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Post #734568.3456-A on Grace vs. Works


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As grace vs. works comes up frequently, it is interesting to note that what evangelicals call works were in Christ's and Paul's day actually termed graces- hasadim. Judah Goldin explains hesed as a "word expressing the phenomenon of "loyalty", "devotion." It is, as A. Lods put it, "a very comprehensive word, which, for the want of an adequate equivalent, we are obliged to translate, now by piety, now by mercy, love or grace: it corresponds fairly closely to the Latin pietas..." Taken literally, the term gemilut hasadim is an action that represents a doing something in return, which doing is expressive of a loyalty- or less clumsily, gemilut hasadim is an act by means of which one demonstrates his response to someone, in obedience to him or out of loyalty to him. In short, it really is an act of piety. And strictly speaking, any action- it need have nothing to do with charity, sedakah, at all- any action which an individual carried out as a fulfillment of a divine command, was an act of gemilut hasadim."

Judah Goldin, "The Three Pillars of Simeon the Righteous." Proceedings of the American Academy for Jewish Research 27:43-58.

Don't our evangelical friends frequently tell us that we should use an historical and grammatical approach to interpreting scriptures?

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Don't our evangelical friends frequently tell us that we should use an historical and grammatical approach to interpreting scriptures?

I frequently here, "Context context context". Then they follow up with things such as " Who as Jesus talking to"? To which I would respond with that context is about as meaningful as what day of the week was it or how hot was it on the day Jesus was talking.

Good thread.

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A brief summary of gemilut hasadim can be found here:


Speaking on the topic of repentance, Byron L. Sherwin notes:

"To effect complete reconciliation, the return must be mutual. Therefore, repentance requires both a human initiative and a divine response. The corollary of human contrition is divine grace (hesed). A midrash observes, "Consider the parable of a prince who was far away from his father-a hundred days journey away. His friends said to him: Return to your father. He replied: I cannot; I have not the strength. Thereupon his father sent word to him saying: Come back as far as you are able, and I will go the rest of the way to meet you. So the Hol One says to Israel: 'Return to Me, and I shall return to you.' [Mal. 3:7]."" (Byron L. Sherwin, In Partnership with God: Contemporary Jewish Law and Ethics, Syracuse University Press: 1990)

What are we so often ridiculed for? "For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do." (2 Ne. 25:23) I think Nephi was quite aware of the Jewish concept of repentance and grace.

Sherwin also has a chapter entitled "The Ethics of Giving and Receiving" where he discusses the differences between zedakah and gemilut hasadim.

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Thanks, Walker. One of my blog posts has that little midrash on repentance. It comes from the Pesikta Rabbati. I culled it from Days of Awe, S.Y. Agnon's absolutely beautiful anthology of passages relating to repentence, and of course traditions relating to the High Holy Days (from Rosh ha-Shannah to Yom Kippur).

A spiritual masterpiece, really.

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I think Nephi was quite aware of the Jewish concept of repentance and grace.

Hear, hear. Grace is given out of loyalty and in return for loyalty. The writings of Nephi, Jacob and Benjamin emphasise time and time again the nature of grace as it would have been understood through the lens of "kinship theology".

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The distinction made by those not Mormon is that Paul's and James' statements of "not by works"/"faith without works is dead" is a different animal than the "after all we can do" of Joseph Smith. It's very clear to me that that phrase was added to Ephesians 2:8-10 in the BofM.

If I say that I love my wife and then people observe that I never spend time with her, get excited to be in her presence, sacrifice in the relationship, etc., then one could say that the works don't bear out the fact of what is stated in the words, "I love her".

At the airport in Greece about a week ago I observed a couple that apparently had been apart for awhile. The woman was really being openly affectionate to the one she was with. It just flowed from her (not that it is always that way as time tends to mellow the relationship in certain ways). Over time one can "lose one's first love" is a possibility so one has to guard against that.

So the idea of Justification by grace through faith, not by works is an acknowledgement of the "not by works of Paul" in the Solas of the Reformation (I was just in Wittenburg, Germany yesterday where the Reformation had its start) and faith without works or the "Faith Alone" Sola is not the same as James' faith without works is dead as we do acknowlege one having good works as the result of having a Biblical by grace through faith salvation.

Our understanding is that salvation is brought about by the shedding of Jesus' blood which does save everyone who believes in which is thework of the Holy Spirit not ours. So the "not by works" is the Justification while Sanctification is where the works come in as in being set apart for works of service after faith comes alive in our hearts:

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10)

In the context of faith/works I believe it is the same relationship when we realize that God really does love us:

But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men. (Titus 3:4-eight)

What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith; but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone, just as it is written,

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  • 2 weeks later...

More on gemilut hasadim:

"The Hebrew hesed (plural hasadim) is usually translated as "grace" or "loving-kindness," but sometimes also as "mercy" or "love." An act of hesed is an act of kindness done neither to repay a debt nor for the sake of gain, but freely and purely out of love." (Warren Zev Harvey, "Grace in Judaism," Encyclopedia of Love in World Religions, Vol. 1, ed. Yudit Kornberg Greenberg, ABC-CLIO: 2008)

"Not only did Abraham do acts of hesed, but he commanded his descendants and followers to do likewise. According to a statement of Rabbi Judah bar Nahamani (Babylonian Talmud 1948, 8b), gemilut hasadim is the distinguishing characteristic of the children of Israel, who hold to the covenant of Abraham. Rabbi Judah cites God's words regarding Abraham: "For I have singled him out, that he may instruct his children and his posterity, to keep the way of the Lord, by doing what is just and right." (Genesis 18:19) It would thus seem that the very purpose of the covenant of Abraham is gemilut hasadim, which is "the way of the Lord"; that is, the purpose of the covenant is moral imitatio Dei (Maimonides, Hilkhot De'ot 1:6-7)." (Harvey, 2008)

"[Z]edakah denotes the act of giving, while gemilut hasadim refers to the noble intentions infused with the act." (Sherwin, 1990)

"Zedekah can be done only with one's money, but gemilut hasadim can be done with one's person and with one's money. Zedakah can be given to the poor alone, but gemilut hasadim can be given to the rich as well as to the poor. Zedakah can be given only to the living while gemilut hasadim can be done both to the living and to the dead." (Sherwin, 1990)

By the way, Sherwin's chapter on Repentance is absolutely incredible. The concepts are what you find in the Book of Mormon and D&C.

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