In reality, there is no justification at all for accepting as authoritative the teachings of any of the Hasidic groups, especially the Pharisees, or even that of the Aristocratic sects of the Sadducees, Boethusian Sadducees, or Samaritans. All systems must be weighed against what Scriptures actually state, not vice versa.
If after examining Scriptures we find that one or another of these groups held true to some of the practices and doctrines that were originally commanded, the most we can say is that they were observing that point correctly. Yet any conclusion must be tempered by the scriptural warnings about the various teachings of the Sadducees, Pharisees, and scribes (lawyers).
With this post, we shall first deal with the scriptural evidence warning us against using the various Jewish groups as authoritative. Following our conclusion of our present topic, we shall provide a second post where we will concentrate on understanding Romans 3:1-2, and Matthew 23:3.
The passages from Romans and Matthew will address the issues regarding the oracles of Yahweh being entrusted to the Judahites and regarding the messiah’s instruction “to keep an eye on” what the scribes (lawyers) and Pharisees tell us to do. Also, these passages have been used by some as a basis for following the Pharisaic calendar system for determining new moons and new years. We shall therefore examine the validity of this claim.
Beware of Them
The messiah and his followers never gave credence to the Sadducees, Pharisees, or scribes or to any of their teachings. Instead, they warned the early Christians to beware of any of these sects and their teachings. Yahushua, for example, warned his apostles:
After further explanation of this leavening, his disciples “understood that he did not say to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”2 Therefore, the teachings of both schools were condemned.
The apostle Saul (Paul) further defines leaven as “malice and wickedness” and unleavened as “sincerity and truth.”3 It is therefore evident that the teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees were insincere and false, filled with malice and wickedness.
On another occasion, Yahushua again warned his disciples, telling them:
Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. (Luke 12:1)
When the Pharisees and Sadducees came to the messiah, tempting him with a request to see “a sign from the heavens,” Yahushua condemned both factions, stating:
Hypocrites! the face of the heavens (regarding weather) you know (how) to discern, but the signs of the times you cannot. A wicked and adulterous generation seeks a sign, and a sign will not be given to it, except the sign of Jonah the prophet. (Matt. 16:1-4)4
Indeed, on another occasion Yahushua gave a long list of hypocritical deeds of the Pharisees and scribes (the scribes themselves being predominantly Pharisaic), several times repeating the lament, “woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!”5 His primary charge against them was as follows:
This statement is hardly a recommendation to follow Pharisaic and scribal doctrines and teachings.
Devoured Widow’s Houses
Yahushua continues by pointing out that the Pharisees and scribes were hypocrites because they devoured widows’ houses and as a pretense made long prayers.7 They also adorned the tombs of the prophets and righteous men but would, in truth, have been among those who would have murdered them.8 For this reason, the messiah cursed them, saying, “Behold, your house is left to you desolate.”9
Yahushua, likewise, accused them of appearing sinless outside but inside (in their nature) they were really rotted with sin, filled with extortion and excess.10 Outwardly, he pointed out, they “appear to men as righteous, but within are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”11 One of the most stinging charges against the scribes and Pharisees came when Yahushua told them:
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and the anise and the cummin, yet YOU LEAVE ASIDE THE WEIGHTIER (matters) OF THE TORAH, JUDGMENT, AND MERCY AND TRUST. Blind guides, who filter out the gnat but swallow the camel. (Matt. 23:23-24)
Therefore, since the scribes and Pharisees were more concerned with their appearance (e.g., appearing pious outside by paying tithes so as to be seen by men) while neglecting the weightier matters of the Torah, it made them blind guides. The apostle Keph defines the blind as those lacking trust, virtue, knowledge, self-control, endurance, piety, brotherly love, and love.12 They are described as having “sin.”13
Yahushua, in turn, calls the Pharisees and scribes “fools and blind” in their doctrine, using as an example their doctrine that whoever swears by the gold in the Temple is a debtor while those who swear by the Temple itself have said nothing; and whoever swears by the gift on the altar is a debtor but those who swear by the altar itself have said nothing.14
On another occasion Yahushua advises his followers to “leave” the Pharisees alone because “they are blind leaders of the blind; and if the blind lead the blind both will fall into the pit.”15 The leavening (= teachings) of the Pharisees and scribes, therefore, makes them blind leaders. One can hardly follow Pharisaic teachings if they are blind leaders, for in that case those following their lead are blind led by the blind.
