19 August 2015

On Moral and Ethical People

I do not trust moral people. Moral people are only moral because of what other people think. They are only “moral” as long as the Authority which dictates their morality is in place and watching.  Take away Authority, or worse, have Authority release them from their morality for a “just cause”, you get a Gitmo, an Abu Ghraib, a My Lai, a Kahrizak, an Evin, a 1988 prison massacre, institutionalized prison rape by guards, a Porajmos, a Holocaust, a Holodmor, a Medz Yeghern, Manifest Destiny, national exceptionalism, ethnocracy, neoliberalism, trickle-down economics, austerity for the masses, a war on poverty replaced by a war on the poor, religious fundamentalism, complexionism, the worst atrocities committed by humanity.

Ethical people, on the other hand, realize that the only person to whom they can really be true is their own self.  But I don’t trust absolutely ethical people either.  A truly ethical person knows that sometimes the only ethical thing to do is to set aside their ethics temporarily, the distinction here being that they come to that decision on their own.  They are flexible.  An absolutely ethical person is so committed to their own ethics that nothing, no change of circumstances, no amount of compassion, no amount of empathy, will cause them to change.  The result of the latter is the same as Authority releasing its charges from their restrictions.

18 August 2015

Kendra's Law

People who have struggled together have stronger connections than those who are most content. Most people don't do what they believe in; they do what's convenient and then they repent, seeking absolution they don't deserve. 

Like the Muslim who shows neither compassion nor mercy (like the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia or the Islamic Republic of Iran), the Christian who goes around with a 2x4 in each eye and a stone in each hand (like the entire American Christian Supremacist Right), the Jew who loudly condemns the Holocaust while carrying out Israel's genocide against the Palestinians (the overwhelming majority of Israelis), the "heathcare provider" in business to reap profit by denying healthcare to as many as possible, the banker who steals with impunity while a guy convicted of selling an ounce of weed does twenty to life.

Visiting Day (poem)

Fingers touching
Through the glass
Their only caress

Khalil Gibran's "The Prophet", Chapter IV: Children

'And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, "Speak to us of Children." 
And he said: 
Your children are not your children. 
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself. 
They come through you but not from you, 
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you. 
You may give them your love but not your thoughts. 
For they have their own thoughts. 
You may house their bodies but not their souls, 
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams. 
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. 
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday. 
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth. 
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far. 
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness; 
For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.'

Solitude (poem)

Inside the wall
Of solitude
Reaching out
Not touching
Cold and hungry
Not searching


Still (poem)

Thinking of you
I only regret
That what could've been
Never came to be
Not through any fault
Of yours or mine
But only because
Of other things
In each of our lives

Remembering that
Makes me want to die
A little death
And be reborn
In your arms

Look at Me (poem)

I don't want to be
Your declaration of independence
I don't want to be
Your father confessor
Or your counselor
Or your therapist
I don't want to be a substitute
For your husband
Or your dad
I don't want to be
A stand-in
For the brother you never had
I don't want to be
A player
In the script you write
And direct
I don't want to be
The fulfillment of your
Emotional or sexual fantasies
And to tell you the truth
I don't even know how
To be any of those things
Those desires are yours
I only know how
To be me
But deep inside
I am everything
You want me to be
And if you let me
I will love you
But if you can't
Please tell me
And release me
So I can walk away
To find someone
Who can

How the PRC has become the British Empire and the IRI the Qajari dynasty

(Originally posted to FB 5 May 2010)

In recent months, the regime has prepared the launch of 8-10 billion euros of energy bonds. Last week, the first phase of the issuance (valued at 250 million euros) was the first step to test the reaction of international capital markets, minus the U.S. and the U.K., to the government-backed 8% rate of return over 3 years, which, on the surface, appears a promising investment.

In this short note, a number of observations are made pertaining to the risks involved in participating in the scheme to both foreign and domestic buyers of the bonds. Given the absence of reliable data on the cost of the bond-generated revenue, a degree of speculation in the assessment is unavoidable.

Even taking into account the relative ease at which the market accepted government bonds a few years ago, the new bonds are quite different on many levels.

