John's Use of Synonyms

Aaron Wells (
Tue, 14 May 1996 10:33:54 -0700

Eric Weiss is right to point out that John makes a stylistic
interchange when he uses words which are near synonyms. The equivalence
of certain groups of words is most instructive for getting at John's
theology. Thus "accepting" Jesus is parallel to and equivalent to
"believing in his name." Rejection of Jesus is failure to "believe in
His Name". If we explore the subject a little further we find that
"accepting Jesus" is the equivalent of "accepting _the words_ of Jesus"
(John 17:8). This is most illuminating in relation to current
evangelism. You almost never hear an evangelist urge people to accept
"the words of Jesus," but often simply "to accept Jesus." This creates
a fogginess in the mind of the convert. John's equivalent and
interchangable words give us just the clarity we need. The acceptance
of the words of Jesus is necessary for conversion to the faith.
"Believing" means "believing words." We might compare Acts 8:12, a
wonderful early creedal formula (almost)where believing the words of
Philip was the way to get a handle on the faith. How after all can you
believe in anyone if you don't know what he has to say?