You’ve Heard It Said

Who said THAT?

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”

-Jesus (Matthew 5:43-45a)

Who was going around in Jesus’ day telling people to hate their enemies? For centuries, scholars didn’t know. Was Jesus mistaken? Lying? Exaggerating?

There was no record of “hate your enemy” anywhere in the Hebrew scriptures or in the surviving writings of the Jewish sages. Not one.

Then, in 1946, a shepherd boy stumbled into a dark cave and shed some light on these words from Jesus. He discovered a treasure trove of scrolls authored by a fringe separatist Jewish offshoot known as the Essenes – who called themselves the “sons of light.” The Dead Sea scrolls contained the group’s handwritten copies of Jewish scripture and the group’s prayers and teachings.

And there it was, in a pledge the Essenes recited together every morning…

“…love all the sons of light, each according to his lot in God’s design, and hate all the sons of darkness, each according to his guilt in God’s vengeance.”

In Jesus’ epic Sermon on the Mount, he took aim at the Essenes and all of us who rationalize our meanness by listing the many sins of our enemies.

Are they guilty? Yes.

Do they deserve God’s vengeance? Totally.

Love them anyway.

“You’ve heard it said…but I tell you…”

artwork: “Forgive Thy Other” by Scott Erickson,