14. ἀσθενεῖ, is sick, a special form of the more general κακοπαθεῖ. For the word see Mat 10:8, Luk 4:40.
Note the aorists προσκαλεσάσθω … προσευξάσθωσιν of single acts contrasted with προσευχέσθω and ψαλλέτω, the continuous exercise of prayer and psalmody.
τοὺς πρεσβυτέρους τῆς ἐκκλησίας, probably the earliest mention in the N.T. of the presbyters of the Church. The term and the office were undoubtedly in the first instance transferred from the Jewish to the Christian Church. The Jewish πρεσβύτεροι are frequently named with the chief priests and scribes: together they constituted the Sanhedrin, Mar 14:53 οἱ ἀρχιερεῖς καὶ οἱ πρεσβυτέροι καὶ οἱ γραμματεῖς. So in the Christian Church an important question is referred to ‘the Apostles and Presbyters’ in Jerusalem, Act 15:6. Christian Presbyters are also mentioned, Act 11:30; Act 14:23; Act 15:2, &c.
τῆς ἐκκλησίας, also a term which connects Christianity with Judaism, comp. Mat 18:17 ἐὰν δὲ παρακούσῃ αὐτῶν, εἰπὲ τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ, a direction which must have been understood in the first instance to refer to the ruling body of the synagogue, the collegium presbyterorum, but which could naturally be transferred to that Church which our Lord calls τὴν ἐκκλησίαν μου, as distinct from the Jewish Church. See note in this series on Mat 16:18; Mat 18:17.
ἐπʼ αὐτόν, over him. ἐπί denotes the direction of the act. Comp. Luk 23:28 μὴ κλαίετε ἐπʼ ἐμέ, Act 19:13 ἐπεχείρησαν δέ τινες καὶ τῶν περιερχομένων Ἰουδαίων ἐξορκιστῶν ὀνομάζειν ἐπὶ τοὺς ἔχοντας τὰ πνεύματα τὰ πονηρὰ τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ, a passage which bears a close relation to this. For besides the positive direction given for the use of prayer and the ordinary remedies for sickness there is an implicit warning against superstitious usages such as were practised by Jewish exorcists, and which from the remotest ages had been prevalent in Babylonia and other regions where the Jews were now settled. The Kouyunjik gallery of the British Museum contains many specimens of terra cotta tables (often bilingual, Accadian and Assyrian) containing ceremonies and incantations for the sick; some are against evil spirits, some for special diseases of the head or eyes.
ἀλείψαντες ἐλαίῳ. The remedial use of oil was very general in ancient times, and is still prevalent in many countries. See Isa 1:6 οὐκ ἔστιν μάλαγμα ἐπιθεῖναι οὔτε ἔλαιον οὔτε καταδέσμους, Mar 6:13 καὶ ἤλειφον ἐλαίῳ πολλοὺς ἀρρώστους καὶ ἐθεράπευον. Comp. also Luk 10:34. The aorist participle is sometimes as here used to express an action contemporaneous with the principal verb. See Monro, Hom. Gram. p. 48, § 77. The anointing was to be accompanied with prayer. The doctrine of extreme unction seems to have been based upon this passage. But as leading Roman Catholic theologians have themselves seen (see Beyschlag ad loc.), St James is not here speaking of those who are at the point of death, but of sick persons whose recovery is contemplated.