Eight Hidden Doctrines We Can Learn From Agape and Phileo - The Pseudo-Scholars' Lie

There is a constant attack upon the Authorized Version of the English Bible. All across our nation, pseudo-scholars take every advantage they can to correct and demean God’s Holy word. One of the most common ways of doing this is by “going back to the original languages” to get a “deeper meaning”.

This leaves the listener with a feeling of inadequacy in their English Bible, as well as a desire, not to study the Bible, but rather to study Greek.

A steward of the word of God should be trying to get his listeners to fall in love with Jesus Christ, and with the Bible. If Christians were as impressed with their Bibles as much as they are with the brains of Greek scholars, I believe we’d have a lot more unity in the body of Christ and a lot more people getting saved.

By and large, the Greek “nuggets” are not worth the time it took to find them. To prove this, I’m going to go after the biggest Greek nugget of all, the “agape and phileo” one.

First of all, let us define what the words “agape” and “phileo” mean, as is commonly accepted and taught by Greek professors across America.

Agape: “Deep, intimate, selfless love”

Phileo: “Shallow, casual, friendly love”

This is what is used to describe a conversation between Jesus and Peter in John 21:15-17. You may have heard it before, Jesus asks Peter if he’ll “agape” Him, and Peter responds by saying that he’ll “phileo” Jesus. Then Jesus again asks Peter if Peter will “agape” Him, and Peter responds by saying he will only “phileo” him. Very saddened, Jesus now settles for second best and asks Peter if he’ll “phileo” Him, and Peter says that yes, he will “phileo” Him.

This is somehow meant to show that Jesus wanted Peter to love Him deeply, but Peter was only willing or able to love Jesus with a shallow, friendly love. We must all learn from Peter’s poor example, and make sure to love each other with “agape” love.

This is the hidden truth that is only ascertainable by knowing Greek.

Doesn’t it leave you a little bummed out that Jesus had to finally relent to Peter’s lackluster “phileo” love in the end?

That doesn’t sound like the Peter of Acts chapter 2, who preached and 3,000 people got saved.

That doesn’t sound like the Peter who was later imprisoned and faced death, because he would NOT deny Christ.

That doesn’t sound like the Peter who loved Jesus enough to die for Him, hung upside down on a cross.

I think Peter would take issue with that Greek “nugget”.

How about this for an English interpretation, Peter denied Jesus three times. Jesus now takes Peter aside, to reestablish him. Because Peter denied Jesus three times, Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him three times. Every time, Peter declares his love for Christ. Every time Jesus replies by saying “feed my lambs” – take what you’ve learned and feed my little ones. On the final and triumphant declaration of his love to Christ, Jesus lays upon Peter the honor of feeding not only his “lambs” but also His “sheep”. Peter then goes on to be the leader of the apostles until Paul, and then when Paul becomes an apostle Peter still is known as the Apostle to the Jews.

A person doesn't need to be able to read Greek fluently to sound like a "scholar". I have a free Bible search program that places a number by every English word, and then it shows its Greek equivalent.

From there, you can go to a verse that has the word "evil" in it, click on "evil", then look at the Greek word for "evil". It will have the description of how to sound out the Greek word, how it's spelled, and the other possible translations. On the word "evil", you'll learn that it can also be translated "worthless".

Now all you have to do is stand in front of a bunch of people and say, "Another rendering for the word *insert Greek word that you just learned how to pronounce* is 'worthless', now this sheds additional light that our limited English Bible couldn't possibly reveal..."

If you can sound out a word, you can "correct" the Bible. Meaning, a six or seven year old can do it.

Or, you can operate by faith that God isn't stupid and that if He meant "worthless" He would have had it translated "worthless". Believing by faith that God meant what is written in the English, you'll abandon the Greek "enlightenment" for an English dictionary to better understand the word that God used….. in English.

Now let’s back up a little. Taking the logic for the Greek interpretation of the conversation between Jesus and Peter, and the same exact definition of agape and phileo, I’d like to demonstrate what can happen if you apply this fallacy to other passages of the Bible. Please forgive me for being a little tongue-in-cheek here, I’m only trying to demonstrate the fallacy of what is commonly taught and accepted as TRUTH. This agape-phileo love teaching is a lie, it is heresy, and you do not need Greek to understand that.

All you need is an English Bible.

Here are the eight “hidden” doctrines we can learn from
agape and phileo

1. God loves some people more than others.

While it is commonly taught that God loves us all the same, and that His love and acceptance for us is based solely upon the blood atonement of Jesus Christ, we can now be sure that some of us He loves more than others. The qualifications to meet God’s deeper love are, however, at this point uncertain.

Rev. 3:9, “…and to know that I have loved (agape) thee.
Rev. 3:19, “As many as I love (phileo), I rebuke and chasten...”

We see here that God loved one church more than the other. We can also ascertain from this that the children that God chooses to discipline are the ones that He only loves with a shallow love.

John 11:5, “Now Jesus loved (agape) Martha…”
John 20:2, “…the other disciple, whom Jesus loved (phileo)…”

We see here, that though John the disciple referred to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved”, the truth is Jesus only really kinda-sorta loved him. It was a shallow, friendly love. In contrast though, Jesus had exceptionally deep love for Martha. Perhaps delving deeper into the Greek will help us to understand this one day.

2. God’s love for the Son is shallow.

John 5:20, “For the Father loveth (phileo) the Son…”

What more could be said? Now we really know that God the Father does not love His Son with a deep and intimate love, He’s more of like a buddy, or perhaps a friendly acquaintance at work.

