In this article, we will explore the 4 types of love in the Bible, what they mean, and what we can learn from them. Grab your Bible because it’s time to study…
Love is a central theme in the Bible, and you could even say it is the main theme, dealing with God’s love for us and how He expects us to love one another. We see it painted from the Book of Genesis all the way to the Book of Revelation.
Yet few people understand that four different Greek words are translated as “love” in English, and each has a distinct meaning. Our English language really does us a disservice because of this. We blanket so many things under the word love. “I love ice cream!” and “I love Jesus!” both use the word love. In Greek, this isn’t the case.
Understanding these different types of love can help us deepen our understanding of God’s love for us and our love for others.
The 4 Types Of Love In The Bible
Knowing what kind of love God refers to in each context can help our Bible study immensely. So, let’s dive into the Bible and explore the four types of love: eros, philia, storge, and agape. We will be going into what each one means and how we, as Christians, can learn from it.
What Is Eros Love?
Eros is a type of love that is often associated with romantic love and physical attraction. In a very literal sense, it refers to physical erotic attraction, which is also where the English word originated from.
Eros was also the name of a Greek god; in Roman mythology, he was known as Cupid.
“Eros was a primeval god, son of Chaos, the original primeval emptiness of the universe, but later tradition made him the son of Aphrodite, goddess of sexual love and beauty, by either Zeus (the king of the gods), Ares (god of war and of battle), or Hermes (divine messenger of the gods). Eros was a god not simply of passion but also of fertility. His brother was Anteros, the god of mutual love, who was sometimes described as his opponent.” (source)
The word eros can also refer to passion and intensity of feeling. Of all the types of love, it is the most physical and closely associated with emotion.
Interestingly, the Greek word eros is never mentioned directly in the Bible. Even though the oldest records of the New Testament were written in Greek, the word eros was never used.
That does not indicate that the Bible is silent about the concept, though.
On the contrary, some parts of the Old Testament go into graphic detail about this physical type of love; Solomon was particularly outspoken about it, which is understandable considering how many wives he had.
The idea that the Bible does not say anything about this aspect of marriage is entirely incorrect. Though the New Testament mainly refers to eros love as admonishments to avoid sexual immorality and lust, the Old Testament offers a broader perspective.
Eros love is a natural and vital aspect of our human relationships but can also be misused and distorted. As Christians, we are called to view eros love within the context of a committed marriage relationship, honoring and cherishing our spouses and seeking to build a solid and lasting bond with them.
What Is Philia Love?
Philia or Phileo is the kind of love that is based on affection and friendship.
It is often translated as “brotherly love” and is used to describe our love for our friends and family.
φιλέωphiléō, fil-eh’-o; from G5384; to be a friend to (fond of (an individual or an object)), i.e. have affection for (denoting personal attachment, as a matter of sentiment or feeling; while G25 is wider, embracing especially the judgment and the deliberate assent of the will as a matter of principle, duty and propriety: the two thus stand related very much as G2309 and G1014, or as G2372 and G3563 respectively; the former being chiefly of the heart and the latter of the head); specially, to kiss (as a mark of tenderness):—kiss, love.
This type of love is mentioned several times in the New Testament, often in the context of the relationship between Jesus and His disciples.
Interestingly, the word “philia” is the exact opposite of the word “phobia.” Keeping that in mind, we can see that philia is a type of love that enjoys being with someone as passionately as a phobia makes you avoid or fear something.
An interesting occurrence of the word philia is in John 21:15-19. This is the portion of scripture where, after Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, Peter and Jesus are talking privately for the first time since Peter denied Christ three times.
Jesus asked Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love (agape) me more than these?” Simon replied, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love (philia) you.”
Jesus asked Simon Peter if he loved Him with agape love (unconditional or Godly love; more on that later), and Simon responded that he loved Jesus with brotherly and friendly love.
The same thing happened again. Yet again, Jesus asked Peter if he loved him with agape love, and Peter responded that he loved Jesus with philia love.
The third time Jesus changed His question. In verse 17, Jesus asks, “Simon, son of John, do you love (philia) me?”
To which Peter again answered that, yes, he loves Jesus with philia love.
To understand this, we have to remember where Peter was at this point. After proudly stating that he would never deny Jesus, he failed and denied Him three times in one night.
This failure must have been fresh in Peter’s mind as he spent private time with Jesus for the first time after that happened.
