“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” John 13:34 NASB
New – How important it is to remember that Yeshua didn’t speak these words in Greek! In Hebrew, the word he used is hadash, the same word used in His comment on the “new” covenant (compare Jeremiah 31:31). What this means is that Yeshua’s “new” commandment isn’t new at all. It is hadash – renewed. It is restored instruction, refocused purpose, reaffirmed Torah. To love one another is simply a rabbinic extension of the command given in Leviticus 19:18. If Yeshua claimed that Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18 are the most fundamental constituents of the Torah (everything hangs on these two), then how likely is it that a Torah-observant, rabbinic commentator and author of the words would overturn them with an additional commandment? How likely is Yeshua to add to the Torah, something that would break the commandment of Deuteronomy 4:2? If Yeshua is sinless, then He does not violate any of the commandments of Torah – and that means His “new” commandment can’t be brand-spanking new. It must be an elucidation, elaboration or explanation of something old, something already found in Torah. That is the Hebrew way, the way of the rabbis and the way of the Son of Man.
So what is this already-given, renewed instruction? The Greek in this verse uses the verb agapao, to love without expectation of reciprocity. This is love as God loves. It is to act toward another without prior calculation of benefit for the sole purpose of meeting the need of another even if that person has not yet expressed the need. It is to benefit the other often at cost to myself. It is to love those who are enemies because they are friends of the world and it is to befriend those who serve the Father without consideration of any other factors. It is to make my enemies my friends and then my brothers and sisters in the Lord simply because God loved me when I was His enemy.
Notice what is “new” about this explanation of the Torah commandment about being a neighbor. The Greek is allelous, “one another.” Zodhaites reminds us that “this pronoun has no nominative and no singular. It is used only in the accusative, genitive and dative.” This means that allelon is never the subject of a sentence. It can only be the direct object, the indirect object or part of a prepositional phrase, so allelon always requires someone or something else to come in priority position (as subject). And it can never be just about me. It is always about us. In Greek it is the paradigm word of community. Yeshua’s commentary on the Torah commandment of loving my neighbor demonstrates that it isn’t possible to fulfill His elaboration of this Torah command alone. In the Kingdom of heaven, agapao means converting the other to a brother. Relationship trumps everything else. What’s new about the “new” commandment? Once we thought acting with benevolence toward neighbors was enough. Now we see the commandment isn’t fulfilled until my neighbor becomes my brother. It’s not about what I do. It’s about what we do together.
Topical Index: new, hadash, love, neighbor, allelon, John 13:34