Re: Effective prayer: Jam 5:16

From: Lee R. Martin (
Date: Tue Aug 26 1997 - 11:57:37 EDT

> At 5:56 PM -0500 8/25/97, Lee R. Martin wrote:
> >A question about the participle in James 5:16b.
> >...polu ischuei dehsis dikaiou energoumenh
> >
> >The New American Bible translates: "The effective prayer of a righteous
> >man can accomplish much." Thus, "energoumenh" is understood as an
> >adjectival ptc. modifying "dehsis."
> >
> >But the New Revised Standard Version has: "The prayer of the righteous
> >is powerful and effective. In this case, "energoumenh" is translated as
> >a predicate adj.

Carl W. Conrad wrote:
>> What I find disturbing about the way the question is posed may be something
> that Lee has not intended--an apparent assumption that these translations
> are meant to reflect precisely how the translators construe the Greek; I
> don't think either version is endeavoring to reproduce the structure so
> much as the sense of the Greek. So let's repose the question in terms of
> the Greek text rather than of the translations:

Dear Carl,
Please do not make assumptions about my assumptions. I like to use
translations as illustrations of a question. I did not mean that the
NRS construed the Greek ptc. as a pred. adj., I only pointed to the fact
that they translate it that way. Am I not correct? It translates
"...prayer ... is...effective." I hope this helps explain my
statement. Of course you may be talking about something entirely
different. You did not specifically state where you think I erred.
Also, I never said that the versions were "endeavoring to reproduce the
structure" of Greek. Nevertheless, It seems to me that the two versions
must understand the Greek differently, because "effective of a righteous
man can accomplish much" does not carry the same message as "prayer of
the righteous is powerful and effective." The difference is based on
the translation of the participle, about which you and I agree.

> I would certainly understand POLU here only with ISCUEI: "A righteous man's
> prayer avails a lot." I certainly would NOT take it as an intended primary
> object of the participle ENERGOUMENH;

My question had nothing to do with POLU. Where did I say it was an
object of the ptc.?

rather I would understand ENERGOUMENH
> as circumstantial (adverbial) with DEHSIS, "A righteous man's prayer, when
> it is efficacious, avails a lot" or one could give the participle more of a
> conditional force if one wants to make the notion expressed more than a
> tautology: "A righteous man's prayer avails a lot, if it is (truly)
> efficacious."; or the participle could be understood here with a causal
> force: "A righteous man's prayer avails a lot, because it is (really)
> efficacious." The more I think about it, the more I like this last way of
> viewing it: the writer wans to say something about the worth, the
> usefulness of a righteous man's prayer, but then adds a qualifier to
> indicate WHEN, or WHETHER, or WHY that prayer is useful. That's how the
> word-order of the Greek seems to work.

I agree, your last translation seems superior to any that I have seen.

Lee R. Martin
Adjunct Faculty in Old Testament and Hebrew
Church of God Theological Seminary / Cleveland, TN 37311
Pastor, Prospect Church of God
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