Synonymy in John 21
>There are several issues at play in the question of synonymy in John 21.
>1. We can never *prove* or *disprove* synonymy in the work of a
>deceased writer, since synonymy is, in fact, a mental perception, not a
Well, what do you think you *can* "prove"??? Very little, I expect :-).
>Words are synonymous if a particular person detects
>them to be so in a particular context.
Humm. So you don't believe authorial intent determines meaning? If I
misunderstand you, then that becomes the meaning? I fail to see how
determining synonomy is any different than the normal practical problems
with determining authorial intent.
>2. As I mentioned in my earlier post, if this story is believed to
>be based on a veritable event, we must recognize that the conversations
>in that incident would have taken place in Aramaic, not Greek.
This is not clear, IMO and I think we have to deal with the canon as a
start. I know some of my friends are into reconstructing the text in may
different ways, but when you are trying to do discourse analysis it is
difficult enough without having to posit all sorts of speculation. At least
I found discourse analysis somewhat of a challenge when I took it (after my
>It is interesting to note in this context,
>that that our earliest link to the original Aramaic conversation (the Syriac
>translation) contains no hint of a distinction between phileO and
>agapaO. The same Aramaic/Syriac verb is used to translate both Greek
>verbs. Of course, the Syriac New Testament is a translation of the
>Greek, not an independent witness. Furthermore, the Syriac (as a
>written) document is probably at least 300 years later than the original
>events. However, the failure of the Syriac to make a distinction between
>these two Greek verbs implies:
> a. that people conversant in the two languages (Greek and
> Syriac/Aramaic) in the fourth century saw no need to
> distinguish the verbs, i.e., they treated them as
> b. If there was any living tradition of Jesus' words in
> Aramaic/Syriac, no distinction was preserved between
> the verb used by both Peter and Jesus and the one used
> exclusively by Jesus.
This is interesting, but I don't know Syriac to evaluate how the words are
translated in the other contexts. Again, it is one interpretation, maybe
careful, maybe not.
>3. The gospel of John elsewhere uses agapaO and phileO interchangably.
>The "beloved disciple" is referred to alternatively as "hon Hgapa ho
>iHsous" and "hon ephilei ho iHsous."
This I disagree with. You example does not prove that the words are
synonyms, just that both apply to Jesus->John. There would have been lots of
places where I would have expected synonomy in the upper room discourse if
the words were true equals.
>4. I (and others) have pointed out in earlier posts that the use of
>synonymy in John 21 (if we are correct in detecting it at all) is by no
>means limited to agapaO and phileO. There are other terms which appear
>to be synonymous. I mentioned particularly two pairs often overlooked:
> opsarion / prosphagion (see vv. 5, 9)
> ploion / ploiarion (see vv. 3, 8)
Yes, I did look at these again.
>Since there are several sets of these terms (e.g., the pairs of terms for
>"love," for "know"), a question arises in my mind. Why is it that only the
>concrete terms ("boat," "breakfast," "drag") are to be treated as
>synonyms, and the abstractions ("love") are to be treated as distinct?
Which concepts are important to the book of John's message:
"boat" "breakfast" "drag" or "love"?
Variation in insignificant terms is insignificant. Don't you do that in your
writing? I do. With words that really don't matter, I have a lot of variety,
but with words central to my major point I take more care.
Is synonomy a real possibility? Yes. Do I believe it here? No.