"Divorce, Reproof and Other Sayings in the Synoptic Gospels: Jesus Traditions in the Context of "Qumranic" and Other Texts"
Menahem Kister
The synoptic Gospels show few and comparatively unimportant parallels to the Sectarian writings… This seems to indicate that the scrolls will not contribute much to the understanding of the personality of Jesus and of the religious world of his disciples. Talmudic literature remains our principal source for the interpretation of the synoptic Gospels.

This statement of David Flusser in an article published in 1958 was updated by him in a footnote in his book of collected articles: "Meanwhile it has become clear that the Essene influence upon Jesus … is far from negligible … Jesus …. partially accepted Essene social and ethical views". Although the earlier statement is by its nature an over-simplified generalization, by and large I find Flusser's scholarly intuition amazingly acute, even after the publication of much more material than was known in 1958, including many non-sectarian and other not-necessarily-sectarian texts. Although there are a few interesting affinities between sayings of Jesus and the scrolls, the scrolls are not the key for utterances attributed to Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels, and they are relatively marginal for understanding Jesus' religious thinking, his biblical interpretation, and his prayer, whereas a vast majority of sayings attributed to Jesus in the synoptic Gospels can be illuminated by rabbinic writings. This stands in sharp contrast to the material concerning John the Baptist on the one hand, and (to a lesser extent) to the Pauline epistles on the other hand, for which comparison with the scrolls is revealing, and often seems to suggest a genetic relationship. Yet some sayings attributed to Jesus are closely connected with Qumranic material. For instance, Jesus' polemic against the Pharisaic legislation concerning vows and his accusation of the Pharisees that they "make void God's tradition through their teaching" (Mk. 7:13) is very close to Qumranic sectarian accusations, in content and in style (CD 5:7-8, 20-21; 1QpHab 1:11; 1QS 1:7, 12, 3:8 and elsewhere). Jesus exhortation to love one's neighbor as God loves all His creatures (Mt. 5:43-48) gains more depth when it is perceived that according to the Damascus Covenant one has to love the members of the sect but to hate the others as God does (CD 9:5). Jesus' saying concerning Peter, "on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of death shall not prevail against it" (Mt 16:18) can also be illuminated by the scrolls (1QH 6:25-26 [+4Q429 4 2:7]). Bearing in mind the usage of the word סוד in Qumran in the meaning of "community", it may be reconstructed: אבנה סודי על סלע. Moreover, the fact that the "gates of death" occur in the same context in Qumran (1QH 6:24) demonstrate that Mt 16:18 is derived from a literary unit similar to the Hodayot.

These examples suffice to demonstrate that even if Qumranic perspective, at least inasmuch as it is known to us at this point, is not the most illuminating for Jesus' teaching, it is nevertheless crucial for understanding some of Jesus' sayings.

Some parallels between the Gospels and the Dead Sea scrolls are coincidental. Thus we have now a parallel to Jesus' parable, "Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles?" (Mt. 7:16) || "Figs are not gathered from thorns, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush" (Lk 6:44), has now a parallel in a work found at Qumran: ומנצפה לא יהיה תירוש ותזיז לא יעשה דבש "and from the caperbush there will be no wine, nor will taziz make any honey (or: [grape] syrup)". (4Q386 1 ii, 5). The context in the scroll (no good posterity, and therefore no posterity at all, for a wicked man) is entirely different from the contexts of the New Testament passages. The proverb is no doubt the same, however, and it is now documented not only in Greek literature, but also in Hebrew. This is interesting to some extent by itself, but it does not contribute to our understanding of either passage.

Moreover, there is so much wealth in the Dead Sea scrolls for every field of Second Temple period Judaism (from language to theology and biblical interpretation) that the literature found at Qumran should by no means be ignored in interpreting Jesus' sayings. It is a part of the complex mosaic of Second Temple Judaism, of which too little is known, in which many sayings of Jesus are rooted (or rather: of which Jesus' sayings are an integral part). It should always be borne in mind that any exclusive comparison between Jesus' sayings and Qumran necessarily distorts the picture, for when approaching the interpretation of Jesus' sayings the whole variety of sources should be taken into account simultaneously.

One example will suffice. Jesus' saying, "leave the dead to bury their own dead" (Mt 8:21-22 || Lk 9:59-60) has been interpreted by many, since antiquity, as meaning "let those who are spiritually dead bury their own dead". The notion that the wicked are "spiritually dead" is known in the Hellenistic world, including Philo, and in rabbinic literature. The exegetical resemblance between Jesus and rabbinic literature on the one hand and between Philo and the Rabbis on the other, has led me to assume that this was indeed a widespread notion during the Second Temple period, and that Jesus' saying should be interpreted accordingly. Now we have a Palestinian text of this period which must be interpreted as expressing the same notion.

The text, a passage in the work entitled 4QInstruction (4Q418 69 ii, 4-6) reads:

4. vacat ועתה אוילי לב מה טוב ללוא
5. [נוצר ומה] השקט ללוא היה ומה משפט ללוא נוסד ומה יאנחו מתים על מ[ות]ם
6. אתם [מהב]ל נוצרתם ולשחת עולם תשובתכם
4. And now, foolish of heart, what wellbeing (can there be) to those who have not
5. [been created, and what] rest (can there be) for those who have not come into being, and what (righteous) judgment to those who have not been founded, and what (can) the dead groan over their own [death?].
6. You are from naught and to eternal destruction you return

The passage has hitherto not been correctly translated. According to the rendering suggested above, its point is that the wicked are naught before their birth and after their death (line 6), and they are considered as having not been created and as dead also during their lives. They cannot have anything good in their life, which is considered non-existence. We can now identify in 4QInstruction the notion that wicked are considered dead. This makes the interpretation of "the dead" in Jesus' saying as "spiritually dead" even more plausible. We have to consider rabbinic, Hellenistic and Qumran sources in order to interpret this short saying of Jesus.

