John 21

Discussion in '2000-02 Archive' started by Don, Sep 18, 2002.

  1. Don

    Don
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    Help, please. Trying to wrap my head around the passage where Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him, and Peter responds yes.

    The first two times, Jesus asks Peter if Peter loves (agapao) Him, and Peter replies yes, Lord, I love (phileo) you. The third time, Jesus asks Peter if he loves (phileo) Him, and Peter, grieved, replies yes.

    I may have missed a word or two, but I'm currently TDY and not near my usual resources.

    Any thoughts on why Jesus started with asking if Peter had unconditional (agape) love, and Peter kept responding that he only had brotherly (phileo) love? And why then Jesus changed the third one, and asked if Peter had brotherly (phileo) love?
     
  2. rsr

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    I can pass along the NET Bible note, but I have no idea. [​IMG]

    29tn Is there a significant difference in meaning between the two words for love used in the passage, ajgapavw and filevw (agapaw and filew)? Aside from Origen, who saw a distinction in the meaning of the two words, most of the Greek Fathers like Chrysostom and Cyril of Alexandria, saw no real difference of meaning. Neither did Augustine nor the translators of the Itala (Old Latin). This was also the view of the Reformation Greek scholars Erasmus and Grotius. The suggestion that a distinction in meaning should be seen comes primarily from a number of British scholars of the 19th century, especially Trench, Westcott, and Plummer. It has been picked up by others such as Spicq, Lenski, and Hendriksen. But most modern scholars decline to see a real difference in the meaning of the two words in this context, among them Bernard, Moffatt, Bonsirven, Bultmann, Barrett, Brown, Morris, Haenchen, and Beasley-Murray. There are three significant reasons for seeing no real difference in the meaning of ajgapavw and filevw in these verses: (1) the author has a habit of introducing slight stylistic variations in repeated material without any significant difference in meaning (compare, for example, 3:3 with 3:5, and 7:34 with 13:33). An examination of the uses of ajgapavw and filevw in the Fourth Gospel seems to indicate a general interchangeability between the two. Both terms are used of God's love for man (3:16, 16:27); of the Father's love for the Son (3:35, 5:20); of Jesus' love for men (11:5, 11:3); of the love of men for men (13:34, 15:19); and of the love of men for Jesus (8:42, 16:27). (2) If (as seems probable) the original conversation took place in Aramaic (or possibly Hebrew), there would not have been any difference expressed because both Aramaic and Hebrew have only one basic word for love. In the LXX both ajgapavw and filevw are used to translate the same Hebrew word for love, although ajgapavw is more frequent. It is significant that in the Syriac version of the NT only one verb is used to translate vv. 15-17 (Syriac is very similar linguistically to Palestinian Aramaic). (3) Peter's answers to the questions asked with ajgapavw are 'yes' even though he answers using the verb filevw. If he is being asked to love Jesus on a higher or more spiritual level his answers give no indication of this, and one would be forced to say (in order to maintain a consistent distinction between the two verbs) that Jesus finally concedes defeat and accepts only the lower form of love which is all that Peter is capable of offering. Thus it seems best to regard the interchange between ajgapavw and filevw in these verses as a minor stylistic variation of the author, consistent with his use of minor variations in repeated material elsewhere, and not indicative of any real difference in meaning. Thus no attempt has been made to distinguish between the two Greek words in the translation.
     
  3. Don

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    Thanks, RSR.

    Anyone else? Dr. Bob? Dr. Cassidy? Pastor Larry?
     
  4. DocCas

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    It may be that Peter, after having denied Christ, could not bring himself to use the word "agape" when asked if he loved Christ, but instead used the lesser "phileo." On the other hand, the two words are sometimes used interchangably to mean essentially the same thing. It may be that, the third time, Christ was telling Peter that phileo was enough if he would just be faithful. Our love is far from perfect, even at its best.
     
  5. tyndale1946

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    Could be in reference to the Godhead?

    Do you love the Father more than these?
    Do you love the Son more than these?
    Do you love the Holy Ghost more than these?

    Feed my Sheep and feed my Lambs!... Just a thought... Brother Glen [​IMG]
     
  6. Helen

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    If you look at Peter before the betrayal, he was always quick on the word -- often before thinking.

    He's changed by John 21. He has been humbled, humiliated, and in pain for what he has done. He knows that his words were too quick and too rash before. From this point on we see a new honesty in Peter -- a thoughtful and straightforward honesty which could only have arisen out of the pain of knowing he had betrayed his Lord.

