An interpretation of Jesus' calling the Pharisee's hypocrites
>From IOUDAIS mailing list, comes the following aside comment:
>(2) No question but that Matt. 23 rejects the "scribes and Pharisees" as
>"hypocrites", denouncing them for various evils. But a rejection of these...
I have look at the use of the term hypocisys (sp?) in the NT and especially
Jesus's usage in Matt 23 (and Paul's in Gal 2) and some to a different
understanding of this term. The 'traditional' understand would have Jesus
calling the Pharisees hypocrites, using our normal English definition, that
is, they didn't practice what they preached. But this was not true of the
Pharisees. They themselves, in their own writtings, denounced those Pharisees
who did not practice what they preached.
The Greek term hypocrisys has been used in the Greek theatre with the idea of
playacting, hence our own etomology of the term. Jesus' criticism of the
Pharisees was that they were "playacting" the part of righteous people. That
is, they had screwed their moral gumption up tight enough, and were playaction
(doing) the things someone would do if they were righteous. They were trying
to keep the law, sincerely, honestly (not hypocitically in our modern sense of
the word), but it was only playacting. Why only playacting? Because even if I
dress British and speak with a British accent and act the part of a perfect
English gentleman and drink tea in the afternoon it does not make me British.
Jesus's complaint to the Pharisees was that playacting the part of righteous
people did not make them righteous, and thus they were still under God's
wrath. That is why "your righteousness must surpass that of the Pharisees in
order to enter the kingdom of heaven." And why Jesus says that they keep the
law, even tithing 10% of their herb gardens but neglect the inward part of the
law such as love, justice, mercy, etc. This is also why Paul could say in
Philipians 3 that he was a Pharisees of Pharisees, according to the law, found
If this understanding is correct Jesus's complaint was their reliance on
themselves, not their hypocrisy (modern english meaning).
I firmly believe this is the correct understanding of Matt 23, but I have
never heard it suggested before. Is it wrong? Has anyone else heard this idea
before? Is it worth writting up for a journal? Does anyone else agree with it?
David John Marotta, Medical Center Computing, Stacey Hall
Univ of Virginia (804) 982-3718 wrk INTERNET: firstname.lastname@example.org
Box 512 Med Cntr (804) 924-5261 msg BITNET: djm5g@virginia
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