Characteristics of a Pharisee: Introduction

For years, I have had a burden to correct the misunderstandings of practically every Christian group, on the topic of Phariseeism. This, I confess, is primarily due to the constant accusation I see other Christians hurl at others (including myself) that they are Pharisees. This accusation has continuously plagued the Church of Jesus Christ over the past few generations. The false accusations have resulted in Christians not pursuing holiness, nor applying the word of God to their lives in a real and practical way, so as to change their lives in accordance with the word of God.

This is a very important topic because the slew of professing Christians accusing righteous men of God of “being a Pharisee” has such a strong influence that it has kept Christians from obeying the word of God in all areas of life, and from exercising their Christian duty to exhort, rebuke, and correct their brothers and sisters in Christ (2Timothy 4:2, Hebrews 3:12-14).

According to the author of Hebrews, Christians failing to daily exhort one another to obey the truth will be the cause of us being “hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13). I will add, that those who are deceived do not realize they are deceived; they think that they are okay. That should be obvious, but I feel it is necessary to reiterate.

Who Modern Christians Consider to be Pharisees

If you encounter the average church-goer (Professing Christian), you will quickly learn that a Pharisee is basically anyone who takes the word of God seriously, and holds a high standard. The charge of Pharisee is very similar to the charges the left continuously hurls against the righteous men of our society. We frequently hear such men referred to as:

  • Bigot and Homophobe- Those who hold to the Biblical standard of marriage
    • A similar term is “full of hate”
  • Racist- a term used against whites who do not participate in the absolute injustice of the Satanic and Marxist “Social Justice” movement

These scare words are designed to silence the opposition to the wicked agenda of these ungodly Christ-haters. They are designed to shut down those who do not hold the world’s philosophy of “to each their own”—as if truth were subjective.

I will argue that the term Pharisee or Legalist or even Judgmental is the Christian version of Bigot, Homophobe, Hater, and Racist. These terms are all vague, overused words that are used so often that they have practically lost any true meaning, other than to silence those who call other Christians to conform to the standards of the word of God.

Because of the false understanding Christians in America have, it is of the utmost importance for us to define what the true characteristics of a Pharisee is from the holy scriptures. The best location for this topic is found in Matthew Chapter 23, wherein Jesus rails at the Scribes and Pharisees; his primary charge against them is that they are hypocrites, not that they hold a high standard. We may disagree with someone’s application of scripture to life principles, but that does not make that person a hypocrite automatically, and it certainly does not make him a Pharisee.

Jesus called out the Pharisees publicly for their corrupt lifestyle and hypocrisy, in that they did not follow the law of God, but their own traditions instead. Because of Jesus speaking against their sinful lifestyles, they hated Jesus and murdered him (Acts 5:30).

Pharisees, The Traditions of Men, and the Talmud

As previously stated, the Pharisees were continuously chided by our Lord Jesus for following their own traditions, rather than the word of God. We read about this in Mark 7:1-13. The Pharisees followed what were the traditions of the Rabbis. Throughout the history of the Satanic religion of Judaism, the Jews have followed a book of these traditions called, “The Talmud”.

It is very likely that the teachings Jesus opposed during his days on earth were an earlier rendition of that which is today known as the Talmud. In fact, there are many Jews today who follow the Talmud and consider themselves to be the spiritual descendants of the Pharisees. And they hate Jesus just as much as their fathers hated him and the prophets that were sent before him. In the writings of the Talmud, they describe Jesus as being a sorcerer and that he is presently suffering in boiling excrement (Sanhedrin 43A, Gittin 56b and 57a).

In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) Jesus often states, “Ye have heard that it hath been said”. Jesus is not here referring to the law of God as some misunderstand it to be. Jesus is rather referring to these traditions of men and the false interpretations of God’s word by the religious leaders of his day.

However, we are not focusing our teaching on unbelieving Pharisaical Jews in this study, but rather we are going to engage how to properly understand the characteristics of a Pharisee. We do this so we can apply biblical principles to our own generation and our own situation in the church; we do this to avoid the pitfalls of these wicked men and to know how to walk uprightly.

Tearing Down False Concepts of What a Pharisee Is

The first thing in order is to tear down the false notion of what a Pharisee is. Most Christians tend to believe that a Pharisee is simply someone who is strict about following God’s word. Or perhaps someone who seeks to apply the word of God to his life, and then proceed to teach others to apply the word of God in a similar manner. In other words, a Pharisee is described as someone who studies the scripture and applies it directly to real life situations of how we should behave in our generation and society, then tells others they should live the same way. This is not a true characteristic of a Pharisee in the slightest.

Obviously, if one were to conclude that God wants them to wake up at 4:00am every morning, proceeding to announce that all who do not wake up at 4:00am are living in sin—this is obviously not a biblical or just standard to judge others by. Yet if one were to read Psalm 101 and then conclude that Christians should avoid a particular movie or television show based on the principles of Psalm 101, this is a holy and just practical application of scripture and has nothing in common with Phariseeism according to the scriptures.

During this study, Matthew 23 and Luke 11:37-12:1 are the primary texts for studying the characteristics of a Pharisee. Yet, we are going to look at other places in the Gospels and the whole of scripture to support our conclusions.

