Job’s Endurance (Jas 5:11b)

Greco-Roman Virtue in the Letter of James

In: Novum Testamentum
Nicholas List University of Cambridge Cambridge UK

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Interpreters have often struggled to account for the way in which the author of James employs the figure of Job as an example of ὑπομονή (Jas 5:11). Since a “steadfast” or “patient Job” is clearly incongruous with the book of Job, the Testament of Job is often forwarded as the preferred source of James’ Joban tradition. This article argues that James’ language of ὑπομονή should be read against its wider Greco-Roman literary background, and when done so, the Greek term emerges as an active, aggressive virtue, best rendered “enduring resistance.” The article posits that the author of James has reread the book of Job within this Greco-Roman literary framework, resulting in a congruent, though thoroughly Hellenistic, reading of Septua-gint Job in which the virtue of endurance takes on a newfound centrality.


Interpreters have often struggled to account for the way in which the author of James employs the figure of Job as an example of ὑπομονή (Jas 5:11). Since a “steadfast” or “patient Job” is clearly incongruous with the book of Job, the Testament of Job is often forwarded as the preferred source of James’ Joban tradition. This article argues that James’ language of ὑπομονή should be read against its wider Greco-Roman literary background, and when done so, the Greek term emerges as an active, aggressive virtue, best rendered “enduring resistance.” The article posits that the author of James has reread the book of Job within this Greco-Roman literary framework, resulting in a congruent, though thoroughly Hellenistic, reading of Septua-gint Job in which the virtue of endurance takes on a newfound centrality.

1 Introduction*

In Jas 5:11, the author of the letter presents the figure of Job as a worthy example for emulation. “You have heard of the endurance (ὑπομονήν) of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful” (Jas 5:11b). However, scholarship has often puzzled over what the author of James had in mind when describing Job as an exemplum of ὑπομονή. More puzzling still is how this depiction of Job relates to antecedent Joban tradition. In dealing with James’ source and reception of Joban tradition, I argue that the Letter of James, and in particular the language of endurance, should be read in light of Greco-Roman patterns of discourse. When we approach James this way, a number of issues concerning the author’s characterisation of Job are clarified.

2 Antecedent Traditions

It has become a commonplace in Jamesian scholarship to highlight the incongruity between the supposed “patience of Job” (from the infamous KJV translation) and the depiction of the Job in the Old Testament book that bears his name. David deSilva’s comments, for example, are typical in this respect:

The canonical book of Job does not present a protagonist who is a paragon of endurance. In striking contrast to James’s recollection of Job’s example, the canonical Job rejects endurance or an attitude of patience, denying that he has either the strength or the knowledge of the “end” (the advantageous or profitable outcome) that enables endurance: “What is my strength, such that I should wait? And what is my end, that I should be patient?” (Job 6:11; in the LXX translation, “that I should endure [ὑπομένω]”).1

While James’ Job is known solely for his ὑπομονή, Job 7:16 LXX disavows any pretence of patience: “For I will not live forever, that I should be patient (μακροθυμήσω); withdraw from me, for my life is empty.” The poetic middle of the book begins with Job cursing the day of his birth (3:1–26), and as the speech-cycles progress, Job’s impatience only seems to grow: “I loathe my life; I will give free utterance to my complaint; I will speak in the bitterness of my soul” (Job 10:1 LXX). Furthermore, Christoph Bultmann has pointed out that “der Autor des Jakobusbriefes der erzählten Szene im himmlischen Thronsaal nach Hi 1,1–2,8 … direkt widerspricht,” since according to James, God “tempts no one” (Jas 1:13b NRSV).2

The incongruity between the Letter of James and the book of Job has been traced back to an incongruity within the book of Job itself. The “patient Job” of the prologue (chs. 1–2) is often contrasted with the aggravated, near-blasphemous Job of the poetic cycles. Because of this, several scholars consider the book’s poetry and prose sections to represent two different “strata” within the work, presenting two divergent and irreconcilable portrayals of its main character.3 It is reasoned then that James’ characterisation of Job must not be dependent upon the book of Job itself, but on the “patient” stratum of Joban tradition, as represented in Aristeas the Exegete and the Testament of Job. Since Aristeas and the Testament both clearly rely on a Greek version of the book of Job, it is difficult to map the diachronic development of the patient/impatient strata within the nexus of these Joban traditions. And since various traditions grew up and were (seemingly) transmitted alongside the Greek and Hebrew versions, it is plausible that the “patient stratum” could have continued on as a tradition in its own right, remaining a salient description of the life of Job that would help inform later reworkings of Job’s story in the Hellenistic period.

Scholars that accept (or assume) this kind of hypothetical reconstruction of Joban tradition tend to single out the Testament of Job as a particularly worthy antecedent to James’ Job.4 In the Testament ὑπομονή is stated as one of Job’s key virtues (“I am your father Job, fully engaged in endurance [ἐν πάσῃ ὑπομονῇ γενόμενος],” T.Job 1:5). Other vocabulary is also employed to similar effect: ὑπομένω is used three times (4:6; 5:1; 26:4); μακροθυμία (27:7), μακρόθυμος (21:4), καρτερία (27:4), and καρτερέω (4:10) are each used once in connection to Job.5 The Letter of James likewise identifies Job by his proverbial ὑπομονή, and according to Jens Herzer, Jas 5:7–11 shares the Testament’s “eschatologische Heilsperspektive.”6 A number of other themes in the Testament, such as Job’s satanic opposition (T.Job 4:4; 16:2), his concern for widows and orphans (9:2–10:7) and the waged worker (12:2–4), are similarly emphasised in James (see Jas 4:7; 1:27; 5:4 respectively). Such linguistic and thematic correspondences have led an increasing number of scholars to accept James’ dependence upon the Testament7 (or a non-extant tradition behind the work).8

However, studies that focus precisely on the source-critical question between James and the Testament of Job have not shared the same optimism.9 Patrick Gray, in his extensive linguistic and thematic analysis of the two documents, conceded that “despite impressive family resemblance in terms of theme and language,” there is “not adequate evidence to prove beyond all doubt” that James displays literary dependence upon the Testament.10 Spitta,11 Schaller,12 and Gray each highlight a number of linguistic parallels between the Testament and James (see Table 1).13 While there are some interesting correspondences here, a sizable number of linguistic parallels between the Testament and the rest of the New Testament can also be evinced (see Table 2).14

Table 1
Table 1

Purported linguistic parallels between James and T.Job

Citation: Novum Testamentum 64, 4 (2022) ; 10.1163/15685365-bja10027

Table 2
Table 2
Table 2
Table 2

Purported linguistic parallels between T.Job and other early Christian literature

Citation: Novum Testamentum 64, 4 (2022) ; 10.1163/15685365-bja10027

The purported New Testament parallels are of the same character as those advanced between the Testament and the Letter of James, meaning that if one judges the Jamesian parallels to be convincing, there is little reason why the other New Testament parallels should be rejected. This would then lead to a thesis in which the Testament is seen as dependent upon an emerging New Testament canon, rather than James’ dependence on the Testament alone. As it stands, enumerating intertextual connections has so far failed to establish the literary origins of the Testament, and thus dating the work has proved equally difficult, with estimates ranging from 100 BCE to 200 CE.15 It also seems that at least for some, the tantalising parabiblical connection to James is one motivating factor in assigning the Testament an earlier date, which quickly becomes a circular argument for establishing a terminus ante quem before the composition of James.

On source-critical grounds, then, James’ dependence on the Testament of Job is problematic. Yet for many scholars, it is far less problematic than an incongruent reading of the OG of Job by the author of James, and less speculative than theories that necessitate a no longer extant tradition (oral or otherwise).16 This article will challenge this supposition, arguing that the author of James has in fact drawn his characterisation of Job from a Greek version of the book of Job—the whole of it, not just the prose sections (the so-called “patient stratum”). It is often noted that James is a rhetorically sophisticated document, and can be effectively read in light of Greco-Roman patterns of discourse.17 My contention is that when James’ language of “endurance” is framed within this broader discursive context, a picture of Job emerges that is far more consonant with the book of Job than previous scholarship has allowed.

3 The Meaning of ὑπομονή

The rendering of ὑπομονή as “patience” has long been critiqued in modern scholarship. Even in 1913, A. Carr could write,

It is strange that in the face of such a marked and undoubtedly intentional change of expression [between μακροθυμία in Jas 5:10 and ὑπομονή in 5:11] the Revisers should have retained the A.V. rendering of “the patience” of Job, especially as the distinction is observed both in the Vulgate: “Ecce beatificamus qui sustinuerunt; sufferentiam Job audistis.” … This sense of active resistance in ὑπομονή (endurance or fortitude) is inherent in the Greek word.18

Nowadays, most translations prefer to render ὑπομονή as “endurance” (RSV, NLT, NRSV) “steadfastness” (ESV), or “perseverance” (NKJV, NIV). Rather than suggesting the quiet capacity to tolerate and wait out difficulty, “the word ὑπομονή was widely used to denote the quality of the enduring perseverance needed to hold fast to one’s faith in the midst of the sorest of trials.”19 Some have indeed suggested that this kind of commitment is more apropos to the poetic dialogues than the prologue.20 Robert Foster is a good example: “There was never any intimation that Job would switch his allegiance to another deity. In other words he was steadfast in his commitment to God even in the darkest hour.”21

Yet this idea of “steadfastness” or “bearing up under suffering” still maintains an essentially passive stance towards Job’s suffering.22 This is the result of lexical analysis that is overly dependent on the Septuagint for establishing James’ understanding of ὑπομονή. Jeffery Meyers notes that the term, while infrequent in the Septuagint, almost always translates “Hebrew words primarily meaning hope, expectation, or waiting”: 1 Chr 29:15 (מקוה); Ezra 10:2 (מקוה); Job 14:19 (תקוה); Sir 2:14; 16:13; 17:24; 38:27; 41:2; Pss 9:18 (תקוה); ‪39:7 (קוה);‬ 62:5 (תקוה); ‪71:5 (תקוה);‬ Jer 14:8 (מקוה); ‪17:13 (מקוה).‬23 Meyers comments, “while a more passive sense focused on waiting prevails in Hebrew texts translated into Greek, in Jewish and Christian texts composed in Greek ὑπομονή usually has a much more aggressive quality.”24

