Saturday, December 29, 2007

Lesson 13 Pharisees & Sadducees

Advanced Information
The Pharisees were an important Jewish group which flourished in Palestine from the late second century B.C. to the late first century A.D.

Virtually all our knowledge about the Pharisees is derived from three sets of sources: the works of the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, The Jewish War (ca. A.D. 75), The Antiquities of the Jews (ca. A.D. 94), and Life (ca. A.D. 101); the various compilations of the rabbis (ca. A.D. 200 and later); and the NT. Other works, parts of the Apocrypha, the Pseudepigrapha, or the Dead Sea Scrolls, may also contain information concerning the Pharisees. But since the Pharisees are never explicitly mentioned in these works, their use in constructing a picture of the Pharisees is heavily dependent on prior assumptions which are at best speculative.
It should be noted, however, that even the use of the explicit sources is problematical. Most of the NT is written from a point of view that is antagonistic to the tenets of Pharisaism. The rabbinic traditions about the Pharisees are also shaped by polemical forces and are often anachronistic. The value of Josephus's information (traditionally regarded as the most helpful) is diminished by recent studies which suggest that Josephus was not a Pharisee before A.D. 70 and that his eventual conversion was motivated more by political realities than by careful study of the different Jewish sects. It certainly cannot be denied that Josephus's descriptions of the Pharisees are superficial. In short, therefore, our sources provide neither a complete nor a straightforward picture of the Pharisees.

Various etymologies have been proposed for the name "Pharisee." The only one to receive general approval is that which derives the name from the Aramaic passive participle peris, perisayya, meaning "separated." The consensus is that the Pharisees regarded themselves, or were regarded, as the "separated ones." From what or whom they were separated is not as clear. The Hasmonean rulers, the Gentiles, the common people, and non-Pharisaic Jews in general have all been suggested as possibilities. Present evidence seems to favor the last two options.

Nature and Influence
The fundamental issue in Pharisaic studies is the twofold question of the nature of the group and its influence within broader Judaism. Two basic positions have been taken on this question. The traditional view holds that the Pharisees were the creators and shapers of late second temple Judaism. They were not so much a sect as a dominant party within Judaism. According to the traditional view, although not all Pharisees were legal experts, Pharisaism was the ideology of the vast majority of the scribes and lawyers. Thus, as a group the Pharisees were the guardians and interpreters of the law. Jewish institutions associated with the law, such as the synagogue and the Sanhedrin, were Pharisaic institutions. While disagreeing over whether the Pharisees were primarily politically or religiously oriented, proponents of the traditional view agree that the Pharisees commanded the loyalty of the masses in both spheres. Indeed, most proponents of the traditional view would accept Elias Bickerman's dictum: "Judaism of the post-Maccabean period is Pharisaic."
The second point of view is a relatively recent development. Proponents of this position argue that when the inherent limitations and tendencies of our sources are taken into account, the Pharisees come across not as the creators and shapers of Judaism but merely as one of its many expressions. In essence, according to this view, the Pharisees were a rather tightly knit sect organized around the observance of purity and tithing laws; on most other issues the Pharisees reflected the range of views present within Judaism. Since Josephus and the Gospels carefully distinguish between the Pharisees and the scribes, scholars of this persuasion argue that it is better not to confuse Pharisaism with the ideology of the scribes. Pharisaism must be seen as a movement which drew from all walks of life. There were Pharisees who were political and religious leaders, but their positions of influence were due to other factors besides sectarian affiliation. Proponents of this second view posit that the Judaism of Christ's day was much more dynamic and variegated than the traditional view allows and that the Pharisees were only one of several sects that influenced the development of Judaism.

Of course, not all scholars subscribe to one of these two views; many hold mediating positions. Nevertheless, these two views constitute the foundations upon which the modern study of Pharisaism is based.

The origin of the Pharisaic movement is shrouded in mystery. According to Josephus, the Pharisees first became a significant force in Jewish affairs during the reign of Hyrcanus I (134-104 B.C.). In an earlier work, however, Josephus places the rise of the Pharisees much later, during the reign of Salome Alexandra (76-67 B.C.). Some scholars who view the Pharisees as the shapers of late second temple Judaism have sought to trace the beginnings of the group back to the time of Ezra and beyond. But such reconstructions are speculative at best. It is more likely that the Pharisees were one of several groups to grow out of the revival and resistance movement of the Maccabean period (ca. 166-160 B.C.).
Whatever its origins, the Pharisaic movement seems to have undergone a two-stage development. During the reign of Salome Alexandra the Pharisees as a group were heavily involved in politics and national policy making. Sometime after this, possibly when Herod the Great rose to power (37 B.C.), the Pharisees withdrew from politics. Individual Pharisees remained politically involved, but there was no longer any official Pharisaic political agenda. This seems to have been the situation during the time of Christ.

The Pharisees were divided over the issue of Roman rule. Josephus tells us that a Pharisee named Zaddok was instrumental in forming a "fourth philosophy" which was violently opposed to Roman rule. Elsewhere, however, Josephus records that at a later time certain well-placed Pharisees sought to forestall the Jews' rush toward revolt against the empire. It is impossible to tell which tendency reflected the conviction of the majority of the Pharisees.

After the Jewish revolt of A.D. 70 many scholars with Pharisaic leanings gathered at the city of Jamnia to form a school for the preservation and redefinition of Judaism. There is evidence that the Jamnia school was not exclusively Pharisaic. Nevertheless, it can be safely said that the Pharisees were the single most powerful sectarian element at Jamnia. Thus they played an important role at the beginning of the century-long process which transformed second temple Judaism into rabbinic Judaism.

The Pharisees were strongly committed to the daily application and observance of the law. This means they accepted the traditional elaborations of the law which made daily application possible. They believed, moreover, in the existence of spirits and angels, the resurrection, and the coming of a Messiah. They also maintained that the human will enjoyed a limited freedom within the sovereign plan of God.
Yet there is little evidence to suggest that these were distinctively Pharisaic beliefs. To the best of our knowledge these beliefs were the common heritage of most Jews. To some scholars this fact is proof that the Pharisees were the dominant religious force in Judaism; to others it is only another indication that the Pharisees' distinguishing mark was nothing but the scrupulous observance of purity and tithing laws.

The Pharisees and Jesus
The NT does not present a simple picture of the relationship between the Pharisees and Jesus. Pharisees warn Jesus of a plot against his life (Luke 13:31); in spite of their dietary scruples they invite him for meals (Luke 7:36-50; 14:1); some of them even believe in Jesus (John 3:1; 7:45-53; 9:13-38); later, Pharisees are instrumental in ensuring the survival of Jesus' followers (Acts 5:34; 23:6-9).
Nevertheless, Pharisaic opposition to Jesus is a persistent theme in all four Gospels. This opposition has been explained differently by those who hold differing views on the nature and influence of the Pharisees. Those who see the Pharisees as a class of political leaders posit that Jesus came to be understood as a political liability or threat. Those who understand the Pharisees as a society of legal and religious experts suggest that Jesus became viewed as a dangerous rival, a false teacher with antinomian tendencies. To the extent that there were Pharisaic leaders and scribes, both these factors probably played a part. Yet other scholars point out that according to the Gospels the disputes between Jesus and the Pharisees centered primarily on the validity and application of purity, tithing, and sabbath laws (e.g., Matt. 12:2, 12-14; 15:1-12; Mark 2:16; Luke 11:39-42). In the light of this evidence it would seem that at least part of the Pharisaic opposition to Jesus was occasioned by the obvious disparity between Jesus' claims about himself and his disregard for observances regarded by the Pharisees as necessary marks of piety. In the end, the Pharisees could not reconcile Jesus, his actions and his claims, with their own understanding of piety and godliness.


Advanced Information
The Pharisees were separatists (Heb. persahin, from parash, "to separate"). They were probably the successors of the Assideans (i.e., the "pious"), a party that originated in the time of Antiochus Epiphanes in revolt against his heathenizing policy. The first mention of them is in a description by Josephus of the three sects or schools into which the Jews were divided (B.C. 145). The other two sects were the Essenes and the Sadducees. In the time of our Lord they were the popular party (John 7:48). They were extremely accurate and minute in all matters appertaining to the law of Moses (Matt. 9:14; 23:15; Luke 11:39; 18:12). Paul, when brought before the council of Jerusalem, professed himself a Pharisee (Acts 23:6-8; 26:4, 5).

There was much that was sound in their creed, yet their system of religion was a form and nothing more. Theirs was a very lax morality (Matt. 5:20; 15:4, 8; 23:3, 14, 23, 25; John 8:7). On the first notice of them in the New Testament (Matt. 3:7), they are ranked by our Lord with the Sadducees as a "generation of vipers." They were noted for their self-righteousness and their pride (Matt. 9:11; Luke 7: 39; 18: 11, 12). They were frequently rebuked by our Lord (Matt. 12:39; 16:1-4). From the very beginning of his ministry the Pharisees showed themselves bitter and persistent enemies of our Lord. They could not bear his doctrines, and they sought by every means to destroy his influence among the people.


Of the three major religious societies of Judaism at the time of the New Testament (the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Essenes), the Pharisees were often the most vocal and influential. The origin of the Pharisees is uncertain, but their movement is believed to have grown from the Assideans (i.e. the "pious"), who began in the time of the Maccabean Revolt (see The Maccabees) against the Greek/Syrian ruler Antiochus IV, or "Antiochus Epiphanes," around 165 B.C. It was during that roughly 4 centuries between the end of the Old Testament record and the birth of Jesus Christ, prior to the rise of the Roman empire (see Ancient Empires - Rome), that the idolatrous Greek influence was at its peak in Jerusalem (see Ancient Empires - Greece, The Ptolemies and The Seleucids). The first direct mention of the Pharisees was by the Jewish/Roman historian Flavius Josephus in describing the three sects, or schools, into which the Jews were divided in 145 B.C.
The name Pharisee in its Hebrew form means separatists, or the separated ones. They were also known as chasidim, which means loyal to God, or loved of God - extremely ironic in view of the fact that by His time, they made themselves the most bitter, and deadly, opponents of Jesus Christ and His message.

The Pharisees perhaps meant to obey God, but eventually they became so devoted and extremist in very limited parts of The Law (plus all that they themselves added to it), that they became blind to The Messiah when He was in their very midst. They saw His miracles, they heard His Words, but instead of receiving it with joy, they did all that they could to stop Him - eventually to the point of getting Him killed because He truthfully claimed to be the Son of God.

Jesus Christ had strong words about the Pharisees, and what awaits some of them:

"For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes [see Lawyers] and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:20 RSV).
"He answered them, "And why do you transgress the Commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God commanded, 'Honor your father and your mother,' and, 'He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him surely die.' But you say, 'If any one tells his father or his mother, What you would have gained from me is given to God, he need not honor his father.' So, for the sake of your tradition, you have made void the Word of God." (Matthew 15:3-6 RSV) [see The Ten Commandments and The Ten Commandments Now?].

"How is it that you fail to perceive that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees." Then they understood that He did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees." (Matthew 16:11-12 RSV)
(Note: Just as yeast causes bread to rise, yeast was sometimes used as a symbol of sinful pride which made people haughty and "puffed up.")

"The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice. They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by men; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues, and salutations in the market places, and being called rabbi by men. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brethren. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven." (Matthew 23:2-9 RSV)
(Note: A perhaps somewhat surprising statement - the Pharisees were correct according to their limited perspective, and were to be obeyed by the Jews under their authority. But, they were not to be emulated in their way of life - they were Hypocrites.)

"But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you shut the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither enter yourselves, nor allow those who would enter to go in." (Matthew 23:13 RSV).

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the Law, justice and mercy and faith; these you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!" (Matthew 23:23-24)

The lesson from the Pharisees' example is that self-righteousness is not righteousness, and that God's true people are to live according to all of God's Word, not just certain parts that are most convenient or to one's own liking.
The Sadducees were members of a Jewish sect founded in the second century BC, possibly as a political party. They ceased to exist sometime after the first century AD. The word Sadducee is possibly from the Hebrew Tsdoki צדוקי [sˤə.ðo.'qi], from which comes the alternate name Zadokites and other variants

[edit] Etymology
The Hebrew name, Tsdoki, indicates their claim that they are the followers of the teachings of the High Priest Tsadok, often spelled Zadok, who anointed Solomon king at the start of the First Temple Period. F. Bruce claims that this explanation is unlikely since they make their début in history as supporters of the Hasmonaean high priests. He therefore suggests that 'Sadducees' (Heb. צַדּוּקִים) is a Hebraization of the Greek word συνδικοι sündikoi ('syndics', 'members of the council') and that it marks them out as the councillors of the Hasmonaeans; although they themselves came to associate the word with the Heb. צַדִּיק, 'righteous'.[1]

Rabbinic tradition suggests that they were not named after the High Priest Zadok, but rather another Zadok (who may still have been a priest), who rebelled against the teachings of Antigonus of Soko, a government official of Judea in the 3rd century BCE and a predecessor of the Rabbinic tradition.

[edit] History
While little or none of their own writings have been preserved, the Sadducees seem to have indeed been a priestly group, associated with the leadership of the Temple in Jerusalem. Possibly, Sadducees represent the aristocratic clan of the Hasmonean high priests, who replaced the previous high priestly lineage that had allowed the Syrian Emperor Antiochus IV Epiphanes to desecrate the Temple of Jerusalem with idolatrous sacrifices and to martyr monotheistic Jews. The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah celebrates the ousting of the Syrian forces, the rededication of the Temple, and the installment of the new Hasmonean priestly line. The Hasmoneans ruled as "priest-kings", claiming both titles high priest and king simultaneously, and like other aristocracies across the Hellenistic world became increasingly influenced by Hellenistic syncretism and Greek philosophies: presumably Stoicism, and apparently Epicureanism in the Talmudic tradition criticizing the anti-Torah philosophy of the "Apikorsus" אפיקורסוס (i.e., Epicurus) refers to the Hasmonean clan qua Sadducees. Like Epicureans, Sadducees rejected the existence of an afterlife, thus denied the Pharisaic doctrine of the Resurrection of the Dead.

The Dead Sea Scrolls community, who are probably Essenes, were led by a high priestly leadership, who are thought to be the descendents of the "legitimate" high priestly lineage, which the Hasmoneans ousted. The Dead Sea Scrolls bitterly opposed the current high priests of the Temple. Since Hasmoneans constituted a different priestly line, it was in their political interest to emphasize their family's priestly pedigree that descended from their ancestor, the high priest Zadok, who had the authority to anoint the kingship of Solomon, son of David.

Most of what is known about the Sadducees comes from Josephus, who wrote that they were a quarrelsome group whose followers were wealthy and powerful, and that he considered them boorish in social interactions (see Josephus's Wars of the Jews, Book II, Chapter VIII, Paragraph 14). We know something of them from discussions in the Talmud (mainly the Jerusalem), the core work of rabbinic Judaism, which is based on the teachings of Pharisaic Judaism.

[edit] Beliefs
Sadducees rejected the Pharisaic tenet of an oral Torah, and created new interpretations based on a literal understanding of verses. In their personal lives this often meant an excessively stringent lifestyle from a Jewish perspective, as they did away with the oral tradition, and in turn the authentic Jewish understanding of the Torah. An example of this problematic approach is the interpretation of, "an eye for an eye". The Jewish understanding for centuries was that the value of an eye was to be sought by the perpetrator rather than actually removing his eye too. In their view the law was now to be taken literally. In other words, the Sadducees wished to change the Jewish understanding of the Torah.

R' Yitchak Isaac Halevi suggests that while there is evidence of a Sadducee sect from the times of Ezra, it emerged as major force only after the Hashmenite rebellion. The reason for this was not, in fact, a matter of religion. He claims that as complete rejection of Judaism would not have been tolerated under the Hasmonean rule, the Hellenists joined the Sadducees maintaining that they were rejecting not Judaism but Rabbinic law. Thus, the Sadducees were for the most part a political party and not a religious sect (Dorot Ha'Rishonim).

Schiffman also cites interpretations of the purity regulations which closely parallel Sadducean views recorded by the spiritual heirs of the Pharisees, who authored the Talmud. that there was an internal schism among those called "Sadducees" - some who rejected Angels, the Soul, and Resurrection - and some which accepted these teachings and the entirety of the Hebrew Bible.

In regard to criminal jurisdiction they were so rigorous that the day on which their code was abolished by the Pharisaic Sanhedrin under Simeon ben Shetah's leadership, during the reign of Salome Alexandra, was celebrated as a festival. The Sadducees are said to have insisted on the literal execution of the law of retaliation: "Eye for eye, tooth for tooth", which pharisaic Judaism, and later rabbinic Judaism, rejected. On the other hand, they would not inflict the death penalty on false witnesses in a case where capital punishment had been wrongfully carried out, unless the accused had been executed solely in consequence of the testimony of such witnesses.

According to the Talmud, they granted the daughter the same right of inheritance as the son in case the son was dead.(see chapter Yeish Nochalin of the Babylonain Talmud, tractate Bava Batra) Emet L' Yaakov explains that the focus of their argument was theological. The question was whether there is an afterlife (see above), and if there is, can the dead person be in the line of inheritance as if they were alive.

According to the Talmud, they contended that the seven weeks from the first barley-sheaf-offering ("omer") to Shavuot (Pentecost in Christian reference) should, according to Leviticus 23:15-16, be counted from "the day after Sabbath," and, consequently, that Shavuot should always be celebrated on the first day of the week (Meg. Ta'an. i.; Men. 65a). In this they followed a literal reading of the Bible which regards the festival of the firstlings as having no direct connection with Passover, while the Pharisees, connecting the festival of the Exodus with the festival of the giving of the Law, interpreted the "morrow after the Sabbath" to signify the second day of Passover.

In regard to rituals at the Temple in Jerusalem:

They held that the daily burnt offerings were to be offered by the high priest at his own expense, whereas the Pharisees contended that they were to be furnished as a national sacrifice at the cost of the Temple treasury into which taxes were paid.
They held that the meal offering belonged to the priest's portion; whereas the Pharisees claimed it for the altar.
They insisted on an especially high degree of purity in those who officiated at the preparation of the ashes of the Red Heifer. The Pharisees, by contrast, opposed such strictness.
They declared that the kindling of the incense in the vessel with which the high priest entered the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) was to take place outside, so that he might be wrapped in smoke while meeting the Shekhinah within, according to Lev. xvi. 2; whereas the Pharisees, denying the high priest the claim of such supernatural vision, insisted that the incense be kindled within.
They opposed the popular festivity of the water libation and the procession preceding it on each night of the Sukkot feast.
They opposed the Pharisaic assertion that the scrolls of the Holy Scriptures have, like any holy vessel, the power to render ritually unclean the hands that touch them.
They opposed the Pharisaic idea of the eruv, the merging of several private precincts into one in order to admit of the carrying of food and vessels from one house to another on the Sabbath.
In dating all civil documents they used the phrase "after the high priest of the Most High," and they opposed the formula introduced by the Pharisees in divorce documents, "According to the law of Moses and Israel".
Ben Sira, one of the Deuterocanonical books, is believed by many scholars to have been by a Sadducee[citation needed]. (Note, the Talmud says clearly he was rejected by the Sadducees.)

[edit] Reliability of claims
None of the writings we have about Sadducees present their own side of these controversies, and it is possible that positions attributed to "Sadducees" in later literature such as Josephus are meant as rhetorical foils for whatever opinion the author wishes to present, and do not in fact represent the teachings of the sect. [2] Yet, although these texts were written long after these periods, many scholars have said that they are a fairly reliable account of history during the Second Temple era.

[edit] Legendary origin
Josephus relates nothing concerning the origin of the Sadducees; he knows only that the three "sects" — the Pharisees, Essenes, and Sadducees — dated back to "very ancient times" (Ant. xviii. 1, § 2), which point to a time prior to John Hyrcanus (ib. xiii. 8, § 6) or the Maccabean war (ib. xiii. 5, § 9).

Among the rabbis of the second century the following legend circulated: Antigonus of Soko, successor of Simeon the Just, the last of the Men of the Great Assembly, and consequently living at the time of the influx of Hellenistic ideas (i.e., Hellenization), taught the maxim, "Be not like servants who serve their master for the sake of a reward, but be rather like those who serve without thought of receiving a reward" (Avot 1:3); whereupon two of his disciples, Zadok and Boethus, mistaking the high ethical purport of the maxim, arrived at the conclusion that there was no future retribution, saying, "What servant would work all day without obtaining his due reward in the evening?" Instantly they broke away from the Law and lived in great luxury, using many silver and gold vessels at their banquets; and they established schools which declared the enjoyment of this life to be the goal of man, at the same time pitying the Pharisees for their bitter privation in this world with no hope of another world to compensate them. These two schools were called, after their founders, Sadducees and Boethusians.

[edit] New Testament/Greek Scriptures
The Sadducees are mentioned in the New Testament/Greek Scriptures of the Christian Bible. The Gospel of Matthew indicates that the Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection of the dead. Matthew 22:29, 31-32 says:

29 In reply Jesus said to them: “You are mistaken, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God ... [30] ... 31 As regards the resurrection of the dead, did you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob’? He is the God, not of the dead, but of the living.”
The Acts of the Apostles likewise indicates that Sadducees did not share the Pharisees’ belief in a resurrection; Paul starts a conflict during his trial, by claiming that his accusers were motivated by his advocacy of the doctrine of the resurrection (in an aside, Acts 23:8 asserts that “The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, or angel, or spirit; but the Pharisees acknowledge all three”).

The End of the Sadducees
Being associated closely with the Temple in Jerusalem, after the Temple was destroyed in 70 CE the Sadducees vanish from history as a group. There is, however, some evidence that Sadducees survived as a minority group within Judaism up until early medieval times. In refutations of Sadducean beliefs, Karaite Sages such as Ya'akov al-Qirqisani quoted one of their texts, which was called Sefer Zadok. Translations into English of some of these quotes can be found in Zvi Cahn's "Rise of the Karaite sect".

From the Hebrew Encyclopedia

Name from High Priest Zadok.
Name given to the party representing views and practises of the Law and interests of Temple and priesthood directly opposite to those of the Pharisees. The singular form, "Ẓadduḳi" (Greek, Σαδδουκαῖος), is an adjective denoting "an adherent of the Bene Ẓadoḳ," the descendants of Zadok, the high priests who, tracing their pedigree back to Zadok, the chief of the priesthood in the days of David and Solomon (I Kings i. 34, ii. 35; I Chron. xxix. 22), formed the Temple hierarchy all through the time of the First and Second Temples down to the days of Ben Sira (II Chron. xxxi. 10; Ezek. xl. 46, xliv. 15, xlviii. 11; Ecclus. [Sirach] li. 12 [9], Hebr.), but who degenerated under the influence of Hellenism, especially during the rule of the Seleucidæ, when to be a follower of the priestly aristocracy was tantamount to being a worldly-minded Epicurean. The name, probably coined by the Ḥasidim as opponents of the Hellenists, became in the course of time a party name applied to all the aristocratic circles connected with the high priests by marriage and other social relations, as only the highest patrician families intermarried with the priests officiating at the Temple in Jerusalem (Ḳid. iv. 5; Sanh. iv. 2; comp. Josephus, "B. J." ii. 8, § 14). "Haughty men these priests are, saying which woman is fit to be married by us, since our father is high priest, our uncles princes and rulers, and we presiding officers at the Temple"—these words, put into the mouth of Nadab and Abihu (Tan., Aḥare Mot, ed. Buber, 7; Pesiḳ. 172b; Midr. Teh. to Ps. lxxviii. 18), reflect exactly the opinion prevailing among the Pharisees concerning the Sadducean priesthood (comp. a similar remark about the "haughty" aristocracy of Jerusalem in Shab. 62b). The Sadducees, says Josephus, have none but the rich on their side ("Ant." xiii. 10, § 6). The party name was retained long after the Zadokite high priests had made way for the Hasmonean house and the very origin of the name had been forgotten. Nor is anything definite known about the political and religious views of the Sadducees except what is recorded by their opponents in the works of Josephus, in the Talmudic literature, and in the New Testament writings.
Legendary Origin.
Josephus relates nothing concerning the origin of what he chooses to call the sect or philosophical school of the Sadducees; he knows only that the three "sects"—the Pharisees, Essenes, and Sadducees—dated back to "very ancient times" (ib. xviii. 1, § 2), which words, written from the point of view of King Herod's days, necessarily point to a time prior to John Hyrcanus (ib. xiii. 8, § 6) orthe Maccabean war (ib. xiii. 5, § 9). Among the Rabbis the following legend circulated: Antigonus of Soko, successor of Simon the Just, the last of the "Men of the Great Synagogue," and consequently living at the time of the influx of Hellenistic ideas, taught the maxim, "Be not like servants who serve their master for the sake of wages [lit. "a morsel"], but be rather like those who serve without thought of receiving wages" (Ab. i. 3); whereupon two of his disciples, Zadok and Boethus, mistaking the high ethical purport of the maxim, arrived at the conclusion that there was no future retribution, saying, "What servant would work all day without obtaining his due reward in the evening?" Instantly they broke away from the Law and lived in great luxury, using many silver and gold vessels at their banquets; and they established schools which declared the enjoyment of this life to be the goal of man, at the same time pitying the Pharisees for their bitter privation in this world with no hope of another world to compensate them. These two schools were called, after their founders, Sadducees and Boethusians (Ab. R. N. v.).
The unhistorical character of this legend is shown by the simple fact, learned from Josephus, that the Boethusians represent the family of high priests created by King Herod after his marriage to the daughter of Simon, the son of Boethus ("Ant." xv. 9, § 3; xix. 6, § 2; see Boethusians). Obviously neither the character of the Sadducees nor that of the Boethusians was any longer known at the time the story was told in the rabbinical schools. Nor does the attempt to connect the name "Sadducees" with the term "ẓedeḳ" or " ẓedaḳah" (= "righteousness"; Epiphanius, "Panarium," i. 14; Derenbourg, "Histoire de la Palestine," p. 454) deserve any more consideration than the creation by Grätz ("Gesch." 3d ed., iii. 88, 697) and others, for the purpose of accounting for the name, of a heretic leader called Zadok. Geiger's ingenious explanation ("Urschrift," pp. 20 et seq.), as given above, indorsed by Well-hausen ("Die Pharisäer und die Sadducäer," p. 45), is very generally approved to-day (see Schürer, "Gesch." 3d ed., ii. 408); and it has received striking confirmation from the special blessing for "the Sons of Zadok whom God has chosen for the priesthood" in the Hebrew Ben Sira discovered by Schechter (see Schechter and Taylor, "Wisdom of Ben Sira," 1899, p.35). In the New Testament the high priests and their party are identified with the Sadducees (Acts v. 17; comp. ib. xxiii. 6 with ib. xxii. 30, and John vii. 30, xi. 47, xviii. 3 with the Synoptic Gospels; see also "Ant." xx. 9, § 1).
The views and principles of the Sadducees may be summarized as follows: (1)
Representing the nobility, power, and wealth ("Ant." xviii. 1, § 4), they had centered their interests in political life, of which they were the chief rulers. Instead of sharing the 'Messianic hopes of the Pharisees, who committed the future into the hand of God, they took the people's destiny into their own hands, fighting or negotiating with the heathen nations just as they thought best, while having as their aim their own temporary welfare and worldly success. This is the meaning of what Josephus chooses to term their disbelief in fate and divine providence ("B. J." ii. 8, § 14; "Ant." xiii. 5 § 9).(2)
As the logical consequence of the preceding view, they would not accept the Pharisaic doctrine of the resurrection (Sanh. 90b; Mark xii. 12; Ber. ix. 5, "Minim"), which was a national rather than an individual hope. As to the immortality of the soul, they seem to have denied this as well (see Hippolytus, "Refutatio," ix. 29; "Ant." x. 11, § 7).(3)
According to Josephus (ib. xiii. 10, § 6), they regarded only those observances as obligatory which are contained in the written word, and did not recognize those not written in the law of Moses and declared by the Pharisees to be derived from the traditions of the fathers. Instead of accepting the authority of the teachers, they considered it a virtue to dispute it by arguments.(4)
According to Acts xxiii. 8, they denied also the existence of angels and demons. This probably means that they did not believe in the Essene practise of incantation and conjuration in cases of disease, and were therefore not concerned with the Angelology and Demonology derived from Babylonia and Persia.
Their Views and Principles.(5)
In regard to criminal jurisdiction they were so rigorous that the day on which their code was abolished by the Pharisaic Sanhedrin under Simeon b. Shetaḥ's leadership, during the reign of Salome Alexandra, was celebrated as a festival (Meg. Ta'an. iv.; comp. Ket. 105a). They insisted on the literal execution of the law of retaliation: "Eye for eye, tooth for tooth" (Ex. xxi. 24; Meg. Ta'an. iv.; B. Ḳ. 84a; comp. Matt. v. 38). On the other hand, they would not inflict the death penalty on false witnesses in a case where capital punishment had been wrongfully carried out, unless the accused had been executed solely in consequence of the testimony of such witnesses (Mak. i. 8; Tosef., Sanh. vi. 6, where "Bocthusians" stands for "Sadducees").(6)
They held the owner of a slave fully as responsible for the damage done by the latter as for that done by the owner's ox or ass; whereas the Pharisees discriminated between reasonable and unreasonable beings (Yad. iv. 7).(7)
They also insisted, according to Meg. Ta'an. iv., upon a literal interpretation of Deut. xxii. 17 (comp. Sifre, Deut. 237; Ket. 46; see also the description of the custom still obtaining at weddings among the Jews of Salonica, in Braun-Wiesbaden's "Eine Türkische Reise," 1876, p. 235), while most of the Pharisaic teachers took the words figuratively. The same holds true in regard to Deut. xxv. 9: "Then shall his brother's wife . . . spit in his [her deceased husband's brother's] face," which the Pharisees explained as "before him" (Yeb. xii. 6; see Weiss, "Dor," i. 117, note).(8)
They followed a traditional practise of their own in granting the daughter the same right of inheritance as the son's daughter in case the son was dead (Meg. Ta'an. v.; Tos. Yad. ii. 20; B. B. viii. 1, 115b).(9)
They contended that the seven weeks from the first barley-sheaf-offering ("'omer") to Pentecost should, according to Lev. xxiii. 15-16, be countedfrom "the day after Sabbath," and, consequently, that Pentecost should always be celebrated on the first day of the week (Meg. Ta'an. i.; Men. 65a). In this they obviously followed the old Biblical view which regards the festival of the firstlings as having no connection whatsoever with the Passover feast; whereas the Pharisees, connecting the festival of the Exodus with the festival of the giving of the Law, interpreted the "morrow after the Sabbath" to signify the second day of Passover (see Jubilees, Book of).
Views on Temple Practises.(10)
Especially in regard to the Temple practise did they hold older views, based upon claims of greater sanctity for the priesthood and of its sole dominion over the sanctuary. Thus they insisted that the daily burnt offerings were, with reference to the singular used in Num. xxviii. 4, to be offered by the high priest at his own expense; whereas the Pharisees contended that they were to be furnished as a national sacrifice at the cost of the Temple treasury into which the "she-ḳalim" collected from the whole people were paid (Meg. Ta'an. i. 1; Men. 65b; Sheḳ. iii. 1, 3; Grätz, l.c. p. 694).(11)
They claimed that the meal offering belonged to the priest's portion; whereas the Pharisees claimed it for the altar (Meg. Ta'an. viii.; Men. vi. 2).(12)
They insisted on an especially high degree of purity in those who officiated at the preparation of the ashes of the Red Heifer. The Pharisees, on the contrary, demonstratively opposed such strictness (Parah iii. 7; Tos. Parah iii. 1-8).(13)
They declared that the kindling of the incense in the vessel with which the high priest entered the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement was to take place outside, so that he might be wrapped in smoke while meeting the Shekinah within, according to Lev. xvi. 2; whereas the Pharisees, denying the high priest the claim of such super-natural vision, insisted that the incense be kindled within (Sifra, Aḥare Mot, 3; Yoma 19b, 53a, b; Yer. Yoma i. 39a, b; comp. Lev. R. xxi. 11).(14)
They extended the power of contamination to indirect as well as to direct contact (Yad. iv. 7).(15)
They opposed the popular festivity of the water libation and the procession preceding the same on each night of the Sukkot feast, as well as the closing festivity, on which the Pharisees laid much stress, of the beating of the willow-trees (Suk. 43b, 48b; Tos. Suk. iii. 16; comp. "Ant." xiii. 13, § 5).(16)
They opposed the Pharisaic assertion that the scrolls of the Holy Scriptures have, like any holy vessel, the power to render unclean (taboo) the hands that touch them (Yad. iv. 6).(17)
They opposed the Pharisaic idea of the 'Erub, the merging of several private precincts into one in order to admit of the carrying of food and vessels from one house to another on the Sabbath ('Er. vi. 2).(18)
In dating all civil documents they used the phrase "after the high priest of the Most High," and they opposed the formula introduced by the Pharisees in divorce documents," According to the law of Moses and Israel" (Meg. Ta'an. vii.; Yad. iv. 8; see Geiger, l.c. p. 34).
Decline of Sadduceeism.
Whether the Sadducees were less strict in regard to the state of impurity of woman in her periods (Niddah iv. 2), and what object they had in opposing the determination by the Pharisees of the appearance of the new moon (R. H. ii. 1, 22b; Tos. R. H. i. 15), are not clear. Certain it is that in the time of the Tannaim the real issues between them and the Pharisees were forgotten, only scholastic controversies being recorded. In the latter the Sadducees are replaced by the late Boethusians, who had, only for the sake of opposition, maintained certain Sadducean traditions without a proper understanding of the historical principles upon which they were based. In fact, as Josephus ("Ant." xviii. 1, § 3) states in common with the Talmudical sources (Yoma 19b; Niddah 33b), the ruling members of the priesthood of later days were forced by public opinion to yield to the Pharisaic doctors of the Law, who stood so much higher in the people's esteem. In the course of time the Sadducees themselves adopted without contradiction Pharisaic practises; it is stated (Shab. 108a) that they did so in regard to the tefillin, and many other observances appear to have been accepted by them (Hor. 4a; Sanh. 33b).
With the destruction of the Temple and the state the Sadducees as a party no longer had an object for which to live. They disappear from history, though their views are partly maintained and echoed by the Samaritans, with whom they are frequently identified (see Hippolytus, "Refutatio Hæresium," ix. 29; Epiphanius, l.c. xiv.; and other Church Fathers, who ascribe to the Sadducees the rejection of the Prophets and the Hagiographa; comp. also Sanh. 90b, where "Ẓadduḳim" stands for "Kutim" [Samaritans]; Sifre, Num. 112; Geiger, l.c. pp. 128-129), and by the Karaites (see Maimonides, commentary on Ab. i. 3; Geiger, "Gesammelte Schriften," iii. 283-321; also Anan ben David; Karaites).
In Literature.
The Book of Ecclesiastes in its original form, that is, before its Epicurean spirit had been toned down by interpolations, was probably written by a Sadducee in antagonism to the Ḥasidim (Eccl. vii. 16, ix. 2; see P. Haupt, "Koheleth," 1905; Grätz, "Koheleth," 1871, p. 30). The Wisdom of Ben Sira, which, like Ecclesiastes and older Biblical writings, has no reference whatsoever to the belief in resurrection or immortality, is, according to Geiger, a product of Sadducean circles ("Z. D. M. G." xii. 536). This view is partly confirmed by the above-cited blessing of "the Sons of Zadok" (Hebrew Ben Sira, li. 129; see also C. Taylor, "Sayings of the Fathers," 1897, p. 115). Also the first Book of Maccabees is, according to Geiger (l.c. pp. 217 et seq.), the work of a Sadducee. Allusion to the Sadducees as "sinners" is found in the Psalms of Solomon (i. 1, iv. 1-10); they are "severe in judgment" (comp. "Ant." xiii. 10, § 6; xx. 9, § 1), "yet themselves full of sin, of lust, and hypocrisy"; "men pleasers," "yet full of evil desires" (ib. viii. 8; see H. E. Ryle and M. R. James, "Psalms of the Pharisees Commonly Called 'Psalms of Solomon,'" 1891, xlvi.-xlviii. and elsewhere; Kautzsch, "Apokryphen," pp. 128 et seq.). Still more distinctly are the Sadducees described in the Book of Enoch (xciv. 5-9, xcvii.-xcviii., xcix. 2, civ. 10) as: "the men of unrighteousness who trust in their riches"; "sinners who transgress and pervert the eternal law." Sadducees, if not in name, at least in their Epicurean views as opposed to the saints, are depicted also in the Book of Wisdom (i. 16-ii. 22), where the Hellenistic nobility, which occupied high positions likewise in Alexandria, is addressed.
In the New Testament the Sadducees are mentioned in Matt. iii. 7 and xvi. 1, 6, 11, where they are identical with the Herodians (Mark xii. 13), that is, the Boethusians (Matt. xxii. 23, 34; Mark xii. 18; Acts iv. 1, v. 17, xxiii. 6-8). In John's Gospel they simply figure as "the chief priests" (vii. 23, 45; xi. 47, 57; xviii. 3).
In rabbinical literature careful discrimination must be made between the tannaitic period and that of the Amoraim. The Mishnah and Baraita in the passages quoted above indicate at least a fair knowledge of the character and doctrines of the Sadducees (see, for instance, R. Akiba in Yoma 40b), even though the names "Boethusians" and "Sadducees" occur promiscuously (see Grätz, "Gesch." iii. 693, and Boethusians). In the amoraic period the name "Ẓadduḳi" signifies simply "heretic," exactly like the term "min" = "gnostic"; in fact, copyists sometimes replaced, it may be intentionally, the word "min" by "Ẓadduḳi," especially when Christian gnostics were referred to. However, in many cases in which "Ẓadduḳim" stands for "minim" in the later Talmud editions the change was due to censorship laws, as is shown by the fact that the manuscripts and older editions actually have the word "minim." Thus the Ẓadduḳi who troubled R. Joshua b. Levi with Biblical arguments (Ber. 7a; Sanh. 105b), the one who argued with R. Abbahu and Beruriah, (Ber. 10a), the one who bothered R. Ishmael with his dreams (ib. 56b), and the one who argued with R. Ḥanina concerning the Holy Land in the Messianic time (Giṭ. 57a; Ket. 112a) and regarding Jesus ("Balaam," Sanh. 106b), were Christian gnostics; so were also the two Ẓadduḳim in the company of R. Abbahu (Suk. 48b). But the Ẓadduḳim who argue in favor of dualism (Sanh. 37a [the original version of the Mishnah had "apikoresin" or "minim"], 38b-39a; Ḥul. 87 a) are gnostics or Jewish heretics, as are also those spoken of as "a vile people" (Yeb. 63b). "Birkat ha-minim," the benediction against Christian informers and gnostics, is called also "Birkat ha-Ẓadduḳim" (Ber. 28b, 29a). "The writings of the Ẓadduḳim" (Shab. 116a) are gnostic writings, the same as "Sefarim Ḥiẓonim" (Sanh. x. 1; "Sifre ha-Minim," Tos. Shab. xiii. 5). So it is said of Adam that he was a Ẓadduḳi, that is, a gnostic who did not believe in God as the Giver of the Law (Sanh. 38b). "The Ẓadduḳim and informers" (Derek Ereẓ Rabbah ii.; Derek Ereẓ Zuṭa i.) are Christian gnostics. In Hor. 11a a Ẓadduḳi is declared to be a transgressor of the dietary and other Mosaic laws, nay, an idolater. On the other hand, the Ẓadduḳim who conversed with Rab Sheshet (Ber. 58a), with Raba (Shab. 88a), and with R. Judah (Ned. 49b) seem to have been Manicheans.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

