|The Biblical understanding enunciated by Jesus is rooted in the original meaning of the Greek word ὑποκριταί (hypokritai) which means “stage actors.”|
In the Gospel from Ash Wednesday’s Mass, Jesus gives an extended teaching on the problem of hypocrisy.
You can read it here:
Matthew 6 – On Hypocrisy. In the modern age we have tended to reduce the notion of hypocrisy to duplicity.
The modern notion is that a hypocrite is someone who says one thing but does another, a person who is two-faced, who is inconsistent or phony. Jesus’ teaching on Hypocrisy does not exclude this notion but is far richer.
At one level it is easy to see how this word has come to mean some one who is phony. For what they claim to be, they really are not, they are just acting a role. But when no one is looking (i.e. the audience is gone) they revert to their true self, which is some one quite different. But Jesus in his teaching here develops the understanding far more richly that shows how sad and poignant hypocrisy is, what its origin is and how it can be overcome.