Re: Philadelphia relative to Agape

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Mon Mar 08 1999 - 13:15:29 EST

<x-rich>I started a response to the original inquiry a couple days ago but
decided I really needed to do further research on AGAPH after recalling
the problems associated with the effort to distinguish AGAPAW from
FILEW in actual usage in John 21 over the last two or three years in
this forum.

I'd like now to focus on some particular points, first citing (from
AcCordance) the relatively brief entry in Louw-Nida on AGAPH:

<bold>23.28 <color><param>0000,7777,0000</param>AGAPH, HS,
f.</color>:</bold> a special type of communal meal having particular
significance for early Christians as an expression of their mutual
affection and concern - 'fellowship meal.'hOUTOI EISIN hOI EN TAIS
in your fellowship meals, for they feast together shamelessly' Jd 12.
The meaning of AGAPH may be rendered in some languages as 'meals in
which you show your love for one another as you eat together' or 'your
eating together as the result of your love for one another.'

<bold>25.43 AGAPAW; AGAPH, HS f: </bold> to have love for someone or
something, based on sincere appreciation and high regard - 'to love, to
regard with affection, loving concern, love.'AGAPAW: ENTOLHN KAINHN
DIDWMI hUMIN, hINA AGAPATE ALLHLOUS 'I give you a new commandment,
that you love one another' Jn 13:34; GAR TON hENA MISHSEI KAI TON
hETERON AGAPHSEI 'for he will hate the one and love the other' Lk
16:13; hO PATHR AGAPAi TON hUION 'the Father loves the Son' Jn 3:35;
hOTI AUTOS PRWTOS HGAPHSEN hHMAS 'for he loved us first' 1Jn 4:19.

I'd have to agree with Larry Oberton that "love-feast" really seems
far-fetched in this particular context, where it appears that the
author (and personally, I don't really think it is the original Peter,
for which reason the discussion on how lettered or ignorant the author
is seems irrelevant, in my own opinion) is exhorting his readers to
deepen and expand their spiritual resources. If anyone DOES want to
defend that interpretation, however, go to it!

I've been reading through Czeslas Spicq's article on AGAPH in his
_Theological Lexicon to the New Testament_. It's really first-rate in
its consideration of wide-ranging dimensions of etymology, usage in
classical and Hellenistic Greek texts, including the evidence to date
from papyri. Where he comes down ultimately in defining the word as
used in the NT is about where we might have expected: in the sense of
esteem for a person. I cite the most immediately relevant paragraphs:

        "So what does agape mean in the NT? It is the most rational kind of
love, inasmuch as it involves recognition and judgment of value, whence
its frequent nuance of "preference." The verb AGAPAW most often means
"value, set great store by, hold in high esteem"; it is a love with
deep respect (1Pet 2:17), which often goes along with admiration and
can become adoration. This esteem and goodwill tend to be expressed
inappropriate words and deeds. Unlike other loves, which can remain
hidden in the heart, it is essential to charity to manifest itself, to
demonstrate itself, to provide proofs, to put itself on display;24 so
much so that in the NT it would almost always be necessary to translate
agape as "demonstration of love." This affection-unlike ERWS, which in
the literature brings endless suffering and disaster26-is accompanied
by contentment, since the ordinary meaning of AGAPAW is to be happy,
satisfied.27 But in Christian usage, since it is a divine love, coming
from heaven (Rom 5:5), it will be joyful and already a foretaste of

        Finally, and perhaps above all, while friendship is properly used only
of a relationship between equals, agape links persons of different
conditions: with rulers, benefactors, and fathers; it is a
disinterested and generous love, full of thoughtfulness and concern. It
is in this sense that God is agape and loves the world.29 With those
who are indebted, for inferiors, for subjects, this agape, which is
first of all consent, welcome, acceptance,30 is expressed in
gratitude:31 it is the love inspired in turn by generous love-which is
the meaning in 1John 4:10-and it is translated into acclaim, applause,
tokens of respect, congratulations, praises,32 and even veneration,33
so that Christian agape is expressed in liturgy and worship: "To the
one who loves us . . . to him be the glory and the power for ever and
ever", Rev 1:5-6).

At 4:45 PM -0600 3/7/99, David A Bielby I wrote:

>Please don't misunderstand me. I'm not proposing love feasts is the

>meaning here at all. I'm actually interested to see if anyone would

>defend the proposition. I should have made that clear. However, I'm

>sure the concept is excluded, so that's why I asked the question. I

>thought it was intriguing and not impossible since the house Churches

>have been having agape every week.

>. . . . .

>Doesn't EPICORHGEW flow directly from the theatrical/drama culture of

>Greeks? Useage of this term in the context Peter uses it, coupled

>his mention of Paul's writings in this letter seems to indicate that

>Peter was working on understanding the cultured crowd and had grown

>appreciate them to a degree. I'm not certain about any of this, but

>research so far has led me to this conclusion.

I think that EPICORHGEW, by the time it is used by the writer of 2
Peter, has long-since lost its linkage to the CORHGOS or "producer" of
a play in Athens who provided the funding and resources for a poet
authorized by the city to put on a play at the Dionysiac festival; I
think it has become an all-purpose phrase for "provide, furnish,
equip." Accordingly, when we read in 2 Peter 1:7 [EPICORHGHSATE ...] EN
rather think that each secondary term is intended as an expansion of
that which precedes it in the previous phrase. If that's the case, then
FILADELFIA in this instance is affection of members of the congregation
for each other, one key element in this being the kindred feeling of
equals for each other in their association that Spicq wants to
emphasize as an aspect of FILEW and FILIA when used with some
precision. The intensification brought to bear upon FILANQRWPIA through
AGAPH will then go beyond 'kindred feeling' and be the loving esteem of
each individual for that individual's own sake, presumably the love
that God in Christ has bestowed and demonstrated upon each creature
through creation and the eager desire to redeem.

Carl W. Conrad

Department of Classics/Washington University

One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018

Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649 OR



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