Agape (play /ˈæɡəp/[1] or /əˈɡɑːp/; Classical Greek: ἀγάπη, agápē; Modern Greek: αγάπη IPA: [aˈɣapi]) is one of the Greek words translated into English as love, one which became particularly appropriated in Christian theology as the love of God or Christ for mankind. In the New Testament, it refers to the fatherly 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[2]. Many have thought that this word represents divine, unconditional, self-sacrificing, active, volitional, and thoughtful love. Although the word does not have specific religious connotation, the word has been used by a variety of contemporary and ancient sources, including Biblical authors and Christian authors. Greek philosophers at the time of Plato and 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. Thomas Jay Oord has defined agape as "an intentional response to promote well-being when responding to that which has generated ill-being."[3]

Although some sources claim agape appears in the Odyssey twice, the word is in fact not used there. Instead, two forms of the word agape may be found: agapêton and agapazomenoi. Agapêton is found in Book 5 of the Odyssey and means "beloved" or "well-loved". Agapazomenoi is found in books 7 and 17 of the Odyssey and means “to treat with affection.”[citation needed]

The verb agapao is used extensively in the Septuagint as the translation of the common Hebrew term for love which is used to show affection for husband/wife and children, brotherly love, and God's love for humanity. It is uncertain why agapao was chosen, but similarity of consonant sounds (aḥava) may have played a part. The Greek concept may have originated as a transliteration from some Semitic tongue. This usage provides the context for the choice of this otherwise obscure word, in preference to other more common Greek words, as the most frequently used word for love in Christian writings.[citation needed] The use of the noun agape in this way appears to be an innovation of the New Testament writers, but is clearly derived from the use of the verb agapao in the Septuagint.[4]



Fresco of a female figure holding a chalice at an early Christian Agape feast. Catacomb of Saints Marcellinus and Peter, Via Labicana, Rome

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."[5] The verb translated "love" in this verse is agapao.

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

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 (1 John 4:8, ὁ θεὸς ἀγάπη ἐστίν, "God is Love").

The term agape is rarely used in ancient manuscripts, but was 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 (also see kenosis). When 1 John 4:8 says "God is love," the Greek New Testament uses the word agape to describe God's love.

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.[6] In his book, The Pilgrimage, author Paulo Coelho defines it as "the love that consumes," i.e., the highest and purest form of love, one that surpasses all other types of affection.[citation needed]

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 the King James Version of the New Testament, the word agape is translated "charity" [in some places] which has a contemporary connotation of giving to meet needs of the less fortunate.[6]

In Judaism, the first (" the LORD your God...") is the Shema, the second (" your neighbor...") is the second greater commandment.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said:

You have heard that it was said, 'Love (agape) your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love (agape) your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?
—Matthew 5:43-46, NIV

Christian writers have generally described agape as a form of love which is both unconditional and voluntary. 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).

In the New Testament the word agape is often used to describe God's love. However, other forms of the word agape (such as agapao) are at times used in a negative sense. Such examples include:

  • 2 Timothy 4:10—"...for Demas has forsaken me, having loved [agapao] this present world...."
  • John 12:43—"for they loved [agapao] the praise of men more than the praise from God."
  • John 3:19—"but men loved [agapao] darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil."


The word agape in its plural form is used in the New Testament to describe a meal or feast eaten by early Christians, as in Jude 1:12, and 2nd Peter 2:13. It is sometimes believed to be either related to the Eucharist, or another term used for the Eucharist.

See also


Eastern religions


  1. ^ Oxford English Dictionary
  2. ^ "agape." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica, 2011. Web. 17 Sep. 2011. <>.
  3. ^ “ The love racket: Defining love and agape for the love-and-science research program,” Zygon, vol. 40, no. 4 (December 2005), pp. 919-938
  4. ^ Agape as a term for love or affection is rarely used in ancient manuscripts. According to the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Love definition) the word is believed to have been coined by the Bible authors from the verb agapao
  5. ^ John 3:16 in Pop Culture. <,29307,1870689,00.html> Accessed: 22 May 2009
  6. ^ a b Kreeft, Peter. "Love" <> Accessed: May 22, 2009


  • Heinlein, Robert A. (1973). Time Enough for Love. New York: Ace Books. ISBN 0739419447. 
  • Kierkegaard, Søren (1998) [1847]. Works of Love. Princeton: Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0691059167. 
  • Lewis, C. S. (June 5, 2002) [1960]. The Four Loves. London: Fount. ISBN 0-00-628089-7. 
  • Oord, Thomas Jay (ed.) (2007). The Altruism Reader: Selections from Writings on Love, Religion, and Science. West Conshohocken, Penn.: Templeton Foundation Press. ISBN 978-1599471273. 
  • Oord, Thomas Jay (2010). Defining Love: A Philosophical, Scientific, and Theological Engagement. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Brazos Press. ISBN 1587432579. 
  • Oord, Thomas Jay (2010). The Nature of Love: A Theology. St. Louis, Mo.: Chalice Press. ISBN 9780827208285. 

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • agape — agape …   Dictionnaire des rimes

  • AGAPÈ — Le mot grec agapè signifie affection, amour, tendresse, dévouement. Son équivalent latin est caritas , que nous traduisons par «charité» (dans les textes stoïciens comme dans les textes chrétiens). Généralement, la langue profane emploie agapè… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Agape — • Under certain circumstances the agape and the Eucharist appear to form parts of a single liturgical function Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006. Agape     Agape      …   Catholic encyclopedia

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  • agape — / agape/, alla greca /a gape/ s.f. [dal lat. tardo agăpe, gr. agápē amore ]. 1. (relig.) [convito fraterno presso gli antichi cristiani]. 2. (estens., non com.) [riunione intima fra amici] ▶◀ banchetto, (lett.) convito, (lett.) convivio, (lett.)… …   Enciclopedia Italiana

  • Agape — A*gape , adv. & a. [Pref. a + gape.] Gaping, as with wonder, expectation, or eager attention. [1913 Webster] Dazzles the crowd and sets them all agape. Milton. [1913 Webster] || …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Agapē — Agápē (en griego αγάπη) es el término griego para describir un tipo de amor incondicional y reflexivo, en el que el amante tiene en cuenta sólo el bien del ser amado. Algunos filósofos griegos del tiempo de Platón emplearon el término para… …   Wikipedia Español

  • Agapé — Agapē (ἀγάπη) est le mot grec pour l amour « divin » et « inconditionnel » L Agapé, souvent comparée à la charité chrétienne est, pour Platon, la troisième forme que prend l amour après l amour physique Éros et l amour de l… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • agape — àgape ž <G mn ȁgāpā> DEFINICIJA 1. pov. zajednička večera prvih kršćana kao uspomena na posljednju večeru Krista s apostolima, na njoj se slavila euharistija 2. (agapa) nesebična i nečulna ljubav (prema Bogu, bližnjemu, prijatelju) 3. pren …   Hrvatski jezični portal

  • ágape — sustantivo masculino 1. Uso/registro: elevado. Comida para celebrar un acontecimiento: Hoy despedimos a nuestra directora con un ágape en un céntrico restaurante. 2. Convite o comida de fraternidad entre los primeros cristianos, conmemorando la… …   Diccionario Salamanca de la Lengua Española

  • ágape — (Del lat. agăpe, y este del gr. ἀγάπη, afecto, amor). 1. m. Comida fraternal de carácter religioso entre los primeros cristianos, destinada a estrechar los lazos que los unían. 2. banquete (ǁ comida para celebrar algún acontecimiento) …   Diccionario de la lengua española

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