A greek word literally meaning "Love", used in the context of kinship. Plato's Republic uses agape to explain the bond between citizens of the same class in the same polis.

The most moving speech I ever saw Jimmy Carter give was at a church one Sunday morning back in the mid-80's. He spoke about the concept of agape. It wasn't so much what he said; it was the fact that he actually convinced me that he meant what he was saying. I found that to be quite refreshing, coming from a politician.

Can you imagine for one silly second hearing Bill Clinton say what he actually means? Well, you couldn't show it on the nightly news anyway, so it wouldn't matter.

Jimmy Carter had me spellbound discussing this concept of love as not meaning "love for your family" or "love for your fellow citizen," but love for the person you hate the most.

The Greek word for sacrificial and selfless love, as distinct from philos and eros. It speaks of one soul being bound up with another. It is a love of commitment and true devotion, and also of sacrifice. It's also truly unconditional, given without expectation of return.

Of the three "types" of love, agape is the hardest to come by and takes the longest to achieve between two people. In marriage, it's the opposite of divorce. In the New Testament, it's the kind of love God has for his human children and sends Jesus to fulfill. If you receive it, you know you never have to question it. And if you give it, you know that it can never be changed, no matter how angry you may be today or yesterday or tomorrow.

Agape is not a "superior" love to philos or eros, though. That would imply that those forms of love are needed first for agape to be present. On the contrary, it's possible to devote yourself to someone you aren't attracted to, and you can be willing to sacrifice yourself for somone you consider an enemy. Unconditional love is possible outside of marriage and God. It's just a lot harder to come by.

This is what the "An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon Founded upon the Seventh Edition of Liddell and Scott's Greek-English Lexicon" of the Oxford University Press has to say of 'agape':

Agape, fem. love: esp. brotherly love, charity; the love of God for man and of man for God (New Testament) II. in pl. a love feast, lb. (Derivation uncertain)

The verbs are:

Agapao, (I'll skip the conjugation info...) I. of persons, to treat with affection, to caress, love, be fond of, cum accusativus, Att. form for agapazo, used by Plato etc. :-Passive, to be beloved, ld. used by Demosthenes. 2. in New Testament, to regard with brotherly love verb of agape II. of things, to be well pleased or contented at or with a thing, cum dativus, used by Demosthenes etc. :-also cum accusativus rei, ld. ;-absolute use, to be content, used by Lucian :-ag, hoti.., ei.., ean.., to be well pleased that .. used by Thucydides etc.

Agapazo Epic and Dor. form of agapao (I'll skip the conjugation info again) to treat with affection, shew affection to a person, caress cum accusativus, used be Homer :-so in Medium, used in the Odyssey.

A*gape" (#), adv. & a. [Pref. a- + gape.]

Gaping, as with wonder, expectation, or eager attention.

Dazzles the crowd and sets them all agape. Milton.


© Webster 1913.

Ag"a*pe (#), n.; pl. Agapae (#). [Gr. love, pl. .]

The love feast of the primitive Christians, being a meal partaken of in connection with the communion.


© Webster 1913.

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