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Smith’s Bible Dictionary


The Pharisees

A religious party or school among the Jews at the time of Christ, so called from perishin , the Aramaic form of the Hebrew word perushim , "separated." The chief sects among the Jews were the Pharisees, the Sadducees and the Essenes, who may be described respectively as the Formalists, the Freethinkers and the Puritans. A knowledge of the opinions and practices of the Pharisees at the time of Christ is of great importance for entering deeply into the genius of the Christian religion. A cursory perusal of the Gospels is sufficient to show that Christ’s teaching was in some respects thoroughly antagonistic to theirs. He denounced them in the bitterest language; see (Matthew 15:7,8; 23:5,13,14,15,23; Mark 7:6; Luke 11:42-44) and compare (Mark 7:1-5; 11:29; 12:19,20; Luke 6:28,37-42) To understand the Pharisees is by contrast an aid toward understanding the spirit of uncorrupted Christianity.

The fundamental principle all of the of the Pharisees, common to them with all orthodox modern Jews, is that by the side of the written law regarded as a summary of the principles and general laws of the Hebrew people there was on oral law to complete and to explain the written law, given to Moses on Mount Sinai and transmitted by him by word of mouth. The first portion of the Talmud, called the Mishna or "second law," contains this oral law. It is a digest of the Jewish traditions and a compendium of the whole ritual law, and it came at length to be esteemed far above the sacred text.

While it was the aim of Jesus to call men to the law of God itself as the supreme guide of life, the Pharisees, upon the Pretence of maintaining it intact, multiplied minute precepts and distinctions to such an extent that the whole life of the Israelite was hemmed in and burdened on every side by instructions so numerous and trifling that the law was almost if not wholly lost sight of. These "traditions" as they were called, had long been gradually accumulating. Of the trifling character of these regulations innumerable instances are to be found in the Mishna. Such were their washings before they could eat bread, and the special minuteness with which the forms of this washing were prescribed; their bathing when they returned from the market; their washing of cups, pots, brazen vessels, etc.; their fastings twice in the week, (Luke 18:12) were their tithing; (Matthew 23:23) and such, finally, were those minute and vexatious extensions of the law of the Sabbath, which must have converted God’s gracious ordinance of the Sabbath’s rest into a burden and a pain. (Matthew 12:1-13; Mark 3:1-6; Luke 18:10-17)

It was a leading aim of the Redeemer to teach men that true piety consisted not in forms, but in substance, not in outward observances, but in an inward spirit. The whole system of Pharisaic piety led to exactly opposite conclusions. The lowliness of piety was, according to the teaching of Jesus, an inseparable concomitant of its reality; but the Pharisees sought mainly to attract the attention and to excite the admiration of men. (Matthew 6:2,6,16; 23:5,6; Luke 14:7) Indeed the whole spirit of their religion was summed up not in confession of sin and in humility, but in a proud self righteousness at variance with any true conception of man’s relation to either God or his fellow creatures.

With all their pretences to piety they were in reality avaricious, sensual and dissolute. (Matthew 23:25; John 13:7) They looked with contempt upon every nation but their own. (Luke 10:29) Finally, instead of endeavoring to fulfill the great end of the dispensation whose truths they professed to teach, and thus bringing men to the Hope of Israel, they devoted their energies to making converts to their own narrow views, who with all the zeal of proselytes were more exclusive and more bitterly opposed to the truth than they were themselves. (Matthew 22:15)

The Pharisees at an early day secured the popular favor and thereby acquired considerable political influence. This influence was greatly increased by the extension of the Pharisees over the whole land and the majority which they obtained in the Sanhedrin. Their number reached more than six thousand under the Herods. Many of them must have suffered death for political agitation. In the time of Christ they were divided doctrinally into several schools, among which those of Hillel and Shammai were most noted. --McClintock and Strong .

One of the fundamental doctrines of the Pharisees was a belief in a future state. They appear to have believed in a resurrection of the dead, very much in the same sense: as the early Christians. They also believed in "a divine Providence acting side by side with the free will of man." --Schaff.

It is proper to add that it would be a great mistake to suppose that the Pharisees were wealthy and luxurious much more that they had degenerated into the vices which were imputed to some of the Roman popes and cardinals during the two hundred years preceding the Reformation. Josephus compared the Pharisees to the sect of the Stoics. He says that they lived frugally, in no respect giving in to luxury. We are not to suppose that there were not many individuals among them who were upright and pure, for there were such men as Nicodemus, Gamaliel, Joseph of Arimathea and Paul.

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Bibliography Information

Smith, William, Dr. "Entry for 'Phar’isees,'". "Smith's Bible Dictionary". 1901.

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The Pharisees - Jewish Leaders in the New Testament.

