Love God with all Your Heart and Soul and Mind

By Mary Jane Chaignot

Categories: Old Testament


Why in Deut. 6:5 does it say: "Love God with all your heart, soul and might" but Jesus says, "Love God with all your heart, soul, and mind?"


The quote from Deuteronomy is known as the Shema, which is a word that means, "to hear." It was a creedal summary that every faithful Jew recited twice a day. The full prayer in Deuteronomy is, "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might." While the words are easily translated, the meaning of the prayer is not. The words literally say: Yahweh our God Yahweh one. The translator determines the position of the verb: "Yahweh is our God, Yahweh alone; or Yahweh our God, Yahweh is one; or Yahweh our God is one Yahweh." Most scholars believe the Shema is not a statement about God's nature, but instead describes the individual's relationship with God. And since people are in a relationship with God, they are commanded to love him. This is one of the first times people were commanded to love God. When God loves people, he shows benevolence to them. It could be argued, then, that loving God is also an active verb for the people, manifested by their obedience to His Commandments and loyalty to Him.

To that end, individuals are to love with all their heart, soul, and might. The heart typically referred to the intellect or the rational, thinking aspect of humankind. The soul referred to the emotions or passions. So, to do something with one's heart and soul is to do it with one's whole being. The third term, might, really means "very, very much," or "exceedingly." It is probably included here to give extra emphasis. It would be like saying, "You should love God with all you've got!" These words were to be taken to heart, taught to the children, and recited twice a day.

It is no wonder, then, that they reappear in all three of the synoptic Gospels. Mark 12:29 has four terms, "heart, soul, mind, and strength." Matthew 22:37-38 has "heart, soul, and mind." Luke 10:27 has heart, soul, strength, and mind." In Luke, the words were spoken by the young man who approached Jesus, wanting to inherit eternal life. In Matthew and Mark, Jesus said the words to a scribe asking which Commandment was the most important. It appears that the gospel versions have added "mind and strength" or "strength and mind" or simply "mind" to further elaborate upon the Hebrew word that means "might." In reality, however, mind is more likely to clarify what is meant by "heart" and "soul." Whereas the Hebrew words are quite inclusive, Greek words are more specific. And by the first century, the LXX (the Greek translation of the Bible) had two versions using different words for "heart." One was kardia, and the other was dianoia. In Greek, dianoia means, "mind." It is unlikely that the evangelists' intent was to introduce a new concept. Rather, they were relying upon using Greek words to more fully illustrate the Hebrew text.

The disparities among the quotations may suggest specific emphases, but all aspects are included in each translation. One shouldn't think that these three/four terms describe various divisions within an individual. On the contrary, all of these terms were needed to describe the whole person. In this case, the whole person should "Love God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might!"

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