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Bible Encyclopedias

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

Neighbor

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nā´bẽr ( רע , rēa' , עמית , ‛āmı̄th , "friend," קרוב , ḳārōbh , שׁכן , shākhēn ; ὁ πλησίον , ho plēsı́on , "near" γείτων , géitōn , (compare 2 Maccabees 6:8; 9:25 ), "inhabitant"; Latin proximus (2 Esdras 15:19), civis (2 Esdras 9:45; 10:2, the Revised Version margin "townman")):

1. As Described in the Old Testament:

In the Old Testament, the relationship of neighborhood involves moral and social obligations which are frequently emphasized. These are in the main described in negative rather than positive terms; e.g. there are special injunctions not to bear false witness against a neighbor (Exodus 20:16; Deuteronomy 5:20; Proverbs 25:18 ), or in any way to deal falsely with him, defraud him, frame malicious devices or harbor evil thoughts against him (Exodus 20:17; Leviticus 6:2; Leviticus 19:13; Deuteronomy 23:24 f; Psalm 15:3; Psalm 101:5; Proverbs 24:28; Jeremiah 22:13; Zechariah 8:17 ), or to lead him into shameful conduct (Habakkuk 2:15 ), or to wrong him by lying carnally with his wife (Leviticus 18:20 ). But the supreme law that underlies these negative injunctions is stated positively. "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" (Leviticus 19:18 ). In this verse the term "neighbor"is defined by the expression, "the children of my people." Here, and generally in the Old Testament, the term implies more than mere proximity; it means one related by the bond of nationality, a fellow-countryman, compatriot. Yahweh being regarded as a national God, there was no religious bond regulating the conduct of the Hebrews with other nations. Conduct which was prohibited between fellow-Jews was permitted toward a foreigner, e.g. the exaction of interest (Deuteronomy 23:19 , Deuteronomy 23:20 ).

2. As Described in the New Testament:

In the New Testament, this limitation of moral obligation to fellow-countrymen is abolished. Christ gives a wider interpretation of the commandment in Leviticus 19:18 , so as to include in it those outside the tie of nation or kindred. This is definitely done in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37 ), where, in answer to the question, "Who is my neighbor?" Jesus shows that the relationship is a moral, not a physical one, based not on kinship but on the opportunity and capacity for mutual help. The word represents, not so much a rigid fact, but an ideal which one may or may not realize (Luke 10:36 , "Which of these three, thinkest thou, proved (literally, became , not was ) neighbor," etc.). This larger connotation follows naturally as a corollary to the doctrine of the universal Fatherhood of God. The commandment to love one's neighbor as one's self must not be interpreted as if it implied that we are to hate our enemy (an inference which the jews were apt to make); human love should be like the Divine, impartial, having all men for its object (Matthew 5:43 ff). Love to one's fellow-men in this broad sense to be placed side by side with love to God as the essence and sum of human duty ( Matthew 22:35-40 parallel Mark 12:28-31 ). Christ's apostles follow His example in giving a central position to the injunction to love one's neighbor as one's self (James 2:8 , where is is called the "royal law" i.e. the supreme or governing law; Romans 13:9; Galatians 5:14 ).

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Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. Entry for 'Neighbor'. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/isb/n/neighbor.html. 1915.

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