Re: Philadelphia vs agape

From: Jonathan Robie (
Date: Tue Aug 12 1997 - 13:32:45 EDT

At 09:33 AM 8/12/97 -0700, Loril Hawk wrote:
>Is there a significant exegetical difference between these two uses of for
>love, as in 1 Thess 4:9-12?

In the NT, FILADELFIA is restricted to love for fellow believers. Although
etymology can be dangerous, in this case the roots are useful in
understanding the word: FILEW means "to love or have affection based on some
kind of association", and ADELFOS means "brother". However, the context
makes it clear that AGAPE is also meant for "one-another" in this passage.

Which brings us back to a perennial debate: how different are AGAPE and
FILEW in meaning? This debate has come up at least twice during the last
year, and I still don't know what I believe. However, I lean towards
agreement with Louw and Nida's statement in #2123:

"Though some persons have tried to assign certain significant differences of
meaning between
agapaw {a} , agaph {a} and filew {a} , filia (25.33) 2113 , it does not
seem possible
to insist upon a contrast of meaning in any and all contexts. For example,
the usage in #John
21:15-1 7 seems to reflect simply a rhetorical alternation designed to avoid
undue repetition.
There is, however, one significant clue to possible meaningful differences
in at least some
contexts, namely, the fact that people are never commanded to love one
another with
filew or filia, but only with agapaw and agaph. Though the meanings of
these terms
overlap considerably in many contexts, there are probably some significant
differences in
certain contexts; that is to say, filew and filia are likely to focus
upon love or affection
based upon interpersonal association, while agapaw and agaph focus upon
love and
affection based on deep appreciation and high regard. On the basis of this
type of distinction,
one can understand some of the reasons for the use of agapaw and agaph in
commands to
Christians to love one another. It would, however, be quite wrong to assume
that filew and
filia refer only to human love, while agapaw and agaph refer to divine
love. Both sets
of terms are used for the total range of loving relations between people,
between people and
God, and between God and Jesus Christ."


Jonathan Robie
POET Software, 3207 Gibson Road, Durham, N.C., 27703

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