From “God is love” (1 John 4:16) to “love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44), love is one of the central themes of the Bible. Because love is an attribute of God and the reason he sent his son Jesus into the world (John 3:16) to die a sacrificial death before rising again, readers want to know more about it. One question many people ask is how many times the Bible mentions love.
The King James Version (KJV) of the Bible mentions “love” in its various forms (e.g., “loved,” “lovely,” and “loveth”) 555 times. The New International Version (NIV) of the Bible mentions it in its various forms (e.g., “beloved,” “lover,” “loving-kindness”) 551 times.
What are the most common forms of the word “love” in the KJV? What are its most common forms in the NIV? What are example verses that shows their various uses of “love”? Why do some translations have more uses of the word than others? What are the most common Hebrew and Greek words translated as “love” in the Bible? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and others.
Also, see What Does Meek Mean in the Bible? to learn more.
Love In the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible
Over half the times the KJV mentions “love,” it appears as a verb in the present tense. Since the KJV was first published in 1611, it uses forms of the word that other translations don’t, like “lovedst” and “loveth.” The term mainly occurs as a verb, but some noun forms also appear (e.g., “lover’ and “lovingkindess”).
Four examples of Love In the KJV
(1) John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (KJV)
(2) John 17:24, “Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.” (KJV)
(3) Matthew 10:37, “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” (KJV)
(4) Psalm 51:1, “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.” (KJV)
“Biblical love is not emotions or feelings, but attitudes and actions that seek the best interests of the other person, regardless of how we feel toward him.” ~ Jerry Bridges
Also, see How Tall Was Adam in the Bible? to learn more.
Love In the New International Version (NIV) of the Bible
Like the KJV, the most common use of the word “love” is a present tense verb. However, because the NIV uses modern language, it doesn’t contain word forms like “loveth” because most people today don’t speak like that. Yet, it has forms of the word that the KJV doesn’t like, “lovingly.”
Four Examples of Love In the NIV
(1) Mark 12:30, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”
(2) Song of Solomon 5:9, “How is your beloved better than others, most beautiful of women? How is your beloved better than others, that you so charge us?” (NIV)
(3) 2 Timothy 3:2, “People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy.” (NIV)
(4) Luke 7:47, “Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” (NIV)
“In the New Testament, love is more of a verb than a noun. It has more to do with acting than with feeling. The call to love is not so much a call to a certain state of feeling as it is to a quality of action.” ~ R.C. Sproul
Also, see Who Wrote Ecclesiastes in the Bible? to learn more.
Why Don’t Love Appear the Same Amount In Translations?
If modern Bibles translate the same Hebrew and Greek words for love, shouldn’t they mention the word the same number of times? Not necessarily. Bible translators choose the word they think best fits the context of a verse or passage, which will help the reader understand the writer’s meaning.
Sometimes, one translation will use the word “love,” and another will use a similar word that it thinks better fits the context.
For example, 1 Corinthians 13:8 reads, “Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.” (NIV)
Yet, in the KJV, the verse reads, “Charity 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.”
The Greek word that both translations render is agape, one of the most important words for love in the Bible. Because “charity” is in the translation range of agape, it’s an appropriate translation, just like the word “love” is. The most common words translated as “love” are listed below.
Love In the Old Testament
|ahab (אָהַב)||217 (e.g., Gen 24:67)|
|hesed (חֵסֵד)||249 (e.g., Jer. 2:2)|
Love In the New Testament
|agapao (ἀγάπη)||143 (e.g., John 17:26)|
|phileo (φιλέω)||25 (e.g., 1 Cor. 16:22)|
“What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has the eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like.” ~ Saint Augustine
Also, see How Did the Apostle Peter Die? to learn more.
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