About the supposed controversy between Paul and James about faith vs works (James 2:20-23) / Περί της υποτιθέμενης διαμάχης Ιακώβου–Παύλου περί πίστης–έργων (Ιακ. 2:20-23)

The attitude to the law in the epistle is not, it is said, that which fits the position of James. If by this position is meant the legalistic attitude adopted by Paul’s Judaizing opponents, then even at the height of the controversy there is nothing in Paul or Acts to identify James with it. In Galatians Paul distinguishes the attitude of James himself (2:9) from that of ‘certain persons … from James’ (2:12). In Acts too it is made clear that James is no Judaizer (15:13-21), and he decisively dissociates himself from ‘some of our number’ who speak ‘without any instructions from us’ (15:24). Later also James welcomes the news of Paul’s missionary activity and seeks to disarm the misrepresentation of him by his own more zealous adherents (21:18-26).

If, on the other hand, the point of the critics is that ‘keeping the law’ means for James observing its ritual requirements (as in Acts 21:24), then, to be sure, the emphasis in the epistle is very different. For there the stress is entirely on moral righteousness. If the epistle is set in the context of the controversy described in Acts and Galatians and its crucial passage, 2:18-26, is viewed as James’ answer to Paul, then indeed we are dealing not only with quite a different concept of faith but with quite a different understanding of law and works. However, if we set it not against the debate over the admission of Gentiles to the church but against the kind of Jewish formalism condemned by Jesus, then James’ understanding of the law is entirely consistent. So far from its being, as Harnack supposed [Chron., 486.], a notion of law ‘which he has distilled for himself’, his is that inner delight in the perfect law of liberty which inspired Ps. 119 (cf. especially vv. 7, 32, 45) and which Paul himself would have been the first to say was the mark of ‘the true Jew’ (Rom. 2:25-29). Even subsequently circumcision and ritualism were not the heart of the matter for James. When that issue arose, circumcision was waived as a condition of church membership (Acts 15:19, 28), and ritual observance was urged as a matter not of principle but of tact, in a way that Paul himself was perfectly prepared to fall in with (21:21-26). The attitude to the law in the epistle can scarcely therefore be urged as an objection to Jacobean authorship, though it is certainly an argument against placing it in the context of the Judaizing controversy.

Η στάση έναντι του Νόμου στην επιστολή δεν είναι, λέγεται, αυτή που ταιριάζει με τη θέση του Ιακώβου. Εάν με αυτή τη στάση εννοείται η νομικίστικη στάση που υιοθετήθηκε από τους Ιουδαΐζοντες αντιπάλους του Παύλου, τότε ακόμη και στο απόγειο της διαμάχης δεν υπάρχει τίποτα στον Παύλο ή στις Πράξεις με το οποίο μπορούμε να ταυτίσουμε τον Ιάκωβο. Στους Γαλάτες ο Παύλος διαχωρίζει τη στάση του ίδιου του Ιακώβου (2:9) από τη στάση «ορισμένων ατόμων . . . από τον Ιάκωβο» (2:12). Στις Πράξεις επίσης γίνεται ξεκάθαρο ότι ο Ιάκωβος δεν ανήκει στους Ιουδαΐζοντες (15:13-21), και διαχωρίζει αποφασιστικά τον εαυτό του από «ορισμένους από ανάμεσά μας» οι οποίοι μιλούσαν «μολονότι εμείς δεν τους δώσαμε καμιά οδηγία» (15:24). Αργότερα επίσης, ο Ιάκωβος καλωσορίζει τα νέα για την ιεραποστολική δραστηριότητα του Παύλου και επιδιώκει να ξεδιαλύνει τις παρανοήσεις σχετικά με αυτόν από μέρους των πιο ζηλωτών, δικών του υποστηρικτών (21:18-26).

Εάν, από την άλλη μεριά, το σημείο των κριτικών είναι ότι «η τήρηση του Νόμου» για τον Ιάκωβο σημαίνει την τήρηση των τελετουργικών απαιτήσεων (όπως στο Πρξ. 21:24) τότε, ομολογουμένως, η έμφαση της επιστολής είναι τελείως διαφορετική. Διότι η έμφαση τίθεται στην ηθική αρετή. Εάν η επιστολή τίθεται στα πλαίσια της διαμάχης που περιγράφεται στις Πράξεις και στους Γαλάτες και το κρίσιμο απόσπασμα, 2:18-26, ερμηνευτεί ως απάντηση του Ιακώβου στον Παύλο, τότε πράγματι έχουμε να κάνουμε όχι μόνο με μια αρκετά διαφορετική αντίληψη της πίστης αλλά και με μια αρκετά διαφορετική κατανόηση του νόμου και των έργων. Ωστόσο, εάν τη θέσουμε όχι στο πλαίσιο της διαμάχης σχετικά με την είσοδο των Εθνικών στην εκκλησία αλλά στο πλαίσιο του Ιουδαϊκού φορμαλισμού τον οποίο καταδικάζει ο Ιησούς, τότε η κατανόηση του νόμου από τον Ιάκωβο είναι απόλυτα συνεπής. Αντί να αποτελεί, όπως υπέθετε ο Harnack, μια αντίληψη του νόμου «την οποία απέσταξε (distilled) για τον εαυτό του», η αντίληψή του αποτελεί εκείνη την εσωτερική απόλαυση στον τέλειο νόμο της ελευθερίας η οποία ενέπνευσε τον Ψαλμό 119 (δες συγκεκριμένα στίχους 7, 32, 45) και για την οποία ο ίδιος ο Παύλος θα ήταν ο πρώτος που θα έλεγε ότι αποτελεί χαρακτηριστικό του «πραγματικού Ιουδαίου» (Ρωμ. 2:25-29). Ακόμη και μεταγενέστερα η περιτομή και οι τελετουργίες δεν ήταν η καρδιά του ζητήματος για τον Ιάκωβο. Όταν εγέρθηκε αυτό το ζήτημα, η περιτομή παραβλέφτηκε ως απαίτηση για να γίνει κάποιος μέλος της εκκλησίας (Πρξ. 15:19, 28), και η τελετουργική τήρηση παροτρύνθηκε ως ζήτημα όχι εντολής αλλά λεπτότητας (τακτ), με τρόπο που ο ίδιος ο Παύλος ήταν πλήρως προετοιμασμένος να συνταχθεί (21:21-26). Η στάση προς το νόμο στην επιστολή συνεπώς, μετά βίας μπορεί να προωθηθεί ως ένσταση στην συγγραφή από τον Ιάκωβο, παρότι αποτελεί σίγουρα ένα επιχείρημα ενάντια στην τοποθέτησή της στο πλαίσιο της Ιουδαΐζουσας διαμάχης.

 John Α. Τ. Robinson, Redating the New Testament, 128ff.

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(Updated) Hebrew and early christian “faith” compared with modern world “faith” / H εβραϊκή και πρωτοχριστιανική «πίστη» συγκρινόμενη με τη σύγχρονη «πίστη»

The error, distortion, falsification, or whatever that was perpetrated when musterion (μυστήριον) was translated by “mystery” is very similar to the error that was perpetrated when the Greek pistis (πίστις) was translated by “faith.” We have already taken note of this latter fact, and we shall have occasion to deal with it at greater length when we come to examine the Gospel according to John. Under the New Covenant, the Greek word pistis originally meant having an objective certitude of the truth, a certitude involving one’s mind, or organ of thought. In our modern terminology, faith means not so much having an objective certitude of the truth as having a subjective conviction about it; and so the modern idea of faith is not equivalent to what was conveyed by the Greek pistis.

Moreover, faith has become dissociated from the intellect in the modern understanding through a number of historical influences to which we have already alluded. Our modern irrationalist and fideist prism falsifies the true meaning of the Greek words musterion and pistis. Modern readers see the New Testament, indeed the entire Bible, only as reflected in this irrationalist and fideist prism. The original Hebrew tradition was most decidedly not fideist; nor did it lend itself in any way to what we know today as Lutheranism, Kantianism, or Barthianism.

Claude Tresmontant, The Hebrew Christ, σελ. 93, 94.

We have already encountered and discussed many of the words derived from the Hebrew root verb aman, “to be certain of the truth of”. We shall have to return to this same subject when we come to consider the fourth Gospel. The words emunah or emet which were derived from this root were common and were usually translated in the Septuagint either by pistis (πίστις) or by aletheas (αλήθεια). The translators into Greek of our four Gospels tended to oscillate between the same variant translations. Matthew, Mark, and Luke emphasized the use of pistis, along with the verb derived from it, pisteuein (πιστεύειν), which designated the act of the intelligence in assenting with certitude to the truth which had been disclosed. The fourth Gospel, however, never employed pistis; more than in the Synoptic Gospels, the word aletheia was preferred. We translate aletheia, of course, as truth.

One thing is certain about this matter of truth and our assent to it, and that is that we moderns who speak about “believing” and “faith” are off the mark as far as the original meaning of these concepts is concerned. We have changed the terms of reference. We translate texts from the Gospels, and from the New Testament in general, within a framework that distorts the original meaning of these texts in a fundamental way. For us in the present century, the words “faith” and “belief” have come to be understood within a context established by Luther, Pascal, Descartes, Kant, Kierkegaard, and many others who have followed the same path. The result in the present climate is that faith is not considered to be a form of knowledge, nor does belief entail certitude. To believe is neither “to be certain about” nor “to know”. In Hebrew, emunah, translated into Greek by pistis, means objective certitude regarding the truth. In our modern parlance however, faith is nothing more than a subjective conviction divorced from objective knowledge as well as from certitude about it. When we see how the fourth Gospel employed the terms gnosis and pisteuein, we will understand that faith in God was an act of knowing which included an objective certitude regarding the truth of what was known.

Thus it is nothing less than a catastrophe when we translate pisteuein today by “to believe”, because, for us, “to believe” merely means a weak subjective assent; it does not include the idea of a certitude about one’s knowledge of the truth which the Hebrew aman conveyed. Amen which is derived from the same root word, thus means “truly”.

It is clear from considerations such as these how important it is to reconstruct the original Hebrew behind the Greek of our Gospels; this reconstruction is necessary merely to get at the exact meaning of terms. We will also be obliged to return to this question when we come to examine the fourth Gospel.

Claude Tresmontant, The Hebrew Christ, σελ. 150, 151.