Re: AGAPAO in John 21 and "the third time"

From: Paul Zellmer (
Date: Sat Feb 15 1997 - 01:10:19 EST

Gary S. Shogren wrote:
> 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'
> lambs.

Yet, Gary, would the observation of the change of verb really divert us
from the real thrust of the passage? If AGAPAO has a "higher"
commitment level than does FILEO, then could it not be expected that a
person who is truly repentant of denying Jesus three times meet this
"higher" standard? And, if Peter came to a realization that he did not
meet the standard, would he not be sorrowful? Also, the "tending" is
imperative, is it not? How do you see this, as a form of penance?
After all, you seem to hold to Peter already being repentant and already
really loving Christ.

If we interpret this passage as a realization on the part of Peter that
he has not yet fully achieved the situation that God expects of him,
then we could see the imperatives as prescriptions: "By doing this, you
will come to the place where you should be." Service not just the
result of our relationship to God. Service also results in a closer
relationship with God.

If this interchange of synonyms were merely stylistic, if the choice of
words by Jesus in his questions and Peter in his responses were just an
attempt at variety, then we might well have expected Peter to use AGAPAO
the third time or Jesus to have remained with AGAPAO for all three.
Instead, assuming that AGAPAO does have higher requirements than FILEO,
I see a clear progression, an "easing", if you will, by Jesus'
that this observation is by no means original with me, but this
progression speaks more elegantly to me than does a mere attempt of
interchanging synonyms.

Just my thoughts on this matter,


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