Two Sides of the Same Coin – Proverbs 30:6

Two Sides of the Same Coin – Proverbs 30:6

 

“Do not add on to His words, lest He prove it in you and you will turn out to be false.”

 

The nature of translation is such that no matter how loyal you are to the original, some of the flavor will go lost. This verse in Proverbs is a classic example of the limitations of translation. Allow me to elaborate:

 

The first phrase in this verse is easily translated and understood – Do not add on to His words; obviously referring to the words of God. A practical question arises; what kind of addition are we being encouraged to avoid? Are we being warned not to add on more books to the Scriptural canon? Is the prophet telling us not to add on to God’s Law? What are the practical parameters of this admonition?

 

I suggest that we try to understand the next two phrases in this verse, then we will take a look at the history of mankind; this will help us understand the first phrase in this text.

 

The second phrase; “lest He prove it in you”, implies that if you violate the admonition expressed in the beginning of the verse, God will use your own person to bring evidence to the original perfection of His word. God will point to the person who adds on to His word as an example to all, why it is indeed wrong to add on to His word.

 

The third phrase in this verse actually consists of one word in the original Hebrew: “v’nichzavta”. The root of this word is ch,z,v which is generally translated as “falsehood”, but there is an important nuance that gets lost in the translation. There are several Hebrew words that express the concept of lies and falsehood, and each one of them carries a slightly different connotation. The word “ch,z,v” implies a disappointment, such as in the case of a promise that is not kept, an expectation that is not met.

 

The message of this verse is that God’s Law is perfect (Proverbs 30:5, Psalm 19:8). If an individual finds that God’s Law is not righteous enough and this person tries to add on to God’s word by preaching a higher standard of righteousness, the experiment will backfire. This same person who is trying to be holier than God’s Law will turn out to be a disappointment. God will demonstrate through this very same person that it is counterproductive to add on to His word. The expectations that this person raised with his or her addition to God’s word will never be met.

 

Christianity serves as the classic illustration of this teaching. One of the better known teachings of Christianity is found in the fifth chapter of the book of Matthew: “whosoever shall smite thee on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”

 

Here Matthew’s Jesus adds on to God’s word. In all of the moral code of the Scriptures we are not encouraged to allow ourselves to be hurt unjustly by others. The followers of Jesus accepted upon themselves a moral code that is supposed to be “higher” than the code presented by God to Moses.

 

One would expect that the people who venerated this teaching should be the shining example of humility and forbearance. But in fulfillment of Proverbs 30:6, the very opposite happened. These people were not satisfied to practice hatred and cruelty, but they elevated it to the status of a religious virtue.

 

There is not the space in this brief article to record the atrocities of those who revered the teaching of turning the other cheek. I encourage the reader to research the history of Christian anti-Semitism.

 

People see a contradiction between the fact that crowds found enjoyment in the sight of heretics burning to death at an Auto da Fe and the fact that these same crowds saw the teaching of “turning the other cheek” as foundational to their world-view. The passage in Proverbs teaches us that not only are these two facts not a contradiction to each other but that these are the two sides of the same coin.         

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Yisroel C. Blumenthal

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8 Responses to Two Sides of the Same Coin – Proverbs 30:6

  1. bography says:

    Yisroel,
    On the one hand you say one must not add. Christians have added, and in such a way as to abrogate the law of “an eye for an eye” (I presume). But that’s okay because both of these are two sides of the same coin. Of what is in the written Torah or of what is the Oral Torah?

    On the other hand you say that Christians have been hypocrites in applying “turn the other cheek,” which of course is true. I might add that breaking the commandments of God is not limited to Christians. You know very well the history of the “whoring” of Israel and its long periods of apostasy.

  2. Iti'El says:

    Yes, there is a difference between those who ignore scripture or turn away from it to other gods, and those who replace scripture with new scripture. And yes, there is a difference between those use Torah as a constitution for a way to right living and worship, and those who use it as a “springboard” for innovation. Oral Torah is not meant to be holy scripture. It’s goal is basically to explain or enhance and get one deeper into the Word and closer to God, not to “reinvent” God. There is a difference between acting “holier than thou” and “be ye Holy because God is Holy”.

  3. Elizabeth says:

    Bography,

    The point here is that Christianity is the only religion to add to the word of G-d. They came up with the “Old Testament” and “New Testament”.

  4. B”H – Good point, sakoah

  5. mattitjahoe says:

    I see a small problem, because there is halacha and there are chumrot. Everybody knows that the sefer chassidut and also in P.Avot 1:1 is written: ….make a fence for the Torah. When christians believe that Jesus words are law, it is or replacement or adding. When they understand it like the sefer chassidut, a rabbinical advice then it is not really adding.
    There is also another problem: reading Paul he write that the Torah are like a shadow, and not really important anymore, because it is not the law, but faith which redeem de people. At least he diminish Torah.

    Independent what they do, history shows the big damage by adding or deleting/diminishing Torah, that’s for sure.
    So, in confrontation with scholared christians, the statement you want to make is more complex then it seems. For simple, straightforward christians you make a good point.

  6. Mattitjahoe
    The point of all of the “additions” of the Rabbis is to help the people to keep the Law – not to present a “higher” law. More importantly – the Rabbis clearly distinguished between their own authority and that of God.

  7. Pingback: Facing Scripture IV – a response to Charles | 1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources

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