From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [1]

From perishin Aramaic, Perashim , "separated." To which Paul alludes,  Romans 1:1;  Galatians 1:15, "separated unto the gospel of God"; once "separated" unto legal self righteousness. In contrast to "mingling" with Grecian and other heathen customs, which Antiochus Epiphanes partially effected, breaking down the barrier of God's law which separated Israel from pagandom, however refined. The Pharisees were successors of the Assideans or Chasidim, i.e. godly men "voluntarily devoted unto the law." On the return from Babylon the Jews became more exclusive than ever. In Antiochus' time this narrowness became intensified in opposition to the rationalistic compromises of many. The Sadducees succeeded to the latter, the Pharisees to the former ( 1 Maccabees 1:13-15;  1 Maccabees 1:41-49;  1 Maccabees 1:62-63;  1 Maccabees 2:42;  1 Maccabees 7:13-17;  2 Maccabees 14:6-38). They "resolved fully not to eat any unclean thing, choosing rather to die that they might not be defiled: and profame the holy covenant." in opposition to the Hellenizing faction.

So the beginning of the Pharisees was patriotism and faithfulness to the covenant. Jesus, the meek and loving One, so wholly free from harsh judgments, denounces with unusual severity their hypocrisy as a class. ( Matthew 15:7-8;  Matthew 23:5;  Matthew 23:13-33), their ostentatious phylacteries and hems, their real love of preeminence; their pretended long prayers, while covetously defrauding the widow. They by their "traditions" made God's word of none effect; opposed bitterly the Lord Jesus, compassed His death, provoking Him to some "hasty words" ( Apostomatizein ) which they might catch at and accuse Him; and hired Judas to betray Him; "strained out gnats, while swallowing camels" (Image From Filtrating Wine) ; painfully punctilious about legal trifles and casuistries, while reckless of truth, righteousness, and the fear of God; cleansing the exterior man while full of iniquity within, like "whited sepulchres" ( Mark 7:6-13;  Luke 11:42-44;  Luke 11:53-54;  Luke 16:14-15); lading men with grievous burdens, while themselves not touching them with one of their fingers. (See Corban .)

Paul's remembrance of his former bondage as a rigid Pharisee produced that reaction in his mind, upon his embracing the gospel, that led to his uncompromising maintenance, under the Spirit of God, of Christian liberty and justification by faith only, in opposition to the yoke of ceremonialism and the righteousness which is of the law (Galatians 4; 5). The Mishna or "second law," the first portion of the Talmud, is a digest of Jewish traditions and ritual, put in writing by rabbi Jehudah the Holy in the second century. The Gemara is a "supplement," or commentary on it; it is twofold, that of Jerusalem not later than the first half of the fourth century, and that of Babylon A.D. 500. The Mishna has six divisions (on seeds, feasts, women's marriage, etc., decreases and compacts, holy things, clean and unclean), and an introduction on blessings. Hillel and Shammai were leaders of two schools of the Pharisees, differing on slight points; the Mishna refers to both (living before Christ) and to Hillel's grandson, Paul's' teacher, Gamaliel.

An undesigned coincidence confirming genuineness is the fact that throughout the Gospels hostility to Christianity shows itself mainly from the Pharisees; but throughout Acts from the Sadducees. Doubtless because after Christ's resurrection the resurrection of the dead was a leading doctrine of Christians, which it was not before ( Mark 9:10;  Acts 1:22;  Acts 2:32;  Acts 4:10;  Acts 5:31;  Acts 10:40). The Pharisees therefore regarded Christians in this as their allies against the Sadducees, and so the less opposed Christianity ( John 11:57;  John 18:3;  Acts 4:1;  Acts 5:17;  Acts 23:6-9). The Mishna lays down the fundamental principle of the Pharisees. "Moses received the oral law from Sinai, and delivered it to Joshua, and Joshua to the elders, and these to the prophets, and these to the men of the great synagogue" ( Ρirke Αboth ("The Sayings of the [Jewish] Fathers"), 1). The absence of directions for prayer, and of mention of a future life, in the Pentateuch probably gave a pretext for the figment of a traditional oral law.

The great synagogue said, "make a fence for the law," i.e. carry the prohibitions beyond the written law to protect men from temptations to sin; so  Exodus 23:19 was by oral law made further to mean that no flesh was to be mixed with milk for food. The oral law defined the time before which in the evening a Jew must repeat the Shema, i.e. "Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord, and thou shalt love the Lord," etc. ( Deuteronomy 6:4-9.) So it defines the kind of wick and oil to be used for lighting the lamps which every Jew must burn on the Sabbath eve. An egg laid on a festival may be eaten according to the school of Shammai, but not according to that of Hillel; for Jehovah says in  Exodus 16:5, "on the sixth day they shall prepare that which, they bring in," therefore one must not prepare for the Sabbath on a feast day nor for a feast day on the Sabbath. An egg laid on a feast following the Sabbath was "prepared" the day before, and so involves a breach of the Sabbath (!); and though all feasts do not immediately follow the Sabbath yet "as a fence to the law" an egg laid on any feast must not be eaten.

Contrast  Micah 6:8. A member of the society of Pharisees was called Chaber ; those not members were called "the people of the land"; compare  John 7:49, "this people who knoweth not the law are cursed"; also the Pharisee standing and praying with himself, self righteous and despising the publican ( Luke 18:9-14). Isaiah ( Isaiah 65:5) foretells their characteristic formalism, pride of sanctimony, and hypocritical exclusiveness ( Judges 1:18). Their scrupulous tithing ( Matthew 23:23;  Luke 18:12) was based on the Mishna, "he who undertakes to be trustworthy (a pharisaic phrase) tithes whatever he eats, sells, buys, and does not eat and drink with the people of the land." The produce (tithes) reserved for the Levites and priests was "holy," and for anyone. else to eat it was deadly sin. So the Pharisee took all pains to know that his purchases had been duly tithed, and therefore shrank from "eating with" ( Matthew 9:11) those whose food might not be so. The treatise Cholin in the Mishna lays down a regulation as to "clean and unclean" ( Leviticus 20:25;  Leviticus 22:4-7;  Numbers 19:20) which severs the Jews socially from other peoples; "anything slaughtered by a pagan is unfit to be eaten, like the carcass of an animal that died of itself, and pollutes him who carries it."

An orthodox Jew still may not eat meat of any animal unless killed by a Jewish butcher; the latter searches for a blemish, and attaches to the approved a leaden seal stamped Kashar , "lawful." (Disraeli, Genius. of Judaism.) The Mishna abounds in precepts illustrating  Colossians 2:21, "touch not, taste not, handle not" (contrast  Matthew 15:11). Also it (6:480) has a separate treatise on washing of hands ( Υadayim ). Translated  Mark 7:8, "except they wash their hands with the fist" ( Pugmee ); the Mishna ordaining to pour water over the dosed hands raised so that it should flow down to the elbows, and then over the arms so as to flow over the fingers. Jesus, to confute the notion of its having moral value, did not wash before eating ( Luke 11:37-40). Josephus (Ant. 18:1, section 3, 13:10, section 5) says the Pharisees lived frugally, like the Stoics, and hence had so much weight with the multitude that if they said aught against the king or the high-priest it was immediately believed, whereas the Sadducees could gain only the rich.

The defect in the Pharisees which Christ stigmatized by the parable of the two debtors was not immorality but want of love, from unconsciousness of forgiveness or of the need of it. Christ recognizes Simon's superiority to the woman in the relative amounts of sin needing forgiveness, but shows both were on a level in inability to cancel their sin as a debt. Had he realized this, he would not have thought Jesus no prophet for suffering her to touch Him with her kisses of adoring love for His forgiveness of her, realized by her ( Luke 7:36-50;  Luke 15:2). Tradition set aside moral duties, as a child's to his parents by" Corban"; a debtor's to his creditors by the Mishna treatise, Avodah Zarah (1:1) which forbade payment to a pagan three days before any pagan festival; a man's duty of humanity to his fellow man by the Avodah Zarah (2:1) which forbids a Hebrew midwife assisting a pagan mother in childbirth (contrast  Leviticus 19:18;  Luke 10:27-29).

Juvenal (14:102-104) alleges a Jew would not show the road or a spring to a traveler of a different creed. Josephus (B.J. 2:8, section 14; 3:8, section 5; Ant. 18:1, section 3) says: "the Pharisees say that the soul of good men only passes over into another body, while the soul of bad men is chastised by eternal punishment." Compare  Matthew 14:2;  John 9:2, "who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" compare  John 9:34, "thou wast altogether born in sins." The rabbis believed in the pre-existence of souls. The Jews' question merely took for granted that some sin had caused the blindness, without defining whose sin, "this man" or (as that is out of the question) "his parents."

Paul: regarded the Pharisees as holding our view of the resurrection of the dead ( Acts 23:6-8). The phrase "the world to come" ( Mark 10:30;  Luke 18:30; compare  Isaiah 65:17-22;  Isaiah 26:19) often occurs in the Mishna (Avoth, 2:7; 4:16): this world may be likened to a courtyard in comparison of the world to come, therefore prepare thyself in the antechamber that thou mayest enter into the dining room"; "those born are doomed to die, the dead to live, and the quick to be judged," etc. (3:16) But the actions to be so judged were in reference to the ceremonial points as much as the moral duties. The Essenes apparently recognized Providence as overruling everything ( Matthew 6:25-34;  Matthew 10:29-30). The Sadducees, the wealthy aristocrats, originally in political and practical dealings with the Syrians relied more on worldly prudence, the Pharisees more insisted on considerations of legal righteousness, leaving events to God.

The Pharisees were notorious for proselytizing zeal ( Matthew 23:15), and seem to have been the first who regularly organized missions for conversions (compare Josephus, Ant. 20:2, section 3): The synagogues in the various cities of the world, as well as of Judaea, were thus by the proselytizing spirit of the Pharisees imbued with a thirst for inquiry, and were prepared for the gospel ministered by the apostles, and especially Paul, a Hebrew in race, a Pharisee by training, a Greek in language, and a Roman citizen in birth and privilege. In many respects their doctrine was right, so that Christ desires conformity to their precepts as from "Moses' seat," but not to their practice ( Matthew 23:2-3). But while pressing the letter of the law they ignored the spirit ( Matthew 5:21-22;  Matthew 5:27;  Matthew 5:38;  Matthew 5:31-32). Among even the Pharisees some accepted the truth, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, and  John 12:42 and  Acts 15:5.

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [2]

The Pharisees (ôÌÀøåÌùÑÄéí, Φαρισαῖοι) were a religious sect among the Jews, probably originating in Maccabaean times.

1. The name.-Perûshîm has generally been interpreted to mean ‘separatists.’ In a recent work, however, Cesterley suggests another view. He points out that the Pharisees were the popular party; that one of their precepts was, ‘Separate not thyself from the congregation,’ and that they reproached the Sadducees as the separatists. He finds it more probable that the name means ‘expounders.’ In support he quotes Josephus, who says of the Pharisees that ‘they are those who seem to explain the laws with accuracy’ (Bj_ Ii viii. 14), and asserts that in Rabbinical literature the root p-r-sh is constantly found used in the sense of ‘explain,’ ‘expound,’ or ‘interpret,’ in reference to Scripture which is explained in the interests of the Oral Law (Cesterley, Books of the Apocrypha, p. 131 f.). The view is certainly interesting and worth consideration. But it seems to the present writer that all the arguments by which it is supported admit of an easy answer, and that the balance of probability inclines towards the familiar view that ‘Pharisee’ means ‘separatist.’

2. General position of Pharisees in the 1st cent. a.d.-In this article we confine ourselves to the period from the times of Christ to the close of the 1st century. For the previous history of Pharisaism and the development and character of its tenets and practices, the reader must consult HDB_ and DCG_. At the opening of our period we find the Pharisees noted for piety, learning, and strict observance of the Law. They were held in high esteem among the people (Jos. Ant. XIII. x. 5, 6, XVII. ii. 4). Almost up to this point, indeed, they might be regarded as a people’s party, the champions of popular rights against the aristocratic Sadducees. They were the party of progress. Against the Sadducees they represented a living faith, and their theology was simply orthodox Jewish doctrine. They preached a religion for the people and conducted a missionary propaganda ( Matthew 23:15). At this time they had little direct political power, though they held some seats in the Sanhedrin ( Acts 5:34;  Acts 23:6). But such was their influence with the people that the ruling Sadducees were largely amenable to their advice (Jos. Ant. XVIII. i. 4). Passionately devoted to the Law as they were, they interpreted and applied it in a more tolerant, generous sense than the Sadducees (Ant. XIII. x. 6, XX. ix. 1). No doubt it was among the Pharisees that the best type of Jewish character and piety was found. But in the Gospels it is clear that the Pharisees, the popular party, were drawing themselves apart into a new aristocracy, and that the party of progress had become rigidly conservative. Every one of their own interpretations of the Law was stereotyped. Their traditions were regarded with greater veneration than the original Law. In the accumulated mass of precepts all sense of proportion was lost. All true spirituality was in danger of suffocation under the complex of ritual and ceremonial.

