m Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. 1
Don't accuse one another, brothers
The one who speaks against a brother or n judges his brother, [this one] speaks evil against the law and judges the law.
Because the one who accuses a brother, that is , the one who casts a verdict against him, [this brother] accuses the law, that is, they make a verdict against the law.
But if you judge the law,
Moreover if you make a verdict against the law
you are not a doer of the law
then you are not following the law
but [you are] a judge.
but you are casting a verdict on it.
There is only o one lawgiver and p judge,
Moreover, there is only one who gives the law and assesses compliance,
he who is able to save
that is, the one who is able to save
and q to destroy.
and to give over to eternal misery.
But r who are you to judge your neighbor?
But you are in no place to assess your fellow-man.
Given the context, I think 'speak evil against' means the same as 'judge'. The context suggests that 'speaking evil against' is an assessment that the brother is not living up to God's standards in the law. That is, they are assessing the brother against the law and casting an unfavourable verdict.
My understanding is that this proposition has a substantival subject (i.e. the brother who speaks against a brother or judges a brother). It could probably be broken up (as shown), but I've left it together.
The conjunction is 'but', however I think v11c-e are further developing 11b.
Marked -/+ due to contrast.
The New Testament tells us on several occasions not to judge . Clearly our hearts need help in this area. What does James have to say? James indicates that when we judge (when we assume the right to cast a verdict on a brother's shortcomings and then take pleasure in talking to others or oneself about our assessment) , we are forgetting what God is like. Most importantly, we are forgetting that God alone gives the laws and assesses compliance, and he alone can save, and destroy. Rather than being pre-occupied with assessing our brother, our hearts should surely be awake to our own poverty ( when it comes to living in compliance with God's perfect laws) - I am in no place to assess my brother or my neighbour. My concern should be for my own reception and attention (James 1:25) and obedience to the implanted word (James 1:21). I should have an attitude of trembling and rejoicing that, despite my tendency to be an adulterer in my love for the world, God does give abounding grace (James 4:6), and he alone can save! Of course this does not mean we throw out all discernment and shut our eyes to considering what is commendable and what is not. If that were so, James would not have written this letter, which was written, at least in part, to bring back those who have wandered from the truth (James 5:19). James' response when he observes his brothers wondering is not to be silent. But he does not write as a superior minded assessor, but as a brother who is himself subject to the same lawgiver and judge, and reliant on the same mercy. God alone can accurately and conclusively assess people against his laws. He is also the one who can save, and destroy. I can not, and therefore He says I should not attempt to assess my brother. Some questions that came to mind: What does it mean to 'speak evil against' a brother? I think it means a critical and superior minded assessment of a brother's behaviour. It sets oneself above the brother, and it also sets oneself above the law (11b). Given the 'and' in 11b, and that 'speaking evil against' and 'judging' appear to be used interchangeably (e.g. 11a, 12d), I think they are basically synonymous. Perhaps one is verbal - giving voice to an accusation of evil - and the other is not voiced, but equally critical and harsh. Why does James say that the one who judges his brother judges the law? I'm not sure, but it may be that, in feeling the need to assess a neighbour, a person is saying that they need to step in and take things into their own hands because the law is not adequately dealing with the situation. That is, they observe behaviour in a brother (or in a neighbour) that in their assessment does not meet God's standards, and God is not doing anything about it, and so they need to. They are saying that in this manner the law is deficient, and they need to step in. But they forget that God is able to save, and to destroy. In stepping in in this manner, they place themselves above the law (11d-e), they are more concerned with assessing than submitting. They become a law unto themselves. What does James say in response to such an attitude? James says that God is the lawgiver and He is the judge, and, actually, He is able to save and to destroy. He is the one who gave the law, and he is the one who is able to assess people against it. He is able to save the one whose behaviour deserves condemnation, and he is able to destroy the one whose behaviour deserves condemnation. The reader should understand that they themselves do not measure up, and so deserve condemnation. And so all they should be doing is looking to God for mercy (James 4:12b 'Rhetorical question: But who are you to judge your neighbour? Answer: I am in no position to judge my neighbour.'). Does this also raise the question: Why would you judge your brother in this manner? You can't do anything about it - you can't save and you can't destroy - so what is the point in your criticism? Only God can save and only God can destroy. Does this mean we should throw out all discernment and have no regard for our brother's behaviour? No.Of course, there are times when we need to assess others, but that is different to assuming God's place as a judge. For example, we assess a person's behaviour when it comes to matters of church discipline (Matthew 18). But the purpose is not to condemn - the assessment does not assume to be final and conclusive - but (as James does in this letter) to help them person wake up to their wandering, in hope they will repent. (Also in Matthew 18, the first step is taking the issue to the brother, between you and them alone). The command not to speak evil of others is not a call to throw out all discernment, but to recognise that God alone is lawgiver and judge, and he alone can save and destroy. Final note: even when James is discussing this critical topic (I assume because he knows they need to hear it) he still addresses them as brothers, he writes as a brother amongst them.