Jesus & the Pharisees’ Visual Anosognosia Introduction During the lifetime of Jesus of Nazareth, the Pharisees were one of the two 1 main Jewish sects who based their beliefs on the Old Testament. In their religious practice, they felt behooved to obey even the most trivial of God’s laws. It is believed that the term Pharisee is derived from “separatist.” Cleanliness was a central issue in the religious beliefs of the Pharisees, and they sought to maintain their purity by avoiding contact with the literal and metaphorical ‘unclean.’ As a result, they looked down upon Gentiles, meaning everyone except the Jews. What is worse, from the point of view of the two biblical writers, Luke and Matthew, is that they scoffed at Jesus of Nazareth for what he preached and for his interactions with the unclean and the sinners. Jesus’ teachings directly challenged and clashed with patterns of firm and literal Pharisaic praxis. In short, he taught they had lost their way caring more about the ‘letter of the law’ than the actual spirit of the Holy Word. Despite the New Testament’s proclivity for using the Pharisees as a villainous collective, historically not all the Pharisees were the self-righteous, self-indulgent, self-aggrandizing ingrates depicted in the Bible. Although a specific group of the Pharisaic leaders indeed directed polemics against Jesus, there were others that believed in Jesus’ teachings. To clarify, the term Pharisees encompasses two major factions: Shammai’s and Hillel’s. While both factions created and enforced Jewish law under Roman dominion, the House of Shammai was more draconian, and was the more adversarial of the two subgroups, maligning and reproaching Jesus whenever possible. The Bible's portrayal of the Pharisees draws broadly on the Shammai and their 1 The other Jewish sect were the Sadducees, who subscribed to beliefs that staunchly rejected the resurrection of the dead, the existence of spirits and or ghosts, and one’s obligation to oral tradition. Instead, they firmly accepted only the written Law of the Old Testament (also known as the Hebrew Bible).
Jesus & the Pharisees’ Visual Anosognosia contemptuous relationship with Jesus. Although the Hillel’s faction 2 disagreed with the Shammai’s, the Pharisees and Shammai are considered as one group in gospels. Following the biblical writers’ approach, the subsequent analysis will address the two factions with the same broad strokes by referring to them as the Pharisees. According to the biblical writers, the Pharisees believed themselves to be the holiest of all people and ignored those they saw as sinners. They even went so far as to discount God’s most important rules: love thy neighbor and love God with all your heart. In the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, the Pharisees are depicted as a misguided group suffering from spiritual blindness. They rejected and ignored the spirit of the ‘new’ law professed by Jesus, while adhering obsessively to the ‘old’ letter of the law. More explicitly, the Gospels describe them as