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In Quest of the Historical Pharisees

Jacob Neusner and Bruce D. Chilton, editors

Publication Year: 2007

This work sketches the many portraits of the Pharisees that emerge from ancient sources. Based upon the Gospels, the writings of Paul, Josephus, the Mishnah, the Tosefta, and archeology, the volume profiles the Pharisees and explores the relationship between the Pharisees and the Judaic religious system foreshadowed by the library of Qumran. A great virtue of this study is that no attempt is made to homogenize the distinct pictures or reconstruct a singular account of the Pharisees; instead, by carefully considering the sources, the chapters allow different pictures of the Pharisees to stand side by side.

Published by: Baylor University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-x

The essays in this book describe the pictures of the Pharisees that emerge from the several ancient documents that refer to them. These are, in order of chronological proximity, (1) the gospels and references in Paul's writings, (2) the writings of Josephus, and (3) the later rabbinic compositions, beginning with the Mishnah and the Tosefta; ...


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CHAPTER 1. Josephus's Pharisees: The Narratives

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pp. 3-40

What do we really know about the Pharisees? A hallmark of Jacob Neusner's scholarship is the maxim "What we cannot show, we do not know." More than three decades ago, he demonstrated that impatience in resolving historical questions about the Pharisees had led scholars to approach the evidence—that is, the literary sources—in a ...

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CHAPTER 2. Josephus's Pharisees: The Philosophy

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pp. 41-66

In the previous chapter, treating the roles of the Pharisees in Josephus's narratives, we noticed a telling remark. In his story about the banquet at which John Hyrcanus repudiated the Pharisees and their legal code, Josephus observes that the Hasmonean prince, then a student of the Pharisees, was intent on living a just ...

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CHAPTER 3. Matthew's and Mark's Pharisees

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pp. 67-112

The gospels of Matthew and Mark are recognized as key sources of information on the Pharisees, yet any analysis of their data is fraught with difficulty. We are dealing with highly tendentious documents whose interest in the Pharisees lies solely in the fact that, as key opponents of Jesus' ministry, the Pharisees serve to set forth Jesus and his ...

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CHAPTER 4. Luke's Pharisees

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pp. 113-130

The third gospel's presentation of the Pharisees is "puzzling," 1 lacking consistency,2 "complex," 3 and "disputed."4 Whether approached primarily by literary or by historical questions, Luke's Pharisees elude clear answers. The reasons for this confusion are several, of which the following four are major. First, the relationship between this gospel and the Acts ...

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CHAPTER 5. John's Pharisees

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pp. 131-148

The title of this volume asks two questions. The first—What do we really know about the Pharisees?—implies that while it is possible to know something about the historical Pharisees, our knowledge may be more meager than some might think. The second—How do we know it?—raises the tricky methodological issue of how to read ...

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CHAPTER 6. Paul and the Pharisees

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pp. 149-174

Only one passage within the New Testament, Acts 15:1-5, puts Paul in direct confrontation with Pharisees. This single pericope is plausible within its own terms of reference and the evidence of other sources. Although Acts' agenda and Paul's are not the same, the passage enables us to appreciate why Paul in his letters refers to his ...

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CHAPTER 7. Paul and Gamaliel

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pp. 175-224

Acts 22:3 claims regarding Paul that, as a Pharisee, he studied "at the feet of Gamaliel"; that is, with the patriarch of the Pharisaic party of the Land of Israel in the succession from Hillel, thence, via the chain of tradition, from Sinai. What can he have learned from Gamaliel? Here we identify a program of topics that Paul can have taken up in ...

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CHAPTER 8. The Pharisees and the Dead Sea Scrolls

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pp. 225-136

The Dead Sea Scrolls are rightly celebrated as firsthand witnesses to the ways and thoughts of a Second Temple Jewish group, as pristine texts not overlaid with editorial accretions from later ages. Among the invaluable disclosures of the Qumran texts has been information about the controversies waged by the group and their attitudes toward ...

