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I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil. Psalm The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people. New Living Translation Such people are not serving Christ our Lord; they are serving their own personal interests. By smooth talk and glowing words they deceive innocent people. English Standard Version For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.

By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. Berean Literal Bible For such do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own belly; and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. New American Standard Bible For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting. King James Bible For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.

Christian Standard Bible because such people do not serve our Lord Christ but their own appetites. They deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting with smooth talk and flattering words. Their flattery and fancy talk fool people who don't know any better. Good News Translation For those who do such things are not serving Christ our Lord, but their own appetites. By their fine words and flattering speech they deceive innocent people. Holman Christian Standard Bible for such people do not serve our Lord Christ but their own appetites. International Standard Version because such people are not serving the Messiah our Lord, but their own desires.

By their smooth talk and flattering words they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting. By their smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of the naive. New Heart English Bible For those who are such do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own belly; and by their smooth and flattering speech, they deceive the hearts of the innocent.

Aramaic Bible in Plain English For those who are such are not serving our Lord Yeshua The Messiah, but their own belly, and with sweet words and with blessings they deceive the hearts of the pure. They are serving their own desires. By their smooth talk and flattering words they deceive unsuspecting people. New American Standard For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.

Jubilee Bible For they that are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly and by smooth words and blessings deceive the hearts of the simple. King James Bible For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the innocent. American King James Version For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.

American Standard Version For they that are such serve not our Lord Christ, but their own belly; and by their smooth and fair speech they beguile the hearts of the innocent. Douay-Rheims Bible For they that are such, serve not Christ our Lord, but their own belly; and by pleasing speeches and good words, seduce the hearts of the innocent. Darby Bible Translation For such serve not our Lord Christ, but their own belly, and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting. English Revised Version For they that are such serve not our Lord Christ, but their own belly; and by their smooth and fair speech they beguile the hearts of the innocent.

Persons and events regularly outwardly appear either good or bad, but in fact are otherwise. Yet ambiguity is too kind a term for the world Matthew describes. All characters in his narrative expect to be lied to and deceived. All regularly hide from others their true thoughts, authentic deeds, knowledge and piety. They are alert to masked compliments, feigned requests for information, flattery and the like. Moreover, they are formally warned to expect false prophets, false Christs, and false apostles.


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  4. False testimony is often given. But as we said earlier, we err if we take these data as isolated phenomena; for they constitute part of a common and expected social strategy. Dvornick describes the secrecy system in antiquity in his The Origins of Intelligence Services He examined records from Egypt, Assyria-Babylon-Persia, Greece, Rome and Byzantium in light of governmental secrecy and intelligence services, a formidable system indeed. Besides international espionage and spying, scholars too have undertaken the systematic analysis of "secrecy," beginning with Georg Simmel's publication of "The Secret and the Secret Society" ; Simmel's work has been newly reexamined by sociologists who study this phenomenon in cross-cultural perspective Hazelrigg ; Tefft ; Frizby Even some biblical scholars have begun to tap into this material for the purposes of biblical interpretation, notably Pilch ; ; see Neyrey b; a.

    The secrecy model, then, has been profitably used to interpret New Testament documents. Tefft defines secrecy as "the mandatory or voluntary, but calculated, concealment of information, activities, or relationships" Thus, secrecy is a formal, conscious and deliberate concealment of information. Secrets, moreover, are "a social resource or adaptive strategy used by individuals, groups, and organizations to attain certain ends" Tefft As a strategy, secrecy may be employed aggressively against rivals or defensively against attackers Tefft Secrecy enables certain types of associations to avoid political persecution or destruction while it allows other groups to maintain an exclusive monopoly on esoteric knowledge.

    Tefft describes secrecy as an adaptive device containing five interrelated processes: 1. He notes that all peoples engage in some form of secrecy or information control Kees Bolle, too, made the same claim: "Not only is there no religion without secrecy, but there is no human existence without it" Families do not want their squabbles, embarrassments, plans, strategies, private interactions or finances discussed outside their houses du Boulay , nor do groups, organizations and governments.

    All practice some form of information control, whether they base it on the right to privacy, the nature of interpersonal relations or the politics of business and administration. All engage in some form of "security," that is, information control, and hence secrecy. Within families or organizations, certain people are privy to what is withheld from others. In fact, who knows what may serve as an index of status or ranking within a group. Not everybody knows all things. Thus secrets are entrusted to some, but not others, who may or may not know that secrets are withheld from them.

    Then arises some sort of "security system" in terms of who can or should be entrusted with secrets. It is a known fact that group members who develop bonds of mutual loyalty pose less security risk than those of low morale. Nevertheless, groups tend to develop security systems to secure their secrets, simply because not all group members can be counted on to have highly developed bonds of mutual loyalty.

    Such systems can include a number of steps in securing its secrets, such as: 1 required loyalty tests for old and new members, 2 total obedience to the group at the expense of other ties, 3 gradual revelation of secrets to members, and 4 imposition of strict norms of silence. Secrets invite snooping, espionage and disclosure, which is due in part to fear that secrets may be used to harm others i.

    Thus people deem it a matter of vital self interest to know what others are up to. Whatever the reasons, outsiders tend invariably to engage in some form of espionage to learn the secrets of others. By "espionage" is meant "acquisition of information held secret by another group or individual" Tefft Spying, whether done by persons or technology, entails a body of people who watch, scrutinize, lie in wait, trap, trick, etc.

    They may investigate records, interrogate associates, plant informers and spies, and so forth. If successful in gaining access to controlled information, an evaluation process must take place. Is the new information of any value? If individuals, groups, or governments learn that their secrecy has been breached, they are likely to engage in a post-hoc program to identify the spy, plug the leak, bury the secret deeper, etc. New loyalty tests may be demanded. But the "secrecy process" is hardly over, for with the renewed interest in keeping secrets, those who control information invite a new round of espionage and evaluation, which may result, if successful, in new post-hoc programs to shore up security.

    And so the cycle repeats itself again and again and again. Manifest secrecy describes the formal, overt actions of certain groups to hide ceremonies, rites, information, and the like from the curious and perhaps dangerous eyes of others. In contrast, latent secrecy is practiced by groups as the additional and unintended consequences of certain structural arrangements, such as covering up unintended actions.

    We focus on the specific functions of manifest secrecy, also distinguishing extra-group secrecy from intra-group secrecy Brandt Extra-group secrecy may be practiced for aggressive or defensive purposes Tefft Aggressive secrecy describes actions and strategy used by secret groups to organize political rebellion or provide secret leadership for revolutionary organizations. Moreover, groups subject to coercion deal with their antagonists by hiding information or resources as a way of neutralizing superior power.

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    Alternately, groups often employ defensive secrecy strategy to protect themselves. Alienated groups, which are embattled minorities within a larger hostile society, use secrecy to escape persecution or destruction Tefft ; Brandt Intra-group secrecy can be employed for a variety of purposes Tefft It may prove significant for group formation, in that some groups form for the overt purpose of engaging in covert actions, such as secret societies. Likewise, secrecy both sets up group boundaries and, when defended, maintains them.

    Those "in the know" distinguish themselves from those " not in the know. Internal secrecy within groups, whereby only select members know certain information, serves to control access to rank, status and political power. Matthew contains both extra-group and intra-group secrecy.

    While extra-group secrecy can have both offensive and defensive purposes, Matthew basically describes the defensive one. Matthean Terminology. Sociological Interpretation. Deception, deceive. Hypocrisy, hypocrite. Lying, lie. Secrecy, secret. Appearances, appear. Say one thing, do another. Control of Information. Entrusted disclosure. Jesus discloses important information only to the disciples, not to the crowds. To Peter, James and John is given the appearance of Moses and Elijah and the theophany on the mountain Matthew does not report on their evaluation of their espionage.

    Who knows what and when? Information is restricted even within close-knit groups; not all people know everything. Thus we can plot out status and role within such a group: who knows something serves as an index of group status. Those in the group who are " not in the know" represent persons of low status, who are not well integrated into the social networks within a village. They contrast with the few elites in the group, who are privy to the group's secrets, and who stand atop the status hierarchy in the group and control it in virtue of their monopoly of esoteric information..

    Between these two extremes we can observe a diversity of individuals in terms of the kinds of knowledge they possess Brandt ; Hazelrigg What do Peter and the disciples know? Matthew, then, informs us that Jesus makes entrusted disclosure of the most valuable information to his disciples and especially to Peter. The sociology of secrecy accurately interprets how Jesus himself constantly practices forms of secrecy, even as he engages in entrusted disclosure of his secrets to his disciples. As a defensive strategy, it shows that both Jesus and his hypocritical adversaries practice the conscious defensive strategy of keeping secrets, either to protect themselves or to fend off shameful exposure.

    If knowledge is related to status and role, God knows all and Jesus knows almost all; nor is God ever fooled. And Jesus has elevated his disciples above the crowds by unique disclosures to them, and Peter above the rest by special revelations and information entrusted to him. But if secrecy is a pervasive, common social strategy, does it matter in the world of early Christianity if social and even heavenly rewards are given unjustly to deceivers and hypocrites? Does it matter if some deceivers are evil figures who seek to harm, enslave and destroy other persons? Hence we now ask of the symbolic universe reflected by Matthew and his audience how the system of secrecy fits in it, and how Matthew solves the crises in such as system.

    Culture is a social construction. Peoples invest meaning in the elements of their worlds. But what meanings, and to what are they given? Anthropologists provide us with a model for asking these questions, in which they focus on key, regular topics in all cultures which are the object of interpretation, such as the following: 1. We focus on these seven standard topics and ask what meanings they have in the culture of Matthew and his audience? Although secrecy is a common social strategy, how do we put it in the larger context or a symbolic universe. Aristocrats and Temple Elite.

    Non-Elites: Peasants, Artisans, Untouchables.

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    Rites : fixed rites which express the internal classification system of the group; permanent sacred space. Rites : fixed rites which focus on group boundaries; rites aim to expel deviants from group; fluid sacred space.

    Personal Identity : focus on internalizing clear social roles; individual subservient to but not in conflict with society; group-oriented personality. Personal Identity : focus on group membership, not in internalization of roles, which are confused; distinction between appearance and internal states; group-oriented personality.

    Body : tightly controlled, but a symbol of life. Body : controlled but under attack; invaders have penetrated bodily boundaries. Sin : breaking of formal rules; focus on behavior rather than internal states of being; individual responsible for sin or deviance. Sin : a matter of pollution; sin equals corruption or disease from the social system; internal states more important than external behavior.

    Cosmology : anthropomorphic, non-dualistic; universe is just and reasonable; personal causality. Cosmology : anthropomorphic and dualistic; war between forces of good and evil; universe is not just;.

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    Suffering and Misfortune : unjust; not automatic punishment; attributable to malevolent forces. Temple elites perceive the cosmos as a very orderly and exactly classified system Neusner ; Newton This priestly vision was embodied in the Jerusalem Temple, where all persons, places, times and things were elaborately classified. Because judgments of holiness and evil in Matthew are based on this system, we do well to examine more closely the system represented by the Temple. It admits of very precise degrees both of holiness and uncleanness.

    Place : As regards holiness, we find, for example, in m. Kelim a classification of space which moves from the farthest borders of Israel not holy , to its cities, to Jerusalem, the Temple mount, the temple and the Holy of Holies 1.

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    Persons : Persons, too, can be classified; for example, we find in t. Megillah a list of those who may hear the scroll of Esther; beginning with Priests and Levites and concluding with bastards, eunuchs and those with damaged genitals 2. As Malina has shown, the list describes different degrees of holiness to persons which correlates with space or standing: the most holy, i. This system makes detailed decisions about skin disease Lev , bodily discharges Lev 15 ; animals for sacrifice Lev 16 , marriage partners Lev 18 , the physical bodies of the priests Thus, in the ideal orderly world, the rule makers in 2 nd temple Israel could map persons, places, times and things, and thus bring systematic clarity and order to the world.

    On this basis they evaluated Jesus. But some claim that he is not a prophet, but has a demon ; see According to the Temple system, John is at least ambiguous if not deceptively evil. Matthew, moreover, presents numerous instances of concern for holiness and purity in the work of Jesus, which differ from the system represented by the Temple. These controversies dramatize different and conflicting symbolic universes; both cannot be right and so are at odds with each other.

    Alas, this labeling process does not always work. Pharisees, although they publicly profess total separation from evil and zeal for Torah, are judged by Jesus to be deceivers who hide their corruption from view. Their evil is doubly compounded because it is masked as good. But Jesus says that while they honor God with their lips, their heart is far from God False prophets and false Christs will come to lead even the elect astray The desired classification system remains perilously threatened from without and within.

    The ritual act of labeling is intended to introduce clarity into an ambiguous and deceptive situation. Deceivers abound not only in the synagogue, but even in the circle of disciples. Deeds, then, are ambiguous and may even by deceptive. One cannot tell a book by its cover. God proscribes not just avoidance of murder exterior , but also of anger and hate interior ; not just absence of adultery exterior , but also lust in the heart interior Hence holiness consists in agreement between deeds and desires, which precludes hypocrisy and deception.

    Jesus knows when the lips say one thing, but the heart another , when people speak one thing, but do another Actions and words, then, are ambiguous or deceptive unreliable indices of holiness, for they may be practiced to deceive others. Conversely, the non-observance of the Sabbath or the absence of washing rites do not automatically indicate a sinner.

    The world of Matthew and his characters is peopled with personified cosmic figures. On one side we locate God and the angelic messengers whom God sends to aid, inform, gather, and protect the elect ; , A quick list of these personified evil spirits would include:. One may ask if Matthew perceives any relationship between these cosmic evil figures and 1. Some people associate Jesus, John the Baptizer and even the disciples of Jesus with demons: 1. On the other hand, Jesus is wont to label others as demon possessed ; The cosmic war of evil spirits, therefore, is being waged on earth by their agents and proxies.

    The frightening thing, however, is the difficulty of identifying the enemy. Evil masquerades as good; appearances are fundamentally deceiving; hypocrisy abounds. Ancient Israel boasted to the Gentile world of the excellence of its laws Josephus, Ag. Apion 2. As you sow, so shall you reap Gal ; see 2 Cor Ideally God rewarded the pious Matt , 6, 18 , a reward proportional to their deeds Matt ; see , and requited the wicked. Jesus, faithful agent of God, meets rejection and death. So did all the prophets Matt ; The disciples of Jesus can expect unjust suffering Matt , 4, 6, 10; , In short, the universe appears fundamentally confused and unjust.

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    The crisis is further compounded by the uncertainty which surrounds the norms for a just judgment. Thus, people may enjoy public honor because of their observance, an unjust judgment. Correspondingly, in the eyes of others Jesus and his disciples do not keep Torah; no wonder that according to this norm they experience criticism, challenge, and cross. Thus, if the norms for assessing holiness are themselves ambiguous, then the judgment based on these will be unjust.

    What, then, does this model of the symbolic universe of Matthew contribute to our reading of deception, lying, secrecy, hypocrisy and ambiguity? It is a world threatened with chaos because the dominant classification system is inadequate: nothing seems reliable or trustworthy. Moreover, it is besieged by evil attackers who defy boundaries and aggressively seek to destroy what is within the group or individuals; purification ritual to identify and expel them fail. This disguise, which intentional, functions to make the attacker pass unnoticed. Mirroring this earthly conflict is the cosmic perception that God is at war with Satan and his minions.

    This explains why evil attacks good on earth, for it is but the extension of the cosmic war. As a result, suffering seems unjust; the wicked prosper and the righteous are not rewarded. Truly a scary cosmos, where deception and harm are universal; but worst of all is the sense of the collapse of a moral universe. This judgment scenario will contain these recurring elements: 1. What does this look like in the narrative? Clearly he intended them to be heard as a unit, sharing repetitive rhetorical structure and recurring motifs Davies and Allison , ; Lambrecht All formally deal with issues of deception, lying, secrecy, hypocrisy and ambiguity.

    And so, to interpret them correctly, we bring to our reading what we know of the social and anthropological materials about secrecy and deception. By telling us that five are wise and five foolish, the author invests the story with a serious moral perspective. The stakes, then, are very high. The parable contains a strong element of ambiguity, secrecy, and deception. Ambiguity : while all have lamps, five have oil, but five do not. Neither the maids among themselves nor the audience can distinguish at this point who is wise and who is foolish. All appear the same, and we cannot penetrate appearances to know who has oil and who does not.

    Vital information is withheld from all. Yet all are expected to act as if they knew; reward and punishment following upon acting as if one knew this secret. Deception : the foolish maids are actually practicing a deception. Some are indeed prepared, but others pretend readiness. If all goes well, that is, if the bridegroom comes quickly, the unpreparedness of the five foolish maids will escape detection.

    They shall have successfully deceived the groom and entered his household under pretense. The wicked will fare the same as the good, the foolish the same as the wise. And up to a certain point, their ruse succeeds. Because the bridegroom is delayed, the ten maids slumber and sleep.

    But all maids awaken at midnight from death to face a moment of reckoning. The time of deception is over and secrets will be revealed. This parable does not describe the bridegroom personally unveiling secrets; after all, his narrative role is that of bridegroom, not judge. But his coming occasions revelations nonetheless. The foolish maids are exposed for what they are: culpably unprepared see , , while the wise are shown to be prudently prepared The foolish, who leave the house in search of oil, return to find themselves locked outside.

    In contrast, the wise, prepared maids have accompanied the groom into the house. Thus in the end, deception and masquerade are unveiled. The fates of wise and foolish servants are not the same. The good are finally separated from the wicked, as wheat from chaff. Furthermore, just rewards and punishments are finally meted out.

    This parable, then, illustrates the type of judgment scenario we have been describing, where 1 ambiguity and deceit are finally unveiled, 2 the just and the wicked are finally separated, and 3 each is accorded her proper recompense, and 4 the unveiling brings surprise and shock. Two trade with it and double their initial investment, while the third buries it.