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Friday, June 14th, 2024
the Week of Proper 5 / Ordinary 10
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Bible Dictionaries
To Love, Have Affection for

Morrish Bible Dictionary

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For both ἀγαπάω and φιλέω the A.V. translators have only one word 'love'; and, though it might be hard to find another rendering, a very real distinction of scripture is sometimes thus lost. ἀγαπάω is the word of ordinary use, φιλέωbeing found but seldom. It is not the strength or intensity of the love that makes the difference, but rather the character and scope of it.

The usual meaning of ἀγαπάωin classical Greek in regard to persons is 'to welcome:' it is the broad generic term for loving, capable of many applications. It is used of the love of God toward the world, John 3:16 , as well as toward His people, 1 John 4:10,11; also of the love of man toward God, Matthew 22:37; Romans 8:28; 1 Corinthians 2:9; 1 Corinthians 8:3 . It is the word for Christ's love to His own, John 13:1 , to the individual as well as to the church, Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 5:25 . It is used by the Spirit of God in scripture to express the sovereignty of God's love. God loves because He is love, and apart from any consideration of the worthiness of the object:

φιλέω(from φίλος, 'friend, dear'), on the other hand, is of narrower bearing; it describes the intimacy of love, and is more instinctive and emotional, the love of feeling and endearment, of personal affection: hence this last is never the subject of command as ἀγαπάωoften is. The two verbs are found together in Proverbs 8:17 (LXX.) Wisdom says, "I love (ἀγ.) them that love (φι.) me." And, once the distinction is grasped, it may be traced through the use of them, even where apparently they are interchangeable. It is used for the expression of love, and may sometimes mean (as καταφιλέω) 'to kiss.'

In John 3:35 we learn that "the Father loveth (ἀγ.) the Son, and hath given all things into his hand:" the English is alike in John 5:20; but here, in presence of the sanguinary enmity of those of Jerusalem, the Lord Jesus retreats into His known place in the most intimate love of the Father: "the Father loveth (φι.) the Son;" and we have the Father's resulting resolve that all men shall honour Him, and the measures taken to secure it. In John 11:5 we have the formal statement of the place the little circle at Bethany had for the heart of the Lord Jesus: "Jesus loved (ἀγ.) Martha," etc. But the sisters' appeal ( John 11:3 ) goes upon the ground of what they had the best right to know, namely, the personal affection of the Lord for their brother "he whom thou lovest (φι.) is sick,' andit is this that comes home to the Jews when they see Him weep, "Behold how he loved (φι.) him," John 11:36 . In John 14 , as all through these wonderful chapters of intercourse with His own, the general word for love, ἀγαπάω, is used except at John 16:27 , which makes the change the more marked; indicating the very special character, personal and intimate, of the Father's love for those who have found a common object of love in His beloved Son, "the Father himself loveth (φι.) you because ye have loved (φι.) me," etc.

But perhaps our greatest loss has been in missing, through the one translation 'love,' the delicate and subtle forces of grace that appear in the ways of the Lord with Peter in John 21 by the use of the two words. Peter, though in a way restored after his failure, had need to be restored to communion with the Lord. Not a word had passed as to it during the meal; but now, probably in allusion to Peter's boastful confidence in himself that had been the root of his fall, "Jesus saith, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest (ἀγ.) thou me more than do these?" using the ordinary word. Peter can only cast himself upon the Lord and answer, "Thou knowest that I am attached (φι.) to thee," using the word of endearing affection. Again the Lord puts the question, using still the general word "lovest (ἀγ.) thou me?" Peter replying by φιλέω. "He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas" — but now, in grace adopts Peter's word as appropriate — "art thou attached (φι.) to me?" "And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I am attached (φι.) to thee."

The force thus given to the word φιλέω, may be further seen in its being used of father and mother in Matthew 10:37 , and one's own life in John 12:25 . Paul uses it only twice: 1 Corinthians 16:22 , in full keeping with what we have found to be the rule in other passages, and in Titus 3:15 .

There is one other rendering of φιλέωin the three synoptic gospels in the awful case of Judas' 'kiss,' the outward sign of endearment, made possible by the terms of familiar intimacy to which he had been admitted with the Lord: "mine own familiar friend . . . . hath lifted up his heel against me."

It may be noted that the substantive ἀγάπη, 'love,' from the same root as ἀγαπάω, first appears as a current term in the LXX of the Song of Solomon (in eleven places, and also in Jeremiah 2:2 ), from which it passes into its full place in the N.T. for "God is love." Divine love was necessarily an unknown thought outside of revelation. It is rendered 'charity' in 1 Corinthians 13 and some other places in the A.V., as well as 'love' generally, which ought always to be its translation.

Bibliography Information
Morrish, George. Entry for 'To Love, Have Affection for'. Morrish Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​mbd/​t/to-love-have-affection-for.html. 1897.
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