Narcissism Case Studies – the Pharisees, Overview

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One of the prime examples of narcissists in the Bible are the Pharisees.   Over many, many entries we will not only look at their narcissistic traits, but also how Jesus dealt with them.  We’re looking for clues for how to successfully identify and deal with narcissists (insolent pride), but will also gain some heavenly insights in the process.
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But, it would be good to read a key passage in its entirety, before we start parsing it.  I have highlighted some key phrases which tip us off that we’re looking at narcissists when we look at the Pharisees.   Of course, we should understand that a Pharisee was a type of official position, not a person per se.   So, not every Pharisee was a narcissist – and there are examples of Pharisees who came to Jesus as genuine seekers.  But many, if not most, were.
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Matthew 23

23 Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, 2 saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; 3 therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them. 4 They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger.

[This is an example of a scoffer – Psalm 1 “sitting in the seat of scoffers”.  Narcissists’ (insolent pride) goal is to lord it over others, to make others jump through hoops in order to prove that the narcissist is King, numero uno.  The best way is to be the one to set the rules and then judge others as to whether they follow the rules or not.  Secular literature describes the narcissist trait of believing rules are for the “little people”, and not for them.  This is a classic example of that.

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But it goes further than that.  Narcissists (insolent pride) don’t really care about what rules they’re setting up for others – the more important issue is that they are the King who makes the rules and others are to follow.    But this is why dealing with narcissists is so dangerous – their actions are totally arbitrary.   Even if you do jump through some hoop (rule) that they set up and get to you to jump through, as soon as you have done that they can easily set up a different, even opposite rule and have you jump through that.  Because their main point is getting you to jump through their hoop, whatever they decide it to be at that moment.]

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 5 But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments. 6 They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, 7 and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men.

[Narcissists’ (insolent pride) whole goal is to be number 1, honored and glorified by others.  So, to get there they MUST look good in the eyes of others, and have that rewarded by receiving the honor due them.]

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8 But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers.9 Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. 10 Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. 11 But the greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.

[Jesus tells us God’s way – humility vs. pride, serving vs. being honored.  More on this important key to successful living in other posts]

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Eight Woes

13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.14 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you will receive greater condemnation.

[Narcissists put on a show.  The Pharisees’ long prayers was all about the show, it had nothing to do with actually communicating with God]

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15 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.

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16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, that is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the [i]temple is obligated.’ 17 You fools and blind men! Which is more important, the gold or the temple that sanctified the gold? 18 And, ‘Whoever swears by the altar,that is nothing, but whoever swears by the offering on it, he is obligated.’ 19 You blind men, which is more important, the offering, or the altar that sanctifies the offering? 20 Therefore, whoever swears by the altar, swears both by the altar and by everything on it. 21 And whoever swears by the temple, swears both by the temple and by Him who dwells within it. 22 And whoever swears by heaven, swears both by the throne of God and by Him who sits upon it.

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23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!

[One of the secular comments on narcissists is that they lack a sense of proportion – for example, they will work through the night on something that isn’t very useful.   Jesus was confirming this about the Pharisees, but the above statement also implies that their focus on the little details was a means of avoiding obligations and escaping responsibility for the larger, more important moral requirements.]

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25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.   27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

[Narcissists (insolent pride) make it look good.  But what’s going on their hearts is a whole other matter.  Ultimately, of course, what’s in their heart will come out.  “The mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart”.  (Matt 12:34)]

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29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, 30 and say, ‘If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’

[This is a classic narcissist (insolent pride) approach…… with comments like “well, I never would have done that”]

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31 So you testify against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of the guilt of your fathers. 33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell?

3 responses

  1. Pingback: Narcissist Case Studies – The Pharisees – How Jesus Responded To Their Backbiting « Biblical Perspectives On Narcissism

  2. Pingback: Narcissist Tactics – Saying Whatever They Have To, To Get What They Want « Biblical Perspectives On Narcissism

  3. Pingback: Narcissist* Traits – They Lack Perspective On What’s Important « Biblical Perspectives On Narcissism

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