Thinking Out Loud

I know it’s somewhat of a dead horse, but I am curious as to your thoughts on this.

Do you find the view that first-century Judaism was inherently legalistic to be

  1. accurate?
  2. somewhat accurate, but in need of some qualifications?
  3. way off–a caricature at best?

I know this is quite simplified, but I’m just thinking out loud. What do you think?

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5 comments

  1. Depends on the particular sect. Pharisees = accurate. They were legalistic. Sadducees = somewhat accurate. They were more Torah driven than tradition driven. Essenes = I have no friggin’ idea!

  2. Nick: My concern is this: in our circles (read evangelicalism), the utterance of the word “Pharisee,” for example, automatically registers with most as “LEGALIST”! To be sure, the Pharisees Jesus encountered were for the most part, but I don’t think that ALL Pharisees were. It seems that Pharisees are, for many, the absolute representative of first-century Judaism. Maybe my gripe is with what is perpetuated throughout certain channels of the evangelical camp.

  3. I would just have to say that certain streams had a greater or lesser propensity for legalism, but it is otherwise a caricature of second temple Judaism (just as I would say it would be true of ANY group today…some show a greater propensity while others a lesser). However, there are certain systems (sociological, theological, etc.) which seem to promote such tendencies in a given group.

  4. My limited reading of secondary sources (Jewish) and primary sources on 1st Century Judiasm makes me incline to think that the Pharisees and company were quite legalist…but I do see that some people can be quite simplistic in thinking that it’s therefore not important to see the Pharisees as they truly are…

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