Why the Greek word "agapee=ἀγάπη" is translated as "love" in some verses, and "charity" in other verses, in KJV?

I noticed that in the Latin Vulgate two words meaning "love" were used, e.g: Romans 13:10 "dilectio" which means "love". Colossians 3:14 "caritatem" which means "charity"="the highest from of love."

KJV depends mainly on Textus Receptus, not mainly on the Latin Vulgate.

It is accepted logically that Douay-Rheims Bible has the two words "love" and "charity", since the Latin Vulgate has two different words, but how KJV?

Look: 1 Corinthians 13 and 1 John 4, in KJV, DRB=Douay-Rheims Bible, Latin Vulgate and GNT (Greek New Testament).

3 Answers 3


The KJV is rather inconsistent with its translation practice and this is a perfect example. Most of the time, ἀγάπη (agape) is translated love, but 1 Cor 13 is a conspicuous and curious exception.

The Latin Vulgate has a similar inconsistency and the KJV reflects this in most places. This also shows that the KJV translators were more dependent on the Latin than they admitted. Let me quote two more examples:

  • In Matt 27:33, Luke 23:33, Mark 15:22, John 19:17 the KJV called the place of Jesus' crucifixion, "Calvary". The Greek has Κρανιον (cranion = "skull") while the Latin is Calvariæ. Most modern versions have "skull"
  • In Isa 14:12, the Hebrew has הֵילֵ֣ל (helel = morning star/venus). The KJV translators did not understand the word and so picked up the Latin "lucifer". Again, most modern versions have "Morning star" or equivalent.

Romans 13.10 ἡ ἀγάπη τῷ πλησίον κακὸν οὐκ ἐργάζεται πλήρωμα οὖν νόμου ἡ ἀγάπη

Colossians 3.14 14ἐπὶ πᾶσιν δὲ τούτοις τὴν ἀγάπην ὅ ἐστιν σύνδεσμος τῆς τελειότητος


Ephesians 2.8 Τῇ γὰρ χάριτί ἐστε σεσῳσμένοι διὰ πίστεως καὶ τοῦτο οὐκ ἐξ ὑμῶν θεοῦ τὸ δῶρον

So, the verses in Romans and Colossians should both use love as a base translation. However, one could argue that this is a benevolent love. In addition, the KJV was written using English that is now 400 years old. So, the use of charity is a bit loose but not unreasonable.

In addition, your statement that the translators used only Greek texts is most likely incorrect. Quite possibly, the committee conducted their work while speaking Latin, and they likely relied on Latin texts as well.

I included Ephesians 2.8 as well, as this demonstrates the problem with translating agape as charity. The Greek word we typically translate as grace is χάριτί, or "charity." Intermingling the two Greek words muddies the waters for those doing in-depth study.

This is the problem with fixating on very old works, apart from a purely academic perspective. Scholarship has produced a vastly more precise Greek text and a much deeper understanding of the Koine Greek of that text.

I want to clarify my phrase

is χάριτί, or "charity."

I meant the quoted word to be a transliteration of the Greek word, not a translation.

From the comments, I looked at the origin of the English word, charity. I assumed it came from the Greek, but that is not correct. It comes from Latin, and the Latin word can be mean love, in a benevolent sense. That helps me to understand why the Vulgate uses the Latin word, and why the KJV followed the Vulgate.

The Cambridge English Dictionary has a secondary definition of charity.

the quality of being kind to people and not judging them in a severe way

This is what I meant by an out of date definition; I don't hear that word used that way much anymore.

  • 2
    χαριτι is the dative form of "grace" - it means neither love nor charity. Commented Apr 11, 2020 at 20:52
  • I believe I said that; I apologize for my lack of clarity. However, "grace" is only one possible translation, "charity" is equally acceptable and probably more literal.
    – Steve11235
    Commented Apr 11, 2020 at 20:56
  • 2
    Without getting into an argument, χαρις simply means grace or favor, and not love or charity (the word for the virtue of love), although love is a 'species' or expression of the 'genus' grace. Commented Apr 11, 2020 at 20:58
  • I see your point. I think the meaning of charity that I am using is out of date. I was also mistaken in that "charity" does not derive from Greek, as I had assumed, but from Latin. However, an online thesaurus says that "grace" is a synonym for "charity." I think your original comment was a bit too strong, which is why I responded.
    – Steve11235
    Commented Apr 11, 2020 at 21:08
  • 2
    Fair enough. I would caution against the synonym fallacy (as I like to consider it), however - conflating synonyms of a given word with that word (i.e. whereas synonymity only implies relatedness of meaning, and not sameness of meaning, or interchangeability of usage: '[In Hebrew] The word god is applied to judges, therefore god does not mean a supernatural deity, but is wider in meaning'). Commented Apr 11, 2020 at 21:17

False worship has always begun for followers of the One True God gradually. We are witnesses to it now. 1984 Webster's etymology for charity shows at its root Kama, whore. Hinduism has already crept its way into the bible. The book of Ruth, she curses The Name and takes Mara as her new name. This is a time to show our loyalty to our God. They are removing our Gods leading essence and aspect and replacing it with a love equitable to lust. This is a very serious matter and should not be taken lightly. Agape' has always been the word used. Charity is the highest form of love, really? Since when? My God has more in store for me than that. At this point we should not even need it, had we listened to the Master." You can do greater things than this".If you look at the Greek diglot for Catholics the word love was replaced with charity in 1947.

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