Chapter 11 | Table
of Contents | Chapter 13
The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah
THE DESCENT: FROM THE MOUNT OF TRANSFIGURATION
INTO THE VALLEY OF HUMILIATION AND DEATH.
THE MORNING-MEAL IN THE PHARISEE'S HOUSE
MEALS AND FEASTS AMONG THE JEWS
CHRIST'S LAST PERAEAN WARNING TO PHARISAISM
(St. Luke 11:37-54.)
BITTER as was the enmity of the Pharisaic party against Jesus,
it had not yet so far spread, nor become so avowed, as in every place to
supersede the ordinary rules of courtesy. It is thus that we explain that
invitation of a Pharisee to the morning-meal, which furnished the occasion for
the second recorded Per�an Discourse of Christ. Alike in substance and tone, it
is a continuation of His former address to the Pharisees. And it is probably
here inserted in order to mark the further development of Christ's anti-Pharisaic
teaching. It is the last address to the Pharisees, recorded in the Gospel of
St. Luke.1 A similar
last appeal is recorded in a much later portion of St. Matthew's Gospel,2
only that St. Luke reports that spoken in Per�a, St. Matthew that made in Jerusalem.
This may also partly account for the similarity of language in the two
Discourses. Not only were the circumstances parallel, but the language held at
the end3 may
naturally have recurred to the writer, when reporting the last controversial
Discourse in Per�a. Thus it may well have been, that Christ said substantially
the same things on both occasions, and yet that, in the report of them, some of
the later modes of expression may have been transferred to the earlier
occasion. And because the later both represents and presents the fullest
anti-Pharisaic Discourse of the Saviour, it will be better to postpone our
analysis till we reach that period of His Life.4
1. Even St. Luke xx. 45-47 is not an exception. Christ, indeed, often afterwards answered their questions, but this is His last formal address to the Pharisees.
2. St. Matt. xxiii.
3. St. Matt. xxiii.
4. See the remarks on St. Luke xi. 39-52 in our analysis of St. Matt. xxiii. in chap. iv. of Book V.
Some distinctive points, however, must here be noted. The
remarks already made will explain, how some time may have elapsed between this
and the former Discourse, and that the expression 'And as He spake'5
must not be pressed as a mark of time (referring to the immediately preceding
Discourse), but rather be regarded as indicating the circumstances under which
a Pharisee had bidden Him to the meal.6
Indeed, we can scarcely imagine that, immediately after such a charge by the
Pharisees as that Jesus acted as the representative of Beelzebul, and such a
reply on the part of Jesus, a Pharisee would have invited Him to a friendly
meal, or that 'Lawyers,' or, to use a modern term, 'Canonists,' would have been
present at it. How different their feelings were after they had heard His
denunciations, appears from the bitterness with which they afterwards sought to
provoke Him into saying what might serve as ground for a criminal charge.7
And there is absolutely no evidence that, as commentators suggest, the
invitation of the Pharisee had been hypocritically given, for the purpose of
getting up an accusation against Christ. More than this, it seems entirely
inconsistent with the unexpressed astonishment of the Pharisee, when he saw
Jesus sitting down to food without having first washed hands. Up to that
moment, then, it would seem that he had only regarded Him as a celebrated
Rabbi, though perhaps one who taught strange things.
