Was the Pharisees' Leaven Separation?

This is the 2nd article in “The Leaven of the Pharisees” series.  (Previous “Was the Pharisees’ Leaven Legalism?”)

  • Matthew 16:6 “Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.”
  • Mark 8:15 “And he charged them, saying, Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod.”

Some evangelical authors and preachers like to point out that Pharisee means “a separatist.” They then illogically conclude, preach, and teach that separation is therefore bad. Such quick steps of (il)logic is not proper biblical exegesis, and in fact, flies in the face of Christian history. For instance, in the 16th and 17th centuries, certain believers wanted to separate from the Church of England. As a result, they were called “Separatists.” The Pilgrims who established the first successful English colony in North America were “Separatists.”

At the same time, anyone who calls themselves a “separatist” is not necessarily good and biblical either. It is important to note that God Himself didn’t label these men Pharisees. The Pharisees gave themselves the name “separatists.” The Bible was just simply using the title they were known by. But just calling yourself a Christian doesn’t make you a Christian. And just because the Pharisees called themselves “separatists” did not make them “separatists.” The point is that we need to look at the context of Scripture to properly view and define the Pharisees. And what we can conclude is that even though the Pharisees called themselves “separatists”, they were in fact quite the opposite. (Please read “Was The Pharisees’ Leaven Hypocrisy?” to finish this series.)