Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Shema


In Luke 10:27, a prominent religious person tries to test Jesus by asking him what he must do to inherit eternal life. As he often does, Jesus turns this question back on him and asks him what he thinks. The man’s response to Jesus included very familiar words. He said “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.”

When I read those words, I was curious. Why is this basic sentence is repeated over and over again in scripture? When I was in youth group we had this really cool song we would sing which included these words as well. So I did some research….

This sentence is part of what Jewish people call the “Shema Yisreal,” (named from the first words, which are “hear Oh Israel”) that first appears in the Bible in Deuteronomy 6:5. The book of Deuteronomy is basically a long sermon from Moses. After he gives the Israelites the Ten Commandments, he continues to pronounce to them the words of God. He says the Shema, which also includes instructions about how they are to repeat these words, to commit them to memory, and speak of them often. Subsequently, the Shema is a very important part of Jewish prayer services, to be recited in the morning and the evening.

The words of the Shema are quoted in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. In Matthew and Mark it is Jesus who recites them. Since I find this so interesting, I am going to break some of it down and post about what I find. I hope you will follow along…

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