The Meaning Of Agape Love In The Bible

As you are doubtless aware, the Bible was not written in English. In fact, the language now known as Modern English didn't even exist until centuries after the writers of the Bible wrote the final words on the final pages. According to Bible Gateway, most of the Old Testament was written in Hebrew — save for a few passages in Aramaic — while the New Testament was written in Ancient Greek. Specifically, it was written in a form of Greek known as "Koine," which means something akin to "common." Indeed, the work was meant to be understood by everybody, be they commoners or educated rulers.

The thing about Koine Greek is that, compared to English, it's rather specific. Specifically, the language has four different words that can be translated into Modern English as "love," and they each mean different things, according to Learn Religions. One of those words, "philia," is the basis for the name of a large American city, which you may have heard referred to as "The City of Brotherly Love." That's because "philia" means something akin to "love between brothers," and you can guess which city we're talking about.

However, the big daddy of Greek words for "love" is "agape" (uh-GAH-pay), and its definition is far bigger than just "love."

Agape means transcendent, unconditional love

If you were to rank the four Koine Greek words for love based on their scope and magnanimity, "eros," meaning romantic love or sexual attraction, would be at the bottom. Above that would be "storge," or the love between family members, such as parents and children, per Learn Religions. Above that would be the aforementioned "philia," which not only refers to the love between actual brothers but between metaphorical brothers (such as all of humanity).

At the top would be "agape," and when it's used in the Bible, it refers to transcendent and unconditional love. Indeed, the concept of "agape" is best encapsulated in what may be the Bible's most famous verseJohn 3:16. It reads, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." The word translated as "loved" there comes from the "agape" root, and it describes God's love for the world, and how it was so intense that he sent his son, Jesus, as a sacrifice.