THE GREATEST COMMANDMENT
28And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. 33And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions.
That day, a Scribe, a man who dedicated his life to copy the Tanakh by hand, again and again, and who as a consequence had a deep patience, devotion and knowledge of the Torah, having witnessed the knowledge of Lord Jesus and deep wisdom, came to ask Him a philosophical rather than a theological question:
“Which Commandment is the Greatest”?
That was a simple question, a single question. Which of the 613 precepts Moses left in the Torah, was the greatest in importance?
But being a simple question, it had not an easy answer.
All commandments in the Torah were compulsory, and all had divine sanction. All of them were equally important, if we try to please God by doing his will. The issue, was to be able to analyze and select one of them, who was supposed to be the most important one, maybe because it dealt with the core of God-Man relationship, from where all other commandments departed. So, our Lord Jesus answered the honest question of the Scribe, and said that:
“The Lord, your GOD is ONE; and You shall love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength”
Quoting Deuteronomy 6:4-5; saying that that was the ‘most important’ of all the commandments.
We need to notice that neither Lord Jesus, or the Scribe quoted the Torah command textually.
Jesus adds the term ‘Διανοίας’ (Mind), to the terms used in Deuteronomy: “Heart, Soul and Strength”.
The Scribe however, quoted Deuteronomy 6:4-5, but not exactly as it is textually expressed in the Torah. He exchanged the word ‘Διανοίας’ (Mind), for ‘Συνέσεως’ (Intellect), but still, with similar three faculties instead of four as Jesus said it. But none of them quotes textually Deuteronomy 6:5; neither in the original Hebrew version, or the Septuagint version, which reads to love God “with all your mind, soul and strength”.
This proves that translations do not matter to God, regardless of the zeal the Scribes had for copying the Torah word by word.
The important part of Scripture is the message, not the translation.
GOD is Spirit, and He speaks in concepts. That is why He speaks through symbolism, parables and examples, in order to transmit concepts, not words.
Of course, God also uses words, but behind the obvious meaning of the words, is the message or concept to be transmitted. In this case, the words vary from Jesus, to Scribe to text, but the meaning is obvious in all its forms:
“GOD IS ONE, and we must love Him with our faculties and strength.”
That was the message, not other, in any way it was expressed. In this occasion, in three different manners. The Scribes and Copyist, took care in the words they used, because they feared they meaning would change is they misunderstood a word. But it was not the value of the word itself that was important, even though they fell into legalism themselves, through corruption, later in history.
BUT JESUS did not stop there.
He also added another commandment, Leviticus 19:18, that commands everyone to “Love your neighbor as yourself”.
With this, our Lord JESUS wanted to leave clear the point that the Scribe captured: That those two commands, enclosed the purpose of the whole Torah.
All Laws GOD gave to Moses for Israel, were also given in principle to the whole human race, since it was us, humanity, that God wanted to redeem and show us the righteous path. So, all these commands were born from the two eternal principles that gave birth to the whole Mosaic Law in principle. Our love for God, and the love for our neighbor.
BUT we must understand that lord JESUS said that these were the two main commandments, but not the only ones.
It is said that Augustine of Hippo, said “Love and do what you want”.
But this could lead us to the wrong path.
By ‘loving’ without any further guidance, men commit fornication with women they love. They commit adultery, divorces, homicides, child abandonment, genocides, wars and other evil acts. Why? Because they love a woman, another partner apart from their own, they love a someone more than their own children, or claim revenge for abused loved ones, or even for the honor of the country they love.
We need more than just ‘Love’ to act correctly. We need God’s express guidance.
Jesus never said that to acknowledge God as Supreme and love one another was all we needed. Simply said that these were the greatest commands, but never the only ones.
The love and submission due to GOD as the Supreme Entity, and the love for one another, are the basis of all our existence. We must worship and live under our Creator, and live a life of love for other people. BUT, also part of loving God is doing his will, and part of loving one another, is to perform the will of God towards others, the way He wants it.
Without major explanation, the Scribed admitted the wisdom of the Lord. And because of this, he left evident that he was a righteous person, and so our Lord Jesus said that he was ‘not far from the kingdom of God’.
All this righteous Jewish man needed to do now, was to accept Jesus as his Messiah, Lord and Redeemer; and that way, ‘enter the Kingdom of God’.