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Morrish Bible Dictionary
This name was given to a religious school among the Jews; it is supposed to have been derived from the Hebrew word parash, signifying 'to separate'; it was given to them by others, their chosen name being chasidim, 'pious ones.' Josephus speaks of them as early as the reign of Jonathan (B.C. 161-144). They prided themselves on their superior sanctity of life, devotion to God, and their study of the law. The Pharisee in the parable thanked God that he was 'not as other men.' Luke 18:11 . Paul, when before Agrippa, spoke of them as 'the most straitest sect.' The Pharisees included all classes of men, rich and poor: they were numerous, and at times had great influence. In the council before which Paul was arraigned they were well represented. Acts 23:6-9 . They were the great advocates of tradition, and were punctilious in paying tithes. In many respects the ritualists of modern days resemble them.
The Lord severely rebuked all their pretensions, and laid bare their wickedness as well as their hypocrisy. It may have been that because of the great laxity of the Jews generally, some at first devoutly sought for greater sanctity. Others, not sincere, may have joined themselves to the sect, and it thus degenerated from its original design, until its moral state became such as was exposed and denounced by the Lord. The very name has become a synonym for bigotry and formalism. Probably such men as Gamaliel, Nicodemus, and Saul were men of a different stamp, though all needed the regenerating power of grace to give them what they professed to seek.
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Morrish, George. Entry for 'Pharisees'. Morrish Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/mbd/p/pharisees.html. 1897.