Chapter 3 | Table
of Contents | Chapter 5
The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah
THE CROSS AND THE CROWN
THE THIRD DAY IN PASSION-WEEK
THE LAST CONTROVERSIES AND DISCOURSES
THE SADDUCEES AND THE RESURRECTION
THE SCRIBE AND THE GREAT COMMANDMENT
QUESTION TO THE PHARISEES ABOUT DAVID'S SON AND LORD
FINAL WARNING TO THE PEOPLE: THE EIGHT 'WOES'
(St. Matthew 22:23-33; St. Mark 12:18-27;
St. Luke 20:27-39; St. Matthew 12:34-40; St. Mark 12:28-34; St.
Matthew 22:41-46; St. Mark 12:35-40; St. Luke 20:40-47; St. Matthew
THE last day in the Temple was not to pass without other
'temptations' than that of the Priests when they questioned His authority, or
of the Pharisees when they cunningly sought to entangle Him in His speech.
Indeed, Christ had on this occasion taken a different position; He had claimed
supreme authority, and thus challenged the leaders of Israel. For this reason,
and because at the last we expect assaults from all His enemies, we are
prepared for the controversies of that day.
We remember that, during the whole previous history, Christ had
only on one occasion come into public conflict with the Sadducees, when,
characteristically, they had asked of Him 'a sign from heaven.'1
Their Rationalism would lead them to treat the whole movement as beneath
serious notice, the outcome of ignorant fanaticism. Nevertheless, when Jesus
assumed such a position in the Temple, and was evidently to such extent swaying
the people, it behoved them, if only to guard their position, no longer to
stand by. Possibly, the discomfiture and powerlessness of the Pharisees may
also have had their influence. At any rate, the impression left is, that those
of them who now went to Christ were delegates, and that the question which they
put had been well planned.2
Matt. xvi. 1.
seems some reference to this question put to Christ in what we regard as covert
references to Christianity in that mysterious passage in the Talmud (Yoma 66 b)
previously referred to (see pp. 193, 194). Comp. the interesting dissertation
of Töttermann on R. Eliezer ben Hyrcanos (pp. 16-18).
Their object was certainly not serious argument, but to use the
much more dangerous weapon of ridicule. Persecution the populace might have
resented; for open opposition all would have been prepared; but to come with
icy politeness and philosophic calm, and by a well-turned question to reduce
the renowned Galilean Teacher to silence, and show the absurdity of His
teaching, would have been to inflict on His cause the most damaging blow. To
this day such appeals to rough and ready common-sense are the main
stock-in-trade of that coarse infidelity, which, ignoring alike the demands of
higher thinking and the facts of history, appeals - so often, alas! effectually
- to the untrained intellect of the multitude, and - shall we not say it? - to
the coarse and lower in us all. Besides, had the Sadducees succeeded, they
would at the same time have gained a signal triumph for their tenets, and
defeated, together with the Galilean Teacher, their own Pharisaic opponents.
The subject of attack was to be the Resurrection3
- the same which is still the favourite topic for the appeals of the coarser
forms of infidelity to 'the common sense' of the masses. Making allowance for
difference of circumstances, we might almost imagine we were listening to one
of our modern orators of materialism. And in those days the defence of belief
in the Resurrection laboured under twofold difficulty. It was as yet a matter
of hope, not of faith: something to look forward to, not to look back upon. The
isolated events recorded in the Old Testament, and the miracles of Christ -
granting that they were admitted - were rather instances of resuscitation than
of Resurrection. The grand fact of history, than which none is better attested
- the Resurrection of Christ - had not yet taken place, and was not even
clearly in view of any one. Besides, the utterances of the Old Testament on the
subject of the 'hereafter' were, as became alike that stage of revelation and
the understanding of those to whom it was addressed, far from clear. In the
light of the New Testament it stands out in the sharpest proportions, although
as an Alpine height afar off; but then that Light had not yet risen upon it.
regard to the denial of the Resurrection by the Sadducees, and to their views
generally, we refer to the sketch of the three sects in Book III. ch. ii.
Besides, the Sadducees would allow no appeal to the highly
poetic language of the Prophets, to whom, at any rate, they attached less
authority, but demanded proof from that clear and precise letter of the Law,
every tittle and iota of which the Pharisees exploited for their doctrinal
inferences, and from which alone they derived them. Here, also, it was the
Nemesis of Pharisaism, that the postulates of their system laid it open to
attack. In vain would the Pharisees appeal to Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, or the
Psalms.4 To such
an argument as from the words, 'this people will rise up,'5
the Sadducees would rightly reply, that the context forbade the application to
the Resurrection; to the quotation of Isaiah xxvi. 19, they would answer that
that promise must be understood spiritually, like the vision of the dry bones
in Ezekiel; while such a reference as to this, 'causing the lips of those that
are asleep to speak,'6
would scarcely require serious refutation.7
Of similar character would be the argument from the use of a special word, such
as 'return' in Gen. iii. 19,8
or that from the twofold mention of the word 'cut off' in the original of Num.
xv. 31, as implying punishment in the present and in the future dispensation.9
Scarcely more convincing would be the appeal to such passages as Deut. xxxii.
39: 'I kill and make alive,'10
or the statement that, whenever a promise occurs in the form which in Hebrew
represents the future tense,11
it indicates a reference to the Resurrection. Perhaps more satisfactory,
although not convincing to a Sadducee, whose special contention it was to
insist on proof from the Law,12
might be an appeal to such passages as Dan. xii. 2, 13,13
or to the restoration of life by certain of the prophets, with the superadded
canon, that God had in part prefiguratively wrought by His prophets whatever He
would fully restore in the future.
(Real Encykl. vol. i. p. 125) has given the Rabbinic argumentation, and Wünsche
(ad St. Matt. xxii. 23) has reproduced it - unfortunately, with the not
unnatural exaggerations of Hamburger.
Sanh. 90 b, about the middle.
90 b lines 9 &c. from bottom.
is well known that the Hebrew has no future tense in the strict sense.
90 b lines 10 and 9 from bottom.
If Pharisaic argumentation had failed to convince the Sadducees
on Biblical grounds, it would be difficult to imagine that, even in the then
state of scientific knowledge, any enquiring person could have really believed
that there was a small bone in the spine which was indestructible, and from
which the new man would spring;14
or that there existed even now a species of mice, or else of snails, which
gradually and visibly developed out of the earth.15
Many clever sayings of the Pharisees are, indeed, here recorded in their
controversies, as on most subjects, and by which a Jewish opponent might have
been silenced. But here, especially, must it have been felt that a reply was
not always an answer, and that the silencing of an opponent was not identical
with proof of one's own assertion. And the additions with which the Pharisees
had encumbered the doctrine of the Resurrection would not only surround it with
fresh difficulties, but deprive the simple fact of its grand majesty. Thus, it
was a point in discussion, whether a person would rise in his clothes, which
one Rabbi tried to establish by a reference to the grain of wheat, which was
buried 'naked,' but rose clothed.16
Indeed, some Rabbis held, that a man would rise in exactly the same clothes in
which he had been buried, while others denied this.17
On the other hand, it was beautifully argued that body and soul must be finally
judged together, so that, in their contention to which of them the sins of man
had been due, justice might be meted out to each - or rather to the two in
their combination, as in their combination they had sinned.18
Again, it was inferred from the apparition of Samuel19
that the risen would look exactly as in life - have even the same bodily
defects, such as lameness, blindness, or deafness. It is argued, that they were
only afterwards to be healed, lest enemies might say that God had not healed
them when they were alive, but that He did so when they were dead, and that
they were perhaps not the same persons.20
In some respects even more strange was the contention that, in order to secure
that all the pious of Israel should rise on the sacred soil of Palestine,21
there were cavities underground in which the body would roll till it reached
the Holy Land, there to rise to newness of life.22
called the os sacrum (see again in the sequel).
Keth. 35 a.
was illustrated by a very apt Parable, see Sanh. 91 a and b.
Sam. xxviii. 14.
R. 95, beginning.
R. 96 towards the close.
But all the more, that it was so keenly controverted by
heathens, Sadducees, and heretics, as appears from many reports in the Talmud,
and that it was so encumbered with realistic legends, should we admire the
tenacity with which the Pharisees clung to this doctrine. The hope of the
Resurrection-world appears in almost every religious utterance of Israel. It is
the spring-bud on the tree, stript by the long winter of disappointment and
persecution. This hope pours its morning carol into the prayer which every Jew
is bound to say on awakening;23
it sheds its warm breath over the oldest of the daily prayers which date from
before the time of our Lord;24
in the formula 'from age to age,' 'world without end,' it forms, so to speak,
the rearguard to every prayer, defending it from Sadducean assault;25
it is one of the few dogmas denial of which involves, according to the Mishnah,
the loss of eternal life, the Talmud explaining, almost in the words of Christ
- that in the retribution of God this is only 'measure according to measure;'26
nay, it is venerable even in its exaggeration, that only our ignorance fails to
perceive it in every section of the Bible, and to hear it in every commandment
of the Law.
forms the second of the eighteen Eulogies.
is expressly stated in Ber. ix. 5, that the formula was introduced for that
90 a line 4 from bottom.
But in the view of Christ the Resurrection would necessarily
occupy a place different from all this. It was the innermost shrine in the
Sanctuary of His Mission, towards which He steadily tended; it was also, at the
same time, the living corner-stone of that Church which he had builded, and its
spire, which, as with uplifted finger, ever pointed all men heavenwards. But of
such thoughts connected with His Resurrection Jesus could not have spoken to
the Sadducees; they would have been unintelligible at that time even to His own
disciples. He met the cavil of the Sadducees majestically, seriously, and
solemnly, with words most lofty and spiritual, yet such as they could
understand, and which, if they had received them, would have led them onwards
and upwards far beyond the standpoint of the Pharisees. A lesson this to us in
The story under which the Sadducees conveyed their sneer was
also intended covertly to strike at their Pharisaic opponents. The ancient
ordinance of marrying a brother's childless widow27
had more and more fallen into discredit, as its original motive ceased to have
influence. A large array of limitations narrowed the number of those on whom
this obligation now devolved. Then the Mishnah laid it down that, in ancient
times, when the ordinance of such marriage was obeyed in the spirit of the Law,
its obligation took precedence of the permission of dispensation, but that
afterwards this relationship became reversed.29
Later authorities went further. Some declared every such union, if for beauty,
wealth, or any other than religious motives, as incestuous,30
while one Rabbi absolutely prohibited it, although opinions continued divided
on the subject. But what here most interests us is, that what are called in the
Talmud the 'Samaritans,' but, as we judge, the Sadducees, held the opinion that
the command to marry a brother's widow only applied to a betrothed wife, not to
one that had actually been wedded.31
This gives point to the controversial question, as addressed to Jesus.
xxv. 5 &c.
Talmud has it that the woman must have no child at all - not merely no son.
Yebam. i.6. This seems also to have been the view of the School of Shammai.
A case such as they told, of a woman who had successively been
married to seven brothers, might, according to Jewish Law, have really
sneering question now was, whose wife she was to be in the Resurrection. This,
of course, on the assumption of the grossly materialistic views of the
Pharisees. In this the Sadducean cavil was, in a sense, anticipating certain
objections of modern materialism. It proceeded on the assumption that the
relations of time would apply to eternity, and the conditions of the things
seen hold true in regard to those that are unseen. But perchance it is
otherwise; and the future may reveal what in the present we do not see. The
reasoning as such may be faultless; but, perchance, something in the future may
have to be inserted in the major or the minor, which will make
the conclusion quite other! All such cavils we would meet with the twofold
appeal of Christ to the Word33
and to the Power of God - how God has manifested, and how He will manifest
Himself - the one flowing from the other.
Yebam. 6 b, relates what I regard as a legendary story of a man who was
thus induced to wed the twelve widows of his twelve brothers, each widow
promising to pay for the expenses of one month, and the directing Rabbi for
those of the 13th (intercalatory) month. But to his horror, after three years
the women returned, laden with thirty-six children, to claim the fulfilment of
the Rabbi's promise!
On the other hand it was, however, also laid down that, if a
woman had lost two husbands, she should not marry a third - according to
others, if she had married three, not a fourth, as there might be some fate
(lzm) connected with her (Yeb. 64 b). On the question of the
Levirate, from the modern Jewish standpoint, see an interesting article by Gutmann
in Geiger's Wiss. Zeitschr. f. Jüd. Theol. vol. iv. (1839), pp. 61-87.
reproach 'Ye err, not knowing the Scriptures,' occurs in almost the same form
in the discussions on the Resurrection between the Pharisees and the Sadducees
which are recorded in the Talmud.
In His argument against the Sadducees Christ first appealed to
the power of God.34
What God would work was quite other than they imagined: not a mere
re-awakening, but a transformation. The world to come was not to be a
reproduction of that which had passed away - else why should it have passed
away - but a regeneration and renovation; and the body with which we were to be
clothed would be like that which Angels bear. What, therefore, in our present
relations is of the earth, and of our present body of sin and corruption, will
cease; what is eternal in them will continue. But the power of God will
transform all - the present terrestrial into the future heavenly, the body of
humiliation into one of exaltation. This will be the perfecting of all things
by that Almighty Power by which He shall subdue all things to Himself in the
Day of His Power, when death shall be swallowed up in victory. And herein also
consists the dignity of man, in virtue of the Redemption introduced, and, so to
speak, begun at his Fall, that man is capable of such renovation and perfection
- and herein, also, is 'the power of God,' that He hath quickened us together
with Christ, so that here already the Church receives in Baptism into Christ
the germ of the Resurrection, which is afterwards to be nourished and fed by
faith, through the believer's participation in the Sacrament of fellowship with
His body and Blood.35
Nor ought questions here to rise, like dark clouds, such as of the perpetuity
of those relations which on earth are not only so precious to us, but so holy.
Assuredly, they will endure, as all that is of God and good; only what in them
is earthly will cease, or rather be transformed with the body. Nay, and we
shall also recognise each other, not only by the fellowship of the soul; but
as, even now, the mind impresses its stamp on the features, so then, when all
shall be quite true, shall the soul, so to speak, body itself forth, fully
impress itself on the outward appearance, and for the first time shall we then
fully recognise those whom we shall now fully know - with all of earth that was
in them left behind, and all of God and good fully developed and ripened into
perfectness of beauty.
Matt. xxii. 29, 30, and parallels.
the Resurrection of Christ resurrection has become the gift of universal
humanity. But, beyond this general gift to humanity, we believe that we receive
in Baptism, as becoming connected with Christ, the inner germ of the glorious
Resurrection-body. Its nourishment (or otherwise) depends on our personal
relationship to Christ by faith, and is carried on through the Sacrament of His
Body and Blood.
But it was not enough to brush aside the flimsy cavil, which
had only meaning on the supposition of grossly materialistic views of the
Resurrection. Our Lord would not merely reply, He would answer the Sadducees;
and more grand or noble evidence of the Resurrection has never been offered
than that which He gave. Of course as speaking to the Sadducees, He remained on
the ground of the Pentateuch; and yet it was not only to the Law but to the
whole Bible that He appealed, nay, to that which underlay Revelation itself: the
relation between God and man. Not this nor that isolated passage only proved
the Resurrection: He Who, not only historically but in the fullest sense, calls
Himself the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, cannot leave them dead.
Revelation implies, not merely a fact of the past - as is the notion which
traditionalism attaches to it - a dead letter; it means a living relationship.
'He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for all live unto Him.'
The Sadducees were silenced, the multitude was astonished, and
even from some of the Scribes the admission was involuntarily wrung: 'Teacher,
Thou hast beautifully said.' One point, however, still claims our attention. It
is curious that, as regards both these arguments of Christ, Rabbinism offers statements
closely similar. Thus, it is recorded as one of the frequent sayings of a later
Rabbi, that in the world to come there would be neither eating nor drinking,
fruitfulness nor increase, business nor envy, hatred nor strife, but that the
just would sit with crowns on their heads, and feast on the splendor of the
reads like a Rabbinic adaptation of the saying of Christ. As regards the other
point, the Talmud reports a discussion on the Resurrection between 'Sadducees,'
or perhaps Jewish heretics (Jewish-Christian heretics), in which Rabbi Gamaliel
II. at last silences his opponents by an appeal to the promise37
'that ye may prolong your days in the land which the Lord sware unto your
father to give unto them' - 'unto them,' emphasises the Rabbi, not 'unto
this almost entirely misses the spiritual meaning conveyed in the reasoning of
Christ, it is impossible to mistake its Christian origin. Gamaliel II. lived
after Christ, but at a period when there was lively intercourse between Jews
and Jewish Christians; while, lastly, we have abundant evidence that the Rabbi
was acquainted with the sayings of Christ, and took part in the controversy
with the Church.39
On the other hand, Christians in his day - unless heretical sects - neither
denied that Resurrection, nor would they have so argued with the Jewish
Patriarch; while the Sadducees no longer existed as a party engaging in active
controversy. But we can easily perceive, that intercourse would be more likely
between Jews and such heretical Jewish Christians as might maintain that the
Resurrection was past, and only spiritual. The point is deeply interesting. It
opens such further questions as these: In the constant intercourse between
Jewish Christians and Jews, what did the latter learn? and may there not be
much in the Talmud which is only an appropriation and adaptation of what had
been derived from the New Testament?
