AGAPAW, FILEW

Steven Lo Vullo doulos at merr.com
Thu Oct 18 02:40:16 EDT 2001


on 10/17/01 1:42 PM, Mark Wilson at emory2oo2 at hotmail.com wrote:

> Antonius, in the funeral discourse addressed the Roman
> people over the body of Caesar in this way:
> 
> EFILHSATE AUTON hWS PATERA, KAI HGAPHSATE hWS EUERGETHN
> 
> - Trench, Synonyms of the NT, pg. 42, citing Dion Cassius, xliv, 48).
> 
> 
> I have always found Trench's study on these two words most informative
> where in this quote, the author uses FILEW toward the father
> and AGAPAW toward a benefactor.
> 
> As noted by Trench, AGAPAN TON QEON is commanded of believers, but
> never do you find FILEIN TON QEON. For FILEW involves the natural
> affections and passion; while AGAPAW is a reasoned attachment, from
> a sense of due respect. One can not command affection/passion.
> 
> Taking this distinction into the famous John 21 passage, Trench
> further feels that when Christ asked Peter if he AGAPAiS ME, this
> use of love, AGAPAW, "when all the pulses in the heart of the now
> penitent Apostle were beating with a passionate affection toward
> his Lord, this word on the Lord's lips sounds far too cold... to
> very imperfectly express the warmth of his affection toward Him."
> (pg. 42,43).

Trench's example from Dio may not be as helpful as may seem at first sight.

Unfortunately, things aren't always so neat and clear-cut as we would like
them to be. While Trench's example may *seem* to confirm that when these
words are used in close proximity they are to be distinguished as having
distinctive semantical value, it is clear that this is not always the case.
Take for example Prov 21.17, LXX: ANHR ENDEHS AGAPAi EUFROSUNHN FILWN OINON
KAI ELAION EIS PLOUTON ("A poor man loves mirth, loving wine and oil in
abundance."). Both AGAPAW and FILEW here translate the same Hebrew verb,
apparently just for stylistic reasons. Do you really want to press a
distinction here between "reasoned attachment, from a sense of due respect"
and "the natural affections and passions?" It seems to me one would have to
possess a prior committment to such a distinction in order to insist on it
here.

I also have to take exception to your point about AGAPH toward God being
commanded but FILIA toward God not being commanded. Aside from being an
argument from silence, it is also a non sequitur. It doesn't necessarily
follow that because AGAPH toward God IS commanded, FILIA toward God COULD
NOT legitimately be commanded. Carl's example from 1 Cor 16.22 makes
abundantly clear that FILIA toward God was viewed by Paul as something
demanded of believers. Otherwise, why would he insist that those who do not
have FILIA toward God/Christ be accursed (ANAQEMA)? And when Jesus uses
AGAPAW in the command AGAPHSEIS KURION TON QEON SOU EX hOLHS THS KARDIAS SOU
KAI EX hOLHS THS YUCHS SOU KAI EX hOLHS THS DIANOIAS SOU KAI EX hOLHS THS
ISCUOS SOU (Mark 12.30) does anyone really think this AGAPH only includes
"reasoned attachment" without any emotional element at all? Conversely, when
John says hO GAR PATHR FILEI TON hUION does anyone really want to argue that
this is a purely "NATURAL affection and passion," with no "reasoned
attachment, from a sense of due respect?"

Finally, the evidence does not warrant "[t]aking this distinction *into* the
famous John 21 passage," since the distinction is largely artificial. If any
such distinction is intended, it must be proven from the context. I do posit
a distinction there, but it is not the traditional one and it has nothing to
do with some supposed intrinsic "special" meaning for AGAPAW.
-- 

Steven Lo Vullo
Madison, WI




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