Y O U N G P E O P L E ' S D I C T I O N A R Y O F S C R I P T U R A L • & • R E L I G I O U S T E R M S
The present day usage of the word charity conveys the thought of giving to those in need. It
could be giving, for example, to a food bank, or to a homeless shelter, or it might be more
individual and personal. That is, it could pertain to an individual person doing something
kind for another who has some sort of need that they are unable to meet. The general idea of
charity as used today in our culture is some sort of helping of those who cannot help them-
selves. We often here of kind folks who do this as being “very charitable people”.
In the KJV Bible, however, the word charity, though related, has a deeper, stronger meaning
then as it is used today. In the original Biblical Greek, the word charity could be better
rendered love. Charity is found 26 times in the KJV, and only in the New Testament. It
always is rendered from the Greek word agape. Agape is generally understood to represent
the character of God’s love to man.
It has been said that agape is the character of love, that loves another without expecting
anything in return. Often we love someone because of what they have done for us, or of
what we ‘receive’ from them—whether that be kindness, gifts, help, service, etc. However
this kind of love does not have the sense of agape love.
We read, for example, that “But God commendeth his love [‘agape’] toward us, in that,
while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). Here, the word love comes from
the same Greek word as charity—agape.
The other word for love often used in the KJV New Testament is philos and a form of that
word, philadelphia. The word means friendliness, kindness, or courteous. For example, the
assembly in Philadelphia which the Lord addresses in Revelation 3 means, the city of broth-
erly love. Philos has more to do with the feeling or desire to be kind to friends (brethren).
When, however, the love between husband and wife is mentioned for example, (such as in
Eph. 5) the word agape is used—a stronger sense of love than philos.
There is another Greek word used for love, but it is not found in the KJV New Testament.
That word would be similar to eros, the word from which the English word erotic has come.
This is word has more of an intimate, natural character such as properly exists in the mar-