Word Study #129 — “Hidden things”, Secrets, Darkness

This study is an outgrowth of the former post. When I ran across the only reference for aischune that was not translated “shame”, but rather “dishonesty” (II Cor.4:2), where Paul asserts, “we have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty”, I thought this required attention. I have long advocated for the total avoidance of “hidden things” or secrecy of any kind in a Christian brotherhood, so the connection of “hidden things” with “shame” or “dishonesty” seemed quite relevant to these efforts. Of course, with careful study, one frequently learns that nothing is as simple as he would like it to be. This was no exception.

Both “hidden” and “secret” are traditional translations of the same words, with very few, seldom-appearing exceptions. Almost all (8 out of 12 words) are some variant of the verb krupto: primarily kruptos (noun, adjective, and adverb forms), another adverb kruphe, and the prefixed forms apokrupto / apokruphos, perikrupto, and egkrupto. L/S lists roughly the same usage for all of them: “to hide with a notion of protection, to hide oneself, to cover or bury, to conceal or keep secret, to engage in intrigue, to connive”, or in the adjectival forms, “hidden, secret, disguised, underhanded, hard to understand, obscure.”

Similar variety is also represented in New Testament usage. There are things and people that are “hidden” for protection (Mt.7:24, 13:44; Jn.7:10, 8:59, 12:36,19:38; Col.3:3). Some refer simply to ordinary privacy (Mt.1:18, 24:26, 26:26; I Pet.3:4). Some things are “hidden”, waiting for the proper time to be “revealed” (Mt.11:25, Lk.10:21, Eph.3:9, Col.1:26, 2:3; Mt.13:35, Rom.16:25). Some are rather ambiguous as to whether the “hiding” is a positive or a negative thing (Mt.10:26, Mk.4:22, Lk.12:2, 8:17, 8:27, 9:45, 18:34; Mt.5:14, Lk.1:24, Mt.13:33, Lk.13:21). And some are indeed nefarious, and strictly warned-against (Mt.25:18, 25:25; Rom.2:16, I Cor.4:5, II Cor.4:2, Eph.5:12, Rv.6:15,16).

Another perspective of interest is “who is hiding (or trying to hide) what, from whom, and why?” Jesus’ admonition in Mt.6:4, 6, 18, for example,is  an encouragement to keep one’s faithfulness private between the disciple and the Father, whose “seeing in secret” is loving affirmation, quite in contrast to the warning expressed by the same word in Rom.2:16 or I Cor.4:5. Whether or not we welcome the time when “the secrets of all hearts will be revealed” simply depends upon what is in our hearts!
Also interestingly, there is no overt suggestion that “things hidden from the beginning of the world” (Eph.3:9, Col.1:26, Mt.13:35, Rom.16:25) were deliberately concealed by the hand of God: only that they are exclusively and deliberately revealed (note the context of the above references), by his will and timing, and under his instructions.
The only people from whom the message of the Kingdom is deliberately withheld (II Cor.4:3, Lk.19:42, Mt.11:25, Lk.10:21) are those who have rejected the call of the King, in whom alone are “hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col.2:3). It is he, also, in whom the very lives of those who trust him are “hidden” by the protective hand of God (Col.3:3), after having already chosen to begin the promised Kingdom life.

Lanthano / lathra (L/S – “to escape notice, unseen, secretly, privately, imperceptibly”, but also “treacherously, by stealth”) in the New Testament usually refers to privacy (Jn.11:28, Mt.1:19, 2:7; Ac.16:7), with only the latter two references bearing any underhanded flavor. The verb form carries a tone of attempted avoidance (Mt.7:24, Lk.8:47), but in a protective sense.

Aphanes (an adverb formed by adding the negative prefix “a” to the stem of phaneros, translated “manifest”, referring to any sort of revelation (Lk.8:17, Mk.4:22, I Cor.3:13, 14:25; Eph.5:13), is only used a single time, in Heb.4:13, and, like the citations in Mt.6 above, whether it is a threat or a promise depends upon whose side one has chosen to join!

 It is in the matter of “choosing sides” that the concept of “darkness” is thrown into the mix. All but 4 of the 59 references use some form of skotia / skotos (L/S – “darkness, blindness, obscurity, gloom, uncertainty, deceit, ignorance, death”). Occasionally it refers simply to the onset of evening (Jn.6:17, 20:1), the eclipse at the time of Jesus’ death (Mt.27:45, Mk.15:33, Lk.23:44), or the eventual destination of those who actively oppose the Lord, his people, and his ways (II Pet.2:4, 17; Jude 6, 13; Heb.12:18, Mt.8:12, 22:13, 25:30). A few times the implication appears to be privacy (Mt.10:27, Lk.12:13).
But most of the time, it is a description of intellectual or spiritual ignorance, whether as a result of opposing the Lord (Rom.1:21, 11:10; Eph.4:8, Mt.8:12, 22:13, 25:30, II Pet.2:17), or simply not having heard of his ways (Mt.4:16, Lk.1:79, Ac.26:18, Rom.2:19).
Darkness is also represented as the realm of overt evil (Lk.22:15, Jn. 3:19, Eph.5:8, 11,12; 6:12; I Thes.5:4,5), from which the faithful are urged to make a definitive break (I Pet.2:9, Col.1:13, Eph.5:11, II Cor.6:14, Rom.13:12, Mt.6:23, Lk.11:35).
John seems to draw the battle lines with the greatest clarity, both in his gospel (1:5, 8:12, 12:35,46) and in his first letter (I Jn.1:5,6; 2;8,9,11). Please refer also to study #75, “Light”, by way of contrast.

The key to the connection with “secrecy” lies in Jn.3:19-21: “The light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light, for their deeds were evil. Everyone who practices wickedness hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds be exposed. But the one who is doing [acting in] the truth, comes to the light, in order that his deeds may be revealed, that they were performed in [for] God.”
Paul harmonizes very well with this tune in the paragraph that contains the reference with which we began: II Cor.4:1-6.

While it may be necessary in hostile environments for faithful brethren to operate quietly with respect to the darkness that surrounds, and sometimes threatens them (Mt.7:24, Jn.7:10, 8:59, 12:36), within a faithful brotherhood, there is no such need!
“Renouncing the shameful, hidden things” (II Cor.4:2), and “things hidden in darkness” (I Cor.4:5), we may take our places in complete, trusting mutuality as the Body of our Lord Jesus!
“Once, you all were darkness, but now you are light, in the Lord! Behave as children of light!” (Eph.5:8)

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