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According to the Masoretic text of Deu. 6:5, it is written,

וְאָהַבְתָּ אֵת יַהְוֶה אֱלֹהֶיךָ בְּכָל לְבָבְךָ וּבְכָל נַפְשְׁךָ וּבְכָל מְאֹדֶךָ

which the Septuagint (according to Rahlf's Septuagint) translated into Greek as,

καὶ ἀγαπήσεις κύριον τὸν θεόν σου ἐξ ὅλης τῆς καρδίας σου καὶ ἐξ ὅλης τῆς ψυχῆς σου καὶ ἐξ ὅλης τῆς δυνάμεώς σου

Jesus apparently quoted Deu. 6:5 when a scribe asked him what the first commandment of the Law was. Jesus replied:

Greek text of Matt. 22:37 according to Robert Estienne's Textus Receptus:

ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Ἀγαπήσεις κύριον τὸν θεόν σου ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ καρδίᾳ σου καὶ ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ ψυχῇ σου καὶ ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ διανοίᾳ σου

Greek text of Mark 12:30 according to Robert Estienne's Textus Receptus:

καὶ ἀγαπήσεις κύριον τὸν θεόν σου ἐξ ὅλης τῆς καρδίας σου καὶ ἐξ ὅλης τῆς ψυχῆς σου καὶ ἐξ ὅλης τῆς διανοίας σου καὶ ἐξ ὅλης τῆς ἰσχύος σου αὕτη πρώτη ἐντολή

Greek text of Luke 10:27 according to Robert Estienne's Textus Receptus:

ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν Ἀγαπήσεις κύριον τὸν θεόν σου ἐξ ὅλης τῆς καρδίας σου καὶ ἐξ ὅλης τῆς ψυχῆς σου καὶ ἐξ ὅλης τῆς ἰσχύος σου καὶ ἐξ ὅλης τῆς διανοίας σου καὶ τὸν πλησίον σου ὡς σεαυτόν

Matthew's account differs by the inclusion of ἐν before each object in the series, whereas Mark and Luke precede each object by ἐξ.

Furthermore, Matthew has three objects in the series:

  • καρδία ("heart")
  • ψυχή ("soul")
  • διάνοια ("mind")

Mark has four objects in the series in the following order:

  • καρδία ("heart")
  • ψυχή ("soul")
  • διάνοια ("mind")
  • ἰσχύς ("strength")

Luke also has four objects but in a slightly different order:

  • καρδία ("heart")
  • ψυχή ("soul")
  • ἰσχύς ("strength")
  • διάνοια ("mind")

How do we reconcile the (1) different quantity of objects in the series (Matthew vs. Mark/ Luke), (2) the different order of objects (Mark vs. Luke), and (3) the different preposition preceding each object in the series (Matthew vs. Mark/ Luke)?

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Can someone offer me any insight as to why nobody has at least voted on the question? It is just a horrible question, or just difficult? Just hoping for some feedback. – Simply a Christian Mar 26 '14 at 6:48
@H3br3wHamm3r81-It is a language question-putting it out of my league. My guess is it is a transcriber's choice: the meaning doesn't change(unless one wants to read into it something that's not there). In a simular vein, I had a longstanding disagreement with a gentleman who insisted that there was a hidden meaning in Dan. 2:45, as compared to 2:35, since the order of the Statue of Nebuchadnezzar's disintegration is different(one lists iron, clay, brass, silver, gold; the other lists iron, brass, clay, silver, gold). There is no change in the meaning, only in the transcriber's recording. – Tau Mar 28 '14 at 6:48
@H3br3wHamm3r81 - or maybe it's just the hunch that an OP who can construct the Question so competently could do so for the Answer as well. :P – Davïd Mar 29 '14 at 18:09
up vote 5 down vote accepted

Prelims. Just for comparison, the three synoptic texts from UBS4:
Mt 22:37 ὁ δὲ ἔφη αὐτῷ, Ἀγαπήσεις κύριον τὸν θεόν σου ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ καρδίᾳ σου καὶ ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ ψυχῇ σου καὶ ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ διανοίᾳ σου·
Mk 12:30 καὶ ἀγαπήσεις κύριον τὸν θεόν σου ἐξ ὅλης τῆς καρδίας σου καὶ ἐξ ὅλης τῆς ψυχῆς σου καὶ ἐξ ὅλης τῆς διανοίας σου καὶ ἐξ ὅλης τῆς ἰσχύος σου.
Lk 10:27 ... Ἀγαπήσεις κύριον τὸν θεόν σου ἐξ ὅλης [τῆς] καρδίας σου καὶ ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ ψυχῇ σου καὶ ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ ἰσχύϊ σου καὶ ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ διανοίᾳ σου,...

Some observations on:

(3) the different preposition preceding each object in the series (Matthew vs. Mark/ Luke)

Mark alone (see below) consistently follows the LXX rendering in using ἐκ (ἐξ) (see also Smyth's treatment), a meaning well within range, although a bit odd for LXX Deuteronomy which (according to Melvin Peters) has a normal equivalence of be with ἐν.

