Was the Pharisees' Leaven Hypocrisy?

This is the 3rd article in “The Leaven of the Pharisees” series. (Previous “Was the Pharisees’ Leaven Legalism?” and “Was the Pharisees’ Leaven Separation?”)

  • Luke 12:1 “In the mean time, when there were gathered together an innumerable multitude of people, insomuch that they trode one upon another, he began to say unto his disciples first of all, Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.”
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In the two previous articles (“Was the Pharisees’ Leaven Legalism?” and “Was the Pharisees’ Leaven Separation?”), we looked at how the Pharisees’ are often, yet erroneously, portrayed as “legalists” and “separationists.” Jesus made clear, however, that the Pharisees’ leaven was hypocrisy. The Pharisees were not strict adherents to all of God’s law (so called “legalists”) nor did they separate themselves from sin (“separatists”). The Pharisees’ leaven was hypocrisy.

Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance defines hypocrisy “acting under a feigned part.” Like two-faced actors, Pharisees acted like they were strictly obeying all of God’s law (so-called “legalism”) when they weren’t. Jesus commanded:

  • Matthew 23:2 “Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat:
  • 3 All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.”
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It is not normally pointed out that Jesus commanded His hearers to obey the Pharisees’ preaching from the law of Moses. However, because the Pharisees’ leaven was hypocrisy, Jesus did not want believers to do the Pharisees’ works “for they say, and do not.”

Concerning separation, the Pharisees came to John the Baptist to be baptized which would make them appear like they were choosing a life of holiness and separation. John scolded them:

  • Matthew 3:7 “But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
  • 8 Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:”
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John the Baptist was well aware of the Pharisees’ leaven of hypocrisy. John warned them to bring fruits/proof of a truly separated and repentant life.

As you continue to read Jesus’ public rebuke of the Pharisees, you can see their hypocrisy in every point Jesus brought up.

  • Mt. 23:1-7, 13-19, 23- “Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples,
  • 2 Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat:
  • 3 All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.
  • 4 For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.
  • 5 But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments,
  • 6 And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues,
  • 7 And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.”
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  • 13 “But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.
  • 14 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.
  • 15 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.
  • 16 Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor!
  • 17 Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold?
  • 18 And, Whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty.
  • 19 Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift?”
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  • 23”Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.
  • 24 Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.
  • 25 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess.
  • 26 Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.
  • 27 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.
  • 28 Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.
  • 29 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous,
  • 30 And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.
  • 31 Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. (Author’s note: These are the same men that set up a sham trial under the guise of caring about God’s law in order to murder the Son of God.)
  • 32 Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers.
  • 33 Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?”
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In conclusion, Jesus stated plainly that the Pharisees’ leaven was hypocrisy. When Jesus openly preached against the Pharisees in Mt. 23, Jesus called them hypocrites 8 x’s as well as giving plenty of examples of their “pretense.” For anyone to use the Pharisees as an example of so-called “legalism” or “separation” is incorrect. The Pharisees did not strictly adhere to God’s law nor did they separate from sin. They wanted to appear so to all around them, and it worked for many people. Ha, ha, the Pharisees were so good at acting that many preachers, authors, and believers today still think of the Pharisees as strict and separatists. Wow…they were skilled actors and hypocrites.