Mosaic Ministires Home Page Was Yeshua (Jesus) a Pharisee? There is indeed proof that Yeshua was a Pharisee. The Pharisees were the "party of the people". There were different parties, the Saducees and the Essenes just to name a couple. To use a similar parallel: I am a Republican, I don't go to Republican meetings and I'm not in a position to make changes within the Republican Party but I am still a Republican. Fisherman and carpenters were Pharisees. How does this prove Yeshua was a Pharisee? Well, Yeshua didn't stand behind the Sadducee, Essene or Qumran party (although he may have agreed with some of their theology… i.e. the Essenes didn't believe in slavery) but He did stand behind the Pharisee party. First we have to understand that the Pharisaical party has been given a bad rap by the Christian Church. We see the NT saying things such as "You brood of vipers", "beware of the leaven of the Pharisees" etc. This makes sense from a Messianic perspective. I, as a Republican have a few things to say about the Republican Party. They are not all positive, in fact there's a few Republican politicians that I would call downright vipers. This doesn't mean that I think all Republicans are bad. Likewise Yeshua didn't think the Pharisaical party was all bad… In fact He endorses them! I'll get to that in a second. Let's first look at the Pharisaical party. The Pharisees were a holy party, their name means "set apart" (perushim in Hebrew). They were zealous for G-d and strove after righteousness. The book of Macabees speaks highly of them! By the time of the second temple period however, some... some corruption had crept in even into some rather high positions. Again this wasn't all of them. We see in Mark 12:28 that one of the Scribes (most, almost all, the scribes were Pharisees) agreed with Yeshua and what He was saying. Yeshua said to him that he wasn't far from the Kingdom. Another Pharisee even stuck up for Jesus in front of all the other Pharisees. To feel that bold he must've had others who agreed with him, especially his being that high up in the party (it says he was a leader). So they obviously weren't all bad. Not only that, Yeshua quotes a few of them. Many of the "sayings of Jesus" prescribed to Him by the Church aren't even His sayings but rather quotes of other Rabbis before Him. Jesus seemed to like many of the Pharisees... in Luke He was invited by a Pharisee to dinner and Yeshua accepted (Luke 7:36) and He even went to have a meal with one of the leading Pharisees (Luke 14) Some Pharisees even came to help Him and to warn Him that Herod was looking for Him. Some of the translations of this don't read correctly (Luke 13:31) but in Greek it says this..."depart from here, Herod wants to kill you" And what about Nicodemus? It says in John 3 that he was a leader in the party (that's who I was referencing earlier). Later on Nickodemus tells some other Pharisees not to pass judgment on Jesus. Nicodemus (that horrible Pharisee lol) was there at the burial of Jesus too in John 19:39. We just get the idea that all the Pharisees were bad because we see them put in a negative light in the Brit Hadasha (New Testament). We also have to remember that the New Testament was written by Jews who believed that Yeshua was the Messiah and were therefore being persecuted by their own sect, that would be enough to make me not have such good things to say about the Republicans had they treated me the same way.So we often see the bad Pharisees coming to trick Yeshua, these would be the ones that were especially noticed by the NT writers. We see Jesus call these particular Pharisees hypocrites rather often. Why did He call them hypocrites? Because they were saying that they followed the Pharisaical teachings and theology and they weren't. Was the Pharisaical teachings and theology correct? Absolutely! This is where we see Yeshua say something that He didn't say about any other teaching or theology on the planet including the Sadducees and the Essenes and everyone else. He says this... and this is exact from Greek "Then Yeshua said to the crowds and His disciples, "the Scribes and the Pharisees sit on the seat of Moses therefore, EVERYTHING and WHATEVER THEY TEACH YOU DO AND KEEP" He goes on to say just don't do as they do. This is amazing if you think about it. Here Jesus just gave absolute endorsement to the theology of the Pharisees. Whatever and Everything!!! He didn't say that about the Essenes or the Sadducees but He made it a point about the Pharisees. I know I couldn't say that about any denomination here today, not even my own. But Jesus believed the Pharisaical teachings sound enough to tell not only His disciples to listen to them but also the crowds as well. Phenomenal really. Yes Jesus was a Pharisee, so were most of the Disciples and the vast majority of the first church. A few were Essenes and Sadducees but most were of G-d's Holy Party of the Pharisees. Later in Scripture we see in Acts that there were many Christian Pharisees in 15:5. So here we have Christian Pharisees after the death and resurrection of Yeshua! I'll tell ya, we could sure use some Pharisaical (those set apart) Christians today. Paul was also a Pharisee, he was very proud to wear that badge and frankly, he'd roll over in his grave if he heard us all talking badly about the Pharisees....Regarding Paul's speech before the Sanhedrin, Luke depicts "Christianity and Pharisaism as natural allies, hence the direct continuity between the Pharisaic branch of Judaism and Christianity. The link is expressed directly in Paul's own testimony: he is (now) a Pharisee, with a Pharisaic heritage (23:6). His Pharisaic loyalty is a present commitment, not a recently jettisoned stage of his religious past (cf. Phil 3:5-9). His Christian proclamation of a risen Lord, and by implication, of a risen humanity (Acts 23:6), represents a particular, but defensible, form of Pharisaic theology " (p. 1111, Harper's Bible Commentary). In Philippians 3:5, Paul states that he was "concerning the law, a Pharisee." In verse 6, he goes on to say that he was "concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless." If you want to know more about the Pharisees you can read what they wrote. Josephus has a wealth of information. Josephus was himself a Pharisee who lived during the time of Yeshua and he even mentions Jesus and also John the Baptist. Also of course there is the Mishna (The oral law). I don't recommend this to young believers in the L- rd but if you have a strong grasp of who you are in Jesus then I highly recommend it. The older writings in the Mishna were sanctioned by Jesus. The Pharisees believed the Oral Law to be Canon at the time of Jesus and that was one of their main teachings, they lived by the Mishna and put it on equal grounds as the Torah (The five books of Moses). You gotta love this stuff lol. This is really only the beginning. In my congregations I'm teaching the elders how to go through the Mishna and decipher the older material from the material written after Christ (and thereby less authoritative as far as we're concerned). It's like finding old books of the Bible that have been lost for centuries. Anyway, hope this gets you excited about Bible study.
Shalom, Rabbi Stanley Here are some other quotes on Pharisees...
The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia states:
The presentation of the Pharisees in the Gospels is generally negative. Jesus is seen to be disputing with them continually, which suggests that his teaching was the antithesis of pharisaism. Closer investigation, however, does not support this suggestion. The NT evidence shows Jesus in agreement with beliefs and practices vitally important to the Pharisees. (p. 828, vol. 3, "Pharisees")
Dr. Brad Young writes:
A Pharisee in the mind of the people of the period was far different from popular conceptions of a Pharisee in modern times . . . The image of the Pharisee in early Jewish thought was not primarily one of self-righteous hypocrisy . . . The Pharisee represents piety and holiness. . . . The very mention of a Pharisee evoked an image of righteousness . . . (Ibid., pp. 184, 188)
He goes on to say... the image of the Pharisee in modern usage is seldom if ever positive. Such a negative characterization of Pharisaism distorts our view of Judaism and the beginnings of Christianity . . . The theology of Jesus is Jewish and is built firmly upon the foundations of Pharisaic thought . . . (Ibid., pp. 184, 187, 188)