If you read our previous article on the truth about the Pharisees, you have seen them in a totally new light other than what you are accustomed if your only source of information for them has been the New Testament and the Gospels.
Answer for yourself: In the light of the previous article on the Pharisees, it may well be asked, "if the Pharisees were indeed such an enlightened, progressive movement, why did Yeshua criticize them so severely?"
Good question. Let us see if we can find the answer.
I have already suggested in the previous article that Jesus did not historically criticize the Pharisees in many of the ways represented in the Gospels; he was indeed himself a Pharisee. Theological diversity and leniency was a trait of Pharisaical Judaism but that does not necessarily mean rejection and hatred among the ranks when disagreement occurred. The whole picture of Yeshua at odds with the Pharisees is the creation of a period some time after Yeshua's death, when the Gentile Christian Church, I said Gentile Church, was in conflict with Judaism and the Pharisees because of its claim to have superseded Judaism. The Gospels are a product of this later period; or rather, the Gospels consist of materials, some of them deriving from an earlier period, which were edited in an anti-Pharisee sense by Gentile believers who were promoting a replacement religion. With just a little historical knowledge coupled with a working knowledge of Biblical Judaism it is possible to refute the anti-Pharisee picture in the Gospels, which even after their reediting retain many details from the earlier accounts which show that Yeshua was not in serious conflict with the Pharisees on doctrinal points and was a Pharisee himself. Yeshua called only for Pharisees to live the life they professed and believed and not fail their calling as Godly examples and leaders; not only to their nation but to the the nations of the world to whom they were to be an illumination.
The process of reediting and altering the New Testament is not just a hypothesis; it can be plainly seen within the Gospels by comparing the way in which the various Gospels treat the same incident. In order to prove this point and also show that such editing is not just concerning the Paul problem in the New Testament I have chosen to take time out of the Jesus-Paul Problem to demonstrate this process of reediting to show the reader just how prolific it was. The fact that there are four Gospels, instead of just one, makes the task of reconstructing the original story much easier, especially when one bears in mind the results of modern scholarship, which have shown in what order the Gospels were written. According to the most firmly based scholarship Mark is the earliest Gospel, so we can often be enlightened just by comparing the version of Mark with that of any later Gospel.
To give just one preliminary example of this reediting by the Gentile church (and I could share many), we find in Mark an account of a conversation between Yeshua and a certain 'lawyer' (a term used as an alternative to 'Pharisee' both in the Gospels and in later Christian literature):
Then one of the lawyers, who had been listening to these discussions and had noted how well he (Jesus) answered, came forward and asked him, 'Which commandment is first of all?' Yeshua answered, 'The first is "Hear O Israel: the Lord our God is the only Lord; love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength." The second is this: "Love your neighbor as yourself." There is no other commandment greater than these.' The lawyer said to him, 'Well said, Master. You are right in saying that God is one and beside him there is no other. And to love him with all your heart, all your understanding, and all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself- that is far more than any burnt offerings or sacrifices.' When Yeshua saw how sensibly he answered, he said to him, 'You are not far from the kingdom of God.' (Mark 12: 34)
Another version of this story found in the later Gospel, Matthew, and is as follows:
Hearing that he had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees met together; and one of their number tested him with this question: 'Master, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?' He answered, ' "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind." That is the greatest commandment. It comes first. The second is like it: "Love your neighbor as yourself." Everything in the Law and the prophets hangs on these two commandments.' (Matthew 22: 34-40)
Answer for yourself: Did you notice anything different between the earliest account in Mark and the latter account in Matthew? Did you know that the "congenial account" is placed after the "testing/opposition" account in the order of the books as placed in the New Testament? Was this purely accidental in light of the tone of the two accounts being completely opposite?
Answer for yourself: Did you notice the attitude of the latter encounter in Matthew was negative and was completely different from the prior account in Mark? Which is the true account?
In this second and later version of the story in Matthew, the friendliness of the exchange between Yeshua and the Pharisee has been obliterated.
Answer for yourself: Since the "friendly" account
was written first (primacy of Mark) then what motive could there have been to
change the account into one of hostility and "testing" by the writers
of the New Testament? Surely you don't need me to answer that for you.
Anti-Semitism is written into the New Testament all the way through it by it's
Gentile authors and most people read it and never know the difference.
Remember Mark's friendly and complementary account came first. The Pharisee questioner is not motivated by admiration in the Matthew account, as in the first version in the earlier Markan version ('noted how well he answered'), but merely wishes to 'test' Yeshua, i.e. try to catch him and show him up or prove him wrong. In the first version, the Pharisee questioner is given a lengthy reply to Yeshua, praising him and adding a remark of his own about the superiority of love to sacrifices, and to this Yeshua replies with courteous respect, saying that his questioner is 'not far from the kingdom of God'. All this is omitted in the second version, which is just one more story about an envious Pharisee being silenced by the superior wisdom of Yeshua.
Answer for yourself: Could this just be accidental altering of the story or was this planned?
Answer for yourself: If this had not been pointed out to you, and if you read the account of Matthew only since it comes first in your Bible, would you have the proper understanding of the Pharisees and Yeshua's relationship to them? No you would not.
Answer for yourself: Was Yeshua's teaching on the Greatest Commandment an original teaching with him? No.
It should be noted, too, that Yeshua' singling out of these two verses from the Hebrew Bible (one from Deuteronomy and the other from Leviticus) as the greatest of the commandments was not an original idea of his own, but an established part of Pharisee thinking that existed long before Yeshua was born.
The central feature of the liturgy created by the Pharisees (and still used by Jews today) is what is called the shema, which is the very passage from Deuteronomy cited by Yeshua: 'Hear O Israel: the Lord our God is the Only Lord; love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.' This injunction was regarded by the Pharisees as so important that they declared that merely to recite these verses twice a day was sufficient to discharge the basic duty of prayer. Interestingly, too, in view of Yeshua's final comment to the 'lawyer', the rabbis regarded these verses as having a strong connection with the 'kingdom of God' (a phrase not coined by Yeshua, but part of Pharisaic phraseology). They declared that to recite these verses comprised 'the acceptance of the yoke of the kingdom of God'. It should be noted that in Pharisaic thinking, 'the kingdom of God' had two meanings:
It is possible to discern in Yeshua's frequent use of the same expression the same twofold meaning: sometimes he means a future state of affairs which he has come to prophesy (e.g. 'Repent, for the kingdom of God is near'), and sometimes he is referring to the present kingship of God, which every mortal is obliged to acknowledge (e.g. 'The kingdom of God is among you'). In the present passage, it seems to be the second meaning that is paramount. What we have is total agreement between Yeshua and the Pharisees in regard to their beliefs in this encounter.
The other verse quoted by Yeshua from Leviticus, 'Love your neighbor as yourself,' was also regarded by the Pharisees as of central importance, and was treated by the two greatest figures of Pharisaism, Hillel and Rabbi Akiba, as the great principle of Judaism on which everything else depended. This did not mean, of course, that the rest of the law was to be ignored or swept away, just because this was the most important principle of it; on the contrary, the law was regarded as the working out and practical implementation of the principle of love of neighbor, giving guidance about how love of neighbor could be expressed in the complexities of daily life.
Later Gentile Christian writers, misunderstanding Judaism on this point, thought that, when Yeshua singled out love of God and love of neighbor, he was thereby dismissing the rest of the Torah. There is no reason whatever to think that this was Yeshua's meaning, especially as he was in such cordial agreement with the Pharisee lawyer (at least in the earlier and more authentic account of Mark).
