James Tissot: Woe unto You, Scribes and Pharisees (1886-1894)

(Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, New York, USA)

Today is Tuesday, the third day of the Holy Week. According to the Bible several things happened today like the cursing of the fig tree and the dispute of Jesus with the Pharisees. This watercolor by the French artist James Tissot shows the last one. The Pharisees were something of a political party, a school of thought and made (strict) interpretations of the Jewish Laws/ the Torah and how to apply it to current Jewish life. Jesus critizised them for being hypocrites for taking the place of honor at banquets, for wearing ostentatious clothing, for encouraging people to call them Rabbi (= teacher of the Torah or 'My Master') and placing the letter of the law above its spirit. The main conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees is that the Pharisees are obsessed with man-made laws ans scorn sinners while Jesus is more concerned with the love of God and seeking the sinners. The gospels list a number of so-called woes which Jesus speaks over the Pharisees. In short these woes are (Matthew 23:1-39):
- making salvation hard for other people
- corrupting converts
- trivializing religion
- neglecting what is actually important
- self-indulgence
- wickedness within
- murder of God's prophets

Painting from around 1886-1894.