Shock, horror! Why? Because the word “hypocrites” (above X 6) is the Greek word hypokrites – a noun meaning “play-actors”. And it was “play actors” (“film stars”) that won so many Oscars in Hollywood earlier this week for their performances in Slumdog Millionaire. (The film actually won eight Oscars in all, including best film and best director.)
But was the play-acting that Jesus identified in AD 33 as calling forth “woe” the same kind of “play acting” that occurred in Slumdog Millionaire? The “play acting” in Jerusalem in the last week of Jesus’ life there called for repeated cries of “woe” – a painful word for “grief” that should or would come upon these particular play-actors.
The enormous difference between the two is this: the Slumdog Millionaire folk are billed as play actors; those in Jerusalem were billed as “scribes” (those skilled at writing) and “Pharisees”. The Greek word for “scribe” is grammateus, a word used outside Israel at that time for civil servants. Civil servants - play acting?
And the Greek word for Pharisee was derived from a Hebrew (Israeli) word parash meaning “to make distinct, to declare, to clarify”. Yes, these were people who made religious and legal things clear and plain to others – and on that ticket they formed their political party, a strong party in government in Jerusalem AD 33. Church-leader-politicians, clarifiers of all things - play acting?
Grief then is the lot of those who play act when they aren’t play actors.
And what were the serious issues in Jerusalem AD 33? Were they in any way similar to those facing Jersey folk AD 2009?
Thankfully, Jesus was by no means a play actor. One might well say of him that he was the one to make things clear and plain par excellence – especially so in the final few days of his life.
And he lists the play acting that has caused him to foretell grief for the actors – clear and plain reasons. “For, because, you......” X 7
One is enough for any play actor like me. It’s all about crockery. Maybe Jersey Pottery – like those most beautiful coffee sets that even now are gracing many tables around the world.
Grief to you because “you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they [the cup and plate] are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside may also be clean”.
How were these men “cleaning” the outsides of cups and plates? Well, it seems they did this (for others as well as themselves) in various ways that were play acting only – and not true. They laid on people heavy burdens of compliance that purported to set them free from sin and its consequences – but they didn’t set them free at all from what was within. No chocolate in Lent – but make as much money as you can for yourself.
They allowed people to swear oaths by the temple as long as they did not swear by the gold in the temple. So others would “hear” the pseudo-oath and act on it - when it wasn’t true. To mislead is ok as long as my actual words, if ever analysed with great care, would not mislead. How useful.
Actually, it’s not only Bollywood and Hollywood play actors that should win Oscars. There’s a lot of talent around. Play acting is the way forward – and always has been, from well before Jesus’ day.
That is, until Jesus comes along... And until he, without play acting, actually cleans the inside of cup and plate...even of Oscar-deserving performers.