… You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone. … – James 2:14-26 (NIV)
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We have here one of the instances where a New Testament author presents an interpretation that can be standing at odds with the Hebrew Bible text it is invoking. Return to the Genesis passage and you will not find Abraham called God’s friend or even righteous. Yet in Genesis 22:16-17 the angel makes clear that Abraham is being blessed for not withholding his son. Or is it more accurately (verse 18, Everett Fox translation) “in consequence of your hearkening to my voice”?
So just who did start calling Abraham God’s friend and crediting him with righteousness? An orthodox line takes hold.
James, we might add, was likely looking for a parallel in the near-sacrifice of Isaac (who remains voiceless throughout: how we need to hear the story from his perspective!) and the crucifixion of Jesus, where Pilate did not change course at the last minute.
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And Abraham being justified by Faith, ’tis said, He received the Sign of Circumcision, a Seal of the Righteousness of the Faith which he had, yet being uncircumcised, that he might be the Father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised, that Righteousness might be imputed to them also. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)