To borrow a metaphor from the world of photography, Paul uses a telephoto lens to isolate the inherent meaning of the verse whereas James looks at the verse through a wide-angle lens, viewing it in the larger landscape of the Abraham narrative. Paul cites the verse to highlight the adequacy of faith in and of itself to justify a person before God. The faith Abraham exercises here comes before his circumcision (Gn 17) and before his famous “work” of obedience (Gn 22). As so often, Paul gives fuller meaning to the terms of the original text, especially in his strongly forensic interpretation of righteousness. But his application of the text, I have argued, is legitimate, since Gn 15:6 teaches that Abraham’s faith was considered by God as meeting the entirety of his obligation before God. James gives us no reason to think that he ignores or changes the meaning of the text. But he insists that the faith of which Gn 15:6 speaks is, in the larger story of Genesis, a faith that expresses itself in works of obedience and that these works are also to be included in the “entirety of the obligation” that Abraham owes to God.Douglas Moo, “Genesis 15:6 in the New Testament,” in From Creation to New Creation: Biblical Theology and Exegesis, ed. Daniel M. Gurtner and Benjamin L. Gladd (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2013), 162.
May 19, 2017
Moo on James' and Paul's Use of Genesis 15:6
I think Doug Moo’s explanation of the difference between James’ and Paul’s use of Genesis 15:6 to be helpful.