John 13:35 Mistranslated?

by KerryKing 12 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • KerryKing

    Disclaimer! I am not a Bible translator not do I speak ancient Greek or Hebrew.

    John 13: 35 NWT : 'By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves '.

    (Curiously, this verse is not listed in the NWT Index under the word 'disciples'.)

    The Biblehub Interlinear reads : ' By this will know all that to Me disciples you are if love you have among yourselves '.

    Could it actually mean, contrary to all Bible translations, that it is Jesus himself, and not people in general, who identifies his disciples because they show love among each other?

    At no point past or present has society in general said, ' oh these people are Jesus disciples because they're so loving to each other.' JWs are known for knocking on doors, that's it...

    Matt 25: 34-46 'to the extent that you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me'. Re showing love to each other.

    Even Jesus disciples themselves don't realise that their love and care towards each other is anything outstanding. People in general are also unaware that their treatment of others has been unacceptable, according to this prophecy.

    The only one who recognises the love and the actions of his disciples, is Jesus himself.

    How do JWs fare under the scrutiny of these verses I wonder? From growing up in the religion, I very often felt that those who did good deeds towards their own br and sis did so out of a sense of duty, a way to rack up brownie points upstairs, rather than a genuine display of love.

    Or maybe I am too cynical, of course there are exceptions, but as a group, I feel that especially since the 2020 worldwide Media circus, they have lost their way even more.


  • PioneerSchmioneer

    I was a catechist and religious teacher for some time after I left the Watchtower, and I taught Biblical Greek in some of my relgious classes.

    This is how you translate the verse, and this is what the verse means:

    ἐν τούτῳ γνώσονται πάντες ὅτι ἐμοὶ μαθηταί ἐστε, ἐὰν ἀγάπην ἔχητε ἐν ἀλλήλοις.

    With this will know all my disciples you are--if love you have with one another.--My own rough interlinear rendering.

    Or as rendered in the ESV-Catholic Edition:

    "By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."--John 13:35.

    The idea here is that Jesus wanted his disciples to be self-sacrificing, not merely in serving the public to make disciples, but ongoing once a person was a disciple and part of the group--to the point of dying for one another if the need be. And so this has been the case throughout history from time to time, whether it has been literal or not.

    As early as the days of the Church Fathers, Tertullian of Catharge wrote of how people commented about the Church:

    “It is mainly the deeds of a love so noble that lead many to put a brand upon us. See how they love one another, they say, for they themselves are animated by mutual hatred; how they are ready even to die for one another, they say, for they themselves will sooner put to death (The Apology, ch. 39).”

    The list of matyrs for the faith continues down to our era, many dying for the sake of others. There were grissly deaths of Catholics and Protestants in Asia in modern times, people who died at the hands of persecuting goverments at times in public demonstrations/executions after missionaries were sent away and all was left were these common, native people, many refusing to give up names of others who were practicing the faith. Some of these are now even canonized saints in the Catholic and Anglican faiths.

    The JW interpretation has been one limited to how they themselves do good deeds to just members who stay faithful to their own religion. Once in a while someone might lose their lives due to persecution but it is rare. The number of canonized matyrs in Catholicism is over 14,000--that is just those canonized as saints. (See the Martyrologium Romanum Editio Typica Altera - 2004, which is the latest edition.) Many Christians die for their faith every year, out numbering the total of Jehovah's Witnesses who suffer matyrdom.

    But the text also has reference to service to people in a way that Jehovah's Witnesses refuse to do, namely to love others as if they were members of their own religion even if they were not. This is how most Christians interpret the text.

    They take the text and often see it as a parallel to Matthew 25:31-46 where Jesus talks about seeing and serving him in the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, sick, imprisoned, etc. If one can see Jesus in the least of these and serve him in them, then they truly "love one another."

    But when people fail to do things like serve Jesus in the least, another text is used in this link:

    If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.--1 John 4:20.--ESV-CE.

