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.
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
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; 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; 37:48-51; 44:45-46; 47:15-17).
Simon Ben Simeon was a Pharisee from Bethany, healed by Yeshua of leprosy (Y:4:11-13;
5:11-34). Nicodemus was a high ranking Pharisee and leading member of the Sandhedrin
who came to believe in Yeshua (Y:27:44). 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 leaders of the present day (W:3:6-23; 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,
during the author’s final remarks, Azrael 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
Yeshua 44 Yeshua denounces the scribes and Pharisees during the second
cleansing of the Temple.
- - - - - - - - - -
[...] 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.