Lessons From The Greek Theatre

Our reading of the NT has acquainted us with allusions to the battlefield and to the stadium. This is not to incite us to take up arms or to cheer with the crowds supporting their favorite team, but to teach us spiritual truths by way of illustration. “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize?”

But did you know that Paul also took illustrations from the Greek theater of his day? He employs two words that were used in the theater to describe two sorts of actors on the stage. The first word is hupokrits and the second is mimts. The first word was used to designate the actor who played a role or acted the part of a character that was not his own in real life. According to W. E. Vine, this actor changed and increased the volume of his voice and often wore a mask to hide his identity. Thus the word became used to describe a hypocrite. For this reason we can easily understand why the Lord Jesus called the religious leaders hypocrites, for they sought to usurp the spiritual functions of the fathers of Israel by carnal means and were devoid of any fear of God. They simply acted the part. The hypocrite has to lie because he fears the truth that would expose him for what he is, an actor wearing a mask. Paul warns Timothy against those that depart from the faith “speaking lies in hypocrisy,” men characterized by a total absence of sincerity, seeking only their own interest.

The second word, mimts, is used of another person on the stage whose part was to mime or to imitate a certain character. The mime was totally transparent in this role. There was nothing of the hypocrite about him. There were competitions of mimicry in which the spectators were invited to identify the activity or the person who was mimed. This word is translated in our English Bible as “follower,” as in 1 Corinthians 11:1. A better translation of the word would be, “imitator.” “Be ye followers (or imitators) of me, even as I also am of Christ.” Vine points out that this word is always used in a good sense in the Scriptures, in contrast to the first word used, hupokrits.

The verbal form of mimts and its noun are found twelve times in the New Testament and without exception they carry a positive meaning. We are called to be the “imitators” of God, of the apostle Paul, of the assemblies of God in Judea, and of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. Peter exhorts us to be walk in the steps of the Savior, to be His “imitators.” The mimic wanted his audience to know whom he was imitating and there was a total absence of dissimulation.

On the stage of a Greek theater there were two sorts of actors: there were the hypocrites who hid their identity behind a mask and there were the mimics who did their utmost to help the audience identify those that they mimicked.

Dear saint of God, do you want to pretend to be something that you are not or do you want to live so as to really display Christ in your life? Sincerity and transparency become the child of God but the dissimulating actor is a bane to the testimony.