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Agape (Ancient Greek: ἀγάπη, agápē) is "love: the highest form of love, charity; the love of God for man and of man for God." Not to be confused with "philēo" – brotherly love – agápē embraces a universal, unconditional love that transcends, that serves regardless of circumstances. 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 philia (an affection that could denote friendship, brotherhood or generally non-sexual affection) and eros, an affection of a sexual nature.
In Christianity Agape is considered to be the love originating from God or Christ for humankind. 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. Although the word did not have a specific religious connotation, it has been used by a variety of contemporary and ancient sources, including biblical authors and Christian authors.
A journalist of Time magazine has described John 3:16 as "one of the most famous and well-known Bible verses. It has been called the 'Gospel in 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 life.— John 3:16, KJV
The term agape received a broader usage under later Christian writers as the word that specifically denoted "Christian" love or "charity" (1 Corinthians 13:1–8), or even God himself, although in the New Testament the expression "God is love", ὁ θεὸς ἀγάπη ἐστίν, explicitly occurs only twice and in two not too distant verses: 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 specifically Christian context. C. S. Lewis, in his book The Four Loves, used agape to describe what he believed was the highest level of love known to humanity – a selfless love, a love that was passionately committed to the well-being of the other.
The Christian usage of the term agape comes almost 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.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said:
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 of your 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, in his 2nd century defense of Christians, remarks how 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 cautions however that this agape within human experience is "a very partial and rudimentary realization," and that "in its pure form it is essentially divine." Quick suggests that,
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 the 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 agape (such as the various forms of the verb agapaō) are at times used in a negative context. Such 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.
- Agape feast
- Brotherly love (philosophy)
- Charity (virtue) (Latin: caritas)
- Compassionate love
- Greek words for love
- Love styles
- The Four Loves
- Theological virtues
- 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 "friendliness"
- 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. ISBN 978-1-84902-626-0.
- Henry George Liddell; Robert Scott (1901). A Lexicon Abridged from Liddell and Scott's Greek-English Lexicon. Oxford : Clarendon Press. p. 6.
- "agape." Encyclopaedia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica, 2011. Web. 17 Sep. 2011.
- "The love racket: Defining love and agape for the love-and-science research program", Zygon, vol. 40, no. 4 (December 2005), pp. 919-938 Defining Love (PDF)
- • Nygren, Anders ([1938-39] 1953). Eros and Agape, Part I: A Study of the 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, 24(10), pp. 3-21.
- 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. 51-68.
• Browning, Don S. "Science and Religion on the Nature of Love," pp. 335-45.
- John 3:16 in Pop Culture. Time. Retrieved 22 May 2009.
- Kreeft, Peter. "Love". Retrieved May 22, 2009.
- Quick, O.C. Doctrines of the Creed, Scribners, 1938 p. 55.
- 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. ISBN 0-7394-1944-7.
- 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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- "Agape" in Jewish Sources
- Deus Caritas Est – Former Pope Benedict XVI's 2005 encyclical letter contrasts agape and eros.
- Study Love - An exhaustive, non-denominational breakdown of the itemized Christian definition of agape in 1 Cor. 13:4-7.