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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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1. Linguistic usage.-Two verbs are used by the NT to designate religious love-ἀγαπᾶν and φιλεῖν. In the Septuagint a third term, ἐρᾶν, occurs, but only once sensu bono, viz. Proverbs 4:6 (love of wisdom), once in a neutral sense, viz. Esther 2:17 (the king loved Esther), everywhere else as a figure of idolatry or political theocratic unfaithfulness (Jeremiah 22:20; Jeremiah 22:22, Lamentations 1:19, Ezekiel 16:33; Ezekiel 16:36-37; Ezekiel 23:5; Ezekiel 23:9; Ezekiel 23:22, Hosea 2:7; Hosea 2:10; Hosea 2:12-13). That the NT does not employ ἐρᾶν at all is probably due to the sensual associations of the word. In regard to the difference between ἀγαπᾶν and φιλεῖν the following should be noticed. The etymology of ἀγαπᾶν is uncertain, but it seems to be allied to roots expressing ‘admiration,’ ‘taking pride in,’ ‘taking pleasure in.’ This points to the conclusion that ἀγαπᾶν is the love of selection and complacency based on the perception of something in the object loved that attracts and pleases. This element of selective attachment shows itself in the fact that ἀγαπᾶν can mean ‘to be contented with,’ ‘to acquiesce in,’ ‘to put up with,’ and also in this, that ἀγαπᾶν is not used of the love of mere compassion. On the other hand, φιλεῖν seems to have as its fundamental root-meaning the intimacy of bodily touch, ‘fondling,’ ‘caressing,’ whence it can signify ‘to kiss’; it therefore denotes the love of close association in the habitual relations of life-love, between kindred, between husband and wife, between friends (Matthew 6:5; Matthew 10:37; Matthew 23:6, Luke 20:46, John 11:3; John 11:36; John 12:25; John 15:19, 1 Timothy 6:10 [φιλαργυρία], 2 Timothy 3:4 [φιληδόνος], Titus 2:4 [φίλανδρος], James 4:4 [φιλία τοῦ κόσμοὑ]). In Latin diligere corresponds to ἀγαπᾶν, amare to φιλεῖν, except that amare covers a wider range, corresponding also to the Greek ἐρᾶν. From this distinctive and fundamental meaning the fact may be explained that in biblical Greek ἀγαπᾶν is used exclusively where man’s love for God comes under consideration: it here implies the recognition of the adorable and lovable character of the Deity. φιλεῖν is never used of man’s love for God as such, because the mental attitude of intimacy which the word implies would be out of place in the creature with reference to the Deity (it is different where the love of the disciples for Jesus is spoken of [John 16:27; John 21:15-17, 1 Corinthians 16:22]), Scripture prefers the word which unambiguously puts human love in the religious sphere on a moral and spiritual basis, even if, in order to do so, it has to leave somewhat of the intensity of the religious affection unexpressed. As designations of the love extending from God to man both ἀγαπᾶν and φιλεῖν may be used, the former in so far as God’s love is not blind impulse or irrational sentiment, but a love of free self-determination, the latter because it is proper to God by a gracious condescension to enter into that close habitual friendship with man which the word connotes. As a matter of fact, however, φιλεῖν is but rarely used to describe the love of God towards man.

In extra-biblical Greek love as extending from the gods to man seems to be an unknown conception, for according to Aristotle and Dio Chrysostom both ἀγαπᾶν and φιλεῖν have place not in those who rule with reference to those they rule over, but only in the opposite direction: ἄτοπον φιλεῖν τὸν Δία (where Δία is the subject).

It is in keeping with the distinction above drawn that the specific term for brotherly love (see article Brotherly Love) is φιλαδελφία, for the idea is derived from the family-relation, although, of course, ἀγαπᾶν here occurs with equal frequency. On the other hand, of the love for enemies enjoined in the NT φιλεῖν never occurs, being excluded by the nature of the case, whereas ἀγαπᾶν, involving a deliberate movement of the will, may apply to such a relation.

