Presentation on theme: "The Pharisees: The Pharisees were a group of prominent scholars who decided that the best way to stay faithful was to build a wall around themselves."— Presentation transcript:
The Pharisees: The Pharisees were a group of prominent scholars who decided that the best way to stay faithful was to build a wall around themselves and keep out the Gentiles, non-Jews. The term “Pharisee” comes from the Hebrew word “Perushim” which means “the separated.” For the Pharisees, the only way for Jews to be faithful was to keep themselves pure. The Law alone was not enough. They taught that even ordinary Jewish families should imitate the complicated and ritualistic purity of the priests of Jerusalem. They refused to associate with Gentiles. To distinguish themselves from Gentiles, they emphasized and exaggerated their distinctly Jewish customs. There were good reasons for the Pharisees to feel the way they did about keeping themselves separated from the pagans. The Old Testament shows how anytime the Hebrews got mixed up with their pagan neighbors, bad things happened. They would adopt pagan ways and violate the Covenant God had made with Moses. The result was always ruin and misery for the Jews.
The Pharisees made the Law an intolerable burden. To separate themselves from the rest of the pagan society they exaggerated the details of Jewish national dress by wearing big phylacteries, boxes with Jewish verses of Scripture that pious Jews wore on the head when praying, they wore conspicuous fringes, they made sure everyone was keeping the Sabbath by the strictest possible interpretation, and they enforced a strict observance of the dietary laws. At the same time, they were capable of evading the Spirit of the Law when it suited them. They invented interpretations that helped them cheat the poor or even their own parents. By the time of Jesus, they were a very powerful sect. When Jesus came and began to fulfill the promise by drawing the Gentiles to God, the Pharisees recognized immediately that he was preaching a religion that was inclusive, not exclusive and they resented and hated Jesus for that.
The Pharisees were closely associated with the scribes. They stressed the Law and avoided having contact with the gentiles and the Jews who did not keep the Law, whom they called “sinners”. They believed in the idea of resurrection (an afterlife). Rabbis come from this group. They were very proud of themselves and wore long robes with broad borders, or fringes on them to show their importance. They wanted to get the best seats in the synagogues, the places of worship. They loved for people to call them "Rabbi", or teacher, and they would pray long prayers out in public just for people to see them.
The Sadducees were the heirs of Zadok, Solomon’s priest who were supposed to have been the priests forever in Jerusalem. They thought that the best way for the Jewish religion to survive was by cooperating with the Gentiles. Although the Pharisees were revered by the Jewish public, the Sadducees were the ones with the most power in the government. The Sadducees had very different ideas of religion from the Pharisees. For them, only the books of Moses, Genesis Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, were canonical Scripture.
They did not believe in any life after death or any kind of resurrection from the dead. They did not believe in angels or spirits. They rejected everything except the Torah. They rejected all of the Pharisees’ traditional interpretations of and additions to the Law. The Sadducees came from aristocratic families who controlled the temple and supported the Roman rule. They emphasized the Torah, and rejected religious ideas such as angels, demons, and resurrection. They were Jewish religious leaders who were from the wealthy families. This group did not believe that people would be resurrected, or raised from the dead. They also did not believe angels existed.
Note: The Sadducees and the Pharisees were usually mentioned as opponents of Jesus. They frequently challenged Jesus with difficult questions or tried to put him on the spot. They did not approve of the way he sometimes ignored religious customs, like washing hands before eating and inactivity on the Sabbath. Jesus repeatedly denounced these groups, especially the Pharisees, largely because they did not live what they preached and made life difficult for others.
The Essenes: They believed that the Temple under the Sadducees had become hopelessly corrupt, so they moved out of Jerusalem. They established small communities in the desert beside the Dead Sea. Their writings, the Dead Sea scrolls, discovered in the 1940’s reveal a community that saw themselves as pure and righteous. To keep the Law it was necessary to flee the cities and live in the wilderness.
Herod was considered to be insane by any standard. He murdered three of his own sons in a horrible way. He knew how to grasp power and keep it. He sent lavish gifts to prominent Romans to keep himself in favor with them. Although he was an Edomite, he spread the story that he was actually a Jew that had returned from the Exile. He rebuilt the Temple of Jerusalem in a magnificent scale. Similar to Solomon, he had many wives. He supplemented the Temple priests generously, which meant that most of the influential priests supported him. During his time three factors that contributed to the healthy economy of Israel were: The Roman peace (Pax Romana) Worldwide trade His ambitious and expensive building programs.
During his reign, the Temple was more glorious than ever, and people from all the nations were coming to see Jerusalem. He was known as “Herod the Great” not because he was universally admired, but because his reign was so prosperous in comparison with that of his successors. When he died, the Romans split his kingdom four ways among his surviving sons. The divided kingdom was called the “Tetrarchy,” meaning “rule of four.” Herod Antipas, one of Herod ’s sons, ruled over Galilee during the ministry of Jesus.
Roman religion was very businesslike. If you performed the right ceremonies, for the right gods, at the right times, with the right words, then you expected that the gods would be happy with you. If the gods were happy with you, then everything would go well in your life. As long as people kept the peace and followed a few simple rules, the Romans allowed them to worship any gods they liked. In fact, the Romans themselves often paid tribute to the local gods of the people they conquered. Many philosophers did not believe in the traditional Roman or Greek gods. Some thought they were gods, but they were too far above us to care about human affairs. Many others believed in a single first cause: they came to monotheism, the belief in only one God, by pure reason. Without God’s own revelation, they could never know God, even though they knew he existed.
The philosophers helped prepare the way for God’s revelation when it came through Jesus Christ. The Roman religion was unable to provide for the spiritual needs of its believers. It could not answer questions about eternal life, how to know God personally, or how to be freed from sin. As a result, people turned to other religions, especially to religions from the East. The city of Rome was soon cluttered with temples to foreign gods. Many educated Romans looked down on all these new religions as superstitious nonsense. Most educated Romans did not believe in the Roman gods and had an inborn need to know God.
Jewish neighborhoods appeared in every town of the Roman Empire. The dispersion of the Jews prepared the way for the coming of Christ. When the Romans took over, Jewish merchants continued to settle everywhere. The two cities of the ancient world with the greatest Jewish influence were Jerusalem and Alexandria, Egypt. It is calculated that about seven percent of the population of the Roman Empire was Jewish. By the time of Jesus, the complete Old Testament had been translated into Greek, the language almost everyone spoke in the eastern half of the Roman Empire.
Synagogues first appeared during the Exile, when the faithful people of God could no longer get to the Temple in Jerusalem to make their sacrifices. Synagogues were built as meeting places for the Jews to come and hear the readings from the Law and the Prophets. Today, Christians have kept the old synagogue liturgy, but with the important difference that we proclaim that the Messiah has already come. When Jesus told the congregation at Nazareth that they had seen the Scriptures fulfilled that day, he marked the change from the Old Testament worship to Christian worship.
They were a mixed population who worshiped God in a different way from the Jews. We can tell that Jews didn’t like them. Only the five books of Moses are considered Scripture by the Samaritans. They didn’t accept any of the historical books, wisdom literature, or prophecy. Instead of worshiping at the Temple in Jerusalem, they worship on Mount Gerizim, near the present city of Nablus in the Palestinian West Bank. To the Jews of Jesus’ time, the Samaritans were hated heretics who defied God’s word as spoken through his prophets. Even talking to a Samaritan would taint a proper Jew with the Samaritan heresy.