be-luv'-ed, be-luv'-d' (agapetos): A term of affectionate endearment common to both Testaments; in the Old Testament found, 26 out of 42 times, in Solomon's Song of Love. Limited chiefly to two Heb words and their derivatives: 'ahebh, "to breathe" or "long for," hence, to love, corresponding to the New Testament, agapao, "to prefer," i.e. a love based on respect and benevolent regard; dodh, "love," chiefly love between the sexes, based on sense and emotion, akin to phileo (Latin amare). Used occasionally, in their nobler sense, interchangeably, e.g. the former of a husband's love for his wife (Dt 21:15,16); twice of a lover (Song 1:14,16), thus lifting the affection of the Song of Solomon out of mere amorousness into the realm of the spiritual and possibly Messianic. Both words used of God's love for His chosen: e.g. Solomon, "beloved of his God" (Neh 13:26); Benjamin "beloved of Yahweh" (Dt 33:12); so even of wayward Israel (Jer 11:15).
In the New Testament "beloved" used exclusively of Divine and Christian love, an affection begotten in the community of the new spiritual life in Christ, e.g. "beloved in the Lord" (Rom 16:8). The beauty, unity, endearment of this love is historically unique, being peculiarly Christian. "Brethren" in Christ are "beloved" (1 Thess 1:4; 1 Cor 15:58; Jas 1:16; 2:5). Many individuals are specified by name: Timothy (2 Tim 1:2); Philemon (Philem 1:1); Amplias, Urbane, Stachys, Persis (Rom 16:8,9,12), etc. The aged John is the conspicuous New Testament illustration of the depth and tenderness of Christian love. In his epistles alone he addresses his disciples 12 times as "beloved." Paul terms "God's elect" "holy and beloved" (Col 3:12).
The term rises to still Diviner significance as an epithet of Christ, whom Paul, grateful for His "freely bestowed" grace, terms "the Beloved." This is the word used repeatedly to express God the Father's infinite affection for Jesus His "beloved Son" (Mt 3:17; 12:18; 17:5; Mk 1:11; 9:7; Lk 3:22; 20:13).
Agapetos rendered as above 47 times is 9 times "dearly beloved" (the Revised Version (British and American) uniformly omits "dearly") and 3 times "well beloved" (the Revised Version (British and American) omits "well"). The former rendering found only once in the Old Testament (yedhidhuth, "something beloved"), portraying God's tender love for His people: "dearly beloved of my soul" (Jer 12:7). Thrice is Daniel spoken of as "greatly beloved" of Gabriel and of God (hamudhoth, "precious," i.e. delight = beloved; Dan 9:23; 10:11,19). Through the apostles the word has become familiar in pastoral and sermonic address. Few New Testament words better illustrate the power and impress of the Christian spirit on succeeding centuries than this.
Dwight M. Pratt