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ἀγαπάω and φιλέω again...

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ἀγαπάω and φιλέω again...

Postby Barry Hofstetter » Sat Sep 15, 2018 2:34 pm

Still having fun in the Colloquia, and found this this morning:

ἐγώ σε ἀγαπῶ, ἐγώ σε φιλῶ...

Remind you of anything in the gospels, say John 21:15-17? The context here is a section on seeking reconciliation with a friend or relative. The Latin translation, the language being learned, says

"ego te diligo, ego te amo..."

Which is precisely parallel to how Jerome renders John 21:15:

diligis me plus his dicit ei etiam Domine tu scis quia amo te

The commonplace today is that there is no essential semantic difference between ἀγαπάω and φιλέω, and that the distinctions made great capital of by preachers are wrong (and aren't we just so much smarter than they). However, finding this in a text unrelated to the gospels, in a text designed in fact to teach Greek speakers Latin, leads me to think that maybe our modern linguistically informed semantics might not be as accurate as we thought. I also find it interesting that both the Colloquia and Jerome render ἀγαπάω with diligo (esteeem, value) and φιλέω with amo (feel affection for).
N.E. Barry Hofstetter
The Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
καὶ σὺ τὸ σὸν ποιήσεις κἀγὼ τὸ ἐμόν. ἆρον τὸ σὸν καὶ ὕπαγε.
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Re: ἀγαπάω and φιλέω again...

Postby opoudjis » Sat Sep 15, 2018 6:11 pm

Any argument for a differentiation in meaning between ἀγαπάω and φιλέω would need to rely on sentences where they are clearly being used contrastively. John 21:15–17, you could argue, is such a passage—but you could also argue that it's just changing the verb for stylistic effect; there's not a lot to go on there.

But ἐγώ σε ἀγαπῶ, ἐγώ σε φιλῶ? On its own looks to be just a synonymous pair (and there's not more context to it than that: see below.) It doesn't on its own prove a semantic difference, any more than the song lyric "I'm mad about you, Can't live without you, I'm crazy 'bout you" https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/shaniat ... veyou.html does.

I'll add that the Hermeneumata obsess about synonyms to begin with, as part of their paedagogy. In fact the full paragraph reads:

Ἄπελθε πρὸς τὸν ἀδελφὸν καὶ εἶπον αὐτῶι· τί σοι ἐποιήσαμεν, ἵν᾿ ἀμελῆις ἡμᾶς; ἐγώ σε ἀγαπῶ. ἐγώ σε φιλῶ, μὰ τὸν θεόν (μὰ τὸν οὐρανόν. μὰ τὸν ἥλιον. μὰ τὴν γῆν. μὰ τὴν σωτηρίαν μου), καὶ αὐτὸς οἶδας, ἐπειδὴ φίλος ἡμῶν <εἶ>.

I don't feel this is the kind of text that will shed much light on lexical nuance.

(As it happens, I find the evidence compelling that there was something sacral about ἀγάπη, if not ἀγαπάω, based on its pagan Hellenistic use to refer to divine favour. I just don't find the example you bring up as compelling as you do.)
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Re: ἀγαπάω and φιλέω again...

Postby mwh » Sat Sep 15, 2018 11:19 pm

Certainly there can be considerable semantic overlap between αγαπῶ and φιλῶ—usually partial, occasionally total or arguably total (as opoudjis argues for ἐγώ σε ἀγαπῶ, ἐγώ σε φιλῶ—I wouldn’t quite agree), sometimes none (φίλησόν με kiss me, ~ δός μοι φίλημα). Venn diagrams could be a useful way of presenting the extent of overlap in any given case. Naturally there’s less overlap between αγαπη and φιλια, since the verbs have other substantive cognates (φιλημα for one), and αγαπη in particular becomes invested in what opoudjis calls the “sacral” in philsophical>Christian contexts. There’s diachronic development to be taken into account. Not to mention Greek-Latin quasi-equivalencies such as φιλῶ amo, far from stable.

Bottom line: it’s silly to try to make hard-and-fast definitions and distinctions or equations that hold good regardless of circumstance. πάντα ῥεῖ.
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