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Love and the Bible

Updated on June 17, 2015
BlossomSB profile image

Bronwen was a teacher for over forty years. Degrees include School Librarianship, Psycholinguistics and Theology, and Applied Linguistics.

The Round Church, Cambridge
The Round Church, Cambridge | Source

What is Love?

Before we look at love and the Bible, or, more specifically, the use of the word love in the Bible, we first need to be sure we know what we mean by the word 'love.'

When we think of love, we often picture love-hearts or the kind of rather steamy romantic love that we see on television. The word 'love' covers such a variety of feelings; we even say, "I love ice-cream." This seems to show rather a paucity of descriptions in the English language. We do have such words as 'affection,' 'fondness', 'adoration,' 'passion', 'crush,' or even a 'liking' for something, but they can seem to be poor substitutes for what we really mean. In English we often need to attach another word, or even a phrase, to describe the kind of love that we want to express.

My dictionary tells me that 'love' is 'a strong feeling of affection,' but then it goes on to describe the different facets of love in a variety of ways and it uses several different phrases to explain the meanings. We do not seem to have the words to explain the different kinds of love.

Let's look at 'love' in other languages.

Church Window
Church Window | Source

Love in Some Languages

Now this is where I'm going to show my ignorance. I have a smattering of some other languages, but how I wish that I knew more. I may be wrong in what follows and if that is so, please correct me in the 'Comments' section at the bottom.

  • French: French is often thought to be the most romantic language. It is allied to Italian and Spanish, and, of course, Latin. At school we were quick to learn Je t'aime, I love you. Later there were other words, such as amour, tendresse, affectionner (v).
  • Dutch: My husband learned Dutch, but it was a long time ago, so it may not be correct: Ik heb leif von yau, I love you. It wasn't, so thank you for the corrections. It should be Ik hou van jou, or Ik heb jou lief.
  • Mandarin: Wo ai ni, I love you. Of course, properly written this should be in Chinese characters. Like English, there are several phrases, or groups (usually two) of characters that express mother-love, love for God, fall in love, love of something inanimate, such as ice-cream.
  • Dobuan (one of several languages of the D'Entrecasteaux, a group of islands off the Eastern tip of PNG): Ya obobomeyo, I love you. It's interesting that there are two words for a gift; one is when a gift is given and a return gift is expected; the second word, oboboma, is also a word for a gift given in love, a reciprocal gift would be an insult.
  • Greek: From my limited knowledge, Greek seems to have the most descriptive single words for love: eros, phileo, storge, agape. Each one of these words describes a different facet of love.

So what love words do we find in the Bible?

Dobuan is a Language Spoken in Salamo, PNG
Dobuan is a Language Spoken in Salamo, PNG | Source

Love in the Bible

Sadly, my knowledge of Hebrew and Biblical Greek is practically non-existent, and yet these are the most important languages of the Holy Bible.

The Old Testament: Most of the Old Testament (OT) was written in Hebrew. 'A Theological Word Book of the Bible' (Alan Richardson, ed.) tells us that the Hebrew root aheb occurs over 200 times. It covers a wide range of meanings from love of God for people, love of people for God, passionate love, love within a family, love between friends, and love between people when it is seen as a religious duty. There are also agab, doting; dud (especially in the Song of Solomon); and racham, meaning tender mercy. These words, as they are used in the OT are mostly connected with inward, personal feelings.

The New Testament: The New Testament (NT) was written in classical Greek. I have read that in the NT there is no use of storge and little of eros, the words mostly used are related to phileo and agape, although some other terms are also translated as 'love.' The love words in the NT often seem to describe feelings and attitudes that are still personal, but that may go out from God to us, and from us to Him and to other people.

The Family Bible
The Family Bible | Source

God is Love

As they say, 'Love is what makes the world go around,' but I guess it's really God's love for His creation and HIs people (even when we are not very loving of Him or of each other) that really keeps it going around.

While this article is probably quite long enough I would like to further explore the topic of love and the Bible, and may do so in the future. There is still so much more to learn about the different types of love and how we can use such a precious gift in the best possible way.

After all, we can see how human understanding has developed through the ages as God has gradually revealed the wonder of love to us, from the Old Testament Ten Commandments, which tell us to love the Lord our God (Deut.6.5), to the New Testament that tells us God is love (I John 4.8) and (Mark 12.30 - 31) we are to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and our neighbours as ourselves.

From Dr. Clifford Wilson's Collection
From Dr. Clifford Wilson's Collection | Source


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    • unvrso profile image

      Jose Juan Gutierrez 2 years ago from Mexico City

      It does not matter how the meaning of love has evolved through the ages and languages, it will always be something that unites the souls. I enjoyed reading your hub!

