James 2:18: my works, my faith, or both?

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James 2:18: my works, my faith, or both?

Postby D Ryan Lowe » October 3rd, 2013, 11:49 am

κἀγώ σοι δείξω ἐκ τῶν ἔργων μου τὴν πίστιν

Does μου modify τῶν ἔργων, "my works," or τὴν πίστιν, "my faith"? Or both?

HCSB, NET has "my works."
Douay-Rheims and Young's Literal Translation has "my faith."
KJV, ESV, NRSV, NIV, NLT, NAB, NEB, REB, and most other translations have both "my works" and "my faith."

What principles would you apply to determine this?
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Re: James 2:18: my works, my faith, or both?

Postby Wes Wood » October 3rd, 2013, 12:24 pm

I lean toward putting the possessive pronoun with works. I understand the term faith to refer here to the common principles of faith that find unique expression in practice and devotion by each different Christian. Or "works". That being said it could go with either faith or works. The rules involved for favoring one placement over the other are beyond my current understanding of greek.
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Re: James 2:18: my works, my faith, or both?

Postby Jonathan Robie » October 4th, 2013, 6:49 am

I read it this way:

Ἀλλ’ ἐρεῖ τις

Σὺ πίστιν ἔχεις
κἀγὼ ἔργα ἔχω

δεῖξόν μοι τὴν πίστιν σου
χωρὶς τῶν ἔργων

κἀγώ σοι δείξω
ἐκ τῶν ἔργων μου
τὴν πίστιν


It fits the structure well, and ἐκ τῶν ἔργων μου is a much more common construction. I don't see anything in the text that signals that μου is to be taken with τὴν πίστιν as in μου τὴν πίστιν.

So as I read it, it is equivalent to:

Ἀλλ’ ἐρεῖ τις

Σὺ πίστιν ἔχεις
κἀγὼ ἔργα ἔχω

δεῖξόν μοι τὴν πίστιν σου
χωρὶς τῶν ἔργων

κἀγώ σοι δείξω τὴν πίστιν
ἐκ τῶν ἔργων μου

But the emphasis is a little different.
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
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Re: James 2:18: my works, my faith, or both?

Postby Jonathan Robie » October 4th, 2013, 9:26 am

One more note: there's a part of me that would really like to see the phrase τὴν πίστιν σου matched by the phrase τὴν πίστιν μου. My guess is that this is the motivation for the other reading. But if that kind of strong parallelism were intended, I would expect the phrase τὴν πίστιν μου to occur explicitly.
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
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Re: James 2:18: my works, my faith, or both?

Postby Stephen Carlson » October 4th, 2013, 10:04 am

Jonathan Robie wrote:But if that kind of strong parallelism were intended, I would expect the phrase τὴν πίστιν μου to occur explicitly.

The problem, Jonathan, is that the position of an enclitic possessive pronoun within a noun phrase is dictated by prosodic principles--as I understand it (there is some controversy on B-Greek about it). It can be either τὴν πίστιν μου or μου τὴν πίστιν depending on the prosodic prominence of the preceding constituent. The more prominence, the more likely the enclitic will be pulled forward, so if there is a emphasis on the works, it is unlikely to yield the pattern you\re expecting.

Indeed, it is not immediately obvious whether the text should be analyzed as ἐκ τῶν ἔργων μου / τὴν πίστιν or as ἐκ τῶν ἔργων / μου τὴν πίστιν. Semantically, it probably does not make a difference, because one can read the other article as relational, which English idiomatically spells out explicitly with a possessive pronoun as: "and I will show you my faith from my works".
Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D. (Duke)
Post-Doctoral Fellow, Faculty of Theology, Uppsala
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Re: James 2:18: my works, my faith, or both?

Postby Jonathan Robie » October 4th, 2013, 11:16 am

Stephen Carlson wrote:
Jonathan Robie wrote:But if that kind of strong parallelism were intended, I would expect the phrase τὴν πίστιν μου to occur explicitly.

The problem, Jonathan, is that the position of an enclitic possessive pronoun within a noun phrase is dictated by prosodic principles--as I understand it (there is some controversy on B-Greek about it). It can be either τὴν πίστιν μου or μου τὴν πίστιν depending on the prosodic prominence of the preceding constituent.


Can you remind me of the sides in this controversy?

Stephen Carlson wrote:The more prominence, the more likely the enclitic will be pulled forward, so if there is a emphasis on the works, it is unlikely to yield the pattern you\re expecting.


Point made!
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
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Re: James 2:18: my works, my faith, or both?

Postby Wes Wood » October 4th, 2013, 12:22 pm

I am with Jonathan. Would you please elaborate on the data that supports the possible interpretations? It would help me understand the language better. Thanks!
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Re: James 2:18: my works, my faith, or both?

Postby Jonathan Robie » October 4th, 2013, 3:20 pm

Wes Wood wrote:I am with Jonathan. Would you please elaborate on the data that supports the possible interpretations? It would help me understand the language better. Thanks!


When Stephen corrects me, he is usually right, so I think we should wait for him to correct me.
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
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Re: James 2:18: my works, my faith, or both?

Postby Wes Wood » October 4th, 2013, 3:31 pm

My fault on this. I actually meant that I second your request for him to elaborate. I get your meaning though, and I chuckled. From what I have read, I surmise that you and I are probably near the same proficiency level. Regardless, on this we would be in the same boat. :)
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Re: James 2:18: my works, my faith, or both?

Postby D Ryan Lowe » October 4th, 2013, 3:48 pm

Jonathan Robie wrote:One more note: there's a part of me that would really like to see the phrase τὴν πίστιν σου matched by the phrase τὴν πίστιν μου. My guess is that this is the motivation for the other reading. But if that kind of strong parallelism were intended, I would expect the phrase τὴν πίστιν μου to occur explicitly.


I just noticed that the Majority text does have τὴν πίστιν μου, as well as some other early texts, like P74. That best explains the KJV readings.

Stephen Carlson wrote:
Jonathan Robie wrote:But if that kind of strong parallelism were intended, I would expect the phrase τὴν πίστιν μου to occur explicitly.

The problem, Jonathan, is that the position of an enclitic possessive pronoun within a noun phrase is dictated by prosodic principles--as I understand it (there is some controversy on B-Greek about it). It can be either τὴν πίστιν μου or μου τὴν πίστιν depending on the prosodic prominence of the preceding constituent. The more prominence, the more likely the enclitic will be pulled forward, so if there is a emphasis on the works, it is unlikely to yield the pattern you\re expecting.


According to Runge's Lexham Discourse New Testament, it is τὴν πίστιν that is a main clause emphasis, not an emphasis on the works. The reason is probably because the ordering violates Levinsohn's Default Ordering Principle 2, that core constituents (subject, objects, and other constituents not preceded by a preposition) precede peripheral constituents (prepositional phrases and adverbial phrases of time and location).
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