A Nice Story

Once upon a time, there was this girl who had four boyfriends.

She loved the 4th boyfriend the most and adorned him with rich
robes and
treated him to the finest of delicacies. She gave him nothing
but the

She also loved the 3rd boyfriend very much and was always
showing him
off to neighboring kingdoms.
However, she feared that one day he would leave her for another.

She also loved her 2nd boyfriend. He was her confidant and was
kind, considerate and patient with her.
Whenever this girl faced a problem, she could confide in him,
and he
would help her get through the difficult times.

The girls 1st boyfriend was a very loyal partner and had made
contributions in maintaining her wealth and kingdom. However,
she did
not love the first boyfriend. Although he loved her deeply, she
took notice of him.

One day, the girl fell ill and she knew her time was short. She
of her luxurious life and wondered, I now have four boyfriends
with me,
but when I die, I'll be all alone.'

Thus, she asked the 4th boyfriend, I loved you the most, endowed
with the finest clothing and showered great care over you. Now
that I'm
dying, will you follow me and keep me company?'

'No way!', replied the 4th boyfriend, and he walked away without

His answer cut like a sharp knife right into her heart.

The sad girl then asked the 3rd boyfriend, 'I loved you all my
life. Now
that I'm dying, will you follow me and keep me company?'

'No!', replied the 3rd boyfriend. 'Life is too good!
When you die, I'm going to marry someone else!'

Her heart sank and turned cold.

She then asked the 2nd boyfriend, 'I have always turned to you
for help
and you've always been there for me.

When I die, will you follow me and keep me company?'

'I'm sorry, I can't help you out this time!', replied the 2nd
boyfriend. 'At the very most, I can only walk with you to your

His answer struck her like a bolt of lightning, and the girl was

Then a voice called out: 'I'll go with you. I'll follow you no
where you go.'

The girl looked up, and there was her first boyfriend.
He was very skinny as he suffered from malnutrition and neglect.

Greatly grieved, the girl said, 'I should have taken much better
care of
you when I had the chance!'

In truth, you have 4 boyfriends in your lives:

Your 4th boyfriend is your body. No matter how much time and
effort you
lavish in making it look good, it will leave you when you d ie.

Your 3rd boyfriend is your possessions, status and wealth. When
you die,
it will all go to others.

Your 2nd boyfriend is your family and friends. No matter how
much they
have been there for you, the furthest they can stay by you is up
to the

And your 1st boyfriend is your Soul. Often neglected in pursuit
wealth, power and pleasures of the world.

However, your Soul is the only thing that will follow you where
ever you
go. Cultivate, strengthen and cherish it now, for it is the only
part of
you that will follow you to the throne of God and continue with
throughout Eternity.

Thought for the day: Remember, when the world pushes you to your
you're in the perfect position to pray.

Pass this on to someone you care about - I just did.

Being happy doesn't mean everything's perfect. It means you've
decided to see beyond the imperfections .

I hope this touched you!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Lesson 12 Mary Magdalen

She is called "the Penitent". St. Mary was given the name 'Magdalen' because, though a Jewish girl, she lived in a Gentile town called Magdale, in northern Galilee, and her culture and manners were those of a Gentile. St. Luke records that she was a notorious sinner, and had seven devils removed from her. She was present at Our Lords' Crucifixion, and with Joanna and Mary, the mother of James and Salome, at Jesus' empty tomb. Fourteen years after Our Lord's death, St. Mary was put in a boat by the Jews without sails or oars - along with Sts. Lazarus and Martha, St. Maximin (who baptized her), St. Sidonius ("the man born blind"), her maid Sera, and the body of St. Anne, the mother of the Blessed Virgin. They were sent drifting out to sea and landed on the shores of Southern France, where St. Mary spent the rest of her life as a contemplative in a cave known as Sainte-Baume. She was given the Holy Eucharist daily by angels as her only food, and died when she was 72. St. Mary was transported miraculously, just before she died, to the chapel of St. Maximin, where she received the last sacraments.
More about this saint: St. Mary Magdalen (Feast day - July 22) Mary Magdalen was well known as a sinner when she first saw Our Lord. She was very beautiful and very proud, but after she met Jesus, she felt great sorrow for her evil life. When Jesus went to supper at the home of a rich man named Simon, Mary came to weep at His feet. Then with her long beautiful hair, she wiped His feet dry and anointed them with expensive perfume. Some people were surprised that Jesus let such a sinner touch Him, but Our Lord could see into Mary's heart, and He said: "Many sins are forgiven her, because she has loved very much." Then to Mary He said kindly, "Your faith has made you safe; go in peace." From then on, with the other holy women, Mary humbly served Jesus and His Apostles. When Our Lord was crucified, she was there at the foot of His cross, unafraid for herself, and thinking only of His sufferings. No wonder Jesus said of her: "She has loved much." After Jesus' body had been placed in the tomb, Mary went to anoint it with spices early Easter Sunday morning. Not finding the Sacred Body, she began to weep, and seeing someone whom she thought was the gardener, she asked him if he knew where the Body of her beloved Master had been taken. But then the person spoke in a voice she knew so well: "Mary!" It was Jesus, risen from the dead! He had chosen to show Himself first to Mary Magdalen, the repentent sinner.
The Jesus Conspiracy

The Da Vinci Code begins with the murder of a French museum curator named Jacques Sauniere. A scholarly Harvard professor and a beautiful French cryptologist are commissioned to decipher a message left by the curator before his death. The message turns out to reveal the most profound conspiracy in the history of humankind: a cover-up of the true message of Jesus Christ by a secret arm of the Roman Catholic Church called Opus Dei.

Before his death, the curator had evidence that could disprove the deity of Christ. Although (according to the plot) the church tried for centuries to suppress the evidence, great thinkers and artists have planted clues everywhere: in paintings such as the Mona Lisa and Last Supper by da Vinci, in the architecture of cathedrals, even in Disney cartoons. The book’s main claims are these:
· The Roman emperor Constantine conspired to deify Jesus Christ.
· Constantine personally selected the books of the New Testament.
· The Gnostic gospels were banned by men to suppress women.
· Jesus and Mary Magdalene were secretly married and had a child.
· Thousands of secret documents disprove key points of Christianity.
Brown reveals his conspiracy through the book’s fictional expert, British royal historian Sir Leigh Teabing. Presented as a wise old scholar, Teabing reveals to cryptologist Sophie Neveu that at the Council of Nicaea in a.d. 325 “many aspects of Christianity were debated and voted upon,” including the divinity of Jesus.
“Until that moment in history,” he says, “Jesus was viewed by His followers as a mortal prophet … a great and powerful man, but a man nonetheless.”

Neveu is shocked. “Not the Son of God?” she asks.

Teabing explains: “Jesus’ establishment as ‘the Son of God’ was officially proposed and voted on by the Council of Nicaea.”

“Hold on. You’re saying Jesus’ divinity was the result of a vote?”

“A relatively close vote at that,” Teabing tells the stunned cryptologist.2
So, according to Teabing, Jesus was not regarded as God until the Council of Nicaea in a.d. 325, when the real records of Jesus were allegedly banned and destroyed. Thus, according to the theory, the entire foundation of Christianity rests upon a lie.

The Da Vinci Code has sold its story well, drawing comments from readers such as “If it were not true it could not have been published!” Another said he would “never set foot in a church again.” A reviewer of the book praised it for its “impeccable research.”3 Pretty convincing for a fictional work.
Let’s accept for the moment that Teabing’s proposal might be true. Why, in that case, would the Council of Nicaea decide to promote Jesus to Godhood?

“It was all about power,” Teabing continues. “Christ as Messiah was critical to the functioning of Church and state. Many scholars claim that the early Church literally stole Jesus from His original followers, hijacking His human message, shrouding it in an impenetrable cloak of divinity, and using it to expand their own power.”4

In many ways, The Da Vinci Code is the ultimate conspiracy theory. If Brown’s assertions are correct, then we have been lied to—by the church, by history, and by the Bible. Perhaps even by those we trust most: our parents or teachers. And it was all for the sake of a power grab.

