Is it the Old Testament Religion?
For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed Me: for he wrote of Me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe My words? John 5:46-47
(Part One)
Over the years, people have taken for granted that Judaism is the religion God gave to Moses. Shocking though it may be--Judaism is not the religion of the Old Testament. Judaism is plain and simply the religion of the Jews--a religion made up of their own rules and traditions. The Jews of the New Testament, had appropriated the name of Moses--but they had rejected the teachings of Moses. Jesus said, "For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed Me: for he wrote of Me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe My words?" (John 5:46-47). Judaism uses the name of Moses, but they don't practice what Moses was commanded by God.
Just as today many different denominations use the name of Christ, but they don't practice what He commands! Judaism has used the name of Moses to give authority to their traditions and teachings. History has proven that Judaism is a man-made religion. Judaism uses the Old Testament as their basis to say they are the only chosen people, but they have been deceived by Satan. We must look into the record of history and learn how the Jews departed from the religion God gave to Moses and Israel. (Remember Israel consisted of twelve tribes, not just Judah).
Jesus re-emphasized the message God gave to Moses. Jesus gave the true spiritual intent of the Old Testament. He did not nullify the teachings of the Old Testament, He magnified them (teachings), showing the true spiritual purpose intended.
THE TIME HAS COME FOR THE TRUE CHURCH OF GOD TO REALIZE THAT JUDAISM WILL DECEIVE YOU. "For there shall arise false Christ's (Messiahs), and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect" (Matt. 24:24). Many today want to go back to the teachings of Judaism for their information. They are not looking and studying into the Word of God for their true foundation of information.
It is obvious to most readers of the New Testament that there is a fundamental difference between the teaching of Jesus the Christ and the Judaism of His day. History has proven and the Jews admit that the religion of Judaism has drifted far away from the simple teachings of the Old Testament. The Jews have modified God's laws and instituted laws and commandments of their own, which in many instances are diametrically opposite to the teachings of God. "Howbeit in vain do they worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men" (Mark 7:7). When Christ told them they were teaching their own doctrine, they wanted to kill Him. Christ came to a people who had, through their own human laws and traditions, rejected the religion of the Old Testament.
If we are to recognize and understand the plain facts of history, we need to know the events that have led to the apostasy of the Jews --from their rejection of the laws of God. Christ came to the Jews to reveal to them the Gospel--in New Testament times--to complete the promises that God gave to Moses and all Israel.
Many have assumed that Judaism in the time of Christ was a religion united in a common bond and every Jew believed the same thing and were united into a one Jewish Denomination.
History reveals this to be in error! Judaism was divided into many sects during the time of Jesus. Dr. Herford, one of the most noted Jewish writers said, "If it were possible to analyze the Judaism of the New Testament period into all its component elements, the results of the process would be to show how complex a variety is summed up under that name and how far from the truth it is to speak of ‘the Jews' collectively as if they were all alike, in respect to their Judaism" (Judaism in the New Testament Period, pp. 41,42).
Judaism then and today is not one unified organization. There were and are many religious sects comprising Judaism. There are many ‘splinter' groups which had their own ideas and beliefs. In many ways Judaism in Christ's time is like our day today. We have many different groups making up the Church of God.
Some of the different sects will be recognized when reading the New Testament. These sects were the Pharisees, Scribes, Sadducees, Zealots, and Herodians. There were many more divisions of which there is a good deal of history. Some of these were the Essenes, the Qumran sects (those who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls of which so much has been written), and others who are called by contemporary religious historians, Apocalyptic. There were other different divisions among the Jews who lived in Egypt, Asia Minor, Mesopotamia, Greece, etc.
There was not one single Jewish sect-- Judaism was divided into many different fragments! History has shown us another mis-understood fact: THE JEWS AS A WHOLE WERE NOT INTERESTED IN RELIGION AT THIS TIME IN HISTORY!
The records show that less that 5% of the total Jewish population of Palestine belonged directly to any of the religious groups mentioned above! Unbelievable as it sounds, over 95% of the population of Palestine were neither Pharisee, Scribe, Zealot, Herodian, Essene, Qumran or Apolcalyptic, or Sadducees. The majority of the people in Palestine had no direct membership in religious denominations of Judaism. In most cases people were not particularly religious. These people were referred to by the Pharisees, as the Am ba-aretz, meaning in Hebrew, the "people of the Land or simply, "the common people." Dr. Herford says, "It is clear that the Am ba-aretz (the common people) were not all of one type, either in respect of their religion or socially and economically. Just as they included rich and poor, capitalist and labourer, the merchant, the farmer, the artisan, the tax-gather (publican) and the tradesman, so, on the religious side, they included those who were not Pharisees, and those who paid little or no heed to religion at all, with every shade of piety and indifference in between" (ibid, pg. 72). Several sources say there were between two and one-half to three million people living in Palestine at the time of Christ (Encyclopedia Biblica--A Social and Religious History of the Jews, Vol. I, pg. 370- 372). Jewish historians have summed up the opinions of the experts in this matter. Dr. J. Klausner, a contemporary Jewish scholar: has studied in particular, the records pertaining to the wars between 63 and 37 B.C. and has reached the conclusion that at the end of the Maccabean reign there lived in all of Palestine approximately three million Jews, not including half a million Samaritians, Syro-Phoenicians, Arabs, and Greeks" (ibid, Vol. i, pg. 372).
The most prominent sect in Judaism at this time were the Pharisees. Christ had more to say against them than any other group. One of the reasons for this was that the Pharisees were the most influential group and had more members. They also had direct control over the majority of the synagogues and schools and in this respect had the most popularity among the people. Even though they were the most influential and prominent religious group among the Jews in the time of Christ, only about 6000 out of three million Jews were Pharisees! The Jewish historian, Josephus who was a Pharisee himself, informs us of this fact in his history Antiquities of the Jews, xvii, 2,4. What does this mean? The Pharisees, the major religious sect among the Jews represented .2% of all the Jews in Palestine. These facts should open the eyes of many who have erroneous ideas that most of the Jews in Christ's time were Pharisees. Most New Testament readers have never taken the time to really ascertain the religious conditions of the Jews during the life of Christ. They have overlooked Christ's warning not to follow the commandments of men and the traditions of the Jews! "Howbeit in vain do they worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. And He said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition" (Mark 7:7,9).
The other Jewish sects within Judaism were less significant than the Pharisees. The Sadducees, for example were a sect that Christ came into contact with frequently, but were less prominent than the Pharisees. The Sadducees had control of the temple at the time of Jesus Christ. According to Antiquities of the Jews, xviii, 1,4 and the Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Vol i, pg. 322, the Sadducees numbered less than 3000 members.
Another sect among the Jews were the Essenes. Josephus informs us that there were only about 4000 (ibid, xviii, 1). A group known as the Qumran, were a part of the Essene sect and represented about 4000 members. The rest of the sects in Palestine were of minor importance. All these figures represents the startling truth: the majority of Jews did not belong to a religious sect!!
History has shown that all people were not irreligious. Some did hold a form of religion. Some attended synagogues (assemblies). Because ministers in charge of most synagogues were Pharisees, it is likely that much of the Pharisaical teaching influenced the people. But, most of the people had no desire to practice the strict disciplinary rules of the Pharisees. Nevertheless, some people went to the synagogue to hear the scriptures expounded on the Sabbath. The Common people who did attend synagogue services were not required to hold to the teachings of the Pharisees. The Pharisees exercised little real authority over the religious life of the people. THERE WAS LITTLE EXERCISE OF ANY CENTRAL RELIGIOUS AUTHORITY WITHIN JUDAISM AT THAT TIME. "Pharisaism had no means of compelling those who were not in their fellowship to conform to their requirements" (Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, pg. 137). "It is perfectly clear that the people at large did not share in the punctilious religious life of the Pharisees, however much they might admire it. In Palestine, as in modern lands, the proportion of those actively engaged in religious service was undoubtedly small" (Mathews, History of New Testament Times in Palestine, pg. 160). It was over the lives of the ‘pious' that the Pharisees saddled a harsh religion of "do's and don'ts."
Synagogues ruled by the Pharisees were opened to all the Jews, but not many attended. It appears that very few Jews relatively speaking attended the synagogues regularly, if the size and number of synagogues of which records exist are of any guide! It can be safely said very few Common people attended synagogue! There is only one recorded synagogue in the city of Capernaum (and that was built by a Gentile). "Now when He had ended all His sayings in the audience of the people, He entered into Capernaum. And a certain centurion's servant, who was dear unto Him, was sick, and ready to die. And when he heard of Jesus, he sent unto Him the elders of the Jews, beseeching Him that He would come and heal his servant. And when they came to Jesus, they besought Him instantly, saying, That he was worthy for whom he should do this: For he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue" (Luke 7:1-5). The synagogue at Capernaum held approximately 500 people" (Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, vol i,pg. 365,432,433).
"Josephus tells us that there was no city or village (township) in all of Galilee that had less than 15,000 inhabitants (Wars of the Jews, iii, 3,3). Josephus was governor of the province of Galilee under the Romans and was well aware of the population, especially since he was responsible for collecting taxes. Most cities of Galilee had only one synagogue. If there were about 15,000 population in the city and the synagogue was small, holding 500 or less, you can see the majority of the people were not religious! Eldersheim tells us that Nazareth was a religious center and it's synagogue was so small that it could hardly seat more than 75 people (Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah).
The religious condition of 2000 years ago should not be a surprise to any of us. Popular Judaism is like popular Churchianity! Just as today most people are not religious. Most "Christians" only attend church one or two times a year. How many people really know the true God? How many people are willing to obey His commands? Most people today aren't interested in real, heart-felt religion as taught by Jesus Christ and His Word!
Is it so amazing to think that 95% of the Jews at the time of Christ were no more religious than the people of today? It is a false idea to think that Judaism is the religion that God gave to Moses! The Jews as a people (a tribe of Israel) paid no more attention to religion than the people of Britain and America today (modern day Israel).
(To be continued in the next issue of the "Prove all Things")
(Information for this article taken from the Good News Magazine, December 1960, published by Ambassador College. We encourage you to read the original article titled "Is Judaism the Religion of Moses?).

Part 2
At the end of Part 1, a statement was made that Catholicism and Judaism came out of Babylon. According to the book “Spiritual Pilgrimage-- Text on Jews and Judaism 1979-1995", Compiled by the Anti-Defamation League, Page xxii. Pope John Paul II/Spiritual Pilgrimage. In assessing the major events of the year 1986 in the Diocese of Rome, the pope singled out his visit to “our elder brothers in the faith of Abraham in their Rome Synagogue” as his most significant action of the year (National Catholic News Service, December 31, 1986).
“The Spiritual bond between the Church (Catholic) and the Jewish People. The Special Relationship. The notion of a "spiritual bond" linking the Church (Catholic) and the Jewish people (Abraham's stock) was central to Nostra Aetate.” It has become a major theme of Pope John Paul 11's own reflection on the subject over the years, one which he has consistently tried to probe and refine. In his first address to Jewish representative, for example, he interpreted the conciliar phrase as meaning "that our two religious communities are connected and closely related at the very level of their respective identities" (March 12, 1979), and he spoke of "fraternal dialogue" between the two.
Using terms such as fraternal and addressing one another as brothers: and sisters, of course, reflect ancient usage within the “Christian” community. They imply an acknowledgment of a commonality of faith, with liturgical implications. It was an ecumenical breakthrough. Pope John Paul 11 extension of terminology to Jews, therefore, is by no means accidental."
"The spiritual bond with Jews, for the pope, is properly understood as a "sacred one, stemming as it does from the mysterious will of God." (October 28, 1985) pg. xxii, Spiritual Pilgrimage-- Text on Jews and Judaism 1979-1995" Compiled by the Anti-Defamation League.
It is important here to point out a fallacy, so long taught by the Christian Churches, that the Jews first gave us Christianity. This is not scriptural for they not only opposed the Redeemer and King, but crucified Him and persecuted His followers. It was from Galilee that Jesus chose most of His disciples. Peter a Galilean, was know by his speech that he was not from Judea. "And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech betrayeth thee" (Matt. 26-.73). The Apostle Paul tells us he was of the tribe of Benjamin, though by religion he was a Jew. "I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin" (Rom. I 1: 1). "I am verily a man which am a Jew, bom in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day" (Acts 22:3). The religion of the Jews was Judaism! Gamaliel taught from the teaching of the Babylonian Talmud, mixing it with the religion of the Old Testament.
Because the Jews refused to bring forth the fruits of righteous administration Jesus said to them.-"Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof' (Matt. 21:43). The kingdom was delivered to the outcast Israel of the ten tribes whose redemption Jesus accomplished on the cross. The Jews knew the House of Israel was in existence beyond Palestine, for when the Pharisees sent officers to arrest Jesus, He said that a day would come when they would seek Him and would not find Him. The Pharisees asked, "Then said the Jews among themselves, Whither will He go, that we shall not find Him? Will He go unto the dispersed among the Gentiles, and teach the Gentiles?" (John 7:35). During the ages after Christ's death, the outcast of Israel Anglo-Saxon-Celtic people became Christians and carried on preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Just as there is many different denominations of Christianity, there were and are many different sects of Judaism. The Jews of the New Testament period were many. There was not one unified religious group practicing Judaism the same way. There were many differences of opinions. How did all the differences originate? "If it were possible to analyze the Judaism of the New Testament Period into all its components elements, the result of the process would be to show how complex a variety is summed up under the name, and how far from the truth it is to speak of ‘the Jew’ collectively as if they were all alike, in respect to their Judaism " (Herford, Judaism in the New Testament Period,, pg. 41,42)
" When looked at from a distance, as is usually the case with non-Jewish students, Judaism appears to be a well-defined and fairly simple system, with a few strongly marked lines of thought and practice capable of easy description, and supposed to be not less easily understood. But, when studied from near at hand, and still more when studied within, Judaism is seen to be by no means simple. There were many more types than usually appear, many more, shades of belief and practice than those which are commonly described. In this sense it is true to say in the word (Montifiore, that there were many Judaism’s.....” (Ibid, pg. 14).
It is a known fact that there were many types of conflicting and opposing sects of Judaism in Christ's time as there are in Judaism today. To understand Paul's writings and the New Testament teachings, we must realize that only a small part of the population belonged to the various sects. They disagreed among themselves on many religious doctrines. Hence the different teachings and beliefs of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
This discord among the various sects with the independent and differing views of many even with the sects, was the main reason the common people did not join the sects of Judaism.
When there is no unity among religious teachings, there is a natural turning away from religion altogether. Note the happenings of God's Church today. Many different groups, each with different teachings and no real agreement!! This same condition existed among the Jews of Palestine during the days of Christ, just as it does today!! Lets look at some background on the differing sects of Judaism at the time of Christ.
The Pharisees:
The Pharisees were not like a church as we call churches. They were a group of men and even some women representing different walks of life. Some were teachers, ministers, business men, politicians, lawyers. “These people bound themselves together in a covenant to live a particular manner of life. Instead of calling them a church, you can best describe them as a religious fraternity or association (Edersheim's Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Vol. 1, pg. 311). They were an exclusive fraternity to perform certain religious customs and traditions that the Common people did not wish to keep and with the strictness of the Pharisees.
According to Edersheim, "The object of the association was twofold- to observe in the strictest manner, and according to traditional law, all the ordinances concerning Levitical purity and to be extremely punctilious in all connected with religious dues (tithes and all other dues)” (ibid, Vol. i, pg. 311).
The Pharisees were the major sect of the many divisions of Judaism. They were the most influential group. There membership was only 6000 out of a population near 3,000,000. The main reason they had the most power was because they had control of the local synagogues. Being in charge gave them advantage over the common people who attended synagogue services. We must remember that the Pharisees had no real control of the bulk of the population.
"The Pharisees were never a homogeneous body possessed of a definite policy or body of doctrine" (Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th Edition, Vol. xxi, pg. 347). At no time was it required of all Pharisees to think alike. By understanding this fact, we can see that at the time of Christ, the Pharisees exercised little central authority among themselves at all. On Pharisee would teach his opinion on a religious question and another would teach another opinion. (A standing joke among the Jewish people today, "When you have two Jews together, you have three opinions!"). Can you see why there is so much confusion about Judaism today?
There were two distinguished schools of Pharisees teachings at the time of Christ, the School of Hillel and the School of Shammai. "These two schools were rivals. They disagreed over almost all points" (Cyclopaedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature, by McClintock and Strong, Vol. ix, pg. 472). There were hardly a point of religious doctrine that these two schools completely agreed on. Edersheim says that at one time there was such violent disagreement between these two schools that blood was shed between them" (Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Vol. ii, pg. 13).
The synagogues rulers adherents to the code of the Pharisees. It was a sign of piety to keep Levitical laws of purity and to be scrupulous in keeping the laws of tradition. This does not mean that the synagogue rulers taught a unified creed. The rulers of the synagogue would teach what he, himself individually, thought was proper. Some would conform to the School of Hillel and other rulers would conform to the School of Shammai. Many would teach a combination of the two schools doctrine and inject their own peculiar beliefs. This is the reason why every opinion was tolerated in the synagogues. "The scribes and Pharisees never taught with authority as did Jesus " (Hereford, Judaism in the New Testament Period, pg. 170). "And they were astonished at His doctrine: for His word was with power" (Luke 4:3 2).
We can see now why it was not difficult for Christ and the Apostles to speak in the synagogues. Each of the rulers of the synagogue could teach what he pleased and allow whoever he wanted to speak and express their opinions. There was little government of God and there was very little truth!
Jesus spoke many times in the synagogues. "Jesus answered him, I spake openly to the world; I ever taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort; and in secret have I said nothing" (John 18:20). Paul also spoke many times in the synagogues about the truth of Christianity! His teaching was not always accepted. “And after the reading of the law and the prophets the rulers of the synagogue sent unto them, saying, Ye men and brethren, if ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on” (Acts 13:15). "And it came to pass in Iconium, that they went both together into the synagogue of the Jews, and so spake, that a great multitude both of the Jews and also of the Greeks believed" (Acts 14: 1). "Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews: And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures" (Acts 17:1-2).
"The popular religion there, so far as it was entitled to be called Judaism, might be described as more or less diluted Pharisee-ism " (Hereford, Judaism in the New Testament Period, pg. 13 6). They were in the position to be the major sect of Judaism.
They adhered to the rules of the Pharisees --- they were the scholarly Pharisees --- sometime called 'doctor of the law.' "And it came to pass on a certain day, as He was teaching, that there were Pharisees and doctors of the law sitting by, which were come out of every town of Galilee, and Judaea, and Jerusalem: and the power of the Lord was present to heal them” (Luke 5: 17).
They were the ones most learned in the law. Hillel and Shammai, who founded the two prominent Pharisaic Schools, were Scribes or Doctors of the Law. "Not all Scribes were Pharisees " (ibid, pg. 158)
The Sadducees:
This was another major group within Judaism at the time of Christ. They had an influential political position in Jerusalem. Many of the Sadducees were priests who ministered at the temple. Performing these functions were the only religious service the priest were doing at this time. In times past the priest had important jobs. But at the time of Christ, the Pharisees, who were not priests, had been allowed by Queen Alexandra (79 BC) to take this leadership to themselves, while the priests were relegated to the place of performing only the rituals at the temple. Jesus recognized the civil authority that was given by Queen Alexandra. "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" (Matt. 23:2-3). Just as Moses had civil authority, he had no authority to change the laws of God. So the Pharisees had civil authority, but no authority to change any law of God!
The Pharisees had taken the rightful position as teachers of the people away from the Priest, so we can see why they did not favor the Pharisees. The majority of priests were Sadducees! The Sadducees had no set creed, except they did not believe in the resurrection, angels or spirits. "For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both" (Acts 23:8). Maybe out of spite the Sadducees rejected these doctrines. They detested the Pharisees so much they would counter almost every doctrine and belief the Pharisees would teach.
“The Sadducees would not proselyle. They were not very popular so few Common People joined with them. They also had no synagogues to worship in " (Herford, Judaism in the New Testament Period. Pg. 122), They had no central authority among themselves. The individual member could believe whatever they pleased.
During the time of Christ the Sadducees had majority control of the Sanhedrin. Their real prominence was political. Religiously speaking few Jews were Sadducees.
The Essenes:
The last major group of Judaisers. "They had about 4000 members, although this sect is not mentioned in the New Testament they were in existence at that time. Members of this group was ascetics who lived in the desert near the Dead Sea. They practiced celibacy no social contact except with their own sect, own sect, drank no wine and did not attend Temple services" ( Cyclopaedia qf Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature, by McClintock and Strong, pg. 302). “There religious practice -was on the order of Catholic monasteries and nunnerie” (Hereford, Judaism in the New Testament Period, pg. 63).
Some have said Christ might have been of this sect, but we can see He never practiced any of their basic teachings. Christ came eating and drinking. He mixed with all types of people and attended Holy Day services at the Temple in Jerusalem.
The Apostle Paul condemned asceticism! "(Touch not; taste not; handle not; Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and hun-fility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the fleslf' (Col. 2:21-23). Most of the doctrines of the Essenes came from heathen practices, not the Bible!
The Qumran:
This sect was not known before 1947 when the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. These scrolls were hidden by this sect. " They preferred a life of asceticism and lived in monastery-like institutions" (Thompson Archaelogy and the Pre-Christian Centuries, pg. 107). Professor Thompson say that the teaching of these Qumran sects differed from that of Christ in a thousand ways (ibid., pg. II 8),
The Zealots
According to Herford, Judaism in the New Testament Period, pg. 66: "The Zealots were a religious group, who had as their basic philosophy--the defense of the Law of Moses. At least this was their supposition. In their religious beliefs they sided with the Sadducees in one respect: they rejected the authority of the Pharisaic teachings” (pg. 68).
Their main doctrine was they were zealous for the law. They were willing to fight to the death for the law if necessary. This seemingly good quality was used as a tool to get the Common People to come to their aid in order to accomplish their own nationalistic desires of driving all foreigners from the land of Palestine. Their zeal came from wanting to overthrow the yoke of the Roman government. They were blamed for the rebellion against Rome, that cause the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple.
The Herodians:
This was a minor group during the time of Christ. They are mentioned twice in scripture. "And they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men" (Matt. 22:16). "And they send unto him certain of the Pharisees and of the Herodians, to catch him in his words" (Mark 12:13). For the most part they aligned themselves with the ]Pharisees against Christ. Little is known of them. Some say they were endeavoring to proclaim Herod the Great as the King and Messiah. The Jews at this time were aware that the Messiah was to come.
There were many other sects of Judaism at the time of Christ. They represented a very few individuals. "Some were known as the Apocalyptists. The word means "the revealing ones" or those who purport to give secret doctrines or prophecies never heard before. Many of these writers claimed the names of famous Old Testament personalities, such as Enoch and Moses, as the supposed authors of their books. However, it is well known that these books were written about one to two hundred years before Christ" (R. H. Charles, Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, Oxford University Press, Page 123).
The religious condition of the Jews during the life of Jesus Christ shows that very few of the Jews attended religious services. Most of the population were not religious. In the sects themselves they were divided in belief and doctrine. There were disputes over the rituals, marriage and the Sacred calendar, the correct observance of the Holy Days. The only thing they had in common were some observance of the Sabbath, circumcision, the calling of the Jews the chosen people and the expecting of the Messiah. Even in these fundamental doctrines there were countless ways of interpretations.
We can see that Judaism in the days of Christ is described by Judges 21:25: "In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes."

Part 3
If we are to understand the full development of Judaism, we must go back in history over 500 years before Christ. In these centuries history has shown why and how “Judaism” replaced the law God gave to Moses and became the religion of the Jews! Judaism is the religion that Catholicism claims to be their roots! See the book compiled by the Anti-Defamation League “Spiritual Pligrimage, Text on Jews and Judaism 1979-1995, Pope John Paul II.”
We must begin our study of the development of Judaism with the Babylonian captivity. Between the years 604 B.C. and 585 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, made war with the Kingdom of Judah. In the first year of the war, Nebuchadnezzar carried away the majority of the Jews from Judah to Babylon. By the year 585 B.C. all the Jews, except those under Gedaliah were finally carried away to Babylon.
The Babylonian captivity came to an end in 539 B.C. Isaiah had prophesied about 200 years before that Cyrus, the king of Persia, would be responsible for the overthrow of Babylon. Thus, it was made possible for the Jews to return to Palestine. “Thus saith the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut; I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron: And I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the LORD, which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel. For Jacob My servant’s sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known Me” (Isa. 45:1-4). Babylon was captured and absorbed into the Persian Empire.
Because Cyrus was so concerned with the prophecy Isaiah wrote about him, he determined to honor the God of Judah and decreed those of the Jews who wanted, could return to Palestine and rebuild the Temple of God. “Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD spoken by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying, Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, All the kingdoms of the earth hath the LORD God of heaven given me; and He hath charged me to build Him an house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah.
Who is there among you of all His people? The LORD his God be with him, and let him go up” (2 Chr 36:22-23). “Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying, Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, The LORD God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath charged me to build Him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah” (Ezra 1:1-2).
Some 50,000 Jews later returned to Palestine. They were under the leadership of two men. Zerubbabel, a descendant of David, and Joshua, the High Priest. The Jews were to rebuild the Temple and establish the true worship of God. The books of Haggai and Zechariah were written during this period. These book describe the condition of the Jews at this time.
The majority of the Jews did not return to Palestine. Most elected to remain in the Babylonian area. Under the rulership of Cyprus, many of the Jews had their own home, business and they were wealthy and influential. Most did not want to give up all this and return to the wasted land of their forefathers. “Even Cyrus did not want all to leave Babylonian area, since this would cause a setback to the economy of the area” (Edersheim, Life and Times of Jesus The Messiah, vol i, pg.8).
The majority of the Jews were content with living in Babylon. They had no desire to return. The Jews were settling down to stay. They built permanent schools, colleges, and synagogues. Even though there were several migrations to Palestine, the bulk of the Jews remained in Mesopotamian area. Even as late as the New Teatament time, there were still more Jews in Babylon than in Palestine (ibid., vol i, pg. 7-9). This explains why the Apostle Peter was in Babylon in the later years of his life. “The church that is at Babylon, elected together with you, saluteth you; and so doth Marcus my son” (1 Pet 5:13).
After the death of Zerubbable and Joshua, the people began to take a lazy attitude regarding the Temple services and religion in general. Even though the temple has been completed by 515 B.C. the people of Palestine took no interest in rebuilding the city of Jerusalem. It still remained in ruins. The people had also begun to intermarry freely with the idolatrous Gentile people round about them. The religious life was becoming corrupt. As the years rolled by, the condition became worse and worse.
In the summer of the year 457 B.C. Ezra came to Palestine to rectify the serious situation that had gotten out of hand. Ezra was a direct descendant of Aaron and some of his forefathers had been former High Priests in Israel. His grandfather was the High Priest who returned with Zerubbable and Joshua to Jerusalem in the first migration back to Palestine (Cyclopaedia of Biblical Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature, Vol iii, pg. 435). Ezra, himself, was a scribe, a ready scribe of the law of Moses. A scribe of the words of the commandments of the Lord and His statutes to Israel, a scribe of the Law of the God of heaven” (Ezra 7:11-12). “He was considered by Josephus, the Jewish historian of the apostles’ days, to have been in a sense, the High Priest” of the Jews who were still living in Babylon” (Antiquities of the Jews, xi, 5,1).
Scripture says, “Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments” (Ezra 7:10). We can see Ezra was determined to live by the laws of God and to teach them to the people. “He had profound influence over the Jews, and so righteous was his character that later Jewish writers said he would have been the lawgiver to Israel had not Moses preceded him” (The Talmud, Sanhedrin, c.ii).
Ezra knew the laws of God--he was well trained in them. God directed that he go to Jerusalem to beautify the Temple, establish its services in proper order, to teach the people the laws of God and to rebuild the city. He went with the authority from the Persian government in 457 B.C. About 2000 went with Ezra to Palestine. These were notable priest, Levites and servants of the Temple. They went to restore worship of God to Jerusalem.
Ezra went to Jerusalem with a royal decree from the king of Persia. Ezra had the power he needed to carry out reforms. He had the power to restore true worship of God and he also had the authority from the King to appoint magistrates and judges which may judge all the people that are beyond the river in Palestine. “And thou, Ezra, after the wisdom of thy God, that is in thine hand, set magistrates and judges, which may judge all the people that are beyond the river, all such as know the laws of thy God; and teach ye them that know them not. And whosoever will not do the law of thy God, and the law of the king, let judgment be executed speedily upon him, whether it be unto death, or to banishment, or to confiscation of goods, or to imprisonment” (Ezra 7:25-26). Ezra went to Jerusalem not only as a priest, but he went to establish law and order by rebuilding Jerusalem as the capital of Judah.
Why was the king of Persia so interested in the Jews religion and why did he want Jerusalem to be rebuilt and inhabited? “Esther, a Jewish girl, from the tribe of Benjamin, became Queen of Persia, and Mordecai, her uncle, became Prime Minister of the Kingdom. Esther was married to King Xerxes (Ahasuerus) who ruled, according to Persian reckoning from 485 to 465 B.C. The King under which Ezra was appointed to rebuild Jerusalem was Artaxerexes I--the son of Exerxes, Esther was still, undoubtedly, the Queen Mother, when Ezra left for Jerusalem in 457 B.C. Thus we see that there was considerable Jewish influence in the king’s palace at this time. The real intent of Ezra was to establish the Law of Moses as the constitutional law throughout Judaea” (Herford, Talmud and Aprocrypha, pg. 33). This was to make Judea a model state within the Persian Empire. The Persian rulers living far from Judea, seldom interfered with the internal affairs of their Jewish subject, as long as the royal taxes were paid, and order maintained. This was the policy of the Persian rulers for the two centuries they governed Palestine. This gave the Jews ample opportunity to settle down firmly in Palestine and to practice their religion without undue interference.
The first thing Ezra found upon his arrival in Palestine was that most of the people possessed only a small amount of knowledge about religion. Temple services were not being conducted properly and a great number of people had intermarried with foreign women. Ezra warned the people that these very acts were a violation of the Law that caused their forefathers to be carried away into captivity! “And at the evening sacrifice I arose up from my heaviness; and having rent my garment and my mantle, I fell upon my knees, and spread out my hands unto the LORD my God, And said, O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to thee, my God: for our iniquities are increased over our head, and our trespass is grown up unto the heavens. Since the days of our fathers have we been in a great trespass unto this day; and for our iniquities have we, our kings, and our priests, been delivered into the hand of the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, and to a spoil, and to confusion of face, as it is this day” (Ezra 9:5-7).
We find all people were not willing to put away their foreign wives. It took about 13 years to get all the people to forsake their own ways and be obedient to the Laws of God. The reason why they were commanded not to take foreign wives was because people have a tendency to accept the religion of their mates. King Solomon was the perfect example of leaving the true God for pagan worship to please his wives. Solomon even set up pagan idols in Jerusalem and throughout Israel to please his pagan wives. “For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father” (1 Kings 11:4). God’s law specifically commands the Israelites not to marry heathen women or men. “Lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they go a whoring after their gods, and do sacrifice unto their gods, and one call thee, and thou eat of his sacrifice; And thou take of their daughters unto thy sons, and their daughters go a whoring after their gods, and make thy sons go a whoring after their gods” (Exo. 34:15-16). Ezra commanded the Jews to repent of their pagan ways and begin keeping the commands of God. “Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son” (Deu. 7:3).
Ezra was to establish the civil law in Palestine. He was to follow the laws given to Moses by God. He was determined to see that the Jews obeyed the commandments of God as revealed in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. Within these four books are found the basic spiritual commandments of God, plus many basic laws and statutes of the civil nature for the governing of the physical nation of Israel. Also within these books are the ritualistic and ceremonial laws of purity and the sacrificial ordinances that formed such a distinctive part of the Law of Moses that by the New Testament times the term “Law of Moses” often became a special and exclusive term for the sacrificial ceremonies and physical rituals. “And by Him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses” (Acts 13:39). “But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses” (Acts 15:5). It took the help of Nehemiah to finally implant the Law of Moses as the law of the land.
Nehemiah was a high government official in the Persian kingdom. After learning of the Jews plight in Palestine and the difficult time Ezra was having getting the Jews to obey the laws of Moses, he resolved to help the situation. He petitioned the king to become governor of the province of Judea directly under the king. The petition was granted. He went to Jerusalem as governor of the whole province of Judaea!
Upon his arrival in the twentieth years of Artazerxes, Ezra position was greatly strengthened. Both Ezra and Nehemiah worked together in harmony toward getting the people back to God. They established the Law of Moses as the law of the land and set up the Temple service in proper order and made the people put away foreign wives. The ordained priests were judges, teachers, and administers of the government.
Under Ezra and Nehemiah, the people, the Levites and all the principal men came and signed a covenant that they would henceforth obey the laws of God. In the covenant they signed, they all agreed to perform seven things. 1). They were to keep all the laws, statutes, judgments and commandments of God. 2). Not to intermarry with the heathen. 3). To keep the Sabbath holy. 4). To observe the Sabbatical year. 5). To pay the annual third of a shekel for the upkeep of the Temple. 6). To supply wood for the altar in the temple. 7). To pay all the tithes that were commanded in the Law (Nehemiah 10:28-39). The leaders signed the covenant on behalf of the people. This proved to be a spiritual renewal in Israel. It was a kind of Church and state relationship. This resulted in a religious unity not known since the days of Joshua. Ezra was called the second Moses.
The convening of the Jewish elders was of great importance. This assembly was called the “Great Assembly.” It was comprised of Ezra, Nehemiah, two of God’s chosen along with all the principal priests of the Jews. This assembly was the ruling institution to guide the religious life of the Jews. It was the religious supreme court. This assembly initiated by Ezra and Nehemiah has often been called by the Greek name “The Great Synagogue.” The word “synagogue” in Greek means assembly.
“According to the most ancient tradition, this assembly or synagogue was styled great because of the great work it effected in restoring the divine law to its former greatness, and because of the great authority and reputation which it enjoyed” (Cyclo. Of Bible, Theo. And Ecc. Literature, Vol x, pg. 82). Some of the decisions of this Great Assembly have had far-reaching effects---even to our present day.
The Jewish historians tell us that there were 120 members in the original Great Assembly (Beerkoth,ii,4; Megillab, 17B) all of these members were priests (Herford, Talmud and Apocrypha, pg. 59).
The president or ruler was the High Priest. However, when the Great Assembly was organized by Ezra and Nehemiah, the High Priest, Eliashib did not meet with the assembly. He did not agree with the covenant the Great Assembly made binding. “And before this, Eliashib the priest, having the oversight of the chamber of the house of our God, was allied unto Tobiah” (Neh. 13:4). The priests were the leaders of the Jewish nation at the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, about 400 years before Christ. In the next issue we will see how the Great Assembly put together the Old Testament Scriptures with the help of God’s Spirit.
(To be continued in the next issue of the “Prove All Things.”) Information for this article was taken from the Good News Magazine, February 1961.
We encourage you to read the original article titled “Is Judaism the Law of Moses".

Part 4
Part 4
The last installment revealed how Ezra and Nehemiah reestablished God’s Government in the Old Testament. The authority in Palestine to carry out the government has often been called “The Great Synagogue.” The word “synagogue” in Greek means assembly. This is the name used most when talking about the authority given the body of priest established by Ezra and Nehemiah. “The people made a covenant with God to obey His laws. And because of all this we make a sure covenant, and write it; and our princes, Levites, and priests, seal unto it” (Neh. 9:38). “Now those that sealed were, Nehemiah, the Tirshatha, the son of Hachaliah, and Zidkijah” (Neh. 10:1, see verses 2-29).
We shall see in this article how the Great Assembly, with the help of God’s Holy Spirit directing them, put together the Scriptures of the Old Testament.
The Work of the Great Assembly!
Ezra and Nehemiah established the religious and political government of God in Palestine. They called together the elders for the purpose of signing and sealing a covenant to keep God’s commandments. This brought about the inauguration of a constitutional government in Palestine. This constitution established the “Law of God as given to Moses.” Both Ezra and Nehemiah and the priest were at the signing. This acknowledged the written Law given to Moses by God, as the law of the land. Most of the leaders, except a small minority, happily covenanted to perform the requirements of the Law. This law required the people to put away their foreign wives, start tithing, begin to keep God’s Sabbaths and to restore proper Temple services. This is the real beginning of the religion God gave to Moses after the Babylonian captivity. No additions or subtractions!
In Part 3 of this series we have shown that Eliashib, the High Priest, at the time of Ezra and Nehemiah did not approve of the decision of the Great Assembly in regarding the putting away of foreign wives. Eliashib grandson Manasseh, was married to one of the daughters of Sanballat the Horonite--a Gentile. Because Sanballat was governor of the northern province of Samaria, Eliashib did not want to lose the influential government favor.
With the marriage of the grandson of the High Priest to the daughter of the governor of Samaria offered a type of alliance between the two peoples (the Jews and Horonites). This presented a delicate political situation. If Manasseh repudiated his wife, in order to keep the Law of God, this friendly relationship would cease. There were a few other Jews along with Eliashib and Manasseh who did not want this marriage to end even if the Law of Moses and the decision of the Great Assembly commanded it. Manasseh openly rebelled against God’s government--the constitutional law--defying both Ezra and Nehemiah and the Great Assembly. Because of this rebellion, Nehemiah as the governor of Judea, banished him from the country. “In those days also saw I Jews that had married wives of Ashdod, of Ammon, and of Moab: And their children spake half in the speech of Ashdod, and could not speak in the Jews’ language, but according to the language of each people. And I contended with them, and cursed them, and smote certain of them, and plucked off their hair, and made them swear by God, saying, Ye shall not give your daughters unto their sons, nor take their daughters unto your sons, or for yourselves. Did not Solomon king of Israel sin by these things? Yet among many nations was there no king like him, who was beloved of his God, and God made him king over all Israel: nevertheless even him did outlandish women cause to sin. Shall we then hearken unto you to do all this great evil, to transgress against our God in marrying strange wives? And one of the sons of Joiada, the son of Eliashib the high priest, was son in law to Sanballat the Horonite: therefore I chased him from me. Remember them, O my God, because they have defiled the priesthood, and the covenant of the priesthood, and of the Levites. Thus cleansed I them from all strangers, and appointed the wards of the priests and the Levites, every one in his business; And for the wood offering, at times appointed, and for the firstfruits. Remember me, O my God, for good” (Neh 13:23-31).
Manasseh was highly upset over being
excommunicated. He could no longer become High Priest of the Jews upon his fathers death, because he had not remained faithful to the Law of God. He and some of his sympathizers and even some priest left Judaea and went northward to Samaria.
This is where the Samaritians entered the picture. The Samaritans, who followed some points of the Law of Moses (only those that suited them), were glad to accept the rebellious Jews! The Samaritans had no real feeling against marrying Gentile wives, for they themselves were Gentiles who had been placed in Samaria when the tribes of Israel was taken into captivity by the Assyrians.
When arriving in Samaria, Sanballat, Manasseh’s father-in-law sympathized with him because he was no longer in line to be High Priest of the Jews, so Sanballat devised a plan to honor him for rebelling against Nehemiah and the Great Assembly. Sanballat petitioned the Persian government to grant him permission to build a temple for the Samaritan people. It was the policy of the Persians to allow their captive nations to worship their own gods and so the permission was granted.
Sanballat, planned to build a temple and install Manasseh, the grandson of the Jewish High Priest, as High Priest of the Samaritans. This plan was fulfilled! The Samaritan temple was built on Mount Gerizim in Samaria and Manasseh was the High Priest and this began the Samaritan religion.
Manasseh rebelled further! His first act after being installed as High Priest was to repudiate the true Temple of God located on Mount Zion in Jerusalem! He did this to strengthen his own position among the Samaritans. By maintaining the Temple be on Mount Gerizim, he was in opposition to the Old Testament prophets where the prophecies say that the Temple of God should be located only on Mount Zion. “And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem” (Isa. 2:3). “And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem “ (Mic 4:2).
There are many scriptures that prove the Temple shall be in Jerusalem! Manasseh’s way out of this dilemma, was to formally reject the writing of the prophets. To do this he had to say they were the uninspired words of men.
Manasseh acknowledged that the only books that were really inspired was the first five books of Moses. The reason for this was because these five books had no reference where the temple should be located. By rejecting the rest of the books of the Old Testament, Manasseh put his authority ahead of the Word of God.
With Manasseh ruling in Samaria as High Priest, and claiming that only the books of Moses were inspired, the situation called for action by Ezra and Nehemiah and the Great Assembly. Manasseh was proclaiming that all the Jews in Judaea were in error. Ezra and Nehemiah knew something had to be done about this situation. They knew it was possible that an internal disruption of Jewish society would develop in Judaea if the falsehoods of Manasseh were planted in the peoples minds. The people had to know who was right--Manasseh or Ezra and Nehemiah.
Ezra, Nehemiah and the Great Assembly settles the question. Under the inspiration of God’s Holy Spirit, Ezra and Nehemiah with the Great Assembly convened to settle the matter. These two servants of God, along with the ordained priests of God, were given the responsibility of assembling the inspired books of the prophets and holy men of God. Their task was not to write the books, of the Old Testament, for they were already written!! They had to assemble the already acknowledged inspired books into one book in a final order. “To erect a wall of partition between the Jews and these apostates (Manasseh and his followers ), and to show the people which of the ancient prophetical books were sacred...the men of the Great Synagogue (Assembly) compiled the canon of the prophets” (Cyclo. Of Bible, Theo. And Ecc. Lit. Vol. X, page 83).
The Canon of the Old Testament
“Ezra, Nehemiah and the Great Assembly, under the divine inspiration of the Spirit of God, compiled the books of the Old Testament is the universal acknowledgment of all early Jews and Christians” (ibid, vol ii, page 75). Remember all of the Old Testament book had already been written. The job of the Great Assembly was to put them together into one book in the proper order.
Some modern critics thought that Ezra and the Great Assembly may have sanctioned only the Law of Moses, the first five books of the Bible. This is not true! The reason the canon of the Old Testament had to be defined at this time was because the rebellious Jew Manasseh, erroneously maintained that the first five books of Moses were the only inspired books!! Out of his own vanity he rejected the inspired books of the Prophets and Psalms. These books were already as much a part of God’s Inspired Word as the Law of God given to Moses! The law of Moses had already been recognized as God’s Word. “And Hilkiah the high priest said unto Shaphan the scribe, I have found the book of the law in the house of the LORD. And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it” (2 Kings 22:8). It was God’s purpose that Ezra, Nehemiah and the Great Assembly put all the writings of the Law, Prophets, the Psalms and the other books into their proper place in the canon and they be proclaimed as the authoritative Word of God.
Proof that the canon was compiled
by Ezra and Nehemiah.
Josephus, the Jewish historian testified “that the complete Old Testament was finally established in the days of Artaxerxes, king of Persia” (Against Apion, 1,8). Josephus meant that the completed Old Testament was in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah, because these two men of God lived in the time of Artaxerxes. Josephus also mentioned that there had not been any prophet who had left any writings from the time of Artaxerxes until the New Testament period” (ibid). Even the writer of Maccabees recognized that up to his time the inspired prophets had ceased with Malachi. “And there was great stress in Israel (in 168 B.C), such as there had not been since the time when the prophets ceased to appear to them” (I Macc.9:27). Without men of God in a prophetical office, it was impossible to have “inspired writings.” It is plain that Josephus, who was one of the leading Pharisees of his day, and other prominent Jews , believed the canon of the Old Testament was compiled under Ezra and Nehemiah.
The Old Testament was compiled into three divisions under Ezra and Nehemiah. They placed them into three divisions. “Thus, the inspired Old Testament, from Genesis to II Chronicles (the Hebrew Order), was divided into three divisions--the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms. The first call “The Law’ and consisted of the first five books. The second was called “The Prophets” and the third was called “The Psalms” in Christ’s day. The arrangement of the books has always been reckoned by the Jews as having had its origin in the time of Ezra and Nehemiah” (Ryle, Canon of the Old Testament, page 252; Angus, Bible Handbook, page 568).
Another proof which shows that the Old Testament was divided into three divisions is mentioned by Sirach’s grandson--a Jewish religious leader who lived in the second century before Christ. He says in his prologue to the apocryphal book, Ecclesiasticus, that the recognized Scriptures of Official Judaism were those books found in the Law, the Prophets and the Rest of the Books. The third division called the Psalms by the Jews until the time of Christ because the book of Psalms was the first book of the division. This is clearly indicated by Philo, a Jew who lived a few years before Christ. He said, “That the Triparte Divisions were then being called “The Law,” “The Prophets” and the Psalms” (On the Contemplative Life, page 3). In the third century A.D. the Jews began to refer to the third division as “The Writings.”
It is important that we realize that only the books within the three divisions were recognized as inspired of God by the Jews. The Apocrypha were never accepted. Regardless of the beliefs of official Judaism, we have the greater authority telling us of what books consisted in the Old Testament. That witness is Jesus Christ Himself---the very One who inspired the prophets of the Old Testament. “Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him, and for Him: And He is before all things, and by Him all things consist” (Col. 1:15-17) . Christ taught His disciples many important truths from the Old Testament Scriptures. “And He said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning Me. Then opened He their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures” (Luke 24:44-45). The scriptures Christ was talking about were the inspired Old Testament Scriptures!! These are the very books Ezra and Nehemiah compiled into one book. These are the very books of the Old Testament we have in the King James version. Our Old Testament is the complete Old Testament of God.
The arrangement of the KJV Old Testament Books are different than the authoritative arrangement of the Old Testament book complied by Ezra and Nehemiah. The Jews have never approved of the King James Version of the Old Testament arrangement because it origin was in Egypt. About 250 years before Christ there was a Greek translation made of the Hebrew Old Testament. This became known as the Septuagint Version. The translators of this version decided to change the order of the books. Our King James Version follows the Latin which had this erroneous Egyptian arrangement of the books. When the Jews of the official Judaism recognized the corruptions of the arrangement of order of the book, they completely repudiated it. Notice how the early Jews looked on this translation: “The day on which the translation of the Bible into Greek was made was regarded as a great calamity, equal to that of the golden calf” (Sopherim, i, 7). “The day on which it was accomplished...was commemorated as a day of fasting and humiliation” (ibid.).
“The Septuagint Version translators did not take away or add to the books of the Old Testament, but they did disrupt the Divine order of the books and faultily translated much of the original Hebrew into Greek” (Prologue to Sirach).
Notice the authoritative order of the Old Testament books. They were originally 22 scrolls--now they were subdivided in the King James Version into 39 books. They consisted of:
The Law: 1.) Genesis
2.) Exodus
3.) Leviticus
4.) Numbers
5.) Deuteronomy
The Prophets
1.) Joshua & Judges
2.) I & II Samuel &
I & II Kings
3.) Isaiah
4.) Jeremiah
5.) Ezekiel
6.) The Twelve
The Writings:
1.) Psalms
2.) Proverbs
3.) Job
4.) Song of Songs
5.) Ruth
6.) Lamentations
7.) Ecclesiastes
8.) Esther
9.) Daniel
10). Ezra & Nehemiah
11.) I & II Chronicles
Notice that the first seven books are the same as in our King James version, but afterward there are considerable changes. Notice, the so-called minor prophets from Hosea to Malachi are not really the last books of the Old Testament. These Minor Prophets really belong in the center. I & II Chronicles are last books of the Old Testament. This authoritative arrangement of the Old Testament is the one which the official Jewish community has always recognized as authoritative!
The Apocrypha and other spurious books never found a place in the official division of the Old Testament. All these outside books were totally rejected by the Jews. Josephus, the Jewish priest and historian, who represented the beliefs of official Judaism in the days of the Apostle Paul, said that the Jews never accepted any other books as inspired other than those compiled in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah. Josephus wrote: “It is true, our history has been written since the time of Artaxerxes (the time of Ezra and Nehemiah) very particularly, but has not been esteemed of the like authority with the former (writings) of our forefathers, since that time” (Against Apion, 1,8).
The last prophet to write an inspired book was Malachi--a contemporary of Ezra and Nehemiah. Christ used only the inspired Old Testament!! He never once quoted from or alluded to any of the Apocrypha or other spurious books. Had He even made the slightest indication that the source of His doctrines were from these unrecognized books, the Jews would have vehemently countered Him with all their intellectual might. They would have loudly and persistently pointed out to the people that Jesus could not possibly be the Messiah for He was making use of uninspired books. The Jews never had the opportunity of accusing Christ of using uninspired books!! They railed Him for going contrary to the doctrines of the different doctrines of Judaism, but never criticized Him for using uncanonical books!!! The silence of the Jews on this point is definite proof that Christ only used the inspired books of the Old Testament as the Scriptures.
Christ and the Apostles used the recognized Old Testament as compiled by Ezra and Nehemiah. Many parts of the New Testament tells us that the Jews preserved the Old Testament, but we know they did not keep it according to God’s Word. “Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God”(Matt 22:29). “And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus” (Acts 18:24). Christ taught out of the Law and the Prophets. “Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? (John 10:34). “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil” (Matt. 5:17). “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matt 22:40). Christ also taught out of the Psalms! “And He said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning Me” (Luke 24:44). All of the New Testament writers recognized the Jews had the complete Old Testaments.
The Apostle Paul knew the Jews were to preserve the Old Testament. “What advantage then hath the Jew? Or what profit is there of circumcision? Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God. For what if some did not believe? Shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?” (Rom. 3:1-3). Just because they were to preserve the Old Testament, did not mean they kept it the way God intended. Through the teaching of the Pharisees they had corrupted the teachings of God’s Word. “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” (Mark 7:7-9). In Matthew 23:13-36, Christ tells the scribes and Pharisees all the woe that has come upon them for their unrighteous behavior.
It is very clear from secular history and from the New Testament that we have the complete Old Testament. Paul was fully aware that the oracles of the Jews were the inspired books of the Old Testament canon--the same books that are in our King James Version today!! All other books, not found in the Bible as we have it are entirely worthless for teaching doctrine. The Apocrypha, and all other books are the writings of men, not inspired of God!
In the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, with the canonization of the Old Testament, the Jews entered into a period of prosperity and happiness. They kept the law and taught God’s way of life. This period from about 430 B.C. to 331 B.C. until the overthrow of the Persian Empire by the Greeks could be called a time when the Law of God, as given to Moses, was followed by the people!
In part 5, we will look into the time of the Persian control of Palestine for the confused and mixed up conditions of Judaism. This will show how the Jewish denominations began.
(To be continued in the next Prove All Things. Information for this article was taken from the March 1961 issue of the Good New Magazine, published by Ambassador College. We encourage to read the original article entitled “Is Judaism the Law of Moses?” Part 4).

Part 5


Part 5
In this article you will learn how the Jews continued under the Government of God until the time of Alexander the Great and who authorized the building of synagogues in Judea.
The canonization of the Old Testament by members of the Great Assembly was the real stabilizing factor in the religious life of the Jews. Ezra and Nehemiah bound upon the people the law of Moses as the constitutional law of the land. After the deaths of Ezra and Nehemiah the Great Assembly continued to enforce this same law in every respect.
Judea was a province of the Persian Empire and the Jews maintained a semi-independent community. Since the days of Ezra, the Persians had shown extraordinary consideration to the Jews. “For we were bondmen; yet our God hath not forsaken us in our bondage, but hath extended mercy unto us in the sight of the kings of Persia, to give us a reviving, to set up the house of our God, and to repair the desolations thereof, and to give us a wall in Judah and in Jerusalem” (Ezra 9:9).
“The Persian rulers, living far from Judea, seldom interfered with the internal affairs of their Jewish subjects, and were content to leave their public business in the hands of the governor of the province. If the royal taxes were paid, the order maintained, the Jews might organize their life as a community in the way that seemed best to them” (Herford’s, Talmud and Apocrypha, pg. 45).
The Persians had rule over Palestine until 331 B.C.--for about one hundred years after Ezra and Nehemiah. During this entire period, the Jews were allowed full freedom to practice their own customs and traditions. This Persian period was especially propitious to them because they were allowed to observe the Scriptures as ordained of God” (Kent, History of the Jewish People, pg. 224).
At this time the Jews were under the direction of the High Priest, the president of the Great Assembly, and the other authoritative priests who comprised its membership. No religious splits or schisms were tolerated and all the people were kept in obedience to the laws of the Old Covenant. There was a peaceful condition in Palestine that led to many advances in the social and religious life of the Jews.
At that time the Priests were teaching the truth of God. The canonization of the Old Testament and the establishment of the Law of Moses as the constitutional law, brought about the teaching of the Law on a large scale.
A large number of priests had come with Ezra from Babylon. The priest were brought back to Palestine in order to assume their position as religious teachers of the people, for the Bible had ordained that priests were to teach the people the law of God. “And that ye may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the LORD hath spoken unto them by the hand of Moses” (Lev. 10:11). “Take heed in the plague of leprosy, that thou observe diligently, and do according to all that the priests the Levites shall teach you: as I commanded them, so ye shall observe to do” (Deu. 24:8). “And the Levites shall speak, and say unto all the men of Israel with a loud voice” (Deu. 27:14).
In the book of Malachi, written after the return of Ezra and Nehemiah, is recorded what these priest were ordained to do. “For the priest’s lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts” (Mal. 2:7).
The law of Moses had become the law of the land, and it became the job of the priest to teach the Law! These commands required meeting every Sabbath in all the villages and towns. It was at these Sabbath services that finally merged into regular synagogue services. Over time they began to build their own synagogues. In some of the larger areas, a body of priests would take up residence and have charge of the synagogue. Before the Babylonian captivity, synagogues had existed throughout Israel and Judah. “They said in their hearts, Let us destroy them together: they have burned up all the synagogues of God in the land” (Psa. 74:8 ). The previous synagogues had been completely destroyed by the invading armies of the Assyrians and Babylonians. The Jews had to start fresh after their return from Babylon to build new synagogues.
Building for religious assemblies are essential in every age and dispensation. It was impossible for all the Jews to travel to the Temple in Jerusalem every Sabbath in order to learn of the law and to worship God in Holy convocation. “Under the benevolent rule of the Persians, with peace and safety everywhere and there is no reason to doubt that synagogues dotted the land from one end to the other” (Herford, Talmud and Apocrypha, pg. 58) .
Priest and Levites in Authority! “It is plain that the people during this one hundred year period under the Persians had adequate instruction in the Laws of God, not only on the Sabbath, but also the Holy Days. The priest were kept busy teaching the people the Law. For their helpers the priest had the regular Levites who gave them proper assistance in teaching the people. These helpers were under the authority of the priests who were the responsible organization for the over-all well being of the nation” (ibid., pg.59). The real leader of the whole nation was the High Priest, who was actually the head of state being leader of the Great Assembly.
The Great Assembly was the one organization that was the governing authority. This religious assembly, as previously pointed out, was composed of the chief priests of the land with the High Priest as official president and over-all ruler. All members of this authoritative assembly in the Persian period were priests and priests alone” (Lauterbach, Rabbinic Essays, pg. 28).
“For the priests were the actual leaders of the community, since they alone were recognized by the Law (Deu. 17) as its official teachers and competent interpreters” (ibid., PG. 28) These priest were not elected by the people to hold a high office in the Great Assembly. They assumed this position by heredity, as ordained by God (Deu. 17). Actually, no one but the priests according to the Law of God, could teach or direct the people in their religious life. This is the reason why the Great Assembly was composed exclusively of the priests, with the High Priest being the recognized leader!
With the canonization of the Scripture and establishment of synagogues through the land, a problem confronted the Great Assembly. In order to teach the Law of God, it was necessary that the priests and Levites have copies of the canonization, books were not made with all twenty-two scrolls of the Old Testament combines together.
Many scrolls of the Scripture were made. Now that the Scriptures had been authoritatively assembled, it became necessary to disburse the complete word of God. The synagogues needed the Holy Scriptures as did many individual priests. So, it fell the lot of the Great Assembly to remedy this situation. They had the responsibility to see that many scrolls of Scripture were made and distributed to those who were in authority to teach the Word of God. They had to be extremely careful and make sure that only individuals who were thoroughly qualified would undertake such a sacred task of copying the Scriptures. Such a job could not be entrusted to just anyone, lest from inexperience or carelessness the transcription was not an exact reproduction.
It became obvious that the only body of men who were qualified to do such a work were the members of the Great Assembly themselves. It was necessary that the new scrolls be perfect and that each scroll be sanctioned by these authoritative priest. This led the Great Assembly to assume the task of copying the Scriptures. They assumed this occupation sometime not long after the deaths of Ezra and Nehemiah. From this time forward the Great Assembly became known as Sopherim. This word “Sopherim” in Hebrew signifies “counters.” “They were called Sopherim because they counted all the letters in the Torah [the Scriptures] and interpreted it” (Herford, Talmud and Apocrypha, pg. 44).
In order to have an accurate transcription of the Scriptures, the Sopherim, the members of the Great Assembly, counted each letter on each section of a scroll. They made sure that when they copied the letters onto a new scroll, that there would be exactly the same number of letters on the new section as had existed on the old. To do this, they had to count each of the letters on the new scroll several times to make certain that the exact number was transcribed. This method of copying the Scriptures was followed by later Jews until the invention of the printing press. In fact, about eight hundred years after Christ, this method was so highly developed among the Jews that they knew the middle letter of each book in the Bible, and even the middle letter of the whole Bible. (To learn more about this method, see the book, “Ginsburg’s Introduction to the Hebrew Bible.” This book is out of print and would be found in some of the larger libraries).
“Once the members of the Great Assembly became the copiers of the Law (the Sopherim), we find the two names synonymously referring to the one group of priests. To speak of the Sopherim was to speak of the Great Assembly and vice versa” (Herford, Talmud and Apocrypha, pg. 44,45). We will refer to these men by the name most used in history--we will call them the Sopherim. The term Sopherim, denotes that the one major job of the Great Assembly was to copy faithfully the Scriptures, and teach these Scriptures to the priests and lower rank who in turn would teach the people. Their lives were centered in the study of the Scriptures and in teaching the law of God. This was the occupation that God had ordained for the priests! They were also to regulate the religious life of the people. History show that the member of the Great Assembly, the Sopherim of Persian times, following the examples of Ezra and Nehemiah carried out their commission with fidelity.
The Sopherim interpreted Scriptures correctly. Scripture says, “So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them (the lay people) to understand the reading” (Neh. 8:8). When Ezra taught the people, he would read from the Law of God and then give the sense of it, that is he would give the true explanation of it so the common people could understand what God meant from the law. This is what any true minister of God will do!! A true minister of God will allow the Scripture to interpret Scripture. This is the only way of arriving at the truth of God’s Word. This is exactly what Ezra and his successors, the Sopherim did! They simply expounded the Law of God, the Scriptures. They did not make up their own ideas about Scripture teaching. They taught the Word of God and it only!!
When using this manner of teaching the Scriptures, which is the only proper way, is known among the Jews as the Midrash-form. The word Midrash means “to Comment.” The term Midrash-form designates that manner of teaching which depends only on the written Word of God for doctrines--letting the Bible explain itself. The reason this type of teaching has been designated among the Jews is because they later had different methods of teaching, which did not rely upon the Word of God. It became a later custom to refer to the true type of teaching, which expounded or commented on the Scriptures, and the Scriptures only, as teaching in the Midrash-form. It was the Midrash-form of teaching that the Sopherim used, for they were following Ezra’s example of reading in the Scriptures and then giving the sense or the meaning so the common people could understand. This is the method of teaching that began with Moses and was exclusively used from his day and throughout the period of the Sopherim. For it was and still is the only proper way to teach the Word of God” (Herford, Talmud and Apocrypha, pg. 47).
The Jews later, as mentioned, came to the place of teaching religion in an entirely different method than “after the manner of Moses” and the Sopherim. We will see that they did not utilize the Midrash-form as the only method of teaching!
Ezra and the Sopherim, following the example of Moses, taught exclusively in the correct form. They never departed from teaching directly from the word of God. No other form of interpretation was used or allowed.
The Sopherim completed final additions to the Old Testament. Being the successors of Ezra and Nehemiah, as well as the custodians of the Scriptures, they were responsible for adding the final portions to the Old Testament. While they were the authority, they added a few names to certain genealogical tables in order to bring them up to date. (I Chron. 3:17-24 and Nehemiah 12:10,11) these are recorded lists of certain men. “The last mention of these men live just before the coming of Alexander the Great in 331 B.C.
In 1 Chron. 3:17-24 is mentioned a sixth generation after Zerubbabel. This last generation would have lived about the time of Alexander the Great. Nehemiah 12:10-11, refers to Jaddua the High Priest, who was alive when Alexander the Great came to Palestine” (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, xi, 8, 4). Thus the names were added to the genealogical table by the Sopherim just before the coming of the Greeks in 331 B.C.
This plainly shows that the Sopherim who were established about 440 B.C. were in authority for a period just over one hundred years--until 331 B.C. and also that the Old Testament, as we have it today, was made into its final form by the Sopherim with the addition of a few names to the genealogical table, about 330 before the birth of Christ. The Sopherim had complete authority for doing this. They were the proper custodians of the Law and ordained of God for this purpose.
What does this mean to us today? We must emphasize that the Sopherim were all priest--there were no lay men among them. “In the days of the Sopherim, when the High Priest was the head of the community, and when the teachers under his leadership formed an official body vested with authority to arrange all religious matters in accordance with the Law as they understood it, the knowledge of the Law was limited to the priests who were the only official teachers. On the one hand, the priests who were in possession of the Law and tradition of the fathers considered the teaching and interpreting of the religious law as their priestly prerogative” (Laterbach, Rabbinic Essays, pg. 197).
This priestly authority was in accord with the Word of God. The priests had been ordained to be the teachers of the people in religious matters. No layman was permitted to assume this authority. As long as the Sopherim remained as the official body among the Jews, this direction of God was adhered to. During the entire period of the Sopherim--from the days of Ezra until the coming of Alexander the Great--the Jews were keeping the Law of God as given to Moses. However, in 331 B.C. when Alexander came to Palestine and defeated the Persians, the whole complexion of Palestine government changed.
The Greeks, unlike the Persians, did not allow the Sopherim to hold their authoritative positions among the Jews. After 331 B.C. the Sopherim disappeared from history as a body of priests directing the religious life of the people. The whole organization was dismantled by the Greek conquerors. With the coming of the Greeks, came complete change in practically every mode of life in Palestine. With the Sopherim taken away from their position of authority, the Scripture teachings ceased being enforced. A whole new way of life was forced upon the Jews.
In the next issue we will look at what happened in this very important period of Jewish history! (To be continued in the next Prove All Things. Information for this article was taken from the April 1961 issue of the Good News Magazine, published by Ambassador College. We encourage you to read the original article entitled “Is Judaism the Law of Moses?” Part 5).

