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Phileo and the Bible

Updated on June 29, 2015
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Bronwen was a teacher for over forty years. Degrees include School Librarianship, Psycholinguistics and Theology, and Applied Linguistics.

Sisterly Love
Sisterly Love | Source

Phileo and Brotherly Love in the Old Testament

As the Old Testament is mostly written in Hebrew, the word Phileo is not used. However, the meaning of this Greek word is there. In fact, it is shown to have a number of different facets. we usually think of Phileo as being brotherly love.This is seen as an inclusive term, as when the English word, 'man' is intended to embrace 'woman' as well. Hence, we have sisterly love.

This type of love also represents friendship, a love which is based on feelings, so it includes affection between human beings. There are many examples of this type of love in the Old Testament. The first that springs to mind is the friendship of David and Jonathan (I Sam. 18.1).

Parental Love in Both Testaments

As we saw in an earlier hub, 'Love and the Bible,' the Greek also has a separate word, storge, meaning the love of a parent for a child, and of a child for a parent. It is the love that is shared within a family or in a community. It may also extend to include the love we share with others of the same culture, nationality or religion.

Again, there are many examples in the Old Testament: an early one is Gen. 44.20 which tells of Jacob's love for his son Benjamin. In the New Testament one was the distraught synagogue leader who knelt before Jesus begging for help for his beloved daughter (Matt. 9.18); there are many others. In both Testaments, e.g. Lev. 19.18; Matt. 22.39, we are taught to love our neighbours as ourselves.

Mother - Daughter Love
Mother - Daughter Love | Source

Phileo and Brotherly Love in the New Testament

In the Greek of the New Testament we find phileo/ philea. They express social love and affection between friends; it is a warm, tender kind of love. As it is based on feelings, we are not commanded by God to love in this way, it is our choice.

Phileo also encompasses love between friends and social love. Loving those of similar social groups is an important concept in the Bible. it is one of the lovely ways we can show our love to each other, to those in our Church family, to our neighbours and to the world.

Phileo is found over seventy times in the New Testament. As the meaning of eros extended, the meaning of phileo also changed. Jesus is God's Son, and when we accept Him as Saviour we become children of God and can love Jesus as Brother as well as Saviour. What a privilege!

English Words Based on 'phileo', 'philea'

To diverge momentarily, there are several words in the English language that use the basic Greek phileo and philea as prefixes. Some, such as philadelphia, love between brothers and sisters, and philanthropia, love for humanity, showing others kindness, courtesy and thoughtfulness, can be found in the New Testament, but a living language is always growing and changing, so there are more:

phileo as a prefix:

philanthropist, a person who helps others, especially by donating money to a good cause; philanthropy, the practice of helping other people by giving money to a worthy cause.

philately, and its derivatives, such as philatelic and philatelist. As we know, the prefix means 'loving' and it has to do with stamp collecting, but the suffix is interesting, too, as it comes from another Greek word which means exemption from payment, signifying that by using the postage stamp the recipient is exempt from paying, as happened before Roland Hill and his penny postage.

Then there are philharmonic, devoted to music, and all the derivatives of philology, the love and study of words, and philosophy, with the love of wisdom.

There are even plants connected with loving: a mock orange with the name of philadelphus, loving one's brother, and philodendron, 'loving' and 'tree.'

There are other derivatives with a more negative meaning:

philander, (of a man) to have numerous sexual relationships. philanderer, a man who has many sexual relationships.

philea as a suffix:

These, too, may be positive, such as bibliophile, a fondness of books and Anglophile, a fondness of England.

philea also has a negative connotation, as we see in pedophile, a word which has changed over time from meaning 'one who has a fondness for children' into something far more morbid.

Phileo Love - in the Bible, and Now

My interest in linguistics has caused me to diverge from the main theme of this article, so to return to phileo/ philea in the Bible, we find that, although the actual words used in the Old Testament may not be the Greek of the New Testament, the meaning is there in both Testaments.

As we saw in a previous article, the intensity of eros helps us understand the intensity of our love for God. Phileo love helps to deepen our feelings of this great gift God has bestowed on us; it brings warmth and friendship.

The next and final discussion on love will be agape.

Welcoming a New Brother into God's Family
Welcoming a New Brother into God's Family | Source


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    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 2 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Nadine May: It truly is, and how much the opposite, hate, is such a divider. May love rule in God's world. Thank you for your comment on my photos.

      FlourishAnyway: For us writers, language is so interesting. I like it that we are always learning - there is so much to find out about in our wonderful world.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

      I enjoyed all of the language connections here and learned a lot too!

    • Nadine May profile image

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

      Your lovely photos speak for themselves. LOVE is a creative energy that unites us all.

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 2 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      MsDora: The English language is built on so many others that it is an interesting study to find out where our words originated and the ones base on phileo can teach us about loving God and each other. Bless you for your comments.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 2 years ago from The Caribbean

      Glad you digressed a bit; never made the connection with some of those phil prefixes. Thanks for the very useful study.

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 2 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      rdsparrow: I'm so glad you enjoyed it. Again, thank you for sharing that lovely hub about your book launch. May God bless you, too - and I hope you sell lots of your book.

    • rdsparrowriter profile image

      rdsparrowriter 2 years ago

      I really enjoyed reading this hub :) Thank you for sharing :) May God bless you more and more !!!

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 2 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Faith Reaper: Dear Faith, thank you so much for your lovely comments. May God bless you, too.

      AliciaC: Glad you enjoyed the linguistics bits, obviously I, too, find them fascinating.

      Tillsontitan: Yes, there is always so much more we can learn from the Bible. It's a pity you can't send some of that rain over here! It's winter and quite cold for these parts, but we're having to water the veggies and garden.

      Frank Atanacio: Thank you. That tub was actually shaped like a giant goblet and was provided by the Greek Orthodox Church. My husband was sharing the baptism as one parent was Greek and the other Anglican (Episcopal in US). And that baby was a cute!

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 2 years ago from Shelton

      what a wonderful hub.. bless you and I love that baby in the tub..

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 2 years ago from New York

      In my opinion you can never go wrong studying the Bible. I like the way you did the origins it is so relatable!

      As others have said your pictures certainly add to your writing. Well done.

      We are having a rain storm here with lots of thunder! I'm thinking we made need an ark!

      Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This is an interesting and useful look at linguistics, Blossom. Thanks for sharing the great information.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 2 years ago from southern USA

      Oh, what a lovely hub on Phileo love! I learned a lot here and so glad you did diverge; all so interesting indeed.

      Your photos are precious too. I am already looking forward to your hub on agape love, the most divine love.

      Up ++++ tweeting, pinning, g+ and sharing

      God bless you and yours always

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 2 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Larry Rankin: Yes, I find it interesting, too. Glad you enjoyed it.

      GusTheRedneck: Thank you! I think that if we're not learning, we may as well be dead! Love the smiles.

      Ericdierker: Thank you for your lovely comments. God bless!

      always exploring: I thought I'd rather overdone the origins bit, but it's always so interesting and it's great to be able to share that interest.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 2 years ago from Southern Illinois

      Than you so much for sharing this educational hub. word origins are interesting.

    • Ericdierker profile image

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

      Really cool giving pathways to deep contemplation and learning. Thank you for the hard work that went into such a well done hub. And thanks for sharing it with us.

    • GusTheRedneck profile image

      Gustave Kilthau 2 years ago from USA

      Hello Bronwen (BlossomSB on HubPages) -

      Learning through text plus learning through images is the best way to learn stuff, and this article shows that to be so.

      Gus :-)))

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 2 years ago from Oklahoma

      Very interesting. Always love looks into etymologies.

      Great hub!