Ancient Greek ἀγάπη, agápē) is a Greco-
referring to love, "the highest form of love, charity" and "the love
of God for man and of man for God". The word is not to be confused
with philia, brotherly love, as it embraces a universal, unconditional
love that transcends and persists regardless of circumstance. The noun
form first occurs in the Septuagint, but the verb form goes as far
back as Homer, translated literally as affection, as in "greet with
affection" and "show affection for the dead". Other ancient authors
have used forms of the word to denote love of a spouse or family, or
affection for a particular activity, in contrast to eros (an affection
of a sexual nature).
Within Christianity, agape is considered to be the love originating
from God or
Christ for mankind. In the New Testament, it refers to
the covenant love of God for humans, as well as the human reciprocal
love for God; the term necessarily extends to the love of one's fellow
man. Some contemporary writers have sought to extend the use of
agape into non-religious contexts. 
The concept of agape has been widely examined within its Christian
context. It has also been considered in the contexts of other
religions, religious ethics, and science.
1 Early Uses
3 See also
3.2 Other religions
5 Further reading
6 External links
There are few instances of the word agape in polytheistic Greek
Bauer's Lexicon mentions a sepulchral inscription, most
likely to honor a polytheistic army officer held in "high esteem" by
Fresco of a female figure holding a chalice at an early Christian
Agape feast. Catacomb of Saints Marcellinus and Peter, Via Labicana,
See also: 1 Corinthians 13
A journalist in Time magazine describes John 3:16 as "one of the most
famous and well-known Bible verses. It has been called the '
a nutshell' because it is considered a summary of the central
doctrines of Christianity." The verb translated "loved" in this
verse is ἠγάπησεν (ēgapēsen), past tense of "agapaō".
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that
whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting
— John 3:16, KJV
The word agape received a broader usage under later
as the word that specifically denoted
Christian love or charity (1
Corinthians 13:1–8), or even God himself. The expression "God is
love" (ὁ θεὸς ἀγάπη ἐστίν) occurs twice in the New
Testament: 1 John 4:8,16.
Agape was also used by the early Christians
to refer to the self-sacrificing love of God for humanity, which they
were committed to reciprocating and practicing towards God and among
one another (see kenosis).
Agape has been expounded on by many
Christian writers in a
C. S. Lewis
C. S. Lewis uses agape in The Four
Loves to describe what he believes is the highest level of love known
to humanity: a selfless love that is passionately committed to the
well-being of others.
Christian use of the term comes directly from the canonical
Gospels' accounts of the teachings of Jesus. When asked what was the
great commandment, "
Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy
God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto
it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two
commandments hang all the law and the prophets." (Matthew 22:37-40) In
Judaism, the first "love the LORD thy God" is part of the Shema.
The Sermon on the Mount, Carl Bloch, 1877
In the Sermon on the Mount,
You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love (agapēseis) your
neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you,
Love (agapāte) your
enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons
Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil
and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if
you love those who love you, what reward have you?
— Matthew 5:43-46, RSV
Tertullian remarks in his 2nd century defense of Christians that
Christian love attracted pagan notice: "What marks us in the eyes of
our enemies is our loving kindness. 'Only look,' they say, 'look how
they love one another' " (Apology 39).
Anglican theologian O.C. Quick writes that this agape within human
experience is "a very partial and rudimentary realization," and that
"in its pure form it is essentially divine."
If we could imagine the love of one who loves men purely for their own
sake, and not because of any need or desire of his own, purely desires
their good, and yet loves them wholly, not for what at this moment
they are, but for what he knows he can make of them because he made
them, then we should have in our minds some true image of the love of
Father and Creator of mankind.
In the New Testament, the word agape is often used to describe God's
love. However, other forms of the word are used in a negative context,
such as the various forms of the verb agapaō. Examples include:
2 Timothy 4:10— "for Demas hath forsaken me, having loved
[agapēsas] this present world...".
