Re: A question from a novice!

From: Barry D. Murrell (
Date: Mon Mar 20 2000 - 07:00:44 EST

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<DIV><FONT size=2>As with most words which are intended to carry a basic
POSITIVE meaning, couldn't AGAPE also be abused in a selfish way... i.e. "doing
what is BEST (negative sense) for SELF regardless of&nbsp;how I feel about it?
(I DID indicate this possibility in my definition, but just so that there won't
be any misunderstanding in what I was attempting to say, let me clarify a
<DIV><FONT size=2>In such&nbsp;cases as you brought out below we find AGAPE
being applied in a way which is at odds with the way Jesus told his people to
apply it. It is AGAPE being used in a selfish context. Actions of a "best
interest" nature become directed <STRONG>selfishly</STRONG> toward self.
Nonetheless, my point regarding the inherent meaning of AGAPE still
stands.&nbsp;The actions being done&nbsp;were in the best interest of someone
indeed.. <STRONG>themselves</STRONG>. (That is why Jesus used them as an example
of how NOT to AGAPE, don't you think?)</FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT size=2></FONT>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV><FONT size=2>The Pharisees <STRONG>did</STRONG> what was best for
themselves... <STRONG>going after</STRONG> the chief seats and the respectful
greetings. </FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT size=2></FONT>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV><FONT size=2>Men love the darkness (they do <STRONG>for themselves</STRONG>
what is in their OWN best interest). It is action which is not inherently tied
to emotion, but .&nbsp; </FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT size=2>Demas <STRONG>DID</STRONG> what was best for himself. While I
have no doubt that Demas was attached to the world I would suggest to you that
saying that Demas was overly attached emotionally because of the use of AGAPE
might be reading more into the text than was intended. One passage which I found
intriguing in my study was James 4:4 where we find OUK OIDATE OTI H FILIA TOU
KOSMOU EXQRA TOU QEOU. Here FRIENDSHIP is the&nbsp;word we find in the text.
This one definitely carries&nbsp;accurately the attachment picture you described
of Demas, don't you think?)&nbsp;</FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT size=2></FONT>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV><FONT size=2>As has been carefully pointed out by several during the
thread. AGAPE IS NOT a word which was coined by the Christian religious
community. It was a word which was used in the common vernacular. It does not
does not carry in itself the definition of "goodwill". That is the application
in a Christian context of what Jesus taught his followers to do. AGAPE only has
inherent in it the idea of <STRONG>action which is more neutral in
<DIV><FONT size=2>After looking at the passages in John which you supplied I
once again simply&nbsp;ask if it is not possible that the POINT which was being
stressed by the writer was on the devotion <STRONG>of actions</STRONG>?&nbsp;If
that was what the use of AGAPE emphasized in their time then&nbsp;that would
seem to be what the writer here was wanting the readers to catch. Using it
<STRONG>would not</STRONG> mean that there were no feelings between the parties
involved, it would only mean that by using that particular word instead of one
of the others the writer's emphasis here in that case would be more upon the
actions between the parties than upon the emotional attachment.</FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT size=2>I think the Lazarus passage in John 11 you cited is especially
pertinent to the discussion. We do find Jesus being described as one who had
AGAPE for Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Did Jesus have deep feelings for the
family? Yes he did, but this reference would communicate to the readers that
Jesus' relationship toward the family was&nbsp;action oriented-as ANY DEEP
relationship ought to be. But did you notice how, when Jesus&nbsp;arrives at the
tomb where Lazarus was laid, and immediately begins weeping, that the&nbsp;Jews
DID NOT remark, IDE PWS <STRONG>AGAPA</STRONG> AUTON? (John 11:36) I would
suggest that in our search to differentiate how the writers used the different
words for LOVE to indicate different points of emphasis that this is
significant. (I would like to get other's thoughts on this.) </FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT size=2>As for the other references, does the Father have warm
emotions toward the Son? Of course, but was THAT the point the writer was trying
to emphasize when using AGAPE? Or was it perhaps the way the father cares for
the Son and does what is best for him? </FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT size=2>I really struggled with John 21:15-17 for a long time (and I
still wonder a lot about all that is passing between them in that short
conversation), but I noted how interesting it was that&nbsp;Jesus asked Peter if
he had AGAPE for him and Peter kept responding by saying that he had FILIA for
Jesus. It wasn't until I came to understand a little Greek that I realized that
this conversation was MUCH MORE about action than emotion! </FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT size=2>Once again I would like to stress that PERHAPS our modern
paradigm of "love" stands in the way of our coming to a more accurate
understanding of what the text is trying to <STRONG>emphasize</STRONG> to
<DIV><FONT size=2>Thanks,</FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT size=2>Barry Murrell</FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT size=2>Missionary/Director</FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT size=2>Christian Learning Center</FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT size=2>Cebu City, Philippines</FONT></DIV>
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  <DIV style="FONT: 10pt arial">----- Original Message ----- </DIV>
  style="BACKGROUND: #e4e4e4; FONT: 10pt arial; font-color: black"><B>From:</B>
  <A href="">Steven Lo Vullo</A>
  <DIV style="FONT: 10pt arial"><B>To:</B> <A
  href="">Biblical Greek</A> </DIV>
  <DIV style="FONT: 10pt arial"><B>Sent:</B> Monday, March 20, 2000 12:43
  <DIV style="FONT: 10pt arial"><B>Subject:</B> Re: A question from a novice!
  <DIV><FONT face=Arial size=2>Barry,</FONT></DIV>
  <DIV><FONT face=Arial size=2>There is, no doubt, much truth to what you say
  regarding AGAPAW and its derivatives <EM>in many, if not most, contexts in the
  NT. </EM>However, to say "it always shows itself through actions of goodwill,"
  and that its&nbsp;basic meaning&nbsp;is "doing what is best for someone ...
  regardless of how you feel about them" I think confuses contextual usage with
  inherent meaning. For example, how did the Pharisees' love (AGAPATE) for the
  "chief seats in the synagogues" and "respectful greetings in the marketplaces"
  (Luke 11:43) exhibit "actions of goodwill" or "doing what is best for
  someone?" The surrounding context shows that they had very little regard for
  the well-being of others, and their actions substantiated this. Or
  take&nbsp;John 3:19. How does the love (HGAPHSAN) of men for darkness
  show&nbsp;"actions of goodwill" or "concern for others," particularly since
  they love this darkness rather than Christ himself (the Light that has come
  into the world). Then there is John&nbsp;12:43, which states that Jesus'
  opponents&nbsp;"loved (HGAPHSAN) the approval of men rather than the approval
  of God." Certainly they were not possessed of an attitude of goodwill for
  others, or doing what was best for them; they simply used others to bolster
  their own self-image, and that at the expense of pleasing God. One more
  example should suffice. In 2 Timothy 4:10 Paul says "Demas, having loved
  (AGAPHSAS) this present world, has deserted me." Now, what sort of goodwill
  and concern for Paul does this action reveal? And does not this verse indicate
  that AGAPAW in certain contexts <EM>does</EM> connote emotional attachment?
  After all, it was not an action of "goodwill" toward the world or "doing what
  is best" for the world that motivated Demas to desert Paul, but a sinful
  emotional attachment to it. And speaking of emotion, what about texts like
  John 3:35, 10:17, 11:5, 13:23, 14:31, 19:26, and 21:7. Does the love spoken of
  in these verses contain no emotional element at all, no tender
  <DIV><FONT face=Arial size=2></FONT>&nbsp;</DIV>
  <DIV><FONT face=Arial size=2>Please do not misunderstand. I appreciate the
  insights you offered in relation to how AGAPAW and its derivatives are used
  in&nbsp;many contexts in the NT. But I think we must be careful as a general
  rule&nbsp;not to equate usage and inherent meaning. This is a habit that will
  drive us to pigeonhole words without giving due consideration to their
  semantic range and contextual usage.</FONT></DIV>
  <DIV><FONT face=Arial size=2>Steve LoVullo,</FONT></DIV>
  <DIV><FONT face=Arial size=2>Madison, WI</FONT></DIV></BLOCKQUOTE></BODY></HTML>


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