Beware the Leaven of the Pharisees #2 Seven kinds of Pharisees

23 Nov

William Barclay who devoted many years to biblical research in Palestine, reports that the Talmud (Sotah, 22b) speaks of seven kinds of Pharisees:

  1. The first group Barclay calls “shoulder Pharisees,” so named because of their custom of displaying accounts of their good deeds on their shoulders for other people to see and admire. When they prayed, they put ashes on their heads as an act of humility and wore sad expressions on their faces to suggest piousness
  2. The second group he calls “wait a little,” due to their cleaver ability to come up with a fabricated spiritual reason for putting off doing something good. Pious excuses were their stock in trade.
  3. The third group were the “bruised and bleeding.” In order not to commit the sin of looking at a woman lustfully those Pharisees closed their eyes whenever women were around. Understandably they received many bruises and abrasions from bumping into walls, posts, and other objects. They measured their piousness by the number and severity of their injuries.
  4. The fourth group were the “humpback tumbling.” In order to show off their supposed humility they slouched over with bent backs and shuffled their feet instead of taking normal steps, leading to frequent stumbles and tumbles.
  5. The fifth group were the “ever-seeking,” named because of the meticulous record keeping of their good deeds in order to determine how much reward God owed them.
  6. The sixth group were the “fearing” Pharisees, whose terror over the prospect of hell motivated everything they did.
  7. The seventh and last group were the “God-fearing,” those whose lives were motivated out of genuine love for God and a desire to please Him. The Pharisee Nicodemus (see John 3:1; 19:39) would doubtlessly have been classed in this group. But Nicodemus and the few other Pharisees who believed in Jesus were very much the exceptions. For the most part, the Pharisees were the Lord’s most strident critics and implacable enemies.
  8. Like so many things, what started as a good and noble thing became in the end mere vanity. Everything we have looked at so far has been commendable. Here is a group that desires to please God by living in obedience to the statues He had given them. How is that objectionable?  What the Pharisees neglected was not the letter of the law, but the giver of it. In trying to earn God’s favor, they missed the fundamental message of the law: no one is holy except God alone.
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Posted by on November 23, 2020 in Pharisees


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