When James tells us to confess our trespass, who is the confession being made to?

James 5:14-16 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. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. (NKJ)

In the Greek 'one another' is ἀλλήλοις which is a reciprocal pronoun

So is James talking about:

  1. Going to priest/bishop/elder to confess
  2. Confessing sin to one another generally
  3. Confessing your sin to the one you have wronged
  4. other
  5. or is there no way to tell hermeneutically

1 Answer 1


The original Greek is rightfully translated as 'one another' in this verse.

253 ἀλλήλων (allēlōn), dat. οις (ois), acc. ους (ous): prn. (reciprocal); ≡ Str 240—LN 92.26 each other, one another;a pronoun which marks reciprocation between two persons or groups (Jn. 13:34–35; Ro. 12:10, 16; 1Co. 12:25; Eph. 4:2, 32; Heb. 10:24; Jas. 4:11; 5:9, 16) (A Dictionary of Biblical Languages GREEK New Testament, James Swanson)

In other words it is used to express an unofficial non sacerdotal communal equality or reciprocity. It is the same word used in the command to love one another. So in the context after the elders are already introduced, instead of referring to them, James makes general confession of sin and exchange in prayers for each other a very communal practice as part of caring for and loving one another. So it would be in the most general sense that the context implies reciprocal confession to another brother, making #2 the best option. In deed it would seem James does not understand any other kind of confession having it been put this way.

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