Re: 1 Tim 6.2: Who does the loving?

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Sun Mar 05 2000 - 19:29:08 EST

At 4:13 PM -0700 3/5/00, Wayne Leman wrote:
>The Greek says the slave masters are AGAPHTOI "beloved". English versions
>and commentators are split on who the agent of this loving might be (e.g.
>God or the slaves themselves, or, presumably the community of believers, or
>maybe "all of the above"). Is there *any* clue in the form of the Greek
>adjective, perhaps from parallel usage of AGAPHTOI elsewhere, or from the
>immediate context here? Or is this simply one of those places where, since
>the Greek has an unspecified agent, we can only speculate as to its


I frankly do not see any clear answer to this question in text or usage,
but my approach to an understanding of the possibilities in this text would
be governed by a couple considerations: (1) AGAPHTOS/AGAPHTOI is frequently
used in the GNT for members of the community of believers addressed
corporately in letters, most notably perhaps in the Johannine letters, but
also in Pauline letters. It appears to me that the combination PISTOI KAI
AGAPHTOI used of DESPOTAI here who are believers is no accident, so that
even if PISTOI has a more "active" verbal sense of "believing" AGAPHTOI has
the "passive" verbal sense which is in fact more common with verbal
adjectives in -TOS/H/ON; (2) the older Classical distinction between the
verbal adjectives in -TEOS/A/ON ("deserving to be 'x'ed", "requiring to be
'x'ed"--where 'x' is the verb-stem to which -TEOS/A/ON is attached) and
those in -TOS/H/ON ("able to be 'x'ed", "'x'able") has become tenuous to
the point that -TEOS/A/ON verbal adjectives are not common at all (I think
it's safe to say) in the GNT, the sense "deserving to be loved" (Latin
AMANDUS or AMANDA) could readily attach to AGAPHTOS. It seems to me,
therefore, that the question whether it is God or believers who are here
conceived as the "lovers" of the AGAPHTOI, we might say that those who are
referred to by this "epithet" are certainly loved by God and that the
epithet itself highlights the notion that they deserve the love of their
fellow-believers. And isn't that precisely the point that is repeatedly
urged in ethical parenesis in the letters: 'each of you is a recipient of
God's AGAPH, for which reason you also ought to treat each other as
AGAPHTOI. If it were not an intolerable neologism, I might even suggest
that "love-worthy" better conveys the sense of AGAPHTOI than does
"beloved." Why? Because, in point of fact, even believing human beings do
not find it easy demonstrating AGAPH even toward fellow-believers, and it
may even be a bit hypocritical to assert that these fellow-believers
addressed by John and Paul really ARE "beloved" to each other (if they
were, why would Paul and John feel the need to keep urging them to show
it?), and therefore, perhaps calling them AGAPHTOI is a sort of buzz-word,
a reminder that these believers thus addressed are obliged to behave with
AGAPH toward each other. I think of Paul's wonderful little 'dictum' in
Romans 12 (here's where I'd use 'dictum,' Bill Ross!): AGAPH ANUPOKRITOS,
which I would prefer to translate, "AGAPH ought not to be a matter of
play-acting." So might it be possible to understand the epithet AGAPHTOI as
applied to believers as implying always, "deserving of our mutual love"?

That's what I think is the case, but I don't know that I can prove it at all.


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 WWW:

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