Steven Lo Vullo doulos at
Thu Oct 18 16:45:51 EDT 2001

on 10/18/01 7:27 AM, Paul Zellmer at pzellmer at wrote:

> A translation of a single Hebrew word into two Greek words really should
> only be considered stylistic if it can be demonstrated elsewhere that that
> is the style of the writer or the times.  To state that such a translation
> was made apparently for stylistic reasons when such further demonstration is
> absent is a conclusion which seems very similar to conclusions that are made
> when one argues from silence.

It's not an argument from silence. It's an argument from the Hebrew verbs
that are actually there and the two Greek words used to translate those
verbs that are also actually there. How this is an argument from silence I
do not know.

I'm a big fan of the simplest answer. It seems to me that applying here some
supposed *intrinsic* difference between AGAPAW and FILEW that can be applied
to most contexts (if not any and every context) is mistaken on the basis of
evidence that has been expounded during the long course of this discussion.
Since the two Hebrew verbs being translated by AGAPAW and FILEW  are the
same, there does not seem to be any other compelling reason for the
translator to translate as he did. The stylistic answer seems much more
probable than that the translator somehow *knew* that 'ahab should be
translated AGAPAW in one instance and FILEW in the other, as if love
(AGAPAW) for the "mirth" (EUFROSUNHN) indicated "reasoned attachment, from a
sense of due respect" while love (FILEW) for "wine and oil in abundance"
(OINON KAI ELAION EIS PLOUTON), the constituents of such mirth, indicated
"the natural affections and passions." This seems forced, to say the least.

> I would agree that the specific proposal by Mark do not seem to hold up
> here, but ISTM that you also could be under the influence of your personal
> predisposition to a lack of distinction between the two terms.

My previous posts should have made clear that I have no objection to
distinguishing the two verbs if the context supports such a distinction. I
have not even argued that the two verbs have exactly the same semantic value
in John 21 (although I do not hold the traditional distinction). What I am
arguing is that there is nothing intrinsic to either verb that automatically
allows us to make such distinctions *in most cases* where they are used. It
is quite amusing to me to see those who hold such a view trying to square
their very tidy definitions of *the intrinsic meanings* of both terms with
the various passages that quite clearly contradict these. I don't know if
anyone has noticed, but these so-called definitions are very fluid and tend
to change whenever the last contender has been shown to be false. Remember
when we first started this discussion and AGAPAW *meant* something like "a
self-denying, decisional love that has the best interests of its object in
mind?" What happened to that one? The evidence clearly showed that such an
*intrinsic* definition was patently false. But instead of ditching the idea
that such foolproof definitions are available, new definitions thought to
cover all the evidence have been concocted. What I am trying to point out is
that these new universal definitions don't work either.

> If (and I repeat, if) there is a distinction between AGAPAW and FILEW, and if
> that distinction could be clearly defined, a translation the English, "A poor
> man loves mirth, loving wine and oil in abundance," would use *different*
> Greek words if one word best describes the feeling toward mirth and the other
> best describes the feeling toward wine and oil.  In such a case, the variation
> of terms would exist because the translator would have had a better
> understanding of the specific usages of each word, and would have recognized
> the blurring of such distinction in the original text. Just because English
> or Hebrew has one word that covers both semantic domains does not mean that
> a single word should also be used in the Greek.  Your argument in this case
> seems to be perpetuating the common misunderstanding that translation is a
> one-to-one correspondence of terms on the word level, and that just ain't
> so.

So am I to reasonably conclude that the *original text* blurred the meaning,
but the *translator* saved the original author from himself, or that if the
translator had used AGAPAW in both cases, some special meaning would be
lost? If, as you say, AGAPAW may describe one feeling, and FILEW another,
how does the translator know which feeling goes with which object, when the
verbs are the same in the Hebrew and the objects of the verbs are actualy
parallel thoughts, the OINON KAI ELAION EIS PLOUTON constituting elements of
the mirthmaking (EUFROSUNHN) and thus *symbolizing* that mirthmaking? It is
not as if they are two unrelated concepts. Why could not FILEW be used where
AGAPAW is used and vice versa? Do you really think anyone would have thought
that odd? The fact is that when the parallel is taken into account, either
verb could have been used in either case. When looked at like this, my
argument perpetuates no such misunderstanding as you state above.

Steven Lo Vullo
Madison, WI

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