PHARISEES (Φαρισαῖοι; Aramaic, "Perishaya"; Hebr. "Perushim"):

Party representing the religious views, practises, and hopes of the kernel of the Jewish people in the time of the Second Temple and in opposition to the priestly Sadducees. They were accordingly scrupulous observers of the Law as interpreted by the Soferim, or Scribes, in accordance with tradition. No true estimate of the character of the Pharisees can be obtained from the New Testament writings, which take a polemical attitude toward them (see New Testament), nor from Josephus, who, writing for Roman readers and in view of the Messianic expectations of the Pharisees, represents the latter as a philosophical sect. "Perisha" (the singular of "Perishaya") denotes "one who separates himself," or keeps away from persons or things impure, in order to attain the degree of holiness and righteousness required in those who would commune with God (comp., for "Perishut" and "Perisha," Tan., Wayeẓe, ed. Buber, p. 21; Abot iii. 13; Soṭah ix. 15; Midr. Teh. xv. 1; Num. R. x. 23; Targ. Gen. xlix. 26).

The Pharisees formed a league or brotherhood of their own ("ḥaburah"), admitting only those who, in the presence of three members, pledged themselves to the strict observance of Levitical purity, to the avoidance of closer association with the 'Am ha-Areẓ (the ignorant and careless boor), to the scrupulous payment of tithes and other imposts due to the priest, the Levite, and the poor, and to a conscientious regard for vows and for other people's property (Dem. ii. 3; Tosef., Dem. ii. 1). They called their members "ḥaberim" (brothers), while they passed under the name of "Perishaya," or "Perushim." Though originally identical with the Ḥasidim, they reserved the title of "ḥasid" for former generations ("ḥasidim ha-rishonim"; see Essenes), retaining, however, the name "Perishut" (='Αμιξία = "separation," in contradistinction to 'Επιμιξία = "intermingling") as their watch word from the time of the Maccabean contest (see II Macc. xiv. 37; comp. verse 3). Yet, while the more rigorous ones withdrew from political life after the death of Judas Maccabeus, refused to recognize the Hasmonean high priests and kings as legitimate rulers of the Temple and of the state, and, as Essenes, formed a brotherhood of their own, the majority took a less antagonistic attitude toward the Maccabean dynasty, who, like Phinehas, their "father," had obtained their title by zeal for God (I Macc. ii. 54); and they finally succeeded in infusing their own views and principles into the political and religious life of the people.

Principle of Democracy.

It was, however, only after a long and protracted struggle with the Sadducees that they won their lasting triumph in the interpretation and execution of the Law. The Sadducees, jealously guarding the privileges and prerogatives established since the days of Solomon, when Zadok, their ancestor, officiated as priest, insisted upon the literal observance of the Law; the Pharisees, on the other hand, claimed prophetic or Mosaic authority for their interpretation (Ber. 48b; Shab. 14b; Yoma 80a; Yeb. 16a; Nazir 53a; Ḥul. 137b; et al.), at the same time asserting the principles of religious democracy and progress. With reference to Ex. xix. 6, they maintained that "God gave all the people the heritage, the kingdom, the priesthood, and the holiness" (II Macc. ii. 17, Greek). As a matter of fact, the idea of the priestly sanctity of the whole people of Israel in many directions found its expression in the Mosaic law; as, for instance, when the precepts concerning unclean meat, intended originally for the priests only (Ezek. xliv. 31; comp. verse 14 and Judges xiii. 4), were extended to the whole people (Lev. xi.; Deut. xiv. 3-21); or when the prohibition of cutting the flesh in mourning for the dead was extended to all the people as "a holy nation" (Deut. xiv. 1-2; Lev. xix. 28; comp. Lev. xxi. 5); or when the Law itself was transferred from the sphere of the priesthood to every man in Israel (Ex. xix. 29-24; Deut. vi. 7, xi. 19; comp. xxxi. 9; Jer. ii. 8, xviii. 18).

The very institution of the synagogue for common worship and instruction was a Pharisaic declaration of the principle that the Torah is "the inheritance of the congregation of Jacob" (Deut. xxxiii. 3, Hebr.). In establishing schools and synagogues everywhere and enjoining each father to see that his son was instructed in the Law (Yer. Ket. vii. 32c; Ḳid. 29a; Sifre, Deut. 46), the Pharisees made the Torah a power for the education of the Jewish people all over the world, a power whose influence, in fact, was felt even outside of the Jewish race (see R.Meïr in Sifra, Aḥare Mot, 13; Matt. xxiii. 15; comp. Gen. R. xxviii.; Jellinek, "B. H." vi., p. xlvi.). The same sanctity that the priests in the Temple claimed for their meals, at which they gathered with the recitation of benedictions (I Sam. ix. 13) and after ablutions (see Ablution), the Pharisees established for their meals, which were partaken of in holy assemblies after purifications and amidst benedictions (Geiger, "Urschrift," pp. 121-124). Especially were the Sabbath and holy days made the means of sanctification (see Ḳiddush), and, as at the sacrifices, wine was used in honor of the day. A true Pharisee observed the same degree of purity in his daily meals as did the priest in the Temple (Tosef., Dem. ii. 2; so did Abraham, according to B. M. 87a), wherefore it was necessary that he should avoid contact with the 'am ha-areẓ (Ḥag. ii. 7).

From Temple practise were adopted the mode of slaughtering (Sifre, Deut. 75; Ḥul. 28a) and the rules concerning "ta'arubot" (the mingling of different kinds of food; comp. Hag. ii. 12; Zeb. viii.; Ḥul. viii. 1) and the "shi'urim" (the quantities constituting a prohibition of the Law; Yoma 80a). Though derived from Deut. vi. 7 (comp. Josephus, "Ant." iv. 8, § 3), the daily recital of the "Shema'," as well as the other parts of the divine service, is a Pharisaic institution, the Pharisees having established their ḥaburah, or league, in each city to conduct the service (Ber. iv. 7; comp. "Ant." xviii. 2, § 3; Geiger, "Urschrift," p. 379). The tefillin, or Phylacteries, as a symbolical consecration of head and arm, appear to be a counterpart of the high priest's diadem and breastplate; so with the Mezuzah as a symbolical consecration of the home, though both were derived from Scripture (Deut. vi. 8-9, xi. 18-19; Sanh. x. [xi.] 3), the original talismanic character having been forgotten (comp. Ex. xii. 13; Isa. lvii. 8).

In the Temple Service.

In the Temple itself the Pharisees obtained a hold at an early date, when they introduced the regular daily prayers besides the sacrifice (Tamid v. 1) and the institution of the "Ma'amadot" (the representatives of the people during the sacrifices). Moreover, they declared that the priests were but deputies of the people. On the great Day of Atonement the high priest was told by the elders that he was but a messenger of the Sanhedrin and must officiate, therefore, in conformity with their (the Pharisees') rulings (Yoma i. 5; comp. Josephus, "Ant." xviii. 1, § 4). While the Sadducean priesthood regarded the Temple as its domain and took it to be the privilege of the high priest to offer the daily burnt offering from his own treasury, the Pharisees demanded that it be furnished from the Temple treasury, which contained the contributions of the people (Sifra, Ẓaw, 17; Emor, 18). Similarly, the Pharisees insisted that the meal-offering which accompanied the meat-offering should be brought to the altar, while the Sadducees claimed it for themselves (Meg. Ta'an. viii.). Trivial as these differences appear, they are survivals of great issues. Thus the high priests, who, as may be learned from the words of Simon the Just (Lev. R. xxi., close; comp. Ber. 7a; Yoma v. 1, 19b), claimed to see an apparition of the Shekinah when entering the Holy of Holies, kindled the incense in their censers outside and thus were enveloped in the cloud when entering, in order that God might appear in the cloud upon the mercy-seat (Lev. xvi. 2). The Pharisees, discountenancing such claims, insisted that the incense must be kindled by the high priest within the Holy of Holies (Sifra, Aḥare Mot, 3; Tosef., Yoma i. 8; Yoma 19b; Yer. Yoma i. 39a).

On the other hand, the Pharisees introduced rites in the Temple which originated in popular custom and were without foundation in the Law. Such was the water-procession of the people, on the night of Sukkot, from the Pool of Siloam, ending with the libation of water in the morning and the final beating of the willow-trees upon the altar at the close of the feast. The rite was a symbolic prayer for the year's rain (comp. Zach. xiv. 16-18; Isa. xiii. 3, xxx. 29; Tosef., Suk. iii. 18); and while the Ḥasidim took a prominent part in the outbursts of popular rejoicing to which it gave rise, the Sadducean priesthood was all the more averse to it (Suk. iv. 9-v. 4; 43b, 48b; Tosef., Suk. iii.). In all these practises the Pharisees obtained the ascendency over the Sadducees, claiming to be in possession of the tradition of the fathers ("Ant." xiii. 10, § 6; 16, § 2; xviii. 1, §§ 3-4; Yoma 19b).

A Party of Progress.

Yet the Pharisees represented also the principle of progress; they were less rigid in the execution of justice ("Ant." xiii. 10, § 6), and the day when the stern Sadducean code was abolished was made a festival (Meg. Ta'an. iv.). While the Sadducees in adhering to the letter of the law required "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth," the Pharisees, with the exception of Eliezer b. Hyrcanus, the Shammaite, interpreted this maxim to mean due compensation with money (Mek., Mishpaṭim, 8; B. Ḳ. 84b; comp. Matt. v. 38). The principle of retaliation, however, was applied consistently by the Sadducees in regard to false witnesses in cases involving capital punishment; but the Pharisees were less fair. The former referred the law "Thou shalt do unto him as he had intended unto his brother" (Deut. xix. 19, Hebr.) only to a case in which the one falsely accused had been actually executed; whereas the Pharisees desired the death penalty inflicted upon the false witness for the intention to secure the death of the accused by means of false testimony (Sifre, Deut. 190; Mark i. 6; Tosef., Sanh. vi. 6; against the absurd theory, in Mak. 5b, that in case the accused has been executed the false witness is exempt from the death penalty, see Geiger, l.c. p. 140). But in general the Pharisees surrounded the penal laws, especially the death penalty, with so many qualifications that they were rarely executed (see Sanh. iv. 1, vi. 1; Mak. i. 10; see Capital Punishment; Hatra'ah).

The laws concerning virginity and the levirate (Deut. xxii. 17, xxv. 9) also were interpreted by the Pharisees in accordance with the dictates of decency and common sense, while the Sadducees adhered strictly to the letter (Sifre, Deut. 237, 291; Yeb. 106b; instead of "Eliezer b. Jacob" [as siding with the Sadducees] probably "Eliezer ben Hyrcanus" should be read). The difference concerning the right of inheritance by the daughter as against the son's daughter,which the Sadducees granted and the Pharisees denied (Yad. iv. 7; Meg. Ta'an. v.; Tosef., Yad. ii. 20; Yer. B. B. vii. 16a), seems to rest on differing practises among the various classes of people; the same is true with regard to the difference as to the master's responsibility for damage done by a slave or a beast (Yad. iv. 7; B. Ḳ. viii. 4; but see Geiger, l.c. pp. 143-144).

Sabbaths and Festivals.

Of decisive influence, however, were the great changes wrought by the Pharisees in the Sabbath and holy days, inasmuch as they succeeded in lending to these days a note of cheerfulness and domestic joy, while the Sadducees viewed them more or less as Temple festivals, and as imposing a tone of austerity upon the common people and the home. To begin with the Day of Atonement, the Pharisees wrested the power of atoning for the sins of the people from the high priest (see Lev. xvi. 30) and transferred it to the day itself, so that atonement was effected even without sacrifice and priest, provided there was genuine repentance (Yoma viii. 9; Sifra, Aḥare Mot, 8). So, too, the New Moon of the seventh month was transformed by them from a day of trumpet-blowing into a New-Year's Day devoted to the grand ideas of divine government and judgment (see New-Year). On the eve of Passover the lessons of the Exodus story, recited over the wine and the maẓẓah, are given greater prominence than the paschal lamb (Pes. x.; See Haggadah [Shel Pesaḥ]). The Biblical command enjoining a pilgrimage to the Temple in the festival season is fulfilled by going to greet the teacher and listen to his instruction on a festal day, as in former days people went to see the prophet (Suk. 27b, after II Kings iv. 23; Beẓah 15; Shab. 152a; Sifra to Lev. xxiii. 44).