Pedro Ortiz Valdivieso, in an extensive survey of Greek literature (from Homer to Plutarch), showed the relative diversity of senses attested for ὑπομονή and ὑπομένω.25 Ortiz Valdivieso notes some secular Greek usages where the verb ὑπομένω connoted a more passive sense, such as the sense of “wait” in Homer, Od. 1.410 and Herodotus, Hist. 3.25.2, or “submit (to a judicial process)” in Lysias 20.6.26 However, the majority of instances of both the noun and verb are found with reference to the world of the military. Examples from the Iliad (5.498; 14.488; 15.312; 16.814; 17.25.174) “express the attitude of the warrior who firmly faces the enemy’s attack.”27 The depiction of the courageous and enduring warrior would become “a figure of praise” in subsequent literature, “the archetypical image of Greek masculinity and heroism.”28 Themistocles Adamopoulo traces the various ways the discourse of endurance (ὑπομονή, μακροθυμία, καρτερία, patientia, stabilitas, sustinenda) underwent a process of ethical conceptualisation, in which it entered into “the vocabulary and concepts of Greek athletics, art, poetry, drama but most importantly philosophy where it would undergo a radical transformation, becoming an aggressive moral virtue in contexts of conflict, hardship, danger, persecution and martyrdom.”29

The terms for endurance were often paired with ἀνδρεῖος (courage, manliness),30 and the wise man’s control of his passions could be framed in terms of the virility of the warrior. Thus Plato presents the Greek sages as “awesome fighters (δεινοὶ μάχεσθαι) against desire and pleasures (ἐπιθυμίας ἢ ἡδονάς), whether standing firm (μένοντες) or turning back (ἀναστρέφοντες)” (Plato, Lach. 191d).31 The “much-enduring warrior” remained a popular image that continued into the Hellenistic period, though just as prevalent was the association of endurance with athletic imagery.32 Activities such as long-distance running, boxing, and wrestling were viewed as “most conducive to inculcating the basic element of the warrior’s endurance.”33

… the wise man may cast all injuries far from him, and by his endurance and his greatness of soul protect himself from them. Just so in the sacred games many have won the victory by wearing out the hands of their assailant through stubborn endurance (obstinata patientia).

Seneca, De constantia 9.534

Endurance was also a key virtue in Stoic philosophy. While the Stoic notion of the “implanted preconceptions” (ἔμφυτοι προλήψεις) presented the possibility for moral reasoning, true virtue could only be cultivated through a “conscious and laborious struggle of the rational development.”35 “Nature does not bestow virtue, it is an art to become good” (Seneca, Ep. 90.45). For the wise, trials and hardships were a welcomed means of discipline, producing contentment and mastery over human ἐπιθυμία. Trials were not, however, desirable in and of themselves, since the pain endured may seem to outweigh any future benefit (cf. Lucian, Anach. 10). However, when trials did arise, they nonetheless presented opportunities to demonstrate courage and endurance, as Seneca explains to Lucilius:

My dear Lucilius, you must distinguish between these cases, you will then comprehend that there is something in them that is desirable. I should prefer to be free from torture; but if the time comes that it must be endured (sustinenda) I shall desire to conduct myself with bravery (fortiter), honour, and courage (animose geram). Of course I prefer that war should not occur; but if war does occur, I should desire that I may nobly endure (generose feram) the wounds, the starvation, and all that the exigency of war brings. … The conclusion is, not that hardships are desirable, but that virtue (virtus) is desirable, which enables us patiently to endure hardships (qua perferuntur incommoda).

Seneca, Ep. 117.3–436

The sage’s pursuit of virtue above all else allows him or her to wisely deal with the precarious circumstances of life: “[The Sage] can view with unconcern pains and losses, sores and wounds, and nature’s great commotions as she rages all around him, can bear hardship and prosperity soberly, neither yielding to one not trusting the other” (Seneca, De constantia 6.3).

The language of endurance is also prevalent in a number of Hellenistic Jewish texts, particularly 4 Maccabees.37 Brent Shaw thinks that with Jewish martyr literature, endurance language undergoes something of a “moral revolution.” While “the praises of active and aggressive values entailed in manliness (andreia)” are common to the Greco-Roman world, “the elevation to prominence of the passive value of merely being able to endure would have struck most persons … as contradictory and indeed, rather immoral.”38 However, from our overview of the terminology, we can see that like 4 Maccabees, the pairing of ἀνδρεῖος and ὑπομονή is typical of pagan usage. Neither is there anything particularly passive about death in 4 Maccabees: the seventh and youngest brother, for instance, “flung himself into the braziers and so ended his life” (4 Macc 12:19). And outside of the particularities of its monotheistic and mosaic religious expression, is there really that much drastically different between the ethical framing of 4 Maccabees and its pagan counterparts? Consider the similarities to Isocrates:

But [the Law] teaches us self-control (σωφροσύνην), so that we master all pleasures (τῶν ἡδονῶν) and desires, and it also trains us in courage (ἀνδρείαν), so that we endure any suffering willingly (πάντα πόνον ἑκουσίως ὑπομένειν).

4 Macc 5:23

Train yourself in self-imposed toils, that you may be able to endure (ὑπομένειν) those which others impose upon you. Practice self-control (ἐγκράτειαν) in all the things by which it is shameful for the soul to be controlled, namely, gain, temper, pleasure (ἡδονῆς), and pain.

Isocrates, Demon. 1.2139

Furthermore, enduring death for the sake of one’s nation (4 Macc 17:10) is not completely foreign to Greco-Roman sensibilities.40 Thus we may conclude with Adamopoulo that throughout Greek and Roman literature, the philosophical concept of endurance was understood “as a positive moral attribute” and most importantly it was thought of as “an aggressive, masculine, rational attribute of the soul” against internal and external hardships.41 Warriors and athletes were often instructive as models for imitation in didactic and psychagogic discourses, embodying the heroic virtues of endurance and courage.42

4 A Jamesian Reading of Job

The book of Job is complex and ambiguous (maybe even intentionally so). Commentators have wryly remarked how James’ Job fails to embody the complexity of the full story. One such commentator quips, “As chapter 3 begins, Job emphatically ceases to be patient. Perhaps James never read beyond chapter 2.”43 I find this to be a very curious comment, especially since the author of James explicitly relates Job’s ὑπομονή to the “τέλος of the Lord” (5:11c), that is, both the outcome and purpose of Job’s story. The book starts with a declaration of Job’s righteousness (Job 1:1). The satan figure calls the integrity of Job’s piety into question, insinuating that Job is motivated only by the blessings he receives from God. God permits the satan to test the worth of Job’s piety, resulting in the loss of his wealth, children, and bodily health. Finally Job breaks his silence, and in his agony curses the day of his birth (ch. 3). At this moment we must ask, did the satan win? Are Job’s anguished cries in the face of suffering and loss proof positive that disinterested piety is impossible? Or is this “the same man as the patient Job of the prologue, but in a different stage of grieving”?44 Job’s friends certainly have their own ideas about his outburst. Yet it is only at the end of the book, the closing narrative, that a rebuttal to the satan’s original accusation is provided. As K.A. Richardson concludes, “by the end of the book, God does not find fault with Job or contradict anything he has spoken.”45 This is in direct contrast to Job’s friends: “The Lord said to Eliphaz the Thaimanite: ‘You have sinned, and your two friends, for you have spoken nothing true in my presence, as has my attendant Job … if not for him, I would have destroyed you; for what you spoke against my attendant Job is not true’” (Job 42:7–8 LXX). Job’s subsequent restoration (42:12–17) and foretold resurrection (Job 42:17aα LXX)46 further confirm God’s original declaration, “there is no one of those on the earth like him, a man who is blameless, genuine, religious, staying away from every evil thing” (1:8).

I think God’s conclusion (the τέλος, if you will) on Job’s right standing provides the interpretive key for the author of James as he attempts to read and understand the whole book of Job. “Job was right … in insisting on his innocence throughout the dialogue,” and his friends were wrong “in insisting that Job’s suffering was punishment for some sin.”47 If the author of James has this τέλος in mind, a particular aspect of Job’s character comes directly into focus throughout the speech-cycles. More than anything, Job’s speeches are characterised by an enduring resistance against the verbal attacks of his friends in the midst of deep suffering and incalculable loss.48 Despite the explanations and accusations of his interlocutors, Job maintains his integrity:

As God lives, who has taken away my right, and the Almighty, who has made my soul bitter, as long as my breath is in me and the spirit of God is in my nostrils, my lips will not speak falsehood, and my tongue will not utter deceit. Far be it from me to say that you [ὑμᾶς viz. the friends] are right; until I die I will not put away my integrity from me. I hold fast my righteousness, and will not let it go; my heart does not reproach me for any of my days.

Job 27:2–6 LXX

As Richardson rightly notes, “at the end of Job’s testing, these words will be justified.”49

5 Joban Endurance in James

The Letter of James begins with a call to joyfully accept testing (πειρασμός), knowing that testing produces ὑπομονή (Jas 1:2–3), which will ultimately result in wholeness/perfection (τέλειος, 1:4). The author employs the athletic imagery of a wreath to signify the eschatological reward for such endurance (cf. 1 Cor 9:25; 2 Clem. 7:3).

Blessed is the one who endures trial, because having been proved genuine he will receive the wreath (τὸν στέφανον) of life which the Lord has promised to those who love him.

Jas 1:12

A number of these same themes resurface in the closing section of the letter, most poignantly through the example of Job in chapter 5.50 Verses 7–11 are a relatively well-defined textual unit:51

Be patient (μακροθυμήσατε), therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient (μακροθυμήσατε). Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Beloved, do not grumble against one another (μὴ στενάζετε), so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors! As an example of suffering and patience (μακροθυμίας), beloved, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Indeed we call blessed those who showed endurance (ὑπομείναντας). You have heard of the endurance (ὑπομονήν) of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.

Jas 5:7–11 NRSV

The eschatological orientation of the pericope is evident, the author of James exhorting his audience to wait patiently for the return (παρουσία) of the Lord, that is, Jesus Christ.52 The attitude that characterises this period of messianic anticipation should be one of patience, seen in the admonition to be free from all grumbling. The use of the verb μακροθυμέω in verses 7, 8, and 10 clearly connotes passivity; the farmer waits (ἐκδέχομαι) for the earth to produce its harvest, something it does on its own accord (Mark 4:26–29).53 The warning to not complain (μὴ στενάζετε) in verse 9, however, feels a little out of place. Martin Dibelius thinks this is owing to the paraenetic nature of the work: “this verse is quite isolated, so there is no need to find some sort of connection between the warning not to ‘grumble against one another’ and the preceding saying.”54 Of course, proper speech is a matter the author has already dealt with at length (3:1–12), and its recapitulation at the close of the letter, along with earlier themes (κριτής, μακάριος, ὑπομονή), is not surprising. But rather than relating verse 9 to the previous verses, the admonition to “not complain against one another” may actually in part provide the rationale for the following two examples (ὑποδείγματα)—the prophets (5:10) and Job (5:11). The biblical prophets are presented as models of patient suffering (τῆς κακοπαθείας καὶ τῆς μακροθυμίας), like the farmer, waiting for the Lord to bring about his divine purposes. Yet James also valorises the prophets for their right speech, as those who “spoke in the name of the Lord” (ἐλάλησαν ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι κυρίου). While many complained against the prophets’ words (1 Kgs 22:8; Isa 30:9–10; Jer 11:21; Amos 7:12–13), they willingly suffered ignominy as they waited for the Lord’s vindication. The suffering of the prophets seems to have naturally led the author of James to consider the example of Job.55 But rather than an archetype of passivity (μακροθυμία), the author switches to the active, aggressive virtue of ὑπομονή.56 In the midst of satanically induced suffering, Job actively resists the wrong speech of his friends, words for which “the friends will face God’s wrath unless they can get Job to intercede for them” (Job 42:7–9).57 The author of James wishes his audience to avoid such judgment (Jas 5:9), hence his warning that “the judge is standing at the doors” (5:9b), as well as his earlier petition in Jas 4:11: “Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother speaks evil against the law and judges the law.” Job’s endurance, both against the schemes of the devil and the judgments of his friends, provide a particularly apt model for James’ audience to learn virtue. Community suffering should not lead to “grumbling against each other” (5:9), but one should be like Job, who was in the end approved by God and a recipient of divine compassion in the alleviation of his trials. Hence the author of James, in calling his readers to model Job-like endurance, reminds them of the τέλος of the Lord in the Job story, “that the Lord is compassionate and merciful” (5:11c). Read in this light, a Greek version of the book of Job is a more than sufficient source for James, with its laudatory declaration of Job’s character (Job 1:1), the instigation of his trials by the satan (1:9–11), his enduring resistance against his friends’ speeches (e.g., 27:2–6), and his vindication (42:7), physical restoration (42:10–17) and eschatological reward given him by God (Job 42:17aα LXX).

6 Conclusion

We must be clear on one thing: endurance is not a key theme in the book of Job—neither in the Hebrew or Greek versions. All modern readings of Job are agreed on this. Rather, the theme only starts to gain prominence when Job’s satanic struggle and God-approved resistance to his friends’ speeches are viewed in terms of the Greco-Roman discourse of endurance.

We have then what we might call the “minimal facts” of the book of Job. These are the key, salient points of the Job story which the author of James must reckon with to produce his own congruent interpretation. In broad strokes, there are four things to keep in mind: (1) At the beginning of the book of Job, God declared Job as righteous. (2) At the end of the book, God’s approval of Job is upheld. (3) In the middle of the book, Job’s friends argue with Job, and Job resists their judgements. (4) At the end of the book, God disapproves of what the friends have said.

There is a lot more going on in the book of Job. And the “more” is complicated, both linguistically and theologically, but it is these minimal facts at important points in the narrative arc of the book that help the author of James navigate and mitigate the complexities of the text. What does the author of James do with the minimal facts of the Job story? What is the author’s hermeneutic as he attempts to make sense of the book of Job? The question is one of reception history. We are not asking, “What does the book of Job mean?,” but rather: “How on earth did the author of James read or hear the Greek book of Job, and think ‘endurance’ was Job’s most endearing quality? What world was he living in to get that out of the book of Job?” And the answer to that question is deceivingly simple: the Hellenistic world of the ancient Mediterranean. The world in which ὑπομονή was not a passive quality (as in the LXX), but an aggressive virtue, a desirable trait frequently found in martial and athletic metaphors of Greco-Roman art, poetry, and philosophy.

In line with this rhetorical background, the author of James has reread the book of Job in such a way that esteems Job’s unrelenting antagonism to the words of his friends in the midst of his suffering as an example of ὑπομονή.58 Taking hold of the minimal facts of the beginning, middle, and end of the Job story, the author of James effectively rereads Job in a way that embodies the virtues of Hellenistic society consonant with author’s own Jewish-Christian convictions. And just like the enduring warriors and athletes of Greece and Rome, Job’s moral endurance could be presented as a model for Christian emulation against the πειρασμός of communal discord. While on modern critical readings Job’s endurance may not be his most endearing quality, we can nevertheless appreciate the ways in which the author of James (in his Hellenistic environment) has reread and repurposed the salient traditions of the past for the ethical transformation of his community.


This work was supported by the University of Cambridge Harding Distinguished Postgraduate Scholars Programme.


David A. deSilva, The Jewish Teachers of Jesus, James, and Jude: What Earliest Christianity Learned from the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012) 237–238.


Christoph Bultmann, “Hiob: Bild und Ton,” in Die Verheissung des neuen Bundes: Wie alttestamentliche Texte im neuen Testament fortwirken (ed. Bernd Kollmann; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2010) 226–245, at 236.


H.L. Ginsberg, “Job the Patient and Job the Impatient,” in Congress Volume, Rome 1968 (Leiden: Brill, 1968) 88–111; Hillel A. Fine, “The Tradition of a Patient Job,” JBL 74 (1955) 28–32, includes Job 27–28 in the “patient” stratum.


