Re: Was: "a question from a novice"

From: Mike Sangrey (
Date: Tue Mar 21 2000 - 08:21:22 EST

In reply to Bob Stevens citing of John 5:20 and 16:27,

Carlton Winbery <> said:
> Bob I have read the later replies to your post of these two verses and
> I disagree with them. I think that you have placed your finger on the
> achilles heel of any interpretation that tries to maintain an
> essential difference in the uses of AGAPAW and FILEW in John's gospel.

And Carlton concludes the paragraph with
> In fact no matter how hard I strain at it I cannot find any
> differences between these words any where in the NT.

Whenever an expert (at least relatively speaking) makes a statement
like the above I'm forced into a very pensive, pondering posture.
In my pursuit of understanding Greek, I do not want to reject those
more knowledgeable than I, but nor do I wish to submit to the tyranny
of the expert. That said to sincerely reflect my respect for many
on this list, I have a question.

If there are no differences between these two words as used in the NT,
then why use two?

It may be the lexical semantics had completely, or at least nearly so,
coalesced; and, in the decades during which the NT was written,
we are seeing through a window into a transition. If this is true,
then we would find, over time, either the disappearance of one or a
semantic divergence of one from what it meant earlier. (If there is
a divergence, then we may just have a clue regarding a distinctive
attribute of one of the words.) Can someone show either of these two
possibilities to be true?

Also, I'd like to add, that I can readily see an overlap in the
usages of these two words. The lexical attributes of the words may
even be largely the same. This would explain Carlton's (and others)
viewpoint. In other words, people would not generally think of the
distinctive features of AGAPAW (or FILEW) in many contexts; however,
in certain contexts we would see a sharp distinction being made (John
21 may be just such a case). Also, given the nature of a word like
'love', I would think the lexical attributes would be quite complex,
and it is probably this very feature which generates this discussion.

Summing up, if the people of 1st century koine needed both words,
then there must be some way to make them distinct. However, that
does NOT imply the distinction in every context, nor even in most.
But, there would need to be some distinction somewhere, else two
words are not needed where one will suffice.

Mike Sangrey
Landisburg, Pa.
       There is no 'do' in faith, everywhere present within it is 'done'.

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