Our God and Father,

It is through the covenant that You call men and women into a sacred family bond that leads to salvation. As in any family there are duties and obligations but the first duty and obligation is that of love, love for the Father, love for the brother and sisters who are united in a covenantal bond of sacred love, and love for our Mother, the Church who teaches and guides her children.  The covenant You established at Sinai with Israel was meant to prepare the way for the Messiah. You taught Your covenant family the necessity of sacrifice in the exercise of covenant love and You gave them prophets to teach them to recognize the Messiah when He came.  From that ancient corporate covenant a faithful remnant of Israelites and Jews recognized and embraced the Messiah Jesus of Nazareth when He came to establish a transformed and renewed covenant and a transformed and reborn Israel.  We thank You Lord for men of courage and faith like James Bishop of Jerusalem who were the first servants of Jesus Christ in the Kingdom of Heaven on earth that He established, the Universal Church.  They were the pioneers on the journey to the Promised Land of Heaven and they have shown us by their good example the way to live in patient, faithful endurance the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Send now, Lord, Your Holy Spirit to guide us in our last lesson on the Letter of St. James to the Church of Jesus Christ.  We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen. 


+ + +


"If Elijah got what he prayed for, just think how much the persistent prayer of a righteous person is worth in the sight of God!  But just in case you think that you could never measure up to someone as holy as Elijah, James adds that he was a man, just as we are, even if he was second to non in his virtue." The Venerable Bede


"anyone who can bring back a sinner from his erring ways will be saving his soul from death and covering over many a sin." James 5:20


"Reading Sacred Scripture, praying the Liturgy of the Hours and the Our Father, every sincere act of worship or devotion revives the spirit of conversion and repentance within us and contributes to the forgiveness of our sins." CCC # 1437


In James 5:7-11 James called his kinsmen of the 12 tribes of Israel to patient endurance in awaiting the coming of the Lord, a faithfulness which will not be in vain because God is both faithful and merciful.  It is interesting that within the eschatological ["last things"] context of the coming of the Lord, James has revisited a theme introduced at the very beginning of his discourse, the call to patient endurance in 1:2-4 and verse 12:


Question: This passage calling on the example set by God's holy Prophets of patient endurance in time of trial and suffering echoes what passage from the Beatitudes from Sermon on the Mount?

Answer: James is echoing the summing up of the Beatitudes teaching: "Blessed are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you falsely on my account.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven; this is how they persecuted the prophets before you" Matthew 5:11-12.  In fact James entire discourse can be seen as framed within the theme of the spirit of faithful, patient endurance in the wake of suffering while awaiting the coming of the Lord, a characteristic that identifies the faithful remnant of Israel throughout salvation history!


Please read James 5:12-20: Right Christian living is the best preparation for the coming of the Lord


James 5:12: "Above all, my brothers, do not swear by heaven or by the earth or use any oaths at all.  If you mean 'yes', you must say 'yes'; if you mean 'no', say 'no'.  Otherwise you make yourselves liable to judgment."


James opens with the Greek phrase pro paton, literally "above (or before) all" which is also found in 1 Peter 4:8 as well as in the Didache [The Teaching of the 12 Apostles] 10:4 in the oldest "after communion" prayer known to the Church:


Fr. Hardin in his commentary suggests that the use of this phrase indicates that what follows the phrase is connected to the teaching that preceded it, James' warning of being prepared for the coming of the Lord.  But the phrase may also indicate that James is bring his discourse to a close, the evidence for which is found in the closing of some secular Greek documents of the same period which use the same phrase [see Hartin page 257; Johnson page 326].  Both theories may be correct since this section seems to bring together the major themes of James' discourse, all of which now seem to point to the way the faithful must live in order to be prepared for the coming, the Parousia, of our Lord, and to be ready to face His divine judgment: Otherwise you make yourselves liable to judgment. [James 5:12c]


In any case, James' warning is to avoid making an oath unless you can faithfully keep it, do not swear by heaven or by anything else for you will be judged on the fulfillment of all your oaths because it is God who is the witness of the oath sworn and the judge of your fidelity to the oath sworn.  My Pastor, Father Brian Dudzinski advises his congregation to come to confession when we break an oath or vow; for example if during Lent you forget your vow to fast and abstain from eating meat on Friday, you must confess your failure because that vow was made to God.


James' command concerning swearing must be understood in the context of the Jewish practice of swearing an oath or vow.   James is not forbidding all forms of oath swearing. It was a tradition among the covenant people to swear an oath or make a vow concerning some important commitment and to make Yahweh the keeper of the oath/ vow. 


