𝐀𝐝𝐝𝐞𝐧𝐝𝐮𝐦 𝐭𝐨 “𝐇𝐢𝐠𝐡 𝐎𝐜𝐭𝐚𝐧𝐞 𝐅𝐚𝐜𝐞𝐨𝐟𝐟 𝐢𝐧 𝐉𝐞𝐫𝐮𝐬𝐚𝐥𝐞𝐦”
Mohamad Mostafa Nassar
𝐀𝐝𝐝𝐞𝐧𝐝𝐮𝐦 𝐭𝐨 “𝐇𝐢𝐠𝐡 𝐎𝐜𝐭𝐚𝐧𝐞 𝐅𝐚𝐜𝐞𝐨𝐟𝐟 𝐢𝐧 𝐉𝐞𝐫𝐮𝐬𝐚𝐥𝐞𝐦”
𝐃𝐢𝐬𝐜𝐨𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐦𝐨𝐫𝐞 𝐝𝐢𝐬𝐩𝐮𝐭𝐞𝐬 𝐛𝐞𝐭𝐰𝐞𝐞𝐧 𝐛𝐞𝐬𝐭 𝐂𝐡𝐫𝐢𝐬𝐭𝐢𝐚𝐧𝐬
We saw earlier how James contravened Paul in key theological doctrines about Law, Deeds and Faith. Where James believed that mere faith without support of deeds and observance is dead, Paul believed that one can achieve Salvation merely and only by faith. They both had their own polemics on the exactly same doctrines opposing each other.
On the foregoing, we discovered more assertions from the writings attributed to James wherein he has yet again stressed on the strict observance of Laws even though he was amongst the first to become “Christian” and follow Jesus (peace be upon him).
More dispute between Apostles
According to Paul’s doctrine and standard Christian exposition thereof, the Old Testament Laws are used merely and only to let man the knowledge of sins in them. Once known, it is the (only) alleged blood of Jesus (peace be upon him) which purges them off their evils, not the works of the Laws:
The great advantage that he had found by the law. 1. It was discovering: I had not known sin but by the law, Rom 7:7. As that which is straight discovers that which is crooked, as the looking-glass shows us our natural face with all its spots and deformities, so there is no way of coming to that knowledge of sin which is necessary to repentance, and consequently to peace and pardon, but by comparing our hearts and lives with the law. Particularly he came to the knowledge of the sinfulness of lust by the law of the tenth commandment…” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, Romans 7:7-14)
Every part of Divine revelation has its use, in bringing the sinner to Christ for salvation, and in directing and encouraging him to walk at liberty, by the Spirit of adoption, according to the holy commands of God. And mark the distinctness, it is not for his deeds, that any man is blessed, but in his deed. (Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary, James 1:22-25)
“And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.” (Heb 9:22)
In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; (Eph 1:7)
𝐎𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐟𝐨𝐫𝐞𝐠𝐨𝐢𝐧𝐠, 𝐰𝐞 𝐡𝐚𝐯𝐞 𝐚 𝐰𝐞𝐥𝐥-𝐝𝐞𝐟𝐢𝐧𝐞𝐝 𝐩𝐫𝐨𝐜𝐞𝐬𝐬 𝐰𝐨𝐫𝐤𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐢𝐧 𝐏𝐚𝐮𝐥𝐢𝐧𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐨𝐥𝐨𝐠𝐲 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐫𝐞𝐦𝐢𝐬𝐬𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐨𝐟 𝐬𝐢𝐧𝐬 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐬𝐮𝐛𝐬𝐞𝐪𝐮𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐬𝐚𝐥𝐯𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧:
(i) Know sins via Old Testament (OT) Laws.
(ii) Get them purged by the only way – the alleged blood of Jesus (peace be upon him)
Notice that Paul has restricted the usage of OT Laws merely to let men know sins. Moreover, Paul unabashedly asserts that the God-breathed-Laws were merely revealed to “increase wrongdoing”:
“law was introduced in order to increase wrongdoing; but where sin increased, God’s grace increased much more.” (Romans 5:20)
Paul even believed that (A) without Laws there would be no sin and (B) he was pure enough not to be influenced by the evil desire of lust until God’s Tenth Law “stirred” it in him:
(A) “For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect: Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression.” (Rom 4:14-15. King James Version, e-Sword)
(B) “Shall we say, then, that the Law itself is sinful? Of course not! But it was the Law that made me know what sin is. If the Law had not said, “Do not desire what belongs to someone else,” I would NOT have known such a desire. But by means of that commandment sin found its chance to stir up all kinds of selfish desires in me. Apart from the law, sin is a dead thing.
“Imyself was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life, and I died. And the commandment which was meant to bring life, in my case brought death.”(Romans 7: 9-10)
However, contrary to Paul’s theology and extremely low opinion of God’s sacred Laws, James proposed an entirely different doctrine for the earliest Christians!
For James, it was imperative for Christians to follow and execute the Laws not merely read it in the Old Testament Books. We read that in the Epistles of James:
“Do not deceive yourselves by just listening to his word; instead, put in into practice. Whoever listens to the word but does not put it into practice is like a man who looks in a mirror and sees himself as he is. He takes a good look at himself and then goes away and at once forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks closely into perfect law that sets people free, who keeps on paying attention to it, but puts it into practice – that person will be blessed by God in what he does. (James 1: 22-25)
𝐈𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐟𝐢𝐫𝐬𝐭 𝐩𝐥𝐚𝐜𝐞 𝐧𝐨𝐭𝐢𝐜𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐉𝐚𝐦𝐞𝐬 𝐝𝐨𝐞𝐬 𝐧𝐨𝐭:
(i) Consider OT Laws to be revealed to “increase wrongdoing”.
(ii) Uphold to the concept that where there is no Laws, there is no transgression.
(iii) Believe that God’s Sacred Laws “stir” sin in humans.
In fact contrary to Paul, James exhorts his disciples to (not merely read OT Laws but) practice them as well! Here is a very important observation to be made with regard to the different modus operandi of the Laws as understood by Paul and James.
We have already seen that Paul understood OT Laws to merely serve the purpose of scanner which elicits sins in men. However, James believed that more than just an X-Ray machine, Laws if put into practice can even “set people free”.
In fact, James goes over board to rebuke all who merely uses OT Laws as “mirror” or X-Ray machine. For him, once OT Laws reveal sin in men, sinners need to execute what Laws require to “set themselves free”.
𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐟𝐨𝐫𝐞𝐠𝐨𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐜𝐨𝐧𝐭𝐫𝐚𝐝𝐢𝐜𝐭𝐬 𝐏𝐚𝐮𝐥’𝐬 𝐚𝐩𝐩𝐫𝐨𝐚𝐜𝐡 𝐭𝐨 𝐎𝐓 𝐋𝐚𝐰𝐬 𝐢𝐧 𝐭𝐰𝐨 𝐰𝐚𝐲𝐬:
(A) With regard to the functionality of OT Laws. As already stated, James saw more functions in Laws than merely eliciting sins of men in men. They should be used to emancipate men and attain salvation.
(B) The ongoing Jamesian assertions also contradict traditional Pauline doctrines that people are emancipated ONLY through the alleged blood of Jesus (peace be upon him). As observed, James being the earliest Christian (apostle!) had no scruples to explicitly state that Christian believers can be set free off their sins by putting Laws into practice.
Notice James did not give importance to the alleged blood of Jesus (peace be upon him) for the remission of sins, which is most important in Paul’s Christianity, – over observance of Laws.
Remember Paul claimed that there can be NO remission of sins but through the alleged blood of Christ (peace be upon him) (c.f. Heb 9:22), however, according to James, people can remit their sins so much so that they can be “set free” by merely observing the Laws.
𝐒𝐢𝐦𝐮𝐥𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐝 𝐏𝐨𝐥𝐞𝐦𝐢𝐜𝐬 𝐛𝐞𝐭𝐰𝐞𝐞𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐛𝐞𝐬𝐭 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐞𝐚𝐫𝐥𝐢𝐞𝐬𝐭 𝐂𝐡𝐫𝐢𝐬𝐭𝐢𝐚𝐧𝐬
In order to wind up the dispute that was there between James and Paul, if we were to simulate their polemics against each other then we might have the following:
Paul: “Christ has brought the Law to an END” (Romans 10:4)
James: But Jesus taught, “Think NOT that I am come to destroy the law…”In fact, he also taught that anybody who teaches to “end” the Law would not enter heaven: “Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”(Mat 5:17-19)
Paul: Laws and its rituals are “useless” and merely “outward rules” (Hebrews 9: 12-14, 9-10)
James: What, Laws are “useless”??? But why did Psalmist used to “pant with open mouth and tears in eyes” to follow the “useless” rituals of Laws. (Psalms 119:129-136) (By the way, with whose authority did Paul impute OT rituals to be “useless”?)
Paul: Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. (Gal 2:16)
Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. (Rom 3:20)
Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. (Rom 3:28)
James: “My brother, what good is it for someone to say that he has faith if his actions do not prove it? Can that faith save him? Suppose there are brothers and sisters who need clothes and don’t have enough to eat. What good isw there in your saying to them, “God bless you! Keep warm and eat well!” – If you don’t give them the necessities of life? So it is with faith: If it is alone and includes no actions, then it is dead.” (James 2: 14-17)
“But someone will say, “One person has faith, another has actions.” My answer is, “Show me how anyone can have faith without actions. I will show you my faith by my actions.” (James 2:18)
“My brothers, what good is it for someone to say that he has faith is his actions do not prove it?” (James 2:14)
Paul: “But now God’s way of putting people right with himself has been revealed. It has nothing to do with law, even though the Law of Moses and the prophets gave their witness to it.” (Romans 3: 21)
“Indeed, we are Jews by birth and not “Gentile sinners,” as they are called. Yet we know that a person is put right with God only through faith in Jesus Christ, never by doing what the law requires.” (Galatians 2:15-16)
James: “Do not deceive yourselves by just listening to his word; instead, put it into practice. Whoever listens to the word but does not put it into practice is like a man who looks in a mirror and sees himself as he is. He takes a good look at himself and then goes away and at once forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks closely into perfect law that sets people free, who keeps on paying attention to it, but puts it into practice – that person will be blessed by God in what he does. (James 1: 22-25)
(It seems that James’ God was unnecessarily “blessing” observers of Laws since according to Pauline assertions nobody is put right with God by observing the Laws!)
According to Prophet Ezekiel, contrary to Paul, God was putting right all of them who were observing the Laws:
“I may warn an evil man that he is going to die, but if he stops sinning and does what is right and good – for example, if he returns the security he took for a loan or gives back what he stole – if he stops sinning and follows the laws that give life, he will not die, but live.” (Ezekiel 33:14-15)
Prophet Nehemiah taught Laws is a complete way of life:
“But your (God’s) people rebelled and disobeyed you; they turned their backs on your Law…In your great mercy you sent them leaders who rescued them from their foes. When peace returned, they sinned again, and again you let their enemies conquer them.
Yet when they repented and asked to save them, in heaven you heard, and time after time you rescued them in your great mercy. You warned them to obey your teachings, but in pride they rejected your laws, although keeping your Law is the way of life. Obstinate and stubborn, they refused to obey.” (Nehemiah 9:26-29)
Paul: “But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.” (Gal 3:11)
James: “Do: You believe that there is only one God? Good! The DEMONS also believe [have faith]– and tremble with fear. You fool! Do you want to be shown that faith without actions is useless?” (James 2: 19-20)
Paul: “What shall we say, then, of Abraham, the father of our race? If he was put right with God by the things he did, he would have something to boast about – but not in God’s sight. The scripture says, “Abraham believed God, and because of his faith God accepted him as righteous.”
A person who works is paid his wages, but they are not regarded as a gift; they are something that he has earned. But the person who depends on his faith, not on his deeds, and who believes in God who declares the guilty to be innocent, it is his faith that God takes in to account in order to put him right with himself. (Romans 4: 1-5)
“For we have quoted the scripture, “Abraham believed God, and because of his faith God accepted him as righteous.” When did this take place? Was it before or after Abraham was circumcised? It was before, not after. He was circumcised later, and his circumcision was a sign to show that because of his faith God had accepted him as righteous before he had been circumcised. (Romans 4: 9-11)
James: “How was our ancestor Abraham put right with God? It was through his actions, when he offered his son Isaac on the altar. Can’t you see? His faith and his actions worked together; his faith was made perfect through his actions. And the scripture came true that said, “Abraham believed God, and because of his faith God accepted him as righteous.” And so Abraham was called God’s friend. You see, then, that it is by his actions that a person is put right with God, not by his faith alone.” (James 2: 21-24)
“It was the same with the prostitute Rahab. She was put right with God through her actions, by welcoming the Israelite spies and helping them to escape by a different road. So then, as a body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without actions is dead.” (James 2:25-26)
Apart from the fact earliest Christians, not Muslims, have objected to the doctrines coined by Paul; James did all he could to thwart Paul’s preaching, however, very evidently James went silent with only a few of his epistles making to the Bible as compared to the deluge of Pauline epistles!
What is more interesting is, even after the scarce number of Jamesian epistles, it can be verified that James and Paul – two of the earliest Christian apostles disagreed on the most fundamental doctrines of Christianity, including, the functions and capacities of alleged blood of Jesus (peace be upon him).
Furthermore, it is not hard to realize that even after fewer number of James’ epistle in the Bible, he had more purpose, validity and scripturally supported reasons for his doctrines, as contrary to Paul’s theology which inundates the Bible!
Thus, we request sincere Christians to reconsider, not Mohammad (peace be upon him), but at least James (and other biblical figures like Psalmist, Ezekiel, Nehemiah, John (peace be upon him), etc).
- Unless otherwise mentioned, all biblical texts are taken from Holy Bible, Good News Edition, Today’s English Version.
- Emphasize wherever not matching with the original, is ours.