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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Hypocrisy

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(ὑπόκρισις ; but in James 5:12, two words, ὑπὸ κρίσιν , as the A.V. justly) is the name for the successful or unsuccessful endeavor of a person to impart to others, by the expression of his features or, gestures, by his outward actions, and, in fine, by his whole appearance, a favorable opinion of his principles, his good intentions, love, unselfishness, truthfulness, and conscientiousness while in reality these qualities are wanting in him. It is, therefore, a peculiar kind of untruthfulness, which has its definite aims and means. It is precisely because these aims refer to the moral qualifications of the subject, because he speaks and acts as if an honest man, that hypocrisy has found room and opportunity in social life, in commerce and industry, in politics, and, above all, in the field of revealed religion. This may appear paradoxical, because this as well as the religion of the old covenant, places man before the face of an almighty Being who sees the heart, and who penetrates human thought even from its very beginning; who perceives clearly its development and ripening; so that the hypocrite, even if he should succeed in deceiving men, can certainly have no benefit from his acts in the end.

On the other hand, because religion consists not entirely in the performance of outward actions, but makes the worth of the person dependent on the righteous state of his heart and mind, it creates the greater desire in him to acquire the reputation of really having these qualities; and because these qualities, though they are of a purely spiritual nature, yet can only be manifested by outward acts, which, since they are material, strike the eye of the world, and may be enacted without the possession of the genuine-mental and moral state, it results that there is here such a wide field for hypocritical actions. We infer, therefore, from what we have said, that there is less opportunity for hypocrisy in heathenism than in Judaism; in Catholicism than in Protestantism. For wherever the principal weight is laid on the outward action, on the opius operatum, there one experiences far less the inclination to cover the inconsistency of the inner world by the outer world; while, on the other hand, where every thing depends on the inward state, and where, with the mere enactment of outward ceremony, God and conscience cannot be appeased, there originates in the unregenerate man the temptation to do what may give him at least the semblance of a quality which he really does not possess.

When a frivolous, reckless fellow kneels at the Catholic altar to perform by feature and gesture his devotions, no one would think of accusing him of hypocrisy; while a Protestant, in a similar case, could not escape this judgment. Still, this does not fully solve the paradox how the hypocrite can hope to carry on his false game, while he knows very well that before the God of truth no one can pass for righteous who possesses simply the semblance of righteousness, but does not connect therewith the belief in its power. It must here be remembered that, in the one case, the person endeavors to acquire for himself, in the community to which he belongs, the epithet of a pious man; and, if he is satisfied herewith, then, in regard to his future state, in view of that day which will bring every thing to light, he is either thoughtless and careless, or else totally unbelieving. When his earthly scene has ended, the curtain drops for him, and all is over. But in another case the person is animated by the hope that, in virtue of those outward acts by which he thinks to do good, his praying, almsgiving, etc., he may prevail before God; this is the true Phariseeism, which dims the facility of knowing God, ands not only deceives men, but counterfeits truth itself, and thereby cheats itself worst of all. A special means of detecting the real hypocrite is his unmerciful judgment over others. This has its ground in the fact that by such expressions he not only seeks to confirm his own standing, but it is also a self-deceit into which he falls; the more he finds to blame in others, the more confident he grows of his own worth, and the more easily he appeases his conscience in regard to the inconsistency of his moral state with his actions and the incongruity of his secret with his open ways. Ethics finds among the different gradations of sill a certain state of hypocrisy which is far worse than absolute subjection to sin, inasmuch as in the latter state there may exist at least the earnest desire in the individual to rid himself of his faults, although he no longer possesses the power to do so; the hypocrite, on the other hand, is quite contented with himself, and has no desire whatever to repent of the sin so deeply lodged in his heart, but merely endeavors to hide it from God and men, in order to be able to gratify his sinful inclinations the more securely under the cover of an assumed sanctity. In certain respects the frivolous sinner is far better than the hypocrite, inasmuch as the former has at least no desire to deceive any one about his condition, and does not present himself to the world otherwise than he really is. This formal truthfulness in the open sinner, however, is counterbalanced by the fact that the hypocrite recognizes at least a divine law and judgment; he is still alive to the consciousness of the incongruity of his state of mind and heart with this divine law; but yet hypocrisy, as a permanent untruthfulness, as a systematic deceit, as a life in dissimulation, must gradually annihilate all sense of its own condition. Thus, in the issue, publicans and harlots arc nearer to the kingdom of heaven than Pharisees. Herzog, Real- Encyklop. 19:643 sq. (See HYPOCRITE).


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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Hypocrisy'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tce/h/hypocrisy.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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