Yesterday we set the parameters of our discussion, at least relating to the Word. Today we begin looking in depth at the four word in Greek used for love: agapao-agape, eros, philios, and storge. Our concentration will be on the three words used in the Bible, using eros in most cases as a contrast to the three biblical forms. We will approach them in reverse order of biblical significance.
As we noted yesterday, eros is desire and passion and is primarily sexual in nature. It is the root of our English word erotic and can easily degrade into mere sexual lust. Eros focuses on the worth it sees in the other and wants to posses it. While it can be focused on something other than a person, eros will constantly express itself possessively: “I want you/that”. It is commonly seen in adolescents when they are “in love”, by which they mean they are experiencing an intense need/want/desire for this other person and either cannot or will not control it. They are enthralled by the queasy stomachs, the warm fuzzy feelings, the strong sensual attraction, the frenzy and agony of it all.
While this doesn’t have to express itself in primary sexuality (intimacy and coitus), it is always focused on the beloved, the other, the object, but in the sense of our need of them/it. When related to a person it is their presence, their overt acceptance, their apparent uniqueness, the emotional high they give us, and in the end that they belong to us and no other. When focused on an object, possession is the key attribute.
When you examine the aphorism: “love has no fury like a women scorned,” you are talking about eros rejected, or used and abandoned. When we speak of love that has turned to hate, we are talking about eros. Eros is highly situation dependent. It needs to be constantly fed to survive and as time wears on it is easily dissipated by slights or hurts, real or imagined, or even the boredom that intimate knowledge brings to situation. Eros once realized is often eros lost, the exquisiteness of discovery now gone.
It is used nowhere in the New Testament or in the *Greek translation of the Old Testament (Septuagint). Despite that fact, many in our modern culture try to read it back into the biblical text. Because only one English word is used in our modern translations (dropping even the common charity usage for agape), it is possible to insert eros into some passages or contexts, since in English contains eros as part of its meaning. However, because eros is never used in the biblical language, we should never allow anyone to argue this kind of doublespeak.
If you think about it, the fundamental aspect of eros, that it inclines us to seek our own good or desire, rather than that of God or our neighbor, would make it incompatible with the biblical mandate given in Deuteronomy 6:4 and Matthew 22:37-40.
Tomorrow we will look at storge and philios.
May God bless you in all your efforts to grow in him during your observance of Lent. May his Father hand guide you, instruct you, and when necessary, support you. Grace and peace.
*Update (2-25-2007): Actually eros is used in one place in the Septuagint and one of its forms, erastos (lover) is used 17 times. In that one occurrence, in Proverbs 7:18, it is used to describe sex, as the temptation of a loose woman playing the prostitute.
I have perfumed my bed with myrrh,
aloes, and cinnamon.
Come, let us take our fill of love till morning;
let us delight ourselves with love (eros – sex).
For my husband is not at home;
he has gone on a long journey; Proverbs 7:17-19
It is not used in the New Testament in any form except in Erastos, the name of the city treasurer, who sends greetings. (Romans 16:22).