96 J. Duncan M. Derrett
4. Modern Scholars
The first scholar to identify â€œHe is free by the laws of men but is liable
under the laws of Heavenâ€ was John Lightfoot, whose commentary on
Matthew was completed in 165836. Hugo Grotius, more influential, had
published his Annotationes in 1641, so that he could not profit from
Lightfoot. Alas, Lightfoot did not realise that the maxim applied to all
six antitheses and therefore illuminated the whole Sermon. His remarks,
however are neatly and helpfully represented by Matthaeus Polus in 166937.
Thereafter the clue went into an eclipse. It appears in an insignificant
footnote of Streckerâ€™s38. Billerbeck, whose dense particulars dismay all but
native German speakers, produces the instances I have given39. A cognate
idea citing R. Meir from midrashim is rightly disclosed by Lachs40.
Bonsirven, working independently of Billerbeck, provided the standard
material in 195541.
C.G. Montefiore did not know the material42. Other Jewish
commentators on the Sermon on the Mount have missed our clue, some
even of our time43. Those who are neither jurists nor talmudists can be
excused: Billerbeck is no popular compendium. Falk is to be commended
in giving a useful summary in a work of 1972, which theologians might
ignore44. But the recent august Introduction to Jewish Law (1996)45 ignores
this whole matter. Is it because the Heavenly court does not report its
cases? Amongst German commentators of the front rank Bultmann, and
now Gnilka ignore this material46.
When we come to non-German speaking commentators we find
an inspissated darkness. W.D. Davies works as one knowledgeable in
J. Lightfoot, Horae hebraicae et talmudicae or, Hebrew and Talmudical Exercitations
upon the Gospels of St Matthew and St Mark in Whole Works XI (London l823) 106-8.
Synopsis criticorum aliorumque S. Scripturae interpretum IV (London 1669) col 1452-15.
G. Strecker, Die Bergpredigt (GÃ¶ttingen 21985) 68 n.9.
Above sect. 2.
S. T. Lachs, A Rabbinic Commentary on the New Testament (Hoboken 1987) 92.
Notes 10, 13, 15 above.
Montefiore, Synoptic 498-9.
G. FriedlÃ¤nder, The Jewish Sources of the Sermon on the Mount (London 1911, repr.
1969); Joseph Klausner, Jesus of Nazareth (New York 1959). Pinchas Lapide, The Sermon
on the Mount (Maryknoll 1986); David Daube, The New Testament and Rabbinic Judaism
(London 1956). M. Bockmuehl, Jewish Law in Gentile Churches (Edinburgh 2000).
For Falk see n. 8 above.
Introduction to the History and Sources of Jewish Law (ed. N.S. Hecht, B.S. Jackson
et alii) (Oxford 1996).
R. Bultmann, History of the Synoptic Tradition (EV; Oxford 1968) 134. J. Gnilka, Das
MatthÃ¤usevangelium I (Freiburg 1986) 150-5.