Home > Discipleship, New Testament > Ten Thoughts on the Jesus Creed

Ten Thoughts on the Jesus Creed

I am on day four of Scot McKnight’s challenge to say the Jesus creed every morning and every night (and whenever I think of it throughout the day).  I probably ought to get the book, because there are all sorts of observations I am having in the midst of this exercise.  I’m sure it’s all stuff he addresses so I may be restating the obvious, but here is some of what I’ve noticed:

  1. When Jesus sums up what is important, he simply recites two passages from the Torah (Deuteronomy 6.5 and Leviticus 19.18).  The passage from Deuteronomy, the Shema, was recited daily by first century Israelites and functioned as a basic creed.  This was not a radical revision or addition.
  2. Nevertheless, it is odd to me that He pulls out Leviticus 19.18 from the middle of a list of assorted and seemingly unrelated laws.  Note for example the command in the very next verse: “Do not mate different kinds of animals; do not plant your field with two kinds of seed; do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material.” 
  3. In comparison to the Apostle’s creed or the Nicene creed, the Jesus creed is focused on action rather than orthodoxy.  It can be recited in good conscience by almost any theist, whether Muslim, Jewish, Mormon, or even a Gnostic.
  4. I was surprised to find that the verb “you shall love” is not an imperative in Hebrew.  I suppose it makes sense given that “you shall…” is not an imperative in English either, but I have always taken it as such.  I haven’t checked the commentaries and this level of nuance is beyond my current Hebrew capabilities, but I wonder if the perfect can have the sense of an imperative (as it feels like this verb ought to be), or if this is instead a statement of what is true about God’s people: we are people who love Him, and by implication, we do it through His power and not our own volition.
  5. “You shall love” is singular rather than plural.  Wow, there’s a change from the Emergent Church’s stress on community.  The focus is actually on the individual and how each of us walks this out rather than how we do it together.  (Though it occurs to me as I type that the ‘you’ that is referenced is likely to be ‘Israel’, which then subverts my whole point.)
  6. The problem with importing any Old Testament text directly into a Christian framework is that there is not always (or even usually) a one-to-one correlation.  In this case I am reciting at least twice daily a command to Israel.  But I am not an Israelite.  I have similar problems when I come to the psalms and the ten commandments.  God did not deliver my ancestors from captivity in Egypt; I could gain no spiritual benefit from worshipping in Solomon’s temple (even if it were still standing); Jerusalem is not significant to me in the same way it was to the Judean psalmist; etc.
  7. Why does Jesus (or the Septuagint) get to add a fourth object for us to love YHWH with?  In Deuteronomy we love God with heart, soul, and strength.  Jesus adds that we love Him with our mind.
  8. Jesus does not recite this as a creed in the gospels; he cites it as an explication of the commandments.  The quotation in Matthew 22.37-40  makes this especially clear by dropping the first line, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.”  Mark 12.29-31 does retain the Shema, but Scot cuts off the first part of the verse in order to turn it into a creed: “‘The most important one,’ answered Jesus, ‘is this: “Hear, O Israel…”‘”  But then he has me saying the first part of verse 31: “The second is this…”  And every time I say it I’m bothered by it.  The second what?  The creed doesn’t include a ‘first’ since it doesn’t neatly fit the pattern.
  9. I’m told that 1st century Israelites reciting the Shema as a prayer and not just as a creed.  This has never made sense to me at all.  None of it is addressed to God, so I simply cannot understand how anyone would consider it a prayer.  You could alter the language I suppose and pray it something like, “I believe that You O Lord are one Lord…”  But they didn’t.  I don’t buy it that the Shema counts as a prayer.
  10. Paul later revised the Shema to reflect his Christology.  In 1 Corinthians 8.6 he writes, “For us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.”  Should we similarly revise the Jesus Creed along Paul’s line of thinking?  (The Nicene creed was subsequently revised but we still call it the Nicene creed, so it’s not like such a revision would be without precedent.)
  1. February 9, 2008 at 9:17 am

    Um, why is my last point listed as ‘0.’ instead of ’10.’?

  2. February 9, 2008 at 7:28 pm

    Not too familiar with the Jesus Creed. Is this an ancient one (like Apostles’ or Nicene) that I have missed or is this a totally new one altogether?

  3. February 9, 2008 at 7:55 pm

    WordPress does that for some reason. I don’t know why the 1’s are cut out of the teens. I’ve never gotten into the 20’s to know if they cut off the 2’s as well.

  4. February 9, 2008 at 9:10 pm

    Josh, dunno. I haven’t read the book. I think it’s basically Scot McKnight’s term for the two Great Commandments. I know of no one else who refers to it as ‘the Jesus Creed.’

    Nick, That’s really strange. Blogger never did that. Maybe I should compose everything in Word and cut and paste.

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