Most people are aware that Luther added the word "alone" to Romans 3:28 in his German translation, but few people are aware of an equally pernicious attempt to mess with God's Word done by John Calvin when he inserted the word "alone" into James 2:24. In reality, the word "alone" does not appear in the Greek of James 2:24. If one is going to be faithful to Scripture, a Catholic can no longer say that James opposes "justification by faith alone," because James never speaks of "faith alone" in the first place. But there's good news about this, because once we see why Protestants have continued to follow Calvin by adding the word "alone" to James 2:24, we will be able to refute Luther's heresy all the more easily.
Luther demonized the book of James because Luther rightly saw that James' Epistle was incompatible with Luther's interpretation of Paul's Epistles to the Romans and Galatians. He rightly figured that something had to give, and it made more sense to dispense with James' one Epistle than with all of Paul's writings. John Calvin would likely have rejected James as well, but he realized that something more important was at stake: the integrity of the canon of Scripture. Calvin rightly recognized that if Protestants threw out James, then it would be a free-for-all with the canon, which would demolish Sola Scriptura. So Calvin came up with an last ditch effort by adding the word "alone" to James 2:24 and thus (temporarily) saving both key doctrines of Scripture Alone and Justification by Faith Alone.
Since James says "faith without works is dead," John Calvin (and many other Protestants after him) argued that this "faith without works" was "faith alone," meaning a dead faith, and everyone knows a dead faith cannot justify. So when James says "man is not justified by faith alone," this simply is a truism: of course dead faith cannot justify. And of course, this doesn't affect Luther's doctrine of Justification by Faith Alone in the slightest, since no Protestant ever argued a dead faith could justify, but rather only a living faith justifies.
But thanks be to God, Protestantism is disintegrating right before our eyes as the Greek Text of the Scriptures is revealing that Protestant scholarship has been ignorant about (and sometimes deliberately hiding) the truth and the facts. For example, no Protestant apologist or scholar presents a fair and honest look at key terms like "atonement" and "righteousness" and "justify" and (especially) "impute," and as I'll show, with the Greek of James 2:24.
The Greek word that is translated as "alone" in James 2:24 is monon. This Greek word monon is better translated as "only" rather than "alone," but what is most crucial is that monon is an adverb. Just for a quick review from what we all learned in school, an adverb modifies a verb, where as an adjective modifies a noun. Since monon is an adverb, it cannot be modifying a noun like "faith," but rather it must be modifying a verb. What is that verb? The verb "justified"! And thus, James is not speaking of "faith alone" at all, but rather "only justified," and this is key.
The text is typically rendered in English as "a person is justified by works and not by faith alone," with emphasis on the joined words "faith-alone," but properly assigning the adverb monon would render the text something like the following: "a person is justified by works and not only [justified] by faith." An even better rendering would be something along the lines of, "a person is not only justified by faith, but also by works." That's huge!
This realization completely demolishes John Calvin's argument that James was speaking of how a dead faith cannot justify. And this explains why Protestants have been fine with having the adverb "alone" coupled with the noun "faith" at the end of the verse. What James is saying is that man is justified by two means, by faith and by works. So faith is not the only thing that justifies, contrary to Luther's heresy.
In trying to spin out of the implications of this truth, Protestants have argued that the word "justify" in James 2 means "vindicate" rather than "justify," which they understand to mean "prove you are a genuine believer in the sight of men." They claim that one can 'say' they have faith, but saying you have faith proves nothing. So the way works "justify" is that if one has a true faith, then good works will result, and these good works will prove before others that your faith is real. So faith cannot prove itself genuine before men, only works can prove the faith is real. But that's not what James is saying! James is saying "not only 'vindicated' by faith, but also [vindicated] by works," meaning that faith can vindicate before men and thus contradicting the Protestant attempt to change the meaning of "justify" to "vindicate."
But things get even worse for the Protestant, since James does the 'unthinkable' by quoting Genesis 15:6 just prior to this:
23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.
Since Protestants see Genesis 15:6 as the epitome of Justification by Faith Alone, the text should be understood as the following:
23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham was justified by faith before God”. 24 You see that a person is not only justified by faith, but also [justified] by works.
So why would James be talking about faith vindicating before men in verse 24 when he just got done speaking of faith justifying before God in verse 23? It cannot be, which is why the Protestant interpretation fails miserably. This realization has caused some honest modern day Protestants (such as this Calvinist) to reject the book of James, and rightly so, since it refutes Justification by Faith Alone. But one does not have to abandon James if they have correct theology the way Catholics do.
(This article was an expanded form of one of my earlier articles, "How to use James 2:24 most effectively")