17 a, towards the end.
similar reference to Exod. vi. 4 by a later Rabbi seems but an adaptation of
the argument of Gamaliel II. (See both in Sanh. 90 b.)
also recall that Gamaliel II. was the brother-in-law of that Eliezer b.
Hyrcanos, who was rightly suspected of leanings towards Christianity (see pp.
193, 194). This might open up a most interesting field of inquiry.
2. The answer of our Lord was not without its further results.
As we conceive it, among those who listened to the brief but decisive passage
between Jesus and the Sadducees were some 'Scribes' - Sopherim, or, as
they are also designated, 'lawyers,' 'teachers of the Law,' experts,
expounders, practitioners of the Jewish Law. One of them, perhaps he who
exclaimed: Beautifully said, Teacher! hastened to the knot of Pharisees, whom
it requires no stretch of the imagination to picture gathered in the Temple on
that day, and watching, with restless, ever foiled malice, the Saviour's every
movement. As 'the Scribe' came up to them, he would relate how Jesus had
literally 'gagged' and 'muzzled'40
the Sadducees - just as, according to the will of God, we are 'by well-doing to
gag the want or knowledge of senseless men.' There can be little doubt that the
report would give rise to mingled feelings, in which that prevailing would be,
that, although Jesus might thus have discomfited the Sadducees, He would be
unable to cope with other questions, if only properly propounded by Pharisaic
learning. And so we can understand how one of the number, perhaps the same
Scribe, would volunteer to undertake the office;41
and how his question was, as St. Matthew reports, in a sense really intended to
40. efimwse (St. Matt. xxii. 34). The word
occurs also in St. Matt xxii. 12: St. Mark i. 25; iv. 39; St. Luke iv. 35: 1
Cor. ix. 9; 1 Tim. v. 18; 1 Peter. ii 16.
the two accounts in St. Matthew xxii. 34-40 and in St. Mark xii. 28-34.
We dismiss here the well-known Rabbinic distinctions of 'heavy'
and 'light' commandments, because Rabbinism declared the 'light' to be as
binding as 'the heavy,'42
those of the Scribes more 'heavy' (or binding) than those of Scripture,43
and that one commandment was not to be considered to carry greater reward, and
to be therefore more carefully observed, than another.44
That such thoughts were not in the mind of the questioner, but rather the grand
general problem - however himself might have answered it - appears even from
the form of his inquiry: 'Which [qualis] is the great - 'the first'45
- commandment in the Law?' So challenged, the Lord could have no hesitation in
replying. Not to silence him, but to speak the absolute truth, He quoted the
well-remembered words which every Jew was bound to repeat in his devotions, and
which were ever to be on his lips, living or dying, as the inmost expression of
his faith: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord.' And then continuing,
He repeated the command concerning love to God which is the outcome of that
profession. But to have stopped here would have been to propound a theoretic
abstraction without concrete reality, a mere Pharisaic worship of the letter.
As God is love - His Nature so manifesting itself - so is love to God also love46
to man. And so this second is 'like' 'the first and great commandment.' It was
a full answer to the Scribe when He said: 'There is none other commandment
greater than these.'
ii. 1; iv. 2.
Mark xii. 28.
rightly remarks on the use of agaphseiV
here, implying moral high estimation and corresponding conduct, and not filein, which refers to love as an affection.
The latter could not have been commanded, although such filia of the world is forbidden (St. James iv. 4) while
the filein of one's own yuch (St. John xii. 25) and the mh filein ton kurio (1 Cor. xvi. 22)
But it was more than an answer, even deepest teaching, when, as
St. Matthew reports, He added: 'on these two commandments hang all the law and
It little matters for our present purpose how the Jews at the time understood
and interpreted these two commandments.48
They would know what it meant that the Law and the Prophets 'hung' on them, for
it was a Jewish expression (Nywlt). He taught them, not that any one
commandment was greater or smaller, heavier or lighter, than another - might be
set aside or neglected, but that all sprang from these two as their root and
principle, and stood in living connection with them. It was teaching similar to
that concerning the Resurrection; that, as concerning the promises, so concerning
the commandments, all Revelation was one connected whole; not
disjointed ordinances of which the letter was to be weighed, but a life
springing from love to God and love to man. So noble was the answer, that for
the moment the generous enthusiasm of the Scribe, who had previously been
favorably impressed by Christ's answer to the Sadducees, was kindled. For the
moment, at least, traditionalism lost its sway; and, as Christ pointed to it,
he saw the exceeding moral beauty of the Law. He was not far from the Kingdom
of God.49 Whether
or not he ever actually entered it, is written on the yet unread page of its
Matt. xxii 4.
Jewish view of these commands has been previously explained.
Mark xii. 33, 34.
3. The Scribe had originally come to put his question with
mixed motives, partially inclined towards Him from His answer to the Sadducees,
and yet intending to subject Him to the Rabbinic test. The effect now wrought
in him, and the silence which from that moment fell on all His would-be
questioners, induced Christ to follow up the impression that had been made.
