In a recent thread in a Facebook group called “Reconstructionist Theonomists,” Bojidar Marinov has made some astounding comments regarding the biblical definition of a nation, contrasting this with what he believes to be the Marxist understanding of a nation. Marinov states that the Greek word used for nation in the Bible, ethnos, refers not to our modern concept of ethnicity, but rather to distinct religious rites. Furthermore, Marinov claims that the kinist view in support of ethnonationalism is indistinguishable from the Marxist conception of nationhood. Let us examine these astonishing comments in turn.
Marinov on the Meaning of Nationhood
Marinov responded to a question about the meaning of nationhood with the following comment.
There is a misunderstanding here. In Biblical times and before that, the Greek word “ethnos” did not indicate genetic similarity but “people born under the same religious rites.” Genetic similarity was incidental, for religious rites were a family affair, and therefore everyone born within the confines of a home was a member of that home, whether he was genetically part of that home or not. Most of the time the children born within the confines of a home were indeed genetic offspring of the head of the home, but this genetic relation meant nothing. (Their genetic relation to their mother’s family was never considered true relation.) Adoption into the family, therefore, was common, for it was nothing less than passing under the same religious rite, and therefore becoming a member of the “ethnos.” On the other hand, genetic heirs born outside the home or outside the land were considered not part of the “ethnos,” for they had not been under the same rites. Des Coulanges’s book on The Ancient City makes this very clear, that even there, family and ethnos were a religious entity, not a genetic entity.
A couple of observations are in order. First, Marinov has a tendency to make far-reaching claims without providing adequate sources for his assertions. Secondly, he has an annoying tendency to cite entire books as sources without paring down the relevant information for his readers. It is entirely unreasonable to make a claim and then cite an entire 369-page book in support, as though your readers should be expected to do your own legwork, or as though your opponents were then required to read the book, find the relevant section, ensure its proper interpretation, and respond. By simply citing a book, readers have no idea if Marinov has accurately summarized the author’s views, or if the author himself provides satisfactory sources for his own assertions. In regards to the book that Marinov cites (which can be read or downloaded here), I would contend that Marinov misuses this source to prove his case. The author only addresses the concept of agnatic descent, which is strictly patrilineal, and its relationship to ancestor-worship. If you search the document available online, you can verify that the author never once mentions the Greek word ethnos or the meaning of ethnicity. This source should therefore have no bearing upon our understanding of the meaning of a word that it doesn’t address.
It may be that the ancient Greeks and Romans placed a great deal of emphasis on common worship when identifying familial and national relationships, but this is clearly because religion during this time consisted of primitive ancestor-worship. Members of the same family would worship the same ancestors. Evidently, these ancestors were always determined by patrilineage and never by matrilineage, even to the point where two brothers who shared a common mother but not a common father were not considered to be relatives! As worship of a pantheon of gods became more firmly established, this definition of family began to change. The author even makes it clear that by the time of Cicero, the strictly religious definition of family and nation was contested. Obviously, this pagan conception of familial and national relationships has no bearing on Christian definitions.
There are a number of obvious reasons why this pagan understanding of relationships doesn’t fit the biblical or Christian conception of family and nation. A prime example is to be found in Marinov’s assertion, “Their genetic relation to their mother’s family was never considered true relation.” Does Marinov believe that this was a conception of family with which the inspired authors of the Bible were in agreement? Does he really maintain that this concept was what motivated the biblical authors to write about the family and nation as they did? This is absurd, and there are several examples that could be furnished to demonstrate this. First, we have the example of the relationship of Elizabeth to the Virgin Mary in the Gospel of Luke. Both Elizabeth and her husband Zacharias were of the tribe of Levi (Luke 1:5), and both Joseph and Mary were of the tribe of Judah, as the genealogies of Matthew and Luke testify. Yet Mary and Elizabeth are called cousins (Luke 1:36). The reason for this is obvious; the relationship between Mary and Elizabeth was matrilineal while tribal identity was determined by patrilineage. If it is true that some ancient Greeks and Romans thought that genetic relationships to one’s mother’s family are not true relations, as Marinov asserts, then it is nevertheless clear that the Bible doesn’t agree.
Another more prominent and more theologically important example which Marinov fails to consider is that of Christ himself. Christ’s only immediate ancestor was his mother Mary, and it is through this lineage that he is established as a physical descendant of David (Romans 1:3; Galatians 4:4; 2 Timothy 2:8). Without Christ’s physical descent from David as his seed, the promises made to David would have gone unfulfilled.1 In essence, this would be to deny Christ! Surely we must reject the preposterous notion that relationships on a mother’s side were unimportant in the biblical understanding of family. If some ancient Greeks and Romans thought this, then they were dead wrong, and anyone who agrees with them today is wrong as well.