The apparently disparaging remark of the 'lawyer' about the sacrifices should also not be misunderstood. He did not mean that he thought that sacrifices or the Temple worship in general should be abolished, only that the words of the Hebrew prophets should he borne in mind, warning against regarding the sacrifices as a magical means of producing atonement, rather than as symbols of true repentance and reconciliation with God that precedes always the killing and the offering of the animal sacrifice. The most awesome day of the Jewish year was the Day of Atonement, when sacrifices were offered in the Temple and the scapegoat was sent into the wilderness; yet it was Pharisee doctrine that none of these awe-inspiring ceremonies had any effect unless true repentance had occurred before the sacrifice and restitution had been made for any harm done to one's fellow man. So the Pharisee was not opposing the offering of sacrifices (which were prescribed in holy writ), but putting them into their proper place, just as the Pharisees in general supported the Temple worship and the priesthood in their duties, but strongly opposed any tendency to regard all this as the be all and end all of Jewish religion, as the Sadducees tended to do. The Christian's failure to understand the Jewish Sacrificial system has contributed to their erroneous concepts concerning atonement, and even attaching such beliefs to the death of Yeshua as if sacrifice without repentance atoned (which it did not). Here again, there is no reason whatever to suppose that Yeshua's attitude towards the Temple worship was any different than that of other Pharisees.
Simply because so much about Paul in the New Testament has been re-edited as well and to think that this literary device did not exist nor that is was not used often is a serious misjudgment and a poor assumption that is not bore out by comparative manuscript evidences.
The analysis of this incident about Yeshua and the 'lawyer' thus shows two things:
Be not mistaken there is much editorial license that went on in the continual "fixing" of the New Testament; both in the Gospels and the Pauline epistles as well. This affects many of the stories of Jesus as well as Paul as we shall soon see.
For the later Gospel version (Matthew) turns an amicable conversation into a hostile confrontation. This does not mean that we may turn to the Gospel of Mark, the earliest Gospel, for an unbiased picture of the Pharisees; on the contrary, the Gospel of Mark is full of bias against the Pharisees as well, but, as the earliest Gospel, it has not carried through the process of anti-Pharisee reediting with quite such thoroughness as the succeeding Gospels, so that more of the original story as well as truth is still apparent.
But let it be said that truth does not always lie on the surface but must be filtered out among lies and distortions purposefully placed in the New Testament that give Rome the Creedal authority to create a new religion around the person of Yeshua. We already saw in the first article such creative license in the presentation of the New Testament hero, the Apostle Paul, as both Sadducee and Pharisee and also noticed the purposeful attempt to hide his Sadducee roots. Since the Sadducees were rejected by the people Rome cannot make Paul, a Sadducee, it's hero who evangelized the world with a new religion. Paul has to be made into a "Pharisee of Pharisees" no less. Likewise, we addressed in the second article the Pharisees and the historical truth about them as opposed to the Gentile slander written about them by the Gentile writers and redactors of the New Testament.
Answer for yourself: How much more alteration of the truth concerning Paul can be found in the New Testament? You would not believe so lets prove it to you.
Here we hit upon an important principle of interpretation of the Gospels and the whole of the New Testament including the Pauline epistles: when we come across a passage that goes against the grain of the narrative, we may be confident that this is part of the original, authentic narrative that has survived the operations of the censor. Since the general trend is anti-Pharisee, so that the narrative becomes more and more anti-Pharisee as it is successively re-edited, any passages friendly to the Pharisees cannot be late additions to the text (for the motivation of the editor is to cut out such passages, not to add to them); instead they must be texts that survived that have escaped the eye of the editor. This does not mean that a later Gospel or epistle must always, and in relation to every incident, be more thoroughly edited and less authentic than an earlier Gospel or epistle, for the various Gospels and epistles are not presenting the same material taken from only one source. Each Gospel, for instance, contains material for which it is not indebted to a previous Gospel and which it is handling as a first-time editor; these different sources of material have been labeled by modern scholars with capital letters such as Q. L, etc.
