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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Sermon On the Mount, the, and the Talmud.

In the essay prepared by the late E. Deutsch entitled The Talmud, among other daring statements we find also the following: "We need not urge the priority of the Talmud to the New Test.... To assume that the Talmud has borrowed from the New Test. would be like assuming that Sanskrit sprang from Latin, or that French was developed from the Norman words found in English." Similar is the remark of Ré nan: "It is sometimes supposed that, the compilation of the Talmud being posterior to that of the Gospels, appropriations might have been made by the Jewish compilers from the Christian morality. But that is inadmissible; there was a wall of separation between the Church and the synagogue" (Life of Jesus, p. 108). Statements like these have been, and will be, taken as true, especially by those who have not taken the pains of examining for themselves; but sober-minded scholars have arrived at different results. Says Mr. Farrar: "Some excellent maxims even some close parallels to the utterances of Christ may be quoted, of course, from the Talmud, where they lie imbedded like pearls in a sea' of obscurity and mud. It seems to me indisputable, and a matter which every one can now verify for himself, that these are amazingly few, considering the vast bulk of national literature from which they are drawn. And, after all, who shall prove to us that these sayings were always uttered by the rabbins to whom they are attributed? Who will supply us with the faintest approach to a proof that, when not founded on the Old Test., they were not directly or indirectly due to Christian influence or Christian thought?" (Life of Christ, 2, 486.) According to our judgment, there is only one way of arriving at a just estimate as to which copied, and this is to give the parallel passage of the Talmud with the author who uttered the sentence, and the time in which he lived. The date of the author must settle the question once for all, and this is our purpose in the sequel.

Matthew 5:3 :

"Blessed are the poor in spirit." Sanhedrin fol. 43 b: "R. Joshua en-Levi [A.D. 219-2191 said, Behold, how acceptable before the Lord are the humble. While the temple stood, meat offerings and sacrifices were offered in expiation for sins committed; but an humble spirit, such a one as immolates the desires of the flesh and the inclination of the heart on the altar of his duty to his God, is accepted in place of sacrifices, as the psalmist says (51:19), The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit'" (comp. Sotah, fol. 5).

Matthew 5:7 :

"Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy." Sabbath, fol.151 b: "R. Gamaliel II [A.D. 80-118] said, He who is merciful towards his fellow creatures shall receive mercy from heaven above."

Matthew 5:10 :

"Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake," etc. Baba Kamma, fol. 93 a: "Rabbi Abbahu [A.D. 279-320] said, Be rather one of the persecuted than of the persecutors."

Matthew 5:19 :

"Whosoever, therefore, shall break one," etc. Pirke Aboth, 2, 1: "Rabbi [i.e. Judah hak-Kodesh, d. A.D. 190] said, Be equally attentive to the light and to the weighty commandments."

Matthew 5:22 :

"But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother," etc. Sanhedrim fol. 58 b: "Resh Lakish [A.D. 219-280] said, Whosoever lifts up his hand against his neighbor, though he do not strike him, is called an offender and sinner."

Matthew 5:24 :

"Leave thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled," etc. Mishna, Yoma, 8, 9 "R. Eleazar ben-Azariah [d. A.D. 82] says, The transgression which a man commits against God, the day of atonement expiates; but the transgression which he commits against his neighbor it does not expiate, unless hp has satisfied his neighbor."

Matthew 5:28 :

"But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her, committeth adultery," etc. Berachoth, fol. 24 a: "Rabbi Shesheth [flourished cir. A.D. 285] says, Whosoever looketh on the little finger of a woman with a lustful eye is considered as having committed adultery."

Matthew 5:40 :

"And take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also." Baba Kamma, fol. 92, Colossians 2 : "Rabba [A.D. 320-363] said to Ralbba the son of Mar, How is that popular saying? If any one ask for thy ass, give him the saddle also."

Matthew 5:44 :

"Bless them that curse you." Sanhedrin, fol. 48 b and 49 a: "R. Jehudah [d. A.D. 190] said, Be rather of the accursed than of those that curse."

Matthew 6:1 :

"Take heed that ye do not your alms before men to be seen of them." Chagiga, fol. 5, Colossians 1 : "Rabbi Yanai [cir. A.D. 120] said to a man who gave alms in such a public manner, You had better not given him anything; in the way you gave it to him you must have hurt his feelings."

Matthew 6:26 :

"Behold the fowls of the air; for they sow not," etc. Kiddushin, fol. 82, Colossians 2 : "R. Simon ben-Eleazar [who lived in the 3d century A.D.] said, Hast thou ever seen a beast or a bird that followed a trade? and yet they are fed without toil. But these were only created to minister to me, while I was created to minister to my Maker. Was it not right, then, that I should be supported without toil? But I have marred my work and forfeited my support."

Matthew 7:2 :

"With what measure ye mete it shall be measured to you again." Sanhedrin, fol. 100, Colossians 1 : "Rabbi Meir [q.v.] said, With what measure man metes it shall be measured to him from heaven."

Matthew 7:4 :

"Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye," etc. Baba Bathra, fol.15, Colossians 2 : "R. Jochan an [A.D. 199-279], surnamed Bar-Nap'ha, said, Do they say, Take the splinter out of thine eye, he will answer, Remove the beam out of thine own eye."

It is strange that, concerning this Talmudic quotation (in the Hebraica, N.Y., March 1879), a rabbi should have said, The familiar proverb in Matthew and Luke 6:42 ... is, as is well known (sic!), like most sentences of that kind in the New Test., borrowed from contemporaneous Jewish literature." But the chronological date of the author of that sentence is the best proof for the superficiality of statements made by men who, for the sake of the Talmud, try to disparage the New Test. The New Test. sentence is also illustrated in Erachin, fol. 16, Colossians 2, where R. Tarphon [cir. A.D. 120] says, "It would greatly astonish me if there could be found any one in this age who would receive an admonition. If he be admonished to take the splinter out of his eye, he would answer, Take the beam out of thine own."

Matthew 7:5 :

"Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see," etc. In Baba Metsia, fol. 107, Colossians 2, and Baba Bathra, fol. 60, Colossians 2, we read: "Resh Lakish [cir. A.D. 275] said, What is the meaning of the passage Examine yourself and search?' (Zephaniah 2:1). He who will reprove others must himself be pure and spotless." Matthew 7:12 : "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that man should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets." Sabbath, fol. 31, Colossians 1 : "Hillel [q.v.] said, תעביד זו היא כל התורה כולה ואידפִררושה הוא דעלסִני לחברלִא : i.e. "Whatever you should not like to be done unto you, do not to others. This is the essence of the divine law; all the rest is commentary only."

Since this sentence of Hillel has become the hobby of modern Jewish Talmudists, as Deutsch and others, and of Christian writers who, like Ré nan, follow their Jewish leaders unthinkingly, we must speak a few words concerning it. In his lectures on Judaism and its History, the late rabbi Geiger, of Berlin, boldly affirms that Jesus was a Pharisee and a follower of Hillel, who never gave utterance to a new idea ("Einen neuen Gedanken sprach er keinesweges aus"). "Hillel," he says, "was a genuine reformer;" but wherein this reformation consisted Dr. Geiger did not tell. It was not necessary, for Geiger's attempt was to disparage Jesus; and the idea that Hillel was a genuine reformer, and Jesus merely an imitator, must have been as striking as the smoke utterance of the Pythian oracle.

As to Ré nan and Deutsch, we will quote the remark of Dr. Liddon in his Bampton Lectures for 1866 (N.Y. 1869, 4th ed. p. 107): "Ré nan suggests, not without some hesitation, that Hillel was the real teacher of Jesus" ("Hillel fut le vrai maitre de Jesus, s'il est permis de parler de maitre quand il s'agit d'une si haute originalite" [ Vie de Jesus, p. 35]). "As an instance," says Dr. Liddon (in a footnote), "of our Lord's real independence of Hillel, a single example may suffice. A recent writer on the Talmud gives the following story: One day a heathen went to Shammal, the head of the rival academy, and asked him, mockingly, to convert him to the law while he stood on one leg. The irate master turned him from the door. He then went to Hillel, who gave him that reply since so widely propagated Do not unto another, etc. This is the whole law; the rest is merely commentary'" (Literary Remains [N.Y. 1874], p. 317). The writer in the Quarterly Review (October, 1867, p. 441, art. "The Talmud") appears to assume the identity of Hillel's saying with the precept of our blessed Lord (Matthew 7:12; Luke 6:31). Yet, in truth, how wide is the interval between the merely negative rule of the Jewish president and the positive precept ὅσα ἃν θέλητε ἵνα ποιῶσιν ὑμῖν οί ἄνθρωποι, οὕτω καὶ ὑμεῖς ποιεῖτε αὐτοῖς of the Divine Master."

But whatever may be said of the precept (Matthew 7:12) as to its being considered as a fresh discovery in moral science, most certainly Hillel cannot claim the merit of originality in respect to it. It existed long before his time. In the Apocryphal book Tobit we read words like those which he used (4, 15): μισεῖς, μηδενὶ ποιήσης ("Do that to no man which thou hatest")' and in Ecclesiastes 31:15: νόει τὰ τοῦ πλησίου ἐκ σεαυτοῦ καὶ ἐπὶ πάντι πράγματι διανοοῦ (i.e. "Judge of the disposition of thy neighbor by thyself"). Ancient history bears ample testimony to the existence of this maxim among the ancient Greeks long before the time of Hillel. Thus Diogenes Laertius relates that Aristotle, being asked how we ought to carry ourselves to our friends, answered, "As we wish they would carry themselves to us." Isocrates, who lived four hundred years before the publication of the Gospel, said: πάσχοντες ὑφ᾿ ἑτέρων ὀργίσεσθε ταῦτα τοῖς ἄλλοις μὴ ποιεῖτε i.e. "We must not do to others that which would cause anger if it were done to ourselves." In its negative form the golden rule of our Savior, which Locke designates as the foundation of all social virtue, is also found among the sayings of Confucius: "What you do not wish done to yourselves, do not do to others;" or, as in the Conversations (bk. 15, ch. 23), where it appears condensed like a telegram: Ki su pok iuk uk sic u ing i.e. "Self what not wish, not do to man."

Matthew 7:24-27 :

"Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock," etc. Pirke Aboth, 3, 17: "R. Eliezer ben-Azariah [d. A.D. 82] said, He whose knowledge surpasses his good deeds may be compared to a tree with many branches and a scanty root every wind shakes and uproots it. But he whose good deeds excel his knowledge may be compared to a tree with a few branches and strong roots: if all the hurricanes in the world should come and storm against it, they could not move it from its place."

Aboth di R. Nathan, c. 24, Elisha ben-Abuyah [cir. A.D. 138] said: "A man who studies the law, and acts in accordance with its commandments, is likened unto a man who builds a house the foundation of which is made of freestone, and the superstructure of bricks. Storm and flood cannot injure the house. But he who studies the law, but is destitute of good actions, is likened unto the man who builds the foundation of his house of brick and mortar and raises the upper stories with solid stone. The flood will soon undermine and overturn the house." From these parallels, which could be, perhaps, somewhat increased, the impartial critic will make his own inferences. From the nature of the case, it would be impossible to give a parallel to each sentence of the Sermon on the Mount; for, in the first place, it contains many allusions to the manner in which Pharisaism discharged the religious duties, and, in the second place, our aim was to give the authority of the parallel passage in order to fix the chronology. The date added to each rabbi is the same as that fixed by the Jewish historian Dr. Grä tz; and the claim that the New Test. copied the Talmud must accordingly be stigmatized, once for all, as a vain glorification of reformed Judaism, which, on the one hand, rejects the Talmud as a religious code, but, on the other, makes use of it for controversial purposes. (B.P.)

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Sermon On the Mount, the, and the Talmud.'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/s/sermon-on-the-mount-the-and-the-talmud.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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