Nazarene Space

The Four Labors of Wisdom: Justice
By
James Scott Trimm



In our previous articles we cited the following passage from The Wisdom of Solomon concerning the “Four Labors of Wisdom” also known as the “Four Virtues”:

5  If riches are a desirable possession in life,
what is richer than wisdom who effects all things?
6  And if understanding is effective,
who more than she is fashioner of what exists?
7  And if any one loves righteousness,
her labors are virtues;
for she teaches self-control and prudence,
justice and courage;
nothing in life is more profitable for men than these.
(Wisdom of Solomon 8:5-7 RSV)

In another article we learned about Philo’s Midrash on Genesis 2:10 which teaches that generic virtue goes out as an unceasing and everlasting flow from the Word (logos) of Elohim to increase and nourish specific virtues in the souls of those that love Elohim and that from there generic virtue is marked off by fixed boundaries as prudence (rational judgment), courage, self-control, and justice and that each of these is a ruler and a queen that helps us to rule over our passions.

The Fourth Book of Maccabees (which has sometimes been titled “On the Supremacy of Reason) we learn much more about these four Labors of Wisdom, or “virtues” which 4Maccabees calls “Four Kinds of Wisdom”:

Now the kinds of wisdom are rational judgment, justice, courage, and self-control.
(4Macc. 1:18)

In today’s article I want to talk about justice.  The First Century Jewish writer Philo of Alexandria said “justice, not being the adversary of any one, distributes its due to every thing.” (Philo Allegorical Int. I 87)


PLATO ON JUSTICE

In the Mishna we learn that Ben Zoma taught “Who is wise? He who can learn from any man.(m.Avot 4:1).  And today I want to do something I do not normally do, I am going to reference the words of an ancient Greek philosopher in my discussion, specifically Plato.  This is not as radical as you might think.  The first century Jewish writer Philo of Alexandria quoted Plato, as did the great Jewish teacher Rambam (Maimonides) who also said "You must accept the truth from whatever source it comes."

In his book The Republic, Plato records a dialog between his teacher Socrates and several of Socrates’ friends.  The beginning of this dialog is a discussion exploring the true meaning of “justice.”  The dialog opens with the definition given by the Greek poet Simonides that justice is “giving everyone his due.”  Socrates takes exception to this definition.  He points out that it would not be justice to return a borrowed weapon to a madman, despite the fact that it was “due” (owed to) him.  Socrates then suggests that justice might better be defined as giving good to our friends and injury to our enemies.  However Socrates points out that men are often misled as to who their true friends and enemies are.  Moreover he determines that treating an enemy poorly will only make him a worse amn, and that a just man would only try to make a man a better man.  


LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF

The Torah definition of Justice might well be:

You shall love your neighbor
as yourself.
(Lev. 19:18)

This statement equates our love for others with our love for ourselves.  It is the basis with the saying by the Ba’al Shem Tov (founder of Hasidic Judaism):

It lies upon you to love your comrade as one like yourself.
And who knows as you do your many defects?
As you are nonetheless able to love yourself,
so love your fellow no matter how many defects you may see in him.
- Rabbi Yisrael ben Eliezer (The Besht)

One of the most significant parallels between Yeshua and Hillel is Their profound teaching of Love. Yeshua’s teaching of love was a radical departure from the teachings at Qumran. Now Philo tells us that the Essenes had great “desire to promote brotherly love” (Philo; The Hypothetica 11:2) this brotherly love seems to have been only to fellow members of the Yachad (unity). This is reflected in the Damascus Document’s use of Lev. 19:18. In the Torah Leviticus 19:18 reads:

You shall not avenge,
nor bear any grudge against the children of my people,
But you shall love your neighbor as yourself:
I am YHWH.

Now the Damascus Document interprets this passage as follows:

As for the passage that says, “Take no vengeance and bear no grudge against your kinfolk” (Lev. 19:18) any covenant member who brings against his fellow an accusation not sworn to before witnesses or who makes an accusation in the heat of anger or who tells it to his elders to bring his fellow into repute, the same is a vengence-taker and a grudge-bearer….
(Damascus Document 9, 2)

Note that this Qumran interpretation of Lev. 19:19 would limit “neighbor” in Lev. 19:18 to “any covenant member” i.e. a member of the Yachad. In fact the Qumran sect taught:

…bear unremitting hatred towards all men of ill repute…
to leave it to them to pursue wealth and mercenary gain…
truckling to a depot.
(Man. Of  Disc. Ix, 21-26)

By contrast Hillel is quoted as saying:

Be disciples of Aaron,
loving peace and pursuing peace,
loving people and drawing them near to the Torah.
(m.Avot 1:12)

The Qumran attitude was one of hatred to the sinner. There was no concept of “drawing them near to the Torah” but rather to “leave it to them to [sin]… truckling to a depot.” Yet Hillel took the opposite approach. Hillel’s attitude was to “Love” the men of ill repute and draw them near to the Torah. This was also Yeshua’s approach.

Yeshua taught:

You have heard that it was said
“You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.”
But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you,
do good to those who hate you,
and pray for those who spitefully use you persecute you
that you may be sons of your Father 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.
For if you love those who love you, what reward have you?
Do not even the tax collectors do the same?
And if you greet your brethren only,
what do you do more than others?
Do not even the tax collectors do so?
(Mt. 5:43-47)

Yeshua here begins by quoting the Tanak “Love your neighbor” (Lev. 19:18) but then gives the Qumran corollary “hate your enemy.” Yeshua differs with this “hate your enemy” teaching in agreement with the love philosophy of Hillel. Apparently the Qumran community inferred from “Love your neighbor” (Lev. 19:18) that they should therefore bear unremitting hatred toward their enemies. To Yeshua (and presumably Hillel) the issue is the interpretation of “neighbor.” In his Parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk. 10:29-36) Yeshua argues that we cannot be sure who our “neighbor” is, so in order to make sure we do not violate Lev. 19:18 we should love everyone.  We are prohibited from hating others, as we read in the Tanak:

28 This also were an iniquity to be punished by the judges, for I should have lied to El
that is above.
29 If I rejoiced at the destruction of him that hated me, or exulted when evil found him—
(Job 31:28-29 HRV)

This is very much in keeping with Socrates’ thoughts on justice which we discussed earlier.  


THE GOLDEN RULE

Our Messiah Yeshua said:

Judge not, and you will not be judged,
condemn not, and you will not be condemned.
For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged;
and with what measure you mete, it will be measured to you again.
(Matt. 7:1-2 HRV)

This poetic statement is complete only in Hebrew Matthew. In the Aramaic and in the Greek only parts of this poetic statement are preserved by Matthew (Mt. 7:1-2) while other parts are preserved in Luke (Luke 6:37-38):

[A] Judge not, and you will not be judged,
[B] condemn not, and you will not be condemned.

[A] For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged;
[B] and with what measure you mete, it will be measured to you again.

Aramaic and Greek Matthew omit “condemn not, and you will not be condemned” Aramaic and Greek Luke omit “For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged”

The initial statement in Mt. 7:1 Judge not, and you will not be judged, condemn not, and you will not be condemned has been totally misunderstood by those who have neglected the context of the statement.

The statements here serve as a basis for the Golden Rule in Mt. 7:12 giving it a basis in the Torah commands surrounding equal weights and measures. One of the Oral Laws recoded in the Mishna relating to weights and measures says:

By the same measure by which a man metes out [to others]
they mete out to him…
(m.Sotah 1:7)

This Oral Law is the obvious source for Yeshua’s statement.

This Oral Law may be stated because of its traditional application to the concepts taught in the previous verses (6:18-34). As we read in the Midrash Rabbah:

Elohim only rewards measure for measure.
(Exodus Rabbah 1 (5b))

And in the Targum Yerushalami:

Measure corresponds to measure.
With the measure with which someone measures (on earth)
It will be measured to him in heaven,
May it be a good or a bad measure.
(Targum Yerushalami to Gen. 38:26)

In the Midrash Siphre:

With the measure with which you measured,
I measure unto you.
(Siphre Deut. 308 (133b))

And in the Midrash Rabbah we read:

As the weaver weaves on his spindle, so he receives it;
with his (own) spindle he takes it.
As the pan boils over, so it pours it (the contents)
out down its sides. Everything that one spits upwards into the
air, falls back on his own face.
(Eccl. Rabbah 7, 9 (105a))

Yeshua uses this concept to draw the following

For with what judgment you judge,
you will be judged

Similar statements appears in the Mishna:

…do not judge your fellow until you are in his place…
(m.Avot 2:4)

…give everyone the benefit of the doubt…
(m.Avot 1:6)

When Yeshua says “Judge not, and you will not be judged, condemn not, and you will not be condemned” in context he is saying that we will be judged by the same standards we judge others. Up until this point Yeshua has only applied this to our relationship with YHWH, but in the following verses Yeshua will apply it to our relationship with others as well.

Yeshua continues:

3 And how [do] you see the splinter in your brother's eye, but see not the beam that is in
your own eye?
4 And how [do] you say to your brother, Suffer it now brother, so that I may pull out the
splinter out of your eye: and behold, a beam is in your own eye?
5 You hypocrite! Pull out at the first, the beam from your own eye: and then you will be
able to see, to pull out the splinter out of your brother's eye.
(Matt. 7:3-5 HRV)

The phrase “a beam is in your own eye” is given as an illustration of the concept laid out in the first two verses, but now the application is to our relationships with others.

Similarly we read in the Talmud:

R.Johanan further said: What is the import of the words,
And it came to pass in the days of the judging of the judges?
It was a generation which judged its judges.
If the judge said to a man, ‘Take the splinter from between
your teeth,’ he would retort, ‘Take the beam from between your eyes.’
(b. Baba Barta 15b)

R. Tarfon said, I wonder whether there is any one
in this generation who accepts reproof, for if one says to him:
Remove the mote from between your eyes,
he would answer: Remove the beam from between your eyes!
(Arakin 16b)

Trim yourself and then trim others.
(b.San. 18a; 19a & b.Bab.M. 107b)

Let us pick off the straws from ourselves,
before we do it to others.
(j.Ta’an. 65a)

After a bit Yeshua gives the statement known as the Golden Rule:

Therefore whatever you would that men should do to you,
do you even so to them: for this is the Torah and the Prophets.
(Matt. 7:12 HRV)

This reads very closely with Hillel's famous statement as found in the Talmud:

What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor
that is the whole Torah...
(b.Shabbat 31a)

Of course Yeshua’s “Golden Rule” has long been recognized as a positive restatement of Hillel’s statement, but many are unaware that even earlier this wise saying had been passed from Toviel to his son Toviyah in the Apocryphal Book of Toviyah (Tobit):

…that which you hate to be done to you,
do not you to others.
(Tobit 4:15 HRV).

Likewise we also read in the Mishnah:

Let the respect owing to your fellow,
be as precious to you as the respect owing to yourself.
(m.Avot 2:10)

and:

Let your fellow’s money
be as precious to you as your own.
(m.Avot 2:12)

So a good definition for justice might be “whatever you would that men should do to you, do you even so to them but that which you hate to be done to you, do not you to others” With this rule we place ourselves on one side of the scales of justice and others on the other side.

HOW THE TORAH TEACHES US JUSTICE

According to 4Maccabees, Reason (Logos) thru the Torah can nurture the virtue of Justice within us:

6 ...Just so it is with the emotions that hinder one from justice.
7 Otherwise how could it be that someone who is habitually a solitary gormandizer, a glutton, or even a drunkard can learn a better way, unless reason is clearly lord of the emotions?
8 Thus, as soon as a man adopts a way of life in accordance with the Torah, even though he is a lover of money, he is forced to act contrary to his natural ways and to lend without interest to the needy and to cancel the debt when the seventh year arrives.
9 If one is greedy, he is ruled by the law through his reason so that he neither gleans his harvest nor gathers the last grapes from the vineyard.
In all other matters we can recognize that reason rules the emotions.
10]For the law prevails even over affection for parents, so that virtue is not abandoned for their sakes.
11]It is superior to love for one's wife, so that one rebukes her when she breaks the law.
12 It takes precedence over love for children, so that one punishes them for misdeeds.
13 It is sovereign over the relationship of friends, so that one rebukes friends when they act wickedly.
14 Do not consider it paradoxical when reason, through the law, can prevail even over enmity. The fruit trees of the enemy are not cut down, but one preserves the property of enemies from the destroyers and helps raise up what has fallen.
(4Maccabees 2:6b-14)

For example the Torah commandments against ussery (Ex. 22:25); for the seventh year release (Dt. 15:1-3) and against gleaning the corners of the field (Lev. 19:9-10; Dt. 20:19-20) all teach us justice.  (4Macc. 2:8-9a)

COMING SOON:  The Four Labors of Wisdom: Courage

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