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The Pharisees (from the Hebrew perushim, from parash, meaning "to separate") were, depending on the time, a political party, a social movement, and a school of thought among Jews that flourished during the Second Temple Era (536 BCE–70 CE). After the destruction of the Second Temple, Pharisaic Judaism came to be known as Rabbinic Judaism, and then, simply as Judaism. The Pharisees were an ancient sect of Judaism; they existed during the time of rabbis Hillel the Elder and Shammai, and during the time of Jesus. They are the direct predecessor to what eventually became known as Rabbinic Judaism.
In contrast to other Jewish groups of the time, such as Sadducees, Pharisees held that the books of the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible, also called the written law) have always been transmitted in parallel with an oral tradition. They pointed as proof to the text of the Torah itself, where they said many words were left undefined, and many procedures mentioned without explanation or instructions; the reader is assumed to be familiar with the details from other sources. This parallel set of material was originally transmitted orally, and came to be known as "the oral law". By the year 200 much of this material was edited together into the Mishnah, the core document of rabbinic Judaism. Thus, from the Saduccee and Essene point of view, the Pharisees were the liberal party, which allowed for flexibility in the interpretation of the law.
The social standing and beliefs of the Pharisees changed over time, as political and social conditions in Judea changed; it is thus impossible to understand the Pharisees without understanding their historical context.
More specifically, the Pharisees were one of the successor groups of the Hasidim (the "pious"), an anti-Hellenic Jewish movement that formed in the time of the Seleucid king, Antiochus Epiphanes ( 175 - 163 BCE). The first mention of the Pharisees is by the Jewish-Roman historian Josephus, in a description of the four "schools of thought" (that is, social groups or movements) into which the Jews were divided in the 1st century CE. The other schools were the Essenes, revolutionaries, and the Sadducees. The Essenes were apolitical; the revolutionaries, such as the Sicarii and the Zealots, emerged specifically to resist the Roman Empire. Other sects emerged at this time, such as the Christians in Judea and the Therapeutae in Egypt. The Sadducees and Pharisees began earlier, as political factions in the Hellenistic Hasmonean period of the Second Temple era. At no time did any of these sects constitute a majority; most Jews were non-sectarian, though the majority followed Pharisee practices. Nevertheless, these sects are emblematic of the different responses of Jews to the political, economic, and cultural forces that characterized the Second Temple era.
For most of their history, Pharisees defined themselves in opposition to the Sadducees. Conflicts between the Sadducees and the Pharisees took place in the context of much broader conflicts among Jews in the Second Temple era that followed the Babylonian captivity of Judah. One conflict was class, between the wealthy and the poor. Another conflict was cultural, between those who favored hellenization and those who resisted it. A third was juridico-religious, between those who emphasized the importance of the Temple, and those who emphasized the importance of other Mosaic laws and prophetic values. This conflict practically defines the Second Temple Era, a time when the Temple had tremendous authority but questionable legitimacy, and a time when the sacred literature of the Torah and Bible were being edited and canonized. Fundamentally, Sadducees and Pharisees were divided concerning the third conflict, but at different times were influenced by the other conflicts. In general, whereas the Sadducees were conservative, aristocratic monarchists, the Pharisees were eclectic, popular, and more democratic. The Pharisaic position is exemplified by the assertion that "A learned mamzer takes precedence over an ignorant High Priest." (A mamzer is an outcast child born of a forbidden relationship, such as adultery or incest; the word is often, but incorrectly, translated as "illegitimate" or "bastard.")
The Pharisees were present in the days of Jesus. Christians have traditionally seen Jesus as an opponent of the Pharisees, accusing them of being only outwardly religious, rather than inwardly observant of the Law. Jesus was opposed to the Pharisees emphasis on observance of religious purity laws. Some modern day scholars argue that this reading is no longer tenable, and that when the New Testament is read in its historical context, Jesus's attitude towards the law was more like a liberal offshoot of Pharisee thought.
While during the 1st century and earlier, the Pharisees were faced with opposition from other Jewish groups such as the Essenes and the Sadducees, they were eventually triumphant; rabbinic Judaism as it is known today is descended from them.
The Pharisees formed a brotherhood of their own, admitting only those who, in the presence of three members, pledged themselves to observe the Levitical laws of ritual purity, to the avoidance of closer association with the 'Am ha-Aretz (the ignorant and careless boor), to the scrupulous payment of tithes and other imposts due to the priest, the Levite, and the poor, and to a conscientious regard for vows and for other people's property.
Principle of democracy
It was only after a long struggle with the Sadducees that they won their lasting triumph in the interpretation of Jewish law. The Sadducees, jealously guarding the privileges established since the days of Solomon, when Zadok, their ancestor, officiated as priest, insisted upon the literal observance of the Torah. The Pharisees, on the other hand, claimed Mosaic authority for their interpretation, at the same time asserting the principles of religious democracy and progress. With reference to Ex. xix. 6, they maintained that "God gave all the people the heritage, the kingdom, the priesthood, and the holiness" (II Macc. ii. 17, Greek).
The idea of the priestly sanctity of the whole people of Israel in many directions found its expression in the Torah as, for instance, when the precepts concerning unclean meat, intended originally for the priests only were extended to the whole people (Lev. xi.; Deut. xiv. 3-21); or when the prohibition of cutting the flesh in mourning for the dead was extended to all the people as "a holy nation" (Deut. xiv. 1-2; Lev. xix. 28; comp. Lev. xxi. 5); or when the Law itself was transferred from the sphere of the priesthood to every man in Israel (Ex. xix. 29-24; Deut. vi. 7, xi. 19; comp. xxxi. 9; Jer. ii. 8, xviii. 18).
The very institution of the synagogue for common worship and instruction was a Pharisaic declaration of the principle that the Torah is "the inheritance of the congregation of Jacob" (Deut. xxxiii. 3). In establishing schools and enjoining each father to see that his son was instructed in the Law the Pharisees made the Torah a power for the education of the Jewish people all over the world.
The same sanctity that the priests in the Temple in Jerusalem claimed for their meals, at which they gathered with the recitation of benedictions and after ablutions, the Pharisees established for their meals, which were partaken of in holy assemblies after purifications and amidst benedictions . Especially were the Sabbath and holy days made the means of sanctification,
From Temple practise were adopted the mode of slaughtering and the rules concerning "ta'aruvot" (the mingling of different kinds of food) and the "shi'urim" (the quantities constituting a prohibition of the Law). Though derived from Deut. vi. 7, the daily recital of the "Shema'," as well as the other parts of the divine service, is a Pharisaic institution, the Pharisees having established their Chavurah, or league, in each city to conduct the service.
