Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

William L. Lane

Degree Program

Department of Philosophy & Religion

Degree Type

Master of Arts


Due to the often inadequate methodology employed by scholars studying the pre-A.D. 70 Pharisees, new approaches are needed for analyzing the primary sources. Careful attention must be given to the literary genres of the four ancient sources of information on the Pharisees: the Psalms of Solomon, the New Testament, the writings of Josephus, and the rabbinic literature. As an example of such sensitivity to the ancient authors’ purposes in writing and to the literary genres they employed in conveying their information, this study uses the Gospels of Mark and Matthew as test cases.

Careful analysis of authorial purpose, as revealed in the literary structuring and redactional modification of Gospel material, led to the following conclusions. First, the authors of Mark and Matthew display on interest in presenting a balanced picture of the Pharisees. Their major concern is to present the good news about Jesus Christ not to give a well-rounded view of those with whom he came into conflict. Information recorded on the Pharisees is limited almost exclusively to situations of conflict with Jesus, and the resulting picture is limited to negative aspects. Second, the different literary structures and authorial purposes of Mark and Matthew reveal both unity and diversity in their respective portraits of the Pharisees. Mark’s emphasis on rapid movement toward the Passion Narrative finds one of its major sources of propulsion in the conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees, caused by his rejection of their oral tradition. On the other hand, Matthew’s major theme of Jesus as the authoritative interpreter of the Law causes the conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees to focus on who properly interprets, teaches, and obeys Scripture. Nevertheless, in spite of the diversity of structure and purpose, the Pharisaic portraits in Mark and Matthew are consistent. Both Gospels present the Pharisees as hypocrites who concentrate on the observance of minute details of religious ritual but who neglect the larger and more important issues of living for God.


Biblical Studies | Christianity | Religion | Rhetoric and Composition