James has just referred to the cruel oppression of the rich and powerful, and to their unjust treatment of Christians he now insists that under even such provocation one is not to take the name of the Lord, our God, in vain.  [?]

Response:  The language covers such but, as written, covers much more as well:  Some understand this too restrictedly, as if the meaning were,  Swear not at your persecutors, at those that reproach you and say all manner of evil of you; be not put into a passion by the injuries they do you, so as in your passion to be provoked to swear.”  This swearing is no doubt forbidden here:  and it will not excuse those that are guilty of this sin to say they swear only when they are provoked to it, and before they are aware.  But the apostle’s warning extends to other occasions of swearing as well as this.  [5]


Is invoking the name of God in an oath prohibited [46]?  The words are put quite distinctly in Greek and English—neither by the heaven, nor by the earth.  And it sounds like special pleading [at first?], worthy of a rabbi, to hear such a divine as Huther say that “swearing by the name of God is not mentioned,” nor accordingly is such an oath prohibited.  “We must not imagine,” he continues (and his argument had best be fairly given), “that this is included in the last member of the clause, the Apostle evidently intending by it (i.e., ‘neither by any other oath’) to point only at certain formulæ, of which several are mentioned in Matthew 5:34-37. 

Had he intended to forbid swearing by the name of God he would most certainly have mentioned it expressly; for not only is it in the Law, in contradistinction to other oaths, commanded (see Deuteronomy 6:13, 10:20; Psalm 63:11), but in the prophets is announced as a token of the future turning of men to God” (Isaiah 65:16; Jeremiah 12:16, 23:7-8). 

There were, we learn, many subtle distinctions in Jewish oaths; and the unlucky foreigner who trusted in an apparently firm one, too often found out his mistake.  Certainly all such subterfuges are utterly condemned; and further, every word which breaks the letter or spirit of God’s Third Commandment.  As to the higher judicial forms of oaths, remembering that our Lord answered such before Caiaphas (Matthew 26:63-64), we can fearlessly conclude, with the 39th Article of Religion, that “a man may swear, when the magistrate requireth, in a cause of faith and charity, so it be done according to the prophet’s teaching—in justice, judgment, and truth.”  [46]



5:13                                                     Translations

Weymouth:     Is one of you suffering? Let him pray. Is any one in good spirits? Let him sing a psalm.

WEB:              Is any among you suffering? Let him pray. Is any cheerful? Let him sing praises.

Young’s:         Doth any one suffer evil among you? let him pray; is any of good cheer? let him sing psalms.

Conte (RC):    Is any of you sad? Let him pray. Is he even-tempered? Let him sing psalms.


5:13                 Is any among you afflicted?  By sickness, bereavement, disappointment, persecutions, loss of health or property.  The word used here refers to suffering evil of any kind.  [31]

                        Instead of murmuring (verse 7), or of breaking out in oaths (verse 12), “let him pray.”  [50]

                        Here perhaps it specially refers to inward affliction—low spirits, in contrast to merry.  [51]

let him pray.  Prayer being the natural resort of the afflicted.  [51]

Is any merry [cheerful, NKJV]?  “Merry” suggests the outward expression of joyousness, rather than the inward cheerfulness of the Greek [term found here].  [44]

It is the same word which St. Paul employs when he exhorts his fellow-voyagers to ‘be of good cheer’ (Acts 27:36).  It literally signifies to be of good mind; hence free from care.  [51]

let him sing psalms.  (ψαλλέτω)  The word means, primarily, to pluck or twitch.  Hence of the sharp twang on a bowstring or harp-string, and so to play upon a stringed instrument.  Our word psalm, derived from this, is, properly, a tune played upon a stringed instrument.  The verb, however, is used in the New Testament of singing praise generally.  See 1 Cor. 14:15; Rom. 15:9.  [2]

It is, perhaps, specially characteristic of St James that he contemplates what we may call the individual use of such music as well as the congregational, as a help to the spiritual life.  [38]

Nor ought prayer and praise to be separated; they should be combined; our prayers should often express themselves in praise, and our praise should be a prayer.  Thus Paul and Silas in prison prayed and sang praises to God (Acts 16:25); literally, ‘praying, they sang hymns to God;’ their singing of hymns was their prayer.  [51]



5:14                                                     Translations

Weymouth:     Is any one ill? Let him send for the Elders of the Church, and let them pray over him, after anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.

WEB:              Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the assembly, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.

Young’s:         is any infirm among you? let him call for the elders of the assembly, and let them pray over him, having anointed him with oil, in the name of the Lord.

Conte (RC):    Is anyone ill among you? Let him bring in the priests of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.


5:14                 Is any sick among you?  Or infirm, though not desperately and incurably.  [28]

                        A particular instance of the general term ‘afflicted;’ to be taken in its literal sense, denoting ‘bodily sickness,’ and not to be spiritualized as denoting ‘spiritual trouble.’  [51]

let him call for the elders of the church.  That is, they should send for them.  They should not wait for them to hear of their sickness, as they might happen to, but they should cause them to be informed of it, and give them an opportunity of visiting them and praying with them.  Nothing is more common than for persons--even members of the church--to be sick a long time, and to presume that their pastor must know all about it; and then they wonder that he does not come to see them, and think hard of him because he does not.  A pastor cannot be supposed to know everything; nor can it be presumed that he knows when persons are sick, any more than he can know anything else, unless he is apprized of it.  [31]

What were “elders” in the first century church?  The term elder was an official title, taken from the Synagogue, given to the leaders of the local Christian church, to those “that labored . . . and were over” the congregation (1 Thessalonians 5:12), “who had the rule . . . and watched in behalf of souls” (Hebrews 13:17).  That they did not differ in Apostolic times from the bishops or overseers, is evident from the fact that the two words are used indiscriminately in Acts 20:17, 28, and in Titus 1:5, 7, and further, the duty of presbyters or elders is specifically described as being that of oversight (1 Peter 5:1-2).  Only two kinds of church officers are recognized in the New Testament, presbyters, or bishops, and deacons (Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:1, 8).  The word presbyter denotes the dignity of the office and comes from the Jewish Synagogue, the title bishop denotes the function of oversight and was borrowed from Greek institutions.  [50]

and let them pray over him.  This was the special object for which the presbyters were to come to him.  [50]

This may denote either literally ‘over his bed,’ or ‘over him’ by the imposition of hands; or figuratively ‘with reference to him,’ that is, ‘for him.’  [51]

It is noticeable that the remission of sins thus promised is dependent not on the utterance of the quasi-judicial formula of the “Absolvo te (that, indeed, was not used at all until the 13th century) by an individual priest, but on the prayer of the elders as representing the Church.  Compare John 20:23, where also the promise is in the plural, “Whosesoever sins ye remit.”  [38]

anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.  The use of oil in ancient times was very common as a remedy in sickness.  [1]

We might paraphrase in more modern fashion, “Use medicine, and pray that it might be blessed.”  [45]

­­In the times of miraculous healing, sick were to be anointed with oil in the name of the Lord.  Expositors generally confine this anointing with oil to such as had the power of working miracles; and, when miracles ceased, this institution ceased also.  In Mark’s gospel we read of the apostle’s anointing with oil many that were sick, and healing them, Mark 6:13.  And we have accounts of this being practiced in the church two hundred years after Christ; but then the gift of healing also accompanied it, and, when the miraculous gift ceased, this rite was laid aside.  [5]

The Parable of the Good Samaritan gives one example of the medical use of oil (Luke 10:34), another is found in Isaiah 1:6.  Friction with olive oil was prescribed by Celsus for fever.  Herod the Great used oil-baths (Joseph. Ant. xvii. 6. § 5).  A sanction was implicitly given to the use of all outward means as not inconsistent with faith in the power of prayer, to the prayer of faith as not excluding the use of any natural means.  [38]


                        In depth:  Overview of interpretive options [7].  In reference to a passage so much debated it would be foolish to speak with dogmatic assurance.  A few suggestions, however, may be of help.

                        1.  The use of oil as a medicine, and its application in cases of disease, has been familiar in all ages; and it is a sufficiently satisfactory interpretation of these verses to say that they prescribe, in the case of bodily sickness, prayer and the use of simple remedies.

                        2.  It may be, however, that sending for “elders” instead of a “beloved physician” and the anointing with oil “in the name of the Lord,’ point to the regulated exercise of the miraculous “gift of healing” which undoubtedly was granted to the early Church, but which, like the gifts of “tongues” and “prophecy,” and “immunity from deadly poisons,” no longer exists.

                        3.  The emphasis is on “the prayer of faith,” and possibly the “oil” is a symbol of the Holy Spirit, by whom the cure was to be effected; the faith of the sufferer would be strengthened by the use of the familiar remedy, and, as his sins seem to have been connected with the cause of his disease, he would be reminded of the cleansing and healing power of the Spirit of God.

                        4.  There is no reference here to “extreme unction”; this is designed to prepare the soul for death; the anointing by “the elders” was intended to restore the body to health. 


                        In depth:  The case against a miraculous interpretation of the text [31].  There can be but three views taken of the passage:   I. That it refers to a miraculous healing by the apostles, or by other early ministers of religion who were endowed with the power of healing diseases in this manner.  This is the interpretation of Doddridge, Macknight, Benson, and others. But to this view the objections seem to me to be insuperable: 

                        (a) Nothing of this kind is said by the apostle, and this is not necessary to be supposed in order to a fair interpretation of the passage. 

                        (b)  The reference, as already observed, is clearly not to the apostles, but to the ordinary officers of the church - for such a reference would be naturally understood by the word presbyters; and to suppose that this refers to miracles, would be to suppose that this was a common endowment of the ordinary ministers of religion.  

                        (c) If this referred to the power of working miracles, and if the promise was absolute, then death would not have occurred at all among the early disciples. It would have been easy to secure a restoration to health in any instance where a minister of religion was at hand.


                        In depth:  Difficulties in interpreting this as a pre-death ritual as in Roman Catholic practice [31].  It is supposed by the Roman Catholics to give sanction to the practice of “extreme unction,” and to prove that this was practiced in the primitive church. But the objections to this are still more obvious.

                        (a) It was not to be performed at death, or in the immediate prospect of death, but in sickness at any time.  There is no hint that it was to be only when the patient was past all hope of recovery, or in view of the fact that he was to die.  But “extreme unction,” from its very nature, is to be practiced only where the patient is past all hope of recovery.

                        (b) It was not with a view to his death, but to his living, that it was to be practiced at all.  It was not that he might be prepared to die, but that he might be restored to health--“and the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up.”  But “extreme unction” can be with no such reference, and no such hope.  It is only with the expectation that the patient is about to die; and if there were any expectation that he would be raised up even by this ordinance, it could not be administered as “extreme unction.”                     

                        (c) The ordinance practiced as “extreme unction” is a rite wholly unauthorized in the Scriptures, unless it be by this passage.  There are instances indeed of persons being embalmed after death.  It was a fact also that the Savior said of Mary, when she poured ointment on his body, that she “did it for his burial,” or with reference to his burial (Matthew 26:12), but the Savior did not say that it was with reference to His death or was designed in any way to prepare Him to die, nor is there any instance in the Bible in which such a rite is mentioned.



5:15                                                     Translations

Weymouth:     And the prayer of faith will restore the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up to health; and if he has committed sins, they shall be forgiven.

WEB:              and the prayer of faith will heal him who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. If he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.

Young’s:         and the prayer of the faith shall save the distressed one, and the Lord shall raise him up, and if sins he may have committed, they shall be forgiven to him.

Conte (RC):    And a prayer of faith will save the infirm, and the Lord will alleviate him. And if he has sins, these will be forgiven him.


5:15                 And the prayer of faith.  The prayer that proceeds from faith.  The sick man is also supposed to have faith in Christ and praying.  [50]

shall save the sick.  The effect of the prayer is that the sick man will recover (“shall save”), stated more specifically in the words “and the Lord shall raise him up,” from his sick-bed (Mark 1:31).  [50]

It would appear from Scripture that this faith must be possessed by both parties; the person who performs the miracle must be endowed with this miraculous faith; and the person on whom the miracle is wrought must have faith to be healed (Acts 14:9).  [51]

and the Lord.  Here, as in James 5:14, we have to think of James as recognizing not merely the power of God generally, but specifically that of the Lord Jesus, still working through His servants, as He worked personally on earth.  So Peter said to Æneas, “Jesus Christ maketh thee whole” (Acts 9:34).  [38]

shall raise him up.  This must be understood, as such promises are everywhere, with this restriction, that they will be restored to health if it shall be the will of God; if he shall deem it for the best.  It cannot be taken in the absolute and unconditional sense, for then, if these means were used, the sick person would always recover, no matter how often he might be sick, and he need never die.  The design is to encourage them to the use of these means with a strong hope that it would be effectual.  It may fairly be inferred from this statement:  (1) that there would be cases in large numbers where these means would be attended with this happy result; and (2) that there was so much encouragement to do it that it would be proper in any case of sickness so make use of these means.  [31]

and if he have committed sins.  The Greek gives a shade of meaning which can hardly be transferred neatly into English, representing not merely the fact that the man has sinned, but his condition as a sinner.  Literally the words read, if he be having committed sins; i.e., in a state of having committed, and under the moral or physical consequences of transgression.  [2]