5. St. Luke xi. 37.
6. The expression 'one of the Lawyers' (ver. 45) seems to imply that there were several at table.
7. St. Luke xi. 53, 54.
But what makes it almost certain, that some time must have
elapsed between this and the previous Discourse (or rather that, as we believe,
the two events happened in different places), is, that the invitation of the
Pharisee was to the 'morning-meal.'8
We know that this took place early immediately after the return from morning
prayers in the Synagogue.9
It is, therefore, scarcely conceivable, that all that is recorded in connection
with the first Discourse should have occurred before this first meal. On the
other hand, it may well have been, that what passed at the Pharisee's table may
have some connection with something that had occurred just before in the
Synagogue, for we conjecture that it was the Sabbath-day. We infer this from
the circumstance that the invitation was not to the principal meal,
which on a Sabbath 'the Lawyers' (and, indeed, all householders) would, at
least ordinarily, have in their own homes.10
We can picture to ourselves the scene. The week-day family-meal was simple
enough, whether breakfast or dinner - the latter towards evening, although
sometimes also in the middle of the day, but always before actual darkness, in
order, as it was expressed, that the sight of the dishes by daylight might
excite the appetite.11
The Babylonian Jews were content to make a meal without meat; not so the
With the latter the favorite food was young meat: goats, lambs, calves. Beef
was not so often used, and still more rarely fowls. Bread was regarded as the
mainstay of life,13
without which no entertainment was considered as a meal. Indeed, in a sense it
constituted the meal. For the blessing was spoken over the bread, and this was
supposed to cover all the rest of the food that followed, such as the meat,
fish or vegetables - in short, all that made up the dinner, but not the
dessert. Similarly, the blessing spoken over the wine included all other kinds
of drink.14 Otherwise
it would have been necessary to pronounce a separate benediction over each
different article eaten or drunk. He who neglected the prescribed benedictions
was regarded as if he had eaten of things dedicated to God,15
since it was written: 'The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof.'1617
Beautiful as this principle is, it degenerated into tedious questions of
casuistry. Thus, if one kind of food was eaten as an addition to another, it
was settled that the blessing should be spoken only over the principal kind.
Again, there are elaborate disputations as to what should be regarded as fruit,
and have the corresponding blessing, and how, for example, one blessing should
be spoken over the leaves and blossom, and another over the berries of the
that bush gave rise to a serious controversy between the Schools of Hillel and
Shammai. Another series of elaborate discussions arose, as to what blessing
should be used when a dish consisted of various ingredients, some the product
of the earth, others, like honey, derived from the animal world. Such and similar
disquisitions, giving rise to endless argument and controversy, busied the
minds of the Pharisees and Scribes.
8. Not 'to dine' as in the A.V. Although in later Greek the word ariston was used for prandium,
yet its original meaning as 'breakfast' seems fixed by St. Luke xiv. 12, ariston h deipnon.
9. tyrx) tp, of which the German Morgenbrot is a literal rendering. To take the first meal later in the day was deemed very unwholesome: 'like throwing a stone into a skin.'
10. On the sacredness of the duty of hospitality, see 'Sketches of Jewish Social Life,' pp. 47-49.
11. Yoma 74 b.
12. Bezeh 16 a.
13. As always in the East, there were many kinds of bakemeat, from the coarse barley-bread or rice-cake to the finest pastry. We read even of a kind of biscuit, imported from India (the Teritha, Ber. 37 b).
14. Ber. 41 b.
15. Ber. 35 a.
16. Ps. xxiv. 1.
17. So rigid was this, that it was deemed duty to speak a blessing over a drink of water, if one was thirsty, Ber. vi. 8.
18. Ber. 36 a.
Let us suppose the guests assembled. To such a morning-meal
they would not be summoned by slaves, nor be received in such solemn state as at
feasts. First, each would observe, as a religious rite, 'the washing of hands.'
Next, the head of the house would cut a piece from the whole loaf - on the
Sabbath there were two loaves - and speak the blessing.19
But this, only if the company reclined at table, as at dinner. If they sat,
as probably always at the early meal, each would speak the benediction for
himself.20 The same
rule applied in regard to the wine. Jewish casuistry had it, that one blessing
sufficed for the wine intended as part of the meal. If other wine were brought
in during the meal, then each one would have to say the blessing anew over it;
if after the meal (as was done on Sabbaths and feast-days, to prolong the feast
by drinking), one of the company spoke the benediction for all.
19. This, also, was matter of controversy, but the Rabbis decided that the blessing must first be spoken, and then the loaf cut (Ber. 39 b).
20. Ber. vi. 6.
At the entertainment of this Pharisee, as indeed generally, our
Lord omitted the prescribed 'washing of hands' before the meal. But as this
rite was in itself indifferent, He must have had some definite object, which
will be explained in the sequel. The externalism of all these practices will
best appear from the following account which the Talmud gives of 'a feast.'21
As the guests enter, they sit down on chairs, and water is brought to them,
with which they wash one hand. After this the cup is taken, when each speaks
the blessing over the wine partaken of before dinner. Presently they all lie
down at table. Water is again brought them, with which they now wash both
hands, preparatory to the meal, when the blessing is spoken over the bread, and
then over the cup, by the chief person at the feast, or else by one selected by
way of distinction. The company responded by Amen, always supposing the
benediction to have been spoken by an Israelite, not a heathen, slave, nor
law-breaker. Nor was it lawful to say it with an unlettered man, although it
might be said with a Cuth�an22
(heretic, or else Samaritan), who was learned. After dinner the crumbs, if any,
are carefully gathered - hands are again washed, and he who first had done so
leads in the prayer of thanksgiving. The formula in which he is to call on the
rest to join him, by repeating the prayers after him, is prescribed, and
differs according to the number of those present. The blessing and the
thanksgiving are allowed to be said not only in Hebrew, but in any other
21. Ber. 43 a.
22. Ber. 47 b.
23. Ber. 40 b.
In regard to the position of the guests, we know that the
uppermost seats were occupied by the Rabbis. The Talmud formulates it24
in this manner: That the worthiest lies down first, on his left side, with his
feet stretching back. If there are two 'cushions' (divans), the next worthiest
reclines above him, at his left hand; if there are three cushions, the third
worthiest lies below him who had lain down first (at his right), so that the
chief person is in the middle (between the worthiest guest at his left and the
less worthy one at his right hand). The water before eating is first handed to
the worthiest, and so in regard to the washing after meat. But if a very large
number are present, you begin after dinner with the least worthy, till you come
to the last five, when the worthiest in the company washes his hands, and the
other four after him.25
The guests being thus arranged, the head of the house, or the chief person at
table, speaks the blessing,26
and then cuts the bread. By some it was not deemed etiquette to begin eating
till after he who had said the prayer had done so, but this does not seem to
have been the rule among the Palestinian Jews. Then, generally, the bread was
dipped into salt, or something salted, etiquette demanding that where there
were two they should wait one for the other, but not where there were three or
24. Ber. 46 b.
25. According to Ber. 46 b, the order in Persia was somewhat different. The arrangement indicated in the text is of importance as regards the places taken
at the Last Supper, when there was a dispute among the disciples about the
order in which they were to sit (comp. pp. 493-495).
26. Tradition ascribes this benediction to Moses on the occasion when manna first fell.
This is not the place to furnish what may be termed a list of menus
at Jewish tables. In earlier times the meal was, no doubt, very simple. It
became otherwise when intercourse with Rome, Greece, and the East made the
people familiar with foreign luxury, while commerce supplied its requirements.
Indeed, it would scarcely be possible to enumerate the various articles which
seem to have been imported from different, and even distant, countries.
To begin with: the wine was mixed with water, and, indeed, some
thought that the benediction should not be pronounced till the water had been
added to the wine.27
According to one statement, two parts,28
according to another, three parts, of water were to be added to the wine.29
Various vintages are mentioned: among them a red wine of Saron, and a black
wine. Spiced wine was made with honey and pepper. Another mixture, chiefly used
for invalids, consisted of old wine, water, and balsam; yet another was 'wine
of myrrh;'30 we also
read of a wine in which capers had been soaked. To these we should add wine
spiced, either with pepper, or with absinthe; and what is described as vinegar,
a cooling drink made either of grapes that had not ripened, or of the lees.
Besides these, palm-wine was also in use. Of foreign drinks, we read of wine
from Ammon, and from the province Asia, the latter a kind of 'must' boiled
down. Wine in ice came from the Lebanon; a certain kind of vinegar from Idumaea;
beer from Media and Babylon; a barley-wine (zythos) from Egypt. Finally,
we ought to mention Palestinian apple-cider,31
and the juice of other fruits. If we adopt the rendering of some, even liqueurs
were known and used.
