The Epistle of James has been considered one of the most practical pieces of writings in the New Testament, and yet it has been consistently neglected in the writings of both New Testament scholars and ethicists. This neglect most likely derives from a failure to understand the theological underpinning for the imperatives in James, perceived as ethics in a vacuum. Understood correctly, the three areas of James’ ethical concern: speech ethics, social justice, and moral purity, stem from God’s own character and his redemption of his chosen people, making his ethics among the most theologically developed of the New Testament.
This article examines the references to slips of the tongue in the speech ethics of Ben Sira. Against the background of Proverbs, this characterization of accidental speech errors represents a new development. Its origin can be traced to the confluence between sapiential metaphors for mistakes in life and the idea of a slip of the tongue in the Hellenistic world. Ben Sira’s references to slips of the tongue are generally coordinated with a lack of discipline, though at least two verses seem to suggest that slips are not always sinful and that they represent a universal phenomenon, found even among the wisest sages.