I’m a firm believer that context trumps text, and in this case we especially need to put the agape/phileo linguistics on the shelf for the moment. How? John blatantly tells us the word choice is significant. The scripture says Peter was grieved when Jesus challenged his use of 'phileo'. If we accept that, then there’s no point in debating whether the linguistics back it up. The only question is whether we understand why the word change matters in the sequence, as it stands.
Also, as I said recently, it doesn’t matter (for the purposes of this argument) if the historical conversation between Jesus & Peter was shared in greek or translated into greek for the gospel record. Regardless of whether we suppose the account is verbatim or rendered in general from memory, we can still take the author at face value. Once again, John clearly says the word changes matter. That’s enough to proceed as if Jesus and Peter said every word just as it’s written, even if they didn’t… or even if they did!
Therefore, we will proceed to analyze the text as an accurate and verbatim account of the conversation… either because we believe it, or because we’re going to trust the author for the sake of argument. (Dear reader, you know which side of that I land on, personally!) But in both cases, we should leave off word meanings until after we settle a context for the overall situation.
With all of that said, I think there are two keys to understanding the context of the conversation more holistically. Tune in next time, and I’ll tell you what they are!
(To be continued...)