JESUS and the PHARISEES #1
From the book "The Trial and Death of Jesus"
by the late Haim Cohn (Jewish Supreme Court Judge)
It is not within the purview of this inquiry to portray Jesus. His life, his personality, and his teachings are subjects of long-raging and never-ending theological and historical controversies. Many of the questions in dispute are essentially questions of faith and of orientation, and we shall take no stand on them.
Our purpose is to show that neither Pharisees nor Sadducees, neither priests nor elders, neither scribes nor any Jews, had any reasonable cause to seek the death of Jesus or his removal.
Without such, it will be submitted, the reports that they sought to destroy him (Matt. 12:14; Luke 19:47) or that they counseled together "for to put him to death" (John 11:53; Luke 22:2; Mark 14:1) are stripped of all plausibility.
NOTE IMMEDIATELY THE AUTHOR OBVIOUSLY DOES NOT BELIEVE THE GOSPELS ARE INSPIRED OF GOD; AS PAUL PUT "GOD BREATHED" - TO THE AUTHOR THE GOSPELS ARE THE WORK OF MEN, UN-INSPIRED, CONTAINING CONTRADICTION, AND JUST PLAIN DELIBERATE BIAS OF THEOLOGY - Keith Hunt
The "Pharisees" were singled out by the evangelists as the veritable archenemies of Jesus. Their somewhat exotic name, especially in Gentile ears, furnishes an obscurity behind which a clearly perceptible but wholly unexplained hostility seems to lurk. Jesus is represented in the Gospels as harboring no illusions about their hateful character and implacable enmity; and, indeed, to judge from Gospel reports, no group could be more hypocritical, cunning, selfish, proud, opinionated, intolerant, and unscrupulous. What is at first sight remarkable, though it does not appear to have bothered the theologians overmuch, is that in some of his speeches, and in his general attitude to the "Pharisees," Jesus seems to have abandoned his own teaching that you must love your enemies and pray for them that despitefully persecute you (Matt. 5:44): even assuming that Jesus thought that he was being hounded by them and that they were his foes, not only did he not pray for them, but, if the Gospel is to be believed, he cursed and reviled them with no least restraint.
AND INDEED THAT IS SO! THERE COMES A TIME WHEN DEALING WITH "RELIGIOUS LEADERS" - WHEN IT IS SEEN THEY HAVE A STICK-IN-THE-MUD MINDSET, YOU FORGO ANY MORE KINDNESS TOWARDS THEM, ANYMORE PATIENCE TOWARDS THEM. GOD IS LONGSUFFERING AND PATIENT TOWARDS MANKIND, BUT EVEN GOD SAYS ENOUGH IS ENOUGH, AND KINDNESS AND PATIENCE COMES TO AN END. WE SEE THIS ALL THROUGH THE OLD TESTAMENT IN GOD DEALING WITH ISRAEL. THERE MUST COME A DIFFERENCE WITH PHYSICAL ENEMIES WHO WANT TO HURT YOU PHYSICALLY, WHO WANT TO HURT YOU WITH THEIR VOICE OR PEN, AND THOSE WHO ARE IN YOUR SAME PROFESSION AS A RELIGIOUS LEADER OVER OTHERS. ALL THINGS MUST BE TAKEN INTO A CONTEXT. YOU MAY ALLOW SOMEONE TO HURT YOU PHYSICALLY, OR WITH THEIR VOICE OR PEN, AND PRAY FOR THEM; BUT THERE COMES A TIME, IF THEY CONTINUE AND CONTINUE AND CONTINUE, YOU STAND UP TO THEM, OR YOU FLEE THEIR PRESENCE. THE ATTITUDE IS YOU SHOW THEM PRAYER AND LOVE, AND PATIENCE, BUT PATIENCE AND PRAYER MUST FINALLY COME TO AN END WHEN THEY WILL NOT SEE THE ERRORS OF THEIR WAYS. JESUS GAVE ALL KINDS OF TEACHING AND WORKS FOR THE PHARISEE TO SEE HE WAS FROM GOD, HE WAS CORRECT IN THEOLOGY; THEY WOULD NOT HARKEN AND AS TIME WENT ON STIFFENED THEIR HEART AND MINDS; JESUS' PATIENCE FINALLY HAD TO COME TO AN END; ALL THE TEACHING, GOOD WORKS, MIRACLES, AND PRAYERS, WERE TO NO AVAIL…… THE TIME COMES TO LAY THE CARDS ON THE TABLE…..IT'S OFTEN CALLED TODAY "TOUGH LOVE" - Keith Hunt
