It is easy to dismiss the Pharisees as Jesus' implacable adversaries, the hypocrites with whom he frequently debated and who even plotted his downfall. That picture, however, ignores other gospel passages that show Jesus on friendly terms with them. This study explores every New Testament reference to the Pharisees, paying special attention to Jesus' encounters with them, and offers a feasible resolution of the seeming discrepancies. Unlike those proposed by some scholars, this solution preserves the integrity of the gospel texts and also explains other paradoxical aspects of Jesus' ministry.
This subject contains more than academic importance. Since much of the gospel record of the actions and teachings of Jesus falls within the context of his encounters with the Pharisees, some knowledge of these people with whom he so frequently engaged is an essential prerequisite to understanding Jesus himself. This study's historical reconstructions of the Pharisee movement origins, of its characteristics at the time of Jesus, and of Jesus' relationship with the Pharisees themselves, provide not only a clearer picture of the social and religious environment in which the Christian faith originated, but also fresh insight into Jesus.