Queries & Comments
On What Planet Does Professor Malamat Live?
On what planet, may I ask, has Professor Abraham Malamat been living that he seriously thinks, and no doubt teaches, that “love” as found in Leviticus 19:18 has been misinterpreted for the past 2,000 years (“‘Love Your Neighbor as Yourself’—What It Really Means,” BAR 16:04)? Every orthodox Christian and every Orthodox Jew is taught that love is not a feeling but an act of will followed by an action. The alleged misinterpretation has never existed.
It is gratifying, however, to see that after so many years of teaching and earning advanced academic degrees Professor Malamat has finally discovered a basic truth.
Brooklyn, New York
The Golden Rule Says It
Regarding Professor Malamat’s article, “‘Love Your Neighbor as Yourself’—What It Really Means,” BAR 16:04, didn’t a rabbi of long ago say the same thing when he taught the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you” (Matthew 7:12; Luke 6:31).
R. K. Wallarab
The Parable of the Good Samaritan Teaches True Love
Abraham Malamat’s conclusion in “‘Love Your Neighbor as Yourself’—What It Really Means,” BAR 16:04, that the proper usage of the Hebrew word ahav, usually translated as “love,” meant to do something for your neighbor rather than to feel something is fully supported by the passage he cites in the Gospel of Luke.
In Luke 10:25–37, after quoting Leviticus 19:18 (“Love your neighbor as yourself”), Jesus is asked, “Who is my neighbor?” He replies by telling the parable of the Good Samaritan. The lesson of the parable is that a neighbor is one who does what is needed. Telling this story as explanation for the quote from Leviticus emphasizes that action is requited toward someone, and that action should be appropriate to your neighbor’s needs.
The concept of love presented in the Scriptures is that of filling someone’s need. Consider God’s relation to man in John 3:16, where the “love” of God consisted of providing for the world’s greatest need.
Alan L. Pogue
Minister of Education
Central Church of Christ
To Love Is to Do in Both Testaments
Professor Malamat’s interpretation of ahav (love) as having “a more concrete meaning than mere abstract love,” denoting “the act of being useful and beneficial to its object” (see “‘Love Your Neighbor as Yourself’—What It Really Means,” BAR 16:04) has the support of Jesus in the New Testament. In Matthew 22:37–40 [which Malamat cites], Jesus says that, together with the “greatest and first commandment [to love God],” the “second commandment” (to love your neighbor as yourself) forms the basis for “all the Law and the Prophets.” And in Matthew 7:12 Jesus says: “So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them; for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Obviously, according to Jesus, doing to others what we wish them to do to us is the same as loving (concrete meaning) others as ourselves. Hence, whether in the Old Testament or the New, “love your neighbor as yourself” has nothing to do with the modern concept of self-love or self-esteem.
Tien Fock Leong
Los Angeles, California
Love as Real as Death
Dr. Malamat’s article (“‘Love Your Neighbor as Yourself’—What It Really Means,” BAR 16:04) offers some interesting insights through studying the grammatical construction. He is correct that the Biblical view of love is to “do love.” Jesus and his disciples, however, have already proclaimed this truth.
In his first letter, John exhorts the early Christians: “Let us not love in word or speech but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18). In Luke’s account of the commandment to love your neighbor as yourself, Jesus elaborates on this commandment’s meaning by telling the parable of the Good Samaritan. The account ends with Jesus saying, “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10:37).
Finally, Christians understand love in an even more radical way. It goes beyond “doing” to “dying.” Just as Jesus expressed God’s love by dying for us, Christians understand that sometimes we are called to express our love by putting our lives “on the line.” While the world may have a nebulous view of love, Christians have always understood that love must be expressed in concrete actions—even as concrete and real as death.
Henry W. Gventer
Florham Park, New Jersey
A Big Job Before Us
Please thank Professor Abraham Malamat for his article on loving your neighbor as yourself. The professor’s Hebrew scholarship is enlightening both linguistically and theologically.
We Christians have been instructed by our Lord to love each other as He has loved us (John 13:34). Jesus does not love us with a syrupy, abstract emotion, but with a powerful, sacrificial love that rescues us from judgment.
If we are to take His example of love seriously, we have a big job ahead of us.
Pastor David R. Way
Pleasant Valley Bible Fellowship Church
Pleasant Valley, New York
Loving Is Not Liking
I am grateful for Professor Malamat’s article (“‘Love Your Neighbor as Yourself’—What It Really Means,” 16:04). Professor Malamat understands that for Jesus, whose message on love and neighbor is in the teachings of Moses, love is something you do. The climax of Jesus’ moral teaching in the Synoptic Gospels is in the 25th chapter of Matthew. All we will be judged on is what we did—for the brothers and the sisters. It is clear in the Synoptics that Jesus did not like everybody.
