James 2:21

Justified by works (ex ergwn edikaiwqh). First aorist passive indicative of dikaiow (see Galatians and Romans for this verb, to declare righteous, to set right) in a question with ouk expecting an affirmative answer. This is the phrase that is often held to be flatly opposed to Paul's statement in Romans 4:1-5 , where Paul pointedly says that it was the faith of Abraham ( Romans 4:9 ) that was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness, not his works. But Paul is talking about the faith of Abraham before his circumcision ( Romans 4:10 ) as the basis of his being set right with God, which faith is symbolized in the circumcision. James makes plain his meaning also. In that he offered up Isaac his son upon the altar (anenegka Isaak ton uion autou epi to qusiasthrion). They use the same words, but they are talking of different acts. James points to the offering (anenegka second aorist--with first aorist ending--active participle of anaperw) of Isaac on the altar ( Genesis 22:16 ) as proof of the faith that Abraham already had. Paul discusses Abraham's faith as the basis of his justification, that and not his circumcision. There is no contradiction at all between James and Paul. Neither is answering the other. Paul may or may not have seen the Epistle of James, who stood by him loyally in the Conference in Jerusalem (Ac 15:1; Ga 2:1).