Who Was Erastus? -- By: Walter Miller

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 088:351 (Jul 1931)
Article: Who Was Erastus?
Author: Walter Miller


Who Was Erastus?

Walter Miller

The great Apostle’s friends are interesting. Erastus was one of his highly esteemed, but his personality is baffling. Who and what was he?

His name, a passive participial form of the verb erao, means the “beloved.” Strangely enough, though the New Testament is full of “love,” this personal name, whether the name of one or of two friends of Paul’s, is the only word in which any derivative from this particular root meaning “to love” is found in all the twenty-seven books. The verb itself, eran, “to love,” does not occur at all; the noun eros, “love,” also is entirely wanting in the New Testament. Why?

There are four Greek verbs for which we have no equivalent except “love”—agapao, phileo, erao, and stergo. Of these, agapao itself is used 145 times in the New Testament; the noun agape (from which the verb is derived), 118 times; the verbal adjective agapetos “beloved,” 63 times. We thus have this root represented 326 times in the New Testament. Phileo, on the other hand, the more usual word in classical Greek, is used but 25 times in the New Testament, and the corresponding noun phUui but once. Then we have philema as “an expression of love,” “a kiss,” 6 times; compounds of philos (apart from the proper name Philippos, Philip, “one who loves horses,” occurring 37 times) 42 times. That is, the total number of derivatives of the root phil in the New Testament is 42 plus 6 plus 37. Erao, as we have seen, has no representative at all, save in the name of our friend Erastus, while stergo does not appear in any sort of form.

The reason for the enormous preponderance of agapao is perfectly simple when we think of the difference between

these four synonyms, agape is not “love” as a sentiment but “love” as a working force, the real, active power in a moral universe, the love that, springing out of inner conviction, calls for the last full measure of devotion to a person or a cause, the love that would help and bless. Phileo means “to be a friend to,” “to entertain good will toward,” “to have a fondness for,” as we see it in philosophy, philology, Philip, etc.; in the case of a person, it is used of one that we are glad to see and associate with. Erao is used of love between the sexes, while stergo is “to yearn after”— used of the yearning affection of parents for their children.

It is, therefore, a matter of course that the first of the four is the verb used in John 3:...

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