James Chapter 4 Notes – Winterim with Dr. Moo

James Chapter 4 Notes - Winterim with Dr. MooHere’s chapter 4 of James from my winterim class with Dr. Douglas Moo. You can download them in pdf format or view them in plain text here on the blog.

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Notes from the 2008 Winterim at the Master’s Seminary on James with Dr. Moo
by Nathan Wells

The Letter of


Chapter 4

Sub-Point of 4:1-3[NRW1]

1 What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you[NRW2] ? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members?

2[NRW3] You lust and do not have; so you commit murder[NRW4] . You are envious[NRW5] and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask[NRW6] .

3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives[NRW7] , so that you may spend it on your pleasures.

Sub-Point of 4:4-10[NRW8]

4 You adulteresses[NRW9] , do you not know that friendship[NRW10] with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

5 [NRW11] Or do you think that the Scripture[NRW12] speaks[NRW13] to no purpose: “He jealously[NRW14] desires[NRW15] the Spirit [NRW16] which He[NRW17] has made to dwell [NRW18] in us[NRW19] ”?

6[NRW20] But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

7 Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded[NRW21] .

9 Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter[NRW22] be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom.

10[NRW23] Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.

Sub-Point 4:11-12[NRW24]

11[NRW25] Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it.

12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor?

The Structure of James 4:13-5:11[NRW26]

13 Come now[NRW27] , you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.”

14[NRW28] Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.

15 Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.”

16 But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil.

17[NRW29] Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.


Quarrels come from within:

-Quarrels come from pleasures v. 1

-Fights and violence come

from “acquisitive urge” v. 2a

-Rightly-motivated prayer satisfies

our desires vv. 2b-3

[NRW2]Some think James brings this topic up because of the activity of “Zealots” who hated Rome – but we must remember it is “among you” not so much against those outside the community (i.e. Rome).


This really is about punctuation (a decision made by editors)

Three-Clause Structure

“You want something but don’t get it”

“You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want”

“You quarrel and fight”


Two-Clause Structure (because the “murder” part doesn’t make sense)

“You wan something but don’t get it” “you commit murder”

“You covet and cannot have what you want” “you quarrel and fight” (NASB; NRSV; ESV; NLT; TNIV)

[NRW4]This is striking…why such an extreme?

The “Zealot” hypothesis (killing Romans, but this is unlikely as seen in comment on “among you” in 4:1)

The “Jesus” hypothesis (you murder in your heart)

But it seems there is some Jewish tradition here that might shed light: from the Test. Of Simeon (brother of Joseph): “On Envy”

“And now, children, take heed of the spirit of deceit and of envy. For envy rules over the whole mind of a man, and suffers him neither to eat, nor drink, nor to do any good thing: it ever suggests to him to destroy him that he envies

So what we see if that James is saying more that – murder is the end result of envy – if you don’t check it, if you don’t get control of it – the end product will be murder!

So in translation, we should leave φονεύετε as “murder” not just “get really angry” or something.

[NRW5]ζηλοῦτε see comparison of root in note on 3:14 “bitter jealousy”

[NRW6]To battle envy: PRAY and ask God.

[NRW7]This is the tendency of the world – they don’t desire God, but rather love themselves.

[NRW8]Dr. Moo feels this section is the main focus of the book. In this paragraph James shifts slightly away from the “Wisdom” genre and caps on the teaching of the prophets.

[NRW9]Not physical adultery. The form of the Greek is feminine – μοιχαλίδες (the NASB is the only one which keeps it). But we must be careful, because most English readers will read this in a straightforward way – so possibly “you adulterous people” might be better (this is Dr. Moo’s view). But still, I think the picture is lost to some degree, because “adulteresses” will bring the biblically literate to think of the OT picture. But we must remember, many people are not biblically literate will think of physical adultery.

James is reflecting the rich Old Testament tradition of God as the husband and His people as the bride.

[NRW10]Interesting James uses the “friendship” word again (fundamental loyalty – where the soul is, where our values are being formed) – the value of friendship in the cultural background. The point is clear: we must make a decision – we cannot have both God and the world. This is reminiscent of Jesus’ teaching.

