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In order to utilize all of the features of this web site, JavaScript must be enabled in your browser. Widely praised in its original edition and now part of the Biblical Resource Series, this volume offers a superb discussion of the role of the Pharisees, scribes, and Sadducees in Palestinian Jewish society.

Applying a sociological approach to the biblical and literary sources, Anthony Saldarini accurately portrays these three most prominent groups of educated leaders in Jewish society and describes their relationship to other Jewish social movements from B. Featuring a new foreword by James C. VanderKam, Pharisees, Scribes, and Sadducees in Palestinian Society will remain a standard point of reference for the continuing study of Judaism and Christian backgrounds.

Anthony J. The rabbis thus conceive that on earth they study Torah just as God, the angels, and Moses, "our rabbi," do in heaven. The heavenly schoolmen are even aware of Babylonian scholastic discussions, so they require a rabbi's information about an aspect of purity taboos.

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The commitment to relate religion to daily life through the law has led some notably, Saint Paul and Martin Luther to infer that the Pharisees were more legalistic than other sects in the Second Temple Era. The authors of the Gospels present Jesus as speaking harshly against some Pharisees Josephus does claim that the Pharisees were the "strictest" observers of the law.

In some cases Pharisaic values led to an extension of the law — for example, the Torah requires priests to bathe themselves before entering the Temple. The Pharisees washed themselves before Sabbath and festival meals in effect, making these holidays "temples in time" , and, eventually, before all meals. Although this seems burdensome compared to the practices of the Sadducees, in other cases, Pharisaic law was less strict.

For example, Jewish law prohibits Jews from carrying objects from a private domain "reshut ha-yachid" to a public domain "reshut ha-rabim" on Sabbath. This law could have prevented Jews from carrying cooked dishes to the homes of friends for Sabbath meals. The Pharisees ruled that adjacent houses connected by lintels or fences could become connected by a legal procedure creating a partnership among homeowners; thereby, clarifying the status of those common areas as a private domain relative to the members of the partnership.

In that manner people could carry objects from building to building. This chain of tradition includes the interpretation of unclear statements in the Bible e. The Pharisees were also innovators in that they enacted specific laws as they saw necessary according to the needs of the time.

These included prohibitions to prevent an infringement of a biblical prohibition e. Much of the legal system is based on "what the sages constructed via logical reasoning and from established practice". These are known as Takanot.

Scribes and Pharisees

The Pharisees based their authority to innovate on the verses: " According to the law they instruct you and according to the judgment they say to you, you shall do; you shall not divert from the word they tell you, either right or left" Deuteronomy —11 see Encyclopedia Talmudit entry "Divrei Soferim".

In an interesting twist, Abraham Geiger posits that the Sadducees were the more hidebound adherents to an ancient Halacha whereas the Pharisees were more willing to develop Halacha as the times required. Just as important as if not more important than any particular law was the value the rabbis placed on legal study and debate.

The sages of the Talmud believed that when they taught the Oral Torah to their students, they were imitating Moses, who taught the law to the children of Israel. Moreover, the rabbis believed that "the heavenly court studies Torah precisely as does the earthly one, even arguing about the same questions.

One sign of the Pharisaic emphasis on debate and differences of opinion is that the Mishnah and Talmud mark different generations of scholars in terms of different pairs of contending schools.

In the first century, for example, the two major Pharisaic schools were those of Hillel and Shammai. Followers of these two sages dominated scholarly debate over the following decades. Although the Talmud records the arguments and positions of the school of Shammai, the teachings of the school of Hillel were ultimately taken as authoritative. Following the Jewish—Roman wars , revolutionaries like the Zealots had been crushed by the Romans, and had little credibility the last Zealots died at Masada in 73 CE.

The Essenes too disappeared, perhaps because their teachings so diverged from the concerns of the times, perhaps because they were sacked by the Romans at Qumran. Of all the major Second Temple sects, only the Pharisees remained. Their vision of Jewish law as a means by which ordinary people could engage with the sacred in their daily lives was a position meaningful to the majority of Jews.

Such teachings extended beyond ritual practices. According to the classic midrash in Avot D'Rabbi Nathan :. Yohanan ben Zakkai , a leading Pharisee, was appointed the first Patriarch the Hebrew word, Nasi, also means prince , or president , and he reestablished the Sanhedrin at Yavneh see the related Council of Jamnia under Pharisee control. Instead of giving tithes to the priests and sacrificing offerings at the now-destroyed Temple, the rabbis instructed Jews to give charity.

Moreover, they argued that all Jews should study in local synagogues , because Torah is "the inheritance of the congregation of Jacob" Deut. After the destruction of the Second Temple, Jews wondered whether this would happen again. When the Emperor Hadrian threatened to rebuild Jerusalem as a pagan city dedicated to Jupiter , in , Aelia Capitolina , some of the leading sages of the Sanhedrin supported a rebellion led by Simon Bar Kosiba later known as Bar Kokhba , who established a short-lived independent state that was conquered by the Romans in With this defeat, Jews' hopes that the Temple would be rebuilt were crushed.

Nonetheless, belief in a Third Temple remains a cornerstone of Jewish belief. Romans did eventually reconstitute the Sanhedrin under the leadership of Judah haNasi who claimed to be a descendant of King David.

What are the differences between the Sadducees and Pharisees?

They conferred the title of "Nasi" as hereditary, and Judah's sons served both as Patriarch and as heads of the Sanhedrin. According to historian Shaye Cohen, by the time three generations had passed after the destruction of the Second Temple, most Jews concluded that the Temple would not be rebuilt during their lives, nor in the foreseeable future. Jews were now confronted with difficult and far-reaching questions:. Regardless of the importance they gave to the Temple, and despite their support of Bar Koseba's revolt, the Pharisees' vision of Jewish law as a means by which ordinary people could engage with the sacred in their daily lives provided them with a position from which to respond to all four challenges in a way meaningful to the vast majority of Jews.

Their responses would constitute Rabbinic Judaism. During the Second Temple era, when Jews were divided into sects, the Pharisees were one sect among many, and partisan. Each sect claimed a monopoly on the truth, and discouraged marriage between members of different sects. Members of different sects did, however, argue with one another over the correctness of their respective interpretations, although there is no significant, reliable record of such debates between sects.

After the destruction of the Second Temple, these sectarian divisions ended.

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The Rabbis avoided the term "Pharisee," perhaps because it was a term more often used by non-Pharisees, but also because the term was explicitly sectarian. The Rabbis claimed leadership over all Jews, and added to the Amidah the birkat haMinim , a prayer which in part exclaims, "Praised are You O Lord, who breaks enemies and defeats the wicked," and which is understood as a rejection of sectarians and sectarianism.

This shift by no means resolved conflicts over the interpretation of the Torah; rather, it relocated debates between sects to debates within Rabbinic Judaism. The Pharisaic commitment to scholarly debate as a value in and of itself, rather than merely a byproduct of sectarianism, emerged as a defining feature of Rabbinic Judaism. Thus, as the Pharisees argued that all Israel should act as priests, the Rabbis argued that all Israel should act as rabbis: "The rabbis furthermore want to transform the entire Jewish community into an academy where the whole Torah is studied and kept The Rabbinic era itself is divided into two periods.

During this period rabbis finalized the canonization of the Tanakh , and in Judah haNasi edited together Tannaitic judgements and traditions into the Mishnah , considered by the rabbis to be the definitive expression of the Oral Torah although some of the sages mentioned in the Mishnah are Pharisees who lived prior to the destruction of the Second Temple, or prior to the Bar Kozeba Revolt, most of the sages mentioned lived after the revolt.

The second period is that of the Amoraim from the Aramaic word for "speaker" rabbis and their students who continued to debate legal matters and discuss the meaning of the books of the Bible. In Palestine, these discussions occurred at important academies at Tiberias, Caesarea, and Sepphoris.

In Babylonia, these discussions largely occurred at important academies that had been established at Nehardea, Pumpeditha and Sura. This tradition of study and debate reached its fullest expression in the development of the Talmudim , elaborations of the Mishnah and records of Rabbinic debates, stories, and judgements, compiled around in Palestine and around in Babylon. Rabbinic Judaism eventually emerged as normative Judaism and in fact many today refer to Rabbinic Judaism simply as "Judaism.

They lived at a time when Jews were subjects of either the Roman or Iranian Parthian and Persian empires. These empires left the day-to-day governance in the hands of the Jewish authorities: in Roman Palestine, through the hereditary office of Patriarch simultaneously the head of the Sanhedrin ; in Babylonia, through the hereditary office of the Reish Galuta , the "Head of the Exile" or "Exilarch" who ratified the appointment of the heads of Rabbinical academies.

According to Professor Neusner:. In Neusner's view, the rabbinic project, as acted out in the Talmud, reflected not the world as it was but the world as rabbis dreamed it should be. According to S. Baron however, there existed "a general willingness of the people to follow its self imposed Rabbinic rulership". Although the Rabbis lacked authority to impose capital punishment "Flagellation and heavy fines, combined with an extensive system of excommunication were more than enough to uphold the authority of the courts. Thus, the Rabbis had significant means of "coercion" and the people seem to have followed the Rabbinic rulership.

The Pharisees appear in the New Testament , engaging in conflicts between themselves and John the Baptist [5] and with Jesus , and because Nicodemus the Pharisee John 3 :1 with Joseph of Arimathea entombed Jesus' body at great personal risk. Gamaliel , the highly respected rabbi and defender of the apostles, was also a Pharisee, and according to some Christian traditions secretly converted to Christianity.

There are several references in the New Testament to Paul the Apostle being a Pharisee before converting to Christianity, [6] and other members of the Pharisee sect are known from Acts 15 :5 to have become Christian believers. It was some members of his group who argued that gentile converts must be circumcised and obliged to follow the Mosaic law , leading to a dispute within the early Church addressed at the Apostolic Council in Jerusalem , [61] in 50 CE.

The New Testament, particularly the Synoptic Gospels , presents especially the leadership of the Pharisees as obsessed with man-made rules especially concerning purity whereas Jesus is more concerned with God's love; the Pharisees scorn sinners whereas Jesus seeks them out. The Gospel of John , which is the only gospel where Nicodemus is mentioned, particularly portrays the sect as divided and willing to debate. Because of the New Testament 's frequent depictions of Pharisees as self-righteous rule-followers see also Woes of the Pharisees and Legalism theology , the word "pharisee" and its derivatives: "pharisaical", etc.

Some have speculated that Jesus was himself a Pharisee and that his arguments with Pharisees is a sign of inclusion rather than fundamental conflict disputation being the dominant narrative mode employed in the Talmud as a search for truth, and not necessarily a sign of opposition. Jesus' views of divorce , however, are closer to those of the School of Shammai , another Pharisee. Others have argued that the portrait of the Pharisees in the New Testament is an anachronistic caricature. Rather than an accurate account of Jesus' relationship to Pharisees and other Jewish leaders, this view holds that the Gospels instead reflect the competition and conflict between early Christians and Pharisees for leadership of the Jews, or reflects Christian attempts to distance themselves from Jews in order to present themselves in a more sympathetic and benign light to Romans and other Gentiles.

Examples of disputed passages include the story of Jesus declaring the sins of a paralytic man forgiven and the Pharisees calling the action blasphemy. In the story, Jesus counters the accusation that he does not have the power to forgive sins by pronouncing forgiveness of sins and then healing the man. The account of the Paralytic Man [65] and Jesus's performance of miracles on the Sabbath [66] are often interpreted as oppositional and at times antagonistic to that of the Pharisees' teachings.

Some historians, however, have noted that Jesus' actions are actually similar to and consistent with Jewish beliefs and practices of the time, as recorded by the Rabbis, that commonly associate illness with sin and healing with forgiveness.


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Sanders reject the New Testament suggestion that the healing would have been critical of, or criticized by, the Pharisees as no surviving Rabbinic source questions or criticizes this practice, [68] and the notion that Pharisees believed that "God alone" could forgive sins is more of a rhetorical device than historical fact. No Rabbinic rule has been found according to which Jesus would have violated Sabbath.

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Pharisees, Scribes, and Sadducees in Palestinian Society: A Sociological Approach

When many Jews did not convert, Christians sought new converts from among the Gentiles. They thus were perceived to have had presented a story of Jesus that was more sympathetic to Romans than to Jews. Some scholars have found evidence of continuous interactions between Jewish-Christian and rabbinic movements from the mid- to late second century c. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Brand new Book. An authoritative and unrivalled work on these three important groups which played such a vital role in the ministry of Jesus and in Jewish life.

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