Thursday, August 24, 2006

Jesus and the Pharisees

In researching my evening service (a study on Matthew 23), I came across this interesting information from William Barclay in regard to the Pharisees of Jesus' day. Contrary to popular misconception the Pharisees were not a monolithic group but were classified in the Babylonian Talmud into seven groups:

1. The Shoulder Pharisees. These wore their good deeds on their shoulder and performed them to be seen of men.

2. The Wait-a-little Pharisees. They could always find a good excuse for putting off a good deed until tomorrow.

3. The Bruised or Bleeding Pharisees. No Jewish rabbi could be seen talking to any woman on the street, not even his wife or mother or sister. But certain of the Pharisees went further. They would not even look at a woman on the street; they even shut their eyes to avoid seeing a woman; they, therefore, knocked into walls and houses and bruised themselves; and then exhibited their bruises as special badges of extraordinary piety.

4. The Pestle-and-Mortar or Hump-backed Pharisees. They walked in a posture of bent-over humility refusing to lift their eyes or their feet. Their humility was self-advertising ostentation.

5. The Ever-Reckoning Pharisees. He believed every good deed he did put God in his debt. To him religion was always to be reckoned in terms of profit and loss.

6. The Timid or Fearing Pharisees. They went ever in fear of the judgement of God. They were not helped but haunted by their religion.

7. The God-loving Pharisees. They were copies of Abraham and lived in faith and charity. They delighted in obedience to the commands of God.

Understanding these different classifications helps make clear some of the pointed criticisms that Jesus had for the Pharisees in the Sermon on the Mount and in the "Woes" of Matthew 23.

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