Ruzer-Mapping the New Testament. Early Christian Writings as a Witness for Jewish Biblical Exegesis

October 15, 2017 | Author: echegalf | Category: Exegesis, Bible, New Testament, Midrash, Jesus
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Mapping the New Testament

Jewish and Christian Perspectives Series Editorial Board

Marcel Poorthuis, Joshua Schwartz, David Golinkin, Freek van der Steen Advisory Board

Yehoyada Amir, David Berger, Shaye Cohen, Judith Frishman, Martin Goodman, Clemens Leonhard, Tobias Nicklas, Eyal Regev, Gerard Rouwhorst, Seth Schwartz, Yossi Turner


Mapping the New Testament Early Christian Writings as a Witness for Jewish Biblical Exegesis


Serge Ruzer


Bar-Ilan University, Israel University of Tilburg: Faculty of Catholic Theology Utrecht, The Netherlands Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies, Israel Ingeborg Rennert Center for Jerusalem Studies, Israel Published with the assistance of The Aryeh (Leo) Lubin Foundation in memory of his parents Lilian and Moshe Lubin. This book is printed on acid-free paper.

ISSN 1388-2074 ISBN 978 90 04 15892 4 © Copyright 2007 by Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands. Koninklijke Brill NV incorporates the imprints Brill, Hotei Publishing, IDC Publishers, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers and VSP. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, translated, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior written permission from the publisher. Authorization to photocopy items for internal or personal use is granted by Koninklijke Brill NV provided that the appropriate fees are paid directly to The Copyright Clearance Center, 222 Rosewood Drive, Suite 910, Danvers, MA 01923, USA. Fees are subject to change. printed in the netherlands

In loving memory of Alya (Alexandra) Ruzer and Alexander Men

CONTENTS Acknowledgements ..................................................................... List of Previously Published Articles .......................................... Editorial Statement .....................................................................

ix xi xiii

Introduction: The New Testament as Witness for Early Jewish Exegesis .......................................................................................


1. Antitheses in Matthew 5: Midrashic Aspects of Exegetical Techniques ..............................................................................


2. From “Love Your Neighbor” to “Love Your Enemy” ..........


3. The Double Love Precept: Between Pharisees, Jesus and Qumran Covenanters .............................................................


4. Who Was Unhappy with the Davidic Messiah? ...................


5. Negotiating the Proper Attitude to Marriage and Divorce ....


6. The Seat of Sin and the Limbs of Torah ............................


7. Crucixion: The Search for a Meaning vis-à-vis Biblical Prophecy. From Luke to Acts .................................................


8. The New Covenant, the Reinterpretation of Scripture and Collective Messiahship ...........................................................


Conclusion and Perspectives ......................................................


Index of Ancient Sources ...........................................................


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS This book is dedicated to the memory of Alya, who was my wife, and Alexander, a close friend, whose tragic early deaths are still mourned. With all differences of biography and temperament, they both lived their lives with an utmost intensity; it is also with the intensity of thought and feeling that they related to the Jewish-Christian conundrum. Each of them in his/her own manner cherished and aspired to clarity. Presenting the volume as a homage to them, I hope that attempts at clarication undertaken here may be rated—with a measure of good will—as clarity’s promising, even if problematic, siblings. It is a great pleasure for me to acknowledge the help of my friends and colleagues. Special thanks are due to my former Ph.D. supervisor Guy G. Stroumsa for his continuing friendship, encouragement and advice, which have been abundantly available for this present study too. The Department of Comparative Religion of the Hebrew University has been my second home for almost fteen years now, and I am grateful to my colleagues, especially Brouria Biton-Ashkelony and David Satran, for their warm collegiality. I wish also to thank Aryeh Kofsky and Amitai Spitzer for their wise assistance and the pleasure of studying together. Basic insights of this investigation have been presented at a number of conferences, which engendered fruitful discussions. Moreover, earlier versions of some chapters were at different times read by colleagues, whose comments and criticism were important for further work on the book. I should particularly like to thank Hans Jürgen Becker, HansDieter Betz, Hermann Lichtenberger, Lorenzo Perrone, Berndt Schaller, Daniel Schwartz, and Justin Taylor. It goes without saying that I alone am responsible for whatever deciencies remaining in the book. I wish also to recall the memory of two remarkable men and scholars, Shlomo Pines and David Flusser. In 1987, the former took me—then a newcomer and a stranger in Jerusalem—under his guidance. He became my rst Ph.D. supervisor, and his trust and friendship, admittedly much less than deserved, were among the main forces that prompted me to go forward with my research. The latter exerted a considerable inuence further on—as he did for everyone in Jerusalem approaching the study of Early Christianity.



I am glad to publish the book in the Jewish and Christian Perspectives Series; and I take this opportunity to acknowledge the extremely important contribution of the series coeditors, Marcel Poorthuis and Joshua Schwartz, who closely read the manuscript and made many insightful suggestions. I am indebted to the staff at Brill Publishers, particularly series editor Freek van der Steen, for their professionalism and patient cooperation. I am grateful for the nancial support provided by the Aryeh (Leo) Lubin Foundation. I would also like to thank Ms. Evelyn Katrak for her sensitive and diligent English editing. I always feel gratitude to my parents, Anna and Lev, sister Genia and her family, and my daughter, Asya, for their caring support and generous interest in my work. Finally, I dearly thank my spouse, Ilana, who for all the years of this project and well beyond has graciously been both the mainstay and the excitement of my life.

LIST OF PREVIOUSLY PUBLISHED ARTICLES Chapter 1 is a revised version of an article previously published in: H. J. Becker and S. Ruzer, The Sermon on the Mount and Its Jewish Setting, Paris 2005. Chapter 2 is based on two separate studies published in: Revue Biblique 109 (2002) and 111 (2004). Chapter 3 is a thoroughly revised version of an article rst published in Hebrew in: Tarbiz 71 (2002); and later in an English translation in: S. Notley et al. (eds.), Jesus’ Last Week, Leiden 2006. Chapter 4 is a revised version of an article rst published in: Cristianesimo nella storia 24 (2003). Chapter 6 is a thoroughly revised version of an article previously published in: J. Assman and G. G. Stroumsa (eds.), Transformations of the Inner Self in Ancient Religions, Leiden 1999.

EDITORIAL STATEMENT Judaism and Christianity share much of a heritage. There has been a good deal of interest of late in this phenomenon, examining both this common heritage, as well as the elements unique to each religion. There has, however, been no systematic attempt to present ndings relative to both Jewish and Christian tradition to a broad audience of scholars. It is the purpose of the proposed series to do just that. Jewish and Christian Perspectives will publish studies that are relevant to both Christianity and Judaism. The series will include monographs and congress volumes relating to the Hebrew Bible and New Testament, the Second Temple period, the Judaeo-Christian polemic (from Ancient until Modern Times), rabbinic literature relevant to Christianity, as well as Patristics, Medieval Studies and the Modern Period. Special interest will be paid to the interaction between the religions throughout the ages. Historical, exegetical, philosophical, and theological studies are welcomed as well as studies focusing on sociological and anthropological issues common to both religions, including archaeology. Detailed information can be obtained at:


THE NEW TESTAMENT AS WITNESS FOR EARLY JEWISH EXEGESIS When it comes to the dilemmas of self-denition in the Judaeo-Christian realm of late antiquity, biblical exegesis is justiably seen as one of the main avenues for expressing and/or constructing an identity. A complicated dynamic of adoption, appropriation and rejection of the rival group’s stance is the process usually followed. Moreover, exegesis, at certain stages, may be perceived as completely subjugated to the task of achieving a separation, which means, according to a more general model suggested by Daniel Boyarin, being “engaged in splitting off a part” of one’s own self, so to speak, and “projecting it outward” as representing the rival party—Judaism in the case of Christianity and vice versa.1 Describing the process of what he sees as construction of the orthodoxy, which according to him started in earnest somewhere around the mid-second century, Boyarin uses the images of “sealed borders” and “customs ofcers”, the latter’s main objective being to prevent inltration of the hybrid species, the “dangerous in between”. This strategy in no way achieves factual separation: The parallel courses of development up to the fourth century bear witness to the lingering polemical closeness of Judaism and Christianity or, more exactly, the constant tacit use of the other party’s views as a point of reference in establishing each group’s “orthodoxy”. I nd Boyarin’s model extremely useful exactly because it turns out to be so inadequate when we consider earlier manifestations of what would become Christian exegetical traditions—manifestations that may be portrayed as belonging to the inner-Jewish phase of the process. It goes without saying that even at this early stage, exegetic statements can be viewed as “acts of power” aimed at polemically avored self-denition; yet, as it seems, the genuine inherent concerns of ongoing religious discourse, as well as the objective of “winning out” in the immediate

1 See Boyarin, Border Lines; The Partition of Judaeo-Christianity, Philadelphia 2004, 146; see also ibid., 1–33.



Jewish milieu, loom over the scene, dictating the hermeneutic agenda and laying the foundation for all subsequent attempts at boundary marking. These early traditions, unlike the later ones, do not seem to be much worried about—to borrow Boyarin’s terminology—preventing religious “contraband from crossing the borders (from the side representing the rival group—S.R.)”.2 Instead, they put great effort into presenting their exegetic merchandise as a “legitimate export”. It is in view of the unmistakably dialogical nature of the polemic conducted by these early traditions that I have taken a particular interest in their possible value as a reection of wider Jewish exegetical tendencies. There is a scholarly consensus regarding the extreme importance ascribed by the early Jesus movement to the link between its faith in the messianic call of Jesus and the prophetic promises of Jewish Scripture; the New Testament texts themselves clearly testify to that. One of the core objectives of the initial Christian discourse seems to have been to provide an exegetical justication for the Messiah’s death—vis-à-vis the “regular” messianic exegesis of “stock” biblical proof texts.3 Preoccupation with this task—with the underlying claim of faithfulness to the true tenets of biblical Judaism—characterized already the creators and transmitters of the nascent oral tradition and the compilers of the written Gospel accounts. Yet, in addition to this crucial crucixion- and resurrection-centered hermeneutics, the biblical orientation of Jesus’ disciples—and, seemingly, of Jesus himself—engendered multiple exegetic traditions, attested in various strata of the New Testament, that addressed a wide range of issues of religious practice and belief not intrinsically connected to the messianic kerygma. Naturally, this latter mode of exegesis features more prominently in those layers of the earliest Christian tradition (e.g., the Synoptic Gospels) that took an interest in Jesus’ biography and teaching, not focusing exclusively on the soteriological function of his death. As for this infatuation with Scripture, the Jesus movement shared it with/inherited it from its late Second Temple milieu, where various sects had developed a whole range of exegetical patterns pertaining either to Torah’s practical ordinances or to the realm of religious ideas and beliefs, or to both, as the means and expression of their religious outlooks and—the two cannot realistically be separated—of their

2 3

Boyarin, Border Lines, 2. See Luke 24:19 –27, 44 – 46.

the nt as witness for early jewish exegesis


competing claims to be the true representatives of the Jewish religion.4 Such Qumranic passages as the opening programmatic paragraph of the Community Rule, Damascus Document 6, or the closing paragraph of the Halakhic Letter (4QMMT) provide ne examples of the tendency to collate idiosyncratic, identity-marking sectarian interpretation and an appeal to shared exegetical patterns. Thus “sharing the infatuation with Scripture” did not have to be limited to the Scripture-centered mode of thinking as such but pertained to reliance on a common exegetical legacy as well.5 In other words, these Second Temple Jewish groups, and supposedly the nascent Christians among them, saw Scripture “through the lens of earlier interpretation”. Offering their interpretation of the Book, the creators of the foundational Christian tradition had thus—as far as their hermeneutical agenda and ways of reasoning were concerned—to “go by the book”. If the Second Temple Jewish genesis of nascent Christianity—meaning also its polemical stance vis-à-vis other Jewish groups—is taken seriously, it should be expected that its preoccupation with exegesis would reect, either approvingly or polemically, both exegetical traditions current in rival circles and those of broader circulation. The New Testament “conversation with Scripture” may thus be seen as bearing

4 See the discussion in A. Baumgarten, The Flourishing of Jewish Sects in the Maccabean Era: An Interpretation, Leiden 1997, 114–136, esp. 133. Or, if one wishes to attempt to separate Christianity out of its initial Jewish context, one may rephrase it in the words of M. Simonetti (Biblical Interpretation in the Early Church, Edinburgh 1994, 1) as “Christianity, like Judaism, is a religion of the Book. In it, Holy Scripture, regarded as the fruit of divine revelation . . . occupies an absolutely fundamental place: every action in the life of the community, collective or individual, from doctrine to discipline and worship, should be shaped by it”. It is worth noting that for the earliest phase of Christianity’s history the Simonetti’s “Holy Scripture” stands for some variation of Jewish Scripture, whereas “shaped by it”, as is clear from the context, means “via exegesis”. 5 Of course, attempts to outline New Testament modes of exegesis vis-à-vis Scripture alone—without addressing the existing exegetical legacy—may still be instructive. And they are by no means out of fashion; see, for example, three central studies in: C. A. Evans and J. A. Sanders (eds.), Early Christian Interpretation of the Scriptures of Israel, Shefeld 1997, 44–96: C. D. Stanley, ‘The Rhetoric of Quotations: An Essay on Method’; W. Roth, ‘To Invert or Not to Invert: The Pharisaic Canon in the Gospels’; and S. E. Porter, ‘The Use of the Old Testament in the New Testament: A Brief Comment on Method and Terminology’. Even when contemporaneous Jewish exegesis is referred to—as in the study by D. Krause in the same volume (‘The One Who Comes Unbinding the Blessings of Judah: Mark 11.1–10 as a Midrash on Genesis 49.11, Zechariah 9.9, and Psalm 118.25–26’, ibid., 141–153)—the issue is touched on only in passing and remains marginal to the discussion. To a certain extent, the same approach characterizes Chapter 7 of this book.



witness, at least in some instances, to those broader tendencies. It is at this particular point that the issue of the proper contextualizalion of initial patterns of Christian biblical interpretation gives way to a related and complementing one: How should this interpretation, routinely branded as “Christian”, be used—together with other available sources—to reconstruct a fuller picture of early Jewish exegesis. I am thus speaking about the transition from a model that juxtaposes the New Testament to the text of the Jewish Scripture (independent exegetical elaboration on the Holy Writ) to one that emphasizes the conversation with contemporaneous exegetic traditions. This tendency can be discerned even in so Scripture-centered a eld of research as the study of the text form of the New Testament biblical quotations. Earlier investigations laid much emphasis on the professed aim of establishing which version of the Jewish Scripture the compilers of, for example, the Gospels had before them—with an understandable inclination to identify that version as the septuagintal one. From the early fties on—and here the importance of Krister Stendahl’s seminal work is evident6—more scholars have been ready to discern patterns of midrashic exegetic nature in the New Testament treatment of biblical material. Accordingly, a suggestion has been put forward that the biblical authority for the nascent Jesus movement was grounded not exclusively—or maybe not so much—in a written sacred text as such but in a text engulfed, as it were, by already existing and ever evolving interpretations.7 Moreover, Jesus’ followers—and this too they seem to have shared with other Jewish groups—did not always distinguish between the biblical text itself and its “midrashic envelope”.8 The present volume thus focuses on links between the exegetical trends current in various Second Temple Jewish circles—as attested in Qumran, Pseudepigrapha, Jewish Hellenistic and proto-rabbinic traditions—and patterns of New Testament conversation with Jewish

6 K. Stendahl, The School of St. Matthew and Its Use of the Old Testament, Uppsala 1954/Philadelphia 1968. See also R. Gundry, The Use of the Old Testament in St. Matthew’s Gospel, Leiden 1967, etc. 7 The expression “the School of Matthew”, coined by Stendahl, was tailored to designate, inter alia, the systematic application and adaptation of existing exegetic techniques. 8 For a recent discussion of the issue, see J. L. Kugel, ‘Stephen’s Speech in Its Exegetical Context’, in: C. A. Evans (ed.), From Prophecy to Testament, Peabody, Mass. 2004, 206–218.

the nt as witness for early jewish exegesis


Scripture. In a sense it builds upon the insights reached through the study of New Testament biblical quotations, related to above; more specically, it was the failure to explain these quotations as derived from a single authoritative version of the Scripture that prompted the researchers to appeal to a “targumizing procedure” embedded in a contemporaneous exegetic culture. However, the focus of this volume is no longer on isolated biblical quotations but rather on the complex exegetical moves employed in the New Testament. My investigation represents an attempt to outline the exact relation between the inherited and the innovative features in the work of the earliest Christian exegetes. Appraisals of that relation have been varied, with far greater emphasis at times on the different and peculiar. When the objective is a relief map of nascent Christianity against the backdrop of Judaism, no wonder it is the Jesus movement’s “unique contribution to rst-century Jewish exposition” that is highlighted—a contribution, resulting in a “thoroughgoing reinterpretation of the biblical writings [in relation] to the person, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah”, a reinterpretation that is perceived in terms of a “break with Judaism”.9 The emphasis on the charismatic nature of the early Christian exposition of Scripture, on the tension between “revelatory exegesis” and “mundane hermeneutics”, also pertains here.10 It has been suggested that already with Paul and in the Epistle to the Hebrews, Christ has become the true hermeneutical key—hence the claim that even in the earliest strata of Christian tradition, Jewish sacred literary heritage, though appealed to for conrmation of the kerygma, is essentially relativized.11 Given such an approach there is an understandable tendency to portray even observed instances of overlapping in “mundane” (i.e., non-messianic) biblical expositions as a paradox of sorts: While adopting certain exegetical methods and techniques current in Judaism, New Testament exegetes, most prominently Jesus himself,

9 E. E. Ellis, ‘Biblical Interpretation in the New Testament Church’, in: M. J. Mulder (ed.), Mikra: Text, Translation, Reading and Interpretation of the Hebrew Bible in Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity, Assen 1988, 691; emphasis in original. 10 See E. E. Ellis, Prophesy and Hermeneutics in Early Christianity, Grand Rapids, Mich. 1978. 11 F. M. Young, Biblical Exegesis and the Formation of Christian Culture, Cambridge 1997, 16. Young sees in the documented 2nd-century use by Christians of a codex format (as opposed to scrolls) for Jewish scriptures a sign of such relativization (ibid., 14–15).



arrive at peculiarly bold and far-reaching conclusions unintelligible to (hidden from) their Jewish milieu.12 This approach, highlighting the novel perspective of Christian exegesis—a perspective quite naturally seen as different from that of “most Jews”13—is to a considerable extent informed by later developments (from the 2nd century on), which may appropriately be called the “formation of Christian culture”. It aims at discovering, as it were, the implicit potential of the very earliest Christian exegesis for a thorough reinterpretation and relativization of the Jewish Scripture; New Testament biblical expositions are perceived here as the beginning of the trajectory leading to the Church Fathers. The focus of the present volume however, as well as the trajectory dening its perspective, is different. I will deal mostly with the other side of the exegetical entanglement, paying special attention to the instances of exegetic similarity and their interpretation: Do they point to a closeness of the early Jesus movement to a particular Jewish group, or do they bear witness to a wide contemporaneous circulation of certain exegetical patterns? Alternatively, what is the relation between the variety of exegetic approaches attested in the New Testament and the variety characteristic of the wider Jewish milieu? To put it differently: How can the New Testament be used to create a fuller picture of Second Temple Jewish exegesis? And here comes a complementary focus of the discussion, the alternative trajectory it probes: the “mapping” of New Testament evidence as the early, and maybe only, surviving witness to more general exegetic trends that did have their origins in the Second Temple period but are attested in their fully developed form only later, in rabbinic literature. New Testament material can thus be studied as containing possible “missing links” in the long trajectory of biblical exposition. The discussion throughout this volume thus emphasizes the importance of the patterns of the Jesus movement’s “conversation with Scripture” for a better understanding of developments in early Jewish exegesis. It should be stressed that what is meant here is not so much the evidence derived from the polemic against other Jewish groups but primarily the evidence embedded in what is put forward as representing the New Testament’s own position.

