I’ve been struggling with the next post in the series related to the Testimony of St. John. So, I thought I’d just pop this out….
In John 13:34 we read,
A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another
What is new about this?
It is presumed that if it is new, then it is different is some significant way from the “old” (e.g., “thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,” Leviticus 19:18)
Problems with translation?
I spent some time looking to see if there might have been something slipped in the translation. This is one of the few verses where all translators come up with basically the same text. Looking at the original Greek, there are two different words used for love, but they are simply a tense change. “Love one another” (ἀγαπάω) is present tense with a subjunctive (potential to happen) mood. “…as I have loved you” (ἀγαπάω) is a aorist tense (no sense of time, or all senses of time) with an indicative (will or did happen) mood. I looked through the Hebrew to see if there might have been different words for love used here. If so, it might well have been the same kind of minor variations (e.g., אַהַב vs אַהֲבָה or perhaps חָבַב, which is of greater intensity). In short, there is nothing to indicate a translation problem, either from Hebrew to Greek or from Greek to English.
Problems with source text?
Contextual confusions or ambiguity?
It is presumed that this “new commandment” was in the context of Yeshua’s penultimate, mortal, intimate convocation with His disciples. Meaning, that He had been teaching about love throughout His ministry, so while that may have had some differences worth exploring against the context of the Old Testament, it doesn’t seem to apply. At the time of this specific instruction, neither of those would have been “new.”
The best I can come up with is degree. Was He asking them to “up their game?” Did He instruct them to love each other the way a God loves His children (or friends?), not merely the way men love each other? Was this instruction in parallel with other instructions given in the same evening to prepare and encourage them towards higher service (i.e., descension) in keeping with the requirements of the path (i.e., the way; ascension)? Was He setting a higher level of expectation, even above this?
Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:43–48)