But the most significant change was that which the Feast of Weeks underwent in its transformation from a Feast of Firstlings into a Feast of the Giving of the Law (Mek., Yitro, Baḥodesh, 3; Ex. R. xxxi.; see Jubilees, Book of). The Boethusians, as the heirs of the Sadducees, still retained a trace of the agricultural character of the feast in adhering to the letter of the law which places the offering of the 'omer (sheaf of the wave-offering) on the morrow after the Sabbath and the Shabu'ot feast on the morrow after the seventh Sabbath following (Lev. xxiii. 15-16); whereas the Pharisees, in order to connect the Shabu'ot feast with Passover and lend it an independent historical character, boldly interpreted the words "the morrow after Sabbath" as signifying "the day following the first Passover day," so that Shabu'ot always falls upon the close of the first week of Siwan (Meg. Ta'an. i.; Men. 65a, b; Shab. 88a).

Especially significant are the Pharisaic innovations in connection with the Sabbath. One of them is the special duty imposed upon the mistress of the home to have the light kindled before Sabbath (Shab. ii. 7), whereas the Samaritans and Karaites, who were in many ways followers of Sadducean teachings, saw in the prohibition against kindling fire on Sabbath (Ex. xxxv. 3) a prohibition also against light in the home on Sabbath eve. The Samaritans and Karaites likewise observed literally the prohibition against leaving one place on Sabbath (Ex. xvi. 29), while the Pharisees included the whole width of the Israelitish camp—that is, 2,000 ells, or a radius of one mile—in the term "place," and made allowance besides for carrying things (which is otherwise forbidden; see Jer. xvii. 21-24) and for extending the Sabbath limit by means of an artificial union of spheres of settlement (see 'Erub; Sabbath). Their object was to render the Sabbath "a delight" (Isa. lviii. 13), a day of social and spiritual joy and elevation rather than a day of gloom. The old Ḥasidim, who probably lived together in large settlements, could easily treat these as one large house (see Geiger, "Jüd. Zeit." ii. 24-27). Yet while they excluded the women from their festal gatherings, the Pharisees, their successors, transformed the Sabbath and festivals into seasons of domestic joy, bringing into increasing recognition the importance and dignity of woman as the builder and guardian of the home (comp. Niddah 38a, b; and Book of Jubilees, i. 8, with Ezra's injunction; B. Ḳ. 82a).

In regard to the laws of Levitical purity, which, in common with primitive custom, excluded woman periodically, and for weeks and months after child-birth, from the household (Lev. xii. 4-7, xv. 19-24), to which laws the ancient Ḥasidim adhered with austere rigor (Shab. 64b; Horowitz, "Uralte Toseftas," iv.-v.; "Pitḥe Niddah," pp. 54-56; Geiger, l.c. ii. 27-28), the Pharisees took the common-sense course of encouraging the wife, despite the letter of the Law, to take her usual place in the home and appear in her wonted dignity before her husband and children (Ket. 61a; Shab. 64b). So, too, it was with the Pharisaic leader Simeon b. Shetaḥ, who, in the reign of Queen Salome Alexandra, introduced the marriage document (Ketubah) in order to protect the wife against the caprice of the husband; and while the Shammaites would not allow the wife to be divorced unless she gave cause for suspicion of adultery (Sifre, 269; Giṭ. ix. 10, 90b; comp. Matt. v. 32), the Hillelites, and especially Akiba, in being more lenient in matters of divorce, had in view the welfare and peace of the home, which should be based upon affection (see Friedmann, "Pseudo-Seder Eliyahu Zuṭa," xv. 3). Many measures were taken by the Pharisees to prevent arbitrary acts on the part of the husband (Giṭ. iv. 2-3 et al.). Possibly in order to accentuate the legal character of the divorce they insisted, against Sadducean custom, on inserting in the document the words "according to the law of Moses and of Israel" (Yad. iv. 8; but comp. Meg. Ta'an. vii.).

It was on account of such consideration for the welfare of the home that they stood in high favor with the Jewish women ("Ant." xvii. 2, § 4). They discountenanced also the Sadducean custom of special purifications for the officiating priest (Parah iii. 7; Tosef., ii. 1), and laid more stress upon the purification of the Temple vessels and upon the holiness of the Scripture scrolls, which, according to them, transmitted their holiness to the hands which touched them so as to make them "defile" (i.e., make "taboo") the things touched by them (Yad. iv. 6; Tosef., ii. 20; Tosef., Ḥag. iii. 35; see Geiger, "Urschrift," pp. 134-136).

Aristocracy of the Learned.

Most of these controversies, recorded from thetime previous to the destruction of the Temple, are but faint echoes of the greater issues between the Pharisaic and Sadducean parties, the latter representing the interests of the Temple, while the former were concerned that the spiritual life of the people should be centered in the Torah and the Synagogue. While the Sadducean priesthood prided itself upon its aristocracy of blood (Sanh. iv. 2; Mid. v. 4; Ket. 25a; Josephus, "Contra Ap." i., § 7), the Pharisees created an aristocracy of learning instead, declaring a bastard who is a student of the Law to be higher in rank than an ignorant high priest (Hor. 13a), and glorying in the fact that their most prominent leaders were descendants of proselytes (Yoma 71b; Sanh. 96b). For the decision of their Scribes, or "Soferim" (Josephus, σοπισταί; N. T., γραμματεἴς), consisting originally of Aaronites, Levites, and common Israelites, they claimed the same authority as for the Biblical law, even in case of error (Sifre, Deut. 153-154); they endowed them with the power to abrogate the Law at times (see Abrogation of Laws), and they went so far as to say that he who transgressed their words deserved death (Ber. 4a). By dint of this authority, claimed to be divine (R. H. 25a), they put the entire calendric system upon a new basis, independent of the priesthood. They took many burdens from the people by claiming for the sage, or scribe, the power of dissolving vows (Ḥag. i. 8; Tosef., i.).

On the whole, however, they added new restrictions to the Biblical law in order to keep the people at a safe distance from forbidden ground; as they termed it, "they made a fence around the Law" (Ab. i. 1; Ab. R. N. i.-xi.), interpreting the words "Ye shall watch my watch" (Lev. xviii. 30, Hebr.) to mean "Ye shall place a guard around my guard" (Yeb. 21a). Thus they forbade the people to drink wine or eat with the heathen, in order to prevent associations which might lead either to intermarriage or to idolatry (Shab. 17b). To the forbidden marriages of the Mosaic law relating to incest (Lev. xviii.-xx.) they added a number of others (Yeb. ii. 4). After they had determined the kinds of work prohibited on the Sabbath they forbade the use of many things on the Sabbath on the ground that their use might lead to some prohibited labor (see Sabbath). It was here that the foundation was laid of that system of rabbinic law which piled statute upon statute until often the real purpose of the Law was lost sight of (see Nomism). But such restrictions are not confined to ritual laws. Also in regard to moral laws there are such additional prohibitions, as, for instance, the prohibition against what is called "the dust of slanderous speech" (Yer. Peah i. 16a) or "the dust of usury" (B. M. 61b), or against unfair dealings, such as gambling, or keeping animals that feed on property of the neighbors (Tosef., B. Ḳ. vii. 8; Tosef., Sanh. v. 2, 5; Sanh. 25b, 26b).

Doctrines of the Pharisees.

The aim and object of the Law, according to Pharisaic principles, are the training of man to a full realization of his responsibility to God and to the consecration of life by the performance of its manifold duties: the one is called "'ol malkut shamayim" (the yoke of God's Kingship) and the other "'ol hamiẓwot" (the yoke of His commandments). Every morning and evening the Jew takes both upon himself when reciting the "Shema'" (Ber. ii. 2). "The Torah preaches: Take upon yourselves the yoke of God's Kingdom; let the fear of God be your judge and arbiter, and deal with one another according to the dictates of love" (Sifre, Deut. 323). So says Josephus: "For the Jewish lawgiver all virtues are parts of religion" ("Contra Ap." ii., §§ 17, 19; comp. Philo, "De Opificio Mundi," §§ 52, 55). Cain and the generation of the Flood sinned in that they denied that there are a Judgment and a Judge and a future of retribution (Targ. Yer. to Gen. iv. 8; Gen. R. xxvi.). The acceptance of God's Kingship implies acceptance of His commandments also, both such as are dictated by reason and the human conscience and such as are special decrees of God as Ruler (Sifra, Aḥare Mot, 13). It means a perfect heart that fears the very thought of sin (Sifra, Ḳedoshim, 2); the avoidance of sin from love of God (ib. 11); the fulfilment of His commandments without expectation of reward ('Ab. Zarah 19a); the avoidance of any impure thought or any act that may lead to sin (ib. 20b, with reference to Deut. xxiii. 10). The acceptance of God's Kingship implies also recognition of His just dealing with man, and a thankful attitude, even in misfortune (Sifre, Deut. 32, 53; Sifra, Shemini, 1; Mek., Yitro, 10; Ber. ix. 5, 60b). God's Kingship, first proclaimed by Abraham (Sifre, Deut. 313) and accepted by Israel (Mek., Yitro, Baḥodesh, 2-3), shall be universally recognized in the future.

The Future Life.

This is the Messianic hope of the Pharisees, voiced in all parts of the synagogal liturgy; but it meant also the cessation of the kingdom of the worldly powers identified with idolatry and injustice (Mek., 'Amalek). In fact, for the ancient Ḥasidim, God's Kingship excluded that of any other ("Ant." xviii. 1, § 6). The Pharisees, who yielded to the temporary powers and enjoined the people to pray for the government (Abot iii. 2), waited nevertheless for the Kingdom of God, consoling themselves in the meantime with the spiritual freedom granted by the study of the Law (Abot vi. 2). "He who takes upon himself the yoke of the Torah, the yoke of the worldly kingdom and of worldly care, will be removed from him" (Abot iii. 5). Josephus ("B. J." ii. 8, § 14; "Ant." xiii. 5, § 9; xviii. 1, § 3) carefully avoids mentioning the most essential doctrine of the Pharisees, the Messianic hope, which the Sadducees did not share with them; while for the Essenes time and conditions were predicted in their apocalyptic writings. Instead, Josephus merely says that "they ascribe everything to fate without depriving man of his freedom of action." This idea is expressed by Akiba: "Everything is foreseen [that is, predestined]; but at the same time freedom is given" (Abot iii. 15). Akiba, however, declares, "The world is judged by grace [not by blind fate nor by the Pauline law], and everything is determined by man's actions [not by blind acceptance of certain creeds]." Similar to Josephus' remark is the rabbinical saying, "All is decreed by God except fear of God" (Ber. 33b). "Man may act either virtuously or viciously, and his rewards or punishmentsin the future shall be accordingly" ("Ant." xviii. 1, § 3). This corresponds with the "two ways of the Jewish teaching" (Ab. R. N. xxv.; see Didache). But it was not the immortality of the soul which the Pharisees believed in, as Josephus puts it, but the resurrection of the body as expressed in the liturgy (see Resurrection), and this formed part of their Messianic hope (see Eschatology).

In contradistinction to the Sadducees, who were satisfied with the political life committed to their own power as the ruling dynasty, the Pharisees represented the views and hopes of the people. The same was the case with regard to the belief in angels and demons. As Ecclesiastes and Ecclesiasticus indicate, the upper classes adhered for a long time to the Biblical view concerning the soul and the hereafter, caring little for the Angelology and Demonology of the Pharisees. These used them, with the help of the Ma'aseh Bereshit and Ma'aseh Merkabah, not only to amplify the Biblical account, but to remove from the Bible anthropomorphisms and similarly obnoxious verbiage concerning the Deity by referring them to angelic and intermediary powers (for instance, Gen. i. 26), and thereby to gradually sublimate and spiritualize the conception of God.


The Pharisees are furthermore described by Josephus as extremely virtuous and sober, and as despising luxuries; and Ab. R. N. v. affirms that they led a life of privation. The ethics of the Pharisees is based upon the principle "Be holy, as the Lord your God is holy" (Lev. xix. 2, Hebr.); that is, strive to imitate God (Sifra and Tan., Ḳedoshim, 1; Mek., Shirah, 3; Sifre, Deut. 49; comp. Matt. v. 48: "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect"). So "Love thy neighbor as thyself" is declared by them to be the principal law (Shab. 30a; Ab. R. N., text B, xxvi. [ed. Schechter, p. 53]; Sifra, Ḳedoshim, 4) and, in order to demonstrate its universality, to be based on the verse declaring man to be made in the image of God (Gen. v. 1). "As He makes the sun shine alike upon the good and the evil," so does He extend His fatherly love to all (Shir ha-Shirim Zuṭa, i.; Sifre, Num. 134, Deut. 31, 40). Heathenism is hated on account of the moral depravity to which it leads (Sifre, Num. 157), but the idolater who becomes an observer of the Law ranks with the high priest (Sifra, Aḥare Mot, 13). It is a slanderous misrepresentation of the Pharisees to state that they "divorced morality and religion," when everywhere virtue, probity, and benevolence are declared by them to be the essence of the Law (Mak. 23b-24a; Tosef., Peah, iv. 19; et al.; see Ethics).

The Charge of Hypocrisy.

Nothing could have been more loathsome to the genuine Pharisee than Hypocrisy. "Whatever good a man does he should do it for the glory of God" (Ab. ii. 13; Ber. 17a). Nicodemus is blamed for having given of his wealth to the poor in an ostentatious manner (Ket. 66b). An evil action may be justified where the motive is a good one (Ber. 63a). Still, the very air of sanctity surrounding the life of the Pharisees often led to abuses. Alexander Jannæus warned his wife not against the Pharisees, his declared enemies, but against "the chameleon- or hyena- ["ẓebo'im"-] like hypocrites who act like Zimri and claim the reward of Phinehas:" (Soṭah 22b). An ancient baraita enumerates seven classes of Pharisees, of which five consist of either eccentric fools or hypocrites: (1) "the shoulder Pharisee," who wears, as it were, his good actions. ostentatiously upon his shoulder; (2) "the wait-a-little Pharisee," who ever says, "Wait a little, until I have performed the good act awaiting me"; (3), "the bruised Pharisee," who in order to avoid looking at a woman runs against the wall so as to bruise himself and bleed; (4) "the pestle Pharisee," who walks with head down like the pestle in the mortar; (5) "the ever-reckoning Pharisee," who says, "Let me know what good I may do to counteract my neglect"; (6) "the God-fearing Pharisee," after the manner of Job; (7) "the God-loving Pharisee," after the manner of Abraham (Yer. Ber. ix. 14b; Soṭah 22b; Ab. R. N., text A, xxxvii.; text B, xlv. [ed. Schechter, pp. 55, 62]; the explanations in both Talmuds vary greatly; see Chwolson, "Das Letzte-Passahmahl," p. 116). R. Joshua b. Hananiah, at the beginning of the second century, calls eccentric Pharisees "destroyers of the world" (Soṭah iii. 4); and the term "Pharisaic plagues" is frequently used by the leaders of the time (Yer. Soṭah iii. 19a).

It is such types of Pharisees that Jesus had in view when hurling his scathing words of condemnation against the Pharisees, whom he denounced as "hypocrites," calling them "offspring of vipers" ("hyenas"; see Ẓebu'im); "whited sepulchers which outwardly appear beautiful, but inwardly are full of dead men's bones"; "blind guides," "which strain out the gnat and swallow the camel" (Matt. vi. 2-5, 16; xii. 34; xv. 14; xxiii. 24, 27, Greek). He himself tells his disciples to do as the Scribes and "Pharisees who sit on Moses' seat [see Almemar] bid them do"; but he blames them for not acting in the right spirit, for wearing large phylacteries and ẓiẓit, and for pretentiousness in many other things (ib. xxiii. 2-7). Exactly so are hypocrites censured in the Midrash (Pes. R. xxii. [ed. Friedmann, p. 111]); wearing tefillin and ẓiẓit, they harbor evil intentions in their breasts. Otherwise the Pharisees appear as friends of Jesus (Luke vii. 37, xiii. 31) and of the early Christians (Acts v. 38, xxiii. 9; "Ant." xx. 9, § 1).

Only in regard to intercourse with the unclean and "unwashed" multitude, with the 'am ha-areẓ, the publican, and the sinner, did Jesus differ widely from the Pharisees (Mark ii. 16; Luke v. 30, vii. 39, xi. 38, xv. 2, xix. 7). In regard to the main doctrine he fully agreed with them, as the old version (Mark xii. 28-34) still has it. Owing, however, to the hostile attitude taken toward the Pharisaic schools by Pauline Christianity, especially in the time of the emperor Hadrian, "Pharisees" was inserted in the Gospels wherever the high priests and Sadducees or Herodians were originally mentioned as the persecutors of Jesus (see New Testament), and a false impression, which still prevails in Christian circles and among all Christian writers, was created concerning the Pharisees.

