The Pharisees - Part 5

Posted in: 2011
By Tom L. Ballinger
Aug 4, 2011 - 9:36:47 AM

Plainer Words since 1968
August 4, 2011
The Pharisees dominated and oppressed most all groups in Israel at the time the Lord Jesus Christ was on the scene. They controlled all life and thought in Israel. It is essential that consideration be given to doctrines of the Pharisees—that is, their beliefs, practices, and character. When this is done, a great deal of the New Testament is opened-up to us.
Some authorities have written that there were 6,000 Pharisees within their inner-circle. The Pharisees and Scribes are constantly mentioned in the Gospels. They are closely associated in the same connection. The connection of the two would seem to indicate they belong to the same society.
The Scribes were members of a learned class in ancient Israel through New Testament times. They studied the Scriptures and served as copyists, editors, and teachers. The era of the Scribes began upon the Jews’ return from their Babylonian captivity. The Scribes and the Pharisees appear to have formed hegemony over most all of the two Southern Tribes of Israel. The Bible doesn’t spell out how this hegemony came about. But, it can be said that the hegemony was in the hands of the Pharisees and Scribes.
The strength of the Pharisees’ influence was so strong that it dominated every part of Israel’s officialdom. They controlled the Sanhedrin. They controlled the priesthood, the civil courts, as well as most of the Jewish society. The Sadducees opposed them, but their opposition was so weak that the Pharisees just tolerated it. The Pharisees knew that the Sadducees would not push their opposition too far. If it ever came to it, the Pharisees knew they could crush any opposition whenever they wanted to.
The Pharisees had arrogated, to themselves, the rights and authority that God had vested in the kings of Israel. As a plutocratic oligarchy, they exercised all the kingly powers. This explains why the Royal Family was so insignificant when Jesus Christ was born in the household of Joseph.
The Pharisees followed the “Tradition of the Elders” to such an extent that their high standards of personal conduct were fanatical. They despised those who did not keep the “Tradition of the Elders” (Matthew 15:2). They despised the Lord Jesus Christ because He did not insist that His disciples keep their traditions. When the Pharisees saw that His disciples did not wash (i.e., ceremonially) before they ate, they questioned the Lord about transgressing “their Law.”
“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?” (Mark 7:5).
They loathed those who did not bow down to “their Law.” In fact, those who did not keep their traditions were NOT REALLY CONSIDERED JEWS! To the Pharisees, only those who walked after “the Traditions of the Elders” were, truly, Jews. The Lord’s disciples were, truly, the sons of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—Jews in the strictest sense—but since they did not keep the Pharisees’ Law, they were reckoned as Heathens.
“For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders” (Mark 7:3).
The “unwashen act” transgressed the “Jews’ Law”—BUT NOT THE LAW OF MOSES.
The Pharisees reverenced the learning of “their doctrine.” They detested those who did not agree with them. Those who did not agree were considered ignorant. This ignorance, according to the Pharisees, meant the ignorant WERE CURSED: “But this people who knoweth not the Law [Oral Law] are CURSED” (John 7:49).
They put a big distinction between those who held to their doctrine and those who did not. Those who followed their teaching were called a “Habher.” Those who were less careful, regarding “tradition,” were referred to as an “Am-haaretz,” which was to say, “no better than the Heathen.” When this was recorded in the Talmud, it showed an arrogance on the part of the Pharisees. This must have been galling to those who, though Jews as much as the Pharisees, were not “pure” like them. A Pharisee could not eat at a table of a man whose wife was an “Am-haaretz,” even though the husband was a Pharisee.
If he was a full or true Pharisee, he must not sell to the “Am-haaretzs;” nor, should he buy from any. Anything that he sold to one would become “unclean,” and he could not buy anything from an “Am-haaretz” because it was “unclean.” The Pharisee, or “Habher” would be defiled. Perhaps, this is one of the worst features of Phariseaism. The Pharisees developed, through “their Law,” a caste system in Israel. People were either “Habhers,” or “Am-Haaretz’s.” If one was an “Am-Haaretz,” he lost his place in the national life of Israel.
