Originally Posted by PatsFanInVa
Actually, that was Hillel, in the original.
A prankster comes to Hillel and Shamai (Hillel's constant opponent in such stories,) and says "Tell me the Torah while I stand on one foot."
Shamai gets all blustery and says it can't be done and the man is not deserving of the Torah's teaching (if memory serves. At any rate, Shamai is dismissive). Hillel says "What is hurtful to you do not do to others. That is the whole Torah. All the rest is commentary. Now, go and study."
The man does, and of course, becomes Jewish.
The Christian variant of the story deviates in some noteworthy ways; First, the addition of the first line of the Ve'Ahavta, a Jewish prayer beginning (in English) "thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy might" (and in Hebrew, Ve'Ahavta et Adonoi elochecha, v'chol l'vavcha, u'vchol navshecha, u'vchol meodecha...)
I'm split on whether the Christian insertion of the Ve'Ahavta is significant. It may well be that the original Hillel story included this line and it's just been lost in the retelling (of the Hillel story, but retained in the Jesus story). But it's also possible that those Christian writers who had Jesus speaking the lines were reaching for a well-known source of authority within Jewish literature, and one that fit the story; short of throwing in the Shema, the Ve'Ahavta is pretty much as widely known as it gets.
Chirstians traditionally point to the earlier Hillel formulation and say "aha! He only says not to do to people what they shouldn't do to you! But Jesus affirmatively says to treat them as you would be treated!"
Eh, okay. I don't quite get that distinction. I think it's more likely there is no real distinction beyond misquoting, if indeed Jesus ever repeated Hillel's strategy. But there are those who see a world of difference.
And of course, just as the Ve'Ahavta is not in the Jewish variant, "now go and study" is not in the Christian variant. There is less reason to add this, as first century BCE Pharasaic Judaism -- Hillel's Judaism -- was purely about the Torah, whereas Christianity replaced focus on learning with focus on an individual. "Now go and study" is meaningless in a new interpretation of Judaism focusing not on the traditional practice and teachings, but on salvation through belief in a specific man.
Were both lines actually spoken by those they are ascribed to? It's not proveable in either's case, if you think about it. There's a good likelihood Hillel was the subject of the Hillel story. The politics would have been less intense, and of course, his story came first. But it is possible that another clever encapsulator of Judaism came up with it, and it was attributed to Hillel. It would be like someone attibuting the Neil Kinnock line to Biden, but with fewer available recordings to fact-check it. Assuming the first century BCE Kinnock doesn't mind, the first century BCE Biden -- in this analogy Hillel -- gets the credit. What the hell, they're on the same "side," and the big macher is Hillel.
In Jesus' case, one has to assume that if he is not a complete ignoramous -- and the story is that he was quite interested in Judaism as it existed in his time -- he knew the Hillel story.
The question is why he would regurgitate in whole or in part a very similar answer to Hillel's. I think Jesus would have been familiar with the Hillel story, as would his audiences. Jesus does often echo Hillel, but not usually in such a starkly imitative way...
My thought is that this story is attributed to Jesus at a later time. Hillel dies in 10 CE. By the 20s and 30s, the attribution is fresh. By 70 CE, eh, it's some wise man who said everything cool. Why not attribute to Jesus. Or, there was a blending of the traditions among first century Christians, and by the time the gospels are written, Jesus has recapitulated Hillel.
We know that many stories in the Greek bible, if read without the burden of establishing their historical truth, look suspiciously like recaps of significant Jewish events. For example, Pharoah searches for baby Moses as part of a slaughter of infants. Herod conveniently tries to kill Jesus in an identical campaign. Moses escapes in the bullrushes. Jesus escapes to... wait for it... Egypt!
Now, if one's faith is linked to literal truth of every jot and iota, pun intended, this is fertile ground for bickering. I do see texts as the creations of men, personally. If I find some Christian texts to be suspect, rest assured that I am similarly skeptical of the traditional notions of the Jewish texts (hence I find both versions of the story to be somewhat comforting.)
I am not trying to rip on Christianity here, just noting the historic similarities and distinctions, and my thoughts on what produced them. I also acknowledge that the Jesus of the texts, the Jesus of faith, and the Jesus of history would be vexingly dissimilar were I to truly study all of them from the point of view of a believer. The Christians I know brave enough to make such examinations have nothing but my respect.
Just thought I would throw that in, so that questioning is not confused for frontal assault in this case.
In fact, what difference does it make who said what when, so long as the message remains "be freakin nice for a change would ya?"