[NRW11]Probably the most difficult verse to translate in James.


ΦθόνονEnvy (sinful) or Jealousy (positive)

ἐπιποθεῖdesires (sinfully) or longs for (positive)

πνεῦμαSpirit or spirit? Subject or object?

1a – Tendency of humans to sinful envy the spirit desires in an envious way “the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely” and “Scripture” is viewed in the normal OT sense or Jewish sense (NIV KJV NKJV NLT) – Strong lexical argument (it means envy) TNIV will change to this view in next revision.

1b – Similar to 1a; but “Scripture” refers to v. 6: “Or do you think Scripture speaks without reason? For does not the spirit he caused to live in us envy intensely? But he gives more grace.”

2a – God’s jealousy for his people [God] longs jealously for the S/spirit in us “he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us (TNIV NRSV ESV NASB) – Dr. Moo at this time prefers this view

2b – Divine Jealousy – Spirit longs jealously for us “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously” (NKJV HCSB) – (Scripture is OT theme about the jealousy of God)

[NRW12]What does this mean? Because the words that follow are not found in Scripture. Is he paraphrasing, or summarizing Scripture generally?

[NRW13]Quotations in the NT are different than our quotations – it could be more that “Scripture teaches” in a broad sense generally. A summary of the substance of Scripture.

[NRW14]Πρὸς φθόνον – should this be taken adverbially? “Towards envy”


[NRW16]τὸ πνεῦμαit is neuter here so it could be the object or the subject.

Is it the breath of life – or the Holy Spirit?

[NRW17]Is God the subject? Most agree He is…so that might make God the subject of “jealously desires” – this would be the most simple understanding – not that the s/Spirit “jealously desires”

[NRW18]If Πρὸς φθόνον seems odd, that if this was meant to be the human spirit doing something sinful that James would point out that God caused it to dwell in us.

[NRW19]Or “among us?”

[NRW20]This is the basis for verses 7-10 – if you want this grace – submit yourself…

[NRW21]δίψυχος – See also 1:8

[NRW22]The laughter of the fool – superficially happy, enjoying the world, laughing at the godly and scorning them. We should not be happy about our sin.

[NRW23]An inclusio to verse 7

This section gets to the heart of what James is saying – negatively against the “double-souled” – that attitude is nothing else than spiritual adultery. God is not like other gods, he has no rival, and therefore demands that his people give him exclusive loyalty. James is a hard hitting book. But this paragraph is the softest, gospel reflecting part of the book, for God gives greater grace, and will exalt us if we humble ourselves. “God and his great demand, and God and his great giving”

[NRW24]Another one of those seeming subject “jumps” in James, but since he started with sinful abusive speech in 3:1-12 it makes some sense that he closes now speaking about sinful, critical speech in 4:11-12

[NRW25]An implicit attack against arrogance. People putting themselves in the place of God – “I have the right to judge this brother or sister because I am involved in a righteous cause” Christians have a tendency to speak against each other, on issues that are not necessary. Clearly James is not saying never speak against another believer, if they are in sin, church discipline etc, but we need to be very careful and very cautious in speaking against a brother or sister unless we are sure we need to do so.


-Denunciation of the Arrogance Associated with Wealth 4:13-17

-Denunciation of the Abuse of Wealth 5:1-6

-How the Righteous Should Respond 5:7-11

“Now listen, you who say…” v. 13

Why it is wrong: life’s brevity v. 14

“Instead, you ought to say…” v. 15

Why it is wrong: arrogance v. 16

Why Christians need to do this (and other things required by God) v. 17

[NRW27]i.e. “Now Listen”


“Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor…” (NASB; see also NLT

“Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist…” (TNIV see also NKJV; ESV)

[NRW29]This sounds like a very, very general statement – very proverbial but…while it is most likely a proverbial statement, James deliberately puts it here, connecting it with what was said previously “οὖν” (Therefore) – hammering home his point – James has told us what we need to do, and so now that we know, we better go ahead and do it.

“Sins of Commission”

“Sins of Omission”

There also might be a connection with Proverbs 3:27-28 in the LXX (not in the Hebrew)


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