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“Love Is Patient, Love Is Kind” Bible Verse Analysis

The author won an award for his performance in a nationwide intercollegiate ancient Greek translation contest.

What is love? Love is patient, love is kind. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

What is love? Love is patient, love is kind. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

Love Is Patient, Love Is Kind Meaning

1 Corinthians 13:4-8—the so-called 1 Corinthians "Love Verse"—is a scripture passage with immense popularity and even greater importance. It sums up everything most important in life and spirituality. It tells us how we must be toward our fellow human, and at the same time, reveals God’s nature towards every person because

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them

1 John 4:16

As the verses before this passage reveal, it does not matter in the least what we do in life—or what “spiritual gifts” we might possess—if we do not have love. Without love, everything we do will amount to utter meaninglessness. Therefore, it is necessary that we understand, to the best of our abilities, what is meant by “love”. To that end, I will analyze certain parts of this passage, focusing particularly on key words as they were in the original Greek translation.

The "Love is Patient, Love is Kind" Bible Verse

New International Version (NIV)

1 Corinthians 13:4-8

4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8Love never fails. . .

King James Version (KJV)

1 Corinthians 13:4-8

4Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; 6Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; 7Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. 8Charity never faileth. . .

Other Translations of 1 Corinthians 13

You can refer to BibleGateway's library for other translations of this popular bible verse about love.

Love Is Patient, Love Is Kind in Greek

The Greek translation of 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.

The Greek translation of 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.

Ancient Greek pottery, depicting the emotion and touch associated with deep affection.

Ancient Greek pottery, depicting the emotion and touch associated with deep affection.

Love, in Every Sense of the Word

The word translated “love” is “ἀγάπη” (agape), which in the New Testament documents seems to refer to a particularly powerful love which leads to actions and sacrifice on the behalf of others. Sadly, I have heard certain Christians try to relegate the meaning of this word to having an “action only” sort of connotation, removing feelings from it entirely. I’ve heard this done in an attempt to explain how we can possibly love our enemies, as the New Testament enjoins us to. This is a terrible mistake.

The word “agape” comes from a verb (agapao) which, when directed towards humans, absolutely carries a sense of strong emotion and affection. It can even be translated as “to caress”. When we are told to love our enemies, it does not mean that we are to do good to them out of a mere sense of moral obligation. Indeed, we are to love them in every deep sense of that word, heart, mind, and soul. If one (such as myself) feels unable to perform such a feat, the only suggestion I may offer is that one seek God, who is the source of such love.

Love Is Patient

“Patient”, in verse four, is a translation of “μακροθυμεῖ” (Macrothumei), which is the third-person active form of a verb. I point this out, not just to flaunt my knowledge of Greek—although Love “vaunteth not itself”, I, unfortunately, have been known to vaunt—but for a reason: this entire passage, in the Greek, refers to what Love does, rather than what Love is. It is impossible to describe what God (Love) is, as God is infinite and our words are finite.

In fact, it is impossible to describe what anyone “is”, as any person’s subjective experience is essentially infinite as well, and is not the mere confluence of a finite set of external variables which we can identify and label. It is, however, possible to say what God (Love) does. God, like anyone else, is best known and understood by what He does. So the passage says “love patients (verb)”, which is nonsense in English, but makes beautiful sense in Greek.

When further examined, “patient” (Macrothumei”) can be broken down as follows: “Macro-” (“long”) + “thumos” (“heart/soul”). Literally, it means “to long-heart (verb)”. The Greek “thumos” can refer to the soul or spirit in the sense of one’s very life/essence. To take away “thumos", then, can mean to take away life. “Thumos” also refers to the “heart”, as both the seat of the emotions and of the will. Finally, “thumos” can mean the mind, as the seat of cognition (thoughts).

So, when we get to the root of “being patient”, we see that it involves a commitment of all one’s life/essence, emotions, will, and thoughts. This is the kind of gut-wrenching, life-giving “patience” that God does to all people, and that we must, therefore, show one another. Love, it would seem, does nothing half-heartedly.