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 2 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Lady E: Thank you, I find it interesting, so I'm glad that you do, too. The Old Testament Books were originally in Hebrew or Aramaic, but the New Testament was in Greek. Pity I'm so old, I'd love to learn it, so I could read it in the original.

    • Lady_E profile image

      Elena 2 years ago from London, UK

      Very interesting read. I particularly enjoyed reading about love in many languages. I note sometimes Pastors also like to use these other translations to help people understand it. Greek seems to have the best translation.

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 2 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Annart: I'm glad you enjoyed it. I was going to have the last of the series ready this week, but I just haven't managed it, maybe next week! Yes, 'aimer' is for both as far as I know, but it's interesting that some languages have a number of words for something where we have only a few, such as all the ones for snow and ice in very cold countries and some don't have nearly as many words to describe colours as English has. Thank you for your interesting comments.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      Interesting hub in all sorts of ways - language and religion and the whole variety.

      It's strange that the French 'aimer' is used for both 'love' and 'like', there is no distinction other than context. English often has much more variety of words for the same theme.

      Great hub, well written as always, Blossom.


    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 2 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      CrisSp: I'm so glad you enjoyed it. The next one is Eros and the Bible. Hope you enjoy this one, too. Phileo and the Bible is coming. Thank you for your kind comments.

    • CrisSp profile image

      CrisSp 2 years ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

      Indeed a delightful read. The topic you have chosen shouldn't be that complex, if we define the word "love" from the dictionary. However, taking its' meaning from the bible is another story. And so, I'd be looking forward to reading your next hub about it.

      Thank you for the insights.

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 2 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      thumbi7: How true! Lack of love leaves so much space for evil to enter into our hearts.

    • thumbi7 profile image

      JR Krishna 2 years ago from India

      Beautiful concept. Love is the basis of everything good. Where there is no love, there can be evil.

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 2 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      aviannovice: Thank you! I know what you mean about the mayhem, so much that is good just seems to be being thrown out the window. Wonderfully, God's love never changes. May He bless you.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Very profound, and I was thinking just yesterday, with all the mayhem in the world, we must resort to some good, old-fashioned values again in order to perpetuate the living.

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 2 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Nell Rose: It is amazing, and how blessed we are to know that we are loved by our great God. How I wish I had learned Greek and Hebrew! Thank you for your comments. God bless.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 2 years ago from England

      Hi, its amazing how we don't really think of what love means until I see it in this context, love is a funny thing, what an amazing word, and even more amazing feeling, I never thought of it in the Bible context before, you have made me want to go and look for myself! great read, nell

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 2 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      word55: Thank you so much for your encouragement and may God bless you!

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 2 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Nadine May: I was hoping someone would help me with that, as it's many years since we learned it in Dutch. I'll change it in the hub. Please do go back to reading your Bible, it is such a wonderful resource and encouragement in so many situations we find ourselves in. I'm probably misreading what you intended about God's love, but it sounds a little like what used to be called New Age Christianity, which ends up loving ourselves rather than God.

      North Wind: It is endless, but then, so is God's love - when we accept it. In this hub I have only mentioned the Greek types of love, but I will go into them further in other hubs, so they're not too long. Your explanation of why Jesus asked Peter three times will come into it, as it's a great example of how it is difficult simply translating all the Greek words as 'love,' as to use phrases to show the differences would be so cumbersome.

    • word55 profile image

      Word 2 years ago from Chicago

      Hi Blossom, I enjoyed reading this. You hit all the main points of what God, love and life are all about. I appreciate you. Keep up the good works. God bless!

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 2 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Michael-Milec: Thank you for your interesting comments. We do sometimes seem to use the "I love..." phrase without realising what we are really saying. Relating the good news to those who reject it without even trying to understand what it is about can be so difficult.

    • North Wind profile image

      North Wind 2 years ago from The World (for now)

      This is a potentially endless topic because love is often misinterpreted and examples of true love and false love can be found in the Bible.

      You mentioned 'phileo' and 'agape' love. These words were used by Jesus and Peter when He asked Peter to feed his sheep. Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him (agape) and Peter answered that he did love Him (phileo). It was only on the third occasion that Jesus asked him if he loved Him (phileo). If you read it with this knowledge it will become clearer to you why Jesus repeated Himself. Peter could not confess to the same love as He could. As I understand it, phileo means to be fond of where as agape is strong love. The love of the Father is often described as agape love.