    And so now his response is much more careful. Much more honest. Because of this, he is much more useful to Christ. This is the first time we see this change, in this conversation with Christ. And it reflects the two great commandments. As Peter declares his real love for Christ Jesus, Jesus then directs him to the sheep. Now that the relationship between Jesus and Peter is not just restored but straightened out in Peter's mind, he is ready to start the work he was chosen for.

    [ September 20, 2002, 11:42 PM: Message edited by: Helen ]
     
  7. rlvaughn

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    I think that too much has probably been made of the difference between agapao and phileo here in John 21. The words have definite overlap in meaning and are used interchangably on several occasions, e.g., cf. John 3:35 (agapao) with 5:20 (phileo); both words are used to describe Jesus' love for Lazarus (John 11:3,5); and for the "disciple whom Jesus loved" (John 19:26; 20:2).

    In Exegetical Fallacies (p. 30), D. A. Carson states, "...there is nothing intrinsic to the verb agapao or the noun agape to prove its real meaning or hidden meaning refers to some special kind of love." He shows several uses of it that are contrary to the prevailing notions, such as its use in the LXX to translate the reference to Amnon's incestuous rape of Tamar in II Samuel 13, or its use to describe Demas' love for the world (I Tim. 4:10). I highly recommend Carson's comments on agapao/phileo in the afore-mentioned book.

    If we actually read the meaning into the passage that is quite popular, the discussion actually goes something like this -
    Jesus: Do you agapao me?
    Peter: No, but I phileo you.
    Jesus: Do you agapao me?
    Peter: No, but I phileo you.
    Jesus: Then do you phileo me?
    Peter: Yes, I phileo you.
    Now to me that doesn't even make any sense on the surface, and besides that, Peter's answer to the first two questions was "Yes" rather than "No". Lastly, I think some consideration should be given to the fact that the inspired writer said that Jesus asked Peter the third time whether he loved Him. It implies that Jesus asked the same question three times, rather than one question twice and then a different question.
     
  8. HankD

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    I think an another important point is the response to Peter's answers by Jesus "feed my sheep".

    This phrase also differs in word choices,

    I believe it is part of the Great Commission.
    It is focused on those who would be pastors.
    Missionaries go forth and establish local churches and presumably move on.
    These (like Peter) are the pastoral guardians of the flock.

    Feed my sheep!

    HankD
     
  9. Don

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    Thanks, all! I, too, thought too much was being made of the differences in the words. I was with a group where someone tried to make the case that agape love was/is only capable of being given by God Himself.
     
  10. Chet

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    There have been some really good comments here. I appreciate rlvaughn post tremendously. I have always been uncertain as to the meaning of the word play, and even if there was any real significance to them. That really cleared that up for me, thanks.

    Also what Helen pointed out has been something I have always considered to be part of the reason for Jesus three time question. She said :
    It could also have been a straightening out in the minds of those around Peter. It was John who outran Peter to the open tomb (John 20:3-10). Maybe it was going through John’s mind, and others, that Peter loves Jesus less, or not at all. This gives Peter a chance to say it three times in front of Jesus Himself. Also when Jesus arose, the angel told Mary to get the other disciples and Peter also. Maybe because of the denial of Jesus three times, people were wondering. Even Peter himself! So Peter had a chance to make it up to himself, and to others three times.

    But there is something about Peter and three. In Acts 10 when the large sheet was being let down to Peter the Lord had to tell Peter 3 times to eat the unclean food. What is it with Peter and the three times? 3 denials, 3 I love you’s, 3 times God told him to eat.

    I have also wondered if the context of John 21 all together had something to do with Jesus telling Peter to feed His Sheep. Earlier Peter had made it clear that he is going fishing. To Spiritualize this a bit, and maybe wrongly so, maybe this is a superficial “soul winning” attempt on Peters part. But as he is out there fishing, he catches nothing. His attempts to "soul win" his way is failing. Then he is approached by Jesus and Peter does not even recognize Jesus. He is also caught naked, a picture of his sin. Jesus tells him to cast the net on the right side of the boat. Doing the “soul winning” Jesus way will result in fish. Then on shore Jesus address Peter as Simon [/b] not as Peter the small rock. (Matthew 16) Jesus speaks to Simon about real discipleship, to really feed his sheep. And this must be done with love for Jesus Christ.

    Just some further thoughts, nothing dogmatic. Don this was a great topic for a thread!! [​IMG]
     
  11. Chet

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    P.S. Don, welcome back. Did you see your latest PM?
     
  12. Don

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    Agh, no! Sorry about that Chet; I'll give it a look, and get back with you (I'm still TDY for a couple of more weeks; my current internet connection--when I get connected--is usually less than 14.4k, so I don't spend much time on-line at the moment....)
     

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