Part 6
Part 6
"For one hundred years after Ezra and Nehemiah there was a time of peace and prosperity for the Jews" (Graetz, History of the Jews, vol i.pg. 406,407). The Jews established themselves firmly in Palestine--in every section of the province of Judaea. They were following the law of Moses in its entirety and it was the constitutional law of the land. The Great Assembly which was Established by Ezra and Nehemiah was the head of the state. This great religious assembly of priest directed the people in observing the law of Scripture and had proper religious training every Sabbath.
As long as the Jews were under the authority of the Persian Empire, they were allowed to carry on their own religious customs without interference. The Persians did not care how they worshipped God as long as the taxes were being paid and they respected and were loyal to the government and king. The Jews wanted to keep in good graces of their Persian rulers.
The goodwill that the Persians had for the Jews came to an end in 332 B.C. At that time Palestine--a part of the Persian Empire was conquered by a rising young Empire--the Empire of the Greeks!
While the Jews were enjoying their peaceful existence, a young general was preparing an army beyond the western frontier of the Persian Empire. In 334 B.C. after amassing a considerable army, Alexander the Great swept over the Hellespont and into Persian territory.
He moved rapidly and with great success. In 10 short years conquered the Persian Empire and all civilized Asia to the Indus River, as well as Egypt on the south. The Jews, because of this came under the domination of the Greeks. This started a new way of life for the Jews---Hellenism!!
Under the Persians, the Jews were allowed to observe the Law of Moses with the Great Assembly as the religious leaders. This all changed with the rulership of the Greeks!
Alexander the Great was steeped in the belief that the Greek way of life was the only suitable one for mankind to follow. He was imbued with enthusiasm that the Greek culture and society be in all the nations he conquered.
"Hellenism" is described as the belief in practicing the manner of life of the Greeks--to imitate every phase of Greek society: its politics, domestic life, philosophies, and its religions. The basic philosophy behind Hellenism was this: every man had the right to think for himself on any matter as long as there was not a real departure from the customs that were essentially Greek.
This philosophy--freedom of thought or individualism--resulted in confusing and contradictory beliefs
among the Greeks in all phases of life. Every man was allowed his own ideas about science, the arts, law and about religion! Then, as today, the scholars in various fields of study took pride in contending with one another over who could present the greatest wisdom and knowledge on any subject! The Greeks sought wisdom in order to understand the world they lived in and the reasons for life. Their confusion of beliefs resulted from the fact that their ideas came from their own rationalizing! (We see this happening in the Churches of God today!) Here was the beginning of the philosophy of individualism--a product of Hellenism. When the Greeks came to Palestine, they brought all their conflicting secular teachings as well as their many religious doctrines, all of which came from individual philosophies of men. It is hard to describe the many religious cults among the Greeks or their heathenistic doctrines. "Practically every religious belief capable of being devised by the human mind was found in pagan Greece. In their religious beliefs we find ghosts and spirits and nature-gods, tribal religions, anthropomorphisms {gods in human forms}, the formations of a pantheon {a temple for the worship of many pagan gods}, individual religion, magical rites, purfications, prayers, sacrifices {animal, vegetable and human}---all arising from the common stock and the successive phases of religious humanity" (Harrison, Religion of Ancient Greece, pg.12-13).
Alexander spread Hellenism through out his Empire. Wherever he or his successors went, they carried Hellenism. They took the Greek society and forced it upon all the captive people. The Greeks considered it their right to govern in the way they deemed most suitable. The Greeks disbanded the Sopherim, the religious guardians of the Law of Moses. They would not allow the Jews to be taught a different way of life from their Hellenistic society.
It is not known how the Greeks dismissed the Sopherim from their official capacity as the teachers of the Law, but within a score of years after coming under Greek rule, the Sopherim disappeared from history as an organized body having religious control over the Jews. Just how they took away the authority from the Sopherim and forbade them to teach the law of God is a mystery but it is definitely known that it was taken
Without the religious leadership of the Sopherim, the Jews imbibed in the customs and ideas of the Greeks. Hellenism had made an inroad. "There was no escape from its influence. It was present everywhere, in the street and markets, in the everyday life and all the phases of social intercourse" (Herford, Talmud and Apocrypha, pg. 77). With the Sopherim removed from the scene, along with the true Law of Moses, we can comprehend why the Jews absorbed the teachings of Hellenism. The Jews had no one to guide them in understanding the Law of Moses, except a few isolated teachers here and there who had no authority as the Sopherim.
It was obvious that after a few years under the influence of Hellenism, the Jews literally came to a state of religious confusion. Some were endeavoring to keep a form of Scripture teachings, but with Hellenism everywhere, it became almost impossible to keep the true form of the Law of Moses.
The human opinions of the Greek poets and philosophers, as well as the doctrines of the various heathen sects of the Greeks, were propagated among the Jews. Everything the Greeks brought to the Jews was antagonistic to the Law of God, and without the religious guidance of the Sopherim, many of them began to tolerate and take up the Greek ideas and customs!
Josephus, the Jewish historian tells us about Alexander the Great when he had conquered Palestine and was about to enter Jerusalem. "Alexander was met on the outskirts of the city by Jaddua, the High Priest, with many inhabitants of Jerusalem. The High Priest was bedecked in his priestly robes and leading the procession who met Alexander. Upon seeing the High Priest and procession following him, Josephus says that Alexander recalled a dream he had previously in which such a procession was seen with a person dressed in exactly the same attire of the High Priest leading it. Alexander reckoned that his dream was a sign to leave the inhabitants of Jerusalem alone. He entered the city peaceably with the High Priest and offered a sacrifice to God. Afterward, he was shown the prophecy of Daniel 11:2-3, which revealed that a mighty king from Greece would conquer the Persian Empire. Josephus says that Alexander recognized that Daniel was writing of him. After reading this prophcey, Alexander became very glad and gave favor and gifts to many of the Jews" (Antiquities of the Jews, xi, 8,5-6).
Daniels prophecy had more to say about Alexander and his Empire. "And when he shall stand up, his kingdom shall be broken, and shall be divided toward the four winds of heaven; and not to his posterity, nor according to his dominion which he ruled: for his kingdom shall be plucked up, even for others beside those" (Dan. 11:4). This prophecy was fulfilled upon the death of Alexander. His Empire was divided into four sections. Each headed by one of Alexanders former generals: Cassander, Lysimachus, Seleucus and Ptolemy. The Palestine area was given to Ptolemy of Egypt. But, the Seleucid kingdom on the north also claimed Palestine and had loyal troops there. Neither kingdom was willing to give into sole rulership of the other. Ptolemy of Egypt, in 320 B.C. attacked the Seleucid garrison in Palestine to secure the area for himself. However, the Seleucid took it back in 315 B.C. But Ptolemy again retook Palestine in the battle of Gaza in 312 B.C. There were many more battles between the two kingdoms until 301 B.C. At that time the Greeks government of Egypt took final control of Palestine and had control for over one hundred years---until 198 B.C.
This one hundred year domination is very important as a period in the religious history of the Jews. During this period significant changes in the religious life of the Jews were made. During this time the effects of Hellenism was extremely great. What was started by Alexander the Great was brought to its greatest degree of perfection during this one hundred years among the Jews. The customs and teachings that had been handed down by the Sopherim was completely overshadowed by the Hellenistic culture of the Greeks as promulgated by the Egyptians. The Jews during this time of Egyptian control surrendered themselves to Hellenistic ideas and ways of life.
"During the comparatively quiet rule of the Ptolemies (the Egyptians), Greek ideas, customs, and morality had been making peaceful conquests in Palestine. Their own inherent attractiveness and the fact that they were supported by the authority of the dominant race, cast a glamour about them (the Jews) which made the severe religions of Jehovah (to Hellenistic minds), the simple customs and the strict morality of the Jews, seem barren and provincial. All the other people of Palestine...had set the example by imitating their conquerors. Hellenistic Greek was the language of commerce and polite society. Greek literature was widely studied. Greek manners were the standard throughout Southeastern Palestine" ( Kent, History of the Jewish People, pg. 320,321).
Everyone in Palestine was affected by the new Hellenistic culture. The Ptolemies of Egypt followed the example of Alexander the Great and saw that the manners of the Greeks were implanted throughout their areas. All phases of life in Palestine during this period was following Hellenism. ‘It is safe to say that no one, high or low, who was living in Judea in the period which includes the whole of the third and beginning of the second century B.C. wholly escaped the influences of Hellenism...." (Herford, Talmud and Apocrypha, pg. 77).
In 198 B.C. the Egyptians were driven out again by the Seleucid kingdom. The rulers of this kingdom were also Hellenistic in their beliefs. The new rulers expected the Jews to follow their ways and only their ways of interpreting Hellenism! Only the Hellenism that supported the Seleucid customs were allowed to remain. Many of the Jews after a century of Hellenistic influence, accepted the Seleucid Hellenism and this system was much more effective in the Hellenistic convictions. "A passion for Greeks customs and Greek names seized the people. Large numbers were enrolled as citizens of Antioch (the capital of the Seleucid Kingdom). Many even endeavored to conceal the fact that they had been circumcised. To the horror of the faithful, Hellenism seemed to be carrying all before it...To demonstrate that he had left all traditions of his race behind, Jason the High Priest himself sent a rich present for sacrifices in connection with the great festival at Tyre in honor of the god Hercules" (Kent, History of the Jewish People, pg. 324-325). It is remarkable the extent of the paganism that the Jews were observing at that time!! So strong was Hellenistic beliefs that even the High Priest himself was offering sacrifices to pagan gods. This reaction began to take place among some of the Jews. Some of them could not bring themselves to go as far as the High Priest. But the majority had fallen sway to the Hellenism of the Seleucids.
In the eleventh chapter of Daniel, the longest single prophecy in the Bible, foretold the Persian Empire was to fall. This happened exactly as was told by Daniel. This prophecy told in advance what would happen 300 years later. Daniel did not stop in verse 20, but in verses 21-39, Daniel speaks of a vile person who was to arise in the kingdom of the north--this person was to be most wicked and was to cause many terrible indignities to the Jews. And the prophecies were fulfilled to the letter. The king of the north--was the vile person--Antiochus Epiphanes.
Antiochus Epiphanes, in the years 175 B.C. obtained the throne of the Seleucid kingdom and assumed control of Palestine. When he took over the kingdom there was a reaction between several priest in Jerusalem who were contending for the position of High Priest among the Jews. "Jason the brother of the reigning High Priest, persuaded Antiochus Epiphanes to permit him to be High Priest instead of his brother. Because of the large sums of money Jason offered for the position of High Priest, Antiochus transferred the priesthood to him. The High Priest position had become no more than a political honor. There was little regard paid to the Law of God by these High Priests. Most of them were outright Hellenists" (Cyc. Bible. Theo. And Ecc. Bit, vol i,pg. 271).
About three years later, a Jew Menelaus, of the tribe of Benjamin (not from Aaron), offered Antiochus Epiphanes a larger sum bribe than Jason and he was named High Priest instead. Because of this Jason fled to Jordan to an Ammonites refuge. Many Jews thought Jason had been unjustly deprived of his priesthood. A good number of the Jews in Palestine began to take sides--between these two men. So hot were the tempers between these factions that a good deal of violence broke out between them. Fight against Menelaus, as High Priest was constituted as rebellion against the Seleucid government, because Antiochus gave Menelaus his High Priesthood (See Antiquities of the Jews, xii, 5, 1-5).
The Jews war for independence from the Seleucid Kingdom has often been called the Maccabean Revolt. People have assumed that this revolt was begun because the religious Jews wanted to rid Palestine of the pagan influences that had been in the land for one hundred fifty years or more. This was not the case! The Jews, on the whole had accepted Hellenism to a major degree, as had all the countries of the Eastern Mediterranean region. It was not the desire to eradicate Hellenism from Palestine that prompted the Maccebean Revolt! "The one rebellion which had been recorded in history as directed against Hellenism, that of the Maccabees in Judea, was not, in its origin, a reaction against Hellenism. From the contemporary or almost contemporary accounts in I and II Maccabees it is clear that Hellenism had proceeded far indeed and apparently without protest, before the insurrection began. Violence started in consequence of rivalry between equally hellenized contenders for the high priesthood, and religion was not an issue" (Hadas, Hellenistic Cultures, pg. 43). The revolt began when fighting between the Jews on the side of Jason, the disposed High Priest, and those on the side of Menelaus, the High Priest appointed by Antiochus Epiphanes. It infuriated Antiochus that many of the Jews began to take sides against the government. With a number of Jews gathered to the side of Jason, the real reason for the revolt, the desire for independence from the Seleucid yoke began to be voiced. Religion did not enter in the controversy at first because Jason was as Hellenistic in his beliefs as was Menelaus. The insurrection began as a political revolt for independence from the Seleucid Kingdom. "The Maccabean uprising, at least in its initial stages, was not against Hellenism but for national independence" (Goodspeed, the Apocrypha, pg. xiv).
Religion became a factor later to get the whole population of the Jews to revolt against the Seleucid government. The protestors began to point to the heathenistic beliefs of the Seleucids and of Menelaus the High Priest, claiming they were anti-Jewish. Thus the rebels brought religion into the issue!! Many said that the government was proclaiming policies that were fundamentally anti-Jewish--especially to the religious customs of their forefathers.
In 168 B.C. Antiochus Epiphanes, on his way back home from a humiliating experience under the Romans, went to Palestine to put an end to the rebellion that was beginning in Judaea. Because the issue of religion had been brought up in the insurrection, and because many of the rebels were proclaiming that their struggle was for religious freedom, Antiochus Epiphanes in a mad frenzy, determined to obliterate any vestiges of the religious customs of the Jews! He boldly repudiated God and entered the Temple in Jerusalem and dedicated it to the pagan god Jupiter. He set up an idol which he called "the lord of heaven" which is referred to in the Bible as the abomination of desolation" (Dan. 11:31). He also offered swines flesh on the Holy Altar and polluted the Temple with all the evil he could perpetrate. He even turned the Temple into a center of prostitution. Many innocent people suffered under the evils of Antiochus Epiphanes in his rage to do away any semblance of the commands of God. "By royal decree, the observance of the Sabbath or the sacred feasts, and practicing the rites of circumcision, were absolutely forbidden under penalty of death. All copies of the law were destroyed. Heathen altars and temples were erected throughout Judaea, and every Jew was compelled in public to sacrifice to idols, swine’s flesh or that of some other unclean beast, and to present conclusive evidence that he had ceased to observe the laws of his fathers" (Kent, History of the Jewish People, pg. 328,329). "All women who had their sons circumcised were publicly marched around the city of Jerusalem and then thrown from the high walls to their death. One group of people who fled to a cave near Jerusalem in order to keep the sabbath service were surprised and committed to the flames. Such things were everyday occurrences against the Jews who failed to abide by the decrees of Antiochus Epiphanes" (Margolis, History of the Jewish People, pg. 137,138).
Among those Jews who were outraged at Antiochus Epiphanes, was Judas Maccabeus and his brothers. They abhorred the actions of this crazed ruler. They did not want to put up with the abuses that were being done to the Jews, so they gathered together many more dissenting Jews and formed an army. Their vow was to exterminate the foreigners from Judaea. After many successful battles, they acquired many Jews to their cause. After three short years they had defeated the Seleucids to such an extent that for all practical purposed, their independent autonomous Jewish state was realized. The Maccabees became the leaders of this new state.
The Maccabean Revolt was not at first a matter of religion. The main reason for the insurrections was to establish an independent Jewish state!! "The Maccabean uprising, at least in its initial stages, was not against Hellenism, but rather for national independence. And when independence, real or nominal, was secured, the object of the Maccabean principality was to hold its head up among other principalities that had arisen out of the ruins of the Seleucid Empire; there was nothing like anti-Greek program" (Goodspeed, The Apocrypha, pg. xiv,xv).
The majority of the Jews had not been anxious to depart from their Hellenistic ways! They wanted primarily their freedom from the foreign yoke. The matter of religion was really invoked to get the people to unite in one common goal--to drive the foreigner from Judaea. There was no real desire to get the people back to the Laws of God!! Religion only became an issue when Antiochus Epiphanes voiced his anti-religious decrees!
The Jewish historian, Moses Hadas, describes the situations during the Maccabean Revolt. "The standard of religion was raised in the countryside, and then served to rally the people to the cause. It was only after religion had become the battle cry of the rebels that Antiochus IV (Ephiphanes) issued his decrees against the observance of central religious rites, and it is highly significant that as soon as the anti-religious decrees were rescinded the pietist group (the religious people) withdrew from the fighting. The object of the Hasmoneans (Maccabean) rulers was not to protect religion...but to maintain a sovereignty ....among others which were being carved out of the weakened Seleucid empire" (Hellenistic Culture, pg. 43).
Although independence was gained, the Hellenistic elements remained among the Jews. They had been so wedded to its influences for so long that it was impossible to remove the influences from them.
(To be continued in the next issue of the "Prove All Things "). Information for this article was taken from the Good News Magazine, May 1961. We encourage you to read the original article titled "Is Judaism the Law of Moses?

Part 7
"Judaism" Is it the Old Testament Religion?
Part 7
In the last installment we learned when the Egyptians and finally the Syrians caused violent changes among the Jews in Palestine, the authority of the Sopherim, the rightful teachers of the Law of Moses was taken away! We hear nothing more of any of its members outside of Simon the Just, the High Priest who died in 270 B.C. Simon is describes as the last remnant of the group. What happened to the remainder of these teachers is not known. We now continue with period of history when "Hellenism" spread. Here is how Egyptian tradition replaced the Law of Moses in the second century before Jesus' birth.
"The series of wars over the control of Palestine between the Egyptians on the south and the Syrians on the north--both under Greek domination--created great political and religious disorder with Palestine. The land was attacked by invading armies no less than four time between 330 B.C. and 301 B.C. In the latter year, the land finally succumbed to the rulership of Ptolemy of Egypt" (M. Margolis, History of the Jewish People, pg. 128).
During the early part of this period of Egyptian domination Simon the Just, the last survivor of the Sopherim died (270 B.C.). With his death a dark cloud passes over all the religious life of the Jews. We are informed by Lauterbach, the learned Jewish scholar, "That Jewish tradition know of no religious teacher who taught any form of religion from the death of Simon the Just until about the year 190 B.C." (Rabbinic Essay, pg. 196). "This silence would have been impossible, if there had been any official activity of the teachers in those years" (ibid. pg. 196).
This means that for a period of nearly one hundred year, approximately the time of Egyptian rule, there was no record of any religious activity among the Jews!! This is the only period in the history of the Jews in Palestine of which nothing is recorded. We do not know what caused this lack of records, but we do know that one of the major reasons was the influence of Hellenism--the culture of the Greeks---as propagated by the Egyptians.
Hellenism---the philosophy of life was exerted upon all peoples subject to the Egyptians! All persons within the Egyptian territories were to follow the dictates of the government in this matter. If any person did not follow Hellenism--the government would take the matters into their own hands and compel the people to do their biding.
Alexander the Great had left the conception of Hellenizing the whole of his empire. His reason was strictly political. He fancied that all his subject, being Hellenists, would represent a unified empire, not one of diverse ideas and philosophies, constantly causing troubles with bickering and strife. Alexanders successors saw that the continued dissemination of Hellenism would work to their advantage. Ptolemy--Alexander successor in Egypt carried on the campaign of preaching this Greek culture to his subject and the Jew did not escape its influences.
"It was impossible to avoid its influence. The Greek language was the language of commerce and social intercourse generally, and it became a matter of necessity to acquire fluency in Greek" (Herford, Talmud and Apocrypha, pg. 77). By constantly hearing and speaking Greek, it was natural that the Greek language would become known, and in many cases begin to be practiced among the Jews. "There was no escape from that influence (Hellenism). It was present everywhere, in the street and the market, in the everyday life and all phases of social intercourse" (ibid, pg. 77).
The Jews, of all people conquered by Alexander the Great and his various successors, were seemingly the least likely to adopt the Greek culture, but the very novelty of it, the variety of its new interests and pleasures made it exceedingly attractive to the majority of the Jews!
Of course not every individual was attracted to Hellenism, but everyone was affected by it, some to a limited and some became outright Hellenists. "It is safe to say that no one, high or low, who was living in Judea in the period which includes the whole of the third and the beginning of the second century B.C. wholly escaped the influence of Hellenism" (Ibid, pg. 77).
The most affected by this new culture, rather ironically, were the leaders of the Jews--the chief priests themselves. Most of the other influential Jews, also fell under the sway of Hellenism. In effect all the intellectually able individuals, who should have been leading the common people towards the observance of the Law of God, were following after the culture of Hellenism, as preached by the Egyptians. This is the reason no religious teacher of the Law is mentioned by the Jewish histories as having existed during this period of Egyptian domination. Because the Jews were completely surrounded by the teachings of Hellenism, they incorporated it into their daily lives. They had no real teaching in the Law of God, because their leaders were completely devoted to Hellenism.
What was the natural result of this teaching? Lauterbach give us the answer: "There prevailed a state of religious anarchy, wherein the practical life of the people was not controlled by the law of the fathers as interpreted by the religious authorities, nor were the activities of the teachers carried on in an official way by an authoritative body. This chaotic state of affairs lasted for a period of about eighty years..." (Rabbinic Essays, pg. 200). See also Herford, Talmud and Apocrypha, page 57.
The recognition of this religious anarchy among the Jews is the veritable key that explains the reason why the Judaism of Christ's day arose. Had this religious anarchy not occurred there would have been no Judaism for Christ to contend with. If the Sopherims had continued teaching the Law of God, then Christ would have come to a people who were fully obeying the Laws. But instead, we find a people who were practicing Judaism--the religions of the Jews---not the religions of God as taught by Moses!
The knowledge of this religious anarchy gives us a Key to unlock the doctrines and teachings of Judaism. History prove that Judaism evolved out of and was directly guided by, the inherited principles of pagan life acquired during that religious anarchy. The very foundation of Judaism, its underlying principles, though later covered with a veneer of the Law of Moses, have their origin within this period of religious chaos.
Let's consider how this period of religious confusion under the influence of the Egyptians brought about these significant changes in the Jews' manner of living! How did the new laws and customs come into Jewish teachings. Because Hellenism was being taught throughout the known world, there was no way to escape its influence. Two known historians of this period, Lauterbach and Herford were fully aware of the chaotic conditions which existed in this period of Hellenism.
"During the seventy or eighty years of religious anarchy, many new practices had been gradually adopted by the people" (Rabbinic Essays, pg. 206). Herford adds: "in the absence of authoritative guidance, the people had gone their own way, new customs had found a place amongst old religious usages...new ideas had been formed under the influence of Hellenism which had permeated the land for more than a century, and there had been no one to point out the danger which thereby threatened the religious life of the people" (Talmud and Apocrypha, pg. 64, 65).
There must have been a few Jews endeavoring, in a limited way to observe the Sabbath and perhaps the Sacred festivals, but many of the Jews rejected the use of Scripture and its teachings. "The people who had now been in contact with Greek culture..acquired new ideas and became familiar with new views of life, other than those which they had been taught by their teachers in the name of the law of the fathers. The rich and influential classes accepted Greek ideas and followed Greek customs. The leaders of the people were no longer guided by the laws of the father, nor was the life of the people controlled solely by the laws and customs of the fathers as contained in the Torah" (Lauterbach, Rabbinic Essays, pg. 194).
Even the scattered Jews were affected. This condition of general religious anarchy among the Jews was not limited to Palestine. The Hellenistic culture had been spread wherever the Jews lived--
throughout civilized Asia and in many parts of Europe. New ideas and customs everywhere supplanted the ones they had been taught under the Sopherim. The luxuries and the extravagant habits of the Hellenists were attractive to the rich and influential Jews and the acquiring of Hellenism's new manners for everyday living and public communication became an economic necessity for the common Jews.
Many Jews enjoyed the new culture, the new types of learning and philosophies of thought that came with it. The Greek philosopher, the Greek artists and the Greek man of letters became figures of great respect and admiration to the majority of Jews--especially of the learned classes.
Anything Hellenistic became the object of imitation. The older customs were looked upon as relics of antiquity that, if they were to be observed at all, had to be greatly modified according to the new methods of interpretation promoted by Hellenism!!
"Greek culture, Greek literature were thrown open to the people of Asia and it pressed into its pale the native literature, including the Scriptures, but these in the new daylight looked poor and unformed: now those who wrote must write Greek, those who thought must think on the lines of Greek science and philosophy" (Bevan, Jerusalem Under the High Priests, pg. 37).
"Virtually everything was changed to conform to this new way of life. Even the Scripture, when read, was interpreted in the new light of Hellenism" (Liberman, Hellenism in Jewish Palestine, pg. 62-64). The people abandoned the simple teachings of Scripture and modified or disregarded them, and in its place substituted the new customs and practice of Hellenism.
It is not at all amazing that within the space of a short one hundred years that such a change could take place. The same thing happened in the Christian world in the century following 1850 with the introduction of evolution and higher criticism. Notice what is happening today, a short 13 years after Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong died, the True Church of God has been scattered, and the Worldwide Church of God no longer believes that we have to keep the Seventh Day Sabbath Holy as commanded by God, and now we know they are no longer the True Church of God. It is easy to see how fast the truth is lost when you stop following the very Word of God!!
At the beginning of Egyptian rule in Palestine, many thousands of Jews were carried captive to Egypt by Ptolemy I. Under Ptolemy II these Jews gained their freedom. Ptolemy II was inclined to favor the Jews as a whole and his kind treatment prompted many Jews to accept Hellenism even more. As a result many thousand of other Jews chose to migrate from Palestine to Egypt. In a short time there were so many Jews in Alexandria, Egypt that a full quarter of the city was Jewish! Those Jews who went to Egypt abandoned the Hebrew language and completely adopted Greek.
It was during this time of religious anarchy in Palestine and Egypt, that the Old Testament was corrupted and then translated into Greek. It was called the Septuagint Version of the Old Testament. Tradition has it that Ptolemy II wanted to have a translation of the Jewish Scriptures made for his library. In the course of time, certain Jewish scholars were invited by Ptolemy II to accomplish this task. Thus, the Septuagint Version was born.
Needless to say, this translation abounds in Hellenistic interpretations. The version was rejected by later Jews as totally unacceptable because of its variations from the original, inspired and authoritative Palestinian Hebrew text and because of its inclination to "improve" the text in order to please or displease as the case may be its Gentile reading audience. The translators of this Version thought nothing of adding to the text or taking away from it whole verses and even whole chapters! No wonder later Jews renounced this product of Egypt which was translated during the time of religious anarchy!!
Christ and the Apostles did NOT use the Septuagint!
It has often been assumed that the Septuagint Version, instead of the original Hebrew Text, was the Old Testament of the early Christian Church. This is not true!
It can be shown quite plainly that Christ did not set the example of using the Septuagint Version. "It was His custom to quote from the original Hebrew scrolls (Luke 4:16-17). Christ referred to three divisions of the Hebrew Bible as: THE SCRIPTURE, (Luke 24:44-45)---the Septuagint Version did not contain these three divisional designations" (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, vol 1, pg. 555).
Some scholars endeavor to maintain that the apostles used the Septuagint Version, however we are informed by Collett, (The Scripture of Truth, pg. 142-143), that 263 direct quotations from the Old Testament, 88 are verbal quotations that agree with the Septuagint. Does this prove the apostles use this Version? IT DOES NOT!!
"It is important to note that the Jews of Palestine, because of the variations in the Septuagint from the original Hebrew text, regarded the day the Septuagint was translated as a great calamity equal to the worship of the golden calf" (Sopherim, i, 7). For an extensive discussion on these variations, see Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, vol IX, pg. 533-554.
(To be continued in the next issue of the Prove All Things). Information for this article was taken from the Good News Magazine, June 1961, published by Ambassador College. We encourage you to read the original article titled "Is Judaism the Law of Moses?"
It is not the Church of God, In Truths, intention to degrade the Jewish people. It is our intention to show and prove that Judaism is not the religion of the Old Testament, just as Catholicism is not the true religion of Jesus Christ.

