"The Twelve Tables of Roman law against the Two Tables of Jewish law"

English Section / 13 aprilie

Versiunea în limba română

(The Roman Empire subjugates the Kingdom of Heaven - Episode 3, Part II)


B.3. Hillel, Herod's Tool

Some contemporary Essene scholars express reservations about the declared holiness of Hillel. There are a few who have interpreted his role differently (and even opposed) to the apologists (1), making logical demonstrations and presenting truthful arguments.

In what follows, two novel objections to the traditional image attributed to Hillel will be exposed, which have not been formulated before.


(1) "At the Time of Jesus, This is What Actually Happened in Israel: The Truth about Hillel and his Times"/Manfred Davidmann


B.3.I) Did not uphold the Law

Yitzhak Buxbaum insists: "Hillel, a man of peace, was willing to live with Herod (whose tyranny he certainly hated), but at arm's length." (1)

However, Herod was the king of the Jews, and he was Hillel's king, regardless of what Hillel was willing to do, at arm's length or closely.

And Hillel, undoubtedly, knew the Torah, as did the entire population who called Herod the "Idumean slave," because one of his parents was an Idumean (a foreign people who converted to Judaism, but were not Jews):

"15. You shall surely set a king over you whom the Lord your God chooses. One from among your brothers you shall set as king over you. You may not set a foreigner over you, who is not your brother." (Deuteronomy: 17)

All Jews knew that according to the Law, Herod could not be their king, as God forbade them to set a foreigner as king.

If Hillel "was willing to live with Herod" as a king, then Hillel was willing to disregard the divine Commandment.

Which, as a "man of peace," he did.

History and circumstances suggest that it was not Hillel and his "brothers" who made Herod king, as the divine Commandment from Deuteronomy ordered, but rather, most likely, the opposite: Herod would have made Hillel the Nasi, just as Herod chose and changed the High Priest.

Of course, anyone realizes that Yitzhak Buxbaum is writing an apology and that, in fact, Herod had been made king by the Roman emperor Caesar Augustus, so Hillel had no choice and the fact that he lived peacefully with Herod the Great cannot be fully blamed if he wanted to stay alive (although he could have given up the position of Nasi).

But what can be fully blamed on Hillel is that he did not hesitate to extend his "pacifism" in contradiction to God's Commandment, under the hypocritical guise of a man too holy to get involved in any conflict, which obviously builds an alternative that is difficult to solve under the threat of death.

This is another reference to Hillel in the "Sermon on the Mount" - "Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so..." - because "pacifism" in relation to Herod breaks the simple Commandment "Ye shall keep my statutes; [...]" from Leviticus, Chapter 19:19.

Hillel did not keep God's Law. He passively assisted, "at arm's length", in the violation of the Law, not as an ordinary Jew, but as the supreme head of the religious authority. A century later, such passivity would be considered a crime that demanded punishment (2), but it was never reproached to Hillel by the religious authority.

Hillel was a Pharisee, that is, he belonged to that sect which is said to strictly observe the Law; by tolerating, "peacefully", the violation of the law, Hillel violated the Commandment "Ye shall keep my statutes", but did not respect his membership in Pharisaism.

Although of Pharisaic origin, the liberalism in interpreting the Law promoted by the Beit Hillel (Hillel's School), daringly suspending even some divine Commandments, has historical and religious importance, not only in the distortion it introduces into Judaism, but also as a source of an attitude echoed in the Epistles of the former Pharisee who became the Apostle Paul.


(1) "The Life and Teachings of Hillel"/p. 61/Yitzhak Buxbaum/First Roman & Littlefield edition 2004

(2) Sanhedrin 27b/19-20: "And they shall fall one upon another" (Leviticus 26:37). This verse is homiletically interpreted to mean that the Jewish people will fall one upon another because of the iniquity of one another, that is, one is punished for the sins of another, which establishes that all Jews are considered guarantors, that is, responsible for one another. The Gemara responds: There, in the verse from Leviticus, it refers to a case where others had the ability to protest against the sin, but did not protest. Consequently, they are punished because they did not protest, [...]"

B.3.II) He violated the Law

In Hebrew, the word "Sanhedrin" is translated as "council" (assembly of Jewish scribes and Pharisees with a role in judiciary and religious interpretation). In Greek, "council" is called "bouleos".

All those who dealt with Prosbul mention the possible Greek etymology of this acronym, assuming that it abbreviates two words: "before" (pros) and "council" (bouleos), from whose combination results the expression "Before the Council", which summarizes the procedure in which the creditor and the borrower appear before the Sanhedrin and sign an agreement agreeing that the loan amount will be available for collection, even after the Sabbatical Year (1).

In general, in the vast literature dedicated to Prosbul, the indication of its connection to Greece is reduced to etymology.

In reality, however, Greek is not only the etymology of the term, but the mechanism of Hillel's attributed Prosbul procedure is Greek, as Joshua Kulp notes (2):

"Almost a century ago, Ludwig Blau was the first to notice that, in the Greek papyri found in Egypt, the term Prosbul refers to the transfer of the obligation of debt by court decision. According to its use in these documents, when there is a Prosbul, if a borrower does not repay a loan, the court has the right to auction off his property and then use the profit to repay the creditor. Most subsequent scholars have accepted Blau's identification of the rabbinic Prosbul with the Greek Prosbul."

Fides, the Roman goddess of contractual relations, has its Greek equivalent in Pistis, both being associated with trust and credibility in business, as values considered essential for maintaining commercial and social relations in ancient Greco-Roman times.

In antiquity, the concept of property ownership over land was different for Romans (annual censuses were carried out to establish the right to access functions in the state, conditioned by a certain level of wealth) compared to Jews.

The obedience to the goddess Fides promoted the rigor of respecting contracts, in which transfers of property ownership over land could change the configuration of the ruling class in ancient Rome.

In the Roman social, political, and economic system, property ownership over land was necessarily an absolute right, and from here, commercial contracts, in general, had to be respected and eventually guaranteed - credits were guaranteed with properties on land.

In contrast, the land in Eretz Israel ("Land of Israel") is considered by Jews to be the property of God (3), so in accordance with the divine commandments (4), once every seven Sabbatical Years (in Jubilee years, from 49 to 49 years), the alienated lands return to the descendants of those who, after the death of Moses, were distributed the lands at the time of entry into the Promised Land.

The Jews did not have a property right in the Roman sense over the land (and they still do not), but a right to use, from which the relative character of the agreements governing even the loan contracts stems.

If, for the Romans, enslavement of the one who did not repay the loan was inevitable, the slave losing his freedom until redemption, for the Jews, enslavement, as a maximum duration, could not exceed the term of seven years - the interval between two Sabbatical Years.

The institution of Prosbul alters not only the Jewish legal code but also the way of life and belief, from the perspective of which we see how a minor goddess - Fides - violates the Law of Moses, dictated by God.

Hillel did this in the service of the Hellenizing ruler Herod, who was in the service of the Roman Empire.


(1) Gittin 36a:12

"And this is the essence of the text of the prosbol: I transfer to you, the judges so-and-so, who are in such-and-such a place, the right to collect any debt owed to me by so-and-so. Therefore, whenever I wish, the court has the right to collect the debts. The judges or witnesses sign below, and this is sufficient. The creditor can then collect the debt in the name of the court, and the court can give it to him."

(2) "Mishnah Gittin: Tikkun Olam--What is It?" / Joshua Kulp / December 6, 2017


Joshua Kulp is a contemporary American-Israeli Talmudic scholar.

Lajos Blau (German: Ludwig Blau; April 29, 1861 - March 8, 1936) was a Hungarian scholar and journalist born in Putnok, Hungary.

(3) Leviticus 25:

"23. The land shall not be sold forever, for the land is mine; for you are strangers and sojourners with me."

(4) The commandments concerning the Jubilee Year, in "The Structure of the 14 Books":

"[...] (16) to grant the redemption of the land in this year, which is the rule for inherited or purchased land; (17) the land shall not be sold forever; [...]"

"The complete restatement of the oral law (Mishneh Torah)/The Law as it should actually be practiced by all in our day" by the Master Teacher Moshe son of Maimon (also known as RaMBaM or Maimonides) in Hebrew according to the Yemenite manuscripts and English as prepared by the staff of Mechon Mamre Copyright © 2011 by Mechon Mamre,12 Hayyim Vital St, Jerusalem, Israel.