Different Kinds of Love in the Bible
A famous example in the Gospels where the limitations of English’s one word is apparent comes from the Gospel of John. After the resurrection, Jesus appeared to some of His disciples while they were fishing. One of them was Peter, who denied Jesus three times the night of His Lord’s arrest. The Bible records:
“When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ He said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ He said to him a second time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ He said to him, ‘Tend my sheep.’ He said to him the third time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ and he said to him, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep’” (John 21:15-17).
The first two times Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him, Jesus used the appropriate form of agápē; Peter responded, with a form of philía, a lesser form of love, less familiar and less intimate. The third time, Jesus uses a form of philía, to which Peter finally responded with agápē. While the essence of the conversation can be gleaned in the English, there is a deeper level of communication missed.
Is "Love" the Most Used Word in the Bible?
Despite the hundreds of mentions, love is not the most mentioned word in the Bible in English, Hebrew, or Greek. Besides the obvious words like articles such as “the,” or conjunctions like “and,” the most common words in the Bible appear thousands of times.
The most common nouns in the Bible are:
LORD - mentioned over 7000 times
God - mentioned approximately 4300 times
Man - mentioned over 2700 times
Israel - mentioned over 2700 times
People - mentioned over 2200 times
“Love” does make the top 100 most used words in the Bible, along with other important concepts from the Bible like Heaven, sin, peace, and Christ. An examination of the five most common nouns shows they reflect the primary subjects of the Bible - the main characters in literary terms. God, the Lord of everything, and His relationship with mankind, beginning with the nation of Israel, are the focus of the entire Bible.
Love is one of the driving ideas in the Bible, reflected in its prominent use, but the subjects are more important.
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