Sunday, August 21, 2011

Matthew 22:34-40 The two greatest commandments

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees,
they gathered together, and one of them,
a scholar of the law, tested him by asking,
"Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?"
He said to him,
"You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart,
with all your soul, and with all your mind.
This is the greatest and the first commandment.
The second is like it:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments."

The challenge by the Pharisees is typical of their oral law based tradition. Pharisees were in constant conflict with the Sadducees over theological opinions over issues such as the Bodily Resurrection. In this story, Jesus' reply reflects what is found in the Torah. Most people often attribute this response to Jesus himself but he is drawing on an older tradition. Firstly there is no relationship with others without a relationship with God. Only through God can one fully grow into maturity. Secondly, without a relationship with others we often become self-centred. It is impossible to only love God while hating neighbour because it is though our neighbours God's grace and majesty is revealed. Only by balancing these two can one enter heaven. All the laws of the Torah flow from these two commandments.   

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