Commenting on this passage the inspired writer of Hebrews writes in Hebrews 6:13-19: "When God made the promise to Abraham, he swore by his own self, since there was no one greater he could swear by: 'I will shower blessings on you and give you many descendants.  Because of that, Abraham persevered and received fulfillment of the promise.  Human beings, of course, swear an oath by something greater than themselves, and between them, confirmation by an oath puts and end to all dispute.  In the same way, when God wanted to show the heirs of the promise even more clearly how unalterable his plan was, he conveyed it by an oath so that through two unalterable factors in which God could not be lying, we who have fled to him might have a vigorous encouragement to grasp the hope held out to us."  [also see Hebrews 7:21]


However, swearing an oath in Yahweh's name is a serious commitment because it evokes God's guarantee for what is being sworn.  Such an oath is not to be taken lightly because God's judgment falls upon the one who broke an oath taken in God's name.  In a Court of Law in the United States it has been our tradition to raise our right hands, placing the left hand on a Bible and swearing to tell "the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth", making our truth telling subject to God's divine judgment.  It will be a sad state of affairs for our nation if this practice is eliminated from our judicial tradition.

Question: What does the inspired writer of Ecclesiasticus warn in 23:7-11 concerning oath swearing?  What are the three offenses against oath swearing and what is the consequence?

Answer: The inspired writer advises not to get into the habit of swearing an oath naming the Holy One.  He identifies three cases in order of increasing gravity:

  1. Not fulfilling a sincere oath
  2. Swearing an oath lightly
  3. Swearing an insincere oath

To break an oath swore in God name and to break it or to take an oath lightly would result in a sin judgment. : "If he offends, his sin will be on him, if he did it unheedingly, he has doubly sinned; if he swears a false oath, he will not be treated as innocent, for his house will be filled with calamities.."


Question: What is the etymology of the word "sacrament"?

Answer: The Latin word sacramentum means "oath".  During the age of the Roman Empire it was the oath of fidelity the Roman soldier swore to the Roman Emperor.  How appropriate that Christians adopted this word to stand for the oath of fidelity we swear to Christ in living the Sacraments of our faith.

Question: Do you understand that you will be held accountable according to how you, a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, the Church Militant, have kept your oaths of fidelity to Christ the King? 


In James 5:12 it is not so much the oath swearing as it is the thoughtless disregard for the consequences of oath swearing that concerns James.  Once again James draws his teaching from Jesus' Sermon on the Mount; this time his reference is from Matthew 5:33-37.  Notice the similarities between James 5:12 and the Matthew passage: "Again, you have heard how it was said to our ancestors, 'You must not break your oath, but must fulfill your oaths to the Lord.'  But I say this to you, do not swear at all, either by heaven, since that is God's throne; or by earth, since that is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, since that is the city of the great King.  Do not swear by your own head either, since you cannot turn a single hair white or black.  All you need say is 'Yes' if you mean yes, 'No' if you means no; anything more than this comes from the Evil One."


Isaiah 66:1-2 identifies God's throne and God's footstool and Jesus' reference to both is probably an allusion to this passage: "Thus says Yahweh: With heaven my throne and earth my footstool, what house could you built me, what place for me to rest, when all these things were made by me and all belong to me?'declares Yahweh.  But my eyes are drawn to the person of humbled and contrite spirit, who trembles at my word."


In fact, in the Matthew 5:33-37 passage Jesus references several Old Testament passages which He notes by the statement "you have heard how it was said to our ancestors", but all the Old Testament passages concerning the care one must take in regard to oath swearing originate from the commandment in Exodus 20:7, "You shall not misuse the name of Yahweh your God, for Yahweh will not leave unpunished anyone who misuses his name."


Please notice that this is James' sixth reference to Leviticus chapter 19.  Jesus' command to make your 'Yes' mean yes and your 'No' mean no in Matthew 5:33-37 is understood to apply to one's:

  1. Truthfulness as opposed to lying: This includes perjury and giving false evidence [see Exodus 20:16; Deuteronomy 5:20]; as well as the use of God's name in performing some occult act.
  2. Sincerity as opposed to hypocrisy: Your answer from your lips must correspond to the sincerity in your heart.
  3. Strength of character as opposed to a vacillating will: An oath is not necessary if you can be trusted to do what you say you will or won't do.


James statement in 5:12 is so remarkably similar to Jesus' statement in Matthew 5:33-37 that it seems unlikely to be a coincidence [using the more literal Interlinear Greek text translation].  It seems likely that James is paraphrasing Jesus' teaching:


Matthew 5:33-37

James 5:12

5:33, again you heard it said...

Above all (before all) things, my brothers...

5:34, but I say to you, do not swear at all

do not swear

5:34b, neither by the Heaven, because it is God's throne;

neither by the Heaven

5:35, neither by the earth because it is the footstool of His feet

neither by the earth

5:35b, neither to Jerusalem because it is the city of the great King.


5:36, neither swear by your head, because you are not able to make one hair white or black.

nor any other oath.

5:37, but let your word be Yes, yes;

But let out of you be Yes, yes

5:37, No, no

and the No, no,

5:37b, for whatever is more than these is evil.

that you may not fall under judgment.

M. Hunt 2006


James adaptation of Jesus' teaching on oath swearing renews the theme he introduced in 1:19 and developed throughout his letter in his discussion of proper and improper speech. 


In 5:13-20 James continues to revisit previous themes in bringing his discourse to a close by returning to the subject of the importance of prayer in the life of the faithful covenant keepers, which was first introduced in 1:5-8 and again in 4:3.  James stressed the importance of prayer:

  1. prayer when one is in trouble and facing trials [verse 13]
  2. prayer to thank God for His blessings [verse 13]
  3. prayer and anointing for the physically ill [verses 14-15]
  4. prayer for the spiritual ill as in the case of the sinner who needs prayer to bring him back into fellowship with God [verses 19-20].


Bible scholars have noticed a similarity between the closing verses of James' discourse and the concluding verses of St. John's letter in 1 John 5:14-21 and St. Jude's concluding verses 17-25.  All three letters conclude with a focus on the importance of prayer offered to God for the sake of another so that that person will experience conversion by turning away from sin and turning back to God.


In James 5:13-14 the Greek text asks a brief series of rhetorical questions followed by answers, all of which are situations that are concerned with prayer.  The New Jerusalem text does not reflect this format:



Are any suffering misfortune?

Let them pray

Are any in good spirits?

Let them sing praise to God

Are any ill?

Let them call on the elders of the assembly (church = ekklesia) and let them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord.


James 5:13: "Any one of you who is in trouble should pray; anyone in good spirits should sing a psalm."

James is referring to hardships and trials of life not physical suffering.  Such hardships should be offered up as petitions to God with prays of supplication asking for release from the burden or the strength to endure the trial if that is the will of God. In any case, James says, whether we carry life's burdens or if life is good, we must constantly be in communication with the Father.  Everything comes from God and blessings should be graciously acknowledged with songs of praise.  With this statement James places singing in the same category as a prayer'singing is a prayer of praise.   


James 5:14-16: "Any one of you who is ill should send for the elders (presbyteroi) of the church and they must anoint the sick person with oil in the name of the Lord and pray over him.  The prayer of faith will save the sick person and the Lord will raise him up again/ and if he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven."

Now James addresses physical suffering as the third situation that requires prayer.  The ordained leaders within the faith community must be called upon to invoke the Holy Spirit's gift of healing. 

Question: What 3 actions are required in this healing ritual?


  1. The elders are to anoint the sick person will oil
  2. They must do this in the name of the Lord Jesus
  3. They are to pray over the sick person

The reference to "the Lord" is clearly a reference to Jesus.  By calling on the name of Jesus the elders are invoking the power of Jesus in the action of healing, it is not the elders who heal but Jesus Christ Himself, as in all the sacraments it is the Christ who is the minister of the sacrament.  This ritual also involved the laying on of hands upon the person who was ill.


Question: Healing was one of the three main signs of Jesus' divinity.  What were the three kinds of signs [miracles] of His divinity and please give examples of all three.



Question: This early Church ritual of healing is one of the 7 Sacraments Jesus gave His Church.  What is the Sacrament James is describing?  See CCC # 1507-13; 1516; 1519; 1521; 1524; 1526-32.

Answer: The Sacrament of Anointing. This Sacrament has as its purpose the conferring of a special grace to the one suffering from a grave illness or the infirmities of advanced age.  The Anointing of the sick consists in anointing the forehead and hands of the sick person (in the Roman Rite) by a priest or a bishop.  The anointing is accompanied by the liturgical prayer of the celebrant asking for the special grace of the sacrament.


Question: James promises that in administering this sacrament that the sick person's sins will be forgiven.  What are the special effects of grace of the Sacrament of the Anointing of the sick?  See CCC# 1520-23; 1532.


Also see references to this Sacrament connected with the forgiveness of sins in Matthew 9:2; Mark 6:13 and Acts 3:16.


In James 5:16 our saintly Bishop encourages Christians to both confess their sins to one another and to pray for one another that healing might take effect spiritually and physically in the life of the Christian.  Confession of sins is found frequently in the Old Testament, involving both individual confess and communal confession:

Old Testament individual confession:


Old Testament communal confession:


The New Testament also emphasizes the necessity of purification of the soul through confession of sins:


James may have been inspired by a passage from Ecclesiasticus concerning the healing power of the confession of sins in 38:9: "My child, when you are ill, do not rebel, but pray to the Lord and he will heal you. Renounce your faults, keep your hands unsoiled, and cleanse your heart from all sin." James concludes this passage on the healing power of prayer with the statement: the heartfelt prayer of someone upright works very powerfully" and as an example of the power of prayer, James refers to the 9th century BC prophet Elisha.


James 5:17-18: "Elijah was a human being as frail as ourselves, he prayed earnestly for it not to rain, and no rain fell for three and a half years; then he prayed again and the sky gave rain and the earth gave crops."


The story of the Prophet Elijah is found in 1Kings 17:1-19:21; and in 2 Kings 1:1-2:18.  He is God's master Prophet in a time of gross apostasy for the covenant people of Israel.  All alone this might man of prayer preserved the religion of Israel from the pagan worship of the false god Baal. Like a righteous "hired gun" sent to clean up a town enslaved by the wicked, Elijah took on the 450 prophets of Baal and reduced them to ruin.  As a reward for his years of suffering and faithful service he did not taste human death but was taken straight up into heaven in God's Chariot of Fire [see 2 Kings 2:1-13].  There are additional references to Elijah found in 2 Chronicles 21:12-19; Malachi 3:23-24 (4:5-6) which prophecies his return prior to the coming of the Messiah; Ecclesiasticus [Sirach] 48:1-12; 1 Maccabees 2:58; Matthew 17:10-13.  


