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What is the correct interpretation of the Hebrew "כָּמ֑וֹךָ" in Leviticus 19:18, or the Greek "ὡς" in Luke 10:27 (which is quoting the Leviticus verse)?

I have a theory that "love thy neighbor as thyself" (Leviticus 19:18) means "love thy neighbor and also thyself" (following an archaic usage of "as" in English), rather than "love thy neighbor as much as thyself". It makes more sense that the phrase would mean "and also yourself", since if you don't love yourself, the commandment to "love your neighbor as much as yourself" would mean you don't have to love your neighbor either!

I don't know Hebrew or Greek, so I can't verify the nuance in the original Hebrew, where (at least according to Bible Hub), "as thyself" is derived from "כָּמ֑וֹךָ":

https://biblehub.com/interlinear/leviticus/19-18.htm

The Hebrew concordance implies that "as yourself" means "like yourself", which still seems a bit ambiguous.

https://biblehub.com/hebrew/kamocha_3644.htm

The Greek may give some clues as to how the Hebrew was interpreted in biblical times. Luke 10:27 uses "ὡς" for "as":

https://biblehub.com/interlinear/luke/10-27.htm

This seems to be translated mostly as "as" or "like", however, so I don't know if it is able to fully answer the nuance question

https://biblehub.com/greek/ho_s_5613.htm

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  • See edit of supplying an understood verb.
    – Perry Webb
    Oct 11 at 11:38
  • There's no real linguistic reason not to translate "as, like", but there is certainly a logical reason to interpret the command as presupposing that you love yourself -- and to the same degree that you are called to love your neighbour. Otherwise, the comparison makes no sense. Indeed, comparisons usually presume that the predicate is true of both things, except when used ironically. Hence כ does have an "and" sense, and so does French comme, and English as well as -- not because it can mean "and" on its own, but because that sense flows naturally from the comparison. Oct 11 at 11:47
  • @Perry interpolates "should" in the implied "Love your neighbour as you should love yourself", but I suppose this is a theological or practical pang -- when undoing the ellipsis of a comparison, one uses the parallel predicate. "Love your neighbour as you love yourself." Similarly, "You're as strong as a bear is" rather than "You're as strong as a bear should be / typically is." Of course, not everyone loves themself as much as they should love their neighbour and some bears are weak, but that like the "also" is (theo)logical fallout that shouldn't affect the translation. Oct 11 at 11:55
  • It's probably going to be the one where you have to love your neighbor more, isn't it?
    – adam.baker
    Oct 11 at 12:13
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The preposition כְּמוֹ (of which כָּמ֑וֹךָ is the 2nd person singular inflected form) means "like, as".

There is a Hebrew prayer called מִי כָמֹכָה "Mi Chamocha" from it's opening words. "Mi" means "who", and "chamocha" means "like you" - together they make the question "Who is like you?" (the copula "is" is not explicit in Hebrew).

The interpretation of "like" that you are urging is specific to English.

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Jesus most likely had Lev. 19:18 in mind when he said:

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. (Matt. 7:12, ESV)

There is little indication, especially in the context of Lev. 19:18 and Luke 10:27 that these words mean anything other than a comparison. However, what comes close to your interpretation is to translate it "love your neighbor as you should love yourself" by supplying an understood verb related to the imperative.

How כְּמֹו is translated in the Septuagint (LXX). Charts generated by Logos Bible Software and reflect usage quantity.

enter image description here

How כְּמֹו is translated by the ESV.

enter image description here

Note while ὡς usually translates כְּמֹו, כְּמֹו is not the most common word ὡς translates in the LXX.

enter image description here

How ὡς is translated in the ESV.

enter image description here

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    How did you create/obtain those diagrams? They look very interesting.
    – TKR
    Oct 11 at 1:21
  • I don't know if you can use כ with a genitive suffix; I think it has to be כְּמֹו in that case -- in which case כְּמֹוך would gain the largest part of the second-last pie too. But I might be remembering wrong. Oct 11 at 11:37
  • Edited to show source of charts.
    – Perry Webb
    Oct 11 at 11:42
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OP: if you don't love yourself, the commandment to "love your neighbor as much as yourself" would mean you don't have to love your neighbor either!

This is a mental case. It is an exception to the rule. I don't think Moses had this in mind when he wrote Leviticus 19:

18 “’Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.

I don't think Paul had this exceptional case in mind either when he wrote Ephesians 5:

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30for we are members of his body. 31“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

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