As noted above, the book Marinov references never mentions the Greek word ethnos or the English word ethnicity. Therefore, the lone source that Marinov references in defense of his audacious remarks has no bearing upon the meaning of the Greek word ethnos, which is translated as “nation” in the Bible. To determine the meaning, we should consult competent lexicons and analyze the way that the word is used in various contexts. Strong’s Concordance defines ethnos: “Probably from G1486; a race (as of the same habit), that is, a tribe; specifically a foreign (non-Jewish) one (usually by implication pagan): – Gentile, heathen, nation, people.”2 The Greek word ethnos is used to translate the Hebrew word goyim in the Old Testament, and there are times when it is used to refer to non-Israelites nations in general. It should be observed that ethnos has the meaning of heathen or pagan by implication only; if Israel was the sole ethnos on earth to possess the true religion, then it follows that other ethne would be idolatrous. But there is nothing in this word that suggests that this is what it has to mean. Indeed, the very reason why ethnos can carry such a connotation presupposes that it refers to some antecedently defined grouping which can then be modified by the religion which the ethnos professes and follows. The Apostle Paul uses this same word to refer to Gentile Christians after their conversion (Romans 9:24, 30; 11:11-13; 15:9-12, 16, 18, 27; 16:4; Galatians 2:8, 12; 3:14; Ephesians 3:1, 6, 8; Colossians 1:27; 1 Timothy 2:7; 2 Timothy 1:11; 4:17). Thus there is nothing intrinsically religious about the word ethnos. An ethnos is a group linked by common heredity, as Strong’s Concordance makes it clear. Other lexicons, such as Thayer’s Greek Definitions, concur with the definition provided by Strong’s Concordance.
If we look at the way the word ethnos is used in context, we find that Marinov’s definition of an ethnos as (presumably pagan, ancestor-worshiping) “people born under the same religious rites” is clearly rendered ridiculous. The Table of Nations in Genesis 10 makes it clear that we are referring to hereditary nations based upon common descent. Nations are enumerated by their descent from a common patriarch “after their families, in their nations” (Genesis 10:5, 20, 31-32). The idea that nations are defined by a particular religious rite becomes even more absurd when we analyze certain New Testament passages. In Acts 17:26, we read that God “made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation.” The fact that God made the nations from a common ancestor demonstrates that we are talking about heredity. Furthermore, we are told that the boundary-divisions of the nations were appointed “That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us” (v. 27). It is utter nonsense to imagine that the divisions communicated here by the word ethnos are religious rites, if this was done so that the nations would grope for God and find Him. Would we expect boundaries emerging from “people born under the same religious rites” to be conducive to the flourishing of true religion? That would be impossible! The very existence of the boundaries would imply that some religious rites are false, the removal of the boundaries being the key to worldwide uniformity under the true religious rites. In other words, the nations mentioned here are obviously positive, but the definition that Marinov provides would certainly be a negative.
Pentecost clearly militates against the interpretation that a nation is merely a group born under a common religious rite. Francis Nigel Lee is correct when he observes,
Pentecost sanctified the legitimacy of separate nationality rather than saying this is something we should outgrow. . . . In fact, even in the new earth to come, after the Second Coming of Christ, we are told that the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of the heavenly Jerusalem, and the kings of the earth shall bring the glory and the honor—the cultural treasures—of the nations into it. . . . But nowhere in Scripture are any indications to be found that such peoples should ever be amalgamated into one huge nation.3
If Marinov’s definition of nation is accurate, then amalgamation into one huge nation (and one huge family!) is exactly what we should expect with the progress of the gospel. As the true religion spreads throughout the earth, religious rites will become more and more uniform, and hence the people born under the same religious rites will more and more encompass the entirety of the world.
As preposterous as Marinov’s definition is in the context of Acts, it is even more so in the book of Revelation. God is said to have redeemed His people out of every nation (Revelation 5:9; 7:9), and these nations are mentioned along with kindred (phule) and people (laos). These words are used to denote hereditary relationships, not groups of people who happen to be born under a common religion, genetic relations being merely accidental. The meaning of nation is further solidified by its usage later in what the Apostle John witnesses in the New Jerusalem. Does Marinov’s interpretation of nations make any sense when John speaks of the nations of them that are saved in Revelation 21:24? How could the multiple nations of the saved refer to multiple groups of people under different religious rites? Does the glory and honor of verse 26 refer to the glory and honor of pagan religious rites? If “nation” is meant to denote a people sharing a religion, then how are there multiple nations in heaven, since there will obviously not be multiple religions in heaven? These questions are never asked by anyone on this Facebook page. Bojidar Marinov’s word is taken as gospel truth.
Finally, I will briefly address Marinov’s claim about the meaning of the English word “nation.” Marinov suggests that the word was not originally hereditary:
In the same way, in modern times, “nation” was originally meant not as genetic heritage, but “people born under the same jurisdiction.” This was the meaning of the word when used for student fraternities in the medieval universities; for example, two cousins would be considered part of different nations if they were born on different sides of the same border. So when you say “ethno-linguistic” and then study the word in Biblical times, keep in mind that it never had the genetic meaning attached to it by the 19th century Romanticism.
Notice that what I said above remains true here. A bold assertion is made by Marinov without any sources to corroborate what he says. We are supposed to simply take him at his word. Never mind that the word “nation” etymologically derives from the Latin word nāscī, meaning “to be born” according to Webster’s dictionary.4 Thus a nation refers to those sharing ancestors from common patriarchs. Black’s Law Dictionary (sixth edition) also defines a nation thus: “A people, or aggregation of men, existing in the form of an organized jural society, usually inhabiting a distinct portion of the earth, speaking the same language, using the same customs, possessing historic continuity, and distinguished from other like groups by their racial origin and characteristics, and generally, but not necessarily, living under the same government and sovereignty.” No further comment is necessary, because it should be manifest that Marinov is blowing hot air when he asserts that a nation has nothing to do with heredity.
Marinov on the Marxist Conception of Nationhood
Having stated his misguided opinion on the meaning of nationhood in the Bible, Marinov then makes the claim that the Soviet Union, as influenced by Marxism, was in fact kinist. Marinov claims that the Soviets were actually promoters of a robust ethnonationalim! It is difficult to believe that anyone could actually believe this in light of the obvious history of the Soviet Union, but this is the claim that Marinov makes. In the tradition of Trotskyite obfuscation, Marinov asserts,
[F]rom its very beginning, to this very day, mainstream Marxism has been kinist and racist to the core, looking at genetic makeup – together with many other material factors – as determining the cultural level of a group of people. From Marx’s complaints that “Jews undermine the European civilization by mixing European blood with Negro blood,” through Stalin’s purges of whole ethnic groups due to “genetic backwardness,” through the war in Yugoslavia (where the Marxist incentive was the superior genetic makeup of the Serbs), to our modern black racism (on Marxist grounds), Marxism has never been anything else except racist and kinist. There has never been any genetic integrationism in Marxism, but to the contrary, Marxism has always divided peoples by genetic composition, just like the kinists (d)o.
Reading this, one gets the impression that Marxists practically invented the idea of ethnicity or the idea that nations and national government should correspond to ethnic identity. This is obviously false, given what we’ve already established above. Again, Marinov makes no direct citations. I couldn’t find his quote from Marx in a Google search, and Marinov conveniently neglects to mention that Karl Marx was himself ethnically Jewish. Furthermore, Marinov assumes a false dichotomy. Marxists may well have considered ethnicity important in some sense, but that certainly does not make them kinists. As we shall see, the Soviets thought that ethnicity was important as a wedge they could utilize to divide people and remake them in the image of a generic Soviet proletarian man. This would be precisely equivalent to modern egalitarian statism, which simultaneously promotes propositional nationhood and the ethnic interests of various non-white groups, advocating for the latter in service of the former.
Where Marxists are “against nationalism,” they are against nations defined propositionally, that is, nations defined on the basis of religious or other ideological grounds (monarchy, historical ties, trade alliances, etc.), except Marxism. Just as above, your responses to statements are rather shallow, you think that when a Marxist says “nation,” he means the same thing as you do, something defined genetically.
Again, no evidence is cited for this claim. Marinov’s argument is an appeal to an authority, that authority being none other than himself. We are required to take Marinov’s word that Marxists were opposed to propositional nations and favorable towards the hereditary-based ethnonationalist view. Marinov concludes, “About Stalin’s policy of ethnic separation and extermination a lot can be said, you just need to read.” What are we supposed to read? One gets the sense that Marinov perceived that he had made several assertions that were unsubstantiated, so that he had to post something to corroborate what he has said. He writes, “And here’s an article which fairly correctly describes the national policies of the Soviet Union. There are a few incorrect things in it, especially when it comes to the ideal of the socialist state of the Bolsheviks. (It was never imagined as ‘completely unified’ in terms of nationalities, but only in terms of economic distribution.)”
Marinov cites this article from Wikipedia. This lone source does not support his contention that the Soviet communists were kinists to the very core, categorizing people by ethnicity for the purposes of establishing states in which ethnicity was the deciding factor of membership. Marinov admits his own disagreement with this Wikipedia article. Let’s examine the portion of the article with which Marinov admits he is in disagreement. The article states, “There was also another aspect of this project: it was not aimed at the differentiation of nations but at unifying them over time. The implicit assumption was that after a short (10-20 year) period, bourgeois nationalism would be abandoned and support for a worker-state would follow. The Bolsheviks’ aim was not a loose federation but a completely unified modern socialist state.” This absolutely demolishes Marinov’s unsupported assertions about the nature of ethnic identity in the Soviet Union. It is supported by primary source research,5 as opposed to Marinov’s unsubstantiated claims. Indeed, a perusal of the best primary sources only confirms that the Wikipedia article which Marinov cites is correct to assert that the goal of Marxism was to overcome “bourgeois nationalism” and create a unified political state.
Friedrich Engels – the chief communist theorist alongside Karl Marx – in a pamphlet he penned to explain communism, wrote, “What will be the attitude of communism to existing nationalities? The nationalities of the peoples associating themselves in accordance with the principle of community will be compelled to mingle with each other as a result of this association and thereby to dissolve themselves, just as the various estate and class distinctions must disappear through the abolition of their basis, private property.”[6. Friedrich Engels, Principles of Communism, question #22.] Furthermore, Joseph Stalin, perhaps the most famous Soviet Premier in history, likewise confirms that the Soviets actually agree with Marinov, not with kinists. Stalin wrote a book on the National Question in the years leading up to the Russian Revolution. Stalin opens his treatise by asking, “What is a nation?” He answers, “A nation is primarily a community, a definite community of people. This community is not racial, nor is it tribal.” Again, just so that he is clearly understood, “a nation is not a racial or tribal, but a historically constituted community of people.” Stalin lists several characteristics of a nation. He suggests that nations share a common language, homeland, economic cohesion, and a distinct culture, and that these characteristics make for a stable community. Stalin views the nation not as something ordained by God, but rather as a unique product of capitalism that emerged in post-feudal Europe. Here I believe that Stalin confuses nations with nation-states, but this nonetheless clearly establishes that Marxism was anti-kinist to the very core. Stalin considers nationalism as a problem to be solved, saying, “the national type of organization is a school of national narrow-mindedness and stagnation.” What is the solution that he proposes? Stalin concludes that “the principle of international solidarity of the workers is an essential element in the solution of the national question.”6 The Marxist strategy of eradicating “bourgeois nationalism” was to relocate ethnic groups into foreign territories and then agitate for their “rights” as Soviet citizens.
Perhaps Marinov might just write this off as an “obscure propaganda piece,” as he did with one commenter posting a link in the aforementioned Facebook thread. However, there is nothing about a pamphlet written by Friedrich Engels or a treatise written by Joseph Stalin that could be considered obscure. It should be obvious to any objective reader that Engels and Stalin are writing sincere expositions of the Marxist concept of nationhood. If anyone were to allege that they don’t actually portray genuine Marxist objectives, it would be akin to dismissing the talking points of Hitler’s Mein Kampf as though it didn’t represent the true goals of German national socialism. To confirm that Lenin and Stalin weren’t merely trying to make Marxism seem initially alluring – only to then advocate for ethnonationalism once in power – we need look no further than the Soviet Constitution.
If there is one word that describes Marxist ideology, it is equality. This principle became law in the Soviet Constitution of 1936. The Soviet Constitution states, “Equality of rights of citizens of the U.S.S.R., irrespective of their nationality or race, in all spheres of economic, state, cultural, social and political life, is an indefeasible law. Any direct or indirect restriction of the rights of, or, conversely, any establishment of direct or indirect privileges for, citizens on account of their race or nationality, as well as any advocacy of racial or national exclusiveness or hatred and contempt, is punishable by law.”7 The belief in equality wasn’t a trivial matter under Marxism.
This false view on nationhood can be attributed to Marxism’s materialism. The Marxist belief in the materialist origins of mankind was believed to have removed any teleology or purpose in racial differences, because if there is no God, then there can be no divinely ordained ethnic distinctions (Deuteronomy 32:8; Acts 17:26-27). A Soviet anthropologist writes, “The equality of races and nations is one of the most important elements of the moral strength and might of the Soviet state. Soviet anthropology develops the one correct concept, that all the races of mankind are biologically equal. The genuinely materialist conception of the origin of man and of races serves the struggle against racism, against all idealist, mystic conceptions of man, his past, present and future.”8
There is nothing more that needs to be said on the question of Soviet ideology and national identity. It should be obvious that Marxism, as practiced in the Soviet Union, was completely opposed to kinism and ethnonationalism, contrary to what Marinov suggests. Keep in mind that Marinov ridiculed a man who dared to suggest, “Marxists are typically against nationalism and for integrationism”; Marinov retorted that one only has to read to see that he is clearly right, dismissing any evidence to the contrary as “obscure propaganda pieces.” What should we read, then? Marinov doesn’t tell us, except for an inconclusive book and a Wikipedia article that actually arrives at the opposite conclusions. The truth is that the Soviet Marxists’ goal was to eradicate “bourgeois nationalism” in favor of an international proletarian coalition of workers. The primary sources are in firm agreement on this point. Unfortunately, very few in the group “Reconstructionist Theonomists” seems interested in challenging Marinov’s utterly ridiculous claims, or the haughtiness with which he delivers them. Those that do are summarily banned for having the temerity to oppose Marinov and his alienist pronouncements.
It is astonishing to witness the ignorance of those asserting their authority in Facebook and elsewhere on the web. Many have said that they are opposed to kinism, and virtually all of them seem to accept everything that Bojidar Marinov says without any reservation. This is foolish, as it is manifestly clear that Marinov lacks any sources which could buttress his audacious claims about the meaning of “nation” in the Bible and by Soviet Marxists. He has stated that to verify his claims, one needs only be literate, but he doesn’t tell us what to read or where to find this elusive information. This is, frankly, because the information isn’t out there. The primary sources are opposed to his contrived history and definitions. Marinov is not merely mistaken about the meaning and usage of nationhood in the Bible and by the Soviet Union – he is dishonest.
It is particularly intriguing that Marinov continues his canard of calling kinism pagan, especially in light of his recent comments on the Facebook thread in question. Marinov seeks to understand biblical nationhood by consulting a source about the beliefs of pagan Greeks and Romans, and he provides no reason to believe that some of their beliefs were shared by the authors of the Bible. So for all his efforts to label kinism as pagan, it is clear that, in reality, Bojidar Marinov is actually the one influenced by paganism.9 Meanwhile, kinists are dismissed by the moderators, at Marinov’s request, because he insists on the right to slander kinists behind their backs. He refers to kinists as “idiots” while mocking Reverend Bret McAtee’s appearance and suggesting he is “stealing a Scottish last name.” This occurred after kinists were dismissed for being “rude” without the slightest grounds. If only the members of the misnamed “Reconstructionist Theonomists” group could perceive the irony.
- The Bible presents two genealogies of Christ, one in Matthew 1 and another in Luke 3. The latter genealogy is generally accepted as the genealogy of Mary (despite Joseph’s name being used instead of hers), with Luke’s point being that Christ indeed had a physical link to David and others. The former genealogy is generally accepted as the genealogy of Joseph, with Matthew’s point being that Christ had a legal claim to the throne of David, despite not being a physical descendant of Joseph. Yet these details are not necessary for my point to be made: it is quite obvious that Christ’s physical connection to David was important, and it is quite obvious that this physical connection could have occurred only through His mother. ↩
- The word ethnos is found in Strong’s Concordance as G1484. ↩
- Dr. Francis Nigel Lee. “Race, People, and Nationality.” 2/2/2005. http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=220572821. Sermon Audio has since seen fit to remove this excellent anti-Marxist sermon, but it has recently been posted here. Similar content from the late Dr. Lee (though not a simple transcript of his sermon) can be found at this link. ↩
- Noah Webster, Webster’s 1828 Dictionary ↩
- Slezkine, Yuri (1994). “The USSR as a Communal Apartment, or How a Socialist State Promoted Ethnic Particularism.” Slavic Review 53 (2), 414-52. ↩
- The above quotes are taken from Joseph Stalin, Marxism and the National Question. Prosveshcheniye, Nos. 3-5, March-May 1913. ↩
- 1936 Constitution of the USSR, Chapter X, Article 123 ↩
- Mikhail Nesturkh, 1959, The Origin of Man (Moscow), p. 327. See also “Alienism and Marxism in Complete Agreement.” This book can be checked out at Open Library. ↩
- See Rev. Bret McAtee, “Touching the Definition of a Nation,” for commentary on the gnostic influences behind Marinov’s alienism. ↩