Barry Newman's Blog

November 29, 2011

The Agape [Feasts] (part V)

Filed under: Agape meals,Christian Community Meals,Love Feasts — barrynewman @ 8:53 pm

               Translating “Agapais” as Love Feasts?

So what does “agapais” mean in Jude 12 and how should it be translated? Though one is sorely tempted to make a reference in such a translation, to a meal in one form or another, “agape” of itself contains no such suggestion.  Undoubtedly, the reference to “feasting together” indicates that some sort of meal is in mind.  But it would not appear to be a simple meal.  It is a feast.  Is “agape” meant to behave as an adjective qualifying a noun something like, “feast” [euochia] – a noun that is assumed?  This would make some sense. However, “agape” is itself a noun. The related adjective, “agapetos” does not appear in v. 12 and presumably does not do so because its use would have been inappropriate at that point.

Liddell and Scott give “agape”, in the plural, the secondary meaning of “love feast” but simply refer to the 2 Peter 2: 13 and Jude 12 passages in support of this claim.[1]  In an earlier, abridgement of their work, which made no reference to these texts, the secondary meaning of “love feast” was again suggested but with the note that the derivation of this meaning was uncertain![2] Uncertain indeed it is if in fact the claim is correct! It is probable that the only reason that the contributors had for assuming that there was a secondary meaning for “agape’ that was equivalent to “love feast” and that this meaning was to be attached to “agape” as found in Jude 12 (and thought to be found in 2 Peter 2: 13) was the subsequent writings of the early christians!? But claiming that “agapais” in Jude 12 refers to “love feasts” on this basis would be to assume beforehand what one is attempting to deduce. Furthermore, it should be recognised that “agape” even in the singular was, post Jude, sometimes understood to refer to a “love feast”.  It did not have to be in the plural for the meaning of “agape” in certain contexts to appear to be such.

Moulton and Milligan while commenting on the rarity of “agape” in “profane”  Greek (their words) fail to make any mention of “agape” as “love-feast”.[3]  Stauffer in his only reference to “agape” in connection with “love-feast” remarks, “Agape becomes a technical term for the fraternal love-feast which develops out of the beginnings of table fellowship”.[4]  I think the emphasis should be on “becomes” a technical term.

The reality is that there is no compelling reason why “agapais” in Jude 12 should be translated “love-feast”.  Jude refers to “love” (plural) in the context of feasting, but why does one have to translate the noun as though it is co-joined with another noun?

[1] Liddell, H.G. and Scott, R., “agape” in A Greek-English Lexicon, ibid., p. 6

[2] Liddell, H.G. and Scott, R., “agape” in An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon, based upon the 7th ed. of the Greek-English Lexicon, Clarendon, Oxford, 1964, p. 4.

[3] Moulton, J.H. and Milligan, G., “agape” in The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament, Hodder and Stoughton, , London, 1930, p. 2

[4] Stauffer, E., “agapao, agape, agapetos” in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Kittel, G. (ed.), Bromiley, G.W. (trans and ed.), Volume 1, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI, 1964, pp. 21- 55, see p. 55.


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