Love your neighbor – A command in the Bible. Its socio-legal backdrop and its meaning for today.

Love your neighbor in the Holiness Code Lev 19:18

[1] “Love your neighbor” is probably the most frequently quoted biblical directive. In part this is due to this command’s emphasis within the biblical canon in the first century AD, namely its echo in the New Testament as summary of the law in Luke 10:27 as well as in Matthew 5:43-47. However, already before this point in time the command was understood as summary of Jewish neighborly ethos,[1] as can be seen in its placement as a summative subscript in a series of commands and prohibitives (as they are called by biblical scholars) in Lev 19:18.

[2] Five hallmarks characterize the command “love your neighbor”:

  1. In its explicit form, it is only found in the law collection of the so-called Holiness Code, Lev 17-26. These biblical laws represent the communal ethos of a closely knit group of Judeans that self-identified through a particular ethos of separation from other religious strands of Judaism.[2] The Holiness Code marks this separation of the group by way of its consistent reference to YHWH’s distinction (from other gods) for which it uses the stock epithet “holy.” The command of neighborly love is thus spelled out in a conceptual correspondence between the distinction of YHWH and of Israel as his community that now shares a particular ethical obligation as YHWH-worshipers. This concept of extreme seclusion of a “holy” community through ethical standards differs from ethically “inclusive” concepts.[3] Nevertheless, the exclusivist appearance of the command to love your neighbor allows tracing it back to foundational lines of thought about love and hate in earlier law collections, such as Exod 23:1-9 or Deut 22:1-4. [4]
  2. The immediate context of Lev 19:18c is a composition of apodictic sentences of negated commands, called prohibitives;’ best rendered with “you shall not.”[5] In its micro-context, the command “but you shall love your neighbor” Lev 19:18c functions as a concluding line of the two preceding “apodictic”[6] clauses v17-18.
  3. The phrase in Lev 19:18c “you shall love your neighbor” leaves open the identity of the neighbor
  4. “Love your neighbor” is arranged in antithetic parallelism with the preceding phrase, negating its opposite in a prohibitive: “You shall not hate your brother.” The terms “hate” and “love” are opposites and, as a consequence, a more exact translation of “love” would be “to befriend.”

[3] In the present article I limit myself to three aspects only: First, I point to the understanding of “brotherly hate” and “neighborly love” as elements of rules for conflict settlement in a community. These rules in Lev 19:11-18 could be called “procedural law”. Second, I portray neighborly love as the conceptual frame of reference and more specifically as the habitus of individuals who were tempted to act out mutual hate. Finally I consider the socio-historical and the religious-historical frame of reference of Lev 19 in the Holiness Code at large.

Brotherly hate and neighborly love in legal procedure

[4] The command to love your neighbor in the Holiness Code Lev 17-26 is found in the last of four double verses Lev 19:11-18, all of which speak to the theme of (conflicting) behavior between individuals. Formally, vv11-18 consist of four parts of comparable length. Each of these pairs is made up of double verses ending with a concluding self-introductory formula at the end, “I am YHWH.” Lev 19:11-18 covers four themes:

  1. deception of a fellow countryman vv 11-12
  2. protection of socially weak and of people with disabilities vv 13-14
  3. fair and just conflict settlement vv15-16
  4. interaction with a brother in general vv 17-18.

I suggest vv 11-18 form a thematic unit about the relationship to a fellow citizen in what is a potential, an emerging or an ongoing conflict. Vv 11-18 hope for some form of conflict settlement. In what follows, I suggest that the context of the command to love your neighbor speaks specifically to conflict settlement and that the entire passage vv 11-18 considers what one could call procedural law for conflict settlement between private enemies.

[5] V11–12 as procedural rule against betrayal

11a You shall not steal,
b you shall not deceive
c and not shall you betray, a man against his compatriot.
12a and not shall you swear by my name to treachery
b so that you profane the name of your God.
c I (am) YHWH.

[6] These prohibitions against stealing, deceiving and swearing falsely sound to the modern reader as general calls for honest behavior. As a matter of fact they address more specific forms of hate against a “compatriot.”[7] These prohibitives ban specific forms of behavior between private opponents when acting out hatred against a private enemy. Opponents are likely to betray each other and swear false oaths[8] as the fourth prohibitive in V 12a specifies.

