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Who Were the Pharisees?. How to analyze the historical sources. Professor Tzvee Zahavy April, 2002. When?. Before 70 CE. Time of… Nascent Christianity Roman Governance Political Tension Religious Effervescence. Pharisees. Hebrew xhaurp =Separatists

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Who Were the Pharisees?

How to analyze the historical sources


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Professor Tzvee ZahavyApril, 2002


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When?

  • Before 70 CE.

  • Time of…

  • Nascent Christianity

  • Roman Governance

  • Political Tension

  • Religious Effervescence


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Pharisees

  • Hebrew xhaurp =Separatists

  • Label used later for those strict in doctrine and ritual – outwardly – hypocritical – self-righteous

  • Carries cultural baggage


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Roles Given Them

  • A sect or philosophical school w/ Sadducees, Essenes, Zealots

  • Precursors to the Rabbis

  • Enemies of Jesus

  • Administrators of the State


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Critical Reading

  • Cui bono?

  • What is the Tendenz?

  • Genre, purpose, timeliness

  • Source: Jacob Neusner, From Politics to Piety


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Aside: Who Were…

  • The 21st C. Palestinians?

  • Freedom Fighters?

  • Hypocritical Terrorists?

  • Religious Martyrs?

  • Administrators of a State?

  • Need for critical questions


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M. Smith’s Pharisees

  • Small group of Pal. Jews

  • Philosophical school (Josephus, Antiquities)

    • Distinct beliefs, practices

  • Oral Traditions


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Josephus (b. 37 CE)

  • Lived before 70 in Israel

  • Have his actual writings

  • A historian: apologist for Rome

  • Claimed to be a Pharisee (“A sect like the Greek Stoic School”)


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Josephus’, War

  • P’s were a Political Party

  • Active in the court affairs of the Maccabean State

  • Excelling in observance of religion

  • Real administrators of the State – Alexandra Salome


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More Josephus

  • P’s Active politically in Herod’s Court

  • P’s a philosophical school

  • Attribute all to fate and God

  • Belief in the soul

  • Reward and Punishment

  • Affectionate and harmonious


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All prayers and sacred rites of worship performed according to the P’s exposition

Influence in the Temple

Deviation of the accounts from those in the War

M. Smith: P’s now leading candidates for Roman support in Israel and already negotiating for it.

Fact: a political party

Fact: a “philosophical school”

The Antiquities: 20 Years Later


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Pharisees of the Gospels (c. 80 CE) to the P’s exposition

  • Who were they?

  • A Table Fellowship

  • W/ Dietary laws

  • Observed Ritual purity

  • Like Priests in the Temple

  • Scrupulous tithing


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Antagonism to the P’s exposition

  • The enemies of Jesus

  • Central to the governance of the Jewish community

  • Hypocrites and a brood of vipers


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Role 1: Background enemies of Jesus to the P’s exposition

  • Chief priests and Pharisees

  • Scribes and Pharisees

  • Provoke Jesus or trip him up

  • Many passages


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2: Criticize Jesus to the P’s exposition

  • He was healing on the Sabbath

  • He violates their practices


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3. General Condemnation to the P’s exposition

  • “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Mt. 5:20)”


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4. Agree w/P’s to the P’s exposition

  • Paul in Acts: I am a Pharisee, son of a Pharisee

  • Not valued as historical information

  • Was a narrative convention


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5. P’s Condemned to the P’s exposition

  • For Specific Practices, Beliefs

  • J eats with the wrong people

  • P’s fast, Christians do not

  • P’s do not harvest on the Sabbath

  • P’s do not heal on Sabbath

  • Christians do not wash to eat

  • And…


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Moral Condemnation to the P’s exposition

  • P’s keep ritual purity laws but neglect “the weightier matters of the law, justice, mercy and faith”

  • 3 issues to conclude: the NT P’s kept the Sabbath, ritual purity and tithing


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Example: Plucking Grain on the Sabbath to the P’s exposition

  • Mt 12 At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the sabbath; his disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. When the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, "Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the sabbath." 

  • He said to them, "Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him or his companions to eat, but only for the priests. Or have you not read in the law that on the sabbath the priests in the temple break the sabbath and yet are guiltless? 

  • I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. But if you had known what this means, 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the sabbath."


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Examples: Woe to the P’s exposition

  • Mt 23 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel!

  • "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may become clean.


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Rabbinic Traditions to the P’s exposition

  • Mishnah, Tosefta, 2 Talmuds

  • Later compilations

  • 200-500 CE

  • Contain references to pre-70 rabbinic masters = Pharisees


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Mishnah to the P’s exposition

  • Published ~ 200 CE by Judah the Prince

  • Compilation of rabbinic sayings from 4 eras

  • Pre-70

  • Yavneh (70-125)

  • Usha (125-170)

  • Bet Shearim (170-220)


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Mishnah + Tosefta to the P’s exposition

  • Additions to Mishnah

  • Commentaries

  • Together with Mishnah = the Oral Torah

  • Taught to Moses along with the written Torah

  • Hence: authoritative code


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Talmuds (c. 450-500) to the P’s exposition

  • Babylonian

    • Better known, more authority

  • Talmud of the Land of Israel

  • Compiled as rabbinic expositions of the Mishnah


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Attributions to the P’s exposition

  • Rabbi X said….

