I am wondering why some translations put "way of love" for αγαπε in 1 Corinthians 14:1.

διωκετε την αγαπην ζηλουτε δε τα πνευματικα μαλλον δε ινα προφητευητε

which is rendered by Phillips (who I believe was the first to use this formula)

Follow, then, the way of love, while you set your heart on the gifts of the Spirit...

The various NIV translations use a similar phrase. Neither Phillips nor the NIV uses this phrase anywhere else.

Is there any justification for interpreting agape in this way?

1 Answer 1


A literal translation of 1 Cor 14:1 would be "pursue love", as there is nothing that corresponds to the English "way" in the Greek, which would be οδος.

Although there does not appear to be any textual justification for translating τὴν ἀγάπην as "the way of love", there might be some contextual justification. The statement "pursue love", divorced from context, is ambiguous, as it could mean seek to be loved, or pursue love for oneself, which is obviously not what Paul means.

In 1 Cor 12:31, Paul states that he will show them a "more excellent way" (ὑπερβολὴν ὁδὸν), which is love, and then describes that love in chapter 13. In chapter 13 Paul emphasizes the "way" love behaves.

I would think most readers, after reading chapters 12 and 13, would naturally understand what Paul meant by "pursue love" in 14:1, that is, pursue what I just described to you in chapter 13. Perhaps certain translators want to make textually clear what Paul made contextually clear by adding the words "the way of."

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