Q. Why are the Pharisees criticised so much by Christians?
A. The Pharisees, an important Jewish group in the time of the Second Temple, have been unjustly maligned by centuries of Christian stereotyping. In contradistinction to the Sadducees, they were a progressive religious movement dedicated to spiritual and ethical outreach.
Far from being hypocrites, they themselves warned against hypocrisy (Sotah 22b; Avot d’Rabbi Natan, ch.37, etc.; cf. G.F. Moore, “Judaism”, vol. 2, 1932, pp.192-4). Far from being narrow-minded, they taught love and concern for all God’s creatures. If Jesus’ teaching echoed that of any Jewish sect of the time, it echoed the Pharisees. Not all Pharisees were paragons of virtue, but neither are all the adherents of any faith absolute saints. But it distorts the facts to condemn all the Pharisees for the possible faults of a few.
It would be a service to history and scholarship if the pejorative use of the words “Pharisee” and “pharisaical” could be abandoned once and for all.