201 Commentary

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This page forms part of the resources for 201 Mission and Message in the Jesus Database project of FaithFutures Foundation

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David Flusser

Jesus' saying about the double commandment of love was clearly coined before his time. ... both verses from the Bible (Deut. 6:5 and Lev, 19:18) begin with the same word. It was typical of rabbinic scholarship to see similarly phrased passages from the Bible as connected in content also. The first great commandment of Jesus—love of God—was thus in harmony with the spirit of contemporary Pharisaism. ... the double commandment of love existed in ancient Judaism before, and alongside, Jesus. The fact that it does not appear in the rabbinical documents that have come down to us is probably accidental. Mark (12:28-34) and Luke (10:25-28) show that on the question of "the great commandment" Jesus and the scribes were in agreement. [Jesus], (89f)

Jesus Seminar

The views of the Seminar may be expressed as follows:

  • Mark 12:28-34
  • Mark 12:28-34
  • Mark 12:29b-31
  • Mark 12:34c
  • Matt 22:37-40
  • Luke 10:27
  • Luke 10:28b

The commentary in [The Five Gospels] (104f) notes the secondary character of the narrative framework for each version of this saying in the Gospels: a friendly scribe in Matthew, a hostile scribe in Mark, and as a prelude to the parable of the Samaritan in Luke.

This is a classic example of the function of a Gray result in the Seminar's deliberations:

The majority of the Fellows thought that the ideas in this exchange represented Jesus' own views; the words, however, were those of the young Jesus movement. Those Seminar members who voted pink argued that Jesus might have affirmed the interpretation of the law given by Hillel, a famous rabbi who was a contemporary of Jesus.

Samuel Tobias Lachs

Lachs [Rabbinic Commentary on the New Testament], (280f) notes that the form cited in Mark begins with the traditional opening phrase of the Shema ("Hear, O Israel ..."). This may reflect the influence of Jewish devotional practices, since none of the other versions have that form. He comments further as follows:

The combination of Deut. 6.4 and Lev. 19.18 is already found in the Test. of Iss. 5.2 and in the Test. of Dan. 5.3. It is reasonable to assume that this combination was commonplace in rabbinic teachings, since it combines the love of God with the love of man.

Gerd Lüdemann

Lüdemann [Jesus], (85f) suggests that Mark was handing on the tradition he had received without any significant change, but he sees the two fold summary of the law as a reductionist and anti-cultic development from the early Christian community, rather than as a saying of Jesus:

The historical yield of the tradition is nil, since it is firmly rooted in the community and is to be derived from its needs. This community has detached itself from the temple cult and justifies this with reference to 'Jesus.' Moreover at another point Jesus gives a completely new definition of the term neighbour (see on Luke 10.30-37).

Kurt Niederwimmer

Niederwimmer [Hermeneia], (64) notes the parallels to the Gospels where this double summary of the Torah is variously attributed to Jesus (Mark, Matthew) or to a Torah scholar (Luke). Niederwimmer offers several considerations for concluding that the Didache version is not dependent on the Gospels, but was added to the traditional "Two Ways" tractate (which seems to have spoken only of the commandment to love God) when the Didache was compiled.