12 13

See Ellis, ‘Biblical Interpretation’, 721. See Young, Biblical Exegesis, 285.

the nt as witness for early jewish exegesis


An emphasis on instances of closeness and similarity on the one hand and on innovative elements on the other is intrinsically linked to an investigation of the modes of exegetical polemic employed by various segments of the Jesus movement. I suggest distinguishing two substantially differing modes discerned in the earliest Christian sources. One of them in fact comprises two stages: rst, a claim to a shared exegetical inheritance with the authoritative group (e.g., the Pharisees) is put forward; second, a polemical differentiation is derived (built upon) this basic claim of belonging. This seems to reect the Sitz im Leben of close social links with the authoritative group in question, with the boundaries sufciently blurred. In other words, we are dealing with a situation where the impetus of polemic and disagreement did not really lead the community to reach a point of decisive boundary marking against those whose stance was different. This closeness, however, does not necessarily point to a lesser polemical tension; sometimes the opposite is true.14 The other mode does not seem to require the legitimacy of shared levels of exegetic heritage, its point of departure being the presupposition of an essential gap in the patterns of biblical interpretation between the followers of Jesus and those outside the movement. This may point to a more advanced stage in the process of (certain segments of ) the Jesus movement’s self-denition vis-à-vis its original Jewish milieu, and a drifting away from it. It goes without saying that this latter mode becomes predominant in later times, when the two distinct entities, Jews and Christians, become a fact of both life and thought, and much of the latter’s exegetical efforts are spent on trying to justify a separate Christian existence and its supersessionist claim to the Jewish scriptures.15 However, in light of sectarian Qumranic exegesis, it can also reect an earlier tendency coexisting with the more conservative one described above. 14 See J. D. Levenson, The Death and Resurrection of the Beloved Son; The Transformation of Child Sacrice in Judaism and Christianity, New Haven 1993, 232, where the author, describing Judaism and Christianity as two parallel “midrashic systems whose scriptural basis is the Hebrew Bible”, sees in this situation the root of their mutually exclusive identities. See also A. J. Saldarini, Matthew’s Christian-Jewish Community, Chicago-London 1994, 2, 25, 120–121, 192–193; J. M. Lieu, Christian Identity in the Jewish and Graeco-Roman World, Oxford 2004, 36 n. 33. 15 For a discussion of the importance of biblical exegesis for boundary making or, rather, boundary maintaining, see W. Horbury, ‘Jews and Christians on the Bible: Demarcation and Convergence [325–451]’, in: J. van Oort and U. Wickert (eds.), Christliche Exegese zwischen Nicea und Chalcedon, Kampen 1992.



Sometimes the demarcation line between the two is also the line between subtle moves presented as if continuing ordinary exegetical discourse and exegesis claiming a quantum leap of revelatory prophetic authority. Naturally, it is in the former category that one expects to nd richer data for “mapping” the early Christian tradition as witness for wider developments in Jewish exegesis. But again, since the earliest Jesus followers were denitely not the rst Jewish splinter group to take pains to present its peculiar outlook as grounded in (true) biblical interpretation,16 one should not exclude the possibility that even those New Testament exegetical moves that consciously aimed at boundary drawing might bear witness to existing patterns and hence be relevant to the task of mapping. A similar claim may be made with regard to another distinction that I nd useful: that between exegetical traditions—either ascribed by the Gospels to Jesus or found elsewhere in the New Testament—that do not relate to the messianic claim and focus instead on general questions of religious behavior and belief, and those that are explicitly tailored to deal with Jesus’ messiahship. Clearly, in cases of the former type, “mapping” New Testament evidence as witness to broader contemporaneous Jewish trends holds greater promise; and the investigation conducted in Chapters 1, 2, 3, and 6, and parts of Chapter 5, goes in this direction. However, as Chapters 4, 5 and 7 demonstrate, even the New Testament’s explicitly messianic exegesis may be illuminating—both with regard to its peculiar input and as a witness to more general Jewish trajectories.17 The tentative but fascinating issue of later rabbinic tradition polemically reacting to the Christian appropriation of Jewish exegetical patterns is also addressed here and there; its thorough study, however, remains beyond the scope of this book. Without attempting to exhaust the issue, the discussion relates to a representative variety of samples from different layers of the New Testament tradition: Gospels, Epistles and Acts. Chapter 1 discusses the exegetical techniques applied in a number of antithetical sayings from the Sermon on the Mount and in a passage from Matthew 19. The focus on structural features allows the singling out of elements belong-


See the discussion in Baumgarten, The Flourishing of Jewish Sects (note 4 above). For a discussion of one such core messianic issue, see Levenson, Death and Resurrection, part 3 (‘The Beloved Son between Zion and Golgotha’), 173–232. 17

the nt as witness for early jewish exegesis


ing to the basic hermeneutical syntax of the wider contemporaneous discourse. Chapter 2 addresses the famous idiosyncratic interpretation of the love-your-neighbor precept (as love-your-enemy), and attempts to outline its links to developments attested in relevant Jewish sources and leading in a similar direction. Chapter 3 analyzes the basic characteristics of the Synoptic section dealing with the great(est) commandment in the Torah, where Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18 are coupled. I offer several suggestions with regard to the hermeneutical nature of the section and its relation to other (e.g., Qumranic) sources where such coupling occurs. In Chapter 4 the Book of Acts becomes the main New Testament focus of the investigation; this chapter tackles the explicitly messianic modes of exegesis and their setting. Focusing on divorce and related issues, Chapter 5 discusses the possible contribution of the Pauline epistles both in elucidating the existing variety of Jewish exegetical trends of late Second Temple Judaism and in clarifying the nature of the Damascus Document’s interpretation of marital halakhah. Chapter 6, where both Gospel evidence and Paul’s writings are considered, returns to the issue of the overall hermeneutical assessment of the Torah; unlike Chapter 3, however, where general principles underlying the corpus were the issue, the discussion here focuses on the history of an alternative tendency—one emphasizing the all-encompassing system of particular commandments. Chapter 7 focuses on the core problem of nascent Christian exegesis—namely, the search for exegetical justication of the Messiah’s death and its constraints—as it is reected in Luke/Acts. Finally, Chapter 8 examines the links of the nascent Christian notion of the new covenant to certain Second Temple exegetical tendencies. I see the volume as aiming mainly at two groups of readers: students of Early Christianity who wish to consider patterns of biblical exegesis embedded in the New Testament tradition in their appropriate Jewish framework, and students of late Second Temple and/or rabbinic exegetical traditions who wish to widen their outlook through consideration of relevant New Testament evidence.


ANTITHESES IN MATTHEW 5: MIDRASHIC ASPECTS OF EXEGETICAL TECHNIQUES This opening chapter addresses the exegetical techniques applied in a number of antithetic sayings from the Sermon on the Mount as well as in a passage from Matthew 19. The discussion relates mainly to the structure of the text as it stands now, its redactional history being beyond the scope of this investigation. A number of parallels in Jewish sources are reviewed, and the question is raised of their relevance to the study of the Sermon. It is suggested that even when the conclusions drawn and the regulations derived from Torah exegesis in different traditions vary radically, the exegetical techniques applied seem to constitute a shared element of religious discourse, its basic syntax inherited from earlier generations. Finally, a typology of the antitheses’ polemical stance is suggested. Antitheses in Matthew 5 While instances of Jesus’ separate treatment of some of the issues involved in Matthew 5 are attested elsewhere in the Gospels,1 their thematic combination within a unifying exegetical framework stands out as the trademark of the compiler (editor) of the Sermon on the Mount. The thematic combination includes a discussion of three prohibitions from the Decalogue (Exodus 20/Deuteronomy 5) and their parallels, the “eye for an eye” issue (from Exodus 21) and the “love your neighbor” precept from the Holiness Code (Leviticus 19). This strategy of grouping Torah precepts resurfaces—with reference to Jeremiah—in the tannaitic Mekhilta de Rabbi Ishmael, which provides an example of a different thematic combination with all components belonging to the Decalogue:

1 See, for example, Matt 19:3–9 (cf. Mark 10:2–12) for the divorce issue or Matt 22:34–40 (cf. Mark 12:28–34; Luke 10:25–37) for the discussion on the love-yourneighbor precept. See also discussion in Chapters 2, 3 and 5.


chapter one  ,        

   ,                  (9  ) [On the one tablet] was written: “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.” And opposite it [on the other tablet] was written: “You shall not steal”. This tells that he who steals will in the end also swear falsely. For it is said: “Will you steal, murder and commit adultery and swear falsely?” ( Jer 7:9).2

In Matthew 5, the discussion is presented as an uninterrupted sermon initiated by Jesus himself, as opposed to instances where a discussion of various religious topics is reported in the same Gospel and Jesus is portrayed as responding to a question addressed to him as a rabbi (i.e., Matt 22:16–22 and par., Matt 22:23–33 and par., Matt 22:34–40 and par.).3 Whereas this latter mode of discourse in that period seems mainly to have characterized actual oral interaction between the general populace and those considered the embodiment of the (legal) tradition—Jewish sages or, in the wider context, Roman jurists—the thematic arrangement of material in Matthew 5 may reect the later editorial process.4 Matthew 5:21–26 The rst antithesis is introduced in Matthew 5:21 with the formula: “You have heard that it was said to the men of old (   )”. Whereas the rst part of the saying that follows (“You shall not kill”) is obviously taken from Exodus 20:13 (= Deut 5:17), the rest cannot be found in any Old Testament text.5 M. McNamara was the rst to point to the targumic paraphrase of Genesis 9:6 as a clear parallel to

2 Mekhilta de Rabbi Ishmael Ithro 8, H. S. Horovitz (ed.), Jerusalem 1970, 233–234. English translation of the Mekhilta is according to J. Z. Lauterbach, Mekilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Philadelphia 1961. 3 Cf. Matt 22:41–46 and par., where Jesus poses a question to other teachers, who fail to give a satisfying response. 4 See C. Hezser, ‘The Codication of Legal Knowledge in Late Antiquity: The Talmud Yerushalmi and Roman Law Codes’, in: P. Schäfer (ed.), The Talmud Yerushalmi and Graeco-Roman Culture, Tübingen 1998, 583–584, 619–624. Hezser deals mainly with a later period, but some of her suggestions may turn out to be at least partly relevant for the rst century ce. 5 Cf. R. J. Banks, Jesus and the Law in the Synoptic Tradition, Cambridge 1975, 186; J. P. Meier, Law and History in Matthew’s Gospel, Rome 1976, 131–132.

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the Matthew 5:21 ending.6 Tg. Onqelos interprets the biblical “Whosoever sheds man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed . . .” as relating to a juridical procedure in which “by man” means “following the testimony of witnesses according to the decision (sentence) of judges”:           (  + . .) 


    .7 The targumic paraphrase of the Torah seems to have been one of the pillars of public teaching in the synagogue already in the late Second Temple period. Biblical passages, therefore, could often be remembered in their Aramaic form, and it is highly probable that the popular exegetical tradition concerning Genesis 9:6 (attested in Tg. Onqelos and also in Tg. Pseudo-Jonathan—see below) was in great part responsible (together with Exod 20:13) for the quotation form in Matthew 5:21.8 It is worth noting that Genesis 9:6 was perceived already by Philo as posing an exegetical problem: in Questiones et Solutiones in Genesim II.61, Philo explains that the murderer will be punished by the “dissolution of his soul” (i.e. he himself will be “shed”)—and this is in agreement with the LXX version of Genesis 9:6 which reads: “          ” (Whoever sheds the blood of man, will be [ himself ] shed like [or instead of, against] his blood). As for rabbinic tradition, there is evidence that already in its early stages discussing Genesis 9:6 vis-à-vis Exodus 20:13 constituted an accepted exegetical procedure. More than that, Mekhilta de Rabbi Ishmael, mentioned in this connection by McNamara, perceives these verses to be essentially two parts of the same commandment:

 ,    (6   )    ,    (Horovitz, 232)    ,   “You shall not murder”. Why is this said? Because it says [before]: “Whoever sheds man’s blood”, etc. [Gen 9:6]. We have thus [i.e. in Gen 9:6] heard the penalty for it but we have not heard the warning against it. Therefore it says here: “You shall not murder”.

6 M. McNamara, The New Testament and the Palestinian Targum to the Pentateuch, Rome 1966, 127–129. 7 See A. Sperber (ed.), The Bible in Aramaic, vol. 1: The Pentateuch, Leiden 1959, 13. The Old Syriac Gospel of Matthew, which has   in Matt 5:21, seems to understand the received tradition in exactly this way. Tg. Neoti here closely follows the Hebrew. 8 See S. Ruzer, ‘The Technique of Composite Citation in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5:21–22, 33–37)’, Revue Biblique 103 (1996), 67 and n. 5 there.


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The same technique is applied there to the seventh, eighth and ninth commandments of the Decalogue. However, in the Mekhilta de Rabbi Simeon ben Yohai, it is Numbers 35:16 and not Genesis 9:6 that is juxtaposed to Exodus 20:13:  (16  )             .         .         .         “You shall not murder”. From the established rule “the murderer shall be put to death” [ Num 35:16] we have learned about the penalty, but where [can we learn about] the warning? Therefore it says here: “You shall not murder”. And what if someone said: I am going to commit a murder and after that let me be executed? [One may think that] then it is permitted—therefore it says here: “You shall not murder”. And what if someone is [anyway] being taken to be executed and thinks that then he is allowed [to commit a murder]. Therefore it says here: “You shall not murder”.9

It is clear from the combined Mekhilta evidence that the existence of seemingly parallel or close Torah ordinances concerning murder was seen as a problem by rabbinic exegetes. One of the solutions, offered for Genesis 9:6 vs. Exodus 20:13, was to declare these two verses components of the same commandment. According to this approach the Decalogue prohibition does not widen the scope of the denition of murder established by the traditional understanding of Genesis 9:6. However, other conclusions also seem to have been drawn from the juxtaposition of Genesis 9:6 and Exodus 20:13. Thus, for instance, Pesiqta Hadta, a midrashic composition of uncertain provenance, contains a midrash which suggests—relating to the four letters composing the word  [ ] (= [you shall not] murder)—that Exodus 20:13, in fact (unlike Gen 9:6?), speaks of murder as something committed not only “by hand and by foot” but also by word of mouth and lack of psychological involvement in the fate of the other.10 Indeed, the midrash sees these moral deciencies as actually leading to the death of the “other”, and they may therefore be considered murder in the legal sense. And of course there is that famous talmudic saying (b. B.Mez.

9 Mekhilta de Rabbi Shimeon ben Yohai, J. N. Epstein and E. Z. Melamed (eds.), Jerusalem 1955, 152. 10 See Pesiqta Hadta, Shevuot, Beth ha-Midrash, vol. 6, A. Jellinek (ed.), Jerusalem 1938, 45.

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58b): “If one offends his fellow man in public, it is as if he sheds a man’s blood (    )”. The choice of words (“sheds a man’s blood”) is rather telling: it attempts to deal with the “moral offense” usually discussed—e.g., in Pesiqta Hadta—in connection with Exodus 20:13 as belonging to the legal realm of Genesis 9:6. It is worth noting that Philo was already of the opinion that—or was familiar with a tradition according to which—the prohibition in the Decalogue “forbids murder, and under it come the laws, all of them indispensable and of great public utility, about violence, insult, outrage . . .”.11 However, unlike Matthew and the rabbinic sources quoted above, Philo does not establish here any exegetical connection to Genesis 9:6, though the idea of man being in God’s image, underlying the regulation in Genesis 9:6, does feature prominently elsewhere in Philo’s thinking: But man, the best of living creatures, through that higher part of his being, namely, the soul, is most nearly akin to heaven also to the Father of the world, possessing in his mind a closer likeness and copy than anything else on earth of the eternal and blessed Archetype.12

Returning to Matthew 5:21, what we encounter in this verse is seemingly a juxtaposition of Exodus 20:13 and Genesis 9:6—the latter being represented by its more or less standard interpretation, attested, inter alia, in the Targum. Thus the polemic here should be seen as directed against the exegetical tendency that perceived Exodus 20:13 and Genesis 9:6 as having the same scope of application, a tendency similar to the one attested in the Mekhilta. Denying the validity of this tendency, Matthew’s Jesus suggests, instead, widening the scope of the Exodus 20:13 application (vis-à-vis that of Gen 9:6) to “murder committed also by word of mouth”. He does so while adopting an approach similar to the one attested in the passages from the Babylonian Talmud and Pesiqta Hadta discussed above. Another characteristic structural feature of Matthew 5:21–22 is the gradual transition from the jurisdiction of an ordinary court to the Sanhedrin to the Court on High, where Gehenna is the punishment.

11 Philo, De Decalogo 170. Philo calls the Exodus 20 prohibition of murder “the second head”—he seems to have had the  -- ! (adultery-murder-stealing) order in his Greek Pentateuch text. 12 Philo, De Decalogo 132.


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This transition corresponds to the changes in the nature of the transgressions mentioned: from hard-core crimes, tried in a court of law with the testimony of witnesses, to offenses against fellow men that may not be witnessed by a third party. It is worth noting that a similar transition occurs in the Tg. Pseudo-Jonathan interpretation of Genesis 9:6:



           Whoever sheds the blood of man with witnesses, the judges will nd him guilty of murder. And he who sheds blood without witnesses, the Lord of Eternity will call him to account on the day of Great Judgment.

It is instructive that whereas in the Mekhilta de Rabbi Ishmael it is claimed that those who observe the Sabbath will be saved from “the birth pangs of the Messiah, the day of Gog and Magog, and the Day of Great Judgment” (Horovitz, 169), according to b. Shab. 118a they will be saved from “the birth pangs of the Messiah, the judgment of Gehenna (= the punishment in Gehenna), and the war of Gog and Magog”. Thus the tradition from the Babylonian Talmud equating public offense with murder, on the one hand, and the fact that “Gehenna” seems to have been quite interchangeable in this context with the “Day of Great Judgment”, on the other, allow us to posit that a similar basic logic governs the transition from earthly to heavenly jurisdiction both in Matthew 5:21–21 and in the Tg. Pseudo-Jonathan interpretation of Genesis 9:6. Having discerned these structural parallels, let us now inquire about their meaning. All rabbinic parallels discussed above are found in compositions belonging to a later period than the Gospel account. In some cases we may reasonably assume that they represent an earlier tradition—for example, when, as highlighted above, a similar motif is attested in Philo’s writings. Yet if we attempt to prove a specic literary link between those rabbinic parallels and the Gospel pericope, we will nd ourselves on shaky ground. This is denitely less so if we focus neither on the form of a particular saying nor on a specic literary link, but on issues of religious discourse and on the exegetical techniques applied. It is unlikely that Jesus—or the compiler of Matthew for that matter—was the rst to recognize the problem of parallel Torah precepts or the problem of jurisdiction in cases of “transgressions of the heart” that could not be tried in a court of law. It is also unlikely that the author of the Gospel text invented the method of playing a Decalogue precept against its extra-Decalogue parallel in order to widen the scope of the commandment, while later proponents of the same

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technique followed his lead or invented the method independently. The opposite seems much more probable (inter alia, again in view of the evidence from Philo’s writings): Matthew 5:21–22 presents its argument in accordance with an existing exegetical format; it ghts a current exegetical tendency—the one perceiving Genesis 9:6 and Exodus 20:13 as the same prohibition—and follows an alternative one that tries to widen the scope of Exodus 20:13. Thus Matthew 5:21–22 may or even should be seen as an early witness to the exegetical techniques in question, attested in later rabbinic sources.13 The meaning of     (to/by the men of old) from Matthew 5:21 may thus be assessed as relating to an existing exegetical opinion—in our case, the claim that Genesis 9:6 and Exodus 20:13 constitute one prohibition with the same subject matter—established by previous generations of exegetes and seen by our preacher as either mistaken or inadequate/insufcient. And indeed that has been the opinion of a number of scholars.14 As David Flusser pointed out, in some rabbinical sources the polemical juxtaposition of    (to full the Torah) and    (to abolish the Torah) stands for opposition between the true and the mistaken interpretation of the Scripture; this, then, may be the meaning of Matthew 5:17 (“Think not that I have come to abolish the law/Torah . . . I have come not to abolish . . . but to full”).15 Flusser quotes also in this connection the Sifra for Leviticus 15:33, where the opposition seems to be between different stages of gradual revealing of the Torah’s true meaning within the same school of interpretation rather than between true and false exegesis:


See Ruzer, ‘Technique of Composite Citation’, 71 and n. 20 there. Cf. P. Sigal (The Halakah of Jesus of Nazareth, Lanham 1986, 21), who agrees with the notion that this antithesis (as well as others in Matt 5) is to be understood as a juxtaposition of different interpretations of the Torah and not an attack on the Torah itself. At the same time he perceives in the Sermon a radical departure from the body of existing oral tradition as a whole. It remains unclear whether Sigal considers innovative only the results of the halakhic procedure applied in Matt 5:21–22 or also the method itself. 14 See, for instance, J. P. Meier, Law and History in Matthew’s Gospel, Rome 1976, 132 and n. 2 there. 15 See D. Flusser, ‘Torah in the Sermon on the Mount’, in: idem, Jewish Sources in Early Christianity, Tel Aviv 1979, 230 and n. 11 there (in Hebrew); ‘ “Den Alten ist gesagt” Interpretation der sogenannten Antithesen der Bergpredigt’, Judaica 47 (1985), 35–39; ‘Es wurde zu den Alten gesagt’, in: idem, Entdeckungen Im Neuen Testament, vol. 2, Neukirchen-Vluyn 1992, 83–88.


chapter one   "   . . . .     The elders of old used to say: during her monthly period a woman should not make her eyes . . .until she immerses herself into the water. [That was the rule] until R. Aqiva had come and taught …16

Another instance of the distinction between an opinion of the “rst generation(s) of a school of exegetes” and the “ultimate exegesis” is found, this time with clear messianic overtones, in a famous passage from the Community Rule: “. . . shall be ruled by the rst directives which the men of the Community began to be taught (              ) until the prophet comes, and the Messiahs of Aaron and Israel” (1QS 9:10–11).17 Here, as in the Sifra passage, the “rst directives” (   ) seem to denote not the “Sinai generation” but rather the interpretations propagated by earlier exegetes belonging to the community (school of interpretation)—this time of Qumran. All this variegated evidence further strengthens the suggestion that the polemic in Matthew 5 is directed against existing exegetical trends propagated by some exegetes of established reputation—in the Gospel the nature of this basic authoritative community may be indicated by “scribes and Pharisees” of Matthew 5:20, the saying distinguished by the same dialectic of recognizing the authority versus supersessionism observed in the Community Rule and Sifra. And, nally, the New Testament itself provides additional instructive evidence of a subtle tension between recognition of the contribution of “the men of old” and the need for its polemical reworking. This evidence, in light of which the interpretation of     suggested above becomes even more probable, is found in Luke 1:2, where the expression " ’ # clearly designates the author’s predecessors within the Jesus movement who had tried—from Luke’s viewpoint with only limited success—to compose accounts of Jesus’ life.

16 Sifra Metsora 5, 12, J. H. Weiss (ed.), Vienna 1862, 79c. In contradistinction to this case the Sifra for Lev 15:29 ordains that those are not the “innovators”, but   (the rst ones) one is supposed to follow:  :              . 17 English translation of the Qumran material here and throughout the book is indebted, unless otherwise stated, to W. G. E. Watson in: F. García Martínez (ed.), The Dead Sea Scrolls Translated: Electronic Version, Leiden 1994.

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Matthew 5:33–37 It turns out that the particular midrashic technique outlined above—a juxtaposition of two Torah precepts, tailored to clarify the scope of their application—is not restricted to the rst antithesis but repeatedly employed in Matthew 5. One such instance is Matthew 5:33–37 (the fourth antithesis), where the issue of swearing is addressed. To properly appreciate the exegetic strategy of the Gospel passage, the patterns of early Jewish biblical interpretation dealing with the issue should be taken into account; and these patterns, as will be seen, are characterized by the juxtaposition of Exodus 20:7 (“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that shall take the name of the Lord in vain”) and Leviticus 19:12 (“You shall not swear falsely by my name”). Here is the targumic evidence: You shall not swear by the name of the Lord your God in vain (  ) for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that shall swear by his name falsely (  ). (Tg. Onq. Exod 20:7) My people, House of Israel, no one of you shall swear by the name of the Memra of the Lord your God in vain ( ) for the Lord . . . will not hold guiltless at the Day of Great Judgment any one who swears by his name in vain ( ). (Tg. Pseudo-Jonathan Exod 20:7)

We may observe (a) that in the Targum, Exodus 20:7 was routinely interpreted as relating to “swearing”; and (b) that the parallel between Exodus 20:7 (  = in vain) and Leviticus 19:12 ( = falsely) was recognized. Tg. Onqelos indicates that these two prohibitions should be seen as synonymous—although a certain ambivalence may be discerned here: the Targum speaks of punishment only in connection with false (and not “vain”) swearing.18 There were also attempts, however, to use the obvious differences between the Exodus 20:7 and Leviticus 19:12 wording to widen the scope of the Decalogue precept. Thus, among other sources, Pesiqta Rabbati, a Palestinian midrash of the sixth century, stresses that in contrast to “falsely” of Leviticus, “in vain” of the Decalogue covers also certain cases where no lie is involved but nevertheless the swearing is considered a transgression: “Hizkiyah said: even if someone states with 18 Cf. Peshitta, which, not unlike Tg. Pseudo-Jonathan, uses the slightly ambiguous  in both cases.


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oath concerning an olive tree that it is an olive tree . . . it constitutes a ‘vain swearing’ [prohibited in the Decalogue]”.19 This general tendency obviously predates Pesiqta Rabbati as cases of sinful “empty” or “obvious” swearing are related to, inter alia, in the Jerusalem Talmud: (. . . in the name of R. Yohanan): anything which is known to the two of them constitutes “vain swearing” . . . Hizkiya used to say: if somebody swears that “two is two”, he is guilty against this [Decalogue] commandment. ( y. Sheb. 3, 8 [34d])

The Talmud not only widens the scope of the Decalogue commandment but also, unlike the Targum, leaves no doubt about the punishment that is due for “empty” swearing: In the name of R. Shmuel b. Nahman: twenty-four cities (city councils) existed in the South and all of them were destroyed because of vain swearing that was true to the facts. (ibid.)

The demand, reported in Sifra (91a), for “ ‘no’ which is truly so and ‘yes’ which is truly so” may be seen as a logical step in this direction. This Sifra saying constitutes a clear tannaitic parallel to the “yes, yes; no, no” of Matthew 5:37 which seems to represent an early tradition and not the nal redaction of the text.20 While Josephus’ remark in the Jewish War (II 8.6) on the Essenes avoiding swearing could possibly be seen as indicating a marginal group fancy, Philo’s writings testify that the above demand reects a long-standing religious concern of wide currency: There are some who without even any gain in prospect have an evil habit of swearing incessantly and thoughtlessly about ordinary matters where there is nothing at all in dispute, forgetting that it were better to submit to have their words cut short. (De Decalogo, on Exod 20:7)21

But the difference between “in vain” and “falsely” is not the only difference between Exodus 20:7 and Leviticus 19:12 discussed in rabbinic sources. While “the name of the Lord your God” from the Decalogue is understood as a reference to the Tetragrammaton proper (see Tg.


Pesiqta Rabbati, M. Friedman (ed.), Tel Aviv 1963, 113a. See M.-É. Boismard, ‘Une tradition para-synoptique attestée par les pères anciens’, in: J.-M. Sevrin (ed.), The New Testament in Early Christianity, Leuven 1989, 191–194. Cf. Jas 5:12 and 2 Cor 1:17. It is the former para-synoptic variant that is being supported by patristic writings. 21 Cf. Philo, De Specialibus Legibus II.2 and the discussion that follows. 20

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Pseudo-Jonathan, quoted above), “my name” from Leviticus 19:12 covers—according to Sifra, where the two ordinances are explicitly juxtaposed—swearing by “every name which belongs to God and not only the Holy Name”; and this is in addition to what is already covered by the prohibition in Exodus 20:7!

   "  (12  )                ' 

   ' ' "       “And you shall not swear by my name falsely” [Lev 19:12]. What is the point of Scripture? Since it is said: “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain” [Exod 20:7], I might have supposed that one incurs liability only if he takes in vain the ineffable name of God. How do I know that all of the euphemisms for God’s name also are involved in a false oath? Scripture says: “[And you shall not swear] by my name [falsely]”.22

In contradistinction to the exegesis attested in Philo, Sifra presents its argument as based on the midrashic juxtaposition of what are perceived as parallel Torah ordinances; in this case, however, the extra-Decalogue verse is being used to widen the scope of a Decalogue precept and not vice versa. We may thus observe two basic directions in which rabbinical exegesis tries to widen the understanding of Exodus 20:7: from “false” to “empty” swearing and from swearing by the Holy Name itself to swearing by any name that “belongs to God”.23 With regard to the exegetical position represented in Matthew 5:33–37, then, we may conjecture that here, as in the rst antithesis, not the biblical prohibition as such but one of its current interpretations is being addressed—namely, the “minimalistic” interpretation, which does not distinguish between  of the Decalogue and  of Leviticus 19:12. In fact, the interpretation in question seems to represent an even more “restrictive” position, as it brings into the picture a third parallel from Deuteronomy 23:22 (“If you make a vow to the LORD your God, do not postpone fullling it”). The problem of “using the Lord’s name” then becomes restricted to the realm of vows. Against this interpretation, Matthew’s Jesus suggests widening the scope of the prohibition by moving in two directions: 22 Sifra, Qedoshim 2. English translation is according to J. Neusner, Sifra: An Analytical Translation, vol. 3, Atlanta 1988, 103–104. 23 On the transition “from old to new halakha” on swearing, see Y. N. Epstein, Introduction to Tannaitic Literature, Tel Aviv 1957, 377–378 (in Hebrew).


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1. In Matthew 5:33 and 5:37 he moves from “false” through “empty” swearing to the ultimate conclusion that any swearing is suspected of “emptiness”. 2. In Matthew 5:34–35 he states that not only swearing by the Holy Name itself but also swearing by God’s Temple, etc.—wherever it may be said that     (my name is called upon it)—is covered by the prohibition (with a peculiar development in Matt 5:36, where an additional motif is introduced). The Gospel does not refer explicitly to Leviticus 19:12 (as noted, it refers instead to Deut 23:22), but Leviticus 19:12 is clearly present in Matthew 5:33 and 5:37 thinking. The interpretation of the Decalogue commandment here has the same agenda and is construed along the very lines of thinking that characterize rabbinic exegesis, which is forever trying to determine what kind of swearing (swearing about what and by what “name”) is prohibited in Exodus 20:7. Here again I tend to believe that while it would be preposterous to try to prove any specic link between the pericope in question and exegetical traditions attested in later rabbinic sources, Matthew 5:33–37—despite the undeniable originality of the discourse—presents its argument in accordance with an existing exegetical format. It is thus with regard to the basic characteristics of this format, attested also later in rabbinic sources, that Matthew 5:33–37 may be seen as an early witness. And vice versa: the logic and the structure of Jesus’ reasoning in Matthew 5:33–37 as well as in Matthew 5:21–22 may be better understood if the tendencies of rabbinic thinking discussed above are given proper consideration. It should be stressed that here also, as in the case of the rst antithesis, Philo may denitely be seen as an early witness to the general trend of widening the scope of the commandment—not, however, for the specic exegetic technique of “composite citation”. Matthew 5:27–32 Let us turn now to Matthew 5:27–32—a passage that contains the second and third antitheses of the Sermon on the Mount. In Chapter 6, the traditions presenting idolatry and lust as two basic expressions of the evil impulse will be reviewed.24 Moreover, since in a number of 24

See also S. Ruzer, ‘The Seat of Sin in Early Jewish and Christian Sources’, in:

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sources from the late Second Temple period and later, idolatry was presented as having become obsolete, lust came to be portrayed in these sources as the main outlet of the evil impulse—or at least as the rst of the capital sins. The Damascus Document (CD-A) 4:15–18 and Luke 16:14–18 provide good examples of such a tendency; it deserves notice that in both these texts lust is coupled with greed as a major temptation ensnaring man. The prohibition “You shall not commit adultery” might in certain contexts—in Qumran, for example—have come to represent the Torah prohibitions in general;25 hence the centrality of the adultery issue, discussed also in other parts of the New Testament (i.e., Matt 19; Rom 7; 1 Cor 6; 1 Thess 4). In Matthew 5:27–30 one comes across the same basic exegetic technique already discerned in the passages relating to murder and “vain swearing”: to prove his point Matthew’s Jesus juxtaposes various Torah ordinances perceived as related to the same issue. In addition to obvious references to Exodus 20:14/Deuteronomy 5:18 (Matt 5:27) and to Deuteronomy 24:1 (Matt 5:31), there is Matthew 5:28 $ % &  ' '  # ( (every one who looks at a woman lustfully), which points to Exodus 20:17/Deuteronomy 5:21   =     ( &   )   (you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife). In the tannaitic sources, which discuss the commandments from the second part of the Decalogue (e.g., Mekhilta), we nd the argument served by the same basic technique of juxtaposing parallel Torah ordinances. More exactly, the Mek. R. Ishmael connects “You shall not covet” from Exodus 20:17 (as a rst step toward “hard-core” adultery) with “You shall not commit adultery” from Exodus 20:14. Further on the Mekhilta connects “You shall not commit adultery” to Leviticus 20:10, which stipulates that in a case of adultery with a married woman both the adulterer and the adulteress should be put to death. The Mekhilta quotes the opinion that Exodus 20:14 speaks about the same issue: “We have heard about the punishment but did not hear the warning— therefore it says here: ‘You shall not commit adultery’ [and now we hear it] (       , )”.26 This last opinion is also cited in

J. Assman and G. G. Stroumsa (eds.), Transforming the Inner Self in Ancient Religions, Leiden 1999, 367–391. 25 See CD-A 7:6–9, 16:10–12. 26 Mek. R. Ishmael (Horovitz), 232.


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the Mek. R. Shimon b. Yohai (Ithro 20): Exodus 20:14 and Leviticus 20:10 have the same subject matter, but one is an absolute imperative while the other describes the punishment. According to this interpretation the true importance of Exodus 20:14 is that with it adultery becomes absolutely forbidden—even if one is ready to accept the punishment and be executed for the transgression. Philo testies to a different trend, but he also seems to have been of the opinion that Exodus 20:14 and its parallels outside the Decalogue have the same subject matter: he interprets the Decalogue prohibition in light of the list of illicit types of intercourse found in Leviticus 18:10–16. Characteristically, in his deliberations here Philo relates to a variety of adulterous acts but not to adulterous thoughts/intentions.27 However, an alternative interpretation is also reported in the same passage from Mek. R. Shimon b. Yohai: the prohibition in the Decalogue is addressed to someone who eats/drinks from his own plate/glass (a standard metaphor for sexual intercourse) but imagines that he eats/ drinks from the plate/cup of another:                                   And if someone eats from his own plate but images himself eating from his friend’s plate, drinks from his own cup but imagines himself drinking from his friend’s cup, is that permitted? [To prohibit that the Scripture] says: “You shall not commit adultery”.28

Thus the tannaitic sources take the discussion, presented as the exegesis of Exodus 20:14, in two different directions. First, adultery equals adultery proper—illicit intercourse with another man’s wife—and the transgressors should be punished by death. The ordinances of Leviticus 20:10 and Exodus 20:14 have, according to this line of thinking, the same substance—except that the one relates to the penalty whereas the other provides the warning. Second, compared to Leviticus 20:10 there is more to the Exodus 20:14 ordinance, and this additional substance can be seen as connecting the adultery issue with the mental/sensual sphere of coveting/lust related to in Exodus 20:17. The absence of the latter trend in Philo’s deliberations on Exodus 20:14 has already been

27 28

See Philo, De Decalogo, 168–169; cf. De Specialibus Legibus, III.37–42. Mek. R. Shimon b. Yohai (Epstein and Melamed), 152–153.

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observed. This trend, however, resurfaces in a later talmudic source (b. Ber. 61a): Adultery means to look on a woman. Every one who walks behind a woman [to look at her] loses his share in the world-to-come . . . One, who gives her money from hand to hand while counting the coins in order to (have an opportunity) to look at her, even if he has done good deeds and studied Torah like Moses our Teacher—he will not escape the judgment of Gehenna.29

As in the two cases discussed earlier, the Mekhilta evidence here makes possible a better appreciation of the exegetical structure of Matthew 5:27–30. Some early Jewish exegetes seem to have claimed (as later documented in Mekhilta) that the substance of the precept is “adultery proper”—meaning illegal intercourse with a married woman—a transgression for which the death penalty would be the punishment ordained by the Torah, as specied in Leviticus 20:10. Jesus is portrayed in Matthew 5:27–30 as one who is not satised with this solution—which is presented as something other teachers have been saying—but chooses instead the alternative suggestion, also attested in the Mekhilta, that the subject matter of Exodus 20:14 should be widened to accord with the prohibition in Exodus 20:17. The resulting switch from “hard-core adultery” to “coveting” produces similar results both in the Sermon and in a number of rabbinic sources, such as the talmudic passage just quoted: as in the case of anger versus real murder addressed above, here also transgressions of the heart, which cannot be proved in court, bring to the fore—both in early rabbinic tradition and in the Sermon—the question of the judgment of Gehenna (instead of regular juridical procedure). The emphasis on the role of the hand and the eye as agents of lust (Matt 5:28–30) may be also reasonably seen as reecting an existing trend; another expression of this general tendency is attested in m. Nid. 2:1 and b. Nid. 13b: “It was taught in the School of R. Ishmael, ‘You shall not commit adultery’ means that there should be in you no adultery, neither with the hand, nor with the foot” (I deal with this issue in Chapter 6). Further on, however, the Sermon returns to the connection, rejected earlier, between Exodus 20:14 and Leviticus 20:10, bringing up the issue of a married woman who commits a “real” adultery. It may be

29 English translation of passages from the Babylonian Talmud are according to the Soncino edition.


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suggested that with the practice of putting to death both lovers losing its grip, other measures came to the fore—in particular, divorce. Hence the reference to Deuteronomy 24:1 in Matthew 5:31–32—whether originally part of the pericope or not—justly belongs to the discussion, bearing witness to the compiler’s versatility in the current Exodus 20:14 exegesis.30 Matthew 5:27–32 and the discussion in the Mekhilta differ not only in certain important details31 but in general tone: polemics in the Sermon, as opposed to reporting different opinions without attempting to establish which interpretation is the correct one in the Mekhilta. The latter attitude, sometimes dened as “classicist”, characterizes legal discourse in both rabbinical and Roman law compendia of late antiquity,32 and it is clearly at variance with the attitude attested in the Gospel tradition, which seems to represent an earlier period. All these differences notwithstanding, the Sermon and the tannaitic sources have been shown to share both agenda and basic exegetical technique. It may be suggested that here too they all bear witness to the same traditional exegetical structure that was routinely used as early as the rst century c e. On divorce: Matthew 5:31–32 It has been observed in the research that Jesus in Matthew 5:31–32 adopts the interpretation of   (something indecent[?]) from Deuteronomy 24:1 as well as the position with regard to divorce ascribed by m. Gittin 9:10 to the school of Shammai, as against the interpretation ascribed by the same mishnah to the school of Hillel:33                 .     ( )   ,  .     ( )   ,     

  ( )   ,         .  

30 See J. A. Fitzmyer, To Advance the Gospel, 2nd ed., Cambridge 1998, 83, where he comes to the conclusion that “Matthew . . . . has modied it [the discussion—S.R.] to make it better suit his Jewish-Christian concerns, casting it in terms of [the] HillelShammai dispute”. 31 Cf. Sigal, Halakah of Jesus, 92. 32 See Hezser, ‘Codication’, 612, 628–629, 633–636. 33 See, for example, W. D. Davies and D. C. Allison, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to Saint Matthew, ICC, 3 vols., Edinburgh 1988–1997, I: 522–32, esp. 530; Sigal, Halakah of Jesus, 21.

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The school of Shammai say: A man may not divorce his wife unless he has found unchastity in her, for it is written, Because he has found in her indecency in anything (Deut 24:1). And the school of Hillel say: [He may divorce her] even if she spoiled a dish for him, for it is written, Because he has found in her indecency in anything (ibid.). R. Aqiva says: Even if he found another fairer than she, for it is written, And it shall be if she nd no favor in his eyes (ibid.).34

Thus according to the school of Shammai, only adultery constitutes a sufcient reason for divorcing a wife, whereas Hillel is presented in the Mishnah as initiating a chain of authorities (including R. Aqiva) who believed that almost any reason would sufce—a position presented in Matthew 19:3 as that of the Pharisees: “And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, ‘Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?’ ”. It stands to reason that from the outset this position, far from being characteristic only of Hillel, was widely held; it is only later, and in view of the importance ascribed to Hillel in the rabbinic perception of the history of halakhic controversies, that it became strongly connected with this particular sage.35 While not denying the early circulation of this halakhic trend, Vered Noam has argued that in fact it was a more stringent marital halakhah, the one that would be ascribed to the school of Shammai, that had a domineering position in the days of Jesus.36 If so, on this issue Matthean Jesus may have in fact followed a majority opinion! It is also worth noting that Philo does not discuss at all the reasons for the divorce but, not unlike the passage from Deuteronomy 24 itself, concentrates instead on what happens after divorce (“. . . for any cause whatever, after parting from her husband and marrying another . . .”).37 Mishnah Gittin reports a number of additional instances of polemics between the school of Shammai and the school of Hillel relating to the marriage-divorce issue:

34 English translation of mishnaic material is according to H. Danby, The Mishnah, Oxford 1974. 35 See A. Goshen-Gottstein, ‘Hillel and Jesus: Are Comparisons Possible’, in: J. H. Charlesworth and L. L. Johns (eds.), Hillel and Jesus: Comparative Studies of Two Major Religious Leaders, Minneapolis 1997, 31–55, esp. 39, 41–47. For a discussion of Hillel’s hermeneutical stance, see D. R. Schwartz, ‘Hillel and Scripture: From Authority to Exegesis’, in: Hillel and Jesus, 335–362. 36 V. Noam, ‘Divorce in Qumran in Light of Early Halakhah’, Journal of Jewish Studies 56 (2005), 206–223, esp. 219. 37 Philo, De Specialibus Legibus III.30.


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1. m. Git. 4:5—The world was not created except for the sake of procreation (so Shammai, referring to Genesis 1), so one is supposed to allow half-slave half-bondman to marry (and procreate). 2. m. Git. 8:4–5—A difference of opinion is attested with regard to which kind of divorce is legally sound and which is not. The “wrong” divorce creates a situation where a divorced woman who remarries may be considered an adulteress and her children—bastards (cf. Matt 5:31). 3. m. Git. 8:8—A husband gives his wife a divorce and then changes his mind. Unlike the Mishnah, the earlier Gospel tradition does not mention by name the two sages, who might have been older contemporaries of Jesus or belonged to the previous generation;38 but it does seem to relate to a yet unsolved exegetical controversy, siding with one of the existing opinions. In contradistinction to the pericopes discussed above, in Matthew 5:31–32 it is the existence of conicting interpretations of a difcult biblical expression ( ) that constitutes the exegetical crux of the polemic; neither juxtaposing different Torah ordinances nor widening the scope of the precept is employed here. This demonstrates the variegated nature of both the polemical patterns and the exegetical methods used in the Gospel. To better appreciate this variety, let us consider a pericope from outside the Sermon that addresses the same adultery-divorce issue. On divorce: Matthew 19:3–9 (cf. Mark 10:2–12) We have observed that in Matthew 19:3, the Pharisees ask Jesus’ opinion on the interpretation of Deuteronomy 24:1 ( ), which m. Gittin 9:9 ascribes to the school of Hillel. But as opposed to the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5:18: “For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass

38 In these instances also, the attribution to the schools of Shammai and Hillel may indicate an attempt to overcome the anonymity of the longstanding tradition; see note 35 above and the discussion there. Cf. Hezser (‘Codication’, 610–611, 628), who discusses the return to anonymity in later stages of construction of the meta-discourse in the Jerusalem Talmud.

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from the Torah (law) until all is accomplished”.), Deuteronomy 24:1 is presented in Matthew 19:7–8 as an ad hoc regulation with only a limited period of application. The notion of ad hoc Torah regulation ( ) is attested in later rabbinical sources, and even Philo created a tripartite division of the Torah material: God’s words, Moses’ own deliberation and a mix of the two.39 It is seemingly vis-à-vis these tendencies that one should examine the “liberal” position with regard to the Holy Writ attested in the Matthean pericope under discussion.40 It is also telling that the Gospel, which elsewhere is more than ready to report on Jesus’ controversies with the Pharisees, does not here give the slightest indication that Jesus’ statement provoked a resentment or any other negative reaction. Could it be that in this instance also the reasoning of Matthew’s Jesus reected an inherited exegetic pattern?41 This is a question that cannot be addressed here; it necessitates further investigation.42 Beyond that “liberal” quality of the statement in Matthew 19:7–8, verses 4–6 establish that for the true eternal principles of marital union one has to look to the story of the creation. This is one of the characteristic midrashic features to be discerned in traditions ascribed to the school of Shammai in m. Gittin referred to above. The saying from Genesis 1:27 is used in m. Gittin 4:5 to create a halakhic midrash: man nds his fulllment in procreating, hence one should adopt a lenient


See Philo, De Vita Mosis II, 188–91. Cf., Davies-Allison, Matthew, 1:527; 3:11–12, where a reference to Mal 2:16 is discerned here. 41 B. Repschinski (‘Taking On the Elite: The Matthean Controversy Stories’, in: Society of Biblical Literature Seminar Papers, Atlanta 1999, 1–23, esp. 14, suggests that the prominence given to the Pharisees in the “controversy stories” by the compiler of Matthew reects the closeness of the former to the Matthean community and hence the acuteness of the polemics. Repschinski seems to overamplify the controversy aspect in some of the pericopes he discusses (incl. Matt 19:3–9); but in general his suggestion is convincing. Moreover, this polemical closeness may denitely account for the reliance on shared exegetical patterns. 42 In Chapter 5, a hermeneutical move in the opposite direction and found in CD-A 5:1–8 is discussed. Instead of Moses’ initiative to add to the “initial Torah”, the passage from the Damascus Document speaks of concealment of the “existing Torah” (with the similar purpose of “adjusting God’s demands” to Israel’s real abilities). This latter perception seems to reect the Damascus Document programmatic notion of the written Torah forever retaining its status, while in actuality being reinterpreted according to the revelation of the new covenant. See P. R. Davies, ‘The Judaism(s) of the Damascus Document’, in: J. M. Baumgarten, E. G. Chazon and A. Pinnick (eds.), The Damascus Document; A Centennial of Discovery, Leiden 2000, 33–34. 40


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attitude toward an additional marriage union. Although the specic halakhic decision at which the Mishnah arrives here may characterize only Shammai (or certain followers of his), using the creation story to dene basic principles of Jewish marriage seems to represent a wider midrashic trend. Let us have a closer look at Matthew 19:4–6. The argument here is presented as a midrashic combination of Genesis 1:27 and 2:24: He answered, “Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one esh’? So they are no longer two but one esh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder”.

A number of rabbinic sources put Genesis 2:24 to halakhic use with regard to problems pertaining to marriage; for example, the following is an interpretation in b. Sanh 58a attributed to R. Elazar (an early tannaitic authority from the second half of the rst century?): “He should leave his father and mother and cling to his wife and the two should become one esh”. “His father”—i.e. the one who belongs to his father, his father’s sister (R. Aqiva: his father’s wife); “his mother”—his mother’s sister (or his mother herself ); “and cling” not to male but to female; “to his wife”—and not to his fellow’s wife; “one esh”—not to a beast or an animal, they never become “one esh”.

Genesis 1:27, however, is referred to mostly in connection with the androgyne-centered notion of the rst man’s nature.43 Yet there is a marriage-centered midrash on Genesis 1:27 in b. Yeb. 63a where the same R. Elazar refers to Genesis 5:2 (= Gen 1:27): “One who does not have a wife is not a man (Adam) because it is said, ‘Male and female He created them’ ”. It is worth noting that the talmudic discussion here centers on encouragement to marry—seemingly detached from the call to procreate—not on the prevention of divorce and/or second marriage. Hence the importance of the evidence from the Damascus Document, where Genesis 1:27 is used, as in Matthew 19, to establish the marital halakhah (CD-A 4:15–18):44


See, for example, Gen. R. 8.1, Lev. R. 14.1. See also discussion in Chapter 5. M. Kister (‘Some Observations on Vocabulary and Style in the Dead Sea Scrolls’, in: T. Muraoka and J. F. Elwolde [eds.], Diggers at the Well, Leiden 2000, 157–158) 44

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                     They . . . are caught twice in fornication: by taking two wives in their lives, even though the principle of creation is (Gen 1:27) “male and female he created them”.

The exact meaning of the above admonition—does it refer to remarriage or bigamy (polygamy)?—has been much discussed, and I shall return to the issue in Chapter 5. Sufce it to say here that whatever the true intention of the Damascus Document admonition, it can be stated that while halakhic and non-halakhic decisions derived from discussions of the marriage-divorce issue might have differed from tradition to tradition, the appeal to Genesis 1 and 2 and, even more specically, to Genesis 1:27 is attested in at least some of those discussions, including the Qumranic, New Testament and later tannaitic evidence.45 So it may be suggested—with even greater probability than with regard to the pericopes discussed earlier—that in this case also the exegetical move in Matthew 19:4–6 represents an inherited midrashic feature. Conclusion Five pericopes from the Gospel of Matthew were examined in this chapter, four of them from the Sermon on the Mount and one from Matthew 19. In every one of them the argument is presented in the form of an interpretation of the Torah, suggesting a Jewish-Christian milieu sensitive to the characteristic late Second Temple features of the art of exegesis. The investigation centered less on the text form and more on the general agenda and structural features of New Testament

even suggests that the corresponding descriptions of the initial ideal state of affairs in Matt 19 (* #) and CD-A 4 (  ) might have been derived from the same formula. 45 W. D. Davies (The Setting of the Sermon on the Mount, London 1964, 252) views certain isolated sayings of the Sermon as expressions of polemics with the Essenes, whereas J. Kampen (‘A Reexamination of the Relationship between Matthew 5:21–48 and the Dead Sea Scrolls’, in: D. J. Lull [ed.], Society of Biblical Literature Seminar Papers Chico, Ca. 1990, 34–59, esp. 58) reaches the conclusion that “there are larger bodies of material in the Gospel of Matthew which reect some debate with a viewpoint we nd represented in the preserved writings of Qumran”. Both Davies and Kampen, however, analyze primarily the ideas expressed and positions taken (hence “debate”), while the present study emphasizes the issue of shared exegetical structures and presuppositions underlying the debate.