Without addressing any one in particular, He set before them all, what perhaps
was the most familiar subject in their theology, that of the descent of
Messiah. Whose Son was He? And when they replied: 'The Son of David,'50
He referred them to the opening words of Psalm cx., in which David called the
Messiah 'Lord.' The argument proceeded, of course, on the two-fold supposition
that the Psalm was Davidic and that it was Messianic. Neither of these
statements would have been questioned by the ancient Synagogue. But we could
not rest satisfied with the explanation that this sufficed for the purpose of
Christ's argument, if the foundation on which it rested could be seriously
called in question. Such, however, is not the case. To apply Psalm cx., verse
by verse and consistently, to any one of the Maccabees, were to undertake a
critical task which only a series of unnatural explanations of the language
could render possible. Strange, also, that such an interpretation of what at
the time of Christ would have been a comparatively young composition, should
have been wholly unknown alike to Sadducee and Pharisee. For our own part, we
are content to rest the Messianic interpretation on the obvious and natural
meaning of the words taken in connection with the general teaching of the Old
Testament about the Messiah, on the undoubted interpretation of the ancient
on the authority of Christ, and on the testimony of History.
also shows that the later dogma of Messiah the Son of Joseph had not yet been
Compared with this, the other question as to the authorship of
the Psalm is of secondary importance. The character of infinite, nay, Divine,
superiority to any earthly Ruler, and of course to David, which the Psalm sets
forth in regard to the Messiah, would sufficiently support the argument of
Christ. But, besides, what does it matter, whether the Psalm was composed by
David, or only put into the mouth of David (David's or Davidic), which, on the
supposition of Messianic application, is the only rational alternative?
But we should greatly err if we thought that, in calling the
attention of His hearers to this apparent contradiction about the Christ, the
Lord only intended to show the utter incompetence of the Pharisees to teach the
higher truths of the Old Testament. Such, indeed, was the case - and they felt
it in His Presence.52
But far beyond this, as in the proof which He gave for the Resurrection, and in
the view which He presented of the great commandment, the Lord would point to
the grand harmonious unity of Revelation. Viewed separately, the two
statements, that Messiah was David's Son, and that David owned Him Lord, would
seem incompatible. But in their combination in the Person of the Christ, how
harmonious and how full of teaching - to Israel of old, and to all men - concerning
the nature of Christ's Kingdom and of His Work!
Matt. xxii. 46.
It was but one step from this demonstration of the incompetence
of Israel's teachers for the position they claimed to a solemn warning on this
subject. And this appropriately constitutes Christ's Farewell to the Temple, to
its authorities, and to Israel. As might have been expected, we have the
report of it in St. Matthew's Gospel.53
Much of this had been said before, but in quite other connection, and therefore
with different application. We notice this, when comparing this Discourse with
the Sermon on the Mount, and, still more, with what Christ had said when at the
meal in the house of the Pharisee in Peræa.54
But here St. Matthew presents a regular series of charges against the
representatives of Judaism, formulated in logical manner, taking up
successively one point after the other, and closing with the expression of
deepest compassion and longing for that Jerusalem, whose children He would fain
have gathered under His sheltering wings from the storm of Divine judgment.
Luke xi. 37-54.
To begin with - Christ would have them understand, that, in
warning them of the incompetence of Israel's teachers for the position which
they occupied, He neither wished for Himself nor His disciples the place of
authority which they claimed, nor yet sought to incite the people to resistance thereto. On the contrary, so long as they held the place of authority they were
to be regarded - in the language of the Mishnah55
- as if instituted by Moses himself, as sitting in Moses' seat, and were to be
obeyed, so far as merely outward observances were concerned. We regard this
direction, not as of merely temporary application, but as involving as
important principle. But we also recall that the ordinances to which Christ
made reference were those of the Jewish canon-law, and did not involve anything
which could really affect the conscience - except that of the ancient, or of
our modern Pharisees. But while they thus obeyed their outward directions, they
were equally to eschew the spirit which characterised their observances.56
In this respect of twofold charge is laid against them: of want of spiritual
earnestness and love,57
and of more externalism, vanity, and self-seeking.58
And here Christ interrupted His Discourse to warn His disciples against the
first beginnings of what had led to such fearful consequences, and to point
them to the better way.59
haSh. ii. 9.
the literal charge of teaching and not doing is brought in Jewish writings
(see, for example, Ber. R. 34).
Matt. xxiii. 3, 4.
This constitutes the first part of Christ's charge. Before
proceeding to those which follow, we may give a few illustrative explanations.
Of the opening accusation about the binding (truly in bondage: desmeuw) of heavy burdens and grievous
to be borne, and laying them on men's shoulders, proof can scarcely be
required. As frequently shown, Rabbinism placed the ordinances of tradition
above those of the Law,60
and this by a necessity of the system, since they were professedly the
authoritative exposition and the supplement of the written Law.61
And although it was a general rule, that no ordinance should be enjoined
heavier that the congregation could bear,62
yet (as previously stated) it was admitted, that whereas the words of the Law
contained what 'lightened' and what 'made heavy,' the words of the Scribes
contained only what 'made heavy.'63
Again, it was another principle, that were an 'aggravation' or increase of the
burden had once been introduced, it must continue to be observed.64
Thus the burdens became intolerable. And the blame rested equally on both the
great Rabbinic Schools. For, although the School of Hillel was supposed in
general to make the yoke lighter, and that of Shammai heavier, yet not only did
they agree on many points,65
but the School of Hillel was not unfrequently even more strict than that of his
rival.66 In truth,
their differences seem too often only prompted by a spirit of opposition, so
that the serious business of religion became in their hands one of rival
authority and mere wrangling.67
especially Jer. Ber. i. 7, p. 3 b.
Kama 79 b.
Sanh. 30 a. at bottom
notably in the well-known 'eighteen points' rbd h~y Ab. Sar. 36 a.
such are mentioned. Jer. Bets. 60 b.
very many of them 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, tow schools in controversy whether it was lawful to kill
a louse on the Sabbath. (Schabb. 12 a; 107 b.)
It is not so easy to understand the second part of Christ's
accusation. There were, indeed, many hypocrites among them, who might, in the
language of the Talmud, alleviate for themselves and make heavy for others.68
Yet the charge of not moving them with the finger could scarcely apply to the
Pharisees as a party - not even in this sense, that Rabbinic ingenuity mostly
found some means of evading what was unpleasant. But, as previously explained,69
we would understand the word rendered 'move' as meaning to 'set in motion,' or
'move away,' in the sense that they did not 'alleviate' where they might have
done so, or else with reference to their admitted principle, that their
ordinances always made heavier, never lighter - always imposed grievous
burdens, but never, not even with the finger, moved them away.
i. p. 101.
