Historic Jesus
Sinners/The People of the Land

The Pharisees often blamed Jesus for associating with "sinners and tax collectors" (Matt. 9.10; Mark 2.16; Luke 734). The term "sinners" in this context refers to people who did not practice all the Pharisaic traditions and rules.

People who prided themselves on their piety, such as some of the Pharisees, based their life on the Law, including all the traditions added by religious experts from the Exile onward. Every single action came under these regulations. Most people, however, were more lax in their attitude toward the Law. They lived the best lives they could, but did not take as seriously the detailed rules. The majority looked on the strict observers of the traditions as "religious"; the "religious" looked with contempt on the others, calling them "sinners" or "the people of the land."

Jesus befriended both those who lived an openly immoral life and the ordinary people (people of the land) who tried to live with personal integrity. The Pharisees saw no distinction between the two, since neither took seriously the traditions of the elders. Jesus himself was judged a "sinner" by the Pharisees, since he refused to practice the ceremonial washing of eating utensils or the washing of his hands. He also violated Pharisaic rules concerning the Sabbath.