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14 What does it profit, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Is that [kind of] faith able to save him?
14 My brothers, what benefit is there if someone claims to have faith, but he does not have works? How would faith be able to save him?
14 Though a man say he has faith, what profit is it, my brethren, if he does not have works? Can faith save him?
15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food,
16 and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled,"but you do not give them the necessary things of the body, what [is] the benefit?
16 and if anyone of you were to say to them: “Go in peace, keep warm and nourished,” and yet not give them the things that are necessary for the body, of what benefit is this?
16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?
17 Thus also that faith, if it does not have works, is dead, [being] by itself.
17 Even so faith, if it have not works, is dead in itself.
17 Thus even faith, if it does not have works, is dead, in and of itself.
18 But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works."Show me your faith [apart] from your works, and I will show you my faith by means of my works.
18 Yea, a man will say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: show me thy faith apart from [thy] works, and I by my works will show thee [my] faith.
18 Now someone may say: “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without works! But I will show you my faith by means of works.
19 You believe God is one. You do well. Even the demons believe-and they shudder!
19 Thou believest that God is one; thou doest well: the demons also believe, and shudder.
19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. But the demons also believe, and they tremble greatly.
20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?
20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith apart from works is barren?
20 So then, are you willing to understand, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?
21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?
22 Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by means of his works faith was made perfect?
22 Thou seest that faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect;
22 You can see, how his faith helped his works, and how by works his faith was made perfect.
23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness."And he was called a friend of God.
24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.
24 Do you see that a man is justified by means of works, and not by faith alone?
25 Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by means of works, when she received the messengers and sent [them] out another way?
25 And in like manner was not also Rahab the harlot justified by works, in that she received the messengers, and sent them out another way?
25 Similarly also, Rahab, the harlot, was she not justified by works, by receiving the messengers and sending them out through another way?
26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, even so faith apart from works is dead.
1–26 Appraisal of Faith-inspired Action This chapter presents James' demonstration of the integral relationship between genuine faith and actions. It falls into two basic sections:
1–26 Deliberative Rhetoric The whole of chapter 2 is a fine example of deliberative (sumbouleutikon) rhetoric (see → 1.3.3), where the speaker seeks to dissuade his audience from a certain action or exhort them to it. Here James attempts to dissuade his readers from showing favoritism to the rich ( Rhet.Jas 2:1–13) and to exhort them to live out their faith through actions (Jas 2:14–26). The diatribe style is used frequently in deliberative rhetoric.
14ff Can this faith save him? Warning about the Possible Loss of Salvation
15 If a brother or a sister Explicit Reference to a Female Church Member In his hypothetical exemplum, James refers explicitly to both a brother and sister. He here departs from his general practice of addressing his hearers by using the masculine adelphoi in a generic sense to refer to both male and female members (Jas 1:2; 1:9; 1:16; 1:19; 2:1; 2:5; 2:14; 3:1; 3:10; 3:12; 4:11; 5:7; 5:12; 5:19).
With this explicit reference, James perhaps means to emphasize that many of the needy in the community were women. Some commentators suggest that James' reference to a brother and sister pair here foreshadows his later reference to Abraham and Rahab (Jas 2:21–25).
16b Go in peace Irony James uses a standard greeting or wish of peace (Hebrew: šālôm; Greek: eirênê): "peace" or "go in peace" (lek lᵉšālôm) familiar from the biblical tradition (e.g. Jgs 6:23; 2Kgs 5:19) and standard in Christian epistolary greetings (e.g. Rom 1:7; 1Cor 1:3; Gal 1:3) and closings (Eph 6:23; 3Jn 15).
Thus James ironically contrasts a familiar, warm expression of community solidarity with neglect of the poor.
17 dead in itself Faith Alone The Greek is kath' heauton: "according to itself," "considered on its own."
17 faith, if it does not have works, is dead in itself Reiteration Four times James reiterates the proposition stated in Jas 2:14, though with some variation (Jas 2:17; 20; 24; 26). On reiteration (L: commoratio; G: epimonê), see → 4.58. ), "Dwelling on the Point ( Rhet. Her.commoratio) occurs when one remains rather long upon, and often returns to, the strongest topic on which the whole cause rest" ( 1954, 374; cf. →Rhet. Alex. 20 [1433b]).
19a God is one Allusion to the Shema James alludes to the classic statement of Israel's faith in the Shema (Dt 6:4): "Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!" This text may already have been recited in James' time in morning and evening prayers (cf. →m. Ber. 1-4). James thus alludes to a familiar declaration of belief in God.
20 empty Empty-handed and Void The Greek word is kenos, literally meaning "empty."
