Based on reading Carson and Barrick (1996), I recognize that a fallacy occurred—a root fallacy to be exact—during several sermons on love. This fallacy “presupposes that every word actually has a meaning bound up with its shape or its components” (Carson 1996, 28). Until then, it did not seem improper to hear a pastor explain that “only the love of God” is agape—a love that is divine and distinctly different from the other kind of loves resulting from the desires of man (man refers to humans).
However, according to Carson when meaning is determined by etymology, linguistic nonsense can occur (Carson 1996, 28). As is the case with the verbal cognates agapao (άγαπάω) and phileo (φιλέω), which both mean to love (Carson 1996, 28-32). Therefore, it is a fallacy to think that phileo speaks of a friendship love per say, while agape references God’s divine love. Carson(1996) acknowledges that it is undoubtedly true that the entire range of meaning for agapao (άγαπάω) and phileo (φιλέω) are not verbatim (Carson 1996, 31). Nevertheless, there is substantial overlap and where there is overlap, using the “root meaning” in order to distinguish a difference in meaning can lead to fallacies (Carson 1996, 31).
In 2 Timothy 4:10 (agapao, John 3:35 (agapao), and John 5:20 (phileo) without any detectible change in meaning, as well as in the familiar exchange between Jesus and Peter in John 21:15-17 (Carson 1996, 31). Therefore, it should be obvious that when looking at the NT Greek text, there is no reason to derive a special meaning of word usage in the conversation between Jesus and Peter in reference to the types of love agapao (άγαπάω) and phileo (φιλέω). For, words have many different meanings… To pursue proper word studies, one must emphasize current usage in a given setting, since linguistic tools are virtually useless apart from the author’s context (Barrick 2008, 21).
Barrick, William D. “Exegetical Fallacies: Common Interpretive Mistakes Every Student Must Avoid.” The Master’s Seminary Journal 19, no. 1 (2008): 15-27.
Carson, D.A. Exegetical Fallacies. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1996.