Pharisees are depicted by some brethren now a day
as people who really tried hard to obey God's Law, and even as if they
really were perfect in their deeds. These brethren even think that
the only sin of the Pharisees was to reject Jesus. Even many
of them think that if someone could be saved by their own works, by obeying
God's Law, it was the Pharisees.
It is not true. On the contrary, they feigned that they obeyed, but they really didn't. They were hypocritical in all they did. They did not obey God's behavior laws. The only laws they kept were the rites, because this was what gave them leverage with the religious elite. By keeping all the laws concerning rites, sacrificing of lambs, giving of tithes, etc., which were economically convenient for the priests, they increased their political clout, their influence within the governing body.
I will reproduce for you Matthew 23: 1-39 so that you can see for yourself who the Pharisees were. This is not my opinion, it is Jesus' opinion. As you read this passage, note that Jesus called them hypocrites seven times. In verse 3, he denounces that they say, but did not. In verse 4, Jesus says that they put heavy loads on men, but they themselves did not touch the loads. In verse 5, he declares that everything they did was to be seen of men. In verse 13, Christ states that the Pharisees will not enter in heaven. In verses 17, 19 and 24, he says that they were fools and that they were blind. In 25, Jesus affirms that they were full of extortion and excess. In verse 28, he says that they were full of hypocrisy and iniquity. And, in verse 33, he asserts that they are a brood of vipers that will not avoid hell.
Now, after reading Jesus' opinion about the Pharisees, would you think that they were people who really endeavored to fulfill God's commandments? Why then are there so many brothers who set the Pharisees as examples of people who had a great commitment to God's Law? Why don't they mention instead men like Job, Daniel, Samuel, Noah, Josiah, and the prophets?
Let us now read a real description of what a Pharisee was.
spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, 2
scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. 3 All therefore whatsoever they
bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for
they say, and do not.4 For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne,
and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them
with one of their fingers. 5 But all their works they do for to be seen of men:
they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments,
6 and love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues,
7 and greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.
8 But be not ye called Rabbi, for one is your Master, even Christ; and all
ye are brethren. 9 And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your
Father, which is in heaven. 10 Neither be ye called masters: for one is your
Master, even Christ. 11 But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.
12 And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble
himself shall be exalted.
13 But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the
kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer
ye them that are entering to go in.
14 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows'
houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the
15 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and
land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the
child of hell than yourselves.
16 Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say: Whosoever shall swear by the
temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a
debtor! 17 Ye fools and blind, for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that
sanctifieth the gold? 18 And: Whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing;
but whosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty. 19 Ye fools and
blind, for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift?
20 Whoso therefore shall swear by the altar, sweareth by it, and by all things
thereon. 21 And whoso shall swear by the temple, sweareth by it, and by him that
dwelleth therein. 22 And he that shall swear by heaven, sweareth by the throne
of God, and by him that sitteth thereon.
23Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint
and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law,
judgment, mercy, and faith. These ought ye to have done, and not to leave the
24 Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. 25 Woe unto
you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the
cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. 26 Thou
blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the
outside of them may be clean also.
27 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto
whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full
of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. 28 Even so ye also outwardly
appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. 29 Woe
unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the
prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, 30 and say: If we had been
in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the
blood of the prophets. 31 Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are
the children of them which killed the prophets. 32 Fill ye up then the measure
of your fathers.
33 Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?
34 Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes, and
some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your
synagogues, and persecute them from city to city, 35 That upon you may come all
the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the
blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the
altar. 36 Verily I say unto you: All these things shall come upon this generation.
37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which
are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as
a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! 38 Behold, your
house is left unto you desolate. 39 For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth,
till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord."
As we have seen, the Pharisees did not obey the law, they only pretended they did. At the same time, they invented new laws and interpretations of laws, which were not authorized by God. They used to fabricate ludicrous doctrines to be imposed on men. These unauthorized doctrines are what many people today think the law was.
Those who believe that the Pharisees were great people, listen to the words of Christ.
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