Hypocrites in the Bible

This entry is part 273 of 332 in the series Inquiring Minds
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How many times is the word “hypocrite” used in the Bible?

A hypocrite is a person who says or thinks one thing and does another. The word comes from Greek and stood for actors in a play who would wear a mask that showed an emotion but they were only acting out an emotion.

It can mean “two-faced,” standing for the idea of not having integrity. Integrity means that our character matches our actions. We are in secret what we are in public. A hypocrite is someone who says one thing and does another, whose deeds do not match their character.

“Hypocrite” occurs one time in the Old Testament (Psalm 26:4). The first line of the verse talks about men of falsehood. The word hypocrite is parallel to men of falsehood. The Hebrew context contains the idea of being hidden or concealed. People who practice falsehood do it by hiding their true intentions and motives. The word behind the translation of “hypocrite” occurs 27 times in the Old Testament.

In the New Testament, the Greek word for hypocrite occurs 18 times. Jesus often uses this word to describe the religious leaders of Israel, the Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes, and others. He often tells his disciples to not be like these religious leaders, doing one thing in public and being another way in private.

“Hypocrite” occurs in the following verses: Matthew 6:2, 5, 16; 7:5; 15:7; 22:18; 23:15, 23, 25, 27, 29; 24:51; Mark 7:6; Luke 6:42; 12:56; 13:15. As you can see, Matthew uses this word much more than any of the others. You find it concentrated in the section on the woes to the Pharisees in Matthew 23.

Jesus uses the word “hypocrite” as he describes the person who doesn’t have the foresight to see his own problems and sin. He describes it as a person who looks at the speck of dust in someone else’s eye but ignores the log in his own eye (Matthew 7:5; Luke 6:42).

So we see that this word is often used of religious people who are not as genuine in public as they are in private. They are the ones that accuse others of not doing the things that they are not doing, like following the spirit of the law as well as the letter.

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