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  • Writer's pictureEric Cline

Not a Contradiction But Wholeheartedness Between James and Paul

Updated: Jul 5, 2023

James, or more accurately, Jacob, is the author’s real name. James is an Anglo-Saxon name given by the translation. James, the half-brother of Jesus, was martyred in 62 CE. Following my address of the issue, problem, and crisis is some explanatory information with relevance for today as a conclusion.

The issue, for the purposes of this post, is not the “apparent contradiction between James 2:24 (“a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone”) and Paul in Romans 3:28 (“a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law”).”[1] At issue is that wholeness requires wholehearted and single-minded loyalty to God. James emphasizes moral requirements of the law and to “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (James 4:8). James takes issue with double-minded people because they have mixed motives and divided loyalties.

The central problem, stated throughout the letter, is one of contrast between God’s values and those of the world. James likens those who deviate from God’s values as “adulterers and adulteresses” (James 4:4).

James addresses the crisis (actual sickness and that of sin) in chapter 5 by directing the application of his teaching to those who need it most—the ones who have strayed from God’s truth. Again, James addresses his readers corporately as community responsibility rather than to specific individuals.

This epistle is an encyclical from the head of the mother church to all Jewish Christian communities. James is a native of Nazareth. The content of the letter belongs to the Jewish wisdom tradition, specifically, ethical instruction with a dominance of aphorisms. James makes use of pithy observations having a general truth (aphorisms) such as “But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing (James 1:4); or “But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 3:8); and “ . . . let your “Yes” be “Yes,” and your “No,” “No,” . . . “ (James 5:12).

Relevance for today includes much of what was relevant in the first century: Draw near to God and He will draw near to you; the double-minded are unstable; the emphasis on moral/ethical responsibility; and the caution to teachers, preachers, and the prideful. Especially relevant is that James rebukes the person who lives life and makes future plans without any regard for the providence of God.

[1] The disagreement dissolves, however, when each passage is seen in its own context. Walter A Elwell (2019). (p. 336). Encountering Biblical Studies: Encountering the New Testament: A Historical and Theological Survey, 3rd Edition. Retrieved from https://app.wordsearchbible.lifeway.com

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