Bible Contradictions: How to Hate Your Mom While Honoring Her (Luke 14:26)

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters — yes, even his own life — he cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:26

I’ll admit it. This isn’t one of the few verses my wife and I have tried to commit to my three-year old son’s formative sponge like memory.

I don’t remember it being stressed by my parents in my early childhood either, though I do recall a reference or two to the fifth commandment: “Honor thy mother and father…” (Exodus 20:12)

I imagine many parents wouldn’t appreciate the questions an inquiring six-year-old mind could muster up with a reading of Luke 14:26. But six-year olds who refuse to eat their greens aren’t the only ones with questions regarding this verse.

Many skeptics would make the claim that Luke 14:26 is a direct contradiction of Exodus 20:12 and Ephesians 6:2:

“‘Honor your father and mother’ — which is the first commandment with a promise.”

(To read my first post on Bible contradictions go here)

Skeptics and Six Year Olds Unite!

The Skeptic’s Annotated Bible tries to make the point for six-year olds. The SAB commentary says the command in Luke 14:26 is a blatant contradiction, “against family values”, and cruel in its intent. It is interesting how so many contemporary minds with no theological training claim exclusive interpretive authority when dissecting the meaning of verses. I wonder if they give the same respect and authority to pastors who may have an opinion on the origins of life (I digress).

To assume this skeptical stance on Luke 14:26 one would have to assume the word for “hate” in the Bible must only be restricted to its modern meaning: to despise, loathe or detest.

If “hate” is only restricted the 21st century understanding of the term, then Jesus never practiced such abhorrence against his madre. In reality, Christ ensured his mom was fully taken care of as he hung on the cross in his waning moments (John 19:25-27).

Jesus refused to subject his mother to a tired life of shuffleboard and Old Testament crossword puzzles. He loved her.

When the Rich Young Ruler inquired of eternal life one of Christ’s commands to him was to, “honor your mother and father” (Matthew 19:19).

How can we reconcile the command of Christ to honor our parents on one hand with the command of Christ to hate them in the other?

I Love Your Guts Less

A little historical language study would do the skeptic well here. It is well known that in ancient Jewish idiom, hate could also mean “love less.” Genesis 29:30-31 is a perfect example of this:

“Jacob also went in to Rachel, and he also loved Rachel more than Leah.” Yet, in the next verse the Bible says, “And when the Lord saw that Leah was hated, He opened her womb” (29:31, KJV). Jacob did not despise, detest, and treat Leah like an arch-enemy, as in the modern use of the word “hate.” Instead, he simply loved Rachel more than he loved Leah.

When  the love/hate contrast is paired together in ancient Eastern literature many times it is speaking not in terms of affection/disdain but of greater love/lesser love.

Numerous Greek scholars have added their combined years of study to the discussion to testify that the word “hate” (miseo) in Luke 14:26 does not mean “an active disdain,” but means “to love less.” For instance, E.W. Bullinger, in his work, “Figures of Speech Used in the Bible”, described the word “hate” in Luke 14:26 as hyperbole. He rendered the word as meaning “does not esteem them less than me.”

The point is not about actively hating one’s parents, it’s about loving Christ more than anyone or thing in the world, even the most intimate relationships we share on earth. If we love our parents more than we love Christ then we make them an idol. To make anyone an idol of our affection is not real love since it is not putting first the God who is Love.

Jesus clarifies everything

The “love less” sentiment of Luke 14:26 is found in the words of Christ in Matthew 10:37:

Matthew 10:37:

“Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”

Luke 14:26 is a shocking way to say Christ should be supreme in all things, even in a child’s natural affection for his mother. Christ graciously used such radical statements to awaken us out of our hard hearted stupor. Such verbosity was necessary to penetrate our darkened dull hearts.

Luke 14:26 is simply another way of stressing the greatest commandment to us: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37).

When we love Christ above all, we point people to Christ and His undying love in the gospel. And in this way we truly honor people…especially our moms.

Bryan Daniels

Bible Contradictions: To Answer Or Not To Answer A Fool (Proverbs 26:4-5)

‘Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him. Answer a fool according to his folly, Lest he be wise in his own eyes.’ Proverbs 26:4-5

(Note: Hebrew terms of “fool” and “foolish” describe a person who does not believe in God and is ignorant of wisdom based on God’s moral standard.)

Some modern critics assume the ancients were flat-out stupid. Case in point, after a brief glance at Proverbs 26:4-5 an objection may be raised along the lines of: “Look! An obvious contradiction in the very next verse! The Bible cannot be trusted…” And so a superficial argument has been framed.

But the ancients were not stupid.

The author of Proverbs actually intended to pair these seemingly contradictory verses together. And what these verses propose is not a logical contradiction, but a dilemma for the reader. It is a proposal of two choices. Proverbs 26:4-5 reveals two wise and effective ways to deal with a fool given the specific circumstance, and either way could be pertinent when the options are thoughtfully weighed.

‘Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him’

Some will outright reject any claim of the historical authority the Bible. Because of their contemporary secular presuppositions, some critics assume any argument with Biblical foundations must be deemed ridiculous.

When the debate format has been framed without using the Bible (evidential apologetics), the Christian has already conceded that the critic’s apologetic approach is a valid ground to start. It’s not. Secular critics may cry for objectivity and neutrality when debating; but they are neither objective nor neutral. No one is. Neither should the Christian be in an attempt to appear amicable.

Objectivity is a myth.

If a Christian takes up the approach of his critics the debate will spiral downward in to an incessant match of evidence regurgitation. After both of sides have exhausted all the contemporary arguments for and against evolution, the resurrection, and bible validity, still nothing has changed.

The critic leaves satisfied, because the Christian took the bait and accepted the game even though the deck was stacked.

In that case a fool was answered according to his folly. Or, to borrow the words of Jesus, the Christian has casted his pearls before swine (Matthew 7).

In this case, silence is preferable. A closing of the mouth may speak volumes of godly rebuke.

 ‘Answer a fool according to his folly, Lest he be wise in his own eyes.’

Again, this seems to be a surface level contradiction when compared with v. 4. But remember one of the principles of the book of Proverbs is this: Wisdom only comes to those who diligently and desperately seek it (Proverbs 2:1-5). Wisdom does not come to those who would lazily cherry pick a verse as cheap ammo against bible authority.

It should be noted that there are many interpretive disciplines to employ when taking up Scripture, such as grammatical nuances, historical context, literary genre, and authorial intent. The secular critic rarely employs any of these when reading into the meaning of alleged contradictions.

Verse 4 may also be presented like this: ‘Answer not a fool according to his own presuppositions, lest you be like him’

When both sides apologetic foundations are addressed it may be time to proceed with debate. When a critic believes his arguments are above reproach then the Christian should expose his subjective presuppositions with the only unchanging foundational truth: the Bible.

For example: If the critic believes they evolved by chance (unguided natural process), then the Christian may need to point out that their processes of logic also evolved by chance. So ultimately, the critic can’t be sure they are even asking the right questions. Even more, they can’t be certain they are capable of knowing with certainty the answers. The critic has no ground to stand on but the randomly programmed chemical reactions of the 8 pounds of tissue between his ears.

How can the Christian be certain their logic has ground in historical reality? The Christian appeals to something outside of self. To the true abiding eternal word that has never changed and reveals the design and mind of God. The Christian stands on the firm foundation of God’s word. The pinnacle of the Bible is the glory of God as revealed in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

When the fool’s error is exposed using God’s living word he is forced to an impasse: submit to it or scorn it. If there is a softness of heart and open door to a clear presentation of the gospel you have been right in answering the fool according to his folly.

Without the goal of the biblical gospel, apologetics becomes nothing more than intellectual one upmanship.

Defending the faith should always be done humbly and boldly (1 Peter 3:15).

So there are times you should answer a fool and there are times you shouldn’t. It depends on the nature of the fool.

Is there evidence of grace in the fool’s words, demeanor, and person? Answer him according to his folly. Is there only an insulting scorn and hardness in the fool’s discourse? Do not answer him according to his folly.

How can you discern when and how to answer a fool? That takes Holy Spirit-born Bible-saturated wisdom. This divine wisdom must be prayerfully and intensely sought before God.

Such wisdom doesn’t come cheap or easy. But the truth is neither cheap or easy. Otherwise it would be an easy sell.

As wise Solomon once said in Ecclesiastes 3:7: There is a time to speak and a time to shut up. There is a season for everything.

Bryan Daniels

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