In the beginning

Bible hangs on Jesus’ two commandments of love

in the beginning

Father Mike Stubbs is the pastor of Holy Cross Parish in Overland Park and has a degree in Scripture from Harvard University.

by Father Mike Stubbs

Some words just go well together: salt and pepper, ying and yang, fish and chips. They just fit together.

Another pair of items frequently pops up in the New Testament: “the law and the prophets.” Specifically, these words appear in Mt 5:17, 7:12, 22:40; Lk 16:16, 24:44; Acts 13:15, 24:14 and 28:23.

This stock phrase occurs in Sunday’s Gospel reading, Mt 22:34-40. Jesus has just presented his twin commandments of love: love of God and love of neighbor. He then informs his audience: “The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

At the time of Jesus, these words referred to the two categories of Scripture that constituted the Bible for the Jewish people. It corresponded basically to what we now call the Old Testament.

The law, or Torah, was made up of the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. The second category, the prophets, is fairly self-explanatory, except that it also included books that we now classify as historical books, such as 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings and 2 Kings.

That is why the two figures of Moses and Elijah stood beside Jesus at the moment of his transfiguration (Mt 17:1-9, Mk 9:2-10, Lk 9: 28-36).

Moses, who gave the Ten Commandments, represented the law. Elijah, who was the first prophet, represented the prophets. Their appearance with Jesus indicated Jesus’ continuity with the law and the prophets, with the Old Testament.

The point that was made visually and through action at the transfiguration now is made verbally through Jesus’ teaching: “The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” Jesus is emphasizing the continuity of his teachings with the Old Testament.

In addition, Jesus is maintaining that the whole Bible depends upon his two commandments of love.

The whole Bible hangs upon these commandments of love, much as clothes might hang upon a peg. The many words of Scripture boil down to one thing. They express God’s will that we love God totally and completely, and that we love our neighbor as ourselves. God is all about love.

The question that prompts Jesus’ answer, however, does not ask for two commandments but, rather, for one.

Jesus’ two-for-one reply underlines the fundamental unity of the two commandments. They are inseparable, like Siamese twins. Divide them into two, and they will perish.

About the author

Fr. Mike Stubbs

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  • The first five commandments honor God, and if we loved him like Jesus said in His 1st commandment, Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind, we would be loving Him enough to keep His first four commandments, which includes Saturday Sabbath. This was Jesus most important command of all, to love our God. No I am not a Seventh Day Adventist. I belong to a non-denominational church. Jesus second commandment was a moral commandment, to love one another as theyself. If we loved everyone liked God loves us we would not even think of doing the next six commandments. Would you please help me as to why we don’t keep His 4th commandment? I am so worried about our Priests, Minsters and Pastors and anyone else who teaches different from God’s word. Jesus said in Matthew 5: 17 – 19; (Condensed); 17 Jesus did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it. 18 Till heaven and earth pass a way, nothing will pass from the Law until ALL be fulfilled. 19 Whoever breaks one of the least of the Commandments, AND TEACH MEN SO, SHALL BE LEAST IN THE KINGDON OF HEAVEN. Does that mean under Christ’s footstool? That is scary, I am really concerned that our teachers of today have been mislead and are misleading their flock. Again Please help me with this.