More widely, bĕ-kol + [lēbāb + nepheš] occurs 16× in the LXX: Deut. 4:29; 6:5; 10:12; 11:13; 13:4; 26:16; 30:2, 6, 10; Jos. 22:5; 23:14; 1 Ki. 2:4; 8:48; 2 Ki. 23:25; 2 Chr. 15:12; 34:31. Greek-Josh 23:14 opts for a different construction altogether, but of the rest, all the Deuteronomy references plus Josh 22:5 and 2 Chr 15:12 use ἐξ, while the other four (1 Ki. 2:4; 8:48; 2 Ki. 23:25; 2 Chr. 34:31) use ἐν.

There is some variation here, then, and it's worth noting that the Luke reference in UBS4 = NA28 has ἐξ in the first instance, and ἐν for the rest. There is clearly an acceptable range here.

(2) the different order of objects (Mark vs. Luke)

Not much to offer here, except to note that:

  • the sequence καρδία ("heart") → ψυχή ("soul") → διάνοια ("mind") is in fact shared between the three synoptics; and
  • there is another famous difference in sequence between the ordering of Jesus' wilderness temptations in Matthew and Luke. Of course, whole episodes are variously located in the synoptic gospels;
  • so the variation here seems fairly inconsequential, then, unless one thinks that, as a quasi-liturgical phrase, it should be more stable; which leads on to...

(1) different quantity of objects in the series (Matthew vs. Mark/Luke)

...the designation of the three (or four) "loci of love and loyalty" (or however you want to characterize this set). The real oddity to my mind is that Matthew lacks a reflex for מְאֹדֶךָ (the "strength"/ἰσχύς word), although it has three elements as Deut 6:5 has three elements.

Here there is a bit of interesting Hexaplaric evidence. In Frederick Field's Origenis Hexaplorum (2 vols; 1875), the entry for Deuteronomy 6:5 records the following variations known to Field:

  • for לְבָבְךָ ("your heart"), Origen's "Septuagint" (O') had διάνοιας [sic] "understanding" , although καρδίας "heart" was also attested;
  • for (the somewhat odd) מְאֹדֶךָ ("your strength"), O' had δυνάμεώς, although a variant ἰσχύος was known.

It suggests that there might be some conflating of existing variations, with (perhaps) Matthew limiting to three phrases as the Deuteronomy text has three phrases, while Mark and Luke incline towards an inclusion expressive of the totality of "love" demanded.

I'm sure there's more to be said here, and I would like to check Wevers' Notes on the Greek Text of Deuteronomy (SBL, 1995), but don't have it to hand.

... Well, it's a start anyway.

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As to #1 - Different Quantity of Objects

No reconciliation needed across the gospels, because if it is true that Christ said four things, he also said three things. There is no untruth in noting the lesser amount, just a shift in emphasis.

Now as far as reconciling four things in the Greek with the three things of the Hebrew text, the Hebrew word לֵבָב (BDB1, lebab) translated "heart" is very flexible in Hebrew meaning, and carries with it ideas we think of for (1) heart, (2) mind, (3) will, (4) understanding -- basically, any concept of the "inner self" can be referenced by this word in Hebrew. So it is quite likely that Christ was expanding on what He meant during some of his teaching on Dt 6:5, to communicate accurately that both the mental and emotional, logical and volitional aspects are what Dt 6:5 is referring to. Hence the target language of the inspired gospels (Greek) needed expansion of the concepts from the original language of Deuteronomy (Hebrew), to better communicate the idea to the target audience.

As to #2 - Ordering of the Objects

No reconciliation needed, because (1) the Scripture's are not following modern concerns of "direct quotations" like what we expect of academic and news writing today, and (2) order here has no significance (all are to be equally followed, no matter what order they appear in). So if I tell my wife I'm going to the bank, the grocery store, and the gas station (and intend to go in that order), and she later tells someone who asks of my whereabouts that I am at the store, gas station, or bank, her ordering matters not.

As to #3 - Differing Prepositions

First, see the note in #2 about direct quotations. Second, the prepositions differ in part because the writer has chosen different cases to reflect the meaning. The preposition ἐκ (ek) is used with the genitive case, and ἐν (en) with the dative case. Both cases can be used to describe similar ideas (while Scripture is not clear, I would not be surprised if Jesus had not actually used both forms during his time of teaching, to emphasize slightly different aspects... so both may be direct quotes).

The preposition ἐν with the dative can indicate a locative of place ("in"; BDAG2, 1.a; could also be referring to the state or condition, as 2.b) or instrument of means ("with"; BDAG, 5.b), the first idea being the place "where" to have this devotion for God, and the second idea indicating "what" is used as the means of expressing such devotion. The preposition ἐκ with the genitive can express an ablative idea of either source ("out of, from", BDAG 3.g) or means ("with, by", BDAG 3.f). The means would parallel the instrumentality of means in the dative with ἐν, while the source idea would essentially presuppose that if the source of such qualities of devotion is the heart, then those qualities must come from within it (the locative idea).

Prepositions in Greek are just as flexible in how they are used as in English, and there can be many ways to express the same idea. Whether I say I "hit the ball..." (1) "by the bat" or (2) "with the bat" or (3) "through the bat" (the last would be a little odd in English grammar, but does still convey the same meaning) all can convey the same idea.

1BDB is a common abbreviation for Francis Brown, Samuel Rolles Driver, and Charles Augustus Briggs, Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon.

2BDAG is a common abbreviation for William Arndt, Frederick W. Danker, and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature.

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