In the following sections I will deal with two sayings attributed to Jesus in the synoptic Gospels that are related, in different ways, to the Qumran scrolls. The first one is often assumed to be "authentic", the second a "Matthean" elaboration of a saying. In each of them we shall see, in different ways, the need for a panoramic view in order to interpret the sources correctly.

The exegetical grounds for Jesus' prohibition of divorce may be discerned by comparison to "Qumranic", rabbinic and Samaritan parallels, some of which have been observed and discussed. The dispute between Jesus and the Pharisees runs as follows in the Gospels:
Mt. 19:3-12 Mk.10:2-12
(1) And the Pharisees came to him and tested him asking him, "Is it lawful to divorce a wife for any cause"?
(2) He answered, "Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'. So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder."
(3) They said to him, "Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and put her away?" He said to them, "For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but fro the beginning it was not so".
(4) And I say
unto you: whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery. (1) And the Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?"
(3) He answered them, "What did Moses command you?" They said, "Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce, and to put her away".
(2) But Jesus said to them, "For your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment, but from the beginning of creation 'God made them male and female', 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother [and be joined to his wife], and the two shall become one flesh'. So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder"
(4) And in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. And he said to them, "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery."

1. The proof-text from Gen 1:27 has a parallel, noticed long ago and much discussed, in the Damascus Document, which reads:

The "builders of the wall" are caught by … marrying two women in their lives, while the principle of creation is "a male and a female He has created them", and those who entered the ark "two and two they went into the ark" (CD 4:19-5:1).

The similarity between Jesus' saying and this text has been noticed perhaps already in medieval times, when Qirqisani compared Jesus' teaching with that of the Zadokites. Both use Gen 1:27 (perhaps also 5:2) as a proof-text, although the exact inference from the verse is different in both cases: in CD it is inferred that a man should have only one wife because only two human beings were created; the same is inferred there from Gen 7:9, where זכר ונקבה "male and female", the expression occurring in Gen 1:27, interchange with the unexpected idiom איש ואשתו [v. 2]; Jesus seems to use Gen 1:27 [+5:2?] as a proof-text by combining it with Gen 2:24. His saying seems to imply that Gen 1:27 describes the creation of both the first man and the first woman, and that they together were named "human being" (אדם), and therefore form one unit. The exegetical sensitivity is known from the Book of Jubilees concerning Adam (2:14; cf. 3:8), and is extended to any marriage in rabbinic literature, as has been noted. The phenomenon of a proof-text gaining a slightly new significance by a different, sometimes more sophisticated exegesis is very common in rabbinic literature. Moreover, the expected Greek rendering of יסוד הבריאה would be h( a)rxh\ th~j kti/sewj, an expression in which the word a)rxh/ would mean "principal". It seems that this expression was changed in Mark to a)po\ a)rxh~j th~j kti/sewj, "from the beginning of creation", and in Matthew further revised to a)po\ th~j a0rxh~j. If this expression is indeed shared by both traditions, there must be a close genetic link between them. If this is the case, we have here a striking example for determining the original version of the tradition in the Gospels through comparison with the Qumranic parallel. Some scholars contend that the passage of CD refers both to polygamy and the second marriage of a divorcee, while others maintain that it refers only to polygamy. General considerations seem to indicate the latter. (1) "Divorce" is legitimate in the Hebrew Bible. It is specifically mentioned elsewhere in the Damascus Covenant (CD 13:17 and 4Q266 9 iii, 1-5) and in the Temple Scroll (54:4). The assumption that divorce is permitted but not remarriage is awkward, since both in ancient Judaism and in the ancient Near East "divorce" meant that the woman's remarriage is legitimate, and we do not have any example for such a novel legal concept of "divorce" at Qumran. (2) The context and the argumentation in this passage clearly do not refer only to polygamy. The word בחייהם (the suffix of which may be understood quite easily as plural feminine) may hint that the prohibition of bigamy and polygamy could easily be extended to a prohibition of divorce. I doubt whether this position can be discerned in the writings found at Qumran, but it could hypothetically be the position of communities of the same movement. Therefore even if the passage in CD refers merely to polygamy and not to divorce, the similarity between it and the saying of Jesus is still quite striking.

2. Another similarity to a newly published Qumranic text concerning the exegesis of Gen 2:24, should also be pointed out. The parallel in 4QInstruction (hitherto not discussed), reads (4Q416 2 iii, 20-21 - iv, 10):

20. אשה לקחתה ברישכה קח מולדי[ה

21. מרז נהיה בהתחברכה יחד התהלך עם עזר בשרכה[
1. את אביו [ו]את אמו 000 [ אחד]
2. אותכה המשיל בה ותש[ אביה]
3. לא המשיל בה מאמה הפרידה ואליכה [0ב0ה והיתה היא]
4. לך לבשר אחד בתכה לאחר יפריד ובניכה [לבנות רעיכה]
5. ואתה ליחד עם עם אשת חיקכה כי היא שאר ער[ותכה]
6. ואשר ימשול בה זולתכה הסיג גבול חיוהי ב[רוחה]
7. המשילך להתהלך ברצונכה ולא להוסיף נדר ונדב[ה]
8. השב רוחכה לרצונכה וכל שבועת אסרה לנדר נד[בה]
9. חפר על מוצא פיכה וברצונכה הניא[ה
10. שפתיכה סלה לה למענכה אל תרב[
20. If you take a woman in your poverty, study her horoscope [
21. of the mystery of what is to come when you are joint and become a union (יחד), go about with your helpmate of your flesh [
1. his father and mother [ one (flesh)]
2. He has given you dominion over her and [ to her father]
3. He has not given dominion over her, from her mother He has separated her and to you He has [---- and she will be]
4. to you as one flesh. Your daughter He will separate (in order to cling) to another, and your sons (He will separate for) the daughters of others,
5. and you and the wife of your bosom (will become) a union (ליחד) because she is the flesh (שאר) of your nakedness,
6. and whoever has dominion over her except you, will draw back the boundary of his life.
7. He has given you dominion on her breath (i.e., speech) to do as you please, so as not to make additional vows of votive offerings
8. You just have to blow your breath (i.e., to speak) as pleases you, and every binding oath of hers to vow
9. (you may) annul by your speech, and as you please (you may) prevent her from performing her vows
10. your vows, and He has forgiven her because of you

