Were the Pharisees the Precursors of the Rabbis?

Probably, writes Joshua Ezra Burns, but the rabbis sought to obscure the connection:

Since the Middle Ages, Jews and Christians generally have assumed that the first rabbis were Pharisees. . . . Like the Pharisees, the rabbis claimed to maintain a sacred tradition of scriptural exegesis. The Mishnah, the earliest record of the rabbinic legal tradition, . . . approvingly cites select opinions ascribed to the Pharisees. Later rabbinic sages espoused teachings on fate, free will, and the afterlife ascribed to the Pharisees in the New Testament and by the contemporary Jewish historian Flavius Josephus. . . .

While modern readers may easily draw these connections, neither the authors of the Mishnah nor their successors acknowledged that their intellectual forerunners were Pharisees. . . . Why might the earliest proponents of the rabbinic movement have wished to obscure their connection to Pharisees if that connection indeed existed?

Many contemporary scholars . . . suggest that the earliest rabbinic sages, though once Pharisees themselves, did not wish to implicate themselves in the volatile politics of their sectarian forerunners. The Pharisees had been among those Jewish parties whose agitation against Judea’s Roman [rulers] contributed to the outbreak of the disastrous revolt of 66-73 CE, [leading to] the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. Those who survived the war reinvented themselves as rabbis to efface their new movement’s sectarian pedigree without purging their minds of what they deemed its more valuable cultural effects. They thus chose neither to draw attention to their Pharisaic pedigree nor to deny it.

Read more at Bible Odyssey

More about: ancient Judaism, History & Ideas, Judean Revolt, Pharisees, Rabbis, Talmud

Why Egypt Fears an Israeli Victory in Gaza

While the current Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has never been friendly to Hamas, his government has objected strenuously to the Israeli campaign in the southernmost part of the Gaza Strip. Haisam Hassanein explains why:

Cairo has long been playing a double game, holding Hamas terrorists near while simultaneously trying to appear helpful to the United States and Israel. Israel taking control of Rafah threatens Egypt’s ability to exploit the chaos in Gaza, both to generate profits for regime insiders and so Cairo can pose as an indispensable mediator and preserve access to U.S. money and arms.

Egyptian security officials have looked the other way while Hamas and other Palestinian militants dug tunnels on the Egyptian-Gaza border. That gave Cairo the ability to use the situation in Gaza as a tool for regional influence and to ensure Egypt’s role in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would not be eclipsed by regional competitors such as Qatar and Turkey.

Some elements close to the Sisi regime have benefited from Hamas control over Gaza and the Rafah crossing. Media reports indicate an Egyptian company run by one of Sisi’s close allies is making hundreds of millions of dollars by taxing Gazans fleeing the current conflict.

Moreover, writes Judith Miller, the Gaza war has been a godsend to the entire Egyptian economy, which was in dire straits last fall. Since October 7, the International Monetary Fund has given the country a much-needed injection of cash, since the U.S. and other Western countries believe it is a necessary intermediary and stabilizing force. Cairo therefore sees the continuation of the war, rather than an Israeli victory, as most desirable. Hassanein concludes:

Adding to its financial incentive, the Sisi regime views the Rafah crossing as a crucial card in preserving Cairo’s regional standing. Holding it increases Egypt’s relevance to countries that want to send aid to the Palestinians and ensures Washington stays quiet about Egypt’s gross human-rights violations so it can maintain a stable flow of U.S. assistance and weaponry. . . . No serious effort to turn the page on Hamas will yield the desired results without cutting this umbilical cord between the Sisi regime and Hamas.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: Egypt, Gaza War 2023, U.S. Foreign policy