Re: Synonyms in John 21 etc.

Date: Sun Jun 23 1996 - 18:52:10 EDT

Wow! It seems that I have a great deal to which to reply. I'll try to cover
everything in at least a cursory fashion.
Carl is a remarkable facsimile of a serious scholar if he is not one; his
humility is refreshing in an age of the prima donna. As to my view that FILH
is a higher form of love than AGAPH, I suppose that you can interpret "higher"
in various ways. I stand by my original comments, at least until proved
otherwise. Carl's explanation of FILH seems consistent with my own; I think
it implies a relationship between people while AGAPH does not, and in either
case there is a willingness to do good to the other person. We can see AGAPH
expressed in charitable activity, without the personal relationship. How-
ever I would not argue for a natural/unnatural (and certainly not "divine"
) distinction. It is perhaps interesting for illustrative purposes that the
Latin uses DILIGO here for AGAPAW, and AMO for FILEW. I came to my present
conclusions about the two words by looking at their usage in extra-biblical
Greek and applying my theory to NT passages. I do *not* base the theory on
etymology, and I have advised others to avoid such arguments (I would agree
with Carson and Silva in this area). The love that we show fellow believers
is, I believe, for the most part AGAPH; we do good to them because of our
fellow status in Christ, but we do not know them all as close friends (as in
FILEW). I hastily admit that this is merely personal experience, not a logical
argument. I would also admit that we may not see these distinctions in every
occurrence of either word, or at least that the distinctions are not obvious.
Carl mentions inter alia Homer's FILON HTOR, which would be an interesting
example if it were not Homer or poetry (we can quickly go wrong if we attempt
to relate everything Homeric to NT or even classical Greek, as A.T. Robert-
son seemed to do). It could be a productive inquiry for us to examine all the
uses of AGAP- in extra-biblical Greek, and I would be willing to run searches
on the TLG and PHI disks if we're all interested. Some interesting citations
have already been mentioned, as I noted in my last post.
Dale drew attention to the comments of Carson and Silva and very subtly and
kindly suggested that their views are to be preferred to mine, if I read him
correctly. There would be no shame in being rejected for the views of the
best of scholars and gentlemen. I don't have Silva's book (I spend too much
money on computer software) but I would take issue with Carson, whom I other-
wise hold in the highest regard. I've already answered his appeal to the root
fallacy. While I agree that synonyms can overlap in meaning, but when they
are used in the same narrow context (as in John 21), I would argue that the
differences in meaning are significant. Carson's criticism of those who depend
on the LXX is again answered (or can be) by research of the words in extra-
biblical contexts. Moveover when Carson complains that synonomy in any con-
text is impossible if one argues for a difference in the total semantic range
of one word vs. another, he seems to be excluding any possibility of differ-
ence in meaning. One can argue for significant differences in meaning among
synonyms in a context favoring distinction without succombing Hendricksen's
fallacy (as identified by Carson; also, I meant "succombing to"). I might
add, coincidentally, that Carson, though arguably one of the top 5 conserv-
ative exegetes today, is not immune to fallacy or error. I found it amusing,
for example, that he cites four passages originally listed by Caird as exam-
ples of the copulative usage of EIMI (p. 59 of EF; note footnote 72), when in
fact none of them has the verb. So Carson is human too (I don't know about
Carlton comments that he fails to find any distinction between the two words
in the NT, and I would only add that it will frequently be easier to make
this assumption (something like the "default mode" on a computer) than the
opposite. I continue to apply the theory I have proposed and find that it
works well. One has to keep in mind that personal friendship etc. is not
*excluded* by AGAPAW, just not addressed by it.
One other point: I would not insist on bringing out the distinction of FILEW
that I have described in every occurrence, any more than I would insist on
finding a special distinction for the middle voice in every middle verb; no
doubt sometimes the distinction just cannot be expressed.
Finally, on my comment about Jesus' language: someone rightly pointed out that
I did not argue Jesus never spoke Greek. Personally I think he spoke Aramaic
most of the time but was probably fluent in Greek and perhaps knew some Latin
as well. The purpose of my original comment was just to concede the likelihood
that we have Greek translation of what he said in the gospels (and perhaps
some of it Greek directly from our Lord's mouth), and hopefully to move that
discussion on to the next stage of the implications of the translation Greek.
Sorry for the long and probably boring post; I'll try not to make a habit of it!
Don Wilkins
UC Riverside

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