Friday, June 23, 2023

If You're Hurting, Hand It Off (James 5:13)

Summer has officially arrived! The book of Ecclesiastes describes summer as a time when farmers harvest their crops and the land is filled with abundance. For me, it's a time to revamp my Greek lectures, and this morning was no exception. Here's the verse I was looking at in my morning Bible study. It's James 5:13. 

I think it would make a great verse to talk about when we discuss the Greek imperative mood (the mood of "command") in the fall. Care to see what I came up with?

The main thing to notice is that James uses the present tense of the imperative, which calls attention to what is called verbal aspect, or kind of action. Thus, both "let him pray" and "let him sing" carry the idea of doing these things continually or habitually. I will challenge my students to try and bring this out in their translation of this verse. (I'll give you my own translation below). One question I did have was how best to render the verb kakopathei. The NIV has, "Is anyone in trouble?" The NLT says "is suffering hardship," while the ESV simply has "is suffering." Here are some other options:

CEV: having trouble

GNT: in trouble

LSV: suffering evil

Tyndale: evyll [sic] vexed

The Message: hurting ("Are you hurting? Pray.")

Luther: leidet (is suffering)

LBLA: sufre (is suffering)

JBS: afligido (is afflicted)

NBV: angustiado (is anguished)

LS: dans la souffrance (in suffering)

HWP: get trouble

Vulgate: tristatur (is sad). 

The verb kakopatheĊ seems to have the basic sense of "suffer evil," "be afflicted," or "endure hardship." The semantic range is somewhat broad, as you can see from my summary of the translations I discussed above, ranging all the way from "sad" to "anguished." 

Personally, I think Eugene Peterson's "hurting" is a happy compromise between these two poles. As for my own translation of the verse, here's what I came up with. What do you think?

"Is anyone among you hurting? He should keep on praying about it. Is anyone cheerful? He should continually be singing praises to the Lord."

By the way, there's an old hymn that does an excellent job of conveying James's meaning here. It's titled "From Every Stormy Wind that Blows." Here are two of its verses:

From every stormy wind that blows

From every swelling tide of woes

There is a calm, a sure retreat

'Tis found beneath the mercy seat.


Ah, whither could we flee for aid

When tempted, deserted, or dismayed

Or how the host of hell defeat

Had suffering saints no mercy seat?

Isn't that lovely? 

So there you have it. The only thing I have left to do is turn this into a power point and I think I've got a helpful illustration of how the Greek present imperative works. Oh, by the way -- if you're reading this today and are sad, anxious, afflicted, or even in anguish of soul, please don't go through the day churning. Be free of it because of your prayers. He will hear you. Answers are on the way -- in his time, and for his purposes. 

If you're hurting, hand if off.