Although The Da Vinci Code is fictional, it does base much of its premise upon actual events (the Council of Nicaea), actual people (Constantine and Arius), and actual documents (the Gnostic gospels). If we are to get to the bottom of the conspiracy, our project must be to address Brown’s accusations and separate fact from fiction.

Constantine and Christianity

In the centuries prior to Constantine’s reign over the Roman Empire, Christians had been severely persecuted. But then, while entrenched in warfare, Constantine reported to have seen a bright image of a cross in the sky inscribed with the words “Conquer by this.” He marched into battle under the sign of the cross and took control of the empire.

Constantine’s apparent conversion to Christianity was a watershed in church history. Rome became a Christian empire. For the first time in nearly 300 years it was relatively safe, and even cool, to be a Christian.

No longer were Christians persecuted for their faith. Constantine then sought to unify his Eastern and Western Empires, which had been badly divided by schisms, sects, and cults, centering mostly around the issue of Jesus Christ’s identity.

These are some of the kernels of truth in The Da Vinci Code, and kernels of truth are a prerequisite for any successful conspiracy theory. But the book’s plot turns Constantine into a conspirator. So let’s address a key question raised by Brown’s theory: did Constantine invent the Christian doctrine of Jesus’ divinity?
Deifying Jesus
To answer Brown’s accusation, we must first determine what Christians in general believed before Constantine ever convened the council at Nicaea.
Christians had been worshiping Jesus as God since the first century. But in the fourth century, a church leader from the east, Arius, launched a campaign to defend God’s oneness. He taught that Jesus was a specially created being, higher than the angels, but not God. Athanasius and most church leaders, on the other hand, were convinced that Jesus was God in the flesh.
Constantine wanted to settle the dispute, hoping to bring peace to his empire, uniting the east and west divisions. Thus, in 325 A.D., he convened more than 300 bishops at Nicaea (now part of Turkey) from throughout the Christian world. The crucial question is, did the early church think Jesus was the Creator or merely a creation—Son of God or son of a carpenter? So, what did the apostles teach about Jesus? From their very first recorded statements, they regarded him as God. About 30 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection, Paul wrote the Philippians that Jesus was God in human form (Philippians 2:6-7, NLT). And John, a close eye-witness, confirms Jesus’ divinity in the following passage:
In the beginning the Word already existed. He was with God, and he was God. He created everything there is. Nothing exists that he didn't make. Life itself was in him..So the Word became human and lived here on earth among us (John 1: 1-4, 14, NLT).
This passage from John 1, has been discovered in an ancient manuscript, and it is carbon-dated at 175-225 A.D. Thus Jesus was clearly spoken of as God over a hundred years before Constantine convened the Council of Nicaea. We now see that forensic manuscript evidence contradicts The Da Vinci Code's claim that Jesus' divinity was a fourth century invention. But what does history tell us about the Council of Nicaea? Brown asserts in his book, through Teabing, that the majority of bishops at Nicaea overruled Arius's belief that Jesus was a "mortal prophet" and adopted the doctrine of Jesus' divinity by a "relatively close vote." True or false?
In reality, the vote was a landslide: only two of the 318 bishops dissented. Whereas Arius believed that the Father alone was God, and that Jesus was His supreme creation, the council concluded that Jesus and the Father were of the same divine essence.
The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit were deemed to be distinct, coexistent, coeternal Persons, but one God. This doctrine of one God in three Persons became known as the Nicene Creed, and is the central core of the Christian Faith. Now, it is true that Arius was persuasive and had considerable influence. The landslide vote came after considerable debate. But in the end the council overwhelmingly declared Arius to be a heretic, since his teaching contradicted what the apostles had taught about Jesus' divinity.
History also confirms that Jesus had publicly condoned the worship he received from his disciples. And, as we have seen, Paul and other apostles clearly taught that Jesus is God and is worthy of worship.
From the first days of the Christian church, Jesus was regarded as far more than a mere man, and most of his followers worshiped him as Lord-the Creator of the universe. So, how could Constantine have invented the doctrine of Jesus' divinity if the church had regarded Jesus as God for more than 200 years? The Da Vinci Code doesn't address this question.
Firing on the Canon

The Da Vinci Code also states that Constantine suppressed all documents about Jesus other than those found in our current New Testament canon (recognized by the church as authentic eyewitness reports of the apostles). It further asserts that the New Testament accounts were altered by Constantine and the bishops to reinvent Jesus. Another key element of The Da Vinci Code conspiracy is that the four New Testament Gospels were cherry-picked from a total of "more than 80 gospels," most of which were supposedly suppressed by Constantine.5

There are two central issues here, and we need to address both. The first is whether Constantine altered or biased the selection of the New Testament books. The second is whether he barred documents that should have been included in the Bible.

Regarding the first issue, letters and documents written by second century church leaders and heretics alike confirm the wide usage of the New Testament books. Nearly 200 years before Constantine convened the Council of Nicaea, the heretic Marcion listed 11 of the 27 New Testament books as being the authentic writings of the apostles.

And about the same time, another heretic, Valentinus, alludes to a wide variety of New Testament themes and passages. Since these two heretics were opponents of the early church leadership, they were not writing just what the bishops wanted. Yet, like the early church, they still referred to the same New Testament books we read today.

So, if the New Testament was already widely in use 200 years before Constantine and the Council of Nicaea, how could the emperor have invented or altered it? By that time the church was widespread and encompassed hundreds of thousands if not millions of believers, all of whom were familiar with the New Testament accounts.

In his book The Da Vinci Deception, an analysis of The Da Vinci Code, Dr. Erwin Lutzer remarks,
Constantine did not decide which books would be in the canon; indeed, the topic of the canon did not even come up at the Council of Nicaea. By that time the early church was reading a canon of books it had determined was the Word of God two hundred years earlier.6
Although the official canon was still years from being finalized, the New Testament of today was deemed authentic more than two centuries before Nicaea.
This brings us to our second issue; why were these mysterious Gnostic gospels destroyed and excluded from the New Testament? In the book, Teabing asserts that the Gnostic writings were eliminated from 50 authorized Bibles commissioned by Constantine at the council. He excitedly tells Neveu:
Because Constantine upgraded Jesus’ status almost four centuries after Jesus’ death, thousands of documents already existed chronicling His life as a mortal man. To rewrite the history books, Constantine knew he would need a bold stroke. From this sprang the most profound moment in Christian history. … Constantine commissioned and financed a new Bible, which omitted those gospels that spoke of Christ’s human traits and embellished those gospels that made Him godlike. The earlier gospels were outlawed, gathered up, and burned.7
Are these Gnostic writings the real history of Jesus Christ? Let's take a deeper look to see if we can separate truth from fiction.

Secret "Knowers"

The Gnostic gospels are attributed to a group known as (big surprise here) the Gnostics. Their name comes from the Greek word gnosis, meaning “knowledge.” These people thought they had secret, special knowledge hidden from ordinary people.

Of the 52 writings, only five are actually listed as gospels. As we shall see, these so-called gospels are markedly different from the New Testament Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

As Christianity spread, the Gnostics mixed some doctrines and elements of Christianity into their beliefs, morphing Gnosticism into a counterfeit Christianity. Perhaps they did it to keep recruitment numbers up and make Jesus a poster child for their cause. However, for their system of thought to fit with Christianity, Jesus needed to be reinvented, stripped of both his humanity and his absolute deity.

In The Oxford History of Christianity John McManners wrote of the Gnostics’ mixture of Christian and mythical beliefs. Early Crictics
Contrary to Brown’s assertions, it was not Constantine who branded the Gnostic beliefs as heretical; it was the apostles themselves. A mild strain of the philosophy was already growing in the first century just decades after the death of Jesus. The apostles, in their teaching and writings, went to great lengths to condemn these beliefs as being opposed to the truth of Jesus, to whom they were eyewitnesses.
Check out, for example, what the apostle John wrote near the end of the first century:
Who is the great liar? The one who says that Jesus is not the Christ. Such people are antichrists, for they have denied the Father and the Son (1 John 2:22).
Following the apostles’ teaching, the early church leaders unanimously condemned the Gnostics as a cult. Church father Irenaeus, writing 140 years before the Council of Nicaea, confirmed that the Gnostics were condemned by the church as heretics. He also rejected their “gospels.” However, referring to the four New Testament Gospels, he said, “It is not possible that the Gospels can be either more or fewer in number than they are.” 9
Christian theologian Origen wrote this in the early third century, more than a hundred years before Nicaea: I know a certain gospel which is called “The Gospel according to Thomas” and a “Gospel according to Matthias,” and many others have we read—lest we should in any way be considered ignorant because of those who imagine they possess some knowledge if they are acquainted with these. Nevertheless, among all these we have approved solely what the church has recognized, which is that only four gospels should be accepted.10
There we have it in the words of a highly regarded early church leader. The Gnostics were recognized as a non-Christian cult well before the Council of Nicaea. But there's more evidence calling into question claims made in The Da Vinci Code.
Who's Sexist?
Brown suggests that one of the motives for Constantine’s alleged banning of the Gnostic writings was a desire to suppress women in the church. Ironically, it is the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas that demeans women. It concludes (supposedly quoting Peter) with this eye-popping statement: “Let Mary go away from us, because women are not worthy of life.” Then Jesus allegedly tells Peter that he will make Mary into a male so that she may enter the kingdom of heaven. Read: women are inferior. With sentiments like that on display, it’s difficult to conceive of the Gnostic writings as being a battle cry for women’s liberation.
In stark contrast, the Jesus of the biblical Gospels always treated women with dignity and respect. Revolutionary verses like this one found within the New Testament have been foundational to attempts at raising women's status: "There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female. For you are all Christians-you are one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28, NLT).
Mystery Authors

When it comes to the Gnostic gospels, just about every book carries the name of a New Testament character: the Gospel of Philip, the Gospel of Peter, the Gospel of Mary, The Gospel of Judas, and so on. (Sounds a little like roll call at a parochial school.) These are the books that conspiracy theories like The Da Vinci Code are based upon. But were they even written by their purported authors?

The Gnostic gospels are dated about 110 to 300 years after Christ, and no credible scholar believes any of them could have been written by their namesakes. In James M. Robinson’s comprehensive The Nag Hammadi Library, we learn that the Gnostic gospels were written by “largely unrelated and anonymous authors.”12 Dr. Darrell L. Bock, professor of New Testament studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, wrote, “The bulk of this material is a few generations removed from the foundations of the Christian faith, a vital point to remember when assessing the contents.”13

New Testament scholar Norman Geisler commented on two Gnostic writings, the Gospel of Peter and the Acts of John. (These Gnostic writings are not to be confused with the New Testament books written by John and Peter.) “The Gnostic writings were not written by the apostles, but by men in the second century (and later) pretending to use apostolic authority to advance their own teachings. Today we call this fraud and forgery.”14

The Gnostic gospels are not historical accounts of Jesus’ life but instead are largely esoteric sayings, shrouded in mystery, leaving out historical details such as names, places, and events. This is in striking contrast to the New Testament Gospels, which contain innumerable historical facts about Jesus’ life, ministry, and words. Mrs. Jesus

The juiciest part of the Da Vinci conspiracy is the assertion that Jesus and Mary Magdalene had a secret marriage that produced a child, perpetuating his bloodline. Furthermore, Mary Magdalene's womb, carrying Jesus' offspring, is presented in the book as the legendary Holy Grail, a secret closely held by a Catholic organization called the Priory of Sion. Sir Isaac Newton, Botticelli, Victor Hugo, and Leonardo Da Vinci were all cited as members.
Romance. Scandal. Intrigue. Great stuff for a conspiracy theory. But is it true? Let's look at what scholars say.

A Newsweek magazine article, that summarized leading scholars' opinions, concluded that the theory that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were secretly married has no historical basis.15 The proposal set forth in The Da Vinci Code is built primarily upon one solitary verse in the Gospel of Philip that indicates Jesus and Mary were companions. In the book, Teabing tries to build a case that the word for companion (koinonos) could mean spouse. But Teabing's theory is not accepted by scholars.

There is also a single verse in the Gospel of Philip that says Jesus kissed Mary. Greeting friends with a kiss was common in the first century, and had no sexual connotation. But even if The Da Vinci Code interpretation is correct, there is no other historical document to confirm its theory. And since the Gospel of Philip is a forged document written 150-220 years after Christ by an unknown author, its statement about Jesus isn't historically reliable.

Perhaps the Gnostics felt the New Testament was a bit shy on romance and decided to sauce it up a little. Whatever the reason, this isolated and obscure verse written two centuries after Christ isn't much to base a conspiracy theory upon. Interesting reading perhaps, but definitely not history.

As to the Holy Grail and the Priory of Sion, Brown's fictional account again distorts history. The legendary Holy Grail was supposedly Jesus' cup at his last supper, and had nothing to do with Mary Magdalene. And Leonardo da Vinci never could have known about the Priory of Sion, since it wasn't founded until 1956, 437 years after his death. Again, interesting fiction, but phony history.

The "Secret" Documents

But what about Teabing's disclosure that "thousands of secret documents" prove that Christianity is a hoax? Could this be true?

If there were such documents, scholars opposed to Christianity would have a field day with them. Fraudulent writings that were rejected by the early church for heretical views are not secret, having been known about for centuries. No surprise there. They have never been considered part of the authentic writings of the apostles.

And if Brown (Teabing) is referring to the apocryphal, or infancy Gospels, that cat is also out of the bag. They are not secret, nor do they disprove Christianity. New Testament scholar Raymond Brown has said of the Gnostic gospels, "We learn not a single verifiable new fact about the historical Jesus' ministry, and only a few new sayings that might possibly have been his."18

Unlike the Gnostic gospels, whose authors are unknown and who were not eyewitnesses, the New Testament we have today has passed numerous tests for authenticity. (Click to read Jesus.doc) The contrast is devastating to those pushing conspiracy theories. New Testament historian F. F. Bruce wrote, "There is no body of ancient literature in the world which enjoys such a wealth of good textual attestation as the New Testament."19
New Testament scholar Bruce Metzger revealed why the Gospel of Thomas was not accepted by the early church: "It is not right to say that the Gospel of Thomas was excluded by some fiat on the part of a council: the right way to put it is, the Gospel of Thomas excluded itself! It did not harmonize with other testimony about Jesus that early Christians accepted as trustworthy."17
History's Verdict
So, what are we to conclude regarding the various conspiracy theories about Jesus Christ? Karen King, professor of ecclesiastical history at Harvard, has written several books on the Gnostic gospels, including The Gospel of Mary of Magdala and What Is Gnosticism? King, though a strong advocate of Gnostic teaching, concluded, "These notions about the conspiracy theory...are all marginal ideas that have no historical basis."20
In spite of the lack of historical evidence, conspiracy theories will still sell millions of books and set box office records. Scholars in related fields, some Christians and some with no faith at all, have disputed the claims of The Da Vinci Code. However, the easily swayed will still wonder; Could there be something to it after all?
Award-winning television journalist Frank Sesno asked a panel of historical scholars about the fascination people have with conspiracy theories. Professor Stanley Kutler from the University of Wisconsin replied, "We all love mysteries-but we love conspiracies more."21
So, if you want to read a great conspiracy theory about Jesus, Dan Brown's novel, The Da Vinci Code, may be just the ticket for you. But if you want to read the true accounts of Jesus Christ, then Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John will get you back to what the eyewitnesses saw, heard, and wrote. Who would you rather believe?
So What?
Some may ask the question: So what if The DaVinci Code is wrong, and the New Testament portrays the real Jesus Christ? What does that have to do with you and me today? Can Jesus really give our lives meaning and purpose?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

From tha Annals of Internal Medicine

This is an article which appeared in the latest issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine which I thouhgt you'd like to read.

How Far Along Are You?

took a deep breath befote entering Mrs. Bell's room. I had not yet met this patient, and her nurse told me there were many concerned family members and church friends gathered at the bedside. I knew that Mrs. Bell's adult children were having difficulty coming to terms with the course of their mother's uterine cancer. She was dying, and her family and friends had come to pray and say goodbye. My role as a palliative care fellow was to try to make sure she was comfortable, and to help her loved ones through this time, to the extent they would allow.
I entered the room. All conversation stopped. I felt the eyes of perhaps 20 people on me. I grew increasingly uneasy. I was acutely aware of being the only white person in the room, and I felt all the more conspicuous with my pregnant belly.
"Hello, I'm Dr. Thomas," I said, "I'm from the pain and palliative care team. I'm here to make Mrs. Bell as comfortable as possible, and to answer any questions you might have." Continued silence. I shook hands with Mrs. Bell's 3 children. I went to the bedside, leaned over, and took Mrs. Bell's hand in mine. I smiled at her. "Hello. I heard you were having some pain in your belly. Is it still there?" She kept her eyes closed but held onto my hand and shook her head no. She seemed far away but looked peaceful and comfortable. "Do you know that you have lots of visitors here today? Your children are here, and some of your grandchildren, and your friends from church." She smiled briefly and nodded, keeping her eyes closed. "Is there anything I can do for you at this time, anything to help you be more comfortable?" She shook her head barely perceptibly one last time, and slipped back to sleep. I turned and faced the crowd, "Do you have any questions?"
Someone asked, "What is she getting to help her pain?" I answered, "She has a patch on her skin that gives her a small amount of pain medicine called fentanyl all the time, and we will give her some morphine by vein if she has any more discomfort." A murmur greeted this. "Why is she sleeping so much?" the son asked. "Her body is slowing down. Her kidneys aren't working well and the toxins they usually remove are building up in her blood and making her sleepy. The pain medicines may be making her a little sleepy as well." Again, a murmur arose, and heads nodded as if I had confirmed a hypothesis posed before I got there. Finally, the older daughter gathered the courage to ask the question they were all wondering.
"How much longer does she have?"
I paused. "It's hard to say. Doctors can be really bad at predicting this. I think she will probably pass away in the next few days, but I want to prepare you: I wouldn't be surprised to receive a phone call at any time letting me know she died." There was silence and then again the low murmuring as the crowd processed this. Some looked in

my eyes and nodded slowly, again as if I were confirming what they were already thinking. I asked, "Are there any more questions? Is there anything more I can do for you or for her?" Most continued talking or shook their heads. I turned for the door.
A middle-aged woman in a purple dress approached me. "How far along are you?" she asked.
I paused. "Seven months," I said.
She put her hand on my belly. "Do you know if you're having a boy or a girl?"
"A little boy," I said, unable to keep the delight out of my voice, but unsure it was appropriate under these circumstances. More women joined the conversation.
"Is this your first baby?" asked a younger woman.
"Do you have everything ready at home?"
I smiled and rolled my eyes, "Not even close!" Two more women put their hands on my belly, and they began to pray.
"Lord, please give this nice lady doctor a beautiful baby boy," the woman in the purple dress said in a low, clear voice. "Amen!" arose from the women around me. "Jesus, we ask in your name that her labor be short and the delivery easy!" Again came the chorus of "Amen!" The praying grew in volume and intensity, and calls of "Amen!" erupted at irregular intervals from around the room as more and more people joined in. "Lord, we thank you for the gift of life, for the child you are bringing into the world!" "Amen!"
"Make him strong and healthy, and let him grow up to glorify your name!"
"Amen!" "Amen!" "AMEN!"
I stood quietly in the middle of the circle, with 4 or 5 friendly hands on my belly. Nothing in my career to that point had prepared me for this moment, but I found myself relaxing and enjoying the feeling of connection and support. I felt a deep appreciation that this group saw nothing inconsistent about praying for me and my unborn son in the midst of praying for their dying mother, grandmother, and friend. When the praying quieted down, I shook hands and kissed cheeks all around, gratefully accepting good wishes for the baby. There was an unmistakable feeling that people who had met as strangers were now parting as friends. I left, and smiled as I heard the chatter and laughter follow me down the hall.
Jane deLima Thomas, MD

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Lesson 11 Jesus and the Samaritan Woman

Strategic Movements
The Lord’s travels were not haphazard. They were meticulously orchestrated so as to enhance the greatest advantage for the success of his coming kingdom. Frequently, “timing” was crucial, for everything must proceed on schedule toward that most important “hour” on the divine clock (cf. Jn. 7:30; 8:20; 13:1, etc.).
Timing was a factor in the case of the present context. His ministry had been enormously successful, as reflected in the number of conversions being effected by his disciples—eclipsing even the work of John the Baptizer. Because of this success, the Pharisees were beginning to focus a more hostile interest in him. So he decided to redirect his labor from Judea in the south, to Galilee in the north. In so doing, the apostle notes, “he must needs pass through Samaria.” Several observations are in order.

1. Note that John 4:1 begins with the words, “When therefore the Lord knew ….”
Here we learn something about the incarnate Lord. Though he was deity in nature, he did not continuously exercise the quality of omniscience. He could, consistent with his Father’s will, exercise supernatural knowledge (cf. Mt. 12:25); at other times, he accessed knowledge the ordinary way (cf. Jn. 11:34).
2. The success of Jesus aroused the enmity of the Jewish leaders. This jealousy would eventually reach such an apex that they would deliver their own Messiah to the Roman authorities for crucifixion. Even Pilate recognized that on account of “envy” the Jews had delivered up Jesus (Mt. 27:18).
3. Men with shriveled souls have but two ways of exalting themselves; they either boast of their accomplishments, or tear down those they perceive as rivals. Usually, they do both.
4. While it may seem natural to take the expression “must needs” as a geographical reference, since Samaria lies between Judea and Galilee, passing “through Samaria” was not the only route between the two provinces—in fact, it was not the most common one.
Because of Jewish hostilities toward the Samaritan people (which we will discuss later), the Hebrews frequently would travel to the east when they had leisure time (see Josephus, Ant., 20.6.1, regarding travel at feast times), cross over the Jordan, and thus skirt the Samaritan territory. Samaria was considered as not belonging to the Holy Land, a strip of “foreign country” separating Judea from Galilee (Edersheim, 1957, 12). Such a detour would take longer than the normal three days of travel.
The Lord, however, did not hesitate to traverse Samaritan territory (Lk. 9:51-56; 17:11-19; Jn. 4:1ff). Some scholars, therefore, view this "must needs" language as referring to a:

“compulsion other than mere convenience. As the Savior of all men, Jesus had to confront the smoldering suspicion and enmity between Jew and Samaritan by ministering to his enemies” (Tenney, 54).
Christ’s mission to earth was regulated on more than one occasion by a heavenly “must” (cf. Lk. 2:49; 4:43; 19:5; 24:7; Jn. 9:4; 10:16; 20:9).
At Jacob’s Well
As Jesus and his disciples traveled northward through Samaria, they came to a city called Sychar. The precise location of Sychar is a point of controversy. It was near Mt. Gerizim, a peak some 2,850 feet high, about 40 miles north of Jerusalem. Some identify the city with modern Askar, slightly more than half a mile north of Jacob’s well, while others locate the city at the ruins of ancient Shechem (now Tell Balatah), which is located at the eastern edge of the pass between Mt. Ebal and Mt. Gerizim. John says it was “near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph” (4:5; cf. Gen. 48:22).
The apostle declares that “Jacob’s well was there” (4:6). The site of Jacob’s well has been called “the most authentic of all the Holy Places in Palestine” (A. Parrot, cited in Freedman, III.608). The well is about 300 yards SSE of Tell Balatah. When it was cleaned out it 1935, it was shown to be about 135 feet deep (cf. 4:11), with the water being some 75 to 80 feet from the surface in the summer (Wright, 216). It is seven and one-half feet in diameter.
John calls it both a “spring” [pege] (Jn. 4:6, ASV fn), and a “well” [phrear – a cistern] (4:11-12), suggesting that its water was supplied by both an underground spring and rain. “Abundant water comes from springs emerging all along the north and east flanks of Mount Gerizim” (Stern, IV.1346). The biblical text is strikingly accurate.
The Weary Savior
When the Lord arrived at Jacob’s well, he sat down, “being wearied with his journey” (4:6). The Greek word for “weary” is kopiao (from kopos, in secular Greek, a beating, or weariness caused by it). As we might express it, the Savior was “beat,” i.e., exhausted. John notes that it was “about the sixth hour.” If the apostle, writing from Ephesus in the late first century, was employing Roman civil time in his Gospel account, this would be about six in the evening (cf. Westcott, 282; Edersheim, 1947, I.408). He possibly had walked all day.
We must not rush by the phrase too quickly. It emphasizes the humanity of our Lord. I should underline the term “wearied,” and in my Bible margin write, “for me.” It was only because of his great love for sinful man that the eternal Word (Jn. 1:1) became incarnate (1:14) and endured the rigors of humankind. He was hungry (Mt. 4:2), thirsty (Jn. 19:28), tired (Jn. 4:6), tearful (Jn. 11:35), and even fearful (Heb. 5:7). Think about it—he who effortlessly created the entire universe, now is weary—for you and me!
A Samaritan Woman Approaches
John records these words: “There came a woman of Samaria to draw water . . .” (4:7). Two things are significant.
First, she was a Samaritan, and, as the apostle comments, “Jews have no dealings with Samaritans” (9).
Second, her gender presented an obstacle. Normally, Jewish men did not speak to women in public (4:27). Let us explore these two matters.

