ZEALOT

A Zealot was a member of a fanatical Jewish sect that militantly opposed the Roman domination of Palestine during the first century A. D. When the Jews rebelled against the Romans and tried to gain their independence, a group of the most fervent Jewish nationalists called themselves "Zealots." They thought of themselves as following in the footsteps of men like Simon and Levi (Gen. 34:1_31), Phinehas (Num. 25:1-13,) and Elijah (1 Kin. 18:40; 19:10-14) who were devoted supporters of the Lord and His laws and who were ready to fight for them.

Like the PHARISEES, the Zealots were devoted to the Jewish law and religion. But unlike most Pharisees, they thought it was treason against God to pay tribute to the Roman emperor, since God alone was Israel's king. They were willing to fight to the death for Jewish independence.

The Zealots eventually degenerated into a group of assassins known as SICARII (Latin, daggermen). Their increasing fanaticism was one factor that provoked the Roman_Jewish war. The Zealots took control of Jerusalem in A. D. 66, a move that led to the siege of Jerusalem and its fall in A. D. 70. The last stronghold of the Zealots, the fortress of Masada, fell to the Romans in A. D. 73.

(from Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary)

(Copyright (C) 1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers)

 

 

SADDUCEES

[SAJ uh seez]__ members of a Jewish faction that opposed Jesus during His ministry. Known for their denial of the bodily resurrection, the Sadducees came from the leading families of the nation__ the priests, merchants, and aristocrats. The high priests and the most powerful members of the priesthood were mainly Sadducees <Acts 5:17>.

Some scholars believe the name Sadducees came from Zadok, the high priest in the days of David <2 Sam. 15:24> and Solomon <1 Kin. 1:34_45>. Many of the wealthy lay people were also Sadducees. This may be the reason why the Sadducees gave the impression of wanting to preserve things as they were. They enjoyed privileged positions in society and managed to get along well under Roman rule. Any movement that might upset order and authority was bound to appear dangerous in their eyes.

The Sadducees rejected "the tradition of the elders," that body of oral and written commentary which interpreted the law of Moses. This automatically placed them in direct conflict with another Jewish group, the PHARISEES, who had made the traditions surrounding the Law almost as important as the Law itself. The Sadducees insisted that only the laws that were written in the law of Moses (the PENTATEUCH, the first five books of the Old Testament) were really binding. The Sadducees thought this way because of religious practices that had taken place for several centuries.

For many years the priests were in charge of teaching the law of God to the Israelites; they were the authorities to go to for interpretation or application of the law <Deut. 17:8_13>. Unfortunately, the leading priests lost the respect of the people by becoming corrupt. When this happened, many Jews began to respond to the SCRIBES, people who had become experts in God's law and who usually lived pious, disciplined lives, although many of them were not priests. People began to follow the teaching of the scribes and to let the scribes interpret the law of God for them. The "tradition of the elders" which followed was made up of customs, rulings, and interpretations that the scribes passed on as the authoritative way in which God's law should be applied.

The Sadducees rejected this approach to authority in favor of the written law of Moses. They felt the original law alone could be trusted. Naturally, they felt Sadducean priests should be the ones to serve as the law's interpreters.

The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection of the dead or the immortality of the soul, since these doctrines are not mentioned in the law of Moses. Neither did they believe in rewards or punishments handed out after death, as in the doctrines of heaven and hell. <Acts 23:8> indicates that they did not believe in angels or spirits, either. They also believed in free will__ that man is responsible for his own prosperity or misfortune. They interpreted the law literally and tended to support strict justice as opposed to mercy toward the offender.

Only a few references are made to the Sadducees in the New Testament. They opposed the early church <Acts 4:1_3; 5:17_18>, much more so than even the Pharisees <Acts 5:34_39; 15:5; 23:6_9>. Since the chief priests usually came from among the Sadducees, it is clear that they played a major role in the arrest of Jesus and the preliminary hearing against Him <Mark 14:60_64>, and that they urged Pilate to crucify Him <Mark 15:1,3, 10_11>. Jesus warned His disciples about the "leaven"__ the "doctrine" or teaching__ of the Sadducees <Matt. 16:1_12>. John the Baptist was suspicious of their supposed "repentance" <Matt. 3:7_12>.

