A Prayer
of Jesus
I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise
and understanding and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will


By Edgar Jones

Luke 14:26 is one of the most notable examples of extreme language in the utterances of Jesus, and one that is frequently set forth for comment.  I use it here as a typical example of many such utterances that seem so extreme, on first reading, that one is inclined to the immediate response, "He can't mean that!"  Here is the utterance:


[26] If any one comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.
You see?  He can't mean that, can he?  

Skeptics love this utterance and interpret it literally because they see
it, quite correctly, as contradictory to all the things that Christians promote: love of neighbor, family values, respect for parents, and the like. They love it because they see it as showing the absurdity of the teaching of Jesus and the hypocrisy of Christian doctrine that touts family values in the name of such a teacher.  They tend to see Jesus as meaning exactly what he said and don't question this evaluation.  To do so would not serve their agenda.

Christians hate this utterance and wish to high heaven it would go away!  So, to this end, they do all in their power to keep it out of sight and hearing.  But there it is!  They are forced,
by questioning parishioners, to visit it.  Therefore many have sought to soften the language by classifying it as a rhetorical device.  They explain that Jesus does not mean exactly what he says, but is using extreme language only to stress a point, typical of the ancient oriental or Near Eastern mindset that tended to see things as either black or white.  It is, they say, an case of Semitic hyperbole.  

What?  Don't ask me.  I had to go look it up; you can too!  Us redneck (one word) country good ol' boys don't have much use for such words.

A Christian position that accepts the hard language as literal but softens its application by confining it to those immediate disciples who were to accompany Jesus on his journey to Jerusalem is that of C. H. Dodd, a well respected Christian scholar of the Twentieth Century who was on the faculty at Cambridge University.  I select the following from his book, The Founder of Christianity:

Most likely Jesus deliberately chose the harsh and extreme language which we find in Luke. It is in the tone of the occasion. He was calling for volunteers who renounce everything, renounce ("hate") life itself. And this renunciation of life is expressed again, in the most harshly realistic terms. To "carry the cross" is no mere metaphor. Crucifixion was the Romans’ short way with rebels. A criminal condemned to this atrocious punishment was normally compelled to carry to the place of execution the crossbeam to which he was to be fastened. That is the picture which the words of Jesus conjured up in the minds of those who heard him. They were to go to Jerusalem like a procession of condemned criminals with halters round their necks. Such was to be the end of the journey for him; he invited them to share it. "Can you drink the cup that I drink," he asked, "and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with ?" "We can," they replied. 

It should be noted that the call to "carry the cross" is addressed to those who volunteered for service on a particular occasion. Jesus did not expect all those who had come to him in faith to accompany him on this desperate venture nor, if they did not do so, did he mean to disqualify them for a part in the new community. But the principle upon which the call is based is a universal one: "Whoever cares for his own safety is lost; but if a man will let himself be lost for my sake and for the gospel, that man is safe."

By this means Dodd would relieve us of the need to apply this language to ourselves, although it was meant to be taken literally by the first disciples.  But we see immediately that this interpretation, that the language applies to the special occasion (highlighted above) is not valid.  How?  Apparently Professor Dodd chose to ignore the express specification of those to whom these words were address in Luke 16:25 immediately preceding the utterance:


    [25] Now great multitudes accompanied him, and he turned and said to them,. . ..
Being addressed to the great multitudes that accompanied him, this must have been a universal proclamation, not one applied only to a small group and a specific occasion. Prof. Dodd did acknowledge this, to be sure, but then exemplified the universal aspect by reference to another utterance of the Lord that omits the objectionable word, "hate."  There are other things that invalidate this interpretation but this one is adequate.  
Another Christian position, one that softens the language, is that of one who publishes on the Web under the name of James Patrick Holding, who has an article on Luke 14:26 on his Web site, tektonics.org.  OK, you can ask me, even though I did have to go look it up as usual. Tekton is the New Testament Greek word, used only twice, to define the occupation of Joseph and Jesus, where it is usually translated carpenter.  It has more general meanings, such as a handworker, a worker in wood, one who assembles things, a craftsman.  It is a word that Mr. Holding well applies to his site, crafty as he is!