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exegetical passages, as well as on the techniques applied. Juxtaposing two or more parallel Torah precepts as a means of widening the scope of the commandment was shown to be one of the most important exegetical tools used in Matthew 5. Other hermeneutical devices, including moving from a juridical procedure dealing with hard-core transgressions to judgment in Gehenna as punishment for transgressions that cannot be tried in the court of justice, choosing one of two possible interpretations of a difcult biblical expression (Deut 24:1:  ), or appealing to the story of the creation—always used for backing the tougher religious standards—were also outlined. A number of relevant Jewish exegetical traditions from outside the New Testament were also reviewed. These traditions might differ from the Gospel sayings in tone (non-polemical in Mekhilta but polemical in CD) and in the details of their halakhic and other conclusions; but it turned out that they deal with the same exegetical problems and follow the same basic structure of argument. In the case of appealing to Genesis 1 and 2 for the sake of establishing the marriage law (Matthew 19) it appears that the same exegetical technique was applied in the rabbinic sources and in Qumran, which enables us more or less safely to dene the strategy employed in Matthew 19:4–6 as an inherited one. In the other cases, mostly rabbinic parallels, attested in tannaitic and amoraic (i.e., later) sources, were available. Philo supplied only half-parallels: similar ideas but not necessarily the same exegetic techniques. Nevertheless, it would be preposterous to see the shared technical features of the exegetical discourse as rst invented either by Jesus or by the transmitters of the Gospel tradition and later reinvented or picked up by certain tannaitic authorities. It is much more plausible that both New Testament and rabbinic sources bear witness to an existing midrashic pattern that should be described as Palestinian rather than Hellenistic. Thus one may apply Fitzmyer’s suggestion—that Matthew has modied the discussion of the divorce issue to make it better suit his Jewish-Christian concerns, casting it in terms of a known exegetical polemic—also to the rst, second and fourth antitheses. It should be emphasized again that what is observed here is not necessarily an inherited opinion on the issues under discussion (the period was one of a great uidity and variety of opinions!) but inherited technical or structural characteristics of exegetic discourse. The Sermon material may, therefore, be seen as early witness to—or as witness to an early stage in the development of—certain exegetical patterns otherwise attested only in later rabbinic sources, thus providing us with an impor-

midrashic aspects of exegetical techniques


tant link in the history of Jewish exegesis that was hitherto missing. The midrashic device of composite citation observed in the Sermon on the Mount—namely, the polemically avored juxtaposing of parallel Torah precepts—is one of these patterns. The importance of the First Gospel evidence is here further enhanced, given the absence of this exegetical technique in Luke’s version of the Sermon as well as in Philo’s exegesis—in spite of the latter’s obvious inclination to see the Decalogue in light of the extra-Decalogue “special laws”, and vice versa. The foregoing analysis lends support to the opinion that the intention of the compiler of Matthew 5 was to present the polemics as directed not against the Torah but against certain contemporaneous exegetical tendencies. Such tendencies include opinions that do not recognize in the Decalogue commandments additional meanings vis-à-vis the parallels outside the Decalogue, or refer to hard-core transgressions only or, just the opposite, ascribe too broad a meaning to the difcult “ ” from Deuteronomy 24:1. My analysis therefore supports an interpretation of “   ” (to/by the men of old) (Matt 5:21, 33) as relating to a long chain of exegetical tradition, and of “   ' ,—)- ' ,” (to abolish the law—to full the law) (Matt 5:17) as relating to a lacking or incomplete—not necessarily wrong—interpretation of the Torah as against the true (profound, exhaustive) one. In their classic commentary on Matthew, W. D. Davies and D. C. Allison mention this interpretation of the Sermon’s intention as only the sixth among nine possibilities and then dismiss it altogether in a footnote, claiming: “However, in the following paragraphs Jesus’ words are much more than exegesis”.46 I certainly believe that this appraisal deserves to be revised. Berndt Schaller has suggested a different explanation for the opening formula, one based on his reading of “./  0 )     . . . &1 23 & 4” (You have heard that it was said to the men of old . . . But I say to you) as analogous to the rabbinic expression “  . . .   ” (I have heard and understood . . . but the teaching/text instructs otherwise).47 If accepted, this suggestion would modify our appraisal of the antitheses’ polemical aspect. However,


Davies-Allison, Matthew, 480. See B. Schaller, ‘The Function and Character of the Antitheses in Matt 5:21–48 in the Light of Rabbinical Exegetic Dispute’, in: H.-J. Becker and S. Ruzer (eds.), The Sermon on the Mount and Its Jewish Setting, Paris 2005, 70–88. 47


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in this case also, the conclusions regarding basic exegetical patterns employed in Matthew 5:21–37 ( juxtaposition of parallel Torah precepts, using differences in wording to widen the scope of the precept) would remain valid. The passage from Matthew 19 differs in this respect from the rst four Matthew 5 antitheses. This passage was chosen for discussion (a) because its subject matter (the divorce issue) and its immediate context ( Jesus’ conversation with a young man in Matt 19:16–20) point to a link with the Sermon on the Mount tradition; and (b) because of its antithetical structure. However—unlike Matthew 5:31–32—the polemically avored argument is presented here not as disclosing the true meaning of Deuteronomy 24:1 but as dismissing Deuteronomy 24:1 as an ad hoc palliative of Moses’ invention for the sake of a more profound and truly godly ordinance from elsewhere in the Torah. The question as to the extent to which this position might have had a standing in a broader Jewish milieu in the rst century c e needs further deliberation. In any case, the variegated nature of the antithetical constructions attested in Matthew warrants emphasis. It is, of course, instructive that the “liberal” attitude toward certain “secondary” parts of the Torah is documented only in Matthew 19—that is, it is relegated to a position far outside the Sermon on the Mount with its programmatic/apologetic statement: “For truly, I say to you, till the heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Torah until all is accomplished”.


FROM “LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR” TO “LOVE YOUR ENEMY” Let us turn now to what is arguably the most famous antithesis of the Sermon on the Mount—namely, the love-your-enemy precept, appearing both in the Matthean version of the Sermon (Matt 5:44) and in its Lukan parallel (Sermon on the Plain—Luke 6:35). There have been attempts to present the saying in Luke as primarily belonging to the category of moral teaching.1 Regarding Matthew 5:44, however, there is general agreement that the precept is being put forward in the context of a midrashic elaboration of Leviticus 19:18, a biblical verse that speaks of love toward one’s neighbor. In both versions of the Sermon, enmity or hatred is dened as the opposite of love, while the enemies there are not simply insufciently pious or even shamefully sinful persons whom one may resent, but real “hard-core” enemies, those who hurt one physically or rob one of his possessions.2 The originality of the maxim in Matthew 5:44/Luke 6:35 has been duly emphasized in research; most scholars, moreover, seem to agree that the origin of this particular exegetical elaboration of Leviticus 19:18 should be attributed to Jesus himself.3 On the other hand, the question of close tendencies in Jewish thought before Jesus, in his time and afterward has been also raised. Regarding the nature of precedents and parallels or, better, developments leading in this direction, as attested in relevant Jewish sources, a number of evaluations have been put forward. For the sake of reassessment of the issue, a variety of Jewish exegetical trends from the Second Temple period, which concern themselves with Leviticus 19:18, should rst be reviewed. Some of the material previously discussed in the research will be re-evaluated here, and instances

1 See, for example, O. Seitz, ‘Love Your Enemies’, New Testament Studies 16 (1969/ 1970), 39–54, esp. 52. For a discussion of this issue, see H. D. Betz, The Sermon on the Mount; A Commentary on the Sermon on the Mount, including the Sermon on the Plain, Minneapolis 1995, 294–328. 2 See R. H. Gundry, Matthew; A Commentary on His Handbook for a Mixed Church under Persecution, 2nd ed., Grand Rapids 1994, 96. 3 See, for example, Betz, Commentary, 309, 311.


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of additional, previously overlooked, evidence will be addressed. Special attention will be paid to exegetical attempts to dene the scope of applicability of the love-your-neighbor precept, in particular attempts to widen the scope of Leviticus 19:18 to cover enemies also; characteristic features of the exegetical trends of this last kind will be outlined. Further on, in the second part of the chapter, the results of the analysis will provide a basis for the discussion of the love-your-enemy precept in the Sermon on the Mount, while the following chapter, Chapter 3, will focus on a related though different exegetical pattern attested in the Gospels—namely, a collation of Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18 into a “double love command”. Tensions in the biblical text We should relate rst to the biblical ordinance “love your neighbor as yourself ” (Lev 19:18) presented in Matthew—and, as will be seen, possibly also in Luke—as the basis for the love-your-enemy exegesis. The verse is part of the so-called Holiness Code, which opens with God’s call to the children of Israel to “Be holy as I, your Lord, am holy” (Lev 19:2). Among other things, the Holiness Code (H) ventures to dene the proper attitude toward one’s fellow men, and there are three key instances where the scope of the applicability of that attitude is addressed: Leviticus 19:3, 17–18 and 34. The sequence of these verses seems to indicate a step-by-step widening of that scope: from awe of and respect for one’s parents (Lev 19:3), to love of one’s “neighbor” (Lev 19:18), to love toward a stranger who “sojourns with you” (Lev 19:34).4 Consequently one may claim that the scope of applicability question is already crucial for the Holiness Code itself or, in the words of Jack Milgrom, that the “dynamic catalyst that turns H’s view of the Lord’s covenant from a static picture into one of ux is its concept of holiness. For H the ideal of holiness is not only embodied in a limited group (priests), animals (sacrices), and space (sanctuary) but affects all who live on God’s land: persons and animals, Israel and the ger (sojourner)”. Milgrom thus discerns in Leviticus 19 signs of “mobility” and “moving boundaries”, and sees the view of holiness presented

4 See B. A. Levine, Leviticus; The Jewish Publication Society Torah Commentary, Philadelphia 1989, 129–131. Cf. Jub 7:20–21.

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there as “a dynamic concept” that “breaks apart” the static picture of holiness propagated by the priestly source (P).5 The tension persists, however, even within a smaller unit of the text that includes Leviticus 19:18 and two preceding verses. Here a variety of both desirable and undesirable attitudes (love, revenge, hatred, justice, violence, reproof ) is attested, as well as a variety of designations of the “other”:  ,  ,  , , , ,  (neighbor, brother, next of kin, citizen, one belonging to your people, stranger; LXX:   ,  , ,  , ,   , —the LXX translates both  and  as ).6 It seems that this multiplicity of descriptions of the “other” bears witness to a specic problem existing already on the level of the biblical passage itself—namely, a question that is fundamental to this unit or, as suggested above, even to the Holiness Code as a whole: What are the limits of applying the admonition of Leviticus 19:17–18?7 The beginning of Leviticus 19:18 (“ -  -   - ”, “you shall not take vengeance or bear any grudge against your own people”) establishes an intrinsic connection between the call to love one’s neighbor and the issue of vengeance. It may also point to a different standard in regard to other nations. Moreover, the choice of verbs here is identical with the one in Nahum 1:2, where the enemies of the Lord seem to be equated with the (political) enemies of Israel: “'       ” (“the Lord wreaks vengeance on his adversaries and harbors wrath/bears a grudge toward his enemies”). All this seems to bring the “enemies” into the picture, again already on the level of the

5 J. Milgrom, ‘The Changing Concept of Holiness in the Pentateuchal Codes with Emphasis on Leviticus 19’, in: J. F. A. Sawyer (ed.), Reading Leviticus; A Conversation with Mary Douglas, Shefeld 1996, 70–72. Cf. the opposing views expressed in the same volume in the course of discussion (ibid., 80–83). See also J. Milgrom, Leviticus 17–22, Anchor Bible, New York 1991–2001, 1596–1602. 6 On this tension between different designations of the “other”, see also G. J. Wenham, The Book of Leviticus: The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, Grand Rapids 1979, 269 (it seems to have been reected later in Hillel’s paraphrase of the commandment in b. Shab. 31a). In some exegetical elaborations of the love-versushatred issue, the hatred toward one’s brother was presented as a particularly heinous disposition. Thus, unlike the Peshitta version of the story of Cain and Abel, which speaks, following the Hebrew, of Cain’s anger and his being displeased, A Syriac Life of Abel places emphasis on Cain’s hatred toward his brother. See S. Brock, ‘A Syriac Life of Abel’, Le Muséon 87 (1974), 472. And, of course, the brothers’ hatred for Joseph greatly troubled early Jewish exegetes; see J. L. Kugel, Traditions of the Bible; A Guide to the Bible as It Was at the Start of the Common Era, Cambridge, Mass. 1998, 438. 7 See also Betz, Commentary, 302; Wenham, Leviticus, 269.


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biblical text itself. There has even been an attempt to argue that the commandment to love one’s neighbor was given in Leviticus 19:18 in terms of a specic interpretation—namely, one that expressly excludes enemies.8 Further on, the discussion will address a range of exegetical expositions on Leviticus 19:18 that try to restrict the application of the precept to one’s own community or, alternatively, widen it to include total outsiders and even enemies. New historical circumstances or a “new sensitivity” may condition those expositions—but, as tensions discerned in the biblical text in question suggest, not exclusively. Leviticus 19:17–18 seems to be one of those instances where exegetical traditions develop around the verse not only as a reection of new circumstances and ideas (“historicist” model) but, inter alia, as a result of a reading of the Bible (“formalist” model).9 It is this exegetical side, the early history of Leviticus 19:18 exegesis that this investigation focuses upon; it is in this context that the “enemy issue” will be addressed. Between “your enemy” and “one who hates you” Although, as was remarked in the previous paragraph, the question of “enemies” seems somehow to be present already in the Holiness Code itself, the words “enemy” and “enmity” do not appear there. In the beginning of Leviticus 19:17, however, there is a prohibition of hatred toward those of your own tribe: “You shall not hate your brother . . .” (  - ,     ). What, then, is the relation between hatred and enmity? The word “enemy/enemies” ( , LXX:   ) as well as such expressions as “treat with enmity” ( , LXX:  ) in most cases appear in the Bible in a context presupposing a war and an external (political) enemy of Israel and, by transference, of God himself, as, for example, in Exodus 15:6,9; Leviticus 26:25; Numbers 24:18; Deuteronomy 20:14; 1 Samuel 24:5; 1 Kings 8:44; Ezra 39:27; Psalms 56:10. This context often presupposes revenge, victory and salvation. There are


See U. Luz, Matthew 1–7, trans. W. C. Linss, Minneapolis 1989, 338–346. Consequently, Luz sees Matt 5:43–44 as a clear expression of the author’s anti-Jewish (sic!) sentiment. 9 Terminology suggested in D. Boyarin, ‘ “Language Inscribed by History on the Bodies of Living Beings”: Midrash and Martyrdom’, Representations 25 (1989), 139, 151.

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also quite a few instances where God himself is presented as a party to the war waged, as an agent of the enmity. Here are three of them: (1) Exod 23:22:  -    (   !  ! ) (“I will be an enemy to your enemies”) (2) 2 Chr 20:29:    ' 

; (“The Lord has fought against the enemies of Israel”) (3) Lam 2:5 (!!!)        ("   ) (“The Lord has become like an enemy, he has destroyed Israel”) In the rst two cases the Lord ghts the battle of Israel; in the third the Lord is against Israel, it is as if he becomes an enemy. This last example will later be dealt with separately. In contradistinction to the “enemy”, “one who hates you” in most cases in the biblical texts is not identied as belonging to a different tribal, ethnic or political entity. He is not an outsider but a sinful insider, one who hates righteousness and hence hates the Lord and the righteous ones (or the other way around). Thus we read—to quote only few examples—“Evil shall slay the wicked; and those who hate (LXX:  ) the righteous will be condemned”. (Ps 34:22[21]); “Should you help the wicked and love those who hate (#$) the Lord?” (2 Chr 19:2); “You who hate ( ,  ) the good and love ( , % ) the evil” (Mic 3:2). In some cases, however, these are righteous ones who hate evil: “men who are trustworthy and who hate a bribe ([]  ,  )” (Exod 18:21). At least in some instances, it seems clear that hatred signies an inner disposition rather than an action proper.10 In spite of the difference of meaning between “enemy” and “hater” suggested by the sources reviewed, this distinction is not unequivocal. Some cases bear witness to an overlap of meaning between the two notions. For example: (1) Ps 129:5: “May all who hate Zion (LXX:  ) be put to shame . . .” Here those who hate Zion are clearly enemies from outside. The same is true with regard to Ps 89:20–23 (21–24), where foes = enemies = those who hate ( == ) (  -   ).


See, for example, Deut 4:42; 19:4,6.


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(2) Exod 23:4–5: “If you meet your enemy’s ( ) (LXX:   ) ox or his ass going astray, you shall bring it back to him. If you see the ass of one who hates you ( ) (LXX:   ) lying under its burden, you shall refrain from leaving him with it, you shall help him to lift it up”. Enemy here is “one who hates”. This enemy does not seem to belong to another ethnic or political entity, he is not one against whom war is waged. As the last example clearly demonstrates, the difference between the two notions becomes even more blurred in the LXX, where   occasionally stands for both “hateful” and “enemy”. An instructive later tannaitic evidence of a similar blurring of the distinction is found in m. Sanh. 3:5: “. . . an enemy is he who has not spoken to his neighbor (sic!) for three days”. Early witnesses for the exegesis of Leviticus 19:18 Ben Sira In a passage from Ben Sira (about 185 b c e) we read: Wrath and anger are loathsome things, which the sinful person has for its own (i.e., these are qualities of the sinners). The vengeful will suffer the Lord’s vengeance, for he remembers their sins . . . Should a person nourish anger against another, and expect healing from the Lord? Should a person refuse mercy to a man like himself . . . If one who is but esh cherishes wrath, who will forgive his sins? Remember your last day, set enmity ( ) aside . . . Think of the commandments, hate not your neighbor. (Ben Sira 27:33–28:9)11

The expressions set in bold type indicate, to my mind, that the fragment is an (early) exegetical exposition of Leviticus 19:17–18. One is forbidden to harbor wrath and anger or to seek vengeance (with reference to the beginning of Lev 19:18:  -   - ) or to hate (Lev 19:17:  - )—with an exegetic collation between “your brother” from the beginning of Leviticus 19:17 and “your neighbor” from the second part of Leviticus 19:18. The emphasis here is on the interpretation of kamokha (“as yourself ”) as “one who is but esh” exactly like you. Justice demands that one treat his fellow men with tolerance, as their 11


The English translation is from The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha,

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shortcomings are of the same kind as his. God is presented here as the guarantor of justice (Lev 19:18: “. . . I am the Lord!”): if one does not comply, God will deal with him on the Day of Judgment—coinciding in Ben Sira 27–28 with the person’s departure from this world—with the same intolerance he now treats his neighbor. This exegetical tendency characterizes some additional traditions dating from the Second Temple period too (i.e., 2 En 61:2: “As a person makes a request from the Lord for his own soul, in the same manner let him behave toward every living soul”). It is also attested in later rabbinic sources; according to the saying ascribed by Abot De-Rabbi Nathan (B, 53) to the mid-rst century c e R. Hanina: “If you hate your neighbor whose deeds are wicked like your own, I, the Lord, will punish you as your judge; and if you love your neighbor whose deeds are good as your own, I, the Lord, will . . . . have mercy on you”. (cf. Matt 6:14–15; Luke 6:37–38). This feeling of basic human solidarity ( your neighbor is in fact like you, and his weaknesses are the same as yours, so you have no reason at all to hate him or to despise him) and the exegetical trend connected with it have been thoroughly studied.12 Their role in widening the scope of application of Leviticus 19:18 has also been duly emphasized. It is worth noting, however, that in Ben Sira the neighbor in question seems to be one of our own kind—sinner, yes, but not a “hard-core” enemy, not one who persecutes you and, of course, not an enemy from outside.13 Another exegetical tendency is attested in the Targums: “Love (be kind) to your fellow man: what you dislike, do it not unto him” (Tg Yer. I on Lev 19:18). The Targum interprets kamokha (as yourself ) from Leviticus 19:34 as in the same way. This particular exegesis, which establishes a connection between the Torah precept and the Golden Rule, deals with the substance of the demand to love your neighbor as you love yourself without addressing the question of the scope of its application.14 The same stance is ascribed to Jesus in the Gospels. Admittedly, unlike in the Targum, Jesus’ saying “whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them” is quoted in Matthew 7:12 12 See D. Flusser, ‘A New Sensitivity in Judaism and the Christian Message’, in: idem, Judaism and the Origins of Christianity, Jerusalem 1988, 477. 13 It may be argued that the Lev 19:18 “neighbor” (  ) originally referred to the person living “next door”, and the whole issue here was that of “good/bad neighbor” in the social sense. Therefore, LXX  already “universalizes” and “spiritualizes” the neighbor. See Betz, Commentary, 304–305. 14 See also Tob 4:14–15. For further examples, see Kugel, Traditions, 756.