He did not enjoy being with everyone. But he apparently never allowed not liking or admiring a person to keep him from benevolence and justice toward that person.
More on Translating Hebrew
I have finished reading the article, “‘Love Your Neighbor as Yourself’—What It Really Means,” BAR 16:04.
I would like to encourage you to have at least one article in each issue on translating from Hebrew to English.
Jerry H. Pace
Graham, North Carolina
Medieval Jewish Authorities Also Agree
In regard to Abraham Malamat’s article on “‘Love Your Neighbor as Yourself’—What It Really Means,” BAR 16:04, it should be pointed out that Jewish medieval halakhica authorities all interpreted this commandment in primarily behavioral terms.
Says Maimonides [1135–1204], “Therefore one must speak well of one’s fellow and have compassion upon his possessions even as one is concerned about one’s own money and seeks one’s own honor” (De’ot 6:3). In speaking of the obligation to visit the sick, console the bereaved and rejoice the bride and groom, Maimonides states that all are included in the command, “Love your neighbor as yourself; all things that you want others to do for you, do them for your brother” (H. Aveil 14:1).
Even earlier, Hillel the Elder, in the famous incident of the proselyte who wished to learn the entire Torah while standing on one foot, rendered this verse in negative behavioral terms: “That which you despise do not do to your fellow” (Mishnah, Shabbat 31). The same understanding is reflected in the ancient Aramaic translation of the Pentateuch (Targum, Eretz Yisroel).
What is interesting are the reasons given for the behavioral interpretation. While Nachmanides [1194–1270] does allude to the syntactical difference pointed out by Malamat between ahav et and ahav l- (as do Malbim [1809–1879] and [David Z.] Hoffman [1843–1921]), Nachmanides emphasizes philosophical reasons. Nachmanides rejects the literal meaning on the grounds that it is unrealistic to demand that a person love every other as he does himself and also that Rabbi Akivah had already ruled that in extreme situations one’s own life comes before the life of the other.
Thus, what ultimately determined the behavioral interpretation of the Golden Rule as standard for Judaism was not grammar but the ethical understanding of the rabbis that no person had the moral right to sacrifice his own life for another since both were created in the image of God and one’s own life is not completely one’s own to dispense with as one sees fit. Nachmanides, however, does find in this passage a teaching that appeals to our feelings and emotions. Often we are ready enough to wish our neighbor well, but not to the extent that he become richer or wiser than ourselves. Our benevolence, even when at no cost to ourselves, is limited by the green-eyed monster of envy. The criterion “as yourself’ serves to delegitimize any envy that we might have of the other which might prevent wishing our neighbor all the happiness in the world even though it be superior to our own.
The Golden Rule need not be read as affirming unlimited self-love. Achad Ha’am [a contemporary author] read it as follows: “Love your neighbor as you (ought to) love yourself.” Just as your love for self must be tempered by your duties and obligations to the other, so shall your love for your neighbor be balanced by your duty to yourself.
Irving Stone Professor of Jewish Thought
Tel Aviv, Israel
It Makes Sense
I enjoyed reading Professor Malamat’s article (“Love Your Neighbor as Yourself—What It Really Means,” BAR 16:04). I am not enough of a Hebrew scholar to discuss his position, but it certainly makes sense to me. After all, it is a poor sort of love in any case that does not manifest itself in action.
MacTier, Ontario, Canada
Beth-Shean vs. Caesarea
Your article on “Glorious Beth-Shean,” BAR 16:04, was, despite a misspelling of Israel in the subtitle, a fine piece.
My wife and I were at the Beth-Shean excavation in February and climbed the steps of the Roman theater. We did the same at the Roman theater at Caesarea a day later. It is for that reason that I read with some incredulity the photo caption asserting that Beth-Shean’s Roman semicircle is “the best preserved ancient theater in all Israel.” Come on now! Unless the state of Israel has done a lot of recent reconstructive and cosmetic work at Caesarea, I would say the seaside theater at Caesarea is in far better shape than that at Beth-Shean. Ask your committee of writers for that article to 016take another look at both sites.
Thanks for an outstanding publication. Let’s get those Dead Sea Scrolls pried loose!
Director of Communication
Office of the Bishop
Northwestern Ohio Synod
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Professor Gideon Foerster replies:
Though I am not responsible for the assertion that Beth-Shean’s Roman theater is “the best preserved ancient theater in all Israel,” it surely is. Not only is the cavea (auditorium) much better preserved and with almost no restoration, but also the scenae frons (stage building) with all its parts is by far more complete than that at Caesarea. The latter was heavily restored soon after the excavations some 30 years ago.
Errors That Would Not Occur If Photos of All Dead Sea Scrolls Were Available
Besides thanking you for your efforts to secure prompt publication of the Dead Sea documents, I want to add to the discussion the following consideration, so far, as I recall, unmentioned.
The editors of the material thus far published have presented it as they reconstructed it. Their reconstructions have been based on similarities of details—skins, ink, handwriting, vocabulary, grammar, contents, etc.—as well as proximity in finding sites and the like.
Much has been written of the difficulties of deciding which pieces came from which documents, and then of reconstructing the documents, but not much has been said of the possibilities of errors unavoidable in such studies. In fact, the resultant conglomerates have often been published as if they were single sheets, without any guidelines to indicate the boundaries of the pieces from which they have been composed. An important example is the connection of columns I and II of the first example of the War Scroll from Cave 4 (4QMa) (Maurice Baillet, Discoveries in the Judean Desert (DJD) VII, no. 491, pp. 26–35 and pl. VI.11). Baillet mentions that these columns were put together “á partir de” [from among] 17 fragments (“á finir de” [to the end of] how many others?). He admits that “the connection between the two columns is only possible” (p. 27). Examination with a magnifying glass of the dim photo in plate VI shows that the columns’ connection depends on adjustment of a tag end of column II, so as to fit a notch made for the purpose by adding to column I a piece apparently without writing and, if so, of dubious location.
The adjustment is not impossible, but not necessary. The writing of the two columns looks like the same hand, but that of column I seems somewhat smaller. Presumably the skins were also similar. However, the same scribe may have written, on different pieces from the same skin, sections of different works. Hence content is important—and the content of the two columns is radically different. Column II is a typical section of the War Scroll—a battle, tactics, a sermon, the beginning of a second battle. But column I consists of three short pieces from what was evidently an anthology of religious lyrics like the Hymn Scroll. The first lyric celebrates God’s care for Israel, the second is an amazing piece of self-predication—like those by the Teacher of Righteousness(?) in the Hymn Scroll—by somebody who claims to be unequaled as a teacher of the Law, and also to have ascended into the heavens and received there a throne. Finally, the third lyric (evidently the 30th of the collection, to judge from a large marginal lamed of which Baillet could not guess the function, p. 28) is the beginning of a typical hymn of the righteous in praise of God.
Obviously a collection of 30 or more such lyrics could have no place in the War Scroll. Nevertheless, Baillet joined the columns and therefore had to find a speaker for the self-predication. In desperation, he attributed it to the archangel Michael, but this is absurd because the achievements for which the speaker praises himself are too trivial to concern an archangel, and the situations in which he presents himself—for instance, being called into court—are impossibly infra dig. Nevertheless, the absurdity stands in DJD VII and will be read by generations of uncritical students as “primary evidence,” and cited as such in dozens of papers on “Qumran Angelology.” Consequently, no attention will be paid to the importance of the text for New Testament criticism. Here in Herodian times was a legal teacher who claimed to have ascended into heaven and received a throne there claims that would later be attributed to Jesus.
I have singled out one egregious editorial error, but there have been many (see John Strugnell’s review of DJD V in Revue de Qumran 7 , pp. 163–176). In spite of these, defenders of the committee’s monopoly have argued that the texts, if published without these editors’ arrangements and interpretations, would be incomprehensible to other scholars.
On the contrary, we should perhaps be happy that these editors have done so little. Many of the texts remain without editorial disfigurement. True, we have lost some amusement. J. T. Milik’s work on Enoch makes us all eager to see the three-ring circus that should he expected to accompany his production of his other documents—if that production is ever to be expected at all. Now, I fear, he has learned caution by experience, but that is no reason why all other scholars should be denied the chance to make fools of themselves, which would be afforded by prompt publication of all the manuscript material, on translucent fiches, without any commentary whatever save indications of finding sites and groupings, when these are known.
Such publication would also do much to hasten the appearance of separate handbooks on the skins, inks, paleographic peculiarities, vocabularies, grammar, etc. of the scrolls—works essential as foundations for serious commentaries, but at present impossible to produce because so many of the texts are kept inaccessible.
Morton Smith, Professor Emeritus
Department of Religion
Columbia University New York, New York
When Did Christianity Become Official?
“Glorious Beth-Shean,” BAR 16:04, refers to “the establishment of Christianity as the official religion of the Roman empire at the beginning of the fourth century A.D.” and states that Constantine “adopted Christianity as the official religion of the empire.”
Under Constantine, the Church certainly increasingly enjoyed imperial favor, but it is pushing things to say that he “adopted Christianity as the official religion of the empire.” That was left to succeeding generations. In 356, Constantine’s son Constantius II ordered the closing of the temples and forbade sacrifices, but he later found it expedient not to insist. Emperor Theodosius, in his decrees of 391–392, provided the climax of antipagan legislation.
Brian F. Hubka
Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada
Professor Harold W. Attridge replies:
Mr. Hubka is correct. The notion that Christianity became the “official religion” of the Roman empire in the time of Constantine is an anachronism. Citizens of the empire were not required to become Christians, nor was the practice of traditional Greek and Roman religion legally prohibited. Constantine’s “conversion” 018was, however, more than a personal matter for himself and his family. He actively favored the Christian Church, played a role in its affairs and expected it to play a role in his administration of the empire. For a perceptive analysis of the various political and religious factors involved in Constantine’s relations with the Church, see T. D. Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius (Cambridge: Harvard, 1981).
Evolution Rejects Polydactylism
Re: Richard D. Barnett’s “ Polydactylism in the Ancient World,” BAR 16:03.
To be functional, a digit, be it a finger or a toe, requires two flexor muscles and an extensor muscle with tendons, along with proper innervation, as well as supporting carpal or tarsal bones. Most supernumerary digits lack some of these essential parts and as a result are not functional. So, they are often removed.
While polydactyly has been found in all sorts of animals, it has never been accepted by nature. Evolution has always rejected it. No vertebrate has more than five digits. We and the salamander have the same five-fingered hand. Many animals have less than the standard five, but none has more. (The panda’s thumb is not a true digit but another bone, the radial sesamoid, as Jay Gould has pointed out.)
Why have creatures not adopted six or seven toes or fingers when polydactyly seems to be continually offering them? Perhaps it’s a divine mystery.
Winfield Massie, D.V.M.
Using Palestine for Israel
In your article “Celebrating at the Annual Meeting,” BAR 16:02, you justifiably questioned Eric Meyers’ reference to Israel as Palestine in his statement, “the heartland of the Biblical world, Syria-Palestine.” Yet, later on in your essay, you used the term “ancient Palestine.”
The term “Palestine” was introduced by the Romans after their defeat of the Jews in 73 C.E. in an effort to sever any connection between Jews and the land of Israel. In Biblical times the country was called Canaan, Judea, Israel. The country was never referred to as Palestine throughout the period of the Hebrew Bible.
Jordan, Syria and Egypt are all referred to by their names—even though there was no Jordan until 1922. It is ironic that Israel, which has a continuity from ancient times to the present, is dubbed with a name imposed by a nation which no longer exists. One more point: surely the political implications of referring to Israel as Palestine have not been lost on you.
We used “ancient Palestine” to distinguish it from modern politics. Furthermore, we used the term “ancient Palestine” in connection with “early Christianity in ancient Palestine.” At that time, it was Palestine.—Ed.
Ancient Name Persists
The article on the synagogue of Meroth in BAR’s March/April 1989 issue (Zvi Ilan and Emmanuel Damati, “The Synagogue at Meroth: Does It Fix Israel’s Northern Border in Second Temple Times?” BAR 15:02) was particularly moving for me and my family: The mosaic portrait of a young man found on the pavement of the synagogue and dated 450 A.D. bears the name Yodan bar Shimeon Mani in Hebrew letters. This man was either the donor who contributed the mosaic or the artist who created it.
My maiden name is Mani. According to our family’s oral tradition, we were in the Holy Land from the time of King David. 072Eventually we were exiled to Babylon, and my great-grandfather Eliahu Mani, a rabbi and well-known Kabbalist, moved back from Baghdad to Hebron in 1856, where he continued his teaching and writing.
Congratulations on your wonderful article.
Zmira Mani Zilkha
New Glass Techniques
In his extremely interesting and well-written article, “Small Inventions? They Changed How People Lived in the Hellenistic Age,” BAR 16:04, Abraham Levy, after associating glass-casting with the lost-wax process, says “we have no idea” what important improvement in glass-casting was responsible for an enormous increase in the quantity of cast-glass objects in the Hellenistic period.
There are at least two methods of glass molding that eliminate wax, clay and plaster, and reduce the number of steps in the process. Both employ reusable metal molds.
One is glass pressing, in which the molten glass is squeezed between the parts of a heated metal mold.
The second is blow molding—a blob of molten glass on the pipe is blown just enough to open a bubble, then put into a mold of two or more pieces and blown again to fill the mold.
Either method makes it possible for a crew of semiskilled workers to duplicate in quantity the product of a single master designer and mold maker.
Articles on Pottery Dating
I would very much like you to do a series of educational articles on dating by pottery. There are constant references to pottery types and the periods they represent. I would appreciate a technical discussion of pottery dating with drawings and photos.
Brooklyn, New York
Good idea. We’ll try to follow through.—Ed.
It isn’t often that one finds a well-edited periodical written by experts that can be readily understood by the most inexpert of readers. I think of the National Geographic, the Smithsonian and BAR. Congratulations! You are in good company.
On What Planet Does Professor Malamat Live?