Love Is Kind

We continue to "love is kind". This is a translation of the Greek “χρηστεύεται(chresteuetai), another active verb. It comes from the adjective “chrestos”, which in turn comes from another verb, “chrao”. “Chrao” means “to furnish/provide what is needful”. What a beautiful description of what God does for us, and expects us to do for each other. The adjective “chrestos” means “serviceable” or “useful”. When applied to people, it also means any or all of the following: good, honest, trustworthy, and kind.

I hope that by now it is apparent that, by looking deeper into the origins of words in this scripture, we may uncover a vast new world of meaning which was completely hidden before. So that, for example, “being kind” is shown to entail much more than kindness alone. It does mean to be kind, in our usual sense of the word, yes. But more than that, it involves providing people with what they need, being honest and dependable, being “useful/serviceable” to society, and being a good person in general. And so we should also be beginning to see why the 1 Corinthians "Love Verse" really does contain all the most important teachings of religion, as it tells us all the most important things for living a good life.

Love Does Not Envy, It Does Not Boast

Envy and pride/boasting are two sides of the same coin. Both spring from a self-centered desire to somehow be better than other people. Envy is self-centeredness manifested in areas where we perceive ourselves to be lacking relative to other people. Pride is self-centeredness manifested in areas where we perceive others to be lacking relative to us. Love makes no such considerations, for it is complete in itself, and thus does not need to feel superior to anyone in order to feel whole.

See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil

See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil

Love Does Not Delight in Evil

In verse five, the KJV says that love thinketh (Old English for "thinks") no evil. The NIV, instead, says that love keeps no record of wrongs. Perhaps back when the KJV came out, to “think evil” was a colloquial expression meaning “to keep record of wrongs”. I don’t know; I wasn’t alive then. But to the contemporary mind, to think evil could mean a lot more than merely holding a grudge. When one plans to rob a bank, they might be said to be “thinking evil”—and this has nothing to do with keeping record of wrongs.

So which translation is more true to the original Greek? I have to cast my vote for the NIV. The Greek says, “οὐ λογίζεται τὸ κακόν” (ou logizetai to kakon). Literally, this means, “does not take account of/reckon/calculate the bad." Don’t be thrown off by the use of the definite article “the” before “bad." The Greek use of a definite article often carries far less specificity than in English. Usually, when the New Testament refers to God in Greek, it literally says, “the God," although it is referring to (from a New Testament perspective) the only God there is. In English, we might refer to “Truth” as a sort of abstract ideal or good. For example, we might say, “That man is a lover of Truth." Greeks, trying to say the same thing, would not omit the definite article “the” before “truth," even if they are referring to an abstract ideal.

So a more appropriate translation in English would be, “love does not take account of/calculate/reckon bad"—"bad”, here, can refer to badness or evil in general. But it can also refer to a wrong or injury done to a person. I think that here, it clearly means the latter. This is because “λογίζεται” (logizetai) means “to take account of, to make a record of, to calculate, to count.” This makes little sense to me if we are speaking of “evil” in a general sense.

Or maybe it does make sense...

I wrote the preceding paragraph years ago. I've more recently become fond of the idea that this scripture also refers to evil in the general sense. If you're like me, you'll notice that there is a lot of suffering and evil in the world. It can feel overwhelming. However, the sort of Love described in this verse never loses hope because of it. From the perspective of a Love that never fails, evil is, ultimately, nothing to take account of. In the end, evil doesn't factor into the equation.

Love Rejoices With the Truth

Love rejoices with the truth (verse 6). For me, “truth” may be the only concept that even approaches “love” in its beauty and grandeur. In Greek, the word is even more beautiful: ἀληθεία (aletheia, pronounced “ah-leh-THAY-ah”). It is built from the noun “lethos”, which means “a forgetting," and the prefix “a-," which denotes a lack or absence. Thus, in one sense, “truth” means “that which is not forgotten.” To exhume yet a deeper meaning, we may consider that “lethos” comes from the verb “lanthano," which means “to go unnoticed or unseen.” Thus, since the prefix “a-” would reverse this concept, truth would be seen to mean something which is noticed.

