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Friday, May 25, 2007

John 21:15-19

In the gospel reading for today, Jesus asks Peter three times if Peter loves him. I've seen discussions about the use of different words for "love" in the reading, and here below is a bit from one of those - Sloppy Agape by Dr. David Alan Black ......


Traditionally, John 21:15-17 has been a rich source of what Bible scholars call "eisegesis"—reading into the text something the text itself does not contain.

Some translations of these verses are based on the two different Greek verbs for "love" that appear. Jesus asks the first two times, "Do you love me," using the verb agapaw. Peter responds, "I love you," using filew. The third time, however, Jesus himself uses filew in his question, as does Peter in his response.

It is usually argued that agapaw signifies a higher form of love—divine, selfless, altruistic love. However, the most Peter will claim for himself is filew love— friendship love. This probably accounts for the distinction in the NIV between "truly love" for agapaw, and "love" for filew.

But this cannot be. In the first place, it is John’s style to use the verbs agapaw and filew interchangeably, without any distinction in meaning. Thus, the expression "the disciple whom Jesus kept on loving" can be based on either verb. Again, the Father loves the Son—and both verbs are used (3:55; 5:20).

Second, Peter could hardly answer "Yes, Lord, I love you" if in fact he meant "No, Lord, I like you as a friend."

Finally, it is clear that Peter got upset, not because Jesus changed his verb in the third question, but because Jesus asked him the same question three times—an obvious allusion to Peter’s threefold denial of Jesus.

If this passage is not about the two Greek words for "love," then what does it teach? Two simple, but profound, truths.

The first is this: What the Lord Jesus Christ is looking for in his disciples—in Peter, in John, in Paul, and in us today—is our love above everything else ....... But is it enough to say the words, "I love you"? ......

Such pronouncements are undoubtedly attractive, but deeds speak louder than words. And that is the second great truth in our passage. Jesus is saying that the best way to prove that we love him is by taking care of his people: "Feed my lambs"; "Take care of my sheep."

This is the "Love Triangle" of 1 John: God loves us; we love others; and only then is love returned to God .......



Blogger Liam said...

"Sloppy Agape" -- ha!

That's good. I've heard about the two verb thing in this passion and what Black says makes sense.

6:32 AM  
Blogger Cura Animarum said...

It makes great sense. I've always thought that the focus on the verbs used took away a lot of what that passage was really trying to get at. I never noticed before that John uses the two verbs interchangably.

Thanks Crystal

9:46 AM  
Blogger crystal said...

Liam - I saw this article at Felix Just's site and had to read it since the title rhymed :-)

10:52 AM  
Blogger crystal said...

Cura - I wouldn't have known about the difference in verbs if I hadn't seen it mentioned here and there .... must learn more languages.

10:53 AM  
Blogger Cura Animarum said...

Just get a couple of good commentaries is all. ;o)

12:24 PM  

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