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First Reference: Yeshua 1:17
But there came also from Jerusalem, many scribes and Pharisees who would scoff against him before all the people, saying: “Is this the prophet of God? Behold now this wild man whose garments are made of camel’s hair, being girded about his loins with a leather girdle only, who feeds himself upon the locusts and wild honey.
See: Essenes, Sadducees, Sanhedrin
Summary: In the first century CE, the Pharisees represented a Jewish religious sect that stressed the importance of achieving holiness through study of the Torah. They considered themselves keepers and teachers of both the written Law, as recorded in the Torah, as well as an Oral Law which consisted of interpretations and applications of the Torah, later codified in what is known as the Talmud. The ‘scribes’ — commonly referred to along with the Pharisees — were the lay teachers of the Law. Not all Pharisees were scribes, but the vast majority of the scribes were Pharisees.
Unlike the Sadducees — a more secular, pro-Hellenistic and politically involved sect whose members often arose from the wealthy Jewish aristocracy — Pharisees typically came from the middle-class. The Pharisees were devoted to the daily application and observance of Mosaic Law and Oral Torah, and their views prevailed among the common people of Israel. It was the Pharisees who maintained primary authority and direction over the religious beliefs, practices and worship of congregation members. Pharisees typically had the support of the common people, unlike the Sadducees who were associated with the elite, ruling class.
While the Sadducees held to a literal interpretation of Mosaic Law, rejecting any teaching not included in the scriptures, the Pharisees acknowledged the value of spiritual intent and flexibility in the interpretation of the Torah, which took the form and practice of Oral Law. The beliefs of the Pharisees differed greatly from those of the Sadducees. For example, the Sadducees rejected the idea of spirits, the resurrection, and the afterlife, while the Pharisees and most Jews embraced such beliefs.
The Pharisees had a wide range of reactions toward Yeshua. According to scripture, Yeshua was a rabbi, and as such, shared similar position and authority as a Pharisee (Y:6:4-5; Y:10:1-2; Y:31:1-2). Yet Yeshua strongly condemned the Pharisees for being self-righteous and hypocritical, criticizing them for the public giving of alms (Y:28:14-17), public prayer (Y:28:27-30), and public fasting (Y:13:7; Y:28:40-42).
Many of Yeshua’s beliefs and practices were informed by his ten-year apprenticeship in Qumran under John the Baptizer, founder of the Essene movement (AZC — Yeshua and Mary). Consequently, several aspects of Yeshua’s public ministry were considered radical and even heretical by the Pharisees, including those regarding gender and race equality, the non-adherence to cleanliness and dietary requirements, and breaking the Sabbath Law. Yeshua rose up against traditional interpretation and taught contrary to the Pharisees on the topics of prayer, worship, fasting, nationalism, slavery, and the nature of God. Many Pharisees considered Yeshua’s apostate views as a threat to their established priesthood, and some even plotted against Yeshua’s life. The group of scribes and Pharisees who successfully persuaded Herod to kill John the Baptizer may have been the same who sought to kill Yeshua (Y:5:37-47; Y:9:7).
While many Pharisees saw Yeshua as a dangerous defector and apostate, others came to believe he truly was a prophet of God. Not all interaction between Yeshua and the Pharisees was adversarial (Y:38:52). Scripture provides examples of Pharisees coming to the defense of the Nazarene (Y:5:17-22; Y:37:48-51; Y:44:45-46; Y:47:15-17). Simon Ben Simeon was a Pharisee from Bethany, healed by Yeshua of leprosy (Y:4:11-13; Y:5:11-34). Nicodemus was a high ranking Pharisee and leading member of the Sanhedrin (Y:27:44) who came to believe in Yeshua (Y:31:1-38). After receiving word that Yeshua had been illegally arrested and detained (Y:46:44-45), Nicodemus and fifteen other members of the Sanhedrin (who were likely Pharisees) went to the house of Caiaphas to “contend against the High Priest for Yeshua’s sake”. Caiaphas had Nicodemus imprisoned and several of the others who came to Yeshua’s defense were murdered (Y:47:15-16).
In the book of Wisdom, the Lord lays an indictment against the House of Christ which draws a correlation between the scribes and Pharisees of Yeshua’s day and churchgoers and church leaders of the present day (W:3:6-23; W:7:11-17). Later, a figure designated as the Teacher condemns modern-day churchgoers for their hypocrisy, comparing them to the Pharisees of Yeshua’s day (W:10:50-63). In the conclusion of the book of Wisdom, the author accuses leaders of the present-day house of Joseph (LDS religious movement) of having “become as the scribes and Pharisees of old, having deceived themselves because of pride; presenting themselves before the world as an arrogant and self-righteous people in whom there can be found no wrong.” (W:27:13-14)
Yeshua 44 Yeshua denounces the scribes and Pharisees during the second cleansing of the Temple.
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[...] From the beginning, John’s preaching caused an immense sensation. Fearless and resolute, John would thunder his message of redemption. John accused Israel of abandoning God through the love of money and status. He accused religious leaders of pretending to love God while secretly they sought power and prestige. John denounced the rabbis and Pharisees who argued endlessly among themselves over the meaning and intent of scriptures. He upbraided the Sadducees for hypocrisy, and placing the letter of the law above the spirit of the law. [...]
Azrael’s Commentary — John the Baptizer, para. 3
Behold, the shepherds which were appointed aforetime have become as Pharisees of old, for they love the uppermost seats of the congregation, to be seen of men.
Woe unto you Pharisees, false shepherds have you become, for with great cunning you shut up the kingdom of Heaven against the children of men; for you yourselves go not in; neither will you suffer them who are entering to go in also.
Woe unto you, hypocrites, for you encompass the world with missionaries to gather to yourselves a multitude of converts, and when you have made them, you make them twice more the children of hell than you yourselves.
Woe unto you Pharisees, hypocrites, for you gather to yourselves the tithe of my people that you may gather power and authority over the children of men, and the weightier matters of the law you have omitted: justice, mercy, and faith. These ought you to have done and not left undone.
Consider then the house of Joseph which would proclaim itself as most elect, having established both prophets and apostles which would make themselves as a barrier between God and man; yet are they just pretenders only, having in themselves no sacred knowledge, but illusions spun from lies.
Yet would they shout from the rooftops that they are the only true of everything, but in their hearts have they become as the scribes and Pharisees of old, having deceived themselves because of pride; presenting themselves before the world as an arrogant and self-righteous people in whom there can be found no wrong.