THE PHARISEES

This sect were the legalist. They were devoted to the Law of Moses and sought ways to bend it to their own philosophies and the varying conditions of life. This made them very hypocritical as their manner of living violated the ideals they taught. They sought to protect the right worship of God and insist that the law must be duly observed by the people as the scribes have interpreted them while they themselves never observed it.

They were the minority in the Sanhedrin but had more influence because of their relationship with the people. They were held in high esteem by the people which also enabled them to dictate the decision in the Sanhedrin, and were more religiously minded. They also had firm belief in angels, immortality of the soul and the resurrection of the body after death.

Luke 11:42-44 ‘But woe unto you, Pharisees! For ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Woe unto you, Pharisees! For ye love the uppermost seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets. Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye are as graves which appear not, and the men that walk over them are not aware of them’’.
                                            THE SADDUCEES

The Sadducees were the rationalist: their beliefs were governed by a skeptical attitude. They were also the aristocrats, wealthy, upper class priestly Jews, influential in the temple and the Sanhedrin. They were primarily interested in maintaining their own privileged position, and profited from the business in the Temple at the Gentiles court. These were just like the Pharisees but they hated each other and never agreed on the same thing except when they have a common enemy. They rejected authority of scriptures from Joshua through Malachi besides the Torah (Genesis- Deuteronomy) and also rejected the belief in resurrection of the dead, angels and spirits. The Pharisees on the other hand believed all. The Sadducees where majority in the Sanhedrin but were unpopular with common people from whom they kept aloof. Their strength was in their control of the temple by virtue of their priestly position, and they were more politically minded.

Matthew 22:23 ‘The same day came to him the Sadducees, which say that there is no resurrection, and asked him…’’
Acts 23:6-8 ‘But when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question. And when he had so said, there arose a dissension between the Pharisees and the Sadducees: and the multitude was divided. For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both.


These are publicans or tax collectors. Men who serve the public works or framed public lends or the Roman government by collecting the tribute paid to the Romans. Some of them were bad men, but they were all labelled bad because of the prejudices of the Jewish nation against their office. They later became known as professional tax collectors who made their profits from the excess taxes they collected. The right to collect taxes was sold at public auctions to private corporations of publicans who gave the highest bid. Since the publicans were native Jews of Palestine, they were detested, ostracized, and afterwards excommunicated by most Jewish groups because of their reputation for cheating and their support of Rome. Matthew was a tax collector as well as Zaccheus.

‘‘And, behold, there was a man named Zaccheus, which was the chief among publicans and he was rich’’ Luke 19:2

During these four centuries, the Greeks, Romans and the Jews with their important positions of leadership made their own contributions to the world into which Christ came. Greeks influenced the language which also resulted in the translation of the scriptures in common Greek language. Romans left a legacy of law and order and great highway system. The Jews: belief in God and carried out worship at the temple (which to them was heaven and earth).

It is therefore important that we have a background understanding about that world to be able to interpret the New Testament in that light. For the essential principle of biblical interpretation involves asking questions about the original audience and why they were being addressed the way they were addressed. Friends, Jesus was born into a real world, his childhood was real, he had real disciples, lived around real people and his words fell into the ears of real people. People who could completely relate with his message though their hearts were hardened against it.

However, though we believe that Jesus came into a real world and lived with real people, we often neglect it while interpreting scriptures most especially his ‘end of world or age’ prophecies which he shared with his disciples. My purpose in writing this article is to help us at least get a glimpse into the world that Jesus lived, so as to help us interpret properly his words in context of his audience, their belief systems and why he addressed them the way he did. I hope you’re finding helpful.
To be continued…
Follow the link to read part one if you've not:  UNDERSTANDING THE SYNOPTIC GOSPELS (PT1)

Grace to you!                                

About Jemine James


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