1:25 PM

Kasey on 10:16b

1) Matthew 10:16b says, “so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves”. My first question about this verse concerns what it actually means to be “wise as serpents” and “innocent as doves”. What does this entail? My next question came from my concern of how one can do both of these at the same time since they seem to contradict one another, so I am wondering why these two clauses are used together in the same line of instruction.
2) Luz (pg. 88) says that while the dove is a symbol for integrity, defenselessness, and purity, that the serpent commonly denotes craftiness. However, Luz says that we should not interpret “being wise like a serpent” as referring to sneakiness in this verse. He points out the fact that some ancient commentators have suggested that the serpent’s craftiness denotes “protecting one’s head” (head being Christ), but he doesn’t latch on to this idea after mentioning it. Really, Luz seems to give no valid explanation for the use of these two clauses or for their possible correlation.
Carter (pg. 237) says that the wisdom of a serpent represents a discerning craftiness in order to achieve one’s ends, and he refers to Genesis 3 as an example of this characteristic. He says also that wisdom means hearing and doing what Jesus says to do, and I can see how this relates to a discerning ability to achieve a particular end. About the innocence of a dove, Carter says that it represents one’s commitment to the task and, therefore, a connection can be made between craftiness and innocence: giving everything you have to accomplish a task and being whole-heartedly committed to it. This seems to make a good connection; however, is it a stretch to say that the purity of innocence corresponds with devotion to a commitment?
3) My preliminary conclusion about this issue is that it may not be completely possible to nail down the meaning of these clauses and the way which they relate to one another. It seems, from the commentators’ thoughts, that there are a few various opinions about the words that derive from the perspectives of the interpreters as well as from the way the interpreters choose to view the individual meanings and relationship. I would much rather have a clearer understanding of the relationship of these two concepts, but the details presented by the commentators did set me at ease in pointing out the fact that they can correspond with each other.

Comment (1)

K,
How do you think being sent out "like sheep among wolves" (10:16a) affects what it means to be "wise as serpents" and "innocent as doves"? Also, Jesus himself lives under the threat of certain people/institutions that are preying upon him. Can we make sense of the way he lives as "wise as serpents" and "innocent as doves." The subtlety of Jesus' mode of resistance might help illuminate this kind of wisdom and innocence.

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