Re: Synonyms in John 21 etc.

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Sat Jun 22 1996 - 09:16:16 EDT

At 4:08 PM -0400 6/21/96, Eric Weiss wrote:
>Until Don Wilkins' post, everything I have read assumes or implies that
>AGAPAW is a "higher" form of love than FILEW, I guess because it is based on
>the "intrinsic worth" of the object loved and seeks nothing (e.g.,
>friendship) in return, whereas the "affection" inherent in FILEW somehow
>implies a more selfish love. I hope there is further discussion around Don's
>intriguing and definitely provocative remarks. Has this perspective been
>discussed in journals/books?

I guess that it is time for me, who have been lurking (I have gotten a
local PPP account in Asheville, but that's still a long-distance call from
the shadow of Mt. Mitchell), to expose myself to the winds of this little

I really don't understand this distinction that Don Wilkins is trying to
make here between AGAPH and FILIA, at least in so far as he wants to afirm
that FILIA is superior to AGAPH.

To be sure, etymologically and apparently originally the root FIL- seen in
the adjective FILOS,-H,-ON, the noun FILIA, and the verb FILEW referred to
the affection of kindred persons (or things? Odysseus, according to Homer,
repeatedly spoke PROS hON FILON HTOR (which we translated gleefully as
undergraduates, "to his own dear liver" but now more appropriately we
render "to himself"), i.e. to HIS OWN (hON is the relexive pronominal
adjective) KINDRED (belonging to himself) HEART (the liver being the seat
of affections?). So FILIA is the affection of those who recognize a kindred
affinity with each other and express kindred afection for each other (FILEW
may mean "kiss"): call it "familial love," if you like. Is it more
"personal?" Perhaps it needs to be studied again, but I'm not convinced
that the usage is clearly distinct in the NT to suggest it is a "superior"
kind of love.

God's love for the world in John 3:16 is AGAPH;the love that binds members
of the believing community to each other in John 15 is AGAPH; and in 15:13,
FILWN AUTOU. The beloved disciiple is hON EFILEI hO IHSOUS (20:2). I
suppose then that FILIA is "natural affection" and AGAPH is "unnatural
affection" (OR "divine affection?")?

> ... 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.

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.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR

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