While it appears from what has been said that ἀγαπᾶν had by reason of its inherent signification and classical use an antecedent fitness to express the biblical idea of religious love, this should not be construed to mean that the word carried already in extra-biblical Greek all the content of the Scriptural conception. In the profane usage the moral, spiritual element was yet lacking, although the elements of choice and rational attachment were given. Like so many other words which possessed an antecedent affinity for the biblical world of thought from a formal point of view, it needed the baptism of regeneration in order to become fit for incorporation into the vocabulary of Scripture.

The noun ἀγάπη seems to have been coined by the Septuagint to translate the OT conception of religious love. It is not found in classical Greek, nor even with Philo and Josephus. Perhaps the fact that the profane literature does not have the noun is significant. It can be explained on the principle that only through transference into the moral, spiritual sphere could the habitual character of the act of loving, which is inherent in the noun, originate. The noun in the Vulgate is caritas, from carum habere, which admirably expresses the specific character of the biblical conception. Caritas in turn gave rise to the ‘charity’ of the English Bible (Authorized Version ), in most passages used of love towards fellow-Christians (cf., however, 1 Corinthians 8:3, 1 Thessalonians 3:6, 2 Timothy 2:22; 2 Timothy 3:10, where there is no reason so to restrict it). The Revised Version substitutes ‘love,’ in all passages where the Authorized Version has ‘charity’ (26 times in all), for the reason that ‘charity’ has in modern usage become restricted to the love of beneficence or forbearance.

The following discussion confines itself to the love existing between God and man. For love as between man and man see article Brotherly Love.

2. Love in the apostolic teaching.-Love is in the apostolic teaching a central and outstanding trait in the disposition of God towards man. In this respect the view taken by Jesus is fully adhered to. If in the witness of the early Church, as recorded in Acts, no direct affirmation of this principle is made, that can easily be explained from the apologetic purpose of this witness. In the fellowship of the first Christians among themselves the indirect operation of the new force introduced by Jesus into the hearts of His followers manifests itself clearly enough (Acts 2:41-47; Acts 4:32 ff.)

i. St. Paul.-With St. Paul love is explicitly placed in the foreground as the fundamental disposition in God from which salvation springs and as that which in the possession of God constitutes for the believer the supreme treasure of religion. God is the God of love (2 Corinthians 13:11). In Galatians 5:22 love is named first among the fruits of the Spirit. It is associated with the Fatherhood of God (Ephesians 6:23). In the apostolic salutations it stands co-ordinated with the grace of Christ (2 Corinthians 13:14, Ephesians 6:23, 2 Thessalonians 3:5). It is the greatest of the three fundamental graces of the Christian life, and the sole abiding one of those three (1 Corinthians 13:8-13). This primacy love can claim even in comparison with faith. For, on the one hand, faith as well as hope is a grace made necessary by the provisional conditions of the present sinful world, and in both its aspects-that of mediate spiritual perception and that of trust-will be superseded by sight in the world to come (2 Corinthians 5:7); on the other hand, faith as compared with love is instrumental, not an end in itself; it brings the Christian into that fundamental relation to God, wherein his religions faculties, foremost among which is love, can function normally (Galatians 5:6). The prominence of faith in the Pauline teaching is not therefore indicative of its absolute and final preponderance in the Christian consciousness. It would, however, scarcely be in accordance with St. Paul’s view to press the primacy of love to the extent of denying all independent significance to other religious states. There is an aspect in which faith in itself, and apart from its working through love, glorifies God (Romans 4:20), and whatever thus directly contributes to the Divine glory has inherent religious value. The same must be affirmed of the knowledge of God. The emphasis thrown throughout the NT on the value of truth cannot be wholly explained from its soteriological utility. It expresses the conviction that knowing and adoring God are in themselves a religious act, apart from all fructifying influence on the believer’s life. When St. Paul includes ‘knowledge’ (1 Corinthians 13:8) in the things that shall be done away, this applies only to the specific mode of knowledge in this life, the ‘seeing in a mirror darkly,’ the knowledge of a child, which will make place in the world to come for a full knowledge ‘face to face,’ analogous to the Divine knowledge of the believer (1 Corinthians 13:12). ‘Knowledge,’ while of value, is not equal in value to love (1 Corinthians 8:3).

