Re: John 21 again

From: Randy Leedy (
Date: Tue Feb 18 1997 - 08:41:57 EST

It seems to me that the current thread on John 21 has been more
helpful than some of the previous ones. In the spirit of Gary
Shogren, I'll clarify my understanding of some of the larger issues
as well, as the thread seems to be playing itself out.

Gary's comments about the semantic overlap between the verbs are
certainly on-target. And yet, in synonym studies, we must always
remember that we want to discover both the semantic overlap of the
terms and also any semantic uniqueness each term may have. We should
expect a given set of synonyms to display both overlap and
individuality, and we must be careful not to let the fact that we can
prove one property with special clarity obscure the balancing fact
that the other property exists as well.

As to the question of context; I think the context within the
narrative supports the idea that Jesus' three questions follow a
descending pattern starting, not from some abstract ideal, but (and
had bragged, "Even if everyone else forsakes you, Lord, ** I **
won't." In other words, "I AGAPAW you more than anyone else does." So
when Jesus comes to restore Peter to a position of servant
leadership, He takes as His starting point what Peter had thought of
himself: "Do you really love me more than anyone else does?" The
answer that comes back is really startling (on my interpretation of
the synonyms): "Yes! I do!" (I would have expected a sheepish, "I
guess maybe not." But that's me, not Peter.) Peter goes on, "But let
me qualify by speaking of a slightly different kind of love, and let
me leave off the comparison with others." And so the conversation
proceeds along lines with which we're all familiar.

What I find in this dialogue as I interpret it is an amazing display
of the spirit of two very strong men: Jesus is strong enough to
continue loving those who failed Him, and Peter is strong enough to
maintain, in heart-to-heart encounter, the reality of His devotion to
Christ in spite of his obvious failure. And Jesus is pleased: He
doesn't require perfection of His servants, but the leader must be
someone whose heart will not waver, however wrong his actions may be.
And Peter, at the end of the conversation, knows that service to
Christ remains his life's calling.

So what I find in recognizing the difference between the synonyms is
not something that obscures the real significance of the narrative;
rather, it deepens and enriches the narrative by bringing out a line
of development to climax (when Peter, grieving that his failure has
called into question the deepest reality of his soul, remains firm in
the face of that third question's direct challenge), a development
that the "free-variation" view lacks. To me seeing the CORRECT
difference between the two synonyms (self-sacrificing commitment vs.
personal attachment) is like putting on a pair of glasses that allows
a viewer to see a third dimension in a scene that is otherwise flat.

So there. I've said my piece, and, at the moment, I have nothing else
to say that I think is worth space on the list. (Some probably feel
as though I reached that point before I said ANYTHING!) But, as Carl
pointed out, whether or not the thread continues, the topic is
certainly far from exhausted, and the passage will remain a point of
fascination for us all.

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

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