Archive for November 3rd, 2011
“The whole law and the prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:40 (R. T. France)
Whole – How much of the Torah hangs on the two weightier commandments “love God” and “love your neighbor”? Holos – all of it! Agreed? Now think about what this means. If Yeshua is correct, then every one of the 613 Torah commandments, and all of the instructions that He Himself gives, can be interpreted through the two conjoining principles – love God and love your neighbor. Don’t know why you should not eat shrimp? Apply the principles. Don’t know why you should return collateral to a man in desperate need? Apply the principles. Don’t understand why God cares about what you wear? Apply the principles. Every one of the 613 is either about loving God (obedience is better than sacrifice) or about loving God by expressing that love toward another. In other words, the rest of the 611 are merely examples of how you apply these two. They aren’t the limit of all you can do to express these two, but they are specific applications in all kinds of life situations. These two great commandments are the reasons why we do all the rest of the 611. It would be simply impossible to demonstrate that the only requirements Yeshua expected were these two. They point to everything else.
Yesterday we read that R. T. France recognized the stupidity of claiming “all you need is love.” But we need to notice one disturbing comment that France makes along the way. He says that Matthew’s rendition of this statement by Yeshua includes the Greek term dianoia, not dynamis. That means Matthew’s English translation says “with all your mind (your thinking)” not “with all your strength” (Hebrew me’od – resources). Since the quotation comes from Deuteronomy 6:5, this change is striking. Certainly Matthew knew that the Hebrew me’od meant resources, possessions or strength, not thinking. France comments, “The resultant list [in Matthew] has a rather more ‘internal’ feel as compared with the more practical implications of loving God with one’s strength or possessions.” What would motivate Matthew to make this change?
I see two possibilities. Since Matthew was originally written in Hebrew and later translated into Greek, we need to ask what Hebrew word might have been behind this Greek dianoia. One suggestion is madda, a word phonetically close to me’od. Madda eliminates the ambiguity involved in me’od (see our previous studies and this one). It’s possible that Matthew changed the original Hebrew me’od in order to remove the ambiguity. It’s possible, but I think, unlikely. Matthew writes to an audience quite familiar with the Tanakh. That audience would have understood the nuances of me’od. There was no reason for Matthew to change the word to fit his audience (as is so popular among translators today). I find it much more plausible that the second possibility is the correct one. The translator of Matthew’s original Hebrew gospel altered the word. It seems to me entirely unreasonable to suggest Matthew didn’t know the original Hebrew me’od and that Matthew intentionally changed the word Yeshua used (me’od). It seems much more likely that a translator would stumble over me’od, a word that has no exact parallel in Greek, and that consequently, the translator substituted another Greek word that fit the Greek view of Man, namely body, mind and soul. By the way, we continue to embrace this same alteration when we speak about loving God with all of our “heart, mind and soul.” That is entirely Greek, not Hebrew.
Now let’s notice Melanchthon sitting in the corner. Melanchthon’s view of faith amounted to inner confidence. In his theology, believing was a “heart” action no longer directly connected to external evidence. France only reiterates what Melanchthon and Luther started 500 years ago when they pushed faith into the inner sanctum of the mind. When faith becomes an inner feeling, the need for the commandments goes out the window. As long as I have love in my heart, does it really matter if I have a shrimp salad?
It would have mattered to Yeshua. If we read these great two commandments in the context of first century Judaism, we must conclude that expressions of obedience and demonstrations of benevolence are vital and inextricable components of love. Feelings in the heart are worthless without tangible evidence of transformed behavior. Having a good feeling about God is about as useful as having an imaginary dollar in my pocket. Neither makes much difference in the world. Changing Matthew’s Hebrew from me’od to the Greek dianoia only initiated a long road to theological psychology, not Torah observance. And we are the victims of this tragic fraud. Now we have lots and lots of imaginary dollars which we believe will buy our way into heaven.
Topical Index: Torah, great, commandment, Melanchthon, me’od, dianoia, mind, Matthew 22:40
 R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew, pp. 845-846.