1. When our Lord answered the Sadducees, who would not hear of the
resurrection, by proving it to them from the testimony of the Law, Matthew
tells us that Jesus silenced the Sadducees, willing to show us by this that
the brightness of truth will ever put to silence the bitter and injurious
voice of falsehood. As our Saviour by His teaching reduced the Sadducees to
silence, showing them with divine authority that their belief was false, so
will the followers of Christ ever do the same from the Scriptures, before
which, in accord with all sound learning, every voice of Pharaoh must be
dumb: that voice in which, glorying in himself, he said, The river is mine, and I made it, as is written in Ezechiel
(Ezech. xxix. 9).
The Sadducees therefore, who said there was no resurrection, questioned
the Saviour about things that were written; thinking to put Him to silence.
But neither Jesus nor His Disciples are at any time ever obstructed by
the impious. It was fitting therefore that the Sadducees should be put
to silence by Christ. For a just man will be silent, knowing that there
is a time to keep silence and a time to speak (Eccles. iii. 7);
yet he is not dumb. And while a just man will keep silence, though he is
not dumb, it is ever the way of Sadducees and of all who teach falsehood
to be dumb, but not to keep silence: For though dumb with respect to the
truth, they will nevertheless not be silent. So it was not to man, but
to the sea, the Lord said: Peace, be still; rebuking it when it
But now the Pharisees, who believed in the resurrection, hearing Jesus
had silenced the Sadducees, come together; they come together when the
truth of the resurrection has triumphed, who had not come together until
the Sadducees were silenced. But though they came together because the
proof of the resurrection had prevailed, nevertheless, one of them questioned
Him, not as wishing to learn from Him what he was asking, but as tempting
the Lord God. Everyone therefore who questions any bishop or teacher on
any article of faith, and questions him, not with a mind to learn, but
in order to trip him up, is to be regarded as a brother of this Pharisee
who sought by his question to tempt the Saviour. For all that is done to
the holy servants of Christ, whether by those who love them, or by those
who are their enemies, He takes wholly to Himself: for we must consider
what is not written in the Scriptures in the light of what was written.
For the sake of those who hunger and thirst it was written: I was hungry;
and, I was thirsty. And, because of the naked and of those
who are strangers, because of the sick, and those who are in prison: I
was naked; and, I was a stranger; and, I was sick, and,
I was in prison. And to this we may also add: I suffered afflictions,
I was beaten, I was tempted, and all such things. And as, in the things
which are written in the Scriptures, the words of the Lord truly apply,
where He says: As long as you did it to one of these my least brethren,
so when the just man suffers persecution, when evil is spoken of him,
or when he suffers anything of this kind, set Christ in the midst of those
who do this injury; saying to them: When you do an injury to one of the
least of these, it is Me you have assailed, it is against Me you have spoken
2. Let us now consider the proposition of the tempter. Master,
he says, which is the great commandment in the law? He calls Him,
Master, tempting Him; for it was not as a disciple of Christ he
spoke these words. This will be clearer from an example we shall give you.
Let us, for instance, say that a father is the father of his son, and no
one can rightly call him father save his son. And a mother is the mother
of her own daughter, and no one can call her mother except her own daugh-ter.
So a master is the master of his own pupil or disciple, and a disciple
is the pupil of his own master. Therefore, no one can rightly say to him,
Master, except his own disciple. So you see that it was because of this,
that not all who call Him Master, speak truthfully, but only those who
are of a mind to learn from Him, that He said to His Disciples: You
call me Master, and Lord: and you say well; for so I am (Jn. xiii.
13). Rightly therefore do the Disciples of Christ call Him Master; and
when keeping His word rightly do they call Him Lord. And for this reason
rightly also did the Apostle declare: Yet to us there is but one Lord
Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him (I Cor. viii. 6).
And remember that other saying of our Lord, in which He tells us: It
is enough for the disciple that he be, not simply, as the master but:
as his master (Mt. x. 25).
If there is anyone therefore who does not learn from the Word, and does
not submit himself to Him with his whole soul, that he may become His loved
plant (Mt. xv. 13), yet presumes to call Him: Master, he is brother
to that Pharisee who came tempting Christ, and calling Him Master.
And everyone who says: Our Father who art in heaven, should not
possess the spirit of bondage in fear, but the spirit of adoption of
sons (Rom. viii. 15). He however who has not the spirit of adoption
of sons, and yet says: Our Father who art in heaven, lies; since
he calls God his Father, when he is not a son of God.
But this is the question: Which is the great commandment in the law?