3. Pharisees and foreign domination.-Pharisaism attained its fullest development while there was a mere semblance of national independence, and nearly all civil power had passed from the Jews. No doubt this circumstance was of considerable importance in enabling pious Jews to distinguish between a Church and a nation (see Bousset, Religion des Judentums, p. 62 f.). How the Pharisees regarded the rule of Herod and the Romans it is difficult to judge. On their attitude to Herod two different views will be found in HDB_ iii. 827 and Bousset (op. cit. p. 62 f.) respectively. The statement in the former that they abhorred Herod is too dogmatic (see Jos. Ant. XV. i. 1). Probably we should say that, while they were not enamoured of the rule of Herod, they submitted to it as a necessary evil. As to their attitude to Rome, matters are even less clear. We know that they discussed whether tribute should be paid ( Matthew 22:17 ff.). Further, the party of the Zealots who agitated for the overthrow of Roman power were an off-shoot from the Pharisees. Though Josephus is desirous of representing them as a distinct party, he is compelled to admit this (Ant. XVIII. i. 1, 6; BJ_ II. viii. 1). We may take it that certain of the Pharisees favoured political action, others deprecated it. The former were the Zealots, who were responsible for stirring up the great revolt which ended in the destruction of Jerusalem, and involved the disappearance of the last shreds of Jewish national independence.

4. Effects of the Fall of Jerusalem.-This catastrophe, so calamitous in itself, came to the Pharisees, as to Jewish Christians, really as an emancipation. If the Church was henceforth free from serious Jewish persecution, and the distraction of Judaizing propaganda, the Pharisees were free of their conflict with the Sadducees, who disappeared with Temple and priesthood. The Jews ceased to be politically a nation, but in reality they had ceased to be that long before. Judaism as a Church, a religious system, was not seriously affected by the loss of the Temple. For long the priests as a class had been declining in favour. For long the real centre of religious life had been not the Temple but the Synagogue. Many influences had conspired to produce this result, but we cannot discuss them here (see Bousset, op. cit. p. 97 ff.). It was the great service of Pharisaism to Judaism that it had so developed Jewish piety that the loss of the Temple was more of a relief than a disaster. The Pharisees set themselves more diligently than ever to the development of the Law. In two particulars the fall of the city seemed to harden Pharisaic tendencies.

(a) Their attitude to the common people.-We noted how even in the time of Christ the Pharisee looked down upon the ’am haarets. Piety to the Pharisee was associated with culture. The people who knew not the Law were accursed ( John 7:49). This tendency towards an exclusiveness of culture increased, and the breach widened between the Pharisee and the ’am haarets. The dealings of the Pharisee with the ’am haarets were as strictly limited and carefully regulated as his dealings with the Gentiles. Bousset (op. cit. p. 167) quotes a dictum of a certain Rabbi Eleazar, which forbids all transactions with the ’am haarets, makes the murder of an ’am haarets under certain circumstances permissible, and declares that the hatred of the ’am haarets is greater than that of the Gentiles against Israel.

(b) Their attitude to the Gentiles.-As we have noted above, at one time a missionary propaganda was carried on among Gentiles. Manifestly this was in opposition to the Pharisaic tendency towards exclusiveness, and it was the latter that conquered. The increasing restiveness under the Roman domination which culminated in the great war was a decisive factor in this struggle of principles. Probably a short time before the fall of the city eighteen points of difference between the schools of Hillel and Shammai, all dealing with relations with Gentiles, were decided in favour of the Shammaists, the more rigid school. One of the decisions forbade the learning of Greek (Mishna, Shabb. xiii. 6; see H. Graetz, Geschichte der Juden, Berlin, 1856, Eng. tr._, ii. [London, 1891] 131 ff.). We may take it that this ended all missionary enterprise, and that after the fall of the city the exclusive tendency reigned supreme.

5. Pharisaism and Christianity.-In saying what was the attitude of Pharisees to Christianity, we are in danger of arguing from isolated and therefore perhaps exceptional cases. In the Gospels we find that while Jesus carries on a sharp polemic against the class, He has friendly relations with individuals (e.g. Simon the Pharisee), and that, on the other hand, certain of the Pharisees (e.g. Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea) were friendly towards Him. Arguing from the known tendency of the Pharisees to be moderate in judgment, and from the definite illustrations of it which we have ( Acts 5:34 ff;  Acts 23:9), we may hold that as far as the persecutions in Jerusalem are concerned, the main responsibility at least does not lie on the Pharisees. On the other hand, in the case of Stephen we know that Saul the Pharisee ‘was consenting unto his death’ ( Acts 8:1). Saul also on his own confession was specially strong in urging persecution ( Acts 26:9-11; cf.  Acts 8:3). And outside Palestine it cannot be doubted that the Pharisee scribes were instigators of popular tumults against Christians.

When we remember that the Pharisees with all their faults were the leaders of Jewish piety, and the orthodox theologians, it is clear that it is difficult to overestimate the part they played in preparing the way for Christianity. St. Paul was a Pharisee of the Pharisees, and what would Christianity have been but for him? It was the Pharisees who settled the OT canon, and the Christian Church accepted it. Pharisees developed the Messianic hope, distinguished the Church from the State, taught a religion that was independent of priests and Temple, developed doctrines of immortality, resurrection, and judgment to come, that with only little modification passed into Christian theology. The best of the Pharisees understood the inwardness of the Law as Jesus taught it, and some of His most characteristic sayings are to be found in almost identical form in the sayings of the Rabbis. The missionary propaganda did incalculable service in preparing for that of the Church. The Pharisaism of the best period, when it was a progressive, democratic, missionary movement, became the inheritance of Christianity.

Pharisaism, or something very like it in its degenerate form, was imported into the Church by Jewish Christians (see Ebionism). St. Paul is meritorious not more as the Apostle of the Gentiles than by the fact that he, a former Pharisee, saw so clearly the danger of this incipient neo-Pharisaism with its exclusiveness and ‘desire to be under the law,’ and combated it so successfully. While the statement in the JE_ (ix. 665) that in the Gospels the word ‘Pharisee’ has been substituted for an original ‘Sadducee’ in the denunciations of Jesus is to be mentioned only as a curiosity, according to the evidence we possess, it has to be said that the Church paid back with interest the persecutions and calumnies she suffered from the Jews. How soon this anti-Judaism began, and to what extent if any it is present in the NT writings, are problems that require investigation.

Literature.-The only authorities are the Gospels, Acts, and Josephus (passages referred to above). From a mass of Rabbinical writings, a few details may be gathered which add little to our knowledge. Works on the Pharisees and Sadducees are numerous. We need refer the reader only to E. Schürer, Hjp_ Ii ii. [Edinburgh, 1885] 1 f.; W. O. E. Cesterley, The Books of the Apocrypha, their Origin, Teaching, and Contents, London, 1914; W. Bousset, Die Religion des Judentums in neutest. Zeitalter, Berlin, 1903; also to articles in Hdb_, Dcg_ EBi_, JE_, EBr_11.

W. D. Niven.

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology [3]

Jewish group mentioned, either collectively or as individuals, ninety-eight times in the New Testament, all but ten times in the Gospels.

The root meaning of the word "Pharisee" is uncertain. It is probably related to the Hebrew root prs [   John 7:49 )? From Gentiles or Jews who embraced the Hellenistic culture? From certain political groups? All these groups of people the Pharisees would have been determined to avoid in their resolution to separate themselves from any type of impurity proscribed by the levitical law—or, more specifically, their strict interpretation of it.

Josephus's references to the Pharisees are selective, probably because he was adapting them to a cultured Gentile audience. His information comes in two forms: direct descriptions and the role the Pharisees play in the history that he depicts.

Josephus says the Pharisees maintained a simple lifestyle ( Ant 18.1.3 [12]), were affectionate and harmonious in their dealings with others ( War 2.8.14 [166]), especially respectful to their elders ( Ant 18.13 [12]), and quite influential throughout the land of Israel ( Ant 13.10.5 [288]; 17.2.4 [41-45]; 18.1.3 [15])although at the time of Herod they numbered only about six thousand ( Ant 17.2.4 [42]). Josephus mentions their belief in both fate (divine sovereignty) and the human will ( War 2.8.14 [163], Ant 18.1.3 [13]) and in immortality of both good and evil persons ( War 2.8.14 [16]; Ant 17.1.3 [14]). Some Pharisees refused to take oaths ( Ant 17.2.4 [42]). Of particular importance are Josephus's statements that the Pharisees adhered to "the laws of which the Deity approves" ( Ant 17.2.4 [41]) and that they "are considered the most accurate interpreters of the laws" ( War 2.8.14 [162]). Pharisees "follow the guidance of that which their doctrine has selected and transmitted as good, attaching the chief importance to the observance of those commandments which it has seen fit to dictate to them" ( Ant 18.1.3 [12]) and they "passed on to the people certain regulations handed down by former generations and not recorded in the Laws of Moses" ( Ant 17.2.4 [41]; 13.10.6 [297]). Although the phrase "Oral Law" is not used, it appears Josephus understood that the Pharisees affirmed a body of traditional interpretations, applications, and expansions of the Old Testament law communicated orally.

The Pharisees first appear in Josephus's account of intertestamental history as he describes the reign of John Hyrcanus (134-104). He assumes they had been in existence for some time. This raises the much discussed question of their origin. Some see the Pharisees' roots in the biblical Ezra ( Ezra 7:10; shows his concern for exact keeping of the Law, especially ceremonial purity ), others in the Hasidim (the Holy/Pure/Righteous) who supported the Maccabean revolt as long as its motives were religious but withdrew when it became primarily political ( 1 Maccabees 2:42;  7:13; cf.  2 Maccabees 14:6 ). Recent studies suggest the Pharisees were part of a general revolutionary spirit of the pre-Maccabean times and that they emerged as a scholarly class dedicated to the teaching of both the written and oral Law and stressing the internal side of Judaism. In any case, they were certainly one of the groups that sought to adapt Judaism for the postexilic situation.

John Hyrcanus was at first "a disciple" of the Pharisees but became their enemy ( Ant 13.10.5 [288-98]). The Pharisees were opponents of the Hasmonean rulers from then on. The hostility was especially great during the reign of Alexander Jannaeus (103-76), and they seem to have taken a leading part in opposition to him; it is usually assumed that Pharisees composed either all or a large part of the eight hundred Jews he later crucified ( Ant 13.14.2 [380]). The one exception to Pharisaic opposition to the Hasmoneans was Salome Alexandria (76-67), under whom they virtually dominated the government.

Josephus's information about the Pharisees under the Romans is spotty. Under Herod (37 b.c.-4 b.c.) the Pharisees were influential, but carefully controlled by the king. Some individual Pharisees did oppose Herod on occasion. Josephus gives almost no information about the Pharisees from the death of Herod until the outset of the revolt against Rome (about a.d. 66). At first they attempted to persuade the Jews against militant actions ( War 2.17.3 [411]). Later Pharisees appear as part of the leadership of the people during the revolt, some individuals playing a leading role in it.

The New Testament depicts the Pharisees as opponents of Jesus or the early Christians. On the other hand, they warn Jesus that his life is in danger from Herod ( Luke 13:31 ), invite him for meals ( Luke 7:36-50;  14:1 ), are attracted to or believe in Jesus ( John 3:1;  7:45-53;  9:13-38 ), and protect early Christians ( Acts 5:34;  23:6-9 ). Paul asserts he was a Pharisee before his conversion ( Philippians 3:5 ).

