Jesus against the laws of the pharisees: the legal woe sayings and Second Temple intersectarian discourse

Yair Furstenberg*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


This article offers a new approach for reconstructing the original form and meaning of Jesus's legal woe sayings in Matt 23:16-26 (and the parallel in Luke 11:3944) as part of a broader Jewish intersectarian discourse. A close analysis of this unit alongside an early rabbinic source embedded in Mishnah tractate Yadayim 4:5-8 reveals that Jesus's condemnation of the Pharisees was not unique. His arguments concerning oaths, tithes, and ritual purity belong to a pre-Matthean stratum, and they match a familiar rhetorical pattern condemning the Pharisees' lenient and compromising approach. According to this pre-Matthean tradition, Jesus drew his argument and depiction of the Pharisees from the current intersectarian debate concerning the essential principles of torah observance. Jesus is portrayed as exploiting current anti-Pharisaic accusations, familiar also from Qumran literature and directed originally against the Pharisees' distorted conceptions of purity and holiness, as he attempts to uncover their moral faults.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)769-788
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Biblical Literature
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Society of Biblical Literature. All rights reserved.

RAMBI Publications

  • Rambi Publications
  • Jesus -- Jewish interpretations
  • Jesus -- Jewishness
  • New Testament -- Matthew -- XXIII, 16-26 -- Criticism, interpretation, etc
  • Mishnah -- Yadayim -- Criticism, interpretation, etc
  • Mishnah -- Relation to the New Testament
  • Pharisees -- New Testament teaching
  • Jewish law -- New Testament teaching


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