Does anyone have the explanation as to what the difference in interpretation has to be or the significance for understanding when Jesus uses two different verbs for what the English translates as 'call' in John 15:15?

Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. (John 15:15 KJV)

First Jesus says he doesn't call them servants. The Greek verb here is λεγω. Then Jesus says He has called them friends. The Greek verb there is εἴρηκα.

Does anyone know why Jesus uses two different verbs here?


2 Answers 2


They are essentially considered the same verb but different tenses. For the tenses used, these are the most common Greek forms meaning to say.

λέγω is present active indicative 1st person singular -- I say

Present tense with a negative, οὐκέτι, has the idea of stopping, "no longer"

εἴρηκα is perfect active indicative 1st person singular -- I have said

Perfect tense is the continuing result of a completed action.

I have called you friends (ὑμας εἰρηκα φιλους [humas eirēka philous]). Perfect active indicative, permanent state of new dignity. They will prove worthy of it by continued obedience to Christ as Lord, by being good δουλοι [douloi]. Abraham was called the Friend of God (James 2:23). Are we friends of Christ? -- Robertson, A. T. (1933). Word Pictures in the New Testament (Jn 15:15). Nashville, TN: Broadman Press.

  • 1
    Agreed - they are not all that different verbs. +1.
    – Dottard
    Jul 13, 2021 at 10:58

Does anyone know why Jesus uses two different verbs here?

Here a few things that came up when looking at connections to the word that was used when he says I have called.

◄ 2046. ereó ► Strong's Exhaustive Concordance call, say, speak of, tell. Probably a fuller form of rheo; an alternate for epo in certain tenses; to utter, i.e. Speak or say -- call, say, speak (of), tell. see GREEK rheo see GREEK ep

Following the trail to the different word meanings here are some interesting things that came up.

5346 phēmí (from phaō, "shine") – properly, bring to light by asserting one statement (point of view) over another; to speak comparatively, i.e. making effective contrasts which illuminate (literally, "produce an epiphany").

Definition of epiphany; an appearance or manifestation, especially of a deity. a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience.

φημί; imperfect ἔφην; (from φάω, to bring forth into the light (cf. Curtius, § 407)); hence (from Homer down) properly, to make known one's thoughts, to declare; to say:

So back to your question why two different verbs from calling them servants to calling them friends.

He is telling them a big change has occurred in how he now sees and relates to the people he's talking to. Going from a servant to a friend is a huge change. He's now sharing his thoughts that he's received from God the Father and bringing them into his heart. So he's essentially bringing God down to them as well to let them know God is their friend.

  • Maybe I am not reading you correctly, but I don't see an answer to my question in your contribution. Thanks for the time you took tho, to comment in this thread.
    – sara
    Jul 14, 2021 at 7:10
  • Hi Sara, His term for them was a slave at one time now he's being emphatic by declaring they are his friends. What I am calling you now is more important to what I used to call you. I have now declared you are my friends. The difference between the two verbs is the verb εἴρηκα carries much more weight to what is said afterwards. The other three times it's used in scripture it's always addressing something very important to take note of. John 6:65, John 14:29, Rev.7:14 I hope that helps Cwhat I was trying to say.
    – Sherrie
    Jul 14, 2021 at 20:47
  • That last sentence was supposed to say clarify what I was trying to say.
    – Sherrie
    Jul 14, 2021 at 20:59

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