The first greatest commandment (Mt 22:37-22:38)

“Jesus 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 commandment.

This is the first commandment.”

 

ὁ δὲ ἔφη αὐτῷ Ἀγαπήσεις κύριον τὸν Θεόν σου ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ καρδίᾳ σου καὶ ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ ψυχῇ σου καὶ ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ διανοίᾳ σου.

αὕτη ἐστὶν ἡ μεγάλη καὶ πρώτη ἐντολή.

 

The response of Jesus can be found also in Mark, chapter 12:29-30, where there is the Shema cry for Israel to listen.  In Luke, chapter 10:27-28, Jesus responded that he had given the right answer to the question.  Here, in Matthew, it is separate from the love of neighbor, which is the 2nd commandment.  This Shema can be found in Deuteronomy, chapter 6:4-5.  These verses have had a great influence on the Israelites as the great commandment that is recited often and written all over the place on their hands, forehead, and door posts.  It is both a morning and an evening prayer, something you say at home and when you are away from home.  The Israelites were to teach their children this simple prayer.  Jesus and the early Christian followers will repeat this in the gospel stories of the New Testament as the great commandment of love of God.  This ‘Shema’ became the basis of the Abrahamic religions, the great commandment of monotheism and love that must always be remembered.  Jesus told this lawyer (ὁ δὲ ἔφη αὐτῷ) that he should love the Lord (Ἀγαπήσεις κύριον), his God (τὸν Θεόν σου) with his whole heart (ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ καρδίᾳ σου), his whole soul (καὶ ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ ψυχῇ σου), and his whole mind (καὶ ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ διανοίᾳ σου).  This was the greatest (αὕτη ἐστὶν ἡ μεγάλη) and the first commandment (καὶ πρώτη ἐντολή).  Just be a good human Jewish person and love God above all else with your whole being, heart, soul, and mind.

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The question about taxes (Mt 22:17-22:17)

“Tell us!

Then,

What do you think?

Is it lawful

To pay taxes

To Caesar

Or not?”

 

εἰπὸν οὖν ἡμῖν, τί σοι δοκεῖ; ἔξεστιν δοῦναι κῆνσον Καίσαρι ἢ οὔ;

 

This is similar to Mark, chapter 12:14, and Luke, chapter 20:22, but slightly different.  Then these Pharisee disciples and the Herodians tried to trick Jesus.  They wanted to know what Jesus thought about the Roman tax.  They asked him (εἰπὸν οὖν ἡμῖν) what did he think (τί σοι δοκεῖ).  Was it lawful to pay the poll tax to Caesar or not (ἔξεστιν δοῦναι κῆνσον Καίσαρι ἢ οὔ)?  Rome had an annual personal census tax of one denarius worth about $1.50 USA, not that much.  However, many of the Roman tax collectors were considered sinners.  Jesus, on the other hand, had a milder view of these tax collectors.  He appeared to accept the Roman rule and its taxing policies.  As the political party of the Romans, the Herodians, and the Israelites, the Pharisees, were there.  Thus, his answer might offend someone.

New invitations to the wedding feast (Mt 22:8-22:9)

“Then he said

To his slaves.

‘The wedding is ready.

But those invited

Were not worthy.

Therefore,

Go into the main streets!

Invite

Everyone you find

To the wedding banquet!”

 

τότε λέγει τοῖς δούλοις αὐτοῦ Ὁ μὲν γάμος ἕτοιμός ἐστιν, οἱ δὲ κεκλημένοι οὐκ ἦσαν ἄξιοι·

πορεύεσθε οὖν ἐπὶ τὰς διεξόδους τῶν ὁδῶν, καὶ ὅσους ἐὰν εὕρητε καλέσατε εἰς τοὺς γάμους.

 

Once again, there are some differences with Luke, chapter 14:21-24, who was more descriptive of those who were invited this time.  Finally, we have a third invitation.  Jesus said that this king told his slaves (τότε λέγει τοῖς δούλοις αὐτοῦ) that the wedding feast was ready (Ὁ μὲν γάμος ἕτοιμός ἐστιν).  Those originally invited were not worthy or deserving of his invitation (οἱ δὲ κεκλημένοι οὐκ ἦσαν ἄξιοι).  Therefore, they were to go into the main streets or the meeting places on the roads (πορεύεσθε οὖν ἐπὶ τὰς διεξόδους τῶν ὁδῶν).  Then they should invite everyone or as many as they could find to this wedding banquet (καὶ ὅσους ἐὰν εὕρητε καλέσατε εἰς τοὺς γάμους).  This king was intent on having this wedding dinner.  Notice the original chosen ones, the Israelites, were not considered worthy.  Now the invitation went out to all people to come to the banquet feast of the son, Jesus.

Isaiah and vain worship (Mt 15:8-15:9)

“This people honors me

With their lips.

But their hearts

Are far from me.

In vain,

Do they worship me,

They teach human precepts

As doctrines.”

 

Ὁ λαὸς οὗτος τοῖς χείλεσίν με τιμᾷ, ἡ δὲ καρδία αὐτῶν πόρρω ἀπέχει ἀπ’ ἐμοῦ·

μάτην δὲ σέβονταί με, διδάσκοντες διδασκαλίας ἐντάλματα ἀνθρώπων.

 

This Greek quotation from Isaiah, chapter 29:13 is from the Septuagint, almost the same as in Mark, chapter 7:6-7.  This oracle of Yahweh, via Isaiah, centers on insincere worship.  These Israelites adored Yahweh with their mouths and lips, but their hearts were far away.  They only praised the Lord because of human demands, as they recited rote prayers.  Jesus repeated the verses of Isaiah, via Matthew.  These people honored him with their lips or mouth (Ὁ λαὸς οὗτος τοῖς χείλεσίν με τιμᾷ).  However, their hearts were far away from him (ἡ δὲ καρδία αὐτῶν πόρρω ἀπέχει ἀπ’ ἐμοῦ).  In a vain or useless way, they adored, worshiped, or reverenced him (μάτην δὲ σέβονταί με).  They are teaching doctrines (διδάσκοντες διδασκαλίας) that were human precepts or ordinances (ἐντάλματα ἀνθρώπων).  Thus Jesus, via Matthew and Isaiah, was wailing against false worship and human precepts as divine worship and teachings.

The easy yoke of labor (Mt 11:28-11:30)

“Come to me!

All you who are

Growing weary!

All you who are

Laden with a heavy burden!

I will give you rest.

Take my yoke!

Learn from me!

I am gentle.

I am lowly in heart.

You will find rest

For your souls.

My yoke is easy.

My burden is light.”

 

Δεῦτε πρός με πάντες οἱ κοπιῶντες καὶ πεφορτισμένοι, κἀγὼ ἀναπαύσω ὑμᾶς.

ἄρατε τὸν ζυγόν μου ἐφ’ ὑμᾶς καὶ μάθετε ἀπ’ ἐμοῦ, ὅτι πραΰς εἰμι καὶ ταπεινὸς τῇ καρδίᾳ, καὶ εὑρήσετε ἀνάπαυσιν ταῖς ψυχαῖς ὑμῶν·

 ὁ γὰρ ζυγός μου χρηστὸς καὶ τὸ φορτίον μου ἐλαφρόν ἐστιν.

 

Matthew concluded this chapter with a unique saying of Jesus.  Jesus wanted his followers to pick up the yoke of his message.  A yoke was put on the shoulders of farm animals to help with plowing and planting.  The term was also used to represent the yoke of the Torah on the shoulders of many Israelites.  Jesus invited all those who were growing weary to come to him (Δεῦτε πρός με πάντες οἱ κοπιῶντες).  He wanted all those with a heavy burden (καὶ πεφορτισμένοι), so that he might give them rest (κἀγὼ ἀναπαύσω ὑμᾶς).  They were to take his yoke (ἄρατε τὸν ζυγόν μου ἐφ’ ὑμᾶς) and learn from him (καὶ μάθετε ἀπ’ ἐμοῦ).  He was gentle and lowly in heart (ὅτι πραΰς εἰμι καὶ ταπεινὸς τῇ καρδίᾳ).  They would find rest for their souls (καὶ εὑρήσετε ἀνάπαυσιν ταῖς ψυχαῖς ὑμῶν) because his yoke was easy (ὁ γὰρ ζυγός μου χρηστὸς) and his burden light (καὶ τὸ φορτίον μου ἐλαφρόν ἐστιν).  The yoke of Jesus was light in comparison to the yoke of the Torah.

Love your enemy (Mt 5:43-5:44)

“You have heard

That it was said.

‘You shall love

Your neighbor!

You shall hate

Your enemy!’

But I say to you.

Love your enemies!

Pray for those

Who persecute you!’”

 

Ἠκούσατε ὅτι ἐρρέθη Ἀγαπήσεις τὸν πλησίον σου καὶ μισήσεις τὸν ἐχθρόν σου.

ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν, ἀγαπᾶτε τοὺς ἐχθροὺς ὑμῶν καὶ προσεύχεσθε ὑπὲρ τῶν διωκόντων ὑμᾶς·

 

Luke has something similar to this in chapter 6:33, but Matthew is more forceful here.  Once again, Matthew begins by asking them to recall what they have heard said (Ἠκούσατε ὅτι ἐρρέθη) about loving their neighbors (Ἀγαπήσεις τὸν πλησίον σου), based on the holiness code in Leviticus, chapter 19:18.  However, the next phrase, about hating your enemies (καὶ μισήσεις τὸν ἐχθρόν σου), cannot be found in any Hebrew biblical texts.  However, the reading of the psalms, and the general attitude prior to the exile indicates that the Israelites did not generally wish well on their enemies.  They often asked Yahweh to come and destroy their enemies.  Hate was not encouraged, it was just there.  Then Matthew has this solemn strong announcement from Jesus (ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν), without ambiguity.  They were to love their enemies (ἀγαπᾶτε τοὺς ἐχθροὺς ὑμῶν) and even pray for those who were persecuting them (καὶ προσεύχεσθε ὑπὲρ τῶν διωκόντων ὑμᾶς).  Perhaps, many of the followers of Jesus at the time of Matthew’s writing were actually being persecuted.  In fact, the Byzantine text added here a couple of phrases to elaborate on this.  These followers of Jesus were asked to bless those cursing them (εὐλογεῖτε τοὺς καταρωμένους ὑμᾶς).  They were to do good to those who were spitefully accusing them, hating them, and persecuting them (καλῶς ποιεῖτε τοῖς μισοῦσιν ὑμᾶς, καὶ προσεύχεσθε ὑπὲρ τῶν ἐπηρεαζόντων ὑμᾶς, καὶ διωκόντων ὑμᾶς).  These early Christians were asked to be generous to their enemies and persecutors.