A Little Leaven Destroys
As Saul reminds the Assembly:
A small amount of doctrinal error, therefore, can destroy the entire Assembly. Accordingly, Saul warns the early Christians:
Therefore, purge out the old leaven, so that you will be a new lump, as you are unleavened. (1 Cor. 5:7)
Vipers and Serpents
Further, the early Christians saw the Pharisees and Sadducees as vipers and serpents. For example, when John the baptist observed “many of the Pharisees and Sadducees” coming to his baptisms, he told them:
Yahushua also described the Pharisees in the same way, saying:
Offsprings of vipers, how are you able to speak good things, being wicked? for out of the abundance of the mind the mouth speaks. (Matt. 12:34)
Speaking of the scribes and Pharisees on another occasion, he adds:
Serpents, offspring of vipers, how shall you escape from the judgment of gehenna (fire)? (Matt. 23:33)
Yahushua’s condemnation was even greater, telling the scribes and Pharisees:
You are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father you will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. (John 8:44)
The Oral Laws
As already demonstrated, the heart of rabbinic Judaism was their reliance upon their oral laws, “the traditions” of their fathers and elders, as compiled by the scribes. Using these invented traditions, they were attempting “to build a fence around the Torah.”18
In accumulating these traditions, which were based upon the interpretive approach, the rabbis created numerous myths and fables, which were used to elevate the importance of the rabbis in the eyes of the people. This use of men’s traditions was strongly condemned by the messiah, the prophets, and the apostles.
To demonstrate, in Isaiah we read:
And the sovereign (Yahweh) says, Because this people (the Israelites) draw near to me with their mouth, and with their lips they honor me; but their heart is far from me and their respect of me is TAUGHT BY THE COMMANDMENTS OF MEN. (Isa. 29:11-16, esp. v. 13)
The prophet Jeremiah points out:
Our fathers have inherited only lies, vanity, and there is no profit in them. (Jer. 16:19)
Thus says Yahweh: You will not be goaded to the way of the nations; and do not be terrified by the signs of the heavens, for the nations are terrified by them. For the statutes (i.e., laws built on customs) of the people are vanity. (Jer. 10:2)
Even the apostle Keph warned of “your vain manner of life handed down from (your) fathers.”19 The apostle Saul, who was himself educated as a Pharisee under the famous Rabban Gamaliel I, 20 reminds the Galatians that he too was once “advancing in Judaism beyond many contemporaries in my nation, being more abundantly zealous for the traditions of my fathers.”21
Saul Rejects Being a Pharisee
Yet Saul turned from this religion to announce the good news of the messiah. He adds that this good news “is not according to man” but from Yahushua the messiah.22 He reminds the Thessalonians to “accept not the words of men,”23 and warns the Colossians:
Take heed lest there will be anyone who will make a prey of you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the traditions of men, according to the elements of the world, and not according to the messiah. (Col. 2:8)
Saul also reminded Titus to adhere to sound teaching:
For there are many and insubordinate vain talkers and mind-deceivers, ESPECIALLY THOSE OUT OF THE CIRCUMCISION (i.e., Jews), whom it is necessary to stop their mouths, who overthrow whole houses, teaching things which (they) ought not, for the sake of base gain. (Titus 1:10-11)
Therefore, Saul advised the early Christians not to give heed “to Jewish fables and the commandments of men, (thereby) turning away from the truth.”24 The particular Jews of the circumcision to which Saul was referring are made evident by his further condemnation of them as those who were deceiving many in the Assembly by demanding that they become circumcised in the flesh.25
In Acts, these Jews are clearly identified:
But there rose up certain of the heresy of the Pharisees, who believed (in the messiah), saying, That it is necessary to circumcise them (Christians from the nations), and to charge them to keep the Torah of Moses. (Acts 15:5)
Yahushua condemned the traditions (oral laws) of the Pharisees. In one important example, he discovered his disciples under accusation from the “scribes and Pharisees” from Jerusalem.26 They found fault with them because they ate with unwashed hands:
For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands with the fist, holding to the tradition of the elders. And they do not eat after coming from the market place unless they wash themselves. And there are MANY OTHER THINGS which they received to hold: washing of cups, and of utensils, and of bronze vessels, and couches. (Mark 7:3-4)