Mark 7:1-13 is another key passage for examining the characteristics of a Pharisee. We will likely get into more detail of this passage later on in our study. But before we delve into Matthew 23, let us consider a trait in Mark 7:6,7 that Jesus describes of the Pharisees:

“He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” (Mark 7:6,7)

Mark records in his Gospel, Jesus speaking of the Pharisees as “worshipping in vain”. Note that there is actually worship taking place. But it is vain worship. Did you know that you can worship God in vain? Did you know that God is not pleased at all with our worship, our sacrifices, our offerings, etc. if we are not living practical, holy lives?

We can actually have solemn assembly (church service) that God despises and hates, even if you are doing all the right things outwardly. You can sing the right kind of songs of praise. You can read and proclaim the word of God accurately and soundly. You can have all your theological ducks in a row. You can give money to God’s work. You can have a sound liturgy. Yet… if you are not living out the truth of scripture in daily life, it means nothing; it is vain worship that God despises.

The Old Testament passage that Jesus is quoting from in Mark 7 is found in Isaiah 29:13-14. In the passage, the prophet states that “the wisdom of their wise men shall perish” (see also 1Corinthians 1:18-20). Why does the wisdom of the wise men perish? Vain worship. Not applying the scriptures to our lives for practical obedience.

Another excellent passage of scripture that describes how much God hates our worship, sacrifices, and congregational meetings when we are not in obedience to him is found in Isaiah 1:10-20. God does not delight in their sacrifices or offerings (v11). God is not delighted in your order of worship in and of itself. God is not impressed by a religious performance.

Their oblations are considered vain and God rejects them (v13). God hates their new moons, sabbaths, their “church meetings” and calls all these good things (yea, even commanded things) “iniquity”, which means “lawlessness” (v14). Why? Because of their lawless lifestyle. Therefore, God hated all of their attempted worship. If we are simply gathering information and not living in obedience to his word, God will not hear our prayers (Psalm 66:18), no matter how holy and pious it looks outwardly to men (v15).

God tells us what he desires: Cease to do evil. Do justice, mercy, faith, and love (v16). Love, by the way, is demonstrated by good works toward God and men. These same things that were spoken by the prophet Isaiah, Jesus also speaks of in Matthew 23:23, Luke 11:42 and elsewhere in scripture, when he judges the Pharisees for their unholy lives. The Pharisees wanted to have a great religious show to feel holy. But they did not want to apply the scripture to their daily life decisions. They preferred their own traditions instead.

Conclusion to the Introduction

Concluding this introduction, the chief characteristic of the Pharisee is not his holding a high standard and teaching others to follow a high standard. The chief characteristic of the Pharisee is hypocrisy.

“… he began to say unto his disciples first of all, Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” (Luke 12:1)

When this series continues, we will delve into Matthew 23 and other passages of scripture to examine the characteristics of the Pharisees in detail.


  1. Tim Folke

    I wish others would comment on these fine articles. I feel like I monopolize the comment section when so many others do not voice their thoughts, which I am sure we would all like to read. Still, two points I would like to make in regards to the names we are called, as mentioned in this article.

    The label ‘Hater’ – well, according to Scripture, even Jesus hated; in his own words He said He hated the works and doctrine of the Nicolaitans (Revelation 2:6 & 15). The Law of Opposites (aka Newton’s Laws of Motion) make it quite clear there cannot be concepts and truths such as high without low, hot without cold, good without evil, or love without hate. Sorry, Liberals; that’s just Natural Law.

    Then there is the label ‘Homophobe’ (and its cousins ‘Transphobe, Islamaphobe, et. al.). Now ‘Phobe’ or ‘Phobia’ means FEAR. No one I know of is afraid of homosexuals. All who oppose homosexuality and its related deviancies simply are repulsed by it, for it is a predatory perversion that violates Natural Law. Really, these name-callers need a better grasp of English. But then, they also call people who do sick things with rodents and candy bars ‘Gay’, so where does one go with that?.

  2. Annette Miller

    I just came across this website, and how encouraging to find someone who articulates these biblical truths so well! It is sad to see so many people who do not discern important truths that God spells out so clearly in His Word. It is also sad when people who really seem to be Godly, don’t discern when someone is a hypocrite because they can put on such a good front. They validate these people and imagine that they can have fellowship with them. When Christ comes back, no one will get away with pretending they are someone they are not. Only those who are faithful and endure to the end will be saved. I pray that many will come out of darkness while there is still time.

    1. Post
  3. John

    Today’s right wing evangelicals are indeed Pharisees. The interactions between Jesus and the Pharisees were most often due to the Pharisees strict interpretation of the law. Jesus often corrected them for missing the core message and purpose of the law. To love and serve one another. You can’t embrace policies that fail to extend relief for human suffering. SHAME! I suggest you read the interactions between Jesus and the Pharisees again.

    1. Post
      Hans Gygax

      Today’s right-wing evangelicals have a whole host of problems; but their problem isn’t that they aren’t more Marxist, as you are suggesting. Take your left-wing trash somewhere else.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *