“Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together.
One of them, an expert of the Law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”
Presumably, countless debates, questions and ponderings, through the centuries, by teachers of the Law and their acolytes, had yielded no one settled answer. The purpose (test) of the question, intentionally posed to Jesus, was to reignite this debate and show Jesus up.
Immediately and unequivocally, Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment.”
Jesus’ answer was to focus his hearers back to their covenantal relationship that their ancestors had made with God at Sinai, by referencing words in the first part of the Shema.
Having addressed the great commandment as the first, Jesus went beyond the question of the great commandment, and followed through with an insight that he hoped his hearers would consider, grasp and embrace.
“And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’”
And in case some would think that after the second would come the third and so forth, Jesus ended his discourse with this summation: ““On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
Note the recorded verb ‘hang’ (κρέμανται –kremantai), with its meaning of ‘be suspended from’. The picture in my mind is one of two beams of wood joined together (the two commandments) with two pots (the law pot and the prophets pot) being suspended from them.
The beams are above the pots. The purpose of the two commandments was to direct the people into the path of love and loving God and each other, such being above all the Law and the Prophets (prophetic utterances).
These two great commandments were but preparatory tools introducing, guiding, teaching and constraining Israel to learn to love God and each other within the law, to love under the law. Lest we forget, when these commandments and the Law were given, Israel had just come out of Egypt, having been a nation of slaves for more than a couple of centuries. Yet, slavery into freedom into a covenantal relationship took only a few months.
As such, Israel needed to be guided, like a child, through this paradigm shift towards being a special treasure to God above all peoples, a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. Hence the Law and the Prophets were given to Israel.
Nevertheless, being commandments, love and loving were obligations that had to be fulfilled. Nothing could change the fact and reality that, in the first, Israel had to love, rather than having chosen freely and willingly to love. Even if at a later stage, Israel chose to love, willingly and freely, from the first, having been commanded to love, Israel cannot but love. Israel under the two commandments had a duty to love and loving. Does it mean that not loving, even for the briefest moment, Israel sins?
In respect of the second command, the perimeters of love and loving were relative and easily defined; how you would respond and treat yourself in love in any given moment.
Expressing love and loving in the first and great commandment is the enigma.
Is love and loving expressed and found in the strict observance of every letter of the Law, including keeping exacting standards of measurement, weight, colour, material, placement and burnt offerings and sacrifices?
What does loving with all or the whole of your heart mean?
What does loving with all or the whole of your soul mean?
What does loving with all or the whole of your mind mean?
What does loving with all or the whole of your might mean?
Only by loving, in the moment, with all and the whole of heart, soul, mind and might would one fulfil the great commandment. Does it mean then, that not being able to love with the whole of any one of them, in any moment, would already mean failure to fulfil the great commandment, in that moment? Does failure then mean sinning?
Could this have been in the mind of Paul the Apostle, a former Pharisee when he wrote: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”.
Is there a way out of this most onerous commandment?
I believe so.
 Sadducee, Hebrew Tzedoq, plural Tzedoqim, member of a Jewish priestly sect that flourished for about two centuries before the destruction of the Second Temple of Jerusalem in AD 70. Not much is known with certainty of the Sadducees’ origin and early history, but their name may be derived from that of Zadok, who was high priest in the time of kings David and Solomon. Ezekiel later selected this family as worthy of being entrusted with control of the Temple, and Zadokites formed the Temple hierarchy down to the 2nd century BC.
The Sadducees were the party of high priests, aristocratic families, and merchants—the wealthier elements of the population. They came under the influence of Hellenism, tended to have good relations with the Roman rulers of Palestine, and generally represented the conservative view within Judaism. While their rivals, the Pharisees, claimed the authority of piety and learning, the Sadducees claimed that of birth and social and economic position. During the long period of the two parties’ struggle—which lasted until the Romans’ destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD—the Sadducees dominated the Temple and its priesthood.
The Sadducees and Pharisees were in constant conflict with each other, not only over numerous details of ritual and the Law but most importantly over the content and extent of God’s revelation to the Jewish people. The Sadducees refused to go beyond the written Torah (first five books of the Bible) and thus, unlike the Pharisees, denied the immortality of the soul, bodily resurrection after death, and the existence of angelic spirits. For the Sadducees, the Oral Law—i.e., the vast body of post-biblical Jewish legal traditions—meant next to nothing. By contrast, the Pharisees revered the Torah but further claimed that oral tradition was part and parcel of Mosaic Law. Because of their strict adherence to the Written Law, the Sadducees acted severely in cases involving the death penalty, and they interpreted literally the Mosaic principle of lex talionis (“an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”).
Though the Sadducees were conservative in religious matters, their wealth, their haughty bearing, and their willingness to compromise with the Roman rulers aroused the hatred of the common people. As defenders of the status quo, the Sadducees viewed the ministry of Jesus with considerable alarm and apparently played some role in his trial and death. Their lives and political authority were so intimately bound up with Temple worship that after Roman legions destroyed the Temple, the Sadducees ceased to exist as a group, and mention of them quickly disappeared from history. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Sadducee
The Sadducees, ……. refused to accept any precept as binding unless it was based directly on the Torah—i.e., the Written Law. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Pharisee
 Pharisee, member of a Jewish religious party that flourished in Palestine during the latter part of the Second Temple period (515 BCE–70 CE). Their insistence on the binding force of oral tradition (“the unwritten Torah”) still remains a basic tenet of Jewish theological thought. When the Mishna (the first constituent part of the Talmud) was compiled about 200 CE, it incorporated the teachings of the Pharisees on Jewish law…The Pharisees (Hebrew: Perushim) emerged as a distinct group shortly after the Maccabean revolt, about 165–160 BCE; they were, it is generally believed, spiritual descendants of the Hasideans. The Pharisees emerged as a party of laymen and scribes in contradistinction to the Sadducees—i.e., the party of the high priesthood that had traditionally provided the sole leadership of the Jewish people. The basic difference that led to the split between the Pharisees and the Sadducees lay in their respective attitudes toward the Torah (the first five books of the Bible) and the problem of finding in it answers to questions and bases for decisions about contemporary legal and religious matters arising under circumstances far different from those of the time of Moses.
The Pharisees,….. believed that the Law that God gave to Moses was twofold, consisting of the Written Law and the Oral Law—i.e., the teachings of the prophets and the oral traditions of the Jewish people. Whereas the priestly Sadducees taught that the written Torah was the only source of revelation, the Pharisees admitted the principle of evolution in the Law: men must use their reason in interpreting the Torah and applying it to contemporary problems.
Rather than blindly follow the letter of the Law even if it conflicted with reason or conscience, the Pharisees harmonized the teachings of the Torah with their own ideas or found their own ideas suggested or implied in it. They interpreted the Law according to its spirit. When in the course of time a law had been outgrown or superseded by changing conditions, they gave it a new and more-acceptable meaning, seeking scriptural support for their actions through a ramified system of hermeneutics. It was due to this progressive tendency of the Pharisees that their interpretation of the Torah continued to develop and has remained a living force in Judaism.
 Revised Standard Version
 Compare Deutoronomy 6:5 “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.”
1. The Hebrew (Masoretic Text) version of Deuteronomy 6:5 states: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might (מְאֹד-m@`od - might, force, muchness and abundance [See Strong’s H3966]).”
2. The Greek Septuagint (by Sir Lancelot Charles Lee Brenton based on the Vaticanus) records Deuteronomy 6:5 as: “Love the Lord your God with all your mind(ἐξ ὅλης τῆς διανοίας σου) and with all your soul and with all your strength(δυνάμεώς).” Elpenor’s and other versions have the words with all your heart(ἐξ ὅλης τῆς καρδίας), with all your soul and with all your might(δυνάμεώς).”
3. No recorded version in and of the Old Testament has verbatim the words: “all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”
4. In Mark’s gospel (Mk 12:30), it was recorded that the question asked by the teacher of the law was: “ Which commandment is the first of all?”
Jesus’ reply “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength(ἰσχύος)”, has echoes and elements of Deuteronomy 6:5 but still not in verbatim.
5. In both the recorded replies of Jesus to which is the first and greatest commandment, it seems Jesus took partial elements from both the Hebrew and Brenton’s Greek versions of Deuteronomy 6:5. Or, is there another Text of the Old Testament that was in existence as Jesus would have probably answered in Hebrew – cf Luke10:25-28 (Even the lawyer’s question and answer (probably in Hebrew) Luke 10:25-28, affirmed by Jesus, has no verbatim equivalent in the Old Testament, and contains elements from both the Hebrew and Brenton’s Greek versions of Deuteronomy 6:5. Is this pointing again to another Hebrew Text that was being used?)
 Matthew 22:37,38 Revised Standard Version
 The Shema is one of only two prayers that are specifically commanded in Torah (the other is Birkat Ha-Mazon -- grace after meals). It is the oldest fixed daily prayer in Judaism, recited morning and night since ancient times. It consists of three biblical passages, two of which specifically say to speak of these things "when you lie down and when you rise up." www.jewfaq.org/shemaref.html.
In its entirety, the Shema consists of three paragraphs: Deuteronomy 6:4–9, Deuteronomy 11:13–21 and Numbers 15:37–41.
 Matthew 22:39 New International Version. Leviticus 19:18 “you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Revised Standard Version.
 Oxford Dictionary
 Take a look at “How Long Were the Israelites in Egypt? by David Wright on July 5, 2010 https://answersingenesis.org”
 Exodus 12:6, Exodus 19:1,2
 Exodus 19:5,6
 Romans 3:23 New International Version
I believe that the answer and the way out of this conundrum was provided by Jesus in the new commandment that he gave to his disciples as he celebrated his last Passover with them: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”
What is new about love and loving in this new commandment are the words: “even as I have loved you”. As a human being and a Jew, Jesus had to fulfil the commandment of” Love your neighbour as yourself”. If all that meant that he had loved them as he loved himself, then there is nothing new about this commandment, for it would only be fulfilling the second great commandment.
But if, what he meant was that as the WORD became flesh, the Incarnate Word, in Whom the fullness of Deity dwells, he loves them, for them to love one another, then this new commandment becomes a paradigm shift of understanding and experiencing love and loving.
In essence, what he is saying to them is, as you have experienced God’s love, as God has loved you, love one another accordingly.
I believe that John the Apostle grasped this in the words attributed to him in 1John, in particular 1John 4:11: “7 Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 He who does not love does not know God; for God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No man has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.”
The Author of 1John continues:
“God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 In this is love perfected with us, that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears is not perfected in love. 19 We love, because he first loved us.”
I believe that the new commandment is to love as God has loved us, to love as much as we have experienced God’s love for ourselves, within ourselves. As God has loved us, we are then to love one another.
But is God under any Command or Law to love us? I believe not. I believe there is no Command or Law above God. I believe that within the Triune Being and Nature of God, in the Triune relationship, there is always love one for the others, as it is written: “God is love”.
The new commandment is therefore an anomaly. It is a command to love freely and willingly without a command, as God loves. More than that it also provides us with an experiential reference to what love and loving is, unique to and for each person. Only as we have freely received love and loving from God, then and only then can and are we able to freely give love to another and to God. Only as we have received and experienced love from God in our heart, soul, mind and strength, are we able to begin to express love in same fashion in heart, soul, mind and strength to ourselves, each other, and to God.
It bears reiteration what the anomaly in this new commandment is: We are not to be and are not under any command to love and loving, even as Triune God, Father, Son and Spirit isn’t.
The preposition “as”, in the phrase “as I have loved you”, not only references the action and expression of love and loving but also addresses the source-origin and basis of and for love and loving. Here, the source-origin is not a command under the Law, but the Triune Divine, in and through the Incarnate Son, Who is not under any law or command to love.
The Son has come, through His Incarnation as a human being, to set us free, primarily to love and loving. And whom the Son sets free, that person is free indeed.
The apostle Paul seems to have caught a glimpse of this when he wrote concerning the fruit (καρπὸς-singular) of the Spirit of which love was one of the elements: “against such (τοιούτων- such things (plural)), there is no law.
As there is no Law, in this new relational matrix of love and loving, sin as a consequence of commands and laws cannot exist. Was Jesus also alluding to this in John 8:34-36: ““Truly, truly, I say to you, every one who commits sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not continue in the house for ever; the son continues for ever. 36 So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.”
With this in mind, I believe that all are called into this freedom of love and loving, not out of duty, but, at the first, out of choice and a willing heart, soul and mind, with all of our abilities, muchness and abundance. As much as we freely experience God’s love for ourselves, from God and each other, we can freely love God and each other in return. By and through this love and loving, we are enabled to experientially partake of the Divine nature of and in love and loving, in the Spirit, through the Son, with the Father. And in this partaking, be joined, in union oneness, with the Triune Divine. Freely as we have received, freely we are to give.
Jesus’ hope and prayer in the record of John 17:20-26 alludes to this:
“20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. 24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. 25 “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26 I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”
Are we game to rise to the challenge and embrace the grace of this new way of love and loving God, each other and ourselves?
With and in Jesus, I hope and pray so.
 John 13:34 Revised Standard Version
 ‘be made known’ See Strong’s G 5319
 Greek ἐν – literally meaning ‘in” see Strong’s G1722
 1John 4:7-12 Revised Standard Version
 1John 4:8,16 Revised Standard Version
 John 8:36
 Revised Standard Version
 John 17:20-26 New International Version