Yes, yes and no, no.

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Ben C. Smith
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Yes, yes and no, no.

Post by Ben C. Smith » Mon Jul 27, 2020 6:04 pm

I am tracking down as many possible parallels to Jesus' famous "yes, yes" and "no, no" in the Sermon on the Mount as I can. Matthew gives us the original saying, and Justin Martyr verifies that he has seen it or something reasonably close to it (presumably in the "memoirs" he references from time to time):

Matthew 5.33-37: 33 “Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not make false vows, but shall fulfill your vows to the Lord.’ 34 But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 But let your statement be ‘yes, yes’ or ‘no, no’ [ἔστω δὲ ὁ λόγος ὑμῶν ναὶ ναί, οὒ οὔ] — anything beyond these is of evil.”

Justin Martyr, 1 Apology 16.5: 5 And concerning our not swearing at all, and our always speaking the truth, he commanded as follows: “Do not swear at all; but let your yes be yes and your no be no, for whatever is more than these is of evil.” / 5 Περὶ δὲ τοῦ μὴ ὀμνύναι ὅλως, τἀληθῆ δὲ λέγειν ἀεί, οὕτως παρεκελεύσατο· «Μὴ ὀμόσητε ὅλως· ἔστω δὲ ὑμῶν τὸ ναὶ ναί, καὶ τὸ οὒ οὔ· τὸ δὲ περισσὸν τούτων ἐκ τοῦ πονηροῦ.»

There is also the epistle of James:

James 5.12: 12 But above all, my brethren, do not swear either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath; but your yes is to be yes, and your no, no, so that you may not fall under judgment. / 12 Πρὸ πάντων δέ, ἀδελφοί μου, μὴ ὀμνύετε μήτε τὸν οὐρανὸν μήτε τὴν γῆν μήτε ἄλλον τινὰ ὅρκον· ἤτω δὲ ὑμῶν τὸ ναὶ ναὶ καὶ τὸ οὒ οὔ, ἵνα μὴ ὑπὸ κρίσιν πέσητε.

Let me throw in a sometimes overlooked but possibly important parallel:

2 Corinthians 1.15-20: 15 In this confidence I intended at first to come to you, so that you might twice receive a blessing; 16 that is, to pass your way into Macedonia, and again from Macedonia to come to you, and by you to be helped on my journey to Judea. 17 Therefore, I was not vacillating when I intended to do this, was I? Or what I purpose, do I purpose according to the flesh, so that with me there will be yes, yes, and no, no, at the same time? 18 But as God is faithful, our word to you is not yes and no. 19 For the Son of God, Christ Jesus, who was preached among you by us — by me and Silvanus and Timothy — was not yes and no, but is yes in Him. 20 For as many as are the promises of God, in Him they are yes; therefore also through Him is our ‘amen’ to the glory of God through us. / 15 Καὶ ταύτῃ τῇ πεποιθήσει ἐβουλόμην πρότερον πρὸς ὑμᾶς ἐλθεῖν, ἵνα δευτέραν χάριν σχῆτε, 16 καὶ δι᾽ ὑμῶν διελθεῖν εἰς Μακεδονίαν καὶ πάλιν ἀπὸ Μακεδονίας ἐλθεῖν πρὸς ὑμᾶς καὶ ὑφ᾽ ὑμῶν προπεμφθῆναι εἰς τὴν Ἰουδαίαν. 17 τοῦτο οὖν βουλόμενος μήτι ἄρα τῇ ἐλαφρίᾳ ἐχρησάμην; ἢ ἃ βουλεύομαι κατὰ σάρκα βουλεύομαι, ἵνα ᾖ παρ᾽ ἐμοὶ τὸ ναὶ ναὶ καὶ τὸ οὒ οὔ; 18 πιστὸς δὲ ὁ θεὸς ὅτι ὁ λόγος ἡμῶν ὁ πρὸς ὑμᾶς οὐκ ἔστιν ναὶ καὶ οὔ. 19 ὁ τοῦ θεοῦ γὰρ υἱὸς Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς ὁ ἐν ὑμῖν δι᾽ ἡμῶν κηρυχθείς, δι᾽ ἐμοῦ καὶ Σιλουανοῦ καὶ Τιμοθέου, οὐκ ἐγένετο ναὶ καὶ οὒ ἀλλὰ ναὶ ἐν αὐτῷ γέγονεν. 20 ὅσαι γὰρ ἐπαγγελίαι θεοῦ, ἐν αὐτῷ τὸ ναί· διὸ καὶ δι᾽ αὐτοῦ τὸ ἀμὴν τῷ θεῷ πρὸς δόξαν δι᾽ ἡμῶν.

Finally, thanks to Nathan, there is the Midrash Mishlei:

Midrash, Proverbs 19.18: R. Ishmael said: Great is the Torah, for she is greater than priesthood and greater than kingship. For kingship is acquired through thirty qualifications, and priesthood is acquired through twenty-four qualifications, while the Torah is acquired through forty-eight: sitting, listening with one’s ears, ordered speech, cheerful countenance, good heart, intelligence, wisdom, awareness of one’s place, acquisition of a colleague, punctiliousness in study, careful consultation of legal traditions, declaring the unfit unfit and the fit fit, making yes mean yes and no mean no, citing authorities by name.... / [Link to Hebrew text.] אמר רבי ישמעאל: גדולה היא התורה, שהיא גדולה יותר מן הכהונה ומן המלכות, שהמלכות נקנית בשלושים מעלות, והכהונה בעשרים וארבע, והתורה נקנית בארבעים ושמונה דברים, ואלו הן: ביישוב הדעת, בשמיעת האוזן, בעריכות שפתיים, ובהטבת פנים, ולב טוב, בדעה, ובחכמה, מכיר את מקומו, וקונה לו חבר, ומדקדק בתלמודו, ומעיין בשמועתו, ואומר על הטמא טמא, ועל הטהור טהור, ועל הן הן,ועל לאו לאו, ואומר דבר בשם אומרו׃

Are there any other parallels lurking out there in the literature?

Thanks.

Ben.

ETA 1: From Nathan and Difflugia (thanks!):

Clementine Homilies 3.55: 55 But to those who think, as the Scriptures teach, that God swears, He said, "Let your yes be yes, and your no no; for what is more than these is of the evil one." And to those who say that Abraham and Isaac and Jacob are dead, He said, "God is not of the dead, but of the living." And to those who suppose that God tempts, as the Scriptures say, He said, "The tempter is the wicked one," who also tempted Himself. To those who suppose that God does not foreknow, He said, "For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things before ye ask Him." And to those who believe, as the Scriptures say, that He does not see all things, He said, "Pray in secret, and your Father, who sees secret things, will reward you." / 55 Τοῖς δὲ νομίζουσιν (ὡς αἱ γραφαὶ διδάσκουσιν) ὅτι ὁ θεὸς ὀμνύει, ἔφη· «Ἔστω ὑμῶν τὸ ναὶ ναί, τὸ οὒ οὔ· τὸ γὰρ περισσὸν τούτων ἐκ τοῦ πονηροῦ ἐστιν.» καὶ τοῖς λέγουσιν ὅτι Ἀβραὰμ καὶ Ἰσαὰκ καὶ Ἰακὼβ ἀπέθανεν, ἔφη· «Οὐκ ἔστιν θεὸς νεκρῶν, ἀλλὰ ζώντων.» τοῖς δὲ οἰομένοις ὅτι ὁ θεὸς «πειράζει» (ὡς αἱ γραφαὶ λέγουσιν) ἔφη· «Ὁ πονηρός ἐστιν ὁ πειράζων,» ὁ καὶ αὐτὸν πειράσας. τοῖς δὲ ὑπολαμβάνουσιν ὅτι ὁ θεὸς οὐ προγινώσκει, ἔφη· «Οἶδεν γὰρ ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν ὁ οὐράνιος ὅτι χρῄζετε τούτων ἁπάντων, πρὶν αὐτὸν ἀξιώσετε.» τοῖς δὲ πιστεύουσιν (ὡς αἱ γραφαὶ λέγουσιν) ὅτι μὴ πάντα βλέπει, ἔφη· «Ἐν τῷ κρυπτῷ εὔχεσθε,» εἰπών· «Καὶ ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν ὁ βλέπων τὰ κρυπτὰ ἀποδώσει ὑμῖν.»

Clementine Homilies 19.2b: 2b Moreover, in giving advice, He said, "Let your yes be yes, and your no no; for what is more than these is of the evil one." Also, in the prayer which He delivered to us, we have it said, "Deliver us from the evil one." And in another place, He promised that He would say to those who are impious, "Go into outer darkness, which the Father prepared for the devil and his angels." And not to prolong this statement further, I know that my Teacher often said that there is an evil one. Wherefore I also agree in thinking that he exists. If, then, in future you have anything to say in accordance with this belief, say it, as you promised. / 2b Ἀλλὰ καὶ συμβουλεύων εἴρηκεν· «Ἔστω ὑμῶν τὸ ναὶ ναὶ καὶ τὸ οὒ οὔ, τὸ δὲ περισσὸν τούτων ἐκ τοῦ πονηροῦ ἐστιν.» ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐν ᾗ παρέδωκεν εὐχῇ ἔχομεν εἰρημένον· «Ῥῦσαι ἡμᾶς ἀπὸ τοῦ πονηροῦ.» καὶ ἄλλῃ που εἰπεῖν ὑπέσχετο τοῖς ἀσεβέσιν· «Ὑπάγετε εἰς τὸ σκότος τὸ ἐξώτερον, ὃ ἡτοίμασεν ὁ πατὴρ τῷ διαβόλῳ καὶ τοῖς ἀγγέλοις αὐτοῦ.» καὶ ἵνα μὴ εἰς πολὺ μηκύνω τὸν λόγον, πολλάκις οἶδα τὸν διδάσκαλόν μου εἰπόντα εἶναι τὸν πονηρόν. διὸ κἀγὼ σύμφημι αὐτὸν ὑπάρχειν. λοιπὸν εἴ τι ἔχεις ἑπομένως λέγειν, ὡς ὑπέσχου λέγε.

Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies 5.14.99.1: 1 Again, with the Lord's saying, "Let your yes be yes and your no no," may be compared the following: "But to admit a falsehood, and destroy a truth, is in nowise lawful." 2 With the prohibition, also, against swearing agrees the saying in the tenth book of the Laws: Let praise and an oath in everything be absent. / 1 Πάλιν αὖ τῷ τοῦ κυρίου ῥητῷ, «ἔστω ὑμῶν τὸ ναὶ ναὶ καὶ τὸ οὒ οὔ,» ἐκεῖνο ἀπεικαστέον· «ἀλλά μοι ψεῦδός τε συγχωρῆσαι καὶ ἀληθὲς ἀφανίσαι οὐδαμῶς θέμις·» 2 τῇ τε περὶ τοῦ ὀμόσαι ἀπαγορεύσει συνᾴδει ἥδε ἡ ἐν τῷ δεκάτῳ τῶν Νόμων λέξις· «ἔπαινος δὲ ὅρκος τε περὶ παντὸς ἀπέστω.»

Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies 7.11.67.5: 5 For it was a compendium of righteousness to say, Let your yes be yes and your no no. / 5 Δικαιοσύνης γὰρ ἦν ἐπιτομὴ φάναι· «ἔσται ὑμῶν τὸ ναὶ ναὶ καὶ τὸ οὒ οὔ.»

Apostolic Constitutions 5.12b: 12b Wherefore it is the duty of a man of God, as he is a Christian, not to swear by the sun, or by the moon, or by the stars; nor by the heaven, nor by the earth, by any of the elements, whether small or great. For if our Master charged us not to swear by the true God, that our word might be firmer than an oath, nor by heaven itself, for that is a piece of heathen wickedness, nor by Jerusalem, nor by the sanctuary of God, nor the altar, nor the gift, nor the gilding of the altar, nor one's own head, for this custom is a piece of Judaic corruption, and on that account was forbidden; and if He exhorts the faithful that their yes be yes and their no no [εἶναι δὲ τὸ ναὶ ναὶ καὶ τὸ οὒ οὒ], and says that what is more than these is of the evil one, how much more blameable are those who appeal to deities falsely so called as the objects of an oath, and who glorify imaginary beings instead of those that are real, whom God for their perverseness delivered over to foolishness, to do those things that are not convenient!

