Pharisees were the most dominant and earliest of the 3 Jewish sects in Jesus' time. Pharisees were members of an ancient Jewish religious group who followed the Oral Law in addition to the Torah and attempted to live in a constant state of purity. Pharisee literally means “those who are separate.”

When used in comparison with Christ’s rebuke of the Pharisees in scripture, we find that they were self-righteously obsessed with rules: acting with hypocrisy, self-righteousness, or obsessiveness with regard to the strict adherence to rules and formalities.

Their chief tendency was to resist all Greek or other foreign influences (See Hellenism) that threatened to undermine the sacred religion of their fathers, and they most emphatically took a stand upon Divine Law. Pharisees wished pubic affairs, the state, and all its political doings to be directed and measured by the standard of Divine Law.

Christ rebuked the Pharisees in Matthew 23 because they had allowed themselves to be a social club. Many of the Pharisees were doing things to make names for themselves much like the way many of our modern churches today have evolved into social clubs. Yet we do find later that some of the Pharisees became sympathetic to Christ: Luke 7:37, Luke 13:31; Luke 14:1-6. Christ also rebuked both Sadducees and Pharisees in Matthew 16. Despite the evidences, Augustinian-Calvinist-Reformed Christians attempt to say that Christ rebuked the Pharisees and scribes for their belief that God gave man free will. Yet, why do they not target every Jewish sect? Every Jewish sect believed free-will was given by God. Yet, it was only this faction who had more of a Mosaic pattern than the others. Again, the rebuke was because many of them had become more like a social club. This was the leaven (sin).
A Closer Look at the Pharisees. They were not all bad. Respected as some of the most godly and spiritually committed of the Jews, they were:
• Theists, who because of their belief in the God of Israel, advocated a God-centered life.
• Separatists, who were determined to protect Israel from being compromised, swallowed, and absorbed into a Gentile world.
• Biblicists, who believed that Israel's future depended on whether or not they honored and practiced the Law of God.
• Populists, many of whom were craftsmen and tradesmen, therefore identifying with the common man.
• Pragmatists, who wrestled not only with what the Law said but how it looked and applied to the smallest details of life.
• Traditionalists, who carefully memorized, repeated, and entrenched themselves in the ways of their spiritual forefathers.

The Pharisees, however, took some wrong turns in their attempt to make the Law of God relevant and practical to Israel. As they made an effort to show what the Word of God "looked like" in daily life, their concrete applications became an end in themselves. Before long, they were lost in specifics and, according to Jesus, were "teaching as doctrines the commandments of men" (Matt. 15:9). They focused on the details and lost the heart.

From -
The term was used as a slang word against hypocrites in the early 17th Century, namely by those connected to Calvinism.

Josephus' states that the Pharisees are "accurate interpreters of the Law" (eg BJ 2.162)

The only point on which all our sources agree is their belief in an afterlife in contrast to the Sadducean denial. Josephus appears to contrast their position with Essene dualism: for the Pharisees unrighteous souls are punished while the righteous pass into "other bodies" (BJ 2.163). Presumably some sort of heavenly bodies is intended rather than a belief in reincarnation, since the latter appears to be foreign to all known Jewish beliefs. This then would presuppose some specific eschatological event.

Groups that descended from the Pharisee sect are Conservative, Rabbinical, and Orthodox.

Also, Saul of Tarsus (Apostle Paul) was Pharisee but later became a Christian.
(Gal. 1:13-14; Philippians 3:5)

For now I wish only to explain that the Pharisees transmit to the people some rules in line with the fathers, which were not written in the laws of Moses. And because of this, the line of the Sadducees reject these things. They say that it is necessary to hold those rules that have been written but it is not (necessary) to observe what is (only) from the fathers' tradition. And, as a consequence, controversies and great disagreements have occurred between them. The Sadducees persuade only the well-to-do and have no popular following. But the Pharisees have the masses as allies. -Josephus

Modern Pharisees include:
1) those who seek the praise and approval of people.
2) those who say one thing but do another. (hypocrites)
3) those that know to do good but don't do it.
4) those who embrace the will of the majority.
(See Matthew 23

These 4 points are the reasons why Christ rebuked the Pharisees.
Can you think of any churches or people who fit the description? Do you?

Jeremy Brown 2004

Make a free website with Yola