Since I have mentioned Mr. Holding, I probably should also recognize the honor he has accorded by referring to me directly in at least six different pages on his site.  He has one long paper with an addendum dedicated specifically to my critique of Paul, in which he contends that I am lacking in scholarship.  Thank you, Mr. Holding!  Let there be no misconceptions here, for I would be ashamed to be a scholar. I consider this one of the greatest compliments.  It is very gratifying to know my non scholar status shows!

Mr. Holding subscribes to the view that Luke 14:26 is best understood as one of those examples of extreme language not to be taken literally, but as hyperbole.  This may correct my first impression of him, which was surely in error.  I had thought that he might be a rather pompous individual, based on his tendency to use the full name, James Patrick Holding, in bylines.  Where I come from, we seldom are that formal (except at funerals), preferring to refer to our good ol' boys by terms of endearment such as Billy Bob. But now, I see that James Patrick Holding is only a rhetorical device, and will henceforth refer to him as Jimmy Pat. My apologies, Jimmy Pat, for misjudging you.  Now back to our subject, and we begin by asking:

1. Did Jesus use hyperbole?

For all who need to look it up and haven't done so, this simply asks if Jesus deliberately exaggerated for any reason.  It would be easy to answer "No" because then I don't have more explaining to do.  Jesus simply said exactly what he meant, always!  But if I answer "Yes" other questions pop up.  Often?  Sometimes? When?

This question reveals a major implication, because the very asking of it means that the questioner is open to the thought that Jesus did not always mean what he said.  Thus, it suggests a possibility of misunderstanding that, if real, is highly significant because Jesus made eternal life conditional on hearing, understanding, and believing his Word.  For example:


[24] Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.
This becomes problematic if my word is sometimes an exaggeration that we take literally in a serious effort to receive and believe that Word. How is one accountable to hear and believe when what is stated is not what is meant? Luke 14:26 is a good example of such  utterances, because if one does not do what is stated there, i.e., exercise hate towards certain persons and one's own life, one does not even qualify to be a disciple, not to speak of failing to qualify for eternal life!  Unless, of course, this consequence, i.e., cannot be my disciple, also is hyperbole!  You see, therefore, where it leads when one opens one's mind to the thought that Jesus sometimes spoke hyperbolically, not meaning exactly what he said.

But if he did so speak on occasion -- if, mind you, not granting anything at this point -- then, as I see it, he could do so justifiably only on one of three grounds.  They are:
1.  Either he must explain immediately that he is exaggerating, or

2.  It must be obvious exaggeration,

3. He must proceed immediately to press the point in such a way as to make it         obvious that the statement is not an exaggeration.
I don't see the first option as real because I don't recall Jesus saying anything to the effect that what he has just said is an exaggeration.  This leaves us with two different ways of understanding a saying as being obvious.  Either it is obviously an exaggeration, or it is obviously not an exaggeration as indicated by the supporting words in the context that follow.

So, did Jesus use hyperbole?  


I can give no other answer because he did, in fact, utilize obvious exaggeration.  Here is an example:


[3] But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,
It is not possible for a left hand to "know" anything.  The thought is absurd because it rests on an obvious impossibility.  He is exaggerating for effect, and it does get the point across very well, which is that one is to give alms very secretively, as with prayer and fasting. Here is another example:


[25] It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.
It is not possible for a camel to go through the eye of a needle.  The thought is absurd because it rests on an obvious impossibility.  He is exaggerating for effect, and it gets the point across very well, which is that it is not at all easy for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.  It is very, very hard! Biblical literalists have contrived many devices to impart a literal meaning to this utterance, including the invention of a city gate, called The Eye of the Needle, that a camel could barely get through by means of much pushing and squeezing. This last dodge I recall hearing first from a professor of NT Interpretation at Southern Baptist Seminary in 1948.

As I said above, a positive answer to this question opens a Pandora's Box of other questions.  It does indeed -- beginning with the obvious one relative to our text.

2. Does Jesus use hyperbole in Luke 14:26?

Look again at the utterance and we will see that this is an appropriate question:
If any one comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.
Surely, he didn't mean that?

