Types of love

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QUESTION: What are the types of love found in the New Testament?

ANSWER: There are at least two categories of love mentioned in the Bible that each use a different Greek word. This is one reason why it is a very good idea to understand a little bit about the translating of words from one language to another. There are also differing manifestations of this feeling in Scripture, such as towards one's parents, children, god or for one's fellow man.

The English word "love" occurs more than 311 times in the King James Bible, with slight variations of the word occurring at least ten other times. Of these, 180 occurences are in the New Testament. The Biblical writer with the most references to this word is, not suprisingly, the apostle John. The scriptures that delineate two out of the three categories of love that the New Testament writers discuss are in Jesus' short talk, after his resurrection, with Peter. The purpose of his discussion with the future apostle, who had denied him three times before he was crucified (Matthew 26:34), was not to test him but rather to encourage and strengthen him for the work that was ahead of him.

15. Therefore, when they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of Jonas, do you love (Greek: agapao), Me more than these?" And he said to Him, "Yes, Lord. You know that I love (Greek: phileo) You." He said to him, "Feed My lambs." (John 21:15, HBFV)

Why study Greek and Hebrew?
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The Greek word agapao, used by Jesus, is Strong's Concordance #G25 and means a caring or godly concern for someone even if you do not know or like him or her. It is always used in the New Testament to refer to man's feelings toward God. In almost all of his teachings Christ used this word.

The Greek word Peter used to respond to Christ is phileo, Strong's Concordance #G5368, and means to show signs of or otherwise denote brotherly affection. This original language word is never used in the New Testament to express man's love for God. As a side note, this word was used to create the name of a famous United States city, known for being one of the birthplaces of the nation, called Philadelphia. Christ quickly responded to Peter's rather startled answer by stating he should take care of his lambs (new believers in him).

There is a third designation or description of love found in the Greek language which is absent in the New Testament. It is defined by the word eros, which was used by the ancient Greeks as the name of one of their pagan gods. We get our English word "erotic" from this Greek word, which is used in reference to something sexual. Part of the reason why this word is not in the New Testament is that God is more concerned about how we treat him AND each other rather than on our physical sensations.

Additional Study Materials
Map of Alexander the Great's Empire
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Difference between testing and temptation

Types of Love
Bibliography

Critical Lexicon, Concordance to English and Greek N.T.
Holy Bible, a Faithful Version


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