[7] In part, these verses use typical wording of the Holiness Code, as, for instance, in the condemnation of the betrayal against a compatriot. The concluding clause in the singular v12b “so that you profane the name of your God” is a consecutive clause. Syntactically, this is the consequence of the treacherous acts and it qualifies the aforementioned behavior against the compatriot in v 11-12a in religious categories as a profanation of the divine name of YHWH, the God of Israel. The passage transitions in numbers from the prohibitives that address a collective to the final consecutive sentence in the singular that addresses an individual.

[8] Besides their lexicographic overlap with the Holiness Code, the prohibitives also exhibit a significant overlap with the prohibitions of theft and of false oaths in the Ten Commandments. On the one side this overlap in itself illustrates the authority of Leviticus 19 and the Holiness Code Leviticus 17-26 in Israelite law at large.[9] On the other side it speaks to the status of both the Ten Commandments and Lev 19: Both bot, likely, served as summaries of basic behavior toward a compatriot or a neighbor. Therefore, the compatriot or neighbor ought not to be treated as an enemy, but with fairness. Furthermore, this is to be seen in light of basic commandments, such as honoring the parents, keeping the Sabbath and more fundamentally, rejecting foreign Gods.

[9] v13–14 as procedural rule for a protection of the weak

13a Not shall you oppress your neighbor
b and not shall you steal.
c Not shall remain the wage of the day laborer with you until the morning.
14a Not shall you swear to a deaf
b and before a blind you shall not put a stumbling block,
c in order that you fear (something) from your God.
d I (am) YHWH.

[10] The first twin-pair of prohibitives, v13a.b, rejects exploitation of the “neighbor” or “fellow countryman”; the third prohibitive, v13c, bars from delaying a day laborer’s wage. The concluding pair of prohibitives v14ab protects people with disabilities. In my reading, this is a prohibition of unfair forms of hatred that may be paraphrased as: If you choose an enemy, if you intend to curse someone or want to trick someone through a stumbling block, your opponent should be able to receive this challenge – a deaf would not hear the curse; a blind would not see the stumbling block and as both could neither adequately perceive or respond to your threat, they are therefore no adequate enemies.

[11] As is the case in the first paragraph, a consecutive clause closes v13-14. All these practices of fairness toward a neighbor are seen as prerequisite of remaining “fearful toward your God,” literally “so that you may fear (something) from your God.” In analogy with the first paragraph, v 13-14 point out the “religious” dimension of a “practical” fear of God. Rendered in positive terms this paragraph advances a communal responsibility, that is, that community members would be acting out conflicts in a leveled plane field with opponents of the same social status and ability, rather than taking advantage of an opponent’s apparent weakness that causes an imbalance at the outset. Conflicts against individuals with disabilities are a contradiction of YHWH’s holiness. The latter idiom of holiness articulates a sense of community of the group whose distinct voice is articulated in the Holiness Code. With the idiosyncratic reference to a communal ethos this is meant to protect weak members.

[12] v15–16 a procedural rule for fair conflict settlement

15a Not shall you do injustice in trial.
b Not shall you lift up/favor the face of the weak
c nor shall you privilege the respected.
d In justice shall you judge your fellow citizen.
16a Not shall you go around as a slanderer among your people.
b Not shall you stand up against the blood of your neighbor.
c I (am) YHWH.

[13] More directly than V 13-14 the prohibitives of this passage bar unfair forms of conflict settlement that opponents typically use during private quarrels against each other. The first of the prohibitives v 15a addresses conflict settlement in general. From a modern point of view, the exegete may lean toward weighing alternatives between interpreting this passage as either an “official” rule of conflict settlement or as rules of “institutional” trial procedure, as, for instance, the judgment of the elders of the kin in the gate. Alternatively, one may read v15-16 as rules typical for confrontations with private enemies. In point of fact, formal trials and private quarrels were not necessarily strict alternatives. Private conflict settlements were typically acted out in the public square by means of various forms of behavior. Before clarifying the nature of private conflict settlement in Ancient Israel, I briefly look at the content of the verses.

[14] The prohibitive v15a is kept in the plural unlike the commands in v 15bcd that address a single person. The prohibitives v15bc in the middle concentrate on personal aspects of trial procedures calling for impartial judgment independent of the opponents’ social status.

