Class notes on James 4:4,5

Q:  What is the deal with James 4:4,5?  

James 4:4-5 (ESV)    You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. [5] Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us“?   J

ames 4:4,5 (NIV)      You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. [5] Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely? 

James 4:4,5 (NASV)            4You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with  the world is  hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.  [5] Or do you think that the Scripture  speaks to no purpose: “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us“?   

James 4:4,5 (NKJV)            Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. [5] Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”?    

 James 4:4,5 (NLT)You adulterers! Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God. [5] What do you think the Scriptures mean when they say that the spirit God has placed within us is filled with envy? *             *(OR that God longs jealously for the human spirit he has placed within us? or that the Holy Spirit, whom God has placed within us, opposes our envy?) 

 V4 – The sense seems clear that “friendship” with the world is incompatible with “friendship” with God.  While we are to Love the world as God did, (note that John 3:16 uses the Greek verb based on agape), we are not to be intimate friends with the world (James uses philia).  It is similar to Jesus teaching in  

Matthew 6:24     “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”   V. 5 Is more difficult.          

  v. 5a – there does not seem to be a specific verse quoted, but a sense of the             scriptures in general. 

v. 5b in Greek looks like this   

toward     envy/jealousy     he/it longs      the spirit       

pros   phthonon           epipothei      to pneuma   

which/whom       *he dwells        in          us      ho                     *katokisen       en        humin           

  *Textual variant {C} katokesen –  “he causes to dwell”  (two different verbs) 

There are two linguistic issues:

  •   In Greek, word order is not that important, unlike English, so the words can be put together in several ways.
  •   James is influenced by Hebrew – so his Greek travels through a Hebrew Filter, before it ever gets to English. 

There are several interpretive questions:           

Who is longing/jealous/yearning?                         

  • The (human) spirit                       
  • The Holy Spirit                       
  • God                        

For whom or what is he longing?                         

  • The spirit lusts (for the world)                       
  • The Spirit yearns (for us)                       
  • The Spirit is jealous (of the world)                       
  • God is jealous (for our spirit)                       
  • God is jealous (for the Holy Spirit in us)           

Is it yearning or jealousy?    

Is it the Holy Spirit in us, the human spirit, or the spirit of sinfulness?                       

Which textual variant should be used?                       

  • The spirit/Spirit who dwells in us                       
  • The spirit/Spirit who was caused to dwell in us
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One thought on “Class notes on James 4:4,5

  1. Worthwhile comment, well-presented. Verse 5 is essentially God’s angle on the issue referred to in the equation in verse 4.

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