The Pharisees: My Response to the New Barna Study

The new Barna study asks this question: “Are Christians more like Jesus or more like the Pharisees?” Historians know this question is a question about the Torah practice of Jesus vs. the Torah practice of the Pharisees. In other words, it’s a question about how best to observe Torah — Jesus’ Torah theology vs. the [Read More...]

Pharisees: Revisiting an Old Problem

It’s time to revisit the Pharisees, in part because their story needs to be told so we don’t forget and in part because some like to use the “Pharisee” in ways that concern me. It is a standard procedure to say “Pharisee” and mean “legalist, bigot, hypocrite, or picayune meddler into other people’s religious business.” Look [Read More...]

Zealotry: A Danger

A personal e-mail yesterday from a blog reader, RJS, suggested another idea for this series on zealotry. What is the impact of a high fences or thick fences? That is, what happens when one is accustomed to dwell in the security and safety of a fence (what I’m calling a beyond the Bible immunity) and [Read More...]

Zealotry 4

Zealotry is to construct rules beyond the Bible and, in so doing, to consider oneself immune from criticism because of radical commitment. What we have learned is that such a radical commitment is actually a fearful commitment rather than a life of freedom. What are some examples? [Read more...]

Zealotry 3

Zealotry is the choice to protect holiness by living beyond what the Bible says, and it finds in that zeal a source of immunity from being wrong. I contend that zealotry reflects an absence of trust in God’s Word. Its motivation is the fear of freedom. Its implication is inevitable: judgmentalism and boundary-marking that together [Read More...]

Zealotry 2

Zealotry is the Christian theory, never expressed consciously, that if we are more zealous than the Bible we are immune from criticism. After all, we’ve done at the least what the Bible says and more! Zealotry leads to a life that goes beyond the Bible and in so going there is convinced that such a [Read More...]

Zealotry 1

This will be a heavy series. I hope to generate conversation, some consternation, and (at the end of the day) some light. Here’s my big point: Some evangelicals have been tossing sharp barbs for a long time at “liberals” or “mainliners” for disregarding the Bible. (It would not be hard to give good examples.) Most [Read More...]

Once more on the Pharisees

In 1907, Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes, said, “We are under a Constitution, but the Constitution is what the judges say it is.” There you have a quintessentially view of a Pharisee, someone who both believes in the Torah and who believes its meaning is determined by its interpretive tradition. On the other hand, a [Read More...]

Whom to call “Pharisee”?

Not that I think we need to use “Pharisee” for anyone. But, if some insist on finding contemporary counterparts to the 1st Century Pharisees, here are more suggestions: First, use it only for those who are committed to the Torah as a comprehensive explanation for the will of God. (In this sense, it is pretty [Read More...]

The Return of the Pharisees 4

This the fourth post on the Pharisees, provoked as it was by comments I’m hearing about so-and-so being a “Pharisee,” will look at the meaning of “hypocrite” in Matthew 23. Five observations, leading to a summary definition of what Matthew (Jesus) meant by “hypocrisy.” Hypocrisy is… 1. Inconsistency between what one teaches and what one [Read More...]


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