The clearest New Testament statement of Pharisaic distinctives is  Acts 23:8 : "The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, and that there are neither angels, nor spirits, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all." This would give the impression that doctrine was the basic concern of the group. However,  Mark 7:3-4 says that "The Pharisees do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing holding to the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles." Thus, we are also told of the Pharisees' concern for washing (ceremonial cleansing) and observance of "the traditions of the elders, " a description of the Oral Law.   Matthew 23 calls attention to their (1) positions of religious authority in the community, (2) concern for outward recognition and honor, (3) enthusiasm for making converts, and (4) emphasis on observing the legalistic minutia of the law. In verse 23Jesus condemns them, not for what they did, but for neglecting "the more important matters of the lawjustice, mercy and faithfulness."

There is general recognition that Josephus's description of the Pharisees as a "sect" ( hairesis [Αἵρεσις]) should not be understood in the modern sense. Instead, it seems to denote something like a "religious party, " "community, " or "denomination" within mainstream Judaism. Pharisaic zeal for the Law is obvious, but what is meant by Law? The sanctity of the written Law was never questioned, but intertestamental Jewish groups differed on how it was to be interpreted and applied. The Pharisees developed their own body of interpretations, expansions, and applications of the Law that they came to regard as of divine origin (Mishnah, Aboth, 1:1). This was to assist in understanding and keeping the Law, often added regulations ("fences" or "hedges") were designed to prevent even coming close to breaking the Law. Most of these traditions, the Oral Law, dealt with matters of levitical purity. Some contained other additions that had come into prominence in the intertestamental situation. These included belief in immortality, angels and demons, spirits, and divine sovereignty. Expansions of such doctrines led to others. For example, belief in immortality resulted in expanded messianic and eschatological views. Their social and political views were based on their premise that all of life must be lived under the control of God's Law. The Pharisees opposed Hasmoneans who, contrary to the Law, sought to combine the monarchy and priesthood. Likewise, they rejected Roman authority when it appeared to conflict with the Law of God.

Some modern scholars have objected to the assumption that intertestamental Judaism, including Pharisaism, believed in a "wage price-theory of righteousness, " that eternal life is granted on the basis of faithfulness in keeping the Law. Rather, they insist, Israel's religion was a "covenantal nominism" in which Law-keeping was a response to God's grace offered in his covenant with Israel. These studies provide a helpful corrective to traditional views of intertestamental Judaism, including Pharisaism, as merely a blatant legalism. Yet the New Testament assumes that Jesus and his disciples were at times in conflict with just such legalism (e.g.,  Mark 10:17;  Luke 15:29; [note that "the older brother" most likely represents the Pharisaic point of view] );  John 6:28; and Paul's constant fight against earning salvation by works of the law (note:  Romans 9:30-32 ,; Israel "pursued it [righteousness] not by faith but as if it were by works" ). Of particular relevance here are the contrasting prayers of the Pharisee and the Publican, the results of which the latter "went home justified" ( Luke 18:9-14 ). Intertestamental Judaism was far from a monolithic whole; many, if not most, of the common people, who were influenced by the Pharisees, seem to have held a legalistic view of their religion. Jesus and the early Christians strongly opposed views that externalized religion and/or sought God's favor on the basis of human effort.

J. Julius Scott, Jr.

See also Jesus Christ; Legalism; Paul The Apostle

Bibliography . J. W. Bowker, Jesus and the Pharisees  ; L. Findelstein, The Pharisees: The Sociological Background of Their Faith  ; L. L. Grabbe, Judaism from Cyrus to Hadrian  ; J. Neusner, Formative Judaism: Torah, Pharisees and Rabbis  ; idem, The Rabbinic Traditions about the Pharisees before 70  ; E. Rivkin, A Hidden Revolution: The Pharisees Search for the Kingdom Within  ; E. P. Sanders, Judaism: Practice and Belief, 63 Bce-66 Ce  ; idem, Paul and Palestinian Judaism  ; Emil Schürer, The History of Their Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ  ; Moisés Silva, WTJ 42 (1979-80): 395-405; M. Simon, The Jewish Sects at the Time of Jesus .

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [4]

a sect of the Jews. The earliest mention of them is by Josephus, who tells us that they were a sect of considerable weight when John Hyrcanus was high priest, B.C. 108. They were the most numerous, distinguished, and popular sect among the Jews; the time when they first appeared is not known, but it is supposed to have been not long after the institution of the Sadducees, if, indeed, the two sects did not gradually spring up together. They derived their name from the Hebrew word pharash, which signifies "separated," or "set apart;" because they separated themselves from the rest of the Jews to superior strictness in religious observances. They boasted that, from their accurate knowledge of religion, they were the favourites of Heaven; and thus, trusting in themselves that they were righteous, despised others,   Luke 11:52;  Luke 18:9;  Luke 18:11 . Among the tenets inculcated by this sect, we may enumerate the following: namely, they ascribed all things to fate or providence; yet not so absolutely as to take away the free will of man; for fate does not cooperate in every action,  Acts 5:38-39 . They also believed in the existence of angels and spirits, and in the resurrection of the dead;  Acts 23:8 .

Lastly: the Pharisees contended that God stood engaged to bless the Jews, to make them all partakers of the terrestrial kingdom of the Messiah, to justify them, and make them eternally happy. The cause of their justification they derived from the merits of Abraham, from their knowledge of God, from their practising the right of circumcision, and from the sacrifices they offered. And as they conceived works to be meritorious, they had invented a great number of supererogatory ones, to which they attached greater merit than to the observance of the law itself. To this notion St. Paul has some allusions in those parts of his Epistle to the Romans, in which he combats the erroneous suppositions of the Jews, Romans 1-11.

The Pharisees were the strictest of the three principal sects that divided the Jewish nation,  Acts 26:5 , and affected a singular probity of manners according to their system; which, however, was, for the most part, both lax and corrupt. Thus many things which Moses had tolerated in civil life, in order to avoid a greater evil, the Pharisees determined to be morally right: for instance, the law of divorce from a wife for any cause,  Matthew 5:31 , &c;  Matthew 19:3-12 . ( See Divorce . ) Farther: they interpreted certain of the Mosaic laws most literally, and distorted their meaning so as to favour their own selfish system. Thus, the law of loving their neighbour, they expounded solely of the love of their friends, that is, of the whole Jewish race; all other persons being considered by them as natural enemies, whom they were in no respect bound to assist,  Matthew 5:43;  Luke 10:31-33 . They also trifled with oaths. Dr. Lightfoot has cited a striking illustration of this from Maimonides. An oath, in which the name of God was not distinctly specified, they taught was not binding,  Matthew 5:33; maintaining that a man might even swear with his lips, and at the same time annul it in his heart! And yet so rigorously did they understand the command of observing the Sabbath day, that they accounted it unlawful to pluck ears of corn, and heal the sick, &c, Matthew 12;  Luke 6:6 , &c; 14. Many moral rules they accounted inferior to the ceremonial laws, to the total neglect of mercy and fidelity,  Matthew 5:19;  Matthew 15:4;  Matthew 23:23 . Hence they accounted causeless anger and impure desires as trifles of no moment,  Matthew 5:21-22;  Matthew 5:27-30; they compassed sea and land to make proselytes to the Jewish religion from among the Gentiles, that they might rule over their consciences and wealth; and these proselytes, through the influence of their own scandalous examples and characters, they soon rendered more profligate and abandoned than ever they were before their conversion,  Matthew 23:15 . Esteeming temporal happiness and riches as the highest good, they scrupled not to accumulate wealth by every means, legal or illegal,  Matthew 5:1-12;  Matthew 23:5;  Luke 16:14;  James 2:1-8; vain and ambitious of popular applause, they offered up long prayers in public places, but not without self-complacency in their own holiness,  Matthew 6:2-5;  Luke 18:11; under a sanctimonious appearance of respect for the memories of the prophets whom their ancestors had slain, they repaired and beautified their sepulchres,  Matthew 23:29; and such was their idea of their own sanctity, that they thought themselves defiled if they but touched or conversed with sinners, that is, with publicans or tax-gatherers, and persons of loose and irregular lives,  Luke 7:39;  Luke 15:1 .

But, above all their other tenets, the Pharisees were conspicuous for their reverential observance of the traditions or decrees of the elders: these traditions, they pretended, had been handed down from Moses through every generation, but were not committed to writing; and they were not merely considered as of equal authority with the divine law, but even preferable to it. "The words of the scribes," said they, "are lovely above the words of the law; for the words of the law are weighty and light, but the words of the scribes are all weighty." Among the traditions thus sanctimoniously observed by the Pharisees, we may briefly notice the following: the washing of hands up to the wrist before and after meat,   Matthew 15:2;  Mark 7:3; which they accounted not merely a religious duty, but considered its omission as a crime equal to fornication, and punishable by excommunication: the purification of the cups, vessels, and couches used at their meals by ablutions or washings,  Mark 7:4; for which purpose the six large water pots mentioned by St. John,  John 2:6 , were destined: their fasting twice a week with great appearance of austerity,  Luke 18:12;  Matthew 6:16; thus converting that exercise into religion which is only a help toward the performance of its hallowed duties: their punctilious payment of tithes, (temple-offerings,) even of the most trifling things,  Luke 18:12;  Matthew 23:23 . And their wearing broader phylacteries and larger fringes to their garments than the rest of the Jews,  Matthew 23:5 . See Phylacteries .

With all their pretensions to piety, the Pharisees entertained the most sovereign contempt for the people; whom, being ignorant of the law, they pronounced to be accursed,  John 7:49 . Yet such was the esteem and veneration in which they were held by the populace, that they may almost be said to have given what direction they pleased to public affairs; and hence the great men dreaded their power and authority. It is unquestionable, as Mosheim has well remarked, that the religion of the Pharisees was, for the most part, founded in consummate hypocrisy; and that, at the bottom, they were generally the slaves of every vicious appetite, proud, arrogant, and avaricious, consulting only the gratification of their lusts, even at the very moment when they professed themselves to be engaged in the service of their Maker. These odious features in the character of the Pharisees caused them to be reprehended by our Saviour with the utmost severity, even more so than the Sadducees; who, although they had departed widely from the genuine principles of religion, yet did not impose on mankind by a pretended sanctity, or devote themselves with insatiate greediness to the acquisition of honours and riches. A few, and a few only, of the sect of the Pharisees, in those times, might be of better character,—men who, though self-righteous and deluded and bigoted, were not like the rest, hypocritical. Of this number was Saul of Tarsus; but as a body, their attachment to traditions, their passionate expectation of deliverance from the Roman yoke by the Messiah, and the splendour of his civil reign, their pride, and above all their vices, sufficiently account for that unconquerable unbelief which had possessed their minds as to the claims of Christ, and their resistance to the evidence of his miracles. The sect of the Pharisees was not extinguished by the ruin of the Jewish commonwealth. The greater part of the Jews are still Pharisees, being as much devoted to traditions, or the oral law, as their ancestors were.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [5]

PHARISEES. A study of the four centuries before Christ supplies a striking illustration of the law that the deepest movements of history advance without the men, who in God’s plan are their agents, being clearly aware of what is going on. The answer to the question How came the Pharisees into the place of power and prestige they held in the time of our Lord? involves a clear understanding of the task of Israel after the Exile. It was to found and develop a new type of community. The Hebrew monarchy had been thrown into perpetual bankruptcy. But monarchy was the only form that the political principle could assume in the East. What should be put in its place? In solving this problem the Jews created a community which, while it was half-State, was also half-Church. The working capital of the Jews was the monotheism of the prophets, the self-revelation of God in His character of holy and creative Unity, and, inseparable from this, the belief in the perfectibility and indestructibility of the Chosen Nation (the Messianic idea). Prophecy ceased. Into the place of the prophet came the schoolmaster and the drill-master. They popularized monotheism, making it a national instinct. Necessarily, the popularization of monotheism drew along with it a growing sense of superiority to the heathen and idolatrous nations amongst whom their lot was cast. And by the same necessity the Jews were taught to separate themselves from their heathen neighbours (  Ezra 10:11 ). They must not intermarry, lest the nation he dragged down to the heathen level. This was the state of things in the 3rd cent. b.c. (see Essenes), when Hellenism began to threaten Judaism with annihilation. The deepest forces of Judaism sounded the rally. The more zealous Jews drew apart, calling themselves the ‘Holy Men’ ( Chasîdîm ), Puritans, or those self-dedicated to the realization of Ezra’s ideal. Then came the great war. The tendencies of Judaism precipitated themselves. The Jewish Puritans became a distinct class called the ‘Pharisees,’ or men who separated themselves from the heathen, and no less from the heathenizing tendencies and forces in their own nation. They abstained even from table-fellowship with the heathen as being an abominable thing (  Galatians 2:12 ff.). As years went on it became more and more clear that the heart of the nation was with them. And so it comes to pass that in our Lord’s time, to use His own words, ‘the scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat’ (  Matthew 23:2 ). They, not the priests, are the source of authority.

