This one is actually kind of funny, because, you know – people who say this never even know who the Pharisees were. They were a religious/political organisation – a denomination of Judaism. Some were righteous and some were unrighteous. Messiah wasn’t rebuking all Pharisees, after all, some were his own followers and we see the disciples of John the Baptist following some of their practices that Yeshua (Jesus) and His disciples got rebuked for not following. Joseph of Aramithea and Nicodemus were both Pharisees, and so was Paul until his dying day. The Talmud tells us that there were seven types of Pharisees in the first century – five types were unrighteous but two were righteous.
But people, in ignorance, have been taught that Pharisee = hypocrite! To equate an entire denomination of faithful Jews as hypocrites, even when their actions show that they are not, is to show a profound lack of historical knowledge. Calling someone a Pharisee because you disagree with them is like saying:
“You – you darned Presbyterian!”
That’s what we’re dealing with here. Now, to call someone “Westboro baptist,” now that would be a great insult because those people are all ungodly, unloving jerks. Lumping all Baptists together, however, and using the moniker as an insult would draw far more laughter than ire. Such a person would not be taken seriously.
Who were the Pharisees? Well, there were two main groups – the House of Shammai, whose anti-Gentile rulings were shutting up the Kingdom of Heaven so that no one could enter in, and the House of Hillel, who believed that the Nations should be free to become worshipers of God. When we see Yeshua rebuking Pharisees for being jerks, He was actually doing it with the full approval of the House of Hillel. In fact the Hillel Pharisees called the Shammai Pharisees a “synagogue of satan” and so did Yeshua. Why? – Because they were keeping the worship of the One true God from spreading all over the world. They were keeping the Kingdom of God selfishly to themselves and denying YHVH His right to be worshiped by people of every nation, tongue and tribe. The only one who wants to keep God from being worshiped is satan, and so the description of Shammai and his followers was appropriate. They even made it illegal civilly for Jews and Gentiles to share meals together or to enter into each other’s homes.
What both groups of Pharisees had in common was the Oral Law – the traditions of the elders. Yeshua didn’t seem to have any problems with people keeping those laws, just with their enforcement above and beyond God’s laws. For example, when the traditions of the elders made it impossible for a man to be healed on the Sabbath, that was a violation of God’s laws. When Hillel said that a wife could be divorced for displeasing her husband in any way, Yeshua had a big problem with that (siding for once with Shammai who reserved divorce for adultery). As we see, the Pharisees had their good doctrines and their bad doctrines and what He rebuked them for was placing their laws above God’s laws.
And so in general, when a person calls someone a Pharisee it is because that person has actually defended God’s laws against the judgment of men. For example, someone wants to eat pork or shellfish – placing their judgment over and above God’s laws- and you might mention that Leviticus 11 defines what food is and that all food is clean but not all things are food. You get called a Pharisee based on a misrepresentation of Mark 14 and Acts 10, which concerned common things and not unclean things (another tradition of the elders said that any clean animal that touched an unclean animal was common and therefore inedible, but there is no prohibition about touching a live unclean animal and so that law was a wrong extrapolation of Biblical principles). But really, the person who called you a Pharisee is acting much more like a Pharisee because they are following a tradition of the Catholic elders that says anything you want to put in your mouth is okey dokey and placing that law above God’s Laws.
You could try to explain this to them, but in general it doesn’t matter because the person simply wanted to shut you up by insulting you. Being called a Pharisee, however, isn’t really an insult. Joseph of Armaithea, a righteous Pharisee, took the body of our Messiah down from the cross and buried Him in his own tomb – risking his own status in the community and becoming ritually unclean for Passover (he would have had to celebrate it in the next month). Paul, a Pharisee, gave his life in the service of our Messiah. Many Pharisees followed Yeshua and labored so that we could follow the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
So unless you are making up extra laws and allowing traditions to trump God’s Law, unless you are trying to keep the people whom you hate out of the Kingdom, unless you are depriving people of justice and acting unrighteously – well, you aren’t the type of Pharisee Yeshua was rebuking but there is a pretty good chance that the person who called you that does meet at least some of those requirements. At the very least, they are resorting to insults because they don’t really want to dialog. We just have to make sure that we are not deserving of those insults by acting like self-righteous jerks and poking our noses in where we are not invited.
So, we have covered being accused of being a scribe and a pharisee, of not freely giving, of calling upon the names of false gods just for saying Jesus or God, and next time we will cover the biblical prohibition on using “UNCLEAN” as an insult. Why am I doing this? – Because too many folks think they are rebuking others by the authority of the Holy Spirit, but if they do it by ignorantly twisting scripture – well, the Holy Spirit isn’t the spirit responsible for that…