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CHAPTER 9. Archaeology and the Pharisees

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pp. 237-252

It is a challenge to address the topic of the archaeology of the Pharisees for at least four reasons. First, modern scholarship exhibits a wide range of constructions of the place of the Pharisees in Judean society. Were they a nationalistic-political movement, a separated religious elite, a religious reform movement within Judaism, an influential ...


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CHAPTER 10. The Pharisees and the Sadducees in the Earliest Rabbinic Documents

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pp. 255-294

One underlying problematic informing this volume's subject is that the ancient evidence about the Pharisees is variegated. More important still, these different, sometimes divergent, portrayals of the Pharisees in the ancient sources stem, to a significant degree, from the variety of the types of sources from which the evidence comes ...

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CHAPTER 11. The Rabbinic Traditions about the Pharisees before 70 CE: An Overview

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pp. 295-312

We begin our account of the rabbinic traditions about the pre-70 CE Pharisees with an overview of the entire corpus as it is set forth in the earliest rabbinic compilations, those of the third century CE. Then, in chapter 12, we survey the topical program in detail. In chapter 13 we consider the formative history of those same traditions, from 70 to ...

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CHAPTER 12. The Pharisaic Agenda: Laws Attributed in the Mishnah and the Tosefta to Pre-70 Pharisees

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pp. 324-339

When we examine the topical program of the laws attributed in the Mishnah and the Tosefta, we find that the rabbinic traditions about the pre-70 Pharisees and the gospels' accounts of Jesus' encounter with Pharisees coincide. Both bodies of writings stress three topics: tithing, cultic cleanness at domestic meals, and Sabbath observance.1 ...

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CHAPTER 13. The Pre-70 Pharisees after 70 and after 140

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pp. 340-350

The rabbinic traditions are attributed by the Mishnah and the Tosefta to named authorities, and the names do not circulate in random combinations but are grouped. For example, the names of Yohanan ben Zakkai, Eliezer b. Hyrcanus, and Joshua b. Hananiah commonly intersect, as do Eliezer, Joshua, Tarfon, and 'Aqiba. These figures are ...


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CHAPTER 14. The German Theological Tradition

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pp. 353-374

The Pharisees have long served as a metonymy for Judaism in Christian scholarship, so that studies of their history and beliefs have presented the Pharisees as the Jews par excellence, an essence of what Judaism, especially rabbinic Judaism, proclaims and practices. As a result, scholarship on the Pharisees by Christians in pre-World War II ...

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CHAPTER 15. The Anglo-American Theological Tradition to 1970

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pp. 375-394

Defining principal parts of Pharisaic theology proves difficult. First, we do not know whether pre-70 authorities whom we assume to have been Pharisees really said what is assigned to them in the rabbinic documents. Second, the theological side to Pharisaic Judaism before 70 CE is not easily accessible, for in the case of the rabbinic traditions ...

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CHAPTER 16. The Debate with E. P. Saunders since 1970

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pp. 395-406

Despite the risible misnomer of his book of miscellaneous essays,1 claiming to speak of "Jewish law . . . to the Mishnah" while discussing mere anecdotes and episodes in Jewish law in the first century with special reference to the gospels, Professor Edward P. Sanders's current account of his views should not be dismissed as the merely random ...


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CHAPTER 17. What Do We Really Know about the Pharisees, and How Do We Know It?

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pp. 409-424

This definition from a respected and popular contemporary dictionary captures the challenges that confront critical scholars of the historical Pharisees. Though it doubtless reflects conventional use of the term "Pharisee" in literature and language, almost nothing in this definition is fact. Indeed, beyond its first nine words, all its claims are at ...


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pp. 425-428


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pp. 429-480


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pp. 481-510


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pp. 511-512

E-ISBN-13: 9781602580299
E-ISBN-10: 1602580294
Print-ISBN-13: 9781932792720
Print-ISBN-10: 1932792724

Page Count: 548
Publication Year: 2007

Edition: 1st