Re: Jn 21:15-17 (Silva, Morris, )

From: Steven Cox (
Date: Fri Apr 17 1998 - 22:12:34 EDT

        Hi Dale and Perry
        Good morning chaps. I'm feeling slightly brighter than
        last night so I will approach your comments with good
        humour and grapefruit juice.

        First; I have no problem with Silva's comments relating to
        AGAPH, but you will notice that he does not discount the
        possibility that John 21:15-17 shows a progressive dialogue:

"A recognition of these facts will not determine automatically, of
course, how we shall interpret such disputed passages as John 21:15-17,
but they should have a direct bearing on the linguistic perspective
we bring to the text." (op cit p97)
        In fact I do not think Carson is quoting Silva p97, he is
        referring on p49 to Silva p132-5 on componential analysis
        which is indisputable, and is what I am attempting here
        to apply. Further I admit to being considerably influenced
        by Silva's comments p96 on the use of FILEW in the LXX.

        What Carson does quote in support of his rejection of all
        significance to the AGAPAW/FILEW shift in 21:15-17 is the
        same source as Perry; Leon Morris' 1969 commentary on John:

>Anyone who discusses this already overbaked topic without considering
>Leon Morris's discussion of variations in John's vocabulary and style
>(*Studies in the Fourth Gospel* [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1969], 293-319)
>proceeds at their own peril. Morris convinced me that the variations
>in 21.15-17 are part of a pattern of variation common to the fourth

        I can't comment on the book directly as it's a long time since
        I've clapped eyes on it, However the "pattern of variation" common
        to John is well attested in other books written before and since
        1969, and it seems to have become set in stone that John uses
        synonyms as a device to widen/deepen the colour (semantic range?)
        of his commentary without any sense of contrast or dynamic.

        While this may well be true in some instances where there is
        no agenda behind what John is presenting (though I suspect that
        only indicates that in some cases John's agenda is well buried)
        I do not believe that the 'preference for synonyms/variation'
        (which undoubtedly is true in its own right as a lexical measure)
        rules out either careful lexical illustration of progression in
        any argument John is presenting, nor similar dynamic in a
        reported dialogue.

        Morris is correct, the variations are part of the pattern of
        the fourth gospel, but that does not rule out those variations
        being structured in a way that illustrates and reinforces
        movement within the text.

        What would happen if one applied Morris' observation to the
        exclusion of other factors in John 6:25-59 for example?

>and that the standard "preacher Greek" interpretation ("Do
>you love me?" "Yes, I like you.") is way off base.

        Perry you are certainly right here. The "preacher Greek"
        interpretation you are objecting to is now enshrined for
        all time in the NIV which presents the readers with the
        picture of a progressive cooling in the dialogue on Christ's

        My first objection to this is the internal inconsistency
        between what I (with my woolly friends) consider a climax
        on the sheep end, but an anticlimax on the love end. Just
        from reading the NIV in English one feels somewhat awkward
        about the dialogue flow:

        (NIV) truly-love ^ love feed | lambs
                truly-love | love pastor | sheep
                love | love feed v sheep
        I propose the opposite:
        My starting point here is translation theory, and the
        need to look for internal direction within the text, not
        any theological predisposition I might have re AGAPH.

        Having then gone from this starting point to Louw Nida,
        BAGD and LXX-concordance, the above analysis seems well
        within the lexical scope of the words.

        The above analysis is reinforced by taking account of each
        whole sentence, not the components, in the dialogue climax.

        It seems that the other words are often considered mere
        packaging and clutter around the juicy AGAPEW/FILEW shift.

        in particular note AGAPAiS ME PLEWN TOUTWN is not all the same
        as AGAPAiS ME. There is a dynamic progression from emphasis
        on the Christ-12 relationship to the Christ-Peter relationship
        which is essential to the two changes BOSKE -> POIMAINE and
        ARNIA -> PROBATA which follow. One does not have to be Roman
        Catholic for it to be obvious that the change in the use of
        AGAPAiS here from a relative context to a personal context
        is establishing the prime qualification for Peter to shepherd
        (at least until Paul and James took over) the early church.

        Likewise note the emphatic progression from NAI KURIE SU OIDAS -->
        NAI KURIE SU OIDAS --> KURIE! PANTA SU OIDAS (I'm using the
        exclamation mark to render the dropping of NAI)

        One thing that can be said with confidence about this passage is
        that a great many b-greekers both on this list and off, are once
        bitten twice shy about Jn 21:15-17. Very few of us started
        with a fluent command of written greek and ONLY THEN went
        cherry picking (or shall we say chestnut-picking?) among the
        populist greek favourites that have a life of their own among
        outside the backroom world of NA27, BAGD and BDF. Consequently
        it leaves a sour taste to have to spit some of those cherries
        out when one's palate has become more fastidious. Like a
        Cadburys Creme Egg will never taste as good as it did when
        you were in short trousers :-). However I perceive, in my own
        experience at least, the risk of developing a chestnut allergy.

        A great weekend to each and all!

At 12:34 98/04/17 -0700, Dale M. Wheeler wrote:
>Steven Cox wrote:
>> Jim
>> I'm very happy to see you say that AGAPAW and FILEW _do_
>> really mean something different (in this dialogue) after all.
>> Without wishing to get on Carson's case again, Fallacies p52
>> ("For various reasons I doubt very much that there is an
>> intended distinction")
>Actually Carson is summarizing Silva, _Biblical Words and Their
>Meaning_, p. 96f. You should really read that for the fuller explanation
>(BTW, while we are on the topic, I agree with Carson and the
>for what its worth department).
>Dale M. Wheeler, Ph.D.
>Research Professor in Biblical Languages Multnomah Bible College
>8435 NE Glisan Street Portland, OR 97220
>Voice: 503-251-6416 FAX:503-254-1268 E-Mail:

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