Insight to the Word

The two verbs translated “love” in the Greek New Testament are phileō (“to be a friend of” [person or object] or to “have tender affection for”) and agapaō (“love founded in admiration, veneration, esteem”).

Both words are used in John 21:15–16. Jesus uses agapaō while Peter uses phileō. In verse 17, however, both Jesus and Peter use phileō. Some scholars find significance in the use of these two different words in John 21 while others don’t. Commentator Craig Keener notes: “The two Greek words for ‘love’ here are used interchangeably elsewhere in John.”

Peter had denied Christ three times (see John 18:15–18, 25–27). How gracious of Jesus to prompt him to affirm his love three times. Was Peter’s love authentic? Yes, authentic enough for him to live a life and die a death by which he would glorify God (see 21:18–19).

Published by Intentional Faith

Devoted to a Faith that Thinks

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