History of the Pharisees.

It is difficult to state at what time the Pharisees, as a party, arose. Josephus first mentions them inconnection with Jonathan, the successor of Judas Maccabeus ("Ant." xiii. 5, § 9). Under John Hyrcanus (135-105) they appear as a powerful party opposing the Sadducean proclivities of the king, who had formerly been a disciple of theirs, though the story as told by Josephus is unhistorical ("Ant." xiii. 10, § 5; comp. Jubilees, Book of, and Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs). The Hasmonean dynasty, with its worldly ambitions and aspirations, met with little support from the Pharisees, whose aim was the maintenance of a religious spirit in accordance with their interpretation of the Law (see Psalms of Solomon). Under Alexander Jannæus (104-78) the conflict between the people, siding with the Pharisees, and the king became bitter and ended in cruel carnage ("Ant." xiii. 13, § 5; xiv. 1, § 2). Under his widow, Salome Alexandra (78-69), the Pharisees, led by Simeon ben Shetaḥ, came to power; they obtained seats in the Sanhedrin, and that time was afterward regarded as the golden age, full of the blessing of heaven (Sifra, Beḥuḳḳotai, i.; Ta'an. 23a). But the bloody vengeance they took upon the Sadducees led to a terrible reaction, and under Aristobulus (69-63) the Sadducees regained their power ("Ant." xiii. 16, § 2-xiv. 1, § 2).

Amidst the bitter struggle which ensued, the Pharisees appeared before Pompey asking him to interfere and restore the old priesthood while abolishing the royalty of the Hasmoneans altogether ("Ant." xiv. 3, § 2). The defilement of the Temple by Pompey was regarded by the Pharisees as a divine punishment of Sadducean misrule (Psalms of Solomon, i., ii., viii. 12-19). After the national independence had been lost, the Pharisees gained in influence while the star of the Sadducees waned. Herod found his chief opponents among the latter, and so he put the leaders of the Sanhedrin to death while endeavoring by a milder treatment to win the favor of the leaders of the Pharisees, who, though they refused to take the oath of allegiance, were otherwise friendly to him ("Ant." xiv. 9, § 4; xv. 1, § 1; 10, § 4; 11, §§ 5-6). Only when he provoked their indignation by his heathen proclivities did the Pharisees become his enemies and fall victims (4 B.C.) to his bloodthirstiness ("Ant." xvii. 2, § 4; 6, §§ 2-4). But the family of Boethus, whom Herod had raised to the high-priesthood, revived the spirit of the Sadducees, and thenceforth the Pharisees again had them as antagonists; still, they no longer possessed their former power, as the people always sided with the Pharisees ("Ant." xviii. 1, § 4). In King Agrippa (41-44) the Pharisees had a supporter and friend, and with the destruction of the Temple the Sadducees disappeared altogether, leaving the regulation of all Jewish affairs in the hands of the Pharisees.

Henceforth Jewish life was regulated by the teachings of the Pharisees; the whole history of Judaism was reconstructed from the Pharisaic point of view, and a new aspect was given to the Sanhedrin of the past. A new chain of tradition supplanted the older, priestly tradition (Abot i. 1). Pharisaism shaped the character of Judaism and the life and thought of the Jew for all the future. True, it gave the Jewish religion a legalistic tendency and made "separatism" its chief characteristic; yet only thus were the pure monotheistic faith, the ethical ideal, and the intellectual and spiritual character of the Jew preserved in the midst of the downfall of the old world and the deluge of barbarism which swept over the medieval world.

  • J. Elbogen, Die Religionsanschauung der Pharisäer, Berlin, 1904;
  • Geiger, Urschrift, Breslau, 1857;
  • idem. Sadducäer und Pharisäer, in Jüd. Zeit. 1863;
  • Schürer, Gesch. 3d ed., ii. 380-419 (where list of the whole literature is given);
  • Wellhausen, Die Pharisäer und Sadducäer, Göttingen, 1874.