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In Judaism, Pharisees were at various times a political party, a social movement, and a school of thought among Jews during the Second Temple period beginning under the Hasmonean dynasty in the wake of the Maccabean Revolt. Conflicts between the Pharisees and the Sadducees took place in the context of much broader and longstanding social and religious conflicts among Jews dating back to the Babylonian captivity and exacerbated by the Roman conquest. One conflict was class, between the wealthy and the poor, as the Sadducees included mainly the priestly and aristocratic families. Another conflict was cultural, between those who favored Hellenization and those who resisted it. A third was juridico-religious, between those who emphasized the importance of the Second Temple with its cultic rites and services, and those who emphasized the importance of other Mosaic laws and prophetic values. A fourth point of conflict, specifically religious, involved different interpretations of the Torah and how to apply it to current Jewish life, with the Sadducees recognizing only the Written Torah and rejecting doctrines such as the Oral Torah and the Resurrection of the Dead. Josephus, himself a Pharisee, claimed that the Pharisees received the backing and goodwill of the common people, apparently in contrast to the more elite Sadducees. Pharisees claimed prophetic or Mosaic authority for their interpretation of Jewish laws, while the Sadducees represented the authority of the priestly privileges and prerogatives established since the days of Solomon, when Zadok, their ancestor, officiated as High Priest. Josephus' statement 'common people' strongly indicates that most Jews were 'just Jewish people' by separating them, and making them independent of the main liturgical groups. The New Testament also makes common reference to the common people indicating that the Jewish identity was independent and stronger than these groups. In his Epistle to the Philippians, Paul of Tarsus claims that changing liturgical sects in the Diaspora had occurred while still identifying oneself as 'Jewish' or 'Hebrew' 'circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, I am a Pharisee', but the position of Paul of Tarsus and Judaism is still disputed.
The Nuttall Encyclopedia
a sect of the Jews who adopted or received this name because of the attitude of isolation from the rest of the nation which they were compelled to assume at the time of their origin. This was some time between the years 165 and 105 B.C., on their discovery that the later Maccabæan chiefs were aiming at more than religious liberty, and in their own interests contemplating the erection of a worldly kingdom that would be the death of the theocratic, which it was the purpose of Providence they should establish; this was the separate ground which they at first assumed alone, but they in the end carried the great body of the nation along with them. They were scrupulously exact in their interpretation and observance of the Jewish law as the rule to regulate the life of the Jewish community in every department, and were the representatives of that legal tendency which gave character to the development of Judaism proper during the period which elapsed between the date of the Captivity and the advent of Christianity. The law they observed, however, was not the written law as it stood, but that law as expounded by the oral law of the Scribes, as the sole key to its interpretation, so that their attitude to the Law of Moses was pretty much the same as that of the Roman Catholics and the High Churchmen in relation to the Scriptures generally, and they were thus at length the representatives of clericalism as well as legalism in the Jewish Church, and in doing so they took their ground upon a principle which is the distinctive article of orthodox Judaism in the matter to the present day. In the days of Christ they stood in marked opposition to the Sadducees (q. v.) both in their dogmatic views and their political principles. As against them, on the dogmatic side, they believed in a spiritual world and in an established moral order, and on the political their rule was to abstain from politics, except in so far as they might injuriously affect the life and interests of the nation; but at that time they had degenerated into mere formalists, whose religion was a conspicuous hypocrisy, and it was on this account and their pretensions to superior sanctity that they incurred the indignation and exposed themselves to the condemnation of Christ.
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