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Who are today’s Pharisees (Matthew 3:7)?

Matthew 3:7 (NASB) 7But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?


The Pharisees were distinguished for their strict adherence to the rites and ceremonies of the Torah (first five books of Moses) and the traditions of the elders.

We can apply this in a broad sense to individuals and religious groups who place the emphasis of their religious life on external and traditional observance. This would be just as true in certain so-called “Christian” areas as in portions of Judaism. These then, would be today’s Pharisees.

But, the term is also used as an adjective (pharisaical) in a derogatory sense of people who are “outwardly but not inwardly religious; hypocritical; self-righteous” (Webster).

The Lord Jesus the Messiah, who knew what was in man, could justly speak of the scribes and Pharisees as hypocrites and call them a generation of vipers (including the Sadducees), but this is a judgment that I don’t feel qualified to make. A person’s acts or speech might seem to me to be hypocritical, but whether they actually are only the Lord alone knows. I believe that we must leave the judging of one’s motives with the Lord. This is what the Rabbi Paul meant in Romans 14:10, 13:

Romans 14:10 (NASB) 10But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. 

Romans 14:13 (NASB) 13Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way.

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