á¼œÎ½Î¿Ï‡Î¿Ï‚ (Mt 5, 21-22) and the Jurisprudence of Heaven
his agent, go forth and kill so-and-so, the agent is liable, and his principal
is free, but Shammai the Elder said the principal is liable by the laws of
Heaven (ïƒºayyÄv bedÃ®nÃª Å¡ÄmÄyim)11. It is said that this is â€œmoral liabilityâ€
but that term is insufficiently dramatic. Then there is b. Giï‚ ï‚ . 53a (cf. b.
B.Q. 56a): â€œIf one does work with the heifer of purification he is exempt
before the earthly court but liable before the heavenly courtâ€12.
At b. B.Q. 55b we have a convenient summary (not exhaustive); â€œan
offender is exempt... but liable to the judgement of Heaven (as at B.Q, 28b-
29a) in four typical cases: (1) breaking a fence in front of a neighbourâ€™s
animal; (2) bending down a neighbourâ€™s standing corn in front of a fire;
(3) hiring false witnesses to give evidence; and (4) knowing of evidence
favourable to X; and failing to testify on his behalfâ€13. This jurisprudence
has nothing to do with the End Time: it runs concurrently with the
limping human jurisprudence. It is therefore of interest to students of
comparative jurisprudence and legal history. The pentateuchal basis is
Dt 12,28; 13,19(18): â€œWhen thou doest that which is good and right... to
do that which is right in the eyes of the Lord thy Godâ€14.
Of unusual interest is b. B.Q. 56a, where there is a great discussion about
the Jurisprudence of Heaven. Subject to certain qualifications a convict
might be declared innocent by Heavenâ€™s court (a calamity sought to be
avoided at Mt 16,19; 18,18-19). The model instances of â€œheavenlyâ€ guilt
appear not only in the Mishna but also in the Tosefta, which gives them a
greater age than those in the Talmuds15. So even Talmudic passages go back
to the time when the Temple still sood -or at the least their theory does.
The incompetence and unpredictability of human laws and their
implementation were known in the time of Christ16. The idea that there
are (not will be) standards which apply in a superior court with every
means of coercion and from which there is no appeal must have been a
valuable idea. If one ïƒºayyÄv one could hardly escape save by contrition
such as Hezekiahâ€™s (2 Kgs 20,3-6). The results might be invisible, but that
could not be assumed: hell is the punishment which is only in a sense
postponed, for GÃªhÃ®nom17 was inexorable and cast its shadow before it.
Falk, Introduction 29-30; SB I, 273-4; Bonsirven, Textes Â§1569.
SB I, 275.
The four examples do appear also at Jerusalem Talmud B.Q. 5b and Tosefta Å ev III.1.
Bonsirven, Textes Â§Â§ 1626, 1970. Items (2) and (3) appear at Â§ 1970.
R. Ishmael (c. 130 AD) at Sifre on Deuteronomy Â§Â§79, 96, trans. R. Hammer (New
Haven & London 1986) 134, 144.
Tos. B.Q. VI. 16-17 (Falk, Introduction 30); Å ev III. 1-3 (ibid., Bonsirven, Textes
Â§Â§1969-70); Sanh. XIII.5, XIV.16 (Bonsirven Â§ 1931).
J.D.M. Derrett, â€œLaw and administration in the New Testament worldâ€, in J. Barton,
ed., The Biblical Worid (London & New York 2002) II, 75-89.
See below nn. 20-21.