I wrote a paper on James 2:14-26 a few years back.
Here's a link.
14: What (is) the benefit, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but does not have works? That faith is not able to save them (is it)?
15: Suppose a brother or a sister is naked and lacking of daily bread,
16: and someone from you (pl.) says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be fed,” but does not give to them what is needed for the body, what is the benefit?
17: Likewise also faith, if it does not have works is dead unto itself.
18: But someone will say you have faith, likewise I have works. Show me the faith of you apart from works, likewise I will show to you by my works my faith.
19: You believe that God is one – you do well. Even the demons believe (that) and tremble.
20: And do you want to know, o empty person, that faith apart from works is workless?
21: Was not Abraham our father by works justified having offered Isaac his son upon the altar?
22: You (sing.) see that faith was working together with his works and faith was completed by works,
23: and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “And Abraham trusted God and it was counted to him as righteousness” and he was called friend of God.
24: You (pl.) see that by works a person is justified and not by faith alone.
25: In the same manner was not Rahab the prostitute also by works justified having received the messengers and (by) another road sent them away?
26: For as the body apart from (the) spirit is dead, likewise also faith apart from works is dead.
The "Imaginary Interlocutor"
(pages 22-24 in the paper)
Where does the diatribe with the imaginary interlocutor that begins in v. 18 end?
An imaginary “someone” (τις) addresses James in v. 18. In doing this James has introduced a dialog with a straw man (an interlocutor) as his chosen form of diatribe. We can assume that at some point James responds to this interlocutor with a rebuttal otherwise it would be a failed attempt to “demolish an opposing argument” (Dowd, “Faith” in Expositor, 198). We can also assume that at some point James ends this “back-and-forth” with this interlocutor since v. 26 is clearly a summary and Jas. 3:1 represents a significant shift in thought.
The first interpretive method takes vv. 18-25 as a unit that represents one argument between James and the interlocutor. This is Burdick’s chosen method of interpretation as he sees Rahab’s example of faith as complementary to Abraham’s and therefore subsumed into the argument with the interlocutor (Burdick, James, 185). Blue also seems to endorse this interpretation though it may be that he finds the end of the diatribe exegetically insignificant and instead chooses to focus on the examples (Blue, James, 826).
While taking the two examples as a single unit seems to be the logical decision there is a significant clue in the Greek text that helps determine the end of the diatribe. Whereas, beginning in v. 18, the verbs of direct address are all singular, James shifts his attention to the audience with “You see …” (ὁρᾶτε). Many commentators are quick to pick up on this transition and point to the shift in attention (Moo, James, 114; Adamson, James, 132; Davids, James, 78).
Thus it seems that James’ intent was to address an anticipated objection with this diatribe and used Abraham’s example to rebuff the objection and derive the theological principle found in vv. 22-23. But why would the example of Abraham’s faith adequately rebuff the objection of the interlocutor but not that of the very real audience? Perhaps James anticipated objections that Abraham is a difficult example to follow and used the example of Rahab to give the congregation no excuse to not act on faith.
Does the imaginary interlocutor agree or disagree with James?
Most modern English versions translate the phrase in v.18, “You have faith and I have works.” as the end of the interlocutor’s statement to James. The NASB, however, takes all of v. 18 as the statement made by this person. Some commentators even take all of v. 19 as the end of the interlocutor’s challenge (Blue, “James” in Bible Knowledge Commentary, 826). Because ancient manuscripts did not come with quotation marks and (as at least one Greek professor proclaims) punctuation in the UBS is not inspired, we are left to discern the most likely flow of this diatribe.
McCartney provides an excellent summary of the suggestions of how to view this exchange. They are: (1) make textual alterations, (2) view the interlocutor as an ally supporting James, (3) attribute only σὺ πίστιν ἔχεις to the interlocutor and reframe it as a question (“Do you have faith?”), (4) with the NASB that all of 2:18-19 should be attributed to the interlocutor who is a “Paulinist,” (5) partial ally who is presenting a non-Christian Jewish perspective, (6) use the Byzantine Text and read all of 18-19 as the interlocutor’s words translated as “Show me your faith by your works” instead of “…without works,” (7) accept that James simply confused the grammar accidentally, and (8) abstract the faith of “you” and “I” to a concept that separates different “types” of faith that vary from person to person (McCartney, James, 158-160). Blomberg and Kamell add that all of verse 18 could be indirect discourse in which James is rephrasing “the opponent’s statement … from his own side.” (Blomberg and Kamell, James, 134).
Dowd agrees with option 4 while McCartney with 8 (Dowd, “Faith” in Expositor, 198; McCartney, James, 160). Davids seems split between 8 and 2 (Davids, James, 76) but option 2 does not properly consider the tone that James carries throughout the discourse with the “invective apostrophe” in v. 20 (Dowd, 200) and the strong adversative (Ἀλλ’) with which James starts the diatribe. Option 1 seems the least preferred by most (Davids, 76; McCartney, 158) and McCartney seems to categorize 3, 5, 6, and 7 as exegetical leaps (McCartney, 158-160). Option 4 is certainly viable but depends more on lexical studies than literary studies. McKnight ultimately lands on option 8 but supports this position by assuming a Christian challenger who believes that faith and works are two different aspects of the Christian life whereas James views them as inseparable (McKnight, “Unidentifiable Interlocutor,” in WTJ, 358, 361-2). But option 8 suffers from the weakness that it would be an extremely awkward method of trying to use abstract concepts of “someone” and “someone else.” (Blomberg and Kamell, James, 133; Davids, 76).
Brosend finds no acceptable solution and believes that any attempts to decipher 18a by using 18b are futile because he detects sarcasm in James’ challenge to “show” or “demonstrate” faith since it is clear that James believes that works are the “showing” or “demonstration” of faith (Brosend, James, 74). While it seems that Brosend’s lament is valid, the most satisfying explanation to date is the Blomberg and Kamell solution that James has rephrased the stance of his opponent to make himself the subject of the statement. This solution also allows for “someone” (tis) in v. 18 to parallel in v. 16 both literarily (word repetition) and conceptually (attitude repetition).