Re: Synonyms (???) in John

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Fri Feb 14 1997 - 13:42:30 EST

At 10:49 AM -0600 2/14/97, Jonathan Robie wrote:
>D. Anthony Storm <> wrote:
>> I rarely come out of lurking since I am no scholar, but here goes:
>Ouch. Do I have to be a scholar to post here? If so, I'm in big
>> So much discussion has been made as to whether AGAPAW and PHILEW possess
>> distinct meanings or are synonymous in John. One argument for
>> differentiation has been their close proximity.
>> However, what about the close proximity of "sheep" (PROBATA, APNIA) and
>> "tending sheep" (POIMAINE, BOSKE)? If we choose to see a fine difference
>> between types of love, are we not compelled to distinguish between types of
>> sheep and ways of tending them?
>> Aren't stylistic considerations a better explanation? Any thoughts?
>Good point, and good examples - taken right from the same passage.
>I think that Greek writers do vary words for the sake of style, and they
>do vary words to bring out subtle shades of meaning, which is why it is
>so tricky to discuss these passages.
>Here is another passage which supports your point:
>Ephe 4:5 (GNT) heis kurios, mia pistis, hen baptisma,
>6 heis qeos kai pathr pantwn, ho epi pantwn kai dia pantwn kai en pasin.
>I doubt very much that there are subtle distinctions being made in
>the variation between hEIS, MIA, and hEN. Of course, if I'm wrong,
>there are plenty of people here to correct me! And that's why we
>non-scholar types can safely post here; we are part of a community
>that can correct us and help us become just a little more knowledgeable
>day by day.

"Every day, in every way ..."

Oh, yes! And what is the subtle distinction between hEIS, MIA, and hEN? A
distinction of gender to accommodate respectively a MASC. noun (KURIOS), a
FEM. noun (PISTIS), and a NEUT. noun (BAPTISMA). Anyone looking for a
"subtle nuance" of difference between the three will be hard put to it and
might as well go join Diogenes of Sinope, who hunted in broad daylight
through the streets of Athens looking for an honest man. I used to think it
was a true marvel that these words for "one" that look so different are all
forms of the same root SEM/SOM/SM:
        hEIS < SEM-S MIA < SM-IA hEN < SEM
A neat illustration of phonological laws: initial *S was lost in Greek,
usually became an aspirate (rough breathing), it vanished altogether before
a liquid or nasal like M; resonant M shifts to N in Greek, and the
combination ENS normally results in loss of the N between a vowel and S and
compensatory lengthening of the preceding vowel: E(N)S --> EIS.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR

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