The Pharisees, so highly, developed this caste system that “Habhers” lived in constant fear of being expelled, or “excommunicated” from the life of Israel. For, if anyone was judged to have transgressed the “Law of the Pharisees,” they were in jeopardy of being “cast out” of the Synagogue and, consequently, be labeled  as an “Am-Haaretz” The term, in Israel, for anyone who experienced being “cast out” was a “sinner.” The Pharisees carried out their judgment to such extremes that once someone came under condemnation, there was no possible way for them to get back into the life of Israel. These were the “sinners,” so often, mentioned in the Gospels.  Generally, the “sinners” were guilty of nothing more than refusing to yield to the despotic power of the Pharisees.
Once a man brought down the wrath of the Pharisees upon himself, there was no hope of PARDON. The Pharisees never forgave a “sinner.” Once “cast out” and branded a “sinner,” no-one dared help him, or do business with him. Such was the life of being the “outcast” in Israel.
The testimony of “sinners” was not valid in the courts. If anyone wronged them, they had no recourse to the Law, to wit, the “Traditional Law of the Fathers.” The miserable plight of the “sinners” was an example of what would happen to anyone who challenged the position, or doctrine of the Pharisees.
The dilemma of those who had been severed from the life of Israel, in many instances were forced to do business and collaborate with the Romans. They were looked upon as traitors. However, doing business with the occupying forces paid very well, especially, if they became tax-collectors. Tax-collectors were the “publicans.” This is why the publicans and sinners were often linked together in the Gospels.
Notice the fear of becoming excommunicated in John Chapter Nine. In this chapter, there is recorded an actual event surrounding a blind man who was “blind from birth”  (John 9:1). After folks noticed that the blind man could now see, “his friends” brought him before the Pharisees. The Pharisees had been informed that the miracle had occurred on the Sabbath.
“They [his friends] brought to the Pharisees him that aforetime was blind. And it was the Sabbath day when Jesus made the clay, and opened his eyes” (John 9:13-14).
According to the Pharisaic Law [the Oral Law], the working of a miracle on a Sabbath Day was forbidden; it was considered work.
“Then again the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. He said unto them, He put clay upon mine eyes, and I washed, and do see. Therefore said some of the Pharisees, This man [Jesus] is not of God, because he keepeth not the Sabbath day. Others said, How can a man [Jesus] that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division among them” (John 9:15-16).
One group of the Pharisees charged the Lord Jesus Christ with the violation of the Sabbath Day because He healed the blind man on the “Day of Rest.”  Therefore, He cannot be “of God.”  The other group wondered how Christ could perform miracles since He was a “sinner?” At this point, Christ had no recognized place in the Synagogue. He had already violated “the Oral Law.” This violation branded Him as a “sinner.” He was a “sinner,” not because of His birth, nor because any of His deeds were contrary to the Law of Moses—He was “Holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners,” (Hebrews 7:26)—but, because He transgressed the Traditionary Laws of the Elders.
The Pharisees continued to question the newly-sighted man. Finally, they turned, again, to the blind man; “What have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” The man replied, "He is a prophet." (John 9:17)
The “neighbors,” the Pharisees, did not believe him, so they called his parents. The parents admitted that this was their son, and that he had been born blind. But, the parents further said:
“But by what means he now seeth, we know not; or who hath opened his eyes, we know not: he is of age; ask him: he shall speak for himself” (John 9:21).
Yes, indeed, these were the words of his parents; … “These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews [the Pharisees]: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that He [Jesus] was Christ, he should be PUT OUT OF THE SYNAGOGUE” (John 9:22).
The parents knew the severity of life they would be subjected to if they were “put out of the Synagogue.”  Therefore, they took “the Fifth Amendment” and replied; “He is of age; ask him” (Vs. 23). But, the man born blind contended with the Pharisees, saying that the Man who made him see must be of God or He could do nothing (Vs. 33).
The Pharisees could not allow this testimony to continue, so, they said to the man who now sees, “Thou was altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us? AND THEY CAST HIM OUT” (Vs. 34). Thus, he was branded a SINNER, and his testimony became invalid! That is why they called Jesus Christ a “sinner,” hoping that His testimony, also, became invalidated; therefore, the people would not believe Him.
In the narrative of John 9, we, also, note the arrogant doctrine of the Pharisees in Verse 31, where they taught, “we know that God heareth not sinners.”  Those who were “cast out” of Israel’s national life were branded as “sinners” and had NO HOPE OF RESTORATION. As we stated earlier; once labeled a sinner by the Pharisees, one never received pardon.
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