The Pharisees - Part 3

Posted in: 2011
By Tom L. Ballinger
Jul 12, 2011 - 1:05:34 PM

Plainer Words since 1968
July 12, 2011
“Now, for the Pharisees, they live meanly, and despise delicacies in diet; and they follow the conduct of reason; and what that prescribes to them as good for them, they do; and they think they ought earnestly to strive to observe reason’s dictates for practice. They also pay a respect to such as are in years [i.e., the elderly]; nor are they so bold as to contradict them in any thing which they have introduced; and, when they determine that all things are done by fate, they do not take away the freedom from men of acting as they think fit; since their notion is, that it has pleased God to make a temperament, whereby what he wills is done, but so that the will of men can act virtuously or viciously.” (“Works of Josephus” Vol. IV. Book XVIII. Chapter 1, Part 3).
The doctrine of a future life, in fact, was “conditional reincarnation.” Josephus said of this doctrine, “They think that every soul is immortal; only the souls of good men will pass into another body, but the souls of evil men shall suffer everlasting punishment.” This could imply that they believed only the righteous would have a resurrection. However, Josephus further stated, “They also believe … that under the earth there will be rewards and punishments, according as they lived virtuously or viciously in this life; and the latter are to be detained in an everlasting prison, but that the former shall have power to revive and live again. The traditional Pharisaic teaching on the place “under the earth” was called “Abraham’s Bosom.” The Talmud is full of such expressions as “Abraham’s Bosom,” “Paradise,” and “the carrying away by angels.”  The Lord Jesus used these expressions. They were not new expressions when He spoke them (Luke 16:19-31). These phrases, He took from the Pharisee’s Doctrine—their “Oral Law.” When Christ confronted the Pharisees, He used their own language, turning it against them.
The phrases mentioned above, and a great number more, have absolutely no Scriptural foundation. The Pharisees had the Scriptures, but they overlaid them with their “Tradition of the Elders” and, thus, making the Word of God of none effect.
To the Written Law of Moses [the Pentateuch], they added the “Oral Law” which was to have been an interpretation of Moses’ Law. Reference is made to this in the Four Gospels, but too little is said about it to enable us to grasp the nature and extent of the “Tradition of the Elders.”
“Why do thy disciples transgress the TRADITION OF THE ELDERS? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread” (Matthew 15:2).
“Then Jesus said unto them [the Pharisees], Take heed and beware of the leaven [doctrine] of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees” (Matthew 16:6).
Read Mark 7:1-23 for more doctrine of the Law of the Pharisees.
Burdensome and hurtful were the minute refinements they introduced into the Mosaic Law. Sometimes, the ingenuity of the Pharisaic doctors was directed to lighten the burden of the precept as in regard to the Sabbath. They taught that a person “was permitted to go much farther than a Sabbath’s Day journey if, at some previous time, he had left within the legal Sabbath Day’s journey of the place he wished to reach, bread and water: this point was not to be regarded as the limit from his house and, consequently, from all distance was to be ceremonially reckoned.”
The Pharisees made sin purely external. The act was either right or wrong according to some external condition, either present or absent. Thus, “there was a difference in bestowing alms on the Sabbath, whether the beggar put his hand within the door of the donor, or the donor stretched his hand through his own threshold, as may be seen in the first Mishna in the Tractate Shabbat. A man did not break the Sabbath rest of an ass, though he rode on it and, hence, did not break the Sabbath Law, but if he carried a switch with which to expedite the pace of the beast, he was guilty because he had laid a burden upon it.” Using the switch on the donkey was illegal because of the Sabbath’s rest for the beast.
The Pharisees were students of the sacred text. Their studies of the Scriptures were to find texts to support their versions of the “Tradition of the Elders” – which is to say, the “Oral Law.” An example of their textual criticism and exegesis, which Paul turned and used against them, may be seen in Galatians 3:16: “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.”
It is apparent they taught that the promises were to Abraham and his seeds, plural, indicating the promises were to many which included them since they were seeds of Abraham. Note what the Pharisees claimed when speaking to Christ, “We be Abraham’s seed” (John 8:33). Their interpretation was that the Abrahamic Promises were to Abraham and them since they were of his seed. The Apostle Paul corrects their “Tradtionary Law” by saying the promises were to Abraham and Christ, not to the many.
Modern-day Orthodox Jews still hold the Pharisaic teaching that “true Israel” will fulfill the Messianic Hope, as opposed to a one-man-messiah. They believe the nation of Israel, itself, will be Messiah.
The Pharisees were “fanatical in their obedience to their interpretation of their ‘Law’ and died under untold tortures rather than transgress” their Traditions.
Having made the Word of God of none effect, the Pharisees had adopted most of the Platonic philosophy concerning the nature of man.  It appears to be a mixture of Greek, old Egyptian, and Babylonian myths. They developed a doctrine of purgatory and of prayers for the dead.
The Scriptures state that they believed in “resurrection” and “angels and spirits”         (Acts 23:8). But, their belief in resurrection was really a “cop-out” because they held to the “immortality of the soul,” which really does not require resurrection. They believed and taught that the dead communicate with each other. It is sad to say, but Orthodox Christianity believes, on this matter, as did the Pharisees. Also, the Pharisees believed and taught that the dead could communicate with the living.
A study of the Pharisees causes one to understand the seriousness of mishandling the Word of God, due, either to ignorance or deceit. Neither is excusable as far as God is concerned.  The Scriptures for each dispensation are replete with warnings of “Beware,” “walk circumspectly, not as fools,” “let no man beguile you,” and “take heed.”
From the best that we can tell, the seeds of Phariseeism were planted during the Babylonian Captivity between B.C. 606 – 537. Having been removed from Jerusalem, Zion and all of their Jewish shrines, courts, Mounts, pools, and the royal buildings of the Sanctuary—the Temple—the City of David, there was a longing among the Captivity for things Jewish. This void was filled by a sect who became the Pharisees. The Pharisees arose out of a class of devout and “pious men” of Judah who felt compelled to resist the “trendy” Hellenization of Israel.
It was through their “cunningly devised fables,” concerning the origination of the “Oral Law,” that they rose to prominence. They insisted that they were the divinely appointed teachers and caretakers of Moses’ Two Laws—the Written Law and the Oral Law. They became the Lawyers of Judaism. The Oral Law was not in written form. Therefore, it became the Traditional Law of the Jews.
In developing this series of studies on the Pharisees, I harkened back to my days in the field of Management. This experience was first percolated in the Graduate School of Management at Southern Methodist University in 1956-57. This was where I first encountered two theories of management: (1) “Expert Knowledge,” and (2) “Standard Knowledge.” Through the process of time, I found these two theories to play an ever more prominent facet in my understanding of building a firm foundation upon which a business must rest.
It was, also, found useful in teaching certain Biblical Truths—such as, the way the Pharisees maintained their dominance in Israel by being the only source (via the “Oral Law”) for the Jews, knowing what Moses meant in his Inspired Written Word. Just like today, the Bible is harder to believe than it is to understand.
The one factor that entrenched and solidified the Pharisees’ control and domination of the people was the fact that they took “Expert Knowledge” to the limit.
“Expert Knowledge” is truth and information which relates to how to accomplish certain tasks. This knowledge is known, only, by a few and is passed on from one person to another—verbally.  How to do a job, or how to perform a particular skill is known, only, by a few people. And, this knowledge is passed on to an apprentice.
Good management practice dictates that this “Expert Knowledge” be put in writing and is, thereby, made available to all. As this process is developed, think about the “Oral Law.” When “Expert Knowledge” is committed to writing, it then becomes “Standard Knowledge.” Therefore, that which had been “Expert,” now, becomes “Standard.” When knowledge of a skill or truth becomes “Standard,” then, workers or students can be judged by the standard, not by the expert.
The application is simply this—as long as the Pharisee’s Law [the Oral Law] was learned by means of personal tutoring, the principle of “Expert Knowledge” was at work. This Law was “learned at the feet of the Lawyer.” Not by reading a written manual of “The Second Law of Moses,” because it was not transcribed. It was verbally learned.
The Apostle Paul learned “the Tradition of the Elders” by means of the “Expert Knowledge” principle by his own admission:
“I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city [Jerusalem] at the feet of Gamaliel [eminent doctor of the Oral Law],
and taught according to the perfect manner of the Law of the Fathers [Oral Law], and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day” (Acts 22:3).
The application, here, is that Saul of Tarsus was taught the Traditionary Law of the Jews by the foremost Pharisee—the Doctor of the Oral Law—Gamaliel. The method was by acquiring “Expert Knowledge.” Saul, later known as Paul, was from a family of privilege and was financially able to learn the “Jew’s Law” by sitting at the “feet of Gamaliel” and listening to his lectures.
The “Oral Law” became “Standard Knowledge” around A.D. 200 when it was finally committed to writing by one, Jehuda ha-Kadhosh. This became the “Talmud” as we pointed out in Part 2 of these studies.
REFERENCES: Bagster’s Helps to Bible Study
                            The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia
                            Smith’s Bible Dictionary
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