Complete Biblical Library Interlinear Bible CD, Greek-English Dictionary, Report Generated 12/27/2012

"The word Pharisaios refers to a member of the Pharisees, a strict, legalistic, religious party that arose after Jewish exiles returned from Babylon. They were very popular and highly respected among the masses during the time of Christ. Because of their popularity, the Sadducees usually had to submit to their decisions or else evoke the wrath of the people (Josephus Antiquities 18.1.4).

The word Pharisaios is most likely derived from the Hebrew word parash, “to separate” or “to separate oneself.” A Pharisee, then, was a “separated one” or a “separatist” (Bauer). It could refer to their separating themselves from a particular group of the Hasidim, from the Gentiles and their heathen practices, or from the elements forcing the hellenization of the Jewish people. All are true, but the most probable explanation is that the designation arose because they separated themselves from the great mass of godless Jews who were not living by their conception of the Law. The Pharisees looked upon themselves as the ones who were keeping alive the true worship of the Lord.

The Pharisees are traced back to the Hasidim, a religious group during the Second Century B.C., and were firmly established by 100 B.C. (Meyer, “Pharisaios,” Kittel, 9:16). The Hasidim strongly resisted the hellenization being forced on the Jews by Antiochus Epiphanes. In particular they were opposed to the priestly party that had submitted to Hellenistic influence (the predecessors of the Sadducees). The Hasidim, as well as the Pharisees, were more concerned with maintaining religious purity than with political matters.

The word Pharisaios is found in Josephus and the New Testament, occurring 90 times in the Gospels, 9 times in Acts, and once in the Epistles (Philippians 3:5). It is not found in classical Greek or the Septuagint. The date the word came into usage cannot be determined precisely. Josephus mentions that the Pharisees were active during the time of Jonathan and Hyrcanus I, about 150– 135 B.C. (Antiquities 13.5.9; 13.10.5).

The Pharisees were known for their strict observance of the letter of the Law, for their austere life, and for their obsession with oral tradition. The oral tradition was designed to be a hedge around the Torah to prevent possible infringements. They held that the oral law was equally as inspired and authoritative as the written Torah. They believed it was given to Moses at Sinai; eventually the oral law was written down and is known as the Mishnah. The Sadducees accepted only the written law as binding. The Pharisees also believed in the resurrection of the dead, immortality of the soul, future judgment, and the existence of supernatural beings (angels, demons, Satan). All of these were rejected by the Sadducees. Paul capitalized on these differences to his advantage when on trial (Acts 23:6-10). Furthermore, the Pharisees depended on the intervention of God rather than turning to force in order to liberate the Jews from oppression (contrary to the Zealots). They also awaited the coming of the Messiah (contrary to the Sadducees). Although there were differences among the Jewish religious parties, they united in their opposition against Jesus (Matthew 16:1; Mark 3:6).

The Pharisees were the chief opponents of Jesus. A major area of conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees was regarding the oral tradition (Matthew 15:1-20; Mark 7:8-13; Luke 11:38-42). Jesus condemned their following the tradition of men, for it was causing them to overlook the spirit of the Law and to ignore the need of inward holiness. He accused them of being like whitewashed sepulchers, “which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness” (Matthew 23:27). He denounced this outward piety by quoting Isaiah 29:13, “This people honoreth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me” (Mark 7:6).

The Pharisees likewise condemned Jesus for mingling with sinners (Matthew 9:11; Mark 2:16), for not washing before eating (Mark 7:1-5; Luke 11:37,38), and for allowing His disciples to violate the Sabbath (Mark 2:23,24). It was their self-appointed task to scrutinize any religious teacher to see whether his teachings were in line with their legalistic perception of the Law. Not all Pharisees were bad. Some, perhaps like Nicodemus, were dissatisfied with an external religion and were attracted to Jesus. They often invited Him to dinner (Luke 7:36; 11:37; 14:1), but at least one did so without the courtesy of a kiss, an anointing, or foot washing (Luke 7:44-46). This suggests that he could not fully accept Jesus. Some even warned Jesus that Herod Antipas was seeking to kill Him (Luke 13:31). A number of Pharisees became members of the early Christian community (Acts 15:5).

[Compare Mt 23:1-36]:

(v. 1) '''Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples:

(v. 2) "The teachers of the Law and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat.

(v. 3) So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.

[Notice that the Pharisees sat 'in Moses' seat' and apparently relayed to others what the Law said. What is in view then is their lifestyle which apparently did not follow what they preached]

(v. 4) They tie up heavy loads and put them on men's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.

(v. 5) Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long;

(v. 6) they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues;

(v. 7) they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them Rabbi.

(v. 8) But you are not to be called 'Rabbi,' for you have only one Master and you are all brothers.

(v. 9) And do not call anyone on earth 'father,' for you have one Father, and He is in heaven.

(v. 10) Nor are you to be called 'teacher,' for you have one Teacher, the Christ.

(v. 11) The greatest among you will be your servant.

(v. 12) For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

(v. 13) Woe to you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men's faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.

(v. 15) Woe to you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.

[Now what follows is the unbiblical teaching that the Pharisees promoted]:

(v. 16) Woe to you, blind guides! You say, 'if anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.

(v. 17) You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred?

(v. 18) You also say, 'If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gift on it, he is bound by his oath.'

(v. 19) you blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred?

(v. 20) Therefore, he who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it.

(v. 21) And he who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it.

(v. 22) And he who swears by heaven swears by God's throne and by the one who sits on it.

(v. 23) Woe to you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices - mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the Law - justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.

(v. 24) You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

(v. 25) Woe to you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.

(v. 26) Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

(v. 27) Woe to you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead man's bones and everything unclean.

(v. 28) In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

(v. 29) Woe to you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous.

(v. 30) And you say, 'If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.'

(v. 31) So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets.

(v. 32) Fill up, then, the measure of the sin of your forefathers!

(v. 33) You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?

(v. 34) Therefore I am sending you prophets and and wise men and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town.

(v. 35) And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.

(v. 36) I tell you the truth, all this will come upon this generation."