Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Beloved II: Musings On Title

I am intrigued by the book’s title, especially in relation to Morrison’s epigraph, one portion of which quotes Romans 9:25. Let me repeat that verse here, along with a little bit of its wider context:

“what if he has done so in order to make known the riches of his glory for the objects of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory — including us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? As indeed he says in Hosea,
‘Those who were not my people I will call “my people”,
and her who was not beloved I will call “beloved”. ’
‘And in the very place where it was said to them, “You are not my people”,
there they shall be called children of the living God.’ ”

In its original context, these verses are talking about the incorporation of Gentiles into the people of God along with Jews. Taking this with the other portion of Morrison’s epigraph – Sixty Million and more – is instructive. The African American race is also incorporated into the people of God, even in the face of oppressors who deny their humanity. Despite their slavery, “they shall be called children of the living God.” Beloved, then, is more than just an individual; she is representative of the entire black race.


  1. I think that Morrison's use of a different translation than the one you provided is instructive. The way you quote the verse above it sounds very promising... as in "You didn't used to be beloved, but now I will call you that." A move from disfavor to favor.
    Morrison's epigraph reads the other way. "I will call... her beloved / which was not beloved."
    The reverse seems to apply... that I'm going to call you beloved, but really you aren't. The line break (a construction of Morrison's I assume, as Paul didn't write in verse) I think also points to this.

  2. You raise a good point about translations, and I should have tried to figure out what translation Morrison was using and used that instead. However, I think the exact version of the epigraph still has the positive meaning, that is:

    I will call them my people
    which were not [previously] my people;
    and her beloved,
    which was not [previously] beloved.

    In the context of Romans, Paul is saying that Gentiles, once not belonging to the people of God, can now be incorporated into his people through faith in Christ.

    As to Morrison's use of the quote, though, that's a little more opaque, though I think it has to do with connecting African slavery and redemption with the Biblical storyline of deliverance from Egypt and from Sin itself.