What is agape 1


The Agape (Greek αγάπη; Latin the caritas) denotes a Greek word for love, which through the New Testament has also become a fixed term outside of the Greek, but which in terms of meaning (even earlier) clearly differs from Eros, Stoika and Philia.


The Greek verb agapao means 'be satisfied with something' , but also 'treat someone with respect, prefer'. Plotinus used the term for the descending love: a free doing, emanating from the subject, whereby the lesser is exalted, while the rising love, Eros, is a state of being determined by something that does not emanate from the subject and the urge for this something (in: Plotinus, Enneads, 253-269).


Every time the Greek word agape is used in the New Testament, it means God's pure and divine love without exception. Its characteristic: Agape is the only unconditional, one-sided, liberating love that is centered on others.

The deeper meaning of the word agape in German can only be guessed at: it does not directly mean the type of love that is usually associated with the term “love” in German usage, but rather a higher form of it, a spiritual and “metaphysical” connection between people. Agape is not about (exclusive) partnership love, but about (inclusive) communal love.

The most apt description is: Agape is the unselfish giving of love.

Agape is unselfish love without wanting to abuse the other for his own ends. Agape is the devotional love of one who seeks only the good of the other; the word “Eros”, on the other hand, means the love of those who are oppressed by want and who long for union with what is longed for. The love with which God surrounds us corresponds to agape.[1]

For Christians this means love for one's neighbor, love for God above all else and God's love for people. It is the very highest of the three highest theological virtues: faith, hope and love, 1 Cor. 13.13. Agape is the disinterested love that loves even its enemies. Compare the words of Jesus on the cross: "Lord, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing."

In 1 Cor. 13, 1-13, also known as The Song of Songs of Love Paul gives a detailed description of agape.

Agape as a love feast

In the first letter to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul criticized their practice that everyone only ate what they had brought to the agape (love supper) and no longer shared it, so that differences between the actually same parishioners became visible (the parish saw itself in agape and Eucharist as 'one flesh' because they had tasted of the 'one bread', the body of Jesus Christ).

In the early Church, agape was synonymous with the Eucharist. The Christians brought food and wine with them, which were blessed and then consumed together. In this way, the agape fulfilled not only the ritual but also a charitable one. The practice of the Eucharist as the satiation meal probably originates from the Jewish Kiddush celebrations on the Sabbath. At least in liberal Jewish communities there is a meal after the service.

Today, 'agape' is also used to denote a saturation meal for the Christian community, for example following a service.


  1. ↑ Wikipedia: The Holy See: Message for Lent 2007 November 21, 2006


  • Heinrich Scholz, Eros and Caritas. Platonic love and love in the sense of Christianity, Hall 1931
  • Anders Nygren, Eros and agape. Changes in the shape of Christian love I., 1930, pp. 45-137
  • Pope Benedict XVI, encyclical "Deus Caritas est", December 25, 2005 (published January 25, 2006)
  • Nancy Missler, "The Way of Agape"