Now Jesus is asking Peter if he loved Him with unconditional, Godly love (agape). Peter is passionate about replying that he loves Jesus as a friend, but knowing his own shortcomings, he is afraid to commit to Jesus’ requirement of Godly love.
A second time, the same happens: Jesus asks for Godly love, and Peter affirms his brotherly love for Jesus but is afraid to commit to Godly love.
The third time Jesus asks, He asks Peter for brotherly love (philia.) In a way, this is Jesus saying that His standard is Godly love; it’s what we should aim for. But He also knows our weaknesses and failings and is still willing to meet us where we are. He accepts the kind of love we can give Him and helps us grow from there.
What Is Storge Love?
Like eros, the word storge is never mentioned in the Bible, though the concept of storge love is often discussed.
Storge is derived from the word “philostorgos,” which means tender love. Storge is a type of love based on natural affection and is often used to describe the love between family members, especially between parents and children.
It is the opposite of “astorgos,” which is translated as “heartless” in the Bible. For example, Romans 1:31 refers to the unrighteous as “foolish, faithless, heartless (astorgos), ruthless.”
Storge love is the opposite of being heartless. It is a caring type of love.
Although storge love is not as explicitly mentioned in the Bible as the other types of love, it is still essential to our relationships with our families. It is a natural love we feel towards our loved ones and is often characterized by a sense of protectiveness and loyalty.
As Christians, we are called to honor our parents and to care for our families, demonstrating our love for them through acts of service and kindness. The same applies to our love toward our spiritual family, the Church.
What Is Agape Love?
Agape is the ultimate form of love, and it is often described as an unconditional or Godly love that is selfless and sacrificial. Agape is the kind of love that God has for us and the love we are called to have for God and one another.
This type of love is mentioned numerous times in the New Testament and is often used to describe God’s love for us.
ἀγαπάω agapáō, ag-ap-ah’-o; perhaps from ἄγαν ágan (much) (or compare H5689); to love (in a social or moral sense):—(be-)love(-ed). Compare G5368.
ἀγάπηagápē, ag-ah’-pay; from G25; love, i.e. affection or benevolence; specially (plural) a love-feast:—(feast of) charity(-ably), dear, love.
John 3:16 says, “For God so loved (agape) the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
Agape love is the type of love that made a perfect, unfailing God sacrifice His only Son to save a fallen and sinful world.
That does not mean only God loves with agape love; we should aim for that, too.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 says, “Love (agape) is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
Galatians 5 also mentions love as an attribute of the fruit of the Spirit. Meaning we are to walk in this level of love as well!
Note that agape has no ties to emotion or feeling. It is to love by choice, and to commit to that love, whether you feel like it or not.
It is the most powerful kind of love as it goes past our human emotions, which are fickle and change at any moment.
As Christians, God calls us to love others unconditionally, even if they do not love us in return. This type of love requires us to put aside our own interests and desires and prioritize the needs of others.
When we love others with agape love, we reflect God’s love for us and demonstrate our commitment to following Christ.
The Bible mentions four distinct types of love: agape, philia, storge, and eros. Just to recap the meaning on these 4 loves in the Bible:
- Agape Love: This is an unconditional love that seeks the best for others without expecting anything in return. It is the type of love that God has for humanity and encourages Christians to have for themselves and others.
- Philia Love: This is a friendly love that involves companionship, loyalty, and fellowship. It is often found between close friends who share common interests and experiences.
- Storge Love: This is a familial love that exists between family members and relatives. It is a natural feeling that arises from having a shared history, upbringing, and experiences.
- Eros Love: This is a passionate love that is often romantic and based on physical attraction. It is an emotional and sexual love that is often depicted in the world.
As Christians, we are called to embody and express each type of love in our relationships with God and others. Our ultimate aim is to love all the world with unconditional agape love that’s willing to love whether we feel like it or not. That’s the way God loves the world, and it’s what He expects from us as well.
I hope you have enjoyed this article and learned something new! If you would like, you can leave me a comment below. I would love to hear about what God is doing in your life.
Melissa is a passionate minister, speaker and an ongoing learner of the Bible. She has been involved in church and vocational ministry for over 18 years. And is the founder of Think About Such Things. She has the heart to equip the saints by helping them get into the Word of God and fall more in love with Jesus. She also enjoys family, cooking, and reading.
She has spoken in churches in California, Oregon, Texas, and Mexico and has been featured in Guidepost Magazine and All Recipes Magazine. Read More…