The relationship of the sin to the disease—interpreted as the illness having been punishment for the sin.  i.e. Such sins for which God was pleased to inflict this bodily disease upon him, as he did on the members of the church of Corinth, for their disorderly celebrating the Lord’s supper; “for which cause,” saith the apostle, “many are weak and sickly among you: (1 Cor. 11:30), they being thus “Chastened of the Lord” (verse 32); and where the sickness is by way of chastisement, the healing it is a testimony of God’s forgiveness of it.  [4]

Thus in raising up the paralytic at Capernaum, Jesus said to him, “Thy sins be forgiven thee;” and when He cured the infirm man at the pool of Bethesda, He bade him “sin no more.”  [19]

The illness as having no necessary reference to sin at all.  By saying “if,” James clearly implies that illnesses are not to automatically be considered as “sin caused.”  If there were an automatic connection, the “if” would not be appropriate at all.  Although deducing that if such is present that it has a relationship to the illness is a quite reasonable interpretation, but not quite a necessary inference:  Unrepented of sin can easily exist and be ignored for a lengthy period of time.  In such cases, sickness reminds us forcefully of our mortality and should motivate a reconciliation with God as well as an escape from our temporary pains of the body.  [rw]    

Why confession would be useful even if the illness itself is not sin related.  Disease is often greatly aggravated by the trouble of mind which arises from conscious guilt; and, in such a case, nothing will contribute more directly to recovery than the restoration of peace to the soul agitated by guilt and by the dread of a judgment to come.  This may be secured by confession--confession made first to God, and then to those who are wronged.  It may be added, that this is a duty to which we are prompted by the very nature of our feelings when we are sick, and by the fact that no one is willing to die with guilt on his conscience; without having done everything that he can to be at peace with all the world.  [31]

they shall be forgiven him.  Upon his repentance the punishment shall be taken off.  [47]


                        In depth:  The common Jewish conviction that various diseases were attributable to sin and even specific types of sin [36].  The Jewish belief on this subject may be illustrated by the following:  in Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, Simeon, 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. 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 recognize 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, 41a 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.).



5:16                                                     Translations

Weymouth:     Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be cured. The heartfelt supplication of a righteous man exerts a mighty influence.

WEB:              Confess your offenses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The insistent prayer of a righteous person is powerfully effective.

Young’s:         Be confessing to one another the trespasses, and be praying for one another, that ye may be healed; very strong is a working supplication of a righteous man.

Conte (RC):    Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be saved. For the unremitting prayer of a just person prevails over many things.


5:16                 Confess your faults [trespasses, NKJV] one to another.  Whether you are sick or in health; one to another — He does not say to the elders; this may or may not be done, for it is nowhere commanded.  We may confess them to any pious person who can pray in faith:  he will then know how to pray for us, and will be more excited [= motivated] so to do.  [47]

As to the sick brother’s confession of sin, it is surely with a wisdom higher than his own that the Apostle refrains from saying “Confess your sins to the presbyters,” and generalizes the exhortation this, “Confess your faults one to another.”  Christians are to confess to each other their faults against each other, in order to brotherly forgiveness and reconciliation (Matt. 18:21-35).  They are also, when afflicted in body or burdened in conscience, against God, in order that when they pray for one another, they may know what to pray for, and may make intercession with intelligence and sympathy, and not in mere vague and general terms.  [19]

and pray one for another.  One for the other; mutually. Those who have done injury, and those who are injured, should pray for each other.  The apostle does not seem here, as in James 5:14-15, to refer particularly to the prayers of the ministers of religion, or the elders of the church, but refers to it as a duty pertaining to all Christians.  [31]