1. The most common view as to the origin of the Samaritans is that they were a mongrel breed who developed as a result of intermarriages between earlier Hebrews of the northern kingdom of Israel, and the Assyrian settlers in Israel following the captivity of the northern kingdom in 722-21 B.C. Other pagans eventually infiltrated the land and mingled with them (cf. Ezr. 4:2,9,10).
The term is found in the Old Testament only in 2 Kings 17:29, being applied to the remnant in the land. This group had their own brand of religion—a mixture of “Jehovah” worship and heathenism. Josiah, the good king of Judah, had sought to remedy this wickedness in his day (cf. 2 Chron. 34:6-7).
There was much animosity between Jews and Samaritans. When the Jews were rebuilding Jerusalem (following the Babylonian captivity, 606-536 B.C.), the Samaritans offered their services. They were summarily rebuffed (Ezr. 4:1-3), and the Samaritans responded in kind (Ezr. 4:4ff). Josephus characterizes the Samaritans as idolaters and hypocrites (Ant., 9.14.3). Edersheim quotes a Jewish saying: “May I never set eyes on a Samaritan” (1947, I.401).
Several centuries before the birth of Christ, the Samaritans had built their own temple on Mt. Gerizim to rival the one in Jerusalem. Here, they offered sacrifices according to the Mosaic code. Anderson notes that during the reign of Antiochus IV (175-164 B.C.),

“the Samaritan temple was renamed either Zeus Hellenios (willingly by the Samaritans according to Josephus) or, more likely, Zeus Xenios (unwillingly in accord with 2 Macc. 6:2)” (Bromiley, 4.304).
This temple was destroyed by John Hyracanus in about 128 B.C., having been in existence about 200 years. Only a few stone remnants of it exist today.
During the first century, the religion of the Samaritans was similar to that of the Jews, except that they were more liberal—more kindred spirits of the Sadducees, for example, than the Pharisees. They accepted the Pentateuch, observed certain Jewish feasts, and longed for the coming Messiah (Jn. 4:25).
Religiously, though, they were considered as foreigners. When Jesus instituted the limited commission (Mt. 10:1ff), the Samaritans were excluded. That by no means indicates, however, that the Savior was unconcerned with these precious souls—as this very account proves.
2. The Jewish attitude towards women was less than ideal. While the Old Testament afforded great dignity to womanhood (cf. Prov. 31:10ff), the Hebrews, over the years, had imbibed some of the attitudes of paganism. Many a Jewish man started the day with a prayer to God, expressing thanks that he was neither a Gentile, a slave, or a woman!
A Hebrew man did not talk with women “in the street”—not even with his mother, sister, daughter or wife! (cf. Lightfoot, 3.286-287). According to the most liberal view of Deuteronomy 24:1, a Hebrew husband could divorce his wife if she was found “familiarly talking with men” (Edersheim, 1957, 157).
William Barclay even tells of a segment of the Pharisees known as the “bleeding and bruised” Pharisees; when they saw a woman approaching, they would close their eyes, hence, were running into things constantly! (142-143). And yet the Master addressed this woman: “Give me to drink.”
The Son of God, therefore, in one fell swoop, broke through two barriers—the one steeped in racial bigotry, the other a hurtful disposition that distanced the man from one of the sweetest treasures of God’s creations.
The Influence of Jesus
One of the statements in this narrative which seems almost incidental is where John comments that the Lord’s disciples, who were traveling with him, had “gone into the city to buy food” (4:8). Upon closer examination, it is very significant.
Normally, Jews did not eat food that was produced or handled by Samaritans. The rabbis taught:

“Let no Israelite eat one mouthful of any thing that is a Samaritan’s; for if he eat but a little mouthful, he is as if he ate swine’s flesh” (Lightfoot, 3.275).
And yet, the disciples are buying food in Sychar. Perhaps they were already beginning to be influenced by Jesus’ kindly disposition towards all those fashioned in the image of God. One cannot but be reminded of a later circumstance when, observing the boldness of Peter and John, certain Jewish leaders “took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).
Living Water
When Christ asked of this unnamed woman a drink of water, he challenged the best from her. It is commonly the case that when we offer to assist someone who harbors a grudge against us, they will ruffle up and resist. Yet, if they are petitioned for assistance, they surprisingly respond. Jesus appealed to this lady’s kinder instincts, thus eroding the cultural wall between them.
The woman, with perhaps a little edge to her voice, responded, “How is it that you, a Jew [which she could discern by his clothing and manner of speech], asks a drink of me, a Samaritan woman?” (4:9). She is taken aback, but intrigued. Who is this stranger who is willing to address me?
The Lord seizes the opportunity, lifts the conversation to a higher plateau, and arrests her attention further by introducing several matters that were bound to stimulate her interest.
Christ said:

“If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that says to you, Give me to drink; you would have asked of him, and he would have given you living water” (4:10).
Note that:

a. Jesus spoke of a “gift.” The Greek term is dorea, used only here in the Gospel accounts, which actually signifies a “free gift” (Vine, 341). A “free gift” stimulates anyone’s interest!
b. Employing symbolism appropriate to the occasion, he mentions a “living” water, i.e., a water that bestows life. This could mean something quite significant to a person whose day-to-day existence was characterized by deadness.
c. He associates these blessings with a “who,” i.e., he suggested that she was talking at this very moment to someone special, a depository of “life.”
There was a great deal of subtle information packed into a seemingly ordinary statement. It was, in fact, the gospel in miniature.

a. The offer of salvation to a rebellious world is the expression of God’s grace; it is a free gift which cannot be merited or earned (Eph. 2:8-9; Rom. 6:23).
b. It is available only through that Person who was conversing with the Samaritan woman, the Messiah (Jn. 14:6; Acts 4:11-12).
c. The result is the promise of “life,” i.e., union with God, for those who are dead in sin (Rom. 6:23; Eph. 2:1).
The Lord’s statement produced a startling effect. The woman immediately changes her tone and addresses the friendly stranger with a term of respect.
“Sir,” she says with some bewilderment, “you have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; where will you get that living water? You’re not greater than our father Jacob, are you, who gave us this well, which provided water for him, his family, and his livestock?”
She is still thinking of literal water of some sort, and her question implies a negative answer (as the Greek construction indicates). The Savior gently nudges her forward. He wants to emphasize that he is not speaking of the kind of water contained in Jacob’s well.
And so he says, in effect, “one can keep on drinking [a present tense form, suggesting sustained action] of this water, and he will be thirsty again; but anyone who takes but a swallow [an aorist tense form – an act] of the water about which I’m speaking, won’t ever thirst again.” The Lord went on to point out that the spiritual “water” of which he spoke would become a bountiful “fountain,” issuing in eternal life, i.e., salvation.
Still not grasping the elevated meaning of the Master’s message, but being tantalized, the woman courteously urged Jesus to: “give me this water” (15).
Sin Gently Exposed
The Samaritan lady obviously had both the need for salvation, and at least a threshold interest in things divine. Christ determines, therefore, that it is now time to bring the discussion closer to home.
In so doing he must accomplish two goals. First, he must penetrate her conscience with a sense of sin. Second, it is imperative that he establish his own authority as a spokesman from God.
“Go, call your husband, and return,” instructed the Lord.
Abruptly (dropping that polite, “Sir”), she shot back: “I don’t have a husband!”
If I may paraphrase, Christ replied: “You’ve told the truth, lady. But the fact is, you’ve had five husbands, and the man you now are with actually is not your husband. You revealed more truth than you intended” (cf. 4:18).
There are two ways of looking at this—neither of which puts this woman in a favorable light. Consider the Greek verb echo, rendered “have” (vs. 17), a form of which is employed four times in verses 17 and 18. It may be used in the sense of “married to” (cf. Mt. 22:28; Mk. 6:18; 1 Cor. 5:1), or it can signify to “have” or “be with.”
And so, the Lord may have been saying to the woman: “You’ve been married to five husbands, and the man to whom you are now ‘married’ is not a ‘husband’ in the true sense.”
Or, he may have been suggesting this: “You’ve been married five times, and the man with whom you now are living cannot be called a ‘husband.’” Leon Morris, in his scholarly commentary on John’s Gospel, has discussed this matter in some detail (264-265). The point is—she was in a sinful relationship and she needed the salvation that only he could offer.
It was a startling revelation to the woman. This stranger had exposed details of her life he could not possibly have known naturally. Later she will tell her villagers: “Come see a man who told me all things I ever did!” (29). That, of course, is hyperbole. But the information revealed by Jesus was so dramatic that it seemed like he had drawn the curtain back on every foul deed she had ever done!
The woman was intelligent. She was a logician! Christ had evidenced supernatural knowledge. Thus, the woman (returning to her respectful form of address) said: “Sir, I perceive [Grk. theoreo – to give careful observation to detail] that you are a prophet” (19).
Here is an important point. Since the Samaritans believed there was no “prophet” after Moses, except the one of whom the great Hebrew leader had spoken—“a prophet like unto me” (Dt. 18:15ff)—whom they identified with the “Messiah,” this lady was toying gradually with the notion that this man could possibly be the Messiah. Still, she was uncomfortable; and so she shifted the direction of the conversation from her personal problems to that of worship—a topic, however, which undoubtedly was of genuine interest to her.
True Worship
Possibly pointing to nearby Mt. Gerizim, she said: “Our fathers worshipped [past tense] in this mountain, but you [plural – Jews] say that Jerusalem is the necessary place of worship.” She was referring to the Samaritan temple that had existed on Gerizim, but had been destroyed a century and a half earlier (hence her use of the past tense is precise).
There was a long-standing controversy between the Samaritans and the Jews as to where worship was to be rendered. The Samaritans contended for Gerizim, the Hebrews for Jerusalem. The Jews were right, of course (cf. 2 Chron. 6:6; 7:12; Psa. 78:68), but that was rather immaterial at this point. Jesus observed that the time was coming when worship would not be a matter of some external place (cf. Acts 17:24); rather, it would be spiritual in nature. This is a clear indication that the end of the Mosaic system itself was nearing.
In drawing the contrast between Samaritan worship and Hebrew worship, Christ emphasized that true worship is more than emotion; it is grounded in knowledge.
“You [Samaritans] worship that which you do not know . . .” (22). Morris notes that the “that which” (a neuter form) probably denotes an ignorance of the whole system of correct worship (270). Since the knowledge of proper worship comes through sacred revelation (the Scriptures), and since the Samaritans rejected all Old Testament scripture save the Pentateuch, it is not surprising that they “knew not” about proper worship.
Away goes the contention that the format of worship is immaterial, so long as one is sincere. Then, almost as a side thought, the Lord comments: “For salvation [literally, ‘the salvation’] is come from the Jews.” God had been working a plan via the Hebrew nation.
Christ then declared that the hour was coming—indeed now is, i.e., the time is very imminent; cf. 5:25,—when there would be “true” worshippers. These are worshippers who belong to God as his redeemed children, and who worship consistent with divine revelation. The Lord describes this class of people as those who worship “the Father in spirit and in truth.” For “such,” i.e., worshippers of this quality, the Father “seeks” [constantly – present tense].
It must be noted in this connection that God does not “seek” human worship for any selfish motive. He is not served by men’s hands “as though he needed anything” (Acts 17:25). Being infinite in all his attributes, Jehovah is not enhanced in any way by human servitude. Clearly, he desires our service because of what it will do for us. Accepting our worship is an act of his kindness! (See “Archives”, October 14, 1998—“Why Humanity Should Serve God”.)
From this context one learns that genuine worship is composed of three elements. Each of these must be briefly considered.

