Diligo And Amo -- By: Frank Hugh Foster

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 047:186 (Apr 1890)
Article: Diligo And Amo
Author: Frank Hugh Foster


Diligo And Amo

Frank H. Foster

Turning the pages of Augustine a few days since for another purpose, I chanced to fall upon the passage of the City of God, Bk. 14. ch. 7, in which he discusses the relations of diligo and amo: Professor Ballantine has maintained7 that there is in the New Testament no difference between the words ἀγαπάω and φιλέω, and has specially commented upon the distinctions drawn by Trench, and applied to the passage, John 21:15–17. Trench grounded his whole distinction upon suggestions derived from the Latin terms diligo and amo, diligo expressing “a more reasoning attachment, of choice and selection,” amo rather that which is “instinctive, is more of the feelings or natural affections, implies more passion.” The Augustinian passage is therefore quite to the point, and will be found, we believe, not only to afford subsidiary proof of Professor Ballantine’s position, but to undermine Trench’s whole argu-

ment. It is a pity the Archbishop did not see this, for he refers to the passage,8 and states that Augustine denies any distinction between amor, dilectio, and charitas; but apparently he did not examine the context carefully enough to see that it militates against his whole theory, and to note that Augustine is commenting upon the principal passage, John 21:15–17, and here, as well as elsewhere, denies that there is any difference between the diligo used to translate ἀγαπράω and the amo used for φιλέω.

Augustine is discussing the moral quality of actions, and he lays down the principle: “Si [voluntas hominis] perversa est, perversos habebit hos motus; si autem recta est, non solum inculpabiles, verum etiam laudabiles erunt. Voluntas est quippe in omnibus: imo omnes nihil aliud quam voluntates [volitions] sunt.” And after he has completed his discussion, he sums it all up: “Recta itaque voluntas est bonus amor, el voluntas perversa malus amor.” The treatment here falls in the line of all Augustine’s work, which was designed to lay emphasis upon the will, and to ascribe character entirely to it. Thus a solid foundation for responsibility and for the punishment of the wicked was obtained.

Some had taken a different view. They had attempted to make a distinction between the words charitas and ...

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