Monday, January 17, 2011

The Good Pharisees

Both the New Testament and the other Jewish literature describes various Pharisees who seem to have been sincere, honest, and godly. There were certainly those to whom Isaiah 29:13 applied, those who drew near to God with their lips, while their hearts were far from Him.

But there were also those, such as Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, who believed in Jesus and endeavored to follow Him (John 7:50, 19:39, and Mark 15:43).

In Acts 5 we find Gamaliel, the teacher of Paul, arguing for tolerance toward the Christians

On at least one occasion, some of the Pharisees warned Jesus of an attempt on His life, and others are seen showing hospitality to the Lord (Luke 13:31, 7:36, 11:37 and 14:1).

As ideally conceived, Pharisaism was a good thing. There can be no doubt that the Pharisees were the fundamentalists among the normative Judaism of the first century. Josephus wrote,

"The Pharisees are esteemed most skillful in the exact interpretation of their laws."

This may explain why, after the wars of A.D. 66-73 and A.D. 135, when other Jewish sects disappeared, the Pharisees continued, eventually formulating what is known today as Rabbinic Judaism.

(Moseley, Ron. Yeshua: A Guide to the Real Jesus and the Original Church. Hagerstown, MD: Ebed Publications., pgs 110-111)

1 comment:

  1. The Pharisees continued because the Romans needed allies after they crushed the revolt. The Pharisee Yohanan ben Zakai and his followers at Jamnieh obliged. The Romans thought it better to placate the Jews by restoring a limited autonomy. Josephus was instrumental in this move. If you look at Wars and Antiquities, the Pharisees in the latter work are much more powerful and influential than they are in the former, earlier one. You see, the Romans were looking for someone to support. Josephus describes the major religio-political blocks in ancient Judaea. The Zealots are immediately ruled out, because they are intractably hostile to Rome. The Essenes are a reclusive group of monks, a philosophial oddity, and of no weight in politics. The sadduccees are an aristocratic minority, only the Pharisees have any weight among the population at large. This of course ignores the fact that the average peasent and townsman was more likely to go to a priest or scribe for guidance and instruction. Of course, I don't want to minimise Yohanan b. Zakai's importance. He did have a wide-reaching plan for rescuing the people from the deep crisis caused by the destruction of the temple.