Below is a rough translation of John 13:31-35, along with some initial comments. This is a very brief pericope, selected for the lection – one would think – because of “new commandment” to love. However, the context is very important. Just before this pericope is the whole exchange between Jesus and Judas, when the two of them are the only ones who know that Judas’ betrayal is at hand. Following this text is when Jesus tells Peter that he will deny him three times. The astounding fact is that the whole language of loving one another as disciples is wedged between these two encounters of betrayal and denial. Lifting vv. 31-35 out of the context of betrayal and denial seems to make it just a morality piece, an injunction to love with sweet feelings and kind sentiments. Keeping these verses in this context makes it a call to a radical kind of love.
John includes a lot of time-laden words in these few verses: ‘When’, ‘now’, ‘immediately’, ‘yet’, and a second word meaning ‘now.’ Add to those words the various tenses of the verbs and there seems to be more than one layer of meaning in play – an intimate conversation between Jesus and the disciples and a sermon from John to his reading community.
Several other key words are important. “Glory” appears repeatedly in vv.31-32, and it seems to reference Jesus’ death. “Love” is repeated in vv.34-35. And v.33 makes reference to Jesus “going away” where neither the Judeans nor the disciples are able to go. That is a theme that arose in c.8 and will be an important part of the verses that immediately follow our pericope.
31 Οτε οὖν ἐξῆλθεν λέγει Ἰησοῦς, Νῦν ἐδοξάσθη ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου, καὶ ὁ θεὸς ἐδοξάσθη ἐν αὐτῷ:
Therefore when he left Jesus says, “Now the son of man was glorified, and God was glorified in him.
ἐξῆλθεν: AAI 3s, ἐξέρχομαι, 1) to go or come forth of
λέγει: PAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
ἐδοξάσθη (2x) API: δοξάζω, 1) to think, suppose, be of opinion 2) to praise, extol, magnify, celebrate
1. This story begins after Judas has left the room to go and arrange Jesus’s arrest. Judas is the antecedent to the ‘he’ in the first clause.
2. This is a curious verse to translate. The verb λέγει is a present tense, but it is modified by the original clause ‘Therefore, when [Judas] left ...’ giving it a past tense feel. The verbs ἐδοξάσθη are aorist passives, but they are modified by the word “Now,” giving them a present tense feel. Hence, most translations make the present tense past and the past tenses present.
3. I am retaining the literal tense, because this is a rough translation. I would agree with other translations and modify them during the refining process.
4. The word δοξά, which is at the heart of the verb ἐδοξάσθη, has a very interesting history. It means “opinion” or “thought,” or “appearance.” The latter is where we get the word ‘paradox,’ meaning ‘against the appearance.’ But, it can also mean “glory.” The verb here, δοξάζω, is almost exclusively translated as “glorify” in the gospels. It’s kind of fun, but hard to work out, to substitute – for example – “appearance” and “to appear” for “glory” and “to glorify” in this pericope. Hmm...
32 [εἰ ὁ θεὸς ἐδοξάσθη ἐν αὐτῷ] καὶ ὁ θεὸς δοξάσει αὐτὸν ἐν αὐτῷ, καὶ εὐθὺς δοξάσει αὐτόν.
[If God has been glorified in him] God also will glorify him in him, and immediately he will glorify him.
ἐδοξάσθη: API 3s, δοξάζω, 1) to think, suppose, be of opinion 2) to praise, extol, magnify, celebrate
δοξάσει (2x): FAI 3s, δοξάζω, 1) to think, suppose, be of opinion 2) to praise, extol, magnify, celebrate
1. The first clause is not found in many of the earlier Greek manuscripts.
2. “God will glorify him in him” is very awkward, but the awkwardness is in the Greek text itself. Most translations make it “God will glorify him in himself,” treating the dative pronoun αὐτῷ as if it were a reflexive pronoun. Another possibility would be to read the accusative pronoun αὐτὸν as the reflexive pronoun: “God will also glorify himself in him.”
3. When a sentence has two masculine singular antecedents [God and Son of Man] then uses the pronoun “him” four times, the translator/interpreter has to decide which of the antecedents in indicated by the pronouns.
4. The role of the word “immediately” and the future tense that follows seem to be referring to the crisis at hand, with Judas going to seal the deal of betrayal. Being “glorified”, then, refers to the soon-to-take-place betrayal and death.
5. What if we all looked at our impending death – whether by violent means or simply by nature of being finite – as our impending glorification? Would there be any fear left?
33 τεκνία, ἔτι μικρὸν μεθ' ὑμῶν εἰμι: ζητήσετέ με, καὶ καθὼς εἶπον τοῖς Ἰουδαίοις ὅτι Οπου ἐγὼ ὑπάγω ὑμεῖς οὐ δύνασθε ἐλθεῖν, καὶ ὑμῖν λέγω ἄρτι.