23a the scripture was fulfilled Meaning of “fulfill” The verb plêroô can be used as a fulfillment of a prophecy, as in Mt 1:22–23 wherein Jesus' birth "fulfills" the prophecy of Is 7:14. James does not seem to take it in this sense, however, since Gn 15:6 says that Abraham was justified by his belief in God before he offered his son.
James' main point Jas 2:14–26 is that faith and works cannot be separated. Faith is not complete unless it is combined with actions (2:22). Abraham's paradigmatic work, the offering of Isaac, completes his faith. Thus the verse "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness" is not complete (fulfilled) until it is clear that Abraham's faith is not merely a verbal faith.
24 You see that one is justified by works Conclusion from Scriptural Example James draws a general conclusion from the scriptural exemplum of Abraham. James marks this as a general conclusion by switching from the 2nd person singular address (used in diatribe style in addressing the imaginary interlocutor [Jas 2:20–23]) to the 2nd person plural to address the whole community, "You (pl.) see..."
25a Rahab Actions Inspired by Faith Lead to Salvation The story of how Rahab welcomed, hid, and cooperated with the Israelite spies sent by Joshua prior to the invasion of Jericho is told in Jo 2:1–21 (cf. Jo 6:22–25). When the king of Jericho's men inquired after the spies, Rahab misled them. Although a resident of the Canaanite city of Jericho and thus by definition a worshipper of other gods, Rahab confessed her faith in the God of Israel, "the Lord, your God, is God in heaven above and on earth below" (Jo 2:11). Her actions were rewarded when the Israelites spared her and her family from death when they conquered the city (Jo 2:13–14; cf. Jo 6:25).
Matthew's genealogical list remembers her as an ancestor of Jesus (Mt 1:5); the exempla list of scriptural heroes of faith in Hebrews includes Rahab: "By faith Rahab, the harlot, did not perish with the disobedient, for she had received the spies in peace" (Heb 11:31).
25a Rahab Positive Nachleben In general, the rabbinic tradition sees Rahab in a positive light.
26b faith without works is dead Inclusio James recapitulates the main point of this section, echoing the language of Jas 2:17 and thus forming an inclusio.
26b faith without works is dead James’ Exhortation and the Virgin Mary
14–26 Can this faith save him? Diatribe: Rhetorical Questions In this section (see vv. 14, 16, 20, 21), James continues the diatribal technique, used in the previous section (Jas 2:1–7), of asking rhetorical questions (Literary Devices 2:4–7). In that section, the questions functioned to remind his hearers of facts they should have known ("do not the rich oppress you?"); here, James attempts to get his hearers to grasp his unexpected point that faith without action is useless (v. 14: "What good is it...).
15f If a brother or sister be naked Ratio: Hypothetical Exemplum In support of his proposition that faith without action is not able to save a person, James offers a hypothetical exemplum (cf. Jas 2:2–3). This example need not be an actual occurence that took place in the community but simply a hypothetical illustration (Literary Devices 2:2–4).
15 daily food Struggle for Daily Living Though James' scenario is hypothetical, it reflects the social reality of a great many people in his society.
Many people in ancient Mediterranean society lived at a subsistence level and thus thought in terms of finding enough food for each day. The holdings of small farmers were often quite small and crop failures could easily be catastrophic. Farmers had to pay substantial taxes and were often in debt (Ancient Cultures 2:2–3).
The absolutely poor (in Greek ptôchoi) who could not provide for themselves (including orphans, widows, beggars, the chronically ill or disabled) were often without lodging or food (Vocabulary 2:2-3,5-6). → 1.8.8–16 refers to a pauper's graveyard where corpses of slaves who were thrown out of their dwellings were buried (96). The Gospel tradition refers often to such absolutely poor ( Sat.Lk 16:20–21).
Many of the relatively poor (penêtes), including small farmers and wage-earners, worked long hours in often dangerous conditions to secure their daily living. They were constantly in danger of falling into absolute poverty. When a severe famine occurred, the "prodigal" son longed to eat his fill of the pods on which the swine fed, but nobody gave him any (Lk 15:16). → 7.18.3 reports that when they lacked money, the poor ( Ant. Rom.penêtes) fed themselves with grass and roots (200).
A large part of the Mediterranean population suffered from malnutrition. Meat was unavailable to most people except on feast days; bread, olive oil, and vegetables and wine were the main staples of the poor. See also →James: Rich and Poor.
15f in need of daily food Neglect of One’s Neighbor Violates the Ten Commandments
18b Show me Proof and Deliberative Rhetoric The Greek deiknumi means "to show, reveal," but also "to prove or demonstrate" (cf. → 57.1). James' word choice reveals his deliberative rhetoric: he challenges his literary opponent to offer a proof of his position, while, at the same time, insisting that his own view of faith is supported by the proof of demonstrable actions ( 1 Apol.Literary Genre 2:1-26).