The last (and only time) that the government issued bonds the value was 1 billion dollars (less than 700 million euros). At that time the global economic environment was quite positive compared to the present day liquid-short banking sector. The emerging economic slowdown in the euro zone triggered by the Greek debt and similar situations in Portugal, Poland, Ireland and Spain have elevated the cost of borrowing and exacerbated the liquidity shortage barring the Chinese and Malaysian financial systems, which lessens the appeal of these bonds to Western institutional investors beyond what the sanctions have done already.

In Iran, since 2001, the energy sector has been showing serious signs of diminishing productivity and falling returns to new investment for the following reasons, which have made it the second least productive industry in the leagues of top 10 oil-rich economy (Nigeria is the least productive).

Since 1999, the level of investment in the oil industry has been about one-third of what it should have been to maintain the productivity of the oil fields/wells compared with the average investment-output ratio for the region. The Majlis’ (Iranian Parliament’s) own calculations, as well as the Minister of Oil’s statement in February 2010, reported a 70 billion dollar shortfall in investment over the last 9 years. The issuance of 8-10 billion euros, about 14 billion dollars, will not be remotely enough to address the collapsing infrastructures in Gachsaran, Khoramshahr, Ilam, Nazar Tapeh and Pars oil fields. The money will only be a temporary means of risk-sharing to involve foreign capital, and at a time when sanctions will make investment even less profitable if they involve the energy industry as a means to pass some of the risk to foreign buyers.

The energy sector will almost certainly be affected by sanctions since all Sepah (Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps) business interests are to be targeted, and in recent years, through creeping takeovers, Sepah-owned companies are now the largest entities in the Iranian oil industry. After the dispute with Total of France and an Italian company which refused to re-structure payments based on kickbacks, and the shock Total managers in France received when the kickbacks to officials during the second administration of President Khatemi were leaked by the “reformists” in Tehran, Western interest in future deals declined further, especially when the direct involvement of Mehr Investment in the Pars fields Phases 11-16 resulted in explicit demands for a 12 percent off-the-books contract payment in cash. 

Three months after President Ahmadi Nejad was elected in his first term, the government agreed with China National Petroleum Corporation. (CNPC) on a 20 year deal which effectively transferred pricing option to CNPC and agreed to a barter-based payment which allowed China to pay 50-65% of the value of oil purchased in Chinese goods. A year and half after the exit of Total and other European firms, CNPC replaced all the companies with a nominal undertaking of 5 billion dollars investment over 11 years. Three years after the agreement, China has invested less than one billion dollars of which 700 million dollars have been in distribution and delivery facility to Chinese vessels and almost nothing in the production infrastructure.

In 2009, pursuant to a split between the Sepah commanders in Mehr Investment and Khatemolanbia, which had received a sum of 8.9 billion dollars from the special oil account despite objections from the Parliament’s less influential members, informed the leadership that unless a further 22 billion dollars of credit was not provided, they will not be able to deliver targets for which the 8.9 billion dollars had been transferred to them. Given the massive leakage of oil and gas money to the Far East, government, Mr Hosseini first, mentioned the issue of energy bonds as a means to make the Iranian oil and gas industry the pioneer in the application of sequential-pressurization, a technique that Sepah has opted for because of its low level technical requirement but one that enables, at best, a 10-15 percent reclaiming ratio of available oil instead of 40-60 percent as experienced using more advanced methods used in Sakhalin, North Sea, and Mexico.

It is almost certain that a substantial amount of the revenue raised through the bonds will go to the Sepa, where accountability and performance assessments are most difficult to implement.

The highest risk associated with the new bonds (“energy investment shares” as the government calls it now) is that in the case of a partial sale when some of the bonds are not taken up by buyers, the value of those purchased will see a high discount as an investment that was not assessed as worth investing, and this will see a loss of value. The guaranteed return on the bonds will not guarantee an automatic pay off if the investment does not generate improved productivity that can finance the buyback. In the event of shortage of hard currency, buyers will be left with promissory notes which will have a declining valuation as the delay increases.

The most likely winners of the scheme seem to be U.A.E. banks which have shown interest in the bonds and two Chinese banks which have indicated a take up of 3-7 percent of total bonds each. In all cases, such a concentrated purchase by institutions which have close links to their national governments has the potential for acquisition of strategic control or at least interests in the Iranian energy sector which is and will be for some time to come, the lifeline of the economy.

Another excerpt from Azar Nafisi's Reading Lolita in Tehran

(I posted this in my FB Notes back in September 2009, and after finding I didn't have it here was inspired to post it after reading a story about increasing conversion to Christianity in Iran.)

"...She was talking about the teacher who taught Islamic morality and translation....Her voice took on a serious tone as she began to describe his recent lecture on the difference between Islam and Christianity...On one side [of the blackboard] he had written, in large white letters, MUSLIM GIRL, and drawn a vertical line in the middle of the board. On the other side, in large pink letters, he wrote CHRISTIAN GIRL. He had then asked the class if they knew the differences between the two. One was a virgin, he said at last, after an uncomfortable silence, white and pure, keeping herself for her husband and her husband only. Her power came from her modesty. The other, well, there was not much one could say about her except that she was not a virgin. To Yassi's surprise, the two girls behind her, both active members of the Muslim Students' Association, had started to giggle, whispering, "Now wonder more and more Muslims are converting to Christianity".

13 August 2015

European colonies in the Americas, 1776

Most Yanks are completely oblivious to the fact that there were many more British colonies in North America in 1776 than just the thirteen represented in the stripes on the U.S. flag.  In addition, fourteen colonies rather than thirteen joined the rebellion in 1775 that became a revolution.  So, while fourteen rebelled against Great Britain, seven did not.

Once I got to writing a list of these, I couldn’t stop myself from going all-out and listing all the colonies of European powers in the Western Hemisphere in 1776.

Maine was part of Massachusetts Bay until 1820.

Vermont seceded from New York in 1777 as New Caledonia initially, then became the Republic of Vermont, which it remained until entering the Union as a state in 1791.

Gardiner’s Island is a small island in the bay of the same name at the eastern end of Long Island, New York.  Its owner had been granted the status of independent colony by the Crown as early as 1639, when the rest of what is now New York was the New Netherlands.  After the revolution, the island came under the jurisdiction of the town of East Hampton, New York.

Officially the “Three Lower Counties on the Delaware River”, when it declared independence from Great Britain, the already autonomous colony seceded from Pennsylvania as Delaware.

West Virginia at the time was merely western Virginia, and remained so until seceding from the secessionist commonwealth in the Civil War to become its own state in 1863.

Rupert’s Land was the one part of North America still owned by a proprietary company.

St. John’s Island became Prince Edward Island in 1798.

Illinois Country is roughly equivalent to what became Northwest Territory, or the Old Northwest, in 1787.  Until 1763, it was Upper Louisiane east of the Mississippi River.  While in British hands, it was recognized as Indian Territory, save for a few British forts.

The colonies of East Florida and West Florida were established in 1763 when Spain traded them to Great Britain for Louisiane west of the Mississippi River.  After they reverted to Spain in 1783, Spain retained the division.

The territory north of West Florida to the Ohio River, what had once been Lower Louisiane east of the Mississippi River, was a protectorate territory known as the Indian Reserve.  Its affairs involving Great Britain were handled out of the West Florida capital of Pensacola and came under the British Indian Department.  It was later denominated the Southwest Territory by the United States.

Norwegian colonies

In North America


British colonies

In North America

*Province of Massachusetts Bay (which then included Maine)
*Province of New Hampshire
*Connecticut Colony
*Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations
*Province of New York (including Vermont until 1777)
*Colony of Gardiner’s Island (absorbed by New York in 1783)
*Province of Pennsylvania
*Province of New Jersey
*Colony of the Three Lower Counties (now Delaware)
*Province of Maryland
*Colony of Virginia (including West Virginia)
*Province of North Carolina
*Province of South Carolina
*Province of Georgia
Rupert’s Land (owned by Hudson’s Bay Company)
Province of Quebec (formerly Canada and including Illinois Country)
Colony of Newfoundland
St. John’s Island (Prince Edward Island)
Colony of Nova Scotia (including New Brunswick and Cape Breton Island)
Province of East Florida
Province of West Florida (to 31°N)
Indian Reserve of 1763 (technically a protectorate of UK)

*The fourteen colonies which seceded from the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1776.