The Pharisees Overview of the Pharisees The Name Pharisee Origin of the Pharisees Brief History of the Pharisees Teaching of the Pharisees Influence of the Pharisees Practices of the Pharisees Dress, Clothing, and Appearance of the Pharisees Traditions of the Pharisees Jesus and the Pharisees Conclusion -  the Pharisees Bible Dictionaries - the Pharisees Bible Encyclopedias - The Pharisees Historical Quotes about the Pharisees

Name

"Pharisee" is from a Greek word (pharisaios) taken from the Heb/Aramaic "Perisha" meaning "Separated one." In the time of Jesus the Pharisees were one of the three chief Jewish sects, the others were the Sadducees and the Essenes. Of the three, the Pharisees were the most separated from the ways of the foreign influences that were invading Judaism, and from the ways of the common Jewish people in the land.

The Pharisee

"There was probably no town or village inhabited by Jews which had not its Pharisees, although they would, of course, gather in preference about Jerusalem with its Temple, and what, perhaps would have been even dearer to the heart of a genuine Pharisee--its four hundred and eighty synagogues, its Sanhedrims (great and small), and its schools of study. There could be no difficulty in recognising such an one. Walking behind him, the chances were, he would soon halt to say his prescribed prayers. If the fixed time for them had come, he would stop short in the middle of the road, perhaps say one section of them, move on, again say another part, and so on, till, whatever else might be doubted, there could be no question of the conspicuousness of his devotions in market-place or corners of streets. There he would stand, as taught by the traditional law, would draw his feet well together, compose his body and clothes, and bend so low "that every vertebra in his back would stand out separate," or, at least, till "the skin over his heart would fall into folds" (Ber. 28 b). The workman would drop his tools, the burden-bearer his load; if a man had already one foot in the stirrup, he would withdraw it. The hour had come, and nothing could be suffered to interrupt or disturb him. The very salutation of a king, it was said, must remain unreturned; nay, the twisting of a serpent around one's heel must remain unheeded." – Alfred Edersheim

Origin and History

The sect of Pharisees is thought to have originated in the 3rd century B.C., in days preceding the Maccabean wars, when under Greek domination and the Greek effort to Hellenize the Jews, there was a strong tendency among the Jews to accept Greek culture with its pagan religious customs. The rise of the Pharisees was a reaction and protest against this tendency among their fellow kinsmen. Their aim was to preserve their national integrity and strict conformity to Mosaic law. They later developed into self-righteous and hypocritical formalists. Later they were among those who had condemned Jesus to death.

How fearfully the prophecy of destruction that Jesus had foretold was fulfilled! In a few brief years the Roman legions of the Emperor Titus utterly destroyed the city and its glorious Temple. Over a million Jews perished in the siege in a few days, and a hundred thousand more were taken away in captivity.

Without its marvelous Temple, the Jewish religion was forced to take on a new character, and after the final Jewish rebellion (132 A.D.) all hope of rebuilding the Temple was lost, and the work of these rabbis took a different direction.

The Mishnah, compiled by the Patriarch Judah (200 A.D.), which is the final work of these rabbis, began a final work in the history of Jewish scholarship. It is a monument of Pharisaic scholarship and a testimony to the final triumph of Pharisaism, which now is compiled into the Talmud which has become synonymous with Judaism.

Jesus and the Pharisees


The Pharisees were the most numerous and influential of the religious sects of Jesus’ day. The were strict legalists. They stood for the rigid observance of the letter and forms of the Law, and also for the Traditions. There were some good men among them, no doubt, but for the most part they were known for their covetousness, self-righteousness and hypocrisy.

Scribes were copyists of the Scriptures and because of their minute acquaintance with the Law they became recognized authorities. They were sometimes called "lawyers." Scribes and Pharisees were the religious leaders of the nation.

The incredible influence of the Pharisees among the masses cannot be mistaken. The were the most honored in Judaism at the time of Christ. When Christ won the favor of the people.

"But the great crowd of people went on hearing Him gladly."

The Words spoken by Jesus in Matt 23 constitute the most bitter denunciation that ever fell from His lips. The enemies of Jesus could not answer Him a word, nor did anyone ever again dare to ask Him anything. The Pharisees were unrepentant, hypocritical, and more determined than ever to seek His destruction. In His final public discourse in the Temple, it was fitting that He should warn His disciples against the hypocrisy of these corrupt and wicked men. Even while He denounced their spiritual blindness, ritualism, and wickedness, He wept over Jerusalem, and ended His discourse with a lamentation, addressed to the beloved but doomed city which had sinned away its day of opportunity.

The Paradox of the Pharisees

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Introduction

Overview

The Name

Their Origin

Their History

Their Teaching

Their Influence

Their Practices

Their Dress

Their Traditions

Jesus and the Pharisees

Bible Dictionaries

Bible Encyclopedias

Scriptures

Historical Quotes

Conclusion

The Paradox of the Pharisees

 


The Pharisees

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