Monday, July 17, 2023

Once More: Sloppy Agape

It's still common to hear someone say that the Greek verb phileō was considered inadequate by the New Testament writers to convey the idea of "divine love." I do indeed find it very interesting that the "love commands" in the New Testament use the verb agapaō instead of phileō. But think about this. Let's say we wanted to invent a noun that would mean "love for God" or "love for one's brother." What word would we use -- agapaō or phileō? Well, check it out for yourself. Here's a list of New Testament words I put together this morning. Notice that they all use the phil-prefix:

Did you see that the list includes "love for God" and "love for one's brother" and that both words employ the phil-prefix instead of the agap-prefix? A recognition of this fact will hopefully keep us from committing an exegetical fallacy about the supposed default meaning of agapaō. Yes, it is true that the New Testament concept of selfless love is generally conveyed by the agapaō-word group. But this fact hardly fits the use of this verb in such passages as 1 John 2:15 ("Do not love the world") and Luke 11:43 ("Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues"), not to mention 2 Sam. 13:15, where the Septuagint uses the verb agapaō to describe an act of incest!