Site Home

Trench on Christian Love

02.12.3

Christian Love Home

Exegesis Home

Overall Site

Orientation

Exegesis

Theory

Psychology

Assessment

Education

Pathology

Treatment

Projects

Dialogue

Finance

End Notes

 

Trench, R. C.  (1901, p. 38-42).  Synonyms of the New Testament.  (New Ed.)  London : Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co.

 

[Note that 'translations' of the Greek or Latin may be provided in brackets like these [ ].  These translations may be via this author, or via Google Translate.  Page numbers for the quotations should follow in brackets.]

 

 

Agape vs. Phileo - "very nearly equivalent to that between diligo [love/Agape] and amo [love/Phileo] in the Latin."  [p. 38, l.38]

 

"'amare,' which answers to philein [love/Phileo], is stronger than 'diligere,' which, as we shall see, corresponds to agapan [love/Agape].  This is true, but not all the truth."

 [p. 39, l. 11]

 

diligi = agapasthai [love/Agape]  The first expresses a more reasoning attachment, of choice and selection (diligere = deligere), from a seeing in the object upon whom it is bestowed that which is worthy of regard;  or else from a sense that such is due toward the person so regarded, as being a benefactor, or the like"  [p. 39]

 

amari = phileisthai [love/Phileo]  "without being necessarily an unreasoning attachment, does yet give less account of itself to itself;  is more instinctive, is more of the feelings or natural affections, implies more passion"  [p. 39]

 

"the notions of respect and reverence are continually implied in the agapan [love/Agape], which, though not excluded by, are still not involved in, the philein" [love/Phileo].  [p. 39-40]

 

"while men are continually bidden agapan ton theon [love/Agape God] . . . the phlein ton theon [love/Phileo God] is commanded to them never."  [p. 40]

 

"In almost all these passages of the N. T., the Vulgate, by the help of 'diligo' [love/Agape] and 'amo' [love/Phileo], has preserved a distinction which we have let go.  This is especially to be regretted at John xxi. 15-17;  for the passing there of the original from one word to the other is singularly instructive, and should by no means escape us unnoticed.  In that threefold "Lovest thou Me?" which the risen Lord addresses to Peter, He asks him first, agapas me;  At this moment, when all the pulses in the heart of the now penitent Apostle are beating with a passionate affection toward his Lord, this word on that Lord's lips sounds far too cold;  to very imperfectly express the warmth of his affection toward Him.  The question in any form would have been grievous enough (ver. 17);  the language in which it is clothed makes it more grievous still.  He therefore in his answer substitutes for the agapas of Christ the word of a more personal love, philo see (ver. 15).  And this he does not on the first occasion only, but again upon a second.  And now at length he has triumphed;  for when his Lord puts the question to him a third time, it is not agapas any more, but phileis.  All this subtle and delicate play of feeling disappears perforce, in a translation which either does not care, or is not able, to reproduce the variation in the words as it exists in the original."  [p. 40-41]

 

"For it should not be forgotten that agapan is a word born within the bosom of revealed religion:  it occurs in the Septuagint (2 Sam. xiii. 15;  Cant. ii. 4;  Jer. ii. 2), and in the Apocrypha (Wisd. iii. 9):  but there is no trace of it in any heathen writer whatever, and as little in Philo or Josephus;  the utmost they attain to here is philanthropia and philadelphia, and the last never in any sense but as the love between brethren in blood."  [p. 41]

 

"Christian love, which is not merely the sense of need, of emptiness, of poverty, with the longing after fulness (sic), not the yearning after an unattained and in this world unattainable Beauty;  but a love to God and to man, which is the consequence of God's love already shed abroad in the hearts of his people.  The mere longing and yearning, and eros at the best is no more, has given place, since the Incarnation, to the love which is not in desire only, but also in possession."  [p. 42]

 

 

My Response to Trench

 

Trench's use of the parallel terms in the Latin for the Greek terms in the NT was interesting, but he wound up 'indirectly' describing the Greek terms that are the focus of our discussion, and only somewhat supported his description of the Greek by referring to later, Latin sources.  There is, apparently, a rather strong parallel between the Greek and Latin terms in this area.

 

From his discussion of the Latin, Trench describes Agape as "seeing in the object upon whom it is bestowed that which is worthy of regard."  "the notions of respect and reverence are continually implied in the agapan."  [p. 39-40]  By way of contrast, Trench described Phileo as "more instinctive, is more of the feelings or natural affections."  [p. 39]

 

At p. 39, l. 11 Trench describes Phileo as 'stronger' than Agape.  It seems to me that at this point he is describing the intensity of expressed emotion commonly found associated with these terms.  If this is a correct understanding of Trench's usage, then it would seem that his characterization of these terms would, generally, be valid.

 

Trench notes the importance of John 21:15-17, yet his analysis of the passage is limited.  He gives us a good overview of Peter's role in the exchange, along with the motives that may have been driving him.  Yet, Trench doesn't tell us much about the reason that Jesus was so, apparently, insistent upon using Agape instead of Phileo.  He doesn't explain what the differences between the terms are and why they were important in that passage.  I would have expected Trench to say something about the 'strength' of Phileo relative to 'Agape' noted at p. 39, l. 11 [above].  I expected more from Trench.  For a more complete discussion of John 21:15-17 see my discussion of Vine at Brotherly Love.

 

As an aside, I have a personal image of the exchange between Peter and Jesus that is recounted at John 21:18-22.  Jesus has been crucified and risen.  He has appeared to the disciples while they were fishing at the sea of Tiberias.  Then Peter fails Jesus' questions (above).  Jesus prophesied how Peter will die.  Peter asks Jesus what will happen with John.  Jesus stands directly in front of Peter and looks him right in the eye.  He says:  'IF I want him to live until I return, what is that to you?'  [Jesus pokes his finger, hard, into Peter's chest and says]  YOU   FOLLOW   ME.  [As Jesus says these words He raises his hands to display the places where the nails pierced them, and looks Peter right in the eye]  [Peter gulps, realizing what he's being told to do.]  Clearly, what I've just described is NOT biblical.  It is just my imagination running wild with the text.  I DO think it contains a measure of truth, however.

 

Near the end of his comments, Trench draws a distinction between Agape and Eros, as he discusses the difference in the two in the area of 'possession' versus 'desire.'  He would see Agape as the love of something 'possessed' versus Eros as the love of something 'desired'.  While this distinction would seem reasonable, it opens the question as to the character of Storego, the love among family members.  That would seem to be a love of 'possession', as those relations would already have to exist for Storego to exist.  So, it would also seem to be a love of 'possession', even as he described Agape.  I don't know that this makes any difference, but a consideration of this new term seems interesting, given the distinction he made.

 

This page revised and Copyrighted: Theon Doxazo

14 December, 2023