John 12:43— "For they loved [ēgapēsan] the praise of men more than
the praise of God."
John 3:19— "And this is the condemnation, that light is come into
the world, and men loved [ēgapēsan] darkness rather than light,
because their deeds were evil."
Karl Barth distinguishes agape from eros on the basis of its origin
and unconditional character. In agape, humanity does not merely
express its nature, but transcends it.
Agape identifies with the
interests of the neighbor "in utter independence of the question of
his attractiveness" and with no expectation of reciprocity.
The word agape is used in its plural form (agapai) in the New
Testament to describe a meal or feast eaten by early Christians, as in
Jude 1:12 and 2nd Peter 2:13.
Brotherly love (philosophy)
Charity (virtue) (Latin: caritas)
Greek words for love
The Four Loves
Jewish views on love
Chesed, Hebrew word, given the association of kindness and love
Sephirot of Kabbalah
Mettā, Pali word (Sanskrit: Maitrī), "loving-kindness" or
Ishq, Arabic word, "divine love" or "lustless love"
^ H. G. Liddell; Robert Scott (October 2010). An Intermediate
Greek-English Lexicon: Founded Upon the Seventh Edition of Liddell and
Scott's Greek-English Lexicon. Benediction Classics. p. 4.
^ Henry George Liddell; Robert Scott (1901). A Lexicon Abridged from
Liddell and Scott's Greek-English Lexicon. Oxford : Clarendon
Press. p. 6.
^ Cf. Matt 3:17, Mark 10:21
^ "agape." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
Encyclopædia Britannica, 2011. Web. 17 Sep. 2011.
^ Oord, Thomas Jay (December 2005). "The love racket: Defining love
and agape for the love-and-science research program" (PDF). Zygon. 40
(4): 919–938. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9744.2005.00717.x.
^ Oord, Thomas Jay (2010). Defining Love: A Philosophical, Scientific,
and Theological Engagement. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Brazos Press.
^ Nygren, Anders ([1938–39] 1953). Eros and Agape, Part I: A Study
Christian Idea of Love; Part II The History of the Christian
Idea of Love, trans. P.S. Watson. Harper & Row.
^ Templeton, John (1999).
Agape Love: Tradition In Eight World
Religions, Templeton Foundation Press. Description.
^ Grant, Colin (1996). "For the
Love of God: Agape". Journal of
Religious Ethics. 4 (10): 3–21. JSTOR 40016679.
^ From Post, Stephen G. et al.(2002). Altruism and Altruistic Love:
Science, Philosophy, and Religion in Dialogue, Oxford: Contents.:
• Post, Stephen G. "The Tradition of Agape," ch.4, pp.
• Browning, Don S. "Science and Religion on the Nature
of Love," pp. 335–45.
^ Danker, Frederick William (2001). A Greek-English Lexicon of the New
Testament and Other Early
Christian Literature. University of Chicago
^ John 3:16 in Pop Culture. Time. Retrieved 22 May 2009.
^ Kreeft, Peter. "Love". Retrieved May 22, 2009.
Lewis, C. S. (June 5, 2002) . The Four Loves. London: Fount.
^ Quick, O.C. Doctrines of the Creed, Scribners, 1938 p. 55.
^ Church Dogmatics, as translated by G. W Bromiley (1958), p. 745.
Drummond, Henry (1884). "The Greatest Thing in the World". Address
first delivered in Northfield, England.
Hein, David. "
Christianity and Honor." The Living Church, August 18,
2013, pp. 8–10.
Heinlein, Robert A. (1973). Time Enough for Love. New York: Ace Books.
Kierkegaard, Søren (1998) . Works of Love. Princeton: Princeton
University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-05916-7.
Oord, Thomas Jay (2010). The Nature of Love: A Theology. St. Louis,
Mo.: Chalice Press. ISBN 978-0-8272-0828-5.
Outka, Gene H. (1972). Agape: An Ethical Analysis. Description &
Contents. Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-02122-4
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