Rediscovering the Pharisees – Part 4

Imagine someone calling you a “Pharisee”. You would likely be offended by this association. It is understandable, but do you know why? Popular culture – especially Christian culture, has made “Pharisee” a derogatory term. Most people, however – including Christians, don’t know very much about the Pharisees. And what they claim to know, is frequently wrong. The Pharisees deserve their derogatory status, but not for the reasons often heard. Discovering their true identity – that established in the pages of Scripture will be the focus of this study.

RELEVANCE: Why study them?

Through the discovery of their beliefs, we find answers to our own poor thinking as well as the reason so many (today) have embraced a false and damning version of Christianity. It is because our/their religion is no different than that of the Pharisees.

RELIGION: What were the main tenets/beliefs of the Pharisees?

2.1. Traditionalism (Mat 12:1-14, 15:1-14)

Giving human tradition (the teachings, doctrine, beliefs, practices, principles, policies, commands, laws, justice, and religion established by mankind) more authority than God’s Word (the teachings, doctrine, beliefs, practices, principles, policies, commands, laws, justice and religion established by the writers of Scripture). In other words, putting human reason above the revelation of God (Mat 12:1-14, 15:1-14; e.g. discipline as situational ethics in the church).

2.2. Narcissism

Living to experience praise, approval, love, neediness and respect from others or promote self (fulfillment, enjoyment, status and power) at the expense of others– including God. In other words, putting self-love (or loyalty) above love (or loyalty) to God (Mat 23:5-7; e.g. you care what people think of you more than you care what God thinks of you).

2.3. Antinomianism

Believing that faithfulness to all of God’s laws and established authorities is not required to be saved. Obedience is optional (nice but not necessary) and selective[1]. In other words, putting personal freedom and autonomy (self-rule/law; αὐτοῦ = self, νόμος = law) above God’s established laws and authorities. Antinomian is therefore just another word for anarchist[2].

2.3.1. The fact that the Pharisees were devoted practitioners of both traditionalism and narcissism meant that they were (by default) also antinomians (Mat 23:25-28) = Notice Jesus mentions both the Pharisees’ traditionalism (vv25-26) and narcissism (vv27-28a) in His condemnation of them as not only hypocrites but antinomians (“full of lawlessness”).

2.3.2. The Pharisees viewed God’s law as optional (or not necessary to be saved) (Mat 3:7-10; Joh 8:31-39).

2.3.3. The Pharisees were selective in their obedience (Mat 23:1-4) = The Pharisees preached the tough stuff from God’s law (what Jesus means by “they tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear and lay them on people’s shoulders”). This however wasn’t the problem (Jesus calls for the people to “observe whatever they [the Pharisees] tell you”). It was the fact that the Pharisees made no attempt to practice those tougher laws themselves (“they preach, but do not practice…they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger”). IOW: as far it concerned their own obedience, it was selective. They did the easy stuff but ignored the tough stuff. Jesus accuses them of the same thing in (Mat 23:23-24) = The Pharisees chose to obey what was easy and ignored or “neglected” what was tougher yet more important (the “weightier matters of the law”). Notice Jesus says “these you ought to have done without neglecting the others – i.e. no selective obedience; (Luk 16:16-17) = The Pharisees were attempting to be a part of God’s kingdom while being selective in what laws they chose to obey. Jesus makes it clear that such selectiveness will never be a part of salvation (v17 = Snowflake in hell); Hence the reason Jesus mentions them in His teaching on the importance of keeping all of the Law to salvation in (Mat 5:17-20).

2.3.4. The Pharisees were also anarchists. They were against (or chronically suspicious) of all authority (Mat 21:23 = The Pharisees were always questioning whether Jesus possessed legitimate authority even though the fruit of his labors testified to it. Jesus showed that those truly doing the Father’s will are those who submit to His established authorities versus standing around always questioning it or asking for a sign – Mat 16:1-4)[3].

2.3.5. As with their other beliefs, antinomianism was another reason the Pharisees could not understand the Scriptures (i.e. were poor thinkers) and missed Jesus (as their Messiah) (Joh 7:17-19).

2.3.6. The combination of these three: traditionalism (tradition over truth), narcissism (self over others/God), and antinomianism (freedom over authority and laws) is essentially what it means to be an American today (and one of the reasons we have become such poor thinkers).

2.3.7. The same is true in the American church. Like the Pharisees, evangelical Christians are devoted practitioners of antinomianism.

“Since the time of the Reformation, evangelicalism has proven powerless to check repeated outbreaks of antinomianism in churches… resulting in large fringes of congregants today imbued with the heresy. One prominent Lutheran theologian has dubbed antinomianism ‘the heresy of the American church.’”[4]

2.3.8. Why evangelicalism is so steeped in antinomianism:

2.3.8.1. Its gospel is antinomian (salvation is by faith alone )

2.3.8.2. Its view on Paul and the law (“Paul preached Christ as the end of the law in Romans 10:4”; See Act 21:17-24; also Rom 3:31 and again Jesus in Mat 5:17-20)

2.3.8.3. Its doctrines regarding the work of Christ (e.g. Active Obedience and Penal Substitution)

2.3.8.4. Its failure to understand what general revelation teaches us about God’s justice and righteousness (Psa 19:1-8; Rom 1:18-20 w/Psa 33:5 = The earth is full of what God loves and is His central attribute: justice [Psa 9:7, 89:14] = The laws of nature are absolute, consistent and w/o discrimination or bias [e.g. The temperature snow melts/water freezes 32 degrees F]; Hence Deu 16:20 and Num 15:15-16; Because they don’t understand that, they practice situational ethics, discipline based on emotions – and ultimately antinomianism [they subvert the law]).

2.3.9. How you know that you (in step with the Pharisees) will also be viewed by Jesus as an antinomian:

2.3.9.1. You are an evangelical/hold to the evangelical gospel (of faith alone)

2.3.9.2. You refuse to excommunicate all those guilty of what the OT identifies as capital crimes (limiting it simply to what you find in the NT – 1Co 5:1-5)

2.3.9.3. You tell people something similar to “that’s OT law and it no longer applies to God’s people under the NT” (Mat 5:17-20)

2.3.9.4. You tell people something similar to, “don’t sweat the small stuff, focus on the big stuff” (Mat 23:23-24)

2.3.9.5. You believe tithing is optional (2Co 9:7)

2.3.9.6. You think that by your obedience or good works in one area you can get rid of your neglect or disobedience in others (Mat 7:21-23)

2.3.9.7. You are constantly questioning or condemning or refusing to submit to those authorities God places over you – including those in the church (Mat 18:17-18 w/1Co 6:1-3; Rom 13:1-2).

2.3.9.8. You are characterized as a disobedient person or continue to practice (“struggle”) with certain sins (1Jo 3:4).

CLOSING CONTEMPLATION/CHALLENGE = RUN FROM THE RELIGION OF THE PHARISEES.

[1] The word antinomian comes from the Greek word, ἀνομoς; (ἀ/anti = against, νομoς/nomos = law//against the law; “antinomian”) which is translated in the bible as “lawlessness”. You do not however have to be against all of God’s law/authorities to be identified by this term. The term is also used to refer to those who are selective in their obedience. Essentially anyone not adhering to all of God’s laws/authorities is antinomian (Mat 24:12; Rom 6:19; Act 21:21-22).

[2] The definition of anarchy includes opposition to the law (def. the absence of authority and law).

[3] According to Josephus, the anarchist influence of the Pharisees was instrumental in starting the Jewish-Roman war that ultimately led to the destruction of the Temple – and their nation, in 70 A.D.

[4] Rainbow (The Way Of Salvation, p. xvii, xx).

Rediscovering the Pharisees – Part 3

Imagine someone calling you a “Pharisee”. You would likely be offended by this association. It is understandable, but do you know why? Popular culture – especially Christian culture, has made “Pharisee” a derogatory term. Most people, however – including Christians, don’t know very much about the Pharisees. And what they claim to know, is frequently wrong. The Pharisees deserve their derogatory status, but not for the reasons often heard. Discovering their true identity – that established in the pages of Scripture will be the focus of this study.

RELEVANCE: Why study them?

Because understanding the Pharisees helps us to stay away from the teachings of Martin Luther, understand the teachings of Jesus, avoid becoming a member of the Dunning Kruger club—and ultimately, hell. Through the discovery of their beliefs, we find answers to our own poor thinking as well as the reason so many (today) have embraced a false and damning version of Christianity. It is because our/their religion is no different than that of the Pharisees.

RELIGION: What were the main tenets/beliefs of the Pharisees?

2.1. Traditionalism

Giving human tradition (the teachings, doctrine, beliefs, practices, principles, policies, commands, laws, justice, and religion established by mankind) more authority than God’s Word (the teachings, doctrine, beliefs, practices, principles, policies, commands, laws, justice and religion established by the writers of Scripture). In other words, putting human reason above the revelation of God. Traditionalism made the Pharisees poor thinkers and false teachers (Mat 12:1-14, 15:1-14; Mar 7:4).

Examples of this Pharisaical practice in the Christian church today: 1) swear words are inherently sinful, 2) “little-house-on-the-prairie theology” [Doug Wilson video]: a home manifesting mature godliness and devotion to Jesus is a place where the kids are home-schooled, the food home-grown or home-made [especially the cookies!] and all the maintenance or home-improvements are done by the family, 3) Luther’s gospel in the evangelical church, 4) the practice of situational ethics in the majority of churches (e.g. masturbation not disciplined as a capital crime though this is the only penalty assigned to sins related to sexual immorality in the bible).

 

*THE POINT NOT TO MISS: CHECK YOURSELF! Christianity is filled w/Pharisees – people practicing their religion, at least as it relates to the belief/practice of traditionalism. And that traditionalism will not only make us poor thinkers – but could also keep us from going to heaven – to miss Jesus as the Pharisees did (Joh 9:16; this is clearly the case with the Evangelical church’s embrace of Luther’s gospel). Hence the reason for Paul’s warning in (Col 2:8).

2.2. Narcissism

Living to experience praise, approval, love, neediness, and respect from others or promote self (fulfillment, enjoyment, status, and power) at the expense of others– including God. In other words, putting self-love (or loyalty) above love (or loyalty) to God.

2.2.1. The Pharisees were not only traditionalists, they were also narcissists. The reason they did what they did was for the purpose of receiving the praise of others and promoting self (Mat 23:5-7; Joh 12:43; Joh 5:44; Luk 16:14 = What causes people to become “lovers of money” [to be loyal to money] is they are narcissists – i.e. living to promote self or gain power, since money is number one way to do that in this world. Notice they were also seeking to justify themselves by others [versus God] – Luk 16:15).

2.2.2. The narcissism of the Pharisees likewise contributed to their poor thinking and failure to recognize Jesus as the Messiah (Joh 5:15-17; “Jews” = Specifically, the Pharisees- those most seeking to kill Jesus – Mat 12:14)

2.2.3. Narcissism has a long history among human beings, a history going all the way back to the Fall. Satan, then Adam and Eve were the first narcissists in their attempts to be God (or take His throne) (Isa 14:13-14; Gen 3:5-6).

2.2.4. Narcissism is also at the heart of most (if not all) homosexual behavior. It is the epitome – or extreme version of narcissism (or self-love). Hence the designation “homo”(sexual) (i.e. of the same in sexual love; sexual desire for oneself or one like self). Even the world understands this association.

“According to orthodox psychoanalytical theory, narcissism and homosexuality are strongly associated. This association played a major role in pathologizing homosexuality. The hypothesis, which is based on the Freudian connection between narcissism and homosexuality, is [also] supported by the results in [psychological study].” – Gidi Rubinstein (“Narcissism and self-esteem among homosexual and heterosexual male students”; Pub-med.gov)

2.2.5. According to Paul, however, this association has even deeper roots. Homosexuality (along w/a “debased [insane] mind”) is the punishment for those whose narcissism (or self-love) causes them to hold God in contempt (to judge Him and His truth as unrighteous) and establish themselves as the proper object of worship (Rom 1:18-28).

2.2.6. You don’t (however) have to be pursuing homosexual perversion to be a narcissist. Again, the Pharisees were narcissists (but probably not homosexuals). As a matter of fact, many of those who claim to be Christians are narcissists.

2.2.7. Signs you are (more than likely) a narcissist:

2.2.7.1. you care what other people think about you (Luk 6:26):

2.2.7.1.1. your primary motivation to do certain things/right thing is so that people will praise, respect, think highly or approve of you (versus seeking the praise/respect of God – Rom 2:7-8 “self-seeking” = Narcissistic).

2.2.7.1.2. you constantly need the praise or recognition of others to be faithful or keep doing the right thing (e.g. faux leaders – how women end up w/effeminate [pansy, emotional, soft] husbands they thought were real men) (Gal 1:10).

2.2.7.1.3. you make sure others know what you have, who you are, who you know or when you do certain things so as to get their praise, respect or approval of you (Mat 23:5-7; e.g. always posting your achievements on social media; wear clothing advertising where you work/what you do when it is not necessary; you are always name-dropping or telling people what you do, how much you make or where you work).

2.2.7.1.4. you fantasize about others giving you respect or listening to you, or thinking you are smart or wise or cool.

2.2.7.1.5. you show partiality when it comes to your family (e.g. you cover up or discount their sin so as to keep receiving their praise/love/approval of you – Mat 10:32-33 “denies Me before men” = Inhibits Christ’s Lordship over their life by covering up/discounting their sin. This is what Jesus is getting at when He then talks about loving one’s family more than Him [in vv34-37]; Jos 7:24-25).

2.2.7.2. you are a kiss-up or yes-man or coward or two-faced e.g. (rarely ever are you frank w/people – telling them the truth about who they are – or how you view them; you refuse to talk tough, use harsh words or use swear words when necessary; you shy away from tough conversations – even w/your kids or spouse; you agree outwardly w/others though inwardly you are opposed; you are all about praise and little about dealing w/sin; Pro 27:6; 2Ti 4:3).

2.2.7.3. you refuse to take the necessary time to disciple your wife and kids which means understanding why they do what they do (i.e. getting to the specific cause[s] of their actions and never settling for “I don’t know”)

2.2.7.4. you are always making excuses, playing the victim, or feeling sorry for yourself (self-preservation – Mat 16:25).

2.2.7.5. you need others to need you and so will manipulate them to get it (e.g. parents trying to keep their kids at home as long as possible and giving them a guilt trip for wanting to be independent).

2.2.7.6. you are loyal to money and infatuated with making lots of money (it is the primary determiner of what you do).

2.2.7.7. you are guilty of immoral sexual behavior – most especially homosexual behavior (Rom 1:21-27 = Narcissism [“exchanged the glory of God for man” = self-worship] causes God to “g[i]ve them up” to the perversion of homosexuality).

2.2.7.8. you don’t have many close friends in the church because you refuse to be a friend (e.g. you have no interest in going to them or learning about them; you want everyone to come to you and like what you like; Phi 2:3-4 w/5-8).

2.2.7.9. you get offended, don’t handle or honestly listen to the criticism of your brothers and sisters (e.g. when you or your family are criticized, you think about leaving the church – once more, self-love/preservation, Mat 19:16-22 = The RYR was a narcissist – hence his love of money. He didn’t come to Jesus for honest criticism, but approval, and when he didn’t get it, he split).

2.2.7.10. you consider the consequences that may be associated with doing the right thing before doing it (i.e. you do not practice blind righteousness) (again, self-love or preservation is the issue).

2.2.7.11. you always think it’s about you (even now – that pastor is picking on you specifically) (e.g. you are never genuinely happy for others in the church if they have something you don’t have – but want, relationships, money, careers, houses, spouses, health, brains, etc. – Jam 3:14-16).

2.2.7.12. Like Satan and the homosexual, you hold all in authority in contempt (self-love makes me believe I sb king) (e.g. you question anyone in authority, their competency, integrity, their right to be over you; you always believe you know better than those over you).

CLOSING CONTEMPLATION/CHALLENGE: Jesus makes it abundantly clear that the narcissist and person truly following Him are on separate eternal paths. If we want to get to heaven, we must take up our cross and crucify the narcissist in us (Mat 16:24 -“If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself [deny self-love/narcissism], take up his cross and follow Me”).

Rediscovering the Pharisees – Part 2

Imagine someone calling you a “Pharisee”. You would likely be offended by this association. It is understandable, but do you know why? Popular culture – especially Christian culture, has made “Pharisee” a derogatory term. Most people, however – including Christians, don’t know very much about the Pharisees. And what they claim to know, is frequently wrong. The Pharisees deserve their derogatory status, but not for the reasons often heard. Discovering their true identity – that established in the pages of Scripture will be the focus of this study.

RELEVANCE: Why study them?

Because understanding the Pharisees helps us to stay away from the teachings of Martin Luther, understand the teachings of Jesus, avoid becoming a member of the Dunning Kruger club—and ultimately, hell.

To the point, understanding the Pharisees can help us to become better thinkers and discerners of truth – most importantly, the truth w/respect to salvation (e.g. we have embraced the right version of Christianity or are attending the right church, what we believe or live for will get us to heaven). The Pharisees were convinced they were teaching (or practicing) the right version of Judaism – that what they believed would get them and their followers to heaven. And the multitudes agreed. But they were self-deluded and dead wrong. According to Jesus, they were not on their way to heaven, but hell (Mat 23:13-15, 33). Their religion (though claiming to be true religion/true Judaism) was false religion. Their beliefs (or doctrine) was damning. An this affected their thinking. Though claiming to be experts in the Law, their beliefs (or religion) made them incredibly poor thinkers/interpreters of God’s Word. Which is yet another reason we should be excited about studying the Pharisees (or their beliefs). Through the discovery of their beliefs, we find answers to our own poor thinking as well as the reason so many (today) have embraced a false and damning version of Christianity. It is because our/their religion is no different than that of the Pharisees.

RELIGION: What were the main tenets/beliefs of the Pharisees?

2.1. Traditionalism

Giving human tradition (the teachings, doctrine, beliefs, practices, principles, policies, commands, laws, justice, and religion established by mankind) more authority than God’s Word (the teachings, doctrine, beliefs, practices, principles, policies, commands, laws, justice and religion established by the writers of Scripture)[1].

2.1.1. The Pharisees were traditionalists. They possessed many traditions which they used to trump (or negate) the commands of God (Mat 15:1-9; Mar 7:1-5 “many other traditions that they observe”)

2.1.2. Embracing traditionalism made the Pharisees poor thinkers/poor interpreters of Scripture (2Pe 3:16):

2.1.2.1. it caused them to confuse and conflate the Scripture w/their tradition (Mat 12:1-5 “your disciples are doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath…Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” = The Pharisees’ tradition went beyond the Law’s prohibitions for the Sabbath. The confusion created by their traditionalism eventually caused them to conflate the two viewing them as synonymous. IOW: it clouded their view or blurred the line between what was personal preference and what was God’s will).

2.1.2.2. they became “blind” in relation to the Scriptures/spiritual issues/salvation (e.g. Mat 15:10-20; “blind guides” = Unable to discern spiritual truth or see what the Scriptures were teaching so as to point people in that direction; Joh 9:39-41 = The Pharisees were unable to recognize the saving gospel message being communicated by Jesus; See also Joh 7:14-19 “Jews”= Jewish religious leaders including the Pharisees – See Joh 1:19 and 3:1 also Fn on 5:10; “If anyone’s will is to do God’s will” versus “the one who speaks on his own authority” = As discussed, the Pharisees represented the latter [they used their authority/will/tradition to trump God’s authority/will]. As a result they did not “know” that Jesus – or His “teaching [was] from God” – i.e. their traditionalism [in this case, their tradition regarding the Sabbath – see v19b-24 w/Mat 12:9-14] caused them to miss Jesus as the Christ).

2.1.2. It is for these reasons that Paul warns the Colossians about traditionalism (Col 2:8) “takes you captive” = Tricks you into loving what is erroneous/false; “according to human tradition, according to the elementary spirits (principles) of this world = The second phrase is functioning epexegetically. It is the principles (or perception) of the world that form the foundation of human tradition. As such, though it seems wise or profitable, it possesses no ability to improve our spiritual state/standing before God or over sin (2:20-23).

“Traditionalism is a powerful force perfectly calibrated to play on our emotions, please our senses and promote our personal preferences while at the same time convincing us that it will not only make us better Christians but that its doctrine stems from will of God Himself.” – Anonymous

2.1.3. Traditionalism is alive and well today and clouding the beliefs/practices of many claiming to be Christians/Christian churches:

2.1.3.1. What they consider to be taught in God’s Word/promote as Christian culture:

2.1.3.1.1. money is the root of all evil and loans are bad (1Ti 6:10 w/Ecc 10:19; Rom 13:8 w/Mat 25:14-30)

2.1.3.1.2. swear words/vulgar language are inherently sinful (Eph 5:4 w/3 w/Eze 23:17-21; 1Sa 20:30; 1Ki 18:27; Luk 13:32; Phi 3:2, 8; Mat 3:7, 23:33; Mat 16:23)

2.1.3.1.3. forgiveness means you don’t pursue justice/sue people (1Co 6:1-11 w/Exo 34:7)

2.1.3.1.4. God prefers that a home/family where the food is home-made or home-grown and maintenance on the property, house and cars is done by the family (1Th 4:11-12 w/2Th 3:6-15 w/Col 2:20-23 w/Heb 13:9)

2.1.3.1.5. God prefers that women stay at home and the children be home-schooled (Tit 2:5 w/1Ti 5:11-14/Dan 1:4 w/17).

2.1.3.2. The last three (2.1.3.1.4 – 2.1.3.1.6.) can be summed up under the titles of “homerism” or “little-house-on-the-prairie theology” (e.g. Doug Wilson “shanty” video = NOTICE how all the “homer” events presented in the video are wrapped in the garb of spiritual song. The message: this is what Christian culture looks like when its people are mature or truly living for the Lord; this is God’s preference; What it really is: propaganda pushing traditionalism).

2.1.3.3. How they view the role of the pastor (To be a fun/nice-guy w/a positive and encouraging message versus Col 1:28-29; 1Ti 1:3, 4:7 w/13-15, 6:20; 2Ti 2:3-4, 15, 22, 4:2; Tit 10-11)

2.1.3.4. What they consider to be the saving gospel (The Evangelical gospel is the gospel according to Martin Luther not the gospel according to Jesus)

2.1.3.5. How they carry out church discipline (Consider: 1) every pastor/church who claims to be biblical would condemn traditionalism and situational ethics, 2) everyone of those pastors/churches would also agree that masturbation is sexual immorality, 3) additionally, these same people would agree that the only penalty ever associated w/sexual immorality in the bible is capital in nature, 4) how many of these pastors/churches are excommunicating people guilty of masturbation? None. Which means whether they admit it or not, they are all guilty of traditionalism as well as situational ethics. Can a church be the right place [i.e. truly Christian] and practice situational ethics?).

CLOSING CONTEMPLATION/CHALLENGE = Based on our discussion today, how much of your religion is steeped in traditionalism? To the degree that it is, is the degree to which you can expect your thinking to be diminished when it comes to those things in life which are the most important (i.e. there is direct correlation between a person’s wisdom and the false beliefs they possess/practice).

[1] Not all tradition is bad. Paul even praises and exhorts churches toward certain traditions (2Th 2:15, 3:6; 1Co 11:2). Where they become a problem, is when they are used to diminish, restrict or override God’s Word. To do this is what it means to give them “more authority”.

Rediscovering the Pharisees – Part 1

Imagine someone calling you a Pharisee. You would likely be offended by this association. It is understandable, but do you know why? Popular culture – especially Christian culture, has made Pharisee a derogatory term. Most people, however – including Christians, don’t know very much about the Pharisees. And what they claim to know, is frequently wrong. The Pharisees deserve their derogatory status, but not for the reasons often heard. Discovering their true identity – that established in the pages of Scripture will be the focus of this study.

RELEVANCE: Why should every Christian be excited about a bible study on the Pharisees[1]?

1.1. Because it will reveal yet another reason Christians should be leery of listening to or following the teachings of Reformation – most especially Martin Luther.

It is no secret among biblical and historical scholars that Martin Luther foisted upon the Pharisees – the protagonists of Jesus, the identity of his protagonists – the Roman Catholics, in his attempts to justify his new religion. As a result, the Pharisees became the worst among those peddling a works-based salvation. Viewing them however in the light of Scripture, reveals just how far afield this portrayal is and why Luther should not be considered a reliable Christian teacher[2].

1.2. Because it is necessary to understanding the teachings of Jesus.

The Scriptures record no less than 12 different confrontations between Jesus and the Pharisees. They represented Jesus’ main theological opponents[3]. So much of what He taught was purposed to be in sharp contrast to them or their teachings. Failing therefore to understand what they taught/believed, means also failing to understand the teachings of Jesus. The perfect example of such a failure is (as discussed) Martin Luther. Because he embraced a false view of the Pharisees and their beliefs, he failed to possess a right understanding of Jesus and His gospel.

1.3. Because it is helpful to avoid becoming platinum members of the Dunning-Kruger club.

Because of their extensive training in the Law, the Pharisees viewed themselves (and were viewed by others) as wise, yet they were horribly poor thinkers (a phenomenon that exists even today: lots of data, little capacity to draw right conclusions from it – Pro 26:12) (Mat 12:1-12, 22:15-22, 23:16-22). It was the Pharisees’ poor thinking that equally contributed to their reputation as hypocrites (i.e. claiming to be guides/teachers of others yet “blind” to the truth – Mat 23:23-24; See also Mat 15:7-9, 23:25-31; Luk 18:9-14). In modern terms, they were platinum members of the Dunning-Kruger club[4] . Learning therefore what they believed (the source/cause of such poor thinking or inability to rightly process the data) can help us avoid also becoming members of this infamous club and the hypocrites it produces.

1.4. Because it reinforces the truth that false/damning religion can masquerade as – and be more popular than, the real thing.

That what the Pharisees taught was the most popular – or the received form of Judaism among the people, is made evident by the following facts: 1) The term used most often to identify a teacher in Jesus’ day (“rabbi”) originated w/the Pharisees. 2) According to Josephus, the Pharisees were the dominant religious party in Jerusalem and well received by the people. Even the Sadducees (the religious party of the high priests) were forced to submit to and abide by their teachings since otherwise “the masses would not tolerate them” (Antiquities, 18) (e.g. the Sanhedrin’s acceptance of Gamaliel’s recommendation in Acts 5: 34ff). 3) In addition, Josephus records that any aspirations to Jewish political life also required acquiescence to the religion of the Pharisees (Life, 12). In short, there was no religious group among the Jews more popular or viewed as truth-bearers by the people, than the Pharisees. Yet according to Jesus, their religion was false and damning (Mat 23:13-15, 33; Mat 16:5-12; Luk 7:30). Jesus wasn’t the only One Who condemned their teaching/beliefs. John the Baptist expressed the same condemnation while baptizing in the Jordan (Mat 3:7). In this light, consider how Jesus and the apostles must have felt (kind of like we do today?)

1.5. Because it will demonstrate that what masquerades as Christianity in most American churches is the religion of the Pharisees.

What the bible reveals to be true religion (main tenets/beliefs) of the Pharisees are (as we shall see) in large part, the religion (main tenets/beliefs) of Evangelicalism (the religion of Martin Luther)[5]. Not only did Martin Luther get his understanding of the Pharisees wrong, but he inadvertently placed himself (and those who follow him) into the actual religion of the Pharisees. Irony (or poetic justice) at its best.

1.6. Because it is key to avoiding Hell.

Want to be sure you are not in the wrong Christianity or church? Studying what the Pharisees taught/believed is a great place to start. Especially since the main tenets/beliefs of their religion are (once more) those embraced by Evangelical Christianity.

NEXT WEEK: RELIGION: what were the main tenets/beliefs of the Pharisees?

 

[1] The Pharisees under consideration in this study are those opposed to and condemned by Jesus. As such, it does not represent or speak in respect to all Pharisees since they were those who supported and followed Jesus (e.g. Nicodemus) – or based on their testimony, did not share the beliefs of the Pharisees that will be discussed in this study (e.g. Saul/Paul).

[2] “One must note in particular the projection onto Judaism of the view which Protestants find most objectionable in Roman Catholicism: the existence of a treasury of merits established by works. We have here the retrojection of the Protestant-Catholic debate into ancient history, with Judaism taking the role of Catholicism and Christianity the role of Lutheranism.” – E.P. Sanders (Paul and Palestinian Judaism); “Scholarly study has been undergoing a decisive shift in approach and understanding. Older approaches, especially those stemming from the Reformation, have been increasingly perceived as inadequate, their frameworks of interpretation having been forced upon central elements [of the Scripture] with greater and greater difficulty. What was taken as axiomatic in the older approaches now appears as something in need of explanation. [There is] increasing recognition that lenses polished on the grinding wheel of the Reformation do not provide us with a clear picture. How [then] are we to understand [the Scriptures] now that we know Luther misunderstood [them]?” – Terrence Donaldson (Paul And The Gentiles)

[3] By comparison, the Scriptures record only two such confrontations in regard to the Sadducees.

[4] According to Dunning and Kruger’s famous study, people who are poor thinkers tend to grossly overestimate their abilities. The hypocrisy and frequent failures created by such overestimations are also well documented (e.g. man robbing banks w/lemon juice on his face).

[5] According to the Pew Forum, those holding to evangelical beliefs represent 70.4 percent of the nation’s population (229 million people or seven out of every ten people) and are its single largest religious group. That Evangelicalism is the religion of Martin Luther is supported by the fact that not only did he invent the term, but the gospel they embrace.