Hypocrisy – Word Study

By Mark Mayberry


The New Testament contains a family of Greek words that communicate the concept of hypocrisy. The Greek verb hupokrinomai, which originally meant “to answer” and later “to play a part on the stage,” occurs once in Scripture, where it means “to pretend, make believe, or dissemble.” The noun hupokrisis, occurring 6 times and only in a negative sense, refers to hypocrisy, pretense, playacting, or putting on an outward show. The noun hupokritēs, occurring 18 times, refers metaphorically to one who is an actor, i.e., a pretender, dissembler, or hypocrite. Additionally, the adjective anupokritos, occurring 6 times, pertains to that which is without pretense or hypocrisy, i.e., genuine and sincere. Finally, the verb sunupokrinomai occurs once and means to join with others in pretense or hypocrisy.

Examples of Hypocrisy

The opponents of Jesus often evidenced hypocrisy in their efforts to trap Him. This was especially true in their question about paying tribute to Caesar (Matt. 22:15-22; Mark 12:13-17; Luke 20:19-26). It was also seen in their inconsistent approach to the Sabbath (Luke 13:10-17). In Matthew Chapter Twenty-Three, Jesus repeatedly denounced the Scribes and Pharisees for their hypocrisy (Matt. 23:13, 14, 15, 23, 25, 27, 28, 29-30). In like manner, Paul publically opposed Peter/Cephas for cowardly and hypocritical behavior toward Gentile disciples (Gal. 2:11-14).

Areas of Avoidance

  • We should avoid hypocrisy in benevolence/giving (Matt. 6:1-4).
  • We should avoid hypocrisy in prayer (Matt. 6:5-6).
  • We should avoid hypocrisy in fasting (Matt. 6:16-18).
  • We should avoid hypocrisy in judgment (Matt. 7:1-5; Luke 6:39-42).
  • We should avoid hypocrisy in doctrine (Matt. 15:7-9; Mark 7:6-8; 1 Tim. 4:1-3).
  • We should avoid hypocrisy in influence (Luke 12:1-3).
  • We should avoid hypocrisy in discernment (Luke 12:54-57).

Areas of Application

Christian faith must be sincere, i.e., without hypocrisy (1 Tim. 1:5; 2 Tim. 1:5). The same applies to all forms of Christian love, both agape and philos (Rom. 12:9; 2 Cor. 6:6; 1 Pet. 1:22-23). In like manner, the wisdom from above is without hypocrisy (James 3:17).


Laying aside hypocrisy and other related sins, we should desire the pure milk of the word, so that we may grow in respect to salvation (1 Pet. 2:1-3). Let us hear and heed. Calamity will overtake the unprepared and unregenerate: On that final day, they will be assigned a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matt. 24:44-51).