I recently read an article which talked about how “agape” is God’s kind of love. I hear this a lot and I’m sure many of you have as well. I offer the following from D.A. Carson’s book Exegetical Fallacies.I’ve said before I think this book should be read by every seminary student. It wouldn’t hurt if a few small group leaders read it as well.
“In 2 Samuel 13 (LXX) both ἀγαπάτω (agapαō, to love) and the cognate ἀγάπη (agapē, love) can refer to Ammon’s incestuous rape of his half sister Tamar (2 Sam. 13:15, LXX). When we read that Demas forsook Paul because he loved this present, evil world, there is no linguistic reason to be surprised that the verb ἀγαπάτω (agapαō, 2 Tim. 4:10). John 3:35 records that the Father loves the Son and uses the verb ἀγαπάτω (agapαō); John 5:20 repeats the thought, but uses φίλέω (phileō)–without any discernable shift in meaning. The false assumptions surrounding this pair of words are ubiquitous; and so I shall return to them again. My only point here is that there is nothing intrinsic to the verb ἀγαπάτω (agapαō) or the noun ἀγάπη (agapē) to prove its real meaning or hidden meaning refers to some special kind of love.” (32)
In typical Carson fashion he provides a nice caveat in a later footnote.
“Perhaps I should add that I am not suggesting there is nothing distinctive about God’s love. The Scriptures insist there is. But the content of God’s love is not connected on a one-to-one basis with the semantic range of any single word or word group. What the Bible has to say about the love of God is conveyed by sentences, paragraphs, discourses, and so forth; that is, by larger semantic units than the word.” (53n65)