In the Caribbean

Colony of Bermuda
Colony of the Bahamas
Colony of Jamaica and dependencies
        Island of Jamaica
        Cayman Islands
        Mosquito Coast
        Bay Islands
Colony of Barbados
Colony of Grenada
Colony of Tobago
Colony of Dominica
Colony of the Leeward Islands
        St. Christopher
        British Virgin Islands
        St. Vincent

Virreinato de Nueva EspaƱa

In North America

Reino de Mexico
        Provincia de Panzacola (Pensacola)
        Ducado de Atlixco
        Marquesado del Valle de Oaxaca
Capitania-General de La Florida (until 1763)
Provincia de Luisiana (under Capitania-General de Cuba)
Comandancia y Capitania-General de las Provincias Internas
        Alta California
        Baja California
        Nueva Navarra
        Santa Fe de Nuevo Mexico
        Tejas y Nuevas Filipinas
        Nuevo Vizcaya
        Nuevo Extremadura
        Nuevo Leon
        Nuevo Santander
        Nuevo Reino de Galicia
Capitania-General de Yucatan
Capitania-General de Guatemala
        Costa Rica
        El Salvador

In the Caribbean

Capitania-General de Cuba
        Provincia de Luisiana
Capitania-General de Santo Domingo
Capitania-General de Puerto Rico
Spanish Lesser Antilles (Trinidad, Tobago)

In the western Pacific

Capitania-General de las Filipinas
        Northern Taiwan

Other Spanish colonies

In South America

Virreinato de New Granada (including Panama)
        Intendencia de Caracas (Capitania-General of Venezuela after 1777)
Virreinato de Peru
Virreinato del Rio de la Plata
Capitania-General de Chile

French colonies

In the Caribbean

Saint Domingue (now Haiti)
French Lesser Antilles
        St. Lucia
        St. Martin
        Saint Barthelemy

In South America


Dutch colonies

In the Caribbean

Dutch Lesser Antilles
        Sint Maarten
        Sint Eustatius

In South America


Danish colonies

In the Caribbean

Danish Lesser Antilles (Virgin Islands:
        St. Thomas
        St. Jan
        St. Croix

Portugese colonies

In South America

Vice-reagrupamento do Brasil
        Estado do Brasil
        Estado do Maranhao e Piaui
        Estado do Grao-Para e Rio Negro

Russian colonies

In North America

Russkaya Amerika
        Colony Ross in California
        Schaffer’s short-lived colonies on Oahu and Kaua’i in Hawai’i

The Great Commandment, or Mitzvah, a history

The Great Commandment (Great Mitzvah), or Summary of the Law (Summary of the Torah) in the Book of Common Prayer, is one of the best known exegeses of the Torah put into the mouth of Isho bar Yossef the Nazorean (Jesus Christ) by the authors of the gospels. 

Most Christians believe, and most Christian theologians teach, that this conjoining of two separate positive prescriptions was unique to Isho.  It was not.  Nor was the question about which commandment, or mitzvah, of the Torah is the greatest.  Both go back at least two centuries, maybe longer. 

The Great Commandment, or Great Mitzvah, is, both by its essence and its history, inextricably bound with the Golden Rule.

The examples proceed by the order in which they were written, not the time period in which the events they depict take place, thus the gospels follow Paul.

Several examples come from works of the early Christian period known as “church orders”, which dealt with moral issues, church polity, the calendar, and liturgy, to varying degrees from document to document.

Antecedents in the Torah

Both prescriptions in the Summary of the Torah quite naturally originate in the Torah.

‘Hear, O Yisrael: Yahweh your God is one Yahweh.  You shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might.’ (Deuteronomy 6:4-5)

‘You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am Yahweh.’ (Leviticus 19:18)

In the same chapter of Leviticus, that prescription extends to cover foreigners among the Israelites in their land, and by doing so in effect extends the mitzvah to love to all humanity.

‘The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am Yahweh your God.’ (Leviticus 19:34)


This deuterocanonical work, part of the Septuagint Tanakh, the canonical Old Testament of the Roman and Eastern churches, and the Protestant Apocrypha, tells the story of Tobit, who was taken captive to Nineveh in Assyria, and his wives Hannah and Sarah, the archangel Raphael, and the demon Asmodeus.

Composed in the late third century BCE, the work is related to the Jewish wisdom literature written in this same time.  It contains the oldest known Jewish expression of the Golden Rule:

‘And what you hate, do not do to anyone’. (Tobit 4:15a).


Formally titled Book of the All-Virtuous Wisdom of Joshua ben Sira and also known as the Wisdom of Sirach, this work from the early second century clearly belongs to the wisdom category of Jewish religious literature.  It contains a paraphrasing of the Golden Rule in which the message is identical:

‘Judge your neighbor’s feelings by your own, and in every matter be thoughtful’. (Sirach 31:15)

Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs

This is an apocalyptic work originally written in the mid-second century BCE, which in its final form circa 200 CE included many Christian interpolations that Jewish scholars have nonetheless easily separated out.  Though all the full copies we have are in Greek or Latin, it was originally written in Aramaic or Hebrew. In form, it is the final testaments of the twelve sons of Jacob. 

In three places, the work gives versions of the conjoined mitzvot which together make up the Great Mitzvah.

‘But love Yahweh and your neighbor.’ (Issachar 5:2)

‘I loved Yahweh; likewise also every man with all my heart.’ (Issachar 7:6)

‘Love Yahweh through all your life, and one another with a true heart.’ (Dan 5:3)


Written during the reign of John Hyrcanus (134-104 BCE) and originally composed in Hebrew, it purports to be secrets revealed to Moses by Yahweh atop Mount Sinai/Horeb/Paran.  It covers the same time period as Genesis, but is greatly expanded.  Noah’s last words (Jubilees 7:20), Avrahim’s last words (Jubilees 20:2), and Yitzak’s final words (Jubilees 36:4) all include the admonition to the hearer(s) to “Love their neighbor”.

Hillel and Shammai

The earliest story of someone asking a teacher about which mitzvah is greatest of all involves the two sages who were the last two Zugot and the first two Tannaim, founders of the two major schools of the Pharisees in the first century CE, Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai.  It is this story which specifically ties the Golden Rule and the Great Mitzvah together.

In the tale, a proselyte comes to Shammai asking to teach him to whole Torah standing on one foot.  Shammai tells him he is crazy, because there are 613 mitzvot in the Torah, plus all the commentary on and rulings about each mitzvah.  So the proselyte goes to Hillel to make the same request, and Hillel responds by standing on one foot and saying:

“Whatever you do not want done to you, do not do to others; all the Torah rests on that.  The rest is just commentary”. (Talmud, Shabbat 31a)

It is this story which binds the Golden Rule and the Great Mitzvah together.

Doctrina Apostolorum, early 1st century

This work, an exposition on the Two Ways, the Way of Life and the Way of Death, or the Way of Light and the Way of Darkness, is basically an earlier version of the Didache’s first six chapters.  It probably originated as a Jewish catechetical manual in the late first century BCE or early first century CE, and has only been made “Christian” by a doxology appended onto the end.

In the document as we have it today, the only part of it that points to Christianity is a doxology appended on the end.  It may have first been an Essene document, though other sects had versions of the two ways.  Its first chapter (Doctrina Apostolorum 1:2) contains the following:

‘The way of life is this: first, you shall love the eternal God who made ​​you; second, your neighbor as yourself, and what you do not want to be done to you, do not do to another’.

The third prescription matches Hillel’s version of the Golden Rule in its negative prescription.

Flavius Philo Judaeus, early 1st century

In The Decalogue 22:108-110, Philo writes that love of God and love of one’s fellow humans are both necessary to be righteous.  Without specifically citing the two prescriptions that make up the Summary of the Torah, he arrives at the same end, with exponentially more words.

