A Question I Was Asked:

Where Did the Quote in James 4:5 Go? Is It Lost?

I note there is a quote in James which appears to have gone missing. Then, with some research, I noted that others have also pointed this out. What is the answer? The Scripture is James 4:5.

UK Apologetics Reply:

Okay, let us look at this.

4. You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, 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 he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? 6. But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: "God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble." 7. Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4: 4-7, NIV).

Okay, this isn't so difficult. First of all, verse 6 clearly quotes Proverbs 3:34, so that is clear enough. The difficulty (for some) is in verse 5 which is not rendered in the best way in both the KJV and RSV. But, when translated correctly, it becomes clear enough that James did not intend for the second half of the verse ('he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us') to be taken as a direct quotation from the Old Testament. The King James Version, Revised Standard Version, and one or two others, attempt to render the verse as a quotation, but they are incorrect. We have to understand that the manuscripts which the translators were working with often contained little or no punctuation; it fell to the translators to provide that, that is, where they felt it was required by the text. Mostly they got it right, occasionally they erred, but rarely seriously. Here the impression is given of a specific Bible quote coming up when there isn't one. The only specific quote here is in verse 6, which quotes Proverbs 3:34. So when James writes that the Scripture says a particular thing (verse 5), he refers to the message of Scripture in general terms. That is the best explanation one can give here.

In an independent translation of the New Testament, Hugo McCord renders James 4:5 thus: "Do you think that the scripture speaks emptily? Does the Spirit living in us lust to envy?" (1988, p. 442). This is probably the closest we can get to James' meaning. (McCord, Hugo - 1988 - McCord's New Testament Translation of the Everlasting Gospel. Henderson, TN: Freed-Hardeman College).

The Amplified Bible states it like this:

Or do you suppose that the Scripture is speaking to no purpose that says, The Spirit Whom He has caused to dwell in us yearns over us and He yearns for the Spirit [to be welcome] with a jealous love? (James 4:5, Amplified Bible).

The Amp. Bible also mentions both Jer. 3:14 and Hos. 2:19ff. as two possibly helpful Scriptures here. However, what James writes in James 4:5 is almost certainly a reference to the message of Scripture and should not be taken as a specific quote.

Robin A. Brace. July 21st, 2017.