The picture is not, however, always painted as black as all that. According to the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, Jesus once or twice accepted an invitation to the home of a Jewish tax collector, a "publican," who, as we have said, by entering into Roman service had, in the eyes of the people, forfeited the right to mix in good Jewish society: no Jew would sit at table with him. As distinguished from the disqualification of such men as witnesses,2 this was not a rule of Pharisaic law, but a widespread custom which may have grown out of an instinctive rejection and boycott of Roman hirelings. The "Pharisees" (Matt. 9:11), who in the other Gospels are joined by "scribes" (Mark 2:16; Luke 5:30), are said to have "murmured" and asked Jesus' disciples, "How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners?" (Mark 2:16). Jesus heard the question and gave the answer: "They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance" (Mark 2:17; similarly Matt. 9:12-13; Luke 5:31-32). From this answer it would appear, first, that Jesus agreed with the "Pharisees" that these publicans were in the category of sinners (compare Luke 18:9-14); second, that Jesus knew of the popular avoidance of sitting at table with them, and had nothing against those that practiced it; third, that the "Pharisees" would take it for granted that Jesus, as a matter of course, would observe all their own ways; fourth, that he conceded the necessity to justify his nonobservance of any such way by some special reason; and fifth, and most important of all, that he had nevertheless sat down and eaten with "publicans," not in spite but because of their being sinners: the righteous, the "Pharisees," with whom everybody might dine, did not need his medicine. It is significant that none of the Gospels puts any reply in the mouths of the "Pharisees" who, then, seem to accept Jesus' explanation as wholly satisfactory.
OF COURSE THERE WAS NO ANSWER FROM THE PHARISEES, AS THEY KNEW WHAT JESUS SAID WAS RIGHT AND GOOD; TO BRING PEOPLE OUT OF SIN AND WALK IN THE WAYS OF GOD, IS WHAT "GODLY" RELIGION IS ALL ABOUT - Keith Hunt
Upon the episode with the publican there follows another exchange of question and answer between the "Pharisees," with or without "scribes," and Jesus. Why, it is asked, do not Jesus' disciples, like those of the Pharisees and of John the Baptist, fast (Matt. 9:14; Mark 2:18) and make prayers, but rather eat and drink (Luke 5:33)? The normal thing, we are allowed to infer, would have been for Jesus and his disciples to behave and conduct themselves as all Pharisees did, including Jesus' teacher, John the Baptist; if they swerved from Pharisaic mode, surely there must be some cogent reason. And, indeed, already in the Sermon on the Mount we find very clear indication that Jesus and his disciples did fast (Matt. 6:16-18).3 Fasting was not only a favorite Pharisaic exercise in asceticism, but also, throughout Jewish history, a sign of mourning and an accompaniment to prayers in national calamity;4 but it is the Pharisaic rule that there be no fasting on festive days.5 Jesus' answer that his disciples are like "the children of the bridechamber" who "have the bridegroom with them" (Mark 2:19; Matt. 9:15; Luke 5:34) is a perfect adaptation of the Pharisaic rule. Again, the "Pharisees" do not react: if your disciples are so exuberantly merry and joyous, then they should not fast. (The theory has been propounded that the Gospels refer here to the days of fast commemorating the destruction of the temple,6 which would be turned into days of "joy and gladness and cheerful feasts" [Zech. 8:19] on the advent of the Messiah, the "bridegroom"; but while the evangelists may, of course, have had some such afterthoughts and theological purpose, we must be entitled to take the story at its face value, referring as it does to fasting generally as an element of ascetic life and piety, and not necessarily to commemorative fasting only.)
Not only did Jesus move and feel at home in the company of Pharisees from early childhood (Luke 2:46), but he continued to teach before "Pharisees and doctors of the law . . . which were come out of every town of Galilee, and Judaea, and Jerusalem" (Luke 5:17), presumably to hear him and to study under him. He took his meals on the Sabbath in the homes of Pharisees and readily accepted their invitations (Luke 7:36; 11:37; 14:1) .7
The tendentiousness of the evangelist is betrayed in his report of what happened at one such Sabbath meal: first it is said that the Pharisees, who were Jesus' hosts, "watched him" (Luke 14:1), insinuating that, as a matter of course, they were out to trap him in some misfeasance. Then and there, very obligingly, there appeared a man "which had the dropsy," and Jesus asked the "lawyers and Pharisees" present whether it would be lawful to heal a man on the Sabbath (Luke 14:2-3). His question appears to be entirely rhetorical: Jesus and the evangelist each knew the answer, and that, whatever the answer, Jesus would proceed to heal the man, for have we not, in the preceding chapter of the same Gospel, heard Jesus' rebuke to a "ruler of the synagogue" who had ventured the opinion that healing on the Sabbath was forbidden (Luke 13:14-16)? And in an earlier chapter we were told of a man "whose right hand was withered" and whom Jesus healed on the Sabbath, in the very synagogue where "scribes and Pharisees" were present and "watched him, whether he would heal on the sabbath day; that they might find an accusation against him" (Luke 6:6-7). On that previous occasion, Jesus had asked of the "scribes and Pharisees" the self-same question, and there it had admittedly and manifestly been rhetorical: "I will ask you one thing: Is it lawful on the sabbath days to do good, or to do evil? to save life, or to destroy it?" (Luke 6:9). This episode is reported also in the Gospels of Mark and Matthew; in Mark the words of Jesus are similar to those quoted from Luke (Mark 3:4); but in Matthew he is said to have asked the "Pharisees": "What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days" (12:11-12). This, curiously enough, is the answer that Luke puts into the mouth of Jesus at the Sabbath meal with the Pharisees: "Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on a sabbath day?" (14:5). We have thus two sets of answers: one in which the "Pharisees" are directly counseled that, just as you save your beasts on the Sabbath, so must you be allowed to save human lives as well; and the other in which the counsel is that it cannot be lawful to do evil on the Sabbath, but must be lawful to do good.
The two have this in common: they clearly hint that the "Pharisees" would not, as a matter of course, and maybe also of law, do evil on the Sabbath—it was only that they would not do good; or that "Pharisees" would, again as a matter of course, and maybe also of law, save their own property on a Sabbath—it was only that they would not save human lives. This kind of reflection on sabbatical evildoers, killers, and skinflints is, as far as Jesus is concerned, quite uncalled for, and can only serve the biased purpose of the evangelists. The natural—and true—answer to give, or, rather, the fair and simple way of formulating the answer which Jesus did give, would have been this: of course it is lawful to do good and save life on the Sabbath day!
None of the Gospels alleges that the "Pharisees," with or without "scribes," maintained that it was unlawful to heal on the Sabbath: they only "watched," and once they specifically asked Jesus whether it was lawful, so "that they might accuse him" (Matt. 12:10). But having seen Jesus at his healing, and heard his reasons, they once more "held their peace" (Luke 14:4), for "they could not answer him again to these things" (Luke 14:6), not because they were dumfounded or outwitted or offended, but because they could not dispute Jesus' ruling or in any wise challenge his conduct: healing on the Sabbath, as Jesus had healed, was perfectly licit under Pharisaic law, even where there was no instant danger to life.8
AGAIN OF COURSE THEY COULD NOT ANSWER IN THE NEGATIVE; THEY KNEW DOING GOOD ON THE SABBATH DAY WAS RIGHT AND PROPER - Keith Hunt
The image of the Pharisees which the evangelists had, or invented, was one of stubborn and inflexible legalists: perhaps noting, with horror, the punctilious observance of absolute sabbatical rest by their orthodox Jewish contemporaries, they simply could not conceive that healing would not fall under the ban likewise. Undoubtedly, they possessed many traditions of Jesus' acts of healing, and they set some of those acts on the Sabbath, to form the arena in which a clash between Jesus and "Pharisees" might conveniently be staged. The clash is now duly raise en scene, with more than a sufficiency of taunts, put impolitely into the mouth of Jesus, thrown in for good measure, and the result, premeditated as it is, can no longer surprise: the "Pharisees" were "filled with madness; and communed one with another what they might do to Jesus" (Luke 6:11); or they "went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him" (Matt. 12:14). According to Mark, the "Pharisees" even "straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him" (3:6), as if the Herodians, of all people, could be shocked by the news that a sick man was healed on the Sabbath day.
