21.3.04

"Was not our ancestor Abraham justified by works when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?" James 2:21
"Then what becomes of boasting? It is excluded. By what law? By that of works? No, but by the law of faith...What then are we to say was gained by Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness." Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due. But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness." Rom 3:27, 4:1-5
"You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone." James 2:24
"For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law." Rom. 3:28
(All NRSV quotes)

One seems an implied contradiction, the other seems a blatent one. Of course there is much more going on here than any of these verses alone can show. So I have an essay to write, on this stuff. Some interesting points. Not everyone believes that these verses can be made to match. Some view them as balancing each other, much the same way that Provebs, Ecclesiastes, and Job balance each other. Others view them as evidence of a conflict within the early church. And of course, there are many explanations as to how they work together and/or are complementary. Next, there is a huge body of scholarship on Paul and Romans, issues range across an incredible spectrum, and pretty much nobody writing on Romans or Paul tries to deal with James. On the other hand, nearly everyone who writes on James has a section as to how these verses work together, or don't work together.
Add some translational stuff, and the fun just never stops. Did you know that some scholars argue that the phrase "Faith in Jesus Christ" (i.e. Rom. 3:22) can be translated "the faithfulness of Jesus Christ" (i.e. Hays, Wright). Stick that in there and see what it does. Also that James 2:18-20 is one of the most difficult passages in the NT? An alternate translation to part of it is: show me your faith by your works and I will show you by my works, my faith." (i.e. Robert Wall)

You know what else I wonder? As much fun as I am having learning about all this; how many people really care? Does it matter? Those who believe will find a way to make it work, because they want to. Those who don't will find a way to show contradiction, because they want to. Most people won't think about it, since there are much more important things going on in our lives. Right?

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