Quoted from Deuteronomy. 6:5.
“and so.” The Greek text has the conjunction kai, which is most often translated “and,” but which can have a number of meanings, depending on the context. One of those meanings is that it introduces a result from a preceding circumstance, thus can mean “and then” or “and so,” or as we would say, “so,” or “therefore” (see BDAG Greek-English Lexicon and Friberg’s Greek-English Lexicon). Rotherham has correctly picked up on the sense of the kai in this case, and seen that it makes a logical connection between the first quotation from the Old Testament and the second one, and translated it as “therefore” in The Emphasized Bible, and the Geneva Bible of 1599 also uses “therefore.” So translating the kai as “therefore,” or as “and so,” more clearly brings out the sense of what Jesus was saying and shows why he prefaced his quotation of Deuteronomy 6:5 by quoting Deuteronomy 6:4.
The original Hebrew phrase taken from Deuteronomy 6:5 also starts with the common conjunction that is most often translated “and” but has a number of different meanings, including “so” and “therefore” (Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew-English Lexicon), and the NAB says “therefore.”
The point that we must understand is that the “greatest commandment” is one single command, not two independent statements. There is not one statement that says that there is one God and a second statement that tells us to love Him. Yahweh alone is God so we are to love Him with “all” we are and have. If Yahweh was not God “alone,” not the only God, then we would have to divide our love between our different gods.
“love.” The verb “love,” agapaō, (#25 ἀγαπάω) is in the future tense, indicative mood, which here is being used idiomatically as a present imperative (see Robertson, Grammar, p. 330). The expert in the Law had asked Jesus what was the greatest commandment, and Jesus gave him (and us), a complete answer. Jesus made it clear that since there is only one God, therefore you must love Him with everything you have: all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
In the Greco-Roman culture surrounding the Jews, the people had many gods, and the people had to divide their love and worship between them. For that matter, many of the Jews had superstitions and regulations that had all but replaced a genuine relationship with the true God. Jesus made it clear that there is only one true God, and “therefore” we must love Him with “all” we have.
Given the implied “therefore,” and the fact that “love” is idiomatically an imperative, it would be correct to translate verses 29 and 30: “Jesus answered, ‘The first is, Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Therefore you must love Him with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’”
“and…and…and.” The elements in the command are each connected with “and,” which is the figure of speech polysyndeton (“many ands,” see Bullinger, Figures of Speech Used in the Bible). The figure polysyndeton places an “and” between each item in the list, and by that literary device emphasizes each thing in the list. Thus, when Jesus says we must love God “with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength,” he is specifically emphasizing each point in the list. In normal grammar only the last item on the list has the “and.”
In contrast to the figure polysyndeton, which emphasizes each item in the list, the figure of speech asyndeton (“no ands”) does not have the word “and” at all, even between the last two items in the list. This means that nothing in the list gets specific emphasis, but the readers are meant to see that while the things on the list are important enough to mention, it is the conclusion that God wants to get the emphasis, and He lets us know that by the figure asyndeton. So while the figure polysyndeton emphasizes each item in the list, the asyndeton emphasizes the conclusion (a good example of an asyndeton is the fruit of the spirit in Galatians. See commentary on Galatians 5:22).
There are many good examples of polysyndeton in the Bible, although sometimes the translators do not accurately bring it from the Hebrew or Greek into the English. A good example is Ephesians 1:21, which says that Jesus is seated at God’s right hand, “far above all rulership, and authority, and power, and lordship, and every name that is named.” In Luke 14:21 there is a polysyndeton in Jesus’ parable, which emphasizes each category of people. The head of the house says, “Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor and maimed and blind and lame.” In the same chapter, in Luke 14:13 and 14, Jesus was teaching and used an asyndeton to good effect. He said, “But when you make a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they do not have the means to repay you, for you will be repaid at the Resurrection of the Righteous.” The asyndeton deemphasizes the categories of people and puts the emphasis on the conclusion, “and you will be blessed.”
“soul.” See commentary on Matthew 22:37.
It is important to understand what the first and greatest commandment is and how the depth of the Hebrew language can be lost in translation. The first and greatest commandment is identified as the Shema in Deuteronomy. This teaching explores the meaning of the Shema.
Verses: Deut. 6:4-5; 1 Cor. 8:6
Teacher: John Schoenheit