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What Is a Pharisee?

1. Probably derived from a group of the faithful called the Hasidim.

2. Name means “to separate.”

3. Shared similar views with the Essenes, but chose to stay within the larger society. Nevertheless, many chose to study the Law on their own, having lost respect for the priesthood as a result of its corruption.

4. Many served on the council (see Acts 6:12).

5. Considered the doctors of the Law; scribes were considered laymen.

6. Collected and preserved the Talmud and the Mishnah, voluminous products of oral tradition and Old Testament commentary.

7. By reputation, legalistic and fanatically devoted to rabbinic tradition. Some even refused to eat with non-Pharisees for fear of being contaminated by food not rendered ritually clean.

8. Like the Herodians, favored local political autonomy.

9. Differed with the Sadducees over the doctrine of the resurrection.

10. Understood the coming kingdom as a literal fulfillment of the promise to David for a King to reign over Israel forever.

11. Maintained an elaborate theology of angels, believing them to intervene in human affairs.

The Word in Life Study Bible (New Testament Edition), (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville; 1993), pp. 70-71

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