John P. Meier, The Marginal Jew,
v.3, ch. 28 : Jesus in Relation to Competing Jewish Groups: The Pharisees,
pp 289-388

(Detailed summary)

Were the Pharisees so terrible?


The Pharisees are a religious-political group of devout Jews who formed in the early Hasmonean period (about 150 BC) in response to the crisis of the Hellenization of Palestine led by Antiochus IV and some Jewish sympathizers. This group emphasizes the zealous and careful study and practice of the Mosaic Law, especially its legal obligations of ritual purity. But in order to justify all these observances, it develops the theory that it possesses a collection of normative traditions from the ancients going back to Moses. And so it is that in parallel with the Torah an oral tradition develops of which they are the custodian.

The use of the Gospels to study Jesus' relationship with the Pharisees must be done with great circumspection. On the one hand they are a literary work in which the evangelist expresses his theology (for example, the presence of the Pharisees in Galilee at the beginning of Mark's Gospel is artificial), and on the other hand they reflect the time in which they were written, i.e., Jesus' conflict with the Pharisees is more a reflection of the conflicts of the early Christians with the Jewish community in the 70s and 90s than of Jesus' conflict with them. Thus, while it can be established with a high degree of probability that Jesus entered into a relationship with the Pharisees, it is difficult to trace a precise account back to the historical Jesus.

It is safe to say that Jesus and the Pharisees collided in the Jerusalem area because they were both addressing ordinary Jews and both were trying to influence their religious vision and practice. They could agree on the election of Israel, on the need to respond wholeheartedly to the demands of the law, on God's promise of his Messiah and the resurrection of the dead accompanied by the final judgment, but the Pharisees could not understand or accept that eschatological times had already begun with Jesus' actions, including his healings, and that the beginning of this restoration of the world as God originally intended it brought with it a new morality, including the prohibition of divorce, a place for celibacy, the relativization of fasting and practices of ritual purity. But having said all this, we must reject the idea that the Pharisees played a role in the arrest and execution of Jesus, because it has no historical basis.

Let us finally note that after the destruction of the temple of Jerusalem around the year 70 by the Romans, the Essenes and the Sadducees disappeared from the map as a group, but the Pharisees survived and played a fundamental role by gathering at Yavneh to put all their religious tradition in writing and become the basis of the rabbinic movement that would go through the centuries.

Jesus in Relation to Competing Jewish Groups: The Pharisees

  1. Introduction

    The goal is not to describe all the political or religious renewal movements at the time of Jesus, but only the groups with which Jesus had to interact.

  2. By Way of Background: A Brief History of Origins

    1. Tensions Within Israel From the Beginning

      As soon as you open the Old Testament, you notice the internal wars in Israel. First there are the quarrels between the twelve sons of Jacob, then the civil war at the time of the formation of the monarchy, and after the interlude of the reigns of David and Solomon, it is the division of the country between the northern and southern kingdoms where we witness the sad spectacle of court intrigues to determine the international alliances that end with the invasion of the north by Assyria in 721 BC and of the south by Babylon in 587 BC. Even when the Persian king authorized the return of the exiles to the south in 539 BC and the reconstruction of the temple in Jerusalem, the quarrels resumed and were exacerbated by the entry of Hellenistic culture into Jerusalem and the temple with the Syrian Antiochus IV Epiphanes, implying the suppression of circumcision in 167 BC, which was opposed by the priest Mattathias, his son Judas Maccabeus and the entire Hasmonean family.

    2. The Hasmoneans As a Source of Tension

      Judas Maccabeus died in battle in 160 BC, but his brothers succeeded in eliminating the Syrian yoke to establish the Hasmonean dynasty in Israel. Unfortunately, the Hasmoneans sowed discord by proving themselves to be tyrannical kings and illegitimate high priests, not descending from the line of Zadok. It is in this context that groups such as the Pharisees and Essenes appeared.

    3. The Essenes and the Qumranies

      The origin of the Essenes and the Pharisees is not really known. Some scholars present them as descendants of the Hasideans, faithful and loyal people who supported the Maccabees in their revolt, but later distanced themselves from the Hasmoneans in the face of their political and religious ambitions. A group of Essenes would even have radicalized and isolated themselves from the temple community of Jerusalem by forming a community of the pure in the desert of Judas at Qumran around 152 BC. But all this remains a hypothesis and it is better to recognize that we are swimming in mystery. What is clear is that the Essenes saw themselves as the only observers of God's authentic will as Israel entered the final battle of the end times. But because of their lifestyle and isolation, they do not appear in the New Testament.

    4. The Pharisees and the Sadducees under the Hasmoneans

      The withdrawal of the Essenes gives all the place to the Pharisees and Hasmoneans. The Hasmonaean John Hyrcanus I begins his reign by favoring the Pharisees, before turning to the Sadducees. But the pious queen Salome Alexandra (76-69 BC), probably the widow of Alexander Jannaeus, son of John Hyrcan, entrusts the management of internal affairs to the Pharisees who take their revenge against the Sadducees. Upon her death, the battle resumed between his two sons, Aristobulus II and Hyrcanus II, one favoring the Sadducees, the other the Pharisees. It is in this context that the Roman general Pompey enters the scene in 63 BC when he imprisoned Aristotle II and established Hyrcanus II as high priest, and made Palestine a province of Syria.

    5. Herod the Great

      It was within the setting of the changes brought about by Roman politics that a fine politician from Idumea in southern Palestine, Antipater, and his son Herod, came to power. Herod the Great officially became King of Judea in 40 BC and subsequently worked to eliminate all his opponents and intimidate the aristocracy, especially the Sadducees. He chose the high priests from priestly families other than the Hasmoneans, and they were only puppets in his hands. The Sadducees and Pharisees will be reduced to voluntary associations without much influence.

    6. The Roman Prefects and Procurators

      After the deaths of Herod the Great (4 BC) and his incompetent son Archelaus (6 AD), the Romans established a new system with Roman prefects, responsible for the army and financial affairs, but relying on the high priests and the aristocracy to manage the internal affairs of Jewish life, to ensure good order and to collect taxes and customs on their behalf. However, Herod Antipas (who reigned from 4 BC to 39 AD under the title of Tetrarch), one of the sons of Herod the Great, was skillful enough to hold on to power in Galilee, deploying a police force to ensure good order and of which John the Baptist was a victim, but was deposed when he asked Emperor Caligula for the title of king.

      So we have, on the one hand, the Roman prefects with their headquarters in Caesarea Maritima, but they did not hesitate to deploy their troops in Jerusalem during the great feasts, or to get their hands on the temple treasury to pay for public works. On the other hand, we have the high priests and a rich aristocracy, mostly Sadducees, who acted as a buffer between Roman authoritarianism and Jewish sensibility. But all this represented a precarious and difficult balance. That is why both the prefects and the high priests had very short reigns. However, there are exceptions on the side of the prefects with Gratus (15-26) and Pilate (26-36), and on the side of the high priests with Joseph Caiaphas (18-36): this gives a good idea of their political skill and pragmatism.

      It is in this context that we must place the Pharisees of Jesus' time. While the Sadducees liked this political arrangement with the Romans, the Pharisees on the other hand found themselves somewhat in the shadows, without real political power. However, because of the extent of their knowledge in the Mosaic Law, their reputation was very high among ordinary Jews. They were therefore the only ones in a position to question Jesus. This knowledge enabled them to belong to the group of civil servants, bureaucrats and educators, and thus to exert some influence on political life, even if indirectly. We also find priests in the group of the Pharisees, as well as notables, like Gamaliel, perhaps, whom the Acts of the Apostles presents to us as a lawyer and Paul's teacher.

    7. The New Situation after A.D. 70

      With the end of the first Jewish war and the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple, not only did Judea disappear as an independent state, but also the priestly class and the priestly and secular aristocracy, many of whom were Sadducees, were eliminated. Even Qumran was destroyed in 68 and the Essenes disappeared from the map. All the apocalyptic groups that had hailed the beginning of the war will perish or be discredited forever. In short, the only group to survive and retain the respect of the people are the Pharisees. The Pharisees will gather in Yavneh, on the Mediterranean coast, to write down all their tradition, which was above all oral, and to adapt it to the new situation. Together with other pious Jews, they were the forerunners of what would later become the rabbinic movement. We note some great figures: Johanan ben Zakkai, Eliezer ben Hyrcanus, Gamaliel II and Judas the Patriarch, the final compiler of the Mishna, around the year 200-220.

