Love – Ancient Perspectives

Volume editors:
Kari Grødum, Henny Fiskå Hägg, John Kaufman, Torstein Theodor Tollefsen
Chapter authors:
Deirdre Carabine, Vladimir Cvetkovic, Henny Fiskå Hägg, John Kaufman, Andrew Louth, Torstein Theodor Tollefsen, Dimitrios A. Vasilakis, Tor Vegge


This anthology presents and discusses perceptions on the notion of love in ancient philosophy and early Christian theology. The notion of love is discussed firstly in two critical readings of Anders Nygren’s study Agape and Eros (1930-36). Nygren´s distinction of eros, on the one hand, as an egocentric, human love and agape, on the other hand, as Christian, theocentric and divine love, has long been received almost as a dogmatic truth and prevented a more nuanced understanding. The metaphysics and ethics of love are further discussed in relation to Platonic, Neoplatonic, biblical and early Christian – especially Eastern Christian – thinking. Related questions such as “Is all love essentially divine?”and “Is unselfish love possible?” and themes such as love as a unifying force, and ascetical love, are also discussed.

The papers were first presented at an international research seminar, The Metochi Seminar, at the University of Agder´s study centre in Greece (the Metochi Study Centre), on the island of Lesvos.

Author Biographies

Kari Grødum

Kari Grødum is the director of the University of Agder's Metochi Study Centre in Greece. She has edited a number of books in connection with the Metochi Study Centre.

Deirdre Carabine

Deirdre Carabine has lived and taught in Uganda for more than twenty-five years. Before she retired, she was co-founder and Vice-Chancellor at the Virtual University of Uganda, the first fully online-only university in Sub-Saharan Africa. Her scholarly interests include Neoplatonism, medieval philosophy with emphasis on the apophatic/Dionysian tradition, and the Fathers of the Christian church. Her publications centre around the apophatic tradition, and she is the author o The Unknown God. Negative Theology in the Platonic Tradition: Plato to Eriugena (1995 and 2015) and John Scottus Eriugena (2000). She is currently preparing a volume on the intersections of the apophatic and affective theological traditions in the middle ages with special emphasis on female mystics.

Vladimir Cvetkovic

Vladimir Cvetkovic is a research fellow of the Institute of Philosophy and Social Theory at the University of Belgrade, Serbia. His research interests include Patristics, Ancient and Byzantine Philosophy and Orthodox Theology. Among his most recent publications are the monographs The Perception of Europe and the West in the Contemporary Serbian Orthodoxy (2015) and Gregory of Nyssa’s View on Time (in Serbian, 2013), as well as two edited volumes on Florovsky’s ecumenism (in Serbian, 2015).

Henny Fiskå Hägg

Henny Fiskå Hägg is Associate Professor of religion at the University of Agder, Norway. Her research interests include spirituality, theology and society of the Early Church, especially that of the Greek Orthodox tradition. Among her publications are Language and Negativity: Apophaticism in Theology and Literature (ed.) (2000), Clement of Alexandria and the Beginnings of Christian Apophaticism (2006) and “Silence and the Mind in Religious Practice” (2012).

John Kaufman

John Kaufman is Associate Professor of church history at MF Norwegian School of Theology, Religion and Society, Oslo. His primary research interest is in early Christian theology, in particular the second century. He wrote his dissertation on the doctrine of deification in Irenaeus. In addition to his dissertation, his article “Historical relativism and the essence of Christianity”, published in Studia Theologica (2016), is relevant to the topic of his chapter in this volume.

Andrew Louth

Andrew Louth is Professor Emeritus of Patristic and Byzantine Studies at the University of Durham, UK. Primarily a (Greek) patristic scholar, early on he published Origins of the Christian Mystical Tradition: from Plato to Denys (1981), later on his interests moved into the later Greek tradition with monographs on Denys the Areopagite (1989), Maximos the Confessor (1996), and John Damascene (2002), as well as a history of the Church from the seventh to the eleventh century, Greek East and Latin West: the Church AD 681–1071 (2007). His latest book is Modern Orthodox Thinkers: from the Philokalia to the present (2015). He is also an archpriest of the Russian Orthodox Church, and a Fellow of the British Academy.

Torstein Theodor Tollefsen

Torstein Theodor Tollefsen is Professor of philosophy at the University of Oslo, Norway. His main interests are in ancient and late antique philosophy, Aristotle, Neoplatonism, and early Christian thought. He has published several articles on early Christian thought, especially on St Maximus the Confessor. He has published three books on Oxford University Press: The Christocentric Cosmology of St Maximus the Confessor (2008), Activity and Participation in Late Antique and Early Christian Thought (2012), and St Theodore the Studite’s Defence of the Icons: Theology and Philosophy in Ninth-Century Byzantium (2018).

Dimitrios A. Vasilakis

Dimitrios A. Vasilakis is currently an adjunct lecturer at the Philosophy Department of the NKUA (Athens, academic year 2020-21). In April 2020 he was awarded a one-year Initialization Scholarship by the University of Erfurt (Germany) and he has completed a post-doc in LMU (Munich). He earned his PhD in 2014 from King’s College London (under the supervision of Prof. Peter Adamson), and his thesis was published in a revised form under the title Eros in Neoplatonism and its Reception in Christian Philosophy: Exploring Love in Plotinus, Proclus and Dionysius the Areopagite by Bloomsbury Academic in 2021. His research interests include ancient Greek philosophy, especially Neoplatonism and its reception in the Orthodox East (Byzantium and modern Greece), as well as music.

Tor Vegge

Tor Vegge is Professor of New Testament Studies at the University of Agder, Norway. Central research topics are education (Bildung) and literacy in Early Christianity, and sacred texts in modern and late modern contexts. He has published Paulus und das antike Schulwesen. Schule und Bildung des Paulus (2006); “Sacred Scripture in the Letters of Paul” (2014); “Meals in the Context of the Deutero-Pauline Letters, and the Letter of Jude” (2016).

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July 5, 2021


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