THE AUTHOR PUTS EVIL AND FALSE MOTIVES INTO THE WRITERS OF THE GOSPELS, LIKE THEY WERE DELIBERATELY FORMING STORIES AROUND JESUS AND THE PHARISEES, TO MAKE THE PHARISEES LOOK EVIL AND VAINLY PROTECTIVE OF THEIR RELIGION, HENCE GETTING UN-RIGHTEOUSLY MAD, SO PLOTTING TO DO EVIL TOWARDS JESUS. THE AUTHOR THINKS THE WRITERS OF THE GOSPELS WERE THE EVIL ONES, FOR MAKING OUT THE PHARISEE WERE EVIL - Keith Hunt
Not that it is inconceivable that at the time of the ministry of Jesus the question of the permissibility of sabbatical healing was still unresolved. It could well be that this was one of the countless legal-religious issues yet to be discussed or determined, and that the Pharisaic law which has been preserved belongs to a subsequent period. It could then happen that if a sick man came forward on a Sabbath demanding treatment and remedy instantaneously, a scholar might inquire whether the law allowed it. In any ensuing disputation, contradictory views might be aired, and there could always be among the scholars a man of practicality who would first of all help the sufferer and only then contribute his share to the academic discussion, vindicating his action. Nobody could reproach such a one for breaking the law: the law was not yet settled, and his conception of what it was, or ought to be, would be as valid, and carry as much force, as that of the next man. In an indeterminate legal situation such as this, the Pharisaic rule is that each may act as he thinks right;9 and in the formation of Jewish law a particular rule is crystallized time and again by virtue of a scholar's behaving in practice as if it were already operative.10 There could, therefore, have been no objection or protest on the part of Pharisees to Jesus' healing the sick on the Sabbath, even if the rule making it lawful had not yet been codified; there could have been legitimate differences of opinion, but no rancorous exception could have been taken to one divergent opinion among several being propounded and demonstrated.
A CLEVER WAY TO GET AROUND THE FACT THAT THE WRITERS OF THE GOSPELS SAID WHAT THEY SAID, BECAUSE IT WAS VERY TRUE, AND THEY KNEW THE MIND-SET OF THE PHARISEES, THAT IT WAS NOT GOOD; THEY DISLIKED BEING OPENLY SHOWN THEIR WRONG ATTITUDE - Keith Hunt
Healing was not the only alleged desecration of the Sabbath which afforded the evangelists a cause and a theater of friction between Jesus and Pharigees. It is reported of his disciples that as they went with Jesus "through the corn fields on a sabbath day," with—or so it seems—the "Pharisees" again conveniently present, they began "to pluck the ears of corn" (Mark 2:23) and eat them (Matt. 12:1), "rubbing them in their hands" (Luke 6:1). The "Pharisees" said to Jesus, "Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day" (Matt. 12:2; and in the form of a question: Mark 2:24; Luke 6:2). Before we look at Jesus' reply, let us consider the Pharisaic law:
you may gather corn on a Sabbath for your own consumption on the spot; what you may not do is gather it by way of reaping and harvesting,11 probably with a tool, such as sickle or spade.12 The disciples apparently picked only the ear of the corn with the grain in it and left the stalk intact, which would not amount to reaping within the meaning of the embargo.13 It is to be observed that, in this instance, it was not Jesus who garnered; in distinction from the case of healing, where he deliberately took personal action to make his doctrinal point, here the disciples plucked the ears of corn innocently and instinctively, as if it were the commonest and most natural thing to do; and they would presumably not have done so had the law forbade the doing on the Sabbath. It was not they who were the great reformers of the law, and there is no sign in the Gospels that Jesus had already lifted any of the sabbatical bans for them. But Jesus' retort to the "Pharisees" was not that the doing of the disciples was perfectly lawful: perhaps he himself thought that it was not, or that it was doubtful; or perhaps he did not desire to enter into any discussion of the technicalities of sabbatical ordinances. What he said, in effect, was that the disciples had been hungry, for he quoted the precedent of "what David did, when he was an hungred . . . how he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread, which was not lawful for him to eat" (Matt. 12:3-4; Mark 2:25-26; Luke 6:3-4): as David thought it right to transgress the law in relief of hunger and need, so do I, Jesus, think it right to break the Sabbath if there are hunger and need to be stilled; "and he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath" (Mark 2:27).