[15] The parallelism in v16 prohibits a particular type of witness in the confrontation with the enemies. Slanderers who intended to attack others through written accusation, through gossip and false statements in trial were dangerous as they could seriously harm the target of their attacks. As the parallelism indicates, this could be fatal. An illustration of a slanderer’s disastrous effects is known from the trial against the Jezreelite Naboth in 1Kings 21. Jezebel hires two false witnesses who accuse Naboth of a curse of “God and the King” (v13) which results in the stoning of the defendant. Jezebel has the role of a stereotypical cantankerous slanderer who hires false witnesses in order to execute her opponent.

[16] Lev 19:15-16 outlaws such behavior for those who subscribe to be part of the community. Mutual accusations and fights against each other are excluded. This third passage of the apodictic sentences requires solidarity instead of quarrels against the members of the people. The message is: litigiousness will threaten a community and it is therefore banned.[10]

[17] v17–18 legal procedure against a brother, a fellow citizen and a compatriot

17a Not shall you hate your brother in your heart.
b Surely shall you reproach your fellow citizen,
c so that you may not carry guilt on his behalf.
18a Not shall you avenge,
b and not shall you be resentful against the sons of your people,
c so that you love (the good) for your neighbor, as you love for you (the good).
d I (am) YHWH.

[18] The final fourth passage references general rules of conduct between people. All groups that the text mentions in the preceding passages are combined here: ‘ak “brother,” ‘amit’ “fellow citizen”, bny ‘myk “sons of your people,” r’a “neighbor.” This condensed juxtaposition of all four terms of the lexicography signals the heavy weight of this passage in Lev 19:11-18; its position at the end highlights it even more. The verbs “hate” and “love” represent the critical contrast of two potential ways of interacting with another community member. Notably, the passage specifies the alternatives to hate and in doing so, it explains its very sense. The alternative to hating the brother in V17 is a mediating or reproaching word or the attempt to act out mediation in order not to incur guilt on behalf of a brother.[11] Instead of hating the brother v17-18 request to directly address the misdeed and, rather than (publicly) acting out hatred as the context of v18a suggests, to instead reproach him in a private space or within the community. Instead of implementing the usual behavior acted out in public, Lev 19:17 calls for an internal agreement with the opponent, one may assume a type of mediation with the enemy that settles the case. In some ways, this is comparable to a judge’s verdict, yet it is a judgment that seeks to mediate between the parties. V18 adds a concluding w-qatal to the prohibitives that can be translated with a consecutive meaning. If so, the command to love the neighbor constitutes an exemplification of neighborly love and of the love to a fellow citizen.

Who is the neighbor?
[19] At this point, one may ask why the command to love has developed into an ethical doctrine in Christianity. One reason is the relatively general term “neighbor” or “compatriot” instead of “fellow citizen.” Yet, the category of “neighbor” is open to interpretation. Some exegetes suggested that in v17-18 the “neighbor” (Hebrew: ) r’a) is an enemy, which they perceive in the context of Lev 19:17-18; yet this consequence needs not to be drawn. The command rather requests that such movement take place “in one’s heart”, that is, within a person’s intellect and will. The brother ought to be loved, not hated. Only later does Lev 19:33-34 take this imperative further and extends it to the love of the foreigner without however suggesting in any way that the foreigner would be an enemy. Neighborly love as active friendship.​

[20] It is plausible to interpret the neighbor in Lev 19:18 in a spatial sense, that is as a person living in close vicinity. The actual command to love that neighbor then specifies with love not an emotional affection but instead a form of practically lived out loyalty. The attitude and the activities meant by love are best illustrated through its opposite, hatred. Hating an individual includes to oppress someone, to steal from him (v13ab) and, in an extreme case, to injure a person fatally (v16b), to extend a conflict over a time (v17ab), to be avenge and to be resentful (v18ab). The fact that love needs to be understood as an action is expressed through the preposition “toward” (Hebrew “l”). This preposition defines the procedure of acting out of the love for a neighbor. Syntactically, the command to love your neighbor is not a reflexive relation to the neighbor.[12] I follow a recent translation that suggests inserting an object “the good” that is added to the verb “to love.”[13] The clause highlights the procedure of love or friendship that realizes itself through numerous individual acts.

[21] In conclusion, Lev 19:11-18 excludes the constellation of hatred toward another individual and instead expects an individual to act out of mutual friendship. The exact dimensions of this command become more clear in light of the nature of friendship as a social status in antiquity. Friendship as asocial status, comprises to follow a certain behavioral role within a community. Friendship as a status entails taking up a particular type of relation to another individual in the community. Much of this ideal is found in Leviticus 19:17-18 Friends or companions may not oppress each other, they may not slander against each other, instead they listen to a verdict that seeks to limit hatred and they will not seek each other’s life.

