A Different Kind of Hypocrite

First Fruits of Zion is proud to announce the completion of a Messianic Jewish translation and commentary on the Didache entitled The Way of Life: The Rediscovered Teachings of the Twelve Jewish Apostles to the Gentiles. You can order this now. The Didache is sixteen chapters long, and there are exactly sixteen Sabbaths between Shavu’ot and Rosh HaShanah. In turn, it presents a perfect opportunity to study one chapter of the Didache a week throughout the summer. We will be presenting a blog each week previewing some of the commentary of The Way of Life.

The Didache shows little concern for theology, doctrine, or Christology. It does not theologize regarding the nature of God, redemption from sin, or the role of Messiah. “These seem to be understood as implicit.” [1]

Instead, the Didache concerns itself almost exclusively with the disciples’ obligations toward one another and other human beings. Chapter 4 is no exception to this rule.

Hating Hypocrisy

One of the practical instructions of chapter 4 is to hate all forms of hypocrisy:

You shall hate every form of hypocrisy. (Didache 4.12)

Most commentators are inclined to define “hypocrite” as someone who behaves disingenuously, creates a façade of piety, or says one thing and does another. In particular, this is usually directly linked to the Pharisees. This is primarily based upon the Master’s criticism: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so practice and observe whatever they tell you—but not what they do. For they preach, but do not practice” (Matthew 23:2-3). However, the word hypocrite is not found in the immediate context, but only appears later in verse 23. Additionally, while the Master does call some Pharisees hypocrites, the term is not solely used to describe the members of the Pharisaic party.

Stage Performer

The Greek word for “hypocrite” is hupokrites, which refers to a “stage performer” or an “actor.” As such, it is better to define “hypocrite” in the context of the Didache and the New Testament as someone who puts on a show of godliness and ostentatiously performs a religious obligation to attract attention, to be seen by others, and recognized as pious. The Master used the word to describe people who enjoy attention and praise for their righteous acts such as charity, prayer, and fasting:

Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. (Matthew 6:2)

And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. (Matthew 6:5)

And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. (Matthew 6:16)

The hypocrite performs the good deed for the sake of his appearance in the eyes of men; he is more concerned with glorifying himself than with bringing glory to his Father in heaven. By taking reward in the present in the form of accolades and respect, he loses his reward in the kingdom.


By commanding us to hate “hypocrisy,” the Didache warns us not to perform good deeds for the sake of receiving praise from men. Rather, we should observe the commandments because they are God’s will and, through their performance, we bring godliness into this world and honor to his name. As our Master teaches: “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).


  1. Tony Jones, The Teaching of the Twelve: Believing & Practicing the Primitive Christianity of the Ancient Didache Community (Brewster, MA: Paraclete, 2009), 86.

Source: First Fruits of Zion