Question: Of all the prophets James could have named why does he choose Elijah?  What connection could there be between Elijah's mission to preserve the faith of Israel and James' summons of the 12 Tribes in James 1:1-2?

Answer: Perhaps it is because James identifies himself with Elijah's prophetic mission to preserve the covenant people in the purity of their religion during a time of great apostasy and false teaching. While there were both Pharisees and priests who embraced Jesus as the Messiah [Acts 6:7; 15:5], the majority of the priests and elders of the Old Covenant rejected Jesus as the Messiah and their stand against God's Anointed was apostasy at its highest level.


It may be significant that of all the miracles of Elijah that could be listed James mentions the shutting up of the heavens for 3 ½ years'3 and a half years of God's judgment on the unrepentant Northern Kingdom of Israel.  It is interesting that the story of Elijah in the Book of 1Kings does not mention a total of 3 ½ years of drought. It is Jesus who provided the information that the duration of the drought was 3 ½ years in Luke 4:25 when Jesus enraged the Jews of the Synagogue at Nazareth by making the point that salvation will now be extended to the Gentiles.  Jesus uses the prophet Elijah as an example of God's concern for the Gentiles when He said to the crowd: There were many widows in Israel, I can assure you, in Elijah's day when heaven remained shut for three years and six months and a great famine raged throughout the land, but Elijah was not sent to any one of these: he was sent to a widow at Zarephath, a town in Sidonia.  And in the prophet Elijah's time there were many suffering from virulent skin-diseases in Israel, but none of these was cured, only Naaman the Syrian." Luke 4:25-27

Question:  Can you think of another three and a half year period of judgment in Scripture? Hint: see Daniel 12:5-13 ["a time and two times and a half of time" = 3 ½];  Revelation 11:3 and 11 [1260 days = 3 ½ years].  What is significant about the number 3 ½?

Answer: 3 ½ is half of the number 7 which is the number of spiritual perfection.  3 ½  will never be "perfect" but will always be "imperfect."  The prophet Daniel is told by the Archangel Michael that the holy people of God will suffer intense tribulation for a 3 ½  year period of time.  In Revelation chapter 11 God sends His two witnesses to bring a covenant lawsuit.  One has the power to shut up the sky so that it doesn't rain and the other has the power to turn water into blood.  These two witnesses possess the powers of the prophets Elijah and Moses.  3 ½ , a broken 7, yields death, destruction, and judgment (Daniel 9:24; 12:7; Revelation 12:6, 14; 13:5). 


There is a historical connection between the 3 ½ years of Elijah's drought and the judgment that fell on the holy city of Jerusalem in 70AD.  3 years and 6 months = 42 months; these are time periods mentioned both in the Book of Daniel [7:25; 12:7] and in the Book of Revelation [11:2; 12:14].  The 42 months are probably symbolic [6 the number of man x 7, the number of spiritual perfection and covenant].  In Matthew's Gospel he manipulates Jesus' genaeology from Abraham to come out to 42 generations making 42 the number of "waiting for the Messiah".  But there is a literal historic fulfillment in the 42 months or three and a half years from the invasion of the Roman general Vespasian's legions into Judea from their camps on the Euphrates River until the destruction of Jerusalem in the summer of 70AD.  42 months is a very interesting number.  It equals 1,260 days [Revelation 12:6] as well as three and a half years, numbers found in the Book of Revelation.  It is a number that is prophesized in Daniel 7:25 where it symbolizes a limited period of three and a half years during which the wicked are victorious and in Revelation where the Woman, who is both Mary and the Church, are hidden from the violence of the dragon.  It speaks of a limited period of wrath and judgment caused by apostasy where 7 represents wholeness and completion: three and a half is a "broken" 7.  In the revolt against Rome the Church was hidden in Perea for those 3 ½ years of tribulation.


Question:  How are the 2 witnesses of Revelation 11:3 dressed and how does this manner of dress relate to their message? 

Answer:  They are wearing sackcloth (a rough fabric woven of hair), the traditional dress of the prophets from Elijah through John the Baptist which symbolized their mourning and their call for repentance over national apostasy (see 2 Kings 1:8; Isaiah 20:2; Jonah 3:6; Zechariah 13:4; Matthew 3:4-6; Mark 1:5-6).


Question:  What is the significance of two witnesses?  Hint: see Numbers 35:30; Deuteronomy 17:6; 19:15; Matthew 18:16; Revelation 11:3-13.

Answer:  Biblical law required two witnesses in order to bring legal action.  Hebrews 10:28-29   "Anyone who disregards the Law of Moses is ruthlessly put to death on the word of two witnesses or three; and you may be sure that anyone who tramples on the Son of God, and who treats the blood of the Covenant which sanctified Him as if it were not holy, and who insults the Spirit of grace, will be condemned to a far severer punishment." The two witnesses in the Revelation passage give evidence of Judea/Jerusalem's apostasy prior to the sentence of divine judgment on the Jews who rejected the Covenant of Yahweh by rejected the Messiah.


