When Believers Hide

The hyphenated term Crypto-Christians is sometimes used to refer to believers who hide during times of persecution. The English word crypto is derived from the Greek κρύπτω krupto, which means to “hide, conceal, cover…to keep from being seen.”[1] The word is used in both a positive and negative sense in Scripture. During times of unjust persecution, there have been instances when God’s people hid themselves, or were hidden by others. Sometimes this appears to be a valid practice, and other times not.

Hiding MosesBy faith, Moses’ parents hid him from Pharaoh (Ex 2:1-2). The writer of Hebrews comments on this act, saying, “By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king’s edict” (Heb 11:23). By faith, Rahab protected the two spies that came to her house, for “she had brought them up to the roof and hidden them in the stalks of flax which she had laid in order on the roof” (Josh 2:6; cf. Heb 11:31).[2] When David was being persecuted by King Saul, Jonathan told David, “Saul my father is seeking to put you to death. Now therefore, please be on guard in the morning, and stay in a secret place and hide yourself” (1 Sam 19:2).[3] During the days of Elijah, “when Jezebel destroyed the prophets of the LORD, Obadiah took a hundred prophets and hid them by fifties in a cave, and provided them with bread and water” (1 Ki 18:4).[4] These were true prophets, for a false prophet would not have been afraid of the public hostility of Ahab and Jezebel. It is recorded that Jesus “hid Himself” (κρύπτω krupto) from an attack by the Jewish leadership (John 8:59). Certainly there was no sin in Jesus’ action. There was another time when Jesus “hid Himself” (κρύπτω krupto), though the text does not say why (John 12:36).

There are biblical examples of believers who hid themselves and the text neither justifies nor condemns their actions. For example, Elijah ran for his life and hid in a cave (1 Ki 19:1-2, 9-10). God showed the prophet grace, providing for him during his journey (1 Ki 19:4-8). Elijah thought he was the last prophet in Israel, saying, “I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away” (1 Ki 19:10b). However, Elijah was unaware of 7000 faithful Israelites who had not bowed the knee to Baal (1 Ki 19:18). One might question whether these 7000 believers were also concealing their faith for fear of persecution; otherwise, Elijah would have known about them and realized he was not the last of God’s prophets. Scripture reveals Joseph of Arimathea was “a disciple of Jesus, but a secret one (κρύπτω krupto) for fear of the Jews” (John 19:38). However, after the crucifixion, he exposed his faith for all to see and apparently did not fear oppression.

There are believers whom the biblical text chides for hiding. For example, some of the Jewish leadership in Jesus’ day had “believed in Him” (John 12:42a); however, “because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue” (John 12:42b). These believers chose to hide their faith for selfish reasons, because “they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God” (John 12:42-43). One could argue that Peter was hiding from persecution when he denied the Lord three times (Matt 26:33-35, 69-75).

In summary, there is Scriptural evidence of believers who hid from persecution. For some, it was not wrong, but for others, it was. How should we distinguish between them? Hiding to avoid unjust persecution seems permissible, and perhaps wise, as long as it does not mean disobeying or dishonoring God. A thorough knowledge of Scripture and strong faith in God will equip the believer to make good decisions in times of persecution. Wisdom and courage is needed if we are going to face unjust persecution for God’s glory and the benefit of others.

Dr. Steven R. Cook

Related Articles:

[1] William Arndt et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 571.

[2] The Septuagint uses the Greek word κρύπτω krupto as a synonym for the Hebrew טָמַן taman.

[3] The Septuagint uses the Greek word κρύπτω krupto as a synonym for the Hebrew טָמַן taman.

[4] Here, the Septuagint uses the Greek word κρύπτω krupto as a synonym for the Hebrew חָבָא chaba.