AGAPAO in John 21 and "the third time"

From: Gary S. Shogren (
Date: Fri Feb 14 1997 - 17:48:00 EST

I have enjoyed the discussion on synonymity, and believe it highly likely
that GJohn is using variation for its own sake in ch. 21 - and elsewhere.
Nor did the apostle whom Jesus loved get demoted to being the apostle whom
Jesus liked in Jn 20:2.

Ken Anderson mentioned this -- that the "third time" clause seems to mean:

        View A. Peter is grieved because Jesus keeps after him despite his
avowals of love, the three-fold questioning being an echo of Peter's denials.

But what of the other view...

        View B. Peter is grieved that Jesus condescended to Peter's choice
of verb, and the third time used PHILEO rather than the "higher" verb

Can anyone speak to whether A or B is a better reading of TO TRITON based on
grammatical considerations? Does it pin Peter's grief to Jesus asking this,
or asking this with PHILEO?

From my observations, and from this discussion, it seems to me that one has
to assume what one is proving, that AGAPE = Divine Love, because the data do
not support it; nor does linguistical insight. And that the discussion is
still being driven by a 19th century theory of synonyms, which in turn was
based on relatively sketchy data. It's one of those issues where you want
to ask: if we had put off the question until now, would the traditional view
ever have had any credibility? EG - if Bousset were writing _Kyrios
Christos_ from scratch today, could he have ever gotten away with making
such a firm distinction between the Aramaic Palestinian church v. the
Greek-speaking churches? I digress..

This was a timely discussion for me - I came up to John 21 in my Johannine
Lit class last night, and when I mentioned Amnon's love for Tamar was AGAPE
love I nearly caused a riot. The truth hurts.

IMHO, it's a shame that this sort of approach can divert us from the real
thrust of this passage - that if Peter really has repented the three
denials, and really does love Christ, then he'll show it by tending Jesus'


Gary S. Shogren
Biblical Theological Seminary
Hatfield, PA

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