Agapao Can’t Mean, “The Unconditional, Divine Love of God” – and Phileo Can’t Mean, “Brotherly Love”

Love. This seems like an important subject area for Christianity. In fact, one could even contend it is a core element of the Christian faith. After all, the first commandment is the requirement to love God – with all our heart, mind, soul and strength (Mk 12:30). The second commandment requires us to love our neighbor as our self (Mk 12:31)! This “love” requirement covers all our vital relationships – toward self, neighbor and Creator! But the centrality of this “love doctrine” extends even further. The Bible states that love fulfills the Law (Ro 13:8-10 and Gal 5:14)! So, all the requirements of the Law of God … are fulfilled by love?! It is evidently made up of something that has the ability to satisfy the requirements the entire Old Testament theocracy! This is worth thought, investigation and inquiry! ¬†free slut cams

So, … what is love? If we are to fulfill these commands, we need some kind of definition. How else can we know if we are meeting His requirements?

A Common Teaching

There are two New Testament Greek words often translated “love” in English. Here is a common teaching – maybe the common teaching – on the meaning of these two Greek words.

1) Agapao (verb); Agapee (noun). God is agapee (1Jn 4:8). As God Himself is agapee, and since He is divine, then it logically follows that He acts (the verb) in divine love – agapao. Agapee originates in God, and can never fail (1Cor 13:8). This is clearly the highest form of love. Therefore, many teach agapao/agapee means, “the unconditional, divine love of God.” It is also taught that non-Christians are separated from this love, but at conversion, one enters into this love. But, there’s more! The convert becomes more than just a simple recipient of this love from God. He/she now becomes a conduit for this “alien-to-the-world” love to flow through. With Christ in the Christian, the divine love of God can unconditionally flow toward those around the Christian. And since agapao as an act of God (unconditional and unfailing), the actions, or reactions, of the targeted object are ultimately irrelevant as this love is independent of human affectations.

2) Phileo (verb); Philos (noun). This is defined as “brotherly love,” or “man’s love.” It is the love expressed by unsaved people. Therefore, it is a lesser form of love than the divine agapao. Ultimately, it is a self-centered type of love that does have conditions to it – even if not readily detectable. As simply a human love, it is innately fickle and can be turned on and off as situations and conditions change. The transliterated word, Philadelphia (philia + adelphphia fem.), means, “the city of brotherly love,” and is often cited as an example of the meaning phileo.

This teaching sounds quite learned as it appeals to the original New Testament language. It is also quite appealing as it separates the pure and holy love of God from the fickle, corruptible affections that periodically emanate from the unsaved. This really does sound great! But the part about the Christian entering into God’s divine love (agapao) upon conversion – the love the world does not know – well, that is phenomenal. And when you add that the convert can become a funnel for this divine material to flow though – spontaneously, unconditionally, even divinely – to all those around – what a rush! The only problem with this teaching … is that it is wrong. How can I be so confident about this assertion?

I had been taught, and believed, the common teaching on the meaning of agapao and phileo (related above). It had come through Biblical scholars and was even taught in several denominations to which I had been exposed. I had no reason to doubt the accuracy of this teaching as I was just “a layman” and only knew English. And surely on such an important topic – Love – the teaching was correct. But then, I went to a Bible college. After completing my first year of “Beginners Greek,” I began reading the Gospel of John – the simplest of the New Testament Greek. In describing what happened next, I will now quote directly from my Ebook, “Love and the Bible” (pages 9-11, 13, and 19).

As I started in John, everything was going along quite well. Eventually, I came to John 3:16. “For God so loved (agapao) the world, that He gave His only begotten Son…” I thought, “I know that word! That’s God’s love! That’s the love the world is incapable of generating!” I had run across the stuff of legend! There it was – the powerful, exclusive, love from God – in all it’s purity and transcendency! A love generated from the deepest recesses of the heart of our benevolent Creator projected unconditionally upon an undeserving world! I thought, “Wow! This is great!” I excitedly continued my journey through John. Then, three verses later ….

I came to John 3:19. “And this is the judgement; that the light has come into the world, and men loved (agapao) the darkness rather than the light….” It took me a second, and then I said, “Say, what?” I read the verse again. I was stunned. Even now, twenty plus years later, that moment is still frozen in time. I thought, “I did not read what I just read. This is an impossible statement. Men … with divine love – for the darkness?! WHAT?? How can men divinely love darkness??” I saw that agapao was in the Aorist mood and active voice, so I immediately went to my lexicon to make sure it was agapao. Sure enough … it was. In disbelief, I read it again and inserted the definition for agapao I had been taught. “… and men had a divine, unconditional love – the love of God, the love from God – FOR DARKNESS!!!” The shocking reality then struck me – “Agapao cannot mean divine love!! I have been taught error … about love!!” Aughhhhhhh. And is there a subject more central to Christianity than Love?? I’m telling you – alarms went off everywhere! A biblical understanding of love is critical – to everything as far as Christianity is concerned! We are commanded to love God, love our neighbor, love our wife, love our children, love the brethren, love life, love His coming – love our enemies!! We are not to love money, love the chief seats, love the first place … love is all over the place – in attitudes, behaviors, actions and reactions. “I have been taught error about … LOVE!!!” For me, this created an emergency of the first order. But, as this eBook is interested in your input, I would like for you to now go to a poll I have on my website. It asks: