SPECIAL TOPIC: PHARISEES

I. The term had one of the following possible origins:

A. "To be separate."  This group developed during the Macaabean period. (This is the most widely accepted view).

B. "To divide."  This is another meaning of the same Hebrew root.  Some scholars say it meant an interpreter (cf. 2 Tim. 2:15).

C. "Persian."  This is another meaning of the same Aramaic root.  Some of the doctrines of the Pharisees have much in common with Persian Zoroastrian dualism (see Special Topic: Personal Evil).

II. They developed during the Macaabean Period from the Hasidim (pious ones).  Several different groups like the Essenes came out of the anti-Hellenistic reaction to Antiochus IV Epiphanes.  The Pharisees are first mentioned in Josephus'Antiquities of the Jews 8.5.1-3.

III. Their major doctrines.

A. Belief in a coming Messiah, which was influenced by interbiblical Jewish apocalyptic literature like I Enoch.

B. God active in daily life. This was directly opposite from the Sadducees.  Many Pharisaic doctrines were theological counterpoints to the doctrines of the Sadducees.

C. A physically oriented afterlife based on earthly life, which involved reward and punishment (cf. Dan. 12:2). 

D. Authority of the OT and the Oral Traditions (Talmud). They were conscious of being obedient to the OT commands of God as they were interpreted and applied by schools of rabbinical scholars (Shammai, the conservative and Hillel, the liberal). The rabbinical interpretation was based on a dialogue between rabbis of two differing philosophies, one conservative and one liberal. These oral discussions over the meaning of Scripture were finally written down in two forms: the Babylonian Talmud and the incomplete Palestinian Talmud.  They believed that Moses had received these oral interpretations on Mt. Sinai.  The historical beginning of these discussions started with Ezra and the men of the "Great Synagogue" (later called the Sanhedrin).

E. Highly developed angelology.  This involved both good and evil spiritual beings.  This developed from Persian dualism and the interbiblical Jewish literature.

 

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