Review – The Pharisees and Jesus: The Stone Lectures for 1915-16, Delivered at the Princeton Theological Seminary

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Posted with permission from As I See It, which is available free by writing to the editor at

T. Robertson (1863-1934) was a paragon of excellence in Bible scholarship—fully committed to biblical inerrancy, thorough in his research and study, and clear and readable in his writing. He stands even today unrivaled in his mastery of the New Testament.

Because these lectures were prepared for and presented in a seminary setting, they are more academic than “popular,” compared with most of Robertson’s other writings, but not excessively so. Robertson presents the history and views of the Pharisees in their first century context, as documented in ancient Jewish literature (Josephus, Philo, Mishnah, Talmud, etc.), and discussed in the secondary literature. He also exhaustively presents and analyzes the many contacts, encounters and confrontations between Jesus and the Pharisees as reported in the New Testament. The book has extensive bibliography, and is thoroughly indexed.

This little volume is simply outstanding in every way. Used copies as well as print-on-demand editions are readily available.

Quotations from The Pharisees and Jesus

The Pharisees and Jesus: The Stone Lectures for 1915-16, Delivered at the Princeton Theological Seminary by A. T. Robertson. London: Duckworth & Co., 1919. 189 pp., hardback.

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How to Become a Hypocrite

So you want to be a hypocrite … If you believe the gospel, you’re at a disadvantage. You may not ever achieve the elite-level hypocrisy we find in Matthew 23, which probably requires a Pharisee-like depth of unbelief. But don’t be discouraged. Even believers can achieve several forms of high-quality hypocrisy.

Since all humans lapse into hypocrisy from time to time without even trying, I’m confident that, with just a little work, even you can achieve a noticeable level of expertise.

Here’s how.

1. Get very comfortable with inconsistency.

Hypocrisy is more than inconsistency. True, in Matthew 23:3 Jesus faults the Pharisees because “they preach, but do not practice.” But consider the inconsistencies of Jesus’ hand-picked twelve. They were not consistently believing (Matt. 17:20, 14:31; John 20:25), or consistently compassionate (Matt. 19:13). They were certainly not consistently humble! (Luke 22:24, Matt. 26:33). But Jesus never called them hypocrites.

So, though it’s common practice to cherry pick perceived inconsistencies in others’ lives and call it hypocrisy, you won’t achieve the real thing unless you’re aware of your inconsistencies and get very good at rationalizing them away — maybe even coming to see them as virtues (1 Cor. 5:2).

2. Judge others by a higher standard than you judge yourself.

They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. (ESV, Matt. 23:4)

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Why They Followed the Law (Part 3)

Read the series.

Many dispensationalists are mistaken about the impetus for obeying the Mosaic Law, and they’re mistaken about Paul’s main point in his letter to the Galatian churches.1 These errors compound one another and, like an investment gone mad,2 they produce great confusion among Christians.

I’ll repeat something I wrote in the first installment of this series:

In Galatians, Paul was not arguing against the Old Covenant. He was arguing against the twisted, warped version of the Old Covenant the scribes and Pharisees had been pushing for so long.

Dispensationalists have made many attempts to explain the relationship between Old Covenant saints, the law and Christian life today.3 They often labor mightily to avoid the excesses of Scofield and Chafer, while yet simultaneously upholding a strong discontinuity between the Old and New Covenants. They often focus relentlessly on Paul’s letters (particularly Galatians and Romans), and less on the Old Covenant texts or their continuity with Jesus’ ministry.

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Rabbi objects to Pope referring to critics as "Pharisees who 'sit in the chair of Moses and judge.'”

Jesus & the Sad, Angry Little Men (Mark 3:1-6)

Read the rest of the series.

This is a sad little story, because we see sad little men rejecting their great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. They have made void the word of God through their tradition (cf. Mk 7:13). In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus’ early confrontations with the Pharisees come quickly, one after the other. This particular account is where the water boils over.

Mounting Opposition

First, they questioned why Jesus shares a meal with such “worldly” and “disreputable” people (2:15-17). They don’t ask Jesus; they ask His disciples (Mk 2:16). We’re not sure why the Pharisees don’t approach Jesus directly. But we can guess, knowing ourselves, that they’re a bit tentative and unsure of themselves. Perhaps, they thought, “It’ll be better to take the indirect route and cast doubt on His credentials to His followers.”

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Legalism & Galatians: What Was Going on in Galatia?

Loathing toward legalism (and perceived legalism) is commonplace in today’s evangelical ministries, including those of fundamentalist heritage, and Galatians often plays a prominent role in how we think about legalism and Christian liberty.

But liberty is often misunderstood, and overreactions—as well as under-developed reactions—to legalism seem to be a growing problem. It’s no coincidence that the Galatian error, and Paul’s remedial teaching, is also often misunderstood. The result is that a letter that has great potential to help us with our present-day understanding of law, grace and liberty ends up contributing to confusion instead.

So the question in focus here is, to paraphrase the title, what was the Galatian problem?

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Americans like to sue. But many evangelicals believe that they should turn first to Jesus, not the bar

An Argument to Turn to Jesus Before the Bar

“In all my travels around the church in America, I rarely hear of people applying the teachings of Jesus or Paul to put church members on trial,” Mr. Jones said. “But when I do, it’s inevitably in a very conservative and controlling church. They’re the modern-day Pharisees.”

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