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as if detached from its exegetical context—“love your fellow man” is omitted. However, this context is clearly indicated by the statement that immediately follows: “For this is [the meaning of ] the Torah and the Prophets”. In Luke 6:31 the exegetical context of the maxim is restored (see discussion below). The problem of dating targumic traditions is a complicated one, and we cannot go into that problem here. There are, however, sufcient reasons to believe that the tradition, which found its way into a Palestinian Targum, is an early one—the above New Testament evidence clearly indicates that. Moreover, a similar kind of exegesis is attested already in the book of Jubilees, where the wording seems to indicate that the problem of the scope of application of Leviticus 19:18 is taken into consideration: And among yourselves, my sons, be loving of your brothers as a man loves himself, with each man seeking for his brother what is good for him, and acting together on the earth, and loving each other as themselves. ( Jub 36:4)

Pseudepigrapha A number of passages from Pseudepigrapha bear witness to one more pattern of thought presented in an exegetical connection with Leviticus 19:18. According to the Testament of Benjamin, through undivided love toward the righteous and toward the sinner, the pious man overcomes the evil in the sinner: . . . he is merciful to all, even though they may be sinners. And even if persons plot against him for evil ends, by doing good this man conquers evil, being watched over by God. (. . .) And if your mind is set towards good, even evil men will be at peace with you and . . . will respect you and will turn back to the good. (T. Benj. 4:2f; 5:1)15

Another passage from the Testament of Benjamin has a distinctly polemic avor as regards the interpretation of Leviticus 19:18: The good set of mind does not talk from both sides of its mouth . . .; but it has one disposition . . . toward all men . . .; whatever it does, or speaks . . .,

15 The English quotations from Pseudepigrapha are from: J. H. Charlseworth (ed.), The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, New York 1983. See H. W. Hollander and M. De Jonge, The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs; A Commentary, Leiden 1985, 424. For further examples and for the role of reproach in preventing not only the sin of the sinner but also the hatred toward the sinner, see Kugel, Traditions, 752–756.

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it knows that the Lord is watching over its life . . . the works of Beliar are twofold, and have in them no integrity. (T. Benj. 6:5f )

How far-reaching is this polemical attitude? Is it dictated also by the hope to reform/convert sinners? Does it, in contradistinction to passages from the Targum and Ben Sira quoted above, include not only sinners but also “hard-core” enemies? We may not be able to reach a denitive answer to these questions.16 Let us notice, however, that had, say, persecutors, those “haters from outside”, been included, the position taken by the Testament would have meant readiness for martyrdom.17 A number of pseudepigraphic compositions from the Second Temple period bear witness to another exegetic tendency—namely, a tendency to collate two “love commandments”, those of Deuteronomy 6:5 (“you shall love the Lord your God”) and of Leviticus 19:18 (“you shall love your neighbor”) in a kind of summary of one’s religious obligations.18 This tendency, attested also in the New Testament, is briey addressed in the second part of this chapter but, as noted, is dealt with more extensively in Chapter 3. Qumran An important piece of Leviticus 19:18 exegesis is found in the Damascus Document: And concerning the saying, You shall not take vengeance on the children of your people, nor bear any rancor against them (Lev 19:18), if any other member of the Covenant accuses his companion (, neighbor) without rst rebuking him before witnesses; if he denounces him in the heat of his anger or reports him to his elders to make him look contemptible, he is one that takes vengeance and bears rancor, although it is expressly written, He (God) takes vengeance upon his adversaries and bears rancor against his enemies (Nah 1:2). If he holds his peace towards him from one day to another, and thereafter speaks of him in the heat of his anger, he testies against himself concerning a capital matter because he has not fullled the commandment of God which tells him: You shall rebuke your companion (neighbor) and not be burdened with sin because of him (Lev 19:17). (CD 9: 2–8; 4Q270 Frag. 6, 3:16–21)


The issue was addressed in Betz, Commentary, 310–311 and note 876, there. See Flusser, ‘A New Sensitivity’, 489. 18 See, for example, Jub 36; T. Dan 5:3; T. Iss. 5:2, 7:6; T. Zeb. 5:1. For a discussion of the issue, see Flusser, Jesus, Jerusalem 2001, 88–90; Kugel, Traditions, 682–683. 17


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Here Leviticus 19:17–18, considered as a unit, is being applied to the neighbor, who is one “of your people and a member of the Covenant”— namely, the elect, the members of the sect as opposed to the enemies, i.e., the outsiders. As far as the outsiders are concerned, the members of the community are called to follow the example of God, who does bear rancor against his enemies. They are commanded, however, not to try to actually take vengeance on the enemies but to leave it to God. The reference to Nahum 1:2 supports our suggestion that “enemies” were felt to be “present” in Leviticus 19:18 inter alia because of the verbs   , (take vengeance, bear a grudge), identical with those used in Nahum 1:2 in relation to enemies of God (= of Israel).19 Here, as elsewhere in the Scrolls,20 the biblical command of mutual love is restricted to the sons of light and is paralleled by the sectarian command of animosity toward the sons of darkness. It seems that, unlike Ben Sira, the exegesis in Qumran tended to interpret kamokha (as yourself ) in a restricting sense—namely, “one who belongs to your group of chosen ones (belonging to the same New Covenant)”. This community of the New Covenant now represents “Israel”, and the level of animosity toward the outsiders/persecutors is on a par with the animosity toward the enemies of biblical Israel. Still, a kind of dissent, a reservation of sorts, is also voiced in the Scrolls. There is that rather skeptical appraisal of the unredeemed human nature/esh: it turns out that even the elect can be saved only by the undeserved grace of God.21 Another departure from that clearcut dichotomy between love for your own (those who are like yourself ), on the one hand, and animosity toward outsiders, branded as enemies, on the other, may be discerned in the famous Qumranic concept of delayed vengeance. So in the Community Rule we read: I will pay to no man the reward of evil; I will pursue him with goodness. For judgment of all the living is with God and it is he who will render to man his reward . . . I will not grapple with the men of perdition until the Day of Revenge, but my wrath shall not turn from the men of falsehood and I will not rejoice until judgment is made. (IQS 10:17–20)22

19 See the discussion of the tensions in the biblical text of the Holiness Code at the beginning of this chapter. 20 See 1QS 1:6, 9–11; I deal with this passage at length in Chapter 3. 21 See, e.g., 1QH 5:8; 1QS 9. 22 Cf. IQS 9:21ff; Rom 12:19–21.

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It may be clearly seen that although vengeance is suspended, there is still a strong desire for it to be wrought in the future.23 I would like, however, to emphasize another characteristic aspect of this suspendedretaliation attitude attested in the Scrolls: God himself is presented as one who tolerates (maybe even lends support to) the evil world order for the present. God is, seemingly, behind those who hurt and persecute his chosen ones. This religious outlook, found, as highlighted above, also elsewhere in earlier Jewish sources (Lam 2:5), is articulated with particular force in the Scrolls and will be particularly important for our further discussion. Philo A reference to Leviticus 19:17–18 may be discerned in Hypothetica 7.8: “. . . no unjust scales, no false measurements, no fraudulent coinage (a reference to Lev 19:35) . . . the secrets of a friend must not be divulged in enmity (& '    ( —i.e., after a quarrel, when friends become enemies)”.24 With Philo, however, the admonition seems to represent neither an issue of central importance nor an especially strongly held belief. Elsewhere Philo claims quite convincingly that “those whom we call our kinsfolk or within the circle of kinsmen our friends are turned into aliens by their misconduct when they go astray. For agreement to practice justice and every virtue makes a closer kinship than that of blood, and he who abandons this enters in the list not only of strangers and foreigners but of mortal enemies” (Spec. Leg. III, 155).25 It should be emphasized that the “enemies” in both cases are not external ones, but “friends turned enemies”. Admittedly, topoi of the Hellenistic ethics of friendship and brotherly love may be discerned in Philo’s thought;26 but at the same time the fact that he presents the discussion of these issues as an elaboration on Leviticus 19:17–18 seems to bear witness to certain internal developments in Jewish biblical exegesis.

23 For a discussion of the variety of attitudes in the Essene movement and on its fringes, see Flusser, ‘A New Sensitivity’, 469–489. 24 The English quotations from Philo throughout this book are according to the Loeb Classical Library edition. Lev 19:16 is addressed in Spec. Leg. IV (LCL, vol. 8), 183, n. 188. Cf. Josephus, Against Apion 2:207. See also Kugel, Traditions, 767. 25 Trans. F. H. Colson, LCL. 26 See H. D. Betz, ‘On Brotherly Love ((  )’, in: idem (ed.), Plutarch’s Ethical Writings and Early Christian Literature, Leiden 1978, 231–263.


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Early rabbinic Midrash Some traditions ascribed to sages from the second century b c e to the rst century c e, are relevant to our discussion. Thus the Talmud attributes to Hillel the following saying: “Whatever is hateful to you, do it not unto your fellow man. This is the essence of the Torah . . .” (b. Shab 31a). We have seen that this exegesis was part of the targumic tradition, already found in Jubilees, and that in the Gospels (Matt 7:12; Luke 6:31) Jesus also adopts this Golden Rule interpretation of Leviticus 19:18 (in its positive form, not unlike Jub 36:4)—one more indication of its early provenance. Later R. Aqiva would be counted among the most distinguished proponents of this high evaluation of Lev 19:18.27 In the Mishna tractate The Sayings of the Fathers a number of different tendencies may be discerned. One is a continuation of the trend found already in Ben Sira—namely, that if one does not wish to be judged severely by God, one had better not treat his fellow man as a sinner because, in this respect, as well as in others, his fellow man is exactly like himself. That attitude is suggested by Hillel’s maxim in m. Abot 2:3: “Judge not your neighbor lest you nd yourself in his place”.28 The same sentiment is expressed in Matthew 7:1–3: “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged”, etc. The latter exegetical emphasis may be seen as a distinctive mark of the emerging new religious sensitivity of the Second Commonwealth.29 Being good, righteous, virtuous or just—these are attributes that belong only to God, while one shares with his fellow humans imperfection and an inclination to sin. God is just and benevolent, he causes the sun to rise and sends blessed rain to the just and unjust alike. This last sub-motif, attested in the New Testament (Matt 5:44–47), resurfaces later in b. Taan. 7a, where for this reason the day of rainfall is said to better express God’s benevolence than does the day of resurrection (when only the just will return to life). I would argue that although in this rabbinic context, as well as in fragments from Ben Sira and 2 Enoch discussed above, the scope of the application of Leviticus 19:18 is widened to include a fellow man who is a sinner, (external) enemies are not referred to. 27

See Sifra, Qedosh., Par. 2, ch. IV. This is the reading suggested, inter alia, in Flusser, Jesus, 85. The alternative one is: “. . . until you nd yourself in his place”. 29 See Flusser, ‘A New Sensitivity’, 469–489. 28

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There is, however, a distinctive development in early rabbinic tradition, one that does address the issue of mortal enemies—those who cause death and destruction. This time—a development characteristic of the Second Temple period—it is an internal destruction, the loss of the soul, of the world to come. In this context instead of an enemy proper we are dealing with one who incites to sin. Moreover, according to m. Abot a man may lose his soul in hell (after death) because of those fellow human beings, who are closest to him—e.g., his wife (1:5) and maybe even his neighbor (1:7), a sentiment also attested in the Gospels, e.g., Matthew 10:34–37. Both emphases—that on the soul/sin/hell and that on bringing the agent of destruction inside the intimate circle of a person’s existence—may be seen as expressions of the process of internalization.30 One may see Matthew 10 as an expression of the same development. Here Jesus rst speaks about future persecutions, with kings, governors and Gentiles in general as natural enemies (with a telling addition of the synagogue authorities in verse 23!); but then he says (10:28): “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell”. Further on, however, he switches to a man’s immediate family (10:36): “And a man’s foes will be those of his own household/)(  (   *  +))(  .” Another witness to this process of internalization and its polemical character may be found in the Passover Haggadah, an early version of which is believed to have been composed either right after the destruction of the Temple or close to the time of the Bar Kokhba revolt.31 Laban, Jacob’s father-in-law, is presented here as the ultimate enemy, worse even than Pharaoh. For all its importance, however, this development cannot account for a call to love one’s enemies; and it is not presented in the midrashic sources as an exegesis of Leviticus 19:18.

30 A later stage of this process was discussed in G. Stroumsa, ‘Internalization and Intolerance in Early Christianity’, in: idem, Barbarian Philosophy; The Religious Revolution of Early Christianity, Tübingen 1999, 86–99. 31 See a discussion in S. Pines, ‘On the Metamorphoses of the Notion of Freedom (herut)’, Iyyun 33 (1984), 247–265 (in Hebrew).


chapter two The exegesis of Leviticus 19:18 in the Epistle of Aristeas and its later modications

Let us consider now a peculiar trajectory in the exegesis of Leviticus 19:18, the earliest example of which is provided by The Epistle of Aristeas, its most probable dating being 2nd century b c e (suggestions range from the 2nd century b c e to the 1st century c e).32 According to David Flusser, key instances of the Jewish delegates’ speeches in the composition bear witness to a Palestinian tradition adapted to the situation and integrated into the general Hellenistic framework of the Ep. Arist.33 It is my opinion that there are quite a few passages of this kind in the Ep. Arist. that may be plausibly explained as exegetical expositions of Leviticus 19:18. Moreover, as will be seen immediately, here, unlike in most of the sources discussed above, not simply fellow men (neighbors) or even sinners, but real hard-core enemies are the issue. Two kinds of enemies are mentioned in the Ep. Arist. First, there are external enemies, those with whom the state is at war; in this case a truce is recommended, because a truce granted by God—unlike deploying great forces and going into battle—does bring conicts to a lasting conclusion (193–194). Second, there are internal enemies—namely, individuals guilty of serious crimes or those whose acts may put the state in jeopardy from within. In this case, too, the Jewish sages implore the king to adopt a lenient and humane attitude, basing their advice on an existing interpretation of kamokha (as yourself = as you yourself would like to be treated): Insofar as you do not wish evils to come upon you, but to partake of every blessing, [it would be wisdom] if you put this into practice with your subjects, including the wrongdoers, and if you admonished the good and upright also mercifully (207).

According to Flusser, the Jewish sages’ advice concerning the treatment of “enemies of the state” bears witness to an early stage in the development of what may be called religiously motivated Jewish humanism.

32 For the Greek text, see H. St. J. Thackeray, ‘The Letter of Aristeas’, in: H. B. Swete, An Introduction to the Old Testament in Greek, Cambridge 1914, 531–606. The translation used below is that by R. J. H. Shutt, from Charlesworth, OT Pseudepigrapha. 33 D. Flusser, ‘Love the Human Beings! A Note on the History of Jewish Humanism’, in: idem, Judaism of the Second Temple Period; Sages and Literature, Jerusalem 2002, 146–150 (in Hebrew). The study rst appeared in Russian translation in Vestnik: International Journal of Jewish Studies in Russian 1 (1999), 194–201.

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Now, the topos of leniency was standard in the ethos recommended to Hellenistic rulers, an important topic in Greek and Roman political ethics.34 But again, what is of greater interest to us here is not the source of the idea but the fact and the ways of its inner-Jewish adaptation to exegesis of Leviticus 19:18.35 The sages’ advice is backed by the claim that God himself is merciful; moreover, the hope is expressed that by acting mercifully the king will be able to reform the wrongdoers—again, as noted above, a motif attested elsewhere in early Jewish exegesis of Leviticus 19:18:36 King : How can one keep his kingdom without offence to the end? Answer: You would administer it best by imitating the eternal goodness of God. By using long-suffering and treatment of those who merit [punishment] more leniently than they deserve, you will convert them from evil and bring them to repentance (187–188) . . . so that it is your duty neither to inict punishments easily nor to submit men to torments, knowing that the life of mankind is constituted in pain and punishment . . . you will be inclined to mercy, even as God is merciful (207).

In yet another passage, ending with a reference to the Greek ideal of  , the question of the scope of applicability of the loveyour-neighbor precept and of the true meaning of kamokha (as yourself ) is explicitly addressed—italicized remarks in parentheses indicate what I see as instances of exegetical reference to Leviticus 19: King : To whom must a man be generous? Answer : It is a man’s duty [to be generous] toward those who are amicably disposed to us (Lev 19:18: kamokha = as he treats you). This is the general opinion. My belief is that we must [also] show liberal charity to our opponents so that in this manner we may convert them to what is proper and tting to them. You must pray God that these things be brought to pass, for he rules the minds of all (Lev 19:18: “I am the Lord ” ). King: To whom must one show favor? Answer : To his parents, always, for God’s very great commandment (Lev 19:3 and, of course, Ex 20:12,) concerns the honor due to parents. Next [and closely connected] he [God] reckons the honor due to friends, calling the friend an equal of one’s own self ( ,-./ 01 2341 0./ 567./; kamokha = one who is like you) You do well to bring all men into friendship with yourself (227–228).

