Argument Structure of ἀγαπάω

Simon Wong’s A Classification of Semanti Case-Relations in the Pauline Epistles lists the Case Frame (Argument Structure) of ἀγαπάω as [Event: EXPERIENCER, COMPLEMENT/PATIENT]. I think this argument structure is quite appropriate for the English word “love,” but I’m not sure it really fits ἀγαπάω.

My disagreement is with the designation of first argument as EXPERIENCER. In English we think of love as an emotion, in which case it is quite appropriate to think of the first agument (the subject of an active verb) as EXPERIENCER rather than AGENT. Love is something we experience more than do.

In Hellenistic Greek, though, ἀγαπάω represents a way of acting more than an emotion. Jesus commands his disciples ἀγαπᾶτε τοὺς ἐχθροὺς ὑμῶν (Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:27 and 35). He is not commanding them to feel warm and fuzzy toward their enemies, but to treat their enemies with good will.

Does it even make sense to command an emotion? If I tell you, “Be angry!” will you be able to simply decide to do so? In Hellenistic Greek, ἀγαπάω represents something that can be commanded. It represents something that a person can decide to do.

I propose the following revision to Wong’s case frame (argument structure) for ἀγαπάω: [Event: AGENT, COMPLEMENT/PATIENT]. The verb implies an actor/AGENT (the person who acts with good will) and a PATIENT (the person who is treated with good will).

Feel free to disagree. Please offer examples that you think demonstrate whether the first argument (the subject of ἀγαπάω when it is active voice) represents a person who experiences the emotion we call love or a person who acts in a way characterized by good will. Does ἀγαπάω function like the English word “love,” or do you also think it is different?

Delay of Online Grammar

I regret that I have not been able to add to the online grammar for some time now. Responsibilities at work have made it impossible to make the kind of progress I would like. Unfortunately, it will probably be late spring before I am able to make significant progress on it. I regret the delay.

Currently there are 18 lessons up and running. The complete grammar has over 30. I hope to complete converting the remaining lessons from paper to HTML this summer.

Lesson 9 (First Aorist)

I have redesigned lesson nine (First Aorist) to provide a more complete, yet clearer discussion of the first aorist forms. If you have already read that lesson, I suggest you read the new version to review and to gain a clearer understanding of some of the forms you are seeing in the later lessons.

Lesson 9: First Aorist

Topical Index

I am currently designing a topic index for the online grammar. The aim is to make the grammar more useful for review.

While the primary target of the grammar is students in their first year of study, the index will increase the usefulness of the grammar for people who learned Greek some time ago, but need to review in order to improve their reading skill.

The format is rather preliminary for the moment, but I have made the index live so that you can give me feedback as the work progresses. Obviously, the list of topics in the index will increase rapidly as the grammar grows. If you have suggestions for what you would like to see in the index, just let me know. I’ll do my best to accommodate.

You can view what little I’ve done so far on the index here: Topical Index


If you have bookmarked anything in Lessons 1—4, you will need to update your bookmarks. I have made changes to the background workings of the grammar that required several filenames to change. Your bookmarks will no longer work unless you update them.