Pharisees (Matthew)

Cutting through the imprecation, there are at least eight things that Matthew says about the Pharisees that are maybe or probably true.

–They observe Shabbat punctiliously; they do not pick grain in the fields or practice healing or exorcism on Shabbat (chp.12).

–They drive out demons (12:27).

–They do not break the tradition of the elders (15:1).

–They wash their hands before they eat (15:2).

–They make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long (23:5).

–They tithe mint, dill, and cumin (23:23).

–They clean the outside of cups and plates (23:25).

–They build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous (23:29).

Maybe we can say the same about the emergent religion of the Mishnah. Matthew reflecting back in time to the time of Jesus allows one to speculate that Pharisaic religion was a purity system, being physical, embodied, clean, steeped in nature.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics.
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