The Word of Truth in James and Paul


Since the Reformation it has been said that James and Paul contradict each other in a variety of ways especially in regards to works and faith. Regardless of where one stands on that issue there are many other places where James and Paul are very similar. One of these similarities is in James 1:18. He says βουληθεὶς ἀπεκύησεν ἡμᾶς λόγῳ ἀληθείας εἰς τὸ εἶναι ἡμᾶς ἀπαρχήν τινα τῶν αὐτοῦ κτισμάτων” (Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures). The λόγῳ ἀληθείας” is a reference to the Gospel in the writings of Paul. In Col. 1:5 he says, ἣν προηκούσατε ἐν τῷ λόγῳ τῆς ἀληθείας τοῦ εὐαγγελίου… (Of this you have heard before in the word of truth, the gospel,…) and Eph 1:13 Εν ᾧ καὶ ⸀ὑμεῖς ἀκούσαντες τὸν λόγον τῆς ἀληθείας, τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τῆς σωτηρίας ⸁ὑμῶν (in him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation).

James, writing to Jewish Christians, is using shorthand for the Gospel, the word of truth, that gives birth to Christian on the other hand Paul says that the word of truth” is the gospel of our salvation. Even though Paul is more explicit it seems that James using using it in the same line of thought. James seems to think that there is no need to further explain what he means by the word of truth probably because it was already known to his recipients. God is the author of our salvation, giving birth to us a new life that brings us salvation. For James, salvation is not obtained by humans, for we can not birth ourselves but rather salvation is a good and perfect gift from above” (Jas 1:17). Both Paul and James see the sovereignty of God in the salvation of his children.

God has changed us from being children of darkness into being children of light, not because of any merits of ours but by his own will”

— Venerable Bede on James 1:18

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