19c shudder Trembling in Fear at God’s Power The Greek phrissô usually describes a reaction of fear (cf. → 140 on bad men trembling and shuddering at future fears). It is applied in ancient magical texts to gods who tremble at the name of a higher power (e.g., Det.→PGM 3.227). In →T. Sol. 2.1 a demon cast out by King Solomon was "shuddering and trembling with fear" (phrissonta kai tremonta). It can also apply to a person's sense of awe in the presence of the power and majesty of God (→Pr. Man. v 4).
The sense is that the demons tremble in fear at the overwhelming holiness of God.
20 dead Or “useless”? Many mss. (including א and A), followed by Byz and TR, read nekra ("dead"). B, the original hand of C, and other mss. read argê ("useless"). Argê is likely the original reading:
P74 reads kenê, an error apparently motivated by the kene ("empty, senseless") in the first half of this verse.
See also Comparison of Versions 2:20.
20 faith apart from works is dead “dead” or “useless”?
See also Textual Criticism 2:20.
22a You see that faith was working together with his works Assumption of Previous Knowledge: Abraham as Model of Faith and Works Although he has only mentioned Abraham's action of offering Isaac (v. 21), James' abrupt conclusion: "You see that faith was working together with his works" presupposes that his hearers understand Abraham as a model of both faith and righteous actions. In fact, Abraham as a model of faith, and specifically as a model of faith witnessed in action, is well attested in Second Temple and early Christian literature (Biblical Intertextuality 2:21-24; Peritestamental Literature 2:21-23; Christian Tradition 2:22a).
25 Rahab Rahab in Dante’s Paradisio → 9.112-26 places Rahab in the third sphere of heaven. Dante understands Rahab to be the first soul taken here after Christ's death opened the heavenly gates: "first in Christ's triumph, she was taken up" (pria ch'altr' alma / del triunfo di Cristo fu assunta) (9:119-20). See also Div. Comm. Par.Jewish Tradition 2:25a; Christian Tradition 2:25a.
3,8,19 nobly Semantic Field of Kalôs The Greek adjective kalos denotes something excellent in quality, morally good, or beautiful. James uses the adjective and its adverbial form several times in this pericope (Jas 2:1–13). The present translation as "noble" attempts to render the connotations expressing both external and internal value qualities of persons and actions.
In Jas 2:3, the Greek reads the adverb "sit here well" (kalôs). James here intends a contrast with the seating of the poor man—"sit here by my footstool." The contrast is clearly between seating one in a place of honor (appropriate to his rank as a wealthy man) and seating another, the poor man, in a less honorable position. Alternatively, kalôs can also be taken as a term of politeness, as in the NRSV rendering, "Have a seat here, please."
In Jas 2:7, James applies the adjective kalos to God's name; he may intend a contrast between the false honor of giving preferential treatment to a rich man and the true honor associated with God.
James also uses the adverb kalôs in Jas 2:8: the one who fulfills the royal law does well; one could also translate "acts nobly;" see the same phrase in Jas 2:19. The adjective kalos in Jas 3:13 and Jas 4:17 is also with a clear stress on the morally good aspect.
26a spirit James' Anthropology James here uses the term pneuma for the life-force that animates a body, as in other parts of the NT.
On the relationship between pneuma and psuchê in James, see Vocabulary 5:20c.
18a You have faith, and I have works Questions or Indicative Statements? Because the ancient manuscripts generally lack punctuation, these words may be read as either questions or as statements.
Most translators take them as declarative statements. James' imaginary dialogue partner is offering two hypothetical examples: one person who has only faith, and another who has actions only.
22a faith was working together with is works Rhetorical Techniques
James employs a chiastic structure in this phrase:
a. faith was working together
b. with his works
b. by works
a. faith was completed
The current translation reflects a play on words in the Greek between the verb "to work together with" (sunergeô) and actions (erga): "faith works together with works."
19b demons Hellenistic Cosmology and Theology
In the Hellenistic world, in contrast to the wholly negative view in the NT (Biblical Intertextuality 2:19c), a demon (daimôn / daimonion) was not necessarily an evil power: it refers generally to lower supernatural beings.
Neverthless, in popular thought they were generally associated with spirits of the dead and with uncanny or unpredictable events. Many magical spells attempt to control them. They were often associated with certain physical places or things.
