You Want to Be a Pharisee


How many of you, in your quest to become Torah observant, have been accused by Christian friends or family of being a “Pharisee”?

How many of you have been told that you are being a hypocrite and should not only not be concerning yourself with God’s Torah, but you are falling into the same mistakes that others in the First Century Body of Messiah fell into, that the Apostle Paul countered in his epistles?

Having the accusation of being a “Pharisee” is one that is not only commonly used by some Christians against us as Messianic Believers, but has become integrated into the vernacular language of many Christians relating to any individual or group that is perceived as being legalistic and/or archaic in its approach to society and the Bible. It is perceived among many people that being “Pharisaical” is a status that no born again Believer should even try to attain to, because after all, were not the Pharisees the primary antagonists of Jesus Christ? Did not Yeshua have most of His conflicts with the Pharisees and the Pharisaical religious system? Did He not rebuke the Pharisees time and time again for their keeping of the Law?

The example that many readers see of the Pharisees in Scripture is exemplified well in Matthew 12:14: “But the Pharisees went out and conspired against Him, as to how they might destroy Him.” Easton’s Bible Dictionary well-summarizes the thoughts of many Christians: “From the very beginning of his ministry the Pharisees showed themselves bitter and persistent enemies of our Lord. They could not bear his doctrines, and they sought by every means to destroy his influence among the people.” Many Christians reading their Bibles, very seldom having any background information in First Century Judaism, fail to understand that the Pharisees were too broad of a group to be considered the “persistent enemies of our Lord.” NIDB validly points out, “the discriminating Bible student should bear in mind that not everything about every Pharisee was bad. It is perhaps not just to say that all Pharisees were self-righteous and hypocritical. Many Pharisees actually tried to promote true piety.” Unfortunately, far too many Christians are in the dark about this, and it has caused some problems to erupt between them and Messianic Believers.

The key in being able to combat the claim that is often made against us as Messianic Believers—that we are Pharisees and are thus hypocritical, legalistic, and perhaps even opposed to the liberating gospel message of Messiah Yeshua—is to understand that the Pharisees of First Century Judaism were a very complex group of people. Just like the Baptists, Methodists, or Presbyterians of today, so were there different types and subsets of Pharisees, just as there were similarities among them. We have to put ourselves back into the First Century context of the Gospel writers, who would have assumed that their readership would know certain things about the Pharisees, that today many Christian pastors and Sunday school teachers are not informed about. (Or, at least choose to remain uninformed about by failing to consult modern Bible encyclopedias, dictionaries, and various commentaries which have an ample amount of information on the Pharisees, some of which we will be consulting in this article.)

It is important for us as Messianic Believers to have the appropriate background information in relation to First Century Judaism,[4] who the Pharisees were, what the Pharisees believed, how Yeshua interacted with them, and how the Apostle Paul was one of them. Is it true that the Pharisees were hypocritical, “evil people,” as is commonly believed in mainstream Christianity? Or, have many of us perhaps oversimplified things, and we need to look at the Pharisees as being composed of multiple sects—each of which existed under the broad umbrella as being “Pharisaical”—but had differing applications of the Scriptures? Keep this in mind as we examine what it means to be a Pharisee.

Click here for the complete version of “You Want to Be a Pharisee”


reproduced from Introduction to Things Messianic

Are you new to the Messianic movement? Do you have questions about what the Messianic movement, lifestyle, and theologies are all about? Do you need answers on a wide variety of issues with some detailed information? If these are the questions you have been asking, then Introduction to Things Messianic is a book that will definitely benefit you.

Written to the new person investigating Messianic things, Introduction to Things Messianic is a compilation of articles that will inform the inquirer on a wide array of Messianic topics relevant to the current state and growth of our movement, including:

  • Is “the Church” truly a new group of elect?
  • Is the Torah or Law of Moses really relevant for Believers today?
  • Who were the ancient Pharisees and what did they believe?
  • What are the ancient civilizations relevant to the Bible?
  • Am I required to keep the Sabbath?
  • What are the Biblical festivals?
  • Am I required to eat kosher?
  • Why do many Messianics use the proper name of God?
  • What do Messianics think about the end-times?
  • How do I properly grow in this new walk of faith?

These questions, and many more, are discussed and detailed in Introduction to Things Messianic. This book builds on the foundational material in Hebraic Roots: An Introductory Study in a much more thorough way for those wanting an in-depth view of these basic issues. Introduction to Things Messianic can be used for a single person or a group Bible study, as study questions follow each chapter. This publication can also be used as an excellent primer to other publications available from Messianic Apologetics.

250 pages