John 20:21 -- ἀποστέλλω vs πέμπω

How do I work out the meaning of a Greek text? How can I best understand the forms and vocabulary in this particular text?
Forum rules
This is a beginner's forum - see the Koine Greek forum for more advanced discussion of Greek texts. Please quote the Greek text you are discussing directly in your post if it is reasonably short - do not ask people to look it up.

When answering questions in this forum, keep it simple, and aim your responses to the level of the person asking the question.
Bob Nyberg
Posts: 31
Joined: May 31st, 2011, 10:06 pm
Location: Missouri
Contact:

John 20:21 -- ἀποστέλλω vs πέμπω

Post by Bob Nyberg » August 21st, 2012, 10:31 am

Hi,

Is there a significant reason why John uses two different words for send in John 20:21?

John 20:21b says " ... καθὼς ἀπέσταλκέν με ὁ πατήρ, κἀγὼ πέμπω ὑμᾶς."

Some Greek scholars say that they are used interchangeably in this verse.

At least one person believes that there is a ‘significant distinction’ between the two words. He says that the first is used of the Father sending the Son and concentrates on the mission to be accomplished and the authority imparted to whom was sent and the second is used of Jesus sending the disciples which focuses more on the relation of the sent to the sender.

It seems like the use of καθὼς would indicate that the two are interchangeable here. I was wondering what you all think.

Bob

cwconrad
Posts: 2103
Joined: May 5th, 2011, 5:52 pm
Location: Burnsville, NC 28714
Contact:

Re: John 20:21 -- ἀποστέλλω vs πέμπω

Post by cwconrad » August 21st, 2012, 11:15 am

Bob Nyberg wrote:Hi,

Is there a significant reason why John uses two different words for send in John 20:21?

John 20:21b says " ... καθὼς ἀπέσταλκέν με ὁ πατήρ, κἀγὼ πέμπω ὑμᾶς."

Some Greek scholars say that they are used interchangeably in this verse.

At least one person believes that there is a ‘significant distinction’ between the two words. He says that the first is used of the Father sending the Son and concentrates on the mission to be accomplished and the authority imparted to whom was sent and the second is used of Jesus sending the disciples which focuses more on the relation of the sent to the sender.

It seems like the use of καθὼς would indicate that the two are interchangeable here. I was wondering what you all think.

Bob
In view of the ipsissima verba of the text,(i.e. καθὼς ... με, κἀγὼ ... ὑμᾶς)I don't see how there can be any doubt that the author intended these words to be understood as synonymous here. But apart from that indicator, there are other instances of synonymy within John's gospel (notable esp. in chapter 21, assuming this belongs to John's gospel -- ἀγαπῶ/φιλῶ, βόσκω/ποιμαίνω, ἅρνια/πρόβατα). But also, Louw & Nida list the two verbs together:
15.66 πέμπωa; ἀποστέλλωa; ἀπολύωb: to cause someone to depart for a particular purpose — ‘to send.’
πέμπωa: ἔδοξε … ἐκλεξαμένους ἄνδρας ἐξ αὐτῶν πέμψαι εἰς Ἀντιόχειαν σὺν τῷ Παύλῳ καὶ Βαρναβᾷ ‘decided … to choose some men from the group and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas’ Ac 15:22; ἐλπίζω δὲ ἐν κυρίῳ Ἰησοῦ Τιμόθεον ταχέως πέμψαι ὑμῖν ‘I trust in the Lord Jesus that I will be able to send Timothy to you soon’ Php 2:19.
ἀποστέλλωa: ἀποστέλλει δύο τῶν μαθητῶν αὐτοῦ ‘he sends two of his disciples’ Mk 11:1; ἀπέστειλέν με … εὐαγγελίζεσθαι ‘he sent me … to tell the good news’ 1Cor 1:17.
ἀπολύωb: οἱ μὲν οὖν ἀπολυθέντες κατῆλθον εἰς Ἀντιόχειαν ‘then those who were sent arrived in Antioch’ Ac 15:30.
οὔτοι ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς πάντα θεοὶ θνητοῖς ὑπέδειξαν,
ἀλλὰ χρόνῳ ζητέοντες ἐφευρίσκουσιν ἄμεινον. (Xenophanes, Fragment 16)

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)

Eeli Kaikkonen
Posts: 365
Joined: June 2nd, 2011, 7:49 am
Location: Finland
Contact:

Re: John 20:21 -- ἀποστέλλω vs πέμπω

Post by Eeli Kaikkonen » August 21st, 2012, 1:22 pm

cwconrad wrote: In view of the ipsissima verba of the text,(i.e. καθὼς ... με, κἀγὼ ... ὑμᾶς)I don't see how there can be any doubt that the author intended these words to be understood as synonymous here. But apart from that indicator, there are other instances of synonymy within John's gospel (notable esp. in chapter 21, assuming this belongs to John's gospel -- ἀγαπῶ/φιλῶ, βόσκω/ποιμαίνω, ἅρνια/πρόβατα). But also, Louw & Nida list the two verbs together:
L&N is consistently cautious in giving any nuances or differences. It's part of their methodology, some kind of semantic minimalism. It's safe: you won't say anything which the text doesn't say, but it may lead to saying less.

It may be dangerous to mix semantics and logic, but I believe it's very useful to differentiate identical and analogical likeness. For example, we are should be one like Father and Son are one (e.g. John 17:11). Not identically, but analogically. Understanding καθὼς analogically may actually be linguistically/semantically very sound. Therefore it doesn't require synonymousness.

Stephen Carlson
Posts: 2539
Joined: May 11th, 2011, 10:51 am
Location: Melbourne
Contact:

Re: John 20:21 -- ἀποστέλλω vs πέμπω

Post by Stephen Carlson » August 21st, 2012, 1:37 pm

I am a priori skeptical about claims of absolute synonymy. Usually there is some difference, though it not need be at the semantic or propositional level. That being the case, the semantics of many words overlap, and some authors may, by the use of two near synonyms, intend a meaning that is common to both words. I believe that author of John is one of these authors, and that as a result it is generally fruitless to discern subtle distinctions in his lexical choices where there is variation.

I am also a priori skeptical of claims that ordinary Greek words are actually technical terms that convey fairly subtle theological differences.
Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D.
Melbourne, Australia

Stirling Bartholomew
Posts: 579
Joined: August 9th, 2012, 4:19 pm

Re: John 20:21 -- ἀποστέλλω vs πέμπω

Post by Stirling Bartholomew » August 21st, 2012, 5:50 pm

Eeli Kaikkonen wrote:
cwconrad wrote: In view of the ipsissima verba of the text,(i.e. καθὼς ... με, κἀγὼ ... ὑμᾶς)I don't see how there can be any doubt that the author intended these words to be understood as synonymous here. But apart from that indicator, there are other instances of synonymy within John's gospel (notable esp. in chapter 21, assuming this belongs to John's gospel -- ἀγαπῶ/φιλῶ, βόσκω/ποιμαίνω, ἅρνια/πρόβατα). But also, Louw & Nida list the two verbs together:
L&N is consistently cautious in giving any nuances or differences. It's part of their methodology, some kind of semantic minimalism. It's safe: you won't say anything which the text doesn't say, but it may lead to saying less.

It may be dangerous to mix semantics and logic, but I believe it's very useful to differentiate identical and analogical likeness. For example, we are should be one like Father and Son are one (e.g. John 17:11). Not identically, but analogically. Understanding καθὼς analogically may actually be linguistically/semantically very sound. Therefore it doesn't require synonymousness.
Eeli,

That is an interesting take on L&N. Been using L&N since the first edition (1988) but haven't ever thought of them as representatives of semantic minimalism. Like S. Carlson "I am a priori skeptical about claims of absolute synonymy. " On the other hand, Leon Morris published a study on lexical variation in John ages ago, when I was still in college. He specially deals with this text. I don't think whole library full of NT theological dictionaries, which tend toward semantic maximalism, will ever settle the issues of semantic nuances in John's writings. John was a very subtle guy, my favorite NT author.

