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James 2:18-26

Context
2:18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” 1  Show me your faith without works and I will show you faith by 2  my works. 2:19 You believe that God is one; well and good. 3  Even the demons believe that – and tremble with fear. 4 

2:20 But would you like evidence, 5  you empty fellow, 6  that faith without works is useless? 7  2:21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? 2:22 You see that his faith was working together with his works and his faith was perfected by works. 2:23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Now Abraham believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness,” 8  and he was called God’s friend. 9  2:24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 2:25 And similarly, was not Rahab the prostitute also justified by works when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out by another way? 2:26 For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.

1 tn There is considerable doubt about where the words of the “someone” end and where James’ reply begins. Some see the quotation running to the end of v. 18; others to the end of v. 19. But most punctuate as shown above. The “someone” is then an objector, and the sense of his words is something like, “Some have faith; others have works; don’t expect everyone to have both.” James’ reply is that faith cannot exist or be seen without works.

2 tn Or “from.”

3 tn Grk “you do well.”

4 tn Grk “believe and tremble.” The words “with fear” are implied.

5 tn Grk “do you want to know.”

6 tn Grk “O empty man.” Here the singular vocative ἄνθρωπε (anqrwpe, “man”) means “person” or even “fellow.” Cf. BDAG 82 s.v. ἄνθρωπος 8 which views this as an instance of rhetorical address in a letter; the pejorative sense is also discussed under the previous heading (7).

7 tc Most witnesses, including several important ones (א A C2 P Ψ 33 Ï sy bo), have νεκρά (nekra, “dead”) here, while Ì74 reads κενή (kenh, “empty”). Both variants are most likely secondary, derived from ἀργή (argh, “useless”). The reading of the majority is probably an assimilation to the statements in vv. 17 and 26, while Ì74’s reading picks up on κενέ (kene) earlier in the verse. The external evidence (B C* 323 945 1739 sa) for ἀργή is sufficient for authenticity; coupled with the strong internal evidence for the reading (if νεκρά were original, how would ἀργή have arisen here and not in vv. 17 or 26?), it is strongly preferred.

8 sn A quotation from Gen 15:6.

9 sn An allusion to 2 Chr 20:7; Isa 41:8; 51:2; Dan 3:35 (LXX), in which Abraham is called God’s “beloved.”



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