The Temple service
In the Temple itself the Pharisees obtained a hold at an early date, when they introduced the regular daily prayers besides the sacrifice and the institution of the "Ma'amadot" (the representatives of the people during the sacrifices). Moreover, they declared that the priests were but deputies of the people. On the great Day of Atonement the high priest was told by the elders that he was but a messenger of the Sanhedrin and must officiate, therefore, in conformity with their (the Pharisees') rulings.
While the Sadducean priesthood regarded the Temple as its domain and took it to be the privilege of the high priest to offer the daily burnt offering from his own treasury, the Pharisees demanded that it be furnished from the Temple treasury, which contained the contributions of the people. Similarly, the Pharisees insisted that the meal-offering which accompanied the meat-offering should be brought to the altar, while the Sadducees claimed it for themselves.
Trivial as these differences appear, they are survivals of great issues. Thus the high priests, who, as may be learned from the words of Simon the Just (Midrash Leviticus Rabbah xxi.), claimed to see an apparition of the Shekinah when entering the Holy of Holies, kindled the incense in their censers outside and thus were enveloped in the cloud when entering, in order that God might appear in the cloud upon the mercy-seat (Lev. xvi. 2). The Pharisees, discountenancing such claims, insisted that the incense must be kindled by the high priest within the Holy of Holies (Sifra, Achare Mot, 3; Tosef., Yoma i. 8; Yoma 19b; Yer. Yoma i. 39a).
On the other hand, the Pharisees introduced rites in the Temple which originated in popular custom and were without foundation in the Law. Such was the water-procession of the people, on the night of Sukkot, from the Pool of Siloam, ending with the libation of water in the morning and the final beating of the willow-trees upon the altar at the close of the feast. The rite was a symbolic prayer for the year's rain; and while the Hasidim took a prominent part in the outbursts of popular rejoicing to which it gave rise, the Sadducean priesthood was all the more averse to it (Suk. iv. 9-v. 4; 43b, 48b; Tosef., Suk. iii.). In all these practises the Pharisees obtained the ascendency over the Sadducees, claiming to be in possession of the tradition of the fathers ("Ant." xiii. 10, § 6; 16, § 2; xviii. 1, §§ 3-4; Yoma 19b).
A party of progress
Yet the Pharisees represented also the principle of progress; they were less rigid in the execution of justice ("Ant." xiii. 10, § 6), and the day when the stern Sadducean code was abolished was made a festival (Meg. Ta'an. iv.).
While the Sadducees in adhering to the letter of the law required "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth," the Pharisees, with the exception of Eliezer ben Hyrcanus, the Shammaite, interpreted this maxim to mean due compensation with money (Mek., Mishpatim, 8). The principle of retaliation, however, was applied consistently by the Sadducees in regard to false witnesses in cases involving capital punishment; but the Pharisees were less fair. The former referred the law "Thou shalt do unto him as he had intended unto his brother" (Deut. xix. 19, Hebr.) only to a case in which the one falsely accused had been actually executed; whereas the Pharisees desired the death penalty inflicted upon the false witness for the intention to secure the death of the accused by means of false testimony (Sifre, Deut. 190; Mark i. 6; Tosef., Sanh. vi. 6; against the absurd theory, in Mak. 5b, that in case the accused has been executed the false witness is exempt from the death penalty, see Geiger, l.c. p. 140). But in general the Pharisees surrounded the penal laws, especially the death penalty, with so many qualifications that they were rarely executed (see Sanh. iv. 1)
The laws concerning virginity and the levirate (Deut. xxii. 17, xxv. 9) also were interpreted by the Pharisees in accordance with the dictates of decency and common sense, while the Sadducees adhered strictly to the letter. The difference concerning the right of inheritance by the daughter as against the son's daughter, which the Sadducees granted and the Pharisees denied (Yad. iv. 7; Meg. Ta'an. v.; Tosef., Yad. ii. 20; Yer. B. B. vii. 16a), seems to rest on differing practises among the various classes of people; the same is true with regard to the difference as to the master's responsibility for damage done by a slave or a beast.
Sabbaths and festivals
Of decisive influence, however, were the great changes wrought by the Pharisees in the Sabbath and holy days, inasmuch as they succeeded in lending to these days a note of cheerfulness and domestic joy, while the Sadducees viewed them more or less as Temple festivals, and as imposing a tone of austerity upon the common people and the home.
To begin with the Day of Atonement, the Pharisees wrested the power of atoning for the sins of the people from the high priest (see Lev. xvi. 30) and transferred it to the day itself, so that atonement was effected even without sacrifice and priest, provided there was genuine repentance. So, too, the New Moon of the seventh month was transformed by them from a day of trumpet-blowing into a New-Year's Day devoted to the grand ideas of divine government and judgment (see New-Year). On the eve of Passover the lessons of the Exodus story, recited over the wine and the matzah, are given greater prominence than the paschal lamb. The Biblical command enjoining a pilgrimage to the Temple in the festival season is fulfilled by going to greet the teacher and listen to his instruction on a festal day, as in former days people went to see the prophet.
Especially significant are the Pharisaic innovations in connection with the Sabbath. One of them is the special duty imposed upon the mistress of the home to have the light kindled before Sabbath (Shab. ii. 7), whereas the Samaritans and Karaites, who were in many ways followers of Sadducean teachings, saw in the prohibition against kindling fire on Sabbath (Ex. xxxv. 3) a prohibition also against light in the home on Sabbath eve.
The Samaritans and Saducees likewise observed literally the prohibition against leaving one place on Sabbath (Ex. xvi. 29), while the Pharisees included the whole width of the Israelitish camp—that is, 2,000 ells, or a radius of one mile—in the term "place," and made allowance besides for carrying things (which is otherwise forbidden; see Jer. xvii. 21-24) and for extending the Sabbath limit by means of an artificial union of spheres of settlement (see 'Erub; Sabbath). Their object was to render the Sabbath "a delight" (Isa. lviii. 13), a day of social and spiritual joy and elevation rather than a day of gloom. The old Hasidim, who probably lived together in large settlements, could easily treat these as one large house. Yet while they excluded the women from their festal gatherings, the Pharisees, their successors, transformed the Sabbath and festivals into seasons of domestic joy, bringing into increasing recognition the importance and dignity of woman as the builder and guardian of the home.