With this charge of unreality and want of love, those of
externalism, vanity, and self-seeking are closely connected. Here we can only
make selection from the abundant evidence in our support of it. By a merely
external interpretation of Exod. xiii. 9, 16, and Deut. vi. 8; xi. 18, practice
of wearing Phylacteries or, as they were called, Tephillin,
'prayer-fillets,' was introduced.70
These, as will be remembered, were square capsules, covered with leather,
containing on small scrolls of parchment, these four sections of the law: Exod.
xiii. 1-10; 11-16: Deut. vi. 4-9; xi. 13-21. The Phylacteries were fastened by
long leather straps to the forehead, and round the left arm, near the heart.
Most superstitious reverence was attached to them, and in later times they were
even used as amulets. Nevertheless, the Talmud itself gives confirmation that
the practice of constantly wearing phylacteries - or, it might be, making them
broad, and enlarging the borders of the garments, we intended 'for to be
seen of men.' Thus we are told of a certain man who had done so, in order
to cover his dishonest practices in appropriating what had been entrusted to
Nay, the Rabbis had in so many words to lay it down as a principle, than the
Phylacteries were not to be worn for show.72
On the Tephillin, comp. 'Sketches of Jewish Social
Life,' pp. 219-244.
Ber. 4 c, lines 7 and 8 from top.
Detailed proof is scarcely required of the charge of vanity and
self-seeking in claiming marked outward honours, such as the upper-most places
at feasts and in the Synagogue, respectful salutations in the market, the
ostentatious repetition of the title 'Rabbi,' or 'Abba,' 'Father,' or 'Master,'73
or the distinction of being acknowledged as 'greatest.' The very earnestness
with which the Talmud sometimes warns against such motives for study or for
piety sufficiently establishes it. But, indeed, Rabbinic writings lay down
elaborate directions, what place is to be assigned to the Rabbis, according to
their rank, and to their disciples,75
and how in the College the most learned, but at feast the most aged, among the
Rabbis, are to occupy the 'upper seats.'76
So weighty was the duty of respectful salutation by the title Rabbi, that to
neglect it would involve the heaviest punishment.77
Two great Rabbis are described as literally complaining, that they must have
lost the very appearance of learning, since in the market-place they only had
been greeted with 'May your peace be great,' without the addition 'My masters.'78
titles are put in the mouth of King Jehoshaphat when saluting the Rabbis.
B. 120 a.
Ber. 9 a, about the middle. Comp. Levy. Neuheber. Wörterb, ii. 10
A few further illustrations of the claims which Rabbinism
preferred may throw light on the words of Christ. It reads like a wretched
imitation from the New Testament, when the heathen Governor of Cæsarea is
represented as rising up before Rabbis because he beheld 'the faces as it were
of Angels;' or like an adaptation of the well-known story about Constantine the
Great when the Governor of Antioch is described as vindicating a similar mark
of respect to the Rabbis by this, that he had seen their faces and by them
conquered in battle.79
From another Rabbi rays of light are said to have visibly proceeded.80
According to some, they were Epicuraeans, who had no part in the world to come,
who referred slightingly to 'these Rabbis.'81
To supply a learned man with the means of gaining money in trade, would procure
a high place in heaven.82
It was said that, according to Prov. viii. 15, the sages were to be saluted as
kings;83 nay, in
some respects, they were higher - for, as between a sage and a king, it would
be duty to give the former priority in redemption from captivity, since every
Israelite was fit to be a king, but the loss of a Rabbi could not easily be
made up.84 But even
this is not all. The curse of a Rabbi, even if uncaused, would surely come to
pass.85 It would
be too painful to repeat some of the miracles pretended to have been done by
them or for them, occasionally in protection of a lie; or to record their
disputes which among them was 'greatest,' or how they established their
Nay, their self-assertion extended beyond this life, and a Rabbi went so far as
to order that he should be buried in white garments, to show that he was worthy
of appearing before his Maker.87
But perhaps the climax of blasphemous self-assertion is reached in the story,
that, in a discussion in heaven between God and the heavenly Academy on a
Halakhic question about purity, a certain Rabbi - deemed that most learned on
the subject - was summoned to decide the point! As his soul passed from the
body he exclaimed: 'Pure, pure,' which the Voice from Heaven applied to the
state of the Rabbi's soul; and immediately afterwards a letter had fallen from
heaven to inform the sages of the purpose of which the Rabbi had been summoned
to the heavenly assembly, and afterwards another enjoining a week's universal
mourning for him on pain of excommunication.88
Ber. 9 a, about the middle.
Sanh x. 1.
b line 3 from top.
for example Bahba Mets 85 b and 86 a.
R. 96. towards close
Mets 86 a.
Such daring profanities must have crushed out all spiritual
religion, and reduced it to a mere intellectual display, in which the Rabbi was
always chief - here and hereafter. Repulsive as such legends are, they will at
least help us to understand what otherwise might seem harsh in our Lord's
denunciations of Rabbinism. In view of all this, we need not discuss the
Rabbinic warnings against pride and self-seeking when connected with study, nor
their admonitions to humility.89
For, the question here is, what Rabbinism regarded as pride, and what as
humility, in its teachers? Nor is it maintained that all were equally guilty in
this matter; and what passed around may well have led more earnest to energetic
admonitions to humility and unselfishness. but no ingenuity can explain away
the facts as above stated, and, when such views prevailed, it would have been
almost superhuman wholly to avoid what our Lord denounced as characteristic of
Pharisaism. And in this sense, not with Pharisaic painful literalism, but as
opposed to Rabbinic bearing, are we to understand the Lord's warning to His own
not to claim among brethren to be 'Rabbi,' or 'Abba,' or 'guide.'90
The Law of the Kingdom, as repeatedly taught,91
was the opposite. As regarded aims, they were to seek the greatness of service;
and as regarded that acknowledgment which would come from God, it would be the
exaltation of humiliation.
the quotations to that effect in Schöttgen, Wetstein, and Wünsche
clausula (ver. 11) ostendit, senon sophistice litigasse de vocibus,
serem points spectasse (Calvin).
Mark ix. 35; St. Luke xiv. 11; xviii. 14.
It was not a break in the Discourse,92
rather an intensification of it, when Christ now turned to make final denunciation
of Pharisaism in its sin and hypocrisy.93
Corresponding to the eight Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount with which His
public Ministry began, He now closed it with eight denunciations of woe.94
These are the fourthpouring of His holy wrath, the last and fullest testimony
against those whose guilt would involve Jerusalem in common sin and common
judgement. Step by step, with logical sequence and intensified pathos of
energy, is each charge advanced, and with it the Woe of Divine wrath announced.
argues at length, but very inconclusively, that this is a different Discourse,
addressed to a different audience and at a different time.
Matt. xxiii. 13-33.
St. Matt. xxiii. 14 is in all probability spurious, this 'woe' occurs in St.
Mark xii. 40, and in St. Luke xx. 47.
The first Woe against Pharisaism was on their shutting the
Kingdom of God against men by their opposition to the Christ. All knew how
exclusive were their pretensions in confining piety to the possession of
knowledge, and that they declared it impossible for an ignorant person to be
pious. Had they taught men the Scriptures, and shown them the right way, they
would have been true to their office; but woe to them who, in their positions
as leaders, had themselves stood back with their backs to the door of the
Kingdom, and prevented the entrance of others.
The second Woe was on their covetousness and hypocrisy. They
made long prayers,95
but how often did it only cover the vilest selfishness, even to the 'devouring'
of widow's houses. We can scarcely expect the Talmud here to furnish us with
illustrative instances, and yet at least one such is recorded;96
and we recall how often broad phylacteries covered fraudulent minds.
32 b; Yoma 29 a.
21 b; comp. Jer. Sot. 19 a.
The third Woe was on their proselytism, which issued only in
making their converts twofold more the children of hell than themselves.
Against this charge, rightly understood, Judaism has in vain sought to defend
itself. It is, indeed, true that, in its pride and exclusiveness, Judaism
seemed to denounce proselytism, laid down strict rules to test the sincerity of
converts, and spoke of them in general contempt97
as 'a plague of leprosy.'98
Yet the bitter complaint of classical writers,99
the statements of Josephus,101
the frequent allusions in the New Testament and even the admissions of the
Rabbis, prove their zeal for making proselytes - which, indeed, but for its
moral sequences, would neither have deserted nor drawn down the denunciation of
a 'woe.' Thus the Midrash, commenting on the words:102
'the souls that they had gotten in Haran,' refers it to the converts which
Abraham had made, adding that every proselyte was to be regarded as if a soul
had been created.103
To this we may add the pride with which Judaism looked back upon the 150,000
Gibeonite converts said to have been made when David avenged the sin of Saul;105
the satisfaction with which it looked forward to the times of Messiah as those
of spontaneous conversion to the Synagogue;106
and not the unfrequent instances in which a spirit favorable to proselytism is
exhibited in Jewish writings,107
as, also, such a saying as this, that when Israel is obedient to the will of
God, He brings in as converts to Judaism all the just of the nations, such as
Jethro, Rahab, Ruth, &c.108
But after all, may the Lord not have referred, not to conversion to Judaism in
general, but to proselytism to the sect of the Pharisees, which was undoubtedly
sought to the compassing of sea and land?
47 a. b; Nidd. 13 b.
Hist. v. 5; Seneca in August. De Civit. Dei vi. 11(2).
passages in proof see Wetsein ad loc.
xviii. 3. 5; xx. 2, 4; Jewish War ii.17. 10 &c.; 20, 2; Life 23.
R. 39, ed. Warsh. p. 72 a, and Vayy. R. 1.
who would see how Jewish ingenuity can, for the purpose of misrepresenting the
words of Christ, put a meaning even on Jewish documents which they can never
bear, is advised to read the remarks of the learned Jellinek on St.
Matt. xxiii, 15, in the Beth ha-Midr. vol. v. pp. xlvi. xlvii., and his
rendering of the quotation from Ber. R. 28.
Sam. xxi. 1 &c.; Yebam, 79 a.
Zar. 24 a.
learned Danzius has collected all that can be said on that subject in Meuschan,
Nov. Test. ex Talm. illustr., pp. 649-666. But in my opinion he exaggerates his
on Eccl. v. 11.
The fourth Woe is denounced on the moral blindness of these
guides rather than on their hypocrisy. From the nature of things it is not easy
to understand the precise allusion of Christ. It is true that the Talmud makes
the strangest distinction between an oath or adjuration, such as 'by heaven' or
'by earth,' which is not supposed to be binding; and that by any of the letters
of which Divine Being, when the oath is supposed to be binding.109
But it seems more likely that our Lord refers to oaths or adjurations in
connection with vows, where the casuistry was of the most complicated kind. In
general, the Lord here condemns the arbitrariness of all such Jewish
distinctions, which, by attaching excessive value to the letter of an oath or
vow, really tended to diminish its sanctity. All such distinctions argued folly
and more blindness.
iv. 13 and 35 b, 36 a.
