Feb 18, 2020


The Pharisees & the Covenant of Salt

© 2004 Elisheva

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction: The Covenant of Salt
    1. Significance of Salt in the Ancient Middle East
    2. “Covenant of Salt” in the Pentateuch
    3. Davidic Covenant, A Covenant of Salt
    4. Salt in the Gospels and Epistles
    5. Salt, Sacrifice, and the Faithful Priesthood
  2. The Decay of the Priesthood
    1. Malachi’s Judgment on the Levitical Priesthood
    2. Zadokites, Levites and the Rise of the Soferim
    3. Scribes, Sages, and Oral traditions (Halachot)
    4. The Ptolemies, The Temple State, and the High Priest
  3. The Emergence of the Pharisees
    1. Seleucids: Hellenization & the Hasidim
    2. The Collapse of the Zadokites & the Maccabean Revolt
    3. Hasmoneans: High Priesthood & Pharisaic Compromise
    4. Hycarnus & the Pharisees’ Revolt
    5. Salome Alexandra, Herod and the Pharisees’ Rise
  4. The Teachings and Influence of the Pharisees
    1. The “Sons of the Synagogue” & the Fence around the Law
    2. Pharisees, Sadducees, and their Teachings
    3. The Popular Appeal of the Pharisees
  5. The Need for Salt: Jesus and the Pharisees
    1. Baptism, the Pharisee and the Appeal of John the Baptist
    2. The Sermon on the Mount and the Leaven of Pharisees
    3. From Sinners & Outcasts to a New Priesthood of Faith
    4. Salt, Sanctification, and New Covenant Sacrifices
    5. ‘Havdil’ v. Carnality and the Failure of the Pharisees
    6. Salting by Fire: Jesus’ Controversies with Pharisees
    7. Pharisees Divided: Hillelites & Shammaites Encounter Jesus
  6. The Salting of a Pharisee: Paul and Godly Zeal
    1. The Ungodly Zeal
    2. The Godly Zeal of A Messianic Pharisee
    3. The Gospel of Reