Although a few interpreters have noted in passing the numerous verbal links between Jas 3:13–4:10 and LXX Prov 3:21–35, James’s passage is regularly read as a polemic against jealousy that is most at home within Hellenistic moral literature. I argue that the literary and thematic coherence of Jas 3:13–4:10 derives not primarily from the Hellenistic topos of envy (so Luke Timothy Johnson) but from metaleptic interplay with Prov 3:21–35. The explicit appeal to “the Scripture” in Jas 4:5 and the citation of Prov 3:34 in Jas 4:6 indicate that the tropes usually interpreted against the backdrop of Hellenistic moral literature (friendship, violence, etc.) resonate more naturally within the “cave” of Prov 3. Like many passages in sapiential literature (e.g., Prov 14:1, 19; 4Q416 2 II, 11; 4Q418 8, 12; Wis 1:9–12; Sir 9:1–11), Jas 3:13–4:10 foregrounds the language of “jealousy” to expose the tragedy of bad ζῆλος. In trying to locate parallels to James’s usage in Hellenistic writings, interpreters have failed to appreciate how the movement from ζῆλος in Jas 3:14, 16 and 4:2 to ϕθόνος in 4:5 simply resonates with a description found already in Isocrates: an envious person (ϕθόνος) is one whose good emulation (ζῆλος) has degenerated into jealous imitation because of unfulfilled desires. More significant than the particular semantic choices, then, is that James’s usage mimics the way Prov 3:31 links קנאה/ζῆλος with the neglect of the needy, distorted friendship, and emulation of the ways of evil/violent people (Prov 3:27, 29, 31). Using this wisdom motif from Prov 3:21–35 as the interpretive lens for Jas 3:13–4:10 lends further support to a growing consensus about the notorious interpretive crux in Jas 4:5: (1) that the formula in 4:5 does not introduce a citation of an unknown text, and (2) that it is the human spirit (rather than God’s) that is characterized by “envy” (ϕθόνος).

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