Again, there is no record that the "Pharisees" had any rejoinder: Jesus' words conclude the Gospel reports of the episode. Nor would they have any rejoinder: it is true enough that David compelled the high priest to deliver the sacred shewbread into his hands, and though the chronicler does not enlighten us as to the reason for David's demand (except that he falsely pretended to act on the king's orders), it is equally true that Jewish tradition is that he must have been pathologically and ravenously famished.14 The high priest, however, seems to have been altogether unaware of his starving condition and to have obeyed only the behest of a distant monarch (I Sam. 21:1-6).
AH NOT SO AT ALL, IF PEOPLE WILL ONLY READ THE CONTEXT OF SUCH VERSES QUOTED. YOU HAVE TO GO ALL THE WAY OVER TO CHAPTER 22 AND VERSES 9, 10 FOR THE TRUTH OF IT ALL. THE PRIEST ENQUIRED OF THE LORD! AND THEN GAVE HIM [DAVID] THE VICTUALS…..THE LORD TOLD THE PRIEST IT WAS FINE AND GOOD TO GIVE DAVID THE HALLOWED BREAD. OH THE READING OF CONTEXT, SO MANY PROBLEMS OF SCRIPTURE THAT MANY HAVE WOULD BE ANSWERED WITH THE READING OF THE CONTEXT. NOT READING THE CONTEXT IS ONE OF THE TOOLS SATAN THE DEVIL USES TO BEFUDDLE AND MESS UP THE THEOLOGY OF MANY; HENCE FALSE DOCTRINES ABOUND - Keith Hunt
What is interesting, at all events, is that Jesus gave the "Pharisees" the traditional Pharisaic interpretation of David's misdeed, and so, in good Pharisaic manner, adduced it as a precedent for his own indulgence. That the precedent, as lawyers would say, is not on all fours with the case under advisement is made abundantly clear by Jesus himself: for while nobody, not even "Pharisees," can deny that the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath,15 everybody will agree that the sacred shewbread was made for God and might be consumed, against replacement, by priests alone (Lev. 24:9).
NOPE NOT THE PRIEST ALONE, IF GOD SAID OTHERWISE, WHICH HE DID IN THIS CASE WITH DAVID, AS I'VE SHOWN ABOVE - Keith Hunt
It is possible that the reference to David and his unlawful appropriation of the shewbread was but an overture to Jesus' concluding declaration that "the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath" (Luke 6:5; Mark 2:28; Matt. 12:8), meaning that, like David, anointed of God, so the "Son of man" is sovereign in the interpretation and application of God's laws. This construction would perhaps solve the patent difficulty that, notwithstanding that sovereignty, Jesus gave Pharisaic legal reasons for the lawfulness of his disciples' behavior.16 For our purpose, it suffices to remark that in the disquisition between Jesus and the "Pharisees" provoked by the incident of the ears of corn Jesus again took up any challenge that there may have been and satisfied his interlocutors by arguments representing the best Pharisaic dialectics.
JESUS ANSWERED FROM SCRIPTURE, THAT GOD SETS THE REGULATIONS, WHICH CAN BE ALTERED. WHATEVER LAWS THE PHARISEES HAD ABOUT SABBATH KEEPING, JESUS AS GOD, THE SON OF GOD, COULD IGNORE THEM AS HE DETERMINED; HENCE WITH THE EXAMPLE OF DAVID, THE PHARISEES COULD HAVE NO REJOINER - Keith Hunt
Similar considerations apply to all other reported doctrinal encounters between Jesus and "Pharisees," with or without "scribes," and we shall consider several illustratively.