In regard to the laws of Levitical purity, which, in common with custom, excluded woman periodically, and for weeks and months after child-birth, from the household (Lev. xii. 4-7, xv. 19-24), the Pharisees took a common-sense course of encouraging the wife, despite the letter of the Law, to take her usual place in the home and appear in her wonted dignity before her husband and children (Ket. 61a; Shab. 64b).
So, too, it was with the Pharisaic leader Simeon b. Shetaḥ, who, in the reign of Queen Salome Alexandra, introduced the marriage document (Ketubah) in order to protect the wife against the caprice of the husband; and while the Shammaites would not allow the wife to be divorced unless she gave cause for suspicion of adultery, the Hillelites, and especially Akiva, in being more lenient in matters of divorce, had in view the welfare and peace of the home, which should be based upon affection.
Many measures were taken by the Pharisees to prevent arbitrary acts on the part of the husband. Possibly in order to accentuate the legal character of the divorce they insisted, against Sadducean custom, on inserting in the document the words "according to the law of Moses and of Israel" (Yad. iv. 8; but comp. Meg. Ta'an. vii.).
Aristocracy of the learned
Most of these controversies, recorded from the time previous to the destruction of the Temple, are but faint echoes of the greater issues between the Pharisaic and Sadducean parties, the latter representing the interests of the Temple, while the former were concerned that the spiritual life of the people should be centered in the Torah and the Synagogue.
While the Sadducean priesthood prided itself upon its aristocracy of blood (Sanh. iv. 2; Mid. v. 4; Ket. 25a; Josephus, "Contra Ap." i., § 7), the Pharisees created an aristocracy of learning instead, declaring a bastard who is a student of the Law to be higher in rank than an ignorant high priest (Hor. 13a), and glorying in the fact that their most prominent leaders were descendants of proselytes (Yoma 71b; Sanh. 96b).
For the decision of their Scribes, they claimed the same authority as for the Biblical law, even in case of error (Sifre, Deut. 153-154); they endowed them with the power to abrogate the Law at times, and they went so far as to say that he who transgressed their words deserved death (Ber. 4a). By dint of this authority, claimed to be divine (R. H. 25a), they put the entire calendric system upon a new basis, independent of the priesthood. They took many burdens from the people by claiming for the sage, or scribe, the power of dissolving vows.
On the whole, however, they added new restrictions to the Biblical law in order to keep the people at a safe distance from forbidden ground; as they termed it, "they made a fence around the Law", interpreting the words "Ye shall watch my watch" (Lev. xviii. 30, Hebr.) to mean "Ye shall place a guard around my guard" (Yeb. 21a). Thus they forbade the people to drink wine or eat with the heathen, in order to prevent associations which might lead either to intermarriage or to idolatry (Shab. 17b). To the forbidden marriages of the Mosaic law relating to incest (Lev. xviii.-xx.) they added a number of others (Yeb. ii. 4).
After they had determined the kinds of work prohibited on the Sabbath they forbade the use of many things on the Sabbath on the ground that their use might lead to some prohibited labor.
Also in regard to moral laws there are such additional prohibitions, as, for instance, the prohibition against what is called "the dust of slanderous speech" (Yer. Peah i. 16a) or "the dust of usury" (B. M. 61b), or against unfair dealings, such as gambling, or keeping animals that feed on property of the neighbors.
Doctrines of the Pharisees
The aim and object of the Torah, according to Pharisaic principles, are the training of man to a full realization of his responsibility to God and to the consecration of life by the performance of its manifold duties: the one is called "the yoke of God's Kingship" and the other "the yoke of God's commandments".
Every morning and evening the Jew takes both upon himself when reciting the "Shema'" (Berachot ii. 2). "The Torah preaches: Take upon yourselves the yoke of God's Kingdom; let the fear of God be your judge and arbiter, and deal with one another according to the dictates of love" (Sifre, Deut. 323). So says Josephus: "For the Jewish lawgiver all virtues are parts of religion" ("Contra Ap." ii., §§ 17, 19; comp. Philo, "De Opificio Mundi," §§ 52, 55).
Cain and the generation of the Flood sinned in that they denied that there are a Judgment and a Judge and a future of retribution (Targ. Yer. to Gen. iv. 8; Gen. R. xxvi.). The acceptance of God's Kingship implies acceptance of His commandments also, both such as are dictated by reason and the human conscience and such as are special decrees of God as Ruler (Sifra, Aḥare Mot, 13). It means a perfect heart that fears the very thought of sin (Sifra, Ḳedoshim, 2); the avoidance of sin from love of God (ib. 11); the fulfilment of His commandments without expectation of reward ('Ab. Zarah 19a); the avoidance of any impure thought or any act that may lead to sin (ib. 20b, with reference to Deut. xxiii. 10). The acceptance of God's Kingship implies also recognition of His just dealing with man, and a thankful attitude, even in misfortune (Sifre, Deut. 32, 53; Sifra, Shemini, 1; Mek., Yitro, 10; Ber. ix. 5, 60b). God's Kingship, first proclaimed by Abraham (Sifre, Deut. 313) and accepted by Israel (Mek., Yitro), shall be universally recognized in the future.
The future life
This is the Messianic hope of the Pharisees, voiced in all parts of the synagogal liturgy; but it meant also the cessation of the kingdom of the worldly powers identified with idolatry and injustice. In fact, for the ancient Hasidim, God's Kingship excluded that of any other. The Pharisees, who yielded to the temporary powers and enjoined the people to pray for the government (Abot iii. 2), waited nevertheless for the Kingdom of God, consoling themselves in the meantime with the spiritual freedom granted by the study of the Law (Abot vi. 2). "He who takes upon himself the yoke of the Torah, the yoke of the worldly kingdom and of worldly care, will be removed from him" (Abot iii. 5).
Josephus ("B. J." ii. 8, § 14; "Ant." xiii. 5, § 9; xviii. 1, § 3) carefully avoids mentioning the most essential doctrine of the Pharisees, the Messianic hope, which the Sadducees did not share with them; while for the Essenes time and conditions were predicted in their apocalyptic writings. Instead, Josephus merely says that "they ascribe everything to fate without depriving man of his freedom of action."
