What exactly is love? This is a complex, ancient question — but for some insight, back in 1973 John Lee identified six ‘types’ of love.1
The many familiar with the biblical terms for love will readily recognize at least three of these, but the others also shed some light on what we may be speaking about when we refer to ‘love’.
Christians are often familiar with three based upon the three different words the Bible uses for love,2or sometimes four (based upon C.S. Lewis’s 1958 book),3, but below is a list that even adds to these.
- Αγάπη (Agape): ‘Orphanage’ love.
- Στοργη (Storge), amoral ‘love’, which something does according to nature ‘a wolf loves its prey’4
- Ερος (Eros) ‘sexual love’
- Λυδυς (Ludus) ‘playful love’
- Μανια (Mania) ‘obsessive love’
- Πραγμα (Pragma) ‘practical love’
I would at to this list:
- φιλια (Philia) deep friendship
And two that pose as true, legitimate love.
- φιλαυντυα (Philauntua) ‘love’ of self (also known as ‘vanity’)
- rapito (rape): ‘love’ without knowing properly – to take by force.
For a grand total of ‘9’.5 Lee’s six categories strangely was matched with a color wheel, not altogether wrong on the basis of this symbolism, but possibly an arbitrary frame. It however actually include three categories of three, for a total of nine as well.
And, because of the idol-factory of the human heart, all categories can be perverted by human beings – for example, though an infant loves its parents in that it needs them (storge), parent’s gift-giving love (possibly a combination of agape, mania, storge, or pragma), can easily become obsessive (especially as a child grows older). The point is to notice different shades and colors of ‘love’ when the world uses the word.
One warning before I close, despite all these different threads and traces of ‘love’, tracing out their various combinations is helpful, but not much in isolation, for love is infinitely complex. ‘Love’ is greater than the sum of its parts, which is not fully known by being deconstructed.6
- Well, actually dividing these into primary, secondary, and teriary kinds of love.
- Agape and Phileo are fairly prominent, sometimes possibly interchangable (cf. John 21), but storge does appear in a compound form in Romans 12:10, and the prominent word for Jesus’ care is not love in the Synoptics, but compassion. Jesus is said to love rarely in these three Gospels, but often has compassion.
- C.S. Lewis’s famous 1958 book divided them into four: based upon agape, eros, storge, and philia – affection, friendship, eros, and charity
- Love of the natural and familiar
- Though listed as nine in number, I am not naïve enough to think this is the only or exhaustive list however – eventually someone will come along to improve upon it.
- The above image is of a print of 1 Cor. 13, the famous love passage of St. Paul, which can be found at http://dukhrana.com/peshitta/msviewer.php?ms=7&id=493