What does “love your neighbor as yourself” really mean? The New Testament makes it a central command, “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (
Did you know…?
Lev 19:18is embedded in a larger legal collection, the Holiness Collection, which mandates that all Israel must be holy.
- The word “love” in “love your neighbor” does not refer to romantic love.
Deut 6:4, the beginning of the Shema, clarifies what “love” means.
- The injunction to “love your neighbor as yourself” may refer to Israelites, not foreigners.
- The injunction to “love your neighbor as yourself” should be read in conjunction with a following verse that mandates love of the alien or foreigner.
What does the phrase “love your neighbor” mean?
The injunction “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” is part of a mini-collection of commandments in
Each verse contains at least one word referring to the fellow Israelite—“neighbor,” “people,” “kin,”—ending with “as yourself.” The usual understanding of
But that is not the whole story.
But what is involved in such “love”? The Hebrew word ’ahav usually translated “to love” has a wide range of meanings. In the Song of Songs, it refers to erotic love; in some narratives it refers to love between a parent and a child; elsewhere it may mean “lust.”
Another use of ’ahav may clarify its meaning in
Does Leviticus contain legal codes?
Although some biblical laws, such as circumcision (
The Holiness Collection is not the work of a single author but is a compilation of various earlier written sources. This explains why it contains two very similar lists of prohibited sexual relationships in