Greek Word Study of ἀγαπάω (agape, agapeo, love)

This word means simply, love, but can and does have a wider range of meaning. It can mean to “have a warm regard for and interest in another,” “cherish,” “have affection for.”[1] The meaning, “to be grateful”[2] is suggested in Luke 7:47, when Jesus asks, who will love more, someone who was forgiven much, or forgiven little. The word can also mean, “to love based on its regarded value” (John 12:43).[3] This love can be between human beings (such as in Matt. 5:43; Eph. 5:25, 28, 33; Rom. 13:8), or directed from humans to transcendent beings (such as in John 8:42; 1 Pet. 1:8). This love can also be between transcendent beings and humans (Rom. 8:37; 9:13; 2 Thess. 2:16) or between persons of the Godhead (John 3:35; 10:17; 17:26).[4] In the New Testament, “Jesus stands plainly and consciously in the moral tradition of His people. But He demands love with an exclusiveness….love is a matter of will and action….He demands decision and readiness for God and for God alone in an unconditional manner which startles His hearers.”[5] Jesus brought a new meaning to the word, new terms as it were, for while before it was heard that you love your friends and hate your enemies, he called men to love their enemies (Matt. 5:43-44). In the context of this passage, it is clear Jesus felt a strong affection for Lazarus and his sisters (John 11:5), they had a special place in his heart, but in the end, it is very hard to separate Jesus’ love for these, and his love for all who are his (John 13:1). For his love was proved to be true in his death, through which salvation came to all who believe. There is no greater love than that, and there is nothing greater that Jesus could do for anyone than give them opportunity to believe, and this passage shows that love (John 11:15, 25, 26, 42).

[1] William Arndt, A Greek-English Lexicon, 5.

[2] William Arndt, A Greek-English Lexicon, 5.

[3] James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages With Semantic Domains : Greek (New Testament), electronic ed. (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), GGK26.

[4] William Arndt, A Greek-English Lexicon, 5.

[5] Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, 1:44-45.