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In the NT “beloved” is used exclusively in the divine and Christian manner of spiritual love. This love is uniquely Christian in its beauty, unity and endearment. Agapetos (beloved) appears forty-seven times in the NT, the first three in the synoptic gospels where God identifies His “beloved Son” (Matt 3:17; 12:18; 17:5; also Mark, Luke). The meaning implies “chosen,” an act of will rather than of feeling. Paul made use of the term thirty-two times in all his letters except Galatians and Titus, with reference to many individuals named and to the “brethren” (Acts 15:25; Rom 1:7 etc.). It appears twelve times in the epistles of John.


B. Davie Napier, Song of the Vineyard (1962), 153, 354-356; C. Milo Connick, Jesus, the Man, the Mission, and the Message (1963), 142-145; H. M. Buck, People of the Lord (1966), 67, 227.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

The term rises to still Diviner significance as an epithet of Christ, whom Paul, grateful for His "freely bestowed" grace, terms "the Beloved." This is the word used repeatedly to express God the Father’s infinite affection for Jesus His "beloved Son" (Mt 3:17; 12:18; 17:5; Mr 1:11; 9:7; Lu 3:22; 20:13).

Agapetos rendered as above 47 times is 9 times "dearly beloved" (the Revised Version (British and American) uniformly omits "dearly") and 3 times "well beloved" (the Revised Version (British and American) omits "well"). The former rendering found only once in the Old Testament (yedhidhuth, "something beloved"), portraying God’s tender love for His people: "dearly beloved of my soul" (Jer 12:7). Thrice is Daniel spoken of as "greatly beloved" of Gabriel and of God (hamudhoth, "precious," i.e. delight = beloved; Da 9:23; 10:11,19). Through the apostles the word has become familiar in pastoral and sermonic address. Few New Testament words better illustrate the power and impress of the Christian spirit on succeeding centuries than this.

Dwight M. Pratt

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