    Thus the difference in the way the text is often used by Christians in the mainstream compared to how it has been used by Jehovah's Witnesses. It is used to serve the public by Christianity, whereas it is used to be self-serving in the Watchtower.

  • ElderBerry

    I think on this regard JWs are by far the best in all the nations. JWs can go anywhere and find the nearest congregation and be love bombed and helped.

    If a JW moves to anywhere else on the globe, the nearest congregation will get a letter and then they will be love bombed and if they need help they will be helped at a lot.

    I don’t think any other organisation fulfills Jesus identifying mark of his true followers like JWs

  • KerryKing

    In theory I suppose the RCC preaches the love, but in reality, in the Catholic Ireland I'm from, that is far from the case, workhouses, mother and baby homes, the illegal burial and sale of babies and children by such establishments (still ongoing), child abuse, the blind eye Rome turned to the genocide now called a famine etc etc.

    There are and have been good Christians in that denomination, b but as a group, they definitely don't fit Jesus description from what I see.

  • TD

    Perhaps it's the dative possessive that's throwing you off KerryKing?

    (Or more precisely, the generic way it's indicated in English interlinear text.)

  • PioneerSchmioneer


    I believe the LDS church, the Mormons, have the JWs beat on your claim.

    Where I live, when someone new moves into a home or apartment, missionaries (women and young men) greet them ready to help them move in if they need or see if they need any help with getting situated into the area, finding any practical help they need. They will make sure they get connected to their church or syngagogue or temple or secular group--and any charities. They will also keep in contact with them if they need any further assistance or help them network if they are new to the area. The people don't even need to be Mormon or require a "letter" like they do in the Watchtower.

    @ KerryKing:

    I don't think any people or organization, religious or non-religious, secular, atheist, agnostic, Catholic, Protestant, etc., is free of guilt from the abuse and rape of children and babes. I myself was abused by my parents in just this way growing up. They were secular people, without religion. Being that way and very well educated and very wealthy didn't keep them from being enlightened enough from being horrible to their own children in just the same way. People have the capacity and desire to be evil and terrible and want to hurt other people--and they have the capacity to be good. Most people just won't do it. However a person chooses to dress, whether in secular or religious dress, doesn't change the fact about you wanting to be hurtful and evil.

  • ThomasMore

    Elderberry - that be the case in some locales but it is not the rule throughout the world, as I can personally testify. Sadly many so-called Christian denominations are also not welcoming.

    In JWland, love-bombing is often very conditional and insincere. There are also exceptions but in general, JWs are devouring each other with criticism and contentions, not to mention unethical business dealing.

  • truthlover123

    It is true that you can go anywhere and be love bombed and helped initially.

    But that fades and quickly. I ( and a crew) personally have helped families to move, set up homes of new ones in area, cleaned when someone was sick, made meals, driven sick ones to hospital for treatment.... even helped shingle roofs, so I am versed in all that however, during the past 20 years or so, that has taken a drastic turn when we have become older and not able to help as much, there seems to be a lack of young ones to take over. Let alone, sign up as ms or elders. If you need to move something now, hire a truck, pay for it. Get groceries picked up, make dr appts when you can get there.... it has all changed and I don't see it ever coming back.

  • blondie

    Kerry King, I went online and looked on the Watchtower Online Library, and found this in the index. :


    , Mt 28:19 make d. of people of all nations

    Joh 8:31 If remain in my word, you are my d.

    Joh 13:35 know you are my d.—if you have love

  • raymond frantz
    raymond frantz

    This is the translation from the Kingdom Interlinear that the Watchtower promotes on their website

    The crucial word is "ean=if ever" I don't see why anyone will translate EAN as "if ever" , it doesn't work. The correct interpretation should be "if(=EAN) you love among yourselves."

    (=I'm Greek, with 3 years studies in Koini)

    What is the context through the lense of the first few centuries of the church? The type of love Christians portrayed was UNIQUE for the first few centuries and the reason many pagans converted to Christianity, some excerpts below

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