Re: Synonyms (???) in John

From: Randy Leedy (
Date: Fri Feb 14 1997 - 17:34:34 EST

Kevin Anderson wrote:

>>>Because of the other synonymous vocabulary you have yourself
noted, I have also come to the conclusion that the verbs AGAPAW and
PHILEW are used virtually interchangeably in John. What's more,
however, is the fact that trying to draw fine distinctions between
the vocabulary in John 21:15ff stumbles over the importance of the
repetition in the passage. The climactic moment comes when it is said
that Peter was grieved that Jesus had questioned his love "a third
time"--most important in light of Peter's thrice denial of Jesus.

I'd like to take issue with the phrase in quotes: "a third time." On
June 18, 1996, I posted a rather lengthy defense of the view that
AGAPAW and PHILEW are contextually distinguishable in this passage.
Part of my support was derived from the use/nonuse of the article
with the ordinal numerals "second" and "third." John does not write
that Jesus asked "a third time"; he writes that Jesus asked "the
third time." I am not dogmatic about this, but an analysis of the use
of the article with ordinals in the New Testament seems to support
the idea that articular ordinals point out something unique or
different about the given instance while anarthrous ones seem to
signify that the given instance was simply another of the same kind
as the previous ones.

I don't want to rehash this whole thing; I'm sure the thread must be
in the archives for anyone who wants to see it. [You know, Carl, you
never really did give me your opinion on this last summer :-) ]. The
view that the words are distinguishable (AGAPAW = self-sacrificing
commitment to another's welfare; PHILEW = personal attachment)
permits a reading that recognizes a very careful development to a
climax. Any displacement of the key terms (the verbs and the
use/nonuse of the article) destroys the development, and there are
512 possible arrangements of them (9 slots [six verb occurrences and
three ordinal numbers] to be filled with one of two options yields 2
to the 9th, or 512, possible arrangements). So, while recognizing
that the other synonyms in this passage may be interchangeable and
that these verbs may be interchangeable in other contexts, I choose
to believe that the verbs are not used in free variation in this
passage, where we have so much context available to help us
distinguish between them.

Wishing to all a good weekend,

In Love to God and Neighbor,
Randy Leedy
Bob Jones University
Greenville, SC

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Sat Apr 20 2002 - 15:38:06 EDT