3. God’s love for us is shallow.

John 16:27, “For the Father himself loveth (phileo) you, because ye have loved(phileo) me…”

God the Father must not really be in the loving business. Sure, He gave up His only begotten Son to die for us, but according to our Greek professor, Jesus really isn’t all that special to God anyways.

4. We are supposed to love each other more than God does.

I Cor. 16:24, “My love (agape) be with you all…”
I Thess. 3:12, “…abound in love (agape) one toward another…”

Here we see Paul loving others more than God! Before I realized the hidden richness of the original languages, I always believed something like this was impossible. But now that I know God really doesn’t love me or even His Son all that much, it makes much more sense!

5. Women are not required to love their husbands really all that much.

Titus 2:24, “…to love (phileo) their husbands…”

One would assume that God would want a wife to love her husband as deeply as possible, but that’s simply not the case.

6. Husbands must love their wives deeply, more than their wives love them.

Eph. 5:28, “…men to love (agape) their wives…”

While God doesn’t really expect much out of women other then how they’d treat a fellow employee, He does however expect men to love their wives with a deep, unfathomable love.

7. Women are required to love other men outside of their marriage more than their husbands.

I Peter 2:17, “…Love (agape) the brotherhood…”

Amazing as it may sound, we are all commanded to love each other with deep love, and that includes women loving other men. Now we already know they are only required to be “buds” with their spouses, but now we see that they are supposed to love other men more than their own husbands!

8. Jesus doesn’t really love us all that much.

Titus 3:4, “…the kindness and love (phileo) of God our Saviour…”

Sure, He died for us, but a deeper understanding of the Greek goes to show us that God our Saviour (Jesus) only loves us with a shallow love. This is an amazing thing to learn when you consider the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord and Saviour!

Or maybe this is all a bunch of phooey.

Maybe “agape” and “phileo” are interchangeable.

Maybe they both just mean “love”, plain and simple.

Maybe the words love, cherish, adore, affection, charity, and devotion are more descriptive than agape and phileo are.

Maybe this is the biggest flap ever created by those who would seek to undermine our faith and confidence in a book we can hold in our hand.

Maybe we don’t really need an understanding of the Greek to know the deep truths of the word of God.

Maybe if we study the King James Bible, we’ll learn it, while others study Greek and just wind up learning Greek.

You know what, maybe we should just ignore the Bible correctors who, as Romans 1:22 puts it…

“Professing themselves to be wise,
they became fools…”


Honeycombs said...

I agree. Acts 17 says of the Bereans that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. In other words they searched to find out if the things said about Jesus were true. They didn't look at languages they looked at scripture. We too should study the bible more and as you say fall in love with Jesus and his word.

Jerry Bouey said...

There is nothing wrong with using sound Bible study tools to better understand the Bible (and no, not to correct it). Those tools include Strong's Concordance and Webster's 1828 Dictionary. People get into a lot of trouble when they think they understand a 400 year old Bible (ie. the meaning of its individual words) WITHOUT these tools. There are many words in the KJV that have a range of meaning that is missing from our modern language usage. Using sound Bible study tools, word studies, cross-referencing words/verses with related passages, etc. will open up the Bible more.

I am King James Bible only - I have NEVER, EVER corrected or questioned my King James Bible; however, I understand it precisely because of the sound tools and study effort put into my reading of it. I NEVER question the wording of the KJV, NEVER try to correct it or change it - however, I understand it better by seeing the underlying words, by seeing how each English (and yes, Greek and Hebrew) word is used, and tracing their usage throughout the Bible. This has refuted many who just wing it and come up with an interpretation of a passage that is based on their misunderstanding of the definition of words (because they use the words nowadays in a totally different context, or a more limited one).

As for agape and phileo go, I would NEVER seek to correct the King James Bible or try to tell anyone these words do not mean "love." BUT to teach there are no word ranges with these words and that these words DO NOT have slightly different meanings is dead wrong. You never see phileo translated as "beloved" or "charity." Hm, why is that? Because there are differences between these words - yes, many times these words are used interchangeably, but not always.

As far as point one above goes: actually God does love some people differently than others. Yes, He loves all mankind (though He does hate the evildoer; ie. the person that rejects Him and persists in their rebellious course) - BUT He calls believers His "beloved", which directly implies a greater intimacy and love than He shows to the rest of mankind.

Don't scare people away from using sound Bible study tools - teach them how to use the tools correctly.

Grammy Blick said...

I agree with Jerry - and would add that any limitation in understanding is within the English language, not with the King James Bible. I use tools in Bible study, too. One is listening to preachers who use words other than the KJV to preach the word -- they do not replace the Bible but they give the message from it that God wants us to hear/read. Would you state that "Maybe we don't really need a preacher to know the deep truths of the word of God?" Not hardly, according to Romans 10:13-15. The Ethiopian had God's word in front of him when the Holy Spirit brought Philip to him, too.

I do believe the two words do hold different meanings in Greek. I do not believe we are in error by learning some Greek. Neither do I believe this education attacks the inerrancy of His word.

Rick Schworer said...

I say respectfully that you can believe what you want, but biblical evidence does not support the teaching that agape and phileo are different at all, and the Bible completely debunks the false teaching that there is a huge difference as is popular to teach today.

I have no problem with people using a dictionary, commentary, encyclopedia, lexicon, or any other tool to better understand the Bible. What I have a problem with is when that tool becomes the authority, as is very common in churches today. The Agape/Phileo flap is an example of someone exalting an idea above Scripture without checking it out.

The primary source of interpretation should always be other Bible passages; all other tools should be in subjection to that.