21ff Abraham’s Testing and Faith
In Second Temple literature, Abraham is regularly portrayed as a model of steadfast faith:
The 2nd c. BC Book of Jubilees recounts how Abraham remained faithful despite a series of tests:
Philo also mirrors James' concern with the connection between faith and action, linked with Gn 15:6:
26b faith without works is dead Various Interpretations
Peter Waldo, founder of the Waldensian movement that featured lay preaching and voluntary poverty, writes in his confession of faith:
The founders of Alcoholics Anonymous report that they were directly inspired in their efforts by the Book of James and its message of "faith without works is dead" (→, 147). 1984
21a Abraham our father Rhetorical Functions of References to Abraham
James' characterization of Abraham as "our father," evokes the common heritage of Israel that James and his hearers share. It is a further indication of the strongly Jewish-Christian character of the letter (cf. Mt 3:9; Acts 7:2; Rom 4:1).
The use of Abraham, known in Jewish and Christian tradition as a model of monotheistic belief, as an example of true faith connects with the confession of v 19: "God is one."
22b by works faith is completed Echo: Theme of Wholeness "Is completed" translates the verb teleioô; evoking again James' central theme of perfection and wholeness (→James: Perfection / Wholeness in James). In particular, James' phrase here echoes Jas 1:4, "But let perseverance have [its] complete result, so that you might be complete and whole, lacking in nothing."
15f naked and in need of daily food Respect for Human Dignity and Solidarity
→ 45 cites Pop. Prog.Jas 2:14–15 in the context of his insistence that the wealthy nations, based on the principle of solidarity, should assist in the integral development of poorer nations. It is not enough simply to give charity to meet immediate needs.
The Pope notes three aspects of this ethical duty:
15ff If a brother …so also faith: Comparison Using houtôs kai, ("so also") in v. 17, James compares
The implicit point is that faith should not be a merely verbal statement of beliefs that is not lived out in action.
21–25 Abraham our father Scriptural Exempla James presents the scriptural examples (G: paradeigma; L: exemplum) of Abraham and Rahab to establish his point that faith apart from actions cannot save a person. In addition to their function as evidence for James' argument, the exempla provide a model of how James' hearers should act—in this case, Abraham and Rahab model how the true person of faith lives out faith in action (cf. James' use of negative exempla in Jas 2:2–3 and Jas 2:15–16; examples of actions to be avoided).
Rhetorically, an exemplum is a type of proof (pistis), though it is not as persuasive as an enthymeme (→ 2.20.1–9; cf. Rhet.Literary Devices 2:9–10). For Jews and Christians, of course, exempla from Scripture carry the added persuasive weight of Scripture's authority. Exempla are frequently employed in deliberative (sumbouleutikon) rhetoric (e.g. → 1.9.40; Rhet.→ 32 [1438b]). Rhet. Alex.
In Second Temple literature, exempla lists often serve the deliberative function of providing models for the reader's imitation. Several such lists exhort the readers with examples of faithfulness under adversity: 1Mc 2:51–60 (including Abraham); →3 Macc. 6:6–9; →4 Macc. 16:20–22 (including Abraham's offering of Isaac); →4 Macc. 18:11–14 (referencing the offering of Isaac, though in this case Isaac's courage is the example). See also Sir 44–50.
Several Christian exempla lists mirror James' inclusion of Abraham and Rahab:
26 just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead Comparison
James does not establish a one-to-one correspondence between body || faith and spirit || actions—rather he makes the more general comparison: the first element in the pair is completely ineffective without the second.
15 naked Lack of Adequate Clothing The Greek word gumnos literally means "naked," but here most likely connotes one who is poorly dressed or partially clothed. In the ancient Mediterranean cultures, people typically wore two garments: an inner garment (a tunic; Greek chitôn) and an outer one (a cloak, Greek: himation). The Gospel tradition records how many people lacked a tunic: "The man with two tunics should share with him who has none" (Lk 3:11). Gumnos can describe one who lacks this outer garment, bearing only an undergarment or rags (cf. →P. Magd. 6.7).
See further →James: Rich and Poor.
15 naked and in need of daily food Parallel with Jesus’ Parable of the Sheep and Goats James' language echoes Jesus' parable, "For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked (gumnos—the same word used by James) and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me" (Mt 25:35–36). Jesus' parable too, refers specfically to the needs of a "brother": "whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me" (Mt 25:40).
17 faith, if it does not have works, is dead in itself Restatement of Jesus’ Teaching? James' proposition may be understood as a restatement of Jesus' teaching that rejects a merely notional faith, "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father in heaven" (Mt 7:21). See also the teaching in 1Jn 3:17: "If someone who has worldly means sees a brother in need and refuses him compassion, how can the love of God abide in him?"
19c demons Demons in the Gospels
In early Christianity, demons are regularly considered to be supernatural powers of evil, as opposed to the more neutral Hellenistic conception of any supernatural being (Ancient Texts 2:19b).
In the Gospels, demons control a person's actions, causing strange or destructive behavior, (e.g., Lk 8:27–33), or irrational or blasphemous behavior (Jn 10:20: "Many of them were saying, 'He has a demon and is out of his mind'"), or physical impairments such as muteness (Lk 11:14; although demon possession is often distinguished from illness in general, e.g., Mt 10:8). The ruler of the demons is Beelzebul (Lk 11:15). The term is associated with the term "unclean spirits" (e.g., Lk 8:2).
In some accounts, the demons recognize Jesus as the Son of God (e.g., Mk 1:24).
21–24 Faith and Works: Comparison of James and Paul
There are several close parallels between the thought of James and that of Paul on the topic of faith, justification, and "works" (actions):
Commentators offer various explanations for these similarities:
There is clearly a tension between James' position in Jas 2:14–24 (especially 2:24) and Paul's views (esp. Rom 3:21–31; 4:1–12; Gal 2:15–21; Gal 3; Eph 2:8–9) on the relationship between faith and works.
James famously insists that a person is "justified by works and not by faith alone (ex ergôn dikaioutai anthrôpos, kai ouk ek pisteôs monon; Jas 2:24). At first glance, this seems to contradict Paul's position that "a person is justified by faith apart from works of the law" (dikaiousthai pistei anthôpon chôris ergôn nomou; Rom 3:28). Two points, however, show that ascribing such a contradiction is overly hasty:
In addition, one may note other passages that reveal a notable similarity between James and Paul's thought on the relationship of actions and faith; e.g., the similarity between Paul's "faith working through love" (pistis di' agapês energoumenê; Gal 5:6) and James' "faith was working together with his actions" (hê pistis sunêrgei tois ergois; Jas 2:21). See also →James: Reformation and Counter-Reformation debate on James.
24 justified by works Both Faith and Works Lead to Salvation Several Second Temple texts explicitly speak of the role of righteous actions in salvation:
The book of Tobit likewise contains this theme:
At the same time, works like 4 Ezra do not sharply distinguish between the salvific power of actions and of faith:
2:14–3:2a Divisio Textus
See also →James: Medieval Divisio Textus.
14b works What Does James Mean by "works"?
21b faith Faith in Isaac’s Resurrection
22a faith was working together with his works Abraham’s Synthesis of Faith and Works Like James, Clement of Rome links Abraham's faith with his actions, particularly his obedience to God's commands.
1 Clement also relates how Abraham trusted God's promises regarding the land and descendants, before concluding:
23c friend of God Abraham’s Special Intimacy with God and Other Biblical "Friends" of God
Passages such as Gn 18:17–33 (Abraham's intercession with God regarding the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah) doubtlessly contributed to the widespread tradition that Abraham had a special relationship with God. Other passages are closer to James' phrase:
Also relevant are Jesus' words to his disciples:
26a For just as the body without the spirit is dead James’ Comparison to the Body Writing that good works testify to the reality of faith, and citing Jas 2:17, Bernard of Clairvaux alludes to this passage:
21a justified Catholic and Orthodox Teaching on Justification, Faith, and Good Works Following are the main lines of the Council of Trent's teaching, together with references to the Catechism, on the relationship between justification, faith, and good works, especially in reference to James.
Acknowledging that justification is only possible through God's grace, Trent insists that human beings have the free will to cooperate with God's grace, and rejects the Protestant understanding of faith as confidence in God's grace.
Trent's Decree on Justification teaches that observing the commandments of the law continue to play a role in justification and salvation.
The Catholic tradition distinguishes between an initial justification (when a person first repents and is baptized and is justified), and a later increase in justification. Cf. →James: Interpretation of James in the Reformation.
The Catholic commentary tradition on James (e.g., Bellarmine, Lapide) refers to a "first" and "second" justification, but Trent does not use this specific language. See also Christian Tradition 2:21a and →James: Interpretation of James in the Reformation.
"Good works" play a role in this later increase in justification, since both God's grace and human actions are involved in justification.
Good works, while they cannot be done without God's grace, neverthless are truly to be attributed to the person himself, and are truly deserving of merit and reward.
The Confession of Dositheus, published at the 1672 Synod of Jerusalem, clarifies the Orthodox understanding of the relationship between faith, works, and justification over against Protestant views.
23c friend of God Interpretations in Islam
21–24 offered Isaac his son on the altar Akedah
In later Jewish tradition, this incident, known as the Binding of Isaac, or Akedah, is the basis for a rich variety of theological reflection, seen particularly in liturgical prayers and art.
