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A note on Josephus, The pharisees and ancestral tradition

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Chapter Summary

There has been for many years an intense debate over the influence of the Pharisees in late Second Temple Judaism. Pharisees encouraged ordinary Jews to keep ancestral customs common to all Jews. Josephus wrote in the context of the struggle between the Pharisees and Sadducees in the Hasmonean period as if the Pharisees were responsible for establishing and introducing as well as transmitting such customs, but the customs themselves cannot have been specifically Pharisaic if they could be characterised in these same passages as ancestral. It is true that Josephus stated explicitly, that the Pharisees' influence was caused by the admiration shown by the Jews towards their theological notions, such as life after death, but the author suggests that the role of the Pharisees as teachers of conservative behaviour explains more fully their ambiguous position.

Keywords: Jews; Josephus; Pharisees; Sadducees



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