You would expect that the authors of the Christian Scriptures would attempt to teach the doctrines of Christianity. Indeed, the theology of Christianity can be found by reading the letters of Paul. But the writers of the Christian Scriptures did not stop at presenting their own theology; they also found it necessary to give their readers a perspective of Jewish theology. It seems that believing certain things about Jews and Judaism is part and parcel of Christianity.
The word “Pharisee” appears 100 times in the Christian Scriptures. Who were the Pharisees? The Pharisees were the leaders of those Jews who believed in the national testimony of the Jewish people. The Pharisees were the leaders of the Jewish people and their philosophy and teachings is known today as Orthodox Judaism.
A popular thesaurus equates the word “Pharisee” with: “hypocrite”, “fraud”, “deceiver” and “pretender”. A typical Christian study Bible describes the Pharisees as: “self-righteous”, “avaricious”, “fond of distinguished titles”, “oppressive” and “cruel”. This view of the Pharisees is rooted in the writings of the Christian Scriptures. Every other historical document that we have that describes the Pharisees does not support this negative judgment of the Pharisees.
The writings of the Pharisees themselves preach against all of these vices. Not only do they preach against these vices but they also provide stories from real life that provide illumination in humility, kindness, honesty and selflessness.
If we would be alive in the times of the writing of the Christian Scriptures we can perhaps have an argument as to which path it is that leads to humility – is it the path proposed by the writers of the Christian Scriptures or is it the path mapped out by the Pharisees. But today there is no room for such an argument. We have 2000 years of historical data in front of us. Were there any hypocritical Jews in the past 2000 years? Of-course! Did the Jews sometimes have leaders who were frauds and deceivers? Yes, they did. I am not trying to deny that. What I am saying however is that the community who walked the path mapped out by the Pharisees fared so much better than the community who followed the path mapped out by the authors of the Christian Scriptures. The authors of the Christian Scriptures did not provide their community with the spiritual leadership that it needed while the Pharisees did.
When presented with the historical record of the community who respected the Christian Scriptures missionaries often respond with the slogan: “they were not real Christians”. This assertion rings very hollow in my ears. So many students of history have concluded that to disassociate the Christian Scriptures from the Inquisition and the holocaust is like trying to disassociate smoking from lung-cancer. But it is not necessary for me to expose the empty rhetoric of the missionary here and now. All I need to say to the Christian is that if you want me to judge the authors of the Christian Scriptures on the basis of their moral teachings and on nothing else then I ask you to be consistent. Don’t judge the Pharisees by what their theological enemies have said about them. Judge them by their moral teachings or don’t judge them at all.
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal