The Greek and Hebrew terms that are translated as “hypocrite” in English typically have a counterpart in most languages. According to Bratcher / Nida (1961, p. 225), they can be categorized into the following categories:
- those which employ some concept of “two” or “double”
- those which make use of some expression of “mouth” or “speaking”
- those which are based upon some special cultural feature
- those which employ a non-metaphorical phrase
Following is a list of (back-) translations from some languages:
- Highland Totonac, Huautla Mazatec, Lacandon, Cuicatec, Highland Puebla Nahuatl: “two-faced”
- Obolo: ebi isi iba: “double-faced person” (source: Enene Enene)
- Tzeltal, Chol: “two hearts”
- Pame: “two mouths”
- San Miguel El Grande Mixtec: “two heads”
- Kekchí: “two sides”
- Shipibo-Conibo: “double (or “forked”) tongue”
- Eastern Highland Otomi: “double talk”
- Huehuetla Tepehua: “talk false”
- Copainalá Zoque: “lie-act”
- Kituba, Amganad Ifugao, Chuukese: “lie”
- Toraja-Sa’dan: “someone whose lips are fair” (i.e. “gracious”)
- Mossi: “have a sweet mouth”
- Mazahua: “have a swollen mouth” (from too much speaking)
- Tai Dam: “have a straight mouth and a crooked heart”
- Kongo: “the bitterness of white” (an idiom based on the fact that white-wash looks nice but tastes bitter)
- Malagasy: “spread a clean carpet” (an expression used in Madagascar to describe one who covers up the dirt of an unswept floor just before the arrival of guests)
- Zanaki: “those who make themselves out to be good”
- Tetelcingo Nahuatl: “those who deceive” (this and all examples above acc. to Bratcher / Nida 1961, p. 225)
- Kafa: “one who makes as if his belly is clean” (source: Loren Bliese)
- Agatu: ɔcɛ gigbefu — “disguised person acting a part” (source: Mackay, The Bible Translator 1962, 211f)
- Mairasi: “deceiver person” (source: Enggavoter 2004)
- Bauzi: “good on top person” (source: David Briley in Kroneman (2004), p. 502)
The English version of Sarah Ruden (2021) uses “play-actor.” She explains (p. li): “A hupokrites is fundamentally an actor. The word has deep negativity in the Gospels on two counts: professional actors were not respectable people in the ancient world, and traditional Judaism did not countenance any kind of playacting. I write ‘play-actor’ throughout.”
See also hypocrisy.
Following are a number of back-translations of Matthew 15:7:
- Uma: “Your following of God is just on the outside! Very true the words of the prophet Yesaya long ago that foretold of you, like this its sound:” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
- Yakan: “You pretend to follow God but you don’t. It is really true what was written by Nabi Isaya about you, it says,” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
- Western Bukidnon Manobo: “Your belief in God is only deceit. How true is the word of God written by the former prophet of God, Isaiah. He prophesied about you for he said,” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
- Kankanaey: “You hypocrites! This that God said is true that Isaias prophesied concerning you saying,” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
- Tagbanwa: “You are just pretending to believe-in/obey God. Really true is what was spoken by the prophet Isaias in the past about you, which was the word of God saying,” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)
- Tenango Otomi: “It is not true that you obey God. What you do is to do like the word written by the spokesman Isaiah when God said:” (Source: Tenango Otomi Back Translation)
Like many languages (but unlike Greek or Hebrew or English), Tuvan uses a formal vs. informal 2nd person pronoun (a familiar vs. a respectful “you”). Unlike other languages that have this feature, however, the translators of the Tuvan Bible have attempted to be very consistent in using the different forms of address in every case a 2nd person pronoun has to be used in the translation of the biblical text.
As Voinov shows in Pronominal Theology in Translating the Gospels (in: The Bible Translator 2002, p. 210ff.), the choice to use either of the pronouns many times involved theological judgment. While the formal pronoun can signal personal distance or a social/power distance between the speaker and addressee, the informal pronoun can indicate familiarity or social/power equality between speaker and addressee.
Here, Jesus is addressing religious leaders with the formal pronoun, showing respect. Compare that with the typical address with the informal pronoun of the religious leaders.
The only two exceptions to this are Luke 7:40/43 and 10:26 where Jesus uses the informal pronoun as a response to the sycophantic use of the formal pronoun by the religious leaders (see formal pronoun: religious leaders addressing Jesus).
In most Dutch translations, the same distinctions are made, with the exception of Luke 10:26 where Jesus is using the formal pronoun.