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Originally in Latin the word caritas meant preciousness, dearness, high price. From this, in Christian theology, caritas became the standard Latin translation for the Greek word agape (ἀγάπη), meaning an unconditional love for others. This much wider concept is the meaning of the word charity in the Christian triplet “faith, hope and charity”, as used by the Douay-Rheims and the King James Version of the Bible in their translation of St Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians. However, the English word more generally used for this concept, both before and since (and by the “King James” Bible at other passages), is the more direct love. (See the article Charity (virtue).)
St Paul’s agapē was not primarily about good works and giving to the poor[dubious ] (And though I feed the poor with all my goods, and though I give my body, that I be burned, and have not love [agapē], it profiteth me nothing—1 Cor 13:3, Geneva translation, 1560), although in English the word “charity” has steadily acquired this as its primary meaning, wherein it was first used in Old French at least since the year 1200 A.D..
While the methods of giving may vary (food, money, clothing, health care), there are three main kinds of charity: pure, public, and foreign. Pure charity is entirely gratuitous. Public charity is charity that benefits the whole rather than the individual. Foreign charity is when the beneficiary lives in a country different from where the funds or services are being sent from.
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