What Is Love of God?
The Greek term agape is applied both to the love that human beings have for God and to the love that God has for man.
The Old Testament uses a rich vocabulary to express the love of God, as a concept that appears in many instances. The Lord expresses his love through the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah and says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving kindness” (Jeremiah 31:3). However, the exegesis of the love of God in the Old Testament has presented problems for modern scholars. The love of God appears in a number of texts (e.g. Hosea 1–3, and then in Ezek 16 and Isa 62) but resolving the references to produce a consistent interpretation has been challenging and subject to debate.
Both the terms love of God and love of Christ appear in the New Testament. In cases such as in Romans 8:35 and Romans 8:39 their use is related in the experience of the believer, without asserting their equality. In John 14:31 Jesus expresses his love for God the Father. This verse includes the only direct statement by Jesus in the New Testament about Jesus’ love for God the Father.
In polytheism, that which is loved by the gods (τὸ θεοφιλές) was identified as the virtuous or pious. Socrates famously asked whether this identification is a tautology (see Euthyphro dilemma).
“Philotheos” and “theophilos”
In Greek, philotheos means “loving God, pious”, as philosophos means a lover of wisdom (sophia). 2 Timothy 3:4, using the word philotheos in the plural form, speaks of certain people as φιλήδονοι μᾶλλον ἢ φιλόθεοι (lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God). The word Theophilos was and is used as a proper name, but does not appear as an adjective or common noun in Greek, which uses instead the form theophilês, which means “dear to God” but also “loving God”.
However, Eric Voegelin used theophilos to mean “lover of God”: “In the Phaedrus, Plato has Socrates describe the characteristics of the true thinker. When Phaedrus asks what one should call such a man, Socrates, following Heraclitus, replies that the term sophos, one who knows, would be excessive: this attribute may be applied to God alone: but one might well call him philosophos, a lover of wisdom. Thus in the classic sense and reference of ‘philosophy’, actual knowledge is reserved to God; finite man can only be the lover of knowledge, not himself the one who possesses knowledge. In the meaning of the passage, the lover of the knowledge that belongs only to the knowing God, the philosophos, becomes the theophilos, the lover of God.”
In Hinduism, in contrast to kāma, which is selfish, or pleasurable love, prema – or prem – refers to elevated love. Karuna is compassion and mercy, which impels one to help reduce the suffering of others. Bhakti is a Sanskrit term, meaning “loving devotion to the supreme God”. A person who practices bhakti is called a bhakta. Hindu writers, theologians, and philosophers have distinguished nine forms of bhakti, which can be found in the Bhagavata Purana and works by Tulsidas. The philosophical work Narada Bhakti Sutras, written by an unknown author (presumed to be Narada), distinguishes eleven forms of love.
On the mystic side of Hinduism, one of the forms of Yoga includes Ishvarapranidhana, or self-surrender to God, and his worship.
Devotees of Krishna worship him in different emotional, transcendental raptures, known as rasas. Two major systems of Krishna worship developed, each with its own philosophical system. These two systems are aishwaryamaya bhakti and madhuryamaya bhakti. Aishwaryamaya bhakti is revealed in the abode of queens and kingdom of Krishna in Dwaraka. Madhuryamaya Bhakti is revealed in the abode of Braja. Thus Krishna is variously worshipped according to the development of devotee’s taste in worshipping the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krishna, as father, friend, master, beloved and many different varieties which are all extraordinary. Krishna is famous as Makhanchor, or butter thief. He loved to eat butter and is the beloved of his little village in Gokul. These are all transcendental descriptions. Thus they are revealed to the sincere devotees in proportion to the development in their love of Godhead. Vaishnavism is a form of monotheism, sometimes described as ‘polymorphic monotheism’, with implication that there are many forms of one original deity, defined as belief in a single unitary deity who takes many forms. In Krishnaism this deity is Krishna, sometimes referred as intimate deity – as compared with the numerous four-armed forms of Narayana or Vishnu. It may refer to either of the interrelated concepts of the love of God towards creation, the love of creatures towards God or relationship between the two as in bhakti.
