And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these – Mark 12:31
Meaning of Mark 12:31
The meaning of the verse, “And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these” is that the second most important commandment is to love others as much as one loves themselves. In the previous verses, a scribe asks Jesus which was the greatest commandment of all is. Jesus replied that the first greatest one was to love God above everything else, and the second one was to love the neighbor as much as he or she loves themselves. The first four commandments of the Mosaic law are a summary of a Christian’s love toward God, and the last five verses are a summary of one’s love toward others, including the fifth commandment to honor the parents. Hence, Jesus summarizes the ten commandments into two main ones.
Interpretations of Mark 12:31
The verse of Mark 12:31 is a commonly quoted verse in Churches and Christian groups. However, the verse is also widely misinterpreted in different ways. Here are some examples.
Interpretation #1 Love and forgiveness are the same
The interpretation of the verse, “And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” is that loving a neighbor is the same as forgiving them. The reader interprets that Jesus in this verse is asking the reader to forgive their friends, family members, or neighbors even if they have done terrible things or said something hurtful. The concept of forgiveness is as widely taught and mentioned in Bible as the concept of love. Hence, the reader believes that when a person loves someone, he or she also forgives them easily, as love makes the act of forgiveness easy, even for the most horrendous crimes such as murder.
Interpretation #2 Christians must share their provisions equally
The meaning of the verse, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” is that a Christian should share their earnings and possessions with others. The reader interprets the verse literally and believes that when Christians buy something for themselves, including gold, a house, properties, food, etc., it should be shared with their neighbors despite differences or feelings of pity or anger. The reader believes that loving someone as much as themselves means that they should think of others’ needs and requirements as much as themselves. By doing so, they believe the world will be rid of poverty as well.
Interpretation #3 Ten Commandments is replaced in this verse
The interpretation of this verse, “And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these” is that when Jesus replaces the ten commandments with this one commandment. When Jesus was asked by a teacher of law about which commandment was the greatest of all, Jesus replied that it is to love a neighbor as much as they love themselves. The reader believes that the division of the Old Testament and New Testament confirms that only the New Testament teachings are to be followed. As Jesus was sent by God and He asked His followers to believe in His Son, the Old Testament has been replaced and overwritten by the new commandments. Also, Jesus being only a part of the New Testament is also a reason for the reader to believe that the Ten Commandments are no longer necessary.
Interpretation #4 Loving God comes second
In this version, the reader interprets that loving God is secondary to loving a neighbor. The previous verse talks about loving God as being the first greatest commandment and loving a neighbor as the second greatest one. However, some readers do not read the previous verse and interpret that loving a neighbor is the greatest commandment a Christian is required to follow. Here, the readers believe that if they love people and remain charitable and kind, it is equal to or greater than loving God.
Interpretation #5 The verse summarizes 6-10th Ten Commandments
The final interpretation of the verse, “And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these” is that the second most important law was to love their neighbor as much as they loved themselves. This is a summary of the 6-10th commandments of the Mosaic law. The sixth to tenth commandments are about not killing anyone, not stealing, not bearing false witness, not committing adultery, and not coveting. All these laws summarize loving others in a selfless way and the way one loves themselves. Hence, the reader believes that Jesus’ answer to the second most important commandment is a summary of the last five verses.
Historical background of Mark 12:31
The book of Mark is the second of the four gospels. These gospels consist of the narration of Jesus’ birth, ministry, death, and resurrection. The gospel of Mark is believed to have been written around 66-74 AD and was written by Mark, one of the twelve disciples of Jesus. The twelfth chapter consists of parables, warnings, revelations, and instructions by Jesus. The thirty-first verse is an answer by Jesus to which commandment was the second greatest of all. The question was posed by one of the teachers of the law.
Literary Devices of Mark 12:31
The verse Mark 12:31 is known as the summary of the 2nd part of the Ten Commandments as retold by Jesus without replacing them. Below are a few literary devices used in verse.
Consonance – Mark 12:31 has two vowel sounds in quick repetition. However, they are not used in immediate successions. For example, the sound of /d/, the sound of /s/, the sound of /l/, and the sound of /r/ in ‘And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these’.
Alliteration – The verse has one consonant sound mainly used in quick repetition at the beginning of the word, making it an alliteration. For example, the sound /th/ in ‘namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these’.