Yes, the question is appropriate.  This utterance contains one word,
hate, that is obvious extreme language, applied as it is, and appears furthermore to be a gross contradiction when compared with the heavy emphasis of Jesus on love, for he elsewhere commands all his disciples to love God, love their neighbors, and even to love their enemies.  Then, suddenly we have it here that one must hate all those who are closest to us or one cannot even become a disciple!  No, that cannot be; therefore the Christians have long been busy explaining that this is hyperbole -- extreme language -- that must be softened before it can be taken seriously.

Before we examine it in greater detail, it will be useful to expose you to a typical Christian conclusion.  It is that of our friend, Jimmy Pat, taken from his page on this very subject of extreme language and Luke 14:26.  He has studied very carefully and derived this from his usual conscientious application of impeccable scholarship:

Another example cited by critics is Luke 14:26, in which Jesus tells us that we must "hate" others for the sake of the Gospel. Critics want to read this as literal hate; we reply by identifying such sayings as containing a rhetorical emphasis, not referring to literal hate. And in fact, such rhetorical emphasis typifies ancient and even modern Semitic cultures. G. B. Caird, in The Language and Imagery of the Bible [110ff], notes the frequent use of hyperbole among Semitic peoples, and notes that "its frequent use arises out of a habitual cast of mind" which tends to view matters in extremes, or as we would say, "black and white." The Semitic mindset is dogmatic, and despises doubt; things are either one way or another, and there is no room for introspection. (If I may venture a social comment, it is not hard to see this sort of mindset emerging from all of the monotheistic faiths, including Islam in particular.) As a result, statements like Luke 14:26 are simply typical of this mindset that encourages extreme forms of expression.

There we have it!  Scholarship rules the day!  Jimmy Pat has examined the meaning of the word, hate.  He has researched the ancient secular texts for examples; he has read the literature on the subject, all by respectable scholars (or at least one), and has arrived at the only correct conclusion, which is that Luke 14:26, in its use of "hate," is a rhetorical device -- an example of extreme language, or Semitic hyperbole, characteristic of ancient Semites.

Now, wait just a minute here, Jimmy Pat!  I see no evidence that you have investigated  context, have given adequate attention to the other uses to which Jesus put this word, or have checked to see if it meets the two tests of hyperbole that are obviously required in the special case of utterances of Jesus (see above).

The first of these tests, mandated, as you may recall, by Jesus having made the acceptance of his Word the prime condition for eternal life, is that, if it is hyperbole and not meant to be taken literally, then (1) this must be obvious from the nature of the statement, or if it is not hyperbole, then (2) this must be obvious from Jesus' subsequent explanation.

Luke 14:26 fails the first test for hyperbole because it is not, in itself, an obvious exaggeration.  That is, it is not impossible as stated, for it is easy to conceive of circumstances where hate might be correctly applied to the relations listed.
 Therefore, the question is still open and we must move on to the second test: Did Jesus proceed immediately to press the point in such a way as to make it obvious that the statement is not an exaggeration?

To pursue this question we need to examine the subsequent utterances that continue from Luke 14:26.  We put it all together here:


[25] Now great multitudes accompanied him; and he turned and said to them,
26] If any one comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.
27] Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple.
28] For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?
29] Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him,
30] saying, `This man began to build, and was not able to finish.'
31] Or what king, going to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and take counsel whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand?
32] And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends an embassy and asks terms of peace.
33] So therefore, whoever of you does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.  

Indeed, he does proceed immediately to explain himself.  But his explanation, far from revealing hyperbole or making its use obvious as this test requires, presses home and reinforces the extreme language of Luke 14:26!  It means,
Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple.
One of the objects of the hate listed in 14:26 is this:
If any one comes to me and does not hate . . .  yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.
We have learned from Jesus' crucifixion that one does not take up a cross, willingly, if one loves ones life, because the cross will take that life!  This is a powerful reinforcement of the literal application of hate in 14:26.  As if this might not be sufficient explanation to render the saying obviously literal, Jesus then continued to relate two brief parables to the effect that it is vain and unwise to enter into any demanding commitment without first counting the cost, such as building a tower, or going to war.  It is better not to make such a commitment than, having made it, to find that one is unwilling to pay the price -- and Jesus has just related, in 14:26, the precise terms of the price.  So these two parables provide even further reinforcements of the literal rendering of 14:26!  