  • The House of Hillel v. the House of Shammai

  • ~ 300 pericopae – disputes

  • 65 traditions attested from the generation of Yavneh


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Pharisees of Mishnah to the P’s exposition

  • Purity laws

  • Agricultural taboos

  • Sabbath laws


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Pharisaism to the P’s exposition

  • “As If” Mode of Religion…

  • Conduct one’s daily life in the home as if one were a Priest in the Temple

  • Eat in purity

  • Family purity

  • Meticulous tithing, agricultural laws


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Houses of Hillel and Shammai to the P’s exposition

  • Subject of their traditions: 67% deal with table fellowship + purity

  • Not special ritual feasts – everyday meals – and on Sabbaths and festivals


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What is missing? to the P’s exposition

  • No mention of governance or politics

  • Mishnah’s are Not like Josephus’ Pharisees

  • They are strikingly similar to the agenda of the Pharisees of the Gospels


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Gradations in the Mishnah’s Evidence to the P’s exposition

  • Some traditions of the Pharisees can be attested to an earlier generation

  • Some cannot


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Yavneh (70-125) to the P’s exposition

  • Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai

  • Escape from Jerusalem

  • Founder of rabbinic school

  • Not a political head: that was the Nasi – Patriarch


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  • Example: Mishnah Berakhot (Blessings) to the P’s exposition

  • 1:3 A. The House of Shammai say, "In the evening everyone should recline in order to recite [the Shema] and in the morning they should stand,

  • B. "as it says [in the passage of the Shema], When you lie down and when you rise (Dt. 6:7)."

  • C. But the House of Hillel say, "Everyone may recite according to his own manner [either reclining or standing],

  • D. "as it says, And as you walk by the way (ibid.) ."

  • E. If it is so [that one may recite however he wishes] why does [the verse] say, When you lie down and when you rise?

  • F. [It means you must recite the Shema] at the hour that people lie down [night] and at the hour that people rise [in the morning].

  • G. Said R. Tarfon, "I was coming along the road [in the evening] and reclined to recite the Shema as required by the House of Shammai. And [in doing so] I placed myself in danger of [being attacked by] bandits."

  • H. They said to him, "You are yourself responsible [for what might have befallen you], for you violated the words of the House of Hillel."


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Example: Tosefta 1:4 to the P’s exposition

A. Once: R. Ishmael and R. Eleazar ben Azariah were

staying in the same place. R. Ishmael was reclining and R.

Eleazar ben Azariah was standing upright. When the time

came to recite the ”Shema`, R. Ishmael arose and R. Eleazar

Ben Azariah reclined. B. Said to him R. Ishmael, "What is this, Eleazar?" C. He said to him, "Ishmael, my brother, they say to

one, `Why is your beard grown long?', and he says to

them, `Let it serve [as a protest] against the destroyers.' D. "[Just so] I, who was standing, reclined; and you,

who were reclining, arose." E. He [Ishmael] said to him, "You reclined to carry out

the words of the House of Shammai, and I arose to carry out

[the words of] the House of Hillel [M. Ber. 1:3]." F. Another version: "[I arose] so that the students

should not behold and establish the law according to your

words."


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Usha (140-170) to the P’s exposition

  • Failure of the revolt of Bar Kochba

  • Focus: continuity of the unbroken rabbinic tradition

  • Hope for the Messiah, not the messianic general


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Judah the Nasi (=Patriarch, c. 200) to the P’s exposition

  • Publication of the Canonical Mishnah

  • Formalization of the religion of the dual Torah

  • Groundwork for the formulation of Talmudic learning


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Talmud: Founding of Yavneh to the P’s exposition

  • "Abba Sikra, the head of the bandits of Jerusalem, was the son of Rabbi Yohanan Ben Zakkai's sister. Rabban Yohanan said to him saying, "Come to me secretly". He came. Rabban Yohanan asked him, "How long are you going to carry on this way and kill all the people with starvation?" He said to him "What can I do? If I say a word to them they will kill me." Rabban Yohanan said to him, "Devise some plan for me to get out of the city for perhaps I can save a little." He said to him, "Pretend to be ill and let everyone come to inquire about you, and let them say that you are dead...Then let your disciples attend on you, since they know that a living being is lighter than a corpse. Rabban Yohanan did all this...When they reached the gate the [Jewish] bandits wanted to stab him [to ensure that he was dead]. Abba Sikra said to them "Shall the Romans say they have stabbed their master." They opened the gate.

  • When Rabbi Yohanan came to Vespasian he said, "Peace to you O king." Vespasian said to him, "you have been condemned to death on two counts, firstly because I am not a king...and secondly if I am a king why did you not come to me until now?" Rabbi Yohanan said to him, "In truth you are a king for Jerusalem can only be destroyed by a king....

  • At this point the messenger arrived saying, "Arise for the emperor is dead and the notables of Rome have decided to make you head of the state." Vespasian was overjoyed and he said to Rabban Yohanan...You may make a request of me and I will grant it." Rabban Yohanan said give me Yavneh and its wise men...He ought to have said to him, "Let Jerusalem alone." But Rabban Yohanan thought that Vespasian would not grant so much.." [Talmud Gittin 56a b].


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Rabbinization of Judaism: 200-450 CE to the P’s exposition

  • Rabbinic interpretation of Scriptures = Midrash

  • Rabbinic meanings to rituals and festivals

  • Reverence for the rabbi as a holy man