Re: Synonyms in John 21 etc.

Date: Sun Jun 23 1996 - 23:23:53 EDT

In a message dated 96-06-23 19:23:02 EDT, writes:

<< How ever I would not argue for a natural/unnatural (and certainly not
 ) 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 have appreciated the correspondence on the B-Greek list. It is wonderful
to have scholars who have spent much time in the original Greek of the New
Testament. I also have appreciated some of Prof. Wilkin's responses. I
would like to address what I see as a trend, however, in many scholarly
circles, including seminaries and other institutions. Below I address this
because I believe it is vital to coming up with a correct understanding of
John 21 in the light of what has been discussed. I also give some actual
scriptural support for my understanding of the current topic later in this

The Latin DILIO and AMO is exactly what Trench used in his article to come to
his conclusion. My only comment is that we must allow the Bible to be its
own context. If we go to extra-biblical Greek it is possible to come up with
all kinds of different conclusions. My plea is for us to look carefully at
the context of Scripture. The context of Scripture itself must rule. It
must be the first and final arbiter in any dispute. For hapax legomenon
(once occurring) words and the like, extra-biblical Greek is the most
helpful, yet even then the context of Scripture should rule. But for
FILEW/AGAPAW I believe we have an abundance of Scriptural context to define
the words since they are used and defined by context clearly.

Christians in the biblical era had their own peculiar vocabulary as
Christians do today. The world hardly understands anything about the
biblical love today. Can we assume they knew anything about it in Christ's
day? It seems best not to go to extra-biblical Greek primarily to formulate
our opinions of what certain words mean especially when we have so much
context of Scripture to exhaust first. The first line of defense ought to
come from Scripture.

For this thread of FILEW/AGAPAW, wouldn't it be better to refer to more
Scriptural references, themes, and theologies developed from the usages of
these words in their own contexts to formulate our conclusions?

I had a prominent Greek professor (I won't mention his name) at a TH M level
course who taught that TA STOIXEIA TOU KOSMOU referred to spiritual beings
such as demons. He came up with this from some obscure reference in an
extra-biblical reference, The Testament of Solomon, where it referred to the
stars of the sign of the Zodiac, which were believed to be spiritual beings.
 He ignored the context of Colossians 2, Galatians, Hebrews, and 2 Peter and
preferred this _secular_ extra-biblical reference.

This was typical of this institution and many others who largely ignore the
context of Scripture in favor of some extra-biblical material. How many
papers and articles do you read that emphasize for the _first_ half or more
of the paper the extra-biblical references only to "come around" to the
context later only to foist a foreign interpretation onto the context? I
have read plenty of those.

Today we have created platforms of authority that have to do with un-biblical
means. Someone can speak with authority because they know secular Greek well
or he has done a lot of research in extra-biblical texts. I would like to
see the "first" half of the papers devoted to the boundaries and limits of
the context, and while not ignoring extra-biblical Greek, yet gleaning what
can be drawn out of the context first. It may be that the extra-biblical
references are not that important after that.

Doesn't this false platform of authority mimic the attitude of the
insufficiency of Scripture the way philosophy, psychology, psychiatry, and
experience has in most churches today? Rather than the Scripture itself
being sufficient for its own definition and instruction, must we go outside

I realize that some will claim this polemic doesn't relate, but it does.
 This is exactly what is at issue here for AGAPAW and FILEW. I have seen
very little substantiation from the Scripture itself for the views that have
been presented. Rather, the admitted sources come from extra-biblical
materials. Some of the Scriptural references below are significant to regard
AGAPAW used in a higher sense than FILEW. AGAPAW is indeed characterized in
a divine sense more than FILEW in Scripture.

The context of Scripture is important. As A.T. Robertson points out in his
Word Pictures in the New Testament, "Peter makes no claim here to superior
love and passes by the "more than these" and does not even use Christ's word
AGAPAW for high and devoted love, but the humbler word FILEW for love as a
friend. He insists that Christ knows this in spite of his conduct."

Later, A. T. Robertson himself says referring to the third round of the Lord
and Peter, "This time Jesus picks up the word FILEW used by Peter and
challenges that. These two words are often interchanged in the N.T., but
here the distinction is preserved. Peter was cut to the heart ... because
Jesus challenges this very verb, and no doubt the third question vividly
reminds him of the three denials in the early morning by the fire." Note
that they were perhaps by the fire Jesus just built and the three rounds that
reminded Peter of his three denials previously.