There is the washing of hands: it is told that "Pharisees" came to Jesus and asked him, "Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread" (Matt. i5:l-2). In the Gospel According to Mark, the phrasing is that when the "Pharisees" saw "some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen, hands, they found fault" (7:2). Mark then gives a discursive explanation: "For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders. And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brasen vessels, and of tables. Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands?" (7:3-5).
The story in Luke is different: here it is not the disciples who neglect washing before meals, but Jesus himself, and the incredulous question is not asked by unidentified "Pharisees" and "scribes," but by the Pharisee at whose table Jesus had been invited to sup (11:37-38). Now it will be marked that nowhere in the words ascribed to the "Pharisees" is there any breach of the law charged: what they complain of is nonobservance of a "tradition" common to "the Pharisees and all the Jews."
The fact is that the washing of hands before meals was first set down as a rule of law by El'azar ben Arakh, who taught more than fifty years after Jesus' death,17 and we still find scholars long afterward in disagreement whether or not it is obligatory.18 This "tradition" of washing one's hands may, then, fairly be compared to present-day norms of civilized deportment: you would not punish a man for being unwashed, or for joining you at dinner without having washed his hands, but—especially if he is a great teacher and popular leader—you might be somewhat taken aback by his conduct and ask him why it was that he eschewed the rite. That is exactly what the "Pharisees" are said to have done. In a Jewish home where, according to Luke, Jesus had been invited to eat, all the other guests and the host would, automatically, and as "all the Jews" always did, wash their hands before sitting down; if Jesus would not join them, but demonstratively refused to wash, surely that must have given rise to comment and question. And there is not necessarily any censure in the question; on the contrary, it may have been addressed in a truly academic spirit, as such questions are put in talmudic discussions. Could it be—a guest might ask—that our tradition of washing before meals, and of washing cups, pots, platters, and tables, is wrong, involving, as it does, the consumption of great amounts of water, a commodity which in the Jerusalem of those days was in very short supply and costly? Perhaps you abstain from washing for some valid reason, and we ought to follow your example and amend our tradition. But, again, the question may never have been asked at all. It is possible that Jesus, or his disciples, were misrepresented altogether, and that the whole incident was invented for the sake of Jesus' answer: "Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness" (Luke 11:39) a rather discourteous animadversion, by the way, where his Pharisaic host was concerned.
THE AUTHOR SAYS THIS INCIDENT "IS POSSIBLE THAT JESUS, OR HIS DISCIPLES, WERE MISREPRESENTED ALTOGETHER, AND THAT THE WHOLE INCIDENT WAS INVENTED FOR THE SAKE OF JESUS' ANSWER" - THE AUTHOR DOES NOT BELIEVE THE GOSPELS WERE INSPIRED AND SO TRUE IN EVERY WAY - Keith Hunt
Or: "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" (Mark 7:8). But this kind of reply does not answer the question at all: understandably, Jesus insisted, for himself and his disciples, that they should not content themselves with being clean on the outside, but always be as pure within; which does not mean that, to be pure within, they must needs be unclean and impure without.
The dictum of Jesus, that you do not serve God by honoring him with your lips, but only by worshiping Him in your heart (Matt. 15:8), and that what you outwardly do is of no use and avail if it does not come from the heart, is nothing new, either, to "Pharisees." As Jesus himself told them, he was only affirming what the prophet Isaiah had said long before (Mark 7:6; Matt. 15:7) and in even stronger terms.19
AND THE PHARISEES SHOULD HAVE KNOWN, IF THEY WERE READING THE SCRIPTURES - Keith Hunt
If Jesus saw in the washing of hands an empty gesture, he had good authority of long standing to denounce it, as, indeed, he did, with this and similar ritualistic camouflage, in no unmistakable terms: "Ye devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayer" (Matt. 23:14); "Ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone" (23:23); "Ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also" (23:25-26); "Ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity" (23:27-28).
I have advisedly omitted from those quotations the invectives which the evangelist makes Jesus utter, such as vipers, serpents, fools, or blind guides, and for a moment I disregard the fact that this series of exhortations is said to be addressed to the "scribes and Pharisees." In fact, it did not have to be so intended, but might very well, and very properly, have been meant for the people at large. I doubt whether, even in the time of Jesus, the "scribes and Pharisees," whoever they were, monopolized hypocrisy or empty ritualism: there must have been hypocrites and specious ritualists among the Sadducees and the unschooled, too.
