Agape

Love

General Information

{ ah - gah - pay } Agape is a Greek word translated in the New Testament of the Bible as "love" or "charity." Agape is ranked by Christian moral theologians with faith and hope as a basic virtue, and Saint Paul called it the greatest of the virtues.

The name agape was given, also, to an early Christian love feast, an evening communal meal held in connection with the Lord's Supper. Its origin is found in the chaburah, a fellowship meal of late Judaism. If, as is probable, the chaburah was observed by Jesus and his disciples, its adoption by the young Christian church was entirely natural. At the agape, food brought by the people was solemnly blessed in advance of the repast. The Eucharist (consecration of bread and wine) either preceded or followed the agape. About the beginning of the 2nd century the Eucharist was detached from the communal meal and transferred to the early morning. The agape lingered in some Christian communities until the 3rd century.

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Love / Agape

Advanced Information

Asked which is the greatest commandment, Jesus replied, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and prophets" (Matt. 22:37-40; cf. Mark 12:2-31; Luke 10:26-27). According to Mark 12:31 Jesus stated that there is no other command greater than these two commands. Hence, love is of preeminent importance in the Bible.

Biblical Terms

OT

There are many Hebrew words to express the concept of love. By far the most prominent one (used over two hundred times) is the verb aheb, denoting both divine and human love as well as love toward inanimate objects such as food (Gen. 27:4), wisdom (Prov. 4:6), sleep (Prov. 20:13), agriculture (II Chr. 26:10), and the good (Amos 5:15). The noun ahaba (used about thirty times) is used primarily of human love, as seen in its frequent use in Song of Solomon, although it is also used of divine love (Isa. 63:9; Jer. 31:3; Hos. 11:4; Zeph. 3:17). Another frequently used word (over forty times), the noun dod, has the sexual sense of a man being addressed as "lover" or "beloved"; it is frequently used in the Song of Solomon (e.g., 1:13, 14, 16; 2:3). Finally, there is the often used noun, hesed, which is translated most of the time as "mercy" in the AV, "steadfast love" in the RSV, "lovingkindness" in the NASB, and "love" in the NIV, all of which have the idea of loyal covenantal love.

NT

There are several words for love in the Greek language, but only two are used with any frequency in the NT. Although not prominent in prebiblical Greek, the verb agapao/noun agape is the most common NT word for love. This verb/noun combination is the most frequently used in the LXX in translating aheb/ahabah. Basically it is a self-giving love that is not merited. The second most frequently used word for love in the NT is the verb phileo. It is the most common word for love in prebiblical Greek, but it is not often used in the LXX. Although this word overlaps with agapao/agape, it is a love with affection in connection with friendship. Its derivatives such as philos, friend (used twenty-nine times), and philia, friendship (used only in James 4:4), support this connotation. It is a love that is warm and merited. Two common Greek words for love are never used in the NT: storge, having the idea of family love or affection, as borne out by the negative adjective astorgos used only in Rom. 1:31 and II Tim. 3:3; and eros, expressing a possessive love and used mainly of physical love. In contrast to agape, "eros has two principal characteristics: it is a love of the worthy and it is a love that desires to possess. Agape is in contrast at both points: it is not a love of the worthy, and it is not a love that desires to possess. On the contrary, it is a love given quite irrespective of merit, and it is a love that seeks to give" (Leon Morris, Testaments of Love, p. 128). Although eros does not always have a bad connotation, certainly agapao/agape is far more lofty in that it seeks the highest good in the one loved, even though that one may be undeserving, and hence its prominence in the Bible can be understood.

Love of God

The Attribute of Love

God in his very essence is described as being not only holy (Lev. 11:44-45; 19:2; I Pet. 1:16), spirit (John 4:24), light (I John 1:5), and a consuming fire (Deut. 4:24; Heb. 12:29); God is also love (I John 4:8, 16). God does not need to attain nor attempt to maintain love; it is the very substance and nature of God. Bultmann rightly states: "The sentence cannot be reversed to read, 'Love is God.' In that case, 'love' would be presupposed as a universal human possibility, from which a knowledge of the nature of God could be derived" (The Johannine Epistles, p. 66). It is from this very essence of God's being that the activity of love springs.

The Activity of Love

This comes from God's nature of love. "To say, 'God is love' implies that all His activity is loving activity. If He creates, He creates in love; if He rules, He rules in love; if He judges, He judges in love" (C. H. Dodd, The Johannine Epistles, p. 110).

(1) Love within the Godhead. For man to understand love, he must perceive its activity within the Godhead. Many verses speak of the Father's love for the Son; however, only John 14:31 explicitly states that Jesus loved the Father. Certainly other passages imply Jesus' love for the Father. Love is demonstrated by the keeping of commandments (John 14:31; cf. vss. 15, 21, 23). Christ alone has seen the Father (John 3:11, 32; 6:46) and known him (Matt. 11:27; Luke 10:22; John 7:29; 8:55; 10:15). They are united to one another (John 10:30, 38; 14:10-11, 20; 17:21-23). Although there are no verses that speak explicitly of the Holy Spirit's love for the other two persons of the Trinity, it is implied in John 16:13-15, where Jesus says that the Spirit will not speak from himself, as Jesus did not speak from himself (John 12:49; 14:10), but will speak and disclose what he hears from Christ and the Father. There is, therefore, a demonstration of love within the Godhead.

