Is it fair to say that a substantial portion of James’ letter is a rebuke of Paul and his followers? As you know, Acts 15 describes a significant break between James’ leadership (likely including Peter, John, Mark, and Barnabas) and Paul’s doctrinal and dogmatic leadership as background for the letter; James 2:14-25 seems to dispute rather than elaborate upon Romans 3:20; James 4:16-17 seems to endeavor to discourage Paul’s activities in 2 Cor. 7:14, 10:8, and 11:16-17; and again writing in 5:12 against Gal. 1:20.
Frankly, I do not agree with your thesis. First of all, if it were up to Paul, there would be no “followers of Paul” for James to rebuke. Evidence that Paul would completely repudiate anyone attempting to be is follower is found in 1 Corinthians 1:10-17. Second, Peter, James and Paul came to an amicable and unanimous agreement at the “Jerusalem Council” in Acts 15. Peter and James accepted Paul’s contention that we are not saved by works of the Law, and therefore the Gentiles need not be circumcised or keep the requirements of the Law of Moses. Acts 15 is not a break. It is a coming together! Also, when Paul returned to Jerusalem around AD 63, as described in Acts 21, there is no evidence of tension between Paul and James. Unless I can be shown evidence after this council and after Paul’s visit, that there was a substantial disagreement between Paul and James, I see no reason to propose some sort of schismatic and unchristian battle between James and Paul. I CERTAINLY cannot see such a schism ending up in the New Testament as part of the inspired Word of God. Such a break would not be godly and certainly would not produce inspired scripture that reflects such a contradiction as you imply.
James 2:14-25 certainly does not contradict Romans 3:20! I strongly deny this claim. I believe that of the two truths (James 2:14-23 and Romans 3:20) the more fundamental truth is Romans 3:20. Romans 3:20 teaches that no one is saved by obeying the law. Romans 1:17 is an even stronger statement of this principle. Paul strongly repudiates salvation by works. The more fundamental truth of the Bible is that we are not saved by works (I would add Ephesians 2:8-9). The secondary truth to salvation by faith is that the kind of faith that saves us is faith that includes works. James tells us in James 2:14-25 that the kind of faith that does not include works is not the kind of faith which leads to salvation. Neither Paul nor James believe that we can be saved by works of the Law. But neither believed that we are saved by “faith alone.” Paul said in Acts 26:20 that we prove our saving repentance by our deeds. Just like faith without deeds is dead, so, too is repentance without deeds. This does not contradict salvation by faith.
If it is untrue that James 2:14-25 contradicts Romans 3:20 or 1:17, to say that James is rebuking Paul in James 4:16-17 is even more of a stretch. This seems to be mere speculation. As before, the evidence is that James fully supported Paul’s ministry. Second, this thesis implies that Paul’s writings are not inspired (either that or James is not inspired), but Peter himself tells us that Paul’s writings are inspired (2 Peter 3:15-16). In James 4:13-16 James rebukes the spirit of the believer who makes plans without taking God’s plans into account. He is rebuking those who do not acknowledge God in their plans and ignore that God is in control. How can this be a rebuke of Paul in 2 Corinthians 7:14 or 10:8? Paul is not boasting about his personal plans withour acknowledging God in these passages. He is desribing a kind of godly pride, not in himself or in his plans, but pride in the Corinthians. I would compare this to a parent’s pride in the accomplishments of their children or God’s pride in us when we obey him. Paul is definitely not sinning in 2 Corinthians 7 when he expresses his pride in what the Corinthians did. I suppose that 2 Corinthians 11:16-17 is a different sort of “pride.” Here, if you read the entire passage in context, Paul is not boasting in himself, but he is rebuking the pride of certain Corinthians who are fools for Satan. Paul is a “fool for Christ,” whereas some of the Corinthians are being fools for the world (1 Corinthians 3:18 and 4:10). Paul’s ironic “boasting,” done, not to brag, but to rebuke the Corinthians is in no way like the pride James admonishes in James 4:16-17. This attempt to show James rebukes Paul is a huge stretch and it requires that we take the scriptures out of their context.
In Galatians 1:20 Paul declares that he did in fact visit Jerusalem and that when he visited Jerusalem he visited James. In verse 20 he declares that this is not a lie. In James 5:12 we are told not to take oaths. OK, but Paul did not take an oath in Galatians 1:20. He did not say “I swear” or “I swear by the temple”. He simply said. It is true. I am not lying. The idea that James is rebuking Paul here is really rather silly. James makes no reference to Paul here. Paul did not make an oath in any case. This strikes me as someone who is out to prove an ad-hoc hypothesis, not something supported by the evidence.
If you have some evidence to support the premise that I am unaware of, I will be happy to consider it, but I am afraid that I definitely do not agree with your contention here that James is rebuking Paul. There is literally no internal evidence connecting James with some sort of beef with Paul for which we have no other evidence in the Bible.
By the way, near the end of his life, Paul specifically mentions Mark as a great helper to him in 2 Timothy 4:11. Your claim that Mark joined a faction to oppose Paul seems to be contradicted by Paul’s statement about Mark. Let me add that there is no evidence among the early Church Fathers of a division between the supposed followers of Paul versus James’ faction. In fact, as far as I know there is no external evidence at all for this proposed schism between the Jamesites and the Paulites.