The Great Commandment

Here’s a post I thought apropos for Christmas Day, because we all remember whose birthday it is (other than Humphrey Bogart‘s, that is).

Many people think that the core of Christianity can be found in something called The Great Commandment. It’s really two commandments, and can be found in Matthew 22:35-40.

Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Perhaps “commandment” seems a little strong, but if you look at the underlying Greek you’ll find that the word used by “Matthew” and rendered by King James’s translators as “commandment” is ἐντολή, which is a very commanding word in Greek. Outside of the Christian scriptures it was used by Herodotus (in a verbal form) to describe an order given by the Persian King Cyrus to one of his subordinates.

This meaning raises a question, which no Christian in the past two thousand years has, to my mind anyway, successfully answered, or even raised.

Why on earth would we think of love as something that could be commanded?

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