  3. The Problem of Sources and Method

    1. The New Testament as a Source

      We find the first mention of the word Pharisee around 56-58 in Paul's epistle to the Philippians when he declares his identity: "Circumcised on the eighth day, of the race of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew son of Hebrews; as for the Law, a Pharisee.... " (Phil 3: 5) This is the only reference in Paul, and it is indirect. In the Gospels, the word appears first in Mark (about 70 AD), twelve times. But Mark's treatment of it reflects the quarrels between Christians and Pharisees in the early church. The situation worsens with the other Gospels. Therefore, this material should be used with great care. As for the Sadducees, the data is even more limited.

    2. Josephus as a Source

      The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus offers 14 passages in which he talks about the Pharisees, including 9 in which he discusses their beliefs and activities. One must, however, remain circumspect before everything he writes on the subject: he first paints a negative picture of the Pharisees in his early works, before arriving with a more positive image in his later writings, no doubt out of political calculation before the place occupied by the Pharisees in the reconstruction of the Jewish community at the approach of the second century. We must reject the idea that Josephus himself was a Pharisee in spite of his pretensions: there are too many contradictions in what he claims in his writings.

    3. The Rabbinic Literature as a Source

      This literature includes the Mishna (200-220), the Tosefta (3rd c.), the Jerusalem Talmud (5th c.) and the Babylonian Talmud (6th c.). But here we encounter the same problems we have with the Gospels: how can we isolate in these writings what goes back to the time of Jesus? We cannot assume that the word perûsîm (perîsayya in Aramaic) in all these writings designates our Pharisees. For the word literally means "the separated" or "the separatists" and can refer to different groups, such as extremely pious or ascetic people, or sectarian or heretical people. Rather, our approach focuses on passages that present this group's conflicts with the Sadducees, since this reflects the New Testament context and the Sadducees disappeared after the year 70.

      The Mishna offers a passage that reflects five controversies with the Sadducees.

      1. The Sadducees reject the Pharisees' idea that contact with holy scripture makes the hands unclean, whereas contact with other types of writings, such as Homer, does not; the Pharisees consider the Sadducees to be inconsistent, because they claim that the bones of a high priest make them unclean, i.e. objects of a higher order make them unclean (m. Yad. 4:6).
      2. The Sadducees reject the idea of the Pharisees that a liquid flowing continuously from a pure vessel to an unclean vessel does not make the first vessel unclean (m. Yad. 4:7).
      3. On the other hand, the Pharisees reject the idea of the Sadducees that water flowing from a cemetery is pure (m. Yad. 4:7).
      4. The Sadducees do not understand why the Pharisees consider the owner of an ox or donkey responsible for the injuries caused by his animals, but not for the owner of a slave; the Pharisees reply that the slave is capable of answering for his actions (m. Yad. 4, 7).
      5. The Sadducees and the Pharisees quarreled over how to write a divorce certificate, the former writing the name of the ruler of the hour at the top of the page, and the name of God at the bottom of the page, the latter writing the name of Moses at the bottom of the page instead (m. Yad. 4:6).

      On the whole, the positions held by the Pharisees concern the areas of ritual purity as well as questions of civil law, such as liability for damages and divorce.

      These quarrels between the Pharisees and Sadducees are also found in the Tosefta, in particular two passages.

      1. The Sadducees maintain that the menorah, the candlestick of the temple, cannot become unclean, while the Pharisees maintain the opposite position (t. Hag.. 3:35).
      2. The Boethusians or Sadducees consider that a daughter can inherit from her father, while the Pharisees say the opposite.

      Again, these positions concern ritual purity and civil law.

      All this sums up what can be obtained from rabbinic literature. It cannot be assumed that all the scribes were Pharisees, or that all the religious or civil laws came from the Pharisees, and therefore all this rabbinic literature would be a reflection of Pharisaic thought.

    4. The Method to Be Adopted

      We will use the same criteria of historicity that we used for the study of the Gospels. For example, there is the criterion of multiple attestations of both sources and forms, since there is no dependence between Paul, the Q source, Mark, John, Josephus and the Mishna, and furthermore they belong to different times and were written in different places, and belong to very different literary genres. When one encounters statements about the Pharisees that do not fit with the thinking of an author, one can evoke the criterion of embarrassment.

  4. The Pharisees

    1. A Few 20th-Century Portraits of the Pharisees

      The scholars of the 20th century have given us several portraits that are now discarded.

      1. The sociological approach offered us the portrait of Pharisees as proletarian and courteous Jews, dedicated to the study of the law and opposed to the rural Sadducean aristocracy.