The history of Pharisaism enables us to understand its spirit and ruling ideas, to do justice to its greatness, while emphasizing its limitations and defects. Into it went the deepest elements among the forces which built the Jewish church and nation. The Pharisees are seen at their best when contrasted with the Zealots (see Cananæan) on the one side and the Herodians (wh. see) on the other. Unlike the latter, they were deeply in earnest with their ancestral religion. Again and again at critical times they showed the vigour and temper of fearless Puritanism. Unlike the former, they held back from the appeal to force, believing that the God of the nation was in control of history, that in His own good time He would grant the nation its desire; that, meanwhile, the duty of a true Israelite was whole-hearted devotion to the Torah, joined to patient waiting on the Divine will. This nobler side of Pharisaism could find itself in   Psalms 119:1-176 . The Pharisees were in a sense Churchmen rather than statesmen. And they emphasized spiritual methods. Their interests lay in the synagogue, in the schooling of children, in missionary extension amongst the heathen. They deserved the power and prestige which we find them holding in our Lord’s time. The Master Himself seems to say this when He distinguishes between their rightful authority and the spirit which they often showed in their actions (  Matthew 23:1-4 ). Hence we are not surprised when we learn that, after the conflicts with Rome (a.d. 66 135), Pharisaism became practically synonymous with Judaism. One great war (the Maccabæan) had defined Pharisaism. Another war, even more terrible, gave it the final victory. The two wars together created the Judaism known to Europeans and Americans. And this, allowing for the inevitable changes which a long and varied experience brings to pass in the most tenacious race, is in substance the Pharisaism of the 2nd century.

A wide historical study discovers moral dignity and greatness in Pharisaism. The Pharisees, as contrasted with the Sadducees (wh. see), represented the democratic tendency. As contrasted with the priesthood, they stood both for the democratic and for the spiritualizing tendency. The priesthood was a close corporation. No man who was unable to trace his descent from a priestly family could exercise any function in the Temple. But the Pharisees and the Scribes opened a great career to all the talents. Furthermore, the priesthood exhausted itself in the ritual of the Temple. But the Pharisees found their main function in teaching and preaching. So Pharisaism cleared the ground for Christianity. And when the reader goes through his NT with this point in mind, and when he notes the striking freedom of the NT from ritualistic and sacerdotal ideas, he should give credit to Pharisaism as one of the historical forces which made these supreme qualities possible.

We have not yet exhausted the claims of the Pharisees on our interest and gratitude. It was they who, for the most part, prepared the ground for Christianity by taking the Messianic idea and working it into the very texture of common consciousness. Pharisaism was inseparable from the popularization of monotheism, and the universal acceptance by the nation of its Divine election and calling. We need only consider our Lord’s task to see how much preparatory work the Pharisees did. Contrast the Saviour with Gautama (Buddha), and the greatness of His work is clearly seen. Buddha teaches men the way of peace by thinking away the political and social order of things. But our Lord took the glorified nationalism of His nation as the trunk-stock of His thought, and upon it grafted the Kingdom of God. Now, it was the Pharisees who made idealized nationalism, based upon the monotheism of the prophets, the pith and marrow of Judaism. It was they who wrote the great Apocalypses (Daniel and Enoch). It was they who made the belief in immortality and resurrection part of the common consciousness. It was they who trained the national will and purpose up to the level where the Saviour could use it.

But along with this great work went some lamentable defects and limitations. Though they stood for the spiritualizing tendencies which looked towards the existence of a Church, the Pharisees never reached the Church idea. They made an inextricable confusion between the question of the soul and the question of descent from Abraham. They developed the spirit of proud and arrogant orthodoxy, until the monotheism of the prophets became in their hands wholly incompetent to found a society where Jew and Gentile should be one ( Galatians 3:28 ,   Colossians 3:11 ). They developed Sabbatarianism until reverence for the Sabbath became a superstition, as our Lord’s repeated clash with them goes to show. And in spite of many noble individual exceptions, the deepest tendency of Pharisaism was towards an over-valuation of external things, Levitical correctness and precision (  Matthew 23:23 ), that made their spirit strongly antagonistic to the genius of Prophetism. For Prophetism, whether of the Old or of the New Dispensation, threw the whole emphasis on character. And so, when John the Baptist, the first prophet for many centuries, came on the field, he put himself in mortal opposition to the Pharisees, no less than to the Sadducees (  Matthew 3:7 f.,   John 1:19 ff.). And our Lord, embodying the moral essence of Prophetism, found His most dangerous opponents, until the end of His ministry, not in the Sadducees or the Essenes or the Zealots, but in the Pharisees.

See also artt. Sadducees and Scribes.

Henry S. Nash.

Smith's Bible Dictionary [6]

Phar'isees. 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 opinion, 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 ;  Matthew 23:5 ;  Matthew 23:13-15 ;  Matthew 23:23 ;  Mark 7:6 ;  Luke 11:42-44 And Compare  Mark 7:1-5 ;  Mark 11:29 ;  Mark 12:19-20 ;  Luke 6:28 ;  Luke 6:37-42 . To understand the Pharisees is, by contrast, an aid toward understanding the spirit of uncorrupted Christianity.

The Fundamental Principle Of All 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 Ppretence 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, as 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;  Matthew 6:6;  Matthew 6:16;  Matthew 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.

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [7]

The Pharisees were one of the two main parties within Judaism in New Testament times, the other being the Sadducees. The origins of the two parties go back to the second century BC, when Greek influence in Jewish affairs created divisions among the Jewish people.

Most of the Pharisees came from the working classes and tried to preserve traditional Jewish practices from the corruption of foreign ideas and political ambition. The Sadducees came mainly from the wealthy upper classes. Their chief concern was not with following tradition, but with using the religious and social structures of Jewish society to gain controlling power for themselves. (For fuller details concerning the origins of the two parties see Sadducees .)


Once the Sadducees had gained priestly power, they furthered their own interests by emphasizing the need to keep the temple rituals. The Pharisees, by contrast, emphasized the responsibility to keep the law in all aspects of life, not just in temple rituals. In this the Pharisees supported the traditions that the teachers of the law (the scribes) had developed and taught. The scribes had expanded the law of Moses into a system that consisted of countless laws dealing with such matters as sabbath-keeping ( Matthew 12:1-2;  Mark 3:1-6;  Luke 13:10-14), ritual cleanliness ( Matthew 23:25;  Mark 7:1-9), fasting ( Luke 18:11-12), tithing ( Matthew 23:23) and the taking of oaths ( Matthew 23:16-22; see also Scribes ).

Being members of such a strict party, many of the Pharisees regarded themselves alone as being the true people of God, and kept apart from those who did not follow their beliefs and practices. The name ‘Pharisees’ meant ‘the separated ones’ ( Acts 15:5;  Acts 26:5; cf.  Galatians 2:12).

The Pharisees criticized Jesus for not keeping their laws ( Matthew 12:10-14;  Matthew 15:1-2;  John 9:16), but Jesus condemned the Pharisees for not keeping God’s law. They were more concerned with maintaining their traditions than with producing the kind of character and behaviour that God’s law aimed at ( Matthew 5:20;  Matthew 15:1-10;  Matthew 23:23-26). They were concerned with outward show more than with correct attitudes of heart. They wanted to impress people more than please God ( Matthew 23:2;  Matthew 23:5;  Matthew 23:27-28).

Jesus’ criticism of the Pharisees caused them to hate him. They even cooperated with the Sadducees (the priests) to get rid of him ( John 11:47-53;  John 18:3). Although the Sadducees had the chief positions in the Sanhedrin (the Jewish Council that condemned Jesus), many Pharisees were Sanhedrin members. At least one of the Pharisees, Nicodemus, became a believer in Jesus ( John 3:1;  John 7:45-52;  John 19:38-40; see Sanhedrin ).

Other beliefs and practices

While lawkeeping was the Pharisees’ main concern, other distinctive beliefs added to the tension in their relationship with the Sadducees. The Pharisees, for example, believed in the continued existence of the soul after death, the resurrection of the body and the existence of angelic beings, whereas the Sadducees did not ( Matthew 22:23;  Acts 23:8).

The Pharisees’ belief in the resurrection was probably one reason for their favourable attitude to Christians in the early days of the church. They did not object to multitudes of people believing in the resurrection of Jesus. Although the Sadducees angrily opposed the Christians, the Pharisees seem to have regarded the Christians as sincerely religious Jews with orthodox beliefs and practices ( Acts 2:46-47;  Acts 4:1-2;  Acts 5:12;  Acts 5:17;  Acts 5:25-28).

Another belief of the Pharisees, also in contrast to the beliefs of the Sadducees, was that all events were under the control of God, and no person had independent right to interfere with what God had decreed. They therefore thought it wise not to oppose the Christians, lest they oppose a movement that had God’s approval ( Acts 5:34-39).

This attitude of tolerance towards Christians changed suddenly when the Pharisees understood Stephen to have spoken against the law of Moses. They turned violently against the Christians, and in fact it was a Pharisee, Saul of Tarsus, who led the persecution ( Acts 6:13-14;  Acts 7:57-58;  Acts 8:3;  Acts 23:6).

After the destruction of Jerusalem by Rome in AD 70, the Sadducees and the smaller Jewish parties died out. This left the Pharisees in full control of the Jewish religion. A separate Pharisee party was no longer necessary, for Judaism as a whole now followed the Pharisee tradition.

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary [8]

A famous sect of the Jews who distinguished themselves by their zeal for the traditions of the idlers, which they derived from the same fountain with the written word itself; pretending that both were delivered to Moses from Mount Sinai, and were therefore both of equal authority. From their rigorous observance of these traditions, they looked upon themselves as more holy than other men, and therefore separated themselves from those whom they thought sinners or profane, so as not to eat or drink with them; and hence, from the Hebrew word pharia, which signifies "to separate, " they had the name of Pharisees, or Sepharatists. This sect was one of the most ancient and most considerable among the Jews, but its original is not very well known; however, it was in great repute in the time of our Saviour, and most probably had its original at the same time with the traditions. The extraordinary pretences of the Pharisees to righteousness, drew after them the common people, who held them in the highest esteem and veneration. Our Saviour frequently, however, charges them with hypocrisy, and making the law of God of no effect through their traditions,  Matthew 9:12 .  Matthew 15:1-39 .  Matthew 23:13;  Matthew 23:33 .  Luke 11:39;  Luke 11:52 . Several of these traditions are particularly mentioned in the Gospel; but they had a vast number more, which may be seen in the Talmud, the whole subject whereof is to dictate and explain those traditions which this sect imposed to be believed and observed.

The Pharisees, contrary to the opinion of the Sadducees, held a resurrection from the dead, and the existence of angels and spirits,  Acts 23:8 . But, according to Josephus, this resurrection of theirs was no more than a Pythagorean resurrection, that is, of the soul only, by its transmigration into another body, and being born anew with it. From the resurrection they excluded all who were notoriously wicked, being of opinion that the souls of such persons were transmitted into a state of everlasting woe. As to lesser crimes, they held they were punished in the bodies which the souls of those who committed them were next sent into. Josephus, however, either mistook the faith of his countrymen, or, which is more probable, wilfully misrepresented it, to render their opinions more respected by the Roman philosophers, whom he appears to have, on every occasion, been desirous to please. The Pharisees had many Pagan notions respecting the soul; but Bishop Bull, in his Harmonia Apostolica, has clearly proved that they held a resurrection of the body, and that they supposed a certain bone to remain uncorrupted, to furnish the matter of which the resurrection body was to be formed. they did not, however, believe that all mankind were to be raised from the dead. A resurrection was the privilege of the children of Abraham alone, who were all to rise on Mount Zion; their incorruptible bones, wherever they might be buried, being carried to that mountain below the surface of the earth.

The state of future felicity in which the Pharisees believed was very gross: they imagined that men in the next world, as well as in the present, were to eat and drink, and enjoy the pleasures of love, each being re-united to his former wife. Hence the Sadducees, who believed in no resurrection, and supposed our Saviour to teach it as a Pharisee, very shrewdly urged the difficulty of disposing of the woman who had in this world been the wife of seven husbands. Had the resurrection of Christianity been the Pharisaical resurrection, this difficulty would have been insurmountable; and accordingly we find the people, and even some of the Pharisees themselves, struck with the manner in which our Saviour removed it. This sect seems to have had some confused notions, probably derived from the Chaldeans and Persians, respecting the pre-existence of souls; and hence it was that Christ's disciples asked him concerning the blind man,  John 9:2 . "Who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?" and when the disciples told Christ that some said he was Elias, Jeremias, or one of the prophets,  Matthew 16:14 . the meaning can only be, that they thought he was come into the world with the soul of Elias, Jeremias, or some other of the old prophets transmigrated into him. With the Essenes they held absolute predestination, and with the Sadducees free will; but how they reconciled these seemingly incompatible doctrines is no where sufficiently explained. The sect of the Pharisees was not extinguished by the ruin of the Jewish commonwealth. The greatest part of the modern Jews are still of this sect, being as much devoted to traditions, or the oral law, as their ancestors were.

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [9]

A numerous and dominant sect of the Jews, agreeing on some main points of doctrine and practice, but divided into different parties or schools on minor points; as for instance, the schools or followers of Hillel and Shammai, who were celebrated rabbins or teachers. The name is commonly derived from the Hebrew purash, to separate, as though they were distinguished form the rest of the nation by their superior wisdom and sanctity. They first appeared as a sect after the return of the Jews from captivity. In respect to their tenets, although they esteemed the written books of the old Testament as the sources of the Jewish religion, yet they also attributed great and equal authority to traditional precepts relating principally to external rites: as ablutions, fasting, long prayers, the distribution of alms, the avoiding of all intercourse with Gentiles and publicans, etc. See  Matthew 6:5   9:11   23:5   Mark 7:4   Luke 18:12 . In superstitious and self-righteous formalism they strongly resembled the Romish church.

They were rigid interpreters of the letter of the Mosaic law, but not infrequently violated the spirit of it by their traditional and philosophical interpretations. See  Matthew 5:31,43   12:2   19:3   23:23 . Their professed sanctity and close adherence to all the external forms of piety gave them great favor and influence with the common people, and especially among the female part of the community. They believed with the Stoics, that all things and events were controlled by fate yet not so absolutely as entirely to destroy the liberty of the human will. They considered the soul as immortal, and held the doctrine of a future resurrection of the body,  Acts 23:8 . It is also supposed by some that they admitted the doctrine of metempsychosis or the transmigration of souls; but no allusion is made to this in the New Testament, nor does Josephus assert it. In numerous cases Christ denounced the Pharisees for their pride and covetousness, their ostentation in prayers, alms, tithes, and facts,  Matthew 6:2,5   Luke 18:9 , and their hypocrisy in employing the garb of religion to cover the profligacy of their dispositions and conduct; as  Matthew 23:1-39   Luke 16:14   John 7:48,49   8:9 . By his faithful reproofs he early incurred their hatred,  Matthew 12:14; they eagerly sought to destroy him, and his blood was upon them and their children. On the other hand, there appear to have been among them individuals of probity, and even of genuine piety; as in the case of Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus, the aged Simeon, etc.,  Matthew 27:57   Luke 2:25   John 3:1 . Saul of Tarsus was a Pharisee of the strictest sect,  Acts 26:5   Galatians 1:14 . The essential features of their character are still common in Christian lands, and are no less odious to Christ than of old.

Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words [10]

1: Φαρισαῖος (Strong'S #5330 — Noun Masculine — pharisaios — far-is-ah'-yos )

from an Aramaic word peras (found in  Daniel 5:28 ), signifying "to separate," owing to a different manner of life from that of the general public. The "Pharisees" and Sadducees appear as distinct parties in the latter half of the 2nd cent. B.C., though they represent tendencies traceable much earlier in Jewish history, tendencies which became pronounced after the return from Babylon (537 B.C.). The immediate progenitors of the two parties were, respectively, the Hasideans and the Hellenizers; the latter, the antecedents of the Sadducees, aimed at removing Judaism from its narrowness and sharing in the advantages of Greek life and culture. The Hasidaeans, a transcription of the Hebrew chasidim, i.e., "pious ones," were a society of men zealous for religion, who acted under the guidance of the scribes, in opposition to the godless Hellenizing party; they scrupled to oppose the legitimate high priest even when he was on the Greek side. Thus the Hellenizers were a political sect, while the Hasidaens, whose fundamental principle was complete separation from non-Jewish elements, were the strictly legal party among the Jews, and were ultimately the more popular and influential party. In their zeal for the Law they almost deified it and their attitude became merely external, formal, and mechanical. They laid stress, not upon the righteousness of an action, but upon its formal correctness. Consequently their opposition to Christ was inevitable; His manner of life and teaching was essentially a condemnation of theirs; hence His denunciation of them, e.g.,  Matthew 6:2,5,16;  15:7 and chapter 23.

 Acts 11:19-26Call Acts 23:6-10

People's Dictionary of the Bible [11]

Pharisees ( Far'I-Sees ), a religious sect among the Jews at the time of Christ.  Matthew 15:1-8. Their name is from the Hebrew word Perûshim, "separated." The chief sects among the Jews during Christ's ministry were the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Essenes. Christ denounced the Pharisees in the strongest language; see  Matthew 15:1-8;  Matthew 23:13-25;  Mark 7:5-6;  Luke 11:42-44. To understand the Pharisees is an aid toward understanding the spirit of pure Christianity. The principle of the Pharisees, common to them with all orthodox modern Jews, is that by the side of the written law there was an oral law to complete and to explain the written law, given to Moses on Mount Sinai and transmitted by him by word of mouth. They were particular to avoid anything which the law declared unclean, but they forgot to acquire that cleanness which is the most important of all, and which consists in the purity of the heart.  Matthew 15:11. It would be a great mistake to suppose that the Pharisees were wealthy and luxurious, or that they had degenerated into the vices which were imputed to some of the Roman popes and cardinals during the 200 years preceding the Reformation. Josephus compared the Pharisees to the sect of the Stoics. He says that they lived frugally, in no respect given 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 Arimathæa, and Paul. See Sadducees.

Morrish Bible Dictionary [12]

This name was given to a religious school among the Jews; it is supposed to have been derived from the Hebrew word parash, signifying 'to separate'; it was given to them by others, their chosen name being chasidim, 'pious ones.' Josephus speaks of them as early as the reign of Jonathan (B.C. 161-144). They prided themselves on their superior sanctity of life, devotion to God, and their study of the law. The Pharisee in the parable thanked God that he was 'not as other men.'   Luke 18:11 . Paul, when before Agrippa, spoke of them as 'the most straitest sect.' The Pharisees included all classes of men, rich and poor: they were numerous, and at times had great influence. In the council before which Paul was arraigned they were well represented.  Acts 23:6-9 . They were the great advocates of tradition, and were punctilious in paying tithes. In many respects the ritualists of modern days resemble them.

The Lord severely rebuked all their pretensions, and laid bare their wickedness as well as their hypocrisy. It may have been that because of the great laxity of the Jews generally, some at first devoutly sought for greater sanctity. Others, not sincere, may have joined themselves to the sect, and it thus degenerated from its original design, until its moral state became such as was exposed and denounced by the Lord. The very name has become a synonym for bigotry and formalism. Probably such men as Gamaliel, Nicodemus, and Saul were men of a different stamp, though all needed the regenerating power of grace to give them what they professed to seek.

Easton's Bible Dictionary [13]

 John 7:48 Matthew 9:14 23:15 Luke 11:39 18:12 Acts 23:6-8 26:4,5

There was much that was sound in their creed, yet their system of religion was a form and nothing more. Theirs was a very lax morality ( Matthew 5:20;  15:4,8;  23:3,14,23,25;  John 8:7 ). On the first notice of them in the New Testament ( Matthew 3:7 ), they are ranked by our Lord with the Sadducees as a "generation of vipers." They were noted for their self-righteousness and their pride ( Matthew 9:11;  Luke 7:39;  18:11,12 ). They were frequently rebuked by our Lord ( Matthew 12:39;  16:1-4 ).

From the very beginning of his ministry the Pharisees showed themselves bitter and persistent enemies of our Lord. They could not bear his doctrines, and they sought by every means to destroy his influence among the people.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [14]

far´i - sēz ( פּרוּשׁים , perūshı̄m  ; Φαρισαῖοι , Pharisaı́oi ):

1. Name and General Character

2. Authorities - J osephus - N ew Testament - T almud

I. History Of The Sect

1. Associated at First with Hasmoneans, but Later Abandon Them

2. Change of Name

3. Later Fortunes of the Sect

4. In New Testament Times

5. In Post-apostolic Times

II. Doctrines Of The Pharisees

1. Josephus's Statements Colored by Greek Ideas

2. Conditional Reincarnation

3. New Testament Presentation of Pharisaic Doctrines - A ngels and Spirits - R esurrection

4. Traditions Added to the Law

5. Traditional Interpretations of the Law by Pharisees (Sabbath, etc.)

6. Close Students of the Text of Scripture

(1) Messianic Hopes

(2) Almsgiving

III. Organization Of The Pharisaic Party

The Chabherim - P harisaic Brotherhoods

IV. Character Of The Pharisees

1. Pharisees and People of the Land

2. Arrogance toward Other Jews

3. Regulations for the Chabher

4. The New Testament Account

(1) Their Scrupulosity

(2) Their Hypocrisy

5. Talmudic Classification of the Pharisees

V. Our Lord 'S Relation To The Pharisees

1. Pharisaic Attempts to Gain Christ Over

2. Reasons for Pharisaic Hatred of Christ

3. our Lord's Denunciation of the Pharisees


1. Name and General Character:

A prominent sect of the Jews. The earliest notice of them in Josephus occurs in connection with Jonathan, the high priest. Immediately after the account of the embassy to the Lacedaemonians, there is subjoined (Josephus, Ant. , Xiii , v, 9) an account of the Pharisees, Sadducees and Essenes, therefore implying that then and in this connection they had been prominent, although no notice of any of these parties is to be found that confirms that view. Later (XIII, x, 5), the Pharisees are represented as envious of the success of John Hyrcanus; Eleazar, one of them, insults him at his own table. From the fact that earlier in the history the Assideans occupy a similar place to that occupied later by the Pharisees, it may be deduced that the two parties are in a measure one. See Hasidaeans; Asmoneans . It would seem that not only the Pharisees, but also the Essenes, were derived from the Assideans or ḥăṣı̄dhı̄m .

2. Authorities - J osephus - N ew Testament - T almud:

In considering the characteristics and doctrines of the Pharisees we are in some difficulty from the nature of our authorities. The writers of the New Testament assume generally that the character and tenets of the Pharisees are well known to their readers, and only lay stress on the points in which they were in antagonism to our Lord and His followers. The evidence of Josephus, a contemporary and himself a Pharisee, is lessened in value by the fact that he modified his accounts of his people to suit the taste of his Roman masters. The Pharisees, with him, are a philosophic sect, and not an active political party. Their Messianic hopes are not so much as mentioned. Although the Talmud was written, both Mishna and Gemara, by the descendants of the Pharisees, the fact that the Gemara, from which most of our information is derived, is so late renders the evidence deduced from Talmudic statements of little value. Even the Mishna, which came into being only a century after the fall of the Jewish state, shows traces of exaggeration and modification of facts. Still, taking these deficiencies into consideration, we may make a fairly consistent picture of the sect. The name means "separatists," from פּרשׁ , pārash , "to separate" - those who carefully kept themselves from any legal contamination, distinguishing themselves by their care in such matters from the common people, the ‛am - 'ārec , who had fewer scruples. Like the Puritans in England during the 17th century, and the Presbyterians in Scotland during the same period, the Pharisees, although primarily a religious party, became ere long energetically political. They were a closely organized society, all the members of which called each other ḥăbhērı̄m , "neighbors"; this added to the power they had through their influence with the people.

I. History of the Sect.

The Assideans ( ḥăṣı̄dhı̄m ) were at first the most active supporters of Judas Maccabeus in his struggle for religious freedom. A portion of them rather than fight retired to the desert to escape the tyranny of Epiphanes (  1 Maccabees 2:27 f). The followers of these in later days became the Essenes. When Judas Maccabeus cleansed the temple and rededicated it with many sacrifices, it is not expressly said, either in the Books of Maccabees or by Josephus, that he acted as high priest, but the probability is that he did so. This would be a shock to the Assidean purists, as Judas, though a priest, was not a Zadokite; but his actions would be tolerated at that time on account of the imminent necessity for the work of reconsecration and the eminent services of Judas himself and his family.

