Life of Jesus Christ, Pharisees, Jewish social hierarchy


In this chapter we turn our attention to the Pharisees. In doing so, we hope to gain broad insight into how Jesus fit within the Jewish social hierarchy in first-century Galilee and Judea, at least according to the Gospels. Any conclusions we draw must be understood within a broad framework, not a nuanced, highly historical framework. We are not assuming that literally every Pharisee fit this description. Pharisees are central figures in the Christian demonization of Jews from late antiquity to the present. The Gospels portray Pharisees as self-righteous, hypocritical, spiritually hollow, overly ritualistic, and even demonic. Some of the Gospels portray Pharisees as the chief opponents of Jesus, the people largely responsible for his death. But is this portrayal fair? In this chapter, we explore the primary characteristics of Pharisees according to both Josephus and the authors of the Gospels to answer this question, as well as to understand better the nature of Jesus’ relationship with the Pharisees, who were Israel’s leaders at the time of Jesus. Based on evidence and inference, I posit that not only were Jesus and the Pharisees not vicious enemies, but that they had a cordial relationship.

Original Publication Citation

Trevan G. Hatch, A Stranger in Jerusalem: Seeing Jesus as a Jew. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2019 (pgs 154-184)

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date


Permanent URL


Wipf and Stock




Harold B. Lee Library

University Standing at Time of Publication

Assistant Professor