The Alleged Disagreement Between Paul And James -- By: E. P. Barrows

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 009:36 (Oct 1852)
Article: The Alleged Disagreement Between Paul And James
Author: E. P. Barrows


The Alleged Disagreement Between Paul And James

E. P. Barrows

It is not because we believe that the mass of Protestant readers find serious difficulty in reconciling the language of James respecting justification with that of Paul, that we devote an article to the subject of the alleged discrepancies between these two inspired writers.

On the contrary, it has ever been to us a weighty argument for their substantial harmony, that plain, unsophisticated men, who take the whole Scriptures for their rule of faith and practice, feel no real contradiction between the teachings of Paul and James. For this case falls under the common principles of interpretation, by which every man of good sense, though he may never have stated them to himself in a scientific form, or have heard them so stated by others, is, nevertheless, constantly guided in ascertaining the true import of an author’s words. When men write, as did Paul and James, for the common mind, the meaning which the common mind naturally gathers from their language, may be lawfully received as the true meaning. An exception may be, indeed, allowed in the case where allusions to ancient customs, institutions, or modes of thought, require the light of learned research to place the modern in the exact position of the ancient reader* But the present is not such a case. On the subject of justification the New Testament is its own interpreter, and needs not for its illustration the light of archaeological lore. Justly, then, may we adduce the fact that the great body of readers have never found serious difficulty in bringing the doctrines of Paul and James into harmony with each other, in evidence of their substantial agreement.

We think, nevertheless, that an investigation of the alleged disagreement between these two writers will be profitable, as furnishing an occasion for illustrating some important principles of interpretation; and, we would add, for showing how learned critics may dwell upon differences in the mode of apprehending, exhibiting or applying the self-same truth, until these differences grow, in their view, into irreconcilable contradictions of doctrine.

We begin with a statement of the points on which it is conceded that there is no contradiction between the views of James and Paul.

1. Both teach that true faith is essentially connected with good works, so that an alleged faith that is without good works, is vain, and cannot avail to justification before God.

This idea of faith without works James illustrates by two similitudes. The first is that of a man who shall say to the hungry and naked: “Depart in peace: be ye warmed and filled,” but shall refuse to give “those th...

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