The preceding lines deal with honoring one's father and mother, while this passage deals with the relationship between husband and wife. I do not think that the two passages are closely related. The author of 4QInstruction tries to define the desirable relationship of a married couple. Marriage relations are based on the assumption that the couple becomes one flesh, on the basis of Gen 2:24, and that the husband has dominion over his wife, on the basis of Gen 3:16. Both points are illustrated by the law of vows, Num. 30:7-17. According to this law, first the woman's father and then her husband have the right to annul her vows (if they do it on the very day of her vowing). This is an anomaly: can a human being annul vows to God of another human being? The answer given in this text is that they become one flesh and one union, and that in this union the husband has dominion over his wife.

A similar view, namely that husband and wife are one body in which the wife is subject to her husband, occurs in the Epistle to the Ephesians, citing Genesis 2:24:

Wives, be subject to your husband … for the husband is the head of the wife … Husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it … "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh" … let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife (see) that she fears her husband. (Ephesians 5:22-33)

The parallel is striking and significant. The passage in 4QInstruction demonstrates the Jewish background to the Christian epistle.

But let us return to the analysis of the passage in Qumran and its significance for the saying of Jesus. Several exegetical premises underlie this passage. (1) The interpretation of the sentence "and they will become one flesh" as referring to the status of marriage. Other interpretations of these words were suggested in antiquity. Thus the Samaritan text of the Pentateuch reads: והיה משניהם לבשר אחד. The "one flesh", according to this interpretative reading, does not refer to the couple, but rather to their offspring, in which the two become literally one flesh. An almost identical interpretation is found in Rashi's commentary to this verse: "The fetus is created by both of them, and in it their flesh becomes one" (הולד נוצר על ידי שניהם ושם נעשה בשרם אחד). Rashi's commentary follows Amoraic interpretation of these words. Thus we read in the Palestinian Talmud: בן נח שבא על אשתו שלא כדרכה נהרג. מה טעם? "ודבק באשתו והיו לבשר אחד" ממקום ששניהם עושים בשר אחד (PT Qiddushin 1:1 [58c]). In this rabbinic saying, the word דבק is interpreted as referring to sexual intercourse and the words "and they will become one flesh" refer to the result of this intercourse, i.e., the offspring. Both the Qumran fragment and Jesus interpret the verse quite differently, as applying to the unity created by marriage. (2) The biblical verse, Gen 2:24, refers to human acts: "man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife and they become one flesh". 4QInstruction, however, refers to God: "[to her father] He (=God) has not given dominion over her, from her mother He has separated her and to you He has [---- and she will be] to you as one flesh. Your daughter He will separate (in order to cling) to another…." This element is also common to this fragment and the saying of Jesus. Whence was it derived in our text? A plausible answer is that this verse was interpreted not as an etiological explanation for a human custom, but rather as God's commandment. A similar style is found in Gen 32:33: על כן לא יאכלו בני ישראל את גיד הנשה ... עד היום הזה "Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the sinew of the hip." This verse was understood in the literature of the Second Temple period and in rabbinic literature as meaning: "Therefore it is forbidden for the Israelites to eat", i.e., as a divine commandment rather than an ethnic custom. Similarly, Gen 2:24 may well be interpreted as God's commandment concerning marriage. Such a "nomistic" mode of interpretation of this verse is attested also in rabbinic literature. In the passage cited above it is the scriptural basis for the death penalty. Now, if this verse is either a commandment of God or a divine declaration concerning the validity of marriage, then it is God who separates and joins the couple. (3) According to both texts the "separation" and "joining" of God have legal implications derived from the conception that the man and the woman are now "one flesh". The implications are quite different. According to the logic of the Qumran text, it seems that the woman was first joined to her father and mother, and was separated from them by God's decree. However, a woman can be separated also from her husband, since a divorced woman is mentioned in law on vows (Num. 30:10), and her vows cannot be annulled by others; "becoming a union" is, then, reversible, according to this text. (4) According to the passage from Qumran, any interference of a man (the wife's father, or any other man) is a major sin because it is considered a trespass of God's decree concerning the status of the married couple. According to Jesus' saying, God's joining in marriage cannot be trespassed by a human being. To sum up: This text has several affinities with Jesus' saying, although it does not deal with divorce or second marriage; the most important affinities are exegetical. Unlike the parallel to the passage of CD, there is no compelling reason to assume a genetic relationship between this passage and Jesus' saying, but the passage of 4QInstruction certainly demonstrates the background to Jesus' teaching.

