Charity vs Love

The Authorized version of 1611, commonly called the King James Version, has been the standard Bible for hundreds of years. This statement in and off itself is not an argument for its perfection. Nonetheless, a standard is a standard. Everyone lauds its beauty, grace, stateliness, and power and it practically established modern English.

And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

1 Corinthians 13:13

These millions of readers would agree with Adam Nicolson, who states in his God’s Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible that, more than any other English translation of Scripture, the KJV is driven by an idea of majesty whose qualities are those of grace, stateliness, scale, [and] power. What its admirers sense in it above all, writes Nicolson, is what they sense in the Hebrew Bible itself: a belief in the enormous and overwhelming divine authority of the text.

I do not sense this, or feel the same "grace, stateliness, and power,” in other Bible translations, including the ones mentioned by Mr. Flatow.

Philologos, the renowned Jewish-language columnist
Mosaic Magazine - Advancing Jewish Thought

As a standard it should not be changed without a fairly good reason. There are very few if any words that do not or cannot be used in more than one way, with different meanings. That is, to change the way the standard translated a word based on the word being translated one way a majority of the time is not a fairly good reason to do so.

The standard translates the Greek word, agape¸ in the New Testament 118 times: 88 times as “love”, 28 times as “charity”, one as “charitably”, and one time as “dear”. It must be assumed that the translators of the standard had a fairly good reason for doing so. Being as we are speaking of the one and same Greek word, agape¸ the reason why it is translated as such in the standard or changed in new versions could not be based on any attributes of a particular Greek text. This being the case, the reason must solely be based on the use of, meaning intended, context, or the translators preference for whatever reason.

The words love and charity though closely related, which would be obvious as they are both translations of the same Greek word, they are not always synonymous.

  • love: any object of warm affection or devotion; a deep feeling of sexual desire and attraction; a strong positive emotion of regard and affection
  • charity: an activity or gift that benefits the public at large; a kindly and lenient attitude toward people

It would seem that love has more to do with self than charity. Love is a feeling you have, one that warms and comforts your heart. Which is why love desires, and to be effective needs, a reciprocal feeling. Unrequited love hurts. Charity needs no reciprocity, in truth, to require, ask for, or receive, a return in kind voids charity.

You might point out that God loved us before we knew him. To this I say yes but he is asking, commanding, that we love him.

Deuteronomy 6:5 KJV  And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.

Proverbs 8:17 KJV  I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me.

A better feel for the words can be obtained if we look at their main opposites, antonyms.

  • Love — hate, hatred
  • Charity — selfish, selfishness

You can love or you can like, dislike, disdain, hate, but you cannot say to love at the same time as the others. You can be charitable to those you love, like, dislike, disdain, hate, it makes no difference to charity.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8  Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,  5Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;  6Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;  7Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.  8Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.

These are not the attributes of love. Love does not always suffer long, is not always kind, does envy, can vaunt itself, can be unbelieving and easily provoke. How many times has love cause one to be unseemly, making a fool of oneself?

One might counter stating that agape love refers to a pure, willful, sacrificial love that intentionally desires another’s highest good. To this I say, that is one of the definitions of charity, to give of yourself, sacrifice, desires another’s good, and if one used the word charity one would know what type of love is meant.

The point of this is to say that where the standard, AV 1611, translated agape as charity there was no reason to change it, it was correct in its use and meaning for the context. Any new version that changes where the standard uses charity to love is confusion making it an error.

1 Corinthians 13:13  And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

Having charity is truly loving others as yourself.