34 I am thankful to Hans Dieter Betz for drawing my attention to this fact. See also the discussion of Philo’s exegesis above. 35 Cf. the discussion above of the Targum exegesis of Lev 19:18 and of Hillel’s saying reported in the Talmud. 36 See the discussion above of T. Benj. 4:2f; 5:1.


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In addition to trends attested elsewhere in Ep. Arist. and discussed above (such as the hope to overcome evil with good, bring the evildoers to repentance), this passage bears witness to a number of important exegetical features: (1) It sees Leviticus 19:18 as a step in the process of widening the circle of persons towards whom we are implored to “show liberal charity”—with the initial position being put forward in Leviticus 19:3 and the direction being set by Leviticus 19:34. (2) It points out the gap between the attitude of (interpretation suggested by) the masses— = as he treats you—and the “enlightened” understanding of Leviticus 19:18:  = who is one like you (with an additional reference to Deut 13:7:    = your friend who is like your own self ).37 Ordinary people just cannot grasp it. (3) The mention of the necessity of appealing to God in order to change either the hearts of the opponents or your own disposition (the text is ambiguous) may indicate a midrashic elaboration on the Leviticus 19:18 ending: “I am the Lord!”38 The emphasis on the gap between the “unaware” masses and the wise king, as well as the call to follow the example of God Almighty who is benevolent, highlight the particular feature of the exegetical trend rst attested in the Ep. Arist.: Leviticus 19:18 is presented here as “designed” for the ruling authority. It is the ruling authority that has to deal with both the external enemies and the “enemies of the state”, and it is this ruling authority that is requested to renounce revenge and act leniently. The motif of the renunciation of revenge by the powerful should seemingly be considered as a type of its own, distinguished—in the history of the love-your-enemy precept—from the motif of the nonviolence of the powerless.39 We have seen that in its attempt to give credence to the non-obvious wisdom of humanism the Ep. Arist. employs a variety of different and seemingly independent arguments: God’s benevolence, practical considerations, hope to reform the evildoers and an elevated standard of demands addressed to the elite. 37

Cf. Exod 23:9. Cf. Sir 17:14; 18:13: “The compassion [or ‘love’ ] of man is for his neighbor, but the compassion [or ‘love’ ] of the Lord is for all living beings”. 39 See L. Schottroff, ‘Non-Violence and the Love of One’s Enemies’, in: L. Schottrof, R. G. Fuller, C. Burchard and M. J. Suggs, Essays on the Love Commandment, Philadelphia 1978, 9–39, esp. 18–22. Schottroff, however, saw the trend attested in Ep. Arist. as belonging exclusively to Hellenistic Judaism. 38

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Let us note one more distinctive feature of the recommended leniency toward criminals: the ruling authority is implored “neither to inict punishments easily nor to submit men to torments” (Ep. Arist. 207, see above). It turns out that this was not an isolated case of exegetical fancy dictated by particular circumstances. The trend reappears later, mutatis mutandis, in the context of halakhic discussions on proper forms of execution. There is little doubt that those hard-core criminals who were sentenced to death were seen by many as enemies of humanity. Thus, for instance, Philo rationalizes, commenting on Deuteronomy 21:23: “And as it was necessary that the enemies of every part of the world after receiving their punishment would be hanged up and so displayed before the sun, the heavens, the air, the water and the earth” (Spec. Leg. III.152). However, according to Moshe Halbertal, certain halakhic developments during the tannaitic period seem to express the sentiment of a “liberal charity” of sorts toward those archenemies.40 For our present discussion it will sufce to mention that in some rabbinic sources this new halakhic tendency is presented as an exegetical elaboration of Leviticus 19:18: “Lo, it is said, “love your neighbor as yourself ”—hence you should choose for him a light death (form of execution)” (b. Sanh. 45a).41 In the tannaitic layer of the tradition, God himself is presented as one who feels sorry for executed criminals: “R. Meir said: at a time when a (hanged) man suffers, what is said about the Shekhina? So to say: I feel pain in my head, I feel pain in my arm” (m. Sanh. 6:5).42 Consequently, when the judges are called upon to show consideration and mercy, they are in fact called upon to follow God’s example. Both in Ep. Arist. and in the rabbinic sources in question the enemies toward whom the ruling authority is being especially exhorted to show mercy are “internal” ones, neighbors turned enemies. To sum up the discussion up to now, it has been suggested that the scope of applying Leviticus 19:17–18 constituted a problem already in the biblical text itself. The problem there was triggered/expressed, inter alia, by the multiplicity of terms for “another” employed in the passage (brother, next of kin, neighbor, etc.) and a transition from parents to

40 M. Halbertal, Interpretative Revolutions in the Making, Jerusalem 1997, 145–167 (in Hebrew). 41 See also b. Sanh. 52a. 42 See also Mek. de-R. Ishmael on Exod 15:2.


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neighbor to stranger in the wider context of the Holiness Code. The question of the proper attitude toward one’s enemies was recognized in some quarters of early Jewish exegesis as an intrinsic part of that problem—e.g., Philo, Qumran. A number of different exegetical developments have been reviewed. In some of them an attempt was made to restrict the scope of the application of Leviticus 19:18 to those of one’s own kind (kamokha = one who belongs to your group—e.g., the Qumranic Community Rule); in others the application was conditioned by the behavior of the “neighbor” (Philo, Spec. Leg.). In certain cases the anticipation of future punishment of the “outsiders” was an integral part of the exegesis (Qumran). Another tendency, attested in a number of Second Temple period and early rabbinic sources, emphasized the demand of an unconditioned liberal charity toward fellow men, based either on expectation of their change of heart or on the feeling of human solidarity, which was supposed to include even the sinners. This tendency was backed by a particular interpretation of kamokha: “another” is, in fact, “like you” (kamokha), both are sinners, and if one wants to be forgiven by God and enjoy his mercy and love, one should act in this fashion toward that other sinner. This is the tendency that has usually been presented as the Jewish background to the love-your-enemy command in the Gospels. I have suggested, however, that within this tendency—all possible gray areas notwithstanding (it may be claimed that in some instances there was even a readiness to forgive those who hurt you personally)—the problematic “neighbor” is mostly a sinner and not a hard-core enemy. A distinctive exegetical development has been discerned where real enemies, both external and internal (criminals), are the issue. It has been traced from the Epistle of Aristeas to tannaitic halakhic traditions, and we have seen that when trying to dene the proper attitude toward those hard-core enemies our sources appeal to Leviticus 19:18. The particular perception of what love toward the other means here (less severe torture or an easier death for the convict) may sound peculiar; but in any case enemies are clearly included here in the category of “neighbors”. It should be emphasized, however, that the Leviticus 19:18 exegesis of both the Epistle of Aristeas and the halakhic discussions is designed for the ruling authority and not for hurt or persecuted individuals or minorities. Here, as well as in the exegeses mentioned above, God is presented as kind and benevolent, and the ruler or the judges are called to follow his example. Hence the importance of the “I am the Lord” ending of Leviticus 19:18 for that kind of exegesis.

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It has been observed that in the Epistle of Aristeas the call to widen the scope of application of Leviticus 19:18 to include hard-core enemies is presented as a difcult one, one that is not obvious at all. Hence the emphasis on the gap in understanding between the wise king and the “commoners”. Moreover, in its attempt to give credence to the “strange wisdom” of unconditional love the composition employs—a feature observed also elsewhere in Leviticus 19:18 exegesis—a variety of different and not necessarily harmonized arguments. This multiplicity of arguments will serve as an important precedent when we turn to the exegetical elaboration of Leviticus 19:18 found in the Sermon on the Mount/Sermon on the Plain. And, nally, two more characteristic patterns of the Second Temple period religious thinking have been addressed in the foregoing part of our investigation: (1) There is an exegetical trend to collate two “love commandments” (Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18), thus creating an “ultimate summary” of one’s religious obligations—to be treated separately in Chapter 3. (2) According to some sources (e.g., Qumran, cf. Lam 2:5) God is presented as being behind the present acts of animosity against a chosen community, as backing the enemies or even becoming “like an enemy” himself. “Love Your Enemy” Precept in the Sermon on the Mount The investigation in the rst part of this chapter focused on a variety of exegetical trends from the Second Temple period, which concerned themselves with Leviticus 19:18.43 Special attention was paid to exegetical attempts to dene the scope of applicability of the love-yourneighbor precept, in particular attempts to widen the scope of Leviticus 19:18 to cover enemies also; characteristic features of the exegetical trends of this last kind were outlined. With this preparatory work done, we may now approach the discussion of the love-your-enemy precept in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5:44) and in its parallel in the Sermon on the Plain (Luke 6:35).

43 See also S. Ruzer, ‘From “Love Your Neighbor” to “Love Your Enemy”: Trajectories in Early Jewish Exegesis’, Revue Biblique 109 (2002), 371–389.


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As noted, while other opinions also have been expressed concerning the genre of the saying in Luke, there is general agreement regarding the precept in Matthew 5:44 as representing a midrashic interpretation of Leviticus 19:18. On the one hand, in both versions of the Sermon enmity or hatred is dened as the opposite of love. On the other, the enemies here are not simply sinful persons whom one may resent but real “hard-core” enemies, those who hurt one physically or rob one of his possessions (Matt 5:38–42). Many scholars believe that the origin of this particular exegetical elaboration on Leviticus 19:18 should be attributed to Jesus himself.44 Moreover, the maxim in Matthew 5:44/ Luke 6:35 has been traditionally perceived as belonging to the innovative core of Jesus’ teaching. The emphasis on the innovative character of the maxim notwithstanding, a number of evaluations have been raised regarding if not parallels then at least tendencies leading in this direction, as attested in early Jewish traditions—before and after Jesus.45 On the basis of the earlier discussion in this chapter, those evaluations will now be reconsidered.46 It will be shown that the exegetical strategy in the Sermon on the Mount/Sermon on the Plain, aiming at widening the scope of Leviticus 19:18 to cover enemies also, is characterized, like other attempts of that kind in early Jewish exegesis, by a variety of suggested and not necessarily harmonized reasons. An additional, previously overlooked, exegetical trajectory that might have led to the love-your-enemy exegesis both in the New Testament and in later rabbinic sources will also be outlined. A number of exegetical expositions on Leviticus 19:18 appear in the New Testament. In some of them attempts are made to dene the proper attitude toward one’s neighbor, or even the scope of the application of the precept, without addressing the issue of enemies/ persecutors at all.47 There are also, however, at least three instances


See note 3 above. For a bibliography, see Betz, Commentary, 294–296. Flusser, in the new English version of his book on Jesus, dedicates a whole chapter to the issue. See Flusser, Jesus, 81–92. 46 See also S. Ruzer, ‘ “Love Your Enemy” Precept in the Sermon on the Mount in the Context of Early Jewish Exegesis: A New Perspective’, Revue Biblique 111 (2004), 193–208. 47 See, for example, Matt 22:34–40, Mk 12:28–34, Luke 10:25–38. 45

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in the New Testament where an exegesis of Leviticus 19:(17–)18 is employed for the sake of dening the proper attitude toward one’s enemies—inter alia, deciding whether this attitude includes vengeance. One of these instances is found in Romans 12:9–20, where Paul seems to have adopted the exegetical line that characterized, as outlined in the rst part of this chapter, the Dead Sea Scrolls (see also discussion in Chapter 3). “You shall not hate your brother in your heart” (Lev 19:17) and “you shall not take vengeance . . . against the sons of your own people” (Lev 19:18) are interpreted by the apostle as a call to show kindness and affection toward those of one’s own, the members of the chosen group, “the brothers” (Rom 12:10,16). The “outsiders”, the enemies, the persecutors, are a different story: the admonition not to avenge yourself is accompanied by intense hope for the wreaking of vengeance by God himself in the future (Rom 12:19). It is worth noting that Paul refers here to Deuteronomy 32:35, which is part of a long passage giving a rather graphic description of God’s vengeful visitation on his (and Israel’s) enemies. One may wonder whether the ending of Leviticus 19:18 (“I am the Lord”) does not serve as an additional trigger to that kind of exegesis.48 Moreover, one’s patient suffering, devoid of elements of resistance or vengeance, is supposed to increase the enemies’ impending punishment (Rom 12:20).49 It is possible that in addition to this exegetical option Paul also employs here an alternative but no less traditional one—namely, that the evil ones will eventually be reformed by one’s good attitude (Rom 12:21).50 The question, however, remains unresolved, as the verse allows of another interpretation as well. The other two instances are found in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5:43–48) and in its parallel in the Sermon on the Plain (Luke 6:31–38)—it is these passages that henceforth will be of exclusive concern to us:

48 Biblical verses where “turning the other cheek” is recommended also point in this direction (anticipation of revenge): Lam 3:27,30; Prov 20:22; 24:29. 49 Cf. 2 Mac 7:13–18. 50 See the discussion of T. Benj. and Ep. Arist in the rst part of this chapter.


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Matt 5:43–48 43 “You have heard that it was said, —You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy”. 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Luke 6:31–38 31 And as you wish that men would do to you, do so to them. 32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the selsh. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. 37 “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38 give, and it will be given to you; 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”.

I am of the opinion that the reasoning propagated here in the Gospels differs considerably from that of Paul as expressed in Romans 12, although there have been attempts to harmonize the two positions.51 In any case, it is worth noting that the apostle does not claim that the attitude in question forms part of the kerygma.52 Whether or not we are dealing with a specically Qumranic inuence, Paul seems to use here what he himself considers a traditional motif, not unlike that attested in the Book of Proverbs: Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, . . . lest the Lord see it, and be displeased, and turn away his anger from him. (24:17–18). . . . If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; for you will heap coals of re on his head, and the Lord will reward you. (25:21–22)


See, for example, J. Rausch, ‘The Principal of Nonresistance and Love of Enemy in Matt 5, 38–48’, Catholic Biblical Quarterly 28 (1966), 31–41. 52 In contradistinction to the call for brotherly love among the members of the chosen group that is backed by a Christ-centered ecclesiology (Rom 12:5).

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It should be emphasized that in Matthew 5:43–48 (and Luke 6:31–38) the love-your-enemy issue is also addressed as completely divorced from the messianic theme; the absence of the latter is commonly considered to be an outstanding feature of the Sermon. One may venture to suggest, therefore, that the diversity of solutions for the problem attested in the New Testament bears witness not only to the complex history of the early Christian tradition but also, maybe mostly, to the acuteness of the “enemy issue” in the wider milieu of Second Temple Judaism. Neither the complex history of the Sermon on the Mount/Plain (SM/ SP) tradition53 nor the question whether the love-your-enemy precept may with sufcient certainty be traced back to Jesus himself can be the subject of discussion here.54 Matthew 5:43–48 and Luke 6:31–38 will be treated as two similar, but still different, expressions of the same exegetical trend, striving to widen the scope of applicability of Leviticus 19:18 beyond the commonplace “brother” and “good neighbor”. In both instances the love precept is discussed in its antagonistic connection with vengeance, which is the issue at the beginning of Leviticus 19:18. In the SM the context of Matthew 5:43–48 is clearly exegetical, as it is for the whole sequence of antitheses in Matthew 5; as argued in Chapter 1, every antithesis in the sequence is presented by the gospel writer as an elaboration on a biblical verse or group of verses. In Luke the exegetical structure of the Sermon as a whole is not that obvious, which caused some scholars to believe that in the case of the SP the love-your-enemy precept appears in the context of general moral teaching detached from biblical exegesis. However, in spite of the exclusion of some exegetical elements from the SP version of the Sermon, important remnants of exegetical structure may still be discerned. It can be suggested that such a remnant is found in Luke 6:31: “And as

53 See Betz, Commentary, 1–50. A number of scholars have argued that the command to love one’s enemies (as well as the Golden Rule) points to the Q-source. See, for example, G. Strecker, ‘Compliance—Love of One’s Enemy—The Golden Rule’, Australian Biblical Review 29 (1981), 38–46, esp. 39; D. Flusser, ‘The Synagogue and the Church in the Synoptic Gospels’, in: S. Notley, M. Turnage and B. Becker (eds.), Jesus’ Last Week, Leiden 2006, 17–40. 54 See W. Klassen, ‘The Authenticity of the Command: “Love Your Enemies” ’, in: B. D. Chilton and C. A. Evans (eds.), Authenticating the Words of Jesus, Leiden 1999, 385–407.