Finally, Jesus drives the nail home with resounding finality, summing everything included in 14:26 in one brief statement that can leave no doubt whatever as to his intent in 14:26:
So therefore, whoever of you does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.
Parents, wife, children, brothers and sisters, one's own life . . . everything comes under that comprehensive expression, all that he has.

So it is clear -- Jesus follows the proclamation of 14:26 with not one, not two, not three, but four confirmations of his literal intent in 14:26.  This utterance absolutely fails the second test of hyperbole, for instead of explaining it in a way that makes it an obvious hyperbole, he has quadruply reinforced it!  What is absolutely obvious is that Jesus does not intend us to see this as hyperbolic language.

So you see, Jimmy Pat, how your scholarship, in this case, leads you away from Jesus, not to him; how it veils the Truth rather than revealing it?  This is surely included in what Jesus indicated when he uttered this little thanksgiving:
25] At that time Jesus declared,
I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast
hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes;

This is a matter of major concern because you have sought to "soften" a saying of the Lord that he has emphatically affirmed in its hard form.  This is equivalent to unbelief, not only of an utterance of Jesus, but of the Father who sent Jesus to utter it.  All who do such things fail to qualify, not only for discipleship but for eternal life as well, according to this utterance:


[24] Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.
You are not hearing his Word, and you are not believing the One who sent him!  

3. Isn't this a contradiction?

Addressing now the general reader, We yet have a difficult saying to accept and believe.  It is (once accepted as being not a case of hyperbole) an apparent contradiction to the heavy emphasis of Jesus on love throughout his teachings.  If Jesus was thus subject to self contradiction, then we have another whole host of problems to deal with before we can establish his credibility and the truth of this utterance.  Can it be that the Christians, such as Jimmy Pat, who are offended at the thought of taking this utterance, Luke 14:26, literally as stated because of the apparent contradiction, and the skeptics, who love to take it literally because it confirms for them the contradiction, both be erring because they misunderstand?  

Here is the supposed contradiction in brief as drawn from the Logos.  We begin with a presentation of the essential utterances of the Lord.


    [36] "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?"
    37] And he said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.
    38] This is the great and first commandment.
    39] And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
    40] On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.


[43] You have heard that it was said, `You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'
[44] But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. .


[34] A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
Here for comparison is Luke 14:26 again:
If any one comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.
These words do not help to resolve the contradiction, do they?  No, they only appear to reinforce it!  So, let us go on to the next step, which is to look at the meaning of the individual NT Greek verbs rendered into English as hate and love.  The base words are miseo and agapao.  From Thayer1 we obtain the following definitions:
miseo - To hate, to pursue with hatred, to detest. . . . Not a few interpreters have attributed to misein in . . . Luke 14:26; . . . the signification  to love less, to postpone in love or esteem, to slight, through oversight of the circumstance that ' the Orientals, in accordance with their greater excitability, are wont both to feel and to profess love and hate where we Occidentals, with our cooler temperament, feel they express nothing more than interest in or disregard and indifference to a thing.'
There is not much help here, is there?  Except to note that Thayer is careful to include the reference to hyperbole in an effort to soften the language that I have already shown cannot be legitimately softened.  This would be the seemingly obvious resolution to the problem because of a similar utterance from Matthew:


    [37] He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;
    38] and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.
We have at least three very good reasons for rejecting this association.  These are:
1.  This softens the language of Luke 14:26 that we have already seen should not be softened because Jesus proceeded to stress the literal application of the extreme language.

2. These utterances from Matthew 10 and Luke 14 are not parallel recordings of the same utterance.  Matthew's comes during the early Galilean ministry, whereas Luke's comes during the later period of transition from Galilee to Judea.  

3. Luke wrote after Matthew and probably had Matthew as one of his sources.  He is very unlikely to have changed the language of Matthew 10:37- 38 to his extreme form if he did not have adequate confirmation.  The literal application of this would have been as offensive to Luke as it is to modern Christians.
My conclusion is that Jesus used both utterances in his teaching, and that Matthew failed to record the strong one, probably because it was also offensive to him.  Luke did not record the weak one of Matthew, probably because he observed that Matthew had already preserved it.  But Luke did not omit the strong utterance because, as an honest historian, he could not conscientiously bring himself to omit what his sources assured him was a valid saying of the Lord.

If we seek support for either saying from Mark, we are disappointed.  He omitted both. Interestingly, however, the extra canonical Gospel of Thomas records the strong utterances only (Logia 55 and 101) -- twice!  We can safely conclude that a comparison of Luke 14:26 with other similar utterances of the Lord in other gospels does not resolve the seeming contradiction, but rather reinforces it.
Can we be misunderstanding the English word, hate?  Does it carry an alternate definition that permits it use without contradicting love?
This from the Merriam-Webster Collegiate:
Main Entry: hate
Function: verb
Inflected Form(s): hat·ed; hat·ing
Date: before 12th century
transitive senses
1 : to feel extreme enmity toward <hates his country's enemies>
2 : to have a strong aversion to : find very distasteful <hated to have to meet strangers> <hate hypocrisy>
intransitive senses : to express or feel extreme enmity or active hostility
- hat·er noun
- hate one's guts : to hate someone with great intensity
Well!  That certainly does not help.  But while we are checking definitions of the English words, could we relieve the seeming contradiction by finding some less strong definition of love?
This from the Merriam-Webster Collegiate
Main Entry: love
Function: verb
Inflected Form(s): loved; lov·ing
Date: before 12th century
transitive senses
1 : to hold dear : CHERISH
2 a : to feel a lover's passion, devotion, or tenderness for b (1) : CARESS (2) : to fondle amorously (3) : to copulate with
3 : to like or desire actively : take pleasure in <loved to play the violin>
4 : to thrive in <the rose loves sunlight>
intransitive senses : to feel affection or experience desire
I can't speak for you, but this doesn't resolve the problem for me.  Is there anything else we can do that might resolve this contradiction?

It may help to examine how Jesus used the word, miseo in other contexts. Here is a listing of the other cases found in Luke; you may, if you wish, check out the other gospels.  I do not list them here because I have checked and find nothing that differs significantly from Luke.  For the sake of brevity, they are omitted.
    [22] Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, on account of the Son of man!
    23] Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.


    [27] But I say to you that hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
    28] bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.


[10] He who is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and he who is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much.
11] If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will entrust to you the true riches?
12] And if you have not been faithful in that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own?
13] No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.


[12] He said therefore, A nobleman went into a far country to receive a kingdom and then return.
13] Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten pounds, and said to them, `Trade with these till I come.'
14] But his citizens hated him and sent an embassy after him, saying, `We do not want this man to reign over us.'


    [15] for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict.
    16] You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and kinsmen and friends, and some of you they will put to death;
    17] you will be hated by all for my name's sake.
    If this resolves the contradiction for you, yours is a different reading than mine.  I only see confirmation for the strongest form of miseo without any resolution of the contradiction.  We even see hate juxtaposed with love in two of the above utterances. It is very interesting to note that in this last reference from Luke 21,  we find the hatred applied again in reference to the family members, but in the opposite direction -- the parents and brothers and kinsmen and friends are the ones hating the disciples to the ultimate extent, so that they will even put them to death.  We are yet left with the strongest form of hate in the utterance of Luke 14:26!

    Do not despair!  There is yet at least one question we can investigate to resolve this and I will reveal beforehand that it does, indeed, resolve the apparent contradiction.  Yes, Jesus said exactly what he meant in Luke 14:26.  He also has not contradicted himself.

    4. How did Jesus apply this teaching to himself?
    We simply examine how Jesus applied this teaching of hatred for family members, and one's own life, to himself.  Is he not our example?  We can derive this from the following excerpts from the gospels.  So we shift now from an examination of the meaning of the words, which we have found to be fruitless, to an examination of how Jesus applied this teaching to himself.  There are two things to consider, implicit in Luke 14:26, which is family members on one hand, and one's own life on the other.

    a) Application to the Relationship, Father

    We begin by examining the family members of Jesus and his attitude towards them. We have these utterances that are relevant specific to the father:


      [33] And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him;

      [48] And when they saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, "Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously."
      [49] And he said to them, How is it that you sought me?  Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?
This earliest utterance, when Jesus was only twelve, shows that, at this young age, he understood that God is his Father and Joseph is not his father.  He is rejecting a father - son relationship with Joseph and claiming, instead, this very bond to God.

The Hebrew nation was defined by a common descent from father Abraham.  The gospels of Matthew and Luke put Jesus in this line of descent also, which makes him, as all born Jews, seed of Abraham and Abraham his father.  But Jesus rejected this relationship:


[57] The Jews then said to him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?" [58] Jesus said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.
This was a subtle way of stating that Abraham was not his father, for if he preceded Abraham, he could not be a son of Abraham nor Abraham his father.

The gospels would have us believe that Jesus was in a direct line of descent from David, and thus as a son of David, was qualified to be the Messiah.  But this means that David was his father from generations earlier.  Jesus also rejected this relationship:


    [41] But he said to them, How can they say that the Christ is David's son?
    42] For David himself says in the Book of Psalms, `The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand,
    43] till I make thy enemies a stool for thy feet.'
    44] David thus calls him Lord; so how is he his son?
Jesus rejects the relationship of son of David, hence also David as his father, being that he is himself the Christ (messiah).

On the other hand, Jesus identified God as his Father many times, always identifying his Father as being in heaven.  This is typical:


[32] So every one who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven;
[33] but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.
Jesus rejected Joseph, David, and Abraham as his father, always maintaining instead that his Father is the one in heaven!  Jesus rejected a relationship to Joseph, David and Abraham; he did not reject the men.  We see elsewhere that he honored David and Abraham.  It was a specified relationship that he rejected, while identifying God in heaven as the only valid party to that relationship.

b) Application to Mother, Brother, and Sister
How did he identify other family members that appear in Luke 14:26?
This is an easy one!


[48] But he replied to the man who told him, "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?"
[49] And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, Here are my mother and my brothers!
[50] For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, and sister, and mother.
Both Mary and her other sons, his sibling brothers, had come to speak to him but, when he heard it, he rejected their status of mother and brothers by identifying other parties, not only as mother and brothers, but as sisters as well!

Jesus did not marry and bear children, thus he had no wife, son or daughter by which to make comparisons here. But there is no reason to place their relationships in a different category from the other relatives according to the flesh.  He did not recognize any of these as being valid relationships.  He rejected all of them!

c) Objection: Jesus affirmed the commandment to honor father and mother! How could he reject them?

Yes, and he did so repeatedly.  But what did he mean by "honor?"

What did Moses mean by it?  Let us look to the Fifth Commandment for a clue:


    [12] Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which the LORD your God gives you.
The reason for the commandment was to extend one's days on the earth. This commandment was given to institute elder care, thus extending the days of the aged.  Now, how did Jesus understand this commandment?


    [9] And he said to them, You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God, in order to keep your tradition!
    10] For Moses said, `Honor your father and your mother'; and, `He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him surely die';
    11] but you say, `If a man tells his father or his mother, What you would have gained from me is Corban' (that is, given to God) --
    12] then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother,
    13] thus making void the word of God through your tradition which you hand on. And many such things you do.
"In the rabbinic literature, corban can mean a form of oath that turns whatever it is applied to into a cultic offering no longer suitable for its normal purpose. . . .. Jesus knew this view. In the controversy with the scribes and Pharisees, he accuses them of declaring such oaths binding even when they conflicted with one's legal duties toward parents, thus placing their tradition higher than the commandments of the Mosaic Law."(Etiene Trochme in the Oxford Companion to the Bible.)

It becomes clear that, for Jesus as well as for Moses, to honor father and mother means to provide for them material means when they can no longer provide for themselves.  

Did Jesus do this for Mary?


    [26] When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, Woman, behold, your son!
    27] Then he said to the disciple, Behold, your mother! And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.
Jesus thus honored "his mother."  He absolutely rejected her relationship to him as mother, but then, having no material means of his own, he found a way to honor her according to the Law.  

Jesus coupled the Fifth Commandment with another admonition from Moses:
He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him surely die;
We are therefore justified in the conclusion that thus to speak evil of one's forebears is not to honor them.  Two things therefore are covered by the concept of honoring father and mother: provision for their latter years, and speaking no evil of them.  There is no intention of Jesus to involve his disciples in anything more than these two things while the relationship of father and mother he has absolutely denied to them.  He hates the relationships!

d) Is there a confirmation of this from the example of Jesus?

Yes, one need only take note of the manner in which Jesus addressed Mary:
[4] And Jesus said to her, O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come.


[26] When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, Woman, behold, your son!
You see?  Had he thought of her as his mother, he would surely have addressed her as such.  Instead he used the very impersonal word, woman that he applied to all other unnamed women whom he directly addressed.  He never so much as once addressed her as "Mother."  You can check this out if you wish!

Finally, there is one other confirmation that we can apply.  It is in this transaction:


    [27] As he said this, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, "Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts that you sucked!"
    28] But he said, Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!
Long I pondered this utterance.  Why did the Holy Spirit preserve it in the gospels?  Surely there were more significant utterances that were not recorded, or had I missed something? This seems an unjustified put down if ever there was one!  When we think of the billions of poor and misled Catholics through the centuries who have said their Hail Mary's that call for Mary's blessing as the "Mother of God" -- but here is Jesus denying her blessedness! And he is denying it on the basis of her not being his mother!  For he was in effect saying, "If you must bless my mother, then bless the ones who really do constitute that relationship to me, not Mary.  That is,
Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!
These are the very ones whom, as we have already said, he identified as his mother:
 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, and sister, and mother.
Amazing consistency!  Jesus rejected Mary as his mother in every way, including rejecting that relationship to her when others only inferred it!  

Jesus rejected, denied, disallowed -- whatever -- every relationship according to the flesh. He hated the relationships.  He did not hate the persons.  The commandment to love the neighbor, that Jesus affirmed, is no contradiction to the discipleship qualification of Luke 14:26.  Who can be a neighbor nearer than the mother or father, brothers and sisters, spouses and children?  

Did he continue to love and honor Mary?  

Most certainly, and he demonstrated this when, in the extreme agony of crucifixion, he remembered to honor her by provided for her elder care.  But he addressed her as "Woman" and designated her as the Mother, not of himself, but of the Beloved Disciple, and the disciple her son.  At this point Mary had surely become a child of the Father and this made her also the Mother of the Beloved Disciple, according to the principle already set forth twice in this paper:
For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, and sister, and mother.
Luke 14:26 means that, to qualify as a disciple, one must hate the relationships. It does not mean that one must hate the persons.  Further, when we examine the emphasis that Jesus placed on this theme in much of his teaching, we must agree that the strongest form of the strongest negative emotion, hate, is the only proper way to express the qualification for discipleship.  Jesus intended to be taken absolutely literally.  He chose this harsh word, hate, because it is the only word that adequately expresses the Truth.  

5. Hating one's own life?
So Luke 14:26 contains no contradiction in the matter of hating one's relatives (relationships).  But what of this matter, also specified, of hating one's own life?

I have justifiably designated it for a separate treatment because
there is no contradiction between this and other teaching of Jesus about life.  He has nowhere suggested in the least that we should love life in this world, but has everywhere testified to the hatred of life, culminating his testimony by his personal example of life hatred by willingly taking up his cross.  This saying, taken literally, appears too hard to bear for Christians, not because it contradicts anything taught by Jesus, but because it contradicts their love of life.

Of course it is related to the other objects of hatred in Luke 14:26 because those are all relationships deriving from natural birth and the resulting life in this world
.  They are to be hated precisely because they pertain only to life in this world, which explains why Jesus lumped them all together.  This is a topic that I have already visited repeatedly; therefore, rather than expanding on it further here, i urge you to go here and here for further explanation.


Luke 14:26 is not a case of Semitic hyperbole.  Jesus said exactly what he meant, and meant exactly what he said.  All we humans need do is to understand him, then the concern about extreme language disappears.
1. Thayer's Greek - English Lexicon of the New Testament, Hendrickson Publishers, First Printing, June 1996

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