The Pharisees as Seen by Medieval Rabbis

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University Professor Rabbi Abraham Skorka offered this lecture during an international conference “Jesus and the Pharisees: An Interdisciplinary Reappraisal,” sponsored in Rome by the Pontifical Biblical Institute. He examines the writings of the medieval sages Rashi, Nachmanides and Maimonides for their understanding of the relationship to those called the Perushim (usually rendered as the Pharisees) with the Early Hasidim, the later Hasidim (holy or pious ones), the Early Hakhamim and the later Hakhamim (the sages or wise ones). He concludes that the Medieval writers used the word Perushim in particular circumstances with regard to a pious Jew who fulfills the commandments in a very intense or zealous way. Despite the many cases in the Talmudic literature where the teachings of the Perushim were seemingly accepted by the Hakhamim, there is not sufficient evidence to allow us to see the Hakhamim as the continuation of the Perushim. Nevertheless, many of the teachings of the Perushim were adopted by the Hakhamin since they maintained a spiritual vision that (in contrast with the Sadducees and other sects) remained in many respects the view and vision of the Jewish people throughout the generations.