We are having a fascinating discussion about ἀποστέλλω and πέμπω in Apostles and missionaries. I don’t want to slow it down, but one comment on that post brought some thoughts about Pragmatics to mind.
Stephen Beck, here, says, “But for now I did want to ask Mike to consider two verses: John 7:18 and 12:49.”
He who speaks on his own does so to gain honor for himself, but he who works for the honor of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him.[NIV, 7:18]
For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it.[NIV 12:49]
You’d think John would use ἀποστέλλω in both places, wouldn’t you?
At first glance (and second and third) I would think so, too.
But, I think each can be relatively easy to explain (well, “easy” from my perspective, that is 🙂 )
Let me state that my perspective seeks to bring to the surface each word’s pragmatic function in the texts in question. It really doesn’t have as much to do with their precise referents or their relative semantics (though the semantics come into play). It has to do with the impact on the hearer’s interpretive context. It has to do with molding the way we (and they) interpret the words. Your observation–which is a good one in my view–is focused on the semantics. However, it is that focus that (I think) causes people to go down a specific pathway that leads them to questions framed as you have yours. Language, and more specifically, language in use, is more complex than (dare I say) simply semantics. If we analyze the discourse from a pragmatic functional perspective, then (I think) some exegetically relevant observations and conclusions are ready at hand.
Specifically, as I see it, considering the sentences results in:
John 7:18: The story develops to a relative climax.
John 12:49: Jesus’ authority would be overstated (I’m not thinking in theological terms here, but in linguistic ones; that is, it would receive too much focus.)
First, John 7:18.
πέμπω is used in John 7:16, 18, and 28. ἀποστέλλω is used in 29 and 32. πέμπω is then used again in 33.
The use of ἀποστέλλω in 32 refers to the guard sent by the Pharisees; so, let’s set that aside–the discourse relevant features applicable to this discussion revolve around Jesus and not the guard. (Though this rather interestingly pits the Pharisee’s authority against God’s–not a good place to be. More about that in a sec.)
As the pericope develops, the question of where Jesus comes from is developed. That is, it’s initially a πέμπω type of question–it’s solely geographic. However, the building of tension continues until Jesus uses ἀποστέλλω. At that point there’s a strong reaction (vs 30). Note that these are two widely disparate reactions: take him by force and unreserved commitment to him. Both of these are responses to an exercise of authority. The first is the proud, belligerent reaction. The second is the humble, submissive one. But, the important thing to note is that the sense of ‘geography’ changed to one of ‘authority’. As a slight aside, in the English translation, did you (like me) wonder, “What’s up with these two strong reactions? Why the hate? Why the belief?” Our Pragmatic level response to the text differs from how the original readers (and participants in the event) responded. As I see it, that’s a translation problem.
Also note the use of ἄρχων (‘authorities’/’leaders’) in verse 26. I don’t wish to make too fine a point, but the question of who is in charge is clearly portrayed in the background on the canvas of this pericope picture. This “questioning of the Pharisee’s authority” in 26 is picked up again in verse 32–the Pharisees don’t like it. It seems to me, BTW, that verses 25-32 form a chiasmus with the use of ἀποστέλλω pretty close to the middle.
So, basically, it’s a build to climax pericope. Consistent with that is the uses of πέμπω (more general ‘send’) building to the use of ἀποστέλλω (specific type of ‘send’) at a climatic point.
Furthermore, verse 33 starts the next paragraph. Notice the use of οὖν in 33. οὖν is a discourse marker which indicates two things: Development and close thematic proximity to the previous theme. In other words, John indicates to the reader that this new paragraph picks up the theme of the previous one and develops it further. That is, Jesus states, by using ἀποστέλλω in 29, that he has been given a mission. So, his use of πέμπω here in 33, though it’s referring to a change in location, would still keep conceptually alive the ‘mission’ concept in the background of the hearer’s thinking (cognitively, the associated neurons would stay turned on). In fact, it does exactly that, but the crowd misses the meaning (the theme is way too beyond them). John continues (from chapter 6) to build this idea of Jesus being glorified in his resurrection. But, sadly, the crowd can’t think in terms of a resurrected Christ. So, when they wonder, “where is this guy going to go?” they think in terms of a mission; but quite interestingly, it’s a mission to the Gentiles!
Here’s how I would translate 7:29
I know him. Because I am from him. He’s the one who gave me my mission.
That’s how I see it.
For John 12:49, I see it as Jesus muting the whole authority component. It’s kind of like this. If I say, “I’ve been given the authority to do a job. I’m the envoy. This authoritative sending has..yada…yada…yada.” Pretty soon it’s not about what I’ve come to do; it’s about me talking about my authority. That misses the point. So, in this pericope of John 12, the authority aspect is already there in that it is the Father who is in focus. To use ἀποστέλλω, while consistent with the aspect of the mission, wouldn’t be consistent with the intended focus. It’s about the Father.
For example, if he had used ἀποστέλλω, then the text would read more like this:
Then Jesus cried out, “When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who gave me the authority to do what I’m doing.”
That subtly shifts the focus from being on God, the Father, to being on Jesus. Jesus goes on to say that when a person sees him (ie Jesus), he’s looking at the Father. And that Jesus is the light so people can really see what they need to look at. So, the whole point is to get people to see the Father. Jesus is the reflector, but the Father is the point. Read the pericope now, I think you’ll see that part of what is being conveyed there is Jesus saying, “It’s not about me; it’s about the Father.”
One could easily argue that using ἀποστέλλω would be more consistent with the theme. However, one can also easily argue that its use would bring too much emphasis to a specific component, in fact, one that can be very easily not emphasized by the use of a different word, namely πέμπω. I lean toward the later.
At least, that’s how I see this one.