Friendship in the Bible by Felix Just, S.J., Ph.D.
The concept and vocabulary of "friendship" in ancient times (both biblical Hebrew and biblical Greek) are related to those of "love." Ancient Greek distinguishes between four different things, all of which are aspects of what is more broadly called "love" today:
Four Ancient Greek words for “Love”:
Eros– emotional, erotic, sexual love (erao = “to love” & erastes = “lover”; about 20 times in OT/LXX; never in NT)
Storge – affection between mother and infant (not in OT; 4 times in Apocrypha: 3 & 4 Macc; in NT only Rom 12:10)
Agape – charity, love, both human/emotional & divine/spiritual (noun & verbs used 100’s of times in OT & NT)
Philia – love of brothers, friends, strangers, etc. (used often in the Bible, with many derived & compound words)
PHILEO = “to love” (25x in NT)
PHILOS = “beloved; friend” (29x in NT)
philia = “friendship” (only James 4:4)
philadelphia / philadelphos = “love of brothers; mutual love” (Rom 12:10; 1Thess 4:9; Heb 13:1; 1Pet 1:22; 3:8; 2Pet 1:7)
philandros / philoteknos = “loving of one’s husband / loving of one’s children” (both Titus 2:4)
philanthropia / philanthropos = “love of humans; charity” (Acts 28:2; Titus 3:4 / Acts 27:3)
philoxenia / philoxenos = “love of strangers; hospitality” (Rom 12:13; Heb 13:2 / 1 Tim 3:2; Titus 1:8; 1 Pet 4:9)
Herod Philip (a son of King Herod the Great): Matt 14:3; Mark 6:17; Luke 3:1
Philip (the apostle; 16x): Matt 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:14; John 1:43, 44, 45, 46, 48; 6:5, 7; 12:21, 22; 14:8, 9;
Philip (the deacon/evangelist; 15x):
Acts 6:5; 8:5, 6, 12, 13, 26, 29, 30, 31, 34, 35, 38, 39, 40; 21:8
Philemon: only Phlm 1:1
Philetus: only 2 Tim 2:17
Philologus: only Rom 16:15
Theophilus: Luke 1:3; Acts 1:1
Related City Names:
Philadelphia (in Asia Minor): Rev 1:11; 3:7
Philippi (in Macedonia): Acts 16:12; 20:6; Phil 1:1; 1Thess 2:2; also "Philippians" in Phil 4:15
Caesarea Philippi (in Northern Israel; lit. C. of Philip): Matt 16:13; Mark 8:27
Friendship with God in the Bible:
Exodus 33:11a – Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.
2 Chron 20:7 – “Did you not, O our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel, and give it forever to the descendants of your friend Abraham?”
Job 29:4 – [Job longs for the past…] when I was in my prime, when the friendship of God was upon my tent;
Psalms 25:14 – The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him, and he makes his covenant known to them.
Wisdom 7:14 – for it (Wisdom) is an unfailing treasure for mortals; those who get it obtain friendship with God, commended for the gifts that come from instruction. Wisdom 7:27 – Although she (Wisdom) is but one, she can do all things, and while remaining in herself, she renews all things; in every generation she passes into holy souls and makes them friends of God, and prophets;
Isaiah 41:8 – But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, my friend;
James 2:23 – Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend (philos) of God. (see 2 Chron 20:7 and Isa 41:8 above)
Other Biblical Texts on Friends and Friendship:
Selected texts from the OLD TESTAMENT:
Job 2:11 – Now when Job’s three friends heard of all his troubles, each of them set out from his home--Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They met together to go and console and comfort him.
Job 6:14 – “Those who withhold kindness from a friend forsake the fear of the Almighty.”
Proverbs 17:9 – One who forgives an affront fosters friendship, but one who dwells on disputes will alienate a friend
Proverbs 17:17 – A friendloves at all times, and kinsfolk are born to share adversity.
Proverbs 18:24 – Some friends play at friendship but a true friend sticks closer than one’s nearest kin.
Proverbs 27:6 – Well meant are the wounds a friend inflicts, but profuse are the kisses of an enemy.
Proverbs 27:10a – Do not forsake your friend or the friend of your parent.
Selected texts from the NEW TESTAMENT:
Matthew 11:19 – “the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds."
Luke 11:5-10 (after the Lord’s Prayer) – And he [Jesus] said to them [disciples], “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs. “So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”
Luke 15:4-7, 8-10 – “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” / “Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
John 11:3 – So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, “Lord, he whom you love (phileo) is ill.” John 11:11 – After saying this, he told them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.” John 11:36 – So the Jews said, “See how he loved (phileo) him!”
John 15:9-15 (each “love” here is agape & agapao) – “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.”
John 21:15-17 (“love” here alternates between agapao & phileo) – When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love (ag) me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love (ph) you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love (ag) me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love (ph) you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love (ph) me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love (ph) me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love (ph) you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”
Romans 12:9-18 – Let love (agape) be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another (philadelphia) with mutual affection (philostorgos); outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers (philoxenia). Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep… If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
1Thess 4:9 – Now concerning love of the brothers and sisters (philadelphia), you do not need to have anyone write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love (agapao) one another;
Titus 1:7-8 – For a bishop, as God's steward, must be blameless; he must not be arrogant or quick-tempered…; but he must be hospitable (philoxenos), a lover of goodness (philagathos), prudent, upright, devout, and self-controlled.
Hebrews 13:1-2 – Let mutual love (philadelphia) continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers (philoxenia), for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.
1Peter 3:8 – Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another (philadelphoi), a tender heart, and a humble mind.
1Peter 4:8-10 – Above all, maintain constant love (agape) for one another, for love (agape) covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable (philoxenoi) to one another without complaining. Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.
2Peter 1:5-7 – For this very reason, you must make every effort to support your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness, and godliness with mutual affection (philadelphia), and mutual affection (philadelphia) with love (agape).