5 Biblical Words for Love

Posted by on 09/14/2017 in: ,

MATTHEW 22:36-40 KJV

Master, which is the great commandment in the law? 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 neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. 


We are called to love God and love others, but how do we understand what love really is?

Studies of 5 Hebrew and Greek words for love help us understand what loving someone really means.


Hebrew word for love. Describes a variety of intensely close emotional bonds. So Abraham loved his son Isaac (Gen. 22:2), Isaac loved his son Esau (Gen. 25:28), and “Israel loved Joseph more than all his children” (Gen. 37:3).

In a more romantic manner, Isaac loved his wife Rebekah (Gen. 24:67), and Jacob loved Rachel (Gen. 29:18), but Delilah manipulated Samson by challenging his love for her (Judg. 14:16). We are all called to love the Lord, by expressing obedience to His commandments (Deut. 6:5), and to “love thy neighbour as thyself” (Lev. 19:18). Moreover, “he that getteth wisdom loveth his own soul” (Prov. 19:8).


God’s love is described as the Greek word agapao, which means unconditional love, preferential love that is chosen and acted out by the will. It is not love based on the goodness of the beloved, or upon natural affinity or emotion. Rather this is benevolent love that always seeks the good of the beloved.

This type of love is exclusive to the Christian community because it flows directly from God’s love: “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and everyone that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love” (1 John 4:7,8).


Although common in both the Septuagint and the New Testament, the word rarely occurs in existing secular Greek manuscripts of the period. Like its synonym philia, it designates love between persons (John 13:35), or people for God (1 John 2:15), of God for humanity (Rom. 5:8), and of God for Christ (John 17:26).

Whereas phila emphasizes the idea of love arising from personal relationships, agape is founded upon deep appreciation and high regard. It is perhaps for this reason that agape is the love which God commands.


One of four greek words for love, this one signifies friendship, fondness, affection, delight, and personal attachment. This word is on of feeling – a heart of love – whereas agape is a matter of benevolence, duty, and commitment. We are commanded to have agape love (Matt. 5:44) but not phileolove because feelings cannot be commanded.

Phileo is also the word for “kiss.” Jesus asked peter if he had unconditional, sacrificial agape love, but Peter responded that he had phileo, or brotherly love. Peter’s love deepened, and he wrote of agape love in his later books.


With the roots words phileo, “to love,” and adelphos “brother,” this word signifies loving someone like a brother or sister. We might think of it as fraternal affection.

This is not the love God has for us, but rather love between brothers and sisters in Christ. It implies that a familial bond between people who would not otherwise share affection is possible through Christ.


This blog was adapted from the KJV Word Study Bible! We just released this title, bundled with KJV Strong’s. This week it is available for $19.99. Learn more here.

What does “Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” mean to you?


  • John Murphy says:

    I noticed you say Philemon and Philadelphia are both different yet they are from the same root and you omitted Eros (sexual love)

  • Nix Lekorere says:

    What about eros and storge?
    Nix, from Kenya.

  • Steve says:

    Love conquers every thing,nice article,would also be interested in a topic about faith,thanks.

  • Zoe says:

    Love … Thank you for this well explained article, have you published other articles or books on the subject?

    Have you published any articles on Sanctification – New Testament sanctification of believers in Christ? I would love to learn more on that too.

    Keep up the great work

  • Donna Brooks says:

    Thank you enjoyed this article and am going to use it for my “at home” bible study today. Since it is the Sabbath.

  • joshua mutuku says:

    Thank you so much, have learned, love carriers all the other commandments

  • Donald . Cayman islands says:

    I enjoyed the simplicity of your explanations. But I think it would be niceto include the Eros. its explanation is just as important to be mentioned here.

  • Robert Thomas says:

    Why Agapao Can Not Mean, “The Unconditional, Divine Love of God” – and Phileo Can Not Mean, “Brotherly Love”


    • Robert Thomas says:

      “And this is the judgement; that the light has come into the world, and men loved (agapao) the darkness rather than the light…” – John 3: 19.

    • Julia says:

      Yes, my viue as well. About the story with Jesus and Peter, the respond of Jesus to Peters answer speaks against this taranslation of friendship love: Jesus gives Peter an enormous responsibility to be shepherd to his sheep and lamb.
      Also, the conversation was most probably originally in Aramaic, and in Aramaic there is not that kind of variation of the word love. (Friendship/Gods love)

    • Benjamin Wong says:

      A word study in the Bible is just that, discovering how the word is used in the Bible. Eros and storge are not used in the Bible. There are two root words used in the New Testament; agape and philos; and they do not mean God’s love and man’s love. see Robert Thomas.
      So what are the difference of the two greek words. In a study of the use of the words, philos is never commanded where as agape is

      • Benjamin Wong says:

        (I was interrupted with my earlier comment. continuing- ) In the usage of the words, agape and philos, it is interesting to note that philos is never commanded to do, whereas the command to love is always the word agape.
        Consider this as the difference between the two words: We are motivated by our emotions and by our mind. Love is one (not two) and love is motivated by both our emotions and our minds, but not equally. If the strength of that love is in our emotions it is philos. If it is strong passion, one cannot control it.
        If the strength of that love is in our mind it is agape. This love is controllable by our mind. For instance, it consider the benefits of darkness, or of this world to choose to love it. It is also that which God commands us to do, as “love your wife”, “love one another”, “love God with all your heart”

  • Tony Reynolds says:

    Anyone interested in this subject should read CS Lewis’ “The Four Loves”. He goes into detail about the four Greek words for love. It also can be listened to. being the only surviving recorded example of a talk by Lewis. Fascinating to hear him speak. Highly recommended.

  • Rev. Dr Alfred ABU-FRIMPONG says:

    Man of God, I appreciate all the efforts to dig the meanings of this all important WORD. may the knowledge and wisdom of God be endowed upon you in JESUS name amen

  • Angela says:

    Oh yes, GOD’S LOVE for us is in FACT Also a Brotherly Love.


    Matthew 12:48-51

    Luke 8:21

    John Piper explains this well.

    Jesus Is My Brother — But What Does That Mean? | Desiring God



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    In his epistles alone he addresses his disciples 12 times as “beloved.” Paul terms …. 1 Thessalonians 2:8, “very dear to us” ( agapetos, “beloved. ….. I called him, but he didn’t …

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    See how very much our Father LOVES us, for He calls us His Children, and that IS what we are! …. 2Beloved, we are now Children of GOD, and what we will be has not yet been revealed.

  • Asim says:

    Thank you, The love of Our Father is not from this world, it has nothing to do with all the words in all the languages. The love of the father can not be earned, it is priceless& it is only experienced the moment your heart breaks& He fills His Holy unseen Love in our hearts. We must experience His Love with tears of joy

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