Exegesis Hillel Is Remembered Not for His Essay

  • Length: 7 pages
  • Sources: 3
  • Subject: Mythology - Religion
  • Type: Essay
  • Paper: #1295152
  • Related Topic: Ephesians, Adultery, Analogy

Excerpt from Essay :


Hillel is "remembered not for his inspired exegesis but for his rationalistic exegetical techniques," (Brewer 219). These rational exegetical techniques have been codified into the Seven Rules of Hillel, which many claim predate Hillel himself ("The Seven Rules of Hillel"). Regardless of when, how, and with whom the Seven Rules of rabbinical exegesis emerged, it is clear that Paul relied on these rules when conveying the teachings of Jesus Christ to the Jews. As Cohn-Sherbok points out, Paul's use of rabbinical interpretation and exegesis was deliberate and methodical. It has also been suggested that Paul used the Seven Rules of Hillel himself. There may be some historical basis for this presumption: "Paul was certainly taught these rules in the School of Hillel by Hillel's own grandson Gamliel. When we examine Paul's writings we will see that they are filled with usages of Hillel's Seven Rules," ("The Seven Rules of Hillel"). Therefore, it is natural to read Pauline texts with a rabbinical eye, and equally natural to apply the Seven Rules of Hillel when performing exegesis on books like Romans.

One of the reasons why Paul would have wanted to apply the Seven Rules of Hillel to his apostolic mission would have been that a rabbinical interpretation could help his Jewish audience better understand, and more readily accept, Jesus. Paul frequently alluded to the Old Testament when conveying the words or teachings of Christ. The allusions anchored the teachings of Jesus in the existing Jewish covenant with God, while revealing the continuity with the new covenant with God under Christ. Paul also knew that his Jewish audience would be concerned about keeping their covenant and maintaining a connection with pre-existing scripture. The Seven Rules of Hillel allowed Paul to communicate better with a Jewish audience.

Romans 2 has been described as "the joker in the pack," and a much neglected portion of the Pauline book (Wright 1). The reasons for its being overlooked have to do with the fact that "generations of eager exegetes" have been "anxious to get to the juicy discussions that surround 3.19-20, 3.21-31," (Wright 1). Chapter 2 of Romans seems, to some, merely to reflect Paul's commentary on the nature of sin. The most extreme arguments related to the relevance of Romans 2 for exegetical purposes is summarized by Wright: "the passage was not a legitimate part of Paul's argument; it was an old synagogue sermon, with minimal Christian updating," (1). If this were true, if Paul did simply adapt a synagogue sermon for a Christian audience, then it makes perfect sense to conduct a rabbinical exegesis of Romans 2 using the Seven Rules of Hillel. Those rules are basically as follows: 1. Kal Vahomer (Light and heavy), 2. G'zerah Shavah (Equivalence of expresions), 3. Binyan ab mikathub echad (Building up a "family" from a single text), 4. Binyab ab mishene kethubim (Building up a "family" from two or more texts), 5. Kelal uferat (The general and the particular), 6. Kayotze bo mimekom akhar (Analogy made from another passage), 7. Davar hilmad me'anino (Explanation obtained from context).

1. Kal Vahomer (Light and heavy)

Paul does not use Kal Vahomer often in the chapter, but in Romans 2:3 he provides a clear example: " So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God's judgment?" If a person cannot refrain from small (light) acts of judgment, such as the tendency to judge fellow human beings unnecessarily, then how is a person to contend with the much heavier judgment of God? Even though Paul does not use Kal Vahomer himself, the entire chapter becomes an example of the rule. Paul is preaching to an audience of both Jews and gentiles, imploring them to understand that what they do in this world will have a strong bearing on the heavier day of judgment: "All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law," (Romans 2:12).

2. G'zerah Shavah (Equivalence of expressions)

It is possible to apply the rule of G'zerah Shavah within different Pauline texts. For example, in Romans, Paul states, "All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law," (Romans 2:12. In 1 Corinthians 9:21, Paul states, "To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law." The rule of equivalence of expressions is especially fruitful when the Pauline text is compared with an Old Testament verse. For example, in Romans 2:4, Paul writes, "Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?" Similar root words are to be found in the Exodus 34:6 passage: "And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, "The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness."

The rule of G'zerah Shavah can also be treated as a traditional concordance and applies to specific words like "blind." For example, "if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of little children," (Romans 2: 19-20). This parallels a passage in Matthew 15:14, " Leave them alone. They are blind guides of the blind. If the blind guide the blind, both will fall into a pit." John 9:18, and several other passages in different texts reveal concordance with the one word, blind: "The Jews therefore did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind, and had received his sight, until they called the parents of him who had received his sight."

The concept of God's impartiality is important; Paul states, "God does not show favoritism," (Romans 2:11). An equivalence of expression is to be found throughout the Old Testament, as in Deuteronomy 10:17 and Job 34:19; and also in the New Testament in Acts 10:34 and Romans 9:14.

3. Binyan ab mikathub echad (Building up a "family" from a single text)

The core theme and principle of Romans 2 is the law. Paul passionately argues that just because a Jew has been circumcised does not make him righteous in the eyes of the Lord. It is more important to be righteous than to be circumcised, or to follow any other of the traditional Jewish laws. Paul suggests that many Jews in his midst have become boastful ("Now you, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the law and boast in God" Romans 2:17). Paul condemns hypocrisy and lip service to the law throughout Chapter 2 of Romans. Therefore, there are several instances of the rule of Binyan ab mikathub echad, as a "family" of ideas related to the law occurs throughout this single text and particularly within Romans 1-3. More specific or narrow examples of Binyan ab mikathub echad include the building up of a family of words like circumcision, which Paul expands upon in Romans 2:25-29.

4. Binyab ab mishene kethubim (Building up a "family" from two or more texts)

The book of Romans enjoys a salient position alongside the other Pauline texts, but also within the gospel canon. Therefore, it is relatively straightforward to apply the rule of Binyab ab mishene kethubim to Romans 2. Using the circumcision passages as an example, Romans 2 creates a thematic family with the other Pauline texts including 1 Corinthians, Galatians, and Ephesians. Paul builds a family based on the motif of circumcision, because it is circumcision that most outwardly reveals Jewishness in a man. "A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical," (Romans 2:28). Here, Paul points out that a person who is outwardly an observant Jew may not be so on the inside. Paul creates a family of ideas based on the motif and symbolism of the circumcision as the cornerstone of following the laws of Moses. In 1 Corinthians 7:19, Paul states similarly, "Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God's commands is what counts." This is remarkably similar to the passage in Romans 2, which the English Standard Version of the Bible chooses to use the word "uncircumcision," as in: "So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision?" (Romans 2:26). Continuing within the same "family" of "uncircumcision," Paul states in Galatians, "Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation," (Galatians 6:15). Finally, in Ephesians, Paul states, "Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called "uncircumcised" by those who call themselves "the circumcision" (which is done in the body…

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