Consequently, when such an independent source is in question, a later Gospel may retain authentic early material not contained in an earlier Gospel. Any scientific study of the Gospels must always bear the above considerations in mind. It follows that, when we speak of a later Gospel taking the bias or tendency further, we mean that this occurs when both Gospels are handling material taken from the same source. This is the case in the example given above, where it is clear that the report of the incident of Yeshua and the 'lawyer' occurs first in Mark, and when it later occurs in Matthew, it is an adapted version produced by the author of Matthew on the basis of the report in Mark, which the author of Matthew had before him when he wrote his Gospel.
This is, of course, only a preliminary example. Now follows a more extended argument to show that Yeshua was no antagonist of Pharisaism, but was himself a Pharisee. What follows will convince you that Yeshua did not set out to change the teachings of Judaism or create new doctrine concerning the Messiah or his mission.
This argument is not a digression from the subject of Paul, the main concern of these series of articles, for the question of whether Yeshua was a Pharisee is most relevant to the question of whether Paul was a Pharisee. If differences can be found between them, differences where one is persecuted by the other (the group representing the other), then most likely they are not both "Pharisees" since the Pharisees exhibited doctrinal leniency. One of the two is not a Pharisee and we know for certain Jesus was not a Sadducee; so that leaves Paul who hounded the Messianic pharisees and even arrested and killed them.
For the picture in the Gospels of Yeshua being hounded by the Pharisees is what gives credence to the later picture, in Acts, of Paul (or rather Saul) the Pharisee hounding the successors of Yeshua, the 'Jerusalem Church'. If Yeshua was never hounded by the Pharisees and was himself a Pharisee, it becomes all the more incredible to believe that Paul, when he hounded the 'Jerusalem Church', was actually a lenient Pharisee who allowed doctrinal diversity. The record in Acts states otherwise.
Paul had to be a Sadducee working for the High Priest. The lenient and tolerant attitude of the Pharisees and Gamaliel, the leader of the Pharisees in Paul's time, towards the 'Jerusalem Church' then becomes intelligible as merely a continuation of the friendliness of the Pharisees towards Yeshua; himself also a Pharisee. (THINK)!
The conclusion of this ministry is that Yeshua, usually represented as anything but a Pharisee, was one, in fact a super strict one boarding on Essenism in many ways, while Paul, always represented as a Pharisee in his unregenerate days, never was...his actions recorded in Acts betrays that Paul was a Sadducee
In the course of the argument, it will become plain why this strange reversal of the facts was brought about by the New Testament writers. I have already intimidated that if Rome was to use Yeshua to create a new religion, then cause has to be found for Yeshua to reject his present religion (Biblical Judaism) and his religion and religious leaders reject him in order for Rome to use Jesus as the catalyst for starting a new religion which they accomplished by fashioning Jesus in the image of a long line of sun-godmen...but that was not new to Rome. The event that gave Rome the authority to create a new "Jesus supported religion" other than Judaism comes from his "manufactured" split with Biblical Judaism and the Pharisees as seen in the constant quarrels between the religious leaders of Jerusalem and Jesus. That is why such events like the contention with the Pharisees over the Sabbath healing, the incident of the washing of the hands, and the eating of grain on the Sabbath was manufactured on purpose to again separate Jesus from Judaism and the Jewish leaders from Jesus. Imagine my surprise when I studied these events out thoroughly in Judaism and found no problems with what Judaism taught and their doctrines surrounding these three events. But yet again in the New Testament this becomes problem. We have here, as well as in many other places, Gentile creation of an artificial separation between Jesus and Judaism and this gives credibility for Jesus starting a new faith spearheaded my its main advocate, the Apostle Paul which takes this "changed message" into all the world. The only problem with such a split is that it never happened the way the New Testament records. So much for inerrancy and infallibility. So much for the New Testament being the Word of God. So much for Paul's characterization in the New Testament as a Pharisee of Pharisees. But we are not through with Paul by a long shot! See you in the next article. Shalom.