(a) The love of God.-It has been alleged that in two respects the Apostle’s teaching on the love of God marks a retrogression as compared with the gospel of Jesus: on the one hand, St. Paul restricts the love of God to the circle of believers, thus making sonship co-extensive with adoption=justifications; on the other hand, he emphasizes, side by side with love, the working of sovereignty and justice as equally influential attributes in God, whence also the effectual communication of the Divine love to the sinner cannot, according to the Apostle, take place except as a result of the sovereign choice of God and after satisfaction to His justice. This charge, however, rests on a misunderstanding of the teaching of Jesus. Jesus, by way of correction to the prevailing commercial conception of God’s attitude towards man in Judaism, brings forward the love of God. Nevertheless the specific Fatherly love and the corresponding state of sonship are in His gospel, no less than with St. Paul, redemptive conceptions, pertaining not to man as such, but to the disciples, the heirs of the kingdom. This may be seen most clearly from the fact that in its highest aspect sonship is an eschatological attainment (Matthew 5:9, Luke 20:36; cf. Romans 8:23). It is true that a developed soteriology like St. Paul’s, delimiting the mutual claims or the love and justice of God, is not found in our Lord’s teaching. But this could not be expected before the supreme saving transaction-the Death of Christ-had actually taken place. The great principles on which the Atonement rests are enunciated with sufficient clearness (Mark 10:45). In comparisons between Jesus and St. Paul it is frequently overlooked that what corresponds to the Apostle’s soteriology is the eschatological element in Jesus’ teaching. As a matter of fact, St. Paul’s doctrine of salvation was developed in the closest dependence on his eschatology. If the comparison be instituted with this in mind, it will be seen that in our Lord’s eschatological utterances the sovereignty and justice of God occupy no less central a place than in the Pauline doctrine of salvation, and that the love of God in its eschatological setting is to Jesus as much a redemptive factor as it is in the Pauline gospel.

The phrase ‘the love of God’ occurs in the Pauline Epistles in Romans 5:5; Romans 8:39, 2 Corinthians 13:14, 2 Thessalonians 3:5, Titus 3:4 (φιλανθρωπία); ‘the love of Christ’ occurs in Romans 8:35 (variant reading ‘love of God’), 2 Corinthians 5:14, Ephesians 3:19; ‘the love of God in Christ’ in Romans 8:39. In all these cases the genitive is a subjective genitive. In ‘the love of the Spirit’ (Romans 15:30) the genitive seems to be that of origin (cf. Colossians 1:8). Some exegetes propose for Romans 5:5 and 2 Thessalonians 3:5 ‘love towards God.’ In the former passage the context is decisive against this (cf. 2 Thessalonians 3:8, and the fact that the consciousness of ‘the love of God’ furnishes the basis for the certainty of the Christian hope). In 2 Thessalonians 3:5 the sense is determined by the parallel phrase, ὑπομονὴ τοῦ Χριστοῦ; if this could mean the ‘patient waiting for Christ’ (Authorized Version ), then ἀγαπὴ τοῦ θεοῦ would be love for God.’ Such a rendering, however, seems to be linguistically improbable, and the ordinary interpretation of ὑπομονή as ‘patience,’ ‘steadfastness,’ requires Χριστοῦ as a subjective genitive. The meaning is not that the love of God and the patience of Christ are held up as models to the readers, but the Apostle prays that their hearts may be directed to a full reliance on the love of God and the steadfastness of Christ as the two mainsprings of their salvation. In 2 Corinthians 5:14 ἡ γὰρ ἀγαπὴ τοῦ Χριστοῦ συνέχει ἡμᾶς is not to be explained on analogy with the preceding ‘fear of the Lord’ (2 Corinthians 5:11), nor in contrast to the knowledge of ‘Christ after the flesh’ (2 Corinthians 5:18), in the sense of St. Paul’s love for Christ; but, in close agreement with the following ‘One died for all,’ it is meant of the love Christ showed by His Death.

