In The NT
/ Ancient Greek
Classical Greek is a robust language that is
sometimes difficult to
translate into English since both languages have various words with
different shades of meanings. This sometimes makes interpreting
difficult because translators may translate different Greek words with
one English word. In order to understand what the text really says and
means it is necessary to analyze the original language. An example is
the word 'love' that is the translation of several Greek words
that have important differences in meaning.
In 'Classical' Greek there were several different words for
'love' and affection, the four most significant are:
NT Words for 'love'
- agape - agape -
- phileos - phileos -
- eros - eros -
or sensual love
- storge - storge -
Testament was written in Koine Greek, the common street language of the
time (whereas classical Greek was more of an 'academic' language).
There are two primary Greek words that are translated 'love' in the NT:
1. Phileo (phileo): 'brotherly or familial',
love [total KJV occurrences: 26]
2. Agape (agape): 'supreme' love, an
'unconditional love', always voluntary, esp.
when referring to the love of God [Total KJV occurrences:
NT Examples Of The Word 'love':
phileo and agape [phileo
and agape] are used in John
Note that Jesus asks twice using
both times Peter responds with 'phileo':
When they had finished
said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than
these?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." He said
to him, "Feed my lambs."
He said to him a second time, "Simon, son of John, do you love
said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." He said to him,
"Tend my sheep."
He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love
Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, "Do you love
me?" and he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I
love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep".
15 When they had finished eating, Jesus
said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love [agape] me
more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love
[phileo] you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” 16 Again Jesus
said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love [agape] me?” He answered,
“Yes, Lord, you know that I love [phileo] you.” Jesus said, “Take
care of my sheep.”
Jesus asks the 3rd time using
17 The third time he said to him,
“Simon son of John, do you love [phileo] me?” Peter was hurt
because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love [phileo] me?” He
said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love [phileo] you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.
Seeing the 2 different Greek words show a deeper richness of meaning
An example of 'agape' used in
reference to Love of God: Mat 22:37-40
"You shall love the Lord your God with
all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is
the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall
love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all
the Law and the Prophets."
Adam Clarke’s Commentary On The NT;
on Mat 22:37f:
It is remarkable that in these three
questions our Lord uses the verb αγαπαω,
signifies to love
affectionately, ardently, supremely, perfectly…and that Peter always
replies, using the verb φιλεω, which signifies to love, to like, to
regard, to feel friendship for another. As if our Lord had said,
“Peter, dost thou love me ardently and supremely?” To which he answers,
“Lord, I feel an affection for thee - I do esteem thee - but dare, at
present, say no more.”
Vines Word Studies In The NT;
on the word translated 'love' in the NT:
To love is expressed by
New Testament, φιλέω and ἀγαπάω. Ἁγαπάω indicates a reasoning,
discriminating attachment, founded in the conviction that its object is
worthy of esteem, or entitled to it on account of benefits bestowed.
Φιλέω represents a warmer, more
instinctive sentiment, more closely allied to feeling, and implying
Recommended Books For NT Greek Word
1. Word Study Greek-English New
Testament (McReynolds): a new work that is excellent. If you can
only afford one Greek reference book this would be a good choice.
1. Vines Word Studies In
The NT: an excellent tool that is use for students
without a knowledge of OT Hebrew or NT
Greek. CAVEAT: Vine is a dispensationalist and his bias towards that
theology is stong in some articles.
Thayer's Greek - English
Lexicon: an older work but is still one of the best lexicons
available for general use.
3. The New Strong's Complete
Dictionary Of Bible Words (Nelson Publishers): Strong's Lexicon
is in the public domain and comes in a variety of versions. It has a
numbering system that is used in a number of publications and software
packages. A version of Strong's lexicon is a 'must-have' book.
4. Liddell And Scott
Greek-English Lexicon (Oxford Press): the 'standard' lexicon for
classical Greek and very useful for NT studies.
Copies of these books can
be found at almost any Christian book store or distributor. Used copies
can sometimes be found on ebay.com or amazon.com at a reasonable
(1) All quotes from the English Standard Version (ESV).