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|4:11 Mh; katalalei'te ajllhvlwn, ajdelfoiv. oJ katalalw'n ajdelfou' h] krivnwn to;n ajdelfo;n aujtou' katalalei' novmou kai; krivnei novmon. eij de; novmon krivnei", oujk ei\ poihth;" novmou ajlla; krithv". 4:12 ei|" ejstin oJ nomoqevth" kai; krithv" oJ dunavmeno" sw'sai kai; ajpolevsai. su; de; tiv" ei\ oJ krivnwn to;n plhsivon;|
(134) 4.11 Stop slandering one another,
he who slanders his brother
(139) 4.12 There is but one Lawgiver
The rhetorical structure of this very short pericope is well defined and compact. Essentially it revolves around two structures: (1) an admonition [statement 134] and (2) a defense of the admonition [statements 135 - 140].
The admonition in statement 134 is simple and short, although in the interpretation section we will discover a high level of ambiguity in it.
The defense of the admonition in statements 135 through 140 built on a very tightly formed logic that ends up declaring that the one slandering another person is in reality trying to play God. The unfolding thought structure surfaces in sets of twos (135-139) and ends with a rhetorical question (140)
Literary Setting Questions:
1. By reading 4:11-12 and 4:1-10, describe the possible literary relationships between the two periocopes.
4:11-12 (NRSV). 11 Do not speak evil against one another, brothers and sisters. Whoever speaks evil against another or judges another, speaks evil against 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 and judge who is able to save and to destroy. So who, then, are you to judge your neighbor? 4:1-10 (NRSV). 1 Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? 2 You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures. 4 Adulterers! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 5 Or do you suppose that it is for nothing that the scripture says, "God yearns jealously for the spirit that he has made to dwell in us"? 6 But he gives all the more grace; therefore it says, "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble." 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Lament and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into dejection. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
2. Using the listing in
the Study of James, identify which subject category 4:11-12 belongs
3. Compare Jas. 4:11-12 to 1:26 and 3:9-10. What distinctive insight on speech does each passage provide?
Jas. 4:11-12 (NRSV). 11 Do not speak evil against one another, brothers and sisters. Whoever speaks evil against another or judges another, speaks evil against 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 and judge who is able to save and to destroy. So who, then, are you to judge your neighbor? Jas. 1:26 (NRSV). 26 If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. Jas. 3:9-10 (NRSV). 9 With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so.
Study of 4:11-12
4. Study the above translations of statement 134 in 4:11a. Describe what the admonition seems to be addressing.
(134) 4.11 Stop slandering one another,
5. The Greek verb katalalevw here translated as 'slander' along with its noun equivalent katalaliav and adjective katavlalo", -on, show up only a few times in the Bible. Study these instances in the NRSV for additional insight in what James is talking about.
James 4:11. Do not speak evil against one another, brothers and sisters. Whoever speaks evil against another or judges another, speaks evil against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 1 Pet. 2:1. Rid yourselves, therefore, of all malice, and all guile, insincerity, envy, and all slander. Rom. 1:30. 29 They were filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious toward parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Psalm 101:5 (LXX 100:5). One who secretly slanders a neighbor I will destroy. A haughty look and an arrogant heart I will not tolerate. 2 Cor. 12:20. For I fear that when I come, I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish; I fear that there may perhaps be quarreling, jealousy, anger, selfishness, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder. 1 Pet. 2:12. Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that, though they malign you as evildoers, they may see your honorable deeds and glorify God when he comes to judge. 1 Pet. 3:15b-16. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; 16 yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame. Psalm 78:19 (LXX 77:19). They spoke against God, saying, "Can God spread a table in the wilderness?
6. In the first segments of the defense of his admonition, James develops an interesting line of argumentation. Can you identify it from the diagram? Pay close attention to verb direct objects.
he who slanders his brother
passes judgment on his brother
(135) slanders the Law
(136) passes judgment on the Law;
if you pass judgment on the Law,
(137) you are not a doer of the Law,
(138) --- --- a judge.
7. How can a judge legitimately pass judgment on the law (statements
137-138)? Is he not just supposed to administer it? How did the ancient
court system work that is different from our contemporary US court system?
8. Compare Jas. 4:11-12 to Matt. 7:1-5, Luke 6:37-38, Rom. 14:4, 13. Do these passages argue against forming and expressing opinions about others?
Jas. 4:11-12 (NRSV). 11 Do not speak evil against one another, brothers and sisters. Whoever speaks evil against another or judges another, speaks evil against 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 and judge who is able to save and to destroy. So who, then, are you to judge your neighbor? Matt. 7:1-5 (NRSV). 1 "Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. 2 For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. 3 Why do you see the speck in your neighbor's eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your neighbor, "Let me take the speck out of your eye,' while the log is in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor's eye. Luke 6:37-38 (NRSV). 37 "Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38 give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back." Rom. 14:4, 13 (NRSV). 1 Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions. 2 Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables. 3 Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them. 4 Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord F82 is able to make them stand. 5 Some judge one day to be better than another, while others judge all days to be alike. Let all be fully convinced in their own minds. 6 Those who observe the day, observe it in honor of the Lord. Also those who eat, eat in honor of the Lord, since they give thanks to God; while those who abstain, abstain in honor of the Lord and give thanks to God. 7 We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. 8 If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living. 10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. 11 For it is written, "As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God." 12 So then, each of us will be accountable to God. 13 Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another.
9. Compare 4:11-12 to Matt. 7:15-20 and 1 Cor. 5:9-13. How does James related to Jesus and Paul in regard to critical opinion about certain individuals in the community of faith?
Application of the Text:
Jas. 4:11-12 (NRSV). 11 Do not speak evil against one another, brothers and sisters. Whoever speaks evil against another or judges another, speaks evil against 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 and judge who is able to save and to destroy. So who, then, are you to judge your neighbor? Matt. 7:15-20 (NRSV). 15 "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? 17 In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will know them by their fruits. 1 Cor. 5:9-13 (NRSV). 9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral persons — 10 not at all meaning the immoral of this world, or the greedy and robbers, or idolaters, since you would then need to go out of the world. 11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother or sister who is sexually immoral or greedy, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or robber. Do not even eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging those outside? Is it not those who are inside that you are to judge? 13 God will judge those outside. "Drive out the wicked person from among you."
1. When you talk about fellow Christians, how do you characterize them?
2. How opinionated about other people are you?
3. Do you tend to look first for the good or the bad in other people?
For Further Study:
See the Bibliography listing for James under Bibliography,
especially Individual Volumes and Articles.