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Answering The Atheist
April 18, 2004 / Volume 4, Issue 16

Was Rahab saved by faith (Hebrews 11:31) or by works (James 2:25)? Is there a contradiction?

This perceived contradiction comes from the questioner believing that faith and works are contradictory. Of course, the questioner is not the only one to believe such, many in the religious world cannot reconcile the thought that both faith and works are needed to be saved.

Was she saved by faith? Absolutely. The Hebrew writer expressly says “By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe...” Might I point out to the reader, the writer references her works in the latter portion of the verse. Notice, “...when she had received the spies with peace.”

In the writing of James, notice the primary question which the writer asks, “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?” (2:14) In answering this question, it is stated, “, by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (2:17) And again, “ without works is dead.” (2:20) And again, “...a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.” (2:24) And yet one more time, “ the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” (2:26)

Emphasis is made through the text that both faith and works are necessary. “...Someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’ Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” (2:18). Of the relationship between faith and works, using Abraham as an example, James states, “Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?” (2:22)

Salvation is not a faith OR works issue, but rather a faith AND works issue. The Hebrew writer is correct in stating that Rahab was saved by her faith, and James is likewise correct in stating that Rahab was saved by her works. Both statements are true and do not contradict.

There is no contradiction.

This article is a response to Skeptic's Annotated Bible