      2. For others, the Pharisees are lay and liberal scholars who seek to transform a once agrarian society into an urban one, for which the old laws of the Pentateuch, especially the religious system of animal sacrifice, must now be adapted.

      3. Someone like Jacob Neusner claims that the Pharisees simply seek to follow the call of Leviticus (Lev 19: 2) addressed to all people to be holy as God is holy, and therefore seek to live the ideal of priestly sanctity, hence their effort to eat their daily meal in a state of ritual purity proper to priests. They would be a club of holy meals, without political aims. This position has been much criticized, among others by E.P. Sanders, who sees no documents supporting this idea of a pursuit of priestly purity.

      4. Moreover, throughout their history, the Pharisees have sought to exert political pressure whenever they could. An extreme example is their political action during the census of Quirinius in 6 AD when a Pharisee called Saddok joined Judas of Galilee in leading the revolt. Even though they were somewhat marginalized by the Roman power, they played a role in the revolt of 66.

    2. A Minimalist Sketch by Way of Six points

      The following six points constitute the minimum that can be said about the Pharisees.

      1. They represent a Jewish group with both religious and political interests, which was active in Palestine before the first Jewish war.

        1. This fact is confirmed by Paul of Tarsus, himself a Pharisee (Phil 3: 5), who became a Christian in the middle of the year 30.
        2. The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus writes in his Autobiography (III, 12) that he sought to follow the Pharisaic school of thought at the age of 19, about 56 AD.
        3. As we have studied previously, rabbinic tradition speaks of the Pharisaic-Sadducean controversies which must be situated before the destruction of the temple in 70 AD.

      2. The Pharisees had the reputation of being accurate and precise interpreters of the Mosaic Law. This is a point first supported by Josephus when he says that they were known for their accurate knowledge of the Mosaic Law and ancestral customs. Paul agrees when he speaks of his zeal for the tradition of the fathers (Gal 1: 14) and the fact that he was blameless according to the righteousness of the law (Phil 3: 6). Accuracy in interpreting the law and acting correctly is the Pharisees' trademark.

      3. Jesus' controversies with the Pharisees reflect the broader discussions in the first century about the correct interpretation of the Mosaic Law. These discussions existed because legal positions had developed beyond the actual text of the Mosaic Law. The Qumranians decided to separate and isolate themselves in the desert. The Pharisees, for their part, admit that their practices are not found in the Mosaic Law, but that they nevertheless stem from the venerable tradition of the fathers and represent the will of God. But unlike the Sadducees, they were very committed to convincing ordinary Jews to observe their traditions in their daily lives. The Sadducees, on the other hand, rejected these oral traditions and accepted only the written ones.

        These facts are confirmed by Josephus who describes how the Pharisees, under the reign of Salome Alexandra, had imposed their special laws on the people according to the tradition of their fathers (Jewish Antiquities 13:16.2). Luke gives us a similar echo when he makes Paul say that it was at the feet of Gamaliel that he "was trained to observe the exact observance of the law of our fathers". (Acts 22: 3) The evangelist Mark paints a similar picture of the Pharisees when he speaks of their obsession with ancient traditions, which are absent from the mosaic writings. He situates them mainly in Jerusalem and their presence in Galilee does not seem to have been significant.

        The treatise Pirquê ’abôt of the Mishna tells that Moses received the Torah at Sinai and passed it on to Joshua, who passed it on to the elders, who passed it on to the prophets, who passed it on to the people of the Great Assembly (after the exile to Babylon), and so on until the Pharisees Hillel and Shammai (end of the first century BC and the beginning of the first century AD), who were succeeded by the famous Pharisee Gamaliel I, mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 5: 34), and his son Simeon I. We have here, therefore, the testimony of an uninterrupted oral tradition which goes back to Sinai and which has a normative value equal to that of the written Torah, and of which the Pharisees consider themselves the depositaries. This Pharisaic tradition will be at the source of the rabbinic tradition in which both Torahs are spoken of.

      4. By drawing on multiple sources such as the evangelical traditions and the Mishna in its oldest stratum, we can reconstruct the main preoccupations of the Pharisees.

