Official Blog of the Bishop of Durham

Reason No. 63: James interprets Paul that way – 100 Reasons πίστις Χριστοῦ is an Objective Genitive

Posted by NT Wrong on December 21, 2008

pistis_christouThe following post is an abridged version of one of the 100 reasons πίστις Χριστοῦ is an Objective Genitive included in my forthcoming book:

100 Reasons πίστις Χριστοῦ is an Objective Genitive

Reason No. 16: Straining after the Subjective Genitive Gnat

Many commentators have taken James 2.24 as a deliberate response to Paul, qualifying Paul’s approach to justification by faith. James 2.17-24 employs the same example of Abraham as Paul does in Romans 4:

“So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe–and shudder. Do you want to be shown, you senseless person, that faith apart from works is barren? Was not our ancestor Abraham justified by works when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was brought to completion by the works. Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God. (24) You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.”

From this passage, we see that James interprets “faith” as “faith in (Christ)” and argues against those (Paul) who proclaim salvation is by ‘faith in’ alone. So, as Barry Matlock argues, if Paul is the target, the passage provides corroboration for an objective genitive interpretation of Paul’s words.


  • R. Barry Matlock. “’Even the Demons Believe’: Paul and ΠΙΣΤΙΣ ΧΡΙΣΤΟΥ.” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 49.3 (2002): 300-318.
  • 4 Responses to “Reason No. 63: James interprets Paul that way – 100 Reasons πίστις Χριστοῦ is an Objective Genitive”

    1. rey said

      I think I would put it this way: If James is to be accepted along with Paul, then James’ clarification of Paul’s words (for Paul is often a fairly careless writer) ought to be accepted and we ought to understand Paul accordingly. So also, in Romans 9 we ought to accept Peter’s clarification of Paul’s point from 2nd Peter. Otherwise, if you refuse to do this, just declare yourself a heretic already and take the general epistles out of your canon.

    2. Why isn’t calling Paul a fairly careless writer heresy? Why isn’t James considered the careless one, or the intellectual dwarf compared to Paul?

    3. Geoff Hudson said

      [comment moved to hobbyhorse post]

    4. Hollerbusch said

      As rey posted, I think that the Epistle of James is a clarification because people interpreted Paul wrongly as discarding personal conduct (works), and this clarification is probably one of the main reasons the epistle was included in the canon. However, I find it odd to combine this with accusations of heresy.

    Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

    %d bloggers like this: