The Law and Love

IV. Christian Context


A. Introduction: What is Halakhah?

What do we mean by the term "halakhah?" In the Pentateuch, the Torah simply meant divine revelation; it contained the stories of Israel's founding, its theophanies and its commands that turned a people into a nation. These commands ("mitzvot") codified the life of the Israel; halakhah interpreted and applied those divinely inspired laws in a deductive fashion to create a lifestyle for the Jew. The Essenes, the Sadducees and the Pharisees fought over the question of the correct halakhah. In other words, what was the basic understanding the mitzvot as a whole? Which text or passages were higher in importance than others? What sort of outcome could the devotee of the group expect for his lifestyle from this halakhah? These questions also directed the ways Jews could live among Gentiles. Did they assimilate, accommodate or outright reject the pressures of Hellenization?

B. Halakhah in a Gentile Church
The Great Commandment

Within Church between the middle to later part of the first century CE, the question of halakhah shifted. What began as a movement within Judaism morphed into a majority Gentile institution that paralleled its Jewish counterpart, both claiming common roots. So, we need to ask: what relationship did non-Jewish followers of the Nazarene have with Torah? How did they interpret and apply the Law to their lives? Or, to put it another way, what connection did they have with halakhah?

28 After he heard Jesus and the Sadducees debating, a scribe saw Jesus answered their argument well. So he approached Jesus with a question: "What commandment are the most important and guides our understanding of all the others?"

"The first is this," Jesus answered, "'Listen, Israel! Our God is God, the only God! 30 You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, your spirit, your mind, and your strength.'

31 The second is this: 'You must love everyone else as yourself.' No other commandments are greater than these."

32 "Well done, Teacher!" the scribe responded. "You're right when you said:

'He is the only God and there is no other god besides him,' 'Love the God with everything you have,'

33 and, 'love your neighbor as yourself.'

Obeying these commandments is worth far more than all the worship in the Temple at Jerusalem!"

34 Jesus saw the scribe answered wisely. So Jesus replied, "You're not far from God's Kingdom." Nobody dared to ask Jesus anymore questions.

Mark 12:28-34 (Mt 22:35-40, Lk 10:25-28)

In this remarkable passage from Mark, a scribe asked the critical question of halakhah in the Christian community. Unlike the Sadducees who based their understanding solely on the Pentateuch and the Essenes who favored a reading of Deuteronomy over that of Exodus and Leviticus, Jesus in the Synoptics simply focused upon two passages: Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and Leviticus 19:18. Both passages were steeped in tradition, for they defined one's relationship with God and with his neighbor.

1. Love of God: the Shema

The first two words of Deuteronomy 6:4 gave the prayer its name: "Shema Israel" (literally, "Hear, Israel"). The rest of the verse created the creedal statement of Judaism. YHWH was their God; he was One. The first part was straightforward; it declared the place of YHWH as the God of the Israelites. The second part presented an enigma; what does the word "One" (in Hebrew "echad") mean? It contained various shades of uniqueness, isolation, indivisibility and extraordinary abilities. In this sense, the word was a synonym for holiness. It also emphasized monotheism; YHWH transcended the powers of nature that formed the basis of many polytheistic belief systems. The unity and uniqueness of the Jewish God even held the promise of his glory at the end times. "YHWH will be King over all the earth. In that day YHWH will be one, and his name one." (Zechariah 14:9, WEB)

How did the faithful respond to their unique, totally indivisible God? "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, your spirit, your mind, and your strength." (Mk 12:30, see Deu 6:5). The word "love" denoted both a freely made decision and devotion. The act of free will implied a mutual relationship initiated by God with his people. YHWH chose the Hebrews to be his own (Deu 14:2), based upon a covenant with mutual responsibilities (Genesis 17:7) that only a given love could demand (Deu 7:7-8). As God freely loved his people, so the people were to return in kind.

But the love of God demanded not merely recognition or allegiance, but devotion, the whole of one's being ("Love the Lord your God with all your heart, your spirit, your mind, and your strength.") The strength and endurance of that devotion evangelized others, inspiring them to do the same. Each act of devotion (mitzvot) led the faithful into a more cognizant, more intentional experience of pure love.

Taken together, the call of the people to faith in their one unique Deity also contained the imperative to a freely chosen devotion (Joshua 24:15) that made every decision to follow the Law an opportunity to show oneself and others the love of God. No wonder Isaiah described the covenant relationship between YHWH and the Israelites as a marriage), where the free decision of both partners bound them together (Isaiah 54:5-10).

2. Love of Neighbor: The Holiness Codes

Leviticus 19:18 commanded one to "love his neighbor as himself." This lay at the heart of the Torah, both spiritually and physically. According to folklore, if one unrolled a Torah scroll and folded it back where the beginning of Genesis and the end of Deuteronomy met, this famous imperative would be at the creased end.

In addition, the chapter that surrounded the mitzvot invoked the name of YHWH more times than any other place in the Bible. Because of its use, Jews refer to Leviticus 19 as the "Holiness Codes" ("Kedoshim" in Hebrew). The chapter invoked the name 21 times, mostly within two phrases: "I am YHWH your God" (seven times) and "I am YHWH" (eight times). Notice the number seven and its multiples; it can refer to divine completion and the covenant promise. Both the use of the name and the way it was used spoke to the importance of the chapter.

The passage began with the imperative "You shall be holy; for I, YHWH your God, am holy" (19:1b) and ended with the command "You shall observe all my statutes and all my ordinances, and do them. I am YHWH" (19:37). Between these two phrases, Leviticus 19 paraphrased the Decalogue (Exo 20:1-17; Deu 5:6-21):

Leviticus 19:3a, Leviticus 19:32 Honor parents and elders.

Leviticus 19:3b, Leviticus 19:30 Keep the Sabbath.

Leviticus 19:4 Prohibition on idolatry.

Leviticus 19:11a, Leviticus 19:13a Prohibition against stealing.

Leviticus 19:11b Prohibition against lying.

Leviticus 19:12 Honor the name of YHWH.

This passage also expanded aspects of the commandments:

On proper worship (contra idolatry in Lev 19:4): Leviticus 19:5-8 addressed the timetable when a worshiper ate meat offered to God as a communion sacrifice. He could partake on first and second days, but not on the third.

On dealings with the poor and invalid (contra stealing in Lev 19:11a, Leviticus 19:13a and lying Lev 19:11b). Leviticus 19:13-14 began the series of commands about one's relationship with neighbors. It spoke to relations those in a position of weakness, fairness to laborers (Lev 19:13b) and deference to the deaf and blind (Lev 19:14). The wording in Leviticus 19:13 prohibited sinning against another from a position of strength, robbing through brute force or withholding wages as an act of power. Lev 19:14 railed against abusing the deaf or blind; this could be applied literally or figuratively for the ignorant. Notice the implicit stress on equality.

On justice (contra stealing in Lev 19:11a, Lev 9:13a and lying Lev 19:11b). Leviticus 19:15-18 continued one's relationship with a neighbor. It addressed justice with one's neighbor, in court (Lev 19:15) or in taking advantage of other's misfortune (Lev 19:16), by exhibiting ill will (Lev 19:17) or by keeping a grudge (Lev 19:18a). These verses along with Leviticus 19:13-14 summed up how one was to treat a neighbor, thus defining what the command to "love one's neighbor as one's self" meant (Lev 19:18b).

However, Leviticus 19:33-34 demanded fair treatment for foreigners, even echoing the command to love them as one's self (Lev 19:34); these verses implicitly expanded the notion of "neighbor" by reminding the community that they too were once aliens in a foreign land. However, we must consider the relationship the foreigner had with the local believer. Obviously, certain commands would override Leviticus 19:33-34; a foreigner could not worship an alien deity or partake in ritual prostitution of a fertility rite. Indeed, the stranger must live within the Law, either showing deference to the edicts of the Torah or honoring YHWH. In return for such respect given to the God of Israel and his Law, the foreigner received the benefits of hospitality. The ancient custom of a host providing food and shelter to the stranger filled in the vague nature of Leviticus 19:33-34.

Besides Leviticus 19:33-34, five other commands addressed Gentile: two positive and three negatives. The faithful were to treat the foreigner with respect in speech and business dealings (Exo 22:20). Yet, they could not intermarry with outsiders (Deu 7:3), but they were commanded to collect debts from the Gentile (Deu 15:3) and charge the outsider interest on loans (Deu 23:21).

Finally, Leviticus 19:35-36 called for justice in the field of commerce.

On adultery. Leviticus 19:20-23 referred to carnal relations with a slave girl who was soon to be freed so she could marry another; the command demanded the man in the relationship paid an indemnity (thus satisfying the shame caused to the man betrothed to the girl) and offer a prescribed sacrifice.

On proper worship. Leviticus 19:23-24 regulated harvesting fruit from newly planted trees. The first three years allowed the tree to take root and mature. The Law implicitly considered any fruit from the fourth year's growth as "first fruits" which belonged to YHWH and could only be used in religious ceremonies. Farmers could consume fruit from the fifth year and beyond.

On idolatry. Leviticus 19:26-29, Leviticus 19:31 forbade practices of worship to foreign gods. Communion meals with pagan deities might include consuming of raw meat (ritual eating of meat with blood inside; Leviticus 19:26). These commands also forbade sorcery, cutting the beard for ceremonial use, skin cutting, tattoos, and employment of mediums, all used in idolatry. However, the most unusual command prohibited forcing a daughter into prostitution. In a honor-shame society, what patriarch besides the craven would subject his own kin into such a position and bring dishonor upon his name? There was one exception: the synergistic worship of Ba'al, the nature and fertility god of Canaan. A significant portion of Ba'al cult included ritual prostitution (see Hosea 4:10-19). In the context, the command (Lev 19:29) carried as much religious weight as moral gravity.

Of all the commands, Leviticus 19:19 stood as inexplicable. It forbade crossbreeding two different but genetically close animals, mixing different crops in the same field or weaving a garment with two materials, thus maintaining the purity. Perhaps it reinforced the notion of kosher demanded in Leviticus 19:1 ("You shall be holy; for I, YHWH you God, am holy").

In context, the Holiness Codes defined Leviticus 19:18b by what it was not, just as the Ten Commandments phrased most of its imperatives. To love one's neighbor as one's self meant refraining from heavy-handed tactics in social relationships (Lev 19:13), mean-spiritedness against the invalid and weak (Lev 19:14, Lev 19:16-17), injustice in the marketplace (Lev 19:35-36) or in court (Lev 19:15). It also guarded against prejudice, either by grudge and vengeance (Lev 19:17a, Lev 19:18a) or against an alien (Lev 19:33-34). Finally, it sought to protect the reputation and very life of the neighbor (Lev 19:13). In short, it encouraged a love of neighbor through regulation, within the greater context of the Ten Commandments. Thus, the duty to God dictated duty towards one's neighbor.

Leviticus 19 described conditions within Palestine, where nearly everyone shared the same ethnicity, political allegiances, and faith. What did Leviticus 19:18b mean in the first century Diaspora, where the average Jew rubbed shoulders with the typical pagan? More important, what did it mean to the Christian in the Apostolic Age?

3. What did the term "neighbor" mean?

In the context of Leviticus 19:11-18, neighbor meant fellow Israelite, for it referred to those of the Chosen People. While the Hebrew noun for neighbor, "rea," could have a universal meaning, it implicitly narrowed to mean a fellow countryman, based upon its use in the Torah's social laws. In addition, it stood in stark contrast to the alien of Leviticus 19:33-34. While the latter passage encouraged a general refraining from doing harm to the stranger, it did not detail that behavior in the way the former passage did. In other words, the neighbor and the alien had different status in the Torah, so they were to be treated differently. Love of neighbor and love of the stranger required separate standards of conduct.

The general imperative to "do (the alien) no harm" (Lev 19:33b) allowed for different responses to the question of Jewish interaction with Gentiles. Isolation, like the Essenes, eliminated direct contact with foreigners but did not address the problem of prejudice. After all, it was easier to hate those with whom one does not contact. Full engagement, like the Herodians, threatened to dissolve a sense of group identity; if a Jew accepted every aspect of the general Hellenistic culture, how could he truly be Jewish? The Pharisees charted a path that allowed some interaction with outsiders for certain periods of time while maintaining a distinct identity at other times through the use of detailed cleansing rituals. They employed halakhah itself to answer the dilemma. To love the Gentile as oneself (Lev 19:14b) meant respect and some social restraint, but no more.

The early Christian community faced a different problem; Gentiles flooded into the local churches, overwhelming Jewish adherents. Here, difficulty shifted from "how the Jew should treat the Gentile?" to "how should the non-Jew treat the Jewish Christian?" In Acts 15:20, 29, the Church fathers in Jerusalem answered the dilemma with halakhah.

Peter said:

" judgment is that we don't trouble those from among the Gentiles who turn to God, but that we write to them that they abstain from the pollution of idols, from sexual immorality, from what is strangled, and from blood. For Moses from generations of old has in every city those who preach him, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath."

Acts 15:19-21 (WEB)

The council of Church elders at Jerusalem excused non-Jews from the demand for circumcision and the burden of the Law. Instead, it required four simple commands. The first stemmed from the Decalogue (against idolatry; Deuteronomy 5:7-9, Exo 20:3-4) Another came from Genesis 9:4 (refraining from eating raw meat that contained blood). The third again cited the Decalogue (against adultery; Deu 5:18, Exo 20:14). The last against strangled animals was implied from command to eat only kosher meats (Lev 17:15, Deu 14:21). Creed of the Church made the command against idolatry explicit; the moral standards of the community made the ruling against adultery also explicit. The prohibition against strangled animals was implicit in the second command. Jews considered the strangling of animals as inhuman; meats from such animals naturally contained blood, which they considered the life force of the animal. The second and fourth rules allowed Jewish-Christians to maintain dietary laws while sharing fellowship with Gentile Christians.

Notice the issue remained behavior, not identity. There were still insiders and outsiders. For the Christian community, evangelization propelled its efforts, convincing the outsider to move inside. And that was a question of love.

4. What does the term "love" mean?

a. The Parable of the Good Samaritan

As we have seen, "love" had plastic quality. For the Jew, it meant solidarity with a countryman, while simple courtesy for the Gentile. But, what did love mean for the Christian, especially in his outreach? In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Luke 10:25-37 gave us an answer. Recall the scribe defined the Great Commandment, then asked: "Who is my neighbor?" (Lk 10:29) Jesus responded with the parable then inquired:

 "Which of these three men treated the robbed man like a neighbor?"

"The man who was merciful," replied the lawyer.

Luke 10:36-37

Such a show of mercy toward the dead or near dead had a precedent in Judaism. In Tobit 1:16-18, the hero buried those who the Assyrian king executed, both friend and stranger alike; thus, in his act of charity, he violated Numbers 19:11-16 and made himself unclean. With the shift towards urban living in the Diaspora, the responsibility for burial shifted from the family to the community; subsequently, burial societies arose to address the need. But, the ritual self-quarantine and purification demanded by Numbers 19:11-12 left Temple leaders of the parable in a quandary; they couldn't perform service in the holy site if they touched the dead; such worship function superseded any other moral demand. Hence the reticence by the priest and scribe to touch the victim assumed to be dead. The lay person, however, had the luxury to make himself unclean to perform an act of kindness.

But, in typical Lucan fashion, Jesus flipped social convention on its head. The enemy became the hero; the hated Samaritan became the one who loved the stranger, while the Law keeping priest and scribe did not. So, love of neighbor took on a universal quality; it meant mercy, even to the stranger. In fact, Leviticus 19:18b demanded one violate the Law in order to keep the Law. What was once a matter of discernment now stood as a norm.

b. Love Your Enemies (Q 6:27-32, 34-36)

In the "Q" source, Luke 6:27-32, Luke 6:34-36 and Matthew 5:43-48 extended the quality even to enemies. "Love your enemies..." (Lk 27; Mt 5:43). This phrase alone has no parallel either in the Old Testament, inter-Testamental writings or the New Testament. We can only find similar sentiments in Stoic philosophy, but with important caveats. On the one hand, overt concern for the adversary shielded one from the personal harm he could inflict; such care either shamed the enemy or caused the other to make a fool of himself. On the other hand, such concern protected the person from pain with implicit indifference. In other words, one treated others in the same way the gods treated him, so the person should not take any slight personally. Notice, the Stoics meant "love of enemies" as a means to maintain inner tranquility, but Jesus stated the proposition as a means to divine recompense (Lk 6:35b) and reputation (Mt 5:45).

In these verses, Jesus surrounding this command with certain behaviors. Both Luke 6:28 and Matthew 5:44 agree that one should love enemies by praying for them, thus including intention. Luke 6:27b, Luke 6:28b added blessing and acting benevolently towards the opponent. Luke 6:29-30 and Matthew 5:40-41 commanded passivity in regard to those who extorted personal possessions. He made these behaviors universal when he called those who restricted their love to those within their group "sinners." Instead, he promoted the Golden Rule (Lk 6:31; Mt 7:12a) as the universal yardstick of love.

In the end, both redefined the command, "You shall be holy, for I, YHWH your God, am holy." (Lev 19:2). Luke 6:36 replaced "holy" with "merciful." Matthew 5:48 replaced "holy" with "perfect" in the sense of devotion; such love fulfilled the Law (Mt 7:12b). To become "holy," clean before the Lord, meant acting with mercy and a concern for others, even in the context of persecution.

While "love your neighbor as yourself" did not exist in any other book of the New Testament, the sentiment shown in Luke 6:27-32, Luke 6:34-36 could be found in Romans 12:9-21. Here, Paul urged his audience to express love in deference and service, charity to fellow Christians and hospitality to strangers (Rom 12:9-11, Rom 12:13). In between Rom 12:13, he called for patience with suffering and blessing upon the enemy, while rejoicing and remaining steadfast in the faith (Rom 12:12, 14). He exhorted his audience to "live in harmony with one another" (insiders; Rom 12:16) and to "live peaceably with all" (outsiders; Rom 12:18), reminding them that God judgment will come (Rom 12:19; see Deu 32:35) and works of charity can shame the opponent more effectively than aggressive opposition (Rom 12:20-21; see Proverbs 25:21-22). For Paul, love consisted of behaviors that maintained unity within the community (1 Cor 13:4-7) and strove to live in peace with outsiders, even if they hated Christians.

c. Love Others As I Have Loved You (Jn 13:34-35, Jn 15:12-13)

At this point, the notion of "love" took a sharp turn inward. Much has been written about the Greek word for "unconditional love" (agape) and how it differed from marital love (eros) and love between friends (phileo). John employed agape seven times up to John 13, but, in the Farewell Discourse (John 13-17), he used it 25 times! And, all in the context of the relationship between the Father and the Son (vertical), then between the Son and his disciples (horizontal). The vertical represented a spiritual union between God and Jesus (Jn 14:11). The horizontal extended that union to the disciples (Jn 14:21, 23) and gave it an ethical component (Jn 15:8, Jn 15:16). John 13:34-3 and John 15:12-13 commanded disciples to act morally because of the spirituality that bound them together. More important, the verses grounded their morality in service. John 13 began with the "Washing of the Feet" scene where Jesus acted as a servant for a teachable moment; the leader was the slave to his brothers and sisters, even to death (Jn 17:1). In John's gospel, agape glued the community together (Jn 17:23-24), even in the face of extreme prejudice by outside forces (Jn 15:18-25; Jn 16:2). The evangelist portrayed serving love as a bulwark against forces of darkness, not only social but cosmic. In John's view, love had nothing to do with the outsider.