1. The proper object of worship is deity, and only deity (Mt. 4:10). While this context deals specifically with the Father, other texts reveal that both the Son and the Holy Spirit, as possessing the nature of God, are objects of worship.
Deity, as a holy entity, is worthy of praise (Psa. 18:3). It is sinful to worship nature (Rom. 1:22ff) or objects crafted by human skill (Acts 17:29). Lust for money, power, etc., can even be a form of idolatry (cf. Col. 3:5).
2. True worship must be in “spirit.” Genuine worship involves the plunging of one’s spirit into the act (cf. Rom. 1:9; 1 Cor. 14:15) in a humble and sincere way (cf. Josh. 24:14). This disposition eschews the superficial, the ostentatious (cf. Mt. 6:1ff), the self-centered (Lk. 18:9ff), and the hypocritical (Mt. 5:23-24; 15:7-9).
3. Acceptable worship conforms to “truth,” i.e., to the “content of Christianity as the absolute truth” (Arndt, 35). It is not “truth” as one feels it to be, i.e., subjectively determined, but “truth” as it actually is, measured by divine revelation (Jn. 17:17). Thiselton says that “true worship” is “that which accords with reality, which men grasp on the basis of revelation” (Brown, 3.891; cf. Phil. 3:3).
These comprehensive statements of Jesus to this Samaritan woman regarding the nature and scope of worship are wonderfully revealing. They contain a marvelous challenge for us to this very day.
The Messiah Cometh
We have already mentioned the fact that this inquisitive lady has concluded that Jesus is a prophet and that this term, in the Samaritan mind, was associated with the coming Messiah. The woman now introduces that topic directly.

“I know that Messiah is coming (he that is called Christ): when he comes, he will declare all things to us” (25).
The parenthetical comment almost certainly is added by John to identify, for Gentile readers, the meaning of the term, “Messiah.” The woman has not concluded, precisely at this point, that Jesus is that Messiah, but she has “inched” closer to that irresistible proposition.
Note that this woman believed in:

a. the promise of the Messiah;
b. the Messiah who had not come, but was yet to arrive;
c. the Messiah who would be a person (not a mere ideal “concept,” as alleged by modern Jews); and,
d. the Messiah who would be a teacher, not a military conqueror.
In some respects she seems to have had a clearer vision of the Messiah than even the Savior’s disciples!
How is it that those who believed only in the inspiration of the Pentateuch could know of the coming Messiah? Because, quite obviously, there is sufficient evidence therein to point in that direction.
The first messianic glimpse was in Genesis 3:15, where it was indicated that the woman’s “seed” would ultimately crush Satan. Later, Abraham was told that through his offspring all nations of the earth would be blessed (Gen. 22:18). Jacob had foretold the coming of “Shiloh” [rest-giver] from the tribe of Judah (Gen. 49:10).
In Exodus the Messiah had been foreshadowed in the passover “lamb” (Jn. 1:29; 1 Cor. 5:7), and in Leviticus various offerings prepared the studious mind for the Messiah’s redeeming sacrifice (Lev. 1-5).
In Numbers the death of him who was to be “lifted up,” thus to provide healing, was prefigured (Num. 21), and Balaam spoke of the “star” that would arise out of Jacob, the sceptre out of Israel, to destroy the enemies of Jehovah (Num. 24:17-19). And, as earlier noted, Moses told of “the prophet” like unto him, to whom all would owe obedience (Dt. 18:15-19).
Here is an interesting question to ponder. If the Samaritans could discern the coming of the Messiah, and subsequently identify Christ as the fulfillment of that abbreviated collection of prophecies—upon the basis of only five Old Testament documents—what does that say about the Jews, who mostly have been unable to accept Jesus as the Christ on the basis of more than 300 prophecies in thirty-nine different books? (See 2 Corinthians 3:14ff.)
Following the woman’s acknowledgement of the promised Messiah, Jesus simply said to her: “I, the very one speaking to you, am he.”
Professor Laney’s comment is interesting:

“The Greek text literally reads, ‘I am, the one speaking to you.’ The words ‘I am’ (ego eimi) are used in the Septuagint (Ex. 3:14) in connection with the revelation of God’s personal name, Yahweh” (97).
This same expression, ego eimi, frequently was employed by Jesus, as recorded in John’s Gospel, to stress his identification with the Father (cf. 6:20,35,41,48,51; 8:12,18,24,28,58; 9:9; 13:19; 18:5,6,8). It is a subtle affirmation of deity.
Word of the Messiah Spreads
As the disciples returned from their mission to obtain food in the city, they were amazed to discover Jesus “speaking” (the imperfect tense suggests an extended conversation) to this woman, yet not a one of them was presumptuous enough to ask the Lord: “What do you want from her?” or, “Why are you talking with this woman?” The very presence of the Lord was awesome.
Presently the woman left her water pot and went into the city. Mention of the water pot is a curious detail (that lends authenticity to the narrative). Was she so elated that she forgot her initial mission to the well? Or did she intend to quickly return, and the jar could be reclaimed then?
Her testimony to the citizens of the community was compelling indeed. She claimed to have met a man “who told me all things that ever I did.” This was a strong suggestion of Jesus’ supernatural nature. Then, with a brilliant stoke of diplomacy, she asked (if we may paraphrase the original language): “This couldn’t be the Christ, could it?”
In the Greek, the particle meti implies an expected negative response. When one remembers that a woman’s testimony was not counted for much in that culture, this lady’s shrewdness is revealed by the way in which she handled this matter. She taunted them with a question which elicited a negative answer, leaving them perfectly at ease to draw their own conclusion and contradict her!
Her careful choice of words produced the exact response for which she hoped. The people of Sychar departed from the city and made their way (so the force of the imperfect verb – “were coming”) to find him. In the meantime, the disciples attempted to persuade Jesus to eat of the food they had brought. The Lord knew, though, that their education at this time was more important than satisfying his physical hunger. So he raised the discussion to a higher level by means of an enigmatic saying.
“I have food to eat of which you are not aware,” he said.
They murmured among themselves, “Did someone else bring him food?”
The Lord then explained his symbolism. “I have a nourishment that transcends the physical. It is to accomplish the plan for which God sent me.”
Note that Christ affirms that his presence on earth is the result of Heaven’s sending activity.
The Promise of Harvest
We may surmise from verse 35 that it is December or January on the occasion of this journey (since the harvest occurs in April/May). As the Lord and his disciples looked upon the greening fields nearby, revealing such promise of a healthy crop to be harvested later, the Master seized upon the occasion to further instruct his men.
“You are saying,” he began, “that in four months, harvest time will be here; aren’t you?” “Look,” he continued (perhaps beckoning towards a multitude approaching down the road), “lift up your eyes to the ‘human crop,’ who, even now, are ripe for harvest.”
It is a reality that some souls are riper than others (cf. Acts 16:6-10).
The Lord stresses that both those who sow and those who reap are laborers together, and that their combined activity will result in the production of fruit, i.e., souls who will inherit eternal life. There are a couple of points here that need emphasizing.
First, Jesus wants the disciples to know that other preparation has been in progress with reference to the Samaritans that will issue ultimately in these people coming into a knowledge of the truth. The writings of Moses (in the Pentateuch) doubtless had influenced them. The preparatory work of John the Baptist may have affected them to some extent, at least indirectly.
Second, Christ is suggesting to the disciples that their labor, eventually, will involve evangelizing among these people. This is a prophetic truth that they could hardly appreciate at this moment, but they would grasp it later.
From this we learn this important principle. It is almost never the case that one person is solely responsible for leading another to the Savior. Usually, there are various people who have contributed to the process along the way. Some plant, others water, but God gives the increase (cf. 1 Cor. 3:6). Surely this should help us to put the matter into proper focus when we are tempted to assume most of the credit for someone’s conversion to the Lord.
The Fruit at Sychar
We will subsequently learn that Jesus spent two days in Sychar teaching the honest people of that community (40). There are several things which challenge our attention in this concluding paragraph of the narrative we have been considering. Let us look at them one by one.

1. John says that “many of the Samaritans believed on him.” This reveals that Jesus truly had prophesied correctly; this was an area “white” unto harvest.
Further, it indicates that, in spite of their jaded religious background—very unlikely candidates for belief—these folks were prime subjects for the gospel. We humans are unable to judge the quality of the human heart based upon externals.
2. The Samaritans believed initially on the basis of the woman’s testimony. Her confession regarding the exposure of her past probably was so explicit and beyond the realm of fabrication, that she became a compelling advocate for the “prophetic credibility” of Christ. This is very telling when we remember that a woman’s word counted for almost nothing. Women “could not act as legal witnesses” (Bromiley, 4.1093). But this woman’s testimony was so powerful that it transcended that cultural barrier.
Moreover, the fact that John records this element of the story gives the narrative an aura of veracity; such a detail would never have been concocted by a fraudulent writer attempting to provide plausibility to the ministry of Jesus.
3. John records that the Samaritans “besought” the Lord to abide with them. The word “besought” is an imperfect tense form; they “kept on asking” him to remain with them. The suggestion may be that Jesus resisted at first, perhaps feeling the urgency of his journey, but then, maybe, relented to their pleadings. If that is the case, it reveals how the Master can be touched with our sincere urging. They enjoyed two precious days with the Creator of the universe just because they asked.
As James would later write: ”. . . you have not, because you ask not” (4:2b). The disposition of these Samaritans was in such glaring contrast to others of their kind who, on another occasion, “did not receive him” (Lk. 9:53).
4. In addition to the initial “many” who believed, John says that as a result of Jesus’ sojourn with them, “many more believed.” This time, though, it was “because of his word.” They were grateful for the woman’s role in introducing them to Jesus, but, as a result of their personal investigation, they became all the more convinced.
One may initially believe the facts of the gospel based upon his confidence in the veracity of a loved one or friend. The time must come, however, that he investigates the facts on his own, and comes to a deeper faith.
5. They had not come to a conviction that Jesus was merely a wise philosopher or a benevolent socialist; rather, the evidence to which they were exposed during those two important days grounded them in the truth that this was the Savior of the world.
No, they were not “universalists,” believing that all would be saved—regardless of their obedience; rather, they came to the understanding that all people were subject to the universal blessings of the gospel. They knew that Christ was more than just a Savior to the Jews. He was their Savior too!
Note also that they did not restrict his saving mission to a small “elect” group, preordained before the world’s foundation; rather, he was potentially the Savior of the “world” (contra Calvinism).

A study of this thrilling account would be incomplete if we did not notice the success of the gospel among the Samaritans following the establishment of the Christian system.
After the death of Stephen, the Jerusalem church was scattered abroad. In this connection, Philip the evangelist went to Samaria and proclaimed Christ (Acts 8:5). The multitude “gave heed with one accord” to his message, which was, incidentally, buttressed with supernatural signs.
In this connection one recalls the conversion of Simon the sorcerer (8:9ff). When the report of Philip’s success came to the attention of the apostles up in Jerusalem, they sent Peter and John to Samaria, and the new converts were supplied with spiritual gifts to supplement their ministry (8:14ff). Subsequently, the gospel was proclaimed in “many villages” of the Samaritans (8:25).
Clearly, much of this success is traceable to the visit of Jesus to that region, as recorded in John 4:5ff.