Reflecting the Image of God Through Speech: Genesis 1–3 in James 3:1–12

Numerous phrases in James 3:1–12 echo language found in Genesis 1–3. In the proposed paper, I will argue that James intentionally utilized subtle references to the creation account to associate purity in speech with the wholeness of the individual inherent in the image of God. James implies that if believers can tame the tongue, they will draw closer to the original state of purity God intended, resulting in greater unity with fellow community members and with God himself. Conversely, James associates defilement through speech with defilement through the fall. Just as the deceptive words of Satan in Genesis 3 led to the corruption of Adam and Eve, destructive patterns of speech can undermine the well-being of an individual, as well as the community in which the individual is embedded.

In my analysis of the passage, I will employ a socio-scientific methodology and proceed in three sections. First, I will examine relevant conceptions of purity and wholeness in order to provide a framework for James 3:1–12. Second, I will exegete James 3:1–12 for the purpose of drawing attention to key lexemes and phases. Finally, I will evaluate the manner in which James draws upon Genesis 1–3 in James 3:1–12.

The paper will contribute to existing body of research on the use of Genesis 1–3 in James 3. I will build upon the work of scholars such as James Elloitt, Jacob Neusner, Bruce Malina, Jerome Neyrey, Luke Timothy Johnson, and Darian Lockett, among others. The consensus recognizes that James draws upon the creation account, and I believe that further analysis of such references will deepen our understanding of James’ theological foundations and aims. I will also articulate the practical implications and applications garnered from James’ use of the creation account.

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