James 4:4 NASB

4 You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

James 4:4 KJV

4 Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.

Is there a textual issue here?

  • The TR (and therefore the KJV) has 'adulterers and adulteresses'. The Westcott/Hort, Nestle/Aland has omitted the male part and has just 'adulteresses'. This is a Textual Criticism issue.
    – Nigel J
    Feb 20 '20 at 7:50

There is a difference in the various textual types at this point. The manuscripts fall into just two types:

A: Those that say, "Adulteresses" [Μοιχαλίδες (Moichalides)] include the following (with appox dates in brackets after each MSS) according to UBS5:

  • P100(~300), 01(~350 original hand), 02(V), 03(IV), 33(IX), 81(1044), 1175(X original hand), 1739(X), 1852(XIII), various itala MSS, some vulgate and Syriac MSS and Augustine's quotes.
  • Among the edited GNTs we have: NA28/UBS5, NA4, W&H, Souter, NIV GNT, SBL, THGNT.

B: Those that say "adulterers and adulteresses" [μοιχοὶ καὶ μοιχαλίδες] include the following:

  • 01(second correction), 044(~900), 5(XIII), 307(X), 436(~1100), 442(~1200), 642(XIV), 1175(corrected), 1243(XI), 1448(XII), 1611(XII), 1735(X), 2344(XI), 2492(XIV), 018(IX), 020(IX), 025(IX), plus a few others.
  • Among the edited GNT we have: Majority Text, Greek Orthodox Text, Textus Receptus, F35 (Pickering).

Note that "adulteresses" is in the earliest MSS while "adulterers and adulteresses" only appeared in the 9th century.

Bruce Metzger in his "Textual Commentary on the GNT" has this to say about this variation.

In Scriptural imagery μοιχαλὶς ("adulteress") is used figuratively of Israel as the unfaithful spouse of Jehovah (cf Ps 73:27; Is 54:5, Jr 3:30; Eze 16 and 23; Ho 9:1; and similarly in the New Testament Mt 12:39, 16:4, Mk 8:38). When copyists, however,, understood the word here in its natural sense, they were puzzled why only women were mentioned and therefore considered it right to add a reference to men as well. The shorter reading is strongly attested by both Alexandrian and Western witnesses [see above list].

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