Jesus (whose words appear in red) had harsh words for and about the Pharisees. After Jesus’ Ascension into heaven, the converted Pharisees (Jews who had become Christians) were teaching that unless Gentile Christians were circumcised, they could not be saved. Peter corrected the Pharisees and taught them and others that Christians did NOT need to be circumcised. The Pharisees, “meaning those who separated themselves from the heathen,” were “a politico-religious sect… that came into existence as a class about the third century B.C… So devoted were they to the prescriptions of the Law that on one occasion when attacked by the Syrians on the Sabbath they refused to defend themselves.” (1 Maccabees 2:42) “After the conflicts with Rome (A.D. 66-135) Pharisaism became practically synonymous with Judaism. The great Machabean wars had defined Pharisaism: another even more terrible conflict gave it a final ascendancy. The result of both wars was to create from the second century onward, in the bosom of a tenacious race, the type of Judaism known to the western world.” (Source)
“Pharisees consciously widened the cultural gap with the Greeks by requiring full, rather than the ancient partial circumcision. Pharisees also added to circumcision a bizarre rite of sucking the blood from penis with lips.” (Source)
The Pharisees were “one of the three main political parties in Palestine at the time of Christ. They were laymen who devoted themselves to special study and strict observances of the law… They were the real religious leaders of the people. Their insistence on very literal interpretation of the Law made it difficult for common people to follow them.” [The Maryknoll Catholic Dictionary; Albert J. Nevins, M.M., editor; Dimension Books, 1965, pp. 443-444.] There are 613 laws contained in the Torah, the first five books of the Bible. Circumcision is only one of those many laws. (Source)
Acts 15: 5-10– 5 Some of the converted Pharisees then got up and demanded that such Gentiles be circumcised and told to keep Mosaic law. 6 The apostles and the presbyters accordingly convened to look into the matter. 7 After much discussion, Peter took the floor and said to them: “Brothers, you know well enough that from the early days God selected me from your number to be the one from whose lips the Gentiles would hear the message of the gospel and believe. 8 God, who reads the hearts of men, showed his approval by granting the Holy Spirit to them just as he did to us. 9 He made no distinction between them and us, but purified their hearts by means of faith also. 10 Why, then, do you put God to the test by trying to place on the shoulders of these converts a yoke which neither we nor our fathers were able to bear?
Matthew: 3: 1, 2, 5-7– 1 When John the Baptizer made his appearance as a preacher in the desert of Judea, 2 this was his theme: “Reform your lives! The reign of God is at hand.” 5 At that time Jerusalem, all Judea, and the whole region around the Jordan were going out to him. 6 They were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they confessed their sins. 7 When he saw that many of the Pharisees and Sadducees were stepping forward for this bath, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who told you to flee from the wrath to come?”
Matthew 9: 10-13– 10 Now it happened that, while Jesus was at table in Matthew’s home, many tax collectors and those known as sinners came to join Jesus and his disciples at dinner. 11 The Pharisees saw this and complained to his disciples, “What reason can the Teacher have for eating with tax collectors and those who disregard the law? 12 Overhearing the remark, he said: “People who are in good health do not need a doctor; sick people do. 13 Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘It is mercy I desire and not sacrifice.’ I have come to call, not the self-righteous, but sinners.“
Matthew 9: 32-34– 32 As they were leaving, suddenly some people brought him a mute who was possessed by a demon. 33 Once the demon was expelled the mute began to speak, to the great surprise of the crowds. “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel!” they exclaimed. 34 But the Pharisees were saying, “He casts out demons through the prince of demons.”
Matthew 12: 1-14– 1 Once on a sabbath Jesus walked through the standing grain. His disciples felt hungry, so they began to pull off the heads of grain and eat them. 2 When the Pharisees spied this, they protested: “See here! Your disciples are doing what is not permitted on the Sabbath.” 3 He replied: “Have you not read what David did when he and his men were hungry, 4 how he entered God’s house and ate the holy bread, a thing forbidden to him and his men or anyone other than priests? 5 Have you not read in the law how the priests on temple duty can break the Sabbath rest without incurring guilt?
6 I assure you, there is something greater than the temple here. 7 If you understood the meaning of the text, ‘It is mercy I desire and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned these innocent men. 8 The Son of Man is indeed Lord of the Sabbath.“
9 He left that place and went into their synagogue. 10 A man with a shriveled hand happened to be there, and they put this question to Jesus, hoping to bring an accusation against him: “Is it lawful to work a cure on the Sabbath?” 11 He said in response: “Suppose one of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath. Will he not take hold of it and pull it out? 12 Well, think how much more precious a human being is than a sheep. Clearly, good deeds may be performed on the Sabbath.” 13 To the man he said, “Stretch out your hand.” He did so, and it was perfectly restored; it became as sound as the other. 14 When the Pharisees were outside they began to plot against him to find a way to destroy him.
Matthew 12: 22-24– 22 A possessed man who was brought to him was blind and mute. He cured the man so that he could speak and see. 23 All in the crowd were astonished. “Might this not be David’s son?” they asked. 24 When the Pharisees heard this, they charged, “This man can expel demons only with the help of Beelzebul, the prince of demons.”
Matthew 12: 38-40– 38 Some of the scribes and Pharisees then spoke up, saying, “Teacher, we want to see you work some signs. 39 He answered: “An evil and unfaithful age is eager for a sign! No sign will be given it but that of the prophet Jonah. 40 Just as Jonah spent three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will the Son of Man spend three days and three nights in the bowels of the earth.”
Matthew 15: 1-14– 1 Pharisees and scribes from Jerusalem approached Jesus with the question: 2 “Why do your disciples act contrary to the tradition of our ancestors? They do not wash their hands, for example, before eating a meal.” 3 In reply he said to them: “Why do you for your part act contrary to the commandment of God for the sake of your ‘tradition’? 4 For instance, God has said, “Honor your father and your mother,’ and, Whoever curses father or mother shall be put to death.” 5 Yet you declare, “Whoever says to his father or his mother, ‘Any support you might have had from me is dedicated to God, 6 need not honor his father or his mother.’ This means that for the sake of your tradition you have nullified God’s word. 7 You hypocrites! How accurately did Isaiah prophesy about you when he said: 8 ‘This people pays me lip service but their heart is far from me. 9 They do me empty reverence, making dogmas out of human precepts.’” 10 He summoned the crowd and said to them: “Give ear and try to understand. 11 It is not what goes into a man’s mouth that makes him impure, it is what comes out of his mouth.” 12 His disciples approached him and said, “Do you realize the Pharisees were scandalized when they heard your pronouncement?” 13 “Every planting not put down by my heavenly Father will be uprooted,” he replied. 14 “Let them go their way; they are blind leaders of the blind. If one blind man leads another, both will end in a pit.“
Matthew 16: 1-12– 1 The Pharisees and Sadducees came along, and as a test asked him to show them some sign in the sky. 2 He gave them this reply: “In the evening you say, ‘Red sky at night, the day will be bright’; 3 but in the morning, ‘Sky red and gloomy, the day will be stormy.’ If you know how to interpret the look of the sky, can you not read the signs of the times? 4 An evil, faithless age is eager for a sign, but no sign will be given it except that of Jonah.” With that he left them abruptly.
Matthew 21: 45– When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard these parables [the parable of the two sons and the parable of the tenants], they realized he [Jesus] was speaking about them. Although they sought to arrest him, they had reason to fear the crowds who regarded him as a prophet.
Matthew 22: 15– Then the Pharisees went off and began to plot how they might trap Jesus in speech.
Matthew 22: 34-39– 34 When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they assembled in a body; 35 and one of them, a lawyer, in an attempt to trip him up, asked him, 36 “Teacher, which commandment of the law is the greatest?” 37 Jesus said to him: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, with your whole soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 The second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments the whole law is based, and the prophets as well.”
Matthew: 23: 1-7, 13-33– 1 Then Jesus told the crowds and his disciples: 2 “The scribes and the Pharisees have succeeded Moses as teachers; 3 therefore, do everything and observe everything they tell you. But do not follow their example. 4 Their words are bold but their deeds are few. They bind up heavy loads, hard to carry, to lay on other men’s shoulders, while they themselves will not lift a finger to budge them. 5 All their works are performed to be seen. They widen their phylacteries and wear huge tassels. 6 They are fond of places of honor at banquets and the front seats in synagogues, 7 of marks of respect in public and of being called ‘Rabbi.’ 13 “Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, you frauds! You shut the doors of the kingdom of God in men’s faces, neither entering yourselves nor admitting those who are trying to enter. 14 Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, you frauds. You devour the houses of widows, praying long prayers. For this you shall receive a greater judgment. 15 Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, you frauds! You travel over sea and land to make a single convert, but once he is converted you make a devil of him twice as wicked as yourselves. 16 It is an evil day for you, blind guides! You declare, ‘If a man swears by the temple it means nothing, but if he swears by the gold of the temple he is obligated. 17 Blind fools! Which is more important, the gold or the temple which makes it sacred? 18 Again you declare, ‘If a man swears by the gift on the altar he is obligated.’ 19 How blind you are! Which is more important, the offering or the altar which makes the offering sacred? 20 The man who swears by the altar is swearing by it and everything on it. 21 The man who swears by the temple is swearing by it and by him who dwells there. 22 The man who swears by heaven is swearing by God’s throne and by him who is seated on that throne. 23 Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, you frauds! You pay tithes on mint and herbs and seeds while neglecting the weightier matters of the law, justice and mercy and good faith. It is these you should have practiced, without neglecting the others. 24 Blind guides! You strain out the gnat and swallow the camel! 25 Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, you frauds! You cleanse the outside of cup and dish, and leave the inside filled with loot and lust! 26 Blind Pharisee! First cleanse the inside of the cup so that its outside may be clean. 27 Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, you frauds! You are like white-washed tombs, beautiful to look at on the outside but inside full of filth and dead men’s bones. 28 Thus you present to view a holy exterior while hypocrisy and evil fill you within. 29 Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, you frauds! You erect tombs for the prophets and decorate the monuments of the saints. 30 You say, ‘Had we lived in our forefathers’ time we would not have joined them in shedding the prophets’ blood.’ 31 Thus you show that you are the sons of the prophets’ murderers. 32 Now it is your turn: fill up the vessel measured out by your forefathers. 33 Vipers’ nest! Brood of serpents! How can you escape condemnation to Gehenna?”
Mark 2: 18-19– 18 Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were accustomed to fast. People came to Jesus with the objection, “Why do John’s disciples and those of the Pharisees fast while yours do not?” 19 Jesus replied: “How can the guests at a wedding fast as long as the groom is still among them? So long as the groom stays with them, they cannot fast.“
Mark 12: 13-17– 13 They [the chief priests, scribes, and elders] next sent some Pharisees and Herodians after him [Jesus] to catch him in his speech. 14 The two groups came and said to him: “Teacher, we know you are a truthful man, unconcerned about anyone’s opinion. It is evident you do not act out of human respect but teach God’s way of life sincerely. Is it lawful to pay the tax to the emperor or not? Are we to pay or not to pay? 15 Knowing their hypocrisy he said to them, “Why are you trying to trip me up? Bring me a coin and let me see it.” 16 When they brought one, he said to them, “Whose head is this and whose inscription is it?” “Caesar’s,” they told him. 17 At that Jesus said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s but give to God what is God’s.” Their amazement at him knew no bounds.
Luke 5: 17-25– 17 One day Jesus was teaching, and the power of the Lord made him heal. Sitting close by were Pharisees and teachers of the law who had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem. 18 Some men came along carrying a paralytic on a mat. They were trying to bring him in and lay him before Jesus; 19 but they found no way of getting him through because of the crowd, so they went up on the roof. There they let him down with his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd before Jesus. 20 Seeing their faith, Jesus said, “My friend, your sins are forgiven you.” 21 The scribes and the Pharisees began a discussion, saying: “Who is this man who utters blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 22 Jesus, however, knew their reasoning and answered them by saying: “Why do you harbor these thoughts? 23 Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? 24 In any case, to make it clear to you that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”– he then addressed the paralyzed man: “I say to you, get up! Take your mat with you, and return to your house.” 25 At once the man stood erect before them. He picked up the mat that he had been lying on and went home praising God.
Luke 7: 36-39, 44-47– 36 There was a certain Pharisee who invited Jesus to dine with him. Jesus went to the Pharisee’s home and reclined to eat. 37 A woman known in the town to be a sinner learned that he was dining in the Pharisee’s home. She brought a vase of perfumed oil 28 and stood behind him at his feet, weeping so that her tears fell upon his feet. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissing them and perfuming them with the oil. 38 When his host, the Pharisee, saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what sort of woman this is that touches him- that she is a sinner.” 44 Turning to the woman, he said to Simon: “You see this woman? I came to your home and you provided me with no water for my feet. She has washed my feet with her tears and wiped them with hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but she has not ceased kissing my feet since I entered. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with perfume. 47 I tell you, that is why her many sins are forgiven- because of her great love. Little is forgiven the one whose love is small.”
Luke 11: 37-44, 53, 54- As he [Jesus] was speaking, a Pharisee invited him to dine at his house. He entered and reclined at table. 38 Seeing this, the Pharisee was surprised that he had not first performed the ablutions prescribed before eating. 39 The Lord said to him: “You Pharisees! You cleanse the outside of cup and dish, but within you are filled with rapaciousness and evil. 40 Fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside too? 41 But if you give what you have as alms, all will be wiped clean for you. 42 Woe to you Pharisees! You pay tithes on mint and rue and all the garden plants, while neglecting justice and the love of God. These are the things you should practice, without omitting the others. 43 Woe to you Pharisees! You love the front seats in synagogues and marks of respect in public. 44 Woe to you! You are like hidden tombs over which men walk unawares.” 53 After he had left this gathering, the scribes and Pharisees began to manifest fierce hostility to him and to make him speak on a multitude of questions, 54 setting traps to catch him in his speech.
Luke 16: 13-15- 13 “No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other or be attentive to the one and despise the other. You cannot give yourself to God and money.” 14 The Pharisees, who were avaricious men, heard all this and began to deride him. 15 He said to them: “You justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God reads your hearts. What man thinks important, God holds in contempt.“
Luke 18: 9-14– 9 He then spoke this parable addressed to those who believed in their own self-righteousness while holding everyone else in contempt: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray; one was a Pharisee, the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee with head unbowed prayed in this fashion: ‘I give you thanks, O God, that I am not like the rest of men- grasping, crooked, adulterous- or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week. I pay tithes on all I possess. 13 The other man, however, kept his distance, not even daring to raise his eyes to heaven. All he did was beat his breast and say, ‘O God, be merciful to me, a sinner.’ 14 Believe me, this man went home from the temple justified but the other did not. For everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled while he who humbles himself shall be exalted.”
John 7: 45-49- 45 When the temple guards came back, the chief priests and Pharisees asked them, “Why did you not bring him [Jesus] in?” 46 “No man ever spoke like that before,” the guards replied. 47 “Do not tell us you too have been taken in!” the Pharisees retorted. 46 “You do not see any of the Sanhedrin believing in him, do you? Or the Pharisees? 49 Only this lot, that knows nothing about the law- and they are lost anyway!”
John 8: 1, 3-7– 1 … Jesus went out to the Mount of Olives. 3 The scribes and the Pharisees led a woman forward who had been caught in adultery. They made her stand there in front of everyone. 4 “Teacher, they said to him, “this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the law, Moses ordered such women to be stoned. What do you have to say about the case?” 6 (They were posing this question to trap him, so that they could have something to accuse him of.) Jesus bent down and started tracing on the ground with his finger. 7 When they persisted in their questioning, he straightened up and said to them, “Let the man among you who has no sin be the first to cast a stone at her.“
John 9: 13-16, 39-41- 13 Next, they took the man who had been born blind to the Pharisees. 14 (Note that it was on a Sabbath that Jesus had made the mud paste and opened his eyes.) 15 The Pharisees, in turn, began to inquire how he had recovered his sight. He told them, “He put mud on my eyes. I washed it off, and now I can see.” 16 This prompted some of the Pharisees to assert, “This man cannot be from God because he does not keep the Sabbath.” Others objected, “If a man is a sinner, how can he perform signs like these?” They were sharply divided over him. 39 Then Jesus said: “I came into this world to divide it, to make the sightless see and the seeing blind.” 40 Some of the Pharisees around him picked this up, saying, “You are not calling us blind, are you?” 41 To which Jesus replied: “If you were blind there would be no sin in that. ‘But we see,’ you say, and your sin remains.“
John 11: 45-48, 57- 45 This (the raising of Lazarus from the dead) caused many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, to put their faith in him. 46 Some others, however, went to the Pharisees and reported what Jesus had done. 47 The result was that the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin. “What are we to do,” they said, “with this man performing all sorts of signs? If we let him go on like this, the whole world will believe in him. Then the Romans will come in and sweep away our sanctuary and our nation.” 57 (The chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that anyone who knew where he [Jesus] was should report it, so that they could apprehend him.)
John 12: 42- There were many, even among the Sanhedrin, who believed in him; but they refused to admit it because of the Pharisees, for fear they might be ejected from the synagogue.
John 18: 3, 12- 3 Judas took the cohort as well as guards supplied by the chief priests and the Pharisees, and came there with lanterns, torches and weapons. 12 Then the soldiers of the cohort, their tribune, and the Jewish guards arrested Jesus and bound him.
The Epistle of Paul to the Philipppians:
Philippians 3: 2-5– 2 Beware of unbelieving dogs. Watch out for workers of evil. Be on guard against those who mutilate. 3 It is we who are the circumcision, who worship in the spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus rather than putting our trust in the flesh- 4 though I can be confident even there. If anyone thinks he has a right to put his trust in external evidence, all the more can I! 5 I was circumcised on the eighth day, being of the stock of Israel and the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrew origins; in legal observance I was a Pharisee, 6 and so zealous that I persecuted the church.
The New American Bible, Catholic Bible Publishers, Wichita, Kansas, Copyright 1970, 1978-1979 Edition.
Stephen J. Hartdegen, O.F.M., S.S.L.
Christian P. Ceroke, O.Carm., S.T.D.
Patrick Cardinal O’Boyle, D.D., Archbishop of Washington