Re: Synonyms in John 21 etc.

Date: Sun Jun 23 1996 - 01:26:38 EDT

Trench did make some good distinctions between FILEW and AGAPAW in his
article which I think would only be fair to bring out since several are
quoting from his work. He starts out his article of AGAPAW, FILEW with the
following: "We have made no attempt to discriminate between these words in
our English Version. And yet there is often a difference between them, well
worthy to have been noted and reproduced..."

I personally believe that a lot of scholarship today seems to be heading in a
direction away from the distinctions between Greek words. Many seminaries
have begun to lessen their requirements for students to master the original
languages today.

Admittedly, Trench's article seems to support that there are "aspects" in
which one form is "more" than the other (e.g., FILEW, AGAPAW), yet he
mentions that "the notions of respect and reverence are continually implied
in the AGAPAN, which, though not excluded by, are still not involved in, the
FILEIN" (pp. 39-40).

He continues, "...while men are continually bidden AGAPAN TON THEON (Matt.
xxii. 37; Luke x. 27; 1 Cor. viii. 3), and good men declared so to do (Rom.
viii. 28; 1 Pet. I. 8; 1 John iv. 21), the FILEI TON THEON is commanded to
them never."

Trench then goes on to present what has already been discussed as a possible
interpretation of John 21.

I have personally understood John 21 a little differently than Trench or what
has been mentioned here. Trench seems strongly influenced by the Latin
Vulgate's translation of these two words in this passage which leads him to
conclude his interpretations. But I see AGAPAW as lightly alluded to in the
quotes above, but in many passages in Scripture as the "divine" type of love,
though this does not exclude FILEW being used of the Divine.

In Scripture AGAPAW is often referred to as the love that Christians are to
have of God and to often times to express the highest notions of divine type
of love, love that is an act of self-sacrifice. This does not discount that
FILEW can also be use in a high sense. Yet when Jesus wants to convey the
highest ideal by the greatest act of love, He uses AGAPAW in John 15:13
"Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his
friends." That is the greatest expression of AGAPAW love, the greatest act
of self-sacrifice.

I understand that Peter had just disobeyed the Lord in the context of John 21
and did not go to Galilee and wait for the Lord as Jesus told them to do in
Matthew 28:10. In John 21:3 Peter and the others said they were going
fishing. Jesus finds them not waiting for Him as was expected, but as they
were back at their own trade. Peter and the disciples had previously run
away from Jesus during the crucifixion and doubtful at the resurrection.

Peter himself had just denied the Lord three times though he professed a
greater loyalty than all, even denying him before a fire in front of a little
servant girl. Then the scene of John 21 comes and Jesus questions Peter's
"love." As was mentioned, Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him (AGAPAW). Peter
cannot claim the divine self-sacrificial love because he has just failed the
Lord miserably by denying Him three times, so he simply responds with FILEW.
 This goes on two times when for the third time, Jesus even questions the
love Peter claimed to have, the FILEW love. Peter was grieved that he had
even questioned this love and falls on divine omniscience and exclaims,
"Lord, You know all things; You know that I FILEW You." That was Peter's one
comfort that the Lord knew more than simply his actions of self-sacrifice.

James A. McGuire
Professor of Greek
Logos Bible Institute
13248 Roscoe Blvd.
Sun Valley, CA 91352

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