25a Rahab Interpretations of Rahab’s Story
In a series of exempla of biblical heroes 1 Clement includes both Abraham (ch. 10) and Rahab (ch. 12) as models of both faith and hospitality:
Early Christian tradition (Heb 11:31; 1 Clement), together with traditions recorded in later rabbinic materials (Jewish Tradition 2:25a) thus remembers Rahab as an example of faith in God. As was the case in his reflection on Abraham, it is likely that James presupposes his hearer's understanding of Rahab as a model of faith (Literary Devices 2:22a) and thus makes the implicit point that Rahab expressed her faith by protecting the Hebrew spies.
The Christian tradition also finds a hidden prophecy of Christ in Rahab's story. Rahab's sign to the spies, a scarlet cord tied in her window (Jo 2:18), is taken as a prophecy of the blood of Christ, "making it clear that it is through the blood of the Lord that redemption will come to all who believe and hope in God" (→1 Clem. 12.7–8; for this interpretion, see also → 111.4; Dial.→ 4.20.12). Haer.
21f when he offered Isaac Paradigmatic Test of Abraham’s Faith James alludes to the famous account in Gn 22:1–19 when the Lord "tested" (peirazô) Abraham by commanding Abraham to offer Isaac, the son whom God had promised would be progenitor of the chosen people (Gn 12:1–3). Strikingly, James makes use of this passage despite his insistence (cf. Jas 1:13) that God tempts (peirazô) no one.
Several other biblical accounts refer to Abraham's offering of Isaac as the ultimate test of his faith and, thereby, a paradigm of such testing. These accounts follow similar Second Temple traditions (Peritestamental Literature 2:21–23; Jewish Tradition 2:21–24).
Likewise the Vulgate's version of Judith posits a connection between Abraham's endurance of troubles and his faith.
G does not mention Abraham here, but does allude to his faith a few verses later:
23c friend of God Friendship with God, A Reward for Abraham’s Faith
Some accounts specificy that Abraham was designated "friend of God" after he remained faithful through his trials:
1:1–5:20 James Depictions of the Author Depictions of James, the author of the epistle, in paintings, statues, manuscript illustrations, engravings, woodcuts, and embroidery on liturgical vestments are particularly prominent in the Middle Ages. A common consensus of the artists is that the author of the epistle is James the Just, leader of the Jerusalem church; he is typically further identified with James, son of Alphaeus, one of Jesus' Twelve (Mk 3:18), and "James the Less" (Mk 15:40). The iconography of James draws particularly on accounts of James recorded in → 23 and Hist. eccl.→ 2, who in turn draw on accounts from Clement of Alexandria and Hegesipus. See also Vir. ill.→James: Introduction.
Several prominent features of these portrayals may be noted:
The following images are noteworthy:
James holds a club.
James, who resembles his brother Jesus, is second from his left. This full-scale copy was the main source for the— unfortunate—twenty-year restoration of the original (1978–1998). It includes several lost details such as Christ's feet, the transparent glass decanters on the table, and the floral motifs of the tapestries that decorate the room's interior. It was first mentioned in 1626 by the author Bartolomeo Sanese as hanging in the Certosa di Pavia, a monastery near Pavia, Italy, but it is unlikely that it was intended for this location. At some point, the upper third of the picture was cut off, and the width was reduced. Giampietrino is thought to have worked closely with Leonardo when he was in Milan. A very fine, full-size copy of this painting, before it was cut down, is installed at Tongerlo Abbey in Westerlo, near Antwerp, Belgium.
The side and central panels describe a a great hall with blue grey walls and three-colored tiles. In the side panels are depicted the half sisters of Virgin Mary, called after their fathers Mary Cleophas (left) and Mary Salome (right) together with their husbands.
Left panel: St. Mary Cleophas and Alphaeus (with the features of Friedrich the Wise with their two sons, the Apostles St. James the Less (at her breast) and Joseph Justus, called St. Barnabas, as annunciator of the Gospel of Matthew depicted with a book.
Central panel: Joseph, who seems to seems to sleep, the Virgin, dressed in blue with yellow lining, Anna and the Christ Child on her knee, who is stretching out his hand towards an apple given to him by Virgin Mary. Anna's three husbands following → are shown in the background in the matroneum: on the left Joachim, who is attracted by the holy women in front of him and whose relation is also shown by the corresponding blue and yellow color of his dress, Cleophas (with the physiognomy and chain of Emperor Maximilian I and Salomas, with the physiognomy of Sixtus Oelhafen von Schöllenbach, secretary of Friedrich III, Maximilian I and Karl V), who are talking to each other. There is an architectural structure by a great stone bench in the foreground of the central panel with two marble columns on the sides, over which is strectched a cloth of gold. On the right column is a tablet with date and signature: [LVCAS CHRONVS FACIEBAT ANNO 1509. The parapet of the matroneum is decorated by a sculptured frieze with dancing putti holding six escutcheons with the six fields of Electorate of Saxony. In the hall are shown the 17 members of the Holy Kinship. In the central panel are shown two more children of Mary Cleophas and Alpheus, the Apostles Simon, patron saint of weavers, dyers, tanners and saddlers and Jude, who went on mission and suffered their martyrdom together and therefore are regularly depicted together. Leg. aur.
