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(Heb. for ‘separated ones’). A Jewish religious party mentioned by Josephus and in the NT. Unlike the Sadducees, who tried to apply the Mosaic Law precisely as it was written, the Pharisees allowed some interpretation of it to make it more applicable to different situations. In the Gospels they appear as the chief opponents of Christ, whom they attacked e.g. for forgiving sins and breaking the Sabbath. He denounced what the Gospels describe as their purely external observance of the Law and their self-righteousness. They seem to have been less hostile than the Sadducees to the nascent Church, with whom they shared belief in the resurrection. After the fall of Jerusalem (ad 70) they disappeared from history.

Subjects: Biblical Studies.

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