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Old 09-22-2008, 06:31 AM
Paul Paul is offline
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 7
Default Who is a hypocrite?

Regarding the various meanings of "hypocrisy," I've thought for a few years now that the word often gets abused (or grossly overused) and that it would be both more parsimonious and more charitable if people were to revert to the older meaning of the term in most cases. I think Prof. Runciman is entirely correct on at least this point (mentioned toward the beginning of the diavlog), when he talks about the word as used in the 16th--19th centuries. In fact, it's right there in the etymology of the Greek word (hupokrites), an actor playing a character, a stage-player.

However, isn't there one very famous counterexample? "Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast." "But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men..." "Ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky and of the earth; but how is it that ye do not discern this time?" Presumably, Christ did not mean the Pharisees were somehow faking belief in Torah law.

You'll see the same word used in English New-Testament translations going back at least to John Wycliffe in the fifteenth century. (Tyndale followed Wycliffe in this transliteration, and ultimately the King James translators followed Tyndale). Since the biblical meaning seems to be closer to our modern usage than (say) how the word is used in Moliere's "Tartuffe," doesn't this imply the current usage goes back at least to late Middle English?

More to the point, isn't the Sermon on the Mount an excellent (or even, to the devout, unimpeachable) authority justifying modern usage?

So does anyone know more about the history of the English word "hypocrite"? Wycliffe didn't coin it from the Greek, did he? For that matter, does anyone know how "adam aw-dawm," "chaneph khaw-nafe," "hupokrites" (transliterated Hebrew & Greek) or the Aramaic equivalent were used in Roman Judea?

(Apologies if anything like this was brought up later in the diavlog. I've only listen to the first third. Also apologies in case this was mentioned, but for those who don't know, Prof. Runciman is related to Sir Steven Runciman, the famous historian of the crusades and medieval Levant.)
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