There have always been competing Christian groups that emphasized works vs faith. As it turns out this debate may be as old as the Bible itself.
Not only does Paul and James appear to be on two very different sides of this debate, but the four Gospels seem to take very different stances.
It’s possible that this is not a contradiction, that “both are true” and there does exist various theological explanations that zip them up together. However, it’s certainly fascinating that both groups of texts focused *solely* on one side of the equation, and fully ignored the other.
See this for more info.
Did you know we don’t have the exact words that Jesus spoke? All Bible scholars (even the most conservative Christians) admit we only have the “voice” (ipsissima vox) of Jesus but not the actual, specific words (ipsissima verba) he said.
Dan Wallace, a leading conservative Christian textual scholar, who teaches at one of the most conservative seminaries in America (Dallas Theological Seminary) says it this way:
“Scholars have for a long time recognized that the Gospel writers *shape* their narratives, including the sayings of Jesus. A comparison of the Synoptics reveals this on almost every page.
Matthew quotes Jesus *differently* than Mark does who quotes Jesus *differently* than Luke does. And John’s Jesus speaks significantly *differently* than the Synoptic Jesus does. Just consider the key theme of Jesus’ ministry in the Synoptics: ‘the kingdom of God’ (or, in Matthew’s rendering, often ‘the kingdom of heaven’). Yet this phrase occurs only twice in John, being replaced usually by ‘eternal life.’
The ancient historians were far more concerned to get the *gist* of what a speaker said than they were to record his *exact* words. And if Jesus taught mostly, or even occasionally, in Aramaic, since the Gospels are in Greek the words by definition are not exact.” (1)
There are many thematic differences between the Synoptic gospels (Mark, Mat, Luke) vs John’s Gospel. Seeing as Johns Gospel was the last one to be written, scholars say about 30-50 years after Marks, these differences serve as examples of the type doctrinal development during this gap.
One of these examples is the depiction of Jesus, the Synoptics show his humanity in that he prays for God to save him from the cross, while in John’s Gospel the divinity and might of Jesus is emphasized, thus this prayer-of-weakness is completely missing, and instead there is an earlier declaration that he wont ask to be saved from the suffering.
There are other differences that illustrate this same theme:
- In the Synoptics Jesus is depicted as saying “your will, not mine” which shows two conflicting wills. In John, this conflict of will is wholly absent, Jesus never says his own will is to avoid the suffering.
- In the Synoptics Jesus is visibly grieved and in anguish, to the point of sweating blood, in John he is carefully composed.
- In the Synoptics Jesus is quietly arrested, in John his voice knocks down everyone around him.
- In the Synoptics the disciples repeatedly fall asleep, in John their sleepiness is absent.
Regarding the original point, there are two options