Who Were The Pharisees?

Of the three major religious societies of Judaism at the time of the New Testament (the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Essenes), the Pharisees were often the most vocal and influential. The origin of the Pharisees is uncertain, but their movement is believed to have grown from the Assideans (i.e. the "pious"), who began in the time of the Maccabean Revolt (see The Maccabees) against the Greek/Syrian ruler Antiochus IV, or "Antiochus Epiphanes," around 165 B.C. It was during that roughly 4 centuries between the end of the Old Testament record and the birth of Jesus Christ, prior to the rise of the Roman empire (see Ancient Empires - Rome), that the idolatrous Greek influence was at its peak in Jerusalem (see Ancient Empires - Greece, The Ptolemies and The Seleucids). The first direct mention of the Pharisees was by the Jewish/Roman historian Flavius Josephus in describing the three sects, or schools, into which the Jews were divided in 145 B.C.

The name Pharisee in its Hebrew form means separatists, or the separated ones. They were also known as chasidim, which means loyal to God, or loved of God - extremely ironic in view of the fact that by His time, they made themselves the most bitter, and deadly, opponents of Jesus Christ and His message.

The Pharisees perhaps meant to obey God, but eventually they became so devoted and extremist in very limited parts of The Law (plus all that they themselves added to it), that they became blind to The Messiah when He was in their very midst. They saw His miracles, they heard His Words, but instead of receiving it with joy, they did all that they could to stop Him - eventually to the point of getting Him killed because He truthfully claimed to be the Son of God.

Jesus Christ had strong words about the Pharisees, and what awaits some of them:

The lesson from the Pharisees' example is that self-righteousness is not righteousness, and that God's true people are to live according to all of God's Word, not just certain parts that are most convenient or to one's own liking (see I Did It My Way...).

Fact Finder: What Pharisee was personally converted by Jesus Christ after His resurrection, and went on to become one of the greatest Christians of all time, a man who later wrote a large part of what became the New Testament?
Acts 23:6
See also On The Road To Damascus

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