New Testament: Epistles and Revelation Passage: James 2: 17-20

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The New Testament is full of the inspirational words of God. He breathed these words into the hearts and minds of many brilliant authors who transferred them into epistles. There are numerous passages in the New Testament that are extremely important and mean a lot to me. Paul’s writings and the epistles of James are particularly special to me. Paul focuses mainly on emphasizing grace through faith. James primarily claims that works proves faith. Unfortunately, some readers have claimed that these epistles are contradictory. When reading in context, it is apparent that these claims are not true. One of the most misinterpreted passages in the Bible is James 2: 17-20. Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Martin Luther called James “a right strawy epistle.” It makes sense that Luther would think that during the reformation, when Luther was attempting to be rid of the Catholic Church because of their emphasis on salvation through works. He had a problem with the epistle as a whole. He pointed out that, “in the whole length of its teaching, not once does it give Christians any instruction or reminder of the passion, resurrection, or spirit of Christ.” With all due respect to Mr. Luther, I must point out that just because James does not reference Christ does not mean he does not believe in Him. It could simply mean he is writing this particular epistle for a different purpose. Unfortunately, the historical knowledge behind this epistle is not as extensive as that of other epistles. It is traditionally thought that James, the brother of Jesus, is the author of this epistle. Some critics assume it is James the disciple or an anonymous author. They claim this because the author never claims to be the brother of Jesus, the ideas are contrary to Paul, and the Greek is too good for James to have written. In response, traditionalists would say that just because the author does not claim to be the brother of Jesus does not mean he is not the brother of Jesus. The ideas are not contrary to Paul when read in context, and many authors used an amenuencis, or scribe, to write their epistles. The evidence in the text suggests that it was James the brother of Jesus because the author makes clear references to Jesus’ teachings, specifically the Sermon on the Mount. Also, the early church supported James the brother of Jesus as the author of this epistle. The date of this book is traditionally believed to be between 45-63 A.D. if written by James, the brother of Jesus. If it was written by James the disciple, it would be around 44 A.D. Liberal scholars believed it was written sometime between 60-100 A.D. There are arguments to support an earlier date. First, the church setup is simple as it would have been more in the earlier days of the church. Second, there are more moral issues than doctrine. Third, it makes references to synagogues and assumes believers attend there. At the beginning of the church, some Christians and Jewish converts met at a synagogue. The discussion is fueled by the debate of the Jews and Gentiles in Christ. This matter was settled at the Jerusalem council in 51 A.D. Last, James tied it to early traditions about Jesus. It seems like it was written before the gospels. The provenance is unknown, but is thought to be from Jerusalem or Palestine because of references to Hellenistic Jewish believers outside of Palestine. James wrote this epistle to the Diaspora, or “the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad.” These “believers” were practicing antinomianism. This is the belief that God’s grace allows us to live as we choose. James was concerned that they were misinterpreting Paul’s teachings about grace through...
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