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Bible Dictionaries

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology


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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 (Jeremiah 7:4-11 ) when worshipers have no intimate knowledge of him or genuine love (Isaiah 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 (Isaiah 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 [ Jeremiah 7:21-24; Hosea 7:13-16; 8:1-2; cf. Jeremiah 6:19-20 ) and generates wrongful Acts, including injustice and oppression (Isaiah 1:10-17; 58:2-7; 59:2-4,13-15; Jeremiah 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 11:21,27; cf. Psalm 55:20-21 ) to promote godlessness (Daniel 11:32,34 ).

The New Testament seems to combine the Old Testament concept of the godless rebel and the Attic Greek hypokrisis [ Matthew 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 (Matthew 23:3 ).

The hypocrite is self-deluded by his or her own pretension, which fools no one else (Matthew 7:5; Luke 6:42 ). Hypocrisy may involve a failure to discern spiritual truth (Luke 12:54-56; 13:15; cf. Matthew 12:7; 23:23 ) or even a willful blindness to spiritual matters (Matthew 23:17,19,23-24,26 ).

The hypocrite pretends goodness, but beneath a religious veneer is a malicious or deceitful heart (Matthew 22:15-18; cf. 1 Peter 2:1 ). Though hypocrites justify their religious activity, their hearts are not true to God (Matthew 15:7-9,18-19; cf. Isaiah 29:13-14 ). As in the Old Testament a discrepancy exists between outward conformity to religious ritual and the true state of their hearts (Matthew 23:25-30; contrast 5:8). Thus, the term "hypocrite" (Matthew 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 23:13,15; cf. Daniel 11:32,34 ). Or they deceive others into doctrinal error (1 Timothy 4:1-2 ). Thus hypocrisy is implied as one of the evidences of earthly or demonic wisdom (James 3:13-17 ).

The absence of hypocrisy (genuine faith and sincere love from a pure heart) is a mark of godly character (1 Timothy 1:5; 2:5,7; cf. Psalm 15:2-5; 24:3-5; 2Col 6:6-7).

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 Statement
Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Edited by Walter A. Elwell
Copyright © 1996 by Walter A. Elwell. Published by Baker Books, a division of Baker Book House Company, PO Box 6287, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49516-6287.
All rights reserved. Used by permission.
For usage information, please read the Baker Book House Copyright Statement.

Bibliography Information
Elwell, Walter A. Entry for 'Hypocrisy'. Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. 1996.

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