Re: Jn 21:15-17 (and getting woollier..)

From: Steven Cox (
Date: Fri Apr 17 1998 - 11:57:50 EDT

        Hi Chris
        Well yes if I'd have known you and Carl were going to post
        in the other direction I probably wouldn't have stuck my neck
        out ;-). But in this case I'm going to stick by my guns because
        what I read in the text flow has nothing to do with the usual
        roasting that you (and Carson) pick up on (the pulpit mythology
        surrounding AGAPAW) but rather with the dialogue build up
        as Peter is reconciled through a mini-pastoral course.

     1. As I said:
>>_do_ really mean something different (in this dialogue) after all.
        The "(in this dialogue)" is the point, not any lexical myths
        about AGAPH cf Amnon's QHMAR ..EGW AGAPW 2Sam13:1,4,15

     2. As you say:
At 10:57 98/04/17 EST, Christopher Hutson wrote:
>With respect to Jim and Steve, I have come to think that this old
>chestnut has been overroasted.

        Yes, agreed, overroasted and still emitting pungent smoke,
        but perhaps the wrong roast? Hence some palates are soured.
        There's sweet chestnuts and horse chestnuts.

>I agree that AGAPH and FILIA (and cognates) are not exact synonyms,
>but Carl was on the mark when he mentioned that they overlap in
>meaning and usage.

        Yes. Agreed. with you. de acuerdo. Einverstanden.
        Louw-Nida make the same reasonable point, at length.
        As do others before and since. Agreed with all the
        lexical content in your mail that follows.......

We should not make
>too much of a distinciton between them. The reasons we tend to
>overdistinguish are (1) AGAPH/AGAPAW came to be a very important
>theological concept for Christians, so that we tend to assume it is
>the more significant of the two words used in this exchange; and (2)
>we traditionally translate AGAPE/AGAPAW as "love" and FILIA/FILEW as
>"friendship/be a friend"in English, and then, since in OUR culture
>"love" describes a deeper, stronger relationship than "friendship," we
>tend to read our cultural sensibilities back into the ancient text.

        Agreed 100%. Absolutely true. But above and beyond that
        John 21:15-17 is the also first thing any Strongs-bound
        greek beginner finds, and consequently poo-poohing the
        whole thing is very appealing to those that (no hint of
        irony honestly) know better (applies to me also).

>HOWEVER, in antiquity FILIA was the more dominant and comprehensive
>idea, and we should take this into account as we read John 21.

        Yes agreed 101%. And what you say here supports the way
        I read it which is a build up to FILEW not a let down.
        Am I misquoting you? I see nothing in NT uses of FILEW
        to indicate it is a second-class love. In fact I would
        think the gradual move to the meaning kiss (and in later
        centuries beyond that - which may explain Patristic
        preference for a verb that wouldn't provoke sniggers)
        would support this:

        Do you love me? Yes, I kiss you!
        But do you love me?? Yes, Lord, I kiss you!
        Simon do you kiss me?! Lord, you know all things, I kiss you!
        [followed by a big hug and more tears]

        Well, as with the amount of imagination that went into the
        sheep story, you may think this is the result of a wild
        Friday night, but we must go looking for the dynamic
        in the text, and the fact that the reading above of
        the dynamic between AGAPH and FILEW is the reverse of
        the traditional roasting only serves to encourage me.

        In sum. Semantic stuff is fine and good but in a closely
        worded piece of poetic commentary like John we can be
        forgiven for stepping back from the trees seeing the
        wood and then running through it barefoot.

        God bless and goodnight!

        PS: If you've ever spent any time translating contracts or
        tender proposals you'll understand why I can't face a too
        buttoned down approach to John of all texts! :-(

>Elsewhere, John describes self-sacrificial AGAPH as an important
>ascpect of FILIA: "Greater AGAPH has no one than this, that he lay
>down is life for his friends (UPER TWN FILWN, 15:13). Such
>self-sacrifice for one's friends is an old motif in Greek culture,
>Aristotle being the first to offer a systematic discussion of the
>reciprocal nature of friendship.
>Therefore, when Jesus asks "Do you love me (AGAPAiS ME)?" he is not
>asking about something distinct from friendship; rather, he is asking
>"What kind of friend are you?" Peter can answer "Yes (I do love
>you)... I'm your friend (FILW SE), because he understands that this is
>exactly what friends do--they love (AGAPAW) one another; they die for
>one another (cf. 15:12-13, etc.). When we view AGAPE not as a
>relationship distinct from FILIA but as an important aspect of FILIA,
>then the conversation takes on a very different flavor.
>Those who wish to understand better the importance of the social
>category FILIA in Greco-Roman culture in general and in NT writers in
>particular, may consult the new collection of essays edited by John
>Fitzgerald, _Greco-Roman Perspectives on Friendship_ (SBLRBS 34,
>Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1997). Note that the essay by Alan Mitchell
>includes a discussion of friendship in John (257-259) and cites a
>number of passages on the motif of dying for one's friends (231, n.
>Christopher R. Hutson
> Hood Theological Seminary
> Salisbury, NC 28144
>Paul asked:
>>>First, what is your take on the AGAPAS/FILEIS interpretation? Is
>there a
>>>difference in meaning between the two words here, or should we see

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