Holiness Code Week 2 Reading Guide

Conflict Resolution

This is another topic that I think is a difficult and undefined issue in American culture. “Minding one’s own business” seems to be the default position, and “judge not...” seems to be the more favored verse. It is my understanding that passivity is rarely a legal offense.

Kugel, “Worship in the Wilderness [part 2],” pp. 451–460

This week Kugel gives a nice introduction to the questions ancient interpreters had about Leviticus 19:17–18, and some of the solutions they offered. Who is my neighbor/brother? What is the difference between bearing hatred in my heart and other kinds of hatred? How am I supposed to reprove someone? Why would I bear sin because of someone else’s sin? What does “as yourself” mean? Do “love” and “reproach” conflict? Do I have to?

Leviticus 19:16–18

In general, when reading closely a small amount of primary source, it is a good idea to consult multiple translations. I’ll get you started with five translations of Leviticus 19:16–18.

[New American Bible Revised Edition]
16 You shall not go about spreading slander among your people;
nor shall you stand by idly when your neighbor’s life is at stake. I am the LORD.
17 You shall not hate any of your kindred in your heart.
Reprove your neighbor openly so that you do not incur sin because of that person.
18 Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your own people.
You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.

[New American Bible 1970]
You shall not go about spreading slander among your kinsmen;
nor shall you stand by idly when your neighbor’s life is at stake. I am the LORD.
17 You shall not bear hatred for your brother in your heart.
Though you may have to reprove your fellow man, do not incur sin because of him.
18 Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your fellow countrymen.
You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.

[New Revised Standard Version]
You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people,
and you shall not profit by the blood of your neighbor: I am the LORD.
17 You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin;
you shall reprove your neighbor, or you will incur guilt yourself.
18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people,
but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.

[Jewish Publication Society TaNaKh]
Do not deal basely with your countrymen.
Do not profit by the blood of your fellow: I am the LORD.
17 You shall not hate your kinsfolk in your heart.
Reprove your kinsman but incur no guilt because of him.
18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your countrymen.
Love your fellow as yourself: I am the LORD.

[Brenton’s literal translation of the Septuagint]
Thou shalt not walk deceitfully among thy people;
thou shalt not rise up against the blood of thy neighbour: I am the Lord your God.
17 Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart:
thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, so thou shalt not bear sin on his account.
18 And thy hand shall not avenge thee; and thou shalt not be angry with the children of thy people;
and thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself; I am the Lord.

Proverbs 9:7–8

Proverbs is an example of the wisdom literature of the Hebrew Bible. Blenkinsopp suggests that wisdom and law converge, but there are differences. Proverbs is phrased as advice or teaching from a parent to a child, not law or instruction for a nation. Proverbs has a way of being more equivocal or pragmatic in describing human nature as it is, rather than laying forth an ideal vision for a utopian society. If it doesn’t drag you too far afield you might consider checking if the wisdom literature has anything to say about your paper topic.

Sirach 19:5–16

The Wisdom of Jesus the son of Sira (Sirach) is also in the tradition of the wisdom literature. The author wrote at the beginning of the second century BCE. His book made it into the Greek and Catholic Bibles. Jewish sages excluded him from the canon, but do quote him in the Talmud. Protestant churches consider the book “apocrypha,” i.e., excluded from the Word of God but still a good read. Protestant Bibles often include Apocrypha as a separate section.

Sectarian rules from the Dead Sea Scrolls (PDF)

The Dead Sea Scrolls and the settlement at Qumran began to come to scholarly light at the end of the 1940s. Most of the scrolls are versions of biblical books or other popular books, but a significant number pertain to the sect, probably a branch of the Essenes, who lived there. This sect physically separated itself to live in the desert, followed a different calendar, and rejected the legitimacy of the Jerusalem temple and priesthood. The Damascus Document is the earlier constitution or manifesto of the separation of the group (written roughly 100 BCE). It is referenced as CD for Cairo Damascus (long story... it was found in Cairo). The Community Rule is somewhat later and more strict, perhaps applying to a sub-group of the movement. The Community Rule is sometimes abbreviated 1QS, where the first digit represents the number of the cave in which it was found (there are 11 total). “Q” indicates it was found at the Qumran site. “S” is short for “Serekh Ha-Yahad,” Hebrew for “Rule of the Community.” In both cases references go by column and line number, not chapter and verse.

The sectarians followed the Law of Moses very strictly, but also rejected people outside the sect as their neighbor. Among other things, Jewish sectarianism is studied as a source of insight for Christian origins (as an analogy, although some sensationalists have tried to argue that John the Baptist was part of the sect). The Scrolls are my expertise so we may leave time at the end to talk about more-or-less related questions and answers about the Scrolls.

If you are interested in the Damascus Document here it is in its entirety (HTML)

Matthew 7:1–5
Matthew 18, especially 18:15–17

Sometimes familiarity can be an impediment to reading texts with fresh eyes. Make an effort to read these passages in light of the other readings.

Matthew’s Gospel is the only gospel to use the word “church,” and this passage seems to presume mutual exclusivity between “church” and “gentile.” The question of “who is my neighbor” also comes up in Luke’s Gospel, leading to the parable of the Samaritan. We also saw the interpretation of Leviticus 19:18 earlier in the course, in Matthew 5:43.

The Didache (PDF)

If you’re like me, and I know I am, you’ll love this first example of the literary genre of “church manual.” Similar ideas had been conveyed previously in epistles, but this presents itself as a universal manual for leaders and new members. The genre is more closely related to the wisdom literature, such as Proverbs and Sirach, which was also used for instructing catechumens (hence the Latin title Ecclesiasticus “church book”). Although it must date later than Matthew, it is important for insight into the early church as it became more organized, but still far from dominant.

The whole document is a good read, but pay special attention to 3:7; 4:3; 14:2; and 15:3 for issues of conflict resolution in light of Leviticus by way of Matthew. You may notice other issues related to what we studied in Deuteronomy.

The book from which this section is taken, Lost Scriptures: Books That Did Not Make It Into thee New Testament, is available for free as an electronic book through the StMU library catalog.

For more along the same lines you might be interested in the chapter 12 of the Epistle of Barnabas (LINK)

Roth, “Mesopotamian Legal Traditions and the Laws of Hammurabi” (PDF)

The first part of this article is not directly pertinent to the theme for the week, but does explore a question that came up earlier. Namely, to what extent were these laws used in deciding cases, or to what extent was the monument more ceremonial and rhetorical? Especially now that we are on the Holiness Code, it is important to distinguish between laws that were actually enforced and ideal proposals that were not or could not have been enforced by a state.

The second part deals with honor and shame, a theme that we already encountered in an article by Matthews. It seems that many conflicts are exacerbated by offenses against honor, offenses that impede resolution far more than the original problem. On the other hand, public shaming can be seen as a means to discipline bad behavior (see 1 Timothy 5:20). For Hammurabi, offenses against honor were no less real than offenses against body. The state sought to control situations that could easily have slipped into a cycle of escalating retaliation. Offenses against honor have been known to escalate into physical violence in many cultures. It seems to me that, relatively speaking, American law tries not to get involved until the conflict does become violent, out of deference to free speech. In England, for example, slander and libel are legal offenses far more easily than they are in the United States.

It might be useful to try to classify offenses for conflict resolution:

Babylonian Talmud

The following excerpts from the Babylonian Talmud should give a sense of the value of speaking up over minding one’s own business. The basic interpretation is that “Reprove your kinsman and incur no guilt because of him,” implies that one does incur guilt if one does not reprove a kinsman (taking into account whether one can reprove).

Rab and R. Hanina, R. Johanan and R. Habiba taught [the following]: Whoever can forbid his household [to commit a sin] but does not, is seized for [the sins of] his household; [if he can forbid] his fellow citizens, he is seized for [the sins of] his fellow citizens; if the whole world, he is seized for [the sins of] the whole world.
R. Papa observed, And the members of the Resh Galutha’s [household] are seized for the whole world. [A Resh Galutha is a head of a Jewish community in the Diaspora.]
Even as R. Hanina said, Why is it written, The Lord will enter into judgement with the elders of his people, and the princes thereof (Isa 3:14)? If the princes sinned, [55a] how did the elders sin? But say, [He will bring punishment] upon the elders because they do not forbid the princes. (b. Shabbat 54b–55a)
R. Amram son of R. Simeon b. Abba said in R. Simeon b. Abba’s name in R. Hanina’s name: Jerusalem was destroyed only because they did not rebuke each other: for it is said, Her princes are become like harts that find no pasture (Lam 1:6): Just as the hart, the head of one is at the side of the others’s tail, so Israel of that generation hid their faces in the earth, and did not rebuke each other. (b. Shabbat 119b)

The second passage appears in the context of a list of views of why Jerusalem was destroyed, so it is only one view, not the consensus, that this was the only reason. In each case the claim is grounded in an interpretive play on words, in this case re-reading an analogy from the book of Lamentations, which mourns the (first) destruction of Jerusalem.