Part 8
Part 8
In earlier issues we have seen the Egyptian rule of Palestine until 198 B.C. In that year the Syrian kingdom on the north invaded and conquered the territory of Judea. The change of government from Alexandria to Antioch in Syria---and the establishment of the Syrian way of life in Palestine, meant that an adjustment had to be made in the manner of living which the Jews had taken from the Egyptian Hellenists. The Syrians were Hellenists, just like the Egyptians were but there was a different mode of observing it.
When the Syrians took control of Palestine, the Jews were fully conscious that something new was taking place. The contrast between the Egyptian Hellenists and the Syrian Hellenists was such, that it shocked a few of the Jews into realizing there was a different way to live. They realized that the old way of life--following scripture was possible. The Jews knew the scriptures did not recognize either form of Hellenism. New interest in God and the religions of Moses began to revive. Religious anarchy ends and the Sanhedrin began.
The new interest in the religion of the forefathers caused some of the Jews to reflect on the past in order to ascertain how their forefathers had been governed in their religious life. They could see that from the time of Ezra and Nehemiah to Alexander the Great, the Sopherim had been the religious leaders and teachers of the people. Remember, the Sopherim had disappeared from the scene--Simon the Just was the last. The Jews understood that an organization like the Sopherim must exist if there was to be religious unity and the people properly taught the Law. The leaders of this new revival decided to meet in council with one another. Its avowed purpose was to direct those who were desiring to live according to the law of their forefathers. This council became known by the Greek name Sanhedrin.
"It is not clear when the Sanhedrin first began meeting. It must have been just a short time after the Syrians came into Palestine, perhaps about 196 B.C. or immediately thereafter" (Laterbach, Rabbinic Essays. Pg. 207). The influence of the Sanhedrin was not great at first. Not many Jews recognized its authority or adhered to its injunctions. Yet, with its establishment, we can say that outright religious anarchy came to an end, even though the majority of the Jews were still greatly affected by Hellenism.
The Syrians brought to the Jews a fanatical zeal for the Syrian style of Hellenism. To the Syrians there must be nothing that rivaled their way of thinking.
Egyptian Hellenists had allowed the Old Testament to be used. The interpretation of it, however, must be by Greek methods--it had to be Grecianized. Thus, we have the Septuagint Version of the Old Testament. But, the Syrian Hellenists would not allow the Old Testament even to be in existence. Only Greek ways were allowed. No form of individual or nationalistic religion was allowed to exist that conflicted in any way with the doctrines of the Syrians. This was the philosophy of the Syrian king, Antiochus Epiphanes, who ruled from 175 to 164 B.C.
"Antiochus Epiphanes was a Hellenist enthusiast, proud of his Athenian citizenship, and bent on spreading Hellenic civilization throughout his domain. He built various temples to Apollo and Jupiter. He observed and commanded his subjects to observe all the pagan Greek festivities to the heathen gods. So fanatical was he in his zeal to implant his beliefs on all other that some of his contemporaries call him Half-crazed" (Margolis, History of the Jewish People. Pg. 135). He let nothing hinder him for realizing his desires.
A large number of Jews readily accepted the newly established Syrian doctrine of complete surrender to the philosophies of Hellenism. Most of the Jews were thoroughly accustomed to much of the Greek culture anyway, and it was not hard thing to transfer allegiance from the Egyptians to the Syrians.
By the time of Antiochus Epiphanes, other Jews had also begun to take a new interest in religion--the religion of their forefathers. This new concern for religion was beginning to spread among the Jews of Palestine.
When Antiochus Epiphanes heard that some of the Jews were rejecting Hellenism, he began to persecute many of them. This persecution cause many more Jews to side with the cause of religion. This stubbornness of the Jews infuriated Antiochus. He began--in a fit of demoniac insanity—widespread persecution committing heinous indignities against all those who would not conform to his ways.
Not all Jews were in disfavor with Antiochus. Many wealthy and influential families, and especially many of the chief priests, wickedly supported Antiochus in his wild schemes. As the persecution grew more intense, a great many of the common people went against Antiochus. Renewed interest in the Scriptures was quickened by the persecution of this madman. Many began to take up arms against the Syrians. The cry went throughout the land that this was a religious war and the Jews were fighting for their Law and their God. This belief boosted renewed interest in fighting against Antiochus.
In order to band themselves together against the Syrians, the Jews came to the side of Judas Maccabee and his four brothers. An army for formed for two purposes: 1) to defeat Antiochus Epiphanes and 2) drive out the Syrians from Palestine. After many successful battles, in succeeding decades, the Jewish army accomplished both things. Antiochus armies were defeated in 165 B.C. and by 142 B.C. the Syrians were completely driven from the land. Independence for the Jews were the results.
With the defeat of Antiochus Epiphanes in 165 B.C. the religious history of the Jews entered a new phase. The Sanhedrin, which had been feebly established some thirty years before, was officially declared the religious authority among the Jews of Palestine. Being in virtual control of the land, the Jews were in position to re-establish the religion that had been in a state of decay for so long. For the first time since the period of the Sopherim, they had independent religious authority. The Sanhedrin took the place of the Spoherim in directing the religious life of the people. But, this governing body of men was to be greatly different from the priestly Sopherim.
During the period of religious anarchy before Antiochus, a fundamental change took place in the attitudes of the priests. Many of the priests were outright Hellenists and steeped in the pagan philosophies of that culture. Not only that, many of them had sided with Antiochus Epiphanes against the common people during the Maccabean Revolt. This cause the common people to be wary of the priests and their teaching. There was a general distrust for anything priestly at this time.
A few priest had not allied themselves with Hellenism and Antiochus Epiphanes. But the large majority, in one way or another, were not faithful to the religion of their forefathers. This general lack of trust for the priests led most of the common people to disapprove of their re-assuming their full former role of being religious authorities. Only those priests who had not been openly in favor of Hellenism were sought and allowed to take their former positions. "The common people could not bring themselves to entrust the other priests with the right to help regulated the religious life of the Jews. Only to these faithful priests were committed chairs in the new Sanhedrin" (Lauterbach, Rabbinic Essays, pg. 209).
Under Egyptian control, within the period of the religious anarchy, Palestine had no official teachers of the law. A few individuals here and there endeavored to study the Scriptures in a personal way. Without official teachers, the study obviously had to be a personal and in private. The fact that a few independent students of the Law existed is proved by the few learned men who came to the fore with the establishment of a Sanhedrin. This new Sanhedrin, organized in 196 B.C., was composed of LAY TEACHERS, as well as some priests. "The study of the Law now became a matter of private piety, and as such was not limited to the priests" (Lauterbach, Rabbinic Essays, Pg. 198).
This private study, without proper guidance from recognized authority such as the Sopherim were, brought about some surprising results! This same condition happened in the Protestant Reformation. (Many lay teachers arose and many confusing and contradictory divisions arose amongst those who were coming out of the Catholic Church!
Many of these Jewish teachers, because of their independent private study of the Scripture, were in unity on many of their teachings. Many of these teachers were variously affected by Hellenism. "We shall therefore be not far from the truth if we represent the Sanhedrin in the years from its foundation down to the outbreak of the Maccabean Revolt, as an Assembly of priests and laymen, some of whom inclined to Hellenism while others opposed it out of loyalty to the Torah" (Herford, The Pharisees, Pg. 27).
The differing degrees of Hellenic absorbed among the teachers, mixed with independent study of the Scripture, brought about a new variety of opinions. And in the discussions that followed to determine which opinions to use, the lay teachers claimed as much right to voice their views as the priests. The lay teachers were assured of the common people behind them. "At the beginning of the second century these non -priestly teachers already exerted a great influence in the community and began persistently to claim for themselves, as teachers of the Law, the same authority which, till then, the priests exclusively had enjoyed" (Lauterbach, Rabbinic Essays, Pg. 28).
Such privileges that the lay teachers were usurping to themselves would never have been permitted while the Sopherim, the successors of Ezra and Nehemiah, were in authority. The Law of Moses, which God had directly commanded him, clearly enjoined that the priest, with their helpers the Levites, were to perform the functions of teachers, not just any layman who would presume to do so!
When the Sanhedrin was re-organized after Antiochus Epiphanes, the lay teachers exhibited more power than ever before. The priest, who were under a ban of discredit before the Maccabean Revolt, were even more so afterward. Lay teachers repudiated the claim that the priests had an exclusive right to be in authority. "These lay teachers, refused to recognize the authority of the priests as a class, and, inasmuch as many of the priests had proven unfaithful guardians of the Law, they would not entrust to them the religious life of the people" (Lauterbach, Rabbinic Essays, Pg. 209). Although the lay teachers took the privilege to teach the law, the priests were the only ones allowed to perform the ritualistic Temple services. No lay teacher ever thought of taking over this exclusive position of the priests. BUT, from the time of the re-establishment of the Sanhedrin, after the Maccabean Revolt, the lay teachers became the important religious leaders!
With the re-establishment of the Sanhedrin came many problems. They sought to resume some form of the religion of Moses. "The members of the Sanhedrin took up the interrupted activity of the former teachers, the Sopherim, and like them, sought to teach and interpret the Law and to regulate the life of the people in accordance with the laws and traditions of the fathers. But in their attempts to harmonize the laws of the fathers with the life of their own times, they encountered some great difficulties" (Lauterbach, Rabbinic Essays, Pg. 105). The people were keeping so many customs, not observed by their forefathers, that the members of the Sanhedrin became perplexed over what to do. It was not easy to find support from the Scripture which might condone some of the practices of the Jews at this time. The members of the Sanhedrin began to look for ways of justifying the people, rather than following the Scripture commands to correct them (Deu. 32:1-47).
"Many new customs and practices for which there were no precedents in the traditions of the fathers, and not the slightest indication in the Book of the Law, were observed by the people and considered by them as part of their religious laws and practices" (ibid, Pg. 195). The majority of the teachers in the Sanhedrin came to the conclusion that the proper thing to do was to find some way to authoritatively justify these new customs. They were well aware that they could not go to the Scriptures for their support!! This presented a troublesome situation to the Jewish teachers.
"The difficulty was to find a sanction in the Torah for the new customs and practices which had established themselves in the community....." (Herford, Talmud and Apocrypha, Pg. 66). The only commands the Jews had from God in this matter were clearly negative. "Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them" (Jer. 10:2). "Take heed to thyself that thou be not snared by following them, after that they be destroyed from before thee; and that thou inquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? Even so will I do likewise" (Deu. 12:30). The teachers sought a new ways to avoid these scripture commands and to get these new customs sanctioned as proper religious observances. The teachers thought it would have been mis- adventurous to tell the people who wanted to retain these customs the simple commands of the Scriptures. The people were not about to give up these new customs. What, then, did the teachers do to finally get these new religious customs and practices authorized and as having the sanction of God? They came out with a most ingenious fiction which shows an amazing and clever display of human reasoning!
The Teachers Pronounce Heathen Customs Jewish in Origin!
The conclusion of the Jewish teachers is surprising! They merely taught that all the customs and practices which the Jews were now observing were actually Jewish in origin! "They reasoned this: it is hardly possible that foreign customs and non- Jewish laws should have met with such universal acceptance. The total absence of objection on the part of the people to such customs vouched for their Jewish origin, in the opinion of the teachers" (Lauterbach, Rabbinic Essays, Pg. 211).
The Jewish teachers told the people that it was simply not possible for them, being Jews, to have inherited any heathen custom or practice! Since the Jewish teachers accepted these customs as actually being Jewish in origin, it became necessary to carry the theory just a little further. The theory went like this: Since the customs were supposedly Jewish, then they must have been taught by the prophets and the teachers of Israel, even by Moses himself! This is how the customs and practices of the Jews, which in reality they had inherited from the heathen within the period of religious anarchy, were falsely termed the "traditions of the fathers"-- handed down from Moses, the prophets and teachers of old. These are the traditions Jesus condemned!!
There was one difficulty for the Jewish teachers to overcome in this interpretation. There were no such customs and practices as these mentioned in all of Moses' law Nor in any other part of Scripture. This did not dampen the spirit of the Jewish teachers. They also had an answer for this! They maintained that these customs were not put down in written form, and because of this, were not found in the text of Scripture. "These customs were handed down orally from Moses," was their assertion! "They were passed down by word of mouth from Moses through every generation!! By assuming that there was an "Oral Law" called the "traditions of the fathers," this freed the Jewish teachers from having to appeal to the Written Scripture for evidence to back up their statements.
"Accordingly, the teachers themselves came to believe that such generally recognized laws and practices must have been old traditional laws and practices accepted by the fathers and transmitted to following generations in addition to the Written Law. Such a belief would naturally free the teachers from the necessity of finding scriptural proof for all the NEW practices" (Lauterbach, Rabbinic Essays, Pg. 211).
Nor were they from any of the prophets! There is not a single reference in the Scripture that Moses gave the Israelites any ORAL or TRADITIONAL LAWS that were to be handed down along with the Written Word. The Bible states just the opposite. It plainly says that Moses "wrote the whole law in a book." There is no such thing as an ORAL LAW OF MOSES!! Notice: ‘And it came to pass, when Moses had made an end of writing the words of this law in a book, until they were finished, That Moses commanded the Levites, which bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD, saying, Take this book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there for a witness against thee. For I know thy rebellion, and thy stiff neck: behold, while I am yet alive with you this day, ye have been rebellious against the LORD; and how much more after my death?" (Deu. 31:24-27).
Moses wrote the Law in a book. And it was this written Word of God that was to be a witness against the Israelites for future generations, not any so-called Oral Law. DR. Lauterbach says, "These traditional laws had no indication in the Written Law and no basis in the teachings of the Sopherim, because they developed AFTER the period of the Sopherim" (ibid, Pg. 206). In other words, tradition originated in the period of the religious anarchy, when the Egyptians were in control of Palestine. "The reorganized Sanhedrin had to reckon with these new laws and customs, now considered as traditional because observed and practiced by the people for a generation or more" (ibid., Pg. 206).
We should not suppose that this theory of the origin of the Traditional laws was wholeheartedly accepted by all the teachers and members of the Sanhedrin. Some of the teachers disapproved of the new interpretation. "The theory of an authoritative traditional law (which might be taught independently of the Scripture) was altogether too new to be unhesitatingly accepted... the theory was too startling and novel to be unconditionally accepted" (ibid., Pg. 211).
The Jewish teachers who were the most prone to accept the new fictional interpretation were the lay teachers. Some of the priests were not quite sure this was the way of handling the situation. They maintained that the Sopherim of old had always relied upon the Scripture, and that they would never have countenanced such interpretation which completely side-tracked the Word of God.
"In their (the priests) opinion, the main thing was to observe the laws of the fathers as contained in the Book of the Law, because the people had pledged themselves by oath, in the time of Ezra, to do so. If changed conditions required additional laws and new regulations, the priests and rulers were competent to decree them according to the authority given to them in Deut. 17:8-13" (ibid., Pg. 209). The priests as a whole, declared that the Scripture was the only necessary code of laws to obey! "This apparently simple solution offered by the priestly group in the Sanhedrin did not find favor with the lay members of that body" (ibid., Pg. 209).
The lay teachers, who outnumbered the priestly group, claimed the only way of reconciling these new customs with the Scripture was to recognize them as ORAL Laws handed down from Moses. They began to formulate methods of explaining how these laws were ordained by Moses and transmitted to the Jews then living. Their explanations were not true, but they deliberately taught them anyway.
Lauterbach says, "These lay teachers of the Sanhedrin devised the "methods for connecting with the Law all those new decisions and customs which were now universally observed by the people, thus making them appear as part of the laws of the Fathers" (ibid., Pg.210). Notice, they made them appear as if they were actual traditions of Moses!!!
"The lay teachers had an answer for almost every question that an opponent might ask concerning the validity of these Traditional laws. If one would mention that Deuteronomy 4:2 forbade the addition to the Law, the lay teachers would readily admit that fact but staunchly affirm that the recognition of the Traditional laws was not adding to the Law of Moses. They claimed these laws originated with Moses and represented the complete revelation that God gave him" (ibid., Pg. 44). "If some opponent would voice the truth about the recent origin of these laws, the lay teachers merely declared that the laws were actually Mosaic but had been long forgotten and had just be recalled and reintroduced" (ibid., Pg.45).
"When someone would prove beyond question that these laws were nothing more than pagan practices, in some cases the Jews could maintain that the heathen were following Jewish practices and not vice versa" (Liberman, Hellenism in Jewish Palestine, Pg. 129). Such interpretations were absurdly extreme, completely unjustified and utterly false. How they managed to palm off such fallacious interpretations as actual truth can be understood only if we recognize that the people wanted to receive this error. With the people behind them, the lay teachers could teach what they wished.
"Certain religious practices, considered by the later teachers as part of the traditional law, or as handed down by Moses, originated in reality from other, perhaps non-Jewish sources, and had no authority other than the authority of the people who adopted them" (ibid., Pg. 241).
With the acceptance of these new customs and practices we can date the true beginning of Judaism as a religion! The opportunity of returning to the Law of Moses was rejected. From that time forward, about 150 years before Christ, we become familiar in history with the real Judaism--a religion which the Apostle Paul calls the "Jews religion!"
(To be continued in the next issue of the Prove All Things"). Information for this article was taken from the Good News Magazine, July 1961, published by Ambassador College. We encourage to read the original article titled "Is Judaism the Law of Moses?
It is not the Church of God, In Truth's, intention to degrade the Jewish people. It is our intention to show and prove that Judaism is not the religion of the Old Testament, just as Catholicism is not the true religions of Jesus Christ!

Part 9


The Pharisees seized authority from the priest, the "traditions of the elder"
replaced the Bible, and Laymen claimed to be prophets.
Part 9
The last issue revealed how laymen came to power through "Judaism"--how they called pagan customs the "traditions of the elders." Now we will see what occurred in the 4th century just before Christ’s birth.
There were certain precedents which help form Judaism. The acceptance of the traditional laws, supposedly handed down from Moses, placed the lay leaders in a position of power and authority among the people.
Because the people had accepted many new customs inherited from the pagans, the lay leaders condoned the customs, claiming them to be Jewish in origin, the people looked upon the lay leaders with honor and respect.
The lay leaders were aware that there was no truth in their assertions that these new customs came from Moses, but in order to please the people they deliberately propagated these falsehoods. Because of their newly found authority, the lay leaders set themselves up as ultimate teachers of religion. They accepted the customs inherited from Hellenism, they
maintained the prerogatives, as religious authorities to decide which customs to accept and which ones to reject. "No one except the recognized teahers could say what the traditions contained" (Herford, Talmud and Apocrypha, pg. 68). The customs to which the people were most wedded were accepted.
Some of the priest of the Sanhedrin objected to the lay leaders’ assumption of power and especially of their raising to divine law the new customs from Hellenism. The priest were also obstinate in their belief that the authority to rule should be accorded to them alone, for they properly maintained that they were descendants of Aaron and the only ones recognized by Scripture to be in authority to rule over the people. The lay teachers would not concede to the priest’s demands, and they had the majority of the people behind them. Too many of the priests had deserted to outright Hellenism in the anarchial period and the people were still wary of their tactics.
The Pharisees and Sadducees. Differences of opinion lay between the lay leaders and the priests caused a permanent breach between these two groups. The lay leaders with the religious Jews on their side and believing in the traditional oral laws, gathered themselves into one major group. On the other side was the priests, who tended to agree with one another, gravitated into another group. This breach between the two leading religious factions among the Jews was the beginning of two prominent New Testament Jewish sects: the Pharisees and the Sadducees. The lay leaders became the Pharisaic group. Most of the priest became the Sadducees. Member from both groups remained in the Sanhedrin, but they were almost always divided on policy.
The whole Jewish population was not anxious to get back to some form of religious observance after so many years of religious anarchy. Remember that 95% of the Jews in Christ’s time were not members of the Jewish sects. They had no real interest in religion in New Testament time.
"The Jewish people as a whole never recovered from the condition that existed within that anarchial period." There was a limited amount of religious interest, but not enough for the whole nation to become members of the sect of Judaism. The Pharisees, did have on their side those Jews who were religiously inclined. But the majority showed degrees of indifference to the religious bickering among the Pharisees and the Sadducees.
Josephus the Jewish historian, has this to say about these Pharisees and Sadducees: "The Pharisees have delivered to the people a great many observances by succession from their fathers, and are not written in the Laws of Moses; and for that reason it is that the Sadducees reject them, and say we are to esteem those observances to be obligatory which are in the written word, but are not to observe what are derived from the traditions of our fathers. And concerning these things it is that great disputes and differences have arisen among them, while the Sadducees are able to persuade none but the rich, and have not the populace obsequious to them, but the Pharisees have the multitude on their side" (Antiquities of the Jews, XIII, 10,6).
Pharisees repudiate sole authority of Priests to teach the law. A major decision of the Pharisees was that of rejecting the sole authority of the priests to be the religious authorities. The Pharisees admitted that the priests were the only ones with the right to perform the ritualistic services in the Temple. But other than minor role in directing the religious life of the people, the priests had little to do religiously speaking. The Pharisees came to recognize themselves as the only real religious leaders. When taking on this role of religious leaders, the Pharisees reasoned that they were taking the place of the priests whom they considered unfit to govern the people on account of their rejection of the oral traditional laws.
Pharisees reckoned themselves as Prophets. Upon appropriating to themselves the religious authority among the Jews, the Pharisees thought themselves also competent to be the ultimate judges concerning all religious questions. They assumed the right to speak in the name of the Eternal even as the prophets of old.
The Pharisees had already accepted new customs as divine law and they reckoned that only individuals under the Spirit of God could do such things. In the Jewish Talmud, a compilation of Jewish writings from the days after Alexander the Great, to about 400 years after Christ, there are several statements of these early Pharisees in regard to their belief that they had the same authority as the prophets. In the Talmudical tractate called Baba Bathra, in section 12a we read this: "Prophecy was taken from the Prophets and was given to the Wise (the Pharisees). To this remark was added: "And it has not been taken from there."
Herford, deduces from among the Talmud: "The relevance of this passage...." is that the Rabbis (the Pharisees) felt that they had, no less but even more that the prophets, divine authority for what they taught, and that this was given to them after the time when the prophets ceased to function. It was the way of expressing the belief that the revelation did not cease with the extinction of prophecy" (Talmud and Apocrypha, pg. 72).
The audacious Pharisees considered their laws and commandments as having more weight than those of the Prophets! That divine revelation did not stop with the prophets, but was now in action in the Pharisees as well. They were confident that what they were teaching---even though in many cases, it did not agree with the plain and simple commandments of God as revealed in Scripture--was divine teaching as prompted by the Spirit of God. "The Pharisees felt that God was revealing Himself now as He had revealed Himself to the Prophets, and speaking not alone in the words of an ancient text, but in words which came from the heart and conscience of men who felt His hand laid upon them to guide them into all truth" (ibid., pg. 69).
The Pharisees came to the place of believing that God did not reveal Himself in the Scriptures alone--- "speaking not alone in the words of an ancient text"---but that He was actively revealing His present truth to the Pharisees through influencing their hearts and consciences! This gave the Pharisees unlimited authority among those who accepted their beliefs!
Because they said their role was to be modern prophets, they maintained the right of free prophetic utterances. They claimed the prerogative to speak the current will of God without the necessity of appealing to Scriptures. They did not believe they had to be shackled to the teachings of the Scripture. This opinion gave the Pharisees power. As Herford says, "They believe in the continuous progressive revelation of God, and that His authority was made known in the reason and conscience of those who sought to know His will and not only in the written text of the Torah (the law of God)" (Talmud and Apocrypha, pg. 73). These ideas and beliefs originated in their own minds!!
The Pharisees claimed that the Holy Scriptures alone were not sufficient to give the complete truth of God. To the scriptures, they claimed, had to be added the so-called traditional oral laws (which were determined to be the Word of God). Some Churches today claim the same prerogative--the Catholic Church and Judaism and does not derive its authority from the Word of God. In many cases it rejects the direct teachings of the Bible to proclaim their own church doctrines.
The Pharisees claim: "They (the Pharisees) upheld the authority of tradition as superior to individual intelligence, and taught that no Scripture should be unauthorized or private interpretation" (Conder, Judas Maccabaeus, pg. 203). It is amazing to what extent the Catholic Church parallels the actions of the Pharisees in this matter!
The Pharisees taught new doctrine independent from Scripture! They felt they had the Spirit of God guiding them, so the Pharisees began to make more laws and commandments of their own, without appealing to Scripture. The first Pharisee recorded who began to teach new commandments of his own, without any Scripture basis, was Joseph ben Joezer. He lived at the time the majority of the Pharisees erroneously accepted the Traditional laws as the "Oral Law of Moses." Joseph ben Joezer made three new laws completely independent of Scripture. What he commanded was not only independent of Scripture but was not even permitted by the Law of God.
His first law permitted the Jews to eat an insect related to the locust family which all Jews previously had considered unclean. He also permitted the Jews to eat of the liquids of the slaughtering place (apparently blood, etc.). This was contrary to many Scriptures. "It shall be a perpetual statute for your generations throughout all your dwellings, that ye eat neither fat nor blood" (Lev. 3:17). His last commandment was about touching a dead body (Lev. 11:27, 31). He permitted people to be ritualistic clean even if they were in constant contact with individuals who had become unclean by touching a dead body. Even though he made all these new laws that permitted people to do things God had previously forbidden in His Laws, Joseph was called "Joseph the permitter" by his contemporaries. "Joseph is called "the Permitter,"evidently because in all three decisions he permits things that were formerly considered forbidden" (Lauterbach, Rabbinic Essays, pg. 219).
These three new commandments were not the only ones to be enacted by the Pharisees. The action of Joseph the Permitter was the setting of a precedent! His commandments were reluctantly received at first. But the reluctance did not last long. From that time forward a flood of new commandments began to come forth from the Pharisees. These new laws were called the commandments of men by Jesus. "Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men" (Mark 7:7). The Pharisees called these new commandments "Halachah." Meaning: "rule" or "decision." It denotes a new rule or decision of the Pharisees.
Notice what Herford says about these new commandments (Halachah) of Joseph the Permitter. "The Mishnah (a part of the Talmud) records three halachahs which were declared by him...but which evidently met with some objection and gave occasion to his colleagues to call him "Joseph the Permitter." This was because...he was able to declare that to be allowable which till then had not been allowable, since no interpretation of the written text (the word of God) had been found which would justify his conclusion" (Talmud and Apocrypha, pg. 67).
These new laws of Joseph the Permitter, were not laws inherited from the days of religious anarchy, they were not laws claimed to be from the traditions of the Moses---these new laws were from the mind of Joseph himself. "It is therefore evident that these Halakot....were not older traditional laws transmitted by Joseph as mere witness, but Joseph’s own teachings. He was the one who ‘permitted’ and he deserved the name (the Permitter)" ( Lauterbach’s, Rabbinic Essays, pg. 218).
Pharisees adopt precedent of Joseph the Permitter. Joseph was the chief leader among the Pharisees immediately following the Maccabean Revolt (168-165 B.C.), so other Pharisees immediately followed his authoritative example and made new commandments or Halachah on their own. This method of teaching was not whole-hearted accepted by all Pharisees immediately. It took a generation to establish the new method of teaching firmly among the Pharisees.
If a majority of Pharisees agreed with the new commandments, they would then be accepted as the Word of God---even if the commandments taught just the opposite from the teachings of Scriptures. It all depended upon whether the Pharisees, as a whole thought the new commandments were necessary for the people to observe. This practice gave rise to the theory that new rules---though contrary to Scripture---had to be established to meet the needs of the changing times.
Herford says: "the lead which Joseph Ben Joezer had given was followed, but only gradually; and though the theory of the "Unwritten Torah" (oral traditional laws) was finally accepted and worked out to its furthest consequences, as seen in the Talmud, yet those who most firmly maintained it-- were quite aware of the weakness of its foundation. They knew that it cut the connection between the halachah (the rules of the Pharisees) and the written Torah (the Scriptures) and they knew that in appearance, at all events, it gave the teachers free scope to teach what they thought fit"(Herford, Talmud and Apocrypha, pg. 68).
Pharisees viewed Scriptures as out of date! The Pharisees considered themselves prophets and able to give the current will of God. They reasoned that in many cases the current will of God may be completely different from His will as expressed in times past. They maintained that many of their new teachings which were clearly contrary to the written Word of God, were actually the present will of God. This is the reason the Pharisees taught new commandments without Scripture proof!!
The Pharisees were confident that as times changed and under new environmental conditions that certain Laws of God, as revealed in the Scripture would of necessity, become obsolete and have to be changed. They felt they had the power of the prophets, so they had no compunction about teaching new commandments to meet the need of the time, regardless of whether those teachings contradicted the Word of God or not!!
The attitude of the Pharisees was shown by Herford, "The written Torah was good for the age in which it was given, or in which it was first read; but the written Torah alone could not suffice for later ages"
(Talmud and Apocrypha, pg. 113). With this attitude toward Scripture, the Pharisees could always maintain that God’s will had changed in the matter--that He had revealed His present will to the Pharisees.
This same philosophy is pervading our modern Christianity. Everyone feel the Bible is out of date--its old fashioned! Most assume it is impossible to keep God’s laws and commandments in this modern age. The Truth of the Bible can never be out of date. Truth is always true! It can be obeyed and it can never change. Don’t be like the Pharisees and reject God’s Word for the traditions of man. We must learn to obey and live by every Word of God. "It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" (Matt. 4:4).
In the next issues, we will see the development of Judaism and the teachings of the Pharisees in the times of the New Testament. We will examine all the burdensome laws concerning the Sabbath, the laws of washing the hands, pots, pans, etc.--laws regulating fasting and many other traditions that developed in the minds of the Pharisees. When we understand the basic facts upon which Judaism was founded, we will know why Christ severely condemned the practices of the Pharisees and other sects.
(To be continued in the next issue of the Prove All Things"). Information for this article was taken from the Good News Magazine, July 1961, published by Ambassador College. We encourage you to read the original article titled "Is Judaism the Law of Moses?
It is not the Church of God's, intention to degrade the Jewish people. It is our intention to show and prove that Judaism is not the religion of the Old Testament, just as Catholicism is not the true religions of Jesus Christ!

