Re: Was: "a question from a novice"

From: Wayne Leman (
Date: Tue Mar 21 2000 - 11:12:19 EST

<x-charset iso-8859-1>Mike asked the important, logical question:

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

Mike, my understanding is that AGAPAW and FILEW had essentially become
synonymous in the development from Classical Greek (where they were
semantically distinct) and Hellenistic/Koine. But people still knew and used
both words, just as in English we know and use synonyms which have different
etymologies but which have fallen together semantically.

What's the difference between English "purchase" and "buy"? Do you use both?

What's the difference between "sack" and "paper bag"?

What's the difference between "regal" and "royal"? (Interestingly the both
go back to the same etymon, simply travel different etymology routes.)

What's the difference between "greasy" (pronounced with "s") and "greasy"
(pronounced with "z")? (There actually is a meaning difference for people
who live near the dialect isogloss that divides these two pronunciations.)

What's the difference between "route" (rhymes with "shout") and "route"
(rhymes with "shoot")?

There are other exx. we could list of synonyms in English which people can
use nearly interachangeably, or perhaps some families use one term but
understand the other.

Simply because two words exist concurrently in a language, which have the
same meaning as indicated by objective, empirical, scientific testing, does
not mean that we need to find a meaning difference between them. Language is
more complicated than that. Some words actually are synonyms. We need to let
the data stand as it is and not inject our own assumptions, as much as

There is *no* proof that AGAPAW and FILEW are used with difference semantics
in the N.T. We are skating on thin ice if we try to find such differences
simply because two such different words to exist concurrently.


Wayne Leman
Bible translation site:

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