One incident when Jesus clashed with the Sadducees is recorded in all three of the synoptic gospels <Matt. 22:23_33; Mark 12:18_27; Luke 20:27_40>. Apparently one of the favorite sports of the Sadducees was to make fun of their opponents by showing how their beliefs led to ridiculous conclusions. They approached Jesus with a "what if" question, designed to show the absurd consequences that can arise from believing in the resurrection of the dead. "Suppose," they asked, "a woman had seven husbands in this life, and each of them died without leaving children? Whose wife would she be in the world to come?"

Jesus replied with a two_part answer. First, He said that they were wrong to suggest that earthly relationships, such as marriage, will continue after the resurrection. Second, Jesus pointed out that they were wrong in not believing in the resurrection at all: "Have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living" <Matt. 22:31_32>; (also <Ex. 3:6,15_16>).

Jesus' argument was that God told Moses that He was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Of course, these three men had died long before the time of Moses. Yet, if they were not "alive" at the time of Moses (that is, if they did not live on after their deaths), then God would not have called Himself their God, for "God is not the God of the dead, but of the living." Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob must live on if God is still their God; therefore, it is wrong to deny life after death and the resurrection of the dead.

After posing His reasons, Jesus stated clearly that the Sadducees were "greatly mistaken" in their beliefs <Mark 12:27>. The multitude who heard Jesus' argument were "astonished at His teaching" <Matt. 22:33> and the Sadducees were "silenced" <Matt. 22:34>.

(from Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary)

(Copyright (C) 1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers)

 

ESSENES

[es SEENZ] (meaning unknown)__ a religious community that existed in Palestine from about the middle of the second century B. C. until the Jewish war with Rome (A. D. 66_70). The Essenes were noted for their strict discipline and their isolation from others who did not observe their way of life.

Although the Bible never mentions the Essenes, they are described by several ancient historians. The Essenes are an important part of the background to the New Testament, showing the beliefs and practices of one Jewish religious group at the time of John the Baptist and Jesus. People have been especially interested in the Essenes since the discovery of the DEAD SEA SCROLLS at QUMRAN. The people who lived at Qumran probably were a group of Essenes.

Individual Essenes did not own any private property. Instead, they shared all their possessions with others in their community. They avoided any show of luxury and ate very simple meals. They wore simple clothes until they hung in shreds.

The Essenes were also known for their careful observance of the laws of Moses as they understood them. They were stricter about keeping the Sabbath than any other Jews, even the PHARISEES. They were concerned about being ritually clean themselves and about eating food that was ritually pure. For this reason they had priests prepare their food.

Essenes lived together in all the towns of Palestine in the days of Jesus. They were famous for their hospitality. An Essene traveling from one place to another knew he would be looked after by other Essenes, although he had never met them. The Essenes were also known for taking care of the sick and elderly. They were interested in medicines; in fact, some people think that the name Essenes means "healers."

The Essenes would arise before sunrise for prayer. Then they would work until about midday, when they would bathe__ to make sure they were ritually clean__ before eating. Afterwards they would work again until the evening meal.

Anyone who wanted to become an Essene was required to hand over all he owned to the community. He would then be given the typical Essene white robe. Only after he had shown that he was trustworthy for a full year would he be allowed to use the community's special water for purification. And he had to prove that he was reliable for two more years before he could become a full member. Then, after promising to keep the Essene rules, he became a full member and was allowed to take part in the community meals. But if he should break the Essene rule, he would be expelled from the community.

The Essenes believed that the souls of men were immortal and would be rewarded or punished after death. They had a special interest in angels, and some were known for making accurate predictions about the future. They avoided taking part in the services of the Temple in Jerusalem. Instead, they worshiped God in their own communities.