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you want that others would treat you, so you should treat them”. This seems to be an interpretation of kamokha (as yourself ) from Leviticus 19:18, belonging to a trend attested elsewhere in early Jewish sources, discussed above. Telling uctuations between positive and negative formulations of this precept may be discerned in different traditions. However, since the focus of this study is on the exegetical attempts to widen the scope of Leviticus 19:18 to include enemies and not on the exact nature of the kind attitude one is supposed to show to one’s enemies, these uctuations, which constitute a separate and much debated issue will not be discussed here. As observed, the same precept, known as the Golden Rule, appears also further on in the SM (Matt 7:12), where, unlike the elaboration in Matthew 5:43–48, it is detached from the exegesis of Leviticus 19:18. In Luke 6:31, conversely, the precept seems to provide the much-needed exegetical link between the biblical text and the love-your-enemy command: Love your enemy not (only) because he is like you in the eyes of benevolent God, but (also) because that is the attitude you would like to get from him (instead of his habitual enmity). It is possible that this reects, inter alia, a difference in the concrete situation to which the redactors of SM and SP respectively react.55 What interests us, however, is that the SP bears witness to a different (unlike SM) exegetical procedure: extending the scope of the Leviticus 19:18 application by evoking a Hillel-type interpretation of kamokha (as yourself ). On the other hand, the SM version as it now stands does not relate to kamokha at all.56 In Matthew 5:46–47, as everywhere in the SM, the recommended exegetic option is presented as a polemic against conventional assumptions. The same line of reasoning may be discerned in Luke 6:32–34. A number of suggestions have been made as to who Jesus’ exegetical opponents here could be, and Qumran exegetes are among the candidates discussed in this context (more on this in Chapter 3).57 Whatever the case, this polemical aspect clearly represents a continuation of the tendency observed earlier in The Epistle of Aristeas. There is also, however, an important difference, which is obviously due to the difference


See Betz, Commentary, 312. The possibility of the priority of Luke in this particular instance is a complex issue and is beyond the scope of this investigation. 57 For a review of Qumranic parallels for the use of   in Matt 5:43–44 see G. Molin, “Matthäus 5,43 und das Schrifttum von Qumran”, in Bibel und Qumran, Berlin 1968, 150–152. See also Flusser, Jesus, 93–103. 56

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of situation: in place of the emphasis of the Ep. Arist. on the gap in understanding/perception between the common folk and the wise king, we nd in the Gospels indignation at the “way of sinners, Gentiles and tax collectors” (Matt 5:46–47; Luke 6:33). Another common traditional feature of the SM and SP versions is to present God’s benevolence toward the whole of mankind as an argument for the love-your-enemies precept: the listeners/readers are implored to follow God’s example (Matt 5:48; Luke 6:35–36).58 One wonders if this argument was perhaps perceived in the original context of the Sermon as a midrashic elaboration on the Leviticus 19:18 ending (“I am the Lord”)—in a similar manner to Ep. Arist. 227–228 discussed above. In contradistinction to the Epistle Aristeas, however, the important parallel between God and benevolent ruler is absent in the Gospels. The context of the saying in both SM and SP clearly indicates that we are not dealing here with advice to a ruler/ruling authority: “But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also . . . But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt 5:39, 44; cf. Luke 6:35). God is perceived here as benevolent to the evil ones who persecute a minority—not to the people who disobey the rules established by those in power. It turns out that in the SM/SP tradition a variety of different reasons for renunciation of revenge and/or love for enemies is being put forward: in addition to the call to follow the example of God’s benevolence (an exegetical move that may refer to the ending of Leviticus 19:18, “I am the Lord”), there are also other arguments used in the Sermon. According to one line of thinking, one should treat his enemy, as he would like that enemy to treat him (Luke 6:31). Still one more avenue, observed already in Ben Sira and, later, in Hillel’s teaching, is indicated in Luke 6:37: Do not judge others lest you be judged sternly (by God) (cf. Matt 6:12, 14–15; Luke 11:4). These two arguments seem to presuppose both basic human solidarity and hope for reforming the opponent. As we have seen, this kind of variety of arguments, having


For a discussion of possible avenues of exegetical developments leading from the Holiness Code command “You shall be holy; for I the Lord your God am holy” (Lev 19:2) to the SM/SP command “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt 5:48) or “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36); see L. Sabourin, ‘Why God Is Called “Perfect” in Matt 5:48’, Biblische Zeitschrift 24 (1938/1939), 266–268.


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accumulative effect, also characterizes some other texts (e.g., Ep. Arist., T. Benj.) discussed in the rst part of this chapter. One may say that both tendencies—to emphasize basic human solidarity in weakness on the one hand and to speak of God’s benevolence toward humanity on the other—feature prominently in early Jewish exegetical thinking with regard to Leviticus 19:18. The relevance of these tendencies for understanding the New Testament love-your-enemy command has been once again highlighted by David Flusser. According to Flusser, the emphasis should be on Matthew 5:45, with its picture of a blessed rain sent benevolently by God to all the inhabitants of the earth.59 However, the plurality of arguments put forward in the Gospels may indicate insufciency—from the point of view of Jesus? the compiler? the redactor?—of any one of the arguments taken alone. The argument from God’s example would seemingly work better on a powerful ruler (as in Ep. Arist.) than on a persecuted minority.60 On the other hand, the arguments of basic human solidarity or hope for the opponents’ repentance cannot be readily applied when the opponents in question are not simply “sinners” but persecutors, “hard-core” enemies. Thus the arguments of God’s benevolent example and of human solidarity, even combined, cannot fully account for the dramatic exegetical development attested in the SM/SP tradition. It will be suggested that as far as the multifaceted background of the New Testament love-your-enemy command is concerned there is in fact at least one more exegetical factor to be considered, a factor that up to now has not received sufcient attention in the research. Let us go back to an already mentioned feature of the exegetical elaboration on Leviticus 19:18 found in the Sermon—namely, the sharp distinction made between the morals of “sinners, tax-collectors and Gentiles” (Matt 5:46–47; Luke 6:33) and the religious imperative addressed to the true followers of Jesus. Both similarity to and difference from an attitude attested in the Ep. Arist. were duly emphasized above. Further comparison between the SM and SP versions shows that in contradistinction to the Ep. Arist., where the gap in wisdom between the king and the simple folk was the issue, what distinguishes


Flusser, Jesus, 81–92. For an updated discussion of the SM/SP Sitz im Leben see Klassen, ‘Authenticity of the Command’, 385–407. 60

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the two categories of persons in the New Testament is, inter alia, their understanding of just reward. In fact, “reward” (8   ) is the key term here: “For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors (further: the Gentiles) do the same?” (Matt 5:46). Those belonging to the negative category are alternatively branded as “Gentiles” (Matt 5:47: , B, D and Z) or “sinners” (Luke 6:32–34).61 It seems that the line of reasoning attested in Matthew 5:46 stands for an independent argument, one that is not connected to the argument of God’s benevolence. Let us notice that this demand to forsake the considerations of immediate reward strongly resembles that of an early 2nd century b c e sage Antigonos of Sokho. A saying, attributed to him in the Mishnah, runs as following: “Be not like servants who serve the master on condition of receiving a reward, but be like servants who serve the master not on condition of receiving a reward. And let the awe of God be upon you” (m. Abot 1:3). One is not supposed to be like those (in the Gospels, sinners, Gentiles, tax collectors; in the Mishnah, “unworthy servants”) whose attitude and behavior are conditioned by expectations of immediate (earthly?) reward. In the case of m. Abot, however, the attitude toward God was the issue; in the SM/SP it is the attitude toward other men. It is worth noting that at least according to the Pharisaic understanding of Antigonos’ maxim, a better reward awaits later those who are ready to serve God unconditionally on this earth.62 In like fashion those who are ready to forget considerations of reward/reciprocity in their dealings with their fellow men are encouraged by the SM/SP that a better reward (   ) is in store for them (Matt 5:12, 46–47; Luke 6:32–35, esp. 6:35).63 The appearance of parallel demands to forsake considerations of reward—on the one hand from God, on the other from fellow men— might have been nourished, inter alia, by the tradition that had brought together two love commandments: Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18. It has been suggested that the double love command pattern was

61 For a discussion of the SM/SP particular choice of negative examples here, see, e.g., Betz, Commentary, 319. 62 See, e.g., Abot R. Nat. 5, 1. The same idea, without reference to the saying of Antigonos, seems to be present in Abot R. Nat. 10, 1–2. 63 For a discussion on the “better reward” and, especially, on substituting 9 (Luke 6:33–34) for   (Matt 5:46) see E. M. Sidebottom, ‘ “Reward” in Matthew 5, v. 46, etc.’, Expository Times 67 (1955–1956), 219–220.


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a characteristic of the new religious sensitivity that took hold of certain trends in Judaism in the last centuries of the Second Temple period, as indicated by the Jewish composition “The Two Ways” incorporated into the Didache, as well as T. Dan. 5:3, T. Iss. 5:2, 7:6; cf. T. Zeb. 5:1 and Jub. 36:7f.64 In the following chapter, I srengthen this appraisal, showing that this pattern of thought also found its way into the Qumran community. Of course, the Synoptic gospels are among the important witnesses to that tendency (Matt 22:34–40; Mark 12:28–34; Luke 10:25–38).65 Whereas in its early phase, reected in the mishnaic saying attributed to Antigonos and in Jub. 36:7, no such distinction had been attested, from now on a differentiation was made between serving God out of awe (fear of just punishment) and serving God out of love for love’s own sake, irrespective of any considerations of reward-punishment. In the talmudic evidence, it is Abraham who characteristically features as a true Pharisee of love ( y. Ber 9,5 [14b]).66 However, man is an image of God, so within that new approach, collated with the double love command notion, man’s attitude toward fellow human beings is supposed to reect/mirror/bear witness to his attitude toward God. All this strengthens the suggestion that this kind of double love command pattern of thought, recorded elsewhere in the Gospels and seemingly part of the teaching of the historical Jesus, might have been also somehow present in the SM/SP tradition under discussion. If the suggestion is basically correct, an additional motif may be at work in the Sermon. As one is to be ready to relate to God without any expectations of reward or good treatment by God, this attitude is supposed to be mirrored in one’s relations with other men; one is thus admonished to love them irrespective of their attitude.67 Let me emphasize that “irrespective of their attitude” is an understatement here. Combined with the denial of vengeance (“an eye for an eye”) and the call to turn the other cheek, the solution in the


See Flusser, Jesus, 89–90. For a discussion on the authenticity of the commandment see, e.g., R. H. Fuller, ‘The Double Commandment of Love: A Test Case for the Criteria of Authenticity’, in: Essays on the Love Commandment, 41–56. 66 See Flusser, ‘A New Sensitivity’, 474. 67 Or, maybe, pray for those who hurt you, personally; see t. B. Qam. 9, 29–30; y. B. Qam. 9,4 [6d]. It is worth noting that biblical examples usually cited as precedents speak either of enemies who have repented (Gen 20:17), or of friends who have hurt you only by a lack of real empathy ( Job 42:10). 65

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Sermon may mean readiness for martyrdom.68 If God is presented as benevolent also to the evil ones—which in our context means to persecutors/enemies—he might be perceived as backing, at least to some extent (for the time being?), the deeds of those enemies. We have seen that this motif, expressed forcefully in Qumran, is attested also elsewhere, including the Bible itself, where on certain occasions God is said to have “become like an enemy” (Lam 2:5). Thus the existence of the double love command pattern of thought gives new life to the old—and persistent—biblical tendency to see enemies as agents of God, those who in fact carry out punishment ordained by the Lord.69 In the context of the SM/SP, however, it is not so much professing one’s sins and readiness for the teshuvah that is required, but rather loving acceptance of the predicament, which seems here to be (positively) transferred from God to his human agents.70 The idea of the death of martyrs as a means of either their own self-purication or atonement for sins of the people/members of the chosen community is found already in Pseudepigrapha, 2 Maccabees and Qumran.71 Here, however, we are dealing with a development in a different direction: the perception of God as one who brings suffering, and eventually even death, on someone not as a punishment but as a test of the person’s ability to go on loving his Creator even at those awful moments. It is well attested in early rabbinic literature, so m. Ber. 9:5 (paralleled in Sifre Deut. 32) reads: “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might . . . With all your soul—even if he should take your soul (life)”. A further, more developed, evidence referring to the Song of Songs is found in Mekhilta R. Ishmael on Exod 15 (the Song on the Sea): “This is my God and I will beautify him” (Exod 15:2). Rabbi Aqiva says: Before all the nations of the world I shall hold forth on the beauties and splendor of him who spoke and the world came to be. For, lo, the

Cf. Matt 5:11–12/Luke 6:22–23 (  :' ;  !  ! ). See Betz, Commentary, 323–325 and note 17 above. 69 The example of 2 Maccabees 7 may also be added. See discussion in Chapter 7. 70 The situation inevitably raises the problem of theodicy; and the Lord’s Prayer— Matt 6:13 (= Luke 11:4): “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”—seems to address this very issue. 71 See D. Flusser, ‘Sanctifying God’s Name in Second Temple Judaism and in Earliest Christianity’, in: Holy War and Martyrology in the History of Israel and the Nations of the World, Jerusalem 1968, 61–71 (in Hebrew). This idea is discussed at length in Chapter 7. 68


chapter two nations of the world keep asking Israel, “What is thy beloved more than another beloved, O most beautiful of women?” (Cant 5:9), that for his sake you die, for his sake you are slain, as it is said, We have loved you unto death (ad mwt), “for thus do the maidens (almwt) love Thee” (Cant 1:3)—and it is said, “for Your sake we have been killed all the day” (Ps 44:23). You are beautiful, you are heroes, come merge with us! But Israel reply to the nations of the world: Do you know him? Let us tell you a little of his glory . . . And when the nations of the world hear all his praise, they say to Israel, Let us go along with you, as it is said . . . (Cant 6:1). But Israel reply . . . :You have no part of him . . . “My beloved is mine, and I am his . . . He feedeth among the lilies (Cant 2:16; 6:3)”.72

A passage from the Palestinian Talmud dealing explicitly with Deuteronomy 6:5 should also be adduced: R. Aqiva was judged before the wicked Tunius Rufus (Tunus Trufus). The time for the reading of “hear O Israel” arrived. Aqiva began to recite and smile . . . “But all my life I have read the verse, ‘And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all your might.’ I have loved him with all my heart, and I have loved him with all my property (sic!), but until now, I did not know how to love him with all my soul. But now that the opportunity of [loving Him] with all my soul has come to me, and it is the time of the recital of ‘Hear O Israel’, and I was not deterred from it; therefore I recite, and therefore I smile.” ( y. Ber. 9,5 [14b]).

In the Babylonian parallel (b. Ber. 61b, Oxford Opp. Add. Folio 23) the motif of the true knowledge of God is lacking, and Daniel Boyarin suggested that this may reect a later stage of the tradition.73 Boyarin also argued that at some point in the history of this tradition an important development may be discerned: death is now conceived of as an ultimate religious fulllment and not just as a matter of preference in circumstances that leave no other acceptable choice, as, for example, in 2 Maccabees 7. In contradistinction to the former saints/martyrs, R. Aqiva and others executed by Tunius Rufus are said to “have loved God more” with reference to Songs of Songs 3:3 that speaks of “love of the soul”.74 72

Be-shalah, P. 3, p. 127 in Horovitz’s edition. Cf. Zech 8:20–23. D. Boyarin, Dying for God; Martyrdom and the Making of Christianity and Judaism, Stanford 1999, 105–109. 74 See E. E. Urbach, ‘The Homiletical Interpretation of Canticles’, Scripta hierosolymitana 22 (1971), 251. Another midrashic development may be discerned in the rabbinic sources quoted above: from the enemies/Gentiles who kill to enemies/Gentiles who ask questions and want to join Israel. Or the other way around? Do we have here two competing reections? It deserves notice that whereas In Zech 8:20–23 the plea of Gentiles is accepted, in the Mekhilta it is rejected. 73

from “love your neighbor” to “love your enemy”


The transition here is from death that is inevitable to death that is the highest and the truest of spiritual experiences. According to Boyarin, this transformation in the attitude toward violent death at God’s hands was accompanied by introducing into martyrology narratives metaphors with intensive erotic avor;75 hence, it is only natural that references to the Song of Songs feature so prominently in the relevant rabbinic texts. When this transformation rst occurred remains a debated issue: while Boyarin sees it in the context of the competition with emerging Christianity, Flusser is of the opinion that the readiness to joyfully accept violent death became an important idea already among the covenanters of Qumran.76 With regard to the said rabbinic sources and Boyarin’s conclusions, I would like to add two remarks that bear on our discussion. First, R. Aqiva’s most memorable dictum on the issue is presented not only in m. Ber. 9:5, quoted above, but also in Sifre Deut. 32 as an exegesis on the love commandment from Deuteronomy 6:5, not on the Song of Songs: “And thou shalt love the Lord with all thy soul: [ This means] even when He takes your soul (life), and so it says, ‘For your sake we have been killed all the day’ (Ps 44:23)”.77 In other words, go on loving God even (especially?) when he takes your life, i.e., acts as an enemy! Second, although in all relevant cases the death and the suffering are presented as inicted by God, there is always a human agent—be it the “nations of the world” generally speaking, the “wicked kingdom” or the wicked Tunius Rufus—an enemy who provides for the violent character of the death. It is, however, clear for both the victim and the persecutors that the death is, in a deeper sense, by the hand of God and for God’s sake; it is God who leads us unto death.78 Thus in the passage from Mek. R. Ishmael on Exod 15 referred to above, Israel is said to have proclaimed “For your sake we have been killed all the day” with reference to Psalms 44:23, while the nations of the world repeat basically the same statement (again, with regard to the fate of Israel) but this time with the reference to the Song of Songs 1:3.


Boyarin, Dying for God, 109–110. Flusser, ‘Sanctifying God’s Name’ (note 71 above). 77 See also Sifre Zuta ad locum (M. I. Kahana, Sifre Zuta on Deuteronomy; Citations from a New Tannaitic Midrash, Jerusalem 2002, 147–148. 78 For a discussion of the transformation of almwt (maidens that “love you”, Cant 1:3) into al mwt (“unto death”, Ps 48:15), see Boyarin, Dying for God, 109–111. As he remarks there, “The transformation is itself a representation of the question directed at God in other texts as well: If you love us so much, why do you kill us?” 76


chapter two

The presence of two parallel “channels of enmity” directed at the sufferer later nds forceful expression in the Song of Songs Rabbah. The context there is clearly that of persecution: God who torments and the enemies (the nations of the world) who torment stand side by side, but it seems that the love of the sufferer is due only to God (Song Rab. on Cant 2:5): “For I am sick with love (holat ahava)” (Cant 2:5). Said the Congregation of Israel before the Holy One, blessed be He: Lord of the world, all of the sorrows (holaim) which you bring upon me are so to make me love you more (leahaveni lakh).79 Another interpretation of the phrase, “for I am sick with love” (ibid.) would be: said the Congregation of Israel before the Holy One, blessed be He: Lord of the world, all of the sorrows that the nations of the world bring upon me are so to make me love you more (or: because I love you).

The dating of either this particular passage or the Song Rab. as a whole is not an easy task.80 To be on the safe side, we may see it as a later development of a theme attested already in the early tannaitic period. The attitude expected from the martyr toward God is one of love. Moreover, the suffering is supposed not to kill the love but to increase it, bring it to its true fulllment. Of course, one should not suppose that this was a routine or obvious reaction to torments. A common     understanding of the nature of Job’s wife’s advice in Job 2:9 (  ) that has found its way into the Revised Standard Version gives an indication to the contrary: “Curse God, and die” (cf. LXX: + 
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