They accordingly questioned the messiah, asking, “Why do your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread?”27 Since such an instruction is nowhere found in Scriptures, Yahushua, in turn, chastised them:
You do well to set aside the commandment of the deity so that you can keep your traditions.28 For Moses said, “Honor your father and your mother,” and “The one speaking evil of his father or mother let him end by death.”29 Yet you (on the other hand) say, “If a man says to the father or to his mother, Korban—that is, ‘a gift’—whatever out of me you will profit,” and no longer will you allow him to do anything for his father or mother, (you thereby) make empty the word of the deity by your tradition which you delivered. And many such things like this you do. (Mark 7:9-12)30
Then after calling the Pharisees “hypocrites” and reciting to them the condemnation of Isaiah 29:13, 31 he informed them:
For forsaking the commandment of the deity, you hold to the tradition of men, the washings of utensils and cups and you do many such other like things. (Mark 7:8)
The entire calendric system of the Pharisees and scribes was built upon their oral laws, i.e., the traditions of their elders and fathers. Based upon the condemnation against these traditions by Yahweh and his prophets, as well as by the apostles, it immediately draws into question the reliability of using the Pharisaic system for any doctrinal decision.
Both the Sadducees and Pharisees were accused of major doctrinal errors by Scriptures. The Sadducees, for example, believed “that there is no resurrection” of the dead. Yahushua condemned them, saying, “you do greatly err,” and “You err, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of the deity.”32
The apostle Saul was even able to save himself from the Great Sanhedrin of Sadducees and Pharisees by fostering a debate over the issue of the resurrection.33 The book of Acts informs us:
For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor ruach: but the Pharisees confess both.” (Acts 23:8)
Neither did the Pharisees escape this kind of doctrinal condemnation. Besides their reliance on oral laws, fables, and men’s traditions, as demonstrated above, other doctrines were specifically mentioned as false. For example, when the Pharisees came to Yahushua, he asked them what they thought of the messiah and whose son he was. They acknowledged that the messiah was the son of King David.34 Yahushua then asked them:
How then does David in the ruach call him אדני (a-d-n-i, my foundation)35 saying, “A statement of Yahweh to אדני, Sit at my right hand, until I set your enemies as a stool for your feet”? (Ps. 110:1) Therefore, if David calls him אדני, how is he (also) his son? (Matt. 22:43-44)36
The answer, of course, was that the messiah was Yahu Yahweh, who had come in the flesh.37 The Pharisaic doctrine that the messiah was only a mere mortal was hard to sustain against this passage. Therefore, “no man was able to answer him (Yahushua) a word, neither did anyone from that day forward ask him any more (questions).”38
The Pharisees and scribes (lawyers) also held erroneous teachings about eating common meals with publicans and sinners—a thing which was permitted by Scriptures but condemned by the Pharisees39 —and their requirement to regularly fast.40 They also did not understand the rules of marriage and divorce as commanded in Scriptures,41 a problem also found among the Sadducees.42
Pharisaic Doctrine Wrong
One of the more egregious doctrinal errors of the Pharisees regarded their oral traditions about a calendric issue, the Sabbath day. For instance, when the messiah and his disciples were discovered plucking and eating grain out of the field on the Sabbath day, a practice which is scriptural,43 the Pharisees condemned them, saying:
The messiah corrected them by giving some scriptural examples,45 one regarding David, before he became king, and his eating of show-bread from the Temple,46 and another on how the priests on the Sabbaths profane the Sabbath and are guiltless.47
The Pharisees and scribes also held the unscriptural position that it was unlawful “to heal on the Sabbath days”48 or to cast out demons on that day.49 The messiah demonstrated that healing on the Sabbath day was, indeed, scriptural. He asked the scribes and Pharisees on one occasion,50 “Is it lawful on the Sabbaths to do good, or to do evil? to save a life, or to kill? Yet they remained silent.”51 He then gave them another problem:
What man shall there be of you, who shall have one sheep, and if this one fell into a pit on the Sabbaths will not lay hold of it and will raise it up? And how much better is a man than a sheep? So that it is lawful on the Sabbaths to do well. (Matt. 12:11-12)
