Who are the Pharisees of the Bible?

From another thread, the question above arises. To drill down, see the questions below:

  1. What is their origin?
  2. What are the best known?
  3. What distinguishes the Pharisees from the Sadducees?
  4. Are there different kinds of Pharisees? If so, how many and what characterizes them?
  5. why did John the Baptist and Jesus called them "a brood of vipers" (LK 3:7)?
  6. Why did Jesus severely denounced Pharisees?
  7. Was Jesus on good terms with the Pharisees? Better yet, what was his relationship with them?

Any thoughts and/or resources? CM

Comments

  • C_M_C_M_ Posts: 2,580

    First things first, history must show her hand to understand:

    1. The Pharisees in pre-A.D.-70 Judaism is linked to an understanding of Matt 23:2. They really did sit upon a literal "seat of Moses" and that they were held by the common people to be authoritative in matters of the law.
    2. The Pharisees are mentioned no fewer than sixty-seven times in the four gospels, this alone is why we should have a clear conception of who they were and what they did, especially in Matt 23. Here the Pharisees come under significant attack.
    3. Matt 23 seems to, intentionally, presents only the worst side of the Pharisees, the passage being clearly critical or hostile in tone. however, one must look at the Pharisees from other sources to get a balanced picture.
    4. The Pharisees really did "sit upon the seat of Moses" in pre-A.D.-70 Judaism.
      • Tosephta (an early collection of Rabbinic laws following the division and order of the Mishnah but containing parallel legal traditions not found in the Mishnah) and Talmuds can be used with only very extreme caution as sources of evidence. Also, the Mishnah was compiled ca. 200.
    5. They had enough popular support to enable them to advise a would-be convert against joining the new Jewish sect of the Nazarenes (Matt 23:13). For more on the "rabbi" was used as a title in Judaism in the period prior to A.D. 70, see below.
    6. The Pharisees had the respect of the people to be greeted and called "rabbi" in the marketplace (Matt. 23.7), and were able to gain the best seats in the synagogue by virtue of the high esteem in which they were held by the common people (Matt. 23.6).

    Two noted historians on Judaism as Jacob Neusner and Ellis Rivkin have taken different views on the role of The Pharisees in pre-A.D.-70 Judaism.

    • Neusner argues that the Pharisees formed an exclusivist sect which was concerned primarily with matters of ritual purity. As such, they had very little to do with the common Jew in the street. The main focus of the religious life of the Pharisees was, according to Neusner, the maintenance of ritual purity-an assessment in which Neusner has the support of quite a number of scholars [Jacob Neusner, The Rabbinic Traditions about the Pharisees before 70, 3 vols. (Leiden, 1971).]
    • Rivkin, on the other hand, believed the Pharisees were very much a people's party, a group whose main concern was with the teaching and exposition of the law and they played a full and leading role in Jewish political and religious life. They were not separatistic [Ellis Rivkin, "Defining the Pharisees: The Tannaitic Sources," HUCA 40-41 (1969-1971): 205-249; ______, A Hidden Revolution (Nashville, TN, 1978); _______, "Scribes, Pharisees, Lawyers, Hypocrites: A Study in Synonymity," HUCA 49 (1978): 135-142.

    To settle the matter, it seems reasonable to look at the sources in the writings of Josephus, the letters of Paul, and the four Gospels for the role of the Pharisees before A.D. 70. Next time. CM

    Sources:

    -- Hershel Shanks, "Is the Title 'Rabbi' Anachronistic in the Gospels?", JQR 53 (1962-63):337-345

    • ______, "Origins of the Title 'Rabbi,' " JQR 59 (1968): 152-157.

    -- Solomon Zeitlin, "A Reply," JQR 53 (1962-63): 345-349.

    • ______, "The Title Rabbi in the Gospels is Anachronistic," JQR59 (1968):158-160.

    -- Raymond E. Brown, The Gospel according to John, AB, vols. 29 and 29A (Garden City, NY, 1966-l97O), 1:74.
    -- Krister Stendahl, The School of St. Matthew and Its Use of the Old Testament (Philadelphia, 1968), xi.

  • Dave_LDave_L Posts: 2,174

    @C_M_ said:

    First things first, history must show her hand to understand:

    1. The Pharisees in pre-A.D.-70 Judaism is linked to an understanding of Matt 23:2. They really did sit upon a literal "seat of Moses" and that they were held by the common people to be authoritative in matters of the law.
    2. The Pharisees are mentioned no fewer than sixty-seven times in the four gospels, this alone is why we should have a clear conception of who they were and what they did, especially in Matt 23. Here the Pharisees come under significant attack.
    3. Matt 23 seems to, intentionally, presents only the worst side of the Pharisees, the passage being clearly critical or hostile in tone. however, one must look at the Pharisees from other sources to get a balanced picture.
    4. The Pharisees really did "sit upon the seat of Moses" in pre-A.D.-70 Judaism.
      • Tosephta (an early collection of Rabbinic laws following the division and order of the Mishnah but containing parallel legal traditions not found in the Mishnah) and Talmuds can be used with only very extreme caution as sources of evidence. Also, the Mishnah was compiled ca. 200.
    5. They had enough popular support to enable them to advise a would-be convert against joining the new Jewish sect of the Nazarenes (Matt 23:13). For more on the "rabbi" was used as a title in Judaism in the period prior to A.D. 70, see below.
    6. The Pharisees had the respect of the people to be greeted and called "rabbi" in the marketplace (Matt. 23.7), and were able to gain the best seats in the synagogue by virtue of the high esteem in which they were held by the common people (Matt. 23.6).

    Two noted historians on Judaism as Jacob Neusner and Ellis Rivkin have taken different views on the role of The Pharisees in pre-A.D.-70 Judaism.

    • Neusner argues that the Pharisees formed an exclusivist sect which was concerned primarily with matters of ritual purity. As such, they had very little to do with the common Jew in the street. The main focus of the religious life of the Pharisees was, according to Neusner, the maintenance of ritual purity-an assessment in which Neusner has the support of quite a number of scholars [Jacob Neusner, The Rabbinic Traditions about the Pharisees before 70, 3 vols. (Leiden, 1971).]
    • Rivkin, on the other hand, believed the Pharisees were very much a people's party, a group whose main concern was with the teaching and exposition of the law and they played a full and leading role in Jewish political and religious life. They were not separatistic [Ellis Rivkin, "Defining the Pharisees: The Tannaitic Sources," HUCA 40-41 (1969-1971): 205-249; ______, A Hidden Revolution (Nashville, TN, 1978); _______, "Scribes, Pharisees, Lawyers, Hypocrites: A Study in Synonymity," HUCA 49 (1978): 135-142.

    To settle the matter, it seems reasonable to look at the sources in the writings of Josephus, the letters of Paul, and the four Gospels for the role of the Pharisees before A.D. 70. Next time. CM

    Sources:

    -- Hershel Shanks, "Is the Title 'Rabbi' Anachronistic in the Gospels?", JQR 53 (1962-63):337-345

    • ______, "Origins of the Title 'Rabbi,' " JQR 59 (1968): 152-157.

    -- Solomon Zeitlin, "A Reply," JQR 53 (1962-63): 345-349.

    • ______, "The Title Rabbi in the Gospels is Anachronistic," JQR59 (1968):158-160.

    -- Raymond E. Brown, The Gospel according to John, AB, vols. 29 and 29A (Garden City, NY, 1966-l97O), 1:74.
    -- Krister Stendahl, The School of St. Matthew and Its Use of the Old Testament (Philadelphia, 1968), xi.

    Thanks for the great post CM! I'm working on it.

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