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Excuse me for interrupting,

This is the third post to the Orion list in which George Brooks has claimed
the prs derivation of Pharisees to be artificial and contrived. Brooks
proposes instead a derivation "Persians" or as he so concisely puts it "those
Persian guys." Nothing I have read in any of his posts even begin to support
this position. Nevertheless, Brooks seems at a loss to understand the
linguistic argument.

The term "Pharisee" as we have it derives straight from the Greek term used in
both Josephus and the New Testament 'Farisaios.' Clearly this is a loan word
(Brooks would no doubt claim from Babylon). In Aramaic (the most likely
derivation for a Greek term used in the first century CE) the term used for
Pharisee is prysya. prysya is simply the Aramaic form of the Hebrew prwsym,
either pointed perushim 'separated ones' or paroshim 'interpreters'. Both the
Aramaic and the Hebrew terms derive from the triliteral root prs which has two
meanings: (1)' to spread out, spread'; and (2) 'to make distinct, declare' and
so 'interpret' (BDB). The second meaning is especially appropriate when
applied to the Pharisees who, even during the reign of Alexandra Salome, were
considered "the most exact exponent of the laws" (Josephus, War, I. 107ff.).
Even if the name is derived from the 'separate' root, however, then this may
refer to the Pharisaic practice of separating clean from unclean. So Schurer
(396f.): "The Pharisees must have obtained their name from a separation in
which the main body of the people did not participate, in other words, from
having set themselves apart, by virtue of their stricter understanding of the
concept of purity, not only from the uncleanness of the Gentiles and half-Jews
but also from that uncleanness which, in their opinion, adhered to a great
part of the people itself. It is in this sense that they were called the
'separated' or 'self-separating'." We know from the group at Qumran(?) itself
that such separations did apparently take place, though with the Pharisees,
such a separation must have been more theological than actual.

I see no difficulty in just such a derivation of the Greek term (read through
the Aramaic). This seems far simpler than a rather contrived and artificial
attempt to base the term in Babylon, for which Brooks is unable to provide any
supporting material beyond pure speculation. Indeed he seems pleased not to
have read the only source that might have provided any supporting material for
his argument!

Marcus Wood
Department of Theology
University of Durham

George Brooks wrote:

> I did not base my view on E.B. Szekely's writings.  Though I have heard
> of his Essene Gospel of Peace.  Based on what I had heard, I wasn't too
> interested in reading it.  But my "position" on the term Pharisee is so
> profoundly non-technical, how can I ever hope to prevail.  For my
> position comes from the REAL world and from what looks like obvious
> currents in Palestinian/Babylonian history, rather than what
> ethno-centric Hebrew linguists might desperately hope to convince their
> audience of.  Mind you, I am not opposed to ethno-centrism.  But in this
> case, the whole Pharisee = Separated Ones analysis seems so contrived and
> artificial, I can't believe anyone takes it too serioiusly.
> For hundreds of years since the return from captivity, it would be
> obvious that very zealous Jews would come in small and large waves from
> the Babylonian territories.  Since we already know that Persians "in
> exile" are to this day being called Parsee in India (which simply means
> "those Persian guys"), and since even in the Talmud anecdotes are
> translated using the generic term "Babylonians" or "Persians" to refer to
> Jews from Mesopotamia, it's hard to believe there is any question about
> what is going on:  Pharisees = "those Persian Jews".  It would not be
> hard to understand that any faithful Jew motivated enough to travel from
> Mesopotamia, would be more than typically motivated about the pursuit of
> Jewish tradition (oral or otherwise).
> Whereas, on the other hand, to explain the evolution of how people came
> to pronounce "separated ones" as Pharisees has NEVER been explained in
> any book I have read.  Yes, there are a few letters in common, but the
> sounds don't seem all that similar - - certainly not as similar as Farsee
> or Parsee vs. Pharisee (!).  If you ask me, the Pharisee = Separated Ones
> is a MUCH more difficult argument than any argument about the derivation
> of the term Essene.

For private reply, e-mail to Marcus Wood <M.E.M.Wood@durham.ac.uk>
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