Paul vs James  

Paul and James disagreed over the most basic doctrine of how to achieve Salvation

Most Bible scholars believe the disciple James and Paul worked against one another. There views on the methods of achieving Salvation come down to simply, faith versus faith and works.

Paul James
Apostle (self-appointed)
No relation to Jesus
Death: Beheaded in 67 AD
Disciple to Jesus (from the 12)
Brother to Jesus
Death: Stoned to death in 69 AD
Faith Only
Noahide Laws
Faith + Works
Jewish/Mosaic Laws
Paul is one of the most controverial figures in Christian history.

He stress the foundation of our salvation was in the death of Jesus, not the laws of Moses.

Paul who came up with the doctrine that turned Christianity from a small sect of Judaism into a worldwide faith that was open to all
James 'the Just' was unanimously appointed the authority and leader of the early Jewish-Christian community following the crucifixion of Jesus.

James believed that professing faith in God was not enough for salvation and stressed that Christians must put their faith into concrete action (or works) to be saved.

His name "James the Just" refers to his character of honesty, piety and strict ascetic practices.
Gentile Church

Paul seeks to relax the Law and make it easier for people to join the congregation, to increase the number of new converts
Jerusalem Church

The community in Jerusalem, the "Early Church" consist of "hardliners" who echo the teachings of Qumranic texts and insist on rigorous observance of the Law

Paul is prepared to dispense with doctrinal purity. His primary objective is to spread his message as widely as possible to the Gentiles and pagans.

Paul is willing to come to an accommodation with Rome, even to seek favor; even discard or bend the Law

James is less concerned with convert numbers than with doctrinal purity, and does not have a strong interest in events outside Jerusalem.

James does not seek any favours from Rome
Paul's birth in a Jewish family in the city of Tarsus within the province of Cilicia. Although a Jew, his birth in the city grant him dual-citizenship as both a Jew and a Roman citizen.

Then the chief captain came, and said unto him, Tell me, art thou a Roman? He said, Yea.
Jesus and James are brothers. They had the same mother, Mary and so like Jesus, James was of Jewish birth, upbringing and citizenship
As a Greek-speaking Roman citizen, Paul was free to travel throughout the Roman empire. He travelled more than 7000 miles preaching Christianity to the Gentiles and pagans James was not a Roman citizen and so would have faced difficulty travelling outside of Jerusalem. Nonetheless, James' focus was the Jewish community and the Jerusalem church.

James stayed in Jerusalem and had little communication with Christian converts in other areas.
As Paul travelled across the Roman empire, the number of converts to Christianity in other cities grew rapidly, and soon vastly outnumbered the members in James' Jerusalem Church.

New converts to Pauline Christianity looked to Paul for religious leadership and spiritual guidance, and not James
James strictly adhered to the old Jewish religious practices. He regarded himself as Jewish; worshipped regularly in the main Jewish Temple and observed Jewish Law.

Bible scholars agree that later Christians intentionally downplayed the role of James in early Christian history; due to a desire to declare independence from Judaism; and so James disappeared from many early texts
Place of Worship
Paul founded many new churches for the growing converts. He described the Christian church as the 'body of Christ' Around 90 AD, the council of Jamnia in Galilee cursed the Jewish-Christians and excluded them from the Jewish temples and broad church of Judaism.

These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue.
They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.
You are saved with faith alone. This is a living or a saving faith.

Paul states, faith is a personal belief that takes place in the mind and heart, and thus cannot be seen in and of itself. Thus, while God knows whether or not one has faith, there is no way for another person to recognize it exists unless there are works in his life that directly point to it.

For Paul, 'faith' means trusting God, or entrusting oneself to God's plans. In this verse, according to Paul, Abraham believed in God and he was counted as righteous, due to his faith alone.

For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.

Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
Faith without works does not save. This is a dead faith.
What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled," but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?

Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe and tremble!

But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?

Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." And he was called the friend of God.

You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?

For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

Even demons have faith (or believe) in God – to the point of shuddering in fear; yet obviously this faith by itself is of little benefit.

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.
Paul preached a person is not saved by works, as they are not the means for salvation.

It is wrong to say that a person must do good works in order to be saved. As the Gentiles do not have the law, yet their actions which come from their faith are within the law. And so the law is written in their hearts, conscience and thoughts.

For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law; For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;

Similar to James, Paul taught that good works 'should' accompany saving faith.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.

And that every tongue should confess (speak/works) that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
James preached that a saved person will perform good works, which are the result of salvation

So a person does good works because he is saved.

According to James, 'works' were religious acts obligated within the Jewish/Mosaic law.

  • Circumcision
  • Dietary restrictions (Kosher)
  • Sacrifice
  • Circumcision
    Paul had a major disagreement with James in 50 AD over the issue of circumcision.

    While circumcision was removed for the Gentiles as an obligation, Paul was asked to have Gentile believers continue specific Jewish customs regarding food and dietary laws.
    Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also: Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith. Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law
    For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.

    Paul claims he was given the gospel of uncircumcision for the Gentiles by James, Cephas and John.
    But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter; (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:) And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.
    After Jesus' crucifixion, James continued to enforce circumcision as God required in Mosaic law.

    The Jerusalem church elders remain concerned that Gentiles were not being directed "to circumcise their children or observe the customs" by Paul.
    Yes, Paul was circumcised.

    He was raised in a devout Jewish family. To much controversy, Paul even circumcised Timothy.
    Him would Paul have to go forth with him; and took and circumcised him (Timothy) because of the Jews which were in those quarters: for they knew all that his father was a Greek.
    Yes, James was circumcised.

    Who else was circumcised?
    Jesus; all 12 disciples: James (brother of Jesus), Simon Peter, Andrew, James (son of Zebedee), John, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, Jude Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot
    Dietary Law
    Paul objects to all dietary restrictions

    All of Paul's writings when read together make clear that food laws are no longer required. Paul seems to say that a person is free to follow or ignore the food laws, as no food is unclean in itself.

    For Paul the most important factor was having faith; after which, a person could eat all things. There was no dietary restrictions.

    For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs.

    Paul claims Jesus persuaded him that nothing is unclean in itself. We should not distress over what the people are eating, but act with love towards them.

    I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean. But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died. Let not then your good be evil spoken of:

    Paul preached the meat we consumed (swine?) would not destroy our good works, unless it caused offence to others.
    For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men. Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence
    But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse. 

    Meat sacrificed to idols

    James forbade Paul from allowing Gentile converts to Christianity from consuming meat sacrificed to idols. Paul ignored James' request and instead preached the matter was of little relevance to God.
    Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled. But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse

    In the Old Testament, God commands man to abstain consuming any meat offered as a sacrifice to idols. Paul ignores this commandment.

    That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled,
    James adheres to dietary laws
    That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.
    Salvation is though faith alone and you cannot be saved by works.

    The major theme of Paul's letters is that salvation is a totally free gift, not earned by good works, rituals or obeying laws. Eternal life is by grace through faith.

    In Romans chapters 3 and 4, Paul states the 'Faith Alone' principle more than 15 times. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.

    Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. 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. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:

    Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.

    For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

    Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;
    The faith that saves is not alone. You cannot show that you are saved without works

    James is distinctive in his absolute insistence that salvation comes primarily via works, not faith alone.

    The distinctive perspective of James is really two-fold:

    (a) undeterred adherence to Torah law; and
    (b) consequent insistence that Paul’s gospel of faith is dead (unless accompanied by works)
  • Roman Catholic
  • Fundamentalist, evangelical Christians
  • Mormon
  • Jehovah's Witness
  • Worldwide Church of God
  • Leadership Style
    After converting to Christianity, Paul accounts how he continued his journey into Arabia and did not return to Jerusalem to sit with Jesus' disciples for three years.

    Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus.

    Paul is determined to break the bonds of Judaism by taking a new, separate Christian movement to the rest of the non-Jewish Roman empire.
    James was the official leader of the first century Christian church

    James was also known in the early church as "the Righteous" or "the Just."

    As the acknowledged leader of the Jerusalem church, James reflects a more traditional Jewish approach to upholding Torah law.

    James is clearly in-charge of the early Jewish-Christian movement and appears to have the mutual respect of other Jewish leaders.
    Church Leadership
    Paul did not view James as the leader of the Christian church.

    Paul appears to defer to the judgement of Jerusalem; to the Galatians he evidences clear disdain for the supposed authority of the mother church - Christianity is heading for a major split in doctrine.
    Peter, James, and John choose James as their leader, Bishop of Jerusalem.

    James moves into a position of leadership within the nascent Christian movement following the passing of Jesus.

    For a period of more than a decade under James' direction, the Jerusalem church was left undisturbed. Christians continued to worship in the Temple and the synagogue.

    James is the overall leader of all the churches. He has to summon Paul a number of times to explain his deviation from the Law (on the matters of circumcision, dietary law etc.)
    Eventually, Paul is viewed as a "Christian heretic" in the eyes of James and the disciples.

    Paul's teachings and writings are now a flagrant deviation from the original message of Jesus as taught by the leadership of the Jerusalem church.

    As the pagans lack the Jewish background, they were not versed in the Law; so unable to spot a 'false gospel', the new converts become reliant on Paul for religious guidance.
    James and the disciples knew Jesus personally, having lived with him during his three year ministry.

    When James spoke, he did so with first-hand authority. He continued preaching the message taught to him by Jesus Christ.
    But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man's person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me:

    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.

    And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:
    Crying out, Men of Israel, help: This is the man, that teacheth all men every where against the people, and the law, and this place: and further brought Greeks also into the temple, and hath polluted this holy place.
    Although it is claimed 13 of the 27 books of the Bible were written by Paul. It is more likely, Paul wrote 8 books (the other 5 were written by unknown authors and attributed to Paul).

    Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Colossians, Philippians, Philemon, and 1 Thessalonians
    1 Book in the Bible
    James was the author of the New Testament Epistle of James.

    If true, James' writings could be one of the earliest known Christian writings, and possibly the only one written by someone who knew Jesus personally.

    Another writing attributed to James, 'The Secret Gospel of James' claims to contain secret revelations which Jesus made to James after the resurrection.
    Abraham, the Role Model
    Abraham was righteous just by having faith. He circumcised himself later on

    Paul argues that faith overrides works and he cites the example of Abraham. Abraham was righteous and justified and so God made a covenant with an 'un-circumcised' Abraham.

    In the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abraham, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates:

    And he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness.

    Later on, Abraham circumcised himself along with his eldest son, Ishmael.

    And Abraham took Ishmael his son, and all that were born in his house, and all that were bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham's house; and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin in the selfsame day, as God had said unto him

    Paul claimed it was Abrahams faith which made him righteous, not the act of circumcision which came later.
    Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.

    So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham. For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them.
    For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness

    And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised. For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.

    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. Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all
    Abraham had faith and actions which put together made him righteous

    For James, faith is not living unless it is outwardly shown and demonstrated. Faith that justifies us is not alone; it must be accompanied by good works.

    You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless. Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was called God's friend. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.

    James argues that Abraham's faith and trust in God was complete and evidenced by his immediate action to sacrifice his son Isaac on the altar, in accordance with God's command. It was not enough to trust God in the abstract; Abraham had to actually raise the knife.

    And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am. And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.

    And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him.
    According to the Acts of Paul, Nero condemned Paul to death by decapitation, possibly beheaded around 67 AD in Rome. James was condemned by the High Priest Hanan ben Hanan and council of judges on the charge of breaking the law, and had him stoned to death in 69 AD.

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