Re: ex ergwn edikaiwqh

From: Micheal Palmer (
Date: Sat Mar 08 1997 - 22:49:14 EST

At 11:21 AM -0800 3/7/97, wrote:
>I would appreciate some comments on this phrase:
>ex ergwn edikaiwqh
>The exact phrase (there are tense variations in other places) occurs in
>James 2:21,25 and Rom 4:2
>The way these are offset is interesting. Any exegetical perspective out

This is an interesting issue theologically. I think your answer is going to
be found not so much in the grammar, as in the larger context in which the
phrase appears in James and Romans. In James, the author is dealing with
people (apparently) who are claiming to have faith, yet whose works belie
that claim. The author of Romans (Paul), on the other hand, is dealing with
people who perhaps think that works (independent of faith) are enough to
establish a right relationship with God.

Paul argues that we are NOT justified EX ERGWN for this reason. James, on
the other hand, does not seem to be arguing against people who agree with
Paul, but against people who have a misguided understanding of the point
Paul had made (earlier). They appear to be saying that faith can exist
where there is no evidence of it. James disagrees. He argues that we are
justified EX ERGWN--the assumption being that the works are what
demonstrate the validity of faith.

Part of the reason that many modern (especially protestant) readers see
Paul and James as contradictory here is because we read Paul through the
eyes of Martin Luther, whose reading of Paul caused him to want to throw
James out of the canon. I, frankly, think Luther misunderstood Paul. I
think that if Paul had to deal with the same people that James did, he
might say something like "A person is justified by Jesus' faithfulness if
(s)he has faith in Jesus, and we know that (s)he has such faith if (s)he
lives in a way that reflects the faithfulness of Jesus (even if somewhat
imperfectly)." I don't think James is saying anything which would really
contradict that statement, and it is clear from numerous passages in Paul
that he did NOT think that mere belief (intellectual assent) was enough for
justification (a la Luther). While Paul is relentlessly insistent that
works cannot buy justification, his ethical teachings make it clear that
one who has true faith is assumed to be faithful.

        (Romans 6:1-2)

Micheal W. Palmer
Religion & Philosophy
Meredith College

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