While the author of 1 John (the evangelist himself?) picked up the effusive use of agapao (verb form of agape), he never used the phrase "love others as I have loved you." But he did adopt the vertical and horizontal dimensions of that word. God send his Son in the flesh to save humanity through his death (1 Jn 1:1-4; 1 Jn 2:1-2, 1 Jn 2:22-25; 1 Jn 3:23; 1 Jn 4:2,9; 1 Jn 5:5-12), so members of the community must love each other in practical ways (1 Jn 2:9-11; 1 Jn 3:11-18; 1 Jn 4:7-12, 1 Jn 4:20-21). Thus, like the Farewell Discourse, the love from God gave rise to the love for the fellow believer. Yet, both were, at best, faint echoes of the Great Commandment.

5. Summary

Love of God. Love of neighbor. The former defined love as a freely chosen, all-inclusive devotion. One's worship, indeed, the very orientation of one's life belonged to YHWH. He and only he alone was God. The citation from Deuteronomy 6:4 asserted that belief as fact.

The later, on the other hand, defined love with a certain flexibility that depended upon audience, context, and disposition. Leviticus 19:18b focused upon one's fellow countryman; it narrowed its edicts in the negative, thus defining love as "thou shall not." Leviticus 19:33b ordered Israelites to implicitly extend hospitality to the alien; however, it was understood the stranger respected the norms of the host country, especially its monotheism and its adherence to the laws of kosher.

In the first century CE, two new problems arose. First, far more Jews lived in the Diaspora than in the Holy Land; how did they, as a minority, keep the commandment to love one's neighbor among a majority pagan population, while still maintaining a distinctive identity? To some extent, the answer lay in ghetto living. Jews clustered in neighborhoods around a central assembly building, the synagogue, practiced their traditional rituals and interacted with Gentiles on a respectful, but limited basis. They set time aside for social and business relations with non-Jews, then they would cleanse themselves from the pollution of the world for the time "to be holy" with their family and their God. Love of the outsider meant respect.

Second, a group within Judaism arose that welcomed Gentile outsiders into their fold. Disciples of Jesus the Christ energetically evangelized both Jew and Greek alike in the fervent belief the world would end imminently. While traditional Jews received the Good News either in a lukewarm fashion or with outright hostility, Gentiles received it with joy. Unfortunately, the stresses the Jews faced with Gentiles played itself out within the Christian community. Acts 15:19-21 addressed the concerns of the Jewish Christians over the influx of Gentile neophytes; it prescribed a limited halakhah to govern the outsiders in the presence of the insiders.

Romans 12:9-21 was the first instance in the New Testament that addressed love of neighbor, urging deference to the fellow believer for unity's sake and respect to the outsider for the sake of peace. Luke 6:27-32, Luke 6:34-36 and Matthew 5:43-48 expanded the last point with the phrase "love your enemies." This statement had parallels in Stoic philosophy, but the intent of the dictum differed. The goal of love for enemies did not lie in inner tranquility, but in God's reward (Lk 6:35b) and personal reputation (Mt 5:45). For both evangelists, a blanket love for enemy differentiated the Christian from all others ("sinners"). This marked the way to be like God: act mercifully (Lk 6:36, Lk 10:37) and devote yourself for the good of others (Mt 5:48).

The gospel writer John refocused "love" onto the relationships within the community. Love as service bonded the community together, even in times of persecution. However, the evangelist painted relations with outsiders in ugly colors; believers walked in the light, while non-believers cowered in the darkness (thus echoing the exclusivity of the Essenes).

Love of neighbor, then, covered many different meanings, from polite respect for stranger/pagan to deferential service for a fellow believer. In the Q Source, it attained a universal norm of non-retaliation and goodwill. However, changes within the Church over the arch of the Apostolic Age shifted the ideal of love to more practical concerns. Specifically, what did the Law mean in the Christian community as its Jewish leadership began to die out and Gentiles took their place?

C. Did Christians keep Halakhah?

1. Jews and Greeks

In the 40's and 50's CE, Gentile proselytizing picked up speed. As a result, the character of the many Christian communities possessed a multi-cultural aspect. Jews and Greeks could lived, dine and worship together. Yet, an inherent inequality existed, with the Jews as the dominant class and the Greeks as the underclass.

Why should this inequality exist? St. Paul implicitly asked this question. He saw three positions that addressed the status of Gentiles within the Church. Conservative Jewish-Christians answered the question with a total conversion. As the "Judaizers," they insisted Gentiles, to enjoy equality, should be circumcised and practice a halakhic lifestyle; otherwise, they should remain second class citizens. This group aligned themselves with "James, brother of the Lord" since they insisted on self-quarantine (Gal 2:11-13).

Paul railed against this group, insulting them as "dogs" (Phil 3:2-4), telling them to emasculate themselves (Gal 5:12). Against the status quo of Judaizer separation, he argued for a radical equality that cut across ethnic, social, gender and economic lines:

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female. For all of you are one in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 3:28

For Paul, faith in Christ, not adherence to a halakhic lifestyle, brought salvation (Gal 3:6-9); indeed, he argued from the Torah against its mitzvot, insisting that the divine promise realized in Christ superseded the duties of the Law (Gal 3:15-18). The mitzvot defined morality but did not give the power to live rightly before God; that only came through a devotion to Jesus (Gal 2:15-16, Gal 3:19-26). Thus, Paul held faith gave the disciple a freedom from God's very edicts and the sins it defined.

However, some took the words of Paul to their absurd conclusion; they drifted away from Paul's position to form a libertine camp. They interpreted his teaching as a license for tolerating sexual immorality (1 Cor 5:1-2, 1 Cor 5:6) and eating meat offered to idols (1 Cor 8). While Paul recognized their point, he implicitly argued that love limited one's decisions; one should act for the good of the community (1 Cor 10:23-24, 1 Cor 10: 32-33).

Paul's last point needs some nuance. While Paul separated Christian morality from the edicts of the Torah in theory, in practice he insisted social norms to keep peace inside and outside the community. For example, he argued for radical equality between the sexes, yet held to the secondary place of women in the church (1 Cor 11:2-16, 1 Cor 14:34-35). We could say the same for the relationship between Jews and Gentiles; non-Jews should act in a way not to offend the moral sensibilities of those who follow the Law. In other words, he assumed some mitzvot remained as binding on Gentile Christians.

