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The Seven Rules of Hillel

The Seven Rules of Hillel existed long before Hillel, but Hillel was the first to write them down. Hillel and Shamai were competitive leading figures in Judaism during the days of Y'shua's youth. Hillel was known for teaching the Spirit of the Law and Shamai was known for teaching the letter of the Law. Whole books have been written about the similarities between the teachings of Y'shua nd those of Hillel. Y'shua's teaching largely followed that of the School of Hillel rather than that of the School of Shamai.

For example, Y'shua's famous "golden rule":

Whatever you would that men should do to you, do you even to them, for this is the Torah and the Prophets.
(Matthew 7:12)

This reads very closely with Hillel's famous statement:

What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbour that is the whole Torah...
(b.Shabbat 31a)

Upon Hillel's death the mantle of the School of Hillel was passed to his son Simeon. Upon Simon's death the mantle of the school of Hillel passed to Gamliel. This Gamilel spoke in defense of the early Nazarenes (Acts 5:34-39) he was the teacher of Shaul/Paul (Acts 22:3). In 2Tim. 2:15 Paul speaks of "rightly dividing the word of truth." What did Paul mean by this? Was he saying that there were right and wrong ways to interpret the scriptures? Did Paul believe there were actual rules to be followed when interpreting (understanding) the Scriptures? Was Paul speaking of the Seven Rules of Hillel? Paul was certainly taught these rules in the School of Hillel by Hillel's own grandson Gamliel. When we examine Paul's writings we will see that they are filled with usages of Hillel's Seven Rules (several examples appear below). It would appear then that the Seven Rules of Hillel are at least part of what Paul was speaking of when he spoke of "rightly dividing the Word of Truth." (2 Timothy 2:15).

The Seven Rules of Hillel are:

1. Kal V'Khomer (light and heavy)

Kal v'khomer is the first of the seven rules for understanding the scriptures written by Hillel. Hillel did not invent the rules, in fact they are so old we see them used in the Tenach.

The kol v'komer thoughtform is used to make an argument from lesser weight based on one of greater weight. It may be expressed as:

If X is true of Y then how much more X must be true of Z (Where Z is of greater weight than Y)

A kol v'khomer argument is often, but not always, signalled by a phrase like "how much more..."

The Rabbinical writers recognize two forms ok kol v'khomer:

kal v'khomer meforash - In this form the kal v'chomer argument appears explicily.
kal v'khomer satum - In which the kal v'khomer argument is only implied.

There are several examples of kal v'khomer in the Tenach. For example:

Behold the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth:
much more the wicked and the sinner.

(Proverbs 11:31)

And:

If you have run with footmen and they have wearied you,
then how can you contend with horses?

(Jeremiah 12:5a)

Other Tenach examples to look at:

Dt. 31:27; 1Sam. 23:3; Jer. 12:5b; Ezkl. 15:5; and Esther 9:12.

For those who wish to look as rabbinical usage of implied occurances:

Numbers 12:14 & b. BK 25a; Deuteronomy 21:23 & m. San. 6:5
Leviticus 21:16-21 & Numbers 8:24-25 & b.Hul. 24a

There is also an important limitation to the kal v'khomer thoughtform. This is the dayo (enough) principle. This is that the conclusion of an argument is satisfied when it is like the major premise. In other words the conclusion is equalized to the premise and neither a stricter nor a more lenient view is to be taken. (m.BK 2:5) Rabbi Tarfon rejected the dayo principle in certain cases (b.BK 25a)

There are several examples of kal v'khomer in the New Testament. Y'shua often uses this form of argument. For example:

If a man recieves circumcision on the Sabbath, so that the Law of Moses should not be broken, are you angry with me because I made a man completely well on the sabbath?
(John 7:23)

And:

What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep? Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.
(Matthew 12:11-12)

Other examples of Y'shua's usage of kal v'khomer are:

Matthew 6:26, 30 = Luke 12:24, 28
Matthew 7:11 = Luke 11:13
Matthew 10:25 & John 15:18-20
Matthew 12:12 & John 7:23

Paul uses kal v'khomer in:

Romans 5:8-9, 10, 15, 17; 11:12, 24
1 Corinthians 9:11-12; 12:22
2 Corinthians 3:7-9, 11
Philippians 2:12
Philemon 1:16
Hebrews 2:2-3; 9:13-14; 10:28-29; 12:9, 25

2. G'zerah Shavah (Equivalence of expresions)

An analogy is made between two seperate texts on the basis of a similar phrase, word or root.

