Monday, April 2, 2007


Greek Word Pronunciation: hoo-POK-ree-sis
Strong’s Number: 5272
Goodrich/Kohlenberger Number: 5694
Key Verse: “… you too outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy.” -- Matthew 23:28

The two nouns, hypocrisy and hypocrite, are compound words, comprised of hupo (“under”) and krino (“to judge”). It means literally “to judge under,” as a person giving off his judgment from behind a screen or mask. The true identity of the person is covered up. It refers to acts of impersonation or deception and was used of an actor on the Greek stage. In Greek drama, actors held over their faces oversized masks painted to represent the character they were portraying. In life, the hypocrite is a person who masks his real self while playing a part for the audience. Taken over into the New Testament, it referred to one who assumes the mannerisms, speech, and character of someone else, thus hiding his true identity; the person is judging another from back of the mask of his self-righteousness. Christianity requires that believers should be open and above-board. Their lives should be like an open book, easily read.

The verb form, hupokrinomai, is used only once in Luke 20:20: “They watched him and sent spies who pretended to be righteous …” (in KJV, “who should feign themselves just men”).

The nouns are used in the epistles once each in Galatians 2:13; 1 Timothy 4:2; and 1 Peter 2:1. In the Synoptics, they are always used of Christ’s judgments on scribes and Pharisees (15 times in Matthew; Mark 7:6; Luke 6:42, 12:56, and 13:15).

In MATTHEW 23, the hypocrisy is in jarring contradiction between what they say and do, between outward appearance and inward lack of righteousness. Hypocrisy is therefore sin: failure to do God’s will is concealed behind the pious appearance of outward conduct. Jesus sought to destroy the false, religious mask. Hypocrisy is: a hard taskmaster (verse 4), lives only for the praise of men (5-7); is mischievous (13-22); concerns itself with the small things of religion (23-24); deals chiefly with externals (25-28); reveres only what is dead (29-32), finds a fearful judgment (32-36); and receives an unexpected lament (37-39). It was Christ, the sole perfect reader of inward realities, who dared pass this judgment.

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