Huub van de Sandt, «James 4,1-4 in the Light of the Jewish Two Ways
Tradition 3,1-6», Vol. 88 (2007) 38-63
The author of the Letter of James accuses his readers (Jas 4,1-4) of being responsible for war, murder and adultery. How are we to explain this charge? This paper shows that the material in Jas 1,13-21; 2,8-11 and 4,1-4 is closely akin to
the teknon section in Did 3,1-6. The teknon section belonged to the Jewish Two Ways tradition which, for the most part, is covered by the first six chapters of the
Didache. Interestingly, Did 3,1-6 exhibits close affinity with the ethical principles of a particular stream of Rabbinic tradition found in early Derekh Erets treatises. James 4,1-4 should be considered a further development of the warnings in Did 3,1-6.
James 4,1-4 in the Light of the Jewish Two Ways Tradition 3,1-6 41
verbal argument, private violence or national conflict? How can one
seriously accuse Christian members of the community or the community
as a whole of actual murder (12)? Moreover, â€œyou murderâ€ neither fits
well with the following â€œyou are enviousâ€ (zhlou'te) which sounds
slightly out of place after an accusation of an outrageous crime. Erasmus
resolved the difficulty by offering a text-critical emendation. He
proposed altering â€œyou murderâ€ (foneuvete) to â€œyou are jealousâ€
(fqonei'te) (13). This might seem an appropriate conjecture since the
words fqovno" - zh'lo" are often found paired in biblical and early-
Christian literature (1 Macc 8,16; TestXII.Sim 2,7; 4,5; Gal 5,21; 1 Clem
3,2; 4,7.13; 5,2) (14). On the other hand, appeals to textual emendation
should always be a last option. There is no textual support whatsoever
for this solution since all manuscripts attest to the present reading (15).
The third difficulty regards the sudden address of the moicalivde"
(â€œadulteressesâ€) in 4,4. How can this diction be explained? The abrupt
transition to the feminine vocative describes the community as being
an adulterous generation. Indeed, there are many OT references where
Israel is presented as Godâ€™s unfaithful wife denounced in prophetic
books (Ezek 16,38; 23,45) but a marriage of God metaphor is found
(12) â€œEvery attempt to make sense of â€˜you killâ€™ (phoneuete) as it stands in the
traditional text produces an intolerable climaxâ€¦â€; cf. J.B. ADAMSON, The Epistle
of James (NICNT; Grand Rapids, MI 1976) 167.
(13) â€œNon video quid illud verbum occiditis ad sensum faciat. Forte scriptum
fuit, fqonei'te et zhlou'te, id est â€˜Invidetis et aemulamini, et non potestis
consequiâ€™, ut scriptor dormitans pro fqonei'te scripserit foneuvete; â€¦â€ (â€œI do not
see how this word you kill makes sense here. Perhaps there was written fqonei'te
and zhlou'te, that is, â€˜you are jealous and you seek, and you cannot obtainâ€™, and
so [I conclude that] a sleeping scribe wrote foneuvete instead of fqonei'te; â€¦â€); for
text and translation, see J.L.H. KRANS, Beyond What Is Written. Erasmus and
Beza as Conjectural Critics of the New Testament (Diss.; Zutphen 2004) 112; for
information about the conjectureâ€™s reception history, see ibid., 113 and n. 118.
(14) The terms fqovno" and zh'lo" are often used interchangeably as well; cf.
JOHNSON, The Letter of James, 271; DIBELIUS, James, 217-218; DAVIDS, The
Epistle of James, 158, 163-164; MOO, The Epistle of James, 145; HARTIN, James,
192; and M.A. JACKSON-MCCABE, Logos and Law in the Letter of James. The
Law of Nature, the Law of Moses, and the Law of Freedom (NTS 100; Leiden â€“
Boston â€“ KÃ¶ln 2001) 203-204.
(15) Cf. DAVIDS, The Epistle of James, 158; HARTIN, James, 197. Various
other explanations have been offered: G. KITTEL, â€œDer geschichtliche Ort des
Jakobusbriefesâ€, ZNW 41 (1942) 71-105; esp. 87; P.J. HARTIN, James and the Q
Sayings of Jesus (JSNTSS 47; Sheffield 1991) 165, n. 2; S. LAWS, A Commentary
on the Epistle of James (BNTC 18; London 1980) 171; JOHNSON, The Letter of