(2) Love toward man. In the OT the expression of God's love for man is indicated in four ways. First, the simple statement of God's love for man is given in a few places (e.g., Deut. 10:18; 33:3; I Kings 10:9; Isa. 43:4; 63:9; Jer. 31:3; Hos. 14:4; Zeph. 3:17). Second, there is God's electing love for the nation of Israel (e.g., Deut. 4:37; 7:6-8; 10:15; Hos. 3:1; 11:1, 4; Mal. 1:2). Third, there is the covenant love, which is a loyal or steadfast love (hesed; e.g., Exod. 20:6; Deut. 5:10; 7:9, 12; I Kings 8:23; II Chr. 6:14; Neh. 1:5; 9:32; Ps. 89:28; Dan. 9:4). This love is readily seen in Ps. 106:45: "And he remembered his covenant for their sake, and relented according to the greatness of his loving kindness." God's covenant with Israel gives assurance of his love toward them (Isa. 54:10). Finally, there are a few references that speak specifically of God's love toward individuals (e.g., Solomon in II Sam. 12:24 and Neh. 13:26; Ezra in Ezra 7:28; Cyrus [?] in Isa. 48:14). Although the OT references to God's love toward man are not many, there are a sufficient number from various portions of the OT to adequately confirm it.

The NT is replete with references of God's love for man. A central passage demonstrating this is I John 4:10: "In this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." The demonstration of God's love for man is seen in each of the persons of the Trinity. Those who keep Christ's commandments evidence their love for him and they are loved by the Father (John 14:21, 23; 16:27). As the Father loves Christ, so also he loves the believer (John 17:23). The love of the Father for the believer is assured (Eph. 6:23; II Thess. 2:16; I John 3:1). When God is mentioned, it almost invariably refers to the Father. This is emphasized when some gift or blessing given to the believer is also mentioned, because the gift is usually his Son (e.g., John 3:16; Rom. 5:8; I John 4:9-10, 16) or the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5). There are many references to Christ's love for man. While on earth Christ loved Lazarus, Mary, and Martha (John 11:3, 5, 36). There is his love for John the apostle (John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7, 20) and for the disciples as a group (John 13:34; 14:21; 15:9, 12). Christ's death is the evidence of his love for the believer (II Cor. 5:14; Gal. 2:20; Eph. 5:2; I Tim. 1:14-15; I John 3:16). In his ascension there is an assurance of his love for believers individually (Rom. 8:35, 37; Eph. 6:23) as well as the church as a body (Eph. 5:25). Finally, the Holy Spirit's love for the believer is mentioned in Rom. 15:30.

In conclusion, the love of God toward man is seen throughout the Bible. It is a love that is unselfish and unmerited. The epitome of this is seen in God's love for sinners who were his enemies and deserved nothing except his wrath, but instead he sent Christ to die for them in order that they might become the sons of God (Rom. 5:6-11; II Cor. 5:14-21). It is God's love that serves as a basis for man's love.

Love of Men

With the entrance of sin man has become a hater and enemy of God (Rom. 1:30; 5:10; John 15:18, 24-25). But because God initiated his love by sending his Son, believers are exhorted, on the basis of God's own love, to love one another (I John 4:10-11, 19). The source of this love is God (I John 4:7-9) and not man. This is substantiated in Gal. 5:22, where it is seen as the fruit of the Holy Spirit. The words immediately following love, "joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control", further describe the character of love rather than other fruit of the Spirit, for the "fruit" and the verb are singular and the context is about love (cf. VSS. 5, 13, 14). This is further confirmed when one analyzes the love chapter (I Cor. 13) and notices that the words used to describe love are the same or similar words as used in Gal. 5:22-23 (many times the noun form in Gal. 5 is the verb form in I Cor. 13). In these passages love is described as being unselfish and sacrificial with no condition of expecting the same in return. It is love that is given and not deserved. God's love is so, and man having experienced God's love is to exhibit this in two directions, namely, toward God and toward man. This is what is commanded in the Bible (Matt. 22: 37-40; Mark 12:29-31; Luke 10:26-27).

Love Toward God

In the OT God commands man to love God with his whole being (Deut. 6:5; 10:12; 11:1, 13, 22; 13:3; 30:6, 16; Josh. 22:5; 23:11; Ps. 31:23), and there are a few explicit references indicating man's love for God (I Kings 3:3; Pss. 5:11; 18:1; 91:14; 116:1; Isa. 56:6). In the NT outside of Jesus' quoting the OT command to love God (Matt. 22:37; Mark 12:30, 33; Luke 10:27) there are no explicit commands for man to love God (possibly I Cor. 16:22; II Thess. 3:5). Only a few passages are concerned with man's response of love toward God (John 21:15-17; I Pet. 1:8; I John 5:2; cf. I John 4:20-21). The references to man's love toward God are comparatively few possibly because it would seem normal for man to love God, who has done so much for him, and because man has experienced God's love. However, the command to love God is important because it shows that God is approachable and desires the dynamic relationship involved in love.

Love Toward Man

The two greatest commandments indicate that man is to love his fellow man as well as God. Although there are not many verses that speak of man's love for God, the Scriptures abound with statements of man's love toward his fellows. This is seen in four ways.

(1) Love for neighbor. The command to love one's neighbor is stated often, first in Lev. 19:18, which is then quoted several times in the NT (Matt. 5:43; 19:19; 22:39; Mark 12:31, 33; Rom. 13:9; Gal. 5:14; James 2:8). Paul states that love for the neighbor is the fulfillment of the law (Rom. 13:8, 10). In giving the command to love one's neighbor, Jesus made it clear in the parable of the good Samaritan that one's neighbors are more than those who are acquaintances or of the same nationality (Luke 10:27-37). This is in keeping with the OT for Moses enjoined the Israelites to love the stranger or alien (Deut. 10:19). Man is to be concerned with other men as God is concerned with man. The command is to love the neighbor to the degree that one loves himself. Since man is basically selfish and is concerned about himself, he should have that same degree of concern for his neighbor.

(2) Love for one's fellow believer. In Gal. 6:10 Paul exhorts the believers to do good to all men and especially to those who are of the household of faith. The believer should love his neighbor, whoever that might be, but he must have a real and deep concern and love for those who are fellow believers. In the OT this is seen in Lev. 19:17-18, where the neighbor is the fellow countryman of the covenanted nation Israel or one who was of the same faith. In the NT, there is to be a definite love between believers. Jesus gave a new commandment: that the believers were to love one another as he had loved them (John 13:34-35; 15:12, 17; cf. I John 3:23; 5:2; II John 5). The command to love one another was not new, but to love one another as Christ had loved them was a new command. This is further elaborated in I John. One who loves his brother abides in light (2:10) and God abides in him (4:12). In fact, one who does not love his brother cannot love God (4:20). The source of love is God (4:7), and because of God's love one should love his brother (3:11; 4:11).

Outside the Johannine literature there is the same command to love the brother in the faith (Eph. 5:2; I Thess. 4:9; 5:13; I Tim. 4:12; Heb. 10:24; 13:1; I Pet. 2:17). This was to be done fervently (Rom. 12:10; I Pet. 1:22; 4:8) and with forbearance (Eph. 4:2), serving one another (Gal. 5:13). Paul loved the believers (I Cor. 16:24; II Cor. 2:4; 11:11; 12:15) and was happy when he heard of the saints' love for one another (Eph. 1:15; Col. 1:4; II Thess. 1:3; Philem. 5; cf. Heb. 6:10). Hence one sees that love for the brother was a dominant theme in the early church. It was evidence to the world that they were truly the disciples of Christ (John 13:35).

(3) Love for family. The Scriptures have a few commands and ample illustrations of love within the family. Husbands are commanded to love their wives (Col. 3:19) as Christ loves the church (Eph. 5:25-33; cf. Eccles. 9:9; Hos. 3:1). The love of the husband for the wife is seen in several accounts (Gen. 24:67; 29:18, 20, 30; II Chr. 11:21; Song of S. 4:10; 7:6). Only one time are wives commanded to love their husbands (Titus 2:4) and in only Song of S. is it mentioned (1:7; 3:1-4; 7:12). Certainly the wife's submission to the husband is evidence of her love for him (Eph. 5:22-24; I Pet. 3:1-6). Also, only once is there a command for parents to love their children, specifically for young wives to love their children (Titus 2:4), but there are several illustrations of such love in the OT (Gen. 22:2; 25:28; 37:3; 44:20; Exod. 21:5). Interestingly, there is no command or example of children loving their parents. However, there is the oft-repeated command for children to honor and obey their parents, which would be evidence of their love for their parents (e.g., Exod. 20:12; Deut. 5:16; Prov. 1:8; Matt. 19:19; Mark 10:19; Luke 18:20; Eph. 6:1; Col. 3:20). In conclusion, although not much is spoken about love within the natural family, it can be assumed that this love would be expected; anyone who does not take care of his family is considered a denier of the faith and worse than an unbeliever (I Tim. 5:8).

(4) Love for enemies. Jesus commanded his followers to love their enemies (Matt. 5:43-48; Luke 6:27-35). This love is demonstrated by blessing those who curse them, praying for those who mistreat them, and giving generously to them. This shows that love is more than friendship based on mutual admiration; it is an act of charity toward one who is hostile and has shown no lovableness. Jesus reminded the disciples that it is natural to love those who love them, but to love their enemies is a real act of charity; it is to be a mark of his disciples as opposed to those who are sinners or Gentiles. An example of this love is seen in God's love and kindness toward evil men by sending them sun and rain as he does for those who love him. The NT epistles reiterate that rather than seeking revenge, believers are to love those who hate and persecute them (Rom. 12:14, 17-21; I Thess. 5:15; I Pet. 3:9).

Conclusion

God in his very essence is love, hence love is expressed toward the underserving. John 3:16 states this unforgettably: though man has repudiated him God loves the world, and the extent of his love was the sacrifice of his own Son, Jesus Christ, who was willing to lay down his life. On the basis of God's love the believer is enjoined to love God, who is deserving, and to love his fellow man and even his enemy, who are underserving. God's love is not only basic but it continually extends to the underserving and unloving, as seen in his continuing love for the wayward believer in both the OT and NT. Thus there is a deep loyalty in God's love toward the undeserving, and this is the basis of God's command for man's love. Therefore, God's love is seeking the highest good in the one loved, and man is enjoined to seek the highest good or the will of God in the one loved.

H W Hoehner
(Elwell Evangelical Dictionary)

Bibliography
C. Brown, W. Gunther, and H.-G. Link, NIDNTT, II, 538-51; M. C. D'Arcy, The Mind and Heart of Love; V. P. Furnish, The Love Command in the NT; V. R. Good, IDB, III, 164-68; W. Harrelson, "The Idea of Agape in the NT," JR 31:169-82; G. Johnston, IDB, III, 168-78; W. Klassen, IDB Supplement, 557-58; H. Montefiore, "Thou Shalt Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself," NovT 5:157-70; L. Morris, Testaments of Love; A. Nygren, Agape and Eros; G. Outka, Agape: An Ethical Analysis; F. H. Palmer, NBC, 752-54; J. Piper, Love Your Enemies; G. Quell and E. Stauffer, TDNT, I, 21-55; O. J. F. Seitz, "Love Your Enemies," NTS 16: 39-54; M. H. Shepherd, Jr., IDB, I, 53-54; N. H. Snaith, The Distinctive Ideas of the OT; C. Spicq, Agape in the NT, 3 vols.; G. Stahlin, TDNT, IX, 113-71; B. B. Warfield, "The Terminology of Love in the NT," PTR 16:1-45, 153-203; D. D. Williams, The Spirit and the Forms of Love.


Love Feast

Advanced Information

In the NT

The brotherly love between Christians which was enjoined by Jesus (John 13:34; Gr. agape) found its expression in three practical ways. It was commonly exercised in almsgiving; hence on twenty-six occasions agape is translated in the AV "charity." In church gatherings and in Christian greetings it was displayed played by the kiss (I Pet. 5:14; see also Rom. 16:16; I Cor. 16:20; II Cor. 13:12; I Thess. 5:26). And gradually the term came to be applied to a common meal shared by believers. Although these meals are called agapai only in Jude 12 and possibly II Pet. 2:13, where there is a variant reading of agapais for apatais ("deceivings"), there is a considerable amount of other evidence for their existence in the early church.

In Acts 2:42-47 there is an account of the early form of "communism" practiced by the believers, which includes breaking bread from house to house and eating their meat (Gr. trophe) with gladness and singleness of heart. The first phrase may refer to the administration of the Lord's Supper, but the second obviously indicates a full meal. Similar "communistic" behavior is mentioned in Acts 4:32. By the time of Acts 6:1ff. the increase of disciples in the Jerusalem church led to the appointment of the seven to serve tables, which presumably refers to the responsibility for arranging the common meals. R. L. Cole (Love-Feasts, A History of the Christian Agape) suggests that this number was selected in order that each one might be responsible for a different day of the week. This arrangement arose from the complaint of the hellenists that their windows were being neglected, and so would indicate that already these common meals were being held for charitable purposes, as was indeed the custom later.

When Paul was at Troas (Acts 20:6-12) there took place on the first day of the week both a "breaking of bread" and a full meal (which idea is contained in the verb geusamenos, used here for eating, cf. Acts 10:10). Both here and in 2:42 it is difficult to determine whether the phrase "breaking of bread" denotes a common meal or is a more restricted reference to the Lord's Supper: whenever these words occur together in the Gospels they describe the action of Jesus (Matt. 26:26; Mark 14:22; Luke 22:19; 24:30, 35). Certainly by the time of Paul's writing to the Corinthians (ca. A.D. 55) it is evident that that church observed the practice of meeting together for a common meal before partaking of the Lord's Supper (I Cor. 11:17-34). This custom, however, does not appear to have been observed always in the spirit of agape, for the apostle complains that some make it an excuse for gluttony, while others go without: in vs. 21 to idion deipnon may refer to the fact that they refused to pool their food, or that from such a pool each took as much as possible for himself. At all events the situation described here is possible only in the context of a meal more substantial than, and preceding, the bread and wine of the Lord's Supper.

Various theories have been put forward suggesting that the agape was a development from pagan guilds or Jewish common meals, or that it was necessitated by the common desire to avoid meats offered to idols. From the fact that most early Christian paintings found in the catacombs depicting the agape show seven persons partaking, Cole argues that the custom developed from the incident on the shore of Tiberias, where Jesus shared the breakfast meal with seven of his disciples (John 21), and that the conversation with Peter on that occasion supplied the title of agape for this meal. It is equally possible that the meal may have arisen from a desire to perpetuate the table fellowship which the apostles had enjoyed during their Lord's earthly life, and that later, as the church grew and communal living became impossible, the common meal was continued before the Lord's Supper in an effort to place the receiving of that sacrament in its historical context. The fact that the Johannine account points to the giving of the new commandment of mutual agape at that meal (John 13:34) would be sufficient reason for the application of that name to the rite.

In Church History

Ignatius (Smyr. 8:2) refers to the agape, as does the Didache (x.1 and xi.9), the latter suggesting that it still preceded the Eucharist. By the time of Tertullian (Apology xxxix; De Jejuniis xvii; De Corona Militis iii) the Eucharist was celebrated early and the agape later at a separate service, and this may be the practice referred to by Pliny in his letter to Trajan (Epistles x.96), though his information is not altogether clear. Clement of Alexandria (Paedagogos ii. 1 and Stromata iii.2) gives evidence also of the separation of the two observances. Chrysostom (Homily xxvii on I Cor. 11:17) agrees with the order mentioned by Tertullian, but while he calls the agape "a custom most beautiful and beneficial; for it was a supporter of love, a solace of poverty, and a discipline of humility," he does add that by his day it had become corrupt. In times of persecution the custom grew up of celebrating agapai in prison with condemned martyrs on the eve of their execution (see the Passion of Perpetua and Felicitas xvii.1, and Lucian De Morte Peregrini xii), whence developed the practice of holding commemorative agapai on the anniversaries of their deaths, and these gave rise to the feasts and vigils which are observed today. Agapai also took place on the occasion of weddings (Gregory of Nazianzus Epistles i.14) and funerals (Apostolic Constitutions viii.42).

During the fourth century the agape became increasingly the object of disfavor, apparently because of disorders at the celebration and also because problems were raised by the expanding membership of the church, and an increasing emphasis was being placed on the Eucharist. Augustine mentions its disuse (Ep. ad Aurelium xxii.4; see also Confessions vi.2), and Canons 27 and 28 of the Council of Laodicea (363) restricted the abuses. The Third Council of Carthage (393) and the Second Council of Orleans (541) reiterated this legislation, which prohibited feasting in churches, and the Trullan Council of 692 decreed that honey and milk were not to be offered on the altar (Canon 57), and that those who held love feasts in churches should be excommunicated (Canon 74).

There is evidence that bread and wine (Didache), vegetables and salt (Acts of Paul and Thecla xxv), fish (catacomb paintings), meat, poultry, cheese, milk, and honey (Augustine, contra Faustum xx.20), and pultes, "a pottage" (Augustine), were consumed on different occasions at the agape.

In Modern Times

In the Eastern Church the rite has persisted, and is still observed in sections of the Orthodox Church, where it precedes the Eucharist, and in the Church of St. Thomas in India. From the Eastern Church it was continued through the Church of Bohemia to John Hus and the Unitas Fratrum, whence it was adopted by the Moravians. From them John Wesley introduced the practice within Methodism (see references in his Journal), and it is occasionally observed today in Methodist churches. In the Anglican Prayer Book of 1662 the only survival is probably the collection of alms for the poor during the Communion service, but the practice of the sovereign's distribution of Maundy money is a relic of the agape, and in this connection it is interesting that the epistle appointed for Maundy Thursday is I Cor. 11:17-34. A modern attempt to revive the custom can be seen in the increasing practice of holding a "parish breakfast" following the early Communion service, and experiments at using the agape as an opportunity for interdenominational fellowship are described by Frank Baker in Methodism and the Love-Feast.

D H Wheaton
(Elwell Evangelical Dictionary)

See also LORD'S SUPPER.

Bibliography
D. Leclerq in Dictionnaire d'archelogie Chretienne; J. F. Keating, The Agape and the Eucharist in the Early Church; P. Battifol, Etudes d'histoire et de theologie positive; J. C. Lambert, Sacraments in the NT.


Lovingkindness

General Information

The translation of the Hebrew word hesed in the AV and ASV. The AV also followed the equivalent given in the Latin translation (misericordia), which is preceded by the usage of the LXX ("mercy"). Modern versions render hesed by "steadfast love," "unfailing love," "lovingkindness," and "love" (cf. RSV, NIV). The word hesed is found approximately 250 times in the Hebrew OT, and of these there are 125 instances in the Psalms.