Some of the Essenes' beliefs and practices are similar to parts of the New Testament. The ritual washings of the Essenes bring to mind the baptism preached and practiced by John the Baptist. But John baptized people only once, while the Essenes' washings took place every day. And Jesus told his followers not to use oaths, just as the Essenes avoided oaths.

The Essenes' practice of COMMUNITY OF GOODS is also similar to what happened in the early church in Jerusalem <Acts 2:44_45>. But again there is a difference. Christians sold their property of their own free will, while this was a requirement in the Essene community. Like the Essenes, the early Christians were soon known for their generous hospitality. A major difference was that the early Christians did not practice all the rules about the Sabbath and ritual purity that were so important to the Essenes. Above all, Christians believed that Jesus was the Messiah and Lord; Essenes continued to wait for God's salvation.

(from Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary)(Copyright (C) 1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers)

 

PHARISEES

PHAR'ISEES (far'i_sez; Gk. from Aram. perisha', "separated").

Name. The name Separatists is thought by some to have been derived from that separation that took place in the time of Zerubbabel and then again in the time of Ezra, when Israel separated from the pagans dwelling in the land and from their uncleanness <Ezra 6:21; 9:1; 10:11; Neh. 9:2; 10:29>. But this is correctly objected to on the ground that their name must have come to the Pharisees in consequence of their stricter view of the notion of uncleanness, not only from the uncleanness of the heathen but from that with which they believed the great portion of Israel to have been affected. This seems to have been the sense in which they were called the separated or the separating, and they might have been so called from either praise or blame. It is not probable that they took the name themselves, but that their adversaries called them "the separatists." They called themselves Haberim (Aram. habar, "associate"), this term being in the language of the Mishna and of ancient rabbinical literature in general exactly identical with Perushim; a Haber in them meaning one who associates himself with the law in order to observe it strictly in opposition to the encroachments of Hellenism.

Origin. The priests and scribes determined the inner development of Israel after the captivity. Virtually identical in Ezra's time, they became more and more separated, until, in the Maccabaean period, two parties sharply contrasted with each other were developed from them. The Sadducean party came from the ranks of the priests, the party of the Pharisees from the scribes. The characteristic feature of the Pharisees arises from their legal tendency, that of the Sadducees from their social position. When once the accurate observance of the ceremonial law was regarded as the true essence of religious conduct, Pharisaism already existed, but not as a distinct sect or party. It appears that during the Greek period, the chief priests and rulers of the people took up an increasingly low attitude toward the law; the Pharisees united themselves more closely into an association that made a duty of the law's punctilious observance. They appear in the time of John Hyrcanus under the name of "Pharisees," no longer indeed on the side of the Maccabees but in hostile opposition to them. The reason for this was that the Maccabaeans' chief object was no longer the carrying out of the law but the maintenance and extension of their political power. The stress laid upon religious interests by the Pharisees had won the bulk of the nation to their side, and Queen Alexandra, for the sake of peace with her people, abandoned the power to the Pharisees. Their victory was now complete; the whole conduct of internal affairs was in their hands. All the decrees of the Pharisees done away with by Hyrcanus were reintroduced, and they completely ruled the public life of the nation. This continued in all essentials even during subsequent ages. Amid all the changes of government under Romans and Herodians the Pharisees maintained their spiritual authority. Consistency with principle was on their side, and this consistency procured them the spiritual supremacy. Although the Sadducean high priests were at the head of the Sanhedrin, the decisive influence upon public affairs was in the hands of the Pharisees. "They had the bulk of the nation as their ally, and women especially were in their hands. They had the greatest influence upon the congregations, so that all acts of public worship, prayers, and sacrifices were performed according to their injunctions. Their sway over the masses was so absolute that they could obtain a hearing even when they said anything against the king or the high priest, consequently they were the most capable of counteracting the design of the kings. Hence, too, the Sadducees, in their official acts, adhered to the demands of the Pharisees, because otherwise the multitude would not have tolerated them" (Schurer, History of the Jewish People in the Time of Christ, div. 2, 2:28).

Teachings. Pharisaism thus represented the effect of Hellenism on normative Judaism; many of the differences between it and Sadduceeism were the result of their respective reactions toward Greek culture (cf. W. F. Albright, From the Stone Age to Christianity [1941], pp. 272_73).

