A Religious Liberal Blog

This site hopefully can provide some vehicle by which I can comment, complain, and once in a while praise the state of religion in this country and around the world from a liberal protestant perspective.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Jesus vs. The Pharisees

In response to Candace Chellew-Hodge's piece on the site, Religion's Dispatch, which claimed "Jesus never built a bridge with a Pharisee," I raised an issue that I think is key. Some liberals are apt to use the word pharisee for conservative but there's a polemic hidden in there.

Pharisees are after all, the basis of what would become Rabbinic Judaism. If one put the headline "Jesus Never Built a Bridge with a Jew", that could perhaps highlight why using the word Pharisee as an anti-type is problematic.

Maybe we could raise the question of what does it mean for a religious position (including those found in the New Testament) to be so dependent on an "other" to define itself over and against? Christianity's other in some measure was Judaism and that history is an ugly one.

I'm worried when liberals have an "other" too. Contending over real differences is important. But we ought to be mindful of what spirit we contend. So we don't repeat the mistakes of the past and so we can be open to what God might call us to be in light of engaging others.

Her response indicated that she did not mean anything by the use of this anti-type and in any case, it's found within the New Testament. I respond by noting the history of this anti-type, ie one of pitting Judaism as everything that is not Christianity.

If it's been used for ill (which it has), if we use this idea or this language, we have to be careful. It's not so much a matter of personal intention as how our language can be take by others, (especially if that language has a long and unfortunate history).

And while I agree that we do find this in the Gospels that doesn't lessen the problem. If anything it may make us more critical in looking at how the communities that formed the Gospels defined their status against other people.

The Pharisees prominence as a competitor to Christianity, especially after the fall of Jerusalem, makes these stories of Jesus clashing with the Pharisees all the more suspect.

Especially as the stories of Good Friday confront us, with "the Jews" and how that has played out historically in anti-semitism, we ought to rexamine our language and history and ask how we want to relate and not relate to those who are different.


At 7:18 AM , Anonymous Tim said...

Does the distribution of Jesus' criticisms of Pharisees vary across the gospels, especially the synoptics? Ie, is he any nicer to them as a group in any particular gospel?

What about Nicodemus?

At 2:44 PM , Blogger Gideon said...

I think there is something to be said here about equating Pharisee with Rabbinic Judaism as a whole.

Coming from a Jewish background in particular... It's not the same thing.

I would say that the Pharisee's that Jesus is referring to are behaving a certain way in regards to the law and in regards to their actions. That is, they are making the law an idol. Jesus and his followers were likely Pharisee Jews themselves - but just like now there is a difference in how people are and behave within a group. To say someone is a religious Jew today means as little as it did back then. Reform? Conservative? Even those terms don't mean anything in and of themselves - people in those groups will have a vast expression of action and belief.

From my perspective the kind of Pharisee Jesus would be referring to is something more akin to the Ultra-Orthodox. The one's that like to stone people that drive through their neighbor hoods on the sabbath or beat women on buses for being immodest. Who will let women who's husbands died be blackmailed by his brothers to be allowed to marry again.

When I read 'Pharisee' I'm not thinking "Rabbic Judaism" I'm thinking people who put their own creeds and beliefs before God and treat them as idols. People who ignore those constant calls from the prophets to do what is right (compassion, mercy, etc) in favor of their rituals.

At 8:08 AM , Blogger orthodox said...

"Maybe we could raise the question of what does it mean for a religious position (including those found in the New Testament) to be so dependent on an "other" to define itself over and against?"

I give up, what does it mean?

"I respond by noting the history of this anti-type, ie one of pitting Judaism as everything that is not Christianity."

Err... the historical origin is of Jesus (a Jew) criticising other Jews. If anything, I've seen the typology used to criticise people within one's own faith. I've never seen it applied to outsiders.

" makes these stories of Jesus clashing with the Pharisees all the more suspect. "

Suspect? Uhh, so why do YOU think they hung Jesus on a cross? Because they LIKED the guy?

At 11:09 PM , Anonymous Obie said...

A threshold question is whether the gospels accurately portray the historical Jesus or whether there are layers of intervening history that color their interpretation. Chronology and historical circumstances at the time the gospels were written become relevant. During the period that each gospel was written, the relationship between the Pharisees (developing rabbinical Judaism) and the Jesus movement was progressively worsening. Mark was written at the height of the Jewish civil war, and each of the others came later as Pharisaism was regrouping into rabbinical Judaism in competition with the emerging Jesus sect. John, the last gospel, is notably the most polemically anti-Pharisaical even to the point of anti-semitism. Also, the gospel writers (except for Matthew) were writing to a Gentile (Roman) audience and Jews were scapegoated for the death of Jesus even as the Roman role was whitewashed.

There is a serious trend in recent scholarship that suggests Jesus was actually much closer to the Pharisees than the gospels reveal. Some suggest he was himself a Pharisee. Others point to the famous statement of Hillel, the founder of the more "liberal" of the Pharisee schools that sounds remarkably similar to the golden rule espoused by Jesus. Hillel also suggested that the whole Torah hung on the same two commands that Jesus referenced.

Tim correctly points out Nicodemus as a friendly Pharisee. Joseph of Arimathea was another. Acts relates the intervention of Gamaliel, the foremost Pharisee and leader of the Sanhedrin (and probably the grandson of Hillel), on behalf of Peter after Jesus' crucifixion.

All in all, I think the gospels seriously overstate Jesus vs the Pharisees.

At 3:52 PM , Blogger Mohamed said...

Koran confirms the Torah but condemned Talmudic extermism and confirmed the Gospel but condemned the trinity and the divinity of Jesus.

Muslims like Jews have abandoned the Koran for their own oral traditions, the hadith. Real Islam is only Koran

What Koran says about Torah and Gospel


At 11:40 AM , Blogger God's Angles said...

Children's Rights
Human brain is more then a supercomputer and biological organism. It is the prison box of soul ( matter ) to drive thoughts, hopes, dreams and imagination for human kind. The spongy three pound mass of fatty tissue is the miracle of supreme being when we struggle to boil it at lukewarm temperature of wisdom to understand fundamental of life. Brain plasticity is driven by neurons which is simply electricity or gravity for psych, memories controlled by exercise.
Brain health is one of the most urgent health problem of the twenty first century in the world. Neurological illnesses affect more than 110 million in America and cost is estimated about $ 490 Billion dollars annual expense for disorders such as Alzheimer, sleep, hearing, depression, stroke, head injuries, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injuries, schizophrenia and Parkinson’s.
The new environmental illness or disease such as respiratory problems ,chemicals, allergens, pollution, and other toxins will contribute high numbers of neurological disorders. The shared ancestry and certain blood group and religious groups such as human faith are endangered due to environmental change.

Learning and memory problems of human brain are control by cerebral cortex, amygdala, hippocampus and the steering wheel of the all these functions is the cerebellum .Sleep is the most important part of human health . Which is control by the gravity of supreme being who changes the pressure of gravity on this earth two times a day for the phenomena of life.
Addiction and drug abuse contributing about 90 percent of brain disorders . The pleasure chemical that brain produce with drugs and alcohol is the reason behind human population and psychological problems .
The ancient rules of cell and gene therapy for child health and for child psych by changing ancestry and living clean and exercise is the answer .

Blessing on humanity (Rabi) from Mehdi and Adam the father and the son with Holy Spirit!

It is all about genes that are contributing about 60 percent to child’s risk of developing mental problems.
One study has shown that the marriage between first cousins doubles the risk of cerebellum functions and other learning defects for brain. The shared ancestry is increasing the risk of many neurological problems in all parts of the world.
Human destiny starts when mother sacrifice pain and gift is rainbow of life. It is our choice how we want to see these the seven colors, the ancient wisdom of wedlock make them brighter by psych and memories. It is time to sacrifice self love form social love and lift ambitions by showing brighter seven colors of the rainbow. The commercially grown educators and leaders do not stress importance of sacrificing personal pleasure for child health who lives 70 to 80 years and have a divine right to a father , mother and home for better psych and health.

6. We believe we must provide education worldwide in health and family planning. We must foster respect for life and accept responsibility for the offspring we create. Programs facilitating border less adoptions need to be encouraged. (Divine affirmation)

The waves of fresh air with small particles full of wisdom and oxygen of (Rabi) are in the air it is just matter of time when they touch the brain to change heart. Human Faith is heavenly light of knowledge restriction on sacred light is eclipse on humanity and blasphemy. Human Faith is a religious of God (Rab) of humanity (Rabi). The definition of humanity (Rabi)in our faith is the quality of being humane and respectful for life. The Divine Affirmations of human faith are the commandment of God (Rab) of Humanity (Rabi). The crime against the Divine Affirmations is blasphemy and great disrespect for our God (Rab) of humanity (Rabi).

At 12:47 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...


id reccomend that everyone watch this video because... it makes perfect sense.

At 4:47 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh no! the rappers have apparently found us. This is a song called "Liberal White Girl" a goofy song that is good for a laugh


At 1:42 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

LOL funny video, Conservative white girl would proly be some half-retarded women who goes and spends $150,000 at Neimen Marcus and then proclaims she is a Christian but doesn't give a shit about all the poor, suffering helpless children in the world! SHE's gotta have that $10,000 jacket instead of feeding/saving an entire village of suffering people.

At 12:51 PM , Anonymous Jesus said...

You sir, are a liar! Lies and slander! Lies and slander!

At 6:19 AM , Blogger Anders Branderud said...

Using a logical analysis of the earliest exant documents of "Matthew" one arrives to the conclusion that Ribi Yehoshua was a Pharisee.

I reccomend the research about Ribi Yehoshua from Nazareth here: www.netzarim.co.il
That is an essential read for Christian who wants to follow him.

Anders Branderud

At 7:21 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I started exploring indian culture and Hinduism so I would like to recommend this site vaishnavism where you can find information and scriptures about Hindu beliefs.

At 1:33 PM , Anonymous Dipankar said...

If you want to Know more about in Dlehi Religious Place.

At 2:20 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 8:47 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope you get a chance to see this http://www.futurequest.wordpress.com

At 4:56 PM , Blogger Red Feather said...

I am so happy to see a Liberal perspetive on religion in America today. I was getting to the place where I thought religion was the exclusive province of the Right. I know that many churches have taken Jesus off the cross and tried to stuff Him in the votiing booth. It is ridiculous how politicized certain elements from the Right have made Christianity in our beloved Country today. Kudos to you for your most excellent work in enlightening the world from the Liberal perspective. I can feel "Christan" and Liberal again.
In case you are interested, I have a Liberal Blog too:


At 6:57 AM , Blogger Vanessalee said...

Hey thanks for sharing this!
Keep blogging, I have not commented often but i like your these kind of posts.

At 9:15 AM , Anonymous Pink Flamingo said...

Hi can you please take a look at my questionnaire about religion and What is your concept of God? Its for my extended project.


Thanks :)

At 2:15 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry all, but Christ was hardly a modern American political liberal. If he had been, he would have taken Ceaser, Pontius Pilate, and Herrod all to task...He would have organized protests, lobbied politicians, and attempted to hijack elections...He would have invented Machiavellianism to justify "winning"...No, Christ was the Son of God, here to become our Saviour, to make a way for sinful man to have a relationship with a loving God...When he returns, it will not be as a Lamb, but to collect His church, destroy the nations that have rejected Him, then to judge all...I love how modern liberals cherry pick the Bible. It is God's un-changing word. As a Christian, who is not rich, who opposes the "progressivism" that has bankrupted our nation and made dependants of formerly capable people, I am shocked that you would use Christ's name to advocate for "Social Justice", which is not just, and which harms people in the long run. Help the poor, heal the sick, aid the widowed as we conservative Christians do, but spread the Gospel and encourage men to know Him, as all who reject Him will miss the love of our long-suffering and merciful Lord, and spend an eternity in hell. Oh, I forgot, you libs wrote that out of your Bible...May God have mercy on all of us who add to or subtract from His precious word!

At 11:54 PM , Blogger Manny Parra said...

Hey guys just wanted to ask if you can share my facebook page heres the link --> https://www.facebook.com/shemaisrael77
Help Me out Please. This page has many biblical quotes you can check it out any time. Thank You.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home