This idea is expressed by Akiba: "Everything is foreseen [that is, predestined]; but at the same time freedom is given" (Abot iii. 15). Akiba, however, declares, "The world is judged by grace [not by blind fate nor by the Pauline law], and everything is determined by man's actions [not by blind acceptance of certain creeds]." Similar to Josephus' remark is the rabbinical saying, "All is decreed by God except fear of God" (Ber. 33b). "Man may act either virtuously or viciously, and his rewards or punishments in the future shall be accordingly" ("Ant." xviii. 1, § 3). This corresponds with the "two ways of the Jewish teaching" (Ab. R. N. xxv.; see Didache). But it was not the immortality of the soul which the Pharisees believed in, as Josephus puts it, but the resurrection of the body as expressed in the liturgy, and this formed part of their Messianic hope.
In contradistinction to the Sadducees, who were satisfied with the political life committed to their own power as the ruling dynasty, the Pharisees represented the views and hopes of the people. The same was the case with regard to the belief in angels and demons. As Ecclesiastes and Ecclesiasticus indicate, the upper classes adhered for a long time to the Biblical view concerning the soul and the hereafter, caring little for the Angelology and Demonology of the Pharisees. These used them, with the help of the Ma'aseh Bereshit and Ma'aseh Merkabah, not only to amplify the Biblical account, but to remove from the Bible anthropomorphisms and similarly obnoxious verbiage concerning the Deity by referring them to angelic and intermediary powers (for instance, Gen. i. 26), and thereby to gradually sublimate and spiritualize the conception of God.
The Pharisees are furthermore described by Josephus as extremely virtuous and sober. The ethics of the Pharisees is based upon the principle "Be holy, as the Lord your God is holy" (Lev. xix. 2, Hebr.); that is, strive to imitate God.
"Love thy neighbor as thyself" is declared by them to be the principal law (Talmud, tractate Shabbat 30a; Ab. R. N., text B, xxvi.), and, in order to demonstrate its universality, to be based on the verse declaring man to be made in the image of God (Gen. v. 1). "As God makes the sun shine alike upon the good and the evil," so does God extend His fatherly love to all (Shir ha-Shirim Zuṭa, i.; Sifre, Num. 134, Deut. 31, 40).
Idolatry is hated on account of the moral depravity to which it leads (Sifre, Num. 157), but the idolater who becomes an observer of the Law ranks with the high priest. It is a slanderous misrepresentation of the Pharisees to state that they "divorced morality and religion," when everywhere virtue, probity, and benevolence are declared by them to be the essence of the Law (Mak. 23b-24a; Tosef., Peah, iv. 19; et al.; see Ethics).
The charge of hypocrisy
The famous story on the matter was in Ber.28a when Gamaliel II found his academy practically empty when he demanded "anyone whose inside is not like his outside absent himself from the academy". Thus it was that the admission of Hypocrisy was the best answer to Hypocrisy. At the end of the story Gamaliel II also submits to hipocrisy in resinding his decree being that it is better to do the right thing for the wrong motive than not to do the right thing at all. There is in Rabbinic literature referring to various types of Parushim like for example the Pestle Parush whose head is bent in mock humility like a pestle in a mortar. The best answer would be to let the literature speak for itself. In the end we find a much more human movement and the least holier than thou attitude amongst them than the puritans of perhaps any other religion. "Whatever good a man does he should do it for the glory of God" (Ab. ii. 13; Ber. 17a). Nicodemus is blamed for having given of his wealth to the poor in an ostentatious manner (Ket. 66b). An evil action may be justified where the motive is a good one (Ber. 63a). Still, the very air of sanctity surrounding the life of the Pharisees often led to abuses. Alexander Jannĉus warned his wife not against the Pharisees, his declared enemies, but against "the chameleon- or hyena- ["ẓebo'im"-] like hypocrites who act like Zimri and claim the reward of Phinehas:" (Soṭah 22b). An ancient baraita enumerates seven classes of Pharisees, of which five consist of either eccentric fools or hypocrites: (1) "the shoulder Pharisee," who wears, as it were, his good actions. ostentatiously upon his shoulder; (2) "the wait-a-little Pharisee," who ever says, "Wait a little, until I have performed the good act awaiting me"; (3), "the bruised Pharisee," who in order to avoid looking at a woman runs against the wall so as to bruise himself and bleed; (4) "the pestle Pharisee," who walks with head down like the pestle in the mortar; (5) "the ever-reckoning Pharisee," who says, "Let me know what good I may do to counteract my neglect"; (6) "the God-fearing Pharisee," after the manner of Job; (7) "the God-loving Pharisee," after the manner of Abraham (Yer. Ber. ix. 14b; Soṭah 22b; Ab. R. N., text A, xxxvii.; text B, xlv. [ed. Schechter, pp. 55, 62]; the explanations in both Talmuds vary greatly; see Chwolson, "Das Letzte-Passahmahl," p. 116). R. Joshua b. Hananiah, at the beginning of the second century, calls eccentric Pharisees "destroyers of the world" (Soṭah iii. 4); and the term "Pharisaic plagues" is frequently used by the leaders of the time (Yer. Soṭah iii. 19a).
It is such types of Pharisees that Jesus had in view when hurling his scathing words of condemnation against the Pharisees, whom he denounced as "hypocrites," calling them "offspring of vipers" ("hyenas"; see Ẓebu'im); "whited sepulchers which outwardly appear beautiful, but inwardly are full of dead men's bones"; "blind guides," "which strain out the gnat and swallow the camel" (Matt. vi. 2-5, 16; xii. 34; xv. 14; xxiii. 24, 27, Greek). He himself tells his disciples to do as the Scribes and "Pharisees who sit on Moses' seat [see Almemar] bid them do"; but he blames them for not acting in the right spirit, for wearing large phylacteries and ẓiẓit, and for pretentiousness in many other things (ib. xxiii. 2-7). Exactly so are hypocrites censured in the Midrash (Pes. R. xxii. [ed. Friedmann, p. 111]); wearing tefillin and ẓiẓit, they harbor evil intentions in their breasts. Otherwise the Pharisees appear as friends of Jesus (Luke vii. 37, xiii. 31) and of the early Christians (Acts v. 38, xxiii. 9; "Ant." xx. 9, § 1).
