As per the previous posts, the table here is a simplified summary of some of the points Russell Gmirkin discusses in Plato and the Creation of the Hebrew Bible. It is far from being a complete representation of his discussion. It is best read as an easy reference guide in conjunction with the detail covered in the book. The table is only a starting guide: it will be expanded and modified as the details of laws are further explored. I expect to do a few more similar tables for other types of laws. (Still putting on hold the discussion of the final chapter of Plato and the Creation of the Hebrew Bible as I backtrack to sections I covered too briefly earlier or inadvertently omitted altogether.)
ANE = Ancient Near Eastern laws
Greece/Plato = Laws as implemented in Athens and/or Laws presented as ideals by Plato in Laws
Property Crimes and Agricultural Law
Laws against trespass
If anyone grazes their livestock in a field or vineyard and lets them stray and they graze in someone else’s field, the offender must make restitution from the best of their own field or vineyard.
If a fire breaks out and spreads into thornbushes so that it burns shocks of grain or standing grain or the whole field, the one who started the fire must make restitution.
Laws of Hammurabi 57-58
57 If a shepherd does not make an agreement with the owner of the field to graze sheep and goats, and without the permission of the owner of the field grazes sheep and goats on the field, the owner of the field shall harvest his field and the shepherd who grazed sheep and goats on the field without the permission of the owner of the field shall give in addition 6,000 silas of grain per 18 ikus (of field) to the owner of the field.
58 If, after the sheep and goats come up from the common irrigated area when the pennants announcing the termination of pasturing are wound around the main city-gate, the shepherd releases the sheep and goats into a field and allows the sheep and goats to graze in the field—the shepherd shall guard the field in which he allowed them to graze and at the harvest he shall measure and deliver to the owner of the field 18,000 silas of grain per 18 ikus (of field).
Hittite Law 105-6
105 [If] anyone sets [fire] to a field, and the fire catches a vineyard with fruit on its vines, if a vine, an apple tree, a pear(?) tree or a plum tree burns, he shall pay 6 shekels of silver for each tree. He shall replant [the planting], And he shall look to his house for it. If it is a slave, he shall pay 3 shekels of silver for each tree.
106 If anyone carries embers into his field, catches(??) it while in fruit, and ignites the field, he who sets the fire shall himself take the burnt-over field. He shall give a good field to the owner of the burnt-over field, and he will reap it.
Plato, Laws 843 c-e
[843c] Wherefore every neighbor must guard most carefully against doing any unfriendly act to his neighbor, and must above all things take special care always not to encroach in the least degree on his land; for whereas it is an easy thing and open to anyone to do an injury, to do a benefit is by no means open to everyone. Whosoever encroaches on his neighbor’s ground, overstepping the boundaries, shall pay for the damage; and, by way of cure for his shamelessness
[843d] and incivility, he shall also pay out to the injured party twice the cost of the damage. In all such matters the land-stewards shall act as inspectors, judges and valuers,—the whole staff of the district, as we have said above, in respect of the more important cases, and, in respect of the less important, those of them who are “phrourarchs.” [The “phrourarchs” were the (5) officers of the (60) country police.] If anyone encroaches on pasture-land, these officials shall inspect the damage, and decide and assess it. And if any, yielding to his taste for bees,
[843e] secures for himself another man’s swarm by attracting them with the rattling of pans, he shall pay for the damage. And if a man, in burning his own stuff, fails to have a care for that of his neighbor, he shall be fined in a fine fixed by the officials. So too if a man, when planting trees, fail to leave the due space between them and his neighbor’s plot: this has been adequately stated by many lawgivers, whose laws we should make use of, instead of requiring the Chief Organizer of the State to legislate about all the numerous small details which are within the competence of any chance lawgiver.
Allowing passers-by to eat produce from a field
If you enter your neighbor’s vineyard, you may eat all the grapes you want, but do not put any in your basket.
If you enter your neighbor’s grainfield, you may pick kernels with your hands, but you must not put a sickle to their standing grain.
Leviticus 19:9-10; 23:22
When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest.
Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God.
When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you. I am the Lord your God.
Plato, Laws, 844d-845d
[844d] As concerns the fruit-harvest, the rule of sharing for all shall be this—this goddess has bestowed on us two gifts, one the plaything of Dionysus which goes unstored, the other produced by nature for putting in store. So let this law be enacted concerning the fruit-harvest:. . . . .
If a foreigner sojourning in the country desires to eat of the crop as he passes along the road, he, with one attendant,
[845b] shall, if he wishes, take some of the choice fruit with-out price, as a gift of hospitality; but the law shall forbid our foreigners to share in the so-called “coarse” fruit, and the like; . . . .
A foreigner shall be allowed to share in these fruits in the same way as in the grape crop; and if a man above thirty touch them, eating on the spot and not taking any away, he shall have a share in all such fruits, like the foreigner; . . . .
Moving boundary stones
Do not move your neighbor’s boundary stone set up by your predecessors in the inheritance you receive in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess.
