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Friday, February 11, 2011


Two quick comments on this: First, Sean, I don't think learning New Testament Greek would solve the problem (in many people's minds it would equip them to make the very point Nicholas makes!)- this is much more likely to be found in commentaries, journals etc. Nicholas, I feel you may have missed Sean's point: if Jesus & Peter didn't converse in greek such nuances would not have been present - thus we're looking at someone else's interpretation of the conversation (though some would respond that the Holy Spirit had a hand in the writing!)

Very interesting.

You've correctly affirmed that the distinction between "agape" and "philia" tends to be overstated, but beware of overstating that it's overstated -- and of seeing the particular distinction, between divine love and mundane love, where that was really never part of the conversation.

Jesus and Peter were talking at cross purposes, or so the repetition of the question-and-answer sequence suggests. Whatever the precise connotation Jesus had in mind when he used "agapas," it had to have been different from the connotation of Peter's "philo," if only because the two words obviously sound different. In his conversation with Peter, Jesus initially assumed a verbal sensitivity that Peter, alas, didn't share. What can he do? With respect to the vocabulary issue, he humors Peter, although on the substance of his message to Peter he does remain unwavering.

That's one interpretation of the curious exchange between Jesus and Peter in John 21. If it's a "bad" interpretation, as you suggest, is it worse, or better, than the opaqueness of the passage in the absence of that reading? I don't think we're meant to assume either that Peter was hard of hearing or that Jesus suffered from short-term memory loss. The A-P, A-P, P-P pattern naturally intrigues -- or intrigues many readers, at any rate. It intrigues me. What does it mean? The answer I described is not original to me, although it's not quite the one you assume it is either. In any case it's not an answer that I fabricated but one that naturally suggested itself to me, as it has to others who read the passage in Greek.

Astute commentators may indeed have better, more compelling answers. I would be grateful for direction here. I would enjoy reading them.

I appreciate and respect what I call calculative thinking about scripture. It's crucial for us to have a reliable text. What I attempted to sketch in my essay was the value of meditative thinking about scripture, a way of thinking about it that reading it in the original languages can foster. Good commentators such as yourself perform a necessary work. You not only keep the meditative reader from going astray but can also point out paths that he might have missed. Everyone who loves scripture strives to internalize both ways, to breathe with both lungs, to fly with both wings.

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