James 5:19-20: "My brothers, if one of you strays away from the truth, and another brings him back to it, he may be sure that anyone who can bring back a sinner from his erring ways will be saving his soul from death and covering over many a sin."


Question: In the conclusion of his discourse what does James say in verses 19-20 is the greatest form of healing in which a Christian can participate?  See Ezekiel 33:14-16; 1 John 5:16-17; and 1 Peter 4:8.

style='font-size:12.0pt'> To give the love of Christian witness that can cause a brother or sister to turn away from sin and to turn to God is the greatest form of healing, since it heals the soul and saves the brother or sister from spiritual death.  This is a final reminder of James' call to familial love and the Father's and the Son's commands to "love your neighbor as yourself." [Leviticus 19:18; Matthew  5:43, Sermon on the Mount].


Even if the one who takes the initiative to attempt to save a brother or sister from sin fails in his attempt it does not matter according to St. Hillary of Arles: "someone who preaches to sinners in order to convert them will save his soul, even if the people he preaches to are not actually converted." Introductory Tractate on the Letter of James, Hillary of Arles


Commenting on James' message in James 5:12-20, the Venerable Bede writes: "James does all he can here to ensure that imperfect people like ourselves do not gloat over winning others away from their wicked ways and converting them to the truth by reminding us that we should be engaged in such work out of love for our brothers and sisters." And Pope St. Gregory the Great assures those with the courage to risk preaching the message of salvation: "It is a great thing to rescue someone's body when it is on the point of death, how much greater is it to deliver someone's soul from death, so that it might live forever in the heavenly country?" St. Gregory the Great, Lessons in Job


In addition to working for the conversion of others the Catechism of the Catholic Church adds "Reading Sacred Scripture, praying the Liturgy of the Hours and the Our Father, every sincere act of worship or devotion revives the spirit of conversion and repentance within us and contributes to the forgiveness of our sins." CCC # 1437





Jesus' message to the Old Covenant people of Jerusalem concerning the coming judgment, Passover 30AD: "Watch yourselves, or your hearts will be coarsened by debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life, and that day will come upon you unexpectedly, like a trap.  For it will come down on all those living on the face of the earth.  Stay awake, praying at all times for the strength to survive all that is going to happen, and hold your ground before the Son of man" Luke 21:34-36.


It is significant that the entire tone of James' discourse has been directed toward right Christian living that prepares the faithful covenant believer for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.  For James the "coming of the Lord" is a climax of each believer's life which ushers in both eternal salvation and divine judgment.  This contrasting theme of salvation and judgment is first introduced in James 1:9-11 and the contrast between judgment and salvation is illustrated by James' comparison of the lives of those of worldly wealth and worldly wisdom who will gorge themselves, preparing for their own "slaughter" [5:5] as opposed to the poor who are rich in faith, possessing meekness, humility and Godly wisdom and who are promised the "crown of life" [1:12]. This is the theme that runs throughout the entire discourse, connecting all the other sub-themes.  Like the Old Testament prophets our faithful Bishop of Jerusalem denounces the selfish rich who have plundered the poor [1:9-11; 2:1-4; 5:4].  Like the prophets of old he assures the poor that divine justice will right the wrongs they have endured and that the gift of salvation is theirs if they endure in faithfulness to the end [James 5:7-11].  James entire letter is an eschatological discourse oriented toward the Parousia of the Lord and His pronouncement of divine justice like a double edged sword: one side is life and the other is death: salvation and judgment.


The office of prophet of Yahweh was one of three holy offices.  The other two were the offices of High Priest and King.  In the prescribed rites of worship the High Priest stood liturgically in the image of redeemed man, offering sacrifices on the bronze sacrificial Altar, the meeting place between man and God and once a year on the golden altar that was the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies, before the throne of God.  Both the High Priest and the King served as the covenant people's representative to Yahweh. But the role of the prophet was unique.  The prophet was God's voice to the people!  In his role as the voice of God the prophet acted as God's prosecuting attorney when the covenant people feel into apostasy, turning away from their covenant obligations and falling into disobedience and sin.  It was the prophet's role to summon the 12 Tribes of Israel to repentance, and when they refused to repent, it was the duty of the Prophet to call down a covenant lawsuit, in Hebrew a riv, against an adulteress covenant people.  In the following passages notice the language of Yahweh's prophets calling down covenant judgment on an apostate covenant people.


Question: What do you find in the language of these covenant lawsuits that is similar to James' discourse in James 4:1-5:6?

Answer: The charges of cursing a "brother", adultery, injustice such as the landowners who take advantage of the poor, and the use of the title Yahweh Sabaoth; just to name a few.

Question: To what generation did the prophets preach; to future generations or to their own generation?