27. Ber. vii. 5.
28. Nidd. ii. 7.
29. Pes. 108 b.
30. Mentioned in St. Mark xv. 23.
31. Terum xi. 2.
Long as this catalogue is, that of the various articles of
food, whether native or imported, would occupy a much larger space. Suffice it
that, as regarded the various kinds of grain, meat, fish, and fruits. either in
their natural state or preserved, it embraced almost everything known to the
ancient world. At feasts there was an introductory course, consisting of
appetising salted meat, or of some light dish. This was followed by the dinner
itself, which finished with dessert (Aphiqomon or terugima)
consisting of pickled olives, radishes and lettuce, and fruits, among which
even preserved ginger from India is mentioned.32
The most diverse and even strange statements are made as to the healthiness, or
the reverse, of certain articles of diet, especially vegetables. Fish was a
favorite dish, and never wanting at a Sabbath-meal. It was a saying, that both
salt and water should be used at every meal, if health was to be preserved.
Condiments, such as mustard or pepper, were to be sparingly used. Very
different were the meals of the poor. Locusts - fried in flour or honey, or
preserved - required, according to the Talmud, no blessing, since the animal
was really among the curses of the land. Eggs were a common article of food,
and sold in the shops. Then there was a milk-dish into which people dipped
their bread. Others, who were better off, had a soup made of vegetables,
especially onions, and meat, while the very poor would satisfy the cravings of
hunger with bread and cheese, or bread and fruit, or some vegetables, such as
cucumbers, lentils, beans, peas, or onions.
32. Comp. Ber. 40-44 passim.
At meals the rules of etiquette were strictly observed,
especially as regarded the sages. Indeed, two tractates are added to the
Talmud, of which the one describes the general etiquette, the other that of
'sages,' and the title of which may be translated by 'The Way of the World' (Derekh
Erets), being a sort of code of good manners. According to some, it was not
good breeding to speak while eating. The learned and most honored occupied not
only the chief places, but were sometimes distinguished by a double portion.
According to Jewish etiquette, a guest should conform in everything to his
host, even though it were unpleasant. Although hospitality was the greatest and
most prized social virtue, which, to use a Rabbinic expression, might make
every home a sanctuary and every table an altar, an unbidden guest, or a guest
who brought another guest, was proverbially an unwelcome apparition. Sometimes,
by way of self-righteousness, the poor were brought in, and the best part of
the meal ostentatiously given to them. At ordinary entertainments, people were
to help themselves. It was not considered good manners to drink as soon as you
were asked, but you ought to hold the cup for a little in your hand. But it
would be the height of rudeness, either to wipe the plates, to scrape together
the bread, as though you had not had enough to eat, or to drop it, to the
inconvenience of your neighbour. If a piece were taken out of a dish, it must
of course not be put back; still less must you offer from your cup or plate to
your neighbour. From the almost religious value attaching to bread, we scarcely
wonder that these rules were laid down: not to steady a cup or plate upon
bread, nor to throw away bread, and that after dinner the bread was to be carefully
swept together. Otherwise, it was thought, demons would sit upon it. The 'Way
of the World' for Sages,33
lays down these as the marks of a Rabbi: that he does not eat standing; that he
does not lick his fingers; that he sits down only beside his equals - in fact,
many regarded it as wrong to eat with the unlearned; that he begins cutting the
bread where it is best baked, nor ever breaks off a bit with his hand; and
that, when drinking, he turns away his face from the company. Another saying
was that the sage was known by four things: at his cups, in money matters, when
angry, and in his jokes.34
After dinner, the formalities concerning handwashing and prayer, already
described, were gone through, and then frequently aromatic spices burnt, over
which a special benediction was pronounced. We have only to add, that on
Sabbaths it was deemed a religious duty to have three meals, and to procure the
best that money could obtain, even though one were to save and fast for it all
the week. Lastly, it was regarded as a special obligation and honor to
33. Derekh Erets Suta v. and vii.
34. Erub. 65 b.
We have no difficulty now in understanding what passed at the
table of the Pharisee. When the water for purification was presented to Him,
Jesus would either refuse it; or if, as seems more likely at a morning-meal,
each guest repaired by himself for the prescribed purification, He would omit
to do so, and sit down to meat without this formality. No one, who knows the
stress which Pharisaism laid on this rite would argue that Jesus might have
conformed to the practice.35
Indeed, the controversy was long and bitter between the Schools of Shammai and
Hillel, on such a point as whether the hands were to be washed before
the cup was filled with wine, or after that, and where the towel was to
be deposited. With such things the most serious ritual inferences were
connected on both sides.36
A religion which spent its energy on such trivialities must have lowered the
moral tone. All the more that Jesus insisted so earnestly, as the substance of
His Teaching, on that corruption of our nature which Judaism ignored, and on
that spiritual purification which was needful for the reception of His
doctrine, would He publicly and openly set aside ordinances of man which
diverted thoughts of purity into questions of the most childish character. On
the other hand, we can also understand what bitter thoughts must have filled
the mind of the Pharisee, whose guest Jesus was, when he observed His neglect
of the cherished rite. It was an insult to himself, a defiance of Jewish Law, a
revolt against the most cherished traditions of the Synagogue. Remembering that
a Pharisee ought not to sit down to a meal with such, he might feel that he
should not have asked Jesus to his table. All this, as well as the terrible
contrast between the punctiliousness of Pharisaism in outward purifications,
and the inward defilement which it never sought to remove, must have lain open
before Him Who read the inmost secrets of the heart, and kindled His holy
wrath. Probably taking occasion (as previously suggested) from something that
had passed before, He spoke with the point and emphasis which a last appeal to
35. For a full account of the laws concerning the washing of hands and the views entertained of the rite, see
Book III. ch. xxxi.
36. Ber. 51 b to52 b.
What our Lord said on this occasion will be considered in
detail in another place.37
Suffice it hear to mark, that He first exposed the mere externalism of the
Pharisaic law of purification, to the utter ignoring of the higher need of
inward purity, which lay at the foundation of all.38
If the primary origin of the ordinance was to prevent the eating of sacred
offerings in defilement,39
were these outward offerings not a symbol of the inward sacrifice, and was
there not an inward defilement as well as the outward?40
To consecrate what we had to God in His poor, instead of selfishly enjoying it,
would not, indeed, be a purification of them (for such was not needed), but it
would, in the truest sense, be to eat God's offerings in cleanness.41
We mark here a progress and a development, as compared with the former occasion
when Jesus had publicly spoken on the same subject.42
Formerly, He had treated the ordinance of the Elders as a matter not binding;
now, He showed how this externalism militated against thoughts of the internal
and spiritual. Formerly, He had shown how traditionalism came into conflict
with the written Law of God: now, how it superseded the first principles which
underlay that Law. Formerly, He had laid down the principle that defilement
came not from without inwards, but from within outwards;43
now, He unfolded this highest principle that higher consecration imparted
37. In connection with St. Matt. xxiii.
38. St. Luke xi. 39.
39. On the origin and meaning of the ordinance, see Book III. ch. xxxi.
40. ver. 40.
41. ver. 41.
42. St. Matt. xv. 1-9.
43. St. Matt. xv. 10, 11.
The same principle, indeed, would apply to other things, such
as to the Rabbinic law of tithing. At the same time it may have been, as
already suggested, that something which had previously taken place, or was the
subject of conversation at table, had given occasion for the further remarks of
Christ.44 Thus, the
Pharisee may have wished to convey his rebuke of Christ by referring to the
subject of tithing. And such covert mode of rebuking was very common among the
Jews. It was regarded as utterly defiling to eat of that which had not been
tithed. Indeed, the three distinctions of a Pharisee were:45
not to make use nor to partake of anything that had not been tithed; to observe
the laws of purification; and, as a consequence of these two, to abstain from
familiar intercourse with all non-Pharisees. This separation formed the ground
of their claim to distinction.46
It will be noticed that it is exactly to these three things our Lord adverts:
so that these sayings of His are not, as might seem, unconnected, but in the
strictest internal relationship. Our Lord shows how Pharisaism, as regarded the
outer, was connected with the opposite tendency as regarded the inner man:
outward purification with ignorance of the need of that inward purity, which
consisted in God-consecration, and with the neglect of it; strictness of
outward tithing with ignorance and neglect of the principle which underlay it,
viz., the acknowledgment of God's right over mind and heart (judgment and the
love of God); while, lastly, the Pharisaic pretence of separation, and
consequent claim to distinction, issued only in pride and self-assertion. Thus,
tried by its own tests, Pharisaism47
terribly failed. It was hypocrisy, although that word was not mentioned till
and that both negatively and positively: the concealment of what it was, and
the pretension to what it was not. And the Pharisaism which pretended to the
highest purity, was, really, the greatest impurity - the defilement of graves,
only covered up, not to be seen of men!
44. St. Luke xi. 42.
45. On 'the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes,' see Book III. ch. ii. In fact, the fraternity of the Pharisees were bound by these two vows, that of tithing, and that in regard to purifications.
46. ver. 43.
47. St. Luke xi. 44. The word 'Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites,' are an
48. St. Luke xii. 1.
49. See previous Note.
It was at this point that one of 'the Scribes' at table broke
in. Remembering in what contempt some of the learned held the ignorant bigotry
of the Pharisees,50
we can understand that he might have listened with secret enjoyment to
denunciations of their 'folly.' As the common saying had it, 'the silly
pietist,' 'a woman Pharisee,' and the (self-inflicted) 'blows of Pharisaism,'
were among the plagues of life.51
And we cannot help feeling, that there is sometimes a touch of quiet humour in
the accounts which the Rabbis give of the encounters between the Pharisees and
But, as the Scribe rightly remarked, by attacking, not merely their practice,
but their principles, the whole system of traditionalism, which they
represented, was condemned.53
And so the Lord assuredly meant it. The 'Scribes' were the exponents of the
traditional law; those who bound and loosed in Israel. They did bind on heavy
burdens, but they never loosed one; all those grievous burdens of
traditionalism they laid on the poor people, but not the slightest effort did
they make to remove any of them.54
Tradition, yes! the very profession of it bore witness against them. Tradition,
the ordinances that had come down - they would not reform nor put aside
anything, but claim and proclaim all that had come down from the fathers as a
sacred inheritance to which they clung. So be it! let them be judged by their
own words. The fathers had murdered the prophets, and they built their
sepulchres; that, also, was a tradition - that of guilt which would be avenged.
Tradition, learning, exclusiveness - alas! it was only taking away from the
poor the key of knowledge; and while they themselves entered not by 'the door'
into the Kingdom, they hindered those who would have gone in. And truly so did
they prove that theirs was the inheritance, the 'tradition,' of guilt in
hindering and banishing the Divine teaching of old, and murdering its Divine
50. As to the estimate of the Pharisees, comp. also 'Sketches of Jewish Social Life,'
51. Sot. iii. 4.
52. See previous Note.
53. St. Luke xi. 45.
54. ver. 46.
55. vv. 47-52.
There was a terrible truth and solemnity in what Jesus spake,
and in the Woe which He denounced on them. The history of the next few months
would bear witness how truly they had taken upon them this tradition of guilt;
and all the after-history of Israel shows how fully this 'Woe' has come upon
them. But, after such denunciations, the entertainment in the Pharisee's house
must have been broken up. The Christ was too terribly in earnest - too
mournfully so over those whom they hindered from entering the Kingdom, to bear
with the awful guilt of their trivialities. With what feelings they parted from
Him, appears from the sequel.
'And when He was come out from thence, the Scribes and the
Pharisees began to press upon Him vehemently, and to provoke Him to speak of
many things; laying wait for Him, to catch something out of His Mouth.'56
56. This is both the correct reading and rendering of St. Luke xi. 53, 54, as given in the Revised Version.
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