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Agape vs. Phileo


With respect to the Greek words agape and phileo, which are translated love in the English, note the following:

  • Phileo doesn’t denote a lesser love except contextually
  • Agape doesn’t denote divine love except contextually

I have heard many sermons stating that the word agape means God’s divine love and phileo is human brotherly love. But that is not true, as stated. It is only if the context requires it. Here are some examples that show where it is NOT true.

  • God the Father phileo the Son—John 5:20. Thus phileo can be used to denote God’s divine love. I wouldn’t think that the Father loves the Son with a human brotherly love.
  • Father phileo us and the Son—John 16:27
  • Jesus phileo John—John 20:2. God the Son, loved the Apostle John, and it uses the term phileo. I am sure that God the Son loved with a divine love.
  • God phileo, human agape—Pro 8:17 “I (God) phileo those who (humans) love agapeo me…”
  • The adulteress in Hosea 3 is committing a physical act of adultery, and it is described in the LXX as using a form of agapeo.

    “Then the LORD said to me, ‘Go again, love [1] a woman who is loved by a lover [1] and is committing adultery, just like the love [1] of the LORD for the children of Israel, who look to other gods and love [2] the raisin cakes of the pagans.'”—Hosea 3:1

    [1] root=agapeo [2] root=phileo

  • Agape as sexual—2 Sam 13:4; Songs 2:5-7:6
  • Phileo as sexual — Prov 7:18

Thayers lexicon makes the following disctinction between the two Greek words:

  • Agape – love based in choice; admiration, esteem, veneration; commanded in Mat 5:44;
  • Phileo – love based in emotion

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