Immortality. The Pharisees taught "that every soul is imperishable, but that only those of the righteous pass into another body, while those of the wicked are, on the contrary, punished with eternal torment" (Josephus Wars 2.8.14); or "they hold the belief that an immortal strength belongs to souls, and that there are beneath the earth punishments and rewards for those who in life devoted themselves to virtue or vileness, and that eternal imprisonment is appointed for the latter, but the possibility of returning to life for the former" (Josephus Ant. 18.1.3). The above is merely the Jewish doctrine of retribution and resurrection <Dan. 12:2>, testified to by all subsequent Jewish literature, and also by the NT, as the common possession of genuine Judaism.

Angels. The Pharisees also taught the existence of angels and spirits, whereas the Sadducees denied them <Acts 23:8>; in this respect they also represented the general standpoint of later Judaism.

Providence, Human Freedom. The Pharisees "make everything depend on fate and on God, and teach that the doing of good is indeed chiefly the affair of man, but that fate also cooperates in every transaction" (Josephus Wars 2.8.14). "They assert that everything is accomplished by faith. They do not, however, deprive the human will of spontaneity, it having pleased God that there should be a mixture, and that to the will of fate should be added the human will with its virtue or baseness" (Josephus Ant. 18.1.3). "If we strip off its Greek form, from what Josephus says, it is nothing more than this, that according to the Pharisees everything that happens takes place through God's providence, and that consequently in human actions also, whether good or bad, a cooperation of God is to be admitted. And this is a genuine OT view" (Schurer, div. 2, 2:15).

Political. "In politics the standpoint of the Pharisees was the genuinely Jewish one of looking at political questions not from a political, but from a religious point of view. The Pharisees were by no means a 'political' party, at least not directly. Their aim, viz., the strict carrying out of the law, was not political, but religious. So far as no obstruction was cast in the way of this, they could be content with any government. It was only when the secular power prevented the practice of the law in that strict manner which the Pharisees demanded, that they gathered together to oppose it, and then really became in a certain sense a political party, opposing even external resistance to external force. To politics as such they were always comparatively indifferent." We must consider the Pharisee as acting under two different religious views: (1) The idea of the Divine Providence might be made the starting point. From this concept resulted the thought that the sway of the heathen over Israel was the will of God. Hence, this chastisement of God must be willingly submitted to; a heathen and, moreover, a harsh government must be willingly borne, if only the observance of the law was not thereby prevented. (2) Israel's election might be placed in the foreground. Then the rule of the heathen over the people of God would appear as an abnormality whose abolition was by all means to be striven for. Israel must acknowledge no other king than God alone and the ruler of the house of David, whom He anointed. The supremacy of the heathen was illegal and presumptuous. From this standpoint it was questionable, not merely whether obedience and payment of tribute to a heathen power was a duty, but whether it was lawful <Matt. 22:17_21; Mark 12:14_17; Luke 20:22_25>.

Practices. As an Israelite avoided as far as possible all contact with a pagan, lest he should thereby be defiled, so did the Pharisee avoid as far as possible contact with the non_Pharisee, because the latter was to him included in the notion of the unclean Amhaarez (i.e., Israelites other than Pharisees). When, then, the gospels relate that the Pharisees found fault with the free interaction of Jesus with "tax_gatherers and sinners," and with His entering into their houses <Mark 2:14_17; Matt. 9:9_13; Luke 5:27_32>, that criticism agrees exactly with the standpoint here described. The Pharisees, according to the Talmud, were of seven kinds: (1) the Shechemite Pharisee, who simply kept the law for what he could profit thereby, as Shechem submitted to circumcision to obtain Dinah <Gen. 34:19>; (2) the Humbling Pharisee, who to appear humble always hung down his head; (3) the Bleeding Pharisee, who in order not to see a woman walked with his eyes closed, and thus often met with wounds; (4) the Mortar Pharisee, who wore a mortar_shaped cap to cover his eyes that he might not see any impurities or indecencies; (5) the What_am_I_yet_to_do Pharisee, who, not knowing much about the law, as soon as he had done one thing, asked, "What is my duty now? and I will do it" (cf. <Mark 10:17_22>); (6) the Pharisee from Fear, who kept the law because he was afraid of future judgment; (7) the Pharisee from Love, who obeyed the Lord because he loved Him with all his heart (Delitzsch, Jesus und Hillel).

Pharisaism and Christianity Compared. (1) In relation to the OT dispensation it was the Savior's great effort to unfold the principles that had lain at the bottom of that dispensation and carry them out to their legitimate conclusions, to fulfill the law <Matt. 5:17>, to "fulfill," not to confirm, as too many suppose it to mean. The Pharisee taught such a servile adherence to the letter of the law that its remarkable character, as a pointing forward to something higher than its letter, was completely overlooked, and its moral precepts, intended to elevate men, were made rather the instruments of contracting and debasing their ideas of morality. Thus, strictly adhering to the letter, "You shall not commit murder," they regarded anger and all hasty passion as legitimate <5:21_22>. (2) Whereas it was the aim of Jesus to call men to the law of God itself as the supreme guide of life, the Pharisees multiplied minute precepts and distinctions to such an extent, upon the pretense of maintaining it intact, that the whole life of Israel was hemmed in and burdened on every side by instructions so numerous and trifling that the law was almost, if not wholly, lost sight of (see <Matt. 12:1_13; 23:23_30; Mark 3:1_6; 7:1_13; Luke 13:10_17; 18:9_14>). (3) It was a leading aim of the Redeemer to teach men that true piety consisted not in forms, but in substance; not in outward observances, but in an inward spirit; not in small details, but in great rules of life. The whole system of Pharisaic piety led to exactly opposite conclusions. Under its influence "the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness" <Matt. 23:23; Luke 11:42> were undervalued and neglected; the idea of religion as that which should have its seat in the heart disappeared <11:38_42>; the most sacred obligations were evaded <Mark 7:11_13>; vain and trifling questions took the place of serious inquiry into the great principles of duty (<Matt. 19:3>; etc.); and even the most solemn truths were handled as mere matters of curious speculation or means to entrap an adversary <22:35_36; Luke 17:20>. (4) The lowliness of piety was, according to the teaching of Jesus, an inseparable concomitant of its reality, but the Pharisees sought mainly to attract attention and excite the admiration of men <Matt. 6:2_4,16_18; 23:5_7; Luke 14:7_11; 18:11_14>. (5) Christ inculcated compassion for the degraded, helpfulness to the friendless; liberality to the poor, holiness of heart, universal love, and a mind open to the truth. The Pharisees regarded the degraded classes of society as classes to be shunned, not to be won over to the right <Luke 7:39; 15:2; 18:11>, and pushed from them such as the Savior would have gathered within His fold <John 7:47_48>. They made a prey of the friendless <Matt. 23:14>; with all their pretense to piety they were in reality avaricious, sensual, and dissolute <Matt. 23:25_28; John 8:7>, and devoted their energies to making converts to their own narrow views <Matt. 23:15>. The exclusiveness of Pharisaism certainly justifies its being called a sect (Gk. hairesis, <Acts 15:5; 26:5>). Their number, which was comparatively small, was about six thousand.

Bibliography: R. T. Herford, The Pharisees (1924); G. F. Moore, Judaism in the First Centuries of the Christian Era, 3 vols. (1927_30); L. I. Finkelstein, The Pharisees (1962); I. Abrahams, Studies in Pharisaism and the Gospels (1967); W. D. Davies, Introduction to Pharisaism (1967); J. Neusner, The Rabbinic Traditions About the Pharisees Before 70,] 3 vols. (1971); W. Fairweather, Background to the Gospels (1977). (from New Unger's Bible Dictionary)(originally published by Moody Press of Chicago, Illinois. Copyright (C) 1988.)

 

 

 

 

copyright © 2010 Christ Is Alive Ministry
www.christisalive.net 2000
All Rights Reserved.