I haven't found a way to search to see if questions on specific Biblical passages have already been asked.
I'm trying to find out if anyone has dealt with Jesus' possible Hebrew/Aramaic words in the conversation with Peter in this passage.
John 21:15–17 – ἀγαπᾷς με … φιλῶ σε (do you love me … I love you, ESV) – Are the different words translated love in this passage significant or are they only synonyms? This is the question translating this passage. Most translations show no difference in these words. Some translations that show a difference are “lovest thou me … I am attached to thee“ (1890 Darby), “dost thou love me … I dearly love thee” (Young’s Literal), “me amas … te quiero” (La Biblia de las Américas), “diligis me ... amo te” (Latin Vulgate), “do you truly love me … I love you” (NIV), “do you love Me … […—with reasoning, intentional, spiritual devotion, as one loves the Father] … I love You [that I have deep, instinctive, personal affection for You, as for a close friend]” (The Amplified Bible), and “do you love me … I am your friend" (Living Bible).
The Septuagint (LXX) in Proverbs 21:17 has both words as synonyms. However, the question is why does this passage make sense interpreting the words as having different meanings? In particular, why does John have Jesus saying φιλεῖς instead of ἀγαπᾷς on the third time? Why is John placing emphasis on the third time? Is it because Jesus is using the different word that Peter used on the third time, or is it because Jesus asked the question three times?
In all likelihood John’s Greek is a translation of Jesus’ words in Hebrew/Aramaic. Does Hebrew/Aramaic support the possibility of different means for these two words? While the LXX uses both ἀγαπάω and φιλέω to translate אָהֵב, is there another Hebrew/Aramaic verb with the noun form meaning friend? While the word חָבַר has this meaning,* the Hebrew word that stands out is רָעָה (Aramaic רְעָא, ܪܥܳܐ), because this word has three homonyms (same spelling different meanings). Delitzsch and the Peshitta used this word to translate βόσκε (feed, ESV). The Peshitta also used it to translate ποίμαινε (tend, ESV). This word has three possible meanings, depending on usage: I - pasture, tend, graze (BDB); II – vb. associate with (BDB); [“1. LN 34.1–34.21 (qal) be a friend, be a companion, i.e., be in an association with a person in a friendly relation based on common interests or vices (Pr 13:20; 28:7; 29:3+); (hitp) make friends with (Pr 22:24+); 2. LN 34.66–34.78 (piel) be best man, i.e., be an attendant of the groom at a wedding (Jdg 14:20+),…”]** ; III – (in later Hebrew and Aramaic) opinion, thought, disposition (BDB). What would make the most sense is if Peter used the piel of רָעָה, thus meaning “We’re best friends,” a response to Jesus’ “more than these.” We do not know the exact words Jesus and Peter used and only have them translated into Greek by John. But, the word רָעָה opens up the possibility that Jesus may have done a play on Peter’s word. Thus, not only does it seem likely that John’s play on words is a reflection of Jesus’ own words, but it is likely that not all of Jesus’ play on words could be translated by John.
What we do know is this is Jesus’ reinstatement of Peter after he had denied Christ. Part of Peter’s struggle was that he hadn’t yet grasped what Jesus’ Messiahship was all about. His views were still influenced by Jewish tradition. In fact, a study of the Hebrew/Aramaic words for friend showed that these words are often used with the meaning of ally or associate in military terms. Jesus told Peter that he is to take a leadership role of pastoring the flock of Christians. He is to not worry about the roll Jesus gives to other disciples.
*vb. unite (usually intr.), be joined, tie a magic knot or spell, charm (BDB) - Genesis 14:3 (joined forces, ESV); Psalm 94:20 (be allied, ESV); Daniel 11:6 (make an alliance, ESV); Daniel 11:23 (an alliance is made, ESV); 2 Chronicles 20:35,36,37 (joined with, ESV); Exodus 26:3,6,9,11; 28:7; 36:10,13,16,18; 39:4 (coupled to one another; joined together; attached ESV); Hosea 4:17 (joined to idols, ESV); Psalm 122:3 (bound firmly together, ESV) of Jerusalem; Ecclesiastes 9:4 (joined with all the living, ESV)]
**Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.