Epiphanius, Panarion 19.6.2: 2 ...and especially as the Lord says at once, in the Law and in the Gospel, “You shall have no other gods.” “You shall not swear by the name of any other god.” And again he says in the Gospel, “Swear not, neither by heaven, nor by earth, neither any other oath. But let your yes be yes and your no no; whatever is more that these comes of the evil one.” / 2 ...καὶ μάλιστα τοῦ κυρίου εὐθὺς λέγοντος ἔν τε τῷ νόμῳ καὶ ἐν τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ «οὐκ ἔσονταί σοι θεοὶ ἕτεροι.» «οὐ λήψῃ ὄνομά τινος ἑτέρου ἐπὶ ὅρκῳ,» καὶ πάλιν ἐν τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ λέγοντος, «μὴ ὀμνύναι μήτε τὸν οὐρανὸν μήτε τὴν γῆν μήτε ἕτερόν τινα ὅρκον, ἀλλ' ἤτω ὑμῶν τὸ ναὶ ναὶ καὶ τὸ οὒ οὔ· τὸ περισσότερον γὰρ τούτων ἐκ τοῦ πονηροῦ ὑπάρχει.»

Midrash, Ruth Rabbah 7.6: 6 "Then said she: 'Sit still, my daughter'" (= Ruth 3.18). Rabbi Huna in the name of Rabbi Samuel son of Rav Yitzchak: "The righteous, their yes is yes and their no is no [הַצַּדִּיקִים הֵן שֶׁלָּהֵן, הֵן, וְלָאו שֶׁלָּהֶן, לָאו], as it is said, "for the man will not rest, until he have finished the thing this day."

ETA 2: A Qumranite fragment which puts me in mind of the Matthean passage concerning swearing:

Damascus Document, column 15, lines 1-3: 1 [He will not sw]ear by Aleph and Lamed [’El = God] nor by Aleph and Daleth [’Adonai = Lord], but by the oath of the youths, 2 by the curses of the covenant. ~ Neither should one mention the law of Moses, for in it is the full enunciation of the name. 3 ~ And if he swears and transgresses, he profanes the name. ~ If the judges adju[re] (someone) by the curses of the covenant....

Matthew 5.33-37: 33 “Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not make false vows, but shall fulfill your vows to the Lord.’ 34 But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 But let your statement be ‘yes, yes’ or ‘no, no’ — anything beyond these is of evil.”

Last edited by Ben C. Smith on Sat Aug 15, 2020 7:48 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Difflugia
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Re: Yes, yes and no, no.

Post by Difflugia » Tue Jul 28, 2020 7:45 am

The 19th century book Supernatural Religion by W. R. Cassels mentions this as part of a discussion of quotes from the Gospels in Justin Martyr. There's a footnote about this particular parallel (p. 354 in the 1874 edition; there are scans at Google Books and Archive.org):
This agrees with a passage which occurs twice in the Clementine Homilies. The version in Ep. of James v. 12, is evidently a quotation from a source different from Matthew, and supports Justin. Clement Al. twice uses a similar expression, and Epiphanius does so once, though probably following the Ep. of James. The Apostolic Constitutions also quotes in similar manner. The context of the Clementine Homilies corresponds with that of Justin, but not so the others.

We contrast all these passages below—
James v. 12ἤτω δὲ ὑμῶν τὸ ναὶ ναί, καὶ τὸ ὂυ οὔ.
Clem. Hom, iii. 55ἔστω ὑμῶν τὸ ναὶ ναί,τὸ ὂυ οὔ.
Ib., xix. 2ἔστω ὑμῶν τὸ ναὶ ναί, καὶ τὸ ὂυ οὔ.
Justin Apol. i. 16ἔστω δὲ ὑμῶν τὸ ναὶ ναί, καὶ τὸ ὂυ οὔ.
Clem. Al. Strom. v. 14, § 100ἔστω ὑμῶν τὸ ναὶ ναί, καὶ τὸ ὂυ οὔ.
Epiph. Hær. xix. 6ἤτω ὑμῶν τὸ ναὶ ναί, καὶ τὸ ὂυ οὔ.
Constit. Ap. v. 12εἰναι δὲ τὸ ναὶ ναί, καὶ τὸ ὂυ οὔ.


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Re: Yes, yes and no, no.

Post by Nathan » Fri Jul 31, 2020 2:06 pm

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Mon Jul 27, 2020 6:04 pm
Are there any other parallels lurking out there in the literature?

Thanks.

Ben.
Hi, Ben.

There’s one other example I know of, from Ruth Rabbah 7:6:
Rabbi Huna [said] in the name of Rabbi Samuel son of Rav Isaac: “[With] the righteous their yes is yes and their no is no, as it is said: ‘For the man will not rest, until he has finished the thing today.’”

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Re: Yes, yes and no, no.

Post by Ben C. Smith » Fri Jul 31, 2020 3:46 pm

Nathan wrote:
Fri Jul 31, 2020 2:06 pm
Ben C. Smith wrote:
Mon Jul 27, 2020 6:04 pm
Are there any other parallels lurking out there in the literature?

Thanks.

Ben.
Hi, Ben.

There’s one other example I know of, from Ruth Rabbah 7:6:
Rabbi Huna [said] in the name of Rabbi Samuel son of Rav Isaac: “[With] the righteous their yes is yes and their no is no, as it is said: ‘For the man will not rest, until he has finished the thing today.’”
Difflugia wrote:
Tue Jul 28, 2020 7:45 am
The 19th century book Supernatural Religion by W. R. Cassels mentions this as part of a discussion of quotes from the Gospels in Justin Martyr. There's a footnote about this particular parallel (p. 354 in the 1874 edition; there are scans at Google Books and Archive.org):
This agrees with a passage which occurs twice in the Clementine Homilies. The version in Ep. of James v. 12, is evidently a quotation from a source different from Matthew, and supports Justin. Clement Al. twice uses a similar expression, and Epiphanius does so once, though probably following the Ep. of James. The Apostolic Constitutions also quotes in similar manner. The context of the Clementine Homilies corresponds with that of Justin, but not so the others.

We contrast all these passages below—
James v. 12ἤτω δὲ ὑμῶν τὸ ναὶ ναί, καὶ τὸ ὂυ οὔ.
Clem. Hom, iii. 55ἔστω ὑμῶν τὸ ναὶ ναί,τὸ ὂυ οὔ.
Ib., xix. 2ἔστω ὑμῶν τὸ ναὶ ναί, καὶ τὸ ὂυ οὔ.
Justin Apol. i. 16ἔστω δὲ ὑμῶν τὸ ναὶ ναί, καὶ τὸ ὂυ οὔ.
Clem. Al. Strom. v. 14, § 100ἔστω ὑμῶν τὸ ναὶ ναί, καὶ τὸ ὂυ οὔ.
Epiph. Hær. xix. 6ἤτω ὑμῶν τὸ ναὶ ναί, καὶ τὸ ὂυ οὔ.
Constit. Ap. v. 12εἰναι δὲ τὸ ναὶ ναί, καὶ τὸ ὂυ οὔ.

Brilliant! Thank you very much, both of you. I have added your passages to the OP.
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Re: Yes, yes and no, no.

Post by Ben C. Smith » Sat Aug 15, 2020 7:45 pm

A Qumranite fragment which puts me in mind of the Matthean passage concerning swearing:

Damascus Document, column 15, lines 1-3: 1 [He will not sw]ear by Aleph and Lamed [’El = God] nor by Aleph and Daleth [’Adonai = Lord], but by the oath of the youths, 2 by the curses of the covenant. ~ Neither should one mention the law of Moses, for in it is the full enunciation of the name. 3 ~ And if he swears and transgresses, he profanes the name. ~ If the judges adju[re] (someone) by the curses of the covenant....

Matthew 5.33-37: 33 “Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not make false vows, but shall fulfill your vows to the Lord.’ 34 But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 But let your statement be ‘yes, yes’ or ‘no, no’ — anything beyond these is of evil.”

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