A word derived from the Greek ὑποκρίσις="the playing a part on the stage." It denotes acting a false part in life; pretending to be pious or righteous when one is not. It is only in later Hebrew that "ḥanufah" and "ḥanef" refer to this failing; hence it is incorrect for the Authorized Version to use "hypocrisy" as the translation of the Biblical "ḥanufah" and "ḥanef," which really denote respectively "wickedness" or "impiety" and "the wicked" or "the impious"; so Isa. ix. 16 (A. V. 17), xxxii. 6, xxxiii. 14; Ps. xxxv. 16; Prov. xi. 9; Job viii. 13, xiii. 16, xv. 34, xvii. 8, xx. 5, xxvii. 8, xxxiv. 30. Hypocrisy is a vice scarcely known in primitive times when men are natural; it is practised only in a society that has established rules of piety and rectitude, and is deceived by appearances. The hypocrite is rebuked in Ecclus. (Sirach) xxxii. 15, xxxiii. 2: "Let God destroy them that live in hypocrisy in the company of the saints." "Let the ravens peck out the eyes of the men that work hypocrisy" (Psalms of Solomon, iv. 7, 22-25; hypocrites are called also "men-pleasers" in the heading of this psalm).
It is especially in the rabbinical literature that hypocrites are singled out as dangerous. "One should make known the hypocrites in order to avoid the profanation of God's name" (Tosef., Yoma, iv. 12; Yoma 89a; comp. Eccl. R. iv. 1). "Be not afraid of the Pharisees nor of the Sadducees [literally "of those who are not Pharisees"], but of the chameleon-like men ["zebu'im"] who simulate the Pharisees, and while they do the deed of Zimri [Num. xxv. 14] claim the reward of Phinehas" (ib. xxv. 12), said the dying King Jannæus to Queen Alexandra (Soṭah 22b, referring probably to the same class of men as is characterized in Psalms of Solomon, iv., quoted above). Such a class of Pharisees, who were mere pretenders and men-pleasers, is alluded to in Soṭah iii. 4, and characterized in Soṭah 22b; Yer. Ber. ix. 14b. The characterization of all the Pharisees as "hypocrites," as "whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of . . . all uncleanness," as "a generation of vipers" (originally probably also "zebu'im" = "many-colored vipers"; Matt. xxiii. 13-33; comp. vi. 2, 5, 16; xv. 7; xvi. 3; xxii. 18; Mark xii. 15; Luke xi. 44; xii. 1, 56), betrays a spirit of rancor and partizan prejudice.
Nothing was more loathsome to the Rabbis than hypocrisy. Gamaliel II. announced that no disciple "whose inside is not like his outside should enter the schoolhouse" (Ber. 28a); "he must be like the Ark of the Covenant, gold within as without" (Yoma 72b, after Ex. xxv. 11).
"Ḥanufah" in the Talmud denotes also flattery, which is another mode of simulation (so Soṭah 41b); wherefore it is difficult to say whether flattery or hypocrisy is meant when it is said: "He in whom there is ḥanufah brings wrath upon the world, nor will his prayer be heard" (after Job xxxvi. 13). "A just hin . . . shall ye have" (Lev. xix. 36) is interpreted to mean: "Thy yea ["hen"] shall be yea, and thy nay nay: thou shalt not speak one thing and mean another" (B. M. 49a). "I would rather rule over the whole world than over two judges wrapped up in their cloaks"—that is, hypocrites—said David (Midr. Teh. xviii. 34; Ab. R. N. xxv. [ed. Schechter, p. 82]).