[22] Lev 19 draws out this line of thought within a twofold frame of reference in its larger context. First, the concept refers to the “love of God,” including the terminology of YHWH’s “holiness” throughout the chapter. Second, in a substantiation of the command in Lev 19:18, Lev 19:33-34 refer to YHWH’s historic deed of leading his people out of Egypt. The command to love the companion is substantiated in the historical backdrop of YHWH’s love for Israel that is evident in leading his people out of Israel.

[23] In sum, the aforementioned reading of Lev 19 demonstrates the Holiness Code’s exclusion of certain forms of conflict settlement as unacceptable between members of the community. More to the point of the meaning of love the concluding double-verse 17-18 ends with “but you shall love your neighbor.” It thus elucidates its meaning as cooperative attitude that is best understood as social setting of mutual friendship within a close-knit community. This result suggests that Lev 19:11-18 points out a communal ethos and it sheds light on its specific place within the collections of biblical laws and their socio-historical contexts. Positioned at the end of a long inner-biblical discourse about the meaning of tempering living out hatred and of suggesting alternative paths of conflict settlement, this piece demonstrates how the ethos of love or friendship functions as counterpart of an ethos of hate. While this ethos of friendship is rarely captured in more detail[14] the mechanisms of hate are captured in more detail. One example is laughing at an enemy’s demise, for instance, when his cattle is breaking loose or when his donkey collapses under its load (Exod 23:4-5; Deut 22:1-4.)

Implications for contemporary ethical thought

Hate and friendship as “habitus”
[24] What are some implications of this reconsideration of Lev 19:11-18 for contemporary issues?
First, the reading of Lev 19:11-18 in its context determined that translating the command in today’s language with “to love” is misleading, insofar as the verb ‘hb “love” in Hebrew does not primarily designate an emotional state of intimate affection to another person. Emerging within the Ancient world the bible predominantly conceptualizes hate and love as forms of mutual benevolence that cause modes of friendly relationships to another individuals, that is friendly behavior. In order to avoid connotations of romantic love, “friendship” is a more feasible rendering. Lev 19:18c is best translated “you shall befriend your neighbor.” Love or friendship realizes itself in an ethos of de-escalation in conflict settlement procedure in contrast to personal hate acted out in antagonistic behavior between enemies. This is of paramount relevance in a kinship based society in the absence of law enforcement. Hate and friendship in kinship based societies are social constructs, they can be understood, in analogy to what sociologist P. Bourdieu understands in modern society as the “habit” (lat. habitus): An amalgamate of an individual’s appearance, lifestyle, language including their general forms of behavior.

[25] In light of the conceptual difference between neighborly hate and friendship in antiquity and in contemporary western society one may ask whether the love or friendship command from a kinship based society represents an outdated ethical principle from biblical time. However, a look into the current modern society shows remarkable analogies to the structures of kinship based societies in modern times. A close analogy of a society that operates based on friendship and private enmity can be found in the sub-legal spheres of the gang culture in contemporary urban US-society. In many cities numerous gang[15] activities work to a large extent in sub-legal spheres, exposing only the tip of an iceberg to law enforcement that is not trained in persecuting sub-legal gang activities, as critical voices admit.[16] In modern society, gangs can take over many functions of primary kin. And, in analogy to kinship based societies, gangs in sub-legal urban culture operate in ways comparable to kinship networks of mutual solidarity. The ways in which members of the gangs integrate themselves into networks and the mechanisms of conflict settlement between gangs in the sub-legal sphere has a lot in common with ancient Judah’s kinship based society. Given those striking parallels, the relevance of understanding kinship based law and conflict settlement in the bible can be instrumental to deconstruct the pseudo-legal systems of thought under which they operate.

Modes of de-escalation and mediation instead of litigation
[26] Second, what can be learned from law in kinship based society is its attempt to implement adequate forms of conflict settlement, namely the efforts that limit escalating forms of personal strife. Unlike in modern societies, law in biblical cultures presumes the habitus of hate and friendship including their social and legal ramifications. Suffice it to hint to ethical consequences in biblical reflections on private conflict settlement. In a quarrel, when a party accepts a mediating verdict such acceptance was seen as “wise”. A privy or party who defies a reprimanding mediation was instead referred to as “scoffer:”

“8 Do not reprove a scoffer, lest he hate you,
Reprove a wise man, and he will love you.” Prov 9:8 (NAS).

The preference of acceptance of mediation is not limited to the Old Testament. The reception history of Lev 19 in early Christianity picks up on this preference of mediation. It suggests to end quarrels through mediating verdicts in order to avoid escalation. Both Matthew 5:43 and 18:15-17 suggest direct mediation as conflict settlement rather than engaging in a formal trial. It is timely for a notoriously litigious modern democracy to reflect on how the command to befriend your neighbor can help adopting an attitude of mutual civilian benevolence rather than to enhance contentiousness in a society. With its ideal of mutual benevolence in the interest of the common good, instead of hate, the biblical command sets the value of friendship above individualistic insistence of one party’s rights. It seeks to limit the perceived right of acting out hatred against a fellow citizen. While this may be a hard lesson to learn for a modern individualistic society, in some ethical fields, for instance, with regard to ecological questions, the collision between individuals and communal interests is apparent. Moreover, fairness toward differently abled members, the deaf and blind Lev 19:14, are noteworthy points of reference for contemporary ethical debates. Lev 19:14 holds up the ideal of quarrels in a plain level field between equal fellow citizens who would be able to reciprocate on the same level. The sheer existence of this command presupposes that this was often not the case and that this is the reason why Lev 19 needed to emphasize it.

“And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29)
[27] The nuanced lexicography used to name the potential opponent invites further considerations about this command’s original target group. Historically, the laws of the so-called Holiness Code in Lev 17-26 addresses community members and represents a community ethos. This is suggested, among other things, through the reception history in and outside of the biblical canon in antiquity[17] as well as in modern exegesis.[18] Therefore, mutual benevolence or friendship as expressed in Lev 19:18 primarily addresses members of the group for whom the Holiness Code was written. As it appears, they were a’s closely knit community in which private conflict settlement would be destructive. The rule reminds individuals who found themselves engaged in a quarrel with each other to respect unwritten rules. Opponents needed to be of equal social rank within the community and they needed to be equally abled. Ideally, opponents should limit their quarrels, avoid endless escalation and submit to a final mediating verdict. In general, opponents needed to find ways toward reconciliation and needed to refrain from acting out mutual hate. In light of these ideals of conflict settlement it seems plausible that the quarrels to which Lev 19:11-18 refers were not acted out anonymously but in a community, between “brothers”, “neighbors” and “fellow citizens,” as the compilation of terms for community members in Lev 19:18c indicates. The tendency to widen this command beyond the members of the community can be seen in the command to befriend the sojourner Lev 19:33-34. A similar trend to limit enmity is found in the warnings from living out enmity against any opponent (Exod 23:4-5 and Deut 22:1-4). Prov 24:17 warns: “Do not rejoice when your enemies fall, and do not let your heart be glad when they stumble. Or else YHWH will see it and consider it evil and (therefore) will withdraw his anger from them.” The rationale of befriending a personal enemy is essentially theological: It is up to YHWH to establish justice and to punish the enemy; humans should be careful and not anticipate divine punishment. From this perspective of God’s ultimate judgment over human behavior Prov 25:21 encourages to boldly live out an ethos of friendship toward an opponent so as to embarrass him by means of unexpectedly friendly behavior: “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, if he is thirsty, give him to drink.”

[1] Parallels in the Hebrew Bible include the command to love the foreigner Deut 10:19. The love of a friend is compared to the solidarity of a brother in Prov 17:17.

[2] See, for instance, C. Nihan, From Priestly Torah to Pentateuch. A Study in the Composition of the Book of Leviticus, Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2007.

[3] Those may be found in what traditionally are thought to be older sources of the Pentateuch J and E. Such exclusivism is also absent in Deuteronomic and Priestly law.

[4] Exod 23:1-9 is part of the covenant Code, often dated in the 8th century BCE; the core of Deuteronomic Law is dated in the 7th century BCE.

[5] Prohibitives are typical for Biblical law as can be seen in the Ten Commandments.

[6] Form critical term for legal sentences that give no further explanation, substantiation or rationale.

[7] ‘mit ‘e is the Hebrew term that is largely limited to the Holiness Code (HC). The translation is based on the root ‘am “people.“

[8] Cf. Exod 21:6; 22:13; stealing of humans 2Kings 11:2.