Thanks for your reply, redressing to hear a new voice (relatively speaking) on b-greek.
C. Stirling Bartholomew
C. Stirling Bartholomew

David Lim
Posts: 901
Joined: June 6th, 2011, 6:55 am

Re: John 20:21 -- ἀποστέλλω vs πέμπω

Post by David Lim » August 22nd, 2012, 12:44 am

Bob Nyberg wrote:Is there a significant reason why John uses two different words for send in John 20:21?

John 20:21b says " ... καθὼς ἀπέσταλκέν με ὁ πατήρ, κἀγὼ πέμπω ὑμᾶς."

Some Greek scholars say that they are used interchangeably in this verse.
As others have pointed out, we can't really say for certain that the author didn't intend any difference between the two words in this specific sentence, but I thought that it might be useful to note the following parallels in his writing:
[John 13:20] αμην αμην λεγω υμιν ο λαμβανων εαν τινα πεμψω εμε λαμβανει ο δε εμε λαμβανων λαμβανει τον πεμψαντα με
[John 17:18] καθως εμε απεστειλας εις τον κοσμον καγω απεστειλα αυτους εις τον κοσμον
δαυιδ λιμ

Eeli Kaikkonen
Posts: 365
Joined: June 2nd, 2011, 7:49 am
Location: Finland
Contact:

Re: John 20:21 -- ἀποστέλλω vs πέμπω

Post by Eeli Kaikkonen » August 22nd, 2012, 4:14 am

Stirling Bartholomew wrote: That is an interesting take on L&N. Been using L&N since the first edition (1988) but haven't ever thought of them as representatives of semantic minimalism.
I want to clarify a bit. I didn't use "minimalism" in any restricted technical sense. I just have noticed that they consistently avoid seeing distinctions and nuances where many more or less respected exegetes see them. It's not necessarily a conflict or contradiction. L&N's purpose is limited and it's been made concise and clear, available for non-experts. It's very healthy and commonsensical, but in details and nuances can't be used as the sole authority a priori without evidence. Actually I love its "minimalism" but don't take it as final authority.

Also in this context I didn't mean that L&N is wrong and John made a distinction. I just said that Carl's arguments weren't decisive in my opinion.

Roger McDaniel
Posts: 12
Joined: March 28th, 2017, 6:59 pm

Re: John 20:21 -- ἀποστέλλω vs πέμπω

Post by Roger McDaniel » March 28th, 2017, 10:32 pm

I had a Greek professor who often remarked, "While it is possible that a writer uses two different words merely to avoid repetition, adding variety in speech so to speak, it is far more likely that there was at least some (perhaps subtle) distinction in two closely placed and similar terms. It seems to me that, if two words meant exactly the same thing, one or the other word would have passed from usage and the stronger meaning remain." (Dr. O.D. Lovell)

I read along and am often struck by the "switch" (contrast?) from one word to another within a passage (or even a sentence), so it seems worthwhile to me to spend time comparing other passages to see what that sort of trend might exist, if some nuance is habitually exhibited. I find myself equally concerned with avoiding the development of meanings that aren't there against the loss of deeper meanings that ARE intended. So much to consider...

Wes Wood
Posts: 661
Joined: September 20th, 2013, 8:18 pm

Re: John 20:21 -- ἀποστέλλω vs πέμπω

Post by Wes Wood » March 29th, 2017, 10:11 am

Roger McDaniel wrote:
March 28th, 2017, 10:32 pm
"While it is possible that a writer uses two different words merely to avoid repetition, adding variety in speech so to speak, it is far more likely that there was at least some (perhaps subtle) distinction in two closely placed and similar terms. It seems to me that, if two words meant exactly the same thing, one or the other word would have passed from usage and the stronger meaning remain."
Is this a direct quote? Regardless, there isn't an absolute answer to this concept, but this quote seems to me to be too emphatic in places (e.g. "is possible" vs. "it is far more likely"). The use of similar words varies widely from author to author. In my own writing, one of my most common reasons for using one phrase over another is to avoid repetition, and the likelihood that I will make a change is much greater when two similar elements are in close proximity to each other. My brother, on the other hand, doesn't vary his vocabulary much at all and, as far as I can tell, isn't concerned with the number of time he uses a specific word. What is normal for me would be unusual for him.

