ἡδονή in James 4

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ἡδονή in James 4

Postby Jonathan Robie » January 20th, 2013, 7:49 am

I'm having a hard time grasping the meaning of ἡδονή as used in James 4:

1 Πόθεν πόλεμοι καὶ πόθεν μάχαι ἐν ὑμῖν; οὐκ ἐντεῦθεν, ἐκ τῶν ἡδονῶν ὑμῶν τῶν στρατευομένων ἐν τοῖς μέλεσιν ὑμῶν; 2 ἐπιθυμεῖτε, καὶ οὐκ ἔχετε· φονεύετε καὶ ζηλοῦτε, καὶ οὐ δύνασθε ἐπιτυχεῖν· μάχεσθε καὶ πολεμεῖτε. οὐκ ἔχετε διὰ τὸ μὴ αἰτεῖσθαι ὑμᾶς· 3 αἰτεῖτε καὶ οὐ λαμβάνετε, διότι κακῶς αἰτεῖσθε, ἵνα ἐν ταῖς ἡδοναῖς ὑμῶν δαπανήσητε.


I don't think this means simply 'desires', ἐπιθυμέω would be more appropriate for that. And in this context, there's no reference to the kind of hedonistic pleasures I sometimes associated with hedonism.

The word is used in 3 other places in the GNT. In Luke 8, it refers to the cares and pleasures of this world:

τὸ δὲ εἰς τὰς ἀκάνθας πεσόν, οὗτοί εἰσιν οἱ ἀκούσαντες, καὶ ὑπὸ μεριμνῶν καὶ πλούτου καὶ ἡδονῶν τοῦ βίου πορευόμενοι συμπνίγονται καὶ οὐ τελεσφοροῦσιν.


In Titus 3:3 it speaks of slaves to various passions and pleasures:

ἦμεν γάρ ποτε καὶ ἡμεῖς ἀνόητοι, ἀπειθεῖς, πλανώμενοι, δουλεύοντες ἐπιθυμίαις καὶ ἡδοναῖς ποικίλαις, ἐν κακίᾳ καὶ φθόνῳ διάγοντες, στυγητοί, μισοῦντες ἀλλήλους.


In 2 Peter 2:13 it refers to those who consider it pleasure to revel in the daytime:

ἀδικούμενοι μισθὸν ἀδικίας· ἡδονὴν ἡγούμενοι τὴν ἐν ἡμέρᾳ τρυφήν, σπίλοι καὶ μῶμοι ἐντρυφῶντες ἐν ταῖς ἀπάταις αὐτῶν συνευωχούμενοι ὑμῖν


Does James refer to these same kinds of pleasures in James 4? If so, I can't quite make sense of it ...

LSJ speaks of 'malicious pleasure':

of malicious pleasure, ἡ ἐπὶ τοῖς τῶν φίλων κακοῖς, ἐπὶ ταῖς λοιδορίαις ἡ., Id.Phlb.50a, D.18.138; ἡδονῇ ἡσσᾶσθαι, ἡδοναῖς χαρίζεσθαι


The first reference is tempting, it speaks of pleasure in the misfortune of friends, but I don't see anything in James 4 to suggest this meaning:

Σωκράτης
ἡδονὴν δὲ ἐπὶ τοῖς τῶν φίλων κακοῖς, οὐ φθόνον ἔφαμεν εἶναι τὸν τοῦτ᾽ ἀπεργαζόμενον;


The second reference refers to a "joy in abusive language". Goodwin's notes on the passage say this:

. τῆς...ἡδονῆς καὶ χάριτος: abusive language (λοιδορία) not only pleased the populace, but also gratified their whims and low tastes. A good example of both ἡδονή and χάρις is the scene in the Assembly when the second embassy reported in July 346 B.C., described in XIX. 44—46. Demosthenes was insulted and jeered at by Aeschines and Philocrates, to the delight of the people: notice the single sarcastic remark of Demosthenes (46), καὶ ὑμεῖς ἐγελᾶτε. Hist. §§ 34, 35.


Could something like that be intended in James 4? Even that is hard to fit to the context ...
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
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Re: ἡδονή in James 4

Postby Jonathan Robie » January 20th, 2013, 9:00 am

I don't know if the Greek bends this way, but here's a speculative attempt to fit the context a little better. Speculative in that nobody translates it this way, and I'm not sure that the genitive τῶν στρατευομένων can be understood this way, but let's give it a try.

Could ἐκ τῶν ἡδονῶν ὑμῶν τῶν στρατευομένων ἐν τοῖς μέλεσιν ὑμῶν refer to a base pleasure that they take in conflicts (figuratively wars) among themselves, like the pleasure Demosthenes notes in abusive language? But in Demosthenes, the thing they take pleasure in is indicated by dative: τῆς ἐπὶ ταῖς λοιδορίαις ἡδονῆς.
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
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Re: ἡδονή in James 4

Postby David Lim » January 20th, 2013, 10:19 pm

Jonathan Robie wrote:I'm having a hard time grasping the meaning of ἡδονή as used in James 4:

1 Πόθεν πόλεμοι καὶ πόθεν μάχαι ἐν ὑμῖν; οὐκ ἐντεῦθεν, ἐκ τῶν ἡδονῶν ὑμῶν τῶν στρατευομένων ἐν τοῖς μέλεσιν ὑμῶν; 2 ἐπιθυμεῖτε, καὶ οὐκ ἔχετε· φονεύετε καὶ ζηλοῦτε, καὶ οὐ δύνασθε ἐπιτυχεῖν· μάχεσθε καὶ πολεμεῖτε. οὐκ ἔχετε διὰ τὸ μὴ αἰτεῖσθαι ὑμᾶς· 3 αἰτεῖτε καὶ οὐ λαμβάνετε, διότι κακῶς αἰτεῖσθε, ἵνα ἐν ταῖς ἡδοναῖς ὑμῶν δαπανήσητε.


I don't think this means simply 'desires', ἐπιθυμέω would be more appropriate for that. And in this context, there's no reference to the kind of hedonistic pleasures I sometimes associated with hedonism.

I don't think "ηδοναι" is specifically "hedonistic pleasures" but the more generic "pleasures", distinct from "desires". Desires come out from the want to have pleasures, so I think that the text here is saying "out of your pleasures that make war in your members" / "from your want to satisfy the pleasures that strive for control over your body".
δαυιδ λιμ
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Re: ἡδονή in James 4

Postby Stephen Carlson » January 21st, 2013, 5:35 am

Jonathan Robie wrote:I'm having a hard time grasping the meaning of ἡδονή as used in James 4:

1 Πόθεν πόλεμοι καὶ πόθεν μάχαι ἐν ὑμῖν; οὐκ ἐντεῦθεν, ἐκ τῶν ἡδονῶν ὑμῶν τῶν στρατευομένων ἐν τοῖς μέλεσιν ὑμῶν; 2 ἐπιθυμεῖτε, καὶ οὐκ ἔχετε· φονεύετε καὶ ζηλοῦτε, καὶ οὐ δύνασθε ἐπιτυχεῖν· μάχεσθε καὶ πολεμεῖτε. οὐκ ἔχετε διὰ τὸ μὴ αἰτεῖσθαι ὑμᾶς· 3 αἰτεῖτε καὶ οὐ λαμβάνετε, διότι κακῶς αἰτεῖσθε, ἵνα ἐν ταῖς ἡδοναῖς ὑμῶν δαπανήσητε.


I don't think this means simply 'desires', ἐπιθυμέω would be more appropriate for that. And in this context, there's no reference to the kind of hedonistic pleasures I sometimes associated with hedonism.


How about metonymy as "desires" for "desires for pleasure"? Whatever the meaning, it has to support the personification of warring in one's members.
Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D. (Duke, New Testament)
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Re: ἡδονή in James 4

Postby cwconrad » January 21st, 2013, 9:33 am

Stephen Carlson wrote:
Jonathan Robie wrote:I'm having a hard time grasping the meaning of ἡδονή as used in James 4:

1 Πόθεν πόλεμοι καὶ πόθεν μάχαι ἐν ὑμῖν; οὐκ ἐντεῦθεν, ἐκ τῶν ἡδονῶν ὑμῶν τῶν στρατευομένων ἐν τοῖς μέλεσιν ὑμῶν; 2 ἐπιθυμεῖτε, καὶ οὐκ ἔχετε· φονεύετε καὶ ζηλοῦτε, καὶ οὐ δύνασθε ἐπιτυχεῖν· μάχεσθε καὶ πολεμεῖτε. οὐκ ἔχετε διὰ τὸ μὴ αἰτεῖσθαι ὑμᾶς· 3 αἰτεῖτε καὶ οὐ λαμβάνετε, διότι κακῶς αἰτεῖσθε, ἵνα ἐν ταῖς ἡδοναῖς ὑμῶν δαπανήσητε.


How about metonymy as "desires" for "desires for pleasure"? Whatever the meaning, it has to support the personification of warring in one's members.


This was my thinking too, that ἡδονῶν here is metonymy for ἐπιθυμιῶν, and I think that the sense really is "the things you covet" that are "at war with each other" or in conflict with each other."

I'm reminded of what Martin Buber says of the 10th commandment, that it's the capstone and generalizing commandment that summarizes and encapsulates all of the commandments dealing with interpersonal relationships. Compare, Romans 7:11ff, where ἐπιθυμία seems to be the ἀφορμή -- the "launching pad" of ἁμαρτία. It's "our wants" or "our cravings" -- our passions for what we don't have, our demand to be gratified. Gratification here, I think, if what ἡδονή means, but the object of the ἐπιθυμία is metonymized into a word for ἐπιθυμία: "our insistence upon gratification."
Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)
ὁ ἀναγινώσκων νοείτω
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Re: ἡδονή in James 4

Postby Jonathan Robie » January 21st, 2013, 3:09 pm

Thanks - I think Carl and Stephen's explanation makes sense.
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
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