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Yeast or Leaven of the Pharisees

We are wondering what the "Yeast of the Pharisee's" is and what part it has in the story?

Your question deals with “the yeast of the Pharisees.” Please do not take what I am about to say as a criticism of you or your question. It is not. It is a criticism of the new versions. Many people who use the new versions are good people who have been told that the new versions will help them understand the Bible better. Their motives are pure, so I have no axe to grind with them.

First of all, the “yeast of the Pharisees” is a phrase used in many of the “new” versions to replace what the King James Bible calls, “the leaven of the Pharisees.” Leaven is a picture of sin in the Bible. 1 Corinthians 5:6-8 says, “Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

There can be no doubt that yeast is a leavening agent, but it certainly is not the only one. Most kitchens contain baking soda and baking powder which are also leavening agents. The point is that leaven is a broader term that encompasses all leavening agents. Yeast only covers one type. The Bible defines sin in the broadest of terms in 1 John 5:17 (“All unrighteousness is sin…”). So leaven makes an effective picture of sin because both terms are broad. Now this is important because there is more than one answer to your question. In Matthew 16:12, leaven is defined as “the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” That is, it refers to the false teachings of these two religious groups. Although they were teaching some good things, they also had some false doctrine mixed in. Again we are reminded of 1 Corinthians 5:6—“…a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.” In Luke 12:1 where the leaven of the Pharisees is again mentioned, it is defined as “hypocrisy.”

Second, one of the supposed benefits of the new versions is that folks are better able to understand the Bible because it is in modern English instead of the archaic Elizabethan English of the King James Bible. Changing leaven to yeast didn’t clear anything up. The answer is found by studying the word of God. Of course, the new versions remove the word study from their bibles (2 Timothy 2:15) so that their readers won’t feel compelled to search the scriptures.

Karl Lohman
Daily Proverb

Proverbs 19:18

Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.