Did you know that Jesus said the Shema was the most important part of the Old Testament?
Over the last few weeks I have posted the six verses of the Shema (Dt 6.4-9), and I have tried to explain the meaning of each verse.
I have also claimed that the rabbis have referred to the Shema as the constitution of the Hebrew Bible.
Jesus did too. When in Mark 12 a scribe (a Bible scholar) asked Jesus which of all the commandments of God was the “first” or most important, Jesus quoted the Shema word-for-word:
ἄκουε, Ἰσραήλ, κύριος ὁ θεὸς ἡμῶν κύριος εἷς ἐστιν (Mar 12:29 BGT). Here is my translation: Hear, O Israel, the LORD is our God, the LORD alone.
Two things are noteworthy. First, Jesus followed the custom of first-century Jews of not pronouncing the sacred Tetragrammaton (YHWH) but substituting “Adonai” or LORD. This is one more indication that Jesus was an observant Jew and was not trying to start a new religion.
Second, Jesus believed, as did the rabbis then and Jews ever since, that the Shema is the summary of the Hebrew Bible, which was his Bible. He went on with the next part of the Shema,
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. (Mark 12:30 BGT)
My translation: You shall love Lord your God from all your heart and from all your soul and from all your mind and from all your strength.
Jews then and Jews today would recognize this teaching of Jesus as thoroughly Jewish.