Who’s A Pharisee?


James Tissot's John and the Pharisees

James Tissot’s John and the Pharisees (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m amazed about how often I hear this word misapplied. This is an especially favorite taunt for people who make extra-biblical or heretical statements  directed against people who have asked for a biblical explanation for what they claim.  Since they’re making claims and statements that don’t line up with what the bible say’s, they can’t tolerate someone exposing them as false prophets. Unable to actually present sound arguments, biblical or otherwise, they resort to ad-hominem attacks against the character of the person they disagree with.

In the Gospels, the Lord Jesus had nothing good to say about Pharisees, often referring to them as vipers, serpents, & hypocrites (see Matt 23:31-33) . It is for this reason that it is used as a taunt, what Christian wants to be identified with these people?

People who teach unbiblical beliefs want to shut sown any hint of criticism.  Since their teachings can’t survive even a brief examination they  become immediately become offensive, often accusing people who question their statements of being a Pharisee. This is a blatant attempt to manipulate and intimidate questioners into silence since there is simply no biblical justification for what they say or do. They try to make it seem that a person using the bible as a basis for judging whether something is of God or not is being ‘legalistic’ and is thus a ‘Pharisee’. They want their hearers to believe that they are only accountable to God and have no need to give an accounting to ‘lesser’ (in their view) people.

That in itself proves their total lack of biblical understanding. This is demonstrated in two ways: 1) Totally corrupting and misstating the definition of a Pharisee to suit themselves. 2) Totally disregarding the commands in scripture for the hearers to verify their claims against scripture.

1) The Pharisees were one of the main Jewish sects during Christ’s earthly ministry. They were noted for their zeal for the Torah – the Law of Moses. The Apostle Paul was himself a Pharisee (see Philippians 3:1-6) before his conversion . They were also known for maintaining an oral tradition – which eventually became written – called the Talmud – A.K.A. The Teachings of Man –  which they regarded as equal in authority to  and sometimes exceeding the Torah’s – A.K.A.: God’s Inspired Infallible Word. 

Look at Matthew 15:1-3 Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?” Jesus didn’t criticize the Pharisees because they obeyed and followed scripture, but because they didn’t. Pharisees disregard the word of God to promote their own ideas and teachings instead of God’s.

 2)  False prophets however don’t want people comparing what they say to what God says.  But what does the scripture say? When Paul & Silas proclaimed the Gospel in Berea, Acts 17:11 says:  “Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” The Bereans were praised for seeking and finding scriptural verification of what was being proclaimed.  1 John 4:1 Tells us to ‘test the spirits’.  1 Thessalonians 5:20 & 21 tells us not to disregard but to test prophecies and hold on to the good. The only way to do that is to verify what is being taught with what God Himself has already said in the bible because God can’t lie or contradict Himself  (see Numbers 23:19).

You wont go wrong in your Christian walk believing that the Bible has all knowledge necessary for salvation and holiness. A person who thinks that their personal dreams, words, and revelations surpass or override biblical revelation is being foolish and will lead you to hell with them.  Don’t be manipulated and controlled by someone claiming spiritual authority who has become offended with you because you asked them “Where does it say that in the bible?” .

I’ll finish by asking you to consider one thing: If a Pharisee is actually someone who disregards the bible to promote their own teachings; who then is actually the Pharisee, the person who asked for biblical proof, or the guy offended because you did?

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