You shall not take (nâśâʼ, תשׁא; Septuagint: λήμψῃ, a form of λαμβάνω) the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold guiltless anyone who takes (nâśâʼ, ישׁא; Septuagint: λαμβάνοντα, another form of λαμβάνω) his name in vain.
Three occurrences of forms of nâśâʼ from Genesis 1:1 – Exodus 20:5 were translated with forms of λαμβάνω in the Septuagint:
Genesis 21:18 (NET)
|Genesis 27:3 (NET)||
Genesis 31:17 (NET)
|Get up! Help (nâśâʼ, שׁאי; Septuagint: λαβὲ, another form of λαμβάνω) the boy up and hold him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.||Therefore, take (nâśâʼ, שׁא; Septuagint: λαβὲ, another form of λαμβάνω) your weapons – your quiver and your bow – and go out into the open fields and hunt down some wild game for me.||So Jacob immediately put (nâśâʼ, וישׁא; Septuagint: ἔλαβεν, another form of λαμβάνω) his children and his wives on the camels.|
Only one of those (Genesis 27:3) was translated take in the KJV and NET before Exodus 20:7. There is no particular problem with this translation if I’m studying nâśâʼ. But if I read Exodus 20:7 in English only while trying to be declared righteous by the law or attempting to have my own righteousness derived from the law, the temptation is great to hear it as words I might say when I stub my toe in the dark. If I don’t say those words then I may consider myself blameless according to the law.
You shall not bear the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold guiltless anyone who bears his name in vain.
This translation might have persuaded me even in English that any and every deviation from righteousness is bearing or taking the Lord’s name in vain. Unbelievers seem to grasp this better than those who are trying to be declared righteous by the law or attempting to have [their] own righteousness derived from the law. But unbelievers call it hypocrisy rather than bearing or taking the Lord’s name in vain. According to Merriam-Webster.com:
The word hypocrite ultimately came into English from the Greek word hypokrites, which means “an actor” or “a stage player”…actors in ancient Greek theater wore large masks to mark which character they were playing…
The Greek word took on an extended meaning to refer to any person who was wearing a figurative mask and pretending to be someone or something they were not. This sense was taken into medieval French and then into English, where it showed up with its earlier spelling, ypocrite, in 13th-century religious texts to refer to someone who pretends to be morally good or pious in order to deceive others. (Hypocrite gained its initial h– by the 16th century.)
It took a surprisingly long time for hypocrite to gain its more general meaning that we use today: “a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings.” Our first citations for this use are from the early 1700s, nearly 500 years after hypocrite first stepped onto English’s stage.
On bibleone.net hypocrisy was distinguished from bearing or taking the Lord’s name in vain by ascribing more evil intent to hypocrisy:
The meaning of the words, “hypocrite” and “hypocrisy,” as used in the Bible by our Lord Jesus Christ (primarily directed toward the “religious” leaders of the day) implies more than a “simple pretense” or “acting out as a stage-player.” It embodies a purposeful intent, which stems from a deep-seated core of evil. More than this, it suggests a determined effort to enforce a standard of conduct upon others, which conduct the enforcer knowingly and deliberately refuses to apply to himself–hence, action born of full knowledge and evil intent. It is not merely the failure to live up to a holy standard–a condition applicable to every believer on any given day. It is the condition of a person who is controlled by the sin nature to the end-desire of having power over other human beings by imposing on them a set of rules, which he himself intentionally disregards. It is a condition applicable to either an unbeliever or a believer, i.e., a believer who is outside God’s will and under the influence of the sin nature.
I was particularly taken by the words imposing on them a set of rules. That is acting at its core. Some rules are imposed by the writer through the script. Some are imposed by the director who interprets the script and blocks the scenes. Most are self-imposed by the actor. Though actors call them choices, they are rules of behavior, what a particular character will or will not say or do in any given scene, derived from observation, research, experimentation and a deeply imaginative identification with the character to be performed. Actors can win some arguments with both the writer and the director (since both are more focused on the work as a whole) because good actors ultimately know the individual characters they play better, at least more interestingly.
