How is the word "hate" to be understood in some Bible verses?


The word “hate” in the New Testament is usually understood literally, as for example in Matthew 24:9, “Then they will hand you over to persecution, and they will kill you. You will be hated by all nations because of my name." In other verses, I wonder if it is a figure of speech (hyperbole, exaggeration). Consider Luke 14:26, “If any one comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple."

Was something lost in the translation? It’s not a matter of different words for hate; these Bible verses and many others use the same Greek word, μισέω (miseo). Follow this link if you would like to see the word in more contexts:
In today’s US English, the word “hate” is rarely (if ever) used in a softer sense, so Luke 14:26 is a difficult verse. Could it be that in early Christian times, when these Scriptures were written, the word was used more flexibly, and perhaps recognized in some contexts as a figure of speech?


It’s not a figure of speech.

Properly speaking, ‘miseo’ speaks to a comparison (or, to put it another way, to look at things as along a spectrum). In other words, it means that you love some things more and some things less. If you love Jesus more than you love other things (or, to put it as they do in Scripture, if you ‘miseis’ other things in favor of Jesus), then you’re just speaking comparatively – Jesus is loved more, and the other things are ‘hated’ (or, properly speaking, ‘loved less’).

We use the English word ‘hate’ differently these days; usually, it’s just an emotion, and far removed from the connotation of ranking things on a scale.


^^^ This. And . . .

if you ‘miseis’ other things

Well played :thumbsup:



Excellent summary. Thank you.


Hate with a perfect hate that we can rebuke with a perfect love…!


I have to disagree here with some posters. Hate is meant as hate. But hate as a “perfect hate”. This perfect hatred produces in us the seeds for wanting to change things rather than wanton hatred that causes killing and suffering. There is a psalm that reads: “I hate them with a perfect hate.” This is the same “hate” that I believe is also used in the NT. It means hating the sinful action or words of a person/s, and evil in and from ourselves. It means hating with a perfect hate what people stand for when opposing our Creator. This perfect hatred is what motivates us to change or to remedy or to rebuke (with love). This perfect hatred is righteous as opposed to self-righteous. This perfect hatred is to do with absolutely loving truth so much that any falsity is recognised as hateful for it diverts from what is truly good. This perfect hate stands in opposition to satan and the evils of the world.


Psalm 139, right?

“Do I not hate, LORD, those who hate you?
Those who rise against you, do I not loathe?
With fierce hatred I hate them,
enemies I count as my own.”

Here’s the thing: that’s a person saying that, not God. Nor is God recommending or commending that statement; the person is saying it on his own.

And, do you remember what Jesus said about that kind of emotion? “‘You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies.’”

Not “hate your enemies with a ‘perfect hate’,” but “love your enemies.” It’s that simple. :thumbsup:


You are misinterpreting. In order to love with a perfect love, one must hate with a perfect hate. I will explain:

Example: I could watch a film of 9/11 and hate Osama Bin Laden, but this is a perfect hate, because I am hating what the person represents in those moments, and for as long as they stand for, those particular crimes - in his case, terrorism. If I was to say I hate the person in a worldly way then I would be judging the person to Hell; well, I don’t know the person, personally, and so I cannot hate the soul. But in those moments I can hate what the person represents.

Similarly, I hate people while they are speaking against Our Lady. It is an immediate internal reaction because I am hating their opposition to what is good and beautiful - a perfect hate. However, because this is a perfect hate - a hatred of that which opposes our Creator; a hatred of what they are choosing to represent - then I can see that the evil humans are capable of is clearly sometimes bigger than the people and comes from somewhere else and this in turn manifests my reaction automatically into a response in the form of love.

This difference between perfect hate and a hatred that is internally focussed - a judgment coming from within - has different consequences. A perfect hate manifests as perfect love: hate the sin, love the sinner. Rebuke without wishing to hurt the person or damn them to Hell. So yes, hate is a word. Recognising the true place for hate allows me to distinguish more clearly between truth and evil and to then distinguish between the person and the crime. But in the moments when opposition to our Creator occurs, hate is an emotion that I feel, which soon turns, via the Holy Spirit into love.

In a sense, the saying we know and recognise: hate the sin, love the sinner, is what I am saying but in a more scenic (possibly convoluted) way.

The quotation of our Lord, is speaking about what we do. He is not saying that it is a crime to hate what people represent. He is telling us that when people sin, including ourselves, we must not act with hatred, or respond with hatred. We must respond with love, and this response, can be to defend another’s life (in the extreme). For example, soldiers are, in the case of a just war (and there is such a thing) expected to go and defend their people either at home or abroad. This defence would not be very effective if people did not hate what the opposition was doing and what they represented. In those moment of crime against humanity such people are participating in evil acts and so they themselves are being evil. We are not called to love the devil or his works. In the case just mentioned, doing the loving thing, is to defend against tyranny. This is the greater good. At the same time as praying for the enemy we must sometimes vanquish the devil’ works. In my opinion, anyway.