To St. Paul the love of God is throughout a specifically redemptive love. Its manifestation is seldom sought in Nature and providence (Romans 8:28, ‘all things’), but regularly in the work of salvation. Since this work culminates in the Death of Christ, the Cross is the crowning manifestation of the Divine love (Romans 5:8). What thus finds supreme expression at its height underlies the entire process as its primordial source. The love of God is to St. Paul the fountain of redemption. It lies behind its objective part, what is theologically called ‘the Atonement,’ for St. Paul traces this in both its aspects of reconciliation and redemption to the one source. As regards reconciliation, the initiative of love is inherent in the conception itself, since God makes those who were objectively His enemies His friends, creating by the Death of Christ the possibility for His love to manifest itself (Romans 5:8; Romans 5:10-11, 2 Corinthians 5:14; 2 Corinthians 5:18-21). The idea of redemption has the same implications, for it emphasizes the self-sacrifice of love to which God was put in saving man (Acts 20:28, 1 Corinthians 6:20; 1 Corinthians 7:23). This love is unmerited love, hence its more specific name of χάρις; ‘grace.’ It is love,’ not mere ‘mercy’ or ‘pity,’ which determines God’s attitude towards the sinner. The mercy is enriched by the love (Ephesians 2:4). The usual associations of ἀγαπᾶν apply to the love of God for sinners only in so far as it is a deliberate movement of the Divine will and purpose, not because there is something admirable or attractive in the spiritual and ethical condition of man which would explain its origin. For the very reason that it springs spontaneously from God without objective motivation, this Divine love is a mystery ‘passing knowledge’ (Ephesians 3:19). Salvation on its subjective side is derived by St. Paul even more clearly from the love of God. The gift of the Spirit is a pledge of it to the believer; hence with the pouring forth of the Spirit into the heart, the love of God is poured out therein (Romans 5:5). On the consciousness of this love rests the certainty of hope in the completion of salvation (Romans 5:4-5). St. Paul calls the love underlying the application of redemption πρόγυωσις, ‘foreknowledge’ (Romans 8:29); the simple γιγνώσκειν in this specific sense occurs in 1 Corinthians 8:3, Galatians 4:9, 2 Timothy 2:19. This term denotes not an intellectual prescience; but, in dependence on the pregnant sense of the Hebrew ידע (Exodus 2:25, Hosea 13:5, Amos 3:2), it means that God sovereignly sets His affection upon a person. The absoluteness and unconditioned character of this prognosis are such that it can furnish proof for the proposition that all things work together for the good of believers. Hence it fixes as the destiny of believers (‘predestination’) eschatological likeness unto the image of the glorified Christ, and with infallible certainty moves forward through the two intermediate stages of vocation and justification to the goal of this glory (Romans 8:28-30). The conception of ἐκλογή, ἐκλέγεσθαι (middle voice, ‘to choose for one’s self’) has likewise for its correlate the sovereign love of God (Ephesians 1:4). The association of the redemptive love of God with His prerogative of sovereign choice renders the word ἀγαπᾶν especially suitable for describing the relation involved. It is in the interest of emphasizing both the sovereign Divine initiative and the energy and richness of effectuation of redemptive love that St. Paul affirms its eternity (connoted also by the προ in προγιγώσκειν [Ephesians 1:4]).

The love of God does not exclude for St. Paul the co-ordination of other attributes in God as jointly determinative of the Divine redemptive procedure. In the Cross of Christ is the great manifestation of love, but it is not the love of God alone that the Cross proclaim. It also demonstrates the δικαιοσύνη = the justice of God (Romans 3:25 ff.). The attempt of Ritschl (Rechtfertigung und Versöhnung2, ii. [1882-83], pp. 118, 218ff.) and others to give to δικαιοσύνη in this context the sense of gracious righteousness, making it synonymous with the love of God, breaks down in view of the ‘forbearance’ of Romans 3:25. If it was ‘forbearance’ which postponed under the Old Covenant the demonstration of God’s righteousness, then this righteousness is conceived as retributive.

(b) The love of Christ.-The love of Christ St. Paul views chiefly as manifested in His Death (2 Corinthians 5:14 f.), or in His life as entered upon and lived with a view to and culminating in His Death (Philippians 2:5 ff). The Incarnation is an act of self-kenosis, not in the metaphysical, but in the metaphorical sense (Authorized Version ‘made himself of no reputation’); hence is described in 2 Corinthians 8:9 as a ‘becoming poor.’ It ought to be noticed that the love of Christ, as well as that of the believer, is in the first place a love for God, and after that a love for man. Christ lives unto God, even in the state of glory (Romans 6:10), and gave Himself in the Atonement: a sacrifice unto God (Ephesians 5:2).

(c) Love towards God.-The references to the believer’s love for God are not numerous in the Pauline Epistles. Explicit mention of it is mode in Romans 8:28, 1 Corinthians 2:9; 1 Corinthians 8:3. From his anti-pietistic standpoint Ritschl would interpret this scarcity of reference in St. Paul and the NT generally (outside of St. Paul only James 1:12; James 2:5) as due to the feeling that love to God is something hardly within the religious reach of man. He observes that in 1 Corinthians 2:9 the phrase ‘them that love God’ is a quotation, and surmises that the same quotation underlies all the other passages except 1 Corinthians 8:3 (op. cit. ii 100). But this is a mere surmise, and St. Paul has at least in one passage appropriated the thought for himself. Besides this the analogy of the love of Christ for God favours the ascription of love for God to the believer. The same ‘living for God’ which is predicated of Christ (Romans 6:10) is elsewhere attributed to the Christian (Galatians 2:19). As Christ sacrificed Himself to God (Ephesians 5:2), so the believer’s life is a spiritual sacrifice (Romans 1:9; Romans 12:1). The Fatherhood of God and the sonship of the believer postulate the idea of a mutual love (Romans 8:15). The idea is also implied in the fact that St. Paul places at the beginning of the Christian life a crucifixion and destruction of the love for self and the world (Romans 6:6, Galatians 2:19; Galatians 6:14), since under the Apostle’s positive conception of the Christian life something else must take the place of the previous goals. The glorifying of God in all things has for its underlying motive the love of God (Romans 14:8, 1 Corinthians 10:31, Ephesians 1:12).

ii. Pastoral Epistles.-In the Pastoral Epistles the universality of the love of God is emphasized. In the earlier Epistles the Apostle’s universalism is not deduced from the love of God but from other principles, and is distinctly of an international type. The Pastoral Epistles make of the love of God a universalizing principle and extend it to all men, not merely to men of every nation (1 Timothy 2:4; 1 Timothy 2:8; 1 Timothy 4:10; 1 Timothy 6:13, Titus 2:11; Titus 3:4). In some of these passages the context clearly indicates that a reference of God’s love to all classes of men is intended (cf. 1 Timothy 2:4 with 1 Timothy 2:1-2; Titus 2:11, with Titus 2:2-10). But the emphasis and frequency with which the principle is brought forward render it probable that some specific motive underlies its assertion. So far as the inclusion of magistrates is concerned, there may be a protest against a form of Jewish particularism which deemed it unlawful to pray for pagan magistrates. In the main the passages cited will have to be interpreted as a warning against the dualistic trend of Gnosticism. Gnosticism distinguished between two classes of men, the πνευματικοἱ and the ὑλικοί, the latter by their very nature being unsusceptible to, and excluded from, salvation, the former carrying the potency of salvation by nature in themselves. Over against this the Pastorals emphasize that the love of God saves all men, that no man is by his subjective condition either sunk beneath the possibility or raised above the necessity of salvation. Hence the φιλανθρωπία of God in Titus 3:4 is love for man as man, not for any aristocracy of the πνεῦμα. This philanthropy is not to be confounded with the classical conception of the same (cf. Acts 27:3; Acts 28:2), for the latter is not love towards man as such, but simply justice towards one’s fellow-man in the several relations of life, and is conceived without regard to the internal disposition. Probably the choice of the word is in Titus 3:4 determined by the preceding description of the conduct required of believers for which the Divine ‘philanthropy’ furnishes the model. But that its content goes far beyond general benevolence may be seen from this, that it communicates itself through the Christian redemption in the widest sense (Titus 3:5-7). In all this there is nothing either calculated or intended to weaken the Pauline doctrine of the specific elective love of God embracing believers. The Pastorals affirm this no less than the earlier Epistles.