Don’t misunderstand me, I love actors and fully appreciate what they do, especially film actors. I’ve had more opportunity to see them work up close, no one famous though a few were recognizable. I sit with a silly grin on my face watching Amy Adams sing and dance her way through New York City in Enchanted, and am just as rapt watching her decipher an alien language in Arrival. A brief exchange in Arrival between linguist Louise (Amy Adams) and physicist Ian (Jeremy Renner) encapsulates how I feel about studying the Bible.
Ian: You know, I was doing some reading about this idea that if you immerse yourself into a foreign language, that you can actually rewire your brain.
Louise: Yeah, the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis…It’s the theory that the language you speak determines how you think and…
Ian: Yeah. It affects how you see everything.
You were taught with reference to your former way of life, Paul wrote believers in Ephesus, to lay aside the old man who is being corrupted in accordance with deceitful desires, to be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and to put on the new man who has been created in God’s image – in righteousness and holiness that comes from truth. It’s not a matter of being renewed (ἀνανεοῦσθαι, a form of ἀνανεόω) by learning Greek or Hebrew, but by immersing oneself in how the Holy Spirit thinks and communicates in Greek or Hebrew. No matter how hard Amy Adams worked to become Giselle or Louise, no matter how many choices she made, she never became a cartoon princess or a xenolinguist in reality.
While Jesus was tender with many notorious sinners, He used scathing language to denounce those guilty of religious hypocrisy.
The story of Ananias and Sapphira warns us of the danger of the sin of hypocrisy.
None of the Greek words for hypocrite or hypocrisy—ὑποκριτής, ὑπόκρισις, ὑποκρίνομαι—occur in, or anywhere near, the story of Ananias and Sapphira. I assume Pastor Cole took an 18th-century definition of hypocrisy—not living up to professed beliefs—or a 13th-century understanding of ypocrite—deliberate deception—and applied it to the story of Ananias and Sapphira. Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie (ψεύσασθαι, a form of ψεύδομαι) to the Holy Spirit…” If we think of hypocrisy as something so evil no believer would dare do it, we miss Jesus’ point about doing righteousness as actors play a role, because we do it all of the time. It’s how we think. It’s how we speak to one another:
A Christian wouldn’t do that! A Christian shouldn’t do that! Christians should do thus and such. A real Christian would do this or that!
These are the arguments of actors: observing, researching, experimenting, engaging in deeply imaginative thought about what a Christian might be like and trying to perform that as a series of choices—that is, by obeying rules about how a Christian should or should not behave. It is significantly different from being born from above, possessed (Romans 8:12-17) by his Holy Spirit, filled with God’s own love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
The simplest reason why ὑποκριτής was translated hypocrite in the 16th century is that the Latin derived actor was understood as an agent or doer and may have confused the reader regarding the contrast Paul had created—building on Jesus’ allusion to the Greek theater—between ὑποκριτής and ποιητής, the doers (ποιηταὶ, a form of ποιητής) of the law.
I’ve wasted too much time assuming Jesus was an angry preacher spouting pejoratives rather than patiently communicating the words of eternal life. So I’ll take forms of ὑποκριτής at face value and remove the exclamation points from the text. (They are obvious editorial comments added by translators.) And then hopefully see Jesus again, see the smile on his face and the twinkle of his eyes as He reveals the name of his Father, God is love.
Be on your guard against the teaching (Matthew 16:5-12) of the Pharisees, Jesus told his disciples, which is acting class (ὑπόκρισις). Actors observe and judge others. It is part and parcel of their craft as they prepare a role (Matthew 7:1-5 NET):
Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For by the standard you judge you will be judged, and the measure you use will be the measure you receive. Why do you see the speck in your brother’s eye, but fail to see the beam of wood in your own? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye,’ while there is a beam in your own? You actor (ὑποκριτά, a form of ὑποκριτής), first remove the beam from your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
Self promotion is part of the job of being a working actor (Matthew 6:1-4 NET):
Be careful not to display your righteousness merely to be seen by people. Otherwise you have no reward with your Father in heaven. Thus whenever you do charitable giving, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the actors (ὑποκριταὶ, another form of ὑποκριτής) do in synagogues and on streets so that people will praise them. I tell you the truth, they have their reward. But when you do your giving, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your gift may be in secret. And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you.
Actors crave an audience and thrive in the limelight (Matthew 6:5, 6, 16-18 NET):
Whenever you pray, do not be like the actors (ὑποκριταί, another form of ὑποκριτής), because they love to pray while standing in synagogues and on street corners so that people can see them. Truly I say to you, they have their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you.
When you fast, do not look sullen like the actors (ὑποκριταὶ, another form of ὑποκριτής), for they make their faces unattractive so that people will see them fasting. I tell you the truth, they have their reward. When you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others when you are fasting, but only to your Father who is in secret. And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you.
Actors never actually become the character they perform by acting (Matthew 15:1-9; Luke 13:14-16 NET):
Then Pharisees and experts in the law came from Jerusalem to Jesus and said, “Why do your disciples disobey the tradition of the elders? For they don’t wash their hands when they eat.” He answered them, “And why do you disobey the commandment of God because of your tradition? For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Whoever insults his father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say, ‘If someone tells his father or mother, “Whatever help you would have received from me is given to God,” he does not need to honor his father.’ You have nullified the word of God on account of your tradition. Actors (ὑποκριταί, another form of ὑποκριτής), Isaiah prophesied correctly about you when he said, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me, and they worship me in vain, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”
But the president of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the crowd, “There are six days on which work should be done! So come and be healed on those days, and not on the Sabbath day.” Then the Lord answered him, “You actors (ὑποκριταί, another form of ὑποκριτής), does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from its stall, and lead it to water? Then shouldn’t this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be released from this imprisonment on the Sabbath day?”
Then the Pharisees went out and planned together to entrap him with his own words. They sent to him their disciples along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are truthful, and teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You do not court anyone’s favor because you show no partiality. Tell us then, what do you think? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”
But Jesus realized their evil intentions and said, “Actors (ὑποκριταί, another form of ὑποκριτής), why are you testing me? Show me the coin used for the tax.” So they brought him a denarius. Jesus said to them, “Whose image is this, and whose inscription?” They replied, “Caesar’s.” He said to them, “Then give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” Now when they heard this they were stunned, and they left him and went away.
Jesus also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you say at once, ‘A rainstorm is coming,’ and it does. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat,’ and there is. You actors (ὑποκριταί, another form of ὑποκριτής), you know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky, but how can you not know how to interpret the present time?”
Jesus described the experts in the law and you Pharisees as actors who keep locking people out of the kingdom of heaven. For you neither enter nor permit those trying to enter to go in. You cross land and sea to make one convert, and when you get one, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves. You give a tenth of mint, dill, and cumin, yet you neglect what is more important in the law – justice, mercy, and faithfulness. You should have done these things without neglecting the others. You clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside may become clean too. You are like whitewashed tombs that look beautiful on the outside but inside are full of the bones of the dead and of everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you look righteous to people, but inside you are full of hypocrisy (ὑποκρίσεως, a form of ὑπόκρισις) and lawlessness (ἀνομίας, a form of ἀνομία). You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous.
Jesus warned of the consequence of an actor masquerading as a minister of the Gospel (Matthew 24:45-51 NET):
Who then is the faithful and wise slave, whom the master has put in charge of his household, to give the other slaves their food at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom the master finds at work when he comes. I tell you the truth, the master will put him in charge of all his possessions. But if that evil slave should say to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ and he begins to beat his fellow slaves and to eat and drink with drunkards, then the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not foresee, and will cut him in two, and assign him a place with the actors (ὑποκριτῶν, another form of ὑποκριτής), where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be paid back according to what he has done (ἔπραξεν, a form of πράσσω) while in the body, whether good or evil. We do not want to appear before the judgment seat of Christ as actors with nothing to show but works (ἔργων, a form of ἔργον) of righteousness that we have done (ἐποιήσαμεν, a form of ποιέω). We want to have some pattern of behavior that demonstrates we have not ignored his teaching or rejected his salvation, that we have heeded his admonition—above all pursue his kingdom and righteousness—and that each of us is one who practices (ποιῶν, another form of ποιέω) the truth, one who comes to the light, so that it may be plainly evident that [our] deeds (ἔργα, another form of ἔργον) have been done (εἰργασμένα, a form of ἐργάζομαι) in God.
I want to consider another film. Before I Fall didn’t do very well at the box office. It’s Groundhog Day as straight-up tragedy. But I thought it was a deeply moving, poignant film with one fatal flaw. There are spoilers here for those who are bothered by such things.
Sam (Zoey Deutch), a self-absorbed teenage girl (Samantha), wakes up on the day of her death. She repeats that day until she gets it right. “For the first time, when I wake up,” her voiceover says on the last iteration of the last day of her life, “I’m not scared or confused or angry. Because, for the first time, I truly understand what needs to happen. I truly understand how to live this day.” Sam’s transformation from self-absorbed teenage girl to loving daughter, sister and friend is truly breathtaking to behold.
The fatal flaw? It’s not believable. And I don’t think Ms. Deutch’s acting is to blame. Christ-likeness apart from Christ isn’t credible. Sam’s beautiful transformation is credited to her own knowledge, gained through the experience of repeating the same day over and over (not unlike an actor rehearsing), and her own “big heart.” And none of us gets to do the same day over and over to acquire such knowledge. Believers are called to live a new day of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control everyday forever.
Hypocrisy, by the way, isn’t the unforgivable sin. Living an honest life of sin is never preferable to acting like the righteous. If the fruit of the Spirit seems AWOL and the only way to obey God’s law is in one’s own strength—and that is possible—by all means do that. Just don’t mistake that for the righteousness of God through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who believe. Open the Bible and search diligently for his righteousness once the immediate crisis has passed—win, lose or draw.
My own search began (for the purpose of this discussion) with the Ten Promises. Though hearing the Ten Commandments as promises wasn’t exactly the silver bullet I hoped at the time, it did begin to change my attitude toward God and my relationship to Him. So as a conclusion to this essay I invite the reader to hear his promise (Jeremiah 31:31-34) to all who believe, all who are led by his Spirit: You shall not bear the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold guiltless anyone who bears his name in vain.
 Table 1, Forgiven or Passed Over? Part 3
…as you start to, you know, get more into grown up acting, you’re going to be expected to be able to make choices and what that means is, what we started talking about last week where you could look at material and go, “Hmm, what if I did this? What if I looked at it from this point of view? What if I decided that she is guilty? What if I decided, she’s lying?” When you make choices, your work gets interesting…
The lines are only ten percent of a scene, right? We talked about that. The other 90% is what’s underneath, that’s where you have to make choices so here’s how I want you to think about it. Once you read through a scene and you start to get an idea of what it’s about, understand it. The first thing I want you to ask yourself is, “Who am I? Who am I in this scene? and if you just say… if you make a choice like, “Okay, I’m a girl.” Well that might be an interesting choice for me but for most of you, it’s not going to be an interesting choice. It has to be more specific. I’m a girl who has issues with her dad. I’m a girl who wants to drop out of school because I can’t stand my teachers. I’m, I’m competitive. I’m angry. I’m, I’ve low self esteem. I’m happy-go-lucky, cheerful optimist.
You make the most interesting choices you can. We call them Hot Choices so that, so that the scene starts to pop. So never say, “I’m just a girl.” Never say, “I’m just her friend.” Always make it as interesting and developed and complex as you can. So first thing you ask yourself, “Who am I?” Second thing you ask yourself, “What do I want?” What do I want in this scene, what is my objective?” And always make it about getting something from the other person, as simple as possible and it can change from line to line. Objectives change so I want to make you smile. I want to make you cry, I want to scare you, I want to wake you up, I want you to say, ”I love you.” I want you to laugh. Those are all choices and they determine how you’re going to say your lines…