1. Associated at First with Hasmoneans, but Later Abandon Them:

When Bacchides appeared against Jerusalem with Alcimus in his camp, this feeling against Judas took shape in receiving the treacherous Alcimus into Jerusalem and acknowledging him as high priest, a line of action which soon showed that it was fraught with disaster, as Alcimus murdered many of the people. They had to betake themselves anew to Judas, but this desertion was the beginning of a separating gulf which deepened when he made a treaty with the idolatrous Romans. As is not infrequently the case with religious zealots, their valor was associated with a mystic fanaticism. The very idea of alliance with heathen powers was hateful to them, so when Judas began to treat with Rome they deserted him, and he sustained the crushing defeat of Eleasa. Believing themselves the saints of God and therefore His peculiar treasure, they regarded any association with the heathen as faithlessness to Yahweh. Their attitude was much that of the Fifth Monarchy men in the time of Cromwell, still more that of the Cameronians in Scotland at the Revolution of 1688 who, because William of Orange was not a "covenanted" king, would have none of him. As the later Hasmoneans became more involved in worldly politics, they became more and more alienated from the strict Assideans, yet the successors of Judas Maccabeus retained their connection with the party in a lukewarm fashion, while the Sadducean sect was gaining in influence.

About this time the change of name seems to have been effected. They began to be called Pharisees, perūshı̄m , instead of ḥăṣı̄dhı̄m - "separatists" instead of saints. A parallel instance is to be found in the religious history of England.

2. Change of Name:

The Puritans of the 17th century became in the 19th "Non-conformists." The earliest instance of the Pharisees' intervening in history is that referred to in Josephus ( Ant. , Xiii , x, 5), where Eleazar, a Pharisee, demanded that John Hyrcanus should lay down the high-priesthood because his mother had been a captive, thus insinuating that he - H yrcanus - was no true son of Aaron, but the bastard of some nameless heathen to whom his mother had surrendered herself. This unforgivable insult to himself and to the memory of his mother led Hyrcanus to break with the Pharisaic party definitely. He seems to have left them severely alone.

3. Later Fortunes of the Sect:

The sons of Hyrcanus, especially Alexander Janneus, expressed their hostility in a more active way. Alexander crucified as many as 800 of the Pharisaic party, a proceeding that seems to intimate overt acts of hostility on their part which prompted this action. His whole policy was the aggrandizement of the Jewish state, but his ambition was greater than his military abilities. His repeated failures and defeats confirmed the Pharisees in their opposition to him on religious grounds. He scandalized them by calling himself king, although not of the Davidic line, and further still by adopting the heathen name "Alexander," and having it stamped in Greek characters on his coins. Although a high priest was forbidden to marry a widow, he married the widow of his brother. Still further, he incurred their opposition by abandoning the Pharisaic tradition as to the way in which the libation water was poured out. They retaliated by rousing his people against him and conspiring with the Syrian king. On his deathbed he advised his wife, Alexandra Salome, who succeeded him on the throne, to make peace with the Pharisees. This she did by throwing herself entirely into their hands. On her death a struggle for the possession of the throne and the high-priesthood began between her two sons, John Hyrcanus 2 and Aristobulus II. The latter, the more able and energetic, had the support of the Sadducees; the former, the elder of the two brothers, had that of the Pharisees. In the first phase of the conflict, Hyrcanus was defeated and compelled to make a disadvantageous peace with his brother, but, urged by Antipater, the Idumean, he called in Aretas, who inclined the balance at once to the side of Hyrcanus. The Romans were appealed to and they also, moved partly by the astuteness of Antipater, favored Hyrcanus. All this resulted ultimately in the supremacy of the Herodians, who through their subservience to Rome became inimical to the Pharisees and rivals of the Sadducees.

4. In New Testament Times:

When the New Testament records open, the Pharisees, who have supreme influence among the people, are also strong, though not predominant, in the Sanhedrin. The Herodians and Sadducees, the one by their alliance with the Rom authorities, and the other by their inherited skill in political intrigue, held the reins of government. If we might believe the Talmudic representation, the Pharisees were in the immense majority in the Sanhedrin; the nāsı̄' , or president, and the 'abh - bēth - dı̄n , or vice-president, both were Pharisees. This, however, is to be put to the credit of Talmudic imagination, the relation of which to facts is of the most distant kind.

Recently Buchler ( Das grosse Synedrion in Jerusalem ) has attempted to harmonize these Talmudic fables with the aspect of things appearing in the New Testament and Josephus. He assumes that there were two Sanhedrins, one civil, having to do with matters of government, in which the Sadducees were overwhelmingly predominant, and the other scholastic, in which the Pharisees were equally predominant - the one the Senate of the nation, like the Senate of the United States, the other the Senate of a university, let us say, of Jerusalem. Although followed by Rabbi Lauterbach in the Jewish Encyclopedia , this attempt cannot be regarded as successful. There is no evidence for this dual Sanhedrin either in the New Testament or Josephus, on the one hand, or in the Talmud on the other.

Outside the Sanhedrin the Pharisees are ubiquitous, in Jerusalem, in Galilee, in Peraea and in the Decapolis, always coming in contact with Jesus. The attempts made by certain recent Jewish writers to exonerate them from the guilt of the condemnation of our Lord has no foundation; it is contradicted by the New Testament records, and the attitude of the Talmud to Jesus.

The Pharisees appear in the Book of Acts to be in a latent way favorers of the apostles as against the high-priestly party. The personal influence of Gamaliel, which seems commanding, was exercised in their favor. The anti-Christian zeal of Saul the Tarsian, though a Pharisee, may have been to some extent the result of the personal feelings which led him to perpetuate the relations of the earlier period when the two sects were united in common antagonism to the teaching of Christ. He, a Pharisee, offered himself to be employed by the Sadducean high priest ( Acts 9:1 ,  Acts 9:2 ) to carry on the work of persecution in Damascus. In this action Saul appears to have been in opposition to a large section of the Pharisaic party. The bitter disputes which he and the other younger Pharisees had carried on with Stephen had possibly influenced him.

5. In Post-Apostolic Times:

When Paul, the Christian apostle, was brought before the Sanhedrin at Jerusalem, the Pharisaic party were numerous in the Council, if they did not even form the majority, and they readily became his defenders against the Sadducees.

From Josephus we learn that with the outbreak of the war with the Romans the Pharisees were thrust into the background by the more fanatical Zealots, Simon ben Gioras and John of Gischala ( Bj , V, i). The truth behind the Talmudic statements that Gamaliel removed the Sanhedrin to Jabneh and that Johanan ben Zakkai successfully entreated Vespasian to spare the scholars of that city is that the Pharisees in considerable numbers made peace with the Romans. In the Mishna we have the evidence of their later labors when the Sanhedrin was removed from Jabneh, ultimately to Tiberias in Galilee. There under the guidance of Jehuda ha - ḳadhosh ("the Holy") the Mishna was reduced to writing. It may thus be said that Judaism became Pharisaism, and the history of the Jews became that of the Pharisees. In this later period the opposition to Christianity sprang up anew and became embittered, as may be seen in the Talmudic fables concerning Jesus.

II. Doctrines of the Pharisees.

1. Josephus' Statements Colored by Greek Ideas:

The account given of the doctrines of the Pharisees by Josephus is clearly influenced by his desire to parallel the Jewish sects with the Greek philosophical schools. He directs especial attention to the Pharisaic opinion as to fate and free will, since on this point the Stoic and Epicurean sects differed very emphatically. He regards the Pharisaic position as mid-way between that of the Sadducees, who denied fate altogether and made human freedom absolute, and that of the Essenes that "all things are left in the hand of God." He says "The Pharisees ascribe all things to fate and God, yet allow that to do what is right or the contrary is principally in man's own power, although fate cooperates in every action." It is to be noted that Josephus, in giving this statement of views, identifies "fate" with "God," a process that is more plausible in connection with the Latin fatum , "something decreed," than in relation to the impersonal moı́ra , or heimarménē , of the Greeks. As Josephus wrote in Greek and used only the second of these terms, he had no philological inducement to make the identification; the reason must have been the matter of fact. In other words, he shows that the Pharisees believed in a personal God whose will was providence.

2. Conditional Reincarnation:

In connection with this was their doctrine of a future life of rewards and punishments. The phrase which Josephus uses is a peculiar one: "They think that every soul is immortal; only the souls of good men will pass into another body, but the souls of the evil shall suffer everlasting punishment" ( aidı́ā timōrı́ā kolázesthai ). From this it has been deduced that the Pharisees held the transmigration of souls. In our opinion this is a mistake. We believe that really it is an attempt of Josephus to state the doctrine of the resurrection of the body in a way that would not shock Hellenic ideas. The Greek contempt for the body made the idea of the resurrection abhorrent, and in this, as in most philosophical matters, the Romans followed the Greeks. It would seem that Josephus regarded the Pharisees as maintaining that this resurrection applied only to the righteous. Still even this restriction, though certainly the natural interpretation, is not absolutely necessary. This is confirmed by the corresponding section in the Antiquities (XVIII, i, 3): "They also believe ... that under the earth there will be rewards or punishments, according as they have lived virtuously or viciously in this life, and the latter are to be detained in an everlasting prison, but that the former shall have power to revive and live again." Josephus also declares the Pharisees to be very attentive students of the law of God: "they interpret the law with careful exactitude."

3. New Testament Presentation of Pharisaic Doctrines - A ngels And

Spirits - R esurrection:

Nothing in the Gospels or the Acts at all militates against any part of this representation, but there is much to fill it out. They believed in angels and spirits ( Acts 23:8 ). From the connection it is probable that the present activity of such beings was the question in the mind of the writer. In that same sentence belief in the resurrection is ascribed to the Pharisees.

4. Traditions Added to the Law:

Another point is that to the bare letter of the Law they added traditions. While the existence of these traditions is referred to in Gospels, too little is said to enable us to grasp their nature and extent ( Matthew 15:2 ff;   Matthew 16:5 ff; Mk 7:1-23). The evangelists only recorded these traditional glosses when they conflicted with the teaching of Christ and were therefore denounced by Him. We find them exemplified in the Mishna. The Pharisaic theory of tradition was that these additions to the written law and interpretations of it had been given by Moses to the elders and by them had been transmitted orally down through the ages. The classical passage in the Mishna is to be found in Pirḳe' Ābhōth  : "Moses received the (oral) Law from Sinai and delivered it to Joshua and Joshua to the elders, and the elders to the prophets and the prophets to the men of the great synagogue." Additions to these traditions were made by prophets by direct inspiration, or by interpretation of the words of the written Law. All this mass, as related above, was reduced to writing by Jehuda ha - Ḳādhōsh in Tiberias, probably about the end of the 2nd century AD. Jehuda was born, it is said, 135 AD, and died somewhere about 220 AD.

The related doctrines of the immortality of the soul, the resurrection of the body, and the final judgment with its consequent eternal rewards and punishments formed a portion and a valuable portion of this tradition.

5. Traditional Interpretations of the Law by Pharisees (Sabbath, Etc.):

Less valuable, at times burdensome and hurtful, were the minute refinements they introduced into the Law. Sometimes the ingenuity of the Pharisaic doctors was directed to lighten the burden of the precept as in regard to the Sabbath. Thus a person was permitted to go much farther than a Sabbath day's journey if at some time previous he had deposited, within the legal Sabbath day's journey of the place he wished to reach, bread and water; this point was now to be regarded as the limit of his house, and consequently from this all distances were to be ceremonially reckoned ( Jewish Encyclopedia , under the word "Erub"): The great defect of Pharisaism was that it made sin so purely external. An act was right or wrong according as some external condition was present or absent; thus there was a difference in bestowing alms on the Sabbath whether the beggar put his hand within the door of the donor or the donor stretched his hand beyond his own threshold, as may be seen in the first Mishna in the Tractate Shabbāth . A man did not break the Sabbath rest of his ass, though he rode on it, and hence did not break the Sabbath law, but if he carried a switch with which to expedite the pace of the beast he was guilty, because he had laid a burden upon it.

6. Close Students of the Text of Scripture:

Along with these traditions and traditional interpretations, the Pharisees were close students of the sacred text. On the turn of a sentence they suspended many decisions. So much so, that it is said of them later the Text of that they suspended mountains from hairs. This is especially the case with regard to the Sabbath law with its burdensome minutiae. At the same time there was care as to the actual wording of the text of the Law; this has a bearing on textual criticism, even to the present day. A specimen of Pharisaic exegesis which Paul turns against their followers as an argumentum ad hominem may be seen in   Galatians 3:16 : "He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ."