3. Is Sir. 25:26 relevant for the ancient interpretation of "one flesh" in Gen 2:24 and its relation to the law of divorce? The answer is complicated. We have no Hebrew text to this verse. Speaking of a bad woman, the verse reads in the Greek version: ei) mh\ poreu/etai kata\ xei~ra/j sou, a)po\ tw~n sarkw~n sou a)po/teme au)th/n (+ didou kai apoluson MS 248). The Syriac version of the same verse reads: ואן לא איתיה אתיא בתרך בסרך קצץ הב לה ושריתה מן ביתך. Now, according to the Syriac version the advice is to give everything to a bad wife, even a pound of flesh, in order to divorce such a woman. A talmudic paraphrase of this passage reads: אשה רעה צרעת לבעלה. מאי תקנתיה? יגרשנה מביתו ויתרפא מצרעתו "A bad woman is a leprosy to her husband. How can he be mended? Let him send her away from his house and be cured of his leprosy" (BT Sanherdrin 100b). According to the other the Greek version, and according to the talmudic paraphrase, divorce is a separation of the wife from her husband's flesh. It seems that the original Hebrew text was closer to the Syriac and the other Greek version reflected in MS 248. However, the reading of most of the Greek manuscripts is also ancient. The talmudic paraphrase may imply that the sentence of the Greek version represents a Hebrew form (and understanding) of this verse. A parallel to Jesus' saying can be found, as has been noted, in a rabbinic saying (attributed to the Amora R. El'azar and to the Tanna R. Yose ha-Gelili), according to which "your flesh" בשרך in Isa. 58:7 means "your former wife" (PT Ketubboth 11:3 [34b] par.). It should be emphasized that these sources do not consider the couple's being one flesh as forbidding them divorce, although the latter source teaches that the husband is in some way responsible for his ex-wife even after their divorce. Jesus' teaching can be considered an extension of such an attitude, combined with other motives.

4. According to Jesus' argument, Deut. 24:1-4 contradicts Gen 2:24. However, we may assume an exegetical connection between Gen 2:24 and Deut. 24:1. The expression for the bill of divorce, ספר כריתת, means literally "a bill of cutting". Why cutting? It seems quite natural to understand divorce as "cutting" the "cleaving" (דבק) in Gen 2:24. The verses were not necessarily conceived as contradictory. This could be the case in the Greek Ben Sira (above, #3). This is certainly so in sayings in rabbinic literature according to which Gen 2:24 has to do with legitimizing divorce of non-Jews, and Deut. 24:1-4 as complementing the law of Gen 2:24 (PT Qiddushin 1:1 [58c]; Gen. Rab. 18:5 [ed. Theodor-Albeck, 166-167]). Samaritan marriage contracts are called מכתב הדביקה, "bill of cleaving", and our verse is cited, but clearly this "cleaving" can be cut by divorce. A very late Samaritan formula uses both verses:

והתוספה השנאה מן האיש לאשה ומן האשה לאיש ועזב האיש מימר ה' בקדוש תורתו "על כן יעזב איש את אביו ואת אמו ודבק באשתו" בגלל כן נקתה האשה מאישה ... וכתב לה ספר כריתת כאשר צוה ה' על יד עבדו משה "כי יקח איש אשה ... וכתב לה ספר כריתת"
And the husband forsook what was said by YHWH in his holy law: "Therefore a man should leave his father and mother and cleaves to his wife". In view of this the woman will be released from her husband … and he wrote her a bill of divorce as YHWH commanded through His servant Moses [+Deut. 24:1-2].

The Samaritan documents are very late, from the beginning of the 18th century. I am not arguing for any direct link between Jesus' saying and this late Samaritan exegesis of Gen 2:24. Yet the parallel is illuminating: the husband is described as forsaking God's commandment (cf. above, #2!) of cleaving to his wife, and this leads to divorce, to the כריתת, according to Deut 24:1.

5. The notion that it is God who joins husband and wife is no doubt the clue to Jesus' rejection of divorce. But how are we to understand Jesus' response: "For your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment", or: "For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives". Two things puzzle the reader. First, if we do not regard God's will and Moses' command as antithetic (and this does not seem to be an adequate reading of the Gospels), how can we explain that Moses permitted what according to God is adultery. Secondly, the words "your hardness of heart" are rather awkward. We would expect the argument to be that Moses allowed divorce because of sinfulness, or hatred. Why does the saying use the pronoun "your", and why does it use the expression "hardness of heart" which is not the most expected in this context. The best solution that I can suggest to these problems is to hypothesize that Jesus' dialogue was with followers of the Hillelites. Concerning divorce, the Hillelites maintained that a husband can divorce his wife for virtually any cause (M. Gittin 9:10). A short time before Jesus' dialogue supposedly took place, Hillel established the regulation of פרוזבול. According to the Torah, debts should be remitted in the seventh year, but a bold reform of Hillel is recorded in the Mishnah:

כשראה שנמנעו העם מלהלוות זה את זה ועוברין על מה שכתוב בתורה "השמר לך פן יהיה דבר עם לבבך בליעל [לאמר קרבה שנת השבע שנת השמטה ורעה עינך באחיך האביון ולא תתן לו]" (דב' טו, ט) וג' התקין הלל לפרוזבול

When he saw that the people refrained from giving loans one to another and transgressed what is written in the Law, 'Take heed lest there be a base thought in your heart [… and your eye be hostile to your poor brother, and you give him nothing]', Hillel ordained the prozbul (M. Shevi'it 10:3).

According to the Mishnah, the argument for Hillel's regulation is the bad conduct of the people. The more general commandment concerning debts (including remission of debts) is "do not harden your heart" לא תאמץ את לבבך (Deut 15:7). If Jesus directed his saying to the followers of Hillel, he would compare Moses' law of divorce with Hillel's regulation (תקנה). Is it lawful not to remit debts on the Shemittah? The answer must be "No", and a decent man must act according to the Torah (so would Jesus argue). Yet, Hillel permitted to do so because of the wicked behavior of society, the "hardness of heart" prohibited by the Law (by using Hillel's concession you prove yourselves to be hard-hearted, would be Jesus' argument). If the hypothesis that these words are addressed to followers of Hillel is correct, then the wording would be a subtle but strong critique not necessarily of the law of prosbul in itself, but certainly of the followers who used it without any reservations. This would explain the emphatic "your" and the choice of the expression "harness of heart", and also explain by analogy how something can be forbidden and lawful at the same time.

