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James 5:13–16 (ESV)

Is anyone among you suffering? (kakopathei)

            Let him pray[1].

Is anyone cheerful? (euthumei)

            Let him sing praise.

Is anyone among you sick? (asthenei)

            Let him call for the elders of the church,

                        and let them pray over him,

                                    anointing him with oil

                                                in the name of the Lord.


            And the prayer of faith will

                        Save (sosei) the one who is sick,

                        and the Lord will raise him up[2].

                        And if he has committed sins,

                                    he will be forgiven.


            confess your sins to one another

            and pray for one another,

                        that you may be healed (iathete).

The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.



Primary issue: Does this “sick” in verse 14 refer to “spiritual” or “physical” sickness? One’s decision on this point will affect one’s interpretation of the remainder of the passage.


Argument for “spiritual”:


            MacArthur begins this argument with v. 13, kakopathei tis: “James addresses not those suffering from physical diseases, but those being persecuted, abused and treated wickedly” (275). This creates the context for understanding the remainder of the passage.

            When we get to “sick” (v. 14), he notes that the word is used for both physical and spiritual weakness. In the epistles (of Paul) it always refers to a spiritual/emotional weakness. The weak person then calls for the elders of the church to come pray for him (her). This he relates to Galatians 6:1, where the stronger must strengthen the weak.

            Since the oil was known to be used for treating wounds (Luke 10:34), the anointing here was “rubbing” (perhaps the most common translation of the word) oil into the wounds and bruises as an act of treatment and kindness.

            He also points to use of ton kamnonta, “the one who is sick” in v. 15 which is only used one other time in the NT at Hebrews 12:3, “that you may not grow weary” – in response to mistreatment for being a Christian.

            “Healed” in v. 14 is often translated “saved”, elsewhere in the NT – with a spiritual reference. The word “healed” in v. 16 is used to refer to the healing of Israel from her sin in Matthew 13:15. He thus understands “raise him up” in an emotional/spiritual manner.

            The remainder of the passage speaks of sin:  forgiveness and confession; coupled with prayer.


Advantages of this interpretation:


1) It is plausible – it does not require any impossible twisting of the text.


2) It avoids the primary difficulty of the physical healing: Why are some/many not physically healed in response to prayer:


VER. 14. Is any sick among you?—Here is the culminating point of the question whether the language of James is to be uniformly taken in a literal sense, or whether it uniformly bears a figurative character. The literal construction involves these surprising moments: 1. The calling for the presbyters of the congregation in the Plural; 2. the general direction concerning their prayer accompaning unction with oil; 3. and especially the confident promise that the prayer of faith shall restore the sick apart from his restoration being connected with the forgiveness of his sins. Was the Apostle warranted to promise bodily recovery in every case in which a sick individual complied with his directions? This misgiving urges us to adopt the symbolical construction of the passage, which would be as follows: if any man as a Christian has been hurt or become sick in his Christianity, let him seek healing from the presbyters, the kernel of the congregation. Let these pray with and for him and anoint him with the oil of the Spirit; such a course wherever taken, will surely restore him and his transgressions will be forgiven him. This symbol, explained in the Epistles of Ignatius as containing the direction that the bishop, the centre of the congregation should be called in, may be founded on a wide-spread Jewish Christian custom of healing the wounds of the sick by prayer accompanying the application with oil.


John Peter Lange, Philip Schaff, J. J. van Oosterzee and J. Isidor Mombert, A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: James (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008), 138.


3) It can be related to the context of the text – referencing the abuse of Christians by those more powerful.




Moo, James sets out the difficulties with this view:


1) The spiritual view  hinges upon the translation of the word “asthenei” – one who is weak/sick. Moo notes that “virtually all modern English Bibles” take the position of physical sickness.  This means that most scholars understand the word to reference physical sickness.  While merely counting noses does not prove the meaning of a text, it does give one significant pause and does shift the burden of proof to the one arguing “spiritual weakness”.[3]


2) Moo also notes that the other uses of the word to reference “spiritual weakness” are made by plain by other a modifier of context.


3) Moo also notes that for James the parallel vocabulary is not Paul’s epistles but rather the text of the Gospels. In the Gospels, the word always means “physical sickness/weakness”.


4) The verb “save” in v. 15 is used in the Gospels to reference physical healing. The verb “heal” in v. 16 means “physical heal”.


5) The only place where anointing with oil is described in the NT (Mark 6:13), it refers to physical medicinal usage (MacArthur deals with this objection by tying the spiritual weakness to physical abuse).



Analysis of the Words:








 English Standard Version


Matt 10:8


ἀσθενοῦντας θεραπεύετε, νεκροὺς ἐγείρετε, λεπροὺς καθαρίζετε, δαιμόνια ἐκβάλλετε· δωρεὰν ἐλάβετε, δωρεὰν δότε.


Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay.


Matt 25:36


γυμνὸς καὶ περιεβάλετέ με, ἠσθένησα καὶ ἐπεσκέψασθέ με, ἐν φυλακῇ ἤμην καὶ ἤλθατε πρός με.


I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’


Matt 25:39


πότε δέ σε εἴδομεν ἀσθενοῦντα ἢ ἐν φυλακῇ καὶ ἤλθομεν πρός σε;


And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’


Mark 6:56


καὶ ὅπου ἂν εἰσεπορεύετο εἰς κώμας ἢ εἰς πόλεις ἢ εἰς ἀγροὺς ἐν ταῖς ἀγοραῖς ἐτίθεσαν τοὺς ἀσθενοῦντας, καὶ παρεκάλουν αὐτὸν ἵνα κἂν τοῦ κρασπέδου τοῦ ἱματίου αὐτοῦ ἅψωνται· καὶ ὅσοι ἂν ἥψαντο αὐτοῦ ἐσῴζοντο.


And wherever he came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.


Luke 4:40


Δύνοντος δὲ τοῦ ἡλίου ἅπαντες ὅσοι εἶχον ἀσθενοῦντας νόσοις ποικίλαις ἤγαγον αὐτοὺς πρὸς αὐτόν· ὁ δὲ ἑνὶ ἑκάστῳ αὐτῶν τὰς χεῖρας ἐπιτιθεὶς ἐθεράπευεν αὐτούς.


Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to him, and he laid his hands on every one of them and healed them.


John 4:46


Ἦλθεν οὖν πάλιν εἰς τὴν Κανὰ τῆς Γαλιλαίας, ὅπου ἐποίησεν τὸ ὕδωρ οἶνον. καὶ ἦν τις βασιλικὸς οὗ ὁ υἱὸς ἠσθένει ἐν Καφαρναούμ.


So he came again to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine. And at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill.


John 5:3


ἐν ταύταις κατέκειτο πλῆθος τῶν ἀσθενούντων, τυφλῶν, χωλῶν, ξηρῶν.


In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed.


John 5:7


ἀπεκρίθη αὐτῷ ὁ ἀσθενῶν· Κύριε, ἄνθρωπον οὐκ ἔχω ἵνα ὅταν ταραχθῇ τὸ ὕδωρ βάλῃ με εἰς τὴν κολυμβήθραν· ἐν ᾧ δὲ ἔρχομαι ἐγὼ ἄλλος πρὸ ἐμοῦ καταβαίνει.


The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.”


John 6:2


ἠκολούθει δὲ αὐτῷ ὄχλος πολύς, ὅτι ἐθεώρουν τὰ σημεῖα ἃ ἐποίει ἐπὶ τῶν ἀσθενούντων.


And a large crowd was following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick.


John 11:1


Ἦν δέ τις ἀσθενῶν, Λάζαρος ἀπὸ Βηθανίας ἐκ τῆς κώμης Μαρίας καὶ Μάρθας τῆς ἀδελφῆς αὐτῆς.


Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha.


John 11:2


ἦν δὲ Μαριὰμ ἡ ἀλείψασα τὸν κύριον μύρῳ καὶ ἐκμάξασα τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ ταῖς θριξὶν αὐτῆς, ἧς ὁ ἀδελφὸς Λάζαρος ἠσθένει.


It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill.


John 11:3


ἀπέστειλαν οὖν αἱ ἀδελφαὶ πρὸς αὐτὸν λέγουσαι· Κύριε, ἴδε ὃν φιλεῖς ἀσθενεῖ.


So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.”


John 11:6


ὡς οὖν ἤκουσεν ὅτι ἀσθενεῖ, τότε μὲν ἔμεινεν ἐν ᾧ ἦν τόπῳ δύο ἡμέρας·


So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.


Acts 9:37


ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ἐκείναις ἀσθενήσασαν αὐτὴν ἀποθανεῖν· λούσαντες δὲ ἔθηκαν αὐτὴν ἐν ὑπερῴῳ.


In those days she became ill and died, and when they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room.


Acts 19:12


ὥστε καὶ ἐπὶ τοὺς ἀσθενοῦντας ἀποφέρεσθαι ἀπὸ τοῦ χρωτὸς αὐτοῦ σουδάρια ἢ σιμικίνθια καὶ ἀπαλλάσσεσθαι ἀπʼ αὐτῶν τὰς νόσους, τά τε πνεύματα τὰ πονηρὰ ἐκπορεύεσθαι.


so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them.


