Definition of Pharisee in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /ˈferəˌsē/


1A member of an ancient Jewish sect, distinguished by strict observance of the traditional and written law, and commonly held to have pretensions to superior sanctity.
Example sentences
  • He asked the Jewish leaders, the Pharisees and Sadducees, to repent from their evil ways.
  • He had to make allies with the Pharisees, the Jewish high priests of the temple, because he needed some help in governing.
  • As to the framework of his history, Jesus and Judaism are inseparably entwined; he appears closer to the Pharisees than to other Jewish groups in the first century.
1.1A self-righteous person; a hypocrite.
Example sentences
  • Though the hypocrites and Pharisees that run the Republican party will have a hard time understanding this, Jesus would have understood it immediately.
  • The hypocrites and Pharisees of the Republican Party are exactly the sorts of people Jesus warned us against.
  • The Pharisees and hypocrites in the British press should repent their calumnies.

The Pharisees are mentioned only by Josephus and in the New Testament. Unlike the Sadducees, who tried to apply Mosaic law strictly, the Pharisees allowed some freedom of interpretation. Although in the Gospels they are represented as the chief opponents of Jesus, they seem to have been less hostile than the Sadducees to the nascent Church, with which they shared belief in the Resurrection.



Pronunciation: /ˌferəˈsāik/
Example sentences
  • Jesus' strong rejection of Pharisaic teaching on purity is underlined by the evangelist in an aside to the reader: ‘Thus he declared all foods clean’.
  • The Pharisaic - rabbinic shape of Judaism sought to distinguish its position materially from that of the Essenes and the latter's ‘Holy Scriptures.’
  • The Pharisaic notion of righteousness would not include those poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, or others listed in Jesus' sermon as examples of those who are blessed by God.


Pronunciation: /ˌferəˈsāik(ə)l/
Example sentences
  • What's with these super-righteous, Pharisaical, judgemental Christians? They said I was blaspheming, and committing idolatry.
  • Most rabbinic literature has mischaracterized first century Judaism as being almost totally pharisaical, rather than admitting that the religious situation was one of great flux, in which six or seven different groups were struggling for ascendancy within the Israeli Jewish community.


Pronunciation: /ˈferəˌsāˌizəm/
Example sentences
  • But there is much in Jesus’ teaching that is plainly counter-Pharisaic, including the antitheses of the Sermon on the Mount, which set Jesus well outside the frontiers of Pharisaism.
  • In Geiger's account, Pharisaism is transformed from a debased and rarified empty ritualism to a commitment to innovation and to the democratization of priestly functions.
  • Since Pharisaism is a continual problem for Christians, the preacher would do well to identify with the crowd, not with John.


Old English fariseus, via ecclesiastical Latin from Greek Pharisaios, from Aramaic prīšayyā 'separated ones' (related to Hebrew pārūš 'separated').

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: Phar·i·see

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.

Related Words