entête

Mark 12: 28-34

I propose a biblical analysis with the following steps: a study of each Greek word of the evangelical text, followed by an analysis of the structure of the narrative and its context, to which is added a comparison of parallel or similar passages. I end up with some suggestions on how this Gospel could shed light on our current situation.


 


  1. Translation of the Greek text (28th edition of Kurt Aland)

    Greek textTransliterated Greek textLiteral translationTranslation in current language
    28 Καὶ προσελθὼν εἷς τῶν γραμματέων ἀκούσας αὐτῶν συζητούντων, ἰδὼν ὅτι καλῶς ἀπεκρίθη αὐτοῖς ἐπηρώτησεν αὐτόν• ποία ἐστὶν ἐντολὴ πρώτη πάντων;28 Kai proselthōn heis tōn grammateōn akousas autōn syzētountōn, idōn hoti kalōs apekrithē autois epērōtēsen auton• poia estin entolē prōtē pantōn?28 And having come near one of the scribes, having heard them discussing, having seen that well he answered them, he questioned him, "Which is the first commandment of all?"28 After hearing his discussion with the Sadducees and recognizing that he had answered them well, one of the Bible scholar approached Jesus to question him: "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?"
    29 ἀπεκρίθη ὁ Ἰησοῦς ὅτι πρώτη ἐστίν• ἄκουε, Ἰσραήλ, κύριος ὁ θεὸς ἡμῶν κύριος εἷς ἐστιν,29 apekrithē ho Iēsous hoti prōtē estin• akoue, Israēl, kyrios ho theos hēmōn kyrios heis estin,29 Jesus answered that "first is, Hear Israel, Lord the God of us Lord, there is one Lord,29 Jesus gave him this answer: "This is the first: Hear Israel, the Lord our God is the only Lord,
    30 καὶ ἀγαπήσεις κύριον τὸν θεόν σου ἐξ ὅλης τῆς καρδίας σου καὶ ἐξ ὅλης τῆς ψυχῆς σου καὶ ἐξ ὅλης τῆς διανοίας σου καὶ ἐξ ὅλης τῆς ἰσχύος σου.30 kai agapēseis kyrion ton theon sou ex holēs tēs kardias sou kai ex holēs tēs psychēs sou kai ex holēs tēs dianoias sou kai ex holēs tēs ischyos sou.30 and you shall love Lord your God from all your heart and from all your soul and from all your mind and from all your strength.30 and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your understanding, and with all your heart, all your strength.
    31 δευτέρα αὕτη• ἀγαπήσεις τὸν πλησίον σου ὡς σεαυτόν. μείζων τούτων ἄλλη ἐντολὴ οὐκ ἔστιν.31 deutera hautē• agapēseis ton plēsion sou hōs seauton. meizōn toutōn allē entolē ouk estin.31 Second this: you shall love your neighbor as yourself. Greater than these, there is not another commandment."31 And this is the second: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is no other command greater than these".
    32 καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ ὁ γραμματεύς• καλῶς, διδάσκαλε, ἐπʼ ἀληθείας εἶπες ὅτι εἷς ἐστιν καὶ οὐκ ἔστιν ἄλλος πλὴν αὐτοῦ•32 kai eipen autō ho grammateus• kalōs, didaskale, ep' alētheias eipes hoti heis estin kai ouk estin allos plēn autou•32 And said to him the scribe, "Rightly, teacher, upon truth you said that One He is and there is not another except him.32 The Bible scholar continues, "All right, master, you were right to say that He is the only one, and besides Him there is nothing else.
    33 καὶ τὸ ἀγαπᾶν αὐτὸν ἐξ ὅλης τῆς καρδίας καὶ ἐξ ὅλης τῆς συνέσεως καὶ ἐξ ὅλης τῆς ἰσχύος καὶ τὸ ἀγαπᾶν τὸν πλησίον ὡς ἑαυτὸν περισσότερόν ἐστιν πάντων τῶν ὁλοκαυτωμάτων καὶ θυσιῶν.33 kai to agapan auton ex holēs tēs kardias kai ex holēs tēs syneseōs kai ex holēs tēs ischyos kai to agapan ton plēsion hōs heauton perissoteron estin pantōn tōn holokautōmatōn kai thysiōn.33 And to love him from all the heart and from all the understanding and from all the strength and to love the neighbor as oneself is more important than the burnt offerings and the sacrifices."33 Moreover, to love Him with all his heart, with all his capacity for discernment and all his strength, and to love the neighbor as himself, all this is greater than all the animal sacrifices and all the offerings to temple".
    34 καὶ ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἰδὼν [αὐτὸν] ὅτι νουνεχῶς ἀπεκρίθη εἶπεν αὐτῷ• οὐ μακρὰν εἶ ἀπὸ τῆς βασιλείας τοῦ θεοῦ. καὶ οὐδεὶς οὐκέτι ἐτόλμα αὐτὸν ἐπερωτῆσαι.34 kai ho Iēsous idōn [auton] hoti nounechōs apekrithē eipen autō• ou makran ei apo tēs basileias tou theou. kai oudeis ouketi etolma auton eperōtēsai.34 And the Jesus having seen him that wisely he answered, said to him, "Not far are you from the kingdom of the God. And no one no longer was daring to question him.34 At that point, remarking that he had responded wisely, Jesus said to him, "You are not far from the world of God". And no one was daring to question him.

  1. Analysis of each verse

    v. 28 After hearing his discussion with the Sadducees and recognizing that he had answered them well, one of the Bible scholar approached Jesus to question him: "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?"

    Literally: And having come near one of the scribes, having heard them discussing, having seen that well he answered them, he questioned him, "Which is the first commandment of all?"

Bible scholar
It is likely that the biblical scholar shared the Pharisees' view that there was a resurrection of the dead, unlike the Sadducees. It is understandable that he might have been pleased with Jesus' response to the Sadducees and felt an affinity with Jesus.
Of all the commandments, which is the most important?
Why ask such a question? It implies that there were so many commandments that it was difficult to prioritize them. In fact, the Talmud (tractate Makot 23b) teaches us that there are 613 commandments in the Torah; 248 Positive Commandments ("do") and 365 Negative Commandments ("do not"). In this context, one can imagine the difficulty of establishing what was really essential and important.

commandments
The word "commandment" refers us to God's 10 commandments and could have a negative connotation: prohibitions to be respected. The Hebrew word mitswah could of course be used to refer to a prohibition (Lev 4:2), but it has a broader meaning: the clauses of a contract (Jer 32:11), a testament (Gen 50:16), parents' recommendations for the conduct of life (Prov 6:20). It is rarely used in the Old Testament to speak of God's relationship with humans. For example, the first account of Yahweh's giving of the law to Moses does not speak of 10 commandments, but of 10 words. It is Deuteronomy that speaks of commandments when it retells this story, but at the same time let us note the reason for this gift of commandments: for your happiness (Deut 6:13).

The face that emerges from Jesus here is that of a teacher or master. In the gospels, the face of Jesus alternates between that of the wise man who teaches, as is the case here, and that of the prophet who challenges.

The question of commandments is very important to a Jew. For Judaism emphasizes orthopraxy, rather than orthodoxy, i.e. it is more important to do the right thing than to have the right ideas.

v. 29 Jesus gave him this answer: "This is the first: Hear Israel, the Lord our God is the only Lord,

Literally: Jesus answered that "first is, Hear Israel, Lord the God of us Lord, there is one Lord,

v. 30 and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your understanding, and with all your heart, all your strength.

Literally: and you shall love Lord your God from all your heart and from all your soul and from all your mind and from all your strength.

 
Jesus' answer simply repeats the prayer that a devout Jew recited twice a day, morning and evening, called Shemâ Israel (Hear Israel), which in fact is copied from Deuteronomy 6:4-5: Hear, O Israel: Yahweh our God is the only Yahweh. You shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might.

In a way, Jesus' answer is simple and returns the listener to a familiar reality. This is typical of Jesus' practice of never taking us into a world of mysterious things that we would not understand, but rather bringing us back to a familiar world in order to better understand it.

One might ask: why put the recognition of the oneness of God and the unconditional attachment to this reality in the first place?

  • It is understandable that a dictator, a tyrant or a guru would make unconditional attachment to his person the first commandment: it allows him to obtain the complete submission of people who have become slaves and to rule without opposition. Is this what Jesus proposes? Certainly not, if we are to believe the whole of his message and his life.

  • Should we understand this priority in the sense of a priority of religion, as we see a lot of it nowadays in the Muslim world. Recently, Mohamed Morsi, the recently elected president of Egypt, said in the face of the scandal caused by a film denigrating Islam (the innocence of Muslims), "The freedom of men ends where the law of God begins." In other words, religion and religious laws take precedence over everything human, including human freedom. Is this what Jesus is saying when he takes up the Shemâ Israel? I don't think so. Again, this would be contrary to everything he taught and did.

  • In my opinion, one cannot understand the priority given to the Shema Israel, the oneness of God and the unconditional attachment to this reality without first observing this: God is a reality that eludes us; we are faced with an infinite mystery. Whoever claims to know who God is is not talking about God, but about an idol. This is why faith in the oneness of God is so difficult; for Israel it was a long and difficult journey. For to affirm the oneness of God is to reject all the absolutes that can be part of a life: power, money, authority, pleasures, honor, glory, laws, etc. In other words, to affirm the oneness of God is to be free from all these things, not that they have no value, but they are not God, and therefore cannot be absolutes. Jesus was a free being, even in relation to the religious laws of Judaism.

  • When we accept that God is unique, and therefore that we cannot "possess" him, that he is a reality to be discovered little by little each day, knowing that we will never totally succeed, we accept to walk. It is a difficult journey, because we have more questions than answers: if God exists, why does he let innocent people die in catastrophes? Why do I have this disease? Why are we born so dependent and die so dependent? Why does history seem to unfold as if God is powerless? Why are the defenders of God the worst tyrants? Who is this mysterious being that no one has seen, that seems so absent, that we call God? When one accepts this path, one gradually frees oneself from the absolutes of the past to open up to a new reality. This is why the oneness of God is the foundation of everything else, the first statement. The first commandment cannot be understood without the first statement.

  • "You shall love the Lord your God..." Why this future tense? Of course, it is a way of formulating a request, a roundabout way of giving an order: you will put the turkey in the oven, you will ask for forgiveness. But in a relationship to God, it is much more the reference to a journey: learning to love is the work of a lifetime.

v. 31 And this is the second: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is no other command greater than these".

Literally: Second this: you shall love your neighbor as yourself. Greater than these, there is not another commandment."

 
What does it mean to be second? In life, when you are second, it means this: you are not so bad, but there is someone who is better than you. Or, in the order of priorities, one comes before the other. In other words, if you have to choose in a conflict, one comes before the other. Is this what Jesus meant when he said that the one is first and the other is second? First of all, let us notice that the Bible scholar did not ask Jesus for an order of priority, he simply said: which is more important or first. Let's assume, then, that Jesus is answering this very question, and that the two commandments are part of the most important or first commandment. In this case, the word "second" does not mean less important, but a second dimension of the most important commandment. In short, the first and second commandments are equally important, and are two facets of the same reality.

We read in the first epistle of John (4, 20): "If anyone says, 'I love God' and hates his brother, he is a liar: he who does not love his brother, whom he sees, cannot love the God whom he does not see." In other words, one can only love God through one's neighbor, otherwise we maintain a great illusion. When Taliban kill people in the name of loving Allah, they are maintaining a great illusion.

"You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Here Jesus picks up on Leviticus 19:18: "You shall not take revenge or hold a grudge against the children of your people. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am Yahweh." But still, one may ask: why the expression "as thyself"? First of all, the very fact of adding this expression puts us in front of a measure, i.e. to what extent should we love our neighbor? The same measure we use for ourselves. Leviticus probably intended to make the Jewish listener understand that the neighbor was another self, sharing the same blood, and therefore that no distinction should be made between self and other in one's moral behavior. But modern psychology opens up a new perspective: there is a correlation between self-love and love for the other; reconciling with oneself, opening oneself to what one is and accepting it in love is the foundation of the ability to love the other. Otherwise, we delude ourselves about our love for others.

What is love? I remember my parents' frustrated reaction to seeing their religious world disappear with Vatican and exclaiming with a dejected look, "Love, love, today we only talk about love." Yet, to love is the most difficult reality in the world. When we love, we seek the good, the good for ourselves, the good for others. And to seek the good is to ensure that the person's needs are met. We must not confuse desires and needs. To distinguish between them, we must use the Timbuktu principle (a city in the middle of Mali in Africa), which states: is what we want also something that a man in Timbuktu wants? For example, is wanting to eat also something that a man in Timbuktu wants? The answer is: of course. But is wanting an apple pie also something that a man in Timbuktu wants? Not necessarily. In a word, in need there is something universal. To love, requires a lot of intelligence, because to discern the needs of each person requires a lot of insight. For we can love badly, i.e. have the impression of filling someone's need when we are doing him more harm than good. We are far from a romantic vision of love.

I remember the reaction of an elderly person who said something like this: if things are so bad in our world, it is because we have forgotten to teach the commandments of God, especially this one: "You shall not kill". In this context, it is remarkable that Jesus does not mention it (although he does mention it in his answer to a rich man who asked him what he must do to have eternal life, cf. Mk 10:19). But let us recognize that emphasizing the love of God and neighbor is more important, because not only does it imply that one does not kill, but it also gives the reason for not killing: because I want to love. A negative commandment only makes sense in the perspective of a positive commandment.

The genius of Jesus is to bring together in an original way these two precepts of love of God and love of neighbor, otherwise isolated in the Old Testament. Among all the precepts and all the prohibitions, he knows how to clean up to find the essential.

v. 32 The Bible scholar continues, "All right, master, you were right to say that He is the only one, and besides Him there is nothing else.

Literally: And said to him the scribe, "Rightly, teacher, upon truth you said that One He is and there is not another except him.

 
The Bible scholar's answer is surprising: in supporting Jesus' answer, he does not go back to his question of the most important or the first, but rather emphasizes the content of the statement: God is unique and apart from Him there is nothing else. Why is this so? One senses a resistance to doing as Jesus did and summarizing orthopraxis under a single umbrella; he seems to hold to the 613 commandments. By simply endorsing the oneness of God, he avoids getting wet on this thorny question of what is most important and simply repeats a point on which all Israel agreed.

v. 33 Moreover, to love Him with all his heart, with all his capacity for discernment and all his strength, and to love the neighbor as himself, all this is greater than all the animal sacrifices and all the offerings to temple".

Literally: And to love him from all the heart and from all the understanding and from all the strength and to love the neighbor as oneself is more important than the burnt offerings and the sacrifices."

 
The originality of the biblical scholar's answer lies in the affirmation that love of God and neighbor is worth more than all those offerings that a pious Jew could make in the temple. In this he repeats what certain passages in the Old Testament already said, for example:
  • Proverbs 21:3 To do justice and righteousness is better to the LORD than sacrifice
  • Hosea 6: 6 For I am pleased with love, not with sacrifice, with the knowledge of God rather than with burnt offerings
  • 1 Samuel 15:22 But Samuel said, "Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obedience to the word of the LORD? Yes, obedience is better than sacrifice, docility is better than the fat of rams.
But here again he does not say that love of neighbor is the first commandment, but that it is better than all the sacrifices in the temple. One might say that this is easy to say, since he is a layman and not a priest, and therefore does not profit from the temple offerings. A priest would certainly have reacted to this Bible scholar's comment.

v. 34 At that point, remarking that he had responded wisely, Jesus said to him, "You are not far from the world of God". And no one was daring to question him.

Literally: And the Jesus having seen him that wisely he answered, said to him, "Not far are you from the kingdom of the God. And no one no longer was daring to question him.

Not far are you from the kingdom of the God
Question: if he is not far away, what else is missing? To answer this question, there are two perspectives to consider: that of Jesus, and that of Mark. Let's start with Jesus' perspective. Unfortunately, I don't know if this phrase can be traced back to Jesus, because it lacks multiple attestations: Matthew and Luke pick up on Mark, and John has nothing to echo it. Nevertheless, if Jesus could have said something similar, the meaning he would give to his phrase would be something like this: you have understood the essential values of life, but you have not yet become aware of the wonderful news that God is intervening to gather Israel together and make it great again. In other words, what you don't know is God's extraordinary initiative. The second perspective is that of Mark who composed this gospel. By noting the fact that the biblical scholar is missing something when he is writing around the year 65 or 70, he is probably referring to two things: first, the good news of God's intervention in our world comes through Jesus, the promised Messiah, but also, this good news of a renewed world involves suffering and death first. In short, according to Mark, the Bible scholar is not far from God's world, but he might add that he is light years away from it.

And no one was daring to question him.
Why did they no longer dare to question him? For Mark, this story marks the end of "trick" questions to Jesus and of disputes with the audience. We must imagine that no one has really succeeded in embarrassing him, and from now on he will only be stopped by repressive action.

  1. Analysis of the narrative's structure

    1. Difficult question or trap of a Bible scholar: which is the greatest of all the commandments?
    2. Jesus' answer
      1. The first is that God is unique and that you will love him with all your being
      2. The second is to love your neighbor as yourself
    3. Bible scholar's feedback to Jesus' answer: You are right
    4. Jesus' feedback to the words of the Bible scholar: You are not far from God's world
    5. Conclusion: no one dares to question him anymore

    Although the question may seem difficult, the biblical scholar does not really appear as an opponent, but as the best representative of the Jewish world. But even the best representative falls short of what Jesus teaches.

  2. Context Analysis

    • Triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem (11:1-11) from Bethphage and Bethany
      1. Jesus rides on a donkey to enter Jerusalem
      2. People spread their clothes or foliage in his path
      3. The vanguard and the rearguard of the procession shout: "Hosanna! Blessed in the name of the Lord is he who comes!"
      4. Jesus goes to the temple to see what is happening, then returns to Bethany

    • The barren fig tree (11:13-14). The next day, Jesus curses a fig tree because it bears no figs while he is hungry

    • The sellers driven out of the temple (11:15-19). Then he goes to the temple to drive out the sellers and buyers, saying: My house shall be called a house of prayer, before returning to Bethany in the evening.

    • The withered fig tree (11:20-26). The next day, on the way to Jerusalem, Peter shows Jesus the fig tree from the previous day, now dried up, and Jesus responds with an invitation to trusting prayer and forgiveness of offenses.

    • Dispute over Jesus' authority (11:27-33). In the temple, the high priests, Bible scholars, and elders question Jesus' authority to act as he did the day before, but Jesus replies by asking about the authority of John the Baptist's baptism.

    • Parable of the murderous vinedressers (12:1-12). Jesus tells the parable of the vinedressers who kill the beloved son of the owner of a vineyard in hopes of inheriting it, but they will be rejected by that owner.

    • Dispute over the tax due to Caesar (12:13-17). Pharisees and Herodians throw him the trick question about the tax due to the Roman conquerors, only to be told that if they use this money, they must follow this logic to the end, but that their faith in God must reach a much deeper level of their being.

    • Dispute over the resurrection of the dead (12:18-27). The Sadducees try to ridicule Jesus' belief in the resurrection of the dead with a story about a woman who had many husbands, only to be told that they are in error, for God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.

    • Dispute over the first commandment (12:28-34). A Bible scholar asks him about the most important of all the commandments, only to be told that it is love of the one God and of his neighbor, to which he agrees.

    • The Messiah and David (12:35-37). In the temple, Jesus challenges the Bible scholars' perception of a Messiah who is the son of David.

    • Warning against the Bible scholars (12:38-40). Jesus rebukes them for behaving only to be seen, playing important men and appearing pious, while they devour the property of widows.

    • The offering of the poor widow (12:41-44). As Jesus watches people give money in the temple, he points out to the disciples that it is the gift of a poor widow that is most valuable.

    • Great eschatological discourse (13:1-37). Jesus announces the ruin of the temple, as well as the time and sign of the event to end with a call to watch.

    We can make some considerations about the context:

    • Everything happens in Jerusalem and around the temple.
    • The fig tree represents the temple: Jesus expected fruit from it, but it proved barren, hence the prophetic gesture of driving out the merchants and announcing its future ruin.
    • In the temple, we witness a series of confrontations or disputes between Jesus and the religious authorities: he is being asked various questions to test him
    • Our text on the greatest commandment is the last of these disputes: it seems to take place in a peaceful atmosphere, but Jesus nevertheless emphasizes the gap that remains.
    • The whole context is that of an ultimate dispute between Jesus and the religious authorities which announces the drama of his arrest and execution.

  3. Parallels

    What follows is a literal translation of parallel texts of Mark, Matthiew and Luke. We have underlined words from Mark that also appear in the other evangelists, and we have colored in blue words in Luke and Matthew that are similar. Partially colored or underlined words indicate the same word, but in a different tense or form.

    Mark 12Matthew 22Luke 20Luke 10
    28a And having come near one of the scribes, having heard them discussing, having seen that well he answered them, he questioned him, 34 Then the Pharisees, having heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, were gathered in the same (place). 35 And questioned (him) one of them, a lawyer, testing him,39a Then, having answered, some of the scribes said,25a And behold a certain lawyer stood up testing him, saying,
    28b "Which is the first commandment of all?"36 "Teacher, which commandment the greatest in the law?" 25b "Teacher, what having done will I inherit eternal life?"
    29 Jesus answered that "first is, Hear Israel, Lord the God of us Lord, there is one Lord,37a Then, him he declared to him, 26 Then, him said toward him, "In the law what has been written, how do you read?" 27a Then, him having answered he said,
    30 and you shall love Lord your God from all your heart and from all your soul and from all your mind and from all your strength.37b "you shall love Lord your God in all your heart and in all your soul and in all your mind. 27b "you shall love Lord your God from all your heart and in all your soul and in your strength and in all your mind.
     38 This is the great and first commandment"  
    31a Second this: you shall love your neighbor as yourself. 39 Then, second like this: you shall love your neighbor as yourself. 27c and your neighbor as yourself."
    31b Greater than these, there is not another commandment."40 In these two commandments all the law hang and the prophets."  
    32 And said to him the scribe, "Rightly, teacher, upon truth you said that One He is and there is not another except him. 39b "Teacher, you have said rightly" 
    33 And to love him from all the heart and from all the understanding and from all the strength and to love the neighbor as oneself is more important than the burnt offerings and the sacrifices."   
    34a And the Jesus having seen him that wisely he answered, said to him, "Not far are you from the kingdom of the God.  28 Then, he said to him, "you have answered correctly. Do this and you will live".
    34b And no one no longer was daring to question him. 40 For no longer they were not daring to question on anything. 
       29 Then, him, wanting to justify himself said towards the Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"

    We can make some considerations about these parallels:

    • The context of the narrative is similar in Mark and Matthew: it follows a dispute with the Sadducees about the resurrection of the dead in Jerusalem. In Luke, on the other hand, only 20:39-40 (which we put at the beginning and end) is related to this context. Otherwise, the heart of his account is not in Jerusalem like Mark and Matthew, but in Galilee, where Jesus has sent his disciples on a mission and speaks to them about discipleship. Moreover, Luke's account is followed by the parable of the Good Samaritan.

    • The interlocutor who asks Jesus the question varies in the three evangelists: a scribe in Mark, a Pharisee in Matthew, a lawyer in Luke

    • The motive for the question also varies: in Matthew and Luke, the motive is testing, to set a trap, but not for Mark for whom it is a gesture of good will.

    • The content of the question also varies: in Mark and Matthew the question is related the first or greatest commandment, while in Luke it asks what must be done to have eternal life.

    • Jesus' response also varies. It seems similar in Mark and Matthew, yet there are notable differences. Mark takes up the Israel Shema, that daily Jewish prayer, which speaks first of the oneness of God. Matthew moves immediately to the love of God. In Luke, on the other hand, it is the lawyer who must answer his question.

    • The reaction to Jesus' response also varies. In Mark, the scribe echoes the content of Jesus' response to express his agreement. In Matthew, the narrative ends without any reaction. In Luke, it is the lawyer who has answered his own question, and therefore cannot have a reaction to Jesus' words. But what he says is essentially what the scribe says in Mark.

    • Afterwards, only Mark and Luke have similar points: the reaction of Jesus to the words of his interlocutor to say that he has spoken well. On the other hand, in Luke Jesus adds a form of exhortation: do this and you will live.

    • This questioning in Luke reopens the discussion since the lawyer asks: And who is my neighbor? This new question of the lawyer is followed by the parable of the Good Samaritan.

    • Finally, the mention that they no longer dare to question Jesus appears only in Mark and Luke, but in completely different contexts: in Mark this sentence concludes the last dispute about the greatest commandment, whereas in Luke it concludes the dispute with the Sadducees about the resurrection of the dead.

    What can we conclude from this synoptic comparison?

    • It is possible that summarizing all Jewish laws in terms of love of the one God and love of neighbor goes back to the historical Jesus. But the way each evangelist reuses this statement shows that they put it at the service of their theology: Luke to introduce the parable of the Good Samaritan, Matthew to emphasize the opposition of the Jews, especially the Pharisees, Mark to remind us that despite its greatness, Judaism is short of Jesus' message.

    • Note that Jesus' interlocutor in Mark is presented under a favorable light, because his question is not a trick question as in Matthew and Luke. Moreover, Mark is careful to insist that the scribe agrees with Jesus' answer and Jesus goes so far as to say that he is not far from the kingdom of God. But having said that, he still lacks something that only Jesus brings.

  4. Current situations or events in which we could read this text

    • The Muslim world and the full application of Sharia law
    • The conservative movement in the Catholic Church calling for the return of traditional laws
    • Orthodox Jews insisting on multiple Mosaic laws
    • The business world that embraces a completely different set of values
    • The current stock market and people's confusion
    • A morality marked more by fear than by love in many people
    • The gurus of today's world who each propose their own recipe for the happiness and fulfillment of people
    • If the important thing is love of God and neighbor, what is the use of religion and religious institutions?
    • With its emphasis on love of God and neighbor, is Christianity no longer original?
    • With NGOs and all the charities, do we still need God?

 

-André Gilbert, Gatineau, October 2012