In details the precept is singularly wide.  The confession is not to be made by the layman to the elder, more than by the elder to the layman. In either case the question whether it was to be public or private, spontaneous or carried on by questions, is left open.  Examples such as those of Matthew 3:6; Acts 19:18-19, suggest the thought of the public confession of individual sins, which was, indeed, the practice of the Church of the third and fourth centuries, as it was afterwards that of many Monastic orders.  A later revival of the custom is found in the “class-meetings” of the followers of John Wesley.  [38]

that ye may be healed.  [This has] been thought to limit the counsel thus given to times of sickness.  It may be admitted that the words are to be taken primarily of bodily healing, but on the other hand, the tense of the imperatives implies continuous action.  The writer urges the habit of mutual prayer and intercession, that when sickness comes, there may be a quicker work of healing in the absence of spiritual impediments to the exercise of supernatural powers working through natural media.  [38]

Some restrict this to bodily healing, as in the case of the sickness mentioned above.  But there is no reason for this restriction; as the confession and the prayer are mutual, spiritual healing may also be included.  The term, therefore, is to be taken generally, including both spiritual and bodily healing.  And certainly confession has a healing efficacy.  There is no burden heavier to bear than the burden of some guilty secret.  Now this burden is lessened, if not removed, by confession.  Confession expels sin from the soul, and restores a man to his true self; whereas secrecy retains sin, and causes a man to live a false life.  [51]

the effectual [effective, NKJV] fervent prayer.  [Effectual=]  Sincere, earnest, believing.  [14]

of a righteous man.  Prayer, in order to prevail, must proceed from an earnest heart, and be made by a righteous man; that is, by a good, sincere, true-hearted man.  [51]

availeth much.  Has great influence in procuring blessings from God.  [14]


                        In depth:  Use by the Roman Catholic Church to justify “confession” to a priest [31]:  This passage is one on which Roman Catholics rely to demonstrate the propriety of “auricular confession,” or confession made to a priest with a view to an absolution of sin.  The doctrine which is held on that point is, that it is a duty to confess to a priest, at certain seasons, all our sins, secret and open, of which we have been guilty; all our improper thoughts, desires, words, and actions; and that the priest has power to declare on such confession that the sins are forgiven.  But never was any text less pertinent to prove a doctrine than this passage to demonstrate that. Because:  

                        (1) The confession here enjoined is not to be made by a person in health, that he may obtain salvation, but by a sick person, that he may be healed.  [Even if this is specifically in mind, the wording is so broad that it seems to be laying down an all-encompassing principle--applicable both in that case as well as times when one is in good health.  [rw]]

                        (2) as mutual confession is here enjoined, a priest would be as much bound to confess to the people as the people to a priest.

                        (3) no mention is made of a priest at all, or even of a minister of religion, as the one to whom the confession is to be made.

                        (4) the confession referred to is for “faults” with reference to “one another,” that is, where one has injured another; and nothing is said of confessing faults to those whom we have not injured at all.

                        (5) there is no mention here of absolution, either by a priest or any other person.

                        (6) if anything is meant by absolution that is Scriptural, it may as well be pronounced by one person as another; by a layman as a clergyman.  All that it can mean is, that God promises pardon to those who are truly penitent, and this fact may as well be stated by one person as another.  No priest, no man whatever, is empowered to say to another either that he is truly penitent, or to forgive sin.  Who can forgive sins but God only?”  None but he whose law has been violated, or who has been wronged, can pardon an offence.  No third person can forgive a sin which a man has committed against a neighbor; no one but a parent can pardon the offences of which his own children have been guilty towards him; and who can put himself in the place of God, and presume to pardon the sins which Hs creatures have committed against Him?



5:17                                                     Translations

Weymouth:     Elijah was a man with a nature similar to ours, and he earnestly prayed that there might be no rain: and no rain fell on the land for three years and six months.

WEB:              Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain, and it didn't rain on the earth for three years and six months.

Young’s:         Elijah was a man like affected as we, and with prayer he did pray -- not to rain, and it did not rain upon the land three years and six months.

Conte (RC):    Elijah was a mortal man like us, and in prayer he prayed that it would not rain upon the earth. And it did not rain for three years and six months.