A good point. As a wise man once said, holding on to hatred is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.


No one here said about “holding onto hatred”. Hatred is a reaction to evil. And a healthy one. We cannot truly help people with love until we recognise evil for what it is. This only leads to a diluted faith. When we hate evil we can truly love people. The hate we feel can then burn inside us with our Creator’s help so we don’t pass it on.

Hate the sin, but love the sinner; judge the sinner’s action, but not the sinner’s soul.


…love your enemy; hate what they stand for…

If we don’t make that distinction then we can’t take the splinter out of other people’s eyes.

If we don’t believe evil is real and actual then neither can we understand the healing work of our Lord.


No. Sadly, you are inserting your own meaning into the text, in order to make it say something you want to say. :sad_yes:

Don’t get me wrong – “hate the sin, love the sinner” is a concept that many have espoused: Mahatma Gandhi wrote “hate the sin and not the sinner”, and Augustine wrote, “with due love for the persons and hatred of the sin.” However, even in the context of Augustine’s words, he was talking about a case in which consecrated religious were found to be in the act of sinning, and he discussed how to reprove them.

Nevertheless, “hate the sin and love the sinner” is not found among Jesus’ words in the Gospels. “Hate with a perfect hate,” likewise, is nothing Jesus ever said.

Moreover, this thought you’ve inserted into the present discussion is completely inapplicable to the quotation under consideration. Your assertion is that we are to love people and hate their sins. Tell me, please: where do you find mention of sin in the quote “If any one comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple”? Where is your point that there is sin to be hated here? The simple fact is that there is no reference to sin, and therefore, there is no reference to your principle of “hating with perfect hate.”

I appreciate that you believe this to be a good way to live your life; however, you will not find it in the quote we’re discussing, and you will not find it in the words of Jesus.

The quotation of our Lord, is speaking about what we do. He is not saying that it is a crime to hate what people represent. He is telling us that when people sin, including ourselves, we must not act with hatred, or respond with hatred. We must respond with love

:nope: Nope… not in this quote. There’s nothing here about things that people ‘do’ or sins that they commit or about responses of ‘love’ or ‘hatred’. It’s. Just. Not. There. :shrug:

  1. So we are not told to love our enemies then?

  2. And we are not asked what is wrong with us anymore as we seemingly can’t judge between what is good and bad?

You will find both written in the Gospels.



Of course we are. What we’re not told is your suggestion to “hate with a perfect hate”… :wink:

  1. And we are not asked what is wrong with us anymore as we seemingly can’t judge between what is good and bad?

Non sequitur; not relevant to the current discussion.

You will find both written in the Gospels.

And yet, we won’t find “hate with a perfect hate” – as you assert – written in the Gospels.

I’ll wait to see your quotation of Jesus making that assertion. Until then, I’ll stand by my claim that you’re putting words into Jesus’ mouth. :sad_yes:


So you think that in order to love the sinner but hate the sin (love your enemy) you must also love everything you enemy represents?

And yet, we won’t find “hate with a perfect hate” – as you assert – written in the Gospels.

Written in the psalm. The NT completes not does away with the OT.

I’ll wait to see your quotation of Jesus making that assertion. Until then, I’ll stand by my claim that you’re putting words into Jesus’ mouth. :sad_yes:

Another response to your assertion that love the sinner but hate the sin is not what we are taught, which I believe is proved incorrect because of the part about us loving our enemies, and the part about us being admonished for not recognising the difference between what is good and evil, is the fact that we are told in the Creation stories that, although humanity is MADE GOOD, through original sin, we are a fallen peoples. After baptism, we are still inclined to sin.

Point being, that if we hate sinners, then we are in a sense saying that we hate Creation, and this is evidently wrong. By hating with a “perfect hate” (as the psalm says), we are hating sin, hating evil, without hating Creation; we are hating that which is opposed to our Creator.

If we cannot recognise the difference between what is good and evil then we can’t admonish with a perfect love.

We can and should assess all situations and can judge to see if the situation is good or not, but at the same time, without causing damage to the person whom we believe is living in sin - whether us or someone else. This is evaluation, discernment, wisdom even. And likewise, not to overly indulge in one’s time with others who are living a life opposed to the Gospel is considered wise as such time spent could bring about near occasions of sin; hence, why it is healthy to be part of a parish community.

I worded it badly at the beginning in my first posts. I could have said right at the start:

Hate with a perfect hate means to hate what we and others represent when we and they oppose our Creator.

or even better:

Hate with a perfect those evil things opposed to our Creator that humanity is capable of, for the sake of our Creator, for the victim’s sake, for the sake of the oppressor’s soul, and for our own.

When we know what is good and evil, we can take the hate and emotional state away, letting the hate turn, allowing it to manifest, into a positive active remedy found only through loving input and prayer.

What I said though can easily be misconstrued as believing it is okay to hate someone’s soul. This is wrong. So my wording was initially confusing and so badly done…

But, I hold to, “HATE” most surely, and absolutely, being a valid word. When used in the right context.


The ‘just war’ is also a scenario in which oppressors might die during the process of saving innocent lives from tyranny. This is not to say we hate perpetrator’s souls, but rather, we judge certain actions to be bad, evil and hateful, and revolting, and therefore, such acts are in need of being extinguished, due to the urgency of the situation (for the sake of the oppressed).

So I cannot say I love our Creator but love what ISIS does less! Of course not.

I (albeit imperfectly) love our Creator, and hate what ISIS do and for what they are, and what each members does, and what each member represents; in turn, this means I am hating everything which is opposed to good, and so too, that which is opposed to our Creator. I cannot hate the individual’s soul because of the fact that human nature, though fallen, was made good.

…e.g:- an ISIS member was converted to Christianity after some Dominicans found a member left for dead by his colleagues and so they tended to him and after having spent time in their care obviously underwent a conversion. As someone quoted recently: “Grace perfects nature.”

This does not mean that to defend innocent lives in a just war in the meantime is wrong, it just means that we should hope that as many evil oppressors are converted away from doing evil, during. Hope for the individual; end to tyranny.


Getting back to the original verse and question…
“If any one comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple." Luke 14:26
The best I can figure is that Jesus said that his disciples turned their backs on all else, left everything behind, put it out of their minds. In ancient times, was that what hatred entailed? Someone who is hated might be banished, but today, at least, that is not the essence of hatred.

Gorgias wrote that it is a matter of comparison. I don’t get that either. If I like apples a lot, and bananas somewhat less, would I therefore say that I hate bananas? No.

This verse still doesn’t make sense to me.


LOL! No, you wouldn’t say that – and that’s precisely my point! This is an archaic usage; we don’t speak that way anymore. If you lived in Jesus’ time, maybe you would say that you hate bananas! And, that’s the way it’s being used here.

Often, the Synoptic Gospels will relate the same story – that’s why they’re called ‘synoptic’: they’re looking at things together. In this case, Luke 14:26-27 parallels Matthew 10:37-38. Let’s take a look:

Luke 14:26-27

“If any one comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.

Matthew 10:37-38

“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.

We see here that these two passages are in parallel: in both, we see the references to “mother and father” and “son and daughter”/“children”, as well as the reference to “taking up one’s cross.” What’s different here? In Matthew, we see the reference being to “the one who loves [these] more than me”, whereas in Luke, it’s the reference to “hating”.

Therefore, the one who “hates mother and father” is the one who “loves father or mother more than me.”

Hope that helps…!


To Beyrllos and Giorgias,

Giorgias is right and wrong here. He is right, in that the cross-parable comparison, seems to suggest that “more than” is the qualifier. But the reason one says one thing and the other says the other is not because “more than” is qualifying the other but because they are both representing different sides to the same coin and if anything “hate” is the qualifier!

Why? Simple answer: because if both had meant “more than” then both would have said “more than”. But they don’t. One says “more than” and the other says “hate”.

So how can this make any sense because surely we could turn it the other way and say: “maybe the comparison means that love and hate are the simple ways people expressed like and dislike.” This seems weak.

So what is the answer? The answer is: To “hate” means to hate what people and life can represent when in comparison to following a true path. The other option can be a Hell or a road to Hell. Something to hate. For example, I can choose between the world and ‘normal’ life or I can choose to live a holy religious life. So if I choose religious life then I am preferring the idea of a religious and holy life to one that is in the world. I prefer one to the other, so…

The qualifier is “hate” not “more than”; reason being, that I prefer one to the other BECAUSE - qualifier - one idea of a life is a representation of the things I deplore and one is a presentation of the things I love - the things of love. One life seems to be full of evil distractions and the other seems to better enable good living…

So I prefer one life to the other, “more than” another, because, one life represents all that is good in following our Creator and the other can lead to damnation and the things we truly “hate” due to the people who also represent those things.

Most of all, any alternative path if given the choice instead of following the Creator, is something to “hate”, because it will not bring the happiness that a true path can bring, and it might even bring despair and ultimately Hell.

Hate is a word. Or it would not have been used. The best thing to do is to trust the translations as the interpreting from Hebrew and Greek has already been done; hence, why you can read the Bible in your own language.



Gorgias and friardchips, thank you both for those insights. This is beginning to make sense. As I wrote earlier, I like apples, but if I had to choose only one food to eat for the rest of my life, I would hate apples, because I cannot live and be healthy on them. (Reminds me of the beginning of Prince Caspian, by C. S. Lewis.) Similarly, loving one’s family is good, but not sufficient for salvation. If one had to choose to love either God or things he created, but not both, one might come to hate the latter, not because it is detestable, but because it separates us from God. Most of us are blessed in that we are not forced to make such a choice.

The Greatest Commandment — Luke 10:25-28 New American Bible (Revised Edition)
There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test him and said, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you read it?” He said in reply, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” He replied to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.”

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit