What Is Love? Part 2
On the previous page we've talked about agape love. Agape love is a sacrificial, serving love, in which we help others with their true needs. Agape is the most common Greek word translated as "love" in English. However, there other Greek words that are also translated as "love" and it is important to know the difference.
To get an understanding of the word "love" in the New Testament we'll be talking about some Greek words. However, as you are reading your English Bible, how can you know which meaning of the word "love" is the correct meaning? It is a good practice to be using a study Bible, such as the MacArthur study Bible. The notes will explain how the word "love" is being used, as well as helping you understand other aspects of scripture. As with Bibles, there are many study Bibles. Many are good, but some distort scripture. Instead of trying to review all of them, we recommend one we know is true to scripture, The MacArthur Study Bible, available for both NAS (NASB) and NKJV translations.
Ancient Greek was a precise language, more precise than English. They recognized "love" as an important concept that needed to be clearly understood. As a result they had multiple words, with different meanings, all of which are simply translated as "love" in English. The Greek word "agape" is, by far, the most common word translated in the NASB as "love." It is used 112 times in the New Testament. However, there are 23 instances where a different Greek word is translated as "love."
To help us keep the various Greek words straight, the Strong's number is included for each Greek word. Strong's is an nearly universally accepted Bible concordance that has assigned a number to every Greek word used in scripture.
Phileo Love (Strong's 5368)
Phileo, or variations, are translated as "love" 21 times. A "phileo" love is brotherly love, or you could also say a friendship type of love.
A suffix is sometimes added to further clarify the meaning of "phileo:"
- Strongs 5360 - philadelpheia: a strong brotherly love. A brotherly love out of a common spiritual life. The love of one Christian for another Christian.
- Strongs 5362 - philandros: loving someone as a friend. A wife's love for her husband.
- Strongs 5363 - philanthropia: loving other human beings, as in being hospitable.
- Strongs 5365 - philarguria: a love of money
- Strongs 5388 - philoteknos: a friendship love, such as a mother's love for her children.
Aphilarguros (Strong's 866)
A third word translated as "love" in scripture is aphilarguros. Agape and phileo are verbs that have a person as their object. Aphilarguros has a thing as its object, and it is a negative. It means "not love" or "do not love," literally means "not silver loving." For example, it is used in 1 Timothy 3:3:
...not overindulging in wine, not a bully, but gentle, not contentious, free from the love of money [aphilarguros]. - 1 Timothy 3:3
Another Greek word, used just once in scripture, refers to the love of money. It is philarguria, Strong's 5365 (listed above). The Greek word for silver is "argurion." As you can see this word is a combination of "phila" meaning "love" and "arguria" meaning silver. A love of silver.
The fourth Greek word translated as "love" is eros. Eros is a romantic, passionate type of love. It is not used in scripture.
Non-Agape Uses of the Word "Love"
The following are the verses where the word "love" is translated from a Greek word other than "agape." The Strong's number is included to indicate which Greek word is used:
- Matthew 6:5 (5368)
- Matthew 23:6 (5368)
- Luke 20:46 (5368)
- John 11:3 (5368)
- John 15:19 (5368)
- John 21:15 (5368)
- John 21:16 (5368)
- John 21:17 (3X) (5368)
- Romans 12:10 (5360)
- 1 Corinthians 16:22 (5368)
- 1 Thessalonians 4:9 (5360)
- 1 Timothy 3:3 (866)
- 1 Timothy 6:10 (5365)
- Titus 2:4 (5362)
- Titus 2:4 (5388)
- Titus 3:4 (5363)
- Titus 3:15 (5368)
- Hebrews 13:1 (5360)
- Hebrews 13:5 (866)
- 1 Peter 1:22 (5360)
- Revelation 3:19 (5368)
Let's Look At An Example
When learning about the Biblical relationship between husbands and wives, it is important to understand the meaning of the word "love." Here are verses describing how a wife is to love her husband, and commanding husbands to love their wives.
Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love [philandros] husbands, to love [philoteknos] their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored. - Titus 2:3-5
Husbands, love [agape] your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her... - Ephesians 5:25
A wife is to have a friendship love for her husband. Genesis 2:20 says:
...but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him
A wife is her husband's friend... a helper.
On the other hand the husband is to agape (love) his wife. That means to sacrificially meet her true needs. See the previous page where we talked about agape love.
As you can see, a husband and wife are to love each other in different ways. Understanding what scripture is saying can, at times, require more than reading the English words and making assumptions about what it is saying. That's why there are times when we just read the Bible, basically increasing our familiarity with scripture, and there are times when we study the Bible, increasing our understanding of scripture. In both cases, however, we'll find that Jesus is there and He is always the answer. Always Jesus.