"In the Greek New Testament, there are three different words used which can be translated by the English word "love":
· agapê (love, charity) and words derived from it
· philia (friendship, love) and words derived from it
· storgê (natural affection), only as astorgos (lacking natural affection) in Ro.1:31 and 2Tim.3:3.
The translations given in parentheses are those one would find most often as explanations of the difference between these words.
A fourth Greek word for "love", eros (attraction, sexual love) is not found in the Greek NT, neither the word itself nor as root of another word.
For the Hebrew of the Old Testament, the picture is quite different. With respect to words for love, it resembles our languages like English or German: there is one and only one word for love (the verb ahav and the noun ahava) which covers the concept as broadly as our modern word "love". God's love (Jr.31:3), love of God (Dt.6:4), love of the fellow man (Lv.19:18), love of a friend (2Sam.1:26), love of a girl (Gen.29:20), mere sex (Prov.7:18), love of money (Eccl.5:9), and love of vanity (Ps.4:3) are all called by the same name.
Now, are agapê and philia synonymous? This question has been discussed for quite some time. In particular, the story of the reinstatement of Peter plays with the different words meaning love:
When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?" - "Yes, Lord," he said, "you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my lambs." Again Jesus said, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me?" He answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Take care of my sheep." The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my sheep. ..." (John 21:15-17, NIV)
In this translation, the verb agapaô is rendered as "truly love" and the verb phileô as "love". It looks as if Jesus had asked a different, perhaps a less demanding, question at the third time, and Peter had committed himself only to friendship, not to "true" love. But is that really meant?
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time the same question, and not relieved that Jesus reduced his demands at his third attempt. In what follows, Jesus announced that Peter would have to bear the full burden of friendship, reminding him that "greater love (agapê) has no-one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends (philoi)" (John15:13, NIV). - Whatever the interpretation of the change of words in this discourse, there is little evidence that philia is an inferior kind of love compared to agapê."
Here is another article on this topic: