The Pharisees: Part Three
September 28, 2018
by Barry Fike
I know that you’ve been anxiously sitting on your hands trying to figure out what happened between Jesus and the Pharisees. The Pharisees’ theology was actually more closely aligned with New Testament teachings than any of the other Jewish groups of the first century. (Ron Moseley, Yeshua. p. 90)
However, we really can’t appreciate what is going on with Jesus and the Pharisees unless we know that there were seven classes of Pharisees in Jesus day. Five of these are criticized by Jesus in the gospel record and found in the Talmud. In a seminar entitled "Pastors and Teachers Conference" help on January 25-29, 1988 in Austin, Texas, Dr. Roy Blizzard explained the situation. In the Talmud the Pharisees are actually divided into seven distinct groups as explained below.
1. Shoulder Pharisee – He carried his religious duties upon his shoulders (Matt. 11:28). “Come unto me all you who are laboring under a heavy load: is a call to those who are shoulder Pharisees when you consider the burden of the law that they were carrying upon their shoulders.
2. Wait just a moment, Pharisee - They were always saying, “Will you excuse me for just a moment while I go out and do a good deed? Jesus issued on a number of occasions the call to come and follow him. Someone would say, Wait just a minute so I can go bury my father,” or “Wait, and let me do this good deed of burying the dead.” (Matt. 8:18-22)
3. Bruised Pharisee – He was always in an effort to keep from looking on a woman to lust after her, walking around with his head bowed down, and as a result was always running into walls or banging his head and bloodying his nose.
4. Pestle Pharisee – (as in mortar and pestle) He was always walking around with his head bowed down like the pestle in the mortar.
5. Calculating Pharisee – He was always saying “What good deed can I do to offset a bad deed.” (Matt. 19:16-22) How many good deeds can I do so that I can do some bad deeds? You won’t really understand the drama of what is happening when the Rich Young Ruler comes to Jesus and says, “Master, tell me what good thing I must do to inherit eternal life.”
6. God-fearing Pharisee – like Job
7. God-loving Pharisee – Like Abraham
Once you know these seven categories, the words of Jesus take on even more of a significant meaning as he is talking to each of these groups. But without this knowledge of the history of the culture of the time period, these words have a marginal meaning for us and poor theology is the result.
It only take a cursory viewing of these seven groups to know which two Jesus would appreciate and tell those that followed him, “So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.” Matthew 23:3 He then goes on to say, “…they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be born, and lay them of men’s shoulders (shoulder Pharisee); but they will themselves will not move them with their finger.” (v. 4) “But all of their works they do to be seen of men; for they make broad their phylacteries and enlarge the borders of their garments and love the chief place of feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues (calculating Pharisee), and the salutations of the market places, and to be called of men, Rabbi.” (v. 5) Even Jesus would say that their teachings were correct, but their practice wasn’t something to imitate. However, those who imitate Job and Abraham were those that he did agree with both theologically and in practice. It may have been that Nicodemus was one of this group with his probing questions of rebirth and the kingdom of God found in John 3.
I find it fascinating that the more than you find out about the background of the scriptures, the more revealing are the thought and words of Jesus. This wasn’t just one group but seven individual sections within one train of thought which allows Jesus, and the first centuries scholars, to divide them up (which they do in the Talmud), disagree with their train of thought, and seek that which emulates God best both in teaching and practice.