Answer: Most of the time to their own generations. Jonah was sent as a prophet to the Gentile city of Nineveh [an example of God's justice and judgment extending even to Gentile nations].  The prophets Isaiah, Amos, and Micah all lived in the 8th century BC and prophesied the destruction of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, destroyed by the Assyrians in 722BC [Isaiah also included a future warning to the Kingdom of Judah].  The 6th century prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel both delivered the prophecy of judgment to the Southern Kingdom of Judah which was fulfilled in their lifetimes, Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed by the Babylonians on the 9th of Ab 587/6BC.  The Prophet Daniel prophesized the return from the Babylonian exile, was given prophecies that were to be fulfilled beyond his lifetime, and prophecies that were concerned with the coming of the Messiah, the establishment of the unshakable and eternal Kingdom, and the tribulation of the early Church.  The majority of the prophets, however, carried Yahweh's message of judgment to their own generations.  Yahweh never visited judgment upon a people without first offering them the opportunity for repentance through the ministry of His prophet.


Question: But what about Jesus' role as prophet?  Did he prophesize judgment to His own generation or only to a generation in the distant future generation?  Were the Apostles and other New Testament writers mistaken in their understanding that Jesus' justice and judgment would be visited upon Judea "very soon" [Revelation 22:20].  Please read Matthew 23:13-39; 24:1-25; Luke 21:8-24.

Answer: Both.  Jesus is Yahweh's supreme Prophet to all generations of believers but during His earthly ministry He delivered a prophecy of judgment that was directed toward Jerusalem and Judea.  Notice these verses clearly point to His own 1st century AD generation:

All of these prophecies were fulfilled historically within the generation of Jesus of Nazareth. 


In the formation of the first corporate covenant at Mt. Sinai, God gave the covenant people 40 years to adjust to the laws and obligations of the covenant.  The same period of grace was extended to the Old Covenant people after the Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus the Messiah.  There was a 40 year period from 30AD to 70AD for the Jews to leave the Old Law and embrace the New.  In 66AD the Jews revolted against Roman rule, unleashing a war with the world's greatest empire that lasted 3 ½ years and which reached its bloody climax with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple on the 9th of Ab in 70 AD.  Over a million Jews died in the revolt, the Temple was destroyed in a devastating fire which caused the gold embellishments on the Temple roof to melt and run down between the cracks in the stones.  Desiring to retrieve every ounce of gold, the Roman soldiers poured cool water over the hot building stones, cracking the blocks of stones into pieces to recover the gold and leaving the Temple as Jesus prophesized, not a single stone here will be left on another: everything will be pulled down. The Jewish men, women and children who survived were rounded up and sold into slavery.  It was literally the "end of the world" for the Jews.  Without the Temple the Jews could no longer offer Old Covenant sacrifices to Yahweh.  The Old Covenant rituals and liturgies were now gone forever so long as the Temple was no longer standing. The destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, Yahweh's tent or Tabernacle, fulfilled the prophecy of Hebrews 9:8-9 By this, the Holy Spirit means us to see that as long as the old tent stands, the way into the holy place is not opened up; it [the Temple] is a symbol for this present time. None of the gifts and sacrifices offered under these regulations can possibly bring any worshipper to perfection in his conscience; they are rules about outward life, connected with food and drink and washing at various times, which are in force only until the time comes to set things right.  "Setting things right" with the destruction of the Temple marked the end of the 40 year transition period between the Age of the Sinai Covenant and opened up the Final Age of Man in the Messianic era of the universal Kingdom we call the Catholic Church.


Question:  Where did Jesus prophesize the destruction of Jerusalem which would end in a gentile invasion and slavery for the Jews? Hint: see Luke 21:24

Answer:  The Olivet Discourse in Matthew chapter 24, Mark chapter13, and Luke chapter 21: "For great misery will descend on the land and retribution on this people.  They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive to every gentile country; and Jerusalem will be trampled down by the gentiles until their time is complete." Luke 21:24


The Jewish Pharisee-Priest turned historian Flavius Josephus recorded the "signs" that appeared prior to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70AD in his book, The Jewish Wars, 6.5.3:  Thus were the miserable people persuaded by these deceivers, and such as belied God himself; while they did not attend, nor give credit, to the signs that were so evident and did so plainly foretell their future desolation; but, like men infatuated, without either eyes to see, or minds to consider, did not regard the denunciations that God made to them.  Josephus then listed 8 "signs" of disaster that preceded the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70AD:

  1. A star resembling a sword, which stood over the city
  2. A comet that continued for a whole year
  3. A  week before the Feast of Unleavened Bread a great light shone round the sacrificial altar and the Temple which lasted 30 minutes
  4. During the sacrifices of the Feast of Unleavened Bread a heifer being led to sacrifice gave birth to a lamb
  5. The Eastern Gate of the inner court of the Temple which required 20 men to open and close and which was kept bolted, opened of its own accord
  6. A few days after the Passover/Unleavened Bread holy week a vision was observed in the clouds before sunset where chariots and troops of soldiers were seen in their armor, running about among the clouds and surrounding the city
  7. At the Feast of Pentecost about 50 days after the feasts of Passover and Unleavened Bread the Temple priests going about their Temple duties felt the earth shake and heard a great noise and the sound of a great multitude saying "Let us remove hence."  This sign was interpreted as the withdrawal of Yahweh and His heavenly host from the Temple and the city.
  8. Jesus son of Ananus, four years before the Jewish Revolt began at the Feast of Tabernacles... "began a sudden loud cry: 'A voice from the east, a voice from the east, a voice from the four winds, a voice against Jerusalem and the holy house, a voice against the bridegrooms and the brides, and a voice against this whole people!' This was his cry, as he went about by day and by night, in all the lanes of the city." This man was whipped and beaten but refused to cease his prophecy of doom. Josephus records: "He did not make any supplication for himself, or shed any tears, but turning his voice to the most lamentable tone possible, at every stroke of the whip his answer was, 'Woe, woe to Jerusalem!' [..]. This cry of his was the loudest at the festivals; and he continued this ditty for seven years and five months, without growing hoarse, or being tired therewith, until the very time that he saw his presage in earnest fulfilled in our siege, when it ceased; for as he was going round upon the wall, he cried out with his utmost force, 'Woe, woe, to the city again and to the people, and to the holy house!' And just as he added at the last, --'Woe, woe, to myself also!' there came a stone out of one of the (siege) engines, and smote him, and killed him immediately."


