Friday, June 22, 2007

Out of the Fold

David from Central Lake, Michigan, asks about the phrase, out of the fold.

A fold is a pen for domestic animals, especially sheep. It comes from the Old English falaed, an enclosed space.

It is used as a metaphor for people united in belief or in common purpose. Thus, to be out of the fold is to abandon belief (if a voluntary act) or (involuntarily) to be ostracized as a form of punishment or censure. Elvis has left the enclosure.

Given the bucolic setting of the ancient world, it was a familiar biblical image.
Numbers 32:24 (KJV) ”Build you cities for your little ones, and folds for your sheep; and do that which hath proceeded out of your mouth.”
Jeremiah 23:3 “And I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all countries whither I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase.”

In the New Testament spiritual sense, it reflects the concept of the Good Shepherd. “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.” [John 10:16]

It also showed up in secular settings.
The Farmer’s Law, 8th c. Byzantium: “If a slave, while trying to steal by night, drives the sheep away from the flock in chasing them out of the fold, and they are lost or eaten by wild beasts, let him be hanged as a murderer.”
• “It is better to keep the wolf out of the fold than to trust to drawing his teeth and talons after he shall have entered."—Thomas Jefferson, notes on the State of Virginia, c..

SIDEBAR: the sheep game

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