693. The Pharisees

 •  2 min. read  •  grade level: 11
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Matthew 22:1515Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk. (Matthew 22:15). Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk.
The Pharisees were a politico-religious party among the Jews. Their origin is involved in obscurity, but it is commonly supposed that the beginning of the party dates from a time shortly after the Babylonish Captivity. A Pharisee is, literally, one who is separated; and it is thought that the name was given because these people separated themselves from all Levitical impurity. They were doubtless a pure people in the beginning, their design being to preserve the law from violation, and the Jewish people from contamination. As their influence increased, and political power came into their hands, they lost much of their original simplicity. In the time of Christ they were very numerous and influential, and occupied the chief offices among the Jews. They were divided into two schools: the School of Hillel, and the School of Shammai.
The Pharisees were especially distinguished for belief in an Oral Law of Moses, as well as a Written Law. This Oral Law was supposed to be supplementary to the Written Law, and, with various comments added from time to time, had been handed down by tradition. The Pharisees had great veneration for this traditionary code, and for the traditionary interpretations. They placed them in authority on a level with the Written Law, and even above it. See note on Matthew 15:33But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? (Matthew 15:3) (#672). As a body, they were not chargeable With immorality in life; on the contrary, there were many zealous and conscientious men among them, and many things which they taught were worthy of being observed, as Jesus himself admitted. See Matthew 23:33All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. (Matthew 23:3). These teachings were from the law; it was when they attempted to make their traditions valid that Jesus denounced them. The great error of the most of them consisted in substituting human tradition for divine law, and in observing mere external forms, many of them of a most wearisome as well as puerile character, instead of seeking for inward purity of heart, which would have been accompanied by corresponding blamelessness in life.
It was but natural that such teachers should be bitterly opposed to Christ, and that he should vehemently denounce them and warn the people against them. They endeavored in various ways to “entangle him in his talk,” (literally, to ensnare or entrap him,) and in every possible manner they exhibited their hatred. His stinging rebukes tingled in their ears and rankled in their hearts, and made them threaten his life.