Jan 20, 2012

Hamilton on the Greatest Commmandments

I have enjoyed dabbling in Victor Hamilton’s new Exodus commentary. In introducing his comments on the Ten Commandments, Hamilton discusses Jesus’ answer to the question of which commandment is the greatest (Matt 22:36; Mark 12:28) by noting that,

“Jesus answers his critic not by quoting any of the Ten Words, but rather first by quoting Deut. 6:5, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind’ (Matt. 22:37). Then Jesus proceeds to overanswer the query by offering the answer to an unsolicited question: “And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:39; Lev. 19:18).”

Hamilton then goes on to note:

Jesus appears to be doing three things when he answers the question the way he does. First, he changes laws that are primarily prohibitive into ones that are performative, from ‘you shall not’ to ‘you shall.’ Second, in the two parts of his answer, he is condensing the first four commandments (godward, vertical commandments) into one commandment, and contracting the remaining humanward, horizontal six commandments into one commandment. To love God that passionately rules out other gods and rules out the desecration of God’s name and day. To love one’s fellow neighbor unconditionally rules out disrespect, stealing, any violence against another, bearing false witness, or coveting. Third, Jesus is making, the point that at the heart of obedience to God is love. One obeys not out of fear, but out of love. In so speaking, he anticipates Paul’s ‘love is the fulfillment of the law’ (Rom. 13:10).”

Victor P. Hamilton, Exodus: An Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker), 2011), 321.

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