The next portion of the quote is qualified, but I think there are many examples, especially with nouns, where two different words do appear at first glance to mean the exact same thing. For example, what is the difference between "Mom" and "Mother?" Without context, those words can appear to be exactly the same, but when uttered from a specific person they may not be. For example, both words *generally* refer to the biological parent who physically gave birth to a particular individual. However, is this always the case? I think it is obvious that it is not. And even if we accept this specific definition is correct in context, there are other factors that can be at play. I use both of these terms to refer to my Mom, but "mom" is the term I generally use. If I want to make a point, whatever that may be, I will likely use a different word. If I were mad, I might call her "mother," or if I were joking around I might call her "mither" (pronounced myth-er). However, if I use the word "mother" it doesn't necessarily mean that I intend anything other than when I say "mom." The point, again, is that each person's word usages may vary.
I read along and am often struck by the "switch" (contrast?) from one word to another within a passage (or even a sentence), so it seems worthwhile to me to spend time comparing other passages to see what that sort of trend might exist, if some nuance is habitually exhibited. I find myself equally concerned with avoiding the development of meanings that aren't there against the loss of deeper meanings that ARE intended. So much to consider...
What differences do you see in phrases and clauses that can mean essentially the same thing? (What is the difference "between going to my parents' house" and "taking a trip to my parents?" Or, even better, what is the difference between "ἐπὶ τὴν ἀγορὰν ἰόντες" and "εἰς τὸ ἐμπόριον ἐρχόμενοι") I don't intend to say what you [should/shouldn't] or [can/can't] do, and I certainly don't want you to think that my last sentence is referring to you. It is not. But I have found that the more that I read Greek, the less I feel that most of the people who do talk or write about distinctions like these are qualified to do so.
Ἀσπάζομαι μὲν καὶ φιλῶ, πείσομαι δὲ μᾶλλον τῷ θεῷ ἢ ὑμῖν.-Ἀπολογία Σωκράτους 29δ

Roger McDaniel
Posts: 12
Joined: March 28th, 2017, 6:59 pm

Re: John 20:21 -- ἀποστέλλω vs πέμπω

Post by Roger McDaniel » March 29th, 2017, 1:27 pm

Wes Wood wrote:
March 29th, 2017, 10:11 am
What differences do you see in phrases and clauses that can mean essentially the same thing?
Wes Wood wrote:
March 29th, 2017, 10:11 am
Is this a direct quote?
It is (as best I recall it) as Dr. Lovell frequently stated it in an exegesis class, and in private conversations where we discussed it further. I believe he held it as a "general principal", though not a "hard and fast rule". I believe that he was urging us as 1st or 2nd year Greek students to attempt to find the subtle difference if it WAS there, but not to strain for a difference that was NOT.

I hope you will allow me some forebearance in failing to incorporate Greek text, as I am just beginning to use the forum and figure out the tools to even "quote", but since you asked

"What differences do you see in phrases and clauses that can mean essentially the same thing?"

I would cite my observations regarding John 21:15-17. I'm sure the forum has pretty much exhausted the discussion of the difference between Jesus' and Peter's use of agape vs phileo (again, please excuse my lack of fonts, I'll try to get a handle on that as soon as possible)

15 So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Feed My lambs.” 16 He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah,[d] do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.”

But as I was reading it, I noticed ALSO the switch between oida and ginosko. I wondered if this could be seen as Peter pointing to his head and responding to the first two inquiries as if to say, "Jesus, THINK about it... you KNOW (intellectually, with your MIND) that I am your friend!" But was Peters appeal to the mind broken when Jesus finally asked, "Is that ALL we are... (phileo) friends?" and with the final phrase, did Peter appeal to the experiential history that they had? Did Peter put his hand over his heart, rather than his forehead and say, "Jesus, you KNOW (ginosko)... I certainly failed you miserably, but you KNOW me and HAVE KNOWN me..."

Again, please pardon my failure with Greek text and my VERY personal voicing of Peter's possible words, but that is the kind of thing I am thinking may be intended when two very closely related (but potentially different) words appear. Is it juxtaposition for a reason, or only casually?

I find it worth spending some time to investigate, but don't plan on generating a new doctrine from it, no?

Next stop... look for some kind of tutorial on how to quote and insert greek text. Be patient please...

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest