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People's Dictionary of the Bible


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Pharisees (far'i-sees), a religious sect among the Jews at the time of Christ. Matthew 15:1-8. Their name is from the Hebrew word perûshim, "separated." The chief sects among the Jews during Christ's ministry were the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Essenes. Christ denounced the Pharisees in the strongest language; see Matthew 15:1-8; Matthew 23:13-25; Mark 7:5-6; Luke 11:42-44. To understand the Pharisees is an aid toward understanding the spirit of pure Christianity. The principle of the Pharisees, common to them with all orthodox modern Jews, is that by the side of the written law there was an oral law to complete and to explain the written law, given to Moses on Mount Sinai and transmitted by him by word of mouth. They were particular to avoid anything which the law declared unclean, but they forgot to acquire that cleanness which is the most important of all, and which consists in the purity of the heart. Matthew 15:11. It would be a great mistake to suppose that the Pharisees were wealthy and luxurious, or that they had degenerated into the vices which were imputed to some of the Roman popes and cardinals during the 200 years preceding the Reformation. Josephus compared the Pharisees to the sect of the Stoics. He says that they lived frugally, in no respect given to luxury. We are not to suppose that there were not many individuals among them who were upright and pure, for there were such men as Nicodemus, Gamaliel, Joseph of Arimathæa, and Paul. See Sadducees.

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Bibliography Information
Rice, Edwin Wilbur, DD. Entry for 'Pharisees'. People's Dictionary of the Bible. 1893.

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