Simon Peter

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G. K. Chesterton
When Christ at a symbolic moment was establishing His great society, He chose for its cornerstone neither the brilliant Paul nor the mystic John, but a shuffler, a snob, a coward – in a word, a man. And upon this rock He has built His Church, and the gates of Hell have not prevailed against it. All the empires and the kingdoms have failed, because of this inherent and continual weakness, that they were founded by strong men and upon strong men. But this one thing, the historic Christian Church, was founded on a weak man, and for that reason it is indestructible. For no chain is stronger than its weakest link.

Do you love me?

In John 21:14-19, Jesus asks Peter "Do you love me?" three times. In the first two questions, the Greek verb 'agapao' is used to pose the question: "Do you love me whole-heartedly?" Simon Peter answers with the verb 'phileo,' which suggests a different kind of love: "I love you as a friend." When Jesus poses the question for the third time, He switches to the verb that Peter has used twice: "Do you love me as a friend?"

It is a fascinating variation in Greek. The play on words is reproduced in the Latin Vulgate using deligere for agapao and amare for phileo.

There is no pair of synonyms like this in Aramaic, which is almost certainly the language that would have been used between one Galilean and another. From verse 20, we learn that Jesus and Simon are talking almost in private; the beloved disciple is trailing after them, eavesdropping on their conversation: "Peter turned and saw the disciple following whom Jesus loved."

What did Jesus really say? If He used this distinction, what did He mean by it? If it is the Greek-speaking author of the Gospel who introduced this variation, why did he do so?

These are open questions. The sacred text does not answer them directly. Rather than getting carried too far afield with speculation about the past based on word studies, I would rather picture Jesus asking me personally, "Do you love me? Do you love me as a friend? Do you love me with your whole heart, your whole mind, and all your strength? Do you love me with covenant love?"

Peter the Pastor

In this passage, the Good Shepherd makes Peter a shepherd:

- "Feed my lambs."
- "Tend my sheep."
- "Feed my sheep."


15 Ὅτε οὖν ἠρίστησαν, λέγει τῷ Σίμωνι Πέτρῳ ὁ Ἰησοῦς,
Σίμων Ἰωάννου, ἀγαπᾷς με πλέον τούτων;
λέγει αὐτῷ·
ναί κύριε, σὺ οἶδας ὅτι φιλῶ σε.

λέγει αὐτῷ·
βόσκε τὰ ἀρνία μου.

16 λέγει αὐτῷ πάλιν δεύτερον·
Σίμων Ἰωάννου, ἀγαπᾷς με;
λέγει αὐτῷ·
ναί κύριε, σὺ οἶδας ὅτι φιλῶ σε.

λέγει αὐτῷ·
ποίμαινε τὰ προβάτιά μου.

17 λέγει αὐτῷ τὸ τρίτον·
Σίμων Ἰωάννου, φιλεῖς με;
ἐλυπήθη ὁ Πέτρος ὅτι εἶπεν αὐτῷ τὸ τρίτον· φιλεῖς με; καὶ λέγει αὐτῷ·
κύριε, πάντα σὺ οἶδας, σὺ γινώσκεις ὅτι φιλῶ σε.

λέγει αὐτῷ· βόσκε τὰ προβάτιά μου.