AGAIN IN THIS EPISODE MATTHEW WAS INSPIRED TO SAY JESUS ADDRESSED THIS TO "SCRIBES AND PHARISEES" - BUT OF COURSE IT COULD BE APPLIED TO ANYONE WHO WAS OF THE SAME ATTITUDE OF MIND AS MOST OF THE SCRIBES AND PHARISEES - Keith Hunt
As exhortations to the whole nation, all of Jesus' complaints and demands are perfectly justified, and every true Pharisee would subscribe to them wholeheartedly. If a preacher addresses the totality of his congregation at large, reproaching them with sin and evil-doing and hypocrisy, not even the most pious and sincerest congregant could be offended; he would assume, or might know, that there were men in the congregation for whom the reproaches were destined, and in his heart would ally himself unreservedly with the preacher and all his words. But if a preacher were to single out a certain group, identify them by name or distinctive feature, and then bombard them with public rebukes, hurling insult and invective at them, he might find himself called upon to furnish proof of the veracity of each rebuke and in respect of each identifiable member of the group. Jesus was not so compelled, because he would never have uttered such insults, and because he never singled out "the scribes and Pharisees" as particular targets of his remonstrances; and the evangelists who set all this obloquy on his tongue, and who ought, therefore, to have been so compelled, would never have been able to offer the tiniest item of evidence. Not that there were no hypocrites and sinners among "scribes and Pharisees" also. There certainly were, but as a group, as scribes and as Pharisees, they were not worse, but very much better, than the average citizen.
BUT PUT IN A "THEOLOGICAL TEACHER" POSITION, THE SITUATION TAKES ON ANOTHER FORM, AS JAMES WAS INSPIRED TO SAY, "BRETHREN, BE NOT MANY MASTER [SETTING YOURSELF UP AS A TEACHER FROM GOD], KNOWING THAT WE [TEACHERS OF GOD] SHALL RECEIVE THE GREATER JUDGMENT" [JAMES 3:1]. THE TRUTH IS AS JESUS SAID IT ALL IN MATTHEW 23, THAT WAS JUST THE FACT….. THE MAJORITY OF SCRIBES AND PHARISEES WERE AS JESUS PORTRAYED - Keith Hunt
In this context, it should be noted that the term "hypocrite" is not reserved in the Gospels for "scribes and Pharisees" exclusively: we find the general public so styled (Luke 6:42; Matt. 7:5), and in his reference to the prophesies of Isaiah, Jesus said that they were addressed to "you hypocrites" (Mark 7:6). Jesus' use of the term in addressing his audiences of actual or potential sinners may have been an original tradition, such supplementary terms as "scribes and Pharisees" being superadded by the evangelists.
ONCE MORE THE AUTHOR TRIES TO SQUIRM HIMSELF AROUND THE SUBJECT, BY INFERRING THE GOSPEL WRITERS "SUPERADDED" TO JESUS' WORDS. SURE JESUS SPOKE TO THE GENERAL PUBLIC AS GENERALLY "HYPOCRITES" AND NOT WANTING TO KNOW THE TRUTHS OF GOD, BUT LIKING THE MIRACLES HE DID AND FOOD HE GAVE OUT. BUT MATTHEW 23 IS VERY CLEARLY ADDRESSED TO THE GENERAL "SCRIBES AND PHARISEES" - Keith Hunt
As we shall see, in the much later Gospel According to John, a great deal of what in the Synoptic Gospels had been ascribed to "scribes" or "Pharisees" or both is now attributed to "the Jews"; but the object appears to be a better and broader placing of responsibility rather than a whitewashing of "scribes" or "Pharisees." In the doctrinal altercation reported in John, again, it is chiefly the "Pharisees" who figure as Jesus' disputants (8:3, 13; 19:13, 15, 16, 40), and we find "many of the Jews" telling the "Pharisees" "what things Jesus had done" (11:45-46).