Acts 20:35


πάντα ὑπέδειξα ὑμῖν ὅτι οὕτως κοπιῶντας δεῖ ἀντιλαμβάνεσθαι τῶν ἀσθενούντων, μνημονεύειν τε τῶν λόγων τοῦ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ ὅτι αὐτὸς εἶπεν Μακάριόν ἐστιν μᾶλλον διδόναι ἢ λαμβάνειν.


In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”


Rom 4:19


καὶ μὴ ἀσθενήσας τῇ πίστει κατενόησεν τὸ ἑαυτοῦ σῶμα νενεκρωμένον, ἑκατονταετής που ὑπάρχων, καὶ τὴν νέκρωσιν τῆς μήτρας Σάρρας,


He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb.


Rom 8:3


τὸ γὰρ ἀδύνατον τοῦ νόμου, ἐν ᾧ ἠσθένει διὰ τῆς σαρκός, ὁ θεὸς τὸν ἑαυτοῦ υἱὸν πέμψας ἐν ὁμοιώματι σαρκὸς ἁμαρτίας καὶ περὶ ἁμαρτίας κατέκρινε τὴν ἁμαρτίαν ἐν τῇ σαρκί,


For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh,


Rom 14:1


Τὸν δὲ ἀσθενοῦντα τῇ πίστει προσλαμβάνεσθε, μὴ εἰς διακρίσεις διαλογισμῶν.


As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.


Rom 14:2


ὃς μὲν πιστεύει φαγεῖν πάντα, ὁ δὲ ἀσθενῶν λάχανα ἐσθίει.


One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables.


Rom 14:21


καλὸν τὸ μὴ φαγεῖν κρέα μηδὲ πιεῖν οἶνον μηδὲ ἐν ᾧ ὁ ἀδελφός σου προσκόπτει ἢ σκανδαλίζεται ἢ ἀσθενεῖ·


It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble.


1 Cor 8:11


ἀπόλλυται γὰρ ὁ ἀσθενῶν ἐν τῇ σῇ γνώσει, ὁ ἀδελφὸς διʼ ὃν Χριστὸς ἀπέθανεν.


And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died.


1 Cor 8:12


οὕτως δὲ ἁμαρτάνοντες εἰς τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς καὶ τύπτοντες αὐτῶν τὴν συνείδησιν ἀσθενοῦσαν εἰς Χριστὸν ἁμαρτάνετε.


Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ.


2 Cor 11:21


κατὰ ἀτιμίαν λέγω, ὡς ὅτι ἡμεῖς ἠσθενήκαμεν· ἐν ᾧ δʼ ἄν τις τολμᾷ, ἐν ἀφροσύνῃ λέγω, τολμῶ κἀγώ.


To my shame, I must say, we were too weak for that! But whatever anyone else dares to boast of—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast of that.


2 Cor 11:29


τίς ἀσθενεῖ, καὶ οὐκ ἀσθενῶ; τίς σκανδαλίζεται καὶ οὐκ ἐγὼ πυροῦμαι;


Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?


2 Cor 12:10


διὸ εὐδοκῶ ἐν ἀσθενείαις, ἐν ὕβρεσιν, ἐν ἀνάγκαις, ἐν διωγμοῖς καὶ στενοχωρίαις, ὑπὲρ Χριστοῦ· ὅταν γὰρ ἀσθενῶ, τότε δυνατός εἰμι.


For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.


2 Cor 13:3


ἐπεὶ δοκιμὴν ζητεῖτε τοῦ ἐν ἐμοὶ λαλοῦντος Χριστοῦ· ὃς εἰς ὑμᾶς οὐκ ἀσθενεῖ ἀλλὰ δυνατεῖ ἐν ὑμῖν,


since you seek proof that Christ is speaking in me. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you.


2 Cor 13:4


καὶ γὰρ ἐσταυρώθη ἐξ ἀσθενείας, ἀλλὰ ζῇ ἐκ δυνάμεως θεοῦ. καὶ γὰρ ἡμεῖς ἀσθενοῦμεν ἐν αὐτῷ, ἀλλὰ ζήσομεν σὺν αὐτῷ ἐκ δυνάμεως θεοῦ εἰς ὑμᾶς.


For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but in dealing with you we will live with him by the power of God.


2 Cor 13:9


χαίρομεν γὰρ ὅταν ἡμεῖς ἀσθενῶμεν, ὑμεῖς δὲ δυνατοὶ ἦτε· τοῦτο καὶ εὐχόμεθα, τὴν ὑμῶν κατάρτισιν.


For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. Your restoration is what we pray for.


Phil 2:26


ἐπειδὴ ἐπιποθῶν ἦν πάντας ὑμᾶς, καὶ ἀδημονῶν διότι ἠκούσατε ὅτι ἠσθένησεν.


for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill.


