Re: A question from a novice!

From: Steven Lo Vullo (
Date: Tue Mar 21 2000 - 00:46:31 EST

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<DIV><FONT face=Arial size=2>Barry,</FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT face=Arial size=2>Please allow me to point out what I think are some
flaws in your reasoning. Some of them are logical, others
<DIV><FONT face=Arial size=2>1. Keep in mind that AGAPAW and its cognates
<EM>always </EM>(by your estimation) contain the elements of (a) doing what is
best for someone ("acts of goodwill" in a previous post), (b) regardless of
feelings. Others on the list have added (c) without expecting anything in
return. With this in mind, it is difficult to see how actions that, according to
Jesus, will lead to one's destruction can be described as "doing what is best
for oneself" or "acts of goodwill" toward oneself. If what you mean is that they
<EM>think </EM>they are doing what is best for themselves, even though they are
not, you still have a problem. For in that case you would have to alter your
definition to include the provision that AGAPH need not mean <EM>actually
</EM>doing what is best for others, but merely what one&nbsp;<EM>thinks</EM> is
best for others. But of course that is not what Jesus commanded. Also, if we
expand the definition to include merely what one <EM>thinks </EM>is good for
oneself, we run into a problem with (b)&nbsp;of your definition. For who in
<EM>every </EM>instance does what he thinks is best for himself <EM>regardless
of feelings?&nbsp;</EM>Shall we conclude that the adulterer, in every act of
adultery, thinking he is doing himself good, commits adultery <EM>regardless of
how he feels? </EM>Does this kind of AGAPH indulge in sexual intercourse with no
emotion at all, stoically&nbsp;performing the act&nbsp;with no lust (an
emotion)&nbsp;for pleasure? Is there <EM>never </EM>an emotional component to
this kind of AGAPH? Isn't it more logical to conclude that people regularly do
what they think is best for themselves, even though it may not be, <EM>because
of&nbsp;</EM>how they feel, rather than <EM>regardless of </EM>how they
<DIV><FONT face=Arial size=2></FONT>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV><FONT face=Arial size=2>For those who wish to add (c) to the definition,
the problem is compounded. For who <EM>at all times </EM>does what is best (or
what he thinks is best)&nbsp;for himself <EM>with no view whatsoever toward
expecting anything in return? </EM>Who eats or drinks without wanting to taste
or be filled? Who&nbsp;bathes himself without wanting to be clean? Who clothes
himself without wanting to be&nbsp;covered or warm? Who builds a house for
himself&nbsp;without wanting to be sheltered? To use a "negative" example, Who
commits adultery without <EM>ever </EM>wanting gratification. This is surely
absurd. </FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT face=Arial size=2></FONT>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV><FONT face=Arial size=2>Also, when you ask "couldn't AGAPH be abused in a
selfish way?" the answer must be "No" if&nbsp;you hold to (3) as part of the
definition, for&nbsp;in that case AGAPH by its very nature must be selfless.
<DIV><FONT face=Arial size=2>In concluding this point, I must say
that&nbsp;the&nbsp;lengths to which some&nbsp;are willing to go to defend a
catch-all definition for AGAPAW and its cognates is in itself revealing. It
seems that regardless of subject or context&nbsp;some philosophical&nbsp;or
psychological construct (e.g., the claim to know someone's attitude or
intentions even though that is not revealed in the text itself) must be devised
to "save" the predetermined definition. In other words, the definition has been
predetermined on the basis of a select collection of texts, and all other texts
that seem to contradict the presupposed meaning must be made to fit, even when
nothing in the context explicitly, or even implicitly, lends itself to the
required definition.</FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT face=Arial size=2>2. Your treatment of the texts at issue ignores the
grammar&nbsp;of the texts themselves in favor of a psycho-analytical treatment
of the&nbsp;persons presented in the text. Let's take these one at a time.&nbsp;
<DIV><FONT face=Arial size=2></FONT>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV><FONT face=Arial size=2>Luke 11:43. Your gloss is "<FONT size=2>The
Pharisees <STRONG>did</STRONG> what was best for themselves... <STRONG>going
after</STRONG> the chief seats and the respectful greetings." There are several
problems here. The first one is that&nbsp;you seem to assume&nbsp;the text is
saying that the Pharisees&nbsp;loved "themselves." But the direct objects of the
verb (AGAPATE) are THN PRWTOKAQEDRIAN ("the seat of honor") and TOUS ASPASMOUS
("the greetings"), not hEAUTOUS ("yourselves").&nbsp;This completely demolishes
your gloss, for clearly "did what was best for" is your gloss of AGAPATE. The
problem is that there is no "themselves" anywhere in the verse, much less as the
object of the verb. The objects of AGAPATE, as&nbsp;I stated already, are ""the
seat of honor" and "the greetings." Using your gloss we would have "The
Pharisees did what was best for the seat of honor and greetings in the
marketplaces." Were the "seat" and the "greetings" the beneficiaries of "acts of
goodwill?"&nbsp;By metonymy the "seat" and the "greetings"&nbsp;stand for honor
and recognition. So it is the honor and recognition they loved, not themselves.
It is much simpler and in&nbsp;keeping with the&nbsp;grammar to conclude that
they "took delight" in the honor and recognition represented by&nbsp;"the seat
of honor" and "the greetings in the marketplaces." To think there was no
emotional element to this love is to propose that the honor and recognition
lavished on the Pharisees in no way whatsoever pleased them. But then what is
the point of seeking such things? To remain dispassionate? To humbly slough it
off? "Ah," you say. "I have already concluded that AGAPAW can have no emotional
element." In that case you are on the horns of a dilemma, since you have also
committed yourself to the proposition that "AGAPAW is not centered on a warm
emotional attachment (while the others ARE emotionally motivated in one degree
or another)." I would assume that FILEW fits this description. The problem is
that it is precisely FILEW, this word connoting "emotional motivation" at least
to some degree, that is used in the parallel passage in Matthew 23:6. Now, you
can't have your cake and eat it too. No matter which way you look at it,
one&nbsp;of these authors&nbsp;had to have viewed these words at least as
roughly parallel, and, by your very definition "emotional."&nbsp;If Luke
borrowed from Matthew, he must have viewed AGAPAW as having at least some
emotional element, otherwise he would not have used&nbsp;AGAPAW for FILEW. By
the same token, if Matthew borrowed from Luke, he too must have understood
AGAPAW to have, at least in certain contexts, an emotional element, or he would
not have used&nbsp;FILEW in place of AGAPAW. If you argue that the accounts are
independent, then the Holy Spirit himself views these words as roughly
synonymous (assuming, of course, you believe in divine inspiration). The bottom
line is that my interpretation takes into account the grammar (which your view
ignores) and the lexical evidence, including the parallel passage (which your
view also ignores).</FONT></FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT face=Arial size=2><FONT size=2></FONT></FONT>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV><FONT face=Arial size=2><FONT size=2>John 3:19. Same grammatical error.
Your gloss has "they do <STRONG>for themselves</STRONG>." This again assumes the
text is talking about love of self. But the direct object of AGAPAW is not
"themselves" (again, nowhere in the text), but&nbsp;TO SKOTOS ("the darkness").
Now, applying your own definition, and taking the grammar seriously, we would be
forced to translate thus: "Men did what was best for the
darkness,&nbsp;regardless of their feelings, (and expecting nothing in return)."
We would be forced, on the basis of grammar, also to translate John 12:43, where
THN DOXAN is the object of AGAPAW, in a similar vein. There we would have,
"They&nbsp;did what was best, regardless of their feelings,&nbsp;for the good of
the approval of men (not "themselves") rather than the approval of God." If
grammar&nbsp;has any bearing at all on exegesis, this is what your view forces
us to.</FONT></FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT face=Arial size=2><FONT size=2></FONT></FONT>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV><FONT face=Arial size=2><FONT size=2>2 Timothy 4:10. Again, the grammar.
Your gloss has "Demas did what was best for himself,"&nbsp;apparently
translating AGAPAW as "did what was best" with "himself" as the object. But
again, the "himself" is imaginary. The object of Demas' love was not himself,
but TON NUN AIWNA ("this present age" or "world"). I will just share with you
here the&nbsp;comments I made in a post earlier today to Jim West.&nbsp;"2
Timothy 4:10 states that 'Demas, having loved (AGAPHSAS) this present age, has
deserted me.' Since the object of this participle is TON NUN AIWNA ('this
present age'), we must, using your one-and-only definition of AGAPAW, conclude
that this was on Demas' part a sacrificial act of love towards the world which
requires nothing in return. Remember, the text says nothing about 'false' love.
And your rigid definition doesn't include the word 'false.' So by the advanced
art of lexical alchemy, unknown to benighted<BR>Luddites of only fifty years
ago, we have turned a completely selfish and traitorous act into a saintly
display of selfless concern! Maybe I should conclude that this insight sheds
new, previously unperceived light on this verse. Maybe what was formerly
considered by less-well-instructed Christians to be an evil act can now be seen
in its true light. Yes, I see it now! Paul was not complaining about Demas, he
was praising him!&nbsp; The verse should really be translated, "Demas, because
of his self-sacrificial and totally unselfish concern for the world, departed
from me." Again, taking the grammar at face value, and applying your definition
of AGAPH to the text, this is the convoluted result we must be satisfied
<DIV><FONT face=Arial size=2>3. You say, "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;Of course, this proves nothing. There is a logical
error in proposing that because James used FILIA,&nbsp; Paul couldn't have meant
something similar by&nbsp;AGAPAW. How does that necessarily follow? It simply
assumes, not proves, that the&nbsp;two cannot sometimes be
<DIV><FONT face=Arial size=2></FONT>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV><FONT face=Arial size=2>Since it is getting late, I must close. But I would
like to leave you with one thought. It is dangerous in exegesis to
say&nbsp;"always," as in "AGAPAW always means such and such." One thing about
always: It has a glass jaw. When you get it in the ring, it only takes one punch
to knock it out.</FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT face=Arial><FONT size=2>Steve LoVullo</FONT></FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT face=Arial><FONT size=2>Madison, WI</FONT></DIV></FONT>
<DIV>----- Original Message ----- </DIV>
style="BORDER-LEFT: #000000 2px solid; MARGIN-LEFT: 5px; MARGIN-RIGHT: 0px; PADDING-LEFT: 5px; PADDING-RIGHT: 0px">
  style="BACKGROUND: #e4e4e4; FONT: 10pt arial; font-color: black"><B>From:</B>
  <A href="">Barry D.
  Murrell</A> </DIV>
  <DIV style="FONT: 10pt arial"><B>To:</B> <A href="">Steven Lo Vullo</A> ; <A
  href="">Biblical Greek</A> </DIV>
  <DIV style="FONT: 10pt arial"><B>Sent:</B> Monday, March 20, 2000 6:00
  <DIV style="FONT: 10pt arial"><B>Subject:</B> Re: A question from a novice!
  <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 bit.)</FONT></DIV>
  <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>
  style="BORDER-LEFT: #000000 2px solid; MARGIN-LEFT: 5px; MARGIN-RIGHT: 0px; PADDING-LEFT: 5px; PADDING-RIGHT: 0px">
    <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>
    <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 affection?</FONT></DIV>
    <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,


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