31 October 2012

What is Love, Really?

The word love is thrown around, misused, abused and often misunderstood.  One of my biggest pet peeves, for example, has to do with one of the most popular uses of the word: i.e. "We made love."  It makes me crazy because people say it even when love, per se, is not involved.  Why must they use the word euphemistically?  Why can't they just say, "We had sex"?  I won't go on that rant just yet...  I'll save it for the post I do on eros (ἔρως); whenever that is.  

I would like to look at the types of love (more in a moment) in different ways and in different places: literature, symbols, ritual, sacred writings, spiritual/mystical writings, philosophy, and many, many more!  Yeah, that might happen.

I am not a Christian, but I have, over the years, thought many times about a sermon[*] I heard once (when I was Christian): the subject was the types of love: agape (ἀγάπη), philia (φιλία), storge (στοργή) and eros (ἔρως).  It was one of my favorites and it keeps coming back to me.  It's just a good topic; the world needs love, of whatever kind, right?  True love, I believe is about commitment: this is apropos with regard to any of these types of love.  All of them come down to being committed to the other person.  Anyone that's not you is an other (I guess I shouldn't open that topic here), so commitment is necessary.

After deciding I wanted to dwell on the subject of love for a few, I searched for, found and am currently reading C. S. Lewis’s book, The Four Loves, which covers this topic; I'll try to quote from it from time to time and hope that others find it as interesting as I do.  

What really interests me in this study is that “storge” (στοργή) is not in the New Testament.  I searched The Analytical Lexicon to the Greek New Testament [1]The Complete Vocabulary Guide to the Greek New Testament [2], and Strong's Exhaustive Concordance [3]; none of them have it.  So, I thought that perhaps it was a Platonic word, being that much of Christian doctrine was merged with Plato’s philosophy during the Middle Ages. 

Doing a little search online, I found that the word “storge” (στοργή) was used eight times by Flavius Josephus in his Antiquitates Judaicae (Antiquities of the Jews).  A tie is held, as far as usage goes, by Aelian, whose work I don’t know, but it is also used eight times in his De Natura Animalum (On the Nature of Animals).  Next, it is used six times by John of Damascus, of whom I also know nothing, in his Vita Barlaam et Joasaph (The Life of Barlaam and Joasaph). 

Several others, including Aristotle in his Metaphysics, use the word four or fewer times.  It is interesting that it is not in Plato, but is in a few of the early Church fathers: Saint Basil, Bishop of Caesarea, Epistulae (Letters), John of Damascus, mentioned already, Eusebius in his Historia ecclesiastica (Church History).[4]  So, here, I guess, with the early Church fathers we can see how it eventually made it to us.  There is the possibility that we could have acquired this word, as “affection,” from Josephus, but it is most likely that it came through the Church doctrines which have not changed all that much over the centuries, even if there have been major splits and disagreements among the various sects of Christianity during that time.

This makes me want to intensify my Greek and Latin studies…. 

Maybe I'll look at storge (στοργή) in my next post (which most likely will be in December), then work my way through the others and hopefully learn something along the way.  These may come slowly.  That sounds confident, doesn't it?  Anyway, please don't hold your breath waiting for the next post on this topic. 

Also, I want to be very frank here: I am going to participate in the NaNoWriMo challenge during the month of November, so right now I have nothing planned to post during the month.  I may post something, but I don't plan to.  And, I may not even do an entire series on love, but will sporadically post about it.  As I do with everything, right?  Like I said, don't hold any breath.  An interest hits me and I run.  Sometimes, the interest is sustained, other times, it's not.  

Till next time ... 

[*] This sermon was given by Mike Beecham.
[1] William Mounce
[2] Warren Trenchard
[3] James Strong
[4] http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/resolveform?type=start&lookup=storgh&lang=greek and: Word frequency information for στοργή:  http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/wordfreq?lang=greek&lookup=storgh%2F

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