The May 7-9 event, titled “Jesus and the Pharisees: An Interdisciplinary Reappraisal,” was presented at a news conference on Wednesday at the Jesuit-sponsored Pontifical Biblical Institute, located adjacent to the Gregorian. The scholarly meeting will culminate on May 9 with a private audience for participants with Francis.
Historically speaking, the two main survivors within Palestinian Judaism of the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in 70 CE by the Romans were the early followers of Jesus, who became the Christians, and the Pharisees, who today are seen as having laid the intellectual, legal and ritual basis for modern Judaism. Other groups, such as the Temple elite, the Sadducees and the esoteric Essene sects disappeared soon after the Temple’s demise.
Presenting the logic of the May conference, Father Etienne Vetö, director of the Gregorian’s Cardinal Bea Center for Judaic Studies, emphasized a link between negative stereotypes of ancient Pharisees and contemporary anti-Semitism.
Popularly, he said, the term “pharisee” is often used to mean “hypocritical, self-righteous, morally rigorous, attentive to appearances in religion, ritualism, even enemies of Jesus,” Vetö said, “but history and Biblical research show this common view is really incorrect.”
“There’s a lot at stake for our understanding of Christianity and present-day Judaism, which finds its roots in the Pharisaic movement,” he said. “Anti-semitism is related to an historically incorrect view of the Pharisees.”
Yes, yes, a thousand times yes!