During another episode he similarly asked some of the rulers of the Pharisees and scribes if it was lawful to heal on the Sabbath. They refused to answer, so he questioned them again by saying:
Of which of you will an ass or an ox fall into a pit, and he will not immediately pull him up on the Sabbath day? And they were not able to reply to him as to these things. (Luke 14:5)
One day while teaching at the Temple, Yahushua was confronted by some Jews who wished to kill him because he healed a man on the Sabbath. Yahushua told them:
One work I did, and you all wonder. Therefore Moses has given you circumcision, not that it is out of Moses, but of the fathers, and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath, that the Torah of Moses not be broken, with me are you angry because I made a man entirely sound on the Sabbath? Judge not according to sight, but judge by righteous judgment. (John 7:22-24)
It is of no little consequence either that the Pharisees observed the Passover supper on the 15th of Abib while the messiah and his apostles kept it on the 14th of Abib. For our final word against Pharisaic authority, we shall cite a lament of the messiah towards the scribes and Pharisees:
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you go about sea and dry land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, you make him twofold more the child of gehenna (fire) than yourselves. (Matt. 23:15)
No Calendar Authority
There clearly is no endorsement of Pharisaic or scribal doctrines or authority in any of these passages. Those who advocate bringing Pharisaic rules into the discussion of how to follow the scriptural calendar, as if these rules are somehow authoritative, do so with great peril. The messiah warned of such teachers when he told his apostles:
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. (Matt. 7:15)
Even the apostle Saul warned:
For know this, that after my departure grievous wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and men will rise up from your own selves speaking perverted things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. (Acts 20:29-30)
Who and what, then, do we trust as our guide? It is not men, human traditions, or what is in our heart that one should rely on. Rather, the investigative tools start with evidence and the instructions from Scriptures on how to establish any scriptural issue. Yahweh commands, “Come now, and let us reason together.”52
We must receive “the word with all readiness, daily examining the scriptures” to see “if these things were so.”53 We must “Test all things, hold fast the genuine,”54 noting that, “Upon the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every matter be established.”55
Search from the book of Yahweh and read, not one of these misses, each not lacking her mate, for he has commanded my mouth and his ruach he has assembled them. And he has made a lot fall for them and his hand has divided it to them by line. (Isa. 34:16-17)
Whom shall he teach knowledge? And to whom shall he explain the message? Those weaned from milk, those moving from breasts. For precept belongs to precept, precept belongs to precept, line belongs to line, line belongs to line, a little here, a little there. (Isa. 28:10, cf., v. 13)
Using these and many other like scriptural instructions, the solution to the scriptural calendar becomes available to us.
The evidence presented demonstrates that there is no scriptural authority whatsoever for following any of the interpretations, alterations, or doctrines of the scribes, Pharisees, or Sadducees.
In fact, it is just the opposite; they are all accused of advocating erroneous teachings. We are warned against their teachings and reminded that a little leaven (false doctrine) leavens the entire Assembly.
Indeed, all three, the Sadducean high priests, the scribes, and the Pharisees, were extremely jealous of the messiah’s knowledge of Scriptures and his popularity among the people.56 Members of all three groups conspired to murder him and persecuted both the messiah and his disciples.57 And when someone from their ranks found themselves believing in Yahushua, they would conceal the fact.
As John points out:
Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many trusted on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess (him), lest they would be put out of the synagogue. (John 12:42)
Vital for us is the fact that the scribes and Pharisees are clearly accused of false doctrines regarding the Sabbath day and even kept a different day than the messiah for Passover. How then can any of their doctrines regarding the sacred calendar be regarded as authoritative?
Nevertheless, several scholars (both Jewish and neo-Christian) have leaped to the conclusion that the Pharisaic calendar system was the original practice. Furthermore, there are those still with us today who would argue that the passages of Romans 3:1-2 and Matthew 23:3 instruct Christians to follow the Pharisaic calendar system (green ears of barley, etc.).
It is for this reason that our attention must now shift to these two passages in order to judge their meaning and to determine if there is any merit to the Jewish and neo-Christian arguments.
Be sure to continue uncovering the facts with our second installment, Pharisee Influence.
1 Also see Matt. 16:11; Mark 8:15.
2 Matt. 16:12.
3 1 Cor. 5:8.
4 Jonah having been dead three days and three nights before his resurrection—a sign of the messiah’s death and resurrection. See Matt. 12:38-41; cf., Luke 11:29-30.
5 Matt. 23:13, 14, 23, 25, 27, 29.
6 Matt. 23:13.
7 Matt. 23:14.
8 Matt. 23:29-39.
9 Matt. 23:38.
10 Matt. 23:25-27.
11 Matt. 23:28.
12 2 Pet. 1:5-9.
13 John 9:41.
14 Matt. 23:16-22.
15 Matt. 15:14; cf., Luke 6:39-40.
16 Also see Gal. 5:9.
17 Also see Luke 3:7.
18 Mishnah, Aboth, 1:1.
19 1 Pet. 1:17-18.
20 Acts 23:6, 26:5, 22:3; Phil. 3:5.
21 Gal. 1:14.
22 Gal. 1:11-17.
23 1 Thess. 2:13.
24 Titus 1:14.
25 E.g., Gal. 6:11-16; cf., Gal. 5:1-15; 1 Cor. 7:17-20; Rom. 2:25-29.
26 Mark 7:1-2; Matt. 15:1.
27 Matt. 15:2; Mark 7:5.
28 The paraphrase in the New Jerusalem Bible renders this verse in Mark 7:9, “You put aside the commandment of God to observe human traditions. And he said to them, ‘How ingeniously you get round the commandment of God in order to preserve your own tradition!”
29 Exod. 20:12, 21:17; Deut. 5:16; Lev. 20:9.
30 Also see Matt. 15:3-6.
31 Jos. Antiq., 18:1:4, Wars, 2:8:14; Matt. 22:23; Mark 12:18; Luke 20:27; Acts 23:8.
32 Matt. 22:23-33, esp. v. 29; Mark 12:18-27, esp. v. 24, 27; cf., Luke 20:27-40.
33 Acts 23:1-10.
34 Matt. 22:41-42; Mark 12:35; Luke 20:41.
35 For a full discussion of this passage see FSDY 1, app. H.
36 Also see Mark 12:35-37; Luke 20:41-44.
37 See FSDY 1, app. A-D.
38 Matt. 22:46.
39 Matt. 9:11-13.
40 Matt. 9:14-17.
41 Matt. 19:3-12; Mark10:2-12.
42 Matt. 22:23-33; Mark 12:18-27; Luke 20:27-40.
43 Lev. 25:6-7.
44 Also see Matt. 12:1-2.
45 Mark 2:25-28; Matt. 12:3-8.
46 Lev. 24:9; 1 Sam. 21:1-7.
47 Num. 28:9-10.
48 Luke 6:2, 7, 13:14, 14:3-4; John 5:10, 15-16, 9:16.
49 Luke 4:31-37; John 7:22-24.
50 Mark 3:1-6; Matt. 12:9-14; Luke 6:6-11.
51 Mark 3:4; Luke 6:9.
52 Isa. 1:18.
53 Acts 17:11.
54 1 Thess. 5:21.
55 2 Cor. 13:1.
56 E.g., Mark 15:10; John 7:15, 13:19.
57 E.g., Mark 11:18, 14:1-2, 14:43-15:1; Matt. 21:45-46, 26:3-4, 26:47-27:2; Luke 20:19, 22:1-2, 22:47-23:1; John 18:3-28; Acts 4:1-24, 5:17-42, 7:54-8:4; etc.