“Cursed is anyone who moves their neighbor’s boundary stone.”
Then all the people shall say, “Amen!”
Plato, Laws, 842e – 843 a-b
[842e] First, then, let there be a code of laws termed “agricultural.” The first law—that of Zeus the Boundary-god—shall be stated thus: No man shall move boundary-marks of land, whether they be those of a neighbor who is a native citizen or those of a foreigner
[843a] (in case he holds adjoining land on a frontier), realizing that to do this is truly to be guilty of “moving the sacrosanct”; sooner let a man try to move the largest rock which is not a boundary-mark than a small stone which forms a boundary, sanctioned by Heaven, between friendly and hostile ground. For of the one kind Zeus the Clansmen’s god is witness, of the other Zeus the Strangers’ god; which gods, when aroused, bring wars most deadly. He that obeys the law shall not suffer the evils which it inflicts; but whoso despises it shall be liable to a double penalty, the first from the hand of Heaven, the second from the law. No one shall
[843b] voluntarily move the boundary-marks of the land of neighbors: if any man shall move them, whosoever wishes shall report him to the land-holders, and they shall bring him to the law court. And if a man be convicted,—since by such an act the convicted man is secretly and violently merging lands in one,—the court shall estimate what the loser must suffer or pay. Further, many small wrongs are done against neighbors which, owing to their frequent repetition, engender an immense amount of enmity, and make of neighborhood a grievous and bitter thing.
Gmirkin, pp. 119f
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14 thoughts on “Plato’s Influence on the Bible’s Property and Agricultural Laws”
Gmirkin, pp. 119f is rather puzzling: “the apparent absence of archaeological parallels [of boundary stones] in ancient Mesopotamia or ancient Israel and Judah. …….suggesting that the use of boundary stones in Judah was a Hellenistic Era development taken over from the Greeks.”
The use of boundary stones is archaeologically well demonstrated in ancient Egypt, Babylonia, Phoenicia etc. long, long before the Greek/Hellenistic era!
Hence, Judah and ancient Israel did not have to look at the Greeks to introduce the concept of boundary stones: they had already encountered the Babylonian and Egyptian culture centuries earlier.
Regarding the absence of archaeological evidence of boundary stones in ancient Israel and Judah: Gmirkin appears to assume that boundary stones are identifiable by their inscriptions. The Tel Gezer stones fit in this category. It has been found that most boundary stones in ancient Israel and Judah (and also in Phoenicia) did NOT carry inscriptions*. Obviously, this makes it very difficult for archaeologists to identify and recover these stones as boundary stones. A clear case of ‘absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”.
This leaves us with only the parallel “Allowing passers-by to eat produce from a field”. This title is rather misleading: the Hebrew bible does not address ‘passers-by’ but the poor and foreigners living among the Israelites. Plato does clearly focus on the ‘foreigner …as he passes along the road”. No mention of the poor, or foreigners sojourning in the land. Hence the subjects of the ‘laws’ clearly differ. And the whole rationale differs too: in the Hebrew bible, the law is about sharing wealth with the poor and needy. In Plato, it is about gifts of hospitality. Scoring these passages as ‘parallels’ stretches the concept of ‘parallel’ too far for me.
*: see e,g. https://wisdomintorah.s3.amazonaws.com/medialibrary/Standing-Stones-in-Ancient-Palestine.pdf, page 35
I also have questions about ancient boundary stones and their use, if any, in the ANE. I had thought they were a common archaeological find going back millennia, but I don’t have any confirmation of that “memory” at hand.
I think Gmirkin is not relying so much on his own analysis of the inscriptions on the stones but rather on other scholars’ analyses and conclusions. That’s the impression I get from his very copious footnotes that are necessary to follow up in order to get to the details behind some of the statements in the book.
I hope by presenting all the relevant evidence I cannot be accused of misleading anyone: as you yourself can see from the complete quotations I provided, the point in common between Plato and the Pentateuchal law is that the foreigner can glean from the field. Yes, other details vary. I am glad I provided sufficient information so that you at least were not misled 🙂
The paper you mentioned writes in p. 38
“The kudurru stones of Babylon were a type of boundary stone.”
Based on this he makes his claim.
Gmirkin is using Slanski’s work about (kudurru)* which states this in p. 95-96:
“Classification plays a primary role in any research, and since the time of their publication, the objects have been almost uniformly accepted as boundary stones marking the limits of royal land grants. Yet there are features of the artifacts that cannot be reconciled with their alleged function as boundary markers.”
In Plato’s Laws, there is no poor citizen in the sense of not owning enough land to feed himself. That’s why the population must remain constant and the land always inherited by the kin. In situations of over-population people will go out to create new colonies.
The ‘Stele of vultures’ was discovered among the remains of the ancient Sumerian city of Girsu. It dates from around around 2450 BCE. One of the inscriptions reads: “”Let the man of Umma never cross the border of Ningirsu! Let him never damage the dyke or the ditch! Let him not move the stele!”. This is the oldest example of the use of a stele (stone, or pillar) to mark a border.
I think we agree that the Hebrew bible and Plato/Greek laws relate to very different situations about giving food away.
If those stones are boundary stones, then Elamites expanded the territories of Babylon by moving those stones to their temple!
See observation number 3 in Slanski p.96
As for Plato and Laws it seems to me that the Biblical writers interpreted the free man in Laws 8.845 as poor. See 8.845b-d.
Also in Gmirkin n. 258 is stated : ” Eusebius (Preparation for the Gospel 13.21) considered the biblical law more magnanimous, because a slave who ate premium grapes or fig was liable to a beating in Laws.”
And indeed there is no mention of the poor in Eusebius, maybe he interpreted it this way too.
Plato considered the poor as enemies of oligarchy. See for example : Plato and Aristotle on Tyranny and the Rule of Law – http://www.crf-usa.org/bill-of-rights-in-action/bria-26-1-plato-and-aristotle-on-tyranny-and-the-rule-of-law.html
” The poor will overthrow the oligarchy and set up a democracy, the rule of the people (the poor). Plato thought that democratic “life has neither law nor order.” An unquenchable desire for limitless liberty causes disorder, because the citizens begin to
chafe impatiently at the least touch of authority and at length, . . . they cease to care even for the laws, written or unwritten; they will have no one over them. ”
Now you may have to read the Versnel’s Ter Unus first chapter to understand how ” TYRANTS AGAINST TYRANNY” works. :
To understand how a tyrant god can be presented as a savior.
Also it seem to me that the writers of the Hebrew Bible had a program of proselytism through slavery.
See Gen. 17:13 and 14:9 from Maimonides’ Issurei Biah 14: http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/960662/jewish/Issurei-Biah-Chapter-Fourteen.htm
This way they created laws about Israelite servants and they converted the converted to their religion, to Israelite servant.
Gmirkin, p. 118:
Endnote 250 (pp. 165f)
ASORB American Schools of Oriental Research Books
JCS = Journal of Cuneiform Studies
JEA = Journal of Egyptian Archaeology
Slanski, Kathryn E., “Classification, Historiography and Monumental Authority: The Babylonian Entitlement ‘narus (kudurrus)’,” JCS 52 (2000): 96-97:
Slanski, Kathryn E., The Babylonian Entitlement narus (kudurrus): A Study in Their Form and Function. ASORB 9. Boston: American Schools of Oriental Research, 2003. Page 288:
Accepting the view (proposed by Slanski and – earlier- also by others) that kudurru were monuments erected in temples (or in cities) does not establish that boundary stones did not exist in the ANE. The ‘Stele of vultures’ was found in a city, and speaks of a command not to move – another – stele. The other stele is discussed in the context of a a border, and the the dyke or the ditch that indicate the border. The dyke, ditch AND he stele were used to identify the border, hence we should identify this stele (not the stele of vultures) as a boundary stone (or monument).
Indeed, boundary stones were known (and moved…) in Egypt as well. We can’t dismiss this evidence with a simple ‘the agricultural context in Egypt was markedly different’. What does the ‘agricultural context’ have to do with the issue?
Slanski (or Gmrikin?) is begging the question when she/he says that ” it is difficult to see an otherwise-isolated Egyptian influence in the Deuteronomic provisions on boundary stones.” Ancient Israel and Judah had frequent contacts with Egypt, so an Egyptian influence is not unexpected.
You might be interested in Slanski’s discussion on the Stele of Vultures (Eannatum Stele) in The Babylonian Entitlement narus (kudurrus): A Study in Their Form and Function
and concludes with
Slanski only cites a part of Cooper’s translation of the stele of Vultures: ” “not to transgress the territory of Ningirsu, not to shift the course of its irrigation channels and canals, not to smash its monuments”, but then ignores to discuss what is meant by ‘not to smash its monuments’. From, the context, it is clear that these monuments are related to the borders of the land.
Indeed, in an earlier passage, the text of the stele says: “Eanatum, the man of just commands, measured off the boundary, left (some land) under Umma’s control, and erected a monument on that spot.” (translation by Cooper). I think it is very clear that this monument is erected at the border, and that it is this border monument that should not be smashed.
The stele now resides in the Louvre. The website of the Louvre describes its texts on its website: the Louvre also interpret the stele’s texts as placing a (second) stele on the border: “Eannatum establishes the border with Umma, on which a stele is erected. But as human undertakings can only prosper by divine favor, it is the latter that is invoked to guarantee the permanence of the new order: “Let the man of Umma never cross the border of Ningirsu! Let him never damage the dyke or the ditch! Let him not move the stele!”” in http://www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/stele-vultures
Why would Slanski have said the stele was set up in a temple? Slanski writes on page 237:
The Frankfort reference is The Art and Architecture of the Ancient Orient.
I understand no boundary stones have been found in Mesopotamia and those found in the Levant date from Hellenistic times and are quite crude with simple text markings.
Further, from Slanski (pp. 55-59):