“People, just read your Bibles, of course God hates some people!” screamed the snarling PhD level “pastor” from a well known Calvinistic denomination, with disdain for the supposed determinate blindness and lack of biblical fidelity of his audience. He then proceeded to quote the proof text under consideration here: Romans 9:13: “Jacob have I loved, and Esau have I hated.” (An actual sermon I heard.)
I heard a well known New Reformation Movement preacher, of significant international esteem and stature, say that the only reason God gives bodies to the people He has predetermined to send to hell is so that He can have something material to burn forever! As offensive as such a notion like this is, I had to admire the man for at least being logically consistent with his own belief system . . . as foul as it may be. Why, the ridiculousness of: “God has predetermined to hate some people but not others,” even affects some fundamentalistic views of modern geopolitics in the Mid East!
It is not an understatement to say that an entire system of interpretation, Calvinism, uses this as one of its pillar proof texts.
It is also not an understatement to say that proof-texting without consideration to original context and culture will always result in wrong interpretation and application of scripture. This passage is no exception. The damage and abuse done to people, and the damage done to the Lord’s reputation from mishandling this, and other passages, is beyond adjectives to describe.
If we want to understand a passage of scripture, we must always understand it first in the way the person who wrote it, and those who heard it, would have understood it. It can be shocking and hard for us to understand, but at the most basic level, some of the simplest words and concepts, are neither defined, understood, nor applied in our day as they were in the times of Paul and Jesus. Not the same. Not even close.
This is the case in the terms of “love and hate.”
For us, these terms are individual, inward, subjective, emotive, feelings of passion. We consider this to be self-evident. We can’t even process how they could mean anything else. Well, as challenging as it may be for us to get our minds around, they were not understood this way for anyone living in the Mediterranean basin area in the first century, including Jesus, Paul, and the other disciples/apostles.
Their culture (Jew and Gentile) was not individualistic as is ours. Theirs was group-oriented. Their whole world-view and cosmology (how the universe functions, what is “right” and “normal” in the universe) was different than ours. Our culture is self-conscious, theirs was others-conscious. Our culture centers on truth and falsehood, and individual advancement and achievement. Theirs centered on honor and shame, particularly related to the group, not the individual. Frankly, individualism as a means of understanding ourselves in the universe did not exist in human consciousness on the planet until around the 17th century! It is a gross and anachronistic mishandling of scripture to read it with Western individualistic lenses on, as if they were written by a high school graduate from Iowa (No disrespect to Iowa!), or a European scholastic from the 16th century!
These terms–love and hate–were understood, and expressed with a group/others consciousness frame of reference, not our frame of reference.
Love was any action (not feeling!) that contributed to the welfare, advancement, honor, increase, or benefit of the group, the collective, the family, the family name, the family reputation, the family honor, the honor of the tribe, clan, village, city, nation, etc. Whether or not any individualistic feeling was involved was not in the picture.
Conversely, hate was any action that contributed to the diminishing of the group in these same categories. Hate meant to separate one’s self from the group, to distance yourself from the group, to not contribute to the “advancement” of the “honor” or “name” of the group and the individuals represented in it. By your separation you were withholding the benefit to the group that your presence would contribute to the honor of that group.
Any action that was purposeful in advancing the honor status of the group was their understanding of love. Any action that resulted in the diminishing of group honor or purpose was considered hate.
The closest English words to capture their understanding would be fidelity or loyalty for their love, and dishonor or separation for their hate. This is particularly so as it relates to fidelity, loyalty, trustworthiness to purpose– specifically the purpose of honor, ‘to make one’s (one’s family) name great.”
It should be plain to see with this understanding, that Romans 9:13 has nothing to do with God predetermining to hate someone and to send them to hell, specifically Esau! That is simply nonsense: out of context, anachronistic nonsense.
In Romans 9 God is simply saying that He has chosen/loved (sealed with the covenantal loyalty and fidelity of His own character) Jacob for the purpose of His family going forth and increasing in honor. He has not chosen (hated) Esau for this purpose. The reputation of God’s family (honor, status, love, purpose) will be through Jacob’s line, not Esau’s.
This is all this passage means. It has nothing to do with God’s affective (inward, individual, emotive) state toward Esau or in a predetermination to send Esau to hell or anyone else for that matter! In fact, heaven and hell are nowhere to be found in this entire passage! The passage is dealing with God’s determinations for His covenant . . . the arrangement He made for His family, and His purposes through His family, going forward! It is a passage about fidelity of purpose for the family!
This makes 100% sense with the rest of the context of Romans and puts to rest the absurd notion of a God who predetermines to “hate” some people but not others.
I encourage you to reread the New Testament with this understanding of these terms. I believe it will revolutionize the New Testament for you. You will see that it “fits.” Many difficult or troublesome passages (e.g. – hate your father and mother?) cease to be so when we define things the way Jesus and Paul understood them, which is the basic, first step, responsibility of anyone who presumes to “teach the scriptures” to others.
The basic principles for understanding salvation and being a disciple are so simple, that a four-year-old can understand them. However, if you presume to teach others what they “must believe from the Bible,” as a matter of “mandatory orthodox doctrine,” things are not quite so simple. In fact, it’s not simple at all. You will be subject to greater evaluation/scrutiny from heaven for your presumption to teach others (James 3:1). I suggest that before you tell others what they “must believe,” you do your homework due diligence, paying attention to original context and culture.
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