The fifth Woe referred to one of the best-known
and strangest Jewish ordinances, which extended the mosaic law of tithing, in
most burdensome minuteness, even to the smallest products of the soil that were
esculent and could be preserved,110
such as anise. Of these, according to some, not only the seeds, but, in certain
cases, even the leaves and stalks, had to be tithed.111
And this, together with grievous omission of the weightier matters of the Law:
judgement, mercy, and faith. Truly, this was 'to strain out the gnat, and
swallow the camel!' We remember that this conscientiousness in tithing
constituted one of the characteristics of the Pharisees; but we could scarcely
be prepared for such an instance of it, as when the Talmud gravely assures us
that the ass of a certain Rabbi had been so well trained as to refuse corn of
which the tithes had not been taken!112
And experience, not only in the past but in the present, has only too plainly
shown, that a religious zeal which expends itself on trifles has not room nor
strength left for the weightier matters of the Law.
From tithing to purification the transition was natural.113
It constituted the second grand characteristic of Pharisaic piety. We have seen
with what punctiliousness questions of outward purity of vessels were
discussed. But woe to the hypocrisy which, caring for the outside, heeded not
whether that which filled the cup and platter had been procured by extortion or
was used for excess. And, alas for the blindness which perceived not, that
internal purity was the real condition of that which was outward!
with keen insight, characterises the Woes which contrasts their proselytising
with their resistance to the progress of the Kingdom; then, the third and
fourth which denounce their false teaching, the fifth, and sixth their false
attempts at purity, while the last sets forth their relations to those
forerunners of Christ, whose graves they built.
Woe similarly to another species of hypocrisy, of which,
indeed, the preceding were but the outcome: that of outward appearance of
righteousness, while heart and mind were full of iniquity - just as those
annually-whited sepulchres of theirs seemed so fair outwardly, but within were
full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. Woe, lastly, to that hypocrisy
which built and decorated sepulchres of prophets and righteous men, and by so
doing sought to shelter itself from share in the guilt of those who had killed
them. It was not spiritual repentance, but national pride, which actuated them
in this, the same spirit of self-sufficiency, pride, and impenitence which had
led their fathers to commit the murders. And were they not about to imbrue their
hands in the blood of Him to Whom all the prophets had pointed? Fast were they
in the Divine judgement filling up the measure of their fathers.
And thicker and heavier than ever before fell the hailstorm of
His denunciations, as He foretold the certain doom which awaited their national
Prophets, wise men, and scribes would be sent them of Him; and only murder,
sufferings, and persecutions would await them - not reception of their message
and warnings. And so would they become heirs of all the blood of martyred
saints, from that of him whom Scripture records as the first one murdered, down
to that last martyr of Jewish unbelief of whom tradition spoke in such terms -
Zechariah,115 stoned by
the king's command in the Court of the Temple,116
whose blood, as legend had it, did not dry up those two centuries and a half,
but still bubbled on the pavement, when Nebuzar-adan entered the Temple, and at
last avenged it.117
need scarcely remind the reader that this Zechariah was the son of Jehoiada.
The difference in the text of St. Matthew may either be due to family
circumstances, unknown to us, which might admit of his designation as 'the son
of Barachias' (the reading is undoubtedly correct), or an error may have crept
into the text - how, we know not, and it is of little moment. There can be no
question that the reference is to this Zecharias. It seems scarcely necessary
to refer to the strange notion that the notice in St. matt. xxiii, 35 has been
derived from the account of the murder of Zacharias, the son of Baruch,
in the Temple during the last siege (Jos. War. iv. 5. 4). To this there
are the following four objections: (1) Baruch (as in Jos.) and Barachias
(as in St. Matt.) are quite different names, in Greek as in Hebrew - K:w@rb@af,
'blessed,' Barouc, and hyafk:reb@e
'Jehovah will bless,' BaraciaV.
Comp. for ex. LXX., Neh. iii. 20 with iii. 30. (2) Because the place of their
slaughter was different, that of the one 'between the porch and the altar,'
that of the other 'in the midst (en
mes--) of the Temple' - either the court of the women, or that of the
Israelites. (3) Because the murder of the Zacharias referred to by St. Matt.
stood out as the crowning national crime, and as such is repeatedly referred to
in Jewish legend (see references in margin), and dwelt upon with many
miraculous embellishments (4) Because the clumsiest forger would scarcely have
put into the mouth of Jesus an event connected with the last siege of Jerusalem
and derived from Josephus. In general, we take this opportunity strongly to
assert that only unacquaintance with the whole subject could lead anyone to
look to Josephus for the source of any part of the evangelic narrative. To
these remarks we have to add that precisely the same error (if such it be) as
in our text of St. Matthew occurs in the Targum on Lament. ii. 20, where this
Zechariah is designated 'the son (= grandson) of Iddo,' comp. Ezr. v. 1, and
Zech. i. 1, 7. For the correct reading ('son of Jehoiada') in the 'Gospel of
the Hebrews,' comp. Nicholson, p. 59.
Chron. xxiv. 20-22.
96 b; Gitt, 57 b; also in the Midr. on Eccl. iii. 16 and x. 4. and on
Lament. ii. 2, and iv. 14.
And yet it would not have been Jesus, if, while denouncing
certain judgement on them who, by continuance and completion of the crimes of
their fathers, through the same unbelief, had served themselves heirs to all
their guilt, He had not also added to it the passionate lament of a love which,
even when spurned, lingered with regretful longing over the lost.118
They all knew the common illustration of the hen gathering her young brood for
shelter,119 and they
knew also what of Divine protection, blessing, and rest it implied, when they
spoke of being gathered under the wings of the Shekhinah. Fain and often would
Jesus have given to Israel, His people, that shelter, rest, protection, and
blessing - but they would not. Looking around on those Temple-buildings - that
House, it shall be left to them desolate! And he quitted its courts with these
words, that they of Israel should not see Him again till, the night of their
unbelief past, they would welcome His return with a better Hosanna than that
which greeted His Royal Entry three days before. And this was the 'Farewell'
and the parting of Israel's Messiah from Israel and its temple. Yet a Farewell
which promised a coming again; and a parting which implied a welcome in the
future from a believing people to a gracious, pardoning King!
Chapter 3 | Table
of Contents | Chapter 5