Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary
The familiar adjective φιλος (philos) and associated (probably derived but perhaps parental) verb φιλεω (phileo) have to do with love. But where the English catch-all word "love" allows for little distinction, the Greeks used different words for wholly differing actions:
- Sexual "love" was known as ερος (eros). This word does not occur in the Bible.
- Familial love between parents and children was mostly expressed with the word στοργη (storge).
- Gentle, general kindness was dubbed αγαπη (agape). This is the kind of love which John equated with God (1 John 4:8), and Paul so lavishly praised 1 Corinthians 13
- Our words φιλος (philos) and φιλεω (phileo) describe a deliberately pursued synchronicity mostly between specific persons. This pursued synchronicity has not so much to do with feelings but with a state of alignment, co-existence, or even symbiosis.
Our verb φιλεω (phileo) describes having a relatively strong feeling of positivity, attitude of appreciation or act of attraction toward a specific objective (whereas αγαπη, agape is relatively mild and requires no specific objective). In modern English, our words survive solely in compounds — words like philosophy or bibliophile — but in Greek they occur on their own.
The verb φιλεω (phileo) expresses emotional affection, such as that for one's parents or for the Lord (Matthew 10:37), of the Father for the Son (John 5:20), of Jesus for Lazarus (John 11:3, 11:36) and for the unnamed disciple (John 20:2) and those he disciplines (Revelation 3:19), of the world for its own (John 15:19), of the Father for believers and of believers for Jesus (John 16:27, 1 Corinthians 16:22), of Peter for Jesus (John 21:15-17), of believers for believers (Titus 3:15).
Our verb may also express appreciation of inanimate things or ideas, such as social status (Matthew 23:6, Luke 20:46), ostentatious piety (Matthew 6:5), deceit (Revelation 22:15), but also one's private life (John 12:25).
Most strikingly, our verb is used to describe one's physical demonstration of love, and this is usually understood to be by means of a kiss, but perhaps also kindred actions. In other words, when Judas agreed on a sign with which to identify Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, he said: "Whomever I shall love, he is the one; seize him" (Matthew 26:48, Mark 14:44, also Luke 22:47).
Our verb is used 25 times in the New Testament; see full concordance. From this verb derive three nouns, two of which having to do with this physical demonstration of love, usually interpreted as to kiss:
- The noun φιλημα (philema), literally a "love-thing", often thought to mean kiss but probably a more general show of affection or care — perhaps also including a hug, a tousle of one's hair or holding of one's head with both hands, and all that. In the Bible we find this word as part of Paul's often repeated instruction to "great each other with a holy kiss", which may very well be an over-interpreted instruction to "say hi with a hug" (Romans 16:16, 1 Corinthians 16:20, 2 Corinthians 13:12, 1 Thessalonians 5:26, and also 1 Peter 5:14). Judas famously betrayed Jesus with one of these (kiss, hug or any such show of love; Luke 22:48), and Jesus' host Simon refrained from greeting his guest with one, while the unnamed woman didn't stop doing it to his feet (Luke 7:45). This noun is used 7 times; see full concordance.
- Together with the intensifying preposition κατα (kata): the verb καταφιλεω (kataphileo), meaning to kiss eagerly, affectionately or repeatedly: Judas of Jesus (Matthew 26:49, Mark 14:45), the unnamed woman of Jesus (Luke 7:38 and 7:45), the father his prodigal son (Luke 15:20), the Ephesian elders of Paul (Acts 20:37). This verb is used 6 times; see full concordance.
- The noun φιλια (philia), meaning love, fondness or friendship (James 4:4 only).
The word φιλος (philos) is an adjective meaning beloved, but is used most often as substantive meaning friend (Luke 12:4, John 11:11, Acts 10:24) or, less strong: familiar or acquaintance (Matthew 11:19, Luke 7:34), and also: attendant or companion (Luke 7:6, Acts 17:3, John 3:29), or even an ally or economic partner (Luke 16:9, John 19:12, James 4:4, 3 John 1:14). Note that Jesus called his followers friends (John 15:13-15), as God did Abraham (James 2:23).
This adjective — ranging in meaning from beloved to being aligned with or in service of — occurs 30 times in the New Testament, see full concordance, and additionally shows up as element of a substantial array of compounds. Most of these compounds appear to describe one's primary motivation: that which a person aligns himself with in order to exist in society:
- Together with the adjective αγαθος (agathos), meaning good, virtuous, benevolent or useful: The adjective φιλαγαθος (philagathos), meaning loving what is good or virtue-loving (Titus 1:8 only). From this word derives:
- Together with the noun αδελφος (adelphos), meaning brother or relative: the adjective φιλαδελφος (philadelphos), meaning brother-loving (1 Peter 3:8 only). From this noun derives:
- The noun φιλαδελφια (philadelphia), meaning brotherly love. This noun occurs 6 times in addition to its role as the name of the familiar city; see full concordance.