    • Nadine May profile image

      Nadine May 2 years ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      I'm not a great Bible reader anymore but I was intrigued enough to read your post on LOVE And Oh the DUTCH in your post should be... ik heb jou lief....

      For my LOVE means to feel LOVE for the 'I AM' within me and to be grateful for the opportunity to experience a human incarnation during these times.

    • Michael-Milec profile image

      Michael-Milec 2 years ago

      Absolutely great wonderful introduction to what is to follow. You have touched perhaps the most controversial phrase among English speaking culture " I love you" or as you said " I love ice-cream". Similarly " I love my dog, my car or I love to swim"... In our culture this phrase is none practiced, neglected in conversation , rather practiced in human interaction. ( We know "love" received or given in deeds, action or friendly outstanding praiseworthy performance.)

      Voted interesting


      P.S. Next is one of my preconception of "I love you"- expression following an attempt to conclude what "I" failed to prove in my best try. ''Love" is an act without words, meeting our need when being not aware what that 'need' is,- something we can't exist without; - so to please "my" feelings - spontaneously comes out 'I love you."

      ( Now, how can we relate the good news "God is Love" to those who reject existence of the Creator God the almighty, yet they as well as we all do live in Him and have our being?! )

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 2 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      tillsontitan: Thank you for your lovely comments. Sometimes we can think those sayings are rather trite as we've heard them before, but when we think about them more deeply, they say so much.

      MsDora: Yes, the Bible meanings are important and we can learn so much from them. Our understanding of them can really help us in our daily living.

      Frank Atanacio: Faith in love and faith in God who is Love! Yes! Blessings to you.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 2 years ago from Shelton

      what a wonderful hub Blossoms.. sometimes you just have to have a little faith in love...

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 2 years ago from The Caribbean

      Interesting introduction, Blossom and yes I would like to read more from you. The meaning of this word is inexhaustible. The Bible meanings are important.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 2 years ago from New York

      Beautiful subject Blossom. Love is what makes the world go round. God is love and gives us that love. The New Testament certainly teaches us about love and expects us to love, "Love thy neighbor as thyself."

      This was a pleasant read this Sunday morning.

      Voted up, useful, and interesting.

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 2 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Ericdierker: Thank you so much for your lovely, affirming comments. I like your thought, too. God bless you.

      lctodd1947: Yes! Jesus' love is the greatest gift the world has ever been given. If only people would accept it. Thank you, Linda.

      whonunuwho: Thank you, and I receive your comment with joy!

      Faith Reaper: I just love your comments and thank you for that great piece of philosophy. We're even instructed to love our enemies. The opposite is to hate and there's too much of that in the world already. Thank God for love. It's good to be back, I hope to stay here now. Thank you for your welcome, and for sharing, too. I did French all the way through school, but when we stayed in Brittany with the pen-friend of one of my daughters, her mother complained that my French gave her a headache! So much for learning! God bless you, too.

      celafoe: Thank you for your comments. I do agree that the word 'love' is difficult for Bible translators as English does not have the words to describe the different types and therefore linguists must resort to using phrases for words that are single in Hebrew and Greek, and even then the translations do not always cover the depth of meaning satisfactorily. As you write also: 'God's love covers all,' but that is only when we sinners come before Him and through His grace humbly accept the great gift of Jesus' love when, because He loved us so much, He gave His life on the cross so that our sins could be forgiven. That's what makes us Christians, followers of Christ. But God also gives us the power of choice and it's up to us how we choose. It's not His wish that any of us should fall short of that forgiveness so that we can be made holy and come to have fellowship with our God who is so holy. Much love to you.

      Manatita44: It certainly is a timeless subject and one which I approached with much prayer, as I felt it on my heart to share my thoughts. God's love and peace seem to be so much wanting so often in this wayward world of ours, of which we are a part. Yes, I'm sorry I have not been on HubPages for some time, either writing or commenting. I've been busy with writing my books, but I must try to be more organized and leave time for both. I do intend to write further about the types of love, but as I don't like reading hubs that are too long I decided to keep this one fairly brief. Wisdom is a gift and an attribute which we can all work on, along with love, in all our lives long. Thank you for the reminder. 'Silent love' is a great term! Thank you! As to my physical well-being, I feel greatly blessed, as I'm getting quite ancient. May Father God bless you with His Peace, too.

      mckbirdbks: Thank you for the welcome back. Now I feel guilty! I have read lots of the articles, but not commented recently - promise I'll try to do better in the future. I'm sure you really know quite a lot about this topic, it's probably just the way I wrote it! Thank you so much for your comments.

      serenityjmiller: Oh! That sounds so interesting. John was the beloved disciple and as he lived to a good age he had much experience of love and wrote about it so well, with Christ as our model. Will you write a hub about it? I'd love to read it, I'm sure it would be most interesting. My Cornish Grandparents were Wesleyans and at once stage when I was doing some study I graded Master's papers for the Wesleyan College here. Charles Wesley's hymns are so wonderful, too! Two of my favourites are 'Love divine, all loves excelling,' and 'Amazing love.'

    • serenityjmiller profile image

      Serenity Miller 2 years ago from Brookings, SD

      "Lovely" overview - thanks for sharing! For my Johannine Literature course at Indiana Wesleyan University, I wrote a word study on "love" as the apostle John saw it. The word takes on a whole different light when we consider the self-sacrifice of Christ as an expression of the kind of love we are to emulate.

    • mckbirdbks profile image

      mckbirdbks 2 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hello BlossomSB, Welcome back. Not speaking French, Dutch, Mandarin, Dobaun, or Greek and not reading Hebrew or Classical Greek, I know nothing about this topic. At one point I thought I did, but was proven wrong.

      This is a tough topic to tackle. I applaud your efforts with this presentation.

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 2 years ago from london

      A great effort, my dear Friend, Blossom, on a timeless subject.

      First, how are you this blessed Sunday? I had not heard from you or of you for a while. I send out letters to my friends, but I do not seem to have your address.

      Love is All in All. Many of the greatest Seers and Sages say this, and of course our Lord says this also. Frankly, I would look at it in three ways, but only for the purpose of this conversation. There is no right or wrong here.

      The first way is of the Love that is generally associated with desire, pleasure, cravings; (your ice cream needs included. Smile.) Much of what you say falls in this category.

      The second way is of Divine Love. Divine Love is like a bird, we cannot cage it; and it most certainly cannot be limited. It is measureless, timeless and immortal.

      The third way, is the way of the Incarnations of God. They see only Love and so all these other forms are aspects of the same process, but in infinitely smaller degrees, if you like.

      You will no doubt have some strong opinions here, rather like Questions and Answers. Do your best, although it may occasionally be necessary to practice Wisdom, or what I call Silent Love.

      Hope you are well, my Blossom. Good to see you again. I bid you God's Peace.

    • celafoe profile image

      charlie 2 years ago from From Kingdom of God living on Planet earth. between the oceans

      unfortunately this is a misleading article because it talks about love as seen from the human viewpoint, not from the correct scriptural teaching. The bible has over 20 types and sub type of love and they CAN NOT be linked into one word love. Each type has a place and is very different from the others.

      This is one of the real problems with the teachings of men, they do not understand and therefore do not teach about the kinds of love , nor do they separate them as must be done to understand the context of each scripture

      Today there are great numbers of people looking and believing that "sugar Daddy" God would love and approve everything they do because they profess to be Christians. All they want to talk about is the "love of God and they do not understand that there are many different types of love and all are different, each having its own specific place and use. They do not believe in the requrements to be a Christain and believe that their "love" is all that counts, yet they can can't even tell you which "love" ie t is that that believe in.

      God forbid that you should mention God's judgement as they teach love covers all. Which scriptural love is that?

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 2 years ago from southern USA

      Oh, you're right about French, and we did learn "I love you" right away. I had four years of French in High School.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 2 years ago from southern USA

      To echo Eric up there, these are two of my favorite topics as well, Love and the Bible. That divine love, agape love, nothing else compares. We are commanded, as you have pointed out here, to love God with all of our heart and mind and love our neighbors as ourselves. This applies to those who are hard to love, but God does not tell us not to love them. Beautiful things happen when we are mindful to love as Christ loves, for this life is so much more sweeter. When we fail to do so, we just need to get right back up and love again for that is truly what this life is all about.

      Thank you, Blossom, for this divine hub on Love and the Bible.

      Up ++++ tweeting, pinning, G+ and sharing

      So happy to see you publishing again

      God bless you and yours

      In His Love Always

    • whonunuwho profile image

      whonunuwho 2 years ago from United States

      Beautiful work my friend and a message well received. whonu

    • lctodd1947 profile image

      lctodd1947 2 years ago from USA

      Wonderful hub and well written for a clear understanding of what real love is. It is of course, that of Jesus' love.

      Thank you for writing,


    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 2 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Well well, what a great way to start my Saturday. My two favorite subjects rolled into one, Love and the Bible. Your work here is fabulous. If there were a word for all the different ways I feel love, they would have to make a whole new language. Perhaps some love just cannot be put into words, I like that thought. Thank you