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Povqen povlemoi kai; povqen mavcai ejn uJmi'n;
oujk ejnteu'qen, ejk tw'n hJdonw'n uJmw'n tw'n strateuomevnwn ejn toi'"
mevlesin uJmw'n; 4:2 ejpiqumei'te kai; oujk
e[cete, foneuvete kai; zhlou'te kai; ouj duvnasqe ejpitucei'n, mavcesqe
kai; polemei'te, oujk e[cete dia; to; mh; aijtei'sqai uJma'", 4:3 aijtei'te
kai; ouj lambavnete diovti kakw'" aijtei'sqe, i&na ejn tai'" hJdonai'"
uJmw'n dapanhvshte. 4:4 moicalivde", oujk oi[date o&ti hJ filiva tou'
kovsmou e[cqra tou' qeou' ejstin; o&"
eja;n ou\n boulhqh'/ fivlo" ei\nai tou' kovsmou, ejcqro;" tou' qeou' kaqivstatai.
4:5 h] dokei'te o&ti kenw'" hJ grafh; levgei, Pro;" fqovnon ejpipoqei'
to; pneu'ma o& katwv/kisen ejn hJmi'n, 4:6 meivzona de; divdwsin cavrin;
JO qeo;" uJperhfavnoi" ajntitavssetai,
tapeinoi'" de; divdwsin cavrin.
uJpotavghte ou\n tw'/ qew'/, ajntivsthte de; tw'/ diabovlw/ kai; feuvxetai
ajf j uJmw'n, 4:8 ejggivsate tw'/ qew'/ kai; ejggiei' uJmi'n. kaqarivsate
cei'ra", aJmartwloiv, kai; aJgnivsate kardiva", divyucoi. 4:9 talaipwrhvsate
kai; penqhvsate kai; klauvsate. oJ gevlw" uJmw'n eij" pevnqo" metatraphvtw
kai; hJ cara; eij" kathvfeian. 4:10 tapeinwvqhte ejnwvpion kurivou kai;
(103) 4.1 From where do wars
fightings . . . come?
they not originate
(105) 4.2 You crave
do not possess
(113) 4.3 you ask
(123) 4.8 draw near to God
(127) 4.9 Become miserable
your laughter be turned into mourning
(132) 4.10 Be humbled before the Lord,
The rhetorical structure of this pericope is rather well defined. The author's thesis position is once more introduced by a rhetorical question (statement 103) then followed by his own answer (statement 104).
The second section (statements 105 - 119) represent his elaboration of his position about the source of disruption and chaos in human experience. This expansion unfolds in two segments: (1) statements 105 through 114 develop a logical exposition of the nature of 'passion' set forth in statement 104; (2) statements 115 through 119 build on the first section with an exposition on 'friendship with the world,' which is at the heart of 'passion.'
The third section (statements 120- 133) apply the previous discussion through a series of rapid fire admonitions to abandon worldliness and return to God. This is the solution to the issue of disruption of relationships.
In summary, disruption of relationships with others is due to passion. Passion by nature has an orientation to this world, not to God. The solution then is to abandon the world and return to God.
You will notice from the block diagram that the writing style of James changes somewhat here from the previous passages. A lot higher ratio of admonitions (imperative mood Greek verbs) is found here. Also, the sentences are characteristically very short and pointed in meaning. Additionally, references to Old Testament scripture passages play a more important role in this pericope than is usually the case in this NT book. The effect is to pick up the tempo of thought expression with more forceful statement of viewpoint. Ironically, the topic of this pericope is commonly found in the non-religious Greco-Roman literature all the way back to the classical Greek philosophers some three hundred years earlier.
Literary Setting Questions:
1. From the chart in the
James Study, identify the theme setting of this pericope.
2. What is a possible connection of 4:1-10
to James 1:27? Read both passages carefully
to understand the link.
3. Some commentators link 3:18 to
By studying both passages carefully, what would be a conceptual basis for
4. How does James 4:1-3 relate to James 1:13-18?
James 4:1-3 (NRSV). 1 Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? 2 You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures. James 1:13-18 (NRSV). 13 No one, when tempted, should say, "I am being tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one. 14 But one is tempted by one's own desire, being lured and enticed by it; 15 then, when that desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and that sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death. 16 Do not be deceived, my beloved.17 Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.18 In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures.
Identify the common link between these two passages.
Study of 4:1
5. In the ancient world the topic of broken human relationships, especially the issue of warfare, was commonly discussed. Some commentators are convinced James 4:1-10 is a contribution to that larger discussion. Compare James 4:1-10 to the following discussions noting similarities and differences.
Philo, De Gigantibus, XI. 51: (49) And again, the scripture saith in another passage, "But stand thou here with me. For this is an oracle of God, which was given to the prophet, and his station was to be one of unmoved tranquillity by God, who always stands immovably; for it is indispensable, that all things which are placed by the side of him must be kept straight by such an undeviating rule. (50) On this account it is, as it seems to me, that excessive pride, named Jethro, marvelling at his unvarying and always equal choice of what was wise, a choice which always looked at the same things in the same way, was perplexed, and put a question to him in this form, "Why cost thou sit by thyself?" (51) For any one who considers the continual war raging among men in the middle of peace, and existing, not merely among nations, and countries, and cities, but also among private houses, or I might rather say, between every individual man and the inexpressible and heavy storms which agitate the souls of men, which, by their evident impetuosity, throw into confusion all the affairs of life, may very naturally wonder, if in such a storm, any one can enjoy tranquillity, and can feel a calm in such a billowy state of the stormy sea.How does this compare to James' discussion?
At what levels does Philo indicate the existence of wars?
What does he identify as the sources of these wars?
How does this compare to James' discussion?
Plato, Phaedo, 66C-D: [66b] And when they consider all this, must not true philosophers make a reflection, of which they will speak to one another in such words as these: We have found, they will say, a path of speculation which seems to bring us and the argument to the conclusion that while we are in the body, and while the soul is mingled with this mass of evil, our desire will not be satisfied, and our desire is of the truth. For the body is a source of endless trouble to us by reason of the mere requirement of food; and [66c] also is liable to diseases which overtake and impede us in the search after truth: and by filling us so full of loves, and lusts, and fears, and fancies, and idols, and every sort of folly, prevents our ever having, as people say, so much as a thought. For whence come wars, and fightings, and factions? whence but from the body and the lusts of the body? For wars are occasioned by the love of money, and money has to be acquired for [66d] the sake and in the service of the body; and in consequence of all these things the time which ought to be given to philosophy is lost. Moreover, if there is time and an inclination toward philosophy, yet the body introduces a turmoil and confusion and fear into the course of speculation, and hinders us from seeing the truth; and all experience shows that if we would have pure knowledge of anything we must be quit of the body, and the soul in herself must behold [66e] all things in themselves: then I suppose that we shall attain that which we desire, and of which we say that we are lovers, and that is wisdom; not while we live, but after death, as the argument shows; for if while in company with the body, the soul cannot have pure knowledge, one of two things seems to follow -- either knowledge is not to be attained at all, or, if at all, after death. For then, and not till then, the soul [67a] will be in herself alone and without the body. In this present life, I reckon that we make the nearest approach to knowledge when we have the least possible concern or interest in the body, and are not saturated with the bodily nature, but remain pure until the hour when God himself is pleased to release us. And then the foolishness of the body will be cleared away and we shall be pure and hold converse with other pure souls, and know of ourselves the clear light everywhere; [67b] and this is surely the light of truth. For no impure thing is allowed to approach the pure. These are the sort of words, Simmias, which the true lovers of wisdom cannot help saying to one another, and thinking. You will agree with me in that?
At what levels does Plato indicate the existence of wars?
What does he identify as the sources of these wars?
What solution to this problem does Plato propose?
6. One important issue for understanding the details of 4:1-10
has to do with the specific setting of this discussion. Is it a broad,
general discussion similar to the above discussions of Philo and Plato?
Is it more limited and focused on disruptions within the community of faith?
Or, perhaps, is it limited only to the individual and internal disruption
down inside us? Study 4:1-10 from the above translations
and note clues like personal pronouns etc. suggesting which of these contexts
is more appropriate.
7. Identify which of the interpretative alternatives of the word 'members' in statement 104 is the one most likely intended by James? Does this refer to the individual's body? The community of faith? Society in general? Pay close attention to the surrounding verses. Use the insights from the above question 5, since this question is closely related to it.
(104) Do they not originate
from your passions
which are at war
among your members?
Study the above translations of this phrase 'among your members' (Greek, ejn toi'" mevlesin uJmw'n). Also, what insights do Rom. 7:23 and 1 Cor. 6:12-18 provide?
Rom. 7:23 (NRSV). 14 For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am of the flesh, sold into slavery under sin. F28 15 I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. 17 But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. 21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, 23 but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!8. Define the idea of 'passion' (ejk tw'n hJdonw'n uJmw'n).
So then, with my mind I am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin.
1 Cor. 6:12-18 (NRSV). 12 "All things are lawful for me," but not all things are beneficial. "All things are lawful for me," but I will not be dominated by anything. 13 "Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food," and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is meant not for fornication but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 And God raised the Lord and will also raise us by his power. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Should I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! 16 Do you not know that whoever is united to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For it is said, "The two shall be one flesh." 17 But anyone united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. 18 Shun fornication! Every sin that a person commits is outside the body; but the fornicator sins against the body itself. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20 For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.
First, how does James define this idea? Note the grammar structure as reflected in the diagram.
(104) Do they not originate
from your passions
which are at war
among your members?
Passions are the source of what?
Passions reflect what kind of nature?
Second, how does this concept show up in the New Testament? It is the Greek word hJdonhj, from which our English word hedonism is derived, and in addition to the two instances here (vv. 1, 3) in James it is found in three other places in the New Testament:Luke 8:14 (NRSV). As for what fell among the thorns, these are the ones who hear; but as they go on their way, they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures (hJdonw'n)of life, and their fruit does not mature.
Titus 3:3 (NRSV). For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures (hJdonai'"), passing our days in malice and envy, despicable, hating one another.
2 Peter 2:13 (NRSV). They count it a pleasure (hJdonhjn) to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their dissipation while they feast with you.
Third, similar concepts also exist in the New Testament, although expressed by different Greek words. For example, compare Paul's discussion in Gal. 5:16-24. What is Paul's related term here?Gal. 5:16-24 (NRSV). 16 Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, 21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
Study of 4:2-6
This second section of the pericope expands the thesis presentation in statements 103 and 104. Verses two and three comprise the first segment of this expansion. These statements (105 - 114) are developed along a well defined structure.
9. The first two sets of declarations that begin the expansion of the idea of 'passion' here.
10. In statement 112, James picks up on one of the three segments in the above in order to continue his elaboration. At this point, James' discussion takes on a very distinctive direction from the earlier mentioned discussions of Philo and Plato.
(105) 4.2 You crave
(106) --- do not possess;
(107) you kill.
(108) you covet
(109) --- are not able to obtain;
(110) you fight
(111) --- do battle.
The thought structure revolves around the sequence of (1) desire, (2) unfulfillment of desire, and (3) consequence in action. Identify this structure in the two sets of expressions:
Structure: Statements 105-107: Statements 108-111: (1) Desire:
Notice how the references to 'fight' and 'battle' tie this section back to the initial question in statement 103 by using the verb forms here of the nouns used in verse one (statement 103).
(112) You do not possessWhich one of the segments (1), (2), or (3) does James expand?
because you do not ask;
11. In statements 113 and 114, James continues his expansion of unfulfilled desire by treating the issue of unanswered prayer, over against the failure to submit desire to prayer (statement 112).
(113) 4.3 you askDescribe the basis for unanswer prayer in statement 114. What two reasons does James provide for God not granting the prayer request?
(114) --- do not receive
because you ask wrongly,
so that you might squander your requests
on your passions.
12. What insight does James 1:6-8
provide here on the issue of unanswered prayer?
13. Verses 4-6 (statements 115 - 119) comprise the second part of James'
expansion of the idea of 'passion'. The emphasis, although a logical outgrowth
of the first expansion section (vv. 2-3), is focused in a different direction.
Read carefully the above translations of verses 4-6
and identify the direction.
14. From the online
concordance listing of the uses of the word "adulterers" in the NRSV
translation of the Bible, describe how James uses the word in verse 4?
Use the variety of translations of this word in the above
translations as an additional source of insight.
15. What insights do the following passages provide on the topic of 'worldliness'?
18 If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you. 19 If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world — therefore the world hates you.
1 John 2:15-17.
15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world; 16 for all that is in the world — the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in riches — comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 And the world and its desire are passing away, but those who do the will of God live forever.
7 For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God's law — indeed it cannot, 8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.
10 But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
What is meant by the term 'world'?
From these passages, especially the last two, in comparison to James, describe the biblical idea of 'worldliness.'
16. Should statements 107, 110 and 111 be taken literally or figuratively?
What significance does this have on the perceived historical setting (Question
5 above) of this passage?
17. Compare the above translations of James 4:5, paying particular
attention to the marginal readings especially in the NIV.
What are the translation alternatives to this verse?
18. From a study of the quote from Proverbs 3:34 in James 4:6 (statement 119), explain how James uses this Old Testament passage to support his point of view.
James 4:6 (NRSV). But he gives all the more grace; therefore it says, "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble." Proverbs 3:34 (NRSV). Toward the scorners he is scornful, but to the humble he shows favor.
Study of 4:7-10
This third section of the passage makes the application of the preceding discussion by providing a solution to the issue of disruption in the community. The inferential coordinate conjunction ou\n translated as "therefore," or "then" introduces the following statements and characterizes them as making explicit what was assumued to be implicit in the preceding discussion.
The rhetorical structure of these verses is clear. The base line admonition is first in statement 120 ("be submissive to God"). James returns to it at the end in statement 132 ("be humbled before the Lord"). In between stand a variety of rapid fire admonitions employing a wide variety of traditional ancient Jewish thought structures: command/promise; synonymous parallelism; inside/outside (=thoughts/actions) admonitions etc.
19. Identify the three sets of command/promise structures in statements 121 through 133 by copying them from the diagram above.
what it is talking about.
it is talking about.
it is talking about.
20. Identify the one set of inside/outside admonitions in statements
121 through 133 by copying them from the diagram above.
Describe what they're talking about.
21. Identify the two sets of synonymous parallelism structures in statements 121 through 133 by copying them from the diagram above.
what it is talking about.
it is talking about.
22. In light of the expansion of the idea of being submissive to God
(statement 120) in verses 7b through 10, describe what you now understand
submissiveness to mean.
Application of the Text:
1. Have you experienced the kind of chaos James describes in your church?
Or, in a previous church you belonged to?
2. What lies at the root of most church scabbles?
3. How well do you control 'passion' in your life?
4. How well do you maintain the tension of being a Christian "in this
word but not of it"?
5. When you realize the tendency toward worldliness in your life, how
do you deal with it?
For Further Study:
See the Bibliography listing for James under Bibliography, especially Individual Volumes and Articles.
Cranford, Lorin, and Steibel, Sophia. "Using Translations for Serious
Bible Study: An application of James 4:1-10." Located at http://www.cranfordville.com/JAS4-ART.htm