In Every Good Man Is Free 12:83, Philo writes that Jews center their lives on and judge events by the threefold basis of ‘the love of God, and the love of virtue, and the love of mankind’, the two prescriptions of the Great Mitzvah with love of virtue added under influence of Hellenistic philosophy surrounding him in Alexandria.

James the Just, mid-1st century

Probably called Yaakob bar Yossef in life, he was Isho’s eldest brother and succeeded him as leader of The Way, the Nazoreans.  The Church anachronistically refers to him as the first Bishop of Jerusalem.  Yaakob wrote what most scholars consider to be one of the authentic general epistles, meaning that he himself actually wrote it.  His offer to this conversation is: 

‘You do well if you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”’ (James 2:8)

Paul of Tarsus, mid-1st century

Self-described as the Pharisee son of a Pharisee, Saul of Tarsus, better known by his Roman name Paul, attended a school in Jerusalem headed by Gamaliel, son of Hillel the Elder.  In his letter to the church at Galatia in Asia Minor written in about 53 CE, Saul, said:

‘For the whole Torah is summed up in a single mitzvah, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”’ (Galatians 5:14).

In his letter to the Christians at Rome, Saul included the following:

‘Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the Torah.  The mitzvot, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other mitzvah, are summed up in this decree, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the Torah.’ (Romans 13:8-10)

Didache, late 1st/early 2nd century

The first six chapters of the Didache (short for, The Teaching of our Lord through the Twelve Apostles to the Gentiles)match those of the Doctrina Apostolorum in essential content, but surpass them in verbiage, its additions being obvious Christian interpolations.  Written in the mid-first century, its overall length is greater also, extending to sixteen chapters, almost all of it clearly deriving from or at least patterned on Jewish antecedents.  Nearly identical to its predecessor, its version of the greatest mitzvot is:  

‘Love the God who made you, love your neighbor as yourself, and do not to others that which you would not wish them to do to you’.

The gospels

None of these were written before the end of the Great Jewish Revolt of 66-70 CE that ended with the almost complete destruction of Jerusalem (according to Josephus, nothing left standing but the western wall of the city and three of its towers).  The Temple was completely burned and its mound fortifications completely dismantled, all of them.  Three of them (Matthew, Luke, John) may not have reached their current form until the end of the second century.

The Summary of the Torah in the gospels

In all three Synoptics, this passage quotes Deuteronomy 6:5 followed by Leviticus 19:18.  Also known as the Great Mitzvah, this comes, in Mark and Matthew, after an exchange in which someone from the crowd asks Isho about which mitzvah of the Torah is the greatest.  Luke places the exchange much earlier and orders this story a bit differently.

Only Mark begins the summary with the Shema Yisrael:

‘One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which mitzvah is the first of all?”  Isho answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: Yahweh our God is one Yahweh; you shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other mitzvah greater than these.”’  (Mark 12:28-31)

Almost immediately, the scribe rephrases the summary back to Isho:

‘Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’; and ‘to love him with all one’s heart, and with all one’s understanding, and with all one’s strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’—this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”  When Isho saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that no one dared to ask him any question.’ (Mark 12:32-34)

The version in Matthew was included in the service for the Eucharist in the Book of Common Prayer of the Anglican churches from the sixteenth century until the later twentieth, and still does in some communions.  In the original service, at least beginning with the second BCP of 1552, the service began with the Decalogue followed by the Summary of the Torah.

‘When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him.  “Teacher, which mitzvah in the Torah is the greatest?” He said to him, ‘You shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’  This is the greatest and first mitzvah.  And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  On these two mitzvot hang all the Torah and the Prophets.”’ (Matthew 20:34-40)

In a different take, Luke puts the summary in the mouth of the lawyer, or scribe, who asked Isho the question.

‘Just then a lawyer stood up to test Isho.  “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  He said to him, “What is written in the Torah? What do you read there?”  He answered, “You shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”  And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”’ (Luke 10:25-28)

When the lawyer then asks, “But who is my neighbor?”, Isho replies with the Parable of the Good Samaritan, asking at the end, “Which one of these was a neighbor to the victim?”.