The nature of the God of Israel is love. Even when Israel has sinned, they are assured that Yahweh is full of lovingkindness (Exod. 34:6; Num. 14:18; Joel 2:13; Ps. 86:5, 15), on which basis he can and does forgive the sin of his repentant people. The assurance of lovingkindness is given in the legal framework of the covenant. God's love is a distinctive love. Yahweh has promised to be loyal to Abraham and his descendants (Deut. 7:12). The relation between lovingkindness as an expression of commitment (loyalty) and truth ('emet) expressing faithfullness is so close that the words occur next to each other some sixteen times: hesed we'emet (Pss. 25:10; 89:14; cf. vs. 25 with 'emuna, "faithfulness"). The God of the covenant shows his convenantal faithfulness by his loving commitment to his people, regardless of their responsiveness or righteousness (Deut. 7: 7-8). As such, lovingkindness can be a synonym for covenant (Deut. 7:9, 12). The blessings are generally described as the divine benefits (Deut. 7:13-16). Hence, lovingkindness is not a mere relational term; it is active. The God who loves showers his benefits on his covenant people. He is active ('asa) in his love (Ps. 18:50; Deut. 5:10). His lovingkindness also finds expression in righteousness. Righteousness as a correlative to lovingkindness guarantees the ultimate triumph and reward of God's people, and also contains a warning that Yahweh does not tolerate sin, even though he may forbear for a long time. The quality of lovingkindness is also assured by its durability. It is from generation to generation (Exod. 34:7). Twenty-six times we are told that "his lovingkindness is forever" (cf. Pss. 106:1; 107:1; 118: 1-4; 136). He remembers his love, even when he for a period has withdrawn it in order to discipline (Ps. 98:3).

On the other hand, the God who is love also expects his people to be sanctified by demonstrating lovingkindness to their covenant God and to their fellow men. The call for a commitment of love to God finds expression in Deut. 6:5, and was repeated by our Lord (Matt. 22:37). Man's response to God's lovingkindness is love. On a horizontal plane the believer is called upon to show both lovingkindness (as David did, II Sam. 9:1, 3, 7) and love (Lev. 19:18, cf. Matt. 22:39). In man's response to lovingkindness and all that it entails, he shows that he belongs to the Heavenly Father (Matt. 5:44-48).

W A Van Gemeren
(Elwell Evangelical Dictionary)

Bibliography
N. H. Snaith, The Distinctive Ideas of the OT; L. J. Kuyper, "Grace and Truth," RR 16:1-16; N. Glueck, Hesed in the Bible; K. D. Sakenfeld, The Meaning of Hesed in the Hebrew Bible.


Lovingkindness

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Lovingkindness is the translation of the Hebrew word hesed in the AV and ASV. The AV also followed the equivalent given in the Latin translation (misericordia), which is preceded by the usage of the LXX ("mercy"). Modern versions render hesed by "steadfast love," "unfailing love," "lovingkindness," and "love" (cf. RSV, NIV). The word hesed is found approximately 250 times in the Hebrew OT, and of these there are 125 instances in the Psalms.

The nature of the God of Israel is love. Even when Israel has sinned, they are assured that Yahweh is full of lovingkindness (Exod. 34:6; Num. 14:18; Joel 2:13; Ps. 86:5, 15), on which basis he can and does forgive the sin of his repentant people. The assurance of lovingkindness is given in the legal framework of the covenant. God's love is a distinctive love. Yahweh has promised to be loyal to Abraham and his descendants (Deut. 7:12). The relation between lovingkindness as an expression of commitment (loyalty) and truth ('emet) expressing faithfullness is so close that the words occur next to each other some sixteen times: hesed we'emet (Pss. 25:10; 89:14; cf. vs. 25 with 'emuna, "faithfulness"). The God of the covenant shows his convenantal faithfulness by his loving commitment to his people, regardless of their responsiveness or righteousness (Deut. 7: 7-8). As such, lovingkindness can be a synonym for covenant (Deut. 7:9, 12). The blessings are generally described as the divine benefits (Deut. 7:13-16). Hence, lovingkindness is not a mere relational term; it is active. The God who loves showers his benefits on his covenant people. He is active ('asa) in his love (Ps. 18:50; Deut. 5:10). His lovingkindness also finds expression in righteousness. Righteousness as a correlative to lovingkindness guarantees the ultimate triumph and reward of God's people, and also contains a warning that Yahweh does not tolerate sin, even though he may forbear for a long time. The quality of lovingkindness is also assured by its durability. It is from generation to generation (Exod. 34:7). Twenty-six times we are told that "his lovingkindness is forever" (cf. Pss. 106:1; 107:1; 118: 1-4; 136). He remembers his love, even when he for a period has withdrawn it in order to discipline (Ps. 98:3).

On the other hand, the God who is love also expects his people to be sanctified by demonstrating lovingkindness to their covenant God and to their fellow men. The call for a commitment of love to God finds expression in Deut. 6:5, and was repeated by our Lord (Matt. 22:37). Man's response to God's lovingkindness is love. On a horizontal plane the believer is called upon to show both lovingkindness (as David did, II Sam. 9:1, 3, 7) and love (Lev. 19:18, cf. Matt. 22:39). In man's response to lovingkindness and all that it entails, he shows that he belongs to the Heavenly Father (Matt. 5:44-48).

W A Van Gemeren
(Elwell Evangelical Dictionary)

Bibliography
N. H. Snaith, The Distinctive Ideas of the OT; L. J. Kuyper, "Grace and Truth," RR 16:1-16; N. Glueck, Hesed in the Bible; K. D. Sakenfeld, The Meaning of Hesed in the Hebrew Bible.


Agape

Catholic Information

The celebration of funeral feasts in honour of the dead dates back almost to the beginnings of the worship of the departed - that is, to the very earliest times. The dead, in the region beyond the tomb, were thought to derive both pleasure and advantage from these offerings. The same conviction explains the existence of funeral furniture for the use of the dead. Arms, vessels, and clothes, as things not subject to decay, did not need to be renewed, but food did; hence feasts at stated seasons. But the body of the departed gained no relief from offerings made to his shade unless these were accompanied fly the obligatory rites. Yet the funeral feast was not merely a commemoration; it was a true communion, and the food brought by the guests was really meant for the use of the departed. The milk and wine were poured out on the earth around the tomb, while the solid food has passed in to the corpse through a hole in the tomb. The use of the funeral feast was almost universal in the Græco-Roman world. Many ancient authors may be cited as witnesses to the practice in classical lands. Among the Jews, averse by taste and reason to all foreign customs, we find what amounts to a funeral banquet, if not the rite itself; the Jewish colonies of the Dispersion, less impervious to surrounding influences, adopted the practice of fraternal banquets. If we study the texts relative to the Supper, the last solemn meal taken by Our Lord with His disciples, we shall find that it was the Passover Supper, with the changes wrought by time on the primitive ritual, since it took place in the evening, and the guests reclined at the table. As the liturgical mea1 draws to a close, the Host introduces a new rite, and bids those present repeat it when He shall have ceased to be with them. This done, they sing the customary hymn and withdraw. Such is the meal that Our Lord would have renewed, but it is plain that He did not command the repetition of the Passover Supper during the year, since it could have no meaning except on the Feast itself. Now the first chapters of the Acts of the Apostles state that the repast of the Breaking of Bread took place very often, perhaps daily. That which was repeated was, therefore, not the liturgical feast of the Jewish ritual, but the event introduced by Our Lord into this feast when, after the drinking of the fourth cup, He instituted the Breaking of Bread, the Eucharist. To what degree this new rite, repeated by the faithful, departed from the rite and formulæ of the Passover Supper, we have no means, at the present time, of determining. It is probable, however, that, in repeating the Eucharist, it was deemed fit to preserve certain portions of the Passover Supper, as much out of respect for what had taken place in the Cœnaculum as from the impossibility of breaking roughly with the Jewish Passover rite, so intimately linked by the circumstances with the Eucharistic one.

This, at its origin, is clearly marked as funerary in its intention, a fact attested by the most ancient testimonies that have come down to us. Our Lord, in instituting the Eucharist, used these words: "As often as you shall eat this Bread and drink this chalice, you shall show forth the Lord's Death". Nothing could be clearer. Our Lord chose the means generally used in His time, namely: the funeral banquet, to bind together those who remained faithful to the memory of Him who had gone. We must, however, be on our guard against associating the thought of sadness with the Eucharistic Supper, regarded in this light. If the memory of the Master's Passion made the commemoration of these last hours in any measure sad, the glorious thought of the Resurrection gave this meeting of the brethren its joyous aspect. The Christian assembly was held in the evening, and was continued far into the night. The supper, preaching, common prayer, the breaking of the bread, took up several hours; the meeting began on Saturday and ended on Sunday, thus passing from the commemoration of the sad hours to that of the triumphant moment of the Resurrection and the Eucharistic feast in very truth "showed forth the Lord's Death", as it will until He come". Our Lord's command was understood and obeyed.

