To whom does the word “love” in the Bible point?

by John Holbrook Jr.
A Biblical View, posted July 25, 2016

Preamble

One of the intriguing aspects of the Scriptures is their use of a word for the first time – first in the Bible as a whole and then in a particular book of the Bible. The word’s first use invariably points to someone or something important. There is no more important word in the Bible than “love,” for it is identified with God himself, as in “God is love” (John 1:8,14). To whom do the first uses of the word “love” in the Bible point?

Genesis

The first use of the word love in the Old Testament occurs when God addresses Abraham: “Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of” (KJV Genesis 18:2).

Here God is asking Abraham to sacrifice his beloved son to serve God’s purposes, which God will later do with his own Son. Abraham the father is a prefigurement of God, and Isaac the son is a prefigurement of Jesus.

Gospel of Matthew

The first use of the word love in the New Testament and in Matthew’s Gospel occurs during Jesus’ baptism: “And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (KJV Matthew 3:16-17).

Later in Matthew’s Gospel, when Jesus, Peter, John, and James are up on the Mount of Transfiguration, God again identifies Jesus as his Son: “While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him” (KJV Matt 17:5).

On both occasions, God is identifying Jesus as his beloved son, who will be sacrificed to serve God’s purpose – the redemption of the faithful.

Gospel of Mark

The first use of the word love in Mark’s Gospel occurs during Jesus’ baptism: “And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him: And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” KJV Mark 1:10-11).

Later in Mark’s Gospel, when Jesus, Peter, John, and James are up on the Mount of Transfiguration, God again identifies Jesus as his Son: “And there was a cloud that overshadowed them: and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him” (KJV Mark 9:7).

Again, on both occasions, God is identifying Jesus as his beloved son, who will be sacrificed to serve God’s purpose – the redemption of the faithful.

Gospel of Luke

 The first use of the word love in Luke’s Gospel occurs during Jesus’ baptism: “Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened, 22 And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased” (KJV Luke 3:21-22).

Later in Luke’s Gospel, when Jesus, Peter, John, and James are up on the Mount of Transfiguration, God again identifies Jesus as his Son: “While he thus spake, there came a cloud, and overshadowed them: and they feared as they entered into the cloud. 35 And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him” (KJV Luke 9:34-35).

Again, on both occasions, God identifies Jesus as his beloved son, who will be sacrificed to serve God’s purpose – the redemption of the faithful.

Gospel of John

The first use of the word love in John’s Gospel occurs when Jesus says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved (KJV John 3:16-17).

Conclusion

Clearly, the first use of the word “love” in the Bible as a whole and in particular books of the Bible is being used to point us toward Jesus, God-the-Son, who went to the cross to pay for the sins of all those who would acknowledge him as their Savior and Lord.

Moreover, here is a profound indication of God’s authorship of the Bible. The first use of the word love in Genesis 22:2 is located in Genesis’s Chronicle 7 – The Generations of Isaac (see the Appendix below). Thus the six persons who wrote Genesis’s chronicles 1-6 during the 4th and 3rd millenniums BC avoided using the word “love” entirely. Then Isaac, who wrote his chronicle c. 1695 BC, used it first in connection with a father sacrificing his beloved son. Moses then incorporated Isaac’s chronicle in Genesis, which he wrote c. 1435 BC. Then Matthew (the tax collector), Mark (probably the young son of a Jerusalem woman in whose house Christians met for prayer), Luke (a physician), and John (probably a fisherman) wrote their Gospels between 33 and 70 AD. What possessed these 12 men, from different backgrounds and professions, writing in different times over nearly 4,000 years [1] to either avoid the use of the word “love” altogether or use it first to describe the love of a father for a son whom he was going to sacrifice to God? The only reasonable answer to these two questions is, the Holy Spirit.

I hope that you will agree: the Bible is truly God-breathed.

APPENDIX: THE DIVISIONS OF GENESIS

Moses is usually credited with writing all five books of the Torah or Pentateuch. While he undoubtedly wrote Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, a moment’s thought will convince you that he compiled Genesis from previously written and oral records, because Genesis describes people and events that lived or occurred up to almost 2,500 years before Moses was born. Moreover, they contain an extraordinary amount of information.

Genesis is divided into nine sections, which do not conform to man’s division of the Bible into chapters and verses. I call these divisions “chronicles,” because they relate the history of specific periods of time.

The chronicles are identified by what are called toledoths.  A toledoth terminates each chronicle with the phrase “these are the generations of…” or “this is the generation of….”  I title each of them with its toledoth.

 Chronicle 1 is titled “The generations of the heavens and the earth.” It could also be called the Creation Chronicle. It starts in Genesis 1:1 and ends with the toledoth in Genesis 2:4a. It must have been dictated by God to Adam.

Chronicle 2 is titled “The generations of Adam.” It starts in Genesis 2:4b and ends with the toledoth in Genesis 5:1a. It was undoubtedly written by Adam himself.

Chronicle 3 is titled “The generations of Noah.” It starts in Genesis 5:1b and ends with the toledoth in Genesis 6:9a. It was undoubtedly written by Noah himself.

Chronicle 4 is titled “The generations of the Sons of Noah.” It starts in Genesis 6:9b and ends with the toledoth in Genesis 10:1a. It was probably written by Shem, as he wrote the next chronicle.

Chronicle 5 is titled “The generations of Shem.” It starts in Genesis 10:1b and ends with the toledoth in Genesis 11:10a. It was undoubtedly written by Shem himself.

Chronicle 6 is titled “The generations of Terah.” It starts in Genesis 11:10b and ends with the toledoth in Genesis 11:27a. It was undoubtedly written by Terah himself.

Chronicle 7 is titled “The generations of Isaac.” It starts in Genesis 11:27b and ends with the toledoth in Genesis 25:19a. It was undoubtedly written by Isaac himself. It includes “the generations of Ishmael” (Genesis 25:12a), the record of his half-brother’s sons.

Chronicle 8 is titled “The generations of Jacob.” It starts in Genesis 25:19b and ends with the toledoth in Genesis 37:2a. It was undoubtedly written by Jacob himself. It includes “the generations of Esau, who is Edom” (Genesis 36), “the generations of Esau the father of the Edomites in Mount Seir (Genesis 35:29), and the eight generations of the Edomite Kings (Genesis 36:31-39) – all probably documents from his brother’s family.

Chronicle 9 is titled “The generations of the Sons of Jacob.” It starts in Genesis 37:2b and ends with the toledoth in Exodus 1:1. It was probably written by one of Jacob’s sons.

© 2016 John Holbrook Jr.

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[1] i.e. from Adam’s later years to the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple.

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