Tenakh example:

By comparing 1st Samuel 1:10 to Judges 13:5 using the phrase "no razor shall touch his head" we may conlude that Samuel, like Samson, was a nazarite.

"New Testament" example:

In Hebrews 3:6-4:13 Paul compares Psalm 95:7-11 = Hebrews 3:7-11 to Gen. 2:2 = Hebrews 4:4 based on the words "works" and "day"/"today" ("today" in Hebrew is literally "the day"). Paul uses this exogesis to conclude that there will be 6,000 years of this world follwoed by a 1,000 year shabbat.

3. Binyan ab mikathub echad (Building of the father from one text)

One explicit passage serves as a foundation or starting point so as to constitute a rule (father) for all similar passages or cases.

Hebrews 9:11-22 aplies "blood" from Exodus 24:8 = Hebrews 9:20 to Jeremiah 31:31-34

4. Binyab ab mishene kethubim (Building of the father from two or more texts)

Two texts or provisions in a text serve as a foundation for a general conclusion.

Tenach example:

Exodus 21:26-27 speaks of only eyes and teeth, however by use of the fourth rule of Hillel we can recognize that the provision aplies to other body parts as well.

"New Testament" example:

In Heb. 1:5-14 Paul sites:

Psalm 2:7 = Hebrews 1:5
2 Samuel 7:14 = Heb. 1:5
Deuteronomy 32:43/Psalm 97:7/(Nehemiah 9:6) = Hebrews 1:6
Psalm 104:4 = Hebrews 1:7
Psalm 45:6-7 = Hebrews 1:8-9
Psalm 102:25-27 = Hebrews 1:10-12
Psalm 110:1 = Hebrews 1:13

to build a rule that the Messiah is of a higher order than angels.

5. Kelal uferat (the general and the partcular)

A general statement is first made and is followed by a single remark which particularizes the general principle.

A Tenach example:

Gen. 1:27 makes a general statement which Gen. 2:7, 21 particularizes.

6. Kayotze bo mimekom akhar (analogy made from another passage)

Two passages may seem to conflict until a third resolves the conflict.

Tenach examples:

Leviticus 1:1 "out of the tent of meeting" and Exodus 25:22 "from above the ark of the covenant between the chrubim" seem to disagree until we examine Numbers 7:89 where we learn that Moses entered the tent of meeting to hear YHWH speaking from between the cherubim.
1 Chronicles 27:1 explaind the numerical disagreement between 2 Samuel 24:9 and 1 Chronicles 21:5.
Exodus 19:20 "YHWH came down upon Mount Sinai" seems to disagree with Deuteronomy 4:36 "Out of Heaven He let you hear His voice" > Exodus 20:19 (20:22 in some editions) reconciles the two by telling us that G-d brought the heavens down to the mount and spoke. (m.Sifra 1:7)

"New Testament" example:

Paul shows that the following Tenach passages SEEM to conflict:

The just shall live by faith (Romans 1:17 = Habbakkuk 2:4)

with

There is none righteous, no, not one... (Romans 3:10 = Psalm 14:1-3 = Psalm 53:1-3; Ecclesiastes 7:20)

and:

[G-d] will render to each one according to his deeds. (Romans 2:6 = Psalm 62:12; Proverbs 24:12)

with

Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; Blessed is the man whom YHWH shall not impute sin. (Romans 4:7-8 = Psalm 32:1-2)

Paul resolves the apparant conflict by citing Genesis 15:6 (in Romans 4:3, 22):

Abraham believed G-d, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.

Thus Paul resloves the apparant conflict by showing that under certain circumstances, belief/faith/trust (same word in Hebrew) can act as a substitute for righteousness/being just (same word in Hebrew).

7. Davar hilmad me'anino (Explanation obtained from context)

The total context, not just the isolated statement must be considered for an accurate exegesis.

Conclusion:

Paul certainly would have been taught the Seven Rules of Hillel under Gamilel the grandson of Hillel. Paul clearly used these Seven Rules in his own exogesis. It is evident then that when Paul speaks of "rightly dividing the Word of Truth" (2tim. 2:15) he is speaking at least in part, of the Seven Rules of Hillel. These Seven Rules therefore are invaluable to Nazarene Judaism in interpreting (understanding) the Scriptures.

Dr. James Trimm

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