Only in regard to intercourse with the unclean and "unwashed" multitude, with the 'am ha-areẓ, the publican, and the sinner, did Jesus differ widely from the Pharisees (Mark ii. 16; Luke v. 30, vii. 39, xi. 38, xv. 2, xix. 7). In regard to the main doctrine he fully agreed with them, as the old version (Mark xii. 28-34) still has it. Owing, however, to the hostile attitude taken toward the Pharisaic schools by Pauline Christianity, especially in the time of the emperor Hadrian, "Pharisees" was inserted in the Gospels wherever the high priests and Sadducees or Herodians were originally mentioned as the persecutors of Jesus (see New Testament), and a false impression, which still prevails in Christian circles and among all Christian writers, was created concerning the Pharisees.
History of the Pharisees
It is difficult to state at what time the Pharisees, as a party, arose. Josephus first mentions them inconnection with Jonathan, the successor of Judas Maccabeus ("Ant." xiii. 5, § 9). Under John Hyrcanus (135-105) they appear as a powerful party opposing the Sadducean proclivities of the king, who had formerly been a disciple of theirs, though the story as told by Josephus is unhistorical ("Ant." xiii. 10, § 5; comp. Jubilees, Book of, and Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs).
The Hasmonean dynasty met with little support from the Pharisees, whose aim was the maintenance of a religious spirit in accordance with their interpretation of the Law . Under Alexander Jannĉus (104-78) the conflict between the people, siding with the Pharisees, and the king became bitter and ended in cruel carnage ("Ant." xiii. 13, § 5; xiv. 1, § 2). Under his widow, Salome Alexandra (78-69), the Pharisees, led by Simeon ben Shetah;, came to power. But the bloody vengeance they took upon the Sadducees led to a terrible reaction, and under Aristobulus (69-63) the Sadducees regained their power ("Ant." xiii. 16, § 2-xiv. 1, § 2).
Amidst the bitter struggle which ensued, the Pharisees appeared before Pompey asking him to interfere and restore the old priesthood while abolishing the royalty of the Hasmoneans altogether ("Ant." xiv. 3, § 2). The defilement of the Temple in Jerusalem by Pompey was regarded by the Pharisees as a divine punishment of Sadducean misrule. After Jewish national independence had been lost, the Pharisees gained in influence while the star of the Sadducees waned. Herod found his chief opponents among the latter, and so he put the leaders of the Sanhedrin to death while endeavoring by a milder treatment to win the favor of the leaders of the Pharisees, who, though they refused to take the oath of allegiance, were otherwise friendly to him ("Ant." xiv. 9, § 4; xv. 1, § 1; 10, § 4; 11, §§ 5-6). Only when he provoked their indignation by his heathen proclivities did the Pharisees become his enemies and fall victims (4 B.C.) to his bloodthirstiness ("Ant." xvii. 2, § 4; 6, §§ 2-4).
The family of Boethus, whom Herod had raised to the high-priesthood, revived the spirit of the Sadducees, and thenceforth the Pharisees again had them as antagonists; still, they no longer possessed their former power, as the people always sided with the Pharisees ("Ant." xviii. 1, § 4). In King Agrippa (41-44) the Pharisees had a supporter and friend, and with the destruction of the Temple the Sadducees disappeared altogether, leaving the regulation of all Jewish affairs in the hands of the Pharisees.
From this time on Jewish life was regulated by the teachings of the Pharisees; the history of Judaism was seen from the Pharisaic point of view, and a new aspect was given to the Sanhedrin of the past. A new chain of tradition supplanted the older, priestly tradition (Abot i. 1). Pharisaism shaped the character of Judaism and the life and thought of the Jew for all the future.
One of the main contributing factors for the dominance of Pharisee belief, and its subsequent development as the mainstream Rabbinic Judaism, is its relative flexibility in Jewish law and Jewish belief. This allowed the pharisses/rabbinic Jews a way to develop a way of life that was not centered on the Temple in Jerusalem.
As an example, the pharisee/rabbinic Jewish response to the loss of the Temple can be found in a classic midrash, Avot D'Rabbi Nathan:
"The Temple is destroyed. We never witnessed its glory. But Rabbi Joshua did. And when he looked at the Temple ruins one day, he burst into tears. "Alas for us! The place which atoned for the sins of all the people Israel lies in ruins!" Then Rabbi Yohannan ben Zakkai spoke to him these words of comfort: "Be not grieved, my son. There is another way of gaining ritual atonement, even though the Temple is destroyed. We must now gain ritual atonement through deeds of loving-kindness."
Background: The Religion of Ancient Israel
The religion of ancient Israel, like those of most ancient Near Eastern societies, centered on a Temple, served by a caste of priests, who sacrificed offerings to their god. Among the Children of Israel priests claimed descent from Aaron of the tribe of Levi, and were believed to have been chosen by God to care for the Tabernacle.
In ancient Israel, as in most ancient Near Eastern societies, the institution of the priesthood was closely tied with the monarchy. The religious authority of the priests was institutionalized with the construction of the Temple in Jerusalem around 950 BCE, and when the high priest Zadok anointed Solomon king. At that time priestly power was legitimated and constrained by the monarchy, controlled by the House of David of the tribe of Judah. During the First Temple Era (from around 950 BCE to 586 BCE), the priests were limited to their work in the Temple; political power officially rested in the hands of a king who ruled, ideally, by divine right.
In most ancient societies sacrifice was the only form of worship. Unlike many other religions of the time, however, the Children of Israel had sacred texts (later edited into the Torah, or Five Books of Moses) which contained moral stories and teachings, as well as laws, which provided all people with ways to worship their God in the course of their everyday lives. Prophets, inspired by God and by the values and teachings embodied in the sacred texts, however, often criticized the king, elites, or the masses and provided another potent political force.
Pharisees in the Second Temple Era
In 539 BCE the Persians conquered Babylon and in 537 BCE, inaugurating the Persian period of Jewish history. Cyrus the Great allowed Jews to return to Judea and rebuild the Temple (completed in 515 BCE). He did not, however, allow the restoration of the monarchy, which left the priests as the dominant authority. Without the constraining power of the monarchy, the authority of the Temple was amplified. Around this time the Sadducee party emerged as the party of the priests and allied elites; the name Sadducee comes from Zadok. Nevertheless, the Second Temple had been constructed under the auspices of a foreign power, and there were lingering questions about its legitimacy. This provided the condition for the development of various sects (including Josephus's "schools of thought"), each of which claimed exclusive authority to represent "Judaism," and typically shunned social intercourse, especially marriage, with members of other sects.
One of the earliest of these competing sects was the Pharisees, who had its origins in a relatively new group of authorities -- scribes and sages. The end of the Babylonian Exile saw not only the construction of the Second Temple, but the canonization of the Bible as well. Although the priests controlled the monarchy and the Temple, scribes and sages (who would later come to be addressed as rabbi, "my master") monopolized the study of the Torah, which was read publicly on market-days, a practice which was institutionalized after the return from the Babylonian exile. These sages developed and maintained an oral tradition alongside of the Holy Writ, and identified with the prophets (Biblical political and religious reformers who came from other tribes than Levi). The rift between the priests and the sages developed during the Hellenistic period, when the Jews faced new political and cultural struggles.
The Hellenistic period of Jewish history began in 332 BCE when Alexander the Great conquered Persia. By the 2nd century BCE. Judea was subject to the Syrian-Hellenic Seleucid Empire. Generally, the Jews accepted foreign rule as long as they were only expected to pay tribute, and otherwise allowed to govern themselves. Conflicts arose when Antiochus Epiphanes began a program of forced helenization with the support of the priestly aristocracy -- many of whom began to turn away from the practice of circumcision (the sign of the covenant between God and the Children of Israel) in order to exercise in the gymnasion. When Antiochus pillaged the Temple and ordered sacrifices to Greek gods, Mattathias and his son Judah Maccabee, priests of the Hasmon family, led a bloody revolt. After defeating the Seleucid forces, Judah's nephew John Hyrcanus established a new monarchy in the form of the priestly Hasmonean dynasty in 152 BCE -- thus establishing priests as political as well as religious authorities. Although the Hasmoneans were heroes for resisting the Seleucids, their reign lacked the legitimacy of the Davidic dynasty of the First Temple Era. It was around this time that the sages and scribes congealed into a political party known as the Pharisees, or "separatists." This term may owe to their rejection of Hellenic culture or to their objection to the Hasmonean monopoly on power.
The political rift between the two parties became evident when Pharisees demanded that the Hasmonean king Alexander Jannai choose between being king and being High Priest. This demand led to a brief civil war that ended with a bloody repression of the Pharisees, although at his deathbed the king called for a reconciliation between the two parties. Alexander was succeeded by his widow, Salome Alexandra, whose brother, Simeon ben Shetah, was a leading Pharisee. Upon her death her elder son, Hyrcanus, sought Pharisee support, and her younger son, Aristobulus, sought the support of the Sadducees.
The conflict between Hyrcanus and Aristobulus culminated in a civil war that ended when the Roman general Pompey captured Jerusalem in 63 BCE and inaugurated the Roman period of Jewish history. Pompey ended the monarchy and named Hyrcanus high priest and ethnarch (a lesser title than "king"). In 57 BCE Hyrcanus was deprived of all political authority. Ultimate jurisdiction of Judea and the Galilee was given to the Proconsul of Syria, who ruled through two Idumean brothers, Phasael (who served as military governor of Judea) and Herod (who served as military governor of the Galilee). In 40 BCE Aristobulus's son Antigonus overthrew Hyrcanus and named himself king and high priest. Herod fled to Rome, and, with the support of Mark Antony and Octavian, secured recognition by the Roman Senate as king -- confirming the termination of the Hasmonean dynasty. After Herod died, Augustus designated one son tetrarch of the Galilee, and another son ethnarch of Judea (including Samaria and Idumea). After 6 CE Judea was governed indirectly by a Roman prefect or procurator, and directly by a Roman-appointed high priest.
It was during this time that the Sanhedrin was established. In 57 BCE the Proconsul Cabineus established five regional synhedria, or councils, of 23 elders, to regulate the internal affairs of the Jews. The Sanhedrin was a legislative council of 71 elders chaired by the high priest, that interpreted Jewish law and adjudicated appeals, especially in ritual matters. The specific number of councils, members of councils, and their powers actually varied depending on Roman policy.
During this period Judea and Galilee were effectively semi-autonomous client-states. Rome was content to receive tribute, although some emperors considered installing a statue of themselves or a Roman god in the Temple. For the most part, Jews were willing to pay tribute, although they complained when it was excessive, and absolutely refused to allow a graven image in their Temple. The primary tasks of the tetrarch and high priest were to collect tribute, convince the Romans not to interfere with the Temple, and ensure that the Jews not rebel. There is a record of only one high priest (Ananus, in 62 CE) being a Saducee, although scholars generally assume that the Sanhedrin was dominated by Saducees. The Pharisees were politically quiescent, content to study, teach, and worship in their own way. Although popular, they had no power.
Pharisees in the Rabbinic Era
By 66 CE Jewish discontent with Rome had escalated. At first, the priests tried to suppress rebellion, even calling upon the Pharisees for help. After the Roman garrison failed to stop Hellenists from desecrating a synagogue in Caesarea, however, the high priest suspended payment of tribute, inaugurating the Great Jewish Revolt. The destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans in 70 CE not only put an end to the revolt, it marked the end of an era. It was also a profoundly traumatic experience for the Jews, who were now confronted with difficult and far-reaching questions:
- How to achieve atonement without the Temple?
- How to explain the disastrous outcome of the rebellion?
- How to live in the post-Temple, Romanized world?
- How to connect present and past traditions?
How people answered these questioned depended largely on their position prior to the revolt. Revolutionaries like the Zealots had been crushed by the Romans, and had little credibility (the last Zealots died at Masada in 73 CE). Similarly, the Sadducees, whose teachings were so closely connected to the Temple cult, disappeared.
The Essenes too disappeared, perhaps because their teachings so diverged from the concerns of the times. Briefly, the Essenes were the followers of a group of priests who had essentially rejected the Second Temple. They argued that the Essene community was itself the new Temple, and that obedience to the law represented a new form of sacrifice. Accordingly, the destruction of the Second Temple was of no consequence to them; precisely for this reason, they were of little consequence to the vast majority of Jews. Although their lack of concern for the Second Temple and its destruction alienated them from the great mass of Jews, their notion that the sacred could exist outside of the Temple was shared by Christians and Pharisees.
Christians too, however, were relatively unconcerned with the destruction of the Temple since they believed that Jesus had already replaced the Temple as the expression of a new covenant. When Christians failed to attract a large number of followers from among the Jews -- perhaps because, in the aftermath of the revolt, Jews were afraid that talk of a new king and a new kingdom would provoke Roman wrath, or because most Jews did not feel that the destruction of the Temple signified the abrogation of their covenant with God -- they turned to Gentile converts, distanced themselves from the rebellious Jews, and emerged as a new religion.
Of all the major Second Temple sects, only the Pharisees remained. Although they had accepted the importance of the Temple, their vision of Jewish law as a means by which ordinary people could engage with the sacred in their daily lives, provided them with a position from which to respond to all four challenges, in a way meaningful to the vast majority of Jews.
Following the destruction of the Temple, Rome governed Judea through a Procurator at Caesarea and a Jewish Patriarch. Yohanan ben Zakkai, a leading Pharisee, was appointed the first Patriarch (the Hebrew word, Nasi, also means prince, or president), and he reestablished the Sanhedrin at Javneh under Pharisee control. The rabbis rejected the sectarianism that had dominated Jewish life during the Second Temple Era; Pharisaism emerged as the dominant form of Judaism, which came to be known as "Rabbinic" Judaism. The Rabbinic Era itself is divided into two periods, that of the Tannaim (from the Aramaic word for "repeat," also used to mean "learn"), who wrote the Mishna, and that of the Amoraim (from the Aramaic word for "speaker"), who wrote the Talmud. Instead of giving tithes to the priests and sacrificing offerings at the Temple, Jews gave money to charities and studied in local Synagogues.
When the Emperor Hadrian threatened to rebuild Jerusalem as a pagan city dedicated to Jupiter, in 132 CE, some of the leading sages of the Sanhedrin supported a rebellion (and, for a short time, an independent state) led by Simon bar Kozeba (also called Bar Kochba, or "son of a star"); some, such as Rabbi Akiba, believed Bar Kochbah to be messiah, or king. This revolt ended in 135 CE when Bar Kochba and his army were defeated. According to a midrash, in addition to Bar Kochba the Romans executed ten leading members of the Sanhedrin: the high priest, R. Ishmael; the president of the Sanhedrin, R. Shimon ben Gamaliel; R. Akiba; R. Hanania ben Teradion; the interpreter of the Sanhedrin, R. Huspith; R.Eliezer ben Shamua; R. Hanina ben Hakinai; the secretary of the Sanhedrin, R. Yeshevav; R. Yehuda ben Dama; and R. Yehuda ben Baba. The Rabbinic account describes agonizing tortures: R. Akiba was flayed, and R. Hanania was burned at a stake, with wet wool held by a Torah scroll wrapped around his body to prolong his death. This account also claims that the rabbis were executed to atone for the guilt of the ten brothers who kidnapped Joseph. It is possible that this account represents a Pharisaic response to the Christian account of Jesus' crucifixion; in both accounts the Romans brutally punish rebels, who accept their torture as atonement for the crimes of others.
After the suppression of the revolt the vast majority of Jews were sent into exile; shortly thereafter, Judah haNasi edited together Tannaitic judgements and traditions into the Mishna, one of the key texts of Rabbinic Judaism.
Pharisaic principles and values
At first the values of the Pharisees developed through their sectarian debates with the Sadducees; then they developed through internal, non-sectarian debates over the law as an adaptation to life without the Temple, and life in exile, and to a more limited degree, life in conflict with Christianity. These shifts mark the transformation of Pharasaic to Rabbinic Judaism.
One belief central to the Pharisees was shared by all Jews of the time: monotheism. This is evident in the practice of reciting the Shema, select verses from the Torah, at the Temple and in synagogues. The Shema begins with the verses, "Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God; the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might." According to the Mishna, these passages were recited in the Temple along with the twice-daily Tamid offering; Jews in the diaspora, who did not have access to the Temple, recited these passages in their houses of prayer (in Greek, proseuchai). After the destruction of the Temple, the Rabbis established that Jews both in Judea and in the diaspora must pray three times a day, and include in their prayers a recitation of these passages.
According to Josephus, whereas the Sadducees believed that people have total free will and the Essenes believed that all of a person's life is predestined, the Pharisees believed that people have free will but that God also has foreknowledge of human destiny. According to Josephus, Pharisees were further distinguished from the Sadducees in that Pharisees believed in the resurrection of the dead.
It is likely that Josephus highlighted these differences because he was writing for a Gentile audience, and questions concerning fate and a life after death were important in Hellenic philosophy. In fact, it is difficult, or impossible, to reconstruct a Second Temple Pharisaic theology, because Judaism itself is non-creedal; that is, there is no dogma or set of orthodox beliefs that Jews believed were required of Jews. Josephus himself emphasized laws rather than beliefs when he described the characteristics of an apostate (a Jew who does not follow traditional customs) and the requirements for conversion to Judaism (circumcision, and adherence to traditional customs). In fact, the most important divisions among different Jewish sects had to do with debates over three areas of law: marriage, the Sabbath and religious festivals, and the Temple and purity. Debates over these and other matters of law continue to define Judaism more than any particular dogma or creed.
Not one tractate of the key Rabbinic texts, Mishnah and the Talmud, is devoted to theological issues; these texts are concerned primarily with interpretations of Jewish law. Only one chapter of the Mishnah deals with theological issues; it asserts that three kinds of people will have no share in "the world to come:" those who deny the resurrection of the dead, those who deny the divinity of the Torah, and Epicureans (who deny divine supervision of human affairs). Another passage suggests a different set of core principles: normally, a Jew may violate any law to save a life, but in Sanhedrin 74a, a ruling orders Jews to accept martyrdom rather than violate the laws against idolatry, murder, or adultery. (Judah haNasi, however, said that Jews must "be meticulous in small religious duties as well as large ones, because you do not know what sort of reward is coming for any of the religious duties," suggesting that all laws are of equal importance). In comparison with Christianity, the Rabbis were not especially concerned with the messiah or claims about the messiah.
Fundamentally, the Pharisees created a form of Judaism that extended beyond the Temple, applying Jewish law to mundane activities in order to sanctify the every-day world. Moreover, this was a more democratic form of Judaism, in which rituals were not monopolized by an inherited priesthood but rather could be performed by all adult Jews individually or collectively; whose leaders were not determined by birth but by scholarly achievement. In general, the Pharisees emphasized a commitment to social justice, belief in the brotherhood of mankind, and a faith in the redemption of the Jewish nation and, ultimately, humanity. Moreover, they believed that these ends would be achieved through halakha ("the way"), a corpus of laws derived from a close reading of sacred texts. This belief entailed both a commitment to relate religion to ordinary concerns and daily life, and a commitment to study and scholarly debate.
The commitment to relate religion to daily life through the law has led some to infer that the Pharisees were more legalistic than other sects in the Second Temple Era. This is not true -- the Saducees interpreted the Torah literally, and the Essenes governed themselves through elaborate rules and regulations (Josephus does claim that the Pharisees were the "strictest" observers of the law, but he likely meant "most accurate"). It is more accurate to say they were legalistic in a different way. In some cases Pharisaic values led to an extension of the law -- for example, the Torah requires priests to bathe themselves before entering the Temple. The Pharisees washed themselves before Sabbath and festival meals (in effect, making these holidays "temples in time"), and, eventually, before all meals. Although this seems burdensome compared to the practices of other sects, in other cases, Pharisaic law was less strict. For example, Biblical law prohibits Jews from carrying objects out of their houses on the Sabbath. This law prevented Jews from carrying cooked dishes to the homes of friends for festive meals. The Pharisees decided that adjacent houses connected by lintels or fences symbolically constitute one house, so that people could carry objects from building to building.
During the Second Temple era, when Jews were divided into sects, Pharisees did not insist that all Jews follow their rules; each sect had its own interpretation of the law. Each sect claimed a monopoly on the truth, and discouraged marriage between members of different sects. Members of different sects did, however, argue with one another over the correctness of their respective interpretations. After the destruction of the Second Temple, these sectarian divisions ended. The Rabbis avoided the term "Pharisee," perhaps because it was a term more often used by non-Pharisees, but also because the term was explicitly sectarian. The Rabbis claimed leadership over all Jews, and added to the Amidah the birkat haMinim, a prayer which in part exclaims, "Praised are You O Lord, who breaks enemies and defeats the arrogant," and which is understood as a rejection of sectarians and sectarianism. This shift by no means resolved conflicts over the interpretation of the Torah; rather, it relocated debates between sects to debates within Rabbinic Judaism. The Pharisaic commitment to scholarly debate as a value in and of itself, rather than merely a byproduct of sectarianism, emerged as a defining feature of Judaism. This tradition of study and debate reached its fullest expression in the development of the Talmudim, elaborations of the Mishnah and records of Rabbinic debates and discussions, compiled around 400 CE in Palestine and around 500 CE in Babylon.
Pharisaic wisdom was compiled in one book of the Mishna, Pirke Avot. The Pharisaic attitude is perhaps best exemplified by a story about Hillel the Elder, who lived at the end of the 1st century BCE. A man once challenged the sage to explain the law while standing on one foot. Hillel replied, "That which is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. That is the whole Torah; the rest is commentary. Go and study it."
"Pharisees" and Christianity
One sign of the Pharisaic emphasis on debate and differences of opinion is that the Mishnah and Talmud mark different generations of scholars in terms of different pairs of contending schools. Around the time of Jesus' birth, the two major schools were those of Hillel and Shammai. After Hillel died in 20 CE, Shammai assumed the office of president of the Sanhedrin until he died in 30 CE. Followers of these two sages dominated scholarly debate over the following decades (although the Talmud records the arguments and positions of the school of Shammai, the teachings of the school of Hillel were ultimately taken as authoritative).
In the 4th century CE, Christians canonized a "New Testament" consisting of texts written between 60 CE and about 150 CE, which spell out a "new covenant" and provides the case for its basis in the Bible. In the "New Testament" the ruling Pharisees of his time (the house of Shammai) are often represented as being the ideological foes of Jesus.
An important binary in the New Testament is the opposition between law and love. Accordingly, the New Testament presents the Pharisees as obsessed with man-made rules (especially concerning purity) whereas Jesus is more concerned with God’s love; the Pharisees scorn sinners whereas Jesus seeks them out. Because of the New Testament's frequent depictions of Pharisees as self-righteous rule-followers, and because most scholars agree that the gospels place the blame for Jesus' crucifixion on a large faction of Pharisees, the word "pharisee" (and its derivatives: "pharisaical", etc.) has come into semi-common usage in English to describe a hypocritical and arrogant person who places the letter of the law above its spirit. Jews today, who ascribe to Pharisaic Judaism, typically find this insulting if not anti-Semitic.
Many non-Christians object that the four Gospels, which were canonized after Christianity had separated from Judaism (and after Pharisaism emerged as the dominant form of Judaism), are likely a very biased source concerning the conduct of the Pharisees. Some have argued that Jesus was himself a Pharisee, and that his arguments with Pharisees is a sign of inclusion rather than fundamental conflict (disputation is the dominant narrative mode in the Talmud). Jesus' emphasis on loving one's neighbor, for example, echoes the teaching of the school of Hillel (Jesus' views of divorce, however, are closer to those of the school of Shammai). Others have argued that the portrait of the Pharisees in the New Testament is an anachronistic caricature. For example, when Jesus declares the sins of a paralytic man forgiven, the New Testament has the Pharisees criticizing Jesus' blasphemy. But Jewish sources from the time commonly associate illness with sin and healing with forgiveness, and there is no actual Rabbinic source that questions or criticizes this practice. Although the New Testament presents the Pharisees as obsessed with avoiding impurity, Rabbinic texts reveal that the Pharisees were concerned merely with offering means for removing impurities, so that a person could again participate in the community. According to the New Testament, Pharisees wanted to punish Jesus for healing a man's withered hand on the Sabbath, but there is no Rabbinic rule according to which Jesus had violated the Sabbath. According to the New Testament the Pharisees objected to Jesus's mission to outcast groups such as beggars and tax-collectors, but Rabbinic texts actually emphasize the availability of forgiveness to all. Indeed, much of Jesus' teaching is consistent with that of the Pharisees. Some scholars believe that those passages of the New Testament that present a caricature of the Pharisees were not written during Jesus' lifetime but rather sometime after the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE, at a time when it had become clear that most Jews did not consider Jesus to be the messiah. At this time Christians sought most new converts from among the gentiles. They thus presented a story of Jesus that was more sympathetic to Romans than to Jews. Moreover, it was only after 70 CE that the Phariseeism emerged as the dominant form of Judaism. For Christian leaders at this time to present Christianity as the legitimate heir to the Old Testament Covenant, they had to devalue Rabbinic Judaism.
- Shaye J.D. Cohen 1988 From the Maccabees to the Mishnah ISBN 0-664-25017-3
- Paula Fredriksen 1988 From Jesus to Christ ISBN 0-300-04864-5
- Neusner, Jacob Torah From our Sages: Pirke Avot ISBN 0-940-64605-6
- Schwartz, Leo, ed. Great Ages and Ideas of the Jewish People ISBN 0-394-60413-X
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