I did some study from Scripture itself to distinguish AGAPAW and FILEW.

I. AGAPAW in Scripture (appears 109 times in verb form in N.T.)

When the greatest act of love is described, AGAPAW is used, MEIZONA TAUTHS

When the great classical passages of Scripture command the husband to love
their wives as Christ did the church, AGAPAW is used (Eph. 5:25; Col. 3:19).

As Trench pointed out, we are never commanded to FILOUMEN God, but we are to

In the Sermon on the Mount, you are commanded to AGAPATE your enemies that
you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven (Matt. 5:44-45). This models
God's love.

The great and foremost commandment is that you AGAPHSEIS the Father and your
neighbor as yourselves (Matt. 22:37-39; Mark 12:30-31).

The woman who wet Jesus' feet with tears had her sins forgiven, hOTI HGAPHSEN
 POLU; is this done for FILEW? This is ever the mark that identifies true
believers (Romans 8:28; 1 Cor. 2:9; 8:3; Eph. 6:24; 2 Tim. 4:8; James 1:12;
2:5; 1 Peter 1:8). This love that distinguishes believers from unbelievers
is to appear toward the brethren also (1 John 2:10; 3:11, 14, 23; 4:7, 8, 11,
12, 19-5:2; 2 John 5).

Sure AGAPAW is used wrongly (e.g., Luke 11:43; 2 Tim. 4:10; 2 Peter 2:15),
but it is still a great love for the wrong things that is portrayed; they
loved the darkness rather than the light (John 3:19).

John 3:16 cannot be ignored where God chose to use AGAPAW to portray His
great love to send His only begotten Son, hOUTWS GAR HGAPHSEN hO QEOS....
 This is ever the description of the Divine love for us (Gal. 2:20; Eph. 2:4;
Eph. 5:2; 5:25; 1 Thess. 1:4; 2 Thess. 2:13; 16; Heb. 12:6; Rev. 1:5; 3:9

The Father AGAPA| the Son, and has given all things into His hand (John 3:35;
cf. John 10:17; 17:23-24,26).

A new commandment Christ gave that you AGAPATE one another (John 13:34; cf.
John 15:12, 17).

Jesus HGAPA Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus; later John (John 13:23).

He who loves (hOAGAPWN) his neighbor has fulfilled the law (Romans 13:8).

II. FILEW in Scripture (appears 21 times in verb form in the N.T.)

He who loves (hO FILWN) father or mother more than Christ is not worthy of
Him (Matt. 10:37). Notice the emphasis on relationships that can be more
important than that to Christ.

FILEW used in the sense of kissing: Matt. 26:48; Mark 14:44; Luke 22:47.

The Father FILEI the Son (John 5:20). Notice the close kinship stressed here
in context of the previous and following verses.

Jesus' love of Lazarus is described by his sisters as FILEW (John 11:3) and
weeps over him; it is thus described by the Jews (11:36).

It is juxtaposed to hating one's life in this world in John 12:25 and also of
the world's love/hate of individuals (15:19) (notice once again the
relationship aspect).

The disciple whom Jesus loved is described by this verb (John 20:2), as well
as the church whom God loves (Rev. 3:19).

If anyone does not FILEI the Lord, let him be accursed (1 Cor. 16:22).

FILEW seems to embody more of an affection between the related parties than
it does of the self-sacrificial love so characteristic of God's love for
those whom He loves. Peter in the context of John 21 seems not to be able to
rise to the level of the divine self-sacrificial love since he has just
miserably failed to live up to that. The Lord was able to teach him a
valuable lesson and humble him for service. Peter could only respond with
the affection love, "I like you a lot," not the "Though all these fall away,
I will never fall away" self sacrificial love he earlier claimed.

Jesus caught him fishing, not waiting for Him as commanded (Matt. 28:10).
 Did Peter AGAPA| Christ more than these (John 21:15), the fish, or perhaps
better, more than the other disciples? No, Peter couldn't claim that, but he
relied on Christ's omniscience for knowing what love he did have.

-James A. McGuire
Logos Bible Institute
13248 Roscoe Blvd.
Sun Valley, CA 91352

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