Who are the biblical Pharisees?

Answered by Robert Dupre

The biblical Pharisees were a group of individuals who belonged to a specific party or sect during the time of Jesus. They were known for their strong belief in the resurrection and for closely following legal traditions that were not necessarily derived from the Bible itself, but from what they referred to as “the traditions of the fathers.”

The Pharisees were prominent figures in the society of ancient Israel, and they held a significant influence over the religious and legal affairs of the time. They were considered experts in the interpretation and application of Jewish law, and their opinions were highly regarded by the people.

One of the key characteristics of the Pharisees was their emphasis on the oral traditions and interpretations of the law. They believed that these traditions, passed down from generation to generation, were just as important as the written law found in the Hebrew scriptures. This belief in the authority of oral tradition set them apart from other Jewish groups, such as the Sadducees, who rejected such traditions.

The Pharisees were also known for their strict adherence to religious practices and their zeal for righteousness. They sought to live their lives in accordance with the law and held a deep commitment to observing the commandments and rituals prescribed by Jewish tradition.

In terms of social status, many Pharisees were well-educated and held positions of influence within their communities. They were often seen as leaders and teachers, guiding others in matters of faith and interpreting the law for the people.

However, it is important to note that not all Pharisees were the same. While some were genuinely devout and sincere in their beliefs, others were criticized by Jesus for their hypocrisy and self-righteousness. Jesus often clashed with certain Pharisees, particularly those who placed excessive emphasis on outward displays of piety while neglecting matters of the heart.

It is also worth mentioning that there were Pharisees who were sympathetic to Jesus’ teachings and even became his followers. Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, for example, were Pharisees who showed support for Jesus and played significant roles in his burial.

The biblical Pharisees were a distinct group within Jewish society during the time of Jesus. They were known for their belief in resurrection, their adherence to both written and oral traditions of the law, and their expertise in legal matters. While some Pharisees were genuinely devout, others were criticized for their hypocrisy. The Pharisees played a significant role in shaping the religious landscape of their time and were often in conflict with Jesus and his teachings.