Re: A question from a novice!

From: Eric S. Weiss (
Date: Mon Mar 20 2000 - 08:40:30 EST

D. A. Carson, EXEGETICAL FALLACIES, pp. 52-53 (1984 edition)

" ... First, they [i.e., those who argue for a distinction in meaning
between agapao and fileo in John 21:15-17] argue that translators of the
Septuagint and New Testament writers have invested agapao (to love) and
agape (love) with special meaning to provide an adequate expression by
which to talk about the love of God; and only this accounts for the word's
rapid rise to prominence in our literature [i.e., the New Testament]. But
this argument has been overturned by the diachronic study of Robert Joly,
who presents convincing evidence that agapao was coming into prominence
throughout Greek literature from the fourth century B.C. on, and was not
restricted to biblical literature. [Robert Joly, "Le vocabulaire chretien
de l'amour est-il original? Filein et Agapan dans le grec antique"
(Brussels: Presses Universitaires, 1968] This development was fostered by a
number of changes in the language (linguists call them structural changes)
in which agapao was becoming one of the standard verbs for "to love"
because fileo had acquired the meaning "to kiss" as part of its semantic
range. The reasons for these developments need not detain us;* but the
evidence is substantial and effectively disqualifies this first ground."

* "Briefly, Joly demonstrates that fileo acquired this new and additional
meaning [i.e., "to kiss"] because an older verb for "to kiss," kuneo, was
dropping out; and the reason for this latter disappearance was the
homonymic clash with yet another verb, kuno (which means "to impregnate"),
particularly in the aorist, where both kuneo (to kiss) and kuno (to
impregnate) have the same form ekusa. This would encourage various
salacious puns and gradually force kuneo into obsolescence."

On 03/19/00, ""Peter Osborne." <>" wrote:
> Hi,
> I have a question on the definition of AGAPH: What distinguishes this word
> from other Greek words meaning love? From its usage in 1 John 3:16 and
> elsewhere, I have always connected this word with self-sacrifice or self
> denial. However hardly any lexicons I have used seem to make this link. Am
> I correct in believing that AGAPH is self-denying love and this is what
> distinguishes it from other Greek words for love?
> Peter Osborne.

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