Thursday, January 04, 2007

James 4:5 and punctuation

Admittedly, in the strict sense of the word punctuation matters are not part of TC as such, but there is a long and happy tradition that textcritics get excited about these things. While reading through Tregelles' text of James, I came across an interesting way of punctuating 4:5. Compare NA27 and Tregelles:

δοκεῖτε ὅτι κενῶς γραφὴ λέγει· πρὸς φθόνον ἐπιποθεῖ τὸ πνεῦμα κατῴκισεν ἐν ἡμῖν;

ESV: 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"?

δοκεῖτε ὅτι κενῶς γραφὴ λέγει; πρὸς φθόνον ἐπιποθεῖ τὸ πνεῦμα κατῴκισεν ἐν ἡμῖν;

RV: Or think ye that the scripture speaketh in vain? Doth the spirit which he made to dwell in us long unto envying?

The second half of the verse is usually treated as a quotation, marked in the margin of NA27 with 'unde?' But if one assumes that the readership of James knew their Scriptures well enough to realise that what follows is not a quotation and that, therefore, it must be a second rhetorical question, this way of punctuating the verse may be not completely far-fetched, as the RV shows. Interestingly, though the punctuation affects translation, it is omitted from the punctuation apparatus of UBS4.


  1. Interesting. Thanks. My forthcoming Koine Greek Reader gives the same punctuation--I didn't know that it had been previously proposed in Tregelles or RV. It solves the problem of attempting to identify where "Scripture" makes such a statement and fits well in the context.

    Rod Decker

  2. Why does the second half of the verse need to be a question in the Tregelles/RV/Decker puncuation?

  3. Just FYI:

    The RP Byztxt 2005 punctuates the first half as a question (as per RV and Decker) and the last half as a statement (as per Rowe).

  4. > Why does the second half of the verse need to be a question...?

    It doesn't. I responded from memory yesterday. I just got back to my study and looked it over again. My conclusion was slightly different than I recounted. In English, it would read something like this:

    "Do you think Scripture speaks without reason? The spirit he caused to live in us tends toward envy, but he gives us more grace."

    So, question + statement, with the added feature of breaking the sentence at 6b rather than at 5. (If v 5b were taken as a question, it would be a rhetorical question and imply much the same thing since a negative answer would seem to be implied form the context.)


  5. The view that Jas 4:5 is to be punctuated as two sentences is also advocated by D Edmond Hiebert (The Epistle of James, Moody Press, 1979). He also cites (p. 254) several other private translations (including JB Phillips) as well as ASV (= RV). On p. 256 he then goes on to differ with ASV (and Phillips) by taking the second sentence as a statement (as per the comments above).

    If UBS4 does not list the verse in the punctuation apparatus (discourse segmentation apparatus?) this is presumably because their information is collected from a select range of editions and modern versions, none of which happen to represent any other view than that a direct quote is involved. I see that Jas 4:5 is also listed in their Index of Allusions and Verbal Parallels (to Ex 20:5), though not of course in their Index of Quotations.

    Tony Pope