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James 5 – Skeptic's Annotated Bible answered

A response and reply to the notes on James 5 in the Skeptic's Annotated Bible (SAB).

King James Version

SAB comment

My comment

1 Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you.

"Ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you."
God rewards his favorites with riches (Job 22:23-24, Pr.15:6), and then punishes them for being rich.
Is it good to be wealthy?
What must you do to be saved?
What the Bible says about rich people
As can be see in the subsequent verses (verse 2), James speaks here to a particular kind of rich people: those who use their God given wealth to oppress others.
Wealth in itself is neither good nor bad, as is poverty. But we should be contend with the portion that God gives us, see Prov. 30:8.
This chapter has no bearing on what we must do to be saved, for that see Acts 16:30-31.

2 Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten.

3 Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days.

4 Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth.

Laborers should be treated fairly. But is it okay to enslave them? Does God approve of slavery?
This chapter is not about slavery, as a slave does not receive wages.
The Bible says that if you are a slave, and you can buy your freedom, it is better to do so, see 1 Cor. 7:21. Abolition came when people realised the Bible does not approve of slavery. And the abolition will be abolished when Christianity will disappear from a country.

5 Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter.

6 Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you.

"Ye have condemned and killed the just."
Has the ever been a just person?
On the meaning of just person, see Matthew 1:19.

7 Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain.

8 Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.

"The coming of the Lord draweth nigh."
What the Bible says about the end of the world
It did and it does. But why would there be need for patience if the Lord's coming was imminent as the author of the SAB interprets this verse? The last times are simply the time between Jesus first and second coming.

9 Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door.

10 Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience.

11 Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.

"The Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy."
Is God merciful?
As this verse says, God is merciful. See verses where the author of the SAB reads something different such as Micah 1:12.

12 But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation.

"But above all things, my brethren, swear not."
Is it okay to take oaths?
Swearing and oath taking are two different things. See Matthew 5:34.

13 Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.

14 Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:

(5:14-15) "The prayer of faith shall save the sick."
If you are sick, rely on the power of prayer. It works every time.
What the Bible says about medical science
The author of the SAB interprets this verse as: praying is like magic, you just do it, and God has no choice but to obey and do what you requested! Such an attitude is completely inconsistent with proper prayer and James addresses that in the preceding chapter (James 4:3).
But asking God for healing, while using the means God has given us, and leaving the outcome to God, are not incompatible things. It's not that we should do one thing and not the other. Not all means are acceptable for example. A Christian could not use medicines based on material harvested from foetuses, if such a thing should become available. And organ transplantation is also a moral morass as no one knows the point of death, which is when body and soul separate, and there is great pressure to harvest organs as quickly as possible.
But even if we use means which are clearly acceptable, if we depend on them, and not reckon with a God who should bless the means, we are wrong. Ultimately this universe, and our medicine and laws of nature, depend on God. If he withdraws his hand, nothing will benefit us.
So we rely on God for the blessing, and on the doctor to supply the medicines.

15 And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.

16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

"The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much."
Has there ever been a righteous person?

17 Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months.

(5:17) By praying, Elias was able to keep it from raining for three and a half years. How long was Elijah's drought?
What the Bible says about the weather
The reference in 1 Kg. 17:1 refers to whole years, i.e. at least 3 full years. It doesn't give the decimal fraction. James does. For a contradiction we would need 1 Kg. 17:1 to say 36 months.
On the weather: yes, the creator of the weather also controls it. The creator put in physical laws, but it does not mean he is bound by them.

18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.

19 Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him;

20 Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.

"He which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death."
Does hell exist?
“Save a soul from death” does not mean that a soul is saved from the ending of one's existence. But it is saved from sin, and the punishment of sin, which is death. And death does not mean the end of our existence, but punishment worthy of our sins, namely eternal suffering in hell.