Later in the post-apostolic era, the letter of James would also push against those who separated faith from morality (Jam 1:22-25). Instead, it stressed works of charity (Jam 1:27) and impartiality in regard to social classes (Jam 2:1-7); indeed, fair dealing among the faithful fulfilled Leviticus 19:18 (Jam 2:8). James 2:9-11 clearly stated that showing preference towards the rich broke the Law, just as adultery or murder did; the liberty faith gave was based upon mercy (Jam 2:12-13).

The letter cut to the heart of the matter in the famous verse: faith without works is dead (Jam 2:17). In context, the "works" referred were acts of mercy (Jam 2:15-16). The author advanced his argument that action superseded mere faith with examples from Scripture. Abraham's faith in God motivated his action and brought it to fulfillment; implicitly, his trust in YHWH realized mercy for Isaac (Jam 2:21-23, Genesis 2:1-18). Again, the author implied that Rahab the prostitute received mercy because of her decisive acts to save the Israeli spies (Jam 2:25, Joshua 2). Throughout this passage, he hammered the point that acts of mercy brought words of faith alive; without them, faith was dead (Jam 2:20, Jam 2:24, Jam 2:26).

Paul enforced some mitzvot simply because they were social norms. James stressed some of these commands as a means to show mercy. So, both men vaguely agreed the mitzvot of the Torah had some practical uses. This begged the question: which ones?

2. Loss of Worship Mitzvot,
Rejection of Purity Mitzvot

In the 60's and 70's CE, the ethnic shift towards the Gentiles was inevitable. Non-Jews would not only gain equality but dominance in many church communities. This brought about three changes. First, Gentiles had a different world view, one more in tune with the philosophic leanings of the pagan majority. For example, such questions found their way into discussions about the nature of the Resurrection (1 Cor 15:35). Next, Gentiles also questioned the need to follow halakhah. Based upon rulings like Acts 15:1-33, they felt content not giving offense to Jews yet living outside the Law. Finally, the destruction of the Temple by the Romans in 70 CE made the worship mitzvot mute.

Still, two practices remained controversial in waning years of the Apostolic Age: ritual washings and kosher diet. The gospels mentioned hand and feet washing as a sign of hospitality (Lk 7:44) and ritual preparation for the meal (Mark 7:1-3, John 2:6, John 13:9). They also record the ritual washing of foods and cooking utensils (Mark 7:4). These practices dovetailed with the question of kosher diet, which either the words of Jesus (Mark 7:14) or the command of God (Acts 10:9-16) set aside.

Mark 7:1-23 (Mt 15:1-20) welded objections to ritual washings and kosher diet together. In the text, Jesus slammed the Pharisees for their insistence upon traditional behaviors to mark off Jewish identity. First, he quoted Isaiah 29:13 which railed against appearances as the sole measure of religiosity. Next, he extended his critique beyond the prophetic to attack the notion of korban, setting aside money for the Temple against the needs of parents thus violating the commandment: Honor your father and mother (Exo 20:12, Deu 5:16; Exo 21:17, Leviticus 20:9; for more on korban see my commentary on this passage and on korban in Mark's passion). Finally, he overturned the use of kosher diet, denying any connection between it and immorality.

In the Torah, moral and dietary mitzvot shared the same language. Not only did they divide clean from unclean, they were abominations. However, while gross immorality required punishment, removing the pollution from the community, violations of kosher diet had no prescribed punishments. It only had the force of defining Jewish identity through constant practice across generations; a Jew grew up eating a kosher diet, knew no other way to act and made it a badge of honor that defined them against outsiders. They just assumed breaking diet rose to the level of the immoral; both rejected one's identity as a Jew.

Jesus disconnected the link between the two when he stressed the source of immorality, mental intention (Mark 7:18-23). One's interior life, not diet, defined him as a believer. Notice this separation implied a greater shift in the discussion of halakhah. No longer did Christian writings hint at a struggle within the community between Jewish Christians and their Gentile counterparts. Instead, passages like Mark 7:1-23 demonstrated a polemical tone; through the words of Jesus, the Gentile community fought against the Pharisaical leaders of the synagogue. This "us vs. them" attitude would grow more persuasive in the gospels and culminate in the gospel of John.

Let's conclude this section with one reference from the Q source about ritual washing of vessels. In Luke 11:39-44 and Matthew 11:23, Matthew 11:25-27, Jesus used the practice as a harsh critique against the Pharisees. He emphasized the need for mercy (cleansing the inside) stood over the demands of minutia in halakhah (tithing herbs) and the importance of position in community. In these passages, ritual washing, while disconnected from kosher diet, became a lopsided analogy for, and polemic against, Pharisaical spirituality.

3. Christian Interpretation of the Decalogue

In the midst of the Apostolic era (50's CE), St. Paul contended with Jewish opponents and hard line Jewish Christians ("Judaizers") but his primary concern focused upon Gentile converts. Later writings in the early post-Apostolic age (60's and 70's CE) reduced its fight only against Jewish competitors. Implicitly, many Jewish leaders in the Church died out; their Gentile counterparts took over. While pockets of Jewish-Christians still existed (Matthew's community, for example), disputes within the churches wained away. Focus had shifted from questions of halakhah Gentile neophytes might keep to pacify their Jewish elders to a full-on polemic against Jewish opponents.

By the early Apostolic era, the destruction of the Temple (70 CE) made the worship mitzvot mute; the Church had rejected the need for purification rules and a kosher diet. Only the Ten Commandments really remained. And the Christian Scriptures had something to say about them.

a. "You shall not have no other gods before me." (Exo 20:3, Deu 5:7)

We briefly mentioned the controversy over the consumption of meats offered to idols. Especially in Paul's letters, this became a flash point for disputes concerning idolatry.

The poor in the ancient world had limited protein sources. Basically, they ate a vegetarian diet, supplemented periodically with meat offered at local religious festivals, then distributed to community at large during communion meals. Merchants might buy some of this meat so they could offer it for sale in the market place (1 Cor 10:25). Whether they partook in the meat or not, they had subsistent diet.

This last point raised a dispute in the community. On the one hand, Paul taught Christians enjoyed freedom from the Law and idols had no real existence (1 Cor 8:4-6). On the other hand, some within and without the community objected to the consumption of such meat, claiming this was an act of idolatry (1 Cor 8:7). So, what should one do? Paul taught freedom, as long as the Christian did not disturb the conscience of another (1 Cor 8:8-13, 1 Cor 10:25-32). However, the controversy lasted into the post-Apostolic age (Revelation 2:20).

b. ‘You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain" (Exo 20:7, Deu 5:11)

This command sought to protect the reputation of YHWH from a believer 1) who invoked his name loosely or 2) who swore a worthless oath to bolster the swearer's own fame. In the former case, rituals to respect them name developed over time. In the later case, Numbers 30:3 expected the oath taker to keep his vow; if the taker invoked God's name but did not keep his promise, he made the divine out to be a liar or untrustworthy. But if someone took an oath, they were to take it in the name of God (Deu 6:13); in fact, some instances arose where the oath was expected (Exo 22:10-11).

St. Paul invoked God as his witness in his letters as a backstop for points he made (Rom 1:9; Philemon 1:8; 1 Cor 4:16, 11:1; 2 Cor 1:23; 1 Thes 2:5, 2:10, 5:27). Acts 18:18 addressed a personal vow Paul took. In Acts 20:21-24, four men made vows as a witness to Paul's dedication to the Law. So, the apostle to the Gentiles invoked oaths and implicitly expected others to do the same.

However, a counter movement existed in the post-Apostolic era against oaths. Matthew 5:34-37 and James 5:12 clearly prohibited vow taking; instead one must only answer in the affirmative or the negative. Proponents of this rule wanted to protect the command to honor the divine reputation. Instead of taking a vow in the name of God, they would abstain.

These two movements pulled the Church in all sorts of theological contortions about the nature of oaths, their use and importance. We only need to note a real controversy existed in the early Church concerning the command about keeping God's reputation in high regard.

c. "Remember the Sabbath; keep it holy." (Exo 20:8-11, Deu 5:12-15)

In the late Apostolic to early post Apostolic era, the question of ministry on Sabbath came to the fore. It split into two streams of controversy: exorcism/healing on the Sabbath and lax response to Sabbath mitzvot. The first concerned exercise of life giving charisms on the day of rest; this subject cut across lines of tradition. In the Synoptics, Mark 1:21-28 (Lk 4:31-37) listed an exorcism in the synagogue on the Sabbath, then more healings/exorcisms on the same day (Mark 1:29-32; Mt 8:14-17; Lk 4:38-41). Mark 3:1-6 (Mt 12:9-14, Lk 6:6-11) ended his discussion on Sabbath healings with the restoration of man's withered hand in the synagogue.

Other evangelists added periscopes from their own traditions. In Luke 13:10-17, Jesus healed a woman with a crooked back on the Sabbath; Luke 14:1-6 described Jesus healing a man with dropsy on the holy day. In John 5:2-18, Jesus healed a crippled man at the Bethesda pool on the day of rest.

When we compare these passages, three of them occurred in the synagogue (Mark 1:21-28; Mark 3:1-6; Luke 13:10-17), four involved controversies with scribes and/or Pharisees (Mark 3:1-6, Luke 13:10-17, Luke 14:1-6, John 5:2-18) and three offered a defense with an appeal to the Torah (Lk 13:10-17, Lk 14:1-6, John 7:21-24). Notice in most cases, Jesus initiated the controversy.

Did healings performed by Jesus or ministers of the early Church violate the Sabbath? The short answer was "No." A review of the Hebrew Scriptures, inter-Testamental literature, secular Jewish writings of the first century CE, even passages from the Mishnah (third century Jewish commentary on the Torah) did not contain even a hint of the opinion that healing/exorcism on the Sabbath violated the Torah. So why did this controversy rise to such a visible level in the gospels?

Mark 2:23-28 (Mt 12:1-8; Lk 6:1-5) gave us the answer. In this passage, the Pharisees accused the disciples of violating the Law when the plucked grain on the Sabbath. (In addition, the disciples rubbed the grains in their hands to remove the chaff; this implied processing the grain.) Deu 23:25 stated that picking grain did not infer theft, but Exodus 34:21 forbade harvesting grain on the Sabbath (Mark 2:23-24).

Jesus replied in three ways. First, in Mark 2:25-26, he recalled the story of David eating the "bread of Presence" that was reserved only the priests (1 Samuel 21:1-6). While Jesus did not infer the ritual cleansing period David's men underwent (three days abstinence from sexual relations) before they eat the bread, nonetheless, he used this passage to defend his followers actions. If David's men could violate kosher by eating bread reserved for the holy, certainly his disciples could violate it by partaking in such a small act as eating hand-picked grain.

Next, Jesus stated the halakhic key that defended his position in Mark 2:27. In Greek, it had a chaistic or stair-step construction:

A: The Sabbath for man

B: was made, and not

A: man for the Sabbath.

The B step emphasized the creation of humanity in Genesis 1:26-31. YHWH made man in his image and likeness thus giving people stewardship over nature. While his other creation he declared good (Genesis 1:5, 10, 12, 18, 25), he stated his giving humanity life "very good" (Genesis 1:31); humans stood as the crown of his creation. After his labor, he rested (Genesis 2:1-3). The B step interpreted the day of rest as service to humanity, not a burden. In other words, the mitzvot that regulated Sabbath only held sway if they promoted the dignity of humanity; otherwise, they had no worth.

The B step did more, however, for it implicitly looked forward the the "day of YHWH," not in the sense of divine judgment, but in the view of fulfilled creation. On that day, God would raise the righteous to live with him forever, in the eternal Sabbath. His "rest" would be their "rest." His presence would fulfill their every desire for divine intimacy that Sabbath observance hinted at. So Mark 2:27 encapsulated the sweep of salvation history, from creation to redemption; one should see keeping the Sabbath through that lens.

Finally, Jesus ended the discussion with the final statement of his place. Literally, "Thus, the Lord is the Son of Man and of the Sabbath." (Mark 2:28) The Greek emphasized identity (‘The Lord is the Son of Man") and ownership ("The Lord...of the Sabbath"); the conjunction "kai" (and) welded the two aspects together. In other words, Jesus declared his place as the final authority over questions of Sabbath halakhah. As the Son of Man, he was Lord and the judge of all things Sabbath.

So, why did the gospels insist upon Sabbath controversies? The evangelists placed these narratives found in their traditions (Synoptics, John and Luke) to emphasize what Mark 2:28 made explicit. Jesus was the final arbitrator of Sabbath mitzvot and the needs of people for wholeness trumped any halakhic rulings. Clearly, these passages acted as another line of polemic by Gentile Christians against their Pharisaic opponents even when Jews may have considered such controversies minor.

c. "Honor your father and mother." (Exo 20:12, Deu 5:16)

We must recognize that the terms "father" and "mother" had a greater flexibility in ancient society that just a reference to biological parents; one could call a significant elder "father" or "mother." Usually, the terms referred to those in a clan hierarchy.

Passages that concerned the importance of family elders had mixed emphases. On the one hand, as we have seen in Mark 7:1-23 (Mt 15:1-20), Jesus used this commandment against the notion of korban; for him, honoring the clan hierarchy ranked higher than setting aside monies for worship. On the other hand, evangelization superseded any familial obligations. In the Q source (Mt 8:21-22; Lk 9:59-60), Jesus rebuked the would-be disciple who sought to bury his father before following the Lord. In the Synoptics (Mark 3:34-35; Mt 12:49-50; Lk 8:21), Jesus declared his disciples who keep the divine will as his true family. Indeed, in the Q source (Mt 10:34-36; Lk 12:51-53) Christian faith would cause clans to break apart, pitting one family member against another, for devotion to Jesus trumped emotional attachments to the clan (Mt 10:37; Lk 14:26).

d. "You shall not kill." (Exo 20:13; Deu 5:17)

In Matthew 5:21-22, Jesus cut to the root of murder: anger. He railed against serious insults which heightened an adversarial atmosphere. He concluded this section with a quote from the Q source (Mt 5:25-26; Lk 12:58-59), where he compared an argument with a proceeding for debtor's court; one should settle with their adversary before judgment than face the possibility of prison.

In the letter of James, the author warned his audience about a quick temper (Jam 1:19-20) which began with a loose tongue (Jam 3:5, 3:10). The author of Ephesians urged temporal limits to anger, no matter how justified (Eph 4:26-27); instead, he encouraged believers to build up, not tear down, the community with their speech (Eph 4:29-31).

e. "You shall not commit adultery." (Exo 20:14; Deu 5:18)

In Mark 10:2-9, Jesus engaged a group of Pharisees in a halakhic discussion over divorce. In the first century CE, divorce was common; Jewish men could send away their wives at will, while men and women had the right to divorce under Roman law. The Pharisees wanted to see if Jesus approved of the practice found in Deuteronomy 24:1-4; this mitzvot allowed for divorce but forbade an ex-wife to return to her first husband. Jesus quoted Genesis 5:2, 2:24, a command that lie closer to the act of creation and, thus, had priority in the hierarchy of commandments. In other words, the institution of marriage superseded any attempt to dissolve its bonds. On the heels of the rabbinic dispute, he compared divorce and remarriage to adultery (Mark 10:11). The Q source (Lk 16:18; Mathew 5:32) closely matched this outlook; the man who divorced his wife caused the one who married her to commit adultery.

Why did Jesus in these passages oppose divorce? Scholars have advanced many theories to explain his ruling. From a social standpoint, even the threat of divorce left the wife and her offspring in a tenuous situation. It could mean rejection by the woman's own kin; accepting a daughter back into her clan implicitly admitted her failure and brought shame onto the family. The only alternative was homelessness for the ex-wife, even prostitution, to survive.

Since clans arranged marriages to strengthen social, political and economic ties, the husband's clan could use divorce as a weapon to challenge, weaken, even destroy those bonds. Divorce was a tool of leverage in a honor-shame society, even to assert domination of one clan over another.

The Christian community had other reasons to oppose divorce. First, the Church cultivated a reputation of high moral standing; divorce brought that view down to the mundane ("See, those divorced Christians are like anyone else. Why should I join them?"). Next, as we saw earlier, faith itself could weaken family bonds within the clan (the Q source; Lk 12:51-53; Mt 10:34-36), so faith communities needed unity to survive and help those believers ostracized by their family; divorce could only cause internal dissension from gossip, slander and backstabbing. Last, connected to the first reason, Christians opposed divorce as a polemical tool against their Pharisaical opponents; they claimed to keep the original intent of marriage and, so, halakhic superiority.

St. Paul addressed marital issues on a practical level in 1 Corinthians 7:10-11. In the name of the Lord, he urged separation with the chance of reconciliation, but rejected divorce. Like Jesus in the gospels, he wanted to maintain the bonds of marriage, by implicitly seeing divorce as the door to adultery.

Matthew 5:27-28 reinforced the intentional guide to morality (Mark 7:21-23; Mt 15:19). Lust was equivalent to adultery.

Thus, the Christian community tightened the commandment against adultery in two ways: 1) opposing divorce to eliminate the possibility of scandal caused by remarriage that some could see as adulterous and 2) emphasizing intent as the root, thus, starting point, of the sin.

f. "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor." (Exo 20:16; Deu 5:20)

This commandment began as a warning against invoking the name of God a false oath against a fellow Israelite in a court proceeding. It quickly expanded to include lying and acts of deception. Because people in general assumed honesty in civil discourse, they rejected lying across ethnic lines. Of all the verses in the New Testament, only Colossians 3:9 warned believers against falsehood. Acts 5:1-11stood as a object lesson against lying within the Church.

Later in the post-Apostolic age, authors used charge of lying against traveling hucksters (false prophets in Mt 7:15, 2 Peter 2:1; 2 Jn 10-11) or against self-styled gurus who taught competing doctrines (false teachers in 1 Tim 4:2). Notice the internal struggle for Christians shifted from relations between Jewish and Gentile believers. Now, the faithful fought against those trying to make quick money through guile or against those who taught a "new gospel," doctrines more in tune with pagan myths and philosophies. In Revelation 22:15, the author lumped these cheats and liars together with the murderers, idolaters and the sexually immoral.

g. "You shall not covet your neighbor's house...wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that is your neighbor's." (Exo 20:17; Deu 5:21)

In the first century CE, the word "covet" meant not only longing but attempts to procure a desired object or relationship. Few verses in the New Testament explicitly warned against covetousness in general (Rom 7:7, 13:9; Colassians 3:5; Eph 5:3). St. Paul warned against keeping company with those who coveted wealth (1 Cor 5:11).

Various authors promoted contentment and self-control as a values (Heb 13:5; 1 Thes 4:11; Lk 3:10-14; 1 Tim 6:6, 10), even in the Q source (Lk 12:33-34; Mt 6:19-21). Those values stood against the desire for wealth (Q source; Lk 16:13; Mt 6:24). In the Q Source (Lk 6:20-21; Mt 5:3-4, 6), the Beatitudes tilted sympathies towards the poor away from the wealthy. Luke's "woe" parallels (Lk 6:24) railed against the rich, the glutton and those who feast constantly. His gospel rejected coveting wealth in the Parable of the Rich Fool (Lk 12:16-21), the Parable of the Unjust Steward (Lk 16:1-13) and the Parable of Rich Man and Lazarus (Lk 16:19-31). Even the author of James criticized the wealthy (Jam 5:1-6) and guarded against selfish ambition within the community (Jam 3:13-18).

Why did the authors from the Apostolic and post-Apostolic eras warn against covetousness? In the static culture of the first century CE, people saw wealth as limited. Its distribution was divinely ordained. The rich considered themselves not only financially but morally superior to the poor, simply because the gods willed it so. The rich used this as a excuse to gain wealth on the backs of the poor through taxes, land rents to farmers, and other franchise fees. So the wealthy enriched themselves and the poor suffered.

Of course, an unspoken social contract existed that expected the rich to provide moneys for public works and religious festivals which provided entertainment and food for the poor. However, the rich packaged these expenditures as acts that increased their reputation and enticed loyalty from the civil population.

We've already covered the reasons why Christians shied away from partaking in civic events like religious festivals. While the faith did cut across class lines, the majority of believers were poor. If, in theory, all the faithful had an equal status, then the poor required assistance not rejection.

Two other values were antithetical to covetousness: charity and hospitality. On his travels, St. Paul collected funds from the house churches for the poor in Jerusalem (1 Cor 16:1-3, 2 Cor 9:1-5, Rom 15:25-27; Gal 2:10). Along the way, he encouraged charity as a way to build up faith (2 Cor 9:6-15). In the gospels, Jesus enjoyed the hospitality of friends (Lk 10:38-42) and enemies (Luke 7:36-50). On his journeys, St. Paul accepted invitations of lodging (Acts 16:14-15, 40; Acts 16:29-34). Hebrews 13:2 encouraged the faithful to practice hospitality, for the host might not know he housed angels (see Genesis 18:1-15). We'll cover the value of hospitality in greater detail when we discuss oral tradition.

D. Halakhah in a
post-Apostolic Jewish-Christian Community

While many local churches morphed into Gentile communities by the early post-Apostolic era, one stood out as primarily Jewish: the immediate audience of Matthew. Most biblical scholars accept the Jewish character of Mt's gospel, based upon the sheer number of invoked Scriptural verses (67 in all) and its five major discourses that reflected the books of the Pentateuch.

The first discourse, called the Sermon on the Mount, began with the Beatitudes (Mt 5:2-12) and the Parable of Salt and Light (Mt 5:13-16). Then, it proceeded to introduce halakhah with 1) a proclamation of its present application until its fulfillment in the end time (Mt 5:17-18), 2) a warning against lax teachers of halakhah (Mt 5:19) and 3) the challenge of a moral lifestyle that exceeded other teachers of the Law (Mt 5:20). Indeed, Matthew instructed his readers to keep the rulings of the Pharisees but not to partake in their alleged hypocrisy (Mt 23:1-3).

As we have seen, Matthew agreed with other communities that set aside purity mitzvot (Mt 15:17-20). But he also expanded his rulings on the Ten Commandments in halakhic fashion (anger in Mt 5:21-26; lust in Mt 5:27-30 and divorce in Mt 5:31-32; oaths in Mt 5:33-37); he even included rulings on revenge (Mt 5:38-42) and relationships with hostile outsiders (Mt 5:43-48). One could argue his halakhah expanded to include the popular spiritual practices of almsgiving (Mt 6:1-4), prayer (Mt 6:5-14) and fasting (Mt 6:16-18). In other words, Matthew (and many other authors we've already seen) ruled in a spirit found several centuries later in the Jewish writing known as the Mishnah:

"Moses received Torah from Sinai and handed it down to Joshua; and Joshua to the Elders; and the Elders to the Prophets; and the Prophets handed it down to the members of the Great Assembly. They said three things: Be deliberate in judgment, raise up many disciples and make a fence around the Torah."

Pirkei Avot 1:1 (about 300 CE)

The expansions of the Ten Commandments listed above (the "fence") helped to ensure Christians would not break the mitzvot themselves. Despite this, however, post-Apostolic churches had rejected struggles over the minutia of halakhah (Titus 3:9) and the "traditions of men" they established (Col 2:8).

E. Summary

What happened to halakhah in the post-Apostolic Church? Was it rejected outright by Christians? We cannot give an easy answer to those questions. In many ways, the answer was "Yes." Historic events of 70 CE made the Temple mitzvot mute. Jewish Christian leaders died off, Gentile Christians ascended into prominence and converts from paganism soon became the majority of believers; this post-Apostolic generation pealed away and rejected the purity mitzvot as unnecessary.

However, just as the Holiness Codes placed "love your neighbor as yourself" in the context of Ten Commandments, the Gentile Church did the same; it reinterpreted many remaining mitzvot from the Decalogue in a halakhic fashion, transforming them into a uniquely Christian moral lifestyle. The concern about eating meats offered to idols seemed to fade as Christians refrained from the practice. Church teaching tightened restrictions on invoking the name of God in oaths, but relaxed norms on Sabbath observance that Gentiles did not keep. While Christians implicitly honored clan hierarchies, they placed evangelization on a higher level. Christian teachers warned against anger as the root of murder. They also forbade divorce to protect the sanctity of marriage against adultery and used the charge of liar against their immediate opponents. Finally, they discouraged covetousness by promoting the values of contentment and self-control (contra the desire for wealth accumulation), while creating opportunities for works of charity and hospitality. In other words, ethics of the early Church proscribed practical ways to apply Leviticus 19:18, all through the lens of the Decalogue.

The loss of the worship codes, the rejection of the purity codes and the reinterpretation of the moral codes helped to create a division between Christian and Jew. No longer did the faithful in the Diaspora mere contend with pagan neighbors; they had a competitor that claimed the same Scriptures and much of the same birthright as the "sons of Abraham" did. While many scholars debate when and where the final break came between Jews and Christians, no doubt the tensions found in the gospels added to the hostile environment that later hardened into the Christian antisemitism.


The Great Commandment

The Torah, A Modern Commentary (Revised Edition), edited by W Gunther Plaut, Union for Reform Judaism, 2006, pp. 798-804, 1201, 1210-1211.

What does the term "neighbor" mean?

Meier, John P., A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus, vol. 4, Yale University Press, 2009, pp. 491-492.

What does the term "love" mean?

Meier, John P., A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus, vol. 4, Yale University Press, 2009, pp. 532-551, 560-565.

Loss of Worship Mitzvot, Rejection of Purity Mitzvot

Meier, John P., A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus, vol. 4, Yale University Press, 2009, pp. 346-350.

Ten Commandments: "Remember the Sabbath; keep it holy."

Meier, John P., A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus, vol. 4, Yale University Press, 2009, pp. 293-297.

Ten Commandments: "You shall not commit adultery."

Meier, John P., A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus, vol. 4, Yale University Press, 2009, pp. 74, 124-128.