Re: Synonyms in John 21 etc.

Date: Fri Jun 21 1996 - 14:43:43 EDT

To save space, I am replying to several posts here, and I apologize for any
inconvenience this may cause.
In regard to the question about Greek software, I wrote a beginning Greek
tutorial called HyperGreek, which gets you through the first semester of be-
ginning Greek (I may eventually extend it to a year's worth). It can be ordered
from Intellimation at 1-800-3-INTELL, and the good news is that you can return
it for a refund if it doesn't work out for you (please excuse the commercial).
As to synonyms in John and so on, the arguments about the language Jesus and
the apostles used and related speculation about the original language of the
gospels seems to rear its ugly head every few years or so. I don't think ANY
serious scholar doubts that Jesus primarily (and perhaps entirely) spoke to
the apostles in Aramaic and/or Hebrew. That is really not the issue. As to
whether synonyms like FILEW and AGAPAW mean anything, it depends on bigger
questions such as one's view of inspiration and the degree to which we are
willing to believe that the writers or sources of oral tradition were able
to distinguish meaning in whatever they had to work with. If you believe that
such distinctions as FILEW/AGAPAW were not possible in Aramaic/Hebrew (or
distinctions such as tense in grammar, etc.) then you will inevitably mini-
mize or write off those distinctions. Personally I take it as a matter of
faith that the gospel writers did convey accurately whatever lexical or gram-
matical distinctions were intended by the original speakers. That may not be
a scientific approach, but I don't see how we can prove either of the opposing
theories. I also make a much more rational assumption, viz. that the writers
were all at least bilingual and capable of writing Greek, and thus I see no
reason to argue that the Greek gospels are translations (which again raises
more serious questions about inspiration).
On the more specific question of FILEW/AGAPAW, I would like to suggest that
FILEW is a higher form of love than AGAPAW. AGAPAW seems to be a "charitable"
love in that one provides for another's needs, without developing a relation-
ship as a friend to the other person (i.e. no personal ties). FILEW, on the
other hand, implies the close connection between friends and the related
obligations that were so important in the ancient world. By this interpreta-
tion, then, Jesus twice asks Peter if he is committed to him at the lower
level of love, and Peter responds by raising the commitment to the higher
level of a true friend. The third time, Jesus questions whether Peter is
really committed to him at this higher level, or perhaps whether Peter really
understands what such commitment really entails, and this would explain
Peter's hurt feelings. So it is not that Jesus asks him the question three
times, it is rather (as I think the Greek implies) the fact that Jesus uses
FILEW the third time. Some people object to the notion that AGAPAW would not
include the bonds of friendship, but in every passage where the objection
would be raised, I think there is a reasonable answer--sometimes that friend-
ship is not being denied, but that it is just not the focus of AGAPAW.

Don Wilkins
UC Riverside

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