5:17                 Elias [Elijah, NKJV].  The famous Old Testament prophet.  [rw]

was a man subject to like passions [nature, NKJV] as we are.  As much as to say, Do not think of Elias as some superhuman being, whose prevalent intercession with God you are forbidden to imitate.  He was a fellow-man with you, and a sharer with you of all the infirmities of human nature.  [14]

Elijah, through natural infirmity, suffered as we do from diseases, from temptation, from persecution, &c.  [47]

and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain.  Literally, ‘he prayed with prayer;’ a Hebraism for ‘he prayed earnestly.’  [51]

Not to gratify any private resentment of his, but as a punishment on the land for the idolatry which prevailed in the time of Ahab.  Famine was one of the principal methods by which God punished his people for their sins.  [31]

No mention is made in the Old Testament of this prayer, but it is announced prophetically.  He prayed, either before or after, that rain might be withheld until Israel repented.  [22]

and it rained not on the earth.  On the land of Palestine, for so the word earth is frequently understood in the Bible.  There is no reason to suppose that the famine extended beyond the country that was subject to Ahab.  [31]

This Orientalism need not be a snare to the most literal of readers.  The punishment, because of Ahab and Jezebel, fell on their own kingdom, and not the whole world.  In a similar hyperbole Obadiah told Elijah, concerning this very famine, “there is no nation, or kingdom, whither my lord hath not sent to seek thee” (1 Kings 18:10).  [46]

by the space of three years and six months.  The same period is stated by our Lord (Luke 4:25). The period three years and six months is remarkable as being the same space of time during which the two witnesses prophesied who had power to shut heaven that it rain not in the days of their prophecy (Revelation 11:6).  [51]

Three years--Cf. 1 Kings 18:1, “The third year,” viz., from Elijah’s going to Zarephath; the prophecy (v.1) was probably about five or six months previously.  [21] 


                        In depth:  Recent historical precedent that might have encouraged this example to especially weigh upon James’ mind (depending upon the date of the epistle of course) [38].  An interesting coincidence in connection with this reference to Elijah’s history presents itself in the narrative given in Josephus (Ant. xviii. 8, § 6) of the troubles caused by Caligula’s insane attempt to set up his statue in the Temple at Jerusalem.  Petronius, the then Governor of Judæa, was moved by the passionate entreaties of the people, and supported the efforts made by Agrippa I, who remained at Rome, to turn the Emperor from his purpose.

It was one of the years of drought that brought about the great famine foretold by Agabus (Acts 11:28).  No rain had fallen for many weeks, and the people—Christians, we may well believe, as well as Jews, though Josephus, of course, makes no mention of the former—were “instant in prayer,” calling upon the Lord God of Israel to send rain upon the earth.  Suddenly rain fell in a plenteous shower from an almost cloudless sky.  The earth was refreshed, and the pressing danger averted.  Petronius, Josephus relates, was much moved by this manifestation, this Epiphany, of the Divine Power, and looked upon it partly as an answer to the prayers of the people, partly as the reward of the equity which he had shewn in dealing with them.

According to the date which, on independent grounds, has here been assigned to St James’s Epistle, the event referred to must have happened but a few months before, or but a few months after, it.  If before, he may well have had it in his thoughts.  If after, it may well have been in part the effect of his teaching.  Students of Church History will remember the strikingly parallel instance of the prayers of the soldiers of the Thundering Legion in the Expedition of Marcus Aurelius against the Marcomanni (Euseb. Hist.;. Tertull. Apol. c. 5).



5:18                                                     Translations

Weymouth:     Again he prayed, and the sky gave rain and the land yielded its crops.

WEB:              He prayed again, and the sky gave rain, and the earth brought forth its fruit.

Young’s:         and again he did pray, and the heaven did give rain, and the land did bring forth her fruit.

Conte (RC):    And he prayed again. And the heavens gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.


5:18                 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced her fruit.          The allusion here seems to be to 1 Kings 18:42, 45, though it is not expressly said there that he prayed.  Perhaps it might be fairly gathered from the narrative that he did pray, or at least that would be the presumption, for he put himself into a natural attitude of prayer:  “He cast himself down upon the earth, and put his face between his knees,” 1 Kings 18:42.  In such circumstances, it is to be fairly presumed that such a man would pray; but it is remarkable that it is not expressly mentioned, and quite as remarkable that James should have made his argument turn on a thing which is not expressly mentioned, but which seems to have been a matter of inference.  It seems probable to me, therefore, that there was some tradition on which he relied, or that it was a common interpretation of the passage in 1Kings, that Elijah prayed earnestly, and that this was generally believed by those to whom the apostle wrote.  [31]   



5:19                                                     Translations

Weymouth:     My brethren, if one of you strays from the truth and some one brings him back.

WEB:              Brothers, if any among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back.

Young’s:         Brethren, if any among you may go astray from the truth, and any one may turn him back.

Conte (RC):    My brothers, if anyone of you strays from the truth, and if someone converts him.


5:19                 Brethren.  We have in these two last verses the conclusion of the Epistle; and certainly the words form a summary of its nature, its contents, and its design.  Its sole purpose was to correct the errors of the Jewish Christians, and to restore them to the truth of the Gospel.  [51]

if any of you do err from the truth.  Depart from the faith and practice of the gospel.  [14]

The case is that of one who has gone     astray:  he has erred “from the truth,” not so much in the matter of belief as of practice.  [7]

err.  A passive verb, and rightly rendered by Alford be seduced.  [39]

It matters now whether the wanderer goes astray of his own will or is led astray by others.  [50]  The result is the same in either case.  [rw]  

and one convert him [turns him back, NKJV].  Turn him from his error to the belief and practice of truth and duty.  [14]

Is the instrument in the hand of God of his restoration.  [51]



5:20                                                     Translations

Weymouth:     let him know that he who brings a sinner back from his evil ways will save the man's soul from death and throw a veil over a multitude of sins.

WEB:              let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death, and will cover a multitude of sins.

Young’s:         let him know that he who did turn back a sinner from the straying of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall cover a multitude of sins.

Conte (RC):    he ought to know that whoever causes a sinner to be converted from the error of his ways will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.


5:20                 Let him know.  Understand, recognize.  [rw]

                        As an inducement to attempt the work of restoring the erring.  [51]

that he which converteth [turns, NKJV] the sinner from the error of his way.  From the false doctrine and bad practice to which he had turned aside.  [47]

error.  The noun always involves the idea of being deceived as well as erring.  Compare 2 Peter 2:18, 3:17; 1 John 4:6.  [38]

shall save a soul from death.  The soul is obviously that of the sinner who is converted.  Death, bodily and spiritual, would be the outcome of the error if he were left alone, and in being rescued from the error he is therefore saved also from death.  [38]

Here, evidently, eternal death is meant, the punishment of the condemned, the death of the soul; a death compared with which the death of the body is but a trifle; thus intimating in the strongest manner the infinite importance of the restoration of the erring.  [51]

and shall hide a multitude of sins.  Cover them, by leading the person who has committed them to obtain, through repentance and faith in Christ, forgiveness of them.  Compare Psalm 32:1:  “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.”  [14]

The phrase is one of those which St. James has in common with St. Peter (1 Peter 4:8).  It occurs also in the LXX of Psalm 85:2, and in a nearly identical form in Psalm 32:1.  The Hebrew, and English version, of Proverbs 10:12 present a still closer parallel, but the LXX seems to have followed a different text, and gives “Friendship covers all those that are not contentious.” The context leaves hardly any room for doubt that the “sins” which are thought of as covered are primarily those of the man converted, and not those of the converter. There is, however, a studied generality in the form of the teaching, which seems to emphasize the wide blessedness of love.  [38]

a multitude of sins.  In the man saved, by preventing their growth and maturity.  [13] 

The sins not of the person who converts, but of the person who is converted; the multitude of his sins are blotted out; his actual sins, not the possible sins which the sinner might have committed, but of which his conversion has prevented the commission.  [51]

                        Or:  The case for applying this to the person convincing the other to change their lifestyle:  The concluding words (quoted from Proverbs 10:12 and found also in 1 Peter 4:8) are usually referred to the sinner.  But passages like Sirach 3:30; Daniel 4:27; Tobit 4:10; Tobit 12:9 show that the later Jews held that good deeds blot out the sins of those who do them.  Probably St. James has these passages in his mind, and teaches that he who waters others shall be watered also himself—that, in covering the sins of another a man may be covering his own.  [24]


                        Concluding thought on why there is no traditional epistle style conclusion [37].  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.


            Another approach [38].  The absence of any formal close to the Epistle is in many ways remarkable.  In this respect it stands absolutely alone in the New Testament, the nearest approach to it being found in 1 John 5:21.  It is a possible explanation of this peculiarity, that we have lost the conclusion of the Epistle.  It is, however, more probable that the abruptness is that of emphasis.  The writer had given utterance to a truth which he desired above all things to impress on the minds of his readers, and he could not do this more effectually than by making it the last word he wrote to them.







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17        Philip Doddridge, D.D.  The Family Expositor (Paraphrase and Version of

the New Testament [American edition]).  Amherst, Ms.:  J. S. & C. Adams,

and L. Boltwood; New York:  J Leavitt, 1834.


18        Adam Clarke, LL.D., F.S.A., etc.  The New Testament of our Lord and

            Saviour Jesus Christ  Vol. VI.  New York:  Abingdon Press, [n.d.].          


19        Donald Fraser, M.A., D.D.   Synoptical Lectures of the Books of Holy    Scripture  Vol. II.  New York:  Wilbur B. Ketcham, 1885.


20        Rev. William Jenks, D.D.  The Conprehensive Commentary of the Holy

Bible.  Philadelphia:  J. B. Lippincott & Co., 1838 copyright; 1847 printing. 


21        Rev. Robert Jamieson, D.D., Rev. A. R. Fausset, A.M., Rev. David Brown, D.D.  A Commentary, Critical and explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments  Vol. II.  Hartford:  S. S. Scranton Company, 1871.


22        Barton W. Johnson.  People’s New Testament.  1891.


23        Arno Gaebelein.  Annotated Bible.  1920s.


24        John R. Dummelow.  Dummelow’s Commentary on the Bible.



25        Robert Hawker.  Poor Man’s Commentary.  1828.


26        Johann A. Bengel.   Gnomon of the New Testament.  1742.


27        Alexander MacLaren.  Exposition of the Holy Scriptures.  18--.


28        Matthew Poole.  English Annotations on the Holy Bible.  1685.


29        John Trapp.  Complete Commentary.  Written 1600s; 1865-1868 edition.


30        Joseph Sutcliffe.  Commentary on the Old and New Testaments.  1835.


31        Albert Barnes.  Notes on the New Testament.  1870.


32        James Gray.  Concise Bible Commentary.  1897-1910.


33        F. B. Meyer.  Thru The Bible (Commentary).  1914 edition.


34        John and Jacob Abbott.  Abbott’s Illustrated New Testament.  1878. 


35        John Calvin.  Commentaries.  Written in 1500s.  Printing:  1840-1857.


36        William R. Nicoll, editor.  Expositor’s Greek Testament.   1897-1910.


37        Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges:  James, 1 Peter, 2         Peter, Jude.  Each individual volume:  1896.


38        Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges:  James. 

E. M. Plumptre.  1890.          


39        D. (Daniel) D. Whedon.   Commentary on the New Testament; volume 5:

Titus to Revelation.  New York:  Hunt & Eaton, 1880.


40        Ariel A. Livermore.  The Epistles to the Hebrews, the Epistles of James,

Peter, John, and Jude and the Revelation of John the Divine[:]  Commentary and Essays.  Boston:  Lockwood, Brooks and Company. 1881.


41        M[ichael] F. Sadler.  The General Epistles of SS. James, Peter, John, and

Jude.  Second Edition.  London:  George Bell and Sons.  1895.


42        Robert S. Hunt.  The Epistle to the Hebrews and the General Epistles.  In

the Cottage Commentary series.  London:  Joseph Masters, 1865.


43        A. T. Robertson.  New Testament Interpretation (Matthew to Revelation): 

            Notes on Lectures.  Taken stenographically.  Revised Edition by William M.

            Fouts and Alice M. Fouts.  Louisville, Kentucky:  1921.  Mimeographed.           


44        William G. Humphry.  A Commentary on the Revised Version of the New

Testament.  London:  Cassell, Petter, Galpin & Company, 1882. 


45        W. H. Bennett.  The General Epistles:  James, Peter, John and Jude.  In the

Century Bible series.  Edinburgh:  T. C. & E. C. Jack, 1901.


46        E. G. Punchard.  “James” in Ellicott’s New Testament Commentary for

English Readers.  1884.


47        Joseph Benson.  Commentary on the Old and New Testaments.  1811-1815.


48        William B. Godbey.  Commentary on the New Testament.  1896-1900.   



49        James Nisbett, editor.  Church Pulpit Commentary.  1876.  [Note:  this is not

            “The Pulpit Commentary.”]  At:           commentaries/cpc/


50        Revere F. Weidner.  Annotations on the General Epistles of James, Peter,

            John, and Jude.  In the Lutheran Commentary series.  New York:  Christian

            Literature Company, 1897.


51        Schaff’s Popular Commentary on the New Testament.  1879-1890.