A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Were the Pharisees All Hypocritical Bigots?

Scot McKnight writes,
The new Barna study asks this question: "Are Christians more like Jesus or more like the Pharisees?" Historians know this question is a question about the Torah practice of Jesus vs. the Torah practice of the Pharisees. In other words, it's a question about how best to observe Torah — Jesus' Torah theology vs. the Pharisees' Torah theology. Unfortunately, the word "Pharisee" in this survey means "hypocrite" so the real question is Are Christians less or more hypocritical and more or less loving toward those who are different? Those are better questions.

Here's the big idea: there are no fewer hypocrites among Jesus' followers than there are among Jews, than among Muslims, than among Hindus, than among atheists. Hypocrisy is a human problem not a Jewish problem or a Christian problem. Because it is a human problem it is a problem for all of us.

It's time to revisit the Pharisees, in part because their story needs to be told so we don't forget and in part because some like to use the “Pharisee” in ways that concern me. It is a standard procedure to say "Pharisee" and mean “legalist, bigot, hypocrite, or picayune meddler into other people's religious business." Look at any dictionary. But this is in and of itself a caricature and stereotype, for no one (I hope) would think that all Pharisees have always been religious bigots. Paul, after all, remained a Pharisee (Acts 23:6). Such language spells danger down the road in ways that might surprise us. Even more, we have tended to download anger or extreme disagreement with others onto this term "Pharisee." So, when I call someone a Pharisee I do not mean anything nice or even charitable. Which, in and of itself is dangerous because no group (well, there are exceptions) is always wrong and always bad.
Scot's post is a bit long, but it is a must-read.

1 comment:

Patrick said...

I'm not sure Paul meant that literally. I think he meant it only in relationship to Pharisee/resurrection juxtaposed to Sadducee/denial of it.

I say this because Pharisees were as much a cultural/patriotic "keep Israel for Israel/Hebrew language/anti Hellenization" mentality than a religious group and Paul was anything but that after conversion.

He claimed Gentiles or Jews were the authentic Israel if we believed in Jesus as Messiah, whereas a Pharisee would puke if you told him that.