The format of this will be to first answer questions concerning the last post, then to present the text, and then to refute Antonio da Rosa’s handling of this passage.
From Antonio’s comment:
I didn’t quite see how anything I said in my post was proven false by you in this post of yours. You beg the question and apply circular logic. You used your translation of the article in 2:14 as a proof that the translation is correct. You appealed to popularity rather than demonstrating by the grammar and syntax that your translation was correct. And you imported your theology into the text so as to warrant your translation.
1. I don’t quite see how anything I said in my post was proven false by you in this comment of yours.
2. How do you know that your translation is correct apart from your own translation? You commit the very act of which you accuse me.
3. I appealed to authority, not popularity. When that many translation committees render a text contrary to your personal translation, odds are you’re not close. You may be willing to take your little blog and set it up against centuries of scholars and scores of translational committees, but that is simply foolish.
4. “You imported your theology into the text so as to warrant your translation” simply begs the question. It assumes the conclusion. Isn’t that the very thing that we are trying to figure out in these dialogues?
You did not answer the fact that the article shows up with “faith” many times after in the same passage and the same context where it is not natural to translate it as an adjective or a far demonstrative pronoun. Nor answer to the fact that the article in that culture and language was a extremely common and much used occurrence in front of abstract nouns, nor answer to the fact that James indeed knew the Greek words for “that”, “such”, “that kind”, yet chose not to employ them. The original readers of the epistle would not assume nor react to the article the way you dogmatically have.
I had written, “Antonio brushes off the definite article based upon how it is handled in the other verses. It may very well be true that the article with πιστις is anaphoric in these verses. However, the antecedent must be examined based upon its own immediate context.”
1. How are you actually replying to me here? None of these questions say anything by way of reply to me.
2. I stated that the further we go into the passage, the more our translation concerning v. 14 will be affirmed. Slow down there, cowboy. It will be shown why the definite article, in its own context, should be translated the way it is in v. 14.
3. The reader should note that Antonio’s rejection of the definite article is a dogmatic one. He may appeal to its usage elsewhere in the text, but he gives no exegetical support for why it should be left untranslated here in v. 14.
Coming from Todd’s comment:
This faith schematic you present seems to bring up all sorts of problematic questions in my mind with what I’ve come to know about our Holy Spirit. Is He in and out of you all day long as you may hastily or carelessly act outside of His prescriptions? I don’t see how your proposition could work any differently than just that, that is, that the Holy Spirit is coming and going almost continuously with these “works of faith” that the Reformed have put forward. Not tenable in their entirety to me.
Such a paragraph demonstrates a complete misunderstanding of the Reformed position. Where have Reformed writers stated that the Holy Spirit is “in and out” of the believer? It was the Reformers, rather, who affirmed that the faith of the elect does not fade. This statement also disregards everything I stated in my last post concerning the nature of faith. Faith, and the Holy Spirit for that matter, do not come and go based upon works. Works simply demonstrate faith. Steve Hays has written about the nature of saving faith here.
We will now look back at the text of James 2:14ff.
James 2 14What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
We see that James repeats “what good is that?” in v. 16, showing that this is one unit. Verses 15-16 illustrate James’ statement in v. 14. In the described situation, the statement alone is not “good enough.” We could say, “Go and peace, be warmed and filled,” but that has no profit unless we actually give the warmth and food to the brother in need. Compare these two:
What gain is it if someone claims to have faith but does not have works?
What gain is it if someone offers help in words but does not act upon it?
Verses 15-16 offer a direct parallel of v. 14. We know very well that Antonio does not like the word “claims” (even though “says to have faith” hardly makes sense in the English language). This is because Antonio’s take on this passage is that this is not merely an issue of the confession (i.e., declaration) of faith, but faith itself. Verses 15-16, however, have us reject Antonio’s interpretation, and affirm our original statement that this concerns profession rather than possession. This also begins to further affirm our translation of v. 14 because v.14 compares a faith in words alone with a faith that is demonstrated in deeds, just as v. 15 compares a help in words alone with a help that is demonstrated in deeds. The terms “Be warmed!” and “Be filled!” are ones that require action in order to be meaningful. Without the actions, they are meaningless words, dead words.
Verse 17 states with “So also” that just as the words “Be warmed” and “Be filled” are meaningless if they do not possess the required action, faith that is not demonstrated in deeds is equally dead. In fact, the NEB translates this as “So with faith; if it does not lead to action, it is in itself a lifeless thing.” The reverse of this is that faith, if it is demonstrated in action, is indeed a living thing and can indeed save. The distinction, once again, is not between faith and works, but between dead faith and living faith. The original question was, “Can such faith save him?” Dead faith cannot save. Living faith can save. Deedless faith is dead faith. Faith that can be demonstrated in deeds is living faith. Since the answer to the rhetorical question is “no,” we know that James is talking about dead faith. Dead faith cannot save. This, once again, affirms our translation of “such faith” or “that faith.” The text as a whole continues to compare faith in words with faith demonstrated in action, faith that is living with faith that is dead. The “faith” that does not have deeds to demonstrate it in v. 14 is dead faith. This is why James asks, “Can that faith save him?” This is what we call having an exegetical basis for an interpretation. Antonio’s assertions concerning v. 14 are not exegetical assertions, but dogmatic ones.
Jam 2:18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
There are different opinions regarding the translation of this verse in light of punctuation (i.e., how much should be included in the quotation, if this is a question or an objection, etc.). I do not believe that it would be necessary to get into that here. What we must note from this verse, however, is the phrase “Show me.” Show me involves a demonstration. This is in the realm of human knowledge, because it is a human who is asking the question. In other words, one cannot demonstrate their faith by internal means. Rather, the demonstration involves external, observable effects. Unlike the Sandemanian theory of faith, this demonstration does not merely involve the claim of the existence of the internal reality of faith. The demonstration necessitates external evidence. How can I know that an apple tree is an apple tree apart from the fact that it produces apples? I certainly cannot see its root that is underground. In the same sense, faith is an issue of “Show me,” which is demonstrated in external, observable effects. If Antonio’s attempt at exegesis ignores this challenge to demonstrate outwardly what exists inwardly, his interpretation of the entire passage will fail.
Jam 2:19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe–and shudder!
This person is orthodox! He isn’t pagan. He, unlike the popular polytheism of the day, affirms that there is one God. This is “well and good.” The person’s faith is not condemned because it affirms some type of heresy. Rather, this faith is condemned for its abnormality in lacking the deeds to demonstrate it. So you can speak the right words, but if your faith is not demonstrated in deeds, it is dead faith. The contrast, again, is between a faith in words alone and a faith that can be demonstrated in deeds. A faith that is not demonstrated in deeds is no more salvific than an orthodox recognition of truth, something even the demons possess. The exegetical evidence is stacking high against Antonio’s position.
Before we go any further in the text, I’d like us to look at Antonio’s claims concerning the word “save” in v. 14, for therein lies the majority of his argument:
It is the knee-jerk reaction of 21st century readers of the Bible to import into the word “salvation” (Greek = “soteria”) and its cognates the meaning “salvation from hell” each time he reads it in the New Testament. Yet the word merely means “deliverance”. It is up to the context to decide what kind of deliverance is being referred to.
…What does this say about the Greek reader of the New Testament? That he obviously would not consider the meaning “salvation from hell” for the Greek words “soteria” and “sozo” (salvation and save, respecively) as the first, knee-jerk option when he read it. In the New Testament, there is an obvious emphasis on the spiritual and eternal salvation, yet in all of the occurences of the words sozo and soteria, only around 50% of the time do the contexts indicate that they have a meaning of “salvation from hell”.
…Did anyone have any trouble seeing the parallels?
The intimation I gave should be apparent to all:
Sin causes physical death
Righteous action saves the life, extends the life, preserves the life
Following the commands of God, being a doer of the Word (can I say yet: adding works to your faith?) will save a person from the deadly consequences of sin. James is talking about saving the life by obedience!
For the sake of length, I only quoted pieces of his articles. I simply wanted the reader to be aware of what is being stated. For further reading, you can check out the context of these quotes here and here.
Besides in 2:14, James uses σωσαι (sōzō G4982) 4 times:
1:21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
4:12 There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?
5:15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.
5:20 let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.
The only one of these that even hints at referring to the type of salvation that Antonio is asserting is 5:15, but this is later clarified in v. 20. The first instance (1:21) refers to the Word, which is able to save your souls. Obviously, a soul cannot die a physical death and does not need physical salvation. It needs spiritual salvation from the condemnation of its sin. The second (4:12) refers to God as the “lawgiver and judge” who is able to save and destroy. This is in the context of judging the law vs. doing the law, hardly an issue of being saved from physical death. The third occurrence (5:15) is shady if it is taken out of context. This is referring to the “prayer of the righteous man,” which is involved in saving a soul from death in v. 20. So from the beginning, Antonio’s argument looks as if it is about to crumble.
Keeping Antonio’s argument in mind, let’s turn back to the text. Let’s not forget that the subject matter of the text is the nature of faith, not what is involved in being saved from physical death. As far as I could tell, Antonio, in his series on James, has not gone past v. 14 (he may still be working on it, because the last post was Dec. 14th). It is very easy to assert things concerning the definite article or the use of the word “save,” but these are simply assertions if they do not play out into the rest of the text. I have shown that my interpretation of v. 14 makes sense out of v.15-26, and will continue to do so.
James 2 20Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”– and he was called a friend of God. 24You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.
James starts off with a play-on-words, more literally, “Do you want evidence that faith without works does not work?” Then James asks the rhetorical question, “Was not Abraham our father shown to be righteous when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar?” Again, the context of this passage is the demonstration of faith, the “Show me.” James follows this up with “You see that…” Abraham’s faith can be seen. His righteousness is displayed in his deeds. Is Abraham’s faith the same faith as that faith which is “dead”? The faith that lacks the component of deeds that gives it vitality and life? No! Abraham’s faith is a different kind of faith. It is saving faith. Thus our interpretation of v. 14 is once again affirmed. Abraham’s deeds made his faith complete (v. 22). Apart from deeds, faith is incomplete faith.
It is here in the text where Antonio’s eisegetical assertions concerning the word “save” in v. 14 crumble. How will Antonio fit these verses into his interpretation? James is quoting the same text that Paul does in Romans 4: Abraham believed God, and because of this belief, the righteousness of Christ was credited to him as his very own righteousness. Immediately following this, he says that faith without works is dead and that a man is justified by works and not by faith. That’s the crux of the passage. This is what explains James’ concern in 2:14. The example of Abraham is not an example of a Christian enduring trial and persecution, as is the backdrop of Antonio’s argument concerning his definition of “save.” It is an example of a person believing God, and later obeying God and being declared righteous by God. Abraham’s obedience demonstrated what had already been forensically declared of him. The faith that Abraham possessed in Genesis 15:6 was saving faith, saving him from the eternal condemnation of his sin. This is James’ point in chapter 2. He tells us that the nature of saving faith looks like Abraham: it can be demonstrated in deeds. What is so unclear about this for Antonio? Why is this objectionable? Why is it reprehensible to Antonio that saving faith, according to James, is alive because it is verifiable in works?
Antonio may again and again assert what he believes James’ pastoral concern is in these passages, but what does that tell us about the text and about Abraham? It makes no sense of it.