iii. Epistle of James.-The Epistle of James by calling the commandment of love ‘the royal law’ (James 2:8) places love in the centre of religion. This love is not merely love for men but love to God (James 2:5). It chooses God and rejects the world, the love for God and the friendship of the world being mutually exclusive (James 4:4). It manifests itself in blessing God (James 3:9). Behind this love for God, however, St. James, no less than St. Paul and St. John, posits the love of God for the sinner. God is Father of believers (James 3:9). They that love God are chosen of God (James 2:5). The Divine love is a love of mercy; even in the Day of Judgment it retains the form of mercy (James 2:13, James 5:20). It is a jealous love, which requires the undivided affection of its object (James 4:3). An echo of the Synoptical preaching of Jesus may be found in this that St. James sees the love of God demonstrated in the gifts not merely of redemption, but likewise of providence (James 1:17).

iv. Epistles of Peter.-The Epistles of Peter dwell on the love of Christ rather than on that of God. Christ’s love is a love of self-denial (1 Peter 2:21) and of benevolence for evil-doers (1 Peter 3:18). To it corresponds love for Christ in the heart of believers. St. Peter shows that this love is strong enough to assert and maintain itself in the face of the invisibleness of Christ (1 Peter 1:8; cf. 1 John 4:20 f.). The love for God and Christ is consistent with and accompanied by fear (1 Peter 1:17-18). God’s love is implied in the mercy which lies behind regeneration (1 Peter 1:3). God is the Father of believers (1 Peter 1:17); they are the flock of God (1 Peter 5:2); He (or Christ) is the Shepherd of their souls (1 Peter 2:25). The longsuffering of God, as a fruit of the Divine love, is mentioned in 2 Peter 3:9.

v. Hebrews.-The theme of the Epistle to the Hebrews-the perfect mediation of priestly approach unto God-coupled with the writer’s vivid perception of the majesty of God brings it about that the love of God remains in the background. The Epistle emphasizes the fear of God even for believers (Hebrews 4:1; Hebrews 4:11-13; Hebrews 12:29). Still believers are sons of God (Hebrews 2:10, Hebrews 12:7), brethren of Christ (Hebrews 2:11, Hebrews 12:17). God loves His children as the Father of Spirits (Hebrews 12:6-10). He is the God of His people in the pregnant sense (Hebrews 11:16). The subsumption of the greater part of the religious consciousness under faith brings it about that the love of Christians is less spoken of here than elsewhere in the NT. It is mentioned in Hebrews 6:10 as a love shown towards God’s name, i.e. towards God, in the service of the brethren. The Epistle, on the other hand, makes much of the love of Christ for believers as it assumes the form of mercy. This mercy is, however, not motived by the mere suffering as such, but specifically by the moral aspect of the suffering. It is compassion with the moral weakness and danger arising from suffering, because suffering becomes a source of temptation. Christ can exercise this mercy because He Himself has experienced the tempting power of suffering (Hebrews 2:18, Hebrews 4:15).

