Re: An interpretation of Jesus' calling the Pharisee's hypocrites
>Date: 01 Oct 92 15:44:45 EST
>From: David John Marotta <djm5g%Virginia.EDU@dmt03.mcc.Virginia.EDU>
>Subject: An interpretation of Jesus' calling the Pharisee's hypocrites
>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?
Most commentaries that I have seem to deal with this issue. For example
_The Interpreter Dictionary of the Bible_ has a nice article dealing with
the very issue (under "Hypocrisy"). Likewise _The Theologicial Dictionary
of the NT_ covers this (the "Little Kittel" that I have at home spends
nearly two pages on HUPOKRITES, et al; presumably the full TDNT has a
corresponding longer article).
Similarly since 90% of the occurances of this term appear in Matthew, any
commentary on Matt should deal with this issue. For instance the Albright
and Mann translation for the Anchor Bible series devotes several pages of
the introduction (pg cxv-cxxiii) to this very question.
The consensus seems to be best summarized by B. T. Viviano, OP, in his
commentary on Matt in the _New Jerome Commentary_. As a note on Mt 6:2
(the first appearance of the term in Matt) he writes: "Originally
_hypokrites_ was a theatrical term meaning 'actor'; it come to refer in
Matt 23 to false interpreters of Scripture, religious teachers who fail in
their responsibilities." (Likewise, Albright and Mann give as a note for
the same verse: "In face of the evidence nothing can justify the continued
use of the word 'hypocrite' in our English translation.")
Compare, for instance, Gal 2:14, where Paul is criticizing, not the
insincerity of his opponents, but their unwillingness to live up to their
end of the bargain. Likewise, the passage in Luke 11:44 in which the
"hypocrites" are compared to "unmarked graves" is probably made clearer if
we consider their real crime to be one of corruption of their followers.
It is useful to note that the authors of the NT seem to have had some
discomfort with the term. For example, while Mk 12:15 speaks of
"hypocrisy", the parallels use the terms "malice" ([PONHRIAN] Mt 22:18) and
"craftiness" ([TANOURGIAN] Lk 20:23). Similarly "the hypocrites" in Mt
22:51 becomes "the Unfaithful" [APISTON] in Lk 12:46.
More importantly, note that all of Matthew's uses of the term in Mt 23 are
removed (not added?) in the parallels in Lk 20 and 11.
Finally, it seems that many/most modern scholarly or critical translations
have abandoned the translation "hypocrite". For example, Albright and Mann
give "over scrupulous" in Mt 6:2 and "pettifogging" throughout Mt 23 (the
Scholars Translation gives in these places "phony pietists" and "imposters"
respectively). The fact that more popular translations (e.g. NRSV, MEB,
etc) continue to use "hypocrite" may, I suspect, be as much a nod to
tradition as anything else. After all, while "over scrupulous person" may
be a more accurate translation, it doesn't pack near the wallop as
[Other examples, e.g. from LXX and other, non-biblical sources are
discussed in the articles refered to above.]