Although no distinct Hebrew word for hypocrisy occurs in the Old Testament, the concept does primarily in terms of insincere worship. The Lord rejects sacrificial offerings and temple attendance ( Jer 7:4-11 ) when worshipers have no intimate knowledge of him or genuine love ( Isa 1:11-17 ; Hosea 6:4-6 ; Amos 4:4-5 ; 5:21-24 ). Hypocrisy manifests itself in an inconsistency between external religious activity and religious profession ( Isa 1:10-17 ).
The root idea in the Old Testament may be that the hypocrite has a godless heart ( Job 36:13 LXX hypocrites for Heb. hanep [En'j], "godless, profane" ) that rebels against God's laws ( Jer 7:21-24 ; Hosea 7:13-16 ; 8:1-2 ; cf. Jer 6:19-20 ) and generates wrongful Acts, including injustice and oppression ( Isa 1:10-17 ; 58:2-7 ; Isaiah 59:2-4 Isaiah 59:13-15 ; Jer 7:5 ). In contrast, the true worshiper must come before the Lord with a pure heart ( Psalm 15:2 ; 24:4 ). The hypocrite is also an ungodly rebel who flatters and deceives with his or her tongue ( Psalm 5:9-10 ; 12:2-4 ; 78:36-37 ; Daniel 11:21 Daniel 11:27 ; cf. Psalm 55:20-21 ) to promote godlessness ( Daniel 11:32 Daniel 11:34 ).
The New Testament seems to combine the Old Testament concept of the godless rebel and the Attic Greek hypokrisis [uJpovkrisi"], "stage-playing or acting." The Greek idea of "play-acting" seems para mount in Matthew 6:2, 5, 16, where Jesus warns against religious performance to impress men (vv. 5,16,18 cf. Matt 23:5 ). Hypocrites make an outward show of religion, whether in giving alms, praying, or fasting. The English concept of hypocrisy as failing to practice what one preaches is rarely found ( Matt 23:3 ).
The hypocrite is self-deluded by his or her own pretension, which fools no one else ( Matt 7:5 ; Luke 6:42 ). Hypocrisy may involve a failure to discern spiritual truth ( Luke 12:54-56 ; 13:15 ; cf. Matt 12:7 ; 23:23 ) or even a willful blindness to spiritual matters ( Matthew 23:17 Matthew 23:19 Matthew 23:23-24 Matthew 23:26 ).
The hypocrite pretends goodness, but beneath a religious veneer is a malicious or deceitful heart ( Matt 22:15-18 ; cf. 1 Peter 2:1 ). Though hypocrites justify their religious activity, their hearts are not true to God ( Matthew 15:7-9 Matthew 15:18-19 ; cf. Isa 29:13-14 ). As in the Old Testament a discrepancy exists between outward conformity to religious ritual and the true state of their hearts ( Matt 23:25-30 ; contrast 5:8 ). Thus, the term "hypocrite" ( Matt 24:51 ) can occur as a synonym for "unfaithful/unbeliever." Such "hypocrites" hinder others from coming to Christ and even make converts to their godless lifestyle ( Matthew 23:13 Matthew 23:15 ; cf. Daniel 11:32 Daniel 11:34 ). Or they deceive others into doctrinal error ( 1 Tim 4:1-2 ). Thus hypocrisy is implied as one of the evidences of earthly or demonic wisdom ( James 3:13-17 ).
Greg W. Parsons
Bibliography. U. Becker and H.-G. Link, NIDNTT, 2:467-74; H. L. Ellison, New Bible Dictionary, p. 502; D. A. Hubbard, EDT, p. 539.
Copyright © 1996 by Walter A. Elwell. Published by Baker Books, a division of
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[N] indicates this entry was also found in Nave's Topical Bible
Bibliography InformationElwell, Walter A. "Entry for 'Hypocrisy'". "Evangelical Dictionary of Theology".