And at this point it is fitting that we explain to you something of
the difference between commandments. For some are great, and some
are derived from them. So we must examine them as to their order, down
to the least. For if the Lord had not answered the Pharisee who came tempting
Him and saying: Which is the great commandment in the law, we would
not then think that one commandment was greater than another. But now,
since He has answered him, and has said: Thou shalt love the Lord thy
God with thy whole heart and with thy whole soul and with thy whole mind.
This is the greatest and the first commandment, we have learned the
judgement we needed to know concerning the commandments: That there are
chief commandments, and there are lesser ones, down to the least.
Consider again what it was the Pharisee asked: Which is the great
commandment in the law? The Lord in answering him teaches us that not
only is the commandment to love God the greatest, but that it is
also the first: First, not in the Scriptural order, but in the excellence
of its virtue. And here is a fitting place to note, that though it is made
up as it were of many commandments, as it stands it is now, He said, the
greatest and first commandment: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with
thy whole heart and with thy whole soul and with thy whole mind. The
second is like the first and, because of its likeness, also great: Thou
shalt love thy neighbour as thyself; so that following this we may
understand that there is another which is third in order and greatness,
and another which is fourth; and so numbering the precepts of the law in
their order, and receiving wisdom from God, one may order each one down
to the least: And this is the work of Christ alone, Who is the power
of God and the wisdom of God (I Cor. i. 24).
And so from the time of Moses till the coming of the Saviour, it is
probable that when the law was
being read this question was asked: Which of these is the greatest
commandment? For the Pharisee would not have asked it, had an answer not
been sought, and not found, until Jesus coming taught not only which was
the greatest and also the first; and that the second was like the first.
It was the Pharisee’s own task then to find out which was third, fourth
and so on. Supposing you asked whether there was a commandment which had
not both these attributes: greatest and first; hut only one of them, I
believe you will find that Paul speaks of such a commandment, to the Ephesians.
Honour thy father, he says, and thy mother, which is the
first commandment with a promise; that it may be well with thee, and thou
mayest be long-lived upon the earth (vv. 2, 3). Here then is a first
commandment; yet not a great one: Honour thy father and thy mother.
And if there is some commandment great, yet not a first,
you will ask how they compare in greatness. Since in comparing them some
will be least, it is useful to recall an example our Lord Himself gave.
He therefore, He says, that shall break one of these least commandments,
and shall so teach men, shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven
(Mt. v. 19). And the Saviour answering the Pharisee tempting Him,
and laying down which was the first and great commandment, and adding that
the second was like it, namely: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,
added this saying: On these two commandments dependeth the whole
law and the prophets.
The Apostle however says to the Romans: Thou shalt not commit adultery.
Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not steal. And, if there be any other commandment,
it is comprised in this word: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself
(xiii. 9). Let us see then if it is the same to say that the whole law
and the prophets depend on the two commandments of the love of God and
our neighbour, as to say that every commandment is summed up in the commandment:
Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, or that all the commandments
both depend on and are summed up in either commandment.
Someone then says: The commandments depend one from the other, the second
from the first and greatest; the third from the second, and so on; all
after the second depending from the one preceding; and that the Apostle
said, in view of its end, every commandment depends on this: Thou shalt
love thy neighbour as thyself; but that the Saviour taught that these
two commandments govern all the rest. Another will ask how it was said
that: Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt
not steal. And, if there be any other commandment, it is comprised in this
word: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Therefore, he will
say, that first commandment: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy
whole heart, etc., is also comprised in this commandment: Thou shalt
love thy neighbour as thyself How can what the Apostle said be
true: And, if there be any other commandment, etc., unless the first
commandment regarding the love of God is comprised in the second, which
is like the first?
And if the first is comprised in the second, then the second must be
greater than the first. Every commandment then, even the first and greatest,
is comprised in this second: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,
for loving ourselves, we also love God the Author of our love, so that
we are able to love one another and are loved by one another. For giving
thanks that we are rational beings, and called to the knowledge of God,
and that we receive His grace and blessings, we include the love of God
in the second and like commandment.
The first therefore and greatest commandment of the law is: Thou
shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart and with thy whole soul
and with thy whole mind. And he takes something from its primacy and
greatness who subtracts anything from the entirety of this commandment;
that is, either from that part which says: With thy whole heart,
or from: With thy whole soul, or from:
With thy whole mind. And it may well be that all they who love
God and their Lord fulfil this commandment in part only, unless they fulfil
it in all respects and love Him with their whole heart and with their soul
and with their whole mind. They alone accept within themselves its greatness
and primacy who not only love the Lord their God, but have also taken it
upon themselves to fulfil these three conditions; namely, that with their
whole heart they hold within themselves the fulness of this love, and its
thoughts and actions; and with their whole soul, that is, ready to lay
it down for the service of God Who created all things, whenever the profit
of His Word demands it: for God is loved with thy whole soul, when no part
of the soul is seized by anything that is out of keeping with the faith;
and with their whole mind thinking and speaking of nothing else but the
things of God.
And see if you can put understanding for heart: the intellect
which searches into intelligible things; showing their source and beginning,
which is God: it being the mind’s task to give them utterance. For it is
by the mind we give utterance to each single thing, and by it we as it
were consider within us by means of each thing made known to it, and give
it utterance. And if anyone understands acutely this commandment of love
in the light of these three conditions we have spoken of, and reflects
upon the love of God as it exists in each one of the faithful, he will
find the whole commandment fulfilled in one perhaps, or in two, or in a
third. And should all be considered under this aspect, the love of God
will be found wanting in them, or present among them but more or less,
and this because the commandment says, with thy whole heart, or because
it says, with thy whole soul, or, with thy whole mind.
3. The second commandment is like the first, since it commands
the love of man, made in the image of God, and perhaps also in His likeness.
In the exposition of the command to love our neighbour, these things must
also be learned. Since in accord with what is said in the tenth psalm,
He that loveth iniquity, hateth his own soul, and in accord with
what is said in Proverbs, He that rejecteth instruction, despiseth his
own soul, it is evident, that no one who loves iniquity loves his neighbour
as himself, since neither does he love himself; and that no one who rejects
instruction, loves his neighbour as himself; since he does not even love
his own self. And so it comes about that he who loves iniquity,
both hates his own soul, and is unable to fulfil the second commandment.
And in the same way whoever rejects instruction loves sin: and so he who
rejects any word of the teaching of God, hates his own soul.
4. After this you will ask how the whole law and the prophets
depend on these two commandments? For the text seems to indicate to us
that everything that was written, either in the Book of Exodus, or Leviticus,
or in Numbers or Deuteronomy, depend on these two commandments. But how
does the law concerning leprosy, or those suffering an issue of blood,
or menstruation, depend on these two commandments? How again does the prophecy
concerning the fall of Jerusalem, or the vision of Egypt in Isaias and
the other prophets, how does the vision of Tyre or whatever was prophesied
of Tyre, or of the prince of Tyre, how does even the vision of the fourfooted
beasts in the desert that we read of in Isaias depend on these two commandments?
This to me appears to be the meaning of the passage in question. He
who fulfils all that is written concerning the love of God and his neighbour
is worthy of receiving the highest of God’s favours, of which the first
is the word of wisdom through the Holy Spirit, through which comes
the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit (I Cor. xii.
8). Made worthy of all these gifts he rejoices in the wisdom of God, his
heart filled with the love of God, his whole soul illumined by the light
knowledge, and his whole mind by the word of God. And receiving such
gifts from God, he now truly understands that the whole law and the prophets
are but part of all the wisdom and knowledge of God, and understands that
the whole law and the prophets depend on, and have as their beginning the
love of the Lord God and of our neighbour, and that the perfect fulfilment
of our duty to God consists in love.
The things we have said here will suffice for you. Nevertheless, to
show its greatness, it is fitting we should also place before you what
follows: Charity is patient, is kind; charity is not puffed up, dealeth
not perversely; is not ambitious, is not provoked to anger, thinketh no
evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth with the truth; beareth
all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things. Charity never falleth
away (I Cor. xiii. 4-8). No one weak of soul possesses charity, nor
he who does what is contrary to mildness, nor he who burns with the jealous
fury of his brother against Joseph, or of Aaron and Mary against Moses.
And no one who is puffed up with pride has charity, nor he who deals wrongly
with another, nor whoever is inflamed with anger. Again, no one who soiled
by evil thoughts can have charity in his heart.
He who has charity will never rejoice in any injustice, but will always
share in rejoicing in the truth. He who has charity will bear all tribulations
patiently, and does not in part believe, but believeth all things;
he does not hope in part, but hopeth all things; There is nothing
love will not endure, for it endureth all things. And since charity
never fails, the Apostle, filled with confidence, cries out that he has
wholly embraced it. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?
Shall tribulation? Or distress? Or famine? Or nakedness? Or danger? Or
the sword? As it is written: For thy sake, we are put to death all the
day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter (Rom. viii. 35,
36). And because of charity he declares: But in all these things we
overcome, because of him that loved us. And from that charity that
never fails, come these words from this same voice: For I am sure that
neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor
things present, nor things to come, nor might, nor height, nor depth, nor
any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which
is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.