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This question is about the "The Great Commandment"

A bunch of knowledgeable Jewish men came to test Jesus: "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" (ESV)

Jesus answers them by quoting from a passage in Deuteronomy 6:4-9.

Matthew 22:37 “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.

Here Matthew the evangelist lists 3 ways that we should love:

  1. heart
  2. soul
  3. mind

Mark 12:30 "And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength."

Here Mark the evangelist list 4 ways that we should love:

  1. heart
  2. soul
  3. mind
  4. strength

Luke 10:27 And he answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself."

Here Luke the evangelist list 4 ways that we should love:

  1. heart
  2. soul
  3. strength
  4. mind

John the evangelist did not find it important enough to write about it at all.

I ask rhetorically how important should this passage have been for the evangelists (writers of the evangelium)? The interesting thing is that the scripture claims that the big man himself, through Moses, demanded that this passage should be super-important.

These words shall:

  1. be upon your heart
  2. teach them thoroughly to your children
  3. speak of them when sitting in your home
  4. walking on the road
  5. when you lie down
  6. when you rise
  7. bind them as a sign upon your hand
  8. they shall be as an ornament between your eyes
  9. write them upon the doorposts of your home and gates

In other words they were tremendously important. This would be core knowledge. Not only that. This text in Deuteronomy is the core of the 10 commandments. We see this in the same passage:

  1. God is One (Echad)
  2. He is our God (ie no other god)

Conveniently all authors left out "HEAR O Israel!"

This is what we should have loved according to God through Moses:

  1. heart (bechol Levavecha)
  2. soul (uvechol nafshecha)
  3. might (ubechol meodecha)

So, we can clearly see that none of them hits the mark.

Remembering that they all got this verse repeated daily from a very young age leaves me with a big question! How bad was the knowledge of the evangelists, and to what extent are their writings trustworthy?

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John the evangelist did not find it important enough to write about it at all. - not necessarily; 1-3 John are littered with passages about love. just saying. :D – Thomas Shields May 23 '12 at 18:07
Or John decided that the other gospels had adequately covered the issue. Or that the passage wasn't necessary to the specific point his gospel was making. – DJClayworth May 24 '12 at 14:35
"Remembering that they all got this verse repeated daily from a very young age" -- you seem to be assuming that all three of the Synoptic evangelists were "cradle Jews", but is this right? – Ben Dunlap May 25 '12 at 16:58
Also are you assuming that the Shema was recited uniformly by all Palestinian Jews of Jesus' day -- or is there good evidence that this was in fact the case? And, which part of the Shema was considered the real core at that time? The Wikipedia article, at least, suggests that it may have only been Deut. 6:4. – Ben Dunlap May 25 '12 at 18:18

This is probably an issue of translation. The Old Testament passage Jesus is referring to here was written in Hebrew. By the time Jesus was born, it was translated into Greek. The people at the time of Christ spoke Aramaic, but the New Testament was written in Greek. So, Jesus likely spoke these words in Aramaic.

The Greek language was much more cerebral, while the Hebrew language was more "gutteral". The word "might" was translated into Greek with a word closer to "mind" in the Septuagint.

So, when the writers of the New Testament recorded these words of Jesus, the dilemma they faced was in regard to which word they should use to translate back into Greek—the more exact translation of the Hebrew or the Greek word used in the Septuagint.

Matthew apparently chose the Greek word, while Mark and Luke included both.

Yes, everyone knew the passage quite well, and there was no forgetting or error. So, this does not in any way suggest that the evangelists lacked knowledge or were not trustworthy. In reality, all of them "hit the mark".

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Thanks @Narnian for your answer, it is appreciated. I know about the issues in translating the Bible. In the light of Leningrad Codex with others, I know that Septuagint was not the best translation. However, (hypothetical) I would think that a back-translation from Septuagint to Hebrew would would come much closer than todays NT. In this case I do not think translation is the whole story. – Ben May 23 '12 at 16:26
@Millthorn I appreciate your honesty. I think translation does, indeed, explain this issue though. – Narnian May 23 '12 at 16:32
As an additional translation issue Jesus might well have chosen to use a form of the verse that was familiar to his hearers, even if that was not an exact and scholarly translation. That gives the evangelists an extra problem - to accurately render Jesus words or to 'correct' his translation. – DJClayworth May 24 '12 at 13:47
@DJClayworth, that's a good point about the form of the verse -- Wikipedia's Shema entry distinguishes between liturgical and private recitation of the Shema, which would quite possibly have been in different languages. – Ben Dunlap May 25 '12 at 18:25
I do not understand why you are mentioning pronounciaton features of Hebrew. Have never heard any dialect of Hebrew that have gutterals, not even yemenite hebrew. You might still be right. However I fail to se how that has anything to do with the textual translation. – Ben May 27 '12 at 16:15

Bear in mind that quote marks are a modern invention. Ancient writers did not clearly distinguish between an exact quote and a restatement of what the person said.

Like if I wrote, "In his Gettysburg Address, Lincoln said, '87 years ago, our ancestors created a new country in America'", people would protest that those were not the words he used, that is not an accurate quote. But if I said the same thing without quote marks, if I wrote, "In his Gettysburg Address, Lincoln said that 87 years ago our ancesors created a new country in America", no one would challenge that. I am not quoting him exactly, but I am accurately conveying what he said. As ancient Greek did not distinguish exact quotes from such restatements, we must be cautious about interpreting quote marks in modern English translations.

In this case, you appear to be focusing on the incomplete nature of the quote: "heart, soul, and mind" versus "heart, sould, mind, and strength", etc. If Jesus exact words were "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind" (as in Luke), and I quoted him as, "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart ... and with all your mind", this would be considered an accurate quote. The ellipsis (dot-dot-dot) indicates that I left out some words, and this is routinely accepted as legitimate as long as it does not alter the meaning of the words I kept. But again, ancient Greek didn't have ellipses. So if Matthew and Mark left out a few words for the sake of brevity or whatever, that's not a mis-quote, as long as they don't change the meaning.

RE leaving out "Hear O Israel", well, you have to start a quote some place. You quoted Matthew 22:37 above without including 22:36, or for that matter Matthew 1:1 through 22:35. It's not a mistake or a lie to quote less than an entire book. In any given case it MIGHT be misleading if by taking words out of context you change their meaning. But I don't think leaving off the "Hear O Israel" changes the meaning of "love the Lord they God" etc.

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I'm not writing about quote marks or ellipsis. You are very close to making straw man argument, as the original verse is from Deuteronomy 6:4-9. Consisting in heart, soul, might. To be honest it looks like you by your elipsis argument are saying that J. was adding to Torah? If you look at the handwritten text I think you would understand how obvious it is that the text starts at shin-mem-ayin. – Ben May 27 '12 at 16:09
My point about quotes and ellipses is that we do not know if the Gospel writers were quoting Jesus word-for-word or paraphrasing what he said, and likewise we do not know if Jesus was quoting Deuteronomy word-for-word or paraphrasing. If either is paraphrasing, then differences in wording, as long as they do not change the meaning, are not a misquote, but simply the nature of paraphrasing. My point about leaving out "Her O Israel" is that it is not a misquote, even by the most strict of literal standards, to not quote the sentence preceding the one that you quote. You have to start somewhere. – Jay May 29 '12 at 7:25

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