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Biblical Challenges to a Theology of Love

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image of Biblical Interpretation

A contemporary systematic theological reflection upon love requires a cross-disciplinary attention to the plurality of approaches to love within the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament. This article explores the retrieval and development of Jewish love traditions within three New Testament traditions, namely the Synoptic Gospels, the Johannine texts, and Paul. These approaches agree on the divine origin and gift-character of love, but differ in their assessment of both the horizon of love and the significance of love for the Christian community. John stresses the community's need to be united in love against a hostile environment; Paul recommends the praxis of love as means of dealing with difference, otherness and conflict within the community; and Luke considers the universal scope of neighbourly love. Thus, acknowledging God as the author of love and reflecting upon God's nature as love does not necessarily lead to the same theological convictions or praxis of love in church and world. Moreover, the rich and ambiguous history of biblical love includes a shifting emphasis on human desire, the erotic, and the body. A critical theology of love would need to pay close attention to both the possibilities and ambiguities of the plurality of approaches to love in the Bible.

Affiliations: 1: University of Lund


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