Religion for Show (23:1-12)

Teachers of the law are literally "scribes," which throughout the Empire included those who wrote legal documents for others, but in Judea and Galilee included educated teachers who instructed children in the law and in some cases taught adults as well. Pharisees were a particularly scrupulous brotherhood of teachers and laypersons committed to interpreting the law according to the traditions received from earlier Pharisees. Both groups (which overlapped at points) probably derived from families with some means, and Pharisees clustered especially (though not exclusively) in Jerusalem, where some of them belonged to the urban elite. Luke correctly distinguishes scribes and Pharisees (Lk 11:39-54), but like modern preachers, Matthew is telling the story in a manner that addresses the enemies of his own community, of whom Pharisaic scribes seem to be the dominant element (compare Hare 1967:81). Matthew is sensitive to the Jewish orthodoxy of his own audience, which probably included some Christian scribes (Mt 13:52; 23:34) and Pharisees (Acts 15:5; compare 23:6), but by Matthew's day the non-Christian Pharisaic leadership had probably marginalized all Christians, Pharisaic or not.

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