        1. Purity rules on food and vases containing food and liquids
        2. The rules of purity on bodies and coffins
        3. The purity and sanctity of the furniture for worship in the Temple of Jerusalem, as well as the proper way of practicing one's religion and offering a sacrifice in the Temple.
        4. Tithes and shares due to priests
        5. The correct observance of the Sabbath and the holy days, especially in the context of work and travel.
        6. Marriage and divorce, including the act itself and its motive

      5. These Pharisaic concerns focus on legal decisions and reflect the Jewish emphasis on orthopraxis rather than orthodoxy. Yet Judaism contains certain doctrinal beliefs based on Josephus and the Gospels.

        1. The Gospel of Mark presents the Sadducees as refusing the resurrection of the dead (Mk 12: 18-27), whereas they are in opposition to the Pharisees. The Pharisees on the contrary believe in the resurrection of the dead, as confirmed by Luke (Acts 23: 6-9) in the mouth of Paul the Pharisee. Josephus clearly states that this is a point of difference between the Sadducees and the Pharisees (The Jewish War 2, 8.14), because the Pharisees believed in the immortality of the soul and a reward or punishment after death. Finally, the Mishna, which continues the Pharisaic tradition, excludes from future life those who do not believe in the resurrection of the dead.

        2. Faith in the resurrection of the dead goes hand in hand with faith in the coming of eschatological and apocalyptic events, as well as with a doctrine of salvation history, the Messiah, and a Jerusalem and Temple renewed at the end of time. This would be confirmed by the Psalms of Solomon and the Book of Jubilees, intertestamentary writings at the turn of the modern era, to the extent that one accepts their Pharisaic source. This is also confirmed by Paul of Tarsus in so far as it is accepted that his Pharisaic foundations are reflected in his Christian theology.

          1. Paul's difficulties with the Christian faith did not lie in accepting the existence of a Messiah, which came to him from his Pharisaic faith, but in recognizing that Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified man, was that Messiah.
          2. Likewise Paul believed in the resurrection of the dead in the last days, but his difficulties arose from the acceptance that this moment had come with the resurrection of Jesus.
          3. Paul's reinterpretation of the Old Testament in the light of Christ, salvation history, and the Church stems from the Pharisaic habit of re-reading the Scriptures from an eschatological and messianic perspective.
          4. For Paul the Pharisee the Mosaic Law was the basic setting of his life, and that is why, in becoming a Christian, he must die to this law as he says in his epistle to the Galatians (Gal 2: 19).

        In short, the Pharisees had a much broader theological vision than the mere observance of legal precepts would suggest. It is even likely that they developed certain forms of prayer and community life.

      6. The last element of Pharisaic doctrine concerns the balance between divine providence and human effort. As Josephus tries to situate the Pharisees within the setting of Greco-Roman culture, he speaks rather of destiny in the face of free will. But his way of proceeding is to compare the Pharisees to the Sadducees and Essenes. For him, the Essenes of Qumran emphasize predestination where God orders all things in advance and where humanity cannot escape from sin without Him, even though human freedom exists to repent and enter the community. In contrast, the Sadducees emphasize human effort and its capacity to make decisions in the political-religious sphere. Where do the Pharisees fit into this spectrum? In the middle. We have three texts by Josephus to clarify this.

        1. In the first passage (The Jewish War 2:8,14) he states that the Pharisees attribute all things to fate and God. Even though he mentions that moral activity is largely in the hands of human beings, he immediately returns to the power of fate. But the presentation of the Pharisees in this passage is in contrast to the Sadducees.
        2. In a second passage (Jewish Antiquities 13:5.9), the spheres of human destiny and action each occupy half of human history.
        3. In a third passage (Jewish Antiquities 18:1.3), Josephus speaks of the fusion of destiny which fulfills all things and the human will which can make decisions within the limits of its power.

        In short, the Pharisees saw the history of Israel under the influence of God who was inexorably directing it towards cosmic consummation where he will raise and judge the dead. It is Israel's responsibility to obey the divine will as revealed by the law and the traditions of the fathers. But in all this they were no different from the ordinary Jew who shared a similar faith. It was not a single point that distinguished the Pharisees from the others, but a set of components put together.

    3. Summary: A Minimalist Sketch of the Pharisees

      Here's how we might summarize what we know about the Pharisees. They are a religio-political group of devout Jews who formed in the early Hasmonean period (around 150 BC) in response to the crisis of the Hellenization of Palestine led by Antiochus IV and some Jewish sympathizers. This group emphasizes the zealous and careful study and practice of the Mosaic Law, especially its legal obligations of ritual purity. But in order to justify all these observances, it develops the theory that it possesses a collection of normative traditions from the ancients going back to Moses. And these observances are a way for the people to respond to God who set them apart and gave them the law. By being faithful to God and His law, God will send His Messiah, and at the judgment will reward His people by bringing them into the future world of the righteous.

