The Traditions of the Pharisees
The big question was: How authoritative is the oral law? The Pharisees accepted
the oral law along with the Torah, and it was believed to be equally inspired
and authoritative, and all of the explanatory and supplementary material
produced by, and contained within were the oral tradition. This material began
to emerge during the Babylonian Captivity that was brought upon the Jewish
people. The Captivity was explained as divine punishment for the neglect of the
law, and many during this period earnestly turned to the law.
During the Captivity or Exile, detailed commentaries on the law appeared in the form of innumerable and highly specific restrictions that were designed to "build a hedge" around the written Torah and thus guard against any possible violation of the Torah by ignorance or accident.
The situation that the Jews were in (Post-Exilic Period), and how they were to deal with it exactly, was not clearly written in the Torah, according to some Jewish authorities. A new legislation had to be produced from that which already existed. It was like an evolution of traditions that would continue to grow, and would finally achieve written form as the "Mishnah" in 200 A.D.
During the time of Jesus the oral law came to be revered so highly that it was said to go back to Moses himself and to have been transmitted over the centuries orally, paralleling the written law that also derived from him. This is exactly what the Pharisees believed, and also it was these "traditions" that Jesus condemned.
Josephus said several times that the Pharisees were "experts in the
interpretation of the Law" (Josephus, Life, 38). Of the various sects the
Pharisees were regarded as "the most accurate interpreters of the laws"
(Josephus, War II. viii. 14) and also were known for their austerity of life
(Josephus, Antiq. XIII. i. 3). Josephus further specifies that it was exactly
this obsession with "regulations handed down by former generations and not
recorded in the Laws of Moses" (Josephus, Antiq. XIII. x. 6) that
constituted the breach between the Pharisees and the Sadducees.
Jesus continually referred to the oral law as the "tradition of the elders" or the "tradition of men" (Matt 15:1-9; Mark 7:1-23; also see Josephus, Antiq. XIII. xvi. 2).
Some examples in the New Testament alluding to the scrupulous concern of the Pharisees with the minutia of their legalism are:
The tithing of herbs (Matt 23:23; Luke 11:42).
The careful observance of ritual purity (e.g., Mark 7:l ff.).Frequent fastings (Matt 9:14).
Distinctions in oaths (23:16ff.).(And More..)
The Story of the Bible
© Bible History Online (http://www.bible-history.com)
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.