Saturday, April 01, 2006

Foolers from the Bible

Michael Farquhar lists "Ten Tricksters from the Bible" in A Treasury of Deception, pp 259-265.

1. The Serpent -- fooled Eve into eating the forbidden fruit (Gen 3:1-24).

2. Jacob and Rebecca -- fooled Isaac into giving Esau's inheritance to Jacob (Gen 27:1-29).

3. Jacob's sons -- fooled Jacob into believing Joseph was dead (Gen 37:1-36).

4. The Gibeahites -- fooled Joshua into believing they lived outside the Promised Land (Josh 9:1-27).

5. Ehud -- fooled the king of Moab into getting rid of his guards so that he could kill him (Judg 3:15-30).

6. Gideon -- fooled the Midianites into believing his small force was larger (Judg 7:15-23).

7. Delilah -- fooled (seduced) Samson into telling her the truth about his weakness (Judg 16:4-30).

8. Amnon -- fooled Tamar into coming into his bedchamber (II Sam 13:1-14).

9. Solomon -- fooled two women to get the truth about the identity of a child (I Kings 3:16-28).

10. Jezebel -- fooled people into believing that Naboth had cursed God and King Ahab (I Kings 21:1-16).

Notice that Farquhar lists only Hebrew Bible figures and no one from the New Testament. This unfortunately reinforces (however unintentionally) the old idea of an inferior Judaic past supplanted by a better Christian way of doing things. And that's what so many people today are really fooled by: this notion that Jesus supposedly taught about more honest and truthful ways. But lying and deception remained as common as acceptable as ever before.

To the above list we could add Jesus himself (Jn 7:1-10), who lied and fooled his brothers into believing that he wasn't going to Jerusalem when he did. Or God (II Thess 2:11-12), whom according to Paul fools people with delusions, "leading them to believe lies", precisely "so that they will be condemned". Or James and Peter (Gal 2:1-14), who tricked Paul into an agreement which they had no intention of keeping (on which see more here). In the culture of the bible -- whether Judaic or Christian -- deceiving people is honorable, and not considered "really lying", since it deprives enemies of the respect to which they have no right as rivals. By the same token, lying to friends can be honorable if if it makes them feel good and gives them the face they deserve as friends. That's the honor-shame culture, and honor-shame didn't go away with the early Christians. See more here.

So Happy Fool's Day to everyone, in equal measure!

2 Comments:

Anonymous J. J. Ramsey said...

"In the culture of the bible -- whether Judaic or Christian -- deceiving people is honorable, and not considered "really lying", since it deprives enemies of the respect to which they have no right as rivals. By the same token, lying to friends can be honorable if if it makes them feel good and gives them the face they deserve as friends"

I wonder if this would extend to, say, lying about Jesus in order to make him look better. Luke's *ahem* creative reworking of Mark 6:1-6 into Luke 4:14ff comes to mind.

4/01/2006  
Blogger Paul said...

Another OT example: the 11 tribes pretending to make a frontal assualt on Benjamin, then kicking their behinds from behind.

4/01/2006  

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