That Yeshua/Jesus was a Pharisee is surprisingly easy to demonstrate from the gospels. Let me give you some background to help demonstrate this before we look at the gospels. The Pharisees were the largest Jewish group at the time, and it was a very popular group among the Jewish masses because they taught the practical application of the Written and Oral Torah to even the illiterate. Acts 4:13 mentions in passing that at least some of Yeshua/Jesus' disciples were illiterate, which is part of why they were so attracted to Yeshua/Jesus when he called them to be his disciples in the first place. There were other Jewish groups at the time, the Essenes, the Sadducees, the Zealots, the Boethusians, and a few smaller groups, but none were as large as the Pharisees. Think of the Pharisees as today's Orthodox Jews, in fact all Jews today are descended from the Pharisees. The Talmud quotes different Pharisee Sages, and today Judaism holds their teachings in the Talmud as binding, so there is a direct link between the Pharisees and the Orthodox Judaism of today. To further illustrate this point, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, was a descendant of the great Pharisee Sage Hilel the Elder (who was a descendant of King David). Whenever the term "orthodox" is used to describe a religious group, it has to be understood that other groups of the same time frame were not "orthodox". Today, we can see that there are groups of Jews who don't follow "Orthodox" Judaism, and as a result of these groups being outside of the Orthodoxy, the organisations of these groups are considered "heretical" to "Orthodox" Judaism.
In the late Second Temple era (the time when Yeshua/Jesus is meant to have lived), the Sadducees and Boethusians would have been heretical (meaning they departed from the Torah in major areas), the Essenes and Zealots would have been heterodox (meaning they generally agreed with the "Orthodox" Pharisees but differed slightly in some relatively minor observances of the Torah), while the Pharisees were the Orthodoxy. This all being said, Yeshua/Jesus could easily be argued to have been an Orthodox (Pharisee) Jew, or at the very least he was part of a heterodox sect. While I'm not sure that I'd go so far as to say definitively that Yeshua/Jesus was a Pharisee rabbi because I don't feel like there's enough evidence in the gospels to support the opinion that he was ever an ordained rabbi, I think there is enough evidence to say that he took the Mishnah very seriously when it says "in a place where there are no men (leaders), strive to be a man (Pirke Avot 2:1)". It's obvious from his interaction with the Pharisees that he didn't view them as his theological rivals or enemies, which would indicate that he never intended to start a new religious movement like Christianity at all. His teachings are generally in line with the teachings of the Pharisees, and where his teachings differ from the Pharisees, he still doesn't really say anything that could be considered heretical. For example, in Matthew 5:17, he gives a clear statement that he hasn't come to release his followers from Torah observance, which completely contradicts Christian theology. When a man asked him what he could do to merit eternal life (Matthew 19:16-21), Yeshua/Jesus tells him to keep the Torah. When the man responds that he does keep the Torah, Yeshua/Jesus tells him to give more tzedakah (charity). This is a major departure from Christian theology, so much of a departure that it's actually heretical in Christian theology to teach that you can attain eternal life by keeping Torah, but it is completely in line with the teachings of the Pharisees and today's Judaism. Yeshua/Jesus encourages his disciples to do everything the Pharisees teach in Matthew 23:2-3, which not only contradicts Christian theology in every regard every step of the way, but it makes the nonsense in Matthew 23 from the end of verse 3 forward about how the Pharisees are hypocrites look suspiciously like it was added by a later Christian scribe who wanted to erase the blatantly Jewish message of following the teachings of the Pharisees from the mouth of their central figure. Almost everything that Yeshua/Jesus teaches in the gospels has a very pro-Pharisee, pro-Torah, and anti-Christian theology message, and very few teachings directly teach against the Torah or the teachings of the Pharisees. This is enough evidence to say that Christian scribes very likely, and I would argue very obviously, later changed the text to give him a more Christian theology and a less Pharisee theology. Even the few times that Yeshua/Jesus is critical of the Pharisees, he is critical of only the few Pharisees that were present and not of the whole of the Pharisees. The region of the Galilee is where Yeshua/Jesus was from, its the region that Nazareth is in. Galilee was a veritable hot spot of Pharisee activity in the time of Yeshua/Jesus, and the city of Capernaum was especially known as a huge Pharisee centre. If you look in Mark 1:21, you'll see that Yeshua/Jesus not only attended the synagogue there (one of the largest built), but he actually taught there. The fact that the next verse mentions that there were scribes there tells us that that particular synagogue was a Pharisee synagogue. I would be negligent if I didn't ask, why would the Pharisees allow Yeshua/Jesus to teach if he wasn't a Pharisee himself? It's a pretty easy case to make that Yeshua/Jesus was a Pharisee who taught like a Pharisee right down to the arguably excessive usage of parables that the Pharisees and Yeshua/Jesus both employed.
But Yeshua/Jesus isn't the source of most of Christian doctrine, which is probably why he contradicts Christian doctrine every chance he gets. The real source of at least 90% or so of Christian doctrine is none other than the apostle Paul, specifically from just a couple of the letters he wrote. As I mentioned earlier in this article, Paul takes every opportunity to tell his readers that he's a Pharisee, probably because Paul is of the opinion that if you say something often enough and enough people believe it then it has to be true. As evidence of this fact, Paul actually tells his readers that he's a firm believer in using deception as a method for converting people. It seems unbelievable, right? He made deception his normal operating procedure for making converts. The "apostle to the Gentiles" would advocate deception as a way to win converts? If it's the truth, there's no need for deception, so I better have some hard evidence that he was willing to be deceptive, right? Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:20-23, "And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; to them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you (KJV)." To put that into a more modern English, Paul says that he pretended to be a Jew in order to convert Jews. Paul pretended to be a non-Jew in order to convert non-Jews. He pretended to be weak in order to convert the weak. He pretended to be a part of whatever culture he was speaking to in order to convert them, and he did it all for the sake of his gospel. Paul confesses here that he's a pretender and a liar, and with a confession like that, we really can't trust anything he says. He says that he pretends to be a Jew in order to convert Jews, how do we know that he ever was a Jew to begin with? By that same logic, he said he pretends to not be Jewish in order to convert non-Jews, how can we believe anything he says about who he is? And he did all this for the purpose of gaining converts to his teachings, that's not very Pharisee of him to intentionally be deceptive. As I stated earlier, the Pharisees are the predecessors to today's Orthodox Judaism. Judaism doesn't seek to make converts, it never has. So if Paul was a Pharisee, why would he suddenly change his normal operating procedure so he could lie in order to gain converts, especially if what he was teaching was the truth? The simple answer to that question is that Paul was never a Pharisee, and his incessant protesting and claims to be a Pharisee are simple lies fabricated to try to make it easier for him to convert Jews. The best defence against people saying you're wrong about something is to say that you used to be on the opposing side before you "saw the light" and switched sides, even if you know it's a lie, and Paul has confessed to not being afraid to lie a bit to get results. Paul has repeatedly said that his teachings are the only truth, and even goes to the extent of calling down a curse on anyone who teaches differently, even if those other teachers are angels of G-d (Galatians 1:8-9, 1 Timothy 6:3). That's actually very funny because Yeshua/Jesus taught differently before Paul ever came onto the scene, so Paul actually calls down a curse on Yeshua/Jesus. As I pointed out earlier in this article, Matthew 19:16-21 says that Yeshua/Jesus told a man that the way to attain eternal life is through the Torah and giving to tzedakah. But why would he say that if eternal life comes only "by grace through faith, NOT OF WORKS" like Paul taught (Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 3:28, Galatians 2:15-16). In fact, Paul goes so far as to say that if the observance of Torah could give eternal life, Yeshua/Jesus died in vain (Galatians 2:21). While Yeshua/Jesus taught his disciples to keep Torah because he never intended to have his disciples stop observing Torah (Matthew 5:17), Paul repeatedly teaches against Torah observance (Romans 7:1-6) and claims we are delivered from the Torah (Romans 7:6). Paul even says that he is dead to the Torah (Galatians 2:19), and calls it a curse (Galatians 3:10, 3:13). To make matters even more interesting where Paul is concerned, the city of Tarsus that was his hometown was a hotbed of Pagan religion and stoic philosophy, but not so many Pharisees. That would certainly explain why Paul's letters are filled with cases of Pagan and stoic influence on his writing itself. How else would he have been familiar with their teachings? The Pharisees certainly weren't familiar with their teachings. Where it gets even more interesting is that, in their attempt to explain how Paul could be a Pharisee, several different Christian Church Fathers like Eusebius and Jarome suspect that he either wasn't from Tarsus at all (which contradicts the New Testament) or perhaps that he left there at a young age to study in Jerusalem. So it's certainly possible, and I'd argue highly likely, that Paul wasn't even a Jew. Yeshua/Jesus' teachings are in line with the Torah and the teachings of the Pharisees, but Paul's teachings completely oppose the Torah and Pharisees. Every Christian/Messianic alive today that's honest has to admit that they will follow Paul's teaching every time that Paul and Yeshua/Jesus disagree. Sure, the Messianic movement has their own spin on it and it tries to claim that Paul was also Torah observant and taught true to the Torah, but as we've just discussed that's completely false.
Part of the reason for Paul teaching against Yeshua/Jesus is probably related to the fact that Paul never met Yeshua/Jesus, and never studied under any of Yeshua/Jesus' disciples (Galatians 1:15-22), but Paul claims to have received all the teaching he needed from Yeshua/Jesus in a vision that nobody else witnessed (Galatians 2:2). Paul had "visions" that taught him everything that he went on to teach, but only Paul saw these "visions", they aren't even recorded in the New Testament. These "visions" apparently contradicted both the Torah and Yeshua/Jesus' own teachings, and listening to these "visions" apparently caused Paul to get into trouble and arguments with the actual disciples of Yeshua/Jesus on multiple occasions (Acts 21:18-21, Galatians 2:11). Today, when people have "visions" like Paul's, it turns out to be some type of mental illness. But I do wonder, Paul had never seen Yeshua/Jesus face to face and never heard Yeshua/Jesus' voice, how did he know who was speaking to him in the "visions"? Every honest Christian/Messianic will reluctantly admit that they believe it's possible that he could have heard from the Devil in his "visions" if pressed for an answer. I don't believe that he heard from the Devil in his "visions", I think he heard what he wanted to hear. There's an expression that says "if you speak to G-d it's prayer, but if He speaks back it's schizophrenia". The idea that the expression conveys is that if people hear voices, it's probably insanity. The evidence in the New Testament is that even the disciples of Yeshua/Jesus thought Paul was a bit off, maybe they suspected he was mentally ill, I can't say for certain. In any case, the teachings of Yeshua/Jesus are generally consistent with the teachings of the Pharisees, and when the gospels portray him teaching against the Pharisees it's probably a later addition to the text, while the teachings of Paul contradict the teachings of the Pharisees. Every time the New Testament mentions family members of Paul, it also mentions that they were already Christians (like in the final chapter of Romans), which is abnormal for a man who claims to have hated and killed Christians. So I have to conclude the it's very likely that Yeshua/Jesus was a Pharisee, but Paul never was.
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