Snyder, George L Snyder, Lenore Snyder, God, ethics, morals, religion

The Elephant Speaks
One Man’s Elephant book II

Greek Words for Love

            I started with a definition given in: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, but having listened to a few lectures on philosophy and reading the words of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, I found those definitions to be somewhat lacking. The results follow.

            There are several Greek words for love. The Greek language distinguishes love by the word used. Ancient Greek has at least four distinct words for love:

αγάπη (agape,)

έρως (eros,)

φιλία (philia,) and

στοργη (storge.)

            As with any translation, these words do not have exact parallel words in English. Also, there is no definitive border that separates one of these words from another. If you are willing to accept the opinion of someone who has listened to a few lectures and read a few books, here are my comments.

            As with all my writings, look it up yourself. Check up on me. I might be leading you astray.

Love - Agape

            Agape means love in modern day Greek, such as in the term s'agapo, which means I love you. In Ancient Greek, it often refers to a general affection rather than the attraction suggested by eros. Agape is used in ancient texts to denote feelings for a good meal, one's children, and the feelings for a spouse. It can be described as the feeling of holding one in high regard.

            Agape has the sense of acceptance, respect, understanding, all without regard for differences.

            If you have agape for another, you can picture them in God’s arms, loved by God as one of His creations, and having their own relationship with God. This may be totally different from your own faith path, but because they are part of God’s creation, loved by God, you are required to have agape for them. Understanding, acceptance, respect.

            It is this agape that prevents you from insulting another’s religion or desecrating another’s holy places, books, or symbols. This agape is that expressed by Gandhi when he spoke of his respect for other religions.

            Is an attack on another’s religion an attack on God?

            This is the agape preached by Jesus.

            As used in the Bible, Agape is a choice, an act of will, not an emotion.

Love - Eros

            Eros is passionate love, with sensual desire and longing. The Modern Greek word erotas means romantic love. Eros can be interpreted as a love for someone whom you love more than the philia, love of friendship. It can also apply to dating relationships as well as marriage.

            Plato refined his own definition: Although eros is initially felt for a person, it really is an appreciation of the beauty within that person, or even appreciation of beauty itself. Plato does not talk of physical attraction as a necessary part of love. Platonic means without physical attraction. Plato also said eros helps the soul recall knowledge of beauty, and contributes to an understanding of spiritual truth. Plato's Symposium is a discussion among the students of Socrates on the nature of eros.

            As the appreciation of beauty, eros can be applied to works of art as well as the beauty of an athlete’s prowess. Eros can be applied to the pleasure of watching a chef prepare a meal, or listening to a musician play. Eros can be the pleasure of a handshake or hug between friends. It is not necessary to be related to anything sexual, but usually is applied to some sort of physical, sensual connection. Smell, taste, touch, vision, sound.

            In Biblical Greek, translators usually consider eros to be a physical, sexual attraction.

Love - Philia

            Philia means friendship in modern Greek. It is a dispassionate virtuous love, a concept developed by Aristotle. It includes doing something for another for the sake of the other without regard or desire of any return. It includes loyalty to friends, family, and community, and requires virtue, equality and familiarity.

            Philia includes simple things such as holding the door for the person behind you, and extends to the extreme of giving your life for another. All the random acts of kindness fit in philia love.

            Philia is the love a parent has for a child where the parent will make sacrifices so the child’s life will be better.

            This is the love practiced by Mother Teresa. The love philia has the value of its own action. The only reward is the pleasure derived from knowing you did something for another that has no intrinsic value returned to yourself.

            This is the philia preached by Jesus.

            In ancient texts, philos denoted a general type of love, used for love between family, between friends, a desire or enjoyment of an activity, as well as between lovers.

            In Biblical Greek, φιλεω (phileo) was used almost exclusively to denote family bonding. This word is used in the Bible in preference to storge.

Love - Storge

            Storge means affection in ancient and modern Greek. It is natural affection, like that felt by parents for their children. Storge is rarely used in ancient works, and then almost exclusively as a descriptor of relationships within the family.

            In Biblical Greek, storge may have been a better fit than phileo in some cases. The writer may not have been a native Greek speaker choosing the more familiar word.

            Storge is also known to express mere acceptance or putting up with situations, as in loving the tyrant.

            Storge would be used to indicate a destiny to love.

            Storge differs from agape and philia.

            Agape indicates a decision to love.

            Philia is developed through logic and faith in a greater purpose, a higher order, God.

            Perhaps we should consider respect. This is not the respect as demanded by some, but respect given: without coercion, without demand, even without merit.

The Elephant Speaks              next chapter