Phil 2:27


καὶ γὰρ ἠσθένησεν παραπλήσιον θανάτῳ· ἀλλὰ ὁ θεὸς ἠλέησεν αὐτόν, οὐκ αὐτὸν δὲ μόνον ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐμέ, ἵνα μὴ λύπην ἐπὶ λύπην σχῶ.


Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.


2 Tim 4:20


Ἔραστος ἔμεινεν ἐν Κορίνθῳ, Τρόφιμον δὲ ἀπέλιπον ἐν Μιλήτῳ ἀσθενοῦντα.


Erastus remained at Corinth, and I left Trophimus, who was ill, at Miletus.


James 5:14


ἀσθενεῖ τις ἐν ὑμῖν; προσκαλεσάσθω τοὺς πρεσβυτέρους τῆς ἐκκλησίας, καὶ προσευξάσθωσαν ἐπʼ αὐτὸν ἀλείψαντες αὐτὸν ἐλαίῳ ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι τοῦ κυρίου·


Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.




Notes:  The default usage is for physical weakness. Paul does use the word to refer to spiritual weakness (including in Acts 20:35 – when elsewhere in Acts it is used to refer to physical weakness).  Moo correctly notes that Paul indicates that the word refers to a non-physical ailment by means of modifier or context: e.g., Romans 4:19, “weaken in faith”.


When Paul uses the word without modification, it refers to physical illness: Philippians 2:26-27, 2 Timothy 4:20. 


Thus, it is possible for the word to mean spiritual weakness, but something in the context must indicate such a usage.  The reference to “sin” may possibly indicate such a meaning – but the connection is not necessary. In fact, the context indicates the opposite “If he has sinned ….” The connection between sin and the weakness is possible but not necessary. A spiritual weakness would likely be indicated with a more necessary connection.



Finally, one might find himself in a third condition which was neither external suffering nor inner cheerfulness, namely, ill. It is true that ἀσθενέω may indicate weakness of any form (e.g. Rom. 4:19; 1 Cor. 8:9; 2 Cor. 11:29; cf. BAG, 114, for other meanings), but the contrast with κακοπαθεῖ, the need to call the elders to him, the use of oil, and the two terms σώσει and κάμνοντα indicate that illness is intended. Here there is no question of outward reverses through the evil in others, suffering for the faith, or similar sources of internal distress (i.e. 5:13); the person is sick, which means that the cause lies outside the human sphere: either God or evil powers must be involved.


Peter H. Davids, The Epistle of James: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1982), 192.


14 ἀσθενεῖ τις ἐν ὑμῖν, “Is there one of you weak?” James lists a third circumstance that engages prayer. Not all find themselves the victims of external suffering or share the experience of inner cheerfulness. Yet it is a much more common feature of life when people fall ill (BGD, 115; Matt 25:39; John 4:46; 11:1–3, 6; Phil 2:26–27; 2 Tim 4:20). ἀσθενεῖν can include weakness of any kind (2 Cor 12:10; Rom 4:9; 14:2; 1 Cor 8:11–12; 2 Clem 17.2), but Davids (192) is probably right to conclude that the context has physical illness in mind. He points out that ἀσθενεῖν stands in conjunction with κακοπαθεῖν (5:13), that the elders are called to come to the disabled person and pray, that oil is used for anointing and that the terms σῴζειν (“to make whole”) and κάμνειν (“to be ill”) in 5:15 are all features to show that a physical malady is the topic of discussion (see below).


Ralph P. Martin, vol. 48, James, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1998), 206.




Healed (v. 16)





 English Standard Version


Matt 8:8


καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ ἑκατόνταρχος ἔφη· Κύριε, οὐκ εἰμὶ ἱκανὸς ἵνα μου ὑπὸ τὴν στέγην εἰσέλθῃς· ἀλλὰ μόνον εἰπὲ λόγῳ, καὶ ἰαθήσεται ὁ παῖς μου·


But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed.


Matt 8:13


καὶ εἶπεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς τῷ ἑκατοντάρχῃ· Ὕπαγε, ὡς ἐπίστευσας γενηθήτω σοι· καὶ ἰάθη ὁ παῖς ἐν τῇ ὥρᾳ ἐκείνῃ.


And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed at that very moment.


Matt 13:15


ἐπαχύνθη γὰρ ἡ καρδία τοῦ λαοῦ τούτου, καὶ τοῖς ὠσὶν βαρέως ἤκουσαν, καὶ τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς αὐτῶν ἐκάμμυσαν· μήποτε ἴδωσιν τοῖς ὀφθαλμοῖς καὶ τοῖς ὠσὶν ἀκούσωσιν καὶ τῇ καρδίᾳ συνῶσιν καὶ ἐπιστρέψωσιν, καὶ ἰάσομαι αὐτούς.