vi. Johannine Literature.-There still remains to be considered the Johannine literature including the Gospel, so far as the statements of the Evangelist himself are concerned. Both the Gospel and the First Epistle represent love as the ultimate source and the ultimate goal of Christianity. There is this difference, that what is in the Gospel related to Christ as love of Christ and love for Christ, is in the Epistle related to God in both directions. In the Apocalypse love to Jesus appears in Revelation 2:4, love of Jesus in Revelation 1:5, Revelation 3:9. ‘The love of God’ is not uniformly, as in St. Paul, the love which God shows, but partly this (1 John 2:5; 1 John 4:9; 1 John 4:12) and partly also the love cherished towards God (John 5:42, 1 John 2:15; 1 John 3:17; 1 John 5:3). Possibly the construction is meant as an inclusive one: ‘the love which God has made known and which answers to His nature’ (so B. F. Westcott, The Epistles of St. John, 1883, p. 49). Love is to St. John as to St. Paul a specifically Divine thing. Wherever it appears in man, it must be traced back to God, and particularly to God’s love (1 John 4:10; 1 John 4:19). Its source lies in regeneration (1 John 4:7). The Divine primordial love is grace, not motived by the excellence of human qualities, for it expressed itself in giving Christ as a propitiation for sin (1 John 4:9-10). The supreme manifestation of God’s love is the gift of Christ, and Christ’s giving of His own life for man (1 John 3:16, 1 John 4:8, Revelation 3:9). Hence the Gospel characterizes the love which Jesus showed in His Death as an ἀγαπᾶν εἰς τέλος (‘to the uttermost’). The giving of the Spirit of God is an act of love not merely because the Spirit is an inestimable gift, but because in the Spirit God communicates Himself; herein lies the essence of love (1 John 3:23; 1 John 4:13). The highest embodiment of this redemptive love is the state of sonship (1 John 3:1). The Apocalypse uses for this, as extending to the Church collectively, the OT figure of the bride of God (Revelation 19:7; Revelation 21:1; Revelation 21:9). Sonship is not represented, as in St. Paul, as awaiting its eschatological consummation, but rather as issuing into a higher, yet unknown, state (1 John 3:2). The summing up of the Christian life in love is represented as ‘a new commandment,’ which is at the same time old (1 John 2:7-8, 1 John 3:11; 1 John 3:23). It is old in so far as it goes back to the creation (‘from the beginning’ [1 John 2:7, 1 John 3:11, 2 John 1:5-6); it is new in so far as through Jesus and His work it has now become an actuality in the life and experience of Christians; hence ‘it is true in him and in you’ (1 John 2:8). In both the Gospel and the First Epistle ‘to know God’ is used as synonymous with ‘loving God.’ ‘To know’ is taken in such connexions in the pregnant sense which implies intimacy of acquaintance and the fellowship of affection. At the same time there is in this an indirect protest against the unethical intellectualism of the false Gnosis (1 John 2:3; 1 John 4:13-14; 1 John 3:1; 1 John 3:6; 1 John 4:6-8; 1 John 4:16; 1 John 5:20).

Both the Gospel and the First Epistle emphasize the universalism of the love of God as demonstrated in the gift of Christ for the sin of ‘the world.’ In John 3:16 ‘the world’ (ὁ κόσμος) seems to be rather qualitatively than quantitatively conceived; the greatness of God’s love is seen in this, that He loves that which is sinful (cf. 1 John 2:2). Both the Gospel and the Epistle also lay stress on the primacy of love in the character of God (1 John 4:8; 1 John 4:16). That the universalism must not be understood as appropriating the love of God in its most pregnant sense to every man indiscriminately appears from such statements as John 6:37; John 6:39; John 6:44; John 13:1; John 15:19; John 17:6; John 17:9; John 17:12. A predestinarian strand is traceable in St. John as well as in St. Paul. And that the clear statement about the primacy of love in God should not be construed to the exclusion of every other attribute or disposition in God appears plainly from the difference which both the Gospel and the Epistle make between God’s and Christ’s attitude towards the world and towards believers-a difference inconceivable were there in God no place for aught but love. The statement ‘God is love’ means to affirm that into His love God puts His entire being, all the strength of His character. In the Apocalypse it is most vividly brought out that in God, besides love for His own, there is wrath for His enemies (cf. even ‘the wrath of the Lamb’ [6:16]), although it is to be noticed that the Apocalypse speaks as little as the Gospel and the Epistle of God’s hatred towards His enemies. The latter term is reserved for the description of the attitude of the world towards God and Christ and believers. The hatred of the world explains the righteous wrath of God and believers against the world (John 3:20; John 7:7; John 15:18; John 15:23-25; John 17:14, Revelation 2:6).

Literature.-Schmidt, Handbuch der latein. und griech. Synonymik, 1886, pp. 756-768; R. C. Trench, NT Synonyms9, 1901, pp. 41-44; J. A. H. Tittmann, de Synonymis in NT, 1829-32, pp. 50-55; H. Cremer, Bibt.-Theol. Wörterbuch der neutest. Gräcität5, 1911, s.v. ἀγαπάω; Deissmann in ThLZ [Note: hLZ Theologische Litteraturzeitung.] , 1912, cols. 522-523; E. Sartorius, The Doctrine of the Divine Love, Eng. translation , 1884; G. Vos, ‘The Scriptural Doctrine of the Love of God,’ in Presb. and Ref. Review, xiii. [1902] 1-37; W. Lütgert, Die Liebe im NT, 1905.

Geerhardus Vos.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Love'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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