The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire BibleMatthew 22:36
Master, which is the great commandment in the law?]
He calls him "master, Rabbi, or doctor", as the Sadducees
had in (Matthew 22:24) either because he was usually so called by his
disciples, and by the generality of the people; or merely in
complaisance to engage his attention to him, and his question: and
might hereby suggest, that should he return a proper and
satisfactory answer to it he should be his master. The question is
not which of the laws was the greatest, the oral, or the written
law: the Jews give the preference to the law delivered by word of
mouth; they prefer the traditions of the elders before the written
law of Moses; (See Gill on 15:2); but the question was about the
written law of Moses; and not merely about the decalogue, or whether
the commands of the first table were greater than those of the
second, as was generally thought; or whether the affirmative
precepts were not more to be regarded than negative ones, which was
their commonly received opinion; but about the whole body of the
law, moral and ceremonial, delivered by Moses: and not whether the
ceremonial law was to be preferred to the moral, which they usually
did; but what particular command there was in the whole law, which
was greater than the rest: for as there were some commands that were
light, and others that were weighty, a distinction often used by
them F13, and to which Christ alludes in (Matthew 23:23) . It was moved
that it might be said which was the greatest and weightiest of them
all. Some thought the commandment of the sabbath was the greatest:
hence they say F14, that he that keeps the sabbath is as if he kept
the whole law: yea, they make the observance of the three meals, or
feasts, which, according to the traditions of the elders, they were
obliged to eat on the sabbath, to be at least one of the greatest of
``These three meals (says one of their writers F15) are a
great matter, for it is one (hrwtbv twlwdgh twumhm) , "of the
great commandments in the law".''
Which is the very phraseology used in this question. Others give the
preference to circumcision, on which they bestow the greatest
encomiums, and, among the rest F16, say, it drives away the sabbath, or
that is obliged to give place unto it. Others F17 say of the
"phylacteries", that the holiness of them is the greatest of all, and
the command to be arrayed with them all the day, is more excellent than
all others; and even of the fringe upon the borders of their garments,
others observe F18, that a man that is guilty of that command, is
guilty of all others, and that single precept is equal to all the rest.
In this multiplicity of opinions, Christ's is desired on this subject,
though with no good intention.
F13 Pirke Abot, c. 2. sect. 1. & c. 4. sect. 2.
F14 Zohar in Exod. fol. 37. 1.
F15 Tzeror Hammor, fol. 3. 3.
F16 Misn. Nedarim, c. 3. sect. 11.
F17 Maimon. Hilch. Tephillin, c. 4. sect. 25, 26.
F18 T. Bab. Menachot, fol. 43. 2.
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rightes Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
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Gill, John. "Commentary on Matthew 22:36". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". <http://classic.studylight.org/com/geb/view.cgi?book=mt&chapter=022&verse=036>. 1999.