The love of God, and the fear of God, are two of the foundations of Islam. The highest spiritual attainment in Islam is related to the love of God. “Yet there are men who take (for worship) others besides God, as equal (with God): They love them as they should love God. But those of Faith are overflowing in their love for God.” (Quran 2:165)Another Islamic concept is that Gods love leads towards good deeds “And feed with food the needy, the orphan and the prisoner, for love of Him (ie. God).”
Islam, as Christianity, has numerous mystics and traditions about the love of God, as in:
- “O lovers! The religion of the love of God is not found in Islam alone.
- In the realm of love, there is neither belief, nor unbelief.” (Rumi)
The concept of Divine Love, known as Ishq-e-Haqeeqi (Persian), is elaborated by many great Muslim saints to date. Some Sufi writers and poets may have taken human love as a metaphor to define Divine Love but the prominent mystics explain the concept in its entirety and reveal its hardcore reality. Rabia Basri, the famous 7th century mystic, is known as the first female to have set the doctrine of Divine Love. In Islamic Sufism, Ishq means to love God selflessly and unconditionally. For Rumi, ‘Sufism’ itself is Ishq and not the path of asceticism (zuhd). According to Sultan Bahoo, Ishq means to serve God by devoting one’s entire life to Him and asking no reward in return.
The love of God has been called the “essence of Judaism”. “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” (Deut 6:5)
Goethe expresses the sentiment of love of God alongside the opposite sentiment of hatred of God in his two poems Ganymed and Prometheus, respectively.
- Liddell and Scott: φιλοθεΐα
- Liddell and Scott: θεοφιλία
- Liddell and Scott: θεόφιλος (refers the reader to θεοφίλητος
- Liddell and Scott: θεοφίλητος
- TeofilArchived 2010-12-03 at the Wayback Machine
- The Baby Name Bible: The Ultimate Guide
- TheophilosArchived 2011-07-07 at the Wayback Machine
- ἀγάπη, Liddell and Scott: Greek-English Lexicon, Oxford: Clarendon Press
- Smith, Peter (2000). “love”. A concise encyclopedia of the Bahá’í Faith. Oxford: Oneworld Publications. pp. 227–228. ISBN1-85168-184-1.
- Hatcher, W.S.; Martin, J.D. (1989). The Bahá’í Faith: The Emerging Global Religion. New York, New York: Harper & Row. pp. 100–101. ISBN0-06-065441-4.
- `Abdu’l-Bahá (1912). Paris Talks. Bahá’í Distribution Service (published 1995). pp. 82–83. ISBN1-870989-57-0.
- Theology of the Old Testament, Volume One by Walther Eichrodt 1961 ISBN0-664-22308-7 pages 250–251
- “God in Old Testament / God in New Testament”. WELS Topical Q&A. Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. Archived from the original on 2 January 2008. Retrieved 29 Jan 2015.
- Theologies in the Old Testament by Erhard Gerstenberger 2007 ISBN0-567-08812-X page 87
- The Epistle to the Romans by Douglas J. Moo 1996 ISBN0-8028-2317-3 page 547
- Preaching the Gospel of John: proclaiming the living Word by Lamar Williamson 2004 ISBN0-664-22533-0 page 192
- The word does not appear in the great Liddell-Scott-Jones Greek-English Lexicon
- Eric Voegelin, Science, Politics, and Gnosticism (ISI Books ISBN1-932236-48-1), p. 41
- Scheweig, (2004) pp. 13–17
- Rumi’s Quatrain no. 768, translated by Gamard & Farhadi. Versions of this quatrain have been made by Shahram Shiva, “Hush: Don’t Tell God”, p. 17 and by Azima Kolin (based on Mafi), “Rumi: Whispers of the Beloved”, p. 71. [`âshiq to yaqîn dân, ke musulmân na-bûd dar maZhab-é `ishq, kufr-o îmân na-bûd]
- Regunathan, Sudhamahi (29 Nov 2010). “Rabia Basri and her Divine Love”. New Age Islam.
- Seyed Ghahreman Safavi, Simon Weightman. Rumi’s Mystical Design: Reading the Mathnawi Book One. SUNY Press. ISBN978-1-438-42796-6.
- Sult̤ān Mohammad Najib-ur-Rehman. Sultan Bahoo: The Life and Teachings. Sultan-ul-Faqr Publications. ISBN978-9-699-79518-3.
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