Luke writes that straightway upon Jesus' outburst against the hypocritical "Pharisees," words were exchanged between him and the "lawyers"—in the Greek original nomikoi, persons learned in the laws (nomoi) —apparently non-Pharisees who, together with Jesus, had been invited to dine at the Pharisee's table. They said to him, "Master [or, rather, Rabbi], thus saying thou reproachest us also" (11:45), probably meaning that they, too, and not only the "Pharisees," loved "the uppermost seats in the synagogues and greetings in the market" (11:43; similarly Matt. 12:38-39), and washed their hands regularly, and saw to it that their cups and tables were clean. This voluntary and seemingly innocent plea of guilty from the "lawyers" is said to have brought down Jesus' wrath upon them as well: "Woe unto you also, ye lawyers!" And he reproached them not only with burdening men "with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers," but also with building "the sepulchres of the prophets" whom their fathers had killed (11:46-48). While the first indictment appears to be one directed specifically against lawyers and legislators, whose office is to lay burdens on others rather than on themselves, the second is decidedly one to be leveled at the people as a whole, including "Pharisees," the more so as it is really an introduction to the announcement that follows of the "prophets and apostles" to come, who will also be slain and persecuted as were the prophets of old (11:49), but surely not by lawyers necessarily. The conclusion seems warranted, if not inevitable, that many of Jesus' sayings, recorded by the evangelists as spoken to "scribes" or "Pharisees" or "lawyers," were—or were to be—in actuality spoken to all the Jews.
CERTAINLY WE CAN TAKE THE PRINCIPLE OF WHAT JESUS SAID TO "SCRIBES" "PHARISEES" "LAWYERS" AND APPLY THEM TO ANYONE GUILTY OF THE SAME THINGS; IT IS "IF THE SHOE FITS WEAR IT" - Keith Hunt
Similarly, the long harangue in Matthew, with the sevenfold refrain, "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees!" (23:13-29), is but a prelude to the ultimate prophecy: "Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them that killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias 20 son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation" (23:31-36).
It will be observed that before the prophecy of the killing and crucifying of some of the "prophets, and wise men, and scribes" who are to come, the evangelist switches from the "scribes and Pharisees" of his previous arraigning to the "serpents, generation of vipers." The term "generation" occurs several times in the Gospel reports of Jesus' speeches with different attributes: adulterous and sinful generation (Mark 8:38), evil generation (Luke 11:29), faithless and perverse generation (Matt. 17:17; Luke 9:41), and the like, but the specific form of address, "generation," is not confined to "Pharisees" or to any other given group. The entire nation, not just the "Pharisees," are the "children of them that killed the prophets," and it is upon them, who will themselves be, or will produce, the killers and crucifiers of the prophets to come, that all the righteous blood spilled in bygone generations will descend.
That Jesus did, verily, preach to the evil and sinful and faithless generation may be taken for granted without demur: no preacher or prophet in any age ever did otherwise. In the Gospel According to Mark (7:21-23), Jesus is said to have preached of and to "all men." The prefacing of his prophecies and preachings by recurring vilification of "scribes" and "Pharisees"—and this must have been what the evangelists purposed—creates the impression that these same "scribes" and "Pharisees" will be the killers and crucifiers in the end, sprung from forefathers that ever and always rioted in the wholesale letting of righteous blood. These hypocrites, you are led to believe, wash outwardly just to hide an inner impurity; they bid you to eat at their board only to kill you "by subtilty" (Matt. 26:4), by snatching at a casual word of yours that might bolster a capital charge against you (Luke 11:54). They have nothing in mind but "extortion and excess" (Matt. 23:25), and all their professed piety is but a cunningly devised cover for the "hypocrisy and iniquity" which fill them (23:28). Need we marvel, then, that shedding righteous and innocent blood means nothing to them? They will cloak it with some ceremonial or other, and wash their hands as before. From hearts such as theirs nothing flows but "evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, perjuries, blasphemies" (Matt. 15:19), and they defile themselves with all the crimes on earth, not just—as is our case who rail against them—with the peccadillo of neglecting to wash before partaking of food (15:20). You have, here, the perfect character-building of the villains who, at the end of the story, will engineer all the horrors. If, indeed, Jesus did heap upon the "scribes" and "Pharisees" even a fraction of the frightful maledictions which the evangelists ascribe to him, it is hardly surprising that the disciples, as we are told, felt impelled to warn him that the "Pharisees" felt somewhat insulted: "Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying?" (15:12)…….
TO BE CONTINUED