Aristeas the Exegete does not employ the language of ὑπομονή, though his picture of Job is consonant with the patient stratum: “Even without comfort and in terrible [circumstances], [Job] would continue in piety” (καὶ χωρὶς παρακλήσεως ἐμμενεῖν αὑτὸν ἔν τε τῇ εὐσεβείᾳ καὶ τοῖς δεινοῖς) (Eusebius, PE 9.25.3b). Although cf. Eusebius, PE 9.25.3a: “But God tested him to (see whether he would) continue, laying great misfortunes on him” (πειράζοντα δ’ αὐτὸν τὸν θεὸν ἐμμεῖναι, μεγάλαις δὲ περιβαλεῖν αὐτὸν ἀτυχίαις), which seems incongruent with James’ disavowal of God as agent of πειρασμός (Jas 1:13), though this is also the case for the Testament of Job (e.g., T.Job 26:5: “if then we have received the good things from the hand of the Lord, shall we not in turn endure [ὑπομένομεν] the bad things? But let us be patient [μακροθυμήσωμεν] in everything until the Lord in compassion shows us mercy”).


For discussion, see Cees Haas, “Job’s Perseverance in the Testament of Job,” in Studies on the Testament of Job (ed. Michael A. Knibb and Pieter W. van der Horst; SNTSMS 66; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989) 117–154.


Jens Herzer, “Jakobus, Paulus, und Hiob: Die Intertextualität der Weisheit,” in Das Buch Hiob und seine Interpretationen: Beiträge zum Hiob-Symposium auf dem Monte Verità vom 14.–19. August 2005 (ed. Thomas Krüger; ATANT 88; Zürich: Theologischer Verlag Zürich,

2007) 329–350, at 338. For further discussion of James’ and the Testament’s shared eschatological orientation, see Dankwart Rahnenführer, “Das Testament des Hiob und das Neue Testament,” ZNW 62 (1971) 68–93, at 80–83.


Luke Timothy Johnson, The Letter of James (AB; New York: Doubleday, 1996) 321; Bultmann, “Hiob: Bild und Ton”; deSilva, Jewish Teachers; Robert J. Foster, The Significance of Exemplars for the Interpretation of the Letter of James (WUNT 2/376; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2014) 163; Kelsie Gayle Rodenbiker, “The Persistent Sufferer: The Exemplar of Job in the Letter of James,” Annali di storia dell’esegesi 34 (2017) 479–496.


Herzer, “Jakobus, Paulus, und Hiob,” 338; Joachim Hans Korn, ΠΕΙΡΑΣΜΟΣ: Die Versuchung des Gläubigen in der griechischen Bibel (BWANT 72; Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1937) 67–68; Peter H. Davids, “Tradition and Citation in the Epistle of James,” in Scripture, Tradition, and Interpretation: Essays Presented to Everett F. Harrison by His Students and Colleagues in Honor of His Seventy-Fifth Birthday (ed. W. Ward Gasque and William Sanford LaSor; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978) 113–126, at 119.


See Jason Floyd Gish, “The Exemplar of Job: A Study of Key Themes Relevant to Job and the Letter of James” (PhD diss., Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2015), esp. 172–173.


Patrick Gray, “Points and Lines: Thematic Parallelism in the Letter of James and the Testament of Job,” NTS 50 (2004) 406–424, at 422.


Friedrich Spitta, “Das Testament Hiobs und das Neue Testament,” in Zur Geschichte und Litteratur des Urchristentums (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1907) 139–206, at 170–177.


Berndt Schaller, Das Testament Hiobs (JSHRZ 3/3; Gütersloh: Mohn, 1979) 325–374.


The Greek text of the Testament of Job is taken from P, which is generally considered the best extant witness for the work.


M.R. James was an early advocate of the Testament’s Christian origins; see M.R. James, Apocrypha Anecodota, 2nd series (TS 5/1; Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1897) xciii. The parallels in Table 2 are drawn mostly from James, ibid., lxxxvi–xciii; Rahnenführer, “Testament des Hiob”; R. Thornhill, “The Testament of Job,” in The Apocryphal Old Testament (ed. H.F.D. Sparks; Oxford: Clarendon, 1984) 617–648; and Steve Delamarter, A Scripture Index to Charlesworth’s Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (London: Sheffield Academic Press, 2002).


Cf. James R. Davila, The Provenance of the Pseudepigrapha: Jewish, Christian, or Other? (JSJSup 105; Leiden: Brill, 2005) 199. Through internal considerations, some have suggested an Egyptian provenance is feasible; Robert A. Kugler, “Of Echoes of the Jewish Scriptures and Adaptations of Livestock Inventories of the Testament of Job,” in Reading the Bible in Ancient Traditions and Modern Editions: Studies in Memory of Peter W. Flint (ed. Andrew B. Perrin, Kyung S. Baek, and Daniel K. Falk; Atlanta: SBL Press, 2017) 587–601, and that the description of the temple destruction in the opening narrative may find a historical referent in the mid second-century Jewish diaspora revolt in Alexandria; William ‘Chip’ Gruen, “Seeking a Context for the Testament of Job,” JSP 18 (2009) 163–179.


Too much weight has been placed on the words, “You have heard (ἠκούσατε) of the ὑπομονήν of Job …” (Jas 5:11). There is little to suggest that the author is purposely drawing his audience’s attention to oral traditions about Job. Firstly, most of James’ audience would have been illiterate, and thus hearing was the only way they would have had knowledge of any biblical figure. The verb ἀκούω often introduced Old Testament citations (Matt 5:21, 27, 31, 33, 38); cf. Dale C. Allison, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle of James (ICC; New York: Bloomsbury and T&T Clark, 2013) 714. Furthermore, ἀκούω is paralleled with ὁράω, another sensory verb, in the latter half of the verse, “… and seen (εἴδετε) the purpose of the Lord.” This pairing may in fact be an allusion to Job 42:5 LXX, “before I would hear (ἤκουον) an aural report of you, now, however, my eye has seen (ἑόρακεν) you.”


For helpful summaries of scholarship that reads James in light of its Greco-Roman background, see Matt Jackson-McCabe, “The Letter of James and Hellenistic Philosophy,” in Reading the Epistle of James: A Resource for Students (ed. Eric F. Mason and Darian R. Lockett; Atlanta: SBL Press, 2019) 45–71; John S. Kloppenborg, “James 1:2–15 and Hellenistic Psychagogy,” NovT 52 (2010) 37–71.


A. Carr, “The Patience of Job (St. James V. 11),” The Expositor, 8th ser., 6 (1913) 511–517, at 512 and 514.


Foster, Exemplars, 156.


Christopher Seitz, “The Patience of Job in the Epistle of James,” in Konsequente Traditionsgeschichte: Festschrift für Klaus Baltzer zum 65. Geburtstag (ed. Bartelmus von Rüdiger, Thomas Krüger, and Helmut Utzschneider; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1993) 373–382, at 380.


Foster, Exemplars, 158. See also Theresia Hainthaler, “Von der Ausdauer Ijobs habt ihr gehört” (Jak 5,11): Zur Bedeutung des Buches Ijob im Neuen Testament (Frankfurt am Main: Lang, 1988) 321, who thinks that the Job of the Hebrew book could be characterised in terms of endurance.


Johnson, James, 312, thinks “the verb hypomenein is fundamentally passive, meaning simply ‘to wait’”; see also K.A. Richardson, “Job as Exemplar in the Epistle of James,” in Hearing the Old Testament in the New Testament (ed. Stanley E. Porter; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006) 213–229, at 220.


Jeffrey D. Meyers, “Hypomonē as ‘Enduring Resistance’: Finding Nonviolence in the Book of Revelation,” BT 69 (2018) 40–55, at 45 with n. 11.


Meyers, “Hypomonē as ‘Enduring Resistance,’” 44. See also Susan R. Garrett, “The Patience of Job and the Patience of Jesus,” Interpretation 53 (1999) 254–264, at 256 and 263 n. 6.


Pedro Ortiz Valdivieso, “‘ΥΠΟΜΕΝΩ’ y ‘ΥΠΟΜΟΝΗ’ en la literatura griega,” Thesaurus: Boletín del Instituto Caro y Cuervo 21 (1966) 449–514, at 471 and 508.


Pedro Ortiz Valdivieso, “ΥΠΟΜΟΝΗ en el Nuevo Testamento,” Ecclesiastica Xaveriana 18 (1967) 51–161, at 56.


Ortiz Valdivieso, “‘ΥΠΟΜΕΝΩ’ y ‘ΥΠΟΜΟΝΗ,’” 472 (“expresan la actitud del guerrero que hace frente con firmeza al ataque enemigo”).


Themistocles Anthony Adamopoulo, “Endurance, Greek and Early Christian: The Moral Transformation of the Greek Idea of Endurance, from the Homeric Battlefield to the Apostle Paul” (PhD diss., Brown University, 1996) 350 (here, summarising martial descriptions from the Iliad, Tyrtaeus, Thucydides, and Arrian).


Adamopoulo, “Endurance,” 350. Ortiz Valdivieso, “ΥΠΟΜΟΝΗ en el Nuevo Testamento,” 57, notes that endurance is not a Greek virtue in the technical sense. However, Plato viewed καρτερία (directed by φρόνησις) as a subset of courage (ἀνδρεία, Lach. 192b). For Seneca, in the midst of trials, all virtues are at work, yet only endurance is clearly perceived (Ep. 67.8).


Diogenes Laërtius, Lives 7.126: “Courage is concerned with things that must be endured (τὴν ἀνδρείαν περὶ τὰ ὑπομενητέα)” (cf. Plato, Lach. 191a [with μένω], 192b [with καρτερία]; 4 Macc 1:11; 17:23 [ὑπομονή]).


Cited in Adamopoulo, “Endurance,” 86.


Diachronically, Adamopoulo shows how athletic endurance was a demilitarization of the same metaphor, since the warrior and athlete were originally one and the same (Adamopoulo, “Endurance,” 180–181).


Adamopoulo, “Endurance,” 179.


Translation by John W. Basore, Seneca: Moral Essays (LCL; London: Heinemann, 1928).


Adamopoulo, “Endurance,” 128.


Cited in Adamopoulo, “Endurance,” 134.


E.g., 4 Macc 1:11; 9:8; 17:4, 12, 17, 23; cf. also T.Jos. 2:7; 10:1; T.Job 1:5.


Brent D. Shaw, “Body/Power/Identity: Passions of the Martyrs,” JECS 4 (1996) 269–312, at 279.


Translation by George Norlin, Isocrates with an English Translation in Three Volumes (LCL; Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1980).


Diodorus Siculus 17.5.2: “[they should] gladly endure death (τὸν θάνατον … ὑπομεῖναι) so that their country would suffer no irremediable disaster, and he [sc. Phocion] inveighed against the faint-heartedness and cowardice (ἀνανδρίαν) of those who would not lay down their lives for their city.”


Adamopoulo, “Endurance,” 150.


Adamopoulo, “Endurance,” 76 and 210. Shaw’s thesis has been critiqued by Stephen D. Moore and Janice Capel Anderson, “Taking It like a Man: Masculinity in 4 Maccabees,” JBL 117 (1998) 249–273, at 257 n. 22: “We also find that the masculine quality of endurance is assumed rather than argued in [4 Macc], suggesting that Shaw has overstated the novelty of this view of endurance. … Furthermore, if endurance were under question as a masculine value in 4 Maccabees, the irony of a feeble old man, seven young boys, and an aged woman exhibiting it as a mark of their manliness – a central irony in the book, as we argue – would be lost.” See also Colleen Conway, Behold the Man: Jesus and Greco-Roman Masculinity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008) 76–78.


E.M. Good, “The Problem of Evil in the Book of Job,” in The Voice from the Whirlwind: Interpreting the Book of Job (ed. Leo G. Perdue and W.C. Gilpin; Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1992) 50–69, at 54. Cited in Allison, James, 715.


Michael V. Fox, “The Meanings of the Book of Job,” JBL 137 (2018) 7–18, at 10.


Richardson, “Job as Exemplar,” 217.


There is little indication that the author of James is familiar with the additions to the OG (Job 42:17a–e LXX), though perhaps James’ eschatological focus in Jas 5:7–11 is reminiscent of Job’s anticipated resurrection in Job 42:17a LXX. Tobias Häner, “The Exegetical Function of the Additions to Old Greek Job (42, 17a–e),” Biblica 100 (2019) 34–49, at 40, has suggested that “42.17a encourages the reader to interpret the book [of Job] from the standpoint of the prediction of Job’s resurrection.” Certainly, James’ knowledge of the appendix is not impossible from a chronological standpoint. Annette Yoshiko Reed, “Job as Jobab: The Interpretation of Job in LXX Job 42:17b–e,” JBL 120 (2001) 31–55, at 40, writes, “[the] addition is best dated between the OG translation of Job circa 150 B.C.E. and the translation of Θʹ in the early first C.E. Given the use of the appendix by Aristeas the Exegete, the terminus ad quem is the quotation of Aristeas by Alexander Polyhistor, circa 60 B.C.E.”


Fox, “Meanings of the Book of Job,” 17.


I think it is noteworthy that Job’s anguished lament in chapter three only comes after the “foolish” words of his wife (Job 2:9) and the loud cries and prolonged silence of his three friends (2:11–13). Since the dialogue proper starts in chapter 4, Job’s soliloquy could well be understood as the climax of the narrative prologue, induced by the words and silence of those closest to him. On the inappropriate length of the friends’ silence, see David J.A. Clines, Job 1–20 (WBC 17; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015) 63–65.


Richardson, “Job as Exemplar,” 224.


On Jas 5:7–20 as the closing unit of the text, see Matt Jackson-McCabe, “Enduring Temptation: The Structure and Coherence of the Letter of James,” JSNT 37 (2014) 161–184, at 179–180.


Martin Dibelius, James (Hermeneia; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1988) 241–242; Ernst Baasland, “Der Jakobusbrief als neutestamentliche Weisheitsschrift,” ST 36 (1982) 119–139, at 122.


Johnson, James, 314–15; Dibelius, James, 241; Jackson-McCabe, “Enduring Temptation,” 180.


Pace Johnson, James, 313, who thinks that “makrothymein/makrothymia means the active adoption of an attitude of ‘forbearance’ and ‘putting up with’ another.” Μακροθυμία can have a more active sense (e.g., Strabo Geogr. 5.4.10, where μακροθυμία means “tenacity”), but in this instance, the μακροθυμία of the prophets is described in terms of waiting (Jas 5:7) and is placed in juxtaposition to the description of the ὑπομονή of Job. See James Hardy Ropes, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle of St. James (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1916) 293; Meyers, “Hypomonē”; Seitz, “Patience,” 376–379.


Dibelius, James, 244.


It has been suggested that Job is himself viewed as a prophet in the Letter of James (Richardson, “Job as Exemplar,” 214). This may reflect Job’s expanded intercessory role in Job 42:8 LXX, and the ordering of Job between Ezekiel and the twelve Minor Prophets in Sir 49:9 (Hebrew).


On the significance of the lexical switch, see Carr, “Patience of Job,” 513–514; Foster, Exemplars, 153, 156–157; Hainthaler, Zur Bedeutung des Buches Ijob, 338. Naturally, those who maintain a synonymous relation between μακροθυμία and ὑπομονή puzzle over the relationship between James’ “patient Job” and antecedent Joban tradition.


Fox, “Meanings of the Book of Job,” 16. Fox continues, “Intercession would not be necessary if their mistake lay merely in having maintained a misguided but universally held theological tenet, namely, that God is uniformly just. What angers God is that they have hurt Job. They have been disloyal to their friend” (ibid.).


Pace Johannes Evangelist Belser, Die Epistel des heiligen Jakobus (Freiburg im Breisgau: Herder, 1909) 190, who seems to think that Job “alle Vorwürfe und peinlichen Reden seiner Freunde mit Geduld hingenommen und wenigstens im Grunde seines Herzens an Gott festgehalten [hat].” Indeed the very opposite is the case. Job’s rightful resistance to the attacks of his friends is noted in W. Beyschlag, Handbuch über den Brief des Jakobus (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1888) 221; Carr, “Patience of Job,” 513–514; R.J. Knowling, The Epistle of St. James (2nd ed.; London: Methuen, 1910) 133.

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