James 2:23: Faith and Works, Part 10

Verse 23:[1] And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, (Gen. 15:6; Rom. 4:3; Gal. 3:6) Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called (2 Chron. 20:7; Is. 41:8) the Friend of God.

[And, etc., καὶ ἐπληρώθη, etc.] And (or, and so [Beza, Piscator, etc.]) was fulfilled the Scripture, saying, Abraham believed, etc. (Estius). But this had been said of Abraham previously, namely, in Genesis 15:6 (Grotius, similarly Beza, Estius), and thence Paul gathers the contrary, Romans 4 (Menochius, similarly Beza). Response: It is customary for the Hebrews to say, This is מתקיים, that is, ἐπληρώθη, or it was confirmed, when something, similar to a matter narrated elsewhere, happens. The faith of Abraham often appeared, in Genesis 15, again in Genesis 17; but it never shined more evidently than at the time of the offering of Isaac; when he so esteemed the power and constancy of God that he believed that his son, upon whom all the other magnificent promises were hanging, was able to be restored to him even from death, Hebrews 11:17-19 (Grotius). He says that this was fulfilled at this time, because it was then declared that faith alone is not sufficient for the righteousness of man, but also requires the works of other virtues (Estius). Others: The proof of the Scripture was then fulfilled, when that illustrious mark of his extolled faith, Genesis 15:6, was displayed, Genesis 22 (James Cappel). This is said by way of, 1. manifestation (Gataker, thus Beza): that is to say, Only then was it revealed and known (Piscator, Vorstius, thus Beza, Gataker), how truly that had been written (Beza), and that Abraham had been endowed with a true and living faith (Vorstius, thus Piscator), and hence was justified by God (Piscator). 2. Reiteration, performance, operation, that is to say, At that time Abraham did that which he had previously done; that is, he believed God again, and that against hope, as it is said in Romans 4:18 (Gataker). To be fulfilled is here used, in the place of, to show more impressively its complement/fulfillment (Junius). Those words, Abraham believed, etc., are able to be applied to all the eminent acts of his faith (Gataker out of Bellarmine[2]).

[And, etc., καὶ ἐλογίσθη, etc.] The language of חָשַׁב, to account or impute, in the place of which the Greeks use λογίζειν, is frequently selected when a certain thing or man is considered as if it were in a different mode than it is, whether that be by law, or by injury. Thus, when one eminent work is taken for many, that is said to be reputed for righteousness, as in Psalm 106:31.[3] Thus ἡ ἀκροβυστία, uncircumcision, that is, the state of the uncircumcised pious man, is said εἰς περιτομὴν λογίζεσθαι, to be counted for circumcision, Romans 2:26, that is, to be worth just as much as the state of the circumcised man. Justin, wisdom shall be reckoned to the ignorant man seeking wisdom,[4] that is, inquiry shall be taken for wisdom. Similar things are found in Theophilus of Antioch,[5] Tertullian,[6] and Chrysostom.[7] Therefore, that something is reckoned to someone for righteousness, means the same thing as he that has it is reckoned as if he were completely righteous and had not ever sinned, as Justin testifies in his Dialogue with Trypho. The Greeks also express the same by ἀποδέχεσθαι, to accept, as God ἀποδέχεται/accepts repentance in the place of virtue. Now, James, while he was commending Works, wisely mingled also the illustrious titles of Faith, lest he should appear to bring it down more than what is right, showing that the Works themselves are to be set down to the credit of faith, the more so the more illustrious the Works. See Philo[8] and Chrysostom[9] [and their words, and the words of the rest, in Grotius]. The sense, therefore: That Faith is reckoned by God for an eminent thing: things of which sort are wont to be called by the name of righteousness (Grotius).

And the Scripture was fulfilled; this illustrious instance of Abraham’s obedience did so clearly evidence the sincerity of his faith, that it did most plainly appear, that what the Scripture said of him, it spoke most truly, viz. that he did indeed believe God, and it was counted to him for righteousness. Things are said to be fulfilled when they are most clearly manifested. As those words, Psalm 2:7, This day have I begotten thee, are said to be fulfilled at Christ’s resurrection, Acts 13:32, 33; not that he was then first begotten of the Father, but that he was then in a glorious manner declared to be the Son of God by the resurrection from the dead, Romans 1:4. So here Abraham’s offering up his son being the evident discovery of his faith, it did by that appear, that the Scripture report of him was true, that he believed God, etc.: he did believe before, and his faith was imputed to him before, but it was never so fully made known, as by this so high an act of obedience. It was imputed unto him for righteousness; viz. as apprehending Christ in the promise. Faith is said to be imputed for righteousness, Romans 4:3-6, as being the instrument or means of applying Christ’s righteousness, by which elsewhere we are said to be justified, Romans 3:24, 25; 5:19; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Philippians 3:9.

[And (namely, because he had offered his son, as it is said in Genesis 22:16 [Grotius, similarly Estius]: After he rendered to Faith its own, he returns to declare the value of Works [Grotius]) he was called the friend of God] Where? Response 1: Not in that passage of Genesis, but elsewhere, 2 Chronicles 20:7; Isaiah 41:8; Judith 8:26[10] (Menochius out of Estius). Response 2: This is not to be referred to the opinion of men (for no witness had been present for that so highly praise act of Abraham offering his son, as the Sacred history teaches us), but to the thing itself, by a Hebrew expression, in which to be called is put in the place of to be, as in Isaiah 1:26; 48:8; 62:4; Jeremiah 33:16; Ezekiel 48:35: thus it is the same thing to be made and to be called the sons of God, by a comparison of John 1:12 and 1 John 3:1. Now, this appellation pertains to those things which we have in Genesis 22:16 and following, in which God enters into a sworn covenant with Abraham, which he had not previously done, as Kings are wont to do with friends (which at what cost was to be done, see Hebrews 6:13 and following), and thus He receives him into a higher degree of friendship (Grotius). Such things are read in Genesis 12; 15; 17 [and in Genesis 22], from which this is safely gathered (Vorstius, similarly Piscator). For this frienships is sufficiently indicated by God’s blessing and covenant (Vorstius), by so many familiar appearances and conversations, and especially that in Genesis 12:3, for friends have common friends and enemies (Piscator).

And he was called the Friend of God; either he was the friend of God; to be called, sometimes times implies as much as to be, Isaiah 48:8; or properly, he was called, 2 Chronicles 20:7; Isaiah 41:8; and that not only on the account of God’s frequent appearances to him, conversing with him, revealing secrets to him, Genesis 18:17, 18; John 15:15, and entering into covenant with him; but especially his renewing the covenant with him upon the sacrificing of his son, and confirming it by oath, and thereby, as it were, admitting him into a nearer degree of friendship, Genesis 22:16, etc.

[1] Greek:  καὶ ἐπληρώθη ἡ γραφὴ ἡ λέγουσα, Ἐπίστευσε δὲ Ἀβραὰμ τῷ Θεῷ, καὶ ἐλογίσθη αὐτῷ εἰς δικαιοσύνην, καὶ φίλος Θεοῦ ἐκλήθη.

[2] Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621) entered the Order of the Jesuits in his late teens.  He became one of the great theologians of his era, a Cardinal, and, after his death, a Doctor of the Church.

[3] Psalm 106:31:  “And that was counted (וַתֵּחָשֶׁב; καὶ ἐλογίσθη, in the Septuagint) unto him for righteousness unto all generations for evermore.”

[4] Epistola ad Zenam  Traditionally assigned to Justin Martyr, this epistle appears to be the work of a later hand.

[5] Theophilus (died c. 183) was Bishop of Antioch.  His only remaining writing is his Ad Autolycum, in which he presents an apology for the Christian religion and a polemic against paganism.  Ad Autolycum is the earliest extant Christian writing to use the word Trinity.

[6] Apologetico de Ludis Gentium.

[7] On 1 Corinthians 2.

[8] Who is the Heir of Divine Things?

[9] On Romans 4.

[10] Judith 8:26:  “Remember what things he did to Abraham (with the Vulgate adding, quomodo pater noster Abraham tentatus est, et per multas tribulationes probatus, Dei amicus effectus est), and how he tried Isaac, and what happened to Jacob in Mesopotamia of Syria, when he kept the sheep of Laban his mother’s brother.”

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