Jesus illustrated how a scoffer operates through a story of a Pharisee and a tax collector praying in the temple:
And He (Jesus) also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and viewed others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’
But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’. I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Key phrases in the story match the definition of a narcissist given in Proverbs 21:24 (“proud, haughty, scoffer are his names who acts with insolent pride”).
The Pharisee was
- Proud (of his accomplishments) – “(Jesus) told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous”, “(The Pharisee) was praying this to himself”, “I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get”
- Haughty – “God, I thank you that I am not like other people…”
- A scoffer – “Viewed others with contempt”
The Pharisee viewed himself as better than “others” (as represented by the guy standing next to him). And Jesus specifically says that he “exalted himself” and “viewed others with contempt.” The Biblical word for contempt here is eksouthenéō[i].
eksouthenéō[ii]: to cast out as nothing; “to count as nothing, to treat with utter contempt, i.e. as zero”; “despise utterly”; to regard something as lacking any standing (value).
Contempt[iii] is disapproval tinged with disgust; i.e. – to feel contempt for a weakling. Disdain is a feeling that a person or thing is beneath one’s [a narcissist’s*] dignity and unworthy of one’s notice, respect or concern. Noun – The feeling with which a person regards anything considered worthless
The Pharisee’s self-exaltation left no room in his heart for the man next to him, whom he considered to be not even be worthy of his consideration.
The term “Pharisee” was shorthand for this character type, but not all Pharisees were this way. For example, Nicodemus (John 3) was a secret believer, and Gamaliel (Acts 5), the grandson of Hillel the Elder, was genuinely open to God’s purposes. Also, John 12:42 says that “many even of the rulers were believing in Him”.
The above example is derived from a comparison of traits pointing to this Pharisee as a case study on the Biblical equivalent of narcissism, but we have an even more direct connection. The Bible called out the Pharisees in general as scoffers hundreds of years before they appeared. They provide a particularly robust case study.
[ii] From HELPS Word Studies
[iii] From dictionary.com
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