(1) Messianic Hopes.

It is also to be said for them, that they maintained the Messianic hopes of the nation when their rivals were ready to sacrifice everything to the Romans, in order to gain greater political influence for themselves. Their imagination ran riot in the pictures they drew of these future times, but still they aided the faith of the people who were thus in a position to listen to the claims of Christ. They were led by Rabbi Aqiba in the reign of Hadrian to accept Bar-Cochba about a century after they had rejected Jesus. They were fanatical in their obedience to the Law as they understood it, and died under untold tortures rather than transgress.

(2) Almsgiving.

They elevated almsgiving into an equivalent for righteousness. This gave poverty a very different place from what it had in Greece or among the Romans. Learning was honored, although its possessors might be very poor. The story of the early life of Hillel brings this out. He is represented as being so poor as to be unable sometimes to pay the small daily fee which admitted pupils to the rabbinic school, and when this happened, in his eagerness for the Law, he is reported to have listened on the roof to the words of the teachers. This is probably not historically true, but it exhibits the Pharisaic ideal.

III. Organization of the Pharisaic Party.

We have no distinct account of this organization, either in the Gospels, in Josephus, or in the Talmud. But the close relationship which the members of the sect sustained to each other, their habit of united action as exhibited in the narratives of the New Testament and of Josephus are thus most naturally explained. The Talmudic account of the ḥăbhē̄rı̄m affords confirmation of this. These were persons who primarily associated for the study of the Law and for the better observance of its precepts. No one was admitted to these ḥăbhūrōth without taking an oath of fidelity to the society and a promise of strict observance of Levitical precepts.

The Chabherim - P harisaic Brotherhoods:

One of the elements of their promise has to be noted. The ḥābhēr promised not to pay ma‛ăsrōth , "tithe," or terūmāh , "heave offering," to a priest who was not a ḥābhēr . They were only permitted to take this oath when their associates in the brotherhood certified to their character. Even then the candidate had to pass through a period of probation of 30 days, according to the "house of Hillel," of a year, according to the "house of Shammai." This latter element, being quite more Talmudico , may be regarded as doubtful. Association with any not belonging to the Pharisaic society was put under numerous restrictions. It is at least not improbable that when the lawyer in   Luke 10:29 demanded "Who is my neighbor?" he was minded to restrict the instances of the command in   Leviticus 19:18 to those who were, like himself, Pharisees. A society which thus had brotherhoods all over Palestine and was separated from the rest of the community would naturally wield formidable power when their claims were supported by the esteem of the people at large. It is to be observed that to be a ḥābhēr was a purely personal thing, not heritable like priesthood, and women as well as men might be members. In this the Pharisees were like the Christians. In another matter also there was a resemblance between them and the followers of Jesus; they, unlike the Sadducees, were eager to make proselytes. "Ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte" ( Matthew 23:15 ). Many members of Roman society, especially women, were proselytes, as, for instance, Poppea Sabina.

IV. Character of the Pharisees.

1. Pharisees and People of the Land:

Because the ideal of the Pharisees was high, and because they reverenced learning and character above wealth and civil rank they had a tendency to despise those who did not agree with them. We see traces of this in the Gospels; thus  John 7:49 : "This multitude that knoweth not the law are accursed." The distinction between the Pharisees, the Puritans and the ‛am - 'ārec , "the people of the land," began with the distinction that had to be kept between the Jews and the Gentiles who had entered the land as colonists or intruders. These would, during the Babylonian captivity, almost certainly speak Western Aramaic, and would certainly be heathen and indulge in heathen practices. They were "the people of the land" whom the returning exiles found in possession of Judea.

2. Arrogance Toward Other Jews:

Mingled with them were the few Jews that had neither been killed nor deported by the Babylonians, nor carried down into Egypt by Johanan, the son of Kareah. As they had conformed in a large measure to the habits of their heathen neighbors and intermarried with them, the stricter Jews, as Ezra and Nehemiah, regarded them as under the same condemnation as the heathen, and shrank from association with them. During the time of our Lord's life on earth the name was practically restricted to the ignorant Jews whose conformity to the law was on a broader scale than that of the Pharisees. Some have, however, dated the invention of the name later in the days of the Maccabean struggle, when the ceremonial precepts of the Law could with difficulty be observed. Those who were less careful of these were regarded as ‛am - 'ārec .

3. Regulations for the Chabher:

The distinction as exhibited in the Talmud shows an arrogance on the part of the Pharisaic ḥābhēr that must have been galling to those who, though Jews as much as the Pharisees, were not Puritans like them. A ḥābhēr , that is a Pharisee, might not eat at the table of a man whose wife was of the ‛am - 'ārec , even though her husband might be a Pharisee. If he would be a full ḥābhēr , a Pharisee must not sell to any of the ‛am - 'ārec anything that might readily be made unclean. If a woman of the ‛am - 'ārec was left alone in a room, all that she could touch without moving from her place was unclean. We must, however, bear in mind that the evidence for this is Talmudic, and therefore of but limited historical value.

4. The New Testament Account;

(1) Their Scrupulosity.

We find traces of this scrupulosity in the Gospels. The special way in which the ceremonial sanctity of the Pharisees exhibited itself was in tithing, hence the reference to their tithing "mint and anise and cummin" ( Matthew 23:23 ). In the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican, one of the things that the Pharisee plumes himself on is that he gives tithes of all he possesses ( Luke 18:12 ). He is an example of the Pharisaic arrogance of those "who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and set all others at nought." Their claiming the first seats in feasts and synagogues ( Matthew 23:6 ) was an evidence of the same spirit.

(2) Their Hypocrisy.

Closely akin to this is the hypocrisy of which the Pharisees were accused by our Lord. When we call them "hypocrites," we must go back to the primary meaning of the word. They were essentially "actors," poseurs . Good men, whose character and spiritual force have impressed themselves on their generation, have often peculiarities of manner and tone which are easily imitated. The very respect in which they are held by their disciples leads those who respect them to adopt unconsciously their mannerisms of voice and deportment. A later generation unconsciously imitates, "acts the part." In a time when religion is persecuted, as in the days of Antiochus Epiphanes, or despised as it was in the Hellenizing times which preceded and succeeded, it would be the duty of religious men not to hide their convictions. The tendency to carry on this public manifestation of religious acts after it had ceased to be protest would be necessarily great. The fact that they gained credit by praying at street corners when the hour of prayer came, and would have lost credit with the people had they not done so, was not recognized by them as lessening the moral worth of the action. Those who, having lived in the period of persecution and contempt, survived in that when religion was held in respect would maintain their earlier practice without any arriere-pensee . The succeeding generation, in continuing the practice, consciously "acted." They were poseurs . Their hypocrisy was none the less real that it was reached by unconscious stages. Hypocrisy was a new sin, a sin only possible in a spiritual religion, a religion in which morality and worship were closely related. Heathenism, which lay in sacrifices and ceremonies by which the gods could be bribed, or cajoled into favors, had a purely casual connection with morality; its worship was entirely a thing of externals, of acting, "posing." Consequently, a man did not by the most careful attention to the ceremonies of religion produce any presumption in favor of his trustworthiness. There was thus no sinister motive to prompt to religion. The prophets had denounced the insincerity of worship, but even they did not denounce hypocrisy, i.e. religion used as a cloak to hide treachery or dishonesty. Religion had become more spiritual, the connection between morality and worship more intimate by reason of the persecution of the Seleucids.

5. Talmudic Classification of the Pharisees:

The Talmud to some extent confirms the representation of the Gospels. There were said to be seven classes of Pharisees: (1) the "shoulder" Pharisee, who wears his good deeds on his shoulders and obeys the precept of the Law, not from principle, but from expediency; (2) the "wait-a-little" Pharisee, who begs for time in order to perform a meritorious action; (3) the "bleeding" Pharisee, who in his eagerness to avoid looking on a woman shuts his eyes and so bruises himself to bleeding by stumbling against a wall; (4) the "painted" Pharisee, who advertises his holiness lest any one should touch him so that he should be defiled; (5) the "reckoning" Pharisee, who is always saying "What duty must I do to balance any unpalatable duty which I have neglected?"; (6) the "fearing" Pharisee, whose relation to God is one merely of trembling awe; (7) the Pharisee from "love." In all but the last there was an element of "acting," of hypocrisy. It is to be noted that the Talmud denounces ostentation; but unconsciously that root of the error lies in the externality of their righteousness; it commands an avoidance of ostentation which involves equal "posing."

V. Our Lord's Relationship to the Pharisees.

1. Pharisaic Attempts to Gain Christ over:

The attitude of the Pharisees to Jesus, to begin with, was, as had been their attitude to John, critical. They sent representatives to watch His doings and His sayings and report. They seem to have regarded it as possible that He might unite Himself with them, although, as we think, His affinities rather lay with the Essenes. Gradually their criticism became opposition. This opposition grew in intensity as He disregarded their interpretations of the Sabbatic law, ridiculed their refinements of the law of tithes and the distinctions they introduced into the validity of oaths, and denounced their insincere posing. At first there seems to have been an effort to cajole Him into compliance with their plans. If some of the Pharisees tempted Him to use language which would compromise Him with the people or with the Rom authorities, others invited Him to their tables, which was going far upon the part of a Pharisee toward one not a ḥābhēr . Even when He hung on the cross, the taunt with which they greeted Him may have had something of longing, lingering hope in it: "If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him" (  Matthew 27:42 King James Version). If He would only give them that sign, then they would acknowledge Him to be the Messiah.

2. Reasons for Pharisaic Hatred of Christ:

The opposition of the Pharisees to Jesus was intensified by another reason. They were the democratic party; their whole power lay in the reputation they had with the people for piety. our Lord denounced them as hypocrites; moreover He had secured a deeper popularity than theirs. At length when cajolery failed to win Him and astute questioning failed to destroy His popularity, they combined with their opponents, the Sadducees, against Him as against a common enemy.

3. Our Lord's Denunciation of the Pharisees:

On the other hand, Jesus denounced the Pharisees more than He denounced any other class of the people. This seems strange when we remember that the main body of the religious people, those who looked for the Messiah, belonged to the Pharisees, and His teaching and theirs had a strong external resemblance. It was this external resemblance, united as it was with a profound spiritual difference, which made it incumbent on Jesus to mark Himself off from them. All righteousness with them was external, it lay in meats and drinks and divers washings, in tithing of mint, anise and cummin. He placed religion on a different footing, removed it into another region. With Him it was the heart that must be right with God, not merely the external actions; not only the outside of the cup and platter was to be cleansed, but the inside first of all. It is to be noted that, as observed above, the Pharisees were less antagonistic to the apostles when their Lord had left them. The after-history of Pharisaism has justified Our Lord's condemnation.


Histories of Israel:

Ewald, V, 365 ff, English translation; Herzfeld, III, 354 ff; Jost, I, 197 ff; Gratz, V, 91 ff; Derenbourg, 75-78,117-44,452-54; Holtzmann, II, 124 ff; Renan, V, 42 ff; Stanley, III, 376 ff; Cornill, 145 ff, English translation; Schurer, II, ii, 4 ff, English translation ( Gjv 4 , II. 447 ff); Kuenen, III, 233 ff. ET.

Life and Times of Christ:

Hausrath, I, 135 ff, English translation; Edersheim, I, 310 ff; Lange, I, 302 ff, English translation; Farrar, II. 494 ff; Geikie, II, 223. ff; Keim, I, 250 ff; Thomson. Books Which Influenced our Lord , 50 ff; Weiss. I, 285 ff. English translation; de Pressense, 116 ff.

Articles in Encyclopedias, Bible Dictionaries, Lexicons, Etc.:

Ersch and Gruber, Allg. Eric (Daniel); Winer, Realworterbuch  ; Herzog, RE, edition 1 (Reuss), editions 2,3 (Sieffert); Hamburger, Realenic .; Smith's Db (Twisleton); Kitto's Cyclopaedia of Biblical Lit . (Ginsburg); Hdb (Eaton); Encyclopedia Biblica (Cowley. Prince); Schenkel, Bibel-Lexicon (Hausrath); Jew Encyclopedia (Kohler); Temple Dict. of the Bible (Christie); Hastings, Dcg (Hugh Scott, Mitchell).


