Narcissist Case Study – Simon The Magician

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Acts 8:9-24

Now there was a man named Simon, who formerly was practicing magic in the city and astonishing the people of Samaria, claiming to be someone great; 10 and they all, from smallest to greatest, were giving attention to him, saying, “This man is what is called the Great Power of God.” 11 And they were giving him attention because he had for a long time astonished them with his magic arts. 12 But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike. 13 Even Simon himself believed; and after being baptized, he continued on with Philip, and as he observed signs and great miracles taking place, he was constantly amazed.

14 Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent them Peter and John, 15 who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. 16 For He had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then they began laying their hands on them, and they were receiving the Holy Spirit.

18 Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was bestowed through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, 19 saying, “Give this authority to me as well, so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” 20 But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! 21 You have no part or portion in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. 22 Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that, if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bondage of iniquity.” 24 But Simon answered and said, “Pray to the Lord for me yourselves, so that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.”

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Simon’s desire to exalt himself was shown by his “claiming to be someone great”.  Even though Simon clearly believed and was baptized (verse 13), he still retained his narcissistic traits.  Upon becoming a Christian, Simon would have had to give up the big stage of his “magic show”, putting him on the same level as ordinary people.  But even though Simon had believed, he was not content with being a humble learner with the other new believers – so when he saw Peter and John’s spiritual authority, his still-remaining desire for self-glory caused him to seek to get it for himself in the only way he knew by offering to buy it.  He obviously had very little understanding of the true nature of the Kingdom of God.

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Peter, in his usual fashion, struck right to Simon’s heart by identifying that his heart was not right before God, as he was still in the “gall of bitterness”, and “bondage of iniquity”.   Peter challenged Simon to repent, the starting point to any solution for those inwardly bound by narcissism.  Peter also told Simon to ask God to forgive him for the (evil, self-glorifying) intention of his heart.

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Simon’s response could be interpreted two ways.  Verse 24 says,  “But Simon answered and said, “Pray to the Lord for me yourselves, so that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.””  Interpretation One is that Simon did not take personal responsibility for his actions and heart, and did not repent, but instead was putting responsibility back onto Peter.  Something like, “since you’re the one who accused me of this, you should be the one to pray about it, not me”.  The more likely Interpretation Two is that he did repent, and was humbly asking Peter and John for their assistance in the matter.  The word Simon used in asking Peter to pray for him is δεήθητε (deēthēte), meaning “beseech” or “pray earnestly” – indicating that Simon was indeed repentant and was asking the obvious spiritual authorities to intercede on his behalf.

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Putting “Biblical Perspectives On Narcissism” Into Perspective

One response

  1. Interesting interpretation, i have never read that in the context of a narsacist. It would be wonderful if interpretation 2 was the outcome although in my experience with a narcasist believer the first is sadly more often the reality.
    Appreciate the commentary, well written . Thank you

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