For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’


Matt 15:28


τότε ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτῇ· Ὦ γύναι, μεγάλη σου ἡ πίστις· γενηθήτω σοι ὡς θέλεις. καὶ ἰάθη ἡ θυγάτηρ αὐτῆς ἀπὸ τῆς ὥρας ἐκείνης.


Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.


Mark 5:29


καὶ εὐθὺς ἐξηράνθη ἡ πηγὴ τοῦ αἵματος αὐτῆς, καὶ ἔγνω τῷ σώματι ὅτι ἴαται ἀπὸ τῆς μάστιγος.


And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.


Luke 5:17


Καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν μιᾷ τῶν ἡμερῶν καὶ αὐτὸς ἦν διδάσκων, καὶ ἦσαν καθήμενοι Φαρισαῖοι καὶ νομοδιδάσκαλοι οἳ ἦσαν ἐληλυθότες ἐκ πάσης κώμης τῆς Γαλιλαίας καὶ Ἰουδαίας καὶ Ἰερουσαλήμ· καὶ δύναμις κυρίου ἦν εἰς τὸ ἰᾶσθαι αὐτόν.


On one of those days, as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with him to heal.


Luke 6:18


οἳ ἦλθον ἀκοῦσαι αὐτοῦ καὶ ἰαθῆναι ἀπὸ τῶν νόσων αὐτῶν· καὶ οἱ ἐνοχλούμενοι ἀπὸ πνευμάτων ἀκαθάρτων ἐθεραπεύοντο·


who came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. And those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured.


Luke 6:19


καὶ πᾶς ὁ ὄχλος ἐζήτουν ἅπτεσθαι αὐτοῦ, ὅτι δύναμις παρʼ αὐτοῦ ἐξήρχετο καὶ ἰᾶτο πάντας.


And all the crowd sought to touch him, for power came out from him and healed them all.


Luke 7:7


διὸ οὐδὲ ἐμαυτὸν ἠξίωσα πρὸς σὲ ἐλθεῖν· ἀλλὰ εἰπὲ λόγῳ, καὶ ἰαθήτω ὁ παῖς μου·


Therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed.


Luke 8:47


ἰδοῦσα δὲ ἡ γυνὴ ὅτι οὐκ ἔλαθεν τρέμουσα ἦλθεν καὶ προσπεσοῦσα αὐτῷ διʼ ἣν αἰτίαν ἥψατο αὐτοῦ ἀπήγγειλεν ἐνώπιον παντὸς τοῦ λαοῦ καὶ ὡς ἰάθη παραχρῆμα.


And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed.


Luke 9:2


καὶ ἀπέστειλεν αὐτοὺς κηρύσσειν τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ ἰᾶσθαι τοὺς ἀσθενεῖς,


and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal.


Luke 9:11


οἱ δὲ ὄχλοι γνόντες ἠκολούθησαν αὐτῷ. καὶ ἀποδεξάμενος αὐτοὺς ἐλάλει αὐτοῖς περὶ τῆς βασιλείας τοῦ θεοῦ, καὶ τοὺς χρείαν ἔχοντας θεραπείας ἰᾶτο.


When the crowds learned it, they followed him, and he welcomed them and spoke to them of the kingdom of God and cured those who had need of healing.


Luke 9:42


ἔτι δὲ προσερχομένου αὐτοῦ ἔρρηξεν αὐτὸν τὸ δαιμόνιον καὶ συνεσπάραξεν· ἐπετίμησεν δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς τῷ πνεύματι τῷ ἀκαθάρτῳ, καὶ ἰάσατο τὸν παῖδα καὶ ἀπέδωκεν αὐτὸν τῷ πατρὶ αὐτοῦ.


While he was coming, the demon threw him to the ground and convulsed him. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit and healed the boy, and gave him back to his father.


Luke 14:4


οἱ δὲ ἡσύχασαν. καὶ ἐπιλαβόμενος ἰάσατο αὐτὸν καὶ ἀπέλυσεν.


But they remained silent. Then he took him and healed him and sent him away.


Luke 17:15


εἷς δὲ ἐξ αὐτῶν, ἰδὼν ὅτι ἰάθη, ὑπέστρεψεν μετὰ φωνῆς μεγάλης δοξάζων τὸν θεόν,


Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice;


Luke 22:51


ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν· Ἐᾶτε ἕως τούτου· καὶ ἁψάμενος τοῦ ὠτίου ἰάσατο αὐτόν.


But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him.


John 4:47


οὗτος ἀκούσας ὅτι Ἰησοῦς ἥκει ἐκ τῆς Ἰουδαίας εἰς τὴν Γαλιλαίαν ἀπῆλθεν πρὸς αὐτὸν καὶ ἠρώτα ἵνα καταβῇ καὶ ἰάσηται αὐτοῦ τὸν υἱόν, ἤμελλεν γὰρ ἀποθνῄσκειν.


When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death.


John 5:13


ὁ δὲ ἰαθεὶς οὐκ ᾔδει τίς ἐστιν, ὁ γὰρ Ἰησοῦς ἐξένευσεν ὄχλου ὄντος ἐν τῷ τόπῳ.


Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place.


John 12:40


Τετύφλωκεν αὐτῶν τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς καὶ ἐπώρωσεν αὐτῶν τὴν καρδίαν, ἵνα μὴ ἴδωσιν τοῖς ὀφθαλμοῖς καὶ νοήσωσιν τῇ καρδίᾳ καὶ στραφῶσιν, καὶ ἰάσομαι αὐτούς.


“He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.”


Acts 9:34


καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ ὁ Πέτρος· Αἰνέα, ἰᾶταί σε Ἰησοῦς Χριστός· ἀνάστηθι καὶ στρῶσον σεαυτῷ· καὶ εὐθέως ἀνέστη.


And Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; rise and make your bed.” And immediately he rose.


Acts 10:38


Ἰησοῦν τὸν ἀπὸ Ναζαρέθ, ὡς ἔχρισεν αὐτὸν ὁ θεὸς πνεύματι ἁγίῳ καὶ δυνάμει, ὃς διῆλθεν εὐεργετῶν καὶ ἰώμενος πάντας τοὺς καταδυναστευομένους ὑπὸ τοῦ διαβόλου, ὅτι ὁ θεὸς ἦν μετʼ αὐτοῦ·


how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.


Acts 28:8


ἐγένετο δὲ τὸν πατέρα τοῦ Ποπλίου πυρετοῖς καὶ δυσεντερίῳ συνεχόμενον κατακεῖσθαι, πρὸς ὃν ὁ Παῦλος εἰσελθὼν καὶ προσευξάμενος ἐπιθεὶς τὰς χεῖρας αὐτῷ ἰάσατο αὐτόν.


It happened that the father of Publius lay sick with fever and dysentery. And Paul visited him and prayed, and putting his hands on him healed him.


Acts 28:27


ἐπαχύνθη γὰρ ἡ καρδία τοῦ λαοῦ τούτου, καὶ τοῖς ὠσὶν βαρέως ἤκουσαν, καὶ τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς αὐτῶν ἐκάμμυσαν· μήποτε ἴδωσιν τοῖς ὀφθαλμοῖς καὶ τοῖς ὠσὶν ἀκούσωσιν καὶ τῇ καρδίᾳ συνῶσιν καὶ ἐπιστρέψωσιν, καὶ ἰάσομαι αὐτούς.


For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed; lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’


Heb 12:13


καὶ τροχιὰς ὀρθὰς ποιεῖτε τοῖς ποσὶν ὑμῶν, ἵνα μὴ τὸ χωλὸν ἐκτραπῇ, ἰαθῇ δὲ μᾶλλον.


and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.


James 5:16


ἐξομολογεῖσθε οὖν ἀλλήλοις τὰς ἁμαρτίας καὶ εὔχεσθε ὑπὲρ ἀλλήλων, ὅπως ἰαθῆτε. πολὺ ἰσχύει δέησις δικαίου ἐνεργουμένη.


Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.


1 Pet 2:24


ὃς τὰς ἁμαρτίας ἡμῶν αὐτὸς ἀνήνεγκεν ἐν τῷ σώματι αὐτοῦ ἐπὶ τὸ ξύλον, ἵνα ταῖς ἁμαρτίαις ἀπογενόμενοι τῇ δικαιοσύνῃ ζήσωμεν· οὗ τῷ μώλωπι ἰάθητε.


He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.




Notes: Again, the default usage of the word is physical in orientation.  The word can and is used in a broader manner, but each of these “spiritual” uses is based upon a quotation or allusion to the LXX, Isaiah 6:10 & 53:5.



Saved in 15 can mean either physical or spiritual salvation/restoration depending upon the context. Thus, the meaning in James 5:15 cannot be determined from other usage, because its meaning here depends upon the nature of the sickness at issue:


The reference in 5:15 to the prayer arising from “the faith” (the subjective genitive) that “will save” (sosei) the sickly one, should be taken not in a spiritual sense but in a physical sensxe. This is illustrated by the next action, i.e., that “the Lord will raise him up,” with the addendum, “and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.” In other words, the order is first physical healing and then spiritual healing.


Varner, James, 191.


            Physical Healing


While physical healing makes for the easiest reading of the text as written, it still faces one significant problem:


And the prayer of faith

            will save the one who is sick,

and the Lord

            will raise him up.

And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. James 5:15 (ESV)



Here is the trouble: Not everyone is “saved” from physical illness; nor is everyone “raised up”.


Calvin resolves the problem by asserting that such healing occurred only during the Apostolic period:


That the gift of healing was temporary, all are constrained to allow, and events clearly prove: then the sign of it ought not to be deemed perpetual. It hence follows, that they who at this day set anointing among the sacraments, are not the true followers, but the apes of the Apostles, except they restore the effect produced by it, which God has taken away from the world for more than fourteen hundred years. So we have no dispute, whether anointing was once a sacrament; but whether it has been given to be so perpetually. This latter we deny, because it is evident that the thing signified has long ago ceased.


John Calvin, James, electronic ed., Calvin’s Commentaries (Albany, OR: Ages Software, 1998), Jas 5:14.


Moo provides a remedy here:  He looks the to the “prayer of faith” for explanation:


The faith with which we pray is always faith I the God whose will is supreme and best; only sometimes does this faith include assurance that a particular request is in his will.  This is exactly the qualification that is needed t understand Jesus’ own promise, “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” (John 14:14). To ask “in Jesus’ name” mean not simply to utter his name, but to take into account his will. Only those requests offered “in that will” are granted. Prayer for healing offered in the confidence that God will answer that prayer does bring healing; but only when it is God’s will to heal will that faith, itself a gift of God, be present (245).



Richard Bauckman, James:


By contrast, asking in faith without doubting (1:6) is the whole hearted commitment to what the believers trusts to be God’s will…. ‘Faith means wanting and willing something with all our hearts’ …. But it is also entrusting these wholehearted wishes and desires to God.


Prayer has always been difficult, but the difficulty of prayer in the modern western world has its own specific profile. The fundamental reason why prayer has become difficult in the modern period was humanity’s modern self-image as those who, especially through technology, have gained control over the world. Rather like affluence, this assume dposition of mastery over trhe world has deluded modern people into trusting their own capacity to achieve all human ends and has promoted a sense of autonomy and self-sufficiency to which prayer is alien. Whereas petitionary prayer is recognition of the limits of human abilities, the modern age has encouraged the sense that all problems have human solutions and that all human desires may in the end be realizable by human means ….


207. Thus prayer becomes merely an instrument in our hands to control God:


It poses a real danger of misreading James’ claim that ‘the prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective’ (5:16) in an instrumental way, as though prayer were a powerful means which qualified people can use to achieve things. That way of thinking ends by making God himself a means to human ends….


If faith means wanting and willing something with all our hearts, it also requires the very unmodern renunciation  of attempting total control and the wholehearted surrender of what we want and will to God.




The problem, of course, concerns those many times when the process has been followed, and there has been no healing. When such instances occur, the usual explanation is that we have failed to have faith. We assume that faith is ours to work up and that we should be able to do so at any moment. If healing does not come, it is our fault. We haven’t worked up the faith.

But the Bible says faith is a gift of God (Eph. 2:8). When it is his will to heal, the Lord grants the persuasion that he will grant the healing and enables the elders to pray ‘the prayer of faith’. Kent Hughes explains: ‘… the prayer of faith is not something we can manufacture by saying “I believe, I believe, I believe, I really believe, I truly believe, I double believe!” It is a gift from God’ (italics are his).5 Hughes then shares these words from John Blanchard: ‘The “prayer offered in faith” is circular in shape; it begins and ends in heaven, in the sovereign will of God.’6

It comes down to this: the sick person is to call for the elders, the elders are to anoint and pray, and God will do as he pleases.


Roger Ellsworth, Opening Up James, Opening Up Commentary (Leominster: Day One Publications, 2009), 161-62.


Annointing: Varner affirms Moo’s position that the anointing  was so consecrate, and thus “ ‘set apart’ the sick on for concentrated prayer” (Varner, James, 191).


Respiritualizing illness:


In Jesus’ day, people overspiritualized illness. Many assumed that all tragedy and disease were direct consequences of sin. Today, in the West, we despiritualize illness. We believe microbes and defective genes cause all illness. We deny a link between sin and illness except in obvious cases such as cirrhosis of the liver and sexually transmitted diseases.


In fact, we need to respiritualize illness, for Scripture often links sin and illness: ( Luke 5:20, Jhn 5:14, 1 Corinthians 11:30, Acts 12 (Herod), Proverbs 3:28-35, 13:13-23. Deuteronomy 28:58-63; Ezekiel 18:1-29 … Psalm 32).


To some extent, then, spiritual health engenders physical health, and spiritual troubles beget physical sorrows.


Doriani, James, 198-199.