In Christian literature the expression "your hardness of heart" was interpreted as applying to the Jews. Because of the Jewish hardness of heart, divorce was allowed to the Jews by Moses. In early Christian thinking this notion was extended to many other laws given to the Jews in contradiction of the divine law. Thus we read in Justin's Dialogue with Trypho: "We too would observe the fleshly circumcision and the Sabbaths, and all the feasts, if we did not know for what reason they were enjoined you - namely, on account of your transgression and hardness of your heart" (18). As the issue of the law given to Israel, or rather inflicted on her, was a central one in the Jewish-Christian polemic, the argument that divorce is a divine privilege given to Israel alone, rather than a law inflicted on Israel because of her transgression, seems to be the Jewish response to the Christian argument: לא ייחד הקב"ה שמו בגירושין אלא בישראל בלבד (PT Qiddushin 1:1 [58c]). In other circles, our passage became the paradigm for the differentiation between divine legislation and Moses' legislation. These represent an interesting later development of the basic ideas of our passage, but scarcely contribute to the correct interpretation of the dialogue in its original setting. This early Christian interpretation demonstrates the radical change of the meaning of Jesus' sayings when the Jewish premises of his argument are no longer valid.

6. As has been observed by many scholars, the Matthean wording, "except for fornication" (mh\ e)pi\ pornei/a|, parekto\j lo/gou pornei/aj)" (Mt. 19:9, 5:31) clearly refers to the expression ערות דבר (Deut 24:1) as interpreted by the Shammaites (M. Gittin 9:10), namely that divorce is lawful only in matters related to sex, matters included in the rabbinic category ערוה and (similarly, if not identically) in the Qumranic category זנות. It is difficult to determine the exact Semitic wording of Matthew or Matthew's source, but its ultimate biblical source must have been the word ערוה in Deuteronomy. The tension between the total rejection of the law of divorce in Deut 24:1-4 as a whole and the Matthean exception clause has also been noted by commentators. The usage of the word זנות in the scrolls is far less relevant than rabbinic usage and rabbinic halakhic midrash. The Matthean formula grafts the latter on the saying of Jesus as documented in the other Gospels, a saying closer to the Qumranic material, as we have seen above.

To conclude: the Jewish background of the synoptic tradition of the saying concerning divorce is rather complex. Although the closest parallels are found in Qumran, we lose much information if we disregard non-Qumranic material. A passage of the Damascus Covenant concerning polygamy is relevant, but so is a rabbinic midrash , both interpreting Gen 1:27. A passage of 4QInstruction, in which the divine legal nature of marital life is dealt with, is a significant parallel to the interpretation of Gen 2:24. The exegetical methods shared by Jesus and 4QInstruction are intelligible in the light of rabbinic exegesis, that has its antecedents in the literature of the Second Temple period. A late Samaritan document may add another exegetical aspect relevant to Jesus' teaching. Statements not related to the biblical verse found in rabbinic literature are also relevant, as is also a secondary reading of Ben Sira. Rabbinic material is most helpful for the interpretation of Matthew. It may be also most important for the interpretation of some details in Jesus' saying in Mark, details that are crucial for the interpretation of the whole passage, according to the hypothesis suggested above. Studying all these sources, we understand the reasons for some of the tensions in the saying attributed to Jesus. It can safely be said that every element and every exegetical attitude in this saying have their counterpart in Judaism. Moreover, the whole reasoning of this dialogue can and should be interpreted as Jewish, and one does not have to assume that it was anti-nomistic or anti-Jewish in any sense. The passage that is closest in wording to his saying is perhaps the well-known parallel in the Damascus Covenant, but the other sources supply valuable information concerning the saying and its exegetical background.

Concerning rebuke and forgiveness we read:

Mt 18:15-17, 21-22 Lk 17:3-4
If your brother sins against you (a(marth/sh| [ei)j se]), go and reprove him, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained (e)ke/rdhsaj) your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that everything (pa~n rh~ma) may be confirmed by (e)pi\ sto/matoj) two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell (it) to the church (e)kklhsi/a); and if he refuses to listen to the church, let him be to you as a gentile and a tax collector.
…"Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? As many as seven times?" Jesus said to him: "I do not say to you seventy seven times. If your brother sins against you (a(marth/sh| [ei)j se]) rebuke (e)piti/mhson) him,
and if he repents
forgive him

and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times and says, "I repent', you must forgive him

It is usually agreed that both passages of Matthew and Luke are derived from Q, and that Luke preserves a more original form of the saying. Between Mt 18:15-17 and 18:20-21 another unit was inserted in Matthew. The unit was inserted there simply because the phrase "two or three" occurred both in our saying (Mt 18:16) and in the inserted unit (Mt 18:20). Mt18:15-17 is an elaboration of a more primitive saying. Both in Luke and in Matthew reproof and forgiveness are two sides of the same coin. The parallel of the passage in Matthew to laws of reproof in CD and in 1QS has been noted and studied by many commentators. The halakhic and exegetical background to the demand of reproof has been thoroughly analyzed by Schiffman, Kugel and Shemesh. A review of the passages from Qumran concerning reproof and a closer comparison between the Qumran material and the Matthean passage is still in order.

1. In CD 9:2-8 we read:

[1.A] Any man from the members of the covenant who brings against his fellow a charge which has had no (prior) reproof before (or: by the evidence of) witnesses, but brings it out of anger, or tells of it to his Elders in order to shame him (i.e., his fellow), he is (guilty of) taking revenge and holding a grudge; but it is written: "He takes revenge on his enemies and holds a grudge against his foes" (Nah 1:2).
[1.B] If he was silent towards him from day to day and (then) when he was angry at him … testified against himself concerning a capital crime, because he did not carry out the commandment of God who said to him, "You shall surely reprove your fellow lest he bear sin because of him" (Lev 19:18)

The ruling that people should make peace (and one should forgive his fellow) on the very same day of the offense may well apply particularly to interpersonal matters. In the Epistle to the Ephesians it is advised "'be angry and do not sin' (Ps 4:4) do not let the sun go down on your anger" (Eph 4:26), and righteous rabbis are reported as saying "I have never gone to bed with my fellow's curse" (BT Megillah 28a, PT Ta'anit 3:13 [67a], Kalla Rabbati 3:10). As has been noted, this ruling is related in the scrolls (especially CD 7:2) to the prohibition of "holding a grudge" (Hebrew noter, literally meaning "keeping [in his heart])", again an interpersonal matter. It should be noted, however, that the wording "silent towards him from day to day" is borrowed from Num 30:15, "but if her husband is silent towards her from day to day [concerning her vows], then he establishes all her vows", and the reason for applying this rule to relationship in the community is the similarity between the result of not appropriately reproving in Lev 19:17, ולא תשא עליו חטא, "lest you bear his sin", and Num 30:16, ואם הפר יפר אותם אחרי שמעו ונשא את עונה, "but if he makes them null and void after he has heard of them [i.e., after the day in which the vows were pronounced, then he shall bear her iniquity".

2. Several lines afterwards (CD 9:16-24), another rule of reproof is found:

[2.A] Any matter in which a man sins against the law, and his fellow sees him and he is alone; if it is a capital matter, he shall report it in his [=the sinner's] presence, reproving him, to the mebaqqer, and the mebaqqer shall record it, until he does it again in the presence of someone. If he is caught again doing it in the presence of (another) one, his judgment is complete…
[2.B] On the (same) day on which he saw him, he shall make it known to the mebaqqer
כל דבר אשר ימעל איש בתורה וראה רעיהו והוא אחד אם דבר מות הוא וידיעהו לעיניו בהוכיח למבקר והמבקר יכתבהו בידו עד עשותו עוד לפני אחד ושב והודיע למבקר אם ישוב וניתפש לפני אחר שלם משפטו ... וביום ראות האיש יודיעה למבקר

3. A parallel law in the Serekh (1QS 5:24-6:1) reads:

[3.A] They shall reprove one another in truth, humility and merciful love
[3.B] One must not speak to his (fellow) with anger or with snarl or with a [stiff] neck or [with zealousness of] spirit of wickedness.
[3.C] And he must not hate him in his [uncircumcised] heart, for he shall reprove him on (the very same) day lest he bear iniquity because of him.
[3.D] And also let no man bring anything against his fellow before the Many without (prior) reproof in the presence of witnesses.

4. A fragmentary text, 4QBerakhot, has much in common with [1] and [3]. The most important aspect that can be learned from the composite text and reconstruction established by Bilhah Nitzan is that "reproving one before wi[tnesses]" is "in order to purify one's deeds from every [sin]".

5. Another passage in D (CD 13:17-19+4Q266 9 iii, 6-10, according to the composite text of Elisha Qimron) deals with reproof of the mebaqqer, using a language rather similar to [3.A-B]. The mebaqqer is supposed to do the following:

והו[א] ייסר את בניהם [ונשיהם?] וטפם [ברו]ח ענוה ובאהבת חסד ואל יטור להם [ב--- ו]באף וע[בר ע]ל פשעיהם ואת אשר איננו נקשר בעד[ת אל לוא ישפוט במ]שפטיהם

And he shall correct their sons [and wives?] and little children with humble [spi]rit and with merciful love, and he shall not hold grudge against them angrily and [----]ly, and for[give] their iniquities, and those who are not bound in the congrega[tion of God] he shall not judge in] their judgment.

We do have a fragmentary text of the reproofs of the mebaqqer. Unlike the other texts, members are reproved in this text for morally objectionable behaviour among the members of the group.

6. Another interesting passage concerning reproof occurs in 4QInstruction (4Q417 2 I, 1-8). The passage has not been correctly understood and translated. It seems that this passage is somehow related to [5], but it is not clear whether it is addressed to a member of the community or to one of its leaders. It reads:

1. בכל עת פן ישבעכה וכרוחו דבר בו פן י0[
2. בלוא הוכח הכשר עבור לו והנק שר 0[
3. וגם את רוחו לא תבלע כיא בדממה דברת[ה
4. ותוכחתו ספר מהר ואל תעבור על פשעיכה [בתוכחת רעכה כיא?]
5. יצדק כמוכה הואה כיא הואה {כיא הואה} שר בש[רכה
6. יעשה כי מה הואה יח<י>ד בכול מעשה לבלתי [
vacat .7 ואיש עול אל תחשוב עזר וגם אין שונא [---- לב]לתי [שכוח?]
8. רשע מעשיו עם פקדתו ודע במה תתהלך עמו [

1. [Do not speak? with him] at any time, lest he become weary of you. Speak to him according to his spirit, lest he [~resists you? …
2. without reproof. Forgive the pious, and [reuke?] those bound (i.e., members of the community)
3. And also do not injure his spirit, but speak in silence
4. and tell his reproof quickly, and do not forgive (yourself) your own sins [when you are reproved by your neigbour]
5. because he is righteous as you are, for he is your next of [kin]
6. ….
7. And a wicked man do not consider a helper, nor shall (God's) enemy be […. d]o not [forget?]
8. the wickedness of his deeds and (God's future) visitation, and know how you should behave with him

Many details are still obscure in this passage. The tenor of the passage is clear, however: in contradistinction to the wicked, the pious should be reproved immediately (cf. [1.B], [3.C]) and then forgiven. One has to forgive his fellow and, on the other hand, not easily forgive himself. The same expression occurs again several lines below:

ואל תעבור על [פש]עיכה היה כאיש עני בריבך משפטי [ / קח ואז יראה אל ושב אפו ועבר על חטאותכה [כי]א לפ<נ>י אפו / לוא יעמוד כול ומי יצדק במשפטו ובלי סליחה איכה [יקום לפניו]
And do not forgive (yourself) your own sins; behave as a humble man in your contest, the judgment of [God?] / accept, and then God will see and his anger will abate, and He will forgive your sins. For before His anger none can stand, and who is righteous in His judgment, and without forgiveness how can anyone stand before Him? (4Q417 2 i, 14-16).

