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Living in the Shadow of Cain Echoes of a Developing Tradition in James 5:1-6

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Behind the statements in James 5:1-6 is an echo of the Cain and Abel story. While it has been recognized that Abel served as an archetype for righteousness and unjust suffering, it is sometimes overlooked that Cain fulfilled a similar role. Beginning with the writings of Josephus and Philo and continuing through to the Midrashim, Cain was portrayed as an archetype for those who oppress the poor and the righteous for self-gain. Just as James accuses the wealthy of using dishonest means to retain the wages of the poor, so also Cain was accused of increasing his property and possessions through robbery and force. The enigmatic statements in 5:6 represent an indictment against the wealthy and declaring that they are guilty of the sin of Cain.

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