Re: AGAPW, FILW - What language(s) did Jesus

From: Jim Lindemann (
Date: Fri Feb 14 1997 - 08:54:56 EST

Greetings in Jesus!

Just discovered y'all recently and have appreciated the repartee. I
am not a Greek scholar of the degree that I would like, nor could I go
toe-to-toe with the other deservedly respected members on this list. I
am "merely" a pastor that, with the onset of the Lenten Season, (as
has been mentioned earlier in the thread) has his time taken up with
other pursuits (and no, *obviously* not "the pursuit of filthy
lucre"....). However, if I am not too late to add a few more cents to
the fray (is this to be in 1950's dollars, or 1990's?):

My MDiv thesis (20 years ago!!!) was on the use of AGAPAW and FILEW in
John 21:15-17, because I was interested in the distinction. After
all, it makes quite a story of forgiveness and acceptance, if the
boastful, now humbled Peter cannot admit to the extraordinary AGAPAW
love, but only to the best that the human can muster -- and yet still
can be accepted, and *valued*, by Jesus!

Some items that I came up with:
1. TDNT and other sources identified that AGAPAW was decidedly a minor
word in the non-Biblical writings. Yet the reverse is true in the
Biblical, especially in John who uses AGAPAW 44 x's to FILEW's 13 --
that basis alone should indicate that AGAPAW had an uncommon emphasis.

2. As God the Father (e.e., John 3:16) and Jesus had a new depth to
love as opposed to the non-Biblical Greek understanding, it would be
useful to take an uncommon word and redefine it within the context of
the Church. The fact of the uncommon word would make outsiders
curious as to its usage, and so would come the opportunity to describe
the new depth (like many have done in recent time with AGAPAW itself).

3. If AGAPAW and FILEW were merely interchangable synonyms, then one
would expect the "spread" of usage would reflect randomness in John.
However that is not the case. Of the 13 x's of FILEW, 5 are in
Chapter 21, 2 in 16:27, 2 in Chapter 11. That leaves 4 spread out
among 40 AGAPAW (excluding Chapters 11 and 21).

4. It is said that there is only one word in Aramaic for love. Yet
can we with any real authority say that there was nothing in idiomatic
Aramiac that would reflect a new, redefined love?

I would like to add another .05 cent (hey, it's a pastor's salary!) in
the debate as to what Jesus "originally" spoke. The problem I have
with most of these arguments is that they are based upon the logical
fallacy of *argument from absence*. Therefore, since the argument is
based merely on conjecture, you can come to any conclusion you wish
and who is to prove you wrong? But when you have settled the
question, what have you gained, really?

Could Jesus have been fluently quatri-lingual? Why not? I have met a
few rare people who are. And since Jesus had the perfect human's
brain, I certainly don't doubt His capacity. After all, how many
12-year-olds do you know who can set adult scholars back on their
heels! (heck, I can't even at age 47!)

Since John, James, Peter and Andrew apparently had quite a healthy
fishing corporation going and John's apparent access to the house of
Caiaphas indicate that these disciples were no country hicks, and
likely had multi-language requirements in their business; Matthew as
tax-collector could easily be assumed as at least bi/tri-lingual, and
who knows what else could be conjectured?!

Spending not -- an hour on Sunday and maybe a couple hours in weekday
Bible class --, but spending three years morning, noon, and night with
Jesus would certainly add nuances to the disciples' understanding and
theology that a surface scan of the language would not pick up. Who
knows what kinds of conversations went on in all those untold hours?

The point is, is that any conclusions as to what Jesus originally
spoke will be useless and will only be straw men that will *naturally*
end up supporting exactly what I wanted it to before I began.

But we really have no choice if we want to find out what GOD had in
mind for us -- because HE only gave it to us in Greek. That
ultimately is the only final authority to which we can plead, when we
want to look at what Jesus said. (I guess we could always hold a
seance and ask John himself what he meant..... Any mediums out there?
How about something raw?)

Anyway (Oh, yeah, we were talking about AGAPAW and FILEW!!), the
conclusions I reached were:

AGAPAW was commanded, deliberate and expressed in physical reality (as
opposed to merely in a love-poem); therefore it had elements of
commitment and decision borne into action, especially in an act of
giving, even to giving one's life or beloved Son. In fact, "giving"
seems to be a large keynote in AGAPAW -- giving for purely altruistic
reasons, so altruistic that it reaches out to even the enemy (3:16
with 1:10-11).

FILEW (as Isadoras has emphasized) is different. It seems to center
on the pleasure, the communion, the oneness, the intimacy one has with
the object of the love. Whereas AGAPH is altruistic, FILEW has more
the "give-and-take" of love.

This then would also have the more emotional aspect of love, hence
Jesus weeping over Lazarus' tomb (11:36) -- yet this relationship to
Lazarus had greater elements to it, therefore AGAPAW in 11:5. Rather
than contrasting the two, chapter 11 suggests that both are essential
in the relationship between God and the believer: the altruistic love
AND the communion love, from BOTH directions (although man's AGAPAW is
because GOD first loved us).

As with all gifts, love even in both forms can be perverted, diverted
and abused.

But why the accent on AGAPAW? In a sense, it still is the "higher",
more demanding love, quite the opposite of the selfishness of sin. It
would most identify the contrast of the (assumed) "other-centeredness"
of Genesis 2:25 with the "self-consciousness" of rebellion in Genesis

However, some difficulties remain (Gee, I haven't got all the
answers??): in John 21:15-17, the NAI of Peter's answer (what was the
emphatic "YES!" in regard to -- "do you love me" or "more than
these"?); and "the disciple whom Jesus loved" (20:2), why FILEW here
and not AGAPAW -- was it merely synonym or was it emphasizing
something else?

Sorry for the length (yes, the paper WAS longer!!). The thesis was
written ITBC (In the Time Before Computers), so if someone wants a
copy, you'll have to wait until my secretary has the time for it
(let's see, I should be able to type it on ......).

Hope it added to the fray! Thanks for the opportunity, and for the
worthwhile group!

Happy St Valentine's Day (despite the dumb "cherubic" cupids!)!

Jim Lindemann
Box 964 Pincher Creek Alberta CANADA T0K 1W0
God even uses the mouth of a jackass (Numbers 22) --
BUT there IS a difference between braying and praying! (Luke 18)

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