If one does not forgive his own sins, he will earn the real forgiveness, God's forgiveness. Reproving and being reproved are done in a state of deep humility before God. Moreover, it is emphasized that any other member is a "next of kin". The fragment illustrates how "humility and merciful love" mentioned in [3] and [5] are achieved. The affinities with the sectarian halakha and vocabulary are further evidence that 4QInstruction is a sectarian text.

7. Two lines in the Prayer of Josef (4Q372 1, 27-28) should be read and reconstructed as follows:

וללמד לפשעים חקיך ולכל עזביך תור[תך ואין כל אח]
ורע אשר לא להכיחו עדותיך ולהגיד דברי צדק[ך

Apparently, the correct translation would be:

I teach sinners Your laws and all those who abandon you (I teach) [your?] Torah [and there is no brother]
and friend that I should not reprove him with your teaching, and I tell the words of your righteousness

As has been argued for decades now, the affinities of Mt 18:15-17 with the some of the sectarian passages are clear: the specific combination of the law of reproof and bearing witness against the sinner (or offender), the relation between reproof before two witnesses and bringing the matter to the congregation. The similarity, especially to [1] and [3] is so striking, even in details, that it seems to me quite unlikely to be the result of an coincidence.

The wording in [1.A] and [3.D] is not unambiguous: who are the witnesses, and what do they testify to? Although these passages are not identical to the Matthean passage, they help us to envisage the procedure referred to in the sectarian texts with the help of the saying in Matthew. At the very least, Matthew is an old application of a ruling similar to the one found in the sectarian literature.

The passages in the Damascus Covenant [1] and the Serekh [3] teach us that the wording in Matthew, though an expansion of a saying of Jesus, is by no means new, and could well be a literal translation of an early, pre-Christian Jewish procedure adopted by the church. On the other hand, the passage in Matthew enables us to understand the whole procedure: private reproof, then reproof before witnesses, and as a last resort bringing the matter to the congregation (e)kklhsi/a; the Many; the Elders). Jesus' saying refers to interpersonal relationship. In [2] the reproof is for violation of the Torah. As has been noted by scholars, the procedure in Matthew is closely related to asking forgiveness of one's fellow, according to rabbinic literature:

Whoever sins against his fellow must say to him, "I have sinned against you". If he accepts it, it is well; if not, he must bring (other) persons and appease him before them. (PT Yoma 8:9 [45c]).

This is an Aramaic saying of the Amora Samuel (early third century C.E.), and yet it reflects (so we learn, thanks to the Gospel) an ancient tradition. To be sure, according to this saying "it is the offending person who takes the initiative, not the offended", but, as we have seen, reproving and forgiving in this community are very closely linked (and so are they, very explicitly, also in [6] (and [5]). As for the scrolls, it is unclear what the matter of reproof in [3] is. (It should be noted, however, that a similar wording is found in a pure interpersonal context in the Epistle to the Colossians 3:9-13 and its parallel in the Epistle to the Ephesians 4:25-32.) In [1] a reproof can be for "capital crime," although a possible interpersonal motive for reproof is still mentioned in [1] and [3] and in a very fragmentary text concerning reproof (4Q286 20a, b, 7-10), but is absent in [2]. A comparison between the passage in Matthew and [2] will yield negative results, while there is a close similarity between this passage and [1].

How can we explain these differences? They stem from an essential problem concerning the biblical verses, namely whether Lev 19:17, the biblical verse in which reproof is commanded, refers only to interpersonal matters. Ben Sira19:13-17, Testament of Gad 6:3 our passage in Matthew and Didache 15:3 assume as much. Similar procedures occur, as has been pointed out by Weinfeld, in non-Jewish organizations. But should one reprove his neighbor only for personal offence and not for improper religious conduct? The plain meaning of the biblical verse does not seem to apply to such situations, but when the problem was raised, during the Second Temple period, a negative answer to this question was quite natural. "Reproof" in [7] applies to God's Law, and is considered (if the suggested reconstruction is accepted) as superior to any interpersonal relations, but has no procedural meaning in the present context. The reproof for any sin certainly underlies the procedure of [1] (especially [1.B]). But then another problem rises: is reproof sufficient in such a case, when the Law was severely violated? This consideration would almost necessarily lead to a "judicial" interpretation (especially in a closed community), according to which reproof is obligatory, and in which "reproof" and informing the sinner are combined into a single act [2].

Taking reproof in Lev 19:17 as applying to "sin" in general, rather than specifically to "sin against one's fellow", is the most important factor in the development of the law of reproof. Such an expansion of the issue can easily be recognized in Matthew 18:15, where some manuscripts read "sin against you", whereas others read only "sin". The different readings of Jesus' saying are related to ancient interpretation of Lev 19:17, and illuminates the more ambiguous wording of [1] and [3]. The originality of phrase "sin against you" in Jesus' saying is proved by the clause "between you and him" in Matthew 18:15 and by the context in Luke 17:4. This is also confirmed by the parallels (Testament of Gad 6:3, PT Yoma 8:9 [45c]; cf. also Didache 15:3). When seen in this perspective, Mt 18:15-17 is not to be regarded as a conflation of the two distinct approaches, but rather as a representative of a pure interpersonal ruling, that changed much of its coloring even in the close sectarian parallels (i.e., [1] and [3]). It is a bridge between the entirely interpersonal rabbinic procedure (Samuel's statement) and the entirely judicial procedure, [2]. It thus enables us to discern more clearly the difference between the two sectarian procedures, [1] and [2].

