Love as Agape
The Early Christian Concept and Modern Discourse
Baylor-Mohr Siebeck Studies in Early Christianity
Imprint: Baylor University Press
335 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in
- Published: August 2021
In our fraught global environment, when political and ideological lines are drawn ever sharper and old allegiances are increasingly strained, love for neighbor as both individual and societal obligation needs to be thematized and justified anew. At the same time, the New Testament call to love one's enemies forms a sharp point of contrast to the current non-culture of hatred for all things different and foreign.
Oda Wischmeyer's Love as Agape: The Early Christian Concept and Modern Discourse, the ninth volume in the Baylor–Mohr Siebeck Studies in Early Christianity series, aims to bring the New Testament concept of love into conversation with the current discussion about love. Wischmeyer investigates the commandment tradition of love for God and for neighbor, the ways in which the Septuagint and Plutarch speak of love, and the innovative concepts of love developed by Paul and John. She also presents an exegetically informed construction of the New Testament concept of love that is sharpened through a penetrating comparison with counter-, parallel, and alternative concepts from the ancient world. The book brings this holistic biblical vision forward into critical and constructive dialogue with key contemporary visions of love, including those of Julia Kristeva, Martha Nussbaum, Pope Benedict XVI, and Simon May. The tension that emerges stresses the need for fresh conceptualizations of ancient Jewish-Christian understandings, giving rise to the concluding question of the profile, limits, and impulses of the agape ἀγάπη concept for present challenges.
Through this academically rigorous and pastorally sensitive exploration, Wischmeyer points to the great love story between God and humanity, which realizes itself in the figure of Jesus Christ. This divine romance places love as the most intense, affirming, and life-creating relationship in God's own self, a relationship into which human beings are drawn and by which they obtain special dignity when God's love becomes their life.
Introduction: From Commandment to Concept
1 The Love Commandment in the New Testament
2 Historical Contexts
3 ἀγάπη in the Texts of the New Testament
4 The Concept of Love (ἀγάπη/ἀγαπᾷν) in the Writings of the New Testament
5 Alternative and Counter-Conceptions in the Early Jewish and Early Christian World
6 The Concept of Agape and Current Conceptions of Love
Looking Forward: The New Testament Concept of Love
Oda Wischmeyer has produced an impressive study of love in early Christian thought and expression. Love is more than an ethical value, she argues. It was foundational to their conception of God and a major catalyst for community formation. She has made a convincing case that one cannot describe the identity of the early Jesus people without this five-letter Greek word: agape.~Nijay K. Gupta, Professor of New Testament, Northern Seminary
Oda Wischmeyer’s study of love in early Christianity is a tour de force. Wischmeyer shows how the Christian concept of love is rooted in Israel’s scriptures, relates to ancient philosophical discourse, and came to have a definitive impact on western civilization. In addition, Wischmeyer puts the Christian notion of love into fruitful dialogue with modern philosophical accounts of love. A must-have volume for anyone interested in Christian ethics and cultural engagement.~Michael F. Bird, Academic Dean and Lecturer in Theology, Ridley College, Melbourne, Australia
In this brilliant book, Wischmeyer revitalizes a central New Testament theme: the transcendent yet socially embodied love of God in Christ. Situating her analysis in the historical context of ancient Jewish and Greco-Roman discourses on love, Wischmeyer critically engages with current post-religious theorists on love. The result is a bracing and constructive restoration to public discourse of the Christian conception of love. Thorough, passionate, and hugely relevant, Love as Agape is a must-read.~Susan Eastman, Associate Research Professor of New Testament, Duke Divinity School