The scribes had traditionally interpreted such references to “neighbor” as referring solely to one’s fellow Jews, even of other ethnic groups, though not Samaritans.  The parable may have originated as a polemic against worldly and self-absorbed clergy, with a lay Israelite following the priestly Cohen and the clerical Levite.  A Samaritan was substituted for the Israelite here to demonstrate that even a despised outsider could be a neighbor more than one of higher religious status.  This expansion of the definition of “neighbor” would have been consistent with how the Pharisees were trying to redefine “neighbor” in the first century to include all fellow humans.

The pericope of the rich man

All three of the Synoptics include a very similar summary in the exchange presented as taking place on the road through Judea to Jerusalem in which someone asks what he must do to have eternal life.

Then someone came to him and said, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?”  And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the mitzvot.”  He said to him, “Which ones?” And Isho said, “You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother; also, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 19:16-19)

As he [Isho] was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  Isho said to him, “Why do you call me good?  No one is good but God alone.  You know the mitzvot: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’” (Mark 10:17-19)

A certain ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  Isho said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.  You know the mitzvot: ‘You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother.’” (Luke 18:18-20)

This are the same passages which end with the rich man sad after being told to give up his possessions, with Isho saying, “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God”.  Which is another way of saying that wealth is the date-nut trapping the monkey’s hand inside the coconut shell because he won’t let go of it.

Note the inclusion in all these passages Isho saying that there is no one good but God, God in the third person and in a separate category entirely.

Love your enemies

In a couple of place in the gospels, the writers go beyond love of neighbor or love of resident alien to love of one’s enemies.

From Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you’. (Matthew 5:43-44)

From Luke’s Sermon on the Plain: ‘I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.’ (Luke 6:27-28)

A new mitzvah

In two places in his conversation with the disciples after the Last Supper, Isho gives admonitions to them that mirror those of the Patriarchs of Jubilees and of Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs to their children and grandchildren.

‘”I give you a new mitzvah, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”’ (John 14:34-35)

‘This is my decree, that you love one another as I have loved you.’ (John 15:12)

Golden Rule in the gospels

There is a close version of the Hillel’s saying in Matthew’s version of the Sermon on the Mount, but with a positive rather than negative prescription:

“In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the Torah and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)

In Luke’s version of the Sermon on the Plain, the Golden Rule is given more simply as:

“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:31)

Rabbi Akiva, c. 120 CE

In the early second century CE, Rabbi Akiva ben Joseph, a significant contributor to the Mishna and the Midrash halakha and, later, spiritual leader of the Bar Kokhba War of 132-135, said of the mitzvah in Leviticus 19:18 that:

“‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’ is the greatest principle of the Torah”.  Which is almost exactly what Saul of Tarsus wrote to the church in Galatia.

Epistle of Barnabas, late 2nd century

The epistle lays out the Way of Light in chapter 19, giving both prescriptions of the Summary of the Torah but separated by several negative prescriptions on morality and behavior.

Love him who created you: glorify him who redeemed you from death.  Love your neighbor more than your own soul.

Didascalia Apostolorum, 230

This church order includes the Summary of the Torah and the Golden Rule in its opening paragraphs.

‘Love God who has made you, with all your heart, and glorify him who has redeemed you from death, which is the first mitzvah.  But secondly, love your neighbor as yourself, which is the second commandment, those on which hang all the Law and the Prophets. All those things that you dost not wish to happen to you, do not do to others.’

Apostolic Church Order, 300

This church order also begins its discussion of the Way of Life with the Summary of the Torah and the Golden rule..

First, love the God who made you, and glorify him who ransomed you from death, which is the first mitzvah.  Secondly, love you neighbor as yourself, which is the second mitzvah: upon which hang all the Torah, and the Prophets.  Everything that you not wish done to you, do not do to another; that is, what you hate do not to another.

Apostolic Constitutions, 375

Book VII, Chapter II of this compilation is based largely on the Didache, including the Two Ways, generally following its source, but heavily edited.  The exposition of the Way of Life begins with the Summary of the Torah and the Golden Rule.

‘Love the Lord God, who is the one and only God, besides whom there is no other, with all your mind, and with all your soul; and your neighbor as yourself.  And whatsoever you are unwilling to have done to you, that do not do to another.’