The Ethical Implication Of Holiness In James 2 -- By: Michael D. Fiorello

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 55:3 (Sep 2012)
Article: The Ethical Implication Of Holiness In James 2
Author: Michael D. Fiorello


The Ethical Implication Of Holiness In James 2

Michael D. Fiorello

Michael Fiorello resides at 1822 Woodtrail Drive, Columbia, SC 29210.

I. Introduction

The text of James 2:1-13 is a self-contained pericope concerned with the preferential treatment of one group of people (the rich) to the detriment of another group of people (the poor). The passage has been interpreted in multiple ways, including a concern for egalitarianism,1 Christian brotherhood,2 or the believer’s obligation to obey a particular statute of the law.3 Apart from its OT connections, one or several of the above options would be legitimate. However, when its OT underpinnings are considered, one moves away from interpretations that emphasize reciprocity in communal relationship to an interpretation that is theocentric, leading toward a concern for functional purity within the community of faith. On the basis of the OT infrastructure of this text, it shall be argued that James is asserting that favoritism within the community of faith is a violation of the holy name of God himself. While Jas 2:8 is a direct quote from Lev 19:18, it is evident that the whole of Jas 1:27-2:13 is tied to Leviticus 19 in many other ways as well. It is to Leviticus, then, that this essay must first turn its attention.

II. Parallels With Leviticus

An examination of the structure of Leviticus indicates that chapter 19 begins a new section of laws signaling a shift from a concern for ritual and moral holiness (chs. 11-18) to a concern for behavioral holiness.4 This new section is preceded by regulations concerning the purity of Yahweh’s tabernacle (chs. 11-18) in which pejoratives are applied toward such things as touching dead animals (11:1-47), discharge from childbirth (12:1-8), leprosy (12:1-14:57), and repulsive bodily discharges (15:1-33). This section culminates with the prescribed remedy for ritual

impurity being established in the Day of Atonement (16:1-34). This section then progresses toward the more serious purity laws involving offensive behavior when eating sacrifices (17:1-16) and defiling moral behaviors (18:1-30). While Leviticus 11-16 stress the need to maintain the ritual...

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