Mark 12:15

Knowing their hypocrisy, Jesus said to them, “Why are you testing me? Bring me a coin to look at.”


when caught betwixt
takes your eye off
both shiny objects

refocus from always
to a teensy moment
mundanely grounded

no taking a long view
immersed in grimy details
seek an example

now we can be real
between tesseracted rooms
possibilities bloom

for such a time as this
and this and this and this
we live beyond tests


Which is the stronger word: “deceit” or “hypocrisy”? Both indicate a separation between what comes out of the mouth and what is hidden from view. In today’s world, lying is perhaps stronger than either.

Is the test of an ability to deal with the tax question or to see through the lie about what the questioners were doing?

The story could continue quite well without the “testing” question. It is as if this were an internal aside while in an internal wilderness. In this there is connection between what Matthew and Luke spell out as testing questions in the wilderness. Here in Mark they are scattered through the tale.

Mann470 translates “deceit” as “casuistry” and notes:

Few things have been more destructive of an understanding of Jesus’ critics than the translation of hupokrisis by “hypocrisy” and the corresponding hupokritēs as “hypocrite,” with all the underlying assumptions of deliberate playacting. Originally, the word…meant a hypercritical attitude, niggling, pettifogging…. It is also important to remember, for all the obloquy that has attached to the word, that there is an entirely legitimate place for casuistry, concerned as it is with the bearing of the law on some particular case. To all outward appearance, there was a legitimate (and, at that time, burning) concern about handling tax money with a portrayal of a human figure on it.

If the question were not labeled as mean-spirited [Mark, ὑπόκρισις (hypokrisis, hypocrisy); Matthew, πονηρία (ponēria, malice); and Luke πανουργία (panourgia, cunning)], we would more likely read it through the cultural realities of the time. This makes reading more difficult but also adds better texture to our wrestling with the text.

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