Apart from all the Bach, one of the joys of having a German organist of Lutheran background, as I do at one of my churches, is the opportunity to bait him regarding the erroneous Lutheran reading of Paul.
Readings from James as the epistle over the last and next few Sundays are an absolute gift in this regard! However, arguing in my homilies during these weeks, as I did at a conference in Tilburg many years ago, that the epistle represents the content of baptismal catechesis (a position of which I am more convinced than ever) it dawned on me today that the supposed contrast between faith and works in 2:14-17 is completely unrelated to the Pauline discussion with the works of the law in Jewish circles, but is basically and simply saying that those who claim to have faith in Christ should act in accordance with that faith. Was Paul even that important in Jewish-Christian circles in the period prior to the Bar Kosiba revolt that anyone would want to take issue with him?
It is much the same content as the, likewise catechetically originating, Matthew 7. Or Canones Hippolyti 37, certainly reflective of catechesis: “Thus somebody who says ‘I have been baptized and received the Body of the Lord’ and feels comfortable, and says ‘I am a Christian’, yet is a lover of selfish desires and is not conformed to the commandments of Christ, is like somebody who goes into a bath covered in dirt, and leaves without rubbing himself, since he did not receive the burning of the Spirit.”
We may finally note in this respect Athenagoras Legatio 11.4, stating that Christians manifest their teaching less by word than by deed. In this part of the Legatio Athenagoras is speaking of the contents of catechesis.
Quite probably the lack of connection between James’ teaching on faith and works and that of Paul has been argued previously (and if any passing Neutestamentler can give me any references to such an argument I would be grateful indeed). However, it is surely the recognition of a debt to catechesis that is the truly decisive argument here.