Rabbi’s Reflections – Saturday, February 3, 2024
Shabbat Shalom,

More On Agape
By David Harwood

Many define agapē as the exercise of volition. The Bible disagrees. Agapē is an emotion that inspires volition. Let’s continue to delve into its meaning. Thus far we’ve examined two sections of a definition of agapē.

Agapaō (the verb) and agapē  (a noun) convey the emotion we call love. These words became familiar to the Jewish people through the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures: the Septuagint. In the Septuagint ahavah (Hebrew for love) is translated as agapaō/agapē  over 200 times.

In the New Covenant Scriptures agapaō/agapē is found a similar number of times. They parallel the use of agapaō/agapē in the Septuagint.

Here are some examples:

I began to illustrate this by offering Scripture samples. This was the first:

We are commanded to (agapē) God (Deuteronomy 6:5; Matthew 22:37) and our neighbors (Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 22:39).

Now, let’s continue.

To repeat my purpose, I’m establishing that agapē carries the same connotations and nuances as ahavah, the Hebrew for love. This has ramifications for how we see God’s emotions towards us, towards the believing communities of disciples, towards the entire world, and what God commands and anticipates from us. It conveys the love described in both the Tanach and the New Covenant Scriptures.

Here’s my method: First, I rehearse part of my definition of agapē and then offer a few Scriptures from the Septuagint and the Apostolic Writings to substantiate what I’ve shared for your inspection.

Take a look at this example of holy agapē:

The psalms proclaim the worshiper’s agapē for Adonai. (Psalm 5:11; 18:1, etc.)

And let all who place their hope upon you rejoice in you forever. They will rejoice exceedingly, and you shall dwell among them, and all who love (agapē) your name will exult in you. (Psalm 5:11 LES)

And he said, “I love you (agapē – in this case, rāḥam, not ahavah), O Lord, my strength. (Psalm 18:2 LES)

This is holy love. It is the emotion of agapē directed towards the Creator. It is consistent with the way agapē is used in the New Covenant Scriptures.

This love is echoed by John (1 John 4:20)

If anyone says, “I love (agapē) God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar. For the one who does not love (agapē) his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love (agapē) God, whom he has not seen. (1 John 4:20)

When we look at agapē for God in the Psalms and 1 John we see that the same holy emotion is stressed. Agapē for the Creator is illustrated in both the Hebrew Scriptures and the Apostolic Writings. Again, this is an example of holy love.

In this use of the word, it is love directed towards the Creator because the devoted child really loves God. Last week I wrote:

This love is a holy, sanctified emotion. It is ahavah. It is agapē. Love is an emotion.

Question: In what language is love not an emotion? Is it possible to love God with all our heart and for our feelings to not be involved?

We are called to be emotionally engaged in love for God. Agapē is an emotion.

Perhaps it would be wise to ask God for help to agapē Him more.

Here’s one of my favorite verses offered for your consideration:

But if anyone loves (agapē) God, he is known by Him. (1 Corinthians 8:3)

Daily Bread, reading plan by Lars Enarson (https://www.thewatchman.org/)
24 Sh’vat Shabbat 3-Feb-24 Parashat Yitro
Exodus 20:18-26[15-23] Isaiah 6:1-7:6; 9:6-7[5-6]