[9] Further parallels to the Ten Commandments are the command of honoring the parents, the prohibition of images, as well as the Sabbath command in the introductory passage to the chapter in Lev 19:3-4. Among other things, this points to the nature of Lev 19 as summary of relevant rules.

[10] v15-16 do not point out a consequence of the behavior; unlike in the first two paragraphs v 11-12 and 13-14 they have no consecutive w-qatal-clause.

[11] Another option is to translate the sentence with respect to the brother himself: So that he may not incur guilt on himself.

[12] The command should not be rendered “to love the neighbor as oneself.” The preposition kamoka “like you” should not be interpreted as an adverbial expressing a reflexive form. Love of the self is therefore not the precondition of neighborly love. LXX suggests this: kai agapeseis ton plesíon sou hos seautón. Yet this represents one particular interpretation and may not be seen as an exact translation. The idea of loving oneself is nothing that would require particular substantiation in Old Testament thought but is seen as self-evident and natural for humans. See, for instance Prov 19:8: “Whoever acquires reason loves his soul; whoever keeps insight, he finds good for himself.”

[13] The assumption is that one may assume “to love toward” as the original wording and that the preposition “toward” was omitted. See Erasmus Gass, ‘Heilige sollt ihr werden. Denn heilig bin ich, Jahwe, euer Gott.’ Zur Begründungsstruktur in Lev 19, MThZ 64 (2013) 214-231, 226.

[14] Note however the friendship speeches in Ben Sira, for instance, Sir 19:6-19.

[15] The first definition of gangs is found in F. M. Thrasher, The Gang: A Study of 1,313 Gangs in Chicago. University of Chicago Press 1927, p. 46. He defined a gang as “an interstitial group originally formed spontaneously and then integrated through conflict. It is characterized by the following types of behavior: meeting face to face, milling, movement through space as a unit, conflict, and planning. The result of this collective behavior is the development of tradition, unreflective internal structure, esprit de corps, solidarity, morale, group awareness, and attachment to a local territory.”

[16] accessed 5/25/2016.

[17] References from the Qumran scrolls limit the command to community members; cf. CD XIX:15-18; IQS V:23-VI:1; 1QS VII:8-9; CD IX:1-8; CD VI:20-VII:3, see Hans-Peter Mathys, Liebe deinen Nächsten wie dich selbst. Untersuchungen zum alttestamentlichen Gebot der Nächstenliebe (Lev 19,18), Universitätsverlag/Vandenhoeck&Ruprecht: Fribourg/Göttingen, 1986, 120-123. Similarly, Mat 5:43-48 and Luke 10:25-37 presuppose that the command was originally limited to community members. The limit of the command to the immediate community is obvious in Matthew 18:15-17 that precludes such understanding when it refers to the command as primarily related to a quarrel with the Christian community member that, in case a dispute could not be resolved would seek a community internal conflict settlement; if the clarification would not be successful the quarreling member needed to be expulsed from the Christian community. Interpreting the term “neighbor” beyond the limits of the immediate community is the radical interpretation of the sermon of the mount in contrast to a traditional understanding.

[18] Among biblical scholars the meaning of this sentence was disputed. A meaning limited to the fellow-Jew was suggested by Johannes Fichtner who interpreted the ‘neighbor’ as “companion in the YHWH-covenant.” J. Fichtner, Der Begriff des ‚Nächsten‘ im Alten Testament mit einem Ausblick auf Spätjudentum und Neues Testament. WuD 4, 1955, 23-52. Reprint in: J. Fichtner, Gottes Weisheit. Gesammelte Studien zum Alten Testament, ed. K. D. Fricke, Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1965, p. 88-114, here 102. Whether “the neighbor” refers to a particularistic ethos of love limited to a (Jewish) community member or whether this command targets members beyond the community was disputed in a late 19th century lawsuit in Marburg/Germany. The Jewish religious studies scholar Hermann Cohen and the anti-semitic scholar Paul de Lagarde were called to comment as experts on the exegesis of Lev 19:18. Cohen claimed Lev 19:18 includes everyone beyond the fellow citizen. H. Cohen, Der Nächste. Vier Abhandlungen über das Verhalten von Mensch zu Mensch nach der Lehre des Judentums. Mit einer Vorbemerkung von M. Buber, Berlin: Schocken, 1935. Lagarde’s commentary is lost. See H. P. Mathys, Liebe, 30-31.

Klaus-Peter Adam

Dr. Klaus-Peter Adam is an Associate Professor of Old Testament at the Lutheran School of Theology Chicago.​