Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

cording to them this was so perfect, that it took exact knowledge of all the actions of men, whether good or bad, and fully rewarded or punished them in this life. Besides, Josephus every where speaks of three distinct causes of events : God, and fate, and mens wills. Fate therefore must be different from the providence of God. To conclude, the same historian in many passages of his writings, speaks of fate as imposing on men an absolute necessity, even in cases where its decrees were clearly foreseen, and therefore might have been avoided if they had not been uncontrollable.

Š 2. The Pharisees held the immateriality and immortality of the soul ; consequently, its separate existence in a future state. With this was connected their belief of the existence of angels, and of future rewards and punishments. Josephus says, they placed the scene of future recompences under the earth ; and that they affirmed concerning the souls of good men, that they have an easy return into life, (he means by passing into other bodies), while those of the wicked are imprisoned, and punished for their vices. In explaining this part of the Pharisees' creed, some are of opinion that the Jewish historian has endeavoured to accommo-. date their sentiments to the notions of the Greek philosophers. And it must be acknowledged, that he has represented them as believing something like the Pythagorean transmigration of souls. Nevertheless, in this part he deserves to be acquitted, because it appears from the gospels, that the doctrine of the transmigration, or at least of the pre-existence of the human soul in some former state of trial, was a prevailing notion among the Jews in latter times. For instance, when the disciples espied a man that was born blind, they asked, “ Saying, Master, who did sin ? this man or his parents ? that he was born blind.” John ix. 2. See the note on the passage, jø 78.

9 3. The Pharisees distinguished themselves very much by their zeal for the traditions of the elders. They contended, that besides the written law given at Sinai, God instructed Moses in a variety of doctrines and rites which he did not commit to writing, designing that they should be handed down by word of mouth to succeeding generations. Accordingly they affirmed that Joshua Moses's minister, delivered these traditions to the seventy elders, whom Moses chose by God's command, Numb. ii. 16.; that the elders delivered them to the prophets, the prophets to Ezra and his colleagues, called the men of the great synagogue, among whom were Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, Daniel; Hananiah, Meshech, Azariah, Nehemiah, Mordecai, Zorobabel, Simeon the just,

other wise men of great fame in their time, to the number of one hundred and twenty. Moreover they tell us, that Simeon the just delivered the traditions to Antigonus Sochæus, &c. These traditions, the number of which increased daily, the Pharisees set on a level with the laws of God, and in many instances

and many

gave

them the preference, making void the essential and immutable rules of morality on their account. Which was the more absurd, as they were all of human invention, without the least shadow of divine authority to support them. This is the reason that we find our Lord, in the course of his ministry, condemning the traditions of the elders, and loudly blaming the Pharisees for the superstitious zeal which they shewed in them. Nor has Josephus omitted this part of their character, Ant. xiii. 18. “ The Pharisees have delivered to the people many institutions received from the fathers, which are not written in the law of Moses. But for this reason the sect of the Sadducees deny them, affirming that these things only ought to be reckoned institutions which are written, but that the traditions of the fathers ought not to be observed. So it has happened, that they have many disputes and great contentions about these things, the Sadducees drawing over the rich only to their party, while the whole multitude of the common people dissent from them, and join the Pharisees.” Farther, the same historian speaking of the Pharisees, tells us, Bell. i. 4. “ That they were an order of men who seemed to live more religiously than the rest of the Jews, and to explain the law more accurately.” Their religious manner of living, seems to have been no other than the mortifications which they practised, and their explaining the law accurately, refers to the minutie of tradition which they annexed to the law as fences, and the observation of which they exacted from all their votaries with rigour. It was this known character of the Pharisees which the apostle alludes to, when in his defence before king Agrippa, Acts xxv. 6. he tells, That according to the most straitest sect of the Jewish religion, he lived a Pharisee.

94. Josephus tells us, that the Pharisees were remarkable for the austerity of their lives. Agreeably to this they are represented, Matt. ix. 14. as fasting oft; which in another place we are told was twice a-week, Luke xviii. 12. In these fasts they disfigured their faces, Matt. vi. 16. and put on the appearance of the most rigid mortification. Moreover, for the greater shew of piety, they made exceeding long prayers. They distinguished themselves also by their uncommon dress, wearing long robes with great fringes, and broad phylacteries, as badges of their devotion. Nor was this all; they were immensely proud, especially the Scribes of this order, courting salutations in the marketplaces, and striving to obtain the chief seats in the synagogues, and the uppermost rooms at feasts, and to be called of men Rabbi; that is, when spoken to, they affected to have the high-sounding title of Rabbi given to them very frequently, because it conveyed the idea of their possessing a vast extent of understanding. They were also very assiduous in making proselytes to the Jewish reli

gion,

7

gion, insomuch that their zeal and importunity were taken notice of even by the heathens themselves. For this zeal our Lord condemned them, not because he disapproved of mens being at pains to spread the knowledge of true religion, but because the Pharisees in this were animated by no regard to the honour of God, the interests of religion, or the welfare of mankind, but merely by a love of applause, and a desire of making gain of their proselytes.

Later Jewish writers tell us, that the Pharisees walked the streets with their bodies and heads bowed down. That in walking they did not lift up their feet, but shuffled them along with a great affectation of humility. That some of them fixed thorns to their garments; that others lay on very narrow planks to prevent their taking sound sleep. That the whole sect denied themselves sleep to a very great degree. And all these austerities they practised, on pretence of applying themselves with more assiduity to the study of the Scriptures and to prayer; but in reality their principal aim was to obtain an extraordinary reputation for sanctity. The Scriptures indeed have not mentioned these things; yet they will not appear improbable, when we consider that the persons to whom they are attributed, are said in the Scriptures to have done all their works to be seen of men, and in particular to have prayed long, while they were devouring widows houses; to have sounded a trumpet before them when they gave alms, and to have made a shew of exceeding piety, by praying openly in the market-places, and in the corners of the streets.

The Pharisees did not miss their mark in these things, for they brought them immense reputation with the common people, who being incapable of searching thoroughly into any matter, always consider bodily severities as the fruits of piety, and are greatly struck with them. Accordingly Josephus tells us, Ant. xiii. 18. «. They had such an influence on the multitude, that if they spake any thing against a king or an high-priest, they were credited.” The authority which the Pharisees had over the multitude appeared eminently at our Lord's trial. For they persuaded the people to ask Pilate to release unto them Barabbas rather than Jesus, notwithstanding the multitude had accompanied him into the city with hosannas and acclamations as the Messiah. Nor was it the common people alone who held the Pharisees in such esteem. Some of the wisest men of the nation, were carried away

with the notion of their sanctity. Hence the apostle in boasting of his privileges, reckons it one, “ That as touching the law he was a Pharisee."

The men of this sect, adored by the people, were so puffed up with the conceit of their own sanctity, that they shunned the company of all such as they accounted sinners, fearing forsooth to be defiled by touching them, and when they happened any how to

meet

se

meet them, they would not eat till they had first washed; which is the reason that we find them blaming Jesus for eating with publicans and sinners, and for allowing the woman that was a sinner to touch him, and for eating with unwashen hands. -T. conclude, they shewed the high conceit they had of themselves, and their contempt of others, by the very name which they assumed, PHAROUSCHIM, separated persons, in allusion to their manners, their opinions and their dress, by all which they were separated from the rest of mankind.

The Pharisees having such an opinion of themselves, it is evident that those of the sect who came to the baptism of John, must have done it not from any sense of their sins, but merely with a view to render themselves acceptable to the Messiah, whose harbinger they with reason believed John to be.

CHAB. III. Of the Sadducees. Ý 1. According to Josephus in the passages already cited, the Sadducees denied the doctrine of fate, by which we are to understand, not the providence of God, but such a concatenation of cond causes, originally established by God, as imposes an inevitable necessity on every thing that happens, so that nothing can be otherwise than it is. This doctrine the Sadducees rejected, denying that God has any active direction of human wills, the freedom of which they maintained in the most extensive sense. Hence, all the good or evil which men do, they ascribed to no other cause but to themselves.

$ 2. But of all the opinions professed by the Sadducees, that which distinguished them most was their denying the immateriality and immortality of the soul, and by consequence the existence of spirits, the resurrection of the body, and a future state. Their creed in this matter is briefly represented Acts xxiii. “ For the Sadducees say, that there is no resurrection, neither angel nor spirit : which is not to be so understood as if they denied the spirituality of God, or even of the human soul, at least in a certain sense. But they denied that the souls of men exist after death, in a state of separation from the body, which was what they meant by spirit. Moreover, they denied that there were any such beings as angels of any order or kind. In the books of Moses indeed, whose authority the Sadducees acknowledged, there is frequent mention made of angels, particularly at the giving of the law. But the Sadducees affirmed that these beings were created for the occasion, and that having finished their work they were annihilated. At least this sentiment Justin Martyr ascribed to some Jews in his time.

s 3. The Sadducees adhering to the Scriptures, rejected the traditions of the elders, which began under the Maccabees to be reckoned an essential part of religion. On the other hand, the

Pharisees

Pharisees were zealous assertors of these traditions. Hence arose the furious and everlasting contentions between the two sects, of which Josephus so often speaks.

It is commonly alleged that the Sadducees denied the authority of all the sacred writings, except the books of Moses. But this seems to be a mistake. For though Josephus often mentions their rejecting the traditions of the elders, he no where speaks of their rejecting any of the sacred books; a thing much more blame-worthy than the other, and which, considering the ill-will he bare to this sect, he would hardly have failed to mention, could he have done it with truth. Besides, our Lord, who so severely rebukes the Sadducees for their other corruptions, did not condemn them for this. It is true, in reasoning with them concerning the resurrection, he produced an argument for that doctrine out of the books of Moses ; and from this some have inferred that the Sadducees acknowledged no other Scriptures but these, because if they, had received the rest, Jesus might easily out of them have proved the resurrection by many plainer argu

Yet, as the Sadducees' objection against the resurrection was drawn from Moses's law concerning marriage, there was a great and evident propriety in confuting them out of his writings, even on the supposition that they received all the inspired books; because if the resurrection could be solidly proved by any passage out of the law, it was a demonstration that the inference which they pretended to draw from the law in opposition to the resurrection, was absolutely frivolous and groundless.

But that the Sadducees received all the books of Scripture, is evident, I think, from the expectations which they entertained concerning Messiah. They considered him as a great temporal prince, who was to erect a vast monarchy, wherein all nations were to be subjected to the Jews. This appears from their flocking to John's baptism along with the Pharisees, desiring to be prepared for Messiah's advent. For if the Sadducees had viewed his character in a different light from the rest of the nation, he could have been no object of desire to them, seeing they disbelieved a future state of rewards and punishments. But the Sadducees having this notion of the Messiah, it is plain that they drew it, not from the books of Moses, which speak of him only as a law-giver, but from the Psalms and Prophets, especially from Isaiah, who describes the Messiah in all the magnificence of the greatest of princes. The Sadduces therefore received the Psalms and Prophets as divinely inspired.

§ 4. The Sadducees were as remarkable for their luxurious way of living, as the Pharisees were for their abstinence and mortification. To this sensual course, such of the Sadducees as had a turn for speculation, were naturally led by their principles. And the rest cherishing these principles, because they were agree

able

« ZurückWeiter »