    4. Jesus' Relation to the Pharisees

      The difficulties of establishing the historicity of Jesus' relationship with the Pharisees are similar to those we have had with miracle accounts: just as it has been possible to establish in a general way with a high level of probability that Jesus performed healings and exorcisms, so it is problematic to establish the historicity of a specific account; the same is true of Jesus' relationship with the Pharisees. Let us first look at passages where we perceive the editorial work of the evangelists, and then consider what may have a historical background.

      1. Passages in which we notice the evangelist's pen.

        1. In Mark's case, section 2: 1 - 3: 6, called the cycle of Galilee, has been carefully composed to give a work that is both artistic and theological at the same time. This artistic side can be seen with the concentric pattern around key themes : (1) healing of a paralytic (Mk 2: 1-12), (2) eating with sinners and tax collectors (Mk 2: 13-17), (3) the fasting not practiced by Jesus' disciples (Mk 2: 18-22), (4) the disciples' meal of plucking ears of corn on the Sabbath (Mk 2: 23-38), (5) healing of the man with the withered hand (Mk 3: 1-6). The Pharisees gradually appear on the scene to become the only hostile group to question Jesus and plot his death. But all this is artificial, because when Mark tells the story of Jesus' trial, the Pharisees will not play any role. The only mention of the Pharisees in Jerusalem is the scene where they question Jesus with the Herodians about the tax on Caesar (Mk 12: 13), a scene that could refer to Mk 3: 6, a literary technique called inclusion.

        2. This literary work can also be seen in Luke, who nevertheless maintains a distinction between the curses addressed to the Pharisees (Lk 11: 39-44) and those addressed to the legists (Lk 11: 45-42), a distinction he may have taken from Q document.

        3. Matthew puts the Pharisees and the scribes in the same basket, so that several passages where Mark speaks of the scribes now refer to the Pharisees in his own home: the Pharisees are the opponents par excellence.

        4. In John, the Pharisees become the only dominant group in Judaism, a reflection of Palestine at the end of the first century C.E. Pharisees and Jews become synonymous and enjoy the power to expel people from the synagogue (cf. Jn 9: 22). And their conflict with Jesus becomes a reflection of the conflict of the Jews of the first century with the young Christian community. Having affirmed the editorial side of these scenes with the Pharisees, we must nevertheless recognize certain historical notes: the Pharisees are mainly located in Jerusalem, or rather they inhabit the city. All this is consistent with the fact that they must have certain means to devote themselves to study.

      2. Passages that have a high probability of being historical.
        1. The scene of Jesus' conflict with the Pharisees over divorce (Mk 10: 1-12), a scene that reflects the debates between the houses of Hillel and Shammai and where Jesus relies on his eschatological vision of a creation in accordance with God's intentions.
        2. The curses pronounced by Jesus in the manner of the prophets on the Pharisees who refuse his message (Lk 11: 39-44, from Q document).
        3. The parable of the tax collector and the Pharisee (Lk 18: 10-14, from his own source).
        4. Scenes with Pharisees who are sympathetic to him, like Nicodemus (Jn 3: 1.10; 7: 47-52) or that Simon who invites him to his table (Lk 7: 36-50).

      In short, since Jesus and the Pharisees were both addressing ordinary Jews and both trying to influence their religious vision and practice, it is not surprising that they came into conflict. Of course, they agreed on a number of points: Israel as God's chosen people, the gift of his law, the need to respond with all one's heart to the daily demands of the law, God's rule throughout history until the end of time when he will send his Messiah, judge the world and raise the dead. But there were many disagreements:

      1. For Jesus the eschatological future had already begun and it was the central element
      2. His miracles were the sign of this eschatology already begun.
      3. His teaching on daily behaviour from his eschatological vision
        1. the refusal of divorce
        2. celibacy as one of the ways to serve the kingdom of God
        3. The refusal of voluntary fasting
        4. the relativization or denial of certain family obligations or rules of purity

      These disagreements led to fierce debates, and it is understandable that Jesus at times uttered curses against the Pharisees in the manner of the prophets and attacked them either openly or veiledly in his parables.

Who are these mysterious Sadducees?

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