Pharisees are us

Mark 7:1-8, 21-23

I grew up in an era before video, Veggie Tales or Bible-based computer games. I was raised, at least in terms of religious education, on the flannelgraph. To this day, although I know that the scriptures are peopled with characters of texture and nuance, I think of Bible people and see pastel paper figures pressed on a felt board.

Perhaps the most flattened characters were the Pharisees. They were presented as foils against which the virtue of New Testament heroes stood out in sharp relief. When the Pharisees got into a fight with Jesus over handwashing, the flannelgraph reduced the story to a simple battle of bizarre legalism and a Lady Macbeth–like obsession with purity versus simple, sanctified common sense. We all knew whose side we would have been on.

 

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