[Jas 4:11-12 NKJV] (11) Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. (12) There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?

[Jas 4:11-12 NLT] (11) Don't speak evil against each other, dear brothers and sisters. If you criticize and judge each other, then you are criticizing and judging God's law. But your job is to obey the law, not to judge whether it applies to you. (12) God alone, who gave the law, is the Judge. He alone has the power to save or to destroy. So what right do you have to judge your neighbor?

[James 4 mGNT] 11: μὴ καταλαλεῖτε ἀλλήλων ἀδελφοί ὁ καταλαλῶν ἀδελφοῦ ἢ κρίνων τὸν ἀδελφὸν αὐτοῦ καταλαλεῖ νόμου καὶ κρίνει νόμον εἰ δὲ νόμον κρίνεις οὐκ εἶ ποιητὴς νόμου ἀλλὰ κριτής 12: εἷς ἐστιν ὁ νομοθέτης καὶ κριτής ὁ δυνάμενος σῶσαι καὶ ἀπολέσαι σὺ δὲ τίς εἶ ὁ κρίνων τὸν πλησίον

I don't get James' logic here. How is an act of judging a brother an act of "judging the law"?

2 Answers 2


Good question. One possibility is that you are complaining that the law has not properly judged and punished this brother. Think of how the elder brother begrudged his father's forgiveness of the prodigal when he returned. But I suspect we are missing something about Jewish legal interpretation here. The Law (Torah) is holy, the word of God, and by definition cannot be judged. Judging means slandering the neighbor, something the Law forbids you to do (Lev. 19), so by doing that you are "judging the law," i.e. putting yourself above the law, or as we would say "taking the law into your own hands."

  • "taking the law into your own hands"-Good answer! You condemn the Law by attempting to be the 'lawgiver', and in the next verse James says "there is One Lawgiver", so who are you? Of course, putting it into practice is the hard part; we can't be 'passive' in the face of evil, yet we clearly can't be 'Judge, Jury, and High Executioner". "Speak the truth in love", when we 1) know the truth, and 2) love God and the individual enough to speak it is a far better remedy.
    – Tau
    Commented Jan 12, 2014 at 11:47

Updated answer

Indeed, the forensic use is established by context. To "speak evil" in this context apparently refers to testifying in a law suit against a brother so indeed James is saying the same thing as Paul: "do not sue your brother":

James 4:11 μὴ καταλαλεῖτε ἀλλήλων ἀδελφοί ὁ καταλαλῶν ἀδελφοῦ ἢ κρίνων τὸν ἀδελφὸν αὐτοῦ καταλαλεῖ νόμου καὶ κρίνει νόμον εἰ δὲ νόμον κρίνεις οὐκ εἶ ποιητὴς νόμου ἀλλὰ κριτής

I'm understanding "ὁ καταλαλῶν ἀδελφοῦ ἢ κρίνων τὸν ἀδελφὸν αὐτοῦ" to identify the κρίνων (suing) as the same person as the one doing the καταλαλῶν (accusing?) his brother. When I look at the usage of krinw it includes law suits:

[Mat 5:40 ASV] (40) And if any man would go to law with thee, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.

Original answer

I posited a possible solution on B-Greek and am awaiting a critique. My solution involves a forensic usage of καταλαλέω as in an "accusation" before a Roman court. If that usage is extant or reasonable then by going before a Roman court they suggest that the Torah cannot resolve questions among saints which belittles the Torah. If my analysis is correct this becomes a parallel with Paul's reproach of the Corinthians:

[1Co 6:1-8 CSB] (1) If any of you has a dispute against another, how dare you take it to court before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? (2) Or don't you know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the trivial cases? (3) Don't you know that we will judge angels ​-- ​how much more matters of this life? (4) So if you have such matters, do you appoint as your judges those who have no standing in the church? (5) I say this to your shame! Can it be that there is not one wise person among you who is able to arbitrate between fellow believers? (6) Instead, brother goes to court against brother, and that before unbelievers! (7) As it is, to have legal disputes against one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? (8) Instead, you yourselves do wrong and cheat ​-- ​and you do this to brothers and sisters!


https://dailydoseofgreek.com/scripture-passage/james-4-11/ https://dailydoseofgreek.com/scripture-passage/james-4-12/

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