- Together with the noun ανερ (aner), meaning man or husband: the adjective φιλανδρος (philandros), meaning husband-loving (Titus 2:4 only).
- Together with the noun ανθρωπος (anthropos), meaning man(kind): the noun φιλανθρωπος (philanthropos), meaning lover of mankind. This word does not itself occur in the Bible, but the following two derivatives do:
- The noun φιλανθρωπια (philanthropia), meaning human friendship, benevolence or kindness. This noun occurs only twice in the New Testament: in Acts 28:2, the natives of Malta showed Paul and companions "extra-ordinary philanthropia". In Titus 3:4, Paul groups our word with χρηστοτης (chrestotes), meaning kindness, and assigns it to God.
- The adverb φιλανθρωπως (philanthropos), meaning humanely or with people-love (Acts 27:3 only).
- Together with the noun αργυρος (arguros), meaning silver or money: the adjective φιλαργυρος (philarguros), meaning money-loving (Luke 16:14 and 2 Timothy 3:2 only). From this adjective come:
- Prefixed with the particle of negation α (a): the adjective αφιλαργυρος (aphilarguros), meaning not money-loving (1 Timothy 3:3 and Hebrews 13:5 only).
- The noun φιλαργυρια (philarguria), meaning money-love. This difficult word occurs only in the familiar statement that money-love is the root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:10). Most commentators take this to mean that feeling love for money leads to all kinds of bad behavior, but here at Abarim Publications we're pretty sure that money-love is not a feeling that one has, but rather a motivation for one's interaction with other people. In a money-based economy, people do things for other people because they get paid for it and not out of feelings toward the other person. In a society where human interaction is dictated solely by money-love, people are left to perish by the side of the road because they have no money to invest in food and shelter. Money-love, or philarguria, is the opposite of people-love, or philanthropia.
- Together with the pronoun αυτος (autos), meaning self: the adjective φιλαυτος (philautos), meaning self-loving (2 Timothy 3:2 only).
- Together with the noun ηδονη (hedone), meaning (physical) pleasure: the adjective φιληδονος (philedonos), meaning pleasure-loving (2 Timothy 3:4 only).
- Together with θεος (theos), meaning god or God: the adjective φιλοθεος (philotheos), meaning God-loving (2 Timothy 3:4 only).
- Together with the noun νεικος (neikos), meaning quarrel or strife (and which doesn't occur independently in the Bible): the adjective φιλονεικος (philoneikos), meaning quarrel-loving (1 Corinthians 11:16 only). From this word derives:
- The noun φιλονεικια (philoneikia), which describes the kind of dispute that arises when quarrel-lovers get at it (Luke 22:24 only).
- Together with the adjective ξενος (xenos), meaning strange or foreign: the adjective φιλοξενος (philoxenos), meaning stranger-loving, or hospitable, kind to strangers (1 Timothy 3:2, Titus 1:8 and 1 Peter 4:9 only). From this word derives:
- Together with the verb πρωτευω (proteuo), meaning to be first or chief: the verb φιλοπρωτευω (philoproteuo), meaning to love to be first or most important. This verb is used in 3 John 1:9 only, where it combines with the verb επιδεχομαι (epidechomai), meaning to receive besides or in addition. John tells how Diotrephes didn't accept his word in addition to other wisdoms and probably people, which in turn suggest that our verb φιλοπρωτευω (philoproteuo) means to love to be the originator of ideas, to be the first to think of something.
- Together with the noun σοφια (sophia), meaning wisdom or skill: the adjective φιλοσοφος (philosophos), meaning philosopher (Acts 17:18 only). This noun is popularly interpreted as a "lover of wisdom", but it rather describes someone who derives the course of his life from wisdom or skill (rather than greed, fun, money etcetera). From this noun comes:
- The noun φιλοσοφια (philosophia), meaning wisdom-love (Colossians 2:8 only).
- Together with the noun στοργη (storge), which isn't used independently in the Bible, and which describes mostly the love between family members: the adjective φιλοστοργος (philostorgos), meaning family-loving; with the kind of safe and secure love that usually exists between parents and children and vice versa, and when all is well even between husband and wife (when they consider each other blood-family, from which one cannot divorce). This graceful adjective occurs in the Bible only in Romans 12:10.
- Together with the noun τεκνον (teknon), meaning child: the adjective φιλοτεκνος (philoteknos), meaning child-loving (Titus 2:4 only).
- Together with the noun τιμη (time), meaning value: the verb φιλοτιμεομαι (philotimeomai), literally meaning to be value-loving and used in the sense of to aspire or make something an ambition (Romans 15:20, 2 Corinthians 5:9 and 1 Thessalonians 4:11 only).
- Together with the verb προνεω (proneo), meaning to consider or meditate upon: the adjective φιλοφρων (philophron), meaning friendly disposed; friendly or courteous (1 Peter 3:8 only). From this adjective comes:
- The adverb φιλοφρονως (philophronos), meaning friendly or courteously (Acts 28:7 only).