James 2:18 - Could it be taken as Indirect Speech?

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PieterHKruger

Puritan Board Freshman
Whereas most commentaries simply assume direct speech when suggesting possible solutions for the interpretation of James 2:18, Blomberg and Kamell (James: Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, 2008) suggest that it be taken as indirect speech. They claim that "... in Koine Greek, the sharp, classical boundaries between direct and indirect discourse were often blurred, and writers might shift suddenly from one to the other without any contextual indicators" (page. 134). They support this statement by a reference to a book by Blass, Debrunner and Funk (A Greek Grammar of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 1961).

Any thoughts on this?
 

PointingToChrist

Puritan Board Freshman
Cornelius Venema has a good explanation which I am on board with. The jist is that the translation would read more like this:

But someone will say, "Do you have faith?" And I will say, "I have works. Show me your faith apart from works, and I by my works will show you my faith.

The idea is that in the ESV, for example, the last part of verse 18 seems to agree with the objector in the first part of verse 18, which is perhaps odd since it says "But someone will say..." It doesn't seem to make sense that the objector is saying he has works if that's what James is emphasizing as the evidence of faith. Or, someone may take the entirely of verse 18 as the objector's statement, but then, he doesn't seem to be contradicting James. Venema's rendering above is posited on the basis that "You have faith" can be posed as a question, and thus James' response is one defending himself against being accused of works-based faith. James is saying, "I have faith, and my works are evidence of that faith."

The explanation is given in Banner of Truth, July 2010.
 

PieterHKruger

Puritan Board Freshman
Thank you, Mitch.

According to McCartney (James: Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, 2009) the solution that you mentioned had been proposed by Hort in 1909. McCartney's response to this solution is this: "This almost convinces, but in context, James is not trying to justify his own working faith; rather, he is challenging the validity of a faith without deeds. Furthermore, the contracted conjunction (... kai ego, and I) between "you have faith" and "I have works" makes this solution unlikely." This criticism is convincing enough for me not to opt for the proposed solution.
The solution most often taken in recent commentaries is that the "you" and "I" is a way of saying that "one person says this, and another that". But even this is not completely satisfactory; it is only taken as the best solution. But it also assumes that the verse should be interpreted as direct speech.

If the verse could be taken as indirect speech, all difficulties and awkwardness dissolve - the question is only: is it linguistically/hermeneutically valid or acceptable to interpret it as indirect speech?
 
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