Re: Synonyms in John 21 etc.

From: Carlton L. Winbery (
Date: Sat Jun 22 1996 - 06:41:40 EDT

David Gowler wrote;
>>To which Carl Conrad replied:
>> Well, I never claimed to be a serious scholar, but I confess that I have
>> serious doubts that Jesus addressed his disciples in HEBREW, but I have
>> never been able to understand why, in 1st-century Galilee, it should have
>> been such an extraordinary thing for an intelligent and itinerant native to
>> know and speak Greek when he had the occasion.
>I seriously (!) agree with Carl here. Although I think Porter and
>others may press the evidence too far, they have made a good case
>that Jesus spoke (at least some) Greek. Douglas Oakman's work
>concerning the social setting (economics, in particular) also should
>be considered (i.e., about carpenters from Nazareth probably working
>in Sepphoris, etc.).
>And the work of Robert Funk, Brandon Scott,and Charles Hedrick (about
>the construction of Greek "sounds" in the parables) cannot be brushed
>aside easily, I think -- even though I still consider Aramaic to be
>the primarily language of Jesus. I do, however, have reservations
>about the work of Flusser, Young, et al. who argue for Hebrew.
>Finally, I also note that Eric put some limitations on his initial
>statement about Jesus' language -- especially the words "to the
>apostles," as well as the use of "primarily."

I think the evidence for Aramaic behind some of the sayings of Jesus is
unmistakeable. The pun in straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel,
the command to the young girl to come forth, the cry from the cross in Mark
are all in Aramaic. Styler (in an appendix to Moule, The Birth of the NT)
points out that the difference between Luke 11:41 which is really a
nonsense statement and Matt. 23:26 which makes perfect sense is the
confusion of the daleth and zayin which produces two different words in
Aramaic. I don't think there is any doubt that Jesus spoke in Aramaic. He
may well have learned some Greek, the proximity of Seppori and Nazareth,
but we lack convincing evidence of that at this time.

It is also interesting to me that the verb FILEW is used in the NT to mean
"to love" outside of the Gospel of John only in Matt. 10:37; Matt. 23:6;
1Cor. 16:22; Rev. 3:19; and Rev. 22:15. Otherwise it is used to mean "to
kiss" with or without KATA. In those places it refers to loving "father or
mother," "Son or daughter," "the chief seats," the Lord," or the risen Lord
says, "whom I love, I chasten," and also to "loving and doing a lie."

I repeat that I fail to find any evidence in the NT that any distinction is
preserved between the words AGAPAW and FILEW.

But I'd like to be convinced, because that interpretation of John 21 makes
good preaching.

Calton L. Winbery
Prof. Religion
LA College, Pineville, La

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