Certain texts refer to the meetings of the faithful in early times. Two, from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 11:18, 20-22, 33, 34), allow us to draw the following conclusions: The brethren were at liberty to eat before going to the meeting; all present must be in a fit condition to celebrate the Supper of the Lord, though they must not eat of the funeral supper until all were present. We know, from two texts of the first century, that these meetings did not long remain within becoming bounds. The agape, as we shall see, was destined, during the few centuries that it lasted, to fall, from time to time, into abuses. The faithful, united in bodies, guilds, corporations or "collegia", admitted coarse, intemperate men among them, who degraded the character of the assemblies. These Christian "collegia" seem to have differed but little from those of the pagans, in respect, at all events, of the obligations imposed by the rules of incorporation. There is no evidence available to show that the collegia from the first undertook the burial of deceased members; but it seems probable that they did so at an early period. The establishment of such colleges gave the Christians an opportunity of meeting in much the same way as the pagans did - subject always to the many obstacles which the law imposed. Little feasts were held, to which each of the guests contributed his share, and the supper with which the meeting ended might very well be allowed by the authorities as a funerary one. In reality, however, for all faithful worthy of the name, it was a liturgical assembly. The texts, which it would take too long to quote, do not allow us to assert that all these meetings ended with a celebration of the Eucharist. In such matters sweeping generalizations should be avoided. At the outset it must be stated that no text affirms that the funeral supper of the Christian colleges must always and everywhere be identified with the agape, nor does any text tell us that the agape was always and everywhere connected with the celebration of the Eucharist. But subject to these reservations, we may gather that under certain circumstances the agape and the Eucharist appear to form parts of a single liturgical function. The meal, as understood by the Christians, was a real supper, which followed the Communion; and an important monument, a fresco of the second century preserved in the cemetery of St. Priscilla, at Rome, shows us a company of the faithful supping and communicating. The guests recline on a couch which serves as a seat, but, if they are in the attitude of those who are at supper, the meal appears as finished. They have reached the moment of the Eucharistic communion, symbolized in the fresco by the mystical fish and the chalice. (See FISH; EUCHARIST; SYMBOLISM.)

Tertullian has described at length (Apolog., vii-ix) these Christian suppers, the mystery of which puzzled the Pagans, and has given a detailed account of the agape, which had been the subject of so much calumny; an account which affords us an insight into the ritual of the agape in Africa in the second century.

The introductory prayer.

The guests take their places on the couches.

A meal, during which they talk on pious subjects.

The washing of hands.

The hall is lit up.

Singing of psalms and improvised hymns.

Final prayer and departure.

The hour of meeting is not specified, but the use made of torches shows clearly enough that it must have been in the evening or at night. The document known as the "Canons of Hippolytus" appears to have been written in the time of Tertullian, but its Roman or Egyptian origin remains in doubt. It contains very precise regulations in regard to the agape, similar to those which may be inferred from other texts. We gather that the guests are at liberty to eat and drink according to the need of each. The agape, as prescribed to the Smyrnæans by St. Ignatius of Antioch, was presided over by the bishop; according to the "Cannons of Hippolytus", catechumens were excluded, a regulation which seems to indicate that the meeting bore a liturgical aspect.

An example of the halls in which the faithful met to celebrate the agape may be seen in the vestibule of the Catacomb of Domitilla. A bench runs round this great hall, on which the guests took their places. With this may be compared an inscription found at Cherchel, in Algeria, recording the gift made to the local church of a plot of land and a building intended as a meeting-place for the corporation or guild of the Christians. From the fourth century onward, the agape rapidly lost its original character. The political liberty granted to the Church made it possible for the meetings to grow larger, and involved a departure from primitive simplicity. The funeral banquet continued to be practised, but gave rise to flagrant and intolerable abuses. St. Paulinus of Nola, usually mild and kindly, is forced to admit that the crowd, gathered to honour the feast of a certain martyr, took possession of the basilica and atrium, and there ate the food which had been given out in large quantities. The Council of Laodicea (363) forbade the clergy and laity who should be present at an agape to make it a means of supply, or to take food away from it, at the same time that it forbade the setting up of tables in the churches. In the fifth century the agape becomes of infrequent occurrence, and between the sixth and the eighth it disappears altogether from the churches.

One fact in connection with a subject at present so much studied and discussed seems to be established beyond question, namely, that the agape was never a universal institution. If found in one place, there is not so much as a trace of it in another, nor any reason to suppose that it ever existed there. A feeling of veneration for the dead inspired the funeral banquet, a feeling closely akin to a Christian inspiration. Death was not looked upon as the end of the whole man, but as the beginning of a new and mysterious span of life. The last meal of Christ with His Apostles pointed to this belief of a life after death, but added to it something new and unparalleled, the Eucharistic communion. It would be useless to look for analogies between the funeral banquet and the Eucharistic supper, yet it should not be forgotten that the Eucharistic supper was fundamentally a funerary memorial.

Publication information Written by H. Leclercq. Transcribed by Vernon Bremberg. Dedicated to the Cloistered Dominican Nuns at the Monastery of the Infant Jesus, Lufkin, Texas The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume I. Published 1907. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, March 1, 1907. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York

Bibliography

BATIFFOL, Etudes d'histoire et de théologie positive (Paris, 1902), 277-311; FUNK in the Revue d'histoire ecclésiastique (15 January, 1903); KEATIING, The Agape and the Eucharist in the Early Church (London, 1901); LECLERCQ in Dict. d'archéol. chrét. et de lit., I, col. 775-848.



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