Re: Subject: James 5:13-19

From: Daniel L Christiansen (
Date: Tue Jan 04 2000 - 22:50:46 EST

I have not seen any responses to this post: perhaps I have just missed
them. However, I would like to address a few of the issues raised here.

> Mark Markham wrote:
> Subject: James 5:13-19
> Dear all,
> I am having a mixed reaction concerning the use of several words and
> the context of this passage. Please put aside the theological
> implications here without much bias help me see what the Greek says.

        First of all, I think it should be noted that, in certain instances,
decisions regarding meaning cannot be made in the absence of one's
theology/philosophy. This is so, due to the semantic range of the terms
involved. As you have stated, you have seen the word "used both ways."
When we try defining what a term "means," we go to clear context. When
the context is not entirely clear, we really have to weigh the
probabilities through our other bases of understanding. Having said all this
(which I think is probably obvious), let me say that I believe this
passage may be one of the troublesome ones.

> Sickness. Is it physical or spiritual emotional. I have seen the word
> used both ways.

        You don't identify the Greek terms to which you refer: there are
multiple possibilities in the passage. 1) KAKOPAQEI occurs 4x in LXX/5
in GNT. As far as I can see, it always refers to some sort of physical
toil or the weariness produced thereby. 2) ASQENEI occurs far more
often, at 78 in LXX/91 in GNT. The great majority of times, the context
seems to point clearly to physical weakness or sickness. The references
to spiritual weakness appear to me to be fairly well marked out. 3)
KAMNONTA is found 6x in LXX/2x in GNT. Most of these uses have physical
sickness or weariness in view. The one LXX citation which is referring
to emotional weariness is Job 10:1; the occurrence in Hebrews 12:3 also
refers to emotional/spiritual weariness. However, it is worthy of note
that both the Hebrews and Job citations pair the verb with hH YUCH;
thus, the emotional focus really stems from the noun, and not from the
verb itself.
        So, while the idea of spiritual or emotional sickness is certainly
within the semantic range of each of these terms, it seems to me that
the more common meaning is related to physical problems. For the
emotional focus to be argued, I would certainly want to see a contextual basis.

> Healing: ditto but not so closely divided.

        Again, you have not identified the Greek term(s) in question. I am
going to hazard a guess, that it is SWSEI in verse 15. SWZW is one of
those "problem children" for the Church. It has been translated by the
"save/salvation" word-group; this word-group has then been invested with
such theological importance, that it is difficult for most readers to
see anything but eschatological implications in the verses where it
appears. In truth, SWZW is ageneral term meaning something like
"rescue." The question, then, is what is the object being rescued from?
        Given that this is the case with SWZW, it is clear that your question
regarding "healing" cannot be answered until the question of "sickness"
is first dealt with.
> Anoint. There appears to be two words use to describe anointing in the
> NT. What is the dif? Is it significant?

        I am going to leave this one alone. Too many
theological/denominational minefields lie on this path :)
> My gut reaction is James is talking about physical mistreatment and
> perhaps spiritual defeat akin to weariness or depression ( i.e. sin).
> This seems to be the scope of the healing that involves the elders,
> oil, prayer, and confession. I know that is not very mystical but Is
> this a straight forward understanding of the text?

        As far as which reading would be more mystical, I don't think that is
at all important. To a Christian, all of life is mystical, since it is
given, regiven, and empowered by the invisible resurrected Christ. But I
would think that a straightforward reading would include physical
sickness, and physical healing (rescue from sickness). That, due to
"straightforward" being synonymous with "most common."


Daniel L. Christiansen
Department of Bible
Multnomah Bible College
8435 NE Glisan Street
Portland, OR  97220
(Also Portland Bible College, Prof of Biblical Languages)

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