The word love in the English language can mean deep affection, strong liking, intimacy, passion, and fondness. The Old Testament uses the Hebrew word aheb, which is mostly used in the Old Testament, has similar meanings.
The Bible mostly talks about four types of love:
- Storge— this is love for family members and people that are familiar to you. A good example is the natural love and affection of a parent for their child.
- Philia– this is a friendly love between people who share the same values, interests, and activities. It is also known as Brotherly love.
- Eros– this is a romantic or sexual kind of love shared between a couple who are married. It is the only kind of love that, if practiced without restraint, can lead to sin.
- Agape– this is the highest type of love in the Bible. It is an unconditional and sacrificial love that God has for his people.
How Many Times Is Love Mentioned In The Old Testament?
The number of times “love” is mentioned in the Old Testament mostly depends on the version of the Bible. The King James Version mentions the word 310 times, with 131 times appearing in the Old Testament. On the other hand, the New International Version mentioned the word 551 times, with 319 mentions in the Old Testament.
The big difference in the number for the usage of the word love is partly because of translation. Some Bible versions, such as the New International Bible and the New Revised Standard Bible, were written for widespread use. This means that the word love may have replaced some old-fashioned terms or some other words that only a few people would understand.
In the Old Testament, the word love first appears in Genesis 22:2, where the Lord tells Abraham. “Take your only son, Isaac, whom you love so much, and go to the land of Moriah. There, on a mountain I will show you, offer him as a sacrifice to me.”
Notice the word love is used here to mean the love of a father for his son(storge). Yet this father is willing to sacrifice his only son because the Lord asked him to. While this might be surprising, we see the same kind of love in the New Testament, where God the Father is willing to sacrifice His only Son, Jesus Christ so that we may be saved.
We see God’s Agape love played out when He chose the Israelites as His special people because He loved their ancestors. (Deuteronomy 4:37; 10:15; Isaiah 43:1-5)
The love of God for His people is the basis behind all the great things He did in history. In Psalms 136, we see the love of God repeated after each new line. The Psalmist praises God various things: His loving kindness, for the creation of the universe, and for delivering the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.
The prophets of the Old Testament remind the Israelites about the love of God during their dark days in captivity. (Isaiah 49:8-16; Jeremiah 31:3: Hosea 11:1)
In Deuteronomy 6:4-5, the children of Israel are commanded to love God with all their hearts, soul, and strength. We can only show our love for God by serving Him and obeying His Commandments. (Deuteronomy 10:12-13; Joshua 22:5)
We see another type of love in 1 Samuel 18:1, where we learn of the love that Jonathan (son of King Saul) has for David. The Bible says that he loved(Philia) David as he loved himself. He loved David so much that he put David’s interest above those of his father and even himself.
“He took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, together with his armor and his sword, bow, and belt.” (1 Samuel 18:4)
We find this type of love in Leviticus 19:18 when the Israelites received the commandment to love their neighbors as they love themselves.
In the Songs of Solomon(Songs of Songs), we find a romantic type of love(eros) between a man and his lover. “Your love delights me, my sweetheart and bride. Your love is better than wine; your perfume more fragrant than any spice.” (Songs of Solomon 4:10)
In the Christian faith, this is a physical and sensual type of love that is only encouraged between a husband and a wife for recreation and bonding.
How Many Times Is Love Mentioned In The New Testament?
The word ‘love’ is very prominent in the New Testament. However, just like in the Old Testament, its appearance depends on the version of your Bible.
The King James Version of the New Testament mentions the word 179 times, while it appears 232 times in the New International Version.
The word love appears more times in the Gospel of John than in the other three Gospels combined. It is also mentioned numerous times in the First Epistles of John.
This scripture summarizes the main theme and message in the New Testament:
“For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life.” John 3:16
This is the true meaning of Agape love. The kind of love that can only be attributed to God. In 1 John 4:16, we learn that “God is Love.” The love that God has for us is like that of a father to his children. He loves us regardless of our sinful and imperfect nature. His love makes us perfect and drives out all our fears.
In return, we are to love the Lord with all our hearts, soul, mind, and strength(Mark 12:28-30).
The only way we can show our love for God is by obeying and keeping His Commandments ( Luke 11:28; John 14:21-24; 2 John 1:6), trusting in Him (John 14:1), being humble( Matthew 18:1-4; Luke 18:9-14), and by praying to God (Matthew 6:9-13; Luke 18:1-8).
As Christians, we are supposed to love our neighbors as we love ourselves( Mark 12:31). We are also to love our enemies and do good to those that persecute us. (Matthew 5:43-48)
In John 13:34-35, Jesus commanded His disciples to love one another in the same way He had loved them. “If you have love for one another, then everyone will know that you are my disciples,” He said.
In his letter to the Romans, Paul talks about the great love of Christ. He asks, “Who, then can separate us from the love of Christ? Can trouble do it, or hardship, or poverty, or danger?…. No, in all these things we have complete victory through Him who loved us.”(Romans 8:35)
In another passage, Paul emphasizes that loving others is a way of keeping all the commandments. “The commandments, ‘Do not commit adultery; do not commit murder; do not steal; do not desire what belongs to someone else.’–all these and any other besides, are summed up in the one commandment, ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ If you love someone, you will never do them wrong; to love, then is to obey the whole Law.” (Romans 13:9-10)
Love appears numerous times in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. In 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, we learn that love is the greatest of all the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Paul goes on to describe true Christian love in this manner: “ Love is patient and kind; it is not jealous or conceited or proud; love is not ill-mannered, selfish or irritable; it does not keep a record of wrongs; love is not happy with evil, but is happy with the truth. Love never gives up; and its faith, hope, and patience never fail.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
The letter of Paul to the Ephesians also features love prominently in every one of its chapters. In Ephesians 5:1-2, Paul asks believers to imitate Christ by living a life that is controlled by love. Later in the chapter (vs 25), husbands are asked to love their wives the same way that Christ loved the church and gave His life for it.
In 1 John 4:19-21, we learn that love for God and others go hand in hand. We can not claim to have love for God if we don’t love our fellow men.
Love Is An Important Theme In The Bible
While the number of times the word love appears in the Bible may differ from one version to the other, we know for sure that love is an important theme in the Bible. Through love, God created the universe and sent down His only Son to die for us, even though we didn’t deserve it.
These show an unconditional love that only the Holy Spirit can help us understand. Our only obligation as Christians is to show the same kind of love to God and our fellow men. This is the greatest of all commandments.