Children, yet a little I am with you; You will seek me, and just as I said to the Judeans, ‘Where I am going you are not able to go,” so I say to you now.
εἰμι: PAI 1s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
ζητήσετέ: FAI 2p, ζητέω, 1) to seek in order to find
εἶπον: AAI 1s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
ὑπάγω: PAI 1s, ὑπάγω, 1) to lead under, bring under 2) to withdraw one's self, to go away, depart
δύνασθε: PMI 2p, δύναμαι, 1) to be able, have power whether by virtue of one's own ability and resources, or of a state of mind, or through favourable circumstances, or by permission of law or custom
ἐλθεῖν: AAInf, ἔρχομαι, 1) to come
λέγω: PAI 1s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
1. The adjective “little” (μικρὸν, with no article, hence “a little”) has no noun that it is modifying. Many translations insert time-related word like “a little while.”
2. ἄρτι is another temporal term, meaning ‘now’ but different from Νῦν in v.31.
3. I continue to follow Richard Horsley’s lead (although he was referring to Mark) that Ἰουδαίοις is better translated as “Judeans” than “Jews.”
4. In Jn.8:21 Jesus says (to either the Pharisees [8:13] or the Judeans more generally [8:22]): ‘I am going away, and you will search for me, but you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come.’ Jesus will press this matter further in the verses just following our pericope.
5. This assertion seems different from either “take up your cross and follow me” or “this day will you be with me in Paradise.”
6. If I am reading greattreasures.org correctly, this is the only use of τεκνία in the gospels. Why suddenly “little children”?
34 ἐντολὴν καινὴν δίδωμι ὑμῖν, ἵνα ἀγαπᾶτε ἀλλήλους: καθὼς ἠγάπησα ὑμᾶς ἵνα καὶ ὑμεῖς ἀγαπᾶτε ἀλλήλους.
A new command I am giving to you, in order that you may love one another; just as I loved you in order that you may love one another.
δίδωμι: PAI 1s, δίδωμι, 1) to give
ἀγαπᾶτε (2x): PASubj 2p, ἀγαπάω, 1) of persons 1a) to welcome, to entertain, to be fond of, to love dearly
ἠγάπησα: AAI 1s, ἀγαπάω, 1) of persons 1a) to welcome, to entertain, to be fond of, to love dearly
1. I would suggest that the two uses of ἵνα gives this sentence a parallel structure between the first and second halves, as I have tried to indicate through the colors of my translation. The new command which Jesus gives and the love with which Jesus has loved the disciples are the parallels, set off by the phrase “just as,” each of which lead to the disciples’ love for one another.
2. The problem with this parallel structure is that “I give” is in the present and “loved” is in the past. I wonder, however, if the reason for the difference is that the person-to-person love that the disciples received from Jesus was confined to Jesus’ time among them bodily; while the command is ongoing call for John’s community.
3. Most translations, interpret the first ἵνα differently from the second one. The NRSV, for example, turns the second ἵνα into “should” and makes the second half of this sentence an elaboration of the first. The NIV makes the first ἵνα the beginning of a quote of the command itself. I certainly don’t know which of the possible translations of ἵνα is best, but it does seem to me that a sentence written so clearly as a parallel in Greek ought to reflect that parallel in English. So, whichever translation of ἵνα is best, I think it should at least be consistent in this sentence.
4. The challenge of translating the ἵνα in this text is similar to the challenge of translating it in John 15:9-17. (If interested, see comments that I made on that text at http://leftbehindandlovingit.blogspot.com/2015/05/in-order-that-you-love.html).
The word ἵνα can be translated “that” or “in order that.” If we translate ἵνα as “that” (like the KJV, ESV, NRSV), this verse reads as if “Love one another” is the new command itself. This is, of course, a very popular way of reading this text (and John 15).
But, if we translate it as “in order that,” something different appears. Instead of the ἵνα introducing the command, it shows the purpose of the command. That is to say, “Love one another” is not the command itself, but the command is given in order that the disciples would love one another. The question, then, would be: What is the new command (for which loving one another is the result)?
I would suggest that the whole demonstration of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet is the command, per verses 15-17: “I have set you an example (or pattern), that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.”
35 ἐν τούτῳ γνώσονται πάντες ὅτι ἐμοὶ μαθηταί ἐστε, ἐὰν ἀγάπην ἔχητε ἐν ἀλλήλοις.
In this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love in one another.”
γνώσονται: FMI 3p, γινώσκω, 1) to learn to know, come to know, get a knowledge of perceive, feel
ἐστε: PAI 2p, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
ἔχητε: PASubj 2p, ἔχω, 1) to have, i.e. to hold