Deconstructing Evangelical theology: Do the Pharisees get a bad rap?



Some Evangelicals believe that when God says or does something in the Old Testament, that means that Jesus said or did that thing.

Let’s take a look at this belief in light of Jesus’ treatment of the Pharisees. Jesus is the protagonist of the Gospels, and he has no shortage of villains to confront - the scribes, the chief priests, even the devil himself. But for me, the best villains of the Gospels were always the Pharisees. So legalistic. So proud. Always looking to make Jesus stumble, and always getting shut down.

But do they get a bad rap?

Well, the Pharisees are known for their legalism, but the most common complaint I’ve heard leveled against them is that they were too legalistic about doing no work on the Sabbath. They made all kinds of regulations about what constituted work. I’ve heard it said that they even made rules about whether one could put on a wig or false teeth on the Sabbath.

What jerks!

But who made the law about not working on the Sabbath? God. (Exodus 35:1) Remember, that means Jesus made the law, according to some.

Ok, but he never said to make ridiculous rules about it, right? It's not his fault!

But what, pray tell, was the penalty that God set for breaking this law?

Death. (Exodus 35:2)

So let's follow the chain of events, assuming that anything God did, Jesus did.


  • Jesus creates a law saying no work is to be done in the Sabbath. He provides no parameters on what constitutes work other than saying that fires should not be lit in people’s homes on the Sabbath (Exodus 35:3).
  • He says that if the law is broken, he will fucking smoke your ass. He drives the point home by ordering the execution of a man for picking up sticks on the Sabbath (Numbers 15:32-36)
  • When a group of his followers creating legalistic rules about what constitutes work, he's pissed.

It gets even weirder in light of some of Jesus' actions. For instance, he saves the life of a woman who is about to be stoned to death for committing adultery, saying "let he who is without sin cast the first stone."

What about the poor bastard who was picking up sticks?

God ordered that he be stoned to death.

How does that make sense?


This post is part one of a series. The next post is Is it a religion or a relationship?

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