John 21 and synonymns

From: Andrew Kulikovsky (
Date: Tue Feb 18 1997 - 04:33:14 EST

Fellow Greeks,

I agree that the FILEW and AGAPAW are often used as synonymns and there
is nothing inherently different about them. However, I am not convinced
(as others have also commented) that they are always used as synonymns,
and are stylistic variations. Louw and Nida were mentioned previously,
but I would like to cite there article on this matter:

25.43 ajgapavwa; ajgavpha, h" f: to have love for someone or something,
based on sincere appreciation and high regard - Îto love, to regard with
affection, loving concern, love.âajgapavwa: ejntolh;n kainh;n divdwmi
uJmi'n, i{na ajgapa'te ajllhvlou" ÎI give you a new commandment, that
you love one anotherâ Jn 13.34; ga;r to;n e{na mishvsei kai; to;n
e{teron ajgaphvsei Îfor he will hate the one and love the otherâ Lk
16.13; oJ path;r ajgapa/' to;n uiJovn Îthe Father loves the Sonâ Jn
3.35; o{ti aujto;" prw'to" hjgavphsen hJma'" Îfor he loved us firstâ 1
Jn 4.19.

ajgavpha: hJ ajgavph oujdevpote pivptei Îlove does not failâ 1 Cor 13.8;
hJ ajgavph tw/' plhsivon kako;n oujk ejrgavzetai Îa person who loves
doesnât do evil to his neighborâ Ro 13.10.
Though some persons have tried to assign certain significant differences
of meaning between ajgapavwa, ajgavpha and filevwa, filiva (25.33), it
does not seem possible to insist upon a contrast of meaning in any and
all contexts. For example, the usage in Jn 21.15-17 seems to reflect
simply a rhetorical alternation designed to avoid undue repetition.
There is, however, one significant clue to possible meaningful
differences in at least some contexts, namely, the fact that people are
never commanded to love one another with filevw or filiva, but only with
ajgapavw and ajgavph. Though the meanings of these terms overlap
considerably in many contexts, there are probably some significant
differences in certain contexts; that is to say, filevw and filiva are
likely to focus upon love or affection based upon interpersonal
association, while ajgapavw and ajgavph focus upon love and affection
based on deep appreciation and high regard. On the basis of this type of
distinction, one can understand some of the reasons for the use of
ajgapavw and ajgavph in commands to Christians to love one another. It
would, however, be quite wrong to assume that filevw and filiva refer
only to human love, while ajgapavw and ajgavph refer to divine love.
Both sets of terms are used for the total range of loving relations
between people, between people and God, and between God and Jesus
Louw, Johannes P. and Nida, Eugene A., Greek-English Lexicon of the New
Testament based on Semantic Domains, (New York: United Bible Societies)
1988, 1989.

Differences can be seen in the way these words are used. This raises a
question: How do you know if this use is significant?

I would suggest that context is the best indicator. In the context of
John 21 we have the following:

- the use of TO TRITON in v. 17 which may be significant as Randy
pointed out.
- the fact that the word change is in v.17 (the 3rd time)....why not
v.16 or v.15?
- the fact that Peter was grieved when Jesus asked a 3rd time
- the fact that in the synoptic accounts of Peter's denial, he started
off just denying the Lord and ended up calling down curses on himself.

Now any of these in isolation could be easily diregarded or explained
away but the fact that they occur together does make a pretty reasonable
case for some intentional semantic difference.

Let it be said that many brilliant scholars have drawn greater
conclusions from *MUCH LESS* data...


| Andrew S. Kulikovsky B.App.Sc(Hons) MACS
| Software Engineer (CelsiusTech Australia)
| & Theology Student (MA - Pacific College)
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