Part 10
Part 10
All the sects of Judaism in the New Testament period had their roots in the time of religious anarchy, when first the Egyptians and later the Syrians dominated Palestine. This period was after the death of Alexander the Great. These foreign nations brought into Palestine their form of Hellenism. The Jews accepted it almost as readily as any of the countries of the East which had been conquered by Alexander the Great.
Because the Jews represent the major non-Greek element, it is important to observe that their reaction to Hellenism "was initially no different from that of other non-Greek people" (Goodspeed, The Apocrypha, pg. Xiv).
The Jews, were introduced to Hellenism by the Egyptians and accepted it almost totally. It even affected the religious beliefs of the Jews. Changes were made in the Jewish religious services. The foreign influences was so strong, the religious inclination so weak, that this period was called a time of religious anarchy. Hellenism was the philosophy of free-thinking; the right of the individual to think and reason for himself. This philosophy of individualism was accepted by the Jews. The Jews, like their Egyptian rulers, began to think on their own in regard to the arts, sciences, and religion!
As with Hellenism in Greece, Syria and Egypt, so in Palestine, the individual and his opinion became important to the educated. The study of scripture, became more of a private matter and of individual interpretation, rather than the teachings from a body of authority like the Sopherim. In most cases the scripture became interpreted according to the prevailing custom of viewing everything in the light of Hellenistic "enlightenment."
During this time of religious anarchy there arose a number of individual wanting to teach the Scripture. These men were almost wholly laymen--the priest on the whole thought it not necessary to bother themselves with teaching or studying the Scriptures of their forefathers.
At the end of the anarchy, we find these individual laymen establishing themselves, with a few faithful priest, into a body of religious authority among the Jews. However, when these men came together they brought with them many varying opinions of the Scriptures that they had learned in their independent study. Some of the laymen and priest accepted much of Hellenism ways of teaching as well as the customs of Hellenism and practices. There were some teachers however, who were less inclined towards Hellenism. Yet, all in one way or another were influenced by Hellenism, so says Herford in his book "Talmud and the Apocrypha," pg. 77.
There were differences of opinions between the teachers and these differences finally evolved into the real beginning of the sects of Judaism. All these sects had their beginning after the period of religious anarchy. It is important to note that all the sects which came out of the anarchy had some form of Hellenism attached to their beliefs. The various sects of Judaism can be categorized according to the amount of apparent Hellenization that each sect absorbed. Some absorbed a lot, some a little and some hardly at all.
Let's look at the sects of Judaism that existed in the days of Jesus the Christ. It has been obvious that none of them were keeping the true religion and Laws of Moses.
The first sects to be examined will be the Essenes. This group represented the sect which consumed the greatest amount of foreign doctrine. "Greek culture must have had a powerful influence upon Palestine since the time of Alexander the Great--it was not repressed until the Maccabean rising--it is only natural, if we find actual proof of this influence of Hellenism in the circle of the Essenes" (Schurer, The Jewish People in the Times of Jesus Christ, sec ii, vol ii, pg. 218).
There were certain religious customs and beliefs of the Jewish sect of the Essenes which were totally Hellenistic in origin. For one, "Josephus tells us they accepted the doctrine of the immortality of the soul" (Antiquities of the Jews, xviii, 1, 5). He mentions this foreign belief of the Essenes in several places. Notice: "For their doctrines is this: that bodies are corruptible, and that the matter they are made of is not permanent; but that the souls are immortal, and continue forever....and is like the opinions of the Greeks, that good souls have their souls beyond the oceans, etc." (Wars of the Jews, II pg. 11). Josephus goes on to say, speaking of the doctrine of the immortality of the soul: "And indeed the Greeks seem to me to have followed the same notion" (ibid.). Josephus further states, "the Essenes taught their doctrine as did the Greeks. This doctrine is certainly of foreign origin, for no such doctrine is found in Scripture" (ibid.). " The Essenes had always professed the purest doctrines of Greek philosophy concerning the immortality of the soul" (Renan, History of the People of Israel, vol v. pg. 56). "This particular teaching is of itself proof of the influences of foreign philosophies" (Schurer, The Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ, sec.ii, vol ii, pg. 214). And Josephus states further, "If then only one sentence which Josephus says concerning the anthropology of the Essenes is true, it is certain that their doctrine of man is dualistic i.e. NON-JEWISH" (ibid.). There is no doubt that the Essenes accepted the doctrine of the immortality of the soul from Hellenism and this doctrine is completely foreign to scripture.
"The Essenes also adhered to the doctrine of asceticism--the doctrine of perennial self-denial of even the good things of life. This belief as a continuing custom (of self denial) is entirely alien to the teachings of the Scripture. However, such practices were common among certain Greek sects and Egyptian philosophies"(Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th Ed., vol ii, pg. 717,720). Because of this peculiar belief, (which the Apostle Paul condemned in Colossians 2:23), "The Essenes developed themselves into monastic orders and repudiated marriage" (Wars of the Jews, II, 8,2). No place in Scripture commands an individual to withdraw into a monastery or nunnery and live a life of celibatic asceticism. The New Testament teaches us not to withdraw ourselves deliberately from society. "I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world" (1 Cor. 5:9-10). God's Word also teaches us that marriage is honorable and holy. "Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge" (Heb. 13:4).
While God's Temple was on this earth, the worshiper of God prayed facing the Temple in Jerusalem. "Yet have thou respect unto the prayer of thy servant, and to his supplication, O LORD my God, to hearken unto the cry and to the prayer, which thy servant prayeth before thee to day: That thine eyes may be open toward this house night and day, even toward the place of which thou hast said, My name shall be there: that thou mayest hearken unto the prayer which thy servant shall make toward this place" (1 Kings 8: 28-29). Daniel prayed three times a day in this manner. "Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did afore time" (Dan. 6:10). The Temple was symbolically designed originally to be the residence of God and the people were to sacrifice at the Temple and pray toward it.
The Essenes however, worshipped toward the sun. They omitted two requirements of God which were obvious violations of Scripture. They refused to sacrifice at the Temple, or anywhere for that matter and they did not face the Temple when they prayed. "They worshipped toward the sun!" (Josephus, "Wars of the Jews" ii, 8,9). This act was strictly forbidden in the Scriptures. "Then said he unto me, Hast thou seen this, O son of man? Turn thee yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations than these. And he brought me into the inner court of the LORD's house, and, behold, at the door of the temple of the LORD, between the porch and the altar, were about five and twenty men, with their backs toward the temple of the LORD, and their faces toward the east; and they worshipped the sun toward the east" (Eze. 8:15-16). But nevertheless, the Essenes turned their backs on the Temple and prayed towards the sun!
Relative to this esteem of the sun by the Essenes, Shurer writes that this clearly "leads to the conclusion, that they were in real earnest in their religious estimation of the sun. However this may be, the very turning to the sun in prayer was contrary to Jewish customs and notions, which required the turning to the temple and expressly repudiated the direction towards the sun as HEATHENISH!" (The Jewish People in the Times of Christ, see ii vol. ii, pg. 213). Shurer adds: "Thus are we more and more driven to the view, that foreign influence co-operated in the formation of the Essenes" (ibid., pg. 214).
Essenism was extreme Pharisaicism! We should not believe that Essenism, or any of the sects of Judaism were completely heathen in doctrines in all respects. What existed was a combining or blending of pagan doctrines with certain teachings of the Scripture. The Essenes kept the Sabbath, circumcision, and many of the other customs common to the Jews. They also kept many of the traditional laws of the Pharisees. Schurer also tells us in his book "The Jewish People in the Times of Jesus Christ" pg. 209, that the rigid religions legalism of the Essenes and their care for ceremonial clean-ness, were genuinely Pharisaic in origin. The Essenes were not a part of the popular Pharisee sect. They were an entirely different and separate group. They may have represented a group that began as a division of the Pharisaic sect and broke away early after the religious anarchy ended. "Essenism then is in the first place merely Pharisaicism in the superlative degree" (ibid.). The Essenes completely separated himself from the multitude and formed exclusive societies, and were actually more rigorous and exacting (if it were possible) than the Pharisees as a whole. They even went beyond the Pharisaic commandments in regard to ritualistically clean" (ibid. Pg. 210-211).
Thus this extreme Pharisaicism led to asceticism and their other peculiar customs that most Jews completely disavowed! The Essenes went quit a bit farther than the Pharisees in accepting outright many of the customs of the heathen they learned while under Hellenism. There is no doubt that the Essenes were recipients of many pagan doctrines and many of them came from Egyptian Hellenism. "Essenism represents a Judaism of quite peculiarly blended into-Pharisaic and Alexandrian view and appears in alliance with pagan philosophy and with many rites of Egyptian priests" (Condor, "Judas Maccabeans," pg. 208,210). The Essenes teachings were far from those of Moses! "So Essenism can be understood only when regarded as a blending of Jewish and Greek ideas" (Ency. Biblica, col. 2011).
The Truth About the Pharisees--- "like the Essenes, many of the Pharisees had adopted the pagan belief in the immortality of the soul" (Josephus, "Wars of the Jews," II, 8, 14). This doctrine is plainly recognized by scholars, to have come from heathenism and not from Scripture. The Pharisees were not willing to go as far as the Essenes in its complete pagan interpretation. Some of the Pharisees seem to have had certain reservations concerning the new doctrine. Josephus, himself a Pharisee and throughly acquainted with their doctrines, makes a vague distinction between the Pharisee belief and that of the Essenes. He says, "The Pharisee believed in an "immortal vigour" to be in the body; while the Essenes believed outright in the immortality of the soul" (Antiquities of the Jews, xviii, 1,3 & 4). There seems to be some doubt in some of the Pharisees but most believed in it, but with varying degrees of interpretation. The doctrine of the immortality of the soul is not taught in Scripture! In fact the Scripture teaches the exact opposite. "Behold, all souls are Mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is Mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die. But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die" (Eze. 18:4,21). In the New Testament we find, "Which in His times He shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen" (1 Tim. 6:15-16).
Who were the Apocalyptists? These were a very minor religious group. The name denotes those who supposedly reveal "hidden truths" or "secret doctrines." These sects certainly differed from the major groups of Judaism. They did not represent any large religious movements among the Jews. "The Apocalyptic literature certainly represents an element in the Judaism of its time, but it was an element of very minor importance compared with those of the Pharisees, in which lay the real vitality and strength of Judaism! It is a fundamental mistake to suppose that the Apocalyptic literature can explain what Judaism really stood for, in that or any other age" (Herford, Judaism in the New Testament Period, pg. 11).
The writings of these few individuals or religious sects were completely rejected by the Jews. Some of the reasons for their rejection by the other sects is because they were obviously contradictory with one another in many way they were at variance with popular teachings of the Scripture. All the writings of these Apocalyptists were written during or sometime after the period of the religious anarchy. Some were written even as late as the First Century A.D.
"Their teachings on the whole, while having Jewish basis, reflect men's opinions and ideas which were absorbed from Hellenism. The teachings of the various book are extremely diverse. Strong elements of Hellenism are found in some and in others to a lessor degree" (Ency. Biblica, col 2010, 2011). Some of their teachings were directly influenced by Egyptian and Syrian Hellenism. Their teachings represent those of some individuals teachers who, after the religious anarchy, began to teach their own religious beliefs independent of the Pharisees, but nonetheless, equally erroneous!
"Traces of Syrian Hellenism, which had been implanted among the less educated masses, endured, and the victorious Judean people (after the successful Maccabean Revolt) harbored a growing semi-Hellenism crowd who had neither grasped the pure Hebraic faith nor received the pure Hellenic spirit. This populace (certain leaders among them) fostered the apocalyptic literature with its fantastic and yet somewhat materialistic spirituality, which, while it was largely an expression of the Hebraic mind and a development of the prophetic vision, shows a marked impress of foreign doctrine" (Bentwich, Hellenism, pg. 335).
The principles behind the apocalyptic literature are an infusion of certain Jewish beliefs with Hellenism. "The aspect that, that literature presents is of so diversified a character that it is difficult to combine all the different elements into one connected whole" (Schurer, "The Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ," Sec .ii, Vol. iii, pg. 1).
"Because so many of the doctrines of the writers of these various books seem to show a near kinship to certain Essenistic beliefs, some scholars have endeavored to show that the authors were undoubtedly part of that group" (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, vol i, pg. 164).
Josephus mentions that "the Essenes were fond of keeping "secret" books that related doctrines only the initiated could know" (Wars of the Jews, ii, 8,7 ). We can see that these sects who wrote the various apocalyptic books were closer in doctrine to the Essenes than any other religious group among the Jews. They were not Pharisees! "Those who really do know the Pharisee literature, including all the great Jewish scholars, agree in the view that the Apocryphal and Apocalyptic writings represent a type (or types) of Judaism different from the Pharisaic type" (Herford, Judaism in the New Testament, pg. 123).
What is the truth about the Sadducees? The Sadducees completely rejected the traditions of the elders (Pharisees of Old). "They maintained that the Scripture alone was sufficient for religious truths" (Lauterbach, Rabbinic Essays, Pg. 209). The Sadducees were certainly right in the decision!!
The actions of the Sadducees against the erroneous opinions of the Pharisees seemingly puts them in a good light---as though they were zealously upholding the Law of God and His divine truth! However, the Sadducees position was not honest as it may appear on the surface. There were real reasons behind the Sadducees apparent stand for the acceptance of only the Scripture and those reasons were not always out of honor for the Scripture or even God!!
We cannot say that the Sadducees respected the Scriptures when many of the plain teachings of the Word of God they openly renounced! They clearly rejected Scripture teaching of the resurrection, they did not believe in angels nor spirits. Yet, God's Word teaches these truths. The Sadducees rejected fundamental doctrines and did not hold the Scripture teachings in very high esteem.
Why did the Sadducees rejected the traditions of the elder? It will come as a surprise to many people to realize that the reason the majority of Sadducees rejected the Pharisaic traditions of the elder, so-call, was not because of a reverence for the Scripture and an abhorrence for heathen customs. Their motive for rejecting these new religious laws, in reality, was on account of their lack of interest in religion. They did not care for any more religious laws than was necessary!
It is clearly known that the majority of the Sadducees were not zealous for religion. Their main interest lay in securing for themselves political positions of power among the influential people in Palestine---they reverenced the gaining of wealth and power more than anything else. They did not want to subject themselves to any of the religious laws of the Pharisees nor even of the Scripture. The Sadducees represented the "worldly minded" sect of the Jews---not especially interested in religion.
"The Sadducees saw in the traditions of the elders an excess of legal strictness which they refused to have imposed upon them, while the advanced religious views of the Pharisees were, on the one hand superfluous to the worldly-minded and on the other, inadmissible by their higher culture and enlightenment" (Schurer, The Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ, sec.ii, Vol ii, pg. 41).
The Sadducees simply did not want to be burdened with more religious laws. They thought the Laws of Scripture were certainly enough, without adding more! And in fact, sometimes, if the Scripture did not teach what they wanted, they would even disallow it!! "The Sadducees, with the easy indifference of men of the world, finding that there was quite enough in the Law for them to obey, denied that there was anything obligatory outside of the Books of Moses" (Renan, History of the People of Israel vol 5, pg. 41, 42).
"With their rejection of the traditions of the elders and their acceptance of only the Scripture, it is not to be supposed that they were interested in getting the people back to the religion of Moses or in bringing the people to a proper reverence for the Scripture. They were willing to accept just what they had to, in order to retain their political positions among the rich and wealthy of Jerusalem" (Antiquities of the Jews, xviii,10,6). "Their doctrinal position gave them liberty to follow their desires for political power and worldly satisfaction. Hence they had a deeper interest in sustaining the power of the reigning prince (whether Jewish or Roman) than in maintaining the observance of Moses" (Riggs, A History of the Jewish People, pg.111).
While on the surface it may seem the Sadducees were a little closer to the truth, because they maintained that the Scripture was sufficient Law to have, yet the fact is they were just as far away from the truth---even further! While the Sadducees blamed the Pharisees for not adhering to Scripture for their doctrines, they themselves were rejecting doctrine after doctrine of plain Scripture. They were no more following the complete directions of the Scriptures than were the Pharisees!
Throughout Scripture there are examples that God intervenes in the affairs of nations and individuals. There are multitudes of prophecies which show that God is very soon going to personally intervene in the lives of mankind. Yet, the Sadducees did not believe a word of it. They believed that God did not direct the mind of many in any form or manner- -all things that happened were the results of man's own doing!
"And the Sadducees, take away fate (the determination of God) and say there is no such things, and that the events of human affairs are not at its (God's) disposal: but they suppose that all our actions are in our power, so that we are ourselves the cause of what is good, and receive what is evil from our own folly" (Antiquities of the Jews, xiii, 5,9, Wars of the Jews, ii, 14).
The Scripture prove the Sadducees wrong! It shows that God at times direct individuals and nation to do certain duties. "For He saith, By the strength of My hand I have done it, and by My wisdom; for I am prudent: and I have removed the bounds of the people, and have robbed their treasures, and I have put down the inhabitants like a valiant man: And My hand hath found as a nest the riches of the people: and as one gathereth eggs that are left, have I gathered all the earth; and there was none that moved the wing, or opened the mouth, or peeped. Shall the axe boast itself against him that heweth therewith? Or shall the saw magnify itself against him that shaketh it? As if the rod should shake itself against them that lift it up, or as if the staff should lift up itself, as if it were no wood" (Isa. 10:13-15). This does not mean every single action of an individual is being determined by God. "I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all" (Ecc. 9:11). "The Pharisees understood correctly that God intervenes in the affairs of mankind when He considers it necessary for the carrying out of His plan, but on the whole, mankind's actions are his own" (Antiquities of the Jews, xiii, 5, 9).
The Sadducees did not have belief in many truths of the Scripture. By disbelieving the resurrection, disbelieving the spirit world and also rejecting the fact that God ever intervenes in the affairs of man, they show clearly that they had little regard for the Word of God.
"The Sadducees were very nearly free- thinkers, and in all cases were men of little religion. Their wisdom was all worldly. The doctrines attributed to them by Josephus concerning liberty and divine Providence are interpretations or compromise after the Greek fashion. For them, all this was an attempt to reduce the supernatural to its minimum, a process for eliminating God" (Renan, "History of the People of Israel, vol v, pg. 40).
"Their interests were entirely in this world, and they had no such intensively religious interest as the Pharisees" (Schurer, The Jewish People at the time of Jesus Christ, ii vol. ii, pg. 39).
Let's look at a brief history of the Sadducees. "When religious authority was again established among the Jews after the period of religious anarchy, the Pharisees were anxious for the people to start living a religious life, even though they brought into their religion many of the new customs from Hellenism. However, the majority of the Sadducees made no real attempt to return to religion. They certainly saw no reason for accepting the many new customs as extra religious duties to perform. The majority of Sadducees were priest who were ordained of God to teach the people the Scriptures" (Cyd. Of Bib. Theo. And Ecc. Lit., vol ix, pg 238).
"The forefather of the priest, the Sopherim, were entirely faithful in their appointed tasks. But the majority of the priests after the period of religious anarchy made no attempt to teach the people the Scriptures. One of the main reasons for their attitude was because most of them had been out and out Hellenists!" (Herford, Talmud and Apocrypha, pg. 77, 78). Among all the Jews in Palestine, the priests had become the most Hellenistic.
"After the religious anarchy, when the lay leaders, the Pharisees, began to exert an influence over the people, they "refused to recognize the authority of the priests as a class, and inasmuch as many of the priest had proven unfaithful guardians of the Law, they would not entrust to them the religious life of the people" (Lauterbach, Rabbinic Essays, pg. 209).
Thus, many of the priests comprised the sect of the Sadducees, which in all principles, rivaled the Pharisees. The origin of the priestly sect of the Sadducees was actually prompted as a reaction to the Pharisees taking over much of the religious control of the Jewish people. The Sadducees sect was not formed to endeavor to return to the original Law of Moses by the priests, nor did the priests attempt to gain the people to accept only the Scripture as Law. This sect evolved as merely a reaction to the assumption of the power by the lay Pharisees!!
Many of the priests continued in Hellenism. Even after the religious anarchy, many of the priests retained their love for the culture! The Sadducees represented the division of the Jews which continued a reverence for the ethical views of Hellenism. It is true they did not hold to many religious doctrines of the pagan cults of Hellenism, but they did retain many of the social aspects of the culture. They did this so they could be in constant contact with the political powers in Jerusalem, who found it necessary to adhere to much of the Hellenistic beliefs in order to carry on matters of state with the other countries around them.
Thus, many of the priest did not completely repent of their secular Hellenism, even though on the religious side they acknowledged the Scripture as the only Law.
"The Sadducees made, however the open door through which Greek influences CAME BACK into the land, and as another has tersely said, ‘the antagonism between them and the Pharisees was really a secondary version of the old feud between the Hellenists and the Hasideans" (Riggs, A History of the Jewish People, pg. 111). The Hasideans were those Jews of the Maccabean Revolt who maintained a zeal for religion and of course, the Hellenists were the Jews, many of them priests who had not interest in religion.
The Sadducees were simply the remnants of the Hellenists who cared nothing for religion, while the Pharisees were the descendants of the religionists--the Hasideans. "Politically, the Sadducees were, as a party, open to foreign influences, and it was through them that Hellenic culture spread in Israel" (The Cambridge Companion to the Bible, pg. 134). The Sadducees were really secular Hellenists. Their acceptance of the Scripture as the only code of Law, even though they rejected much of its teachings, was really out of spite to the Pharisees, who accepted the so-called traditions of the elders. The Sadducees saw no reason to become overly religious by the acceptance of burdensome customs and rites.
"Their interest were entirely in this world, and they had no such intensively religious interest as the Pharisees" (Schurer, The Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ, sec. Ii, vol, ii, pg 39). The Sadducees had no real interest in teaching the people the true Laws of God and they had no real interest in religion, even though most were priest and were ordain of God to instruct the people in righteousness, they totally renounced their responsibility! This is why it was easy for the lay Pharisees to take over religious control of the people.
"Such as they were, the Sadducees had little or no direct influence upon the mass of the people, nor did they seek to have. They made no effort to teach the people, presumably because the thought of doing so never entered their minds" (Herford, Judaism in the New Testament Period, pg. 122). "We shall perhaps be not far wrong if we represent the Sadducees as holding the ancestral religion mainly as an inheritance and NOT AS A LIVING REALITY...it is in accordance with this view that they did NOTHING to enlarge the meaning or increase the influence of the Torah as the Pharisees did" (ibid. Pg. 121). The Sadducees made no attempt to make the Scriptures known to the people or to carry out their God given function of instruction the people in the Law. They were willing to sacrifice the Laws of Scriptures, if they could gain politically from it. "They were the less restrained by any religious scruples from engaging in public affairs which involved some amount of compromise with Gentiles" (ibid. Pg. 122). Schurer adequately describes the Sadducees "as pre-eminently have a recession of the religious motive, rather than a zealousness for the Scripture" (The Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ, sec.ii, vol. Ii pg. 39).
WHAT WE SHOULD REMEMBER ABOUT THE SECTS OF JUDAISM---When the truth is known, the sects of Judaism were not really teaching the Law of Moses. What they all did, to one degree or another, was to blend pagan customs and beliefs, along with various man-made opinions, with the Law of Moses and then endeavored to teach their contradictory doctrines as the truth of God!
The Pharisees had accepted many customs of the heathen as so-called traditional laws of Moses. They had also enacted many of their own commandments which by-passed the commands of the Scripture and in fact, the Pharisaic commands even annulled, in many cases the plain commandments of God.
The Sadducees were disinterested in religion. The only reason they had any connection with religion at all was because most of them were priests who had the hereditary right to minister in the Temple and to have an association with the religious life of the people. They maintained their hereditary religious right mainly for political purposes in order for them to more easily pursue their worldly-minded aspirations, not out of any desire to teach the people the truth of God.
The Essenes had accepted many heathen customs and beliefs without reservation. Almost all their doctrines were antagonistic to the Law of Moses. The writer of the Apocalyptic books also show an impress of foreign doctrines and philosophies. The writer of the Apocalyptic books were probably in one way or another connected with the Essenes.
Thus, all the religious sects of Judaism can adequately be shown to be schismatic deviations from the pure and simple Law of Moses. They were all affected by the beliefs that mixed and blended paganism and Hellenism with the Law of God.
The combined numbers of the Jews who belonged to the religious sects of Judaism, however, numbered less than 5% of the total Jewish population in the days of Christ. The great majority of the Common People, were not overly religious. Outside of observing a few basic forms of religion, the masses were not zealously concerned!
(To be continued in the next Prove All Things. Information for this article was taken from the October, 1961 issue of the Good News Magazine, published by Ambassador College. We encourage you to read the original article entitled "Is
Judaism the Law of Moses?" Part 10).

Part 11
This installment brings us to the time of Christ and
how the Jews attempted to justify their traditions!
Part 11
As we continue with the story of Judaism and how its traditions have been accepted by most people as the religion of Moses, we see the Pharisees as the predominate leaders of Judaism in the days Jesus, the Christ. The others sects had less effect on the religion of the people during the time of Jesus and after the destruction of Jerusalem, the other sects virtually disappeared from Judaism. The sect to study is the Pharisees, the heart and core of Judaism!
Originally the Jews were to use Scripture to interpret Scripture. This is the only true method to use for the proper understanding of God's Word. We, today are told to use this method if we are to understand the true doctrines of God! "Whom shall he teach knowledge? And whom shall he make to understand doctrine? Them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little" (Isa. 28:9-10).
With the introduction of the so-called traditional laws of the elders by the Pharisees, a new method of teaching had to be used, in order to teach these new laws. The Scripture could no longer be used in order to teach these new traditional laws, because there were no indication of them in the Word of God. The Jews therefore adopted what has become known as the Mishnah-form.
The word Mishnah, in Hebrew, means literally "second." This Mishnah-form of interpretation means "the second form." The true Scriptural form was to the Jews the "first-form" or the one used by Moses and the prophets. But all the traditional laws of the Pharisees were accepted by appealing to the new Mishnah-form. When the Mishnah-form was used, it was not necessary to appeal to Scripture for proof; the authority of the teacher or teachers who issued new commandments independent of Scripture was assumed sufficient to consider them to be the Word of God.
The Mishnah-Form of interpretation was used sparingly--AT FIRST! The Pharisees were the first to accept the so-called traditional laws--the customs inherited from Hellenism. The Pharisaic leaders were forced to recognize these new customs as proper religious practices, for they knew the people would not give them up!
The Pharisees did not first invent the Mishnah-form and then use it to teach the traditional law, just the opposite occurred. The acceptance of the new customs from Hellenism, without scriptural proof, brought the Pharisees to realize they were teaching in a new form not previously used. The Pharisees recognized that they had begun to use a new method of teaching by accepting the traditional laws without Scriptural proof.
"Finding no convincing proofs for such laws in the Bible, they taught them independently of Scriptural proof. i.e. in Mishnah-form" (Lauterbach, Rabbinic Essays, pg.229). Though all the Pharisees agreed that the traditional laws had to be accepted, many of them were reluctant about perpetuating the new form of teaching. Many of the early Pharisees thought that the use of the Mishnah-form was proper in admitting the traditional laws into the religious requirements of the Jews, but they did not want to see its indiscriminate use in the future. It was obvious that the use of this new form could bring about multitudes of new traditions---all of them without Scripture proof.
Instead of discarding the Mishnah-form (traditional laws), it had been brought to the place of divine law. It use was increased! Remember that Joseph ben Joezer, called the "Permitter" issued three new laws which were completely devoid of Scripture proof. These three laws were enacted by using the Mishnah-form! His laws were the first ones to be enacted after the traditional law became a part of Pharisaic belief.
Lauterbach tells us that many of the Pharisees did not appear overly enthusiastic when Joseph ben Joezer introduced his teaching in the new Mishnah-form. "When he (Joseph ben Joezer) used new methods of interpretation for the first time, his colleagues hesitated to follow him...." (Rabbinic Essays, pg. 228).
The Pharisees knew full well that it was wrong to use the so-called Mishnah-form for making laws. Even though they had all accepted the customs of the heathen, by using this form, some of them balked at making further laws without any Scripture backing at all. However, this reluctance did not last long! The very fact that the Pharisees considered themselves as having the spirit of prophecy--having the power to teach the current will of God, gave them incentive to further utilize this new teaching occasionally, especially since they had the precedent of Joseph ben Joezer, we see this Mishnah-form being used more and more as time progressed.
These subsequent teaching of the Pharisees were termed "traditions of the elders." By the time of Christ, the Pharisees had developed the Mishnah- form so extensively that they were teaching for doctrines hundreds of commandments of men without the slightest backing of Scripture. "Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men" (Mark 7:7). "They insisted that their decisions must be accepted as authoritative" (Rabbinic Essays, pg. 235).
If anyone would oppose them, such as the Sadducees or other groups, when the Pharisees taught their laws independently of Scripture proof, the Pharisees would haughtily maintain that they did not need the Scripture to back them up. They felt they could teach in the Mishnah-form any time they pleased and needed no Scripture proofs for their teaching.
It is hard to believe that men who claim to be the servants of God would resort to such deductions. But the Pharisees did! And today there are many church denominations claiming to be Christian which do the very same thing! There are millions of people calling themselves Christian, who feel they do not have to keep the Words of the Bible, but rather must obey the words of their religious leaders who teach many doctrines completely contrary to the Bible. There are millions of people in the world today who are no better than the Pharisees. Many church denominations today use the same Mishnah- form of interpretation (not using Scripture for their doctrines), just like the Pharisees did before and during the days of Christ. Christ condemned the Pharisees for teaching as true doctrines the commandments of men (Mark 7:7). "The Jews then--as many now---knowingly taught their new laws and commandment on the authority of their own reason and conscience and not by seeking their authority in the written text (the Bible)" (ibid., pg. 70).
If we, the Church of God, are the children of God, we had better be obeying every word of God as Christ commanded. "But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" (Matt. 4:4).
The Pharisees had their chance to follow the Scripture before they accepted the customs of the people that had been inherited from Hellenism. But to please the populace as a whole, they adopted the new customs and rejected the Word of God which commanded them not to do such things. "Hear ye the word which the LORD speaketh unto you, O house of Israel: Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them" (Jer. 10:1). THE Word of God was rejected and in its place was instituted the religion of Judaism!
Lauterbach tells us why the Pharisees had to practically abandon the older method of teaching that was used by Ezra, Nehemiah and the Sopherim- -termed the Midrash-form. "The exclusive use of the Midrash-form (first form) threatened to endanger the authority and teachings of the Pharisees. Their apprehensions caused the Pharisaic teachers to make more extensive use of the Mishnah-form and in some cases even to prefer the same to the Midrash- form. For to give all the halakic teaching (new laws) of the Pharisees in the Midrash-form as based on Scripture would have exposed these teachings to the attack of the Sadducees" (ibid., pg. 231). In other words the Sadducees, who were mainly priest and maintained that all teaching should be dependent upon Scripture, could easily counter the Pharisees, as long as they taught in the Midrash- form of trying to appeal to Scripture. So the Pharisees taught in the Mishnah-form which did not have to rely upon the Scripture for support.
The Pharisees used Scripture at time. They would at times it is true make reference to certain scriptures that might seemingly give support to their independent teaching. In doing so, they became notorious for their methods of forcing Scripture to teach what they wanted it to teach. When the Pharisees endeavored to use the Scripture, they would, in almost every case, have to stretch the plain meaning in order to make it mean something entirely different from the actual meaning. Using this forced method of appealing to Scripture opened them up to further attacks by their opponents, and it is not surprising appealing to Scripture became unpopular with the Pharisees.
"If the Pharisees arrived at a certain decision by means of a new interpretation, the Sadducees could always dispute that decision by refuting the scriptural proof offered for it. It was possible for them to argue that the Pharisaic interpretation was unwarranted and that the scriptural passage did not mean what the Pharisees tried to read into it....The Pharisees were well aware that some of their interpretations were rather forced, and that their opponent's arguments against these interpretations were sound" (ibid., pg 232).
In a book published by the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, entitled "Hellenism in Jewish Palestine," by Dr. Saul Liberman, there are some startling information. Dr. Liberman states "That the Greek Law Colleges taught their students the art of twisting the law according to the required aim and purpose (ibid., pg. 63). During the religious anarchy, many Jews attended these schools. The Greeks took great pride in being able to make a law teach what in reality it did not teach. The Pharisees used this same method!
"They (the Jews) would certainly not hesitate to borrow from them (the Greeks) methods and systems which they could convert into a mechanism for the clarification and definition of THEIR OWN TEACHINGS" (ibid., pg. 63).
Liberman cites an example from the Talmud that illustrates how forced interpretations of the Scripture were used. An example is recorded in Sanhedrin 17a. " It states that one prominent Rabbi insisted that no individual could be admitted to the Sanhedrin unless he was able to prove from the Scripture that reptiles were clean." Of course the scripture plainly states that all reptiles are unclean.
"And every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth shall be an abomination; it shall not be eaten. Whatsoever goeth upon the belly, and whatsoever goeth upon all four, or whatsoever hath more feet among all creeping things that creep upon the earth, them ye shall not eat; for they are an abomination" (Lev. 11:31-42).
The reason that such fallacious interpretations were required of the Rabbis was to see if members of the Sanhedrin were skilled enough in the Law, so they could, if necessary, twist the plain meaning of the law to meet any requirement of a particular case.
"Another Rabbi, using the same illustration, thought that a man was not qualified to sit in the Sanhedrin unless he could give a hundred arguments for declaring a reptile clean or unclean. The Rabbis reasoned that a person who could accomplish such a task was qualified to sit in judgment over other, because if necessary, adequate grounds for acquittal could be given in any case" (ibid., pg. 63). This deceptive skill enable the Pharisees to effectively give false grounds for condemning the innocent, as they did in the case of Jesus Christ!
Pharisees admit they left the teachings of Moses! The Pharisees were well aware that they were leaving the religious teaching delivered by Moses and the Prophets. Records are found in the Jewish Talmud which register many statements of the early pre-Christian Pharisees. Notice that their own words are a witness to the fact that they were well aware that they were leaving the ways of Moses.
In a book of the Talmud called "Temurah, in section 15b, we have the statement of one eminent Pharisee. "All the teachers who arose in Israel from the days of Moses until the death of (last days of) Joseph ben Joezer studied the Torah as Moses did, but AFTERWARD they did not study the Torah as Moses did." This is a clear admission that the Pharisees, beginning with the days of Joseph ben Joezer did not study and teach after the manner of Moses. The Pharisees, from this time (B.C. 160) stopped teaching the Word of God as Moses did!
Another example from the Talmud-- Yebamoth 72b, concerns one Eleazar, the son of Pedat, who happened to use a Scripture text to refute the personal opinion of his opponent, another Pharisee, on a particular question. The opponent, endeavoring to repudiate the son of Pedat in front of the other Pharisees, answered with these words: "I see that the son of Pedat studies in the manner of Moses." Notice the plain implication here. If a person used the Scripture to prove or to disprove a particular point of doctrine, he was accused of teaching in the manner of Moses-- as Moses did!
The Pharisees were fully conscious of the seriousness of the actions they were taking. They actually knew better!! But they went ahead with their designs to teach without any Scriptural support. "The teachers who introduced the conception of the Unwritten Torah (the traditional law and commandments of men)...were quite aware of the extreme gravity of the steps they were taking" (Herford, Talmud and Apocrypha, pg. 113).
No wonder Christ rebuked the Pharisees so strongly. "But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in" (Matt. 23:13 ). "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves" (Matt. 23:15).
By the time of Christ, the Pharisees had made new commandments numbering into the thousands. They dealt with every phase of religious life among the Jews. Christ said that these commandments of men were so burdensome that they were extremely difficult to bear, and in fact, many of there were impossible to fulfill. "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" (Matt. 23:4).
To see how many laws they created, we need only to look to the Jewish Talmud. The English translation of the Talmud, which contains the major part of the independent teaching of the Pharisees, is a huge work numbering 34 volumes. Some of the laws recorded in the Talmud were enacted after the time of Christ, but the majority were in existence during the New Testament period. Even the Judaism of modern times is based upon these Pharisaic laws. The modern orthodox section of Judaism adheres almost completely to these laws recorded in the Talmud.
Later Judaism---the Rabbis, one to four- hundred years after Christ, did not dare discuss the origin of the traditional laws nor how the Pharisees came to teach without using Scripture. These later Rabbis knew quite well where the traditional laws had come from, but they did not want the lay people to know that these laws, which had been falsely taught to the lay people as coming from Moses, were not originally from Moses at all. It would have been disastrous to Judaism to teach that the traditional laws were really not from Moses and that the commandments of the Pharisees were nothing more than the commandments of men, because the whole foundation of Judaism rests on these fallacious laws!! Among these 34 volumes of the English translation of the Talmud wherein are recorded these traditional laws, there is no mention whatever of how these traditional laws came to be accepted.
"The history of the development of the Mishnah-form reflects unfavorably upon the traditional character of the Pharisaic teachings. This is the reason for the Talmudic silence about the origin of the Mishnah-form" (Lauterbach, Rabbinic Essays, pg. 248).
We can see why thousands of Jews were brought to the truth of Christianity in the First Century. They were told the truth about the laws of the Pharisees by the true ministers of Christ. Once a Jew came to a knowledge of the truth in this matter, many of them abandoned the commandments of men for the truth of God. This is one of the main reasons the Pharisees, and the later Jews, had such an abhorrence for Christianity. The acceptance of Christianity meant the rejection of the teachings of the Pharisees in Judaism, and a return to God and His commandments.
Now we can see why the "Postponement rules" added to the Hebrew Jewish calendar by Rabbi Hillel II in A.D. 358-59 (and others later) are wrong. The Pharisees have never been given the right to change the day of God's Feast of Trumpets and thereby postponing (changing) all the other Holy Days!!! (Church of God, In Truth).
(To be continued in the next Prove All Things. Information for this article was taken from the November 1961 Good News Magazine, published by Ambassador College. We encourage you to read the original article titled "Is Judaism the Law of Moses?" Part 11).


Part 12


Why were the Pharisees divided among themselves in New Testament times? Why did they come to Jesus to ask
Him to settle disputes?
Part 12
In previous articles of this series, it was shown how the Pharisees and other chief leaders of the Jews disregarded the Word of God. They had accepted customs that came directly from heathenism, which Scripture clearly commands us not to do! "Hear ye the word which the LORD speaketh unto you, O house of Israel: Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them " (Jer. 10:1-2).
In many cases they knowingly and willingly taught commandments that were completely contrary to the plain word of God. They even ADMITTED that in so doing they were leaving the teachings of Moses. The majority of these commandments of the Pharisees were enacted on the pretext that they had special divine revelatory powers from God to reveal to the Jews His present will. The Scriptures, to their reasoning, could not suffice alone for teaching the people!!
The written Torah (the Old Testament) was good for the age in which it was given, or in which it was first read; but the written Torah alone "could not suffice for later ages" (Herford, Talmud and Apocrypha, pg. 113). This prevailing opinion of the Pharisaic teachers is manifest in modernism in Protestants today!!
Pharisees make void God's Laws! The Pharisees were confronted time and time again with many Mosaic commandments which they considered impractical in the society in which they were living. This led them to dangerous conclusions. Since they were living in a later age than Moses and because times had changed considerably they felt that many of the Laws of the Scriptures had to be drastically altered or in some cases, completely annulled! The Pharisees saw no reason why such alteration or rescission should not be done, especially since they convinced themselves they were in authority to reveal the current will of God.
Herford says "that these Pharisaic teachers came to the place many times of actually annulling an express command in the written Torah (the Scriptures) and replacing it by a halachah (their own law) in accordance with a (supposed) higher moral standard" (Talmud and Apocrypha, pg. 73).
Jesus refers to one Law of God among many, that they completely set aside or annulled. Notice,
Mark 7:10-13: "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." In this case, they had actually annulled a specific one of the Ten Commandments of God that had been given through Moses at Mt. Sinai. They claimed to have given to God offerings that should have been used to help Father and Mother.
We are left in no doubt about the attitude of the Pharisees in regard to Moses and his teachings. If they did not approve of what Moses taught, they rejected him! It was just that simple! Jesus said, "For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?" (John 5:46-47).
Actually, the Pharisees had come to the place of believing it impossible to keep the civil Law of Moses. The only thing they could do, they reasoned, was either to alter, or disregard, many of its "impractical" instructions. They had no hesitation in carrying out their intentions.
"The teachers ..... were quite aware of the extreme gravity of the step they were taking, they intended to modify the written commandments in various ways, and in the course of time actually did so in NUMBERLESS CASES. Ye they had before them the plain injunction (Deu.4:2, "Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you") (Herford, Talmud and Apocrypha, pg. 113).
It is almost impossible to believe that religious leaders claiming to serve God would be so bold as to do such things, but the Pharisees intentionally did so. "This conclusion that the written word of the Torah might be modified or set aside, or even annulled (as sometimes done), was DELIBERATELY DRAWN AND CONSISTENTLY ACTED UPON by the teachers who developed the halachah (the new Pharisaic laws)" (ibid. Pg. 112).
Do we wonder why Christ condemned the teaching of the Pharisees? Is it any wonder that Christ was so indignant at the doctrines of the Pharisees? Should we be amazed that He so sharply rebuked them? "He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. 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" (Mark 7:6-9).
We have now seen the background of the Pharisees, and where their beliefs and attitudes came from regarding the Word of God. Scriptures of the New Testament take on much more meaning. We can understand why Jesus rebuked the Pharisees as they had never been rebuked before. "But He answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?" (Matt. 15:3). Further He said, "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For 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" (Matt. 23:27-28). Many Churches today follow the Pharisees! In many Churches of God we find thousands of individuals who are like the Pharisees of New Testament times. Many Churches of God and "Christian Churches" have modified the commandments of God (postponing God's Sabbaths and Holy Days). The Catholic and Protestant Churches postponed the Sabbath to Sunday and Judaism and most Churches of God postpone the annual Holy Days! (Church of God, In Truth). Many have disannulled the commandments of Christ. Yes, our modern Christian civilization of this Western World is in the same or worse spiritual condition as were the Pharisees!
The past and present leaders of Christian churches have resorted to the same tactics as did the Pharisaic leaders. Modern Christianity has paralleled the Jewish leaders of New Testament time in assuming the prerogative of altering, overlooking and rescinding the plain commandments of the Scripture. Christ, who is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb. 13:8), condemns it! 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" ( Mark 7:7-9).
Why Churches modify the Commandments of Christ? There are millions of individuals today who, like the Pharisees, claim to follow Christ, and yet have modified the plain and simple commandments of Christ. All readers of the Bible, scholars and laymen alike, are quite aware that the Sabbath is the day set aside by God for divine worship. "Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made. These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens" (Gen 2:1-4). Israel was given instructions on Mt. Sinai: "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work" ( Exo 20: 8-9). The Sabbath is from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset. All true followers of God have kept this day as the day of rest and worship. The Jews of Christ's day as well were observing this day. Christ Himself, kept the true Sabbath, having ordained it at re-creation as a day for the benefit of all mankind. "And He said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath" (Mark 2:27-28). The early New Testament Church observed the Sabbath, and that day only, as the weekly day of rest and worship. This was the only day which the early Church observed: this all competent Church Histories affirm.
There is no indication or even the slightest hint, in the Scripture that the Sabbath was to be abrogated and another day substituted for it. The Sabbath was set apart --sanctified--by the authority of God and no man has been given the authority to change God's Sabbaths--weekly or annual!! Most say the Sabbath is changed to Sunday. Yet Scripture clearly says Christ kept the Sabbath Day. Today, Christians modify God's Word as did the Pharisees of old! Millions of people today who claim to be following Christ and the Bible, who repudiate the plain command of God in regards to His Holy day-- the Sabbath, by observing another day. These people are not following the Bible commands but are rather following the command of the Roman Catholic Church which admits that it, not the bible, is the author of Sunday keeping! (See "Who Changed the Sabbath? Pg. 1-5, Published by Knights of Columbus, St. Louis, Mo.).
The majority of professing Christians today assume the Sabbath command has been annulled. But it certainly has not been done away with in the Bible! It has only supposedly been annulled by the Roman Catholic Church and all the Protestant denominations which follow her decisions in this matter.
Another example how Christian churches have disregarded Christ's teachings is found in the book of John. "If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you" (John 13:14-15). Very few people who call themselves Christian, follow Christ's example! Most people have completely disregarded the teachings of Christ and do not follow His examples as taught in the New Testament. Christ said, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen" (Matt. 28:19- 20). The majority of ministers are using the same reason for disregarding Scripture, (i.e. times have changed!) as did the Pharisees in Christ's day.
Our Western World is doing today exactly the same thing the Pharisees did in New Testament times. It is about time we wake up and get back to the true faith which was once delivered to the saints of God. "Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3).
God's Church today does not add to His Words, neither does it subtract from them. It is in obedience to His commandments. "And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the
truth is not in him" (I John 2:3-4).
The Pharisees did not stop with merely modifying, disregarding or even annulling Scripture. "They maintained that the commandments they enacted in the place of Scripture were of more importance that the Scripture itself. The law of custom was quite as binding as the written Torah; nay it was even decided that opposition to the decrees of the Scribes was a heavier transgression than opposition to the decrees of the Torah" (The Jewish People in the Times of Christ, sec. ii, vol i, pg. 333, 334).
Let's look at the Talmud and see some statements of some of the early Pharisees themselves. Their situation in regard to their own teachings will be obvious. From the Jerusalem Talmud, Berakoth i, 7, we read: "The sayings of the elders have more weight that those of the prophets." The elders, in this case is the Pharisees. In Sanhedrin xi, 3, it says: "An offense against the sayings of the Scribes is worse than one against those of the Scriptures." They demanded the people refer to them as spiritual "Father," "Rabbi," or "Master" (Makkoth 24s). Christ say in His Word: "And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ" (Matthew 23:7-10).
"Today in some Churches of God, we see these groups calling Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong, their spiritual father! This is wrong!! This is not following the direct command of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Master! Can we disannul God written commands? (Church of God, In Truth)." This is no better then the Pharisees who taught the people must reverence them almost as God Himself. "Let thine esteem for thy friend border upon they respect for thy teacher, and respect for thy teacher on reverence for God" (Aboth, iv, 12).
"Each scribe {learned Pharisee} out- weighted all the common people, who must accordingly pay him every honour. Nay, they were honoured of God Himself, and their praises proclaimed by the angels; and in heaven also, each of them would hold the same rank and distinction as on earth. Such was to be the respect paid to their says, that they were to absolute believed, even if they were to declare that to be at the right hand which was at the left, or vice versa (i.e. even if they proclaimed doctrines contradictory to Scripture)" (Edersheim, Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Vol. i, pg. 90).
Because of the religious authority that the Pharisees claimed they had, they in general demanded the first rank in all circumstances. "And (the Pharisees) love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi" (Matt. 23:6-7). The term "Rabbi"means, literally, "My Master." It denotes the personal ruler or leader of the people.
Edersheim records an incident of two great Rabbis who were complaining because they had been greeted in the market place by the common greeting "May your peace be great" without the added "My Master" (Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, vol ii, pg. 409). "So weighty was the duty of respectful salutation by {Use of} the title Rabbi, that to neglect it would involve the heaviest punishment" (ibid. Vol. ii pg. 409).
The unusual esteem accorded to the Pharisaic teachers is purely a product of Hellenistic influence. The Greeks maintained a high reverence for the scholars, teachers and men of wisdom. Titles of respect and reverential honor were used in the Greek schools for their teachers. The use of "Rabbi," "Master," "Father" and various other exalted titles of the Pharisees was certainly borrowed from the examples of the Greeks. A learned Jewish historian, Moses Hadas, admits that these various customs of the Rabbis "were parallel to Greek usages, and shall suggest that since they were introduced after the spread of Hellenism they might have been inspired by Greek practice. The extraordinary reverence paid to learning may be part and parcel of this same influence" (Hellenistic Culture, pg. 71).
True Christian disciples are warned not to assume these exalted titles of "Rabbi, Father or Master." Such high, eminent titles of respect are deserved only by God. He is Master and LORD. He is the spiritual Father of the faithful. The Pharisees had no right to arrogate to themselves such titles, and neither does any minister. Today, however, the majority of Christian ministers are appropriating as a designation the very names that God says not to use. How many priest today are called "Father?" How many ministers use the title of "Reverend" which, in the Scripture, is used only as a designation of God. "He sent redemption unto His people: He hath commanded His covenant for ever: holy and reverend is His name" (Psa. 111:9).
Before the birth of Christ, many of the Pharisees had formed themselves into institutions, or what became know as Schools, for the purpose of study and counsel concerning the legislation of new laws. Those who felt one particular way in regard to new legislation would assemble with other Pharisees who believed in a similar vein. The two major Schools of the Pharisees were the School of Hillel and the School of Shammai. The two founders of these Schools, Hillel and Shammai, gathered together other Pharisees who believed in many ways similar to themselves. Both these Schools issued new commandments in regard to religious worship. Both these Schools of the Pharisees contradict each other! "These two major Schools of the Pharisees were the rivals of one another. The points in which they disagreed were virtually innumerable" (Cyc. of Bib. Theo. And Ecc. Lit., vol ix, pg. 472).
It has been supposed that the tendency of the Hillel School was to make the new commandments they enacted less burdensome, and that the Shammai School made commandments which were heavier and more burdensome. However, both Schools legislated many strict and burdensome commandments, over and above the requirements of Scripture, and Edersheim shows that the Hillel School was even more strict than the Shammai in some cases" (Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, vol. ii, pg. 407).
The commandments of these two Schools covered practically every religious practice of the Jews. They made many ridiculous and overly burdensome commandments concerning the observance of the Sabbath. They enacted strict ritualistic laws regarding the washing of the hands, pots, pans, jars, etc. They also made numerous ritualistic regulations regarding the preparing and eating of foods. Their teachings extended to all phases of physical worship.
It is ironic that these two Schools were both composed of Pharisees and yet their teachings, in so many cases, were totally at variance with one another. One School would bring out a new commandment regarding a particular religious rite or custom, and proclaim that the new commandment was mandatory for all pious Jews to perform. In consequence of this, the other School would issue a similar commandment, usually as a rebuttal and in most cases diametrically opposite from the other. "Controversy between these two groups extended over many topics and excited considerable warmth of feeling" (Herford, Judaism in the New Testament Period, pg. 160).
As mentioned before: "The points on which they differed were almost innumerable" (Cyc. Of Bibl, Theo. And Ecc. Lit. Vol ix, pg. 472). Both of these Schools vied for absolute authority!! The controversies between these two major Pharisaic Schools were undoubtedly sparked by the desire of both of them to be the ultimate authority among the Pharisees. Edersheim says: "In truth, their differences seem too often prompted by a spirit of opposition, so that the serious business of religion became in their hands one of rival authority and mere wrangling" (Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, vol ii, pg. 407).
This was the condition of the Pharisees just before and during the days of Christ! Like professing Christianity today, the Pharisees were in confusion over their own doctrines. Their continual arguing among themselves placed them in embarrassing positions among the people and the other religious sects. Yet, they continued their squabbles and controversies. "Many, very many of them (their controversies) are so utterly trivial and absurd that only the hairsplitting ingenuity of theologians can account for them: others so profane that it is difficult to understand how any religion could co-exist with them. Conceive, for example, two schools in controversy wither it was lawful to kill a louse on the Sabbath" (ibid., vol ii, pg. 407, note 4).
The controversies between these two Schools were so numerous---and some so vulgar--that it is impractical to list them all. For any who may be interested in them, a list has been prepared by Schurer. See his book, "The Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ, sec ii, vol i, pg. 361.
You can imagine what the controversies between these two prominent Pharisaical Schools did to the faith of the people who were endeavoring to observe the teachings of the Schools. Who were the people to believe? Both Schools claimed to be speaking the words of God, and yet they violently disagreed with one another in almost every point!! These two Schools were not the only dissentious bodies among the Pharisees. "The Pharisees at this time were sharply divided into various sections which were not exhausted by the rival schools of Hillel and Shammai" (ABC, pg. 841). "The Pharisees were divided into many sects, and the doctrines of individual teachers were often contradictory...." (Condor, Judas Maccabaeus, pg. 205).
It is important to realize that no real creed existed among the Pharisees. "The Pharisees were never a homogeneous body possessed of a definite policy or body of doctrines" (Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th Ed. Vol xxi, pg. 347).
The differences of opinion among all the Pharisees arose with the making of new commandments, in the Second Century B.C. by Joseph ben Joezer, called "The Permitter." This reminds us of modern Christianity with all its differing doctrines and conflicting beliefs. Yet, each Church claims that it is preaching the truth of God and Christ!!
Lauterbach records an attempt to reconcile the teachings of the Hillel and Shammai Schools and still show that both their teachings were the Words of God. He refers to a statement in the Talmud found in Erubin 13b. "A heavenly voice was heard declaring that both the words of the School of Hillel and the words of the School of Shammai (despite their disagreements, Lauterbach's note) are the words of the living God, but the practical decision should be according to the words of the School of Hillel" (Rabbinic Essays, pg. 243, note 78). The majority of the Pharisees favored the Hillel School more than any other, and this led to the conciliating parties leaning toward that particular School's teachings.
In the Talmud, Gittin 6b, there is another reference, this time to a Jew named Elijah (not the prophet) who endeavored to reconcile the differences between two Pharisaic teachers. Elijah is reported "to have said that God declared BOTH the opposing views of Rabbi Abiathar and Rabbi Jonathan to be the words of the living God" (ibid., pg. 243, note 78). "All these utterances were intended to serve as a refutation of the attacks made against the teachings of the Rabbis (Pharisees) on account of their disagreements" (ibid, pg. 243, note 78).
It was impossible for the Pharisees to directly admit that one or the other School was wrong (or as actually was the case, that both were wrong). They were forced to concede that both Schools conflicting teachings were from God!! What nonsense!!!
The School of Hillel became the most important! The majority of the Pharisees followed the decisions of the Hillel School and this led to the complete ascendency of that School" (Edersheim, Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, vol i pg. 239). It was not until the destruction of Jerusalem in 69 AD and the subsequent dispersal of the Jews from Palestine, that the Hillel School became the paramount teaching body. During the lifetime of Christ and the Apostle Paul, the Pharisees were still divided into the various Schools. But the destruction of Jerusalem, the Jews tended to solidify their schismatic groups. Many of the Jewish sects became extinct after the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and most of the Jews gravitated towards adhering to the Hillel School of interpretation. Orthodox Judaism today has for its basis the teachings of Pharisees who maintained the commandments and principles of the Hillel School.
However, in the days just before and during the life of Christ, the Pharisees were still having their rivalries among themselves. They were teaching their manifold contradictory commandments from various Schools!!
It is not difficult to understand why Christ condemned the Pharisees for rejecting the commandments of God and for "teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." They had left the simple and plain Law which God had given them through Moses and had replaced it with their own set of commandments.
(To be continued. Information for this article was taken from the December 1961 Good News Magazine, published by Ambassador College).

Part 13
Why were the Pharisees divided among themselves in New Testament times? Why did they come to Jesus to ask
Him to settle disputes?
Part 13
In the last issue we found that the Pharisees were divided into two Schools, the Hillel and the Shammai. The Hillel School emerged the victorious Pharisee group among the Jews.
Within one to two hundred years after Christ, the Jews as a whole gravitated to complete devotion to the teachings of this School of Hillel. There remained remnants of the older denominations which existed in Christ's day, but these remnants were only individuals scattered here and there. Only Pharisaic Judaism, became the real teaching of the Jews, and to this day it is the basis of contemporary Judaism!
The Pharisees saddled burdens on the people. The many commandments that had been enacted by the Pharisees from the time of Joseph ben Joezer, "the Permitter," until a short time after the destruction of Jerusalem were compiled into a book about A.D. 200. This book was later incorporated into the Jewish Talmud. It was call the Mishnah.
The Jewish Talmud was written over a period of years from A.D. 200 until about A.D. 500. The Talmud is composed of two sections: the original Mishnah and a commentary on the Mishnah called the Gemara. The commentary, the Gemara, is the largest part of the Talmud. Both sections together comprise 34 huge volumes in the English translation of the Jewish Talmud.
The Talmud is a vast storehouse of Jewish laws and commandments, plus the discussions and commentaries on them. It is not necessary to review the whole of the Mishnah in order to understand the spirit behind the Pharisaic commands. Only certain special examples of Jewish teachings are necessary to notice. Many examples illustrate that the Judaism of Christ's time was not the religion of Moses.
The Sabbath law of God was not annulled by the Jewish leaders. However, they modified the law in many ways, which are hinted at in the Scriptures.
In the divine Scriptures God does not take volumes of texts to explain what a person's every activity on the Sabbath should be. In God's Word we find the basic and fundamental principles of Sabbath observance. "If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on My Holy Day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honorable; and shalt honour Him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words" (Isa. 58:13). "And if the people of the land bring ware or any victuals on the Sabbath day to sell, that we would not buy it of them on the Sabbath, or on the Holy Day: and that we would leave the seventh year, and the exaction of every debt" (Neh. 10:31). Nehemiah also tells us: "In those days saw I in Judah some treading wine presses on the Sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and lading asses; as also wine, grapes, and figs, and all manner of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the Sabbath day: and I testified against them in the day wherein they sold victuals. There dwelt men of Tyre also therein, which brought fish, and all manner of ware, and sold on the Sabbath unto the children of Judah, and in Jerusalem. Then I contended with the nobles of Judah, and said unto them, What evil thing is this that ye do, and profane the Sabbath day? Did not your fathers thus, and did not our God bring all this evil upon us, and upon this city? Yet ye bring more wrath upon Israel by profaning the Sabbath. And it came to pass, that when the gates of Jerusalem began to be dark before the Sabbath, I commanded that the gates should be shut, and charged that they should not be opened till after the Sabbath: and some of my servants set I at the gates, that there should no burden be brought in on the Sabbath day. So the merchants and sellers of all kind of ware lodged without Jerusalem once or twice. Then I testified against them, and said unto them, Why lodge ye about the wall? If ye do so again, I will lay hands on you. From that time forth came they no more on the Sabbath. And I commanded the Levites that they should cleanse themselves, and that they should come and keep the gates, to sanctify the Sabbath day. Remember me, O my God, concerning this also, and spare me according to the greatness of thy mercy" (Neh. 13:15-22).
The Jews of Christ's time were not content with Sabbath principles--the principles of rest from labor, of taking time to study, pray, meditate and go to Sabbath service. They sought to do what the inspired Moses and the prophets never thought necessary.
The Pharisee enacted law after law to regulate every single activity that could be done on the Sabbath. They discarded the plain principles of the Scriptures. They instituted in their place, without any Scriptural authority, the cold and formal Sabbath rules of legalistic Pharisaism, in which no real principles were left---only a maze of exacting and over-burdensome laws. The Sabbath laws of the Pharisees were part of their erroneous teaching which prompted Christ to denounce their binding heavy burdens "which were grievous to be born" (Matt. 23:4).
Edersheim says this about the man-devised teachings on the Sabbath laws. "They will show...how utterly unspiritual the whole system was and how it required no small amount of learning and ingenuity to avoid committing grievous sin" (Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, vol ii, page 779).
Let's see more of their man-made commandments concerning Sabbath observance. First: the Pharisees decreed "A person would be guilty of breaking the Sabbath if he carried from one place to another any food which weighted as much as a dried fig! Only the weight of half a dried fig or an olive was allowed,
otherwise it would be considered, by the Pharisees, as work, and was prohibited" (Shabbath, 28a. 70b, 71a). A person would be guilty of desecrating the Sabbath, in their eyes, "If he carried more than one swallow of milk or enough oil to anoint a small part of the body" (Shabbath 76a). Even to carry a sheet of paper was forbidden (Shabbath 78a).
"If a fire broke out on the Sabbath in a persons home, he could carry out only the necessary food for the Sabbath. It was interpreted in this manner: if a fire broke out Sabbath evening (Friday night), the owner could take out enough food for three meals; if the fired broke out on Sabbath afternoon, he could take out only enough food for one meal. All the rest of the food had to be left to burn up with the building, for the Pharisees prohibited putting out such a fire--that would be working and constitute a grievous sin" (Shabbath, 115a, 118b). "Also a victim could only take out necessary clothes. It was permissible, however, for a person to put on a few extra clothes, as long as they were worn. Thus, a person could take out some clothes from the burning building, take them off, then go back and put on more clothes, continuing until he was unable to re-enter the building" (Shabbath, 120a). We could go on and on with examples of these traditions of men!!
Christ taught the true spiritual intent of the Sabbath. God's Sabbath is not a burden to man. It is a spiritual blessing. Christ said, "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath: Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath" (Mark 2:27-28).
To do good works on the Sabbath was forbidden by the Pharisees. Notice how they sought to accuse Christ for healing on the Sabbath! "And He entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand. And they watched Him, whether He would heal Him on the Sabbath day; that they might accuse Him. And He saith unto the man which had the withered hand, Stand forth. And He saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath days, or to do evil? To save life, or to kill? But they held their peace" (Mark 3:1-4). The Pharisees could not answer! They knew that they could not say it was right to do evil. But they also knew that their (traditional) laws forbade doing this kind of good on the Sabbath!
Another example of man made laws is: "Every man upon rising from his sleep in the morning is alike a newborn creature, insofar as the worship of the Creator is concerned, he should prepare himself for worship by washing his hands out of a vessel, just as the priests used to wash their hands daily out of the wash-basin before performing their service in the Temple. This hand- washing is based on the biblical verse Psalms 26:6-7. There is another reason given by the Kabbalists, (Zohar, quoted in Beth Joseph), for this morning hand washing; when a man is asleep, the holy soul departs from his body, and an unclean spirit descends upon him. When rising from sleep, the unclean spirit departs from his entire body, except from his fingers, and does not depart until one spills water upon them three time alternately. One is not allowed to walk four cubits (six feet) without have ones hands washed, except in cases of extreme necessity" (Code Of Jewish Law by Rabbi Solomon Ganzfried and translated by Hyman E. Goldin, LL.B. 1993, pg.8). Now we can understand why Christ spoke to the Pharisees the way He did. "Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands? He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. 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" (Mark 7:5-9).
The Pharisees called this washing rite a custom of the elders of Moses and the prophets. But it was nothing of the kind. Edersheim in his book "Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, vol ii, pg. 9 note 2, gives reference to the fact that the washing of the hands was similar to rites that were used in heathen religious ceremonies. There can be no doubt that many of these foolish rites of so-called cleanliness came directly from heathenism during the time the Jews were under the domination of Hellenism.
Lauterbach says: "Certain religious practices, considered by the later teachers as part of traditional law, or as handed down from Moses, originated in reality from other, perhaps non-Jewish sources, and had no authority other than the authority of the people who adopted them. This, of course, reflects unfavorable upon the authority of the traditional law in general" (Rabbinic Essays, pg. 241).
The first traces of traditional washing the hands before meals, in a ritualistic sense is found in certain Jewish writing having their origin in Egypt immediately following the period of the religious anarchy--about 160 B.C. In the Sibylline Books, there is mention of some Jews continually washing their hands in connection with prayer and thanksgiving. (Sibyl,iii, 591-593). The Jews in Palestine were also using this new custom. Edersheim tells us: "It was reserved for Hillel and Shammai, the two great rival teachers and heroes of Jewish traditionalism, immediately before Christ, to fix the Rabbinic ordinances about the washing of hands...this was one of the few points on which they agreed...." (Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, vol ii, pg 13). This particular rite was made into Law just before the days of Christ. Edersheim continues, concerning this rite: "It was so strictly enjoined that to neglect it was like being guilty of gross carnal defilement. Its omission would lead to temporal destruction, or, at least, to poverty. Bread eaten with unwashed hands was as if it had been filth!
There is a direct analogy between the laws of the Rabbis and those of the Greek philosopher Plato. The Jewish historian, Moses Hodas, admits: "The Rabbis were men of faith, and their object was the service of religion, but their method for securing discipline was like Plato's, to provide authority for men's smallest actions" (Hellenistic Culture, pg. 82). Such laws as enacted by the Pharisee Rabbis were never conceived until after Hellenistic influence had implanted itself strongly in Palestine.
Judaism is a physical, carnal religion---not spiritual worship! The Pharisees looked upon the common people as having a curse of God upon them since they did not follow the rules of the Pharisees. In the New Testament it is recorded that the Pharisees accusingly asked an officer: "Are you also deceived? Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on Him? But this people (the multitude, an Am-ha-aretz) who knowth not the law are cursed" (John 4:47-49).
Even though the Pharisees were the rulers of the synagogues, and though some of the common people regularly attended the synagogue, nevertheless, the Pharisees remained aloof socially. The Pharisee was not to invite a common person into his home, nor was he to go into the home of a commoner. "A Chaber (an associate of the Pharisee fraternity) does not go as a guest to an Am Ha-aretz nor receive him as a guest within his walls" (Demai ii,3).
The example of Christ and the disciples, by contrast, was one of love and compassion for the people at large. No wonder many of the people were beginning to believe on Christ--these were Am ha-artetz. "And He went forth again by the sea side; and all the multitude resorted unto Him, and He taught them. And as He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the receipt of custom, and said unto him, Follow Me. And he arose and followed him. And it came to pass, that, as Jesus sat at meat in his house, many publicans and sinners sat also together with Jesus and His disciples: for there were many, and they followed Him. And when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto His disciples, How is it that He eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners? When Jesus heard it, He saith unto them, 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 2:13-17). Also see Matthew 9:9-13 and Luke 5:27-32.
The Pharisees would not have thought for a moment of going into the home of a commoner and partaking of a meal with him. That was just not done!!! It was the practice of Christ and His disciples to eat with the common people! Christ's opinion of the ridiculous and snobbish commandments of the Pharisees is found in the book of Mark 7. "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 unwashed hands? He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. 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" (Mark 7:4-8). Christ was trying to tell them they were to keep God's Word, not the traditions of their fathers (meaning Hillel and Shammai).
Christ kept Scripture commands, not the traditions of men!! Christ taught His disciples to obey the commandments of God and reject the commandments of men. Christ came to restore the Laws of God among a people who had lost them. The Pharisees had become blind leaders of the blind! "Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch" (Matt. 15:14).
Christ told His disciples: "Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have taken no bread. Which when Jesus perceived, He said unto them, O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread? Do ye not yet understand, neither remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets ye took up? Neither the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets ye took up? How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees? Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees" (Matt 16:6-12). Christ came to a Jewish world which, in most part, had totally left the simple Laws of the Scripture!! Most of the people were not really religious at all. The common people, over 95% of the population, were truly sheep without a shepherd!
Christ came into a world which needed Him and His message! The people needed God's laws and His commandments restored! God the Father, at the appropriate time, sent His Son into the world to give it the unadulterated Laws of Scripture in their full spiritual significance. Christ not only came to restore the
Scripture as a proper guide to the people, He also came with the New Testament revelation which gave completeness to the Scripture!