Right panel: St. Mary Salome and Zebedee (with the features of Frederick III, Elector of Saxony, and his brother Herzog Johann der Beständige). St. Mary Salome, dressed in gold with dark red lining, is combing her son Saint James the Greater and while Saint John the Evangelist is hiding in her dress.
James is shown holding a Bible, symbolizing his status as a scriptural writer, in one hand. James is depicted in the Mannerist style with elongated form and without any of the traditional iconographic symbols
The risen Jesus appears to James and breaks bread with him (based on an account recorded in → 2, said to be drawn from the Gospel according to the Hebrews). Vir. ill.
James holds a book and club.
James, resembling Jesus, prayers on his knees with outstretched arms. It perhaps reflects Hegesippus' statement that James spent so much time in prayer that his knees were as hard as a camel's.
The inscription bearing the name of the saint has disappeared, but the iconography—facial features and beard shape —suggest that the icon is of James. Byzantine art places him among the founding fathers of the Church. As the creator of the first liturgy containing memorial services and the author of the message, which speaks of the healing power of prayer (Jas 5:14-16), he was also worshipped in ancient times as a healer. In Novgorod, James is prayed for the end of the epidemics. In sacred iconography, the representations of James of Jerusalem alone are very rare. We know the icons of Novgorod in which he is represented with other saints: Nicholas the Thaumaturgist, James the brother of God, Ignatius the bearer of God, end of the 15th c.; James the brother of God, Cosmas and Damian, 2nd quarter of the 16th c. The icon comes from the best workshops in Moscow or Novgorod.
19a God is one Statement of God’s Unity or Statement of Monotheism? The mss. witness many textual variants, differentiated primarily by word order and by the presence or absence of the definite article. The variants may be translated in two basic ways: (1) "God is one"—an expression of God's unity or (2) "There is one God"—a statement of monotheism.
21a justified by works Being Made Righteous or Being Shown to be Righteous
The Greek verb "to justify," dikaioô, is cognate with the adjective dikaios—"just" or "righteous." The terms are from the legal realm: the just person is one who follows human and divine law.
The biblical tradition, in both its Hebrew and Hellenistic aspects, also recognizes the political and legal aspects of justice:
The verb dikaiô can mean "to justify" or "to make righteous" in a causative sense: a person or other force vindicates or releases a person from the guilt or punishment incurred from breaking a law, thereby making that person dikaios. This is Paul's usual understanding. Sinful human beings are justified through the redemption of Jesus Christ: "they are justified freely by his grace through the redemption in Christ Jesus" (Rom 3:24)…"since we are now justified by his blood" (Rom 5:9).
Dikaiô can also mean to be shown or proven to be righteous (dikaios). Thus a person may be falsely thought to be unrighteous, and must be vindicated in order to demonstrate his righteousness. Thus, for example, Christ was vindicated in the Spirit" (1Tm 3:16). Paul applies this sense to God: "God must be true, though every human being is a liar, as it is written: 'That you may be justified in your words, and conquer when you are judged'" (Rom 3:4, quoting Ps 51:6).
→ understood James to be using the second sense of Comm. Iac.dikaiô—Abraham's act in offering his son Isaac was proof that he had already been justified. Calvin points out that Gn 15:6, "Abram put his faith in the Lord, who attributed it to him as an act of righteousness," appears long before God commanded Abraham to offer his son as a sacrifice (Gn 22:1–2; 1849, 314; and 1896, 398).
James, however, seems to take the word in its causative sense. In Jas 2:22, James affirms that Abraham's "faith was working together with his works" and that "faith is completed in his actions." The logic of James' argumentation to this point (Jas 2:14–21) is that faith is incomplete if it remains at the verbal stage only: it must be completed through works. Thus Abraham's actions cause him to be fully righteous.
20 Do you want to known, O empty man Diatribal Techniques James uses the diatribal technique of direct address of an imaginary interloculor, using a derogatory term to indicate his opponent's folly (cf. Paul's, "You fool" [aphrôn; lit.: "senseless"]) in 1Cor 15:36.
The diatribe frequently uses questions appealling to a knowledge that the listener should have, if he were intelligent and reasonable; cf. "Don't you know that friendship with the world is enmity to God?" (Jas 4:4; cf. Rom 6:16). This is also a common paraenetic technique used to exhort the hearer to change his behavior.
23c friend of God Hellenistic Thought on Friendship and Friendship with the Gods The theme of friendship was a common topos in Hellenistic moral literature.
Common values form the foundation of a strong friendship.
Likewise, the Stoics refused to dignify relations based on utility or pleasure with the name of "friendship."
To be a "friend of God," then, a person would need to be at the highest levels of virtue.
The "friend of God," then, is the wise person who willingly obeys God's commandments (cf. Jn 15:14–15).
14–26 “You have faith, and I have works” Relationship of Faith and Works
Origen notes the inseparable relationship between faith and works in several passages
Reformers such as Calvin and Zwingli held that in Jas 2:14–26, James refers to "faith" ironically. The Roman Catholic tradition, in contrast, held that James does indeed refer to faith, but to an inadequate, "unformed" faith that cannot save a person. → 14. [quoting Loc. Theo.Jas 2:17]: "because [if] works do not follow the faith, it is a sure sign and testimony that faith is not present but a dead intellectualization and a dream" ( 2008, 2:1181; see also →Interpretation of James in the Reformation and Theology 2:17).
Tradition often teaches that both faith and works are required for salvation with or without explicit reference to James:
14c Can this faith save him? Merely Verbal “Faith” Cannot Save Several interpreters understand James to mean that a merely verbal confession of faith is not adequate for salvation.
19c Even the demons believe—and shudder. Distinctions in Faith
The tradition points out that the “faith” of the demons is inadequate, for it is mere intellectual assent.
The tradition often comments that human response to God can be worse than that of the demons:
→ 3.23.2–4 [75–77] builds on this earlier discussion in a more systematic discussion of faith. Faith is defined as "the virtue by which unseen things are believed" insofar as these things "pertain to religion" ( Sent.→Sent. 3.23.2 .1). Lombard distinguishes three senses of faith, building on the distinction in → 13 (1).5 between the object of belief and the subjective faith by which one believes ( Trin.→Sent. 3.23.3 .1):
Lombard summarizes: "For it is one thing to believe in God, another to belive in a God, and yet another to believe God. To believe God is to believe that what he says is true, which the evil ones also do; we also believe a man, but not in a man. To believe in a God is to believe that he is God, which the evil ones also do. To believe in God is to love by believing, to go to him by believing, to adhere to him by believing and to be incorporated into his members" (→Sent. 3.23.4 .1; , 3:97-99).
→ 2-2.4.5 also distinguishes between living or formed ST(formata) and lifeless or unformed (informis) faith. In lifeless faith, the intellect acknowledges the truth, but the will does not. James' statement "faith without works is dead" (Jas 2:20), is an example of lifeless faith (→ST 2-2.4.4). The demons mentioned in Jas 2:19 do have faith (they are compelled to acknowledge God's existence because of miraculous signs) but it is another example of lifeless faith (→ 2-2.5.2 and 2-2.18.3). ST
Calvin's interpretation is followed in the Reformed tradition:
14ff What profit is it? Inclusio James introduces his proposition ("faith without works cannot save") with the rhetorical question, "What good is it?" (Jas 2:14); he ends his first proof of the proposition (a hypothetical exemplum) with the same phrase (Jas 2:16).
Asking about utility or expediency is common in deliberative rhetoric (e.g., → 1.3 [1358b]; Rhet.→Rhet. Alex. 1 [1421b]). The expected answer to the rhetorical question is of course, "None, mere words benefit no one."
18–23 You have faith, and I have works Diatribe: Who is James' Interlocutor?
Rhetorically, James here uses anticipation (G: prolêpsis; L: praesumptio): anticipating his opponent's objections and forestalling them with answers (cf. → 36 [1443a]; Rhet. Alex.→ 3.17 [1418b]). To this end, James employs the common diatribal technique of introducing an imaginary opponent to articulate the objection (cf. Rhet.→ 4.66  discussion of this technique, which he calls "personificiation" [ Rhet. Her.conformatio]; cf. → 9.2.29-30). Inst.
Commentators differ sharply on how to read 18a. Some proposed options:
The most persuasive solution is the third. The speaker here is clearly an opponent: "someone" (Greek: tis) picks up the "someone" who falsely claims to have faith in Jas 2:14; the introductory alla ("but") indicates a contrast with James' position presented in Jas 2:14–17).
James' imaginary opponent presents the two positions, and James responds, "Show me your faith apart from works." James' command is ironic: he believes that his interloculor cannot demonstrate sincere faith without the proof of actions, for consequent actions are essential to genuine faith.
James then concludes with his own position, "And I will show you my faith by my works."
15ff If a brother or a sister be naked Relationship of Faith, Works, and Love Several commentators note the close relationship between faith, actions, and love.
17 faith, if it does not have works, is dead in itself Living, Formed Faith, and Unformed (Lifeless) Faith The Council of Trent continues the theological tradition of distinguishing between different types of faith: