Phileo and the Bible
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.
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.