The chart below illustrates the fulfillment of the signs Jesus prophesied concerning the coming judgment on Judea that were fulfilled between His Ascension and the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, the definitive sign of the old order of the Sinai Covenant.




Prophecy from Matthew 24

Fulfillment historically

The Jerusalem Temple will be completely destroyed

The Jerusalem Temple was utterly destroyed by the Roman army in 70AD

Many will come claiming to be the Christ


In the revolt against Rome that began in 66AD, three different men claimed to be the Messiah

There will be wars

In 64AD the Roman Empire became unstable.  A number of Roman provinces began revolts against the Empire

There will be famines


Acts 11:27-28 refers to a world-wide famine at the time of the Emperor Claudius.  Aid was sent to Jerusalem by Christians in the Roman Empire

There will be earthquakes


There was a massive earthquake when Jesus died on the cross and at His Resurrection.  Earthquakes are frequent in the Holy Land due to a fault line that runs through the Jordan River Valley. 

Christians will be handed over and tortured and killed


Stephen was martyred c. 34AD and St. James in c. 62.  In 64AD the Roman Empire authorized persecution of Christians.  Many Christians across the Empire were martyred including Sts. Peter and Paul.

Many will fall away from the faith because of the perilous times


The Jews who refused to believe in the Messiah in effect "fell away" from the faith and so did many Christians who faced martyrdom

False prophets will arise


Many false prophets urged the revolt against Rome and promised victory in 66AD

Lawlessness will increase


Prior to the revolt the Roman authority brutally massacred men, women and children'3,600 in Jerusalem in one day (1); Jewish gangs known as the Sicarii robbed and murdered people at will. 

The Gospel will be proclaimed to the inhabited world [oikoumene]; meaning the Roman world before the "end" will come.


By the time of the Revolt in 66AD the Gospel had spread from Britain to the Black Sea, from Gaul to Galatia, and from Egypt to the banks of the Euphrates River, covering the boundaries of the Roman Empire and beyond into India where St. Thomas the Apostle was martyred.

The Temple will be profaned


The Emperor Nero planned to put his statue in the Holy of Holies of the Temple but died before the plan could be initiated.  Roman General Titus set up Roman standards, which depicted Roman deities, in the Temple Holy Place in 70AD

Those in Judea must recognize the signs and escape.

Simon, the Christian Bishop of Jerusalem led the Christian community out of Judea, across the Jordan River into Perea prior to the revolt against Rome 66AD

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2006 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved. (1) footnote: see The Jewish Wars, 2.14.9


I want to draw your attention to the prophecy of earthquakes that appears in all of Jesus' judgment prophecies found in the Synoptic Gospels: Matthew 24:7; 13:8; Luke 21:10.  In the Old Testament account of the Sinai experience, earthquakes are associated with covenant-making, and in Jesus' apocalyptic messages in the Synoptic Gospels and in the Book of Revelation earthquakes are one of the phenomena associated with the coming Day of Judgment. It is not a coincidence in the apocalyptic Book of Revelation that St. John mentions earthquakes 7 times in 6:12; 8:5; 11:13 (twice); 11:19; 16:18 (twice).  In the Book of Revelation earthquakes are one of the signs of God's divine interactions with man in both covenant-making and in rendering divine judgment.   The seven times repetition of the mention of earthquakes in Revelation emphasizes the covenantal dimensions of the sign-the number 7 figures predominately in salvation history in association with covenant formation [see i.e. Genesis 1:1-31 where the Holy Spirit, the divine wind [ruah ] pronounces creation "good" in the formation of the first covenant with man and man's day of communion with God is established on the 7th day; in the covenant with Noah in Genesis 7:4, 10; 8:10, 12, 14; and in the covenant formation at Sinai in Exodus 24:16].  7 is also the number of spiritual perfection; it is the number of the Holy Spirit [Isaiah 11:1 = 7 gifts; Revelation 1:4; 4:5]. 


So what is the significance of Jesus' prophecy of earthquakes?  Jesus of Nazareth, the promised Davidic Messiah came to bring the definitive "earth shaking" covenant forming, promised final judgment event.  The inspired writer of Hebrews understood Jesus' "earth shaking" event in this context when he wrote:  Make sure that you never refuse to listen when he speaks.  If the people who on earth refused to listen to a warning could not escape their punishment, how shall we possibly escape if we turn away from a voice that warns us from heaven?  That time his voice made the earth shake, but now he has given us this promise: I am going to shake the earth once more and not only the earth but heaven as well.  The words once more indicate the removal of what is shaken, since these are created things, so that what is not shaken remains.  We have been given possession of an unshakable kingdom.  Let us therefore be grateful and use our gratitude to worship God in the way that pleases him, in reverence and dear.  For our God is a consuming fire. Hebrews 12:25-29


 James, first Christian Bishop of Jerusalem understood that Jesus Christ came to establish the cosmic earthquake of the New Covenant which would transform not only man's role in salvation history but the entire cosmos in the eschatological event of the promised re-creation of the new heavens and the new earth [2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1-2].  In his role as a New Covenant prophet of God, James' mission was to summons the faithful remnant of the 12 Tribes of Israel into the earth shattering event of the formation of the New Israel, the universal Church.  James knew that the rebirth of the human family in the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and the establishment of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, the re-born Israel which is the New Covenant Church, was the first stage in that new creation, as the King of Kings declared in victory: Behold, I make all things newRevelation 21:5.


St. James was put to the test.  In the interim between the death of one Roman governor and the installation of the next governor who was in route from Rome the High Priest saw his chance to rid himself of the troublesome Christian Bishop of Jerusalem who was making many Jewish converts to Christianity.  James, kinsman of Jesus of Nazareth, to whom Jesus had appeared after His resurrection [1 Corinthians 15:1-8], was recognized as one of the pillars of the Church along with Sts Peter and John the Apostle [see Galatians 1:19; Acts 12:17; 15:13; 21:18; and the Letter of St. James to the universal Church].  This pious man was even regarded by the Jews as a man of great holiness and was affectionately called "old camel knees" because of the condition of his knees after many, many hours of prayer before God.  In his account of the martyrdom of St. James, Bishop of Jerusalem, Bishop Eusebius writing in the 4th century records the account of Hegesippus, who Eusebius cites as "living immediately after the Apostles" and the account of St. Clement, disciple of St. Peter and 4th Bishop of Rome [martyred 96AD], that James was told his life would be spared if only he would renounce Jesus as the Messiah.  When James refused he was cast down from the height of the Temple.  After surviving the fall, the people at the instigation of the High Priest began to stone him.  James did indeed pass the final test and the courage of his martyrdom won many Old Covenant Jews into the New Covenant in Christ Jesus.  James submitted himself as God's prophet to his kinsmen and died a prophet's death, proclaiming in his own death the same words of forgiveness his Lord and kinsman Jesus of Nazareth uttered as He was nailed to the Cross: "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do."

[See Eusebius, History of the Church, chapter XXIII and also see the account of James martyrdom in Antiquities of the Jews by the 1st century Jewish historian Flavius Josephus (circa 37-100AD).  See Antiquities Book 20, chapter 9.1].




Church History, Eusebius, Book III.11: "After the martyrdom of James and the conquest of Jerusalem which immediately followed it, it is said that those of the apostles and disciples of the Lord that were still living came together from all directions with those that were related to the Lord according to the flesh (for the majority of them also were still alive) to take counsel as to who was worthy to succeed James.  They all with one consent pronounced Symeon [Simon], the son of Clopas, of whom the Gospel also makes mention, to be worthy of the Episcopal throne of that parish.  He was a cousin, as they say, of the Savior.  For Hegesippus records that Clopas was a brother of Joseph.  [This Symeon or Simon is to be distinguished from the Apostle Simon the Zealot.  In Book IV chapter 22 Hegesippus calls Clopas the uncle of the Lord, which would make him the brother or brother-in-law of Joseph [meaning brother of Joseph's first wife]. 


Saint James, faithful Bishop, prophet and martyr, pray for us!


Question for group discussion:

Did the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70AD bring an end to the Sinai Covenant leaving only one covenant, the New Covenant in the blood of Jesus Christ, or are there now 2 covenants with Yahweh with two different opportunities for salvation?  See Jeremiah 31:31-34; Acts 2:36-41; 4:10-12; Hebrews 8:1-9:10; 10:1-18; 12:18-29; CCC# 1962-65; 1967.


Catechism references for James 5:12-20 [* indicated Scripture quoted in citation]






1510; 1511*; 1526








1519*; 1520




Resources used in this lesson:

  1. Church History, Bishop Eusebius.
  2. The Works of Josephus
  3. Teachings of the Church Fathers, John R. Willis, S.J.
  4. The Anchor Bible: The Letter of James, Luke Timothy Johnson
  5. Sacra Pagina: James, Father Patrick Hartin
  6. Navarre Bible Commentary: Catholic Letters
  7. Strong's Concordance
  8. Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, edited by Gerald Bray
  9. Catechism of the Catholic Church
  10. Commentary on the Seven Catholic Epistles, Venerable Bede
  11. Christianity and the Roman Empire , Ralph M. Novak
  12. Harper Encyclopedia of Bible Life, Madeleine S. and J. Lane Miller,  Harper & Row Publishers, 1978


Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2009 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.