Re: Synonyms in John 21

From: Randy Leedy (
Date: Mon Jun 24 1996 - 17:31:41 EDT

I want to thank Wes Williams for his response to one of my posts. In
it he wrote:

<<I considered many of the verses you listed and I would like to
respectfully submit that another conclusion is warranted than the
conclusion you reached. The article is a pointer (Robertson). It
draws attention to a PARTICULAR instance. This PARTICULAR instance
is not necessarily a DIFFERENT instance, although it may be the same
instance. Drawing attention to a PARTICULAR instance would not of
necessity affect the translation of the rest of the sentence.>>

This agree with this good clarification. I will confess that I have
used the list as a sounding board rather than having worked my
thinking down to a point where it is fully baked enough for me to
speak with any degree of dogmatism. I admit to speaking with more
confidence than my research warrants.

Still, I do not find in Wes's remarks a refutation of my claim
regarding the significance of the article in John 21. I agree that
"particularity" is a more widely applicable explanation than
"difference." "Particularity" is the general description of the
article's significance, applicable to ordinals as well as to other
kinds of words. The frequent articular ordinals in Revelation are in
the same category as "the third day," which Wes cites to support his
understanding. But I anticipated this objection to some degree in my
earlier post by placing these instances in a somewhat different
category from the ordinal in John 21, since in John 21 it is
adverbial while in these other passages it modifies a noun.

I take the idea of "difference" as a specific form of particularity,
which I still believe applies to many contexts, including those in
which the ordinal is neuter accusative used adverbially. I will
return to this topic in a moment.

Wes cites Jesus' statement of the Great Commandment(s) as an instance
of the anarthrous ordinal indicating something different. Let me
suggest that we cannot press "different" to the ultimate extent.
Philosophically, it seems to me impossible to posit absolute identity
between any two separate entities. So, yes, the commandments are
different from one another. But an important point Jesus makes is His
stress upon the similarity of the two commandments: "a second IS LIKE
UNTO the first." I find in these passages support for my view, not

Here are the passages from my list in which the ordinal is used
adverbially and which are therefore most relevant.

Articular: Mk 14:41, Ac 7:13, 2Cor 13:2 (I must confess that I don't
know what to make of this verse) and Jude 5. Admittedly slim data;
this is one of the reasons I'm interested in extra-biblical

Anarthrous: *Mt. 26:42,44; *Mk 14:72; Lk 23:22; Jn 3:4, 21:14,16; *Ac
10:15, *11:9; 1Cor 12:28 (is the usage here really parallel to the
other passages, given that the meaning relates to rank rather than
sequence?) 2Cor 12:14, 13:1; *Hb 9:28; Rev 19:3.

The references marked with an asterisk employ the idiomatic
expression EK plus the anarthrous ordinal; their relevance is perhaps
debatable. In the other passages, with the possible exception of 1Cor
12:28, the context seems to support the idea of an additional
instance qualitatively similar to the preceding one(s).

I am especially interested in any contextual analysis of these
passages that puts them in conflict with my understanding of the
article in John 21:16-17.

Later, Wes wrote:

<< The best argument that the verbs are different are their
respective differing usages in the scriptures and elsewhere, as many
have already dome in this thread.>>

The only difficulty I have with this comment is that, as I see it,
the usage demonstrates that the meanings CAN be different; that is a
different question from whether they ARE different in John 21. It
does seem to me that the words CAN be synonymous, as in Jesus'
statements about loving the chief seats (Mt. 23:6 cf. Lk 11:43) and
in the description of John as the "disciple whom Jesus loved" (Jn
13:23 cf. 20:2). Perhaps there is a difference between the words in
these contexts, but I am prepared to concede that they CAN be
equivalent. If I make that concession, then I must have some
contextual basis on which to claim that they are NOT equivalent in
John 21, especially in view of the other pairs of synonyms employed
in that passage. In my original post I offered more than one
contextual support, but most of these reasons have been discussed at
length elsewhere. The usage of the article is the one that, in
addition to my hunch that it may be the strongest contextual
indicator, I have not seen knocked about, hence my focus on it here.
In Love to God and Neighbor,
Randy Leedy
Bob Jones University
Greenville, SC

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