Truth, as it stands alone, is something obvious. It cannot go unnoticed. It will never remain forgotten. It may be covered or warped in various ways, but in the end, truth is reality itself. As such, it is all there really is. Error and deception have no substance of their own. They are phantoms—mere parasites that feed on the truth. Truth is the One Reality, and so it will be the only thing that is remembered throughout time. Whatever is untrue will one day be forgotten.

Love Never Fails

God is Love, and Love never fails. Because God is love, He loves every creature with the same intense, never-ending love, whether they love Him or hate Him in return. It is an active love by which God—with the full force of all His will, thoughts, emotions, and very life-force—seeks to provide every being with what it needs. And because Love will not fail, God/Love will eventually succeed in providing for every single individual creature, human or not.

It is worth repeating: Love will utterly succeed at its singular desire, which is to fulfill every single living being in every possible way. It is a fact as grand, beautiful, and inevitable as Truth itself.

Dedication

The author lovingly dedicates this article on November 6th, 2018, to the memory of two dear friends: Gary Amirault, who passed from this world on November 3rd, 2018, and his wife, Michelle Amirault, who preceded him in death on July 31st, 2018. Gary and Michelle lived their lives passionately in love with Love, and on behalf of Love. Indeed, this article would likely have never come to be, were it not for Gary and Michelle's love. Gary and Michelle tirelessly promoted what they called the "Victorious Gospel", otherwise known as Christian Universalism or Universal Reconciliation. In short, they proclaimed to the world that "Love Wins". Tentmaker Ministries is one of their most enduring legacies, and can still be found easily online.

Questions & Answers

Question: Why did Pilate say, “What is truth”?

Answer: He said that in response to Jesus claiming that he had come to the world to bear witness to the truth, and that everyone who is "of the truth" would understand his message. It is impossible to say definitively why Pilate asked the question, and there are many interpretations out there.

Pilate was likely an educated man, and his social milieu was very cosmopolitan and intellectually advanced. By intellectually advanced, I'm not referring to the common people of the time, but to people who were likely to move in Pilate's social circles. So, I'd like to think that his question was a cynical sort of commentary on the elusiveness of "Truth". Alongside philosophers genuinely concerned with truth as a category, Pilate was undoubtedly well-versed in the sophistry of his time, which was more concerned with using rhetoric as a means to an end. In that context, as well as in the judicial role that Pilate played, "truth" was to a large extent the mere handmaiden of political or social agendas, and it was determined by the best propagandists.

© 2011 Justin Aptaker

Comments

Bruce Hill on June 13, 2020:

Cool read thank you.

Michelle Thelen from Chapel Hill, NC on April 15, 2020:

This is very interesting and I especially enjoy the Greek translation for the verses. It adds such depth. I follow Light & Sound teachings (MasterPath) that are very "in sync" with the true meaning of higher states of consciousness, and the path.

Now I see an even deeper meaning to patience, kindness, and charity.

Thank you!

Roosevelt Paulsaint on December 20, 2019:

I agree

Olebogeng on October 09, 2019:

What must i do for a person to love me.

Christine on June 25, 2019:

My husband and I have had our hearts crushed by a son who now says he loves us. Unfortunately even though he was raised in a Christian home his words and actions are not of the person we knew

at one time. Once in awhile I will text him 1Corinthians 13 hopeing

To stir his heart to rememberence of what truly the actions of a person

When they say they love you. I'm planing to send this to my son in hope that it might prnatrateing his

Even now your dear friends through you are thouching outhers,

Thank You For A Willing Heart

Christine

Thabo on June 01, 2019:

Read

es77 on February 27, 2019:

I go thru these things very often with my wife. Your article here is very true and accurate. I feel I’m always being punished And abandoned for trying to communicate reasonably with my wife and I feel she always invalidates what I say especially when I comment about the things she dose that affect me and my daughters adversally, and he lack of acknowledging our needs and feelings only her own. I feel she uses several forms of psychological manipulation and cohersion to get her way and punish me to the point where it’s caused a major decline in my day to day life and set me back quite a bit from where I was and who I was when I first met her.. I’m mentally, physically, spiritually, financially, and socially behind and it seems all these aspects have been used systematically throughout my marrage to undermine me as a stable adult and respectable among my peers and in front of my children. I feel like I’m in a hopeless cycle that continues to drag me backwards and not foward. Where is livening a family life and 100% dedicated and do everything from bills, house work, and all the kids activities and needs also with little to no help.. only criticism complaining and blameing then ultimately abandonment. It’s literally depressing because I have the desire to make it works and remain loyal and dedicated to my family. It seems my partner puts that to the test and I’m the only one who has this attitude. Although I feels I should return the same attitude, I feel id be no better then what i dislike also and I’d be the same knowing already how much damage it causes and how much I already disapprove of that behavior. I can’t join in and do the same, I’d be a hyprocrite. So I find myself trying to reason and communicate and I ge stonewalled and what I say gets ignored or treated as if it’s invalid. It seems hopeless but Right when it does.. i get a small dose of the wife and relationship I should have and when I get alittle hope... bam same things happen and I get abandoned and built up and tore down like a roller coaster ride over and over. It’s sad and I have every desire to fix it and it’s impossible without the same from my wife. What’s real to me seem like it’s a game to her and it’s something I’m sure she knows exactally what she doing and has no reguard for the damage it causes.

Vicki kinder on February 02, 2019:

What an extraordinary explanation of Love as its truth shall never be forgotten...I am transformed "literally", by this persons ability to share so accordingly to my ability to comprehend. I am excited and will share this with others. I am grateful to have come across this piece while searching for a way to share with my son and his girlfriend, what it really means to love. It is so difficult to show, teach, and/or explain to my now, grown son, what I owed to him as his mother....what love is, what love looks like, and the significance love has to his existence in life. As he shares his life struggles, it is the struggle of love that concerns me the most. It certainly reveals I missed the mark as his mother yesterday but today by the grace of God, I have the opportunity to make amends. Thank you

chloe ellenbacher on November 24, 2018:

Hi! Great article, but when in reference to the word 'thumos' (section on patience) I could not find anyone who correlates with your definition. Thumos is more associated with passion/wrath- so it's like makros (long distant, far off) thumos (passion/wrath). I think it kind of gives a cool picture when looking at it that way. Cheers!

Amble from Surrey United Kingdom on September 25, 2018:

I came across your thought provoking inspirational article by accident. I have saved it to return to many times over as it so helpful and encouraging.

I am new to Owlcation and feel as though I have found a goldmine as it is full of treasures.

thank-you

Maik on September 11, 2018:

To be commanded or directed away from our own understanding in reference to the things of God is a blessing... To be commanded to study for ones Self, standing under God much more so... As a human can not properly teach a wolf to hunt so is man in teaching the ways and knowledge of God lest he first reveal and then explain himself via his spirit...It is written that gods word shall never passaway and is the very depiction and likeness of God I.e.: In the beginning there was God and there was the word and the Word was with God and the word was God... How then could the spoken word be finite and incapable of emcompassing love... "All these things shall passaway; but my word will be with you always...

Indeed light arrived after God spoke... Saying with words let there be.... And it was... Our Father has also said life and death is in the power of thy tongue... Words are eternal as infinite as God himself ...

nsangweni@zetdc.co.zw on September 06, 2018:

just excellent

Iledare Benjamin on August 28, 2018:

Love is everything

River Song on May 03, 2018:

Justin, that was Perfect.... (with a capital "P" on purpose!) in every way. I loved how you broke it down using the Greek language as the reference. God is Love and Love is Truth. Truth will always succeed. What more do any of us need?

Isaiah Michael from Wherever God leads us. on January 06, 2011:

LOVE IT!