Despite general assumptions, fraternal love is one of the more common kinds of love experienced. Many think romantic love is more common, but news publications like the New York Times and Huffington Post reports that singles have become a majority. Their findings suggest that more people are in unromantic relationships, and an explanation of fraternal love might clarify how this is true.
Fraternal Love Defined
Since the word “fraternal” typically relates to brothers or men, most people think the term “fraternal love” must mean love between male friends or male relatives. According to Strong’s Greek Dictionary of the New Testament, “love as brethren” defines fraternal love. However, Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament further translates fraternal love as “loving a brother or sister;” in addition to, “loving one like a brother” or “loving one’s fellow countrymen.”
Fraternal love finds its roots in the New Testament Greek word “philadelphos,” which means “loving brother or sister,” as stated in the New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible with Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries. Historically, the word “philadelphos” was generally used in the biblical sense to refer to “Christian loving Christians.”
In the 19th century, the city of Philadelphia was named “The City of Brotherly Love” because the Greek word “Philadelphia” means exactly that (See Reference 8).
Since fraternal love is a biblically-rooted term, it makes sense to explore the other kinds of love in order to show its contrast. Other common types include: (1) apagao and (2) eros.
“Agapao” refers to the unconditional love that God expresses towards mankind, and “eros” indicates sexual or erotic love. Compared to apagao and eros, fraternal love (or “phileo,” verb of “philadelphos”) is the only type of love between humans that is non-physical.
Examples of Fraternal Love
Christian camaraderie is particularly exemplary of fraternal love; the term is based on behaviors that followers of Christ are instructed to follow. In fact, scriptures like 1 Peter 3:8 and Romans 12:10 charge believers to show fraternal love to one another by being on one accord and considering each other more highly.
From a secular standpoint, the friendship covenant is also a prime example of fraternal love because it involves non-sexual affections between two people.
The Huffington Post: When ‘Married’ Is No Longer the Norm
The New York Times: Married Couples Are No Longer a Majority, Census Finds
Greek Dictionary of the New Testament; James Strong
Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament; Joseph Thayer
New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible With Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries; Robert L. Thomas
Free Library of Philadelphia: FAQs