4 DIFFERENT WORDS FOR LOVE
The Bible was originally written in Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic. In Greek, there are quite a few words that are used for love but not all of them are found in the New Testament. Having different words for different types of love makes a lot of sense when we think about it. Westerners will use the word love for everything. We say ‘I love pizza’ the same way we say ‘I love my dog’ or ‘I love my husband’. We understand these are different types of love, but we don’t actually have different terms.
Here are four common Greek words that refer to love:
Agape – To love unconditionally and sacrificially
Storge (stor-gay) – Family or communal love
Phileo – Brotherly love or friendship love
Eros – Romantic, lustful or sexual love
Agape is most commonly used in the Bible, appearing approximately 320 times, most of which appear in the writings of John. Agape is the type of love that Jesus teaches us about. It is an unconditional, sacrificial love where you put someone else first. It can also be thought of as a parental type of love as we do much for our children, even when exhausted or frustrated, because we love them. We often care for them, more than we care for ourselves. This type of love can also be seen in our church community, where we pray for those who are hurting and give financially to someone in need. We also see agape when God gave his only son, as referenced in John 3:16.
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
Storge is a love of family or community. Storge is not referenced in the New Testament in its common form, but a few similar terms are sparsely used. Storge is sometimes referred to as a quiet type of love as we often have a deep connection, with our family and our community, but that does not necessarily mean we have an agape type love for them.
Phileo is often translated as ‘friend’ or ‘one who is loved’. It is a brotherly type of love, indicating a deep friendship between people. This type of love shows up as acts of kindness and sometimes affection. Jesus talks about this type of love in Romans 12:10. It is a friendly love that can be selfless.
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.
Eros refers to romantic or sexual love. Long ago, Eros was also known as the Greek God of Love. In our lust-filled society, what we often see in movies and television is an eros-type love. Interestingly, eros does not show up in the New Testament. Eros is often understood to be a selfish love, seeking satisfaction or happiness from another person, but once that flame goes out, this love also ceases. Eros can also refer to the love of the body or self.
BEING LIKE JESUS
Since in our society, we are bombarded with confusing ideas about what love is, a breakdown of different types of love is very useful. Agape love, that we are taught from Jesus, is not temporary and requires a bit of humility on our part; while phileo is a love that is only created when a true bond happens between friends. Both of these types of love require work, patience, kindness, forgiveness and goodness. May we all strive to imitate Christ the way that he loved us.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
1 Corinthians 13:4
Here is a free printable showing the 4 Greek words for love. Use this printable to teach your children and loved ones about love 🙂 Also, check out our family Bible Study Books. Learn about Jesus while spending time together as a family.