Loving Others: Two Formulas
Our Savior, when someone inquired, "Which is the first commandment of all?", answered by the formula of the Shema, with its Deuteronomic injunction that a man must love God with all his heart and being. Then Jesus, although no one pressed him further, thought it important to add that there is, in fact, a similar second commandment—this one from Leviticus—obligating human beings to love their neighbors as themselves. Perhaps most significant in this juxtaposition of mandates is the fact that both of them employ the same verb for "love," agapao.
It is instructive to observe that the Septuagint, Israel's Greek translation of the Scriptures, used this identical verb in both of the passages to which Jesus alludes (Deut. 6:5; Lev. 19:18). What is new here is the Lord's joining of these two commandments in a way that makes them inseparable (cf. 1 John 4:20–21).
Now with respect to the "second" commandment, the New Testament speaks of it in two forms. The first and dominant form is the Lord's direct quotation from Leviticus: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." This is how the commandment is expressed in multiple sources: James (2:8), Paul (Rom. 13:8–10; Gal. 5:14), and all the Synoptic Gospels (Matt. 19:19; 22:39; Mark 12:31; Luke 10:27).
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Patrick Henry Reardon is pastor emeritus of All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago, Illinois, and the author of numerous books, including, most recently, Out of Step with God: Orthodox Christian Reflections on the Book of Numbers (Ancient Faith Publishing, 2019).
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