The sin in [2] is defined as a transgression of the Torah. The reprover is the only witness of the sin, and he has to reprove his fellow in the presence of the mebaqqer; reproving and informing the authorities by testifying against the transgression are thus combined into a single act. But the act of reproof itself does not need the presence of witnesses. This procedure is entirely different from the one in Matthew, and probably also from its cognates in [1] and [3], where "witnesses", in the plural, are mentioned, and according to the usual interpretation are not witnesses of the sin itself (cf. Matthew), and where the charge is brought before the congregation rather than before the mebaqqer. On the other hand, there is no demand in [1] and [3] to bring a charge against the wrongdoer. According to the fragmentary text [<4>], which is closely related to [1] and [3], the aim of the reproof is "to purify one's deeds", not to prove him guilty (if repeated), as in [2]. The concept of "judicial reproof" occurs, then, in [2], whereas the other sources are modifications of the interpersonal concept of reproof (as will be confirmed by comparing Matthew with Samuel's statement). The laws of the Damascus Document include two rulings (of two sources or of two layers) of rather different attitudes. Probably these rulings were practiced, at least for some time, simultaneously, as they were conceived as two kinds of reproof. Another kind of reproof practiced in Qumran is against behavior that is neither a specific personal offense nor an action with legal consequences.

The possibility that the offending person will argue with the reprover is not taken into account. It seems that it is the duty of a reproved person to accept any reproof and ask for forgiveness. A possibility of an argument between the reprover and the reproved person is raised in the Testament of Gad: "Love one another from your heart, and if anyone sins against you, tell him peacefully, banishing the poison of hatred, and let no treachery be in your soul, and if, after admitting (his sin) he repents, forgive him. But if he denies, do not dispute with him" (6:3-4; my translation). Denial, or even counter accusation, is not taken as a possibility in Matthew. Clearly, the assumption is that the members of the community must receive reproof without any argument. The ideological basis for this code of behavior is given in [6]. A prohibition of any argument when a person is reproved (by his better) occurs in the Serekh: "And whoever answers his fellow stubbornly or talks impatiently, disregarding the reproof of his fellow who is registered before him, [he tak]es the law into his hand and shall be punished for one year (1QS 6:25-26).

In Luke the text concerning reproof continues: "and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times and says, 'I repent', you must forgive him", whereas in Matthew Peter asks Jesus: "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? As many as seven times?" and Jesus answers: "I do not say to you seven times, but seven times seven". This is reminiscent of the exegetical deduction from the employment of tautological infinitive in the Bible. The Sifra (to Lev 19:17) deduces from the repetition that one has to reprove "four and five times". This exegetical principle occurs elsewhere in tannaitic halakhic midrashim deducing from the doubling of the verb and the infinitive "even a hundred times." According to the Babylonian Talmud, a scholar asked Rava (Babylonia, fourth century C.E.): "It might be said that the doubling of the verbs הוכח תוכיח ("you shall surely reprove", Lev 19:17) means that one has to reprove his fellow twice?" Rava answered that from the first word alone one may infer that he should rebuke his fellow "even a hundred times" (BT Bava Mesi'a 31a), clearly an elaboration of the tannaitic exegesis. It thus becomes probable that this saying of Jesus is a direct continuation of the reproof saying (Lk 17:3), and it refers to an unlimited number of reproof and forgiveness procedures, and that it is based on the stylistic repetition הוכח תוכיח. Here the parallels in talmudic literature help us in determining the original context. The passage in the Babylonian Talmud supplies a parallel to the conversion of the halakhic dialectics into a dialogue, in a much similar manner to that of Matthew.

Again, we see that a variety of sources should be employed for the elucidation of sayings attributed to Jesus, either "authentic" or "inauthentic". Even though "Qumranic" passages are the closest parallels to this passage, rabbinic sources are essential for its proper understanding (and even for establishing its original text). It should be especially emphasized in this case that the Matthean passage significantly contributes to the understanding of the Jewish material, both sectarian and rabbinic. Usually, and for good reasons, we seek to understand the Jewish background of the New Testament. It is not rare, however, that a passage in the Gospels supplies us with most valuable evidence for the Jewish background of the Jewish texts that have come down to us.

On אלי הצדק see DJD XXIII, Qumran Cave 11, Oxford 1998, p. 232, L. 14.

See, D. Goodblatt, The Monarchic Principle, T?bingen 1994, pp. 65-71; J. J. Collins, The Scepter and the Star, New York 1995, pp. 74-101; M. Abegg, "The Messiah at Qumran: Are We Still Seeing Double?" DSD 2 (1995) pp. 125-144; J. VanderKam, "Messianism in the Scrolls," in E. Ulrich and J. VanderKam (eds.), The Community of the Renewed Covenant: The Notre Dame Symposium on the Dead Sea Scrolls, Notre Dame 1994, pp. 212-234; F. M. Cross, "Notes on the Doctrine of the Two Messiahs at Qumran," in D. W. Parry and S. D. Ricks (eds.), Current Research and Technological Developments on the Dead Sea Scrolls, Leiden 1996, pp. 1-4; W. M. Schniedewind, "Structural Aspects of Qumran Messianism in the Damascus Document," in D. W. Parry and E. Ulrich (eds.), The Provo International Conference on the Dead Sea Scrolls, Leiden 1999, pp. 523-536

Yadin, ibid pp. 45-48.
Ibid. pp. 48-53.
For a bibliography of scholarship on this subject, see, W. L. Lane, Hebrews 1-8, Word Biblical Commentary, Dallas TX 1991, pp. li - liii.