This verse is another indication of the affirmation that Wesley would have for James’s epistle. Wesley’s “bands”—small groups of believers who met regularly to share their lives with one another—practiced “confession.” In these sessions, there would be strict accountability for the sins in one’s life, not for the purpose of judgment, but for the purpose of prayerful support, encouragement and, most of all, healing forgiveness. Wesley knew that this was a key to growing deep in the Lord. He and his followers have practiced it throughout the years. It is heartening to see this kind of small group accountability becoming an ever-growing part of the spiritual exercises of many modern Christians.


The relationship between one’s physical health and spiritual well-being is becoming clearer all the time. How many sick people in our world could be healed if they knew they could be forgiven? How much of the physical pain in our world is rooted in spiritual causes? James’s admonition here to holistic spirituality in the context of real community is a key component to the practice of true religion.


One truth that easily could be overlooked here is the emphasis on the church as a healing community. James’s concern throughout this letter is to preserve the health and vitality of the Christian community—the church. Among other reasons for wanting to do so is that the health of individual Christians depends directly upon the health of the Christian community. For those of us who have grown up in the Protestant West, which emphasizes individualism, that is a difficult concept to grasp. But James’s words here about healing demonstrate that it is in community that the healing grace of God operates most effectively.



J. Michael Walters, James: A Bible Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition (Indianapolis, IN: Wesleyan Publishing House, 1997), 200-01.





Instead of grumbling against each other (v. 9) or taking oaths (v. 12), the believers should pray, strengthened by the corporate life that was theirs. James’s tone had become very pastoral. He asked if anyone was “in trouble” or (the better translation) “suffering” (the noun form of the same root, kakopath, is used in v. 10). He then commended private prayer20 as the antidote to falling into the temptation of grumbling against another believer. Their prayer must be for wisdom (1:5), and it should be whole-hearted (1:6), seeking a firm conviction for the perseverance needed to endure the suffering.

Kurt A. Richardson, vol. 36, James, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1997), 229-30.


Then James elaborated by stating that the Lord would “raise” the person up. This choice of verb (egeirō) is remarkable because it does not repeat the word meaning “save/heal,” which had just been used, but rather brings in another word with the same kind of dual meaning. “Raise up” refers to an act of God in the present, as in healing one who is bedridden, or an act of God in the eschaton, as in resurrection. Jesus’ healing of the synagogue ruler Jairus’s daughter is an example of this raising: “Little girl, I say to you, get up!” (Mark 5:41)—a restoration of life. The connection between being raised up miraculously from the bed of sickness and the resurrection is also poignantly presented in Martha’s confession at the tomb of her brother Lazarus (John 11:27).

Kurt A. Richardson, vol. 36, James, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1997), 234.


καὶ ἡ εὐχή τῆς πίστεως σώσει τὸν κάμνοντα καὶ ἐγερεῖ αὐτὸν ὁ κύριος, “And the request based on faith will make the sick one well; and the Lord will raise him up.” Difficulties in deciding what exactly in the preceding verse is meant by anointing should not cause us to overlook the main point of vv 13–18, which is prayer. It is prayer—not the anointing—which leads to the healing of the sick person. This prayer is described as a fervent wish or request (ἡ εὐχή) offered in faith (τῆς πίστεως). The faith mentioned here is evidently, if not exclusively, that of the elders. The results of this “request based on faith” are that the sick person (i) will be made well (σώσει, lit., “made whole”) and (ii) will be raised by the Lord. The verb σώζειν is often used in the NT to refer to the eschatological salvation of believers (see BGD, 798; this idea is close to the meaning of the same verb in 5:20), suggesting to some scholars that James is referring to deliverance from spiritual death. This argument gains support if ἀσθενεῖν (v 14) means “to be spiritually weak” (as in Rom 14:2; 1 Cor 8:11–12), as may be the case with κάμνειν (in v 15: see Heb 12:3). Moreover, ἰᾶσθαι (“to cure”) can conceivably be understood as referring to a restoration to spiritual wholeness (cf. Meinertz, “Die Krankensalbung”; Pickar, “Is Anyone Sick?”; Hayden, “Calling the Elders to Pray”). Yet these are exceptional meanings attached to the vocabulary, ἀσθενεῖν and κάμνειν are better understood to refer to cases of physical illness (cf. Wisd Sol 4:16; 15:9; Sib. Or. 3.588, where the meaning is “to be seriously”—but not necessarily terminally—“ill”). ἰᾶσθαι most naturally refers to the curing of a person who is sick (see Moo, 184). In addition, σῴζειν (Mark 5:23, 28, 34; 10:52; John 11:12) and ἐγείρειν (Mark 1:31; 2:9–12; 9:27; Matt 9:5–7; Acts 3:7; Josephus, Ant. 19.294) can be used to describe someone who is healed of a physical malady.

Ralph P. Martin, vol. 48, James, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1998), 209.