Is the letter of James promoting "Faith without deeds . . .is empty" in response to Paul or are the Pauline references to "Faith alone" a response to James? In reading them it seems James might the oldest New Testament document.

  • 1
    There's not really enough details in James for any clear answer. Neither author needs to have directly responded to the other though. God is perfectly capable of inspiring his human authors to write in interesting ways without those authors knowing what his other authors are doing at the time.
    – curiousdannii
    Jun 9, 2019 at 23:22
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    I don't know why people think there is a conflict in views requiring any "response". The two are simply complementary ideas. Paul says that salvation requires faith and can't be achieved by works, while James says that works are a result of faith. Both are saying the same thing, that works are an inevitable side effect, not a cause. Gaining true faith and salvation will cause one's behaviour to change; changing one's behaviour will not cause faith and salvation. Jun 10, 2019 at 12:57
  • Thank you for your replies. Again, as I read the texts, there does seem to be a conflict of theologies, according to the authors themselves, between them. At least on Paul's behalf as described in Acts and then in the general thrust in each of their letters (though, oddly, we only have one extant of James'). The question I am looking to answer, therefore, is the chronological order of the Letters to see if they perhaps really WERE also speaking to each other. Is James an earlier letter than Paul's first letter(s)?
    – Jim H
    Jun 11, 2019 at 15:17

1 Answer 1


The letter of James is believed to have been written in A.D. 45, before Paul began his ministry. Paul’s writings are dated from A.D. 50 to A.D. 70. Therefore James’ letter predates Paul’s letters.

I found an article that helps to answer your question about the seeming conflict between faith alone and faith without works being dead:

The Book of James is probably the oldest book of the New Testament, written perhaps as early as A.D. 45, before the first council of Jerusalem in A.D. 50. James was martyred in approximately A.D. 62, according to the historian Josephus.

Some think that this epistle was written in response to an overzealous interpretation of Paul’s teaching regarding faith. This extreme view, called antinomianism, held that through faith in Christ one is completely free from all Old Testament law, all legalism, all secular law, and all the morality of a society.

The Book of James is directed to Jewish Christians scattered among all the nations (James 1:1). Martin Luther, who detested this letter and called it “the epistle of straw,” failed to recognize that James’s teaching on works complemented—not contradicted—Paul’s teaching on faith. While Pauline teachings concentrate on our justification with God, James’ teachings concentrate on the works that exemplify that justification. James was writing to Jews to encourage them to continue growing in this new Christian faith. James emphasizes that good actions will naturally flow from those who are filled with the Spirit and questions whether someone may or may not have a saving faith if the fruits of the Spirit cannot be seen, much as Paul describes in Galatians 5:22-23. https://www.gotquestions.org/Book-of-James.html

Another article I found gives a Protestant view on the subject of salvation by faith alone versus faith plus works: https://www.gotquestions.org/salvation-faith-alone.html

  • Lesley - this is terrific. And thank you for the links.
    – Jim H
    Jun 15, 2019 at 15:14
  • You are most welcome, Jim.
    – Lesley
    Jun 15, 2019 at 16:26

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