Jesus said to his followers: “…unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt.5:20) In traditional reconstruction, the people who are referred to as “scribes and Pharisees” were among the holiest Jews. But was it really so?

First, most scribes were known for making alterations to the texts. Jesus even issued a warning to preserve the original words accurately as future scribes would copy the text: “if anyone adds to them… and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life…” (Rev. 22:18-19). Even though scribes were not considered in a negative light like the tax collectors, their level of righteousness was not considered to be high by many.

Second, the Pharisees too were not considered as most righteous of all Jews at least by some. Most notably by Essenes whose writings, the Dead Sea Scrolls collection, in part preserves. Essenes believed that the Pharisees sold out Jerusalem to the Greeks and conspired with enemies of God to compromise the holiness of its Temple. To make their views clear, they called the Pharisees “the seekers of after smooth-things” (דורשי החלקות) instead of their own preferred name “the seekers of the (God’s) paths” (דורשי ההלכות). In short, these Jews (Essenes) did not think much of Pharisaic righteousness also (4Q169).

In the light of these examples, we should conclude that Jesus’ words should be taken literally – the righteousness level of scribes and of Pharisees was not enough to enter God’s Kingdom. Much more was needed.



  1. Daily life would also give Yeshua`s words merit in truth. In my country politicians especially high ranking would appear to be in a similar boat to the scribes and Pharisees. As they do in many Countries deceive and lie and continue to call it diplomacy or politics on behalf of the electorate. This attitude and their strategies continues the process, and projects the actions outside of politics, to others, believing it to be acceptable. No matter whether in politics, business, health care, or education. Yeshua suggests God is offended by these acts, and so we should not follow such acts.
  2. #1) The record stated in the Babylonian Talmud itself, 6 out of 7 Pharisees were hypocrites. The Talmud goes on to enumerate different kinds of hypocrites. However, the Talmud [Sotah 22] also has an interesting statement by King Yannai, which says, 'Do not be afraid of the Pharisees, or from those who are not Pharisees. Rather, fear only the pretenders, who look like Pharisees, for their actions are like the action of Zimri, and they seek reward like Pinchas.' #2) The Sadducees, in general, not the Pharisees, in general, were the 'Friends of Rome', and the sellouts, historically.
  3. #3) Yeshua blasts the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. At the same time, he says that they sit in 'Moses' seat', All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.' [Matthew 23] This likewise accords with the context of the passage quoted for your article, that whoever does and teaches "the least of the commandments" is great in heaven. Likewise in James [Jacob's] letter this is emphasized. Likewise, we see Yeshua answer a man who asks about entering the kingdom by saying, keep the commandments.
  4. Yes, we should all strive to keep the commandments. There are some today who claim to be Ministers of God who are like the scribes and pharisees. Some are more interested in collecting money than keeping the commandments. Shalom
  5. Rev. 22:18-19 has nothing to do with changing the Bible but the book of Revelation itself(the book of this prophecy aka Revelation).

    Although we should never add to take away anything in the Bible this is not what those verses meant.
    • Yes, correct I beleive also...But the scripture is correct when Jesus talked about not a jot or tittle taken away I beleive refers to all the scriptures.
    • Shalom, Loyce. Not most (but many), alterations were usually meant to explain or clarify something they were sure about. Please, find and read Chicago Statement on Biblical innerrency. I think it brings and important balance.

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  6. The Scribes and Pharisees in Christian thought are generally regarded as low life scum pretending to be holy. However if they were really that bad as the stereotype portrays, then Jesus is really setting the bar low. Thus if the Scribes and Pharisees were low life scum what is the point as saying unless your Tzedkah surpasses theirs? By the common Christian definition almost everyone's Tzedkah would far surpass those lowly scum. Is it possible they were not the low life scum as they are often portrayed as?
  7. I can see that the words of wisdom have come so far yet, the translations of the word are such that, they have become sparse. This was the word that was taken in context . I can overcome the boredom but, the translation is wrong. I can reiterate in saying.. I was not the maker of tales
  8. Y'Shua reminds them that not even a "Yod" (the smallest letter in the Alef - Bet) could be added nor omitted.

    Revelations speaks of the plagues that Wii be brought on as a result.

    Be Blessed
  9. Thank you Dr Ely for another interesting work. I would like to add that their is no mention of the Pharisees in the O/T. They were not authorised by God through Moses but came into being at the time of Antiochus. As our Lord said their religion was outward show but God sees the heart. It is true to say that they were hypocrites who used their position to spiritually oppress the people. Our Lord exposed their hypocrisy as clean outside while the inside is full of filth. Again thank you Dr for stimulating thought.
    • Don't condemn all Pharisees. Nicodemus, a Pharisee,met with Jesus John3:121 Defended Jesus7:50-51 and Joseph of Arimathea A member of the Council Mark15:43 John 19:38 Waited For the kingdom Who buried Jesus's body And the scribe Mark12:28-34. Obviously some Pharisees were willing to listen to Jesus and be His followers

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