I have a number of questions that I want to address in my Readers’ Mailbag, but one particularly important one requires a rather long response, and so I dedicate this entire week’s mailbag to answering it.  Here it is:



Bart, what is your view with regard to Paul and James teaching on the doctrine of justification by faith – are they contradictory?



Ah, this is a perennial question among readers of the New Testament.  I deal with it at some length in my textbook, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings, in a chapter called “Does the Tradition Miscarry,” where I talk about whether Paul saw eye to eye with Jesus, with James, and with later traditions about Paul (e.g. in the Acts of Paul and Thecla).  My answer about the letter of James may surprise some readers, who would expect me to find it completely at odds with Paul.  Here is what I say in the book:




The most famous passage of the book of James is, 2:14–26, a text that has been much cited since the Protestant Reformation, when Martin Luther made the unequivocal claim that it contradicts the gospel proclaimed by Paul and so should have only a secondary standing in Scripture.  James (in this passage) and Paul (in his letters to Romans and Galatians) cover much of the same ground. Both discuss justification by faith, both consider the relationship between faith and works, and both use the Old Testament figure of Abraham to establish their points.

The points they make, however …

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