Wellhausen, Montet, Geiger, Baneth, Muller, Hanne, Davaine, Herford; Weber, System der altsynagogen Palestinischen Theologie , 10 ff, 44 ff; Keil, Biblical Archaeology , II, 1680; Ryle and James, Psalms of Solomon . 44 ff; Nicolas. Doctrines religieuses des juifs , 48 ff.

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [15]

Phar´isees. The name denotes those who are separated, i.e. from ordinary persons, of course, by the correctness of their opinions and the holiness of their lives. They were a Jewish sect who had the dominant influence in the time of our Lord, to whose faults the overthrow of the state may be attributed, and who have to bear the awful burden of having crucified the Lord and giver of life.

The precise period when the Pharisees appeared as a sect, history does not supply us with the means of determining. That they, however, as well as their natural opponents, the Sadducees, existed in the priesthood of Jonathan—in the interval, that is, between 159 and 144 before Christ—is known from Josephus, who makes mention of them as well as of the sect of the Essenes. The terms he employs warrant the conviction that they were then no novelties, but well known, well defined, and two established religious parties. But from the time of Jonathan to that of Ezra (about 400 B.C.), there had taken place no great formative event such as could of itself cause so great a change in the Hebrew system as was the rise of these sects; whereas the influences to which the Israelites had been subject in the Medo-Persian dominions, and the necessarily somewhat new direction which things took on the rebuilding of the Temple and the restoration of the civil and religious polity, could hardly fail, considering the distance from Moses at which these changes happened, and the great extent to which the people had lost even the knowledge of the institutions and language of their forefathers, to lead to diversities of views, interests, and aims, whence sects would spring as a natural if not inevitable result. There is therefore, good reason to refer the origin of the Pharisees to the time of the return from the Babylonish captivity, a period which constitutes a marked epoch, as dividing the Hebraism of the older and purer are from the Judaism of the later and more corrupt times. Nor, did our space allow, should we find it difficult to trace the leading features of the Pharisaic character back to those peculiar opinions and usages with which the old Israelitish type of mind had been made familiar, and at the same time corrupt, in the Persian Empire.

But as we think it more for the reader's instruction to lay before him the very words in which this sect is described, than to give a philosophical account of the rise and connection of their principles, to which of necessity our own views would impart a coloring, we shall proceed to transcribe a nearly literal translation of the most important passages in the writings of Josephus referring to the opinions and practices of this powerful sect.

'The Pharisees have delivered to the people a great many observances by succession from their fathers, which are not written in the law of Moses, and for that reason it, is that the Sadducees reject them, and say that we are to esteem those observances to be obligatory which are in the written word, but are not to observe what are derived from the tradition of our forefathers. Hence great disputes. The Sadducees are able to persuade none but the rich, and have not the populace obsequious to them, but the Pharisees have the multitude on their side.' 'The Pharisees are not apt to be severe in punishments' (Josephus, Antiq. xiii. 10. 5 and 6; Epiphan. Hœr. 15).

'The Pharisees live meanly and despise delicacies in diet; and they follow the conduct of reason, and what that prescribes to them as good they do. They also pay respect to such as are in years; nor are they so bold as to contradict them in anything which they have introduced; and when they determine that all things are done by fate, they do not take away from men the freedom of acting as they think fit since their notion is that it hath pleased God to make a constitution of things whereby what He wills is done, but so that the will of man can act virtuously or viciously. They also believe that souls have an immortal vigor in them, and that under the earth there will be rewards or punishments, according as men have lived virtuously or viciously in this life. The latter are to be detained in an everlasting prison; but the former shall have power to revive and live again: on account of which doctrine they are able greatly to persuade the body of the people; and whatsoever is done about divine worship, prayers, and sacrifices, is performed according to their directions, insomuch that the cities gave great attestations to them on account of their entire virtuous conduct' (Josephus, Antiq. xviii. 1. 3).

'The Pharisees are those who are esteemed most skillful in the exact interpretation of the laws. They ascribe all to Fate (or Providence) and to God, and yet allow that to act what is right, or the contrary, is for the most part in the power of man. They say that all souls are incorruptible, but that the souls of good men only are removed into other bodies, and that the souls of bad men are subject to eternal punishment. Moreover, the Pharisees are friendly to one another, and are for the exercise of concord and regard for the public' (Josephus, De. Bell. Jud. ii. 8.14).

'The Pharisees are a sect of Jews which appear to be more pious than others, and to expound the laws more accurately. These Pharisees artfully insinuated themselves into her (Queen Alexandra's) favor by little and little, and became the real administrators of public affairs; they banished and restored whom they pleased; they bound and loosed at their pleasure; they had the enjoyment of the royal authority, while the expenses and the difficulties of it belonged to Alexandra. She was a sagacious woman in the management of great affairs, and became not only very powerful at home, but terrible also to foreign potentates; while she governed other people, the Pharisees governed her. She was so superstitious as to comply with their desires, and accordingly they slew whom they pleased' (Josephus, De. Bell. Jud. i. 5. 2-3).

'There was a certain sect that were Jews, who valued themselves highly upon the exact skill they had in the law of their fathers, and made men believe they were highly favored by God, by whom this set of women were inveigled. These are those that are called the sect of the Pharisees, who were able to make great opposition to kings; a cunning sect they were, and soon elevated to a pitch of open fighting and doing mischief. Accordingly, when all the people of the Jews gave assurance of their good will to Caesar and to the king's government, these men did not swear, being about 6000; and when the king imposed a fine upon them, Phreroras' wife paid it. In order to requite this kindness, since they were believed to have a foreknowledge of things to come by divine inspiration, they foretold how God had decreed that Herod's government should cease, and that the kingdom should come to her and Phreroras, and to their children; so the king Herod slew such of the Pharisees as were principally accused, and all who had consented to what the Pharisees had foretold' (Josephus, Antiq. xvii 2. 4).

'The Pharisees say that some actions, but not all, are the work of fate; that some of them are in our own power, and that they are liable to fate, but are not caused by fate' (Josephus, Antiq. xiii. 5. 9).

'The sect of the Pharisees are supposed to excel others in the accurate knowledge of the laws of their country' (Josephus, Vita, §38).

'The Pharisees have so great a power over the multitude that when they say anything against the king or against the high-priest, they are generally believed' (Josephus, Antiq. 13:10. 5).

'The bodies of all men are mortal, and are created out of corruptible matter, but the soul is ever immortal, and is a portion of the divinity that inhabits our bodies' (De Bell. Jud. iii. 8. 5).

'Being now nineteen years old, began to conduct myself according to the rule of the sect of the Pharisees, which is of kin to the sect of Stoics, as the Greeks call them' (Josephus, Vita §2).

There is another source of our knowledge of the Pharisees—the books of the New Testament. The light in which they here appear varies, of course, with the circumstances to which its origin is due. The reader has just had before him the account of a friend and an adherent, an account which, therefore, we may believe, is conceived and set forth in the most favorable manner. The Gospels present the character of the Pharisees in a darker hue, inasmuch as here a higher standard is brought into use, a loftier morality is the judge, to pass on to the views given in the New Testament. The high repute in which the Pharisees were held, as expositors of the national laws, whether civil or religious, may be seen in;; the casuistry which they employed in expounding the Scriptures, in;;; , sq.; their excessive zeal in proselytism,; yet their concealment of light and hindrance of progress,; their inordinate regard for externals, and oppressive but self-sparing rule, , sq., 23:25; their affectation of grandeur and distinction, , sq.; their shocking hypocrisy,; , sq.; their standing on inconsiderable points, while they neglected such as were of consequence, preferring ceremonial rites to justice and charity,;;; , sq.;; the display which they affected even in works of religion, , sq.; 23:5; their pride and self-gratulation as assuredly, and before others, religious men, , sq.; their regard to tradition,;; they formed schools which had masters and disciples,;; agreeably with their general doctrines, they regarded the act rather than the motive,; , sq.; and were given to fasts, prayers, washing, paying of tithes, alms, etc.,;;; , sq.; 18:12; exhibiting themselves to the people, in order to gain their favor, as self-denying, holy men, zealous for God and the law, a kind of Jewish stoics,;;;;;; while in reality they were fond of the pleasures of sense, and were men of lax morals,;;;;;;; . At an early period they determined in the Sanhedrim to withstand and destroy Jesus, instigated doubtless by the boldness with which He taught the necessity of personal righteousness and pure worship .

In regard to the opinions of the Pharisees, the New Testament affords only fragments of information, which are, however, in accordance with the fuller particulars furnished by Josephus. From; , we learn that they believed in the existence of higher created beings than man, doubtless the good and bad spirits of the Chaldee philosophy. The same places also instruct us that they held a resurrection of the dead (comp. , sq.).

It thus appears that the Pharisees were in general a powerful religious party, or rather the predominant influence in the Jewish state, who aspired to the control of the civil and religious institutions, affected popularity among the people, exerted influence in the councils of kings, queens, and people of rank; were the recognized teachers and guides of the national mind, proud of their orthodoxy, pluming themselves on their superior sanctity, practising austerities outwardly, but inwardly indulging their passions, and descending to unworthy and shameful acts; and withal of narrow spirit, contracted views, seeking rather their own aggrandizement than the public good, of which they used the name merely as a pretext and a cover.

We are not to suppose, however, that there were no individuals in the body free from its prevailing vices. There did not fail to be upright and pure-minded men, who united inward piety to outward correctness of conduct, and were indeed superior to the principles of their sect; such was Nicodemus such also Gamaliel may have been . Of men of this kind many were led to embrace the Gospel .

In general, however, their power was all directed against Jesus and His work. With what force they must have acted appears obvious from the preceding remarks. Nor is the reader to imagine that they were merely a few learned men, congregated together in the capital, engaged in learned pursuits or religious practices, and in consequence leaving our Lord at liberty to pursue His ordinary duties up and down the land. The capital was doubtless their head-quarters, but they pervaded the entire country in considerable numbers, and were therefore present in all parts to withstand the publication of the Gospel of that kingdom every feature of which they hated and as they constituted a large portion of the Sanhedrim (; , sq.), and had an almost unlimited influence with the people, great indeed was the power which they wielded in their conflict with the infant church. Perhaps there never was an instance in any social condition in which the elements of power supplied by religion, politics, high life, and humble condition were more thoroughly or more densely combined in order to oppose and destroy the young power of new ideas and lofty aims. The victory, however, was for man, because it was also of God. Darkness, indeed, prevailed for three days, covering the land, and casting a thick shadow over the world. But the sun of righteousness arose, and still shines.

Pharisaism, how compact soever might be its appearance outwardly, and as against a common enemy, had its own internal dissensions. The question of more or less of moderate or extreme views, of what on one side would be called temporizing and on the other consistency, agitated this school as it has agitated most others. In the age of our Lord there were two leading parties, that of Hillel and that of Schammai, the former representing a moderate Pharisaism, the latter 'the straitest sect,' to which Paul had probably belonged.

The Nuttall Encyclopedia [16]

E . Separatists), a sect of the Jews who adopted or received this name because of the attitude of isolation from the rest of the nation which they were compelled to assume at the time of their origin. This was some time between the years 165 and 105 B.C., on their discovery that the later Maccabæan chiefs were aiming at more than religious liberty, and in their own interests contemplating the erection of a worldly kingdom that would be the death of the theocratic, which it was the purpose of Providence they should establish; this was the separate ground which they at first assumed alone, but they in the end carried the great body of the nation along with them. They were scrupulously exact in their interpretation and observance of the Jewish law as the rule to regulate the life of the Jewish community in every department, and were the representatives of that legal tendency which gave character to the development of Judaism proper during the period which elapsed between the date of the Captivity and the advent of Christianity. The law they observed, however, was not the written law as it stood, but that law as expounded by the oral law of the Scribes, as the sole key to its interpretation, so that their attitude to the Law of Moses was pretty much the same as that of the Roman Catholics and the High Churchmen in relation to the Scriptures generally, and they were thus at length the representatives of clericalism as well as legalism in the Jewish Church, and in doing so they took their ground upon a principle which is the distinctive article of orthodox Judaism in the matter to the present day. In the days of Christ they stood in marked opposition to the Sadducees ( q. v .) both in their dogmatic views and their political principles. As against them, on the dogmatic side, they believed in a spiritual world and in an established moral order, and on the political their rule was to abstain from politics, except in so far as they might injuriously affect the life and interests of the nation; but at that time they had degenerated into mere formalists, whose religion was a conspicuous hypocrisy, and it was on this account and their pretensions to superior sanctity that they incurred the indignation and exposed themselves to the condemnation of Christ.