Bulletin Article
March 14, 2004


Word Study

By Doug Long

In the past I have written articles on words. I find that going back to the original Greek and Hebrew meanings of words can sometimes shed a lot of new light on a particular passage or verse. Most of the verses in the bible translate to English just fine, but there are lots that donít. I am going to pick on the word ďLoveĒ today because I recently had a friend point out something to me that I had not noticed before. If you go to book of John, you can read about how Peter denied Jesus 3 times (John 18: 17,25 and 27), and subsequently when Jesus was raised from the dead he asked Peter if he loved him 3 times. It seems logical that Jesus would do this, because there were 3 denials, and therefore there should be 3 declarations of love. If we left it to that we would miss something interesting though. If you look at the Greek words for love a whole new perspective is shed on this exchange between Jesus and Peter. I put the Greek words for love that were used next to the word that was spoken.

John 21:15-17
15 So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love (ajgapavw), Me more than these?"
He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love (filevw) You."
He said to him, "Feed My lambs."
16He said to him again a second time, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love (ajgapavw) Me?"
He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love (filevw) You."
He said to him, "Tend My sheep."
17He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love (filevw) Me?" Peter was grieved because He said to him
the third time, "Do you love filei' Me?"
And he said to Him, "Lord, You know all things; You know that I love (filevw) You."
Jesus said to him, "Feed My sheep.

What I find interesting here is that when Jesus first asked Peter if he loved him, Jesus used the Agape word for love, but Peter responded with the Phileo version. Agape love is all encompassing love, but Phileo love is camaraderie or brotherly love. The second time Jesus asked Peter if he loved him the same thing happened, Jesus used Agape, Peter used Phileo. The third time Jesus brings it down to Peterís level and uses Phileo, and Peter replied using the same word. Did Jesus bring it down to Peterís level because he knew that Peter wasnít capable of Loving Him as intensely as Jesus Loved Peter? Was Jesus disappointed that Peter didnít reply using agape? The bible doesnít tell us that he was, and it seems that Jesus was satisfied with Peterís response. I am not sure what the significance of this exchange is, but I thought it was interesting anyway.

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