More Information
ISBN: 9781783684380
Imprint: Langham Academic
Format: Paperback
Dimensions (mm): 229 x 152 x 10
Publication Date: 05/07/2018
Pages: 186
Series: Studies in New Testament
Language: English

The Pharisees in Matthew 23 Reconsidered


Scholarly and historical challenges to the canon of Scripture have been ongoing since before the Council of Nicea in 325, and they continue to this day. A growing number of Matthean scholars contest the historicity of Matthew 23 and its validity for inclusion in the Gospel narrative. They view Jesus’s condemnation of the Pharisees and the polemical language as a reflection of growing opposition to Judaism within the Matthean community of post-70 CE and therefore regard the chapter as having little historical value.

In this detailed historical, cultural and social analysis, Dr Layang Seng Ja defends the contended understanding of this passage and analyses the view that the actions of the Pharisees, and the condemnation they receive in Matthew 23, are consistent with the context of Jesus’s time on earth. Dr Layang also tackles the dating controversy of the Pharisees in this chapter and the chapter’s subsequent authenticity. This book provides an interesting and in-depth study that credits Matthew 23 as historically reliable and authoritative as part of the Word of God, giving a convincing counter-argument to recent critical thought.

Author Bios

Seng Ja Layang

LAYANG SENG JA earned her DTh in New Testament from Lutheran Theological Seminary, Hong Kong. Formerly, she worked as a Burmese-Chinese-Kachin interpreter at the Kachin Independence Organization, and is now a full-time professor in New Testament Studies and also Head of the New Testament department at Kachin Theological College and Seminary, Myanmar. She is also an executive member of the Society of Asian Biblical Studies (SABS).


It has been a crux in New Testament studies whether the audience of the woes against the Pharisees in Matthew 23 is not traditional but is created by Matthew reflecting only the conflict between the Matthean community and Judaism of his time. In this book, Seng Ja, equipped with advance study in the Jewish and Rabbinic literatures, logical thinking and skillful exegesis, makes a thorough investigation of the issue and suggests that the Pharisees in Matthew 23 is historical. Her case is a strong one and nobody who would like to study the issue can overlook her contribution.

Simon Chow, DTh
Professor of New Testament Exegesis,
Lutheran Theological Seminary,
Hong Kong

Layang’s study contributes further nuance to the conversation about the role of the Pharisees in the Gospel of Matthew. The Pharisees in Matthew 23 Reconsidered is a welcome addition to Matthean studies and will be of interest especially to those who seek to understand the relationship of this text to other forms of Judaism.

Anders Runesson, PhD
Professor of New Testament,
University of Oslo, Norway

Dr Layang Seng Ja competently argues that Matthew 23 provides an authentic portrayal of the Pharisees in Jesus’s time, but also reflects the turbulent post-70 period where Matthew’s Jewish-Christian community faced conflict from Pharisaic-Rabbinic Judaism. The study contains a wealth of historical information and literary insights, and presents a valuable voice from the Majority World. I warmly recommend this monograph.

Cornelis Bennema, PhD
Senior Lecturer in New Testament,
Union School of Theology, Oxford

Table of Contents

  1. Contents
  2. Introduction
  3. Chapter 1
    1. The Plan of the Study
      1. 1.1. Literature Reviews
      2. 1.2. Identifying the Concern of the Study
      3. 1.3. The Purpose of the Study
      4. 1.4. Methodology
        1. 1.4.1 Historical Analysis
        2. 1.4.2. Literary Analysis
        3. 1.4.3. The Procedure of the Study
  4. Chapter 2
    1. The Historical Pharisees from the Second Temple Period to the First Century
      1. Introduction
      2. 2.1 The Origin of the Pharisees
      3. 2.2 The Pharisees in the Hasmonean Period (140–63 BCE)
        1. The Pharisees and John Hyrcanus
        2. The Jews Executed by Alexander Jannaeus (103–76 BCE)
        3. Salome Alexandra (76–67 BCE)
      4. 2.3 The Pharisees under the Herodians
        1. 2.3.1 The Pharisees and Herod the Great
        2. 2.3.2. The Two Pharisaic Leaders – Hillel and Shammai
        3. 2.3.3 The Teachings and Practices of Hillel and Shammai
        4. 2.3.4 The Hillelites and the Shammaites
      5. 2.4 The Pharisees in Post-70 CE
      6. Chapter Findings
  5. Chapter 3
    1. The Pharisees in Matthew
      1. Introduction
      2. 3.1. The Pharisees in Matthew
        1. The Pharisees and John the Baptist (3:1, 5–9)
        2. The Pharisees in Galilee
        3. The Pharisees in Jerusalem
      3. 3.2. Matthew’s Redaction
        1. 3.2.1. Matthew’s Redaction on Mark
        2. 3.2.2. Matthew’s Redaction on Q
      4. 3.3. The Characteristic of the Matthean Pharisees
      5. Chapter Findings
  6. Chapter 4
    1. The Literary Analyses of Matthew 23
      1. Introduction
      2. 4.1. The Setting, Literary Context and Structure of Matthew 23
      3. 4.2 General Exegesis of Matthew 23
        1. Matthew 23:2–3a
        2. Matthew 23:3b–12
        3. Matthew 23:13–36
      4. 4.3. The Traditional Materials in Matthew 23
        1. 4.3.1. The Seat of Moses
        2. 4.3.2. Phylacteries
        3. 4.3.3. Tassels
        4. 4.3.4. Proselytes
        5. 4.3.5. Oaths and Vows
        6. 4.3.6. Utensils Cleaning
        7. 4.3.7. Tithing
        8. 4.3.8. The House-Criticism Languages
      5. 4.4. The Pharisees and Jesus as Reflected in Matthew 23
      6. Chapter Findings
  7. Chapter 5
    1. Understanding Matthew 23 in the Historical Context of the Relationship between the Matthean Community and Judaism
      1. Introduction
      2. 5.1 The Suggested Community
        1. 5.1.1 Jewish or Gentile Community?
        2. 5.1.2. Extra-Muros Community
        3. 5.1.3. Intra-Muros Community
      3. 5.2 The Matthean Community
        1. 5.2.1. Intra-Jewish Community
        2. 5.2.2. Palestine Located Community
      4. 5.3 The Function of Matthew 23
      5. Chapter Findings
  8. Chapter 6
    1. Conclusion
  9. Bibliography