Part 1 The Pharisees and The Sadducees
The wealthy Sadducees were unpopular with the masses and often sided with the ruling power. They rejected the oral traditions and concluded that religion was the opiate of the people. They denied the resurrection, the immortality of the soul, and the existence of angels, as they functioned in their politically-correct priestly role.
What policies did Sadducee priests promote? Israel was a government and Judea was its remnant. The duties of those priests of the people are performed by modern administrations.
The 71 members of the Sanhedrin met twice a week in the Temple at Jerusalem. They had begun to enact laws and regulated the people. It was presided over by the High Priest and had its own Temple police to maintain order and enforce its legislated statutes. Comparably today, there is Congress, a Supreme Court, and a police force, along with an alphabet soup of agencies. The Pharisees and Sadducees supplied opposing parties to the Sanhedrin.
The Pharisees were zealous Jews calling themselves Chasidim, or “pious ones”, and, in history, referred to as Jewish Puritans. They were patriotic and became more and more the popular leaders of the people. Under oppression by Herod and the growing federal influence of Rome, the bias of the Sadducees was becoming less desired. Not that they all did not enjoy popularity under the growing wealth of commercialism, but under any great economic machinery there is a group who live where the rubber meets the road.
These Pharisitical separatists found a fertile ground for their filtered love of ancient traditions and the constitution of Israel. They spoke of liberty and freedom under their interpretation of the law. There were those who thought they were leading the people astray with their demanding compliance to a ritual doctrine and often pompous religious piety.
Owing to their heroic history in their fight for independence, the Pharisees enjoyed a certain influence over the hearts of people. Instead of the priests, they became the sources of intellectual authority with certain power and prestige. They also became arrogant and conceited and, eventually, betrayed their own conservative ideals in favor of pride and riches.
Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. Matthew 23:2-4
Jesus would remove them from the seat of Moses as he stated in Matthew 21:43. The Pharisees represented the democratic tendency with a spiritual twist. They were fond of preaching, educating, and working in the missions in order to convert the gentiles, or heathens, to their form of compelled Corban. They sought both converts and the control of them.
Many in Judea were converts due to the zeal of the Pharisees. Like much of Modern Christianity, they “developed a proud and arrogant orthodoxy and an exaggerated formalism, which insisted on ceremonial details at the expense of the more important precepts of the Law.”1
Many of these political groups were a strange mix of conservatism, liberalism, religion, and patriotism. The Pax Romana2 was desired because of its economic security, but their controls and regulations were opposed when they pinched the people. These groups often did not mind the government exercising authority, as long as these political groups were the ones in control.
The Pharisees had suffered bitter defeats and bloody persecutions in the past, but their position had become more comfortable under Roman influence. They conscientiously objected to military service and enjoyed other exemptions and guaranteed protection. They became content to recite their prayers and practice their rituals within the walls of their lavish temples and their churches, called synagogues. They often excused government abuse and condemned those who did question excessive exercise of authority, claiming its practices as God’s instituted government should be unquestioned.
The Zealots were extremists, Pharasitical men of action. They ran out of patience with corruption, sin, and the Roman presence. Their idea of a good prophet was a good military strategist who would overthrow the constitutional heretics of Judea, rid the streets of harlots and homosexuals, and return to the constitutional order of Mosaic Law.
They all attached a great importance to their descent from Abraham, but never really came to understand his purpose or repulsion to the very seats of authority that they desired to create in the name of freedom. As is usual of those who aspire to a freedom based upon force and power, they undermined the very liberty they claimed to seek by the means of their pursuit.
The real harlotry in Judea was promoted and practiced by these meretricious politicians who daily abandoned God’s ways and kingdom. The precepts upon which they functioned has been incorporated into more modern states and religions. Now, their jealous desire for exclusive nationalism and patrimonial control has been replaced by a cunning universalism. Such a progression is only natural, coming from the same spirit of rigidity, vanity, and control that guided them, their predecessors and their successors.
The patriotic nationalism and ritual religious orthodoxy were to be replaced by a single-minded mix of global union and ecumenicalism. This would soon be overturned with the coming of Jesus and the true ways of God’s Kingdom of Heaven on earth.
The system preached by Moses and the prophets was not the system operating in most of Judea during the arrival of Jesus. The Sadducees and Pharisees, including the scribes, were just a few of the more dominating political and philosophical groups of Judea.
The Sadducees espoused the Hellenizing philosophy of the early Hasmonean princes, which had merged Church and State, allowing the Levites to own land and profit from collected taxes forced on the people by statutes and their own application for benefits.
The Pharisees or Separatists supposedly abhorred all forms of Greek or any foreign influence. They were religious fundamentalists whose righteousness was displayed in their own ceremonies and symbols, but nowhere else. Aristobulus and the Sadducees opposed Hyrcanus II who was supported by the Pharisees. Aristobulus invited Rome to Judea to settle this dispute, as to who should be the king of God’s Kingdom. Hyrcanus did not appeal to the Romans for support and neither would Jesus, but the Pharisees did.
Hyrcanus was hoped by some to be the promised King and High priest.3 But others disputed his legitimacy as heir. Many died for their lack of faith and allegiance.4 At one point, there were so few priests that there was no one to even say grace at the kings table.5
There was no formal appeal to Rome by Hyrcanus, which made their lawful presence questionable, if not merely commercial. The Romans could no longer rely on Aristobulus’ invitation to justify their occupation since, by their own decree, he was illegitimate.
The Sadducees retained their traditional priestly functions, although it was altered by Pompey, who turned back some of the power unlawfully granted by the Hasmonean Kings years before. Many of the Pharisees also were a part of this corruption and were called “those who seek smooth things” by ministers who sought a purer interpretation of the ancient ways.
These original charitable ministers of the kingdom, working, according to what Moses set up, under what we might call a vow of poverty. Ordered by God, they were not allowed to own land as a personal estate to accumulate wealth. The Hasmonean Dynasty had changed the nature of Israel with the acquiescent blessing of the people. It was during this period that the ministers of God’s government became more like the governments of the gentiles. The temple tax was enforced by statutes and the charitable altars of the government blended with the office of King and public policy. This new apostasy attracted a different kind of minister and steadily altered the nature and spirit of God’s established kingdom.
“Cursed be the man who rebuilds this city! May he lay its foundation on his firstborn, and set its gate upon his youngest son. Behold, an accursed man, a man of the adversary, has risen to become a fowler’s net to his people, and a cause of destruction to all his neighbours. And arose to exercise authority, also being instruments of violence. they have rebuilt a wall and towers, to make of it a stronghold of ungodliness … They have committed an abomination in the land, and a great blasphemy among the children…” 6
This curse of Joshua seemed to fall upon the Hasmonean dynasty, specifically John Hyrcanus. The blasphemy was not so much the building of a particular city, but the turning away from God’s ways of charity and liberty, and the return to the adversarial civil system of Belial, the “worthless or wicked”, a return to Egypt.
There was soon little difference between the operation of the civil powers of the other kingdoms and God’s with the implementation of forced sacrifice [taxation], corvee labor obligations (income tax) and compulsory taxes on trade [sales tax], on land [property tax] and possessions [personal property tax].7
Because you have plundered many nations, all the remnant of the peoples shall plunder you… the last priests of Jerusalem, who shall amass money and wealth by plundering the peoples. But in the last days, their riches and booty shall be delivered into the hands of the army of the Kittim8, for it is they who shall be the “remnant of the Peoples”. 9
Herod the Idumite, on his accession to power in 37 BC, attacked the Sadducees to thwart their influence. Even the Roman procurators of Judea found it necessary to remove the highpriests due to corruption and complaints by the people. The Romans wanted peace to ply their trade and commerce. Romans, as peace keepers, often rejected God’s way.
Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching [for] doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, [as] the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition. For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death: But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free. And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother; Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye. Mark 7:7-9, also Matthew 15:9…
These words are rather strong. What commandments, laws, or traditions of men are held and which commandments of God are laid aside? “Commandments” in this verse is from the Greek entalma, which is from entellomai, meaning “to order, command to be done, enjoin” and imparts the idea of precepts. “Tradition” is from paradosis, which means “giving up, giving over.. the act of giving up .. the surrender of cities”. Is Jesus upset because they wash their dishes? In what doctrines, traditions, and teachings are men indulging that is construed as a rejection of commandments and precepts of God?
He tells you that Moses told you to honor your Father and Mother so that your days be long upon the land. This was God’s entitlement to a parent from their child:
“Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.” Exodus 20:12
Jesus includes the idea of cursing Father and Mother, but, in the original Hebrew text, we see the word qalal meaning to “be of little account, be light”.
“And he that curseth his father, or his mother, shall surely be put to death.” Exodus 21:17
Be of little account with what? With your Father and Mother? How are you slighting Father and Mother with the cry of Corban? Corban was a sacrifice in charity given to the temple in hopes that someone would be helped. It was to be a casting of your daily bread upon the water, in love and charity, so that it would, in hope and faith, come back to you. But that is not what it had become in that time or this. It had become an accounted regular tax contribution given to the temple so that when your parents or you were elderly or infirm, the temple would care for them. It was an entitlement program, permitting the government to impose a tax on its subject citizenry in exchange for social benefits.
It was an abandonment of responsibility with a reciprocating loss of rights. Men began to think that it was the responsibility of their government to take care of their family and these men believed that they were free of that responsibility. The Romans agreed, but Christ, the true King, did not.
Those who practiced this system of social security, called Corban, were defying the teachings of Moses and the system of God and obviously were turning from the Way presented by Jesus.
Any system that says, “We will care for your parents and you are free from that obligation” is laying aside the commandment of God and, in doing so, they should know “Full well they reject the commandment of God” by accepting that offer and making that unlawful contract.
In the ancient and modern City-State, it has been common to set up temples or treasuries that care for the aged and infirm, the poor and the needy. These altars or common treasuries accomplished this spiritual duty by contributions from the people. God allows such altars as long as they are based on charity and not power, force or covetousness.
There were also fees charged for the ownership or use of slaves and restrictions with penalties for those who released unneeded slaves and wards on the common welfare, just as there is unemployment insurance, welfare, and social security laws now.
Originally, Israel’s civil power and responsibility was centered in the family and not in a central government. The wealth of the nation was held by the families and managed by fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, and locally by the congregations of the families.
The homes of the families [also called tents or tabernacles] contained both kings and high priests. The King was the chief Elder of a family group and the princes were the Fathers of each household. The high priest was usually the eldest son or firstborn. But the firstborn of the nation was the Levites because they stepped forward in faith, answering the call of Moses to serve the Lord by serving the tents of the congregation.
The people took care of most of the needs of the community within the families in ancient Israel before kings and centralized government. The Levites ministered to the tabernacles or tents of the congregation. They received the sacrifices given freely by the people and those given as an offer of repentance. In turn, they gave away those offerings within the scope of the daily ministration to the poor, needy orphans of society, those without sufficient family to care for themselves, or simply needing additional assistance.
This was their system of government, not merely a religion. It was to be God’s Kingdom, but they had strayed from God’s precepts and followed men who walked not in His ways. Jesus was about to take that kingdom away and give it to another.
Matthew 21:43 Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.
1Catholic Encyclopedia: Pharisees
2Roman Peace. An internal peace in the Roman empire initiated by Caesar Augustus, who was hailed as the “peacemaker” and “savior” of Rome.
3“…Judah ben Yedidyah, who said to King Hyrcanus, ‘King !Hyrcanus Thou hast enough with the royal crown, leave the crown of priesthood to the seed of Aaron!’”Bab. Talmud, Kidd. 66a. see also Josephus, Ant. 13.288-298.
4“… his own people revolted against him…, they pelted him with citrons… at the festival of Tabernacles… and they added insult to injury by saying that he was descended from captives and was unfit to hold office and to sacrifice; and being enraged at this, he killed some 6,000 of them, and also placed a wooden barrier about the altar and the Temple as far as the coping of the court which the priests alone were permitted to enter, and by this means blocked the people’s way to him.” Josephus, Ant. 13.372-4
5“…he had put the rabbis to death, there was no-one to say grace for them…” Bab. Talmud, Berakoth 48a
6A Dead Sea Scrolls text 4Q175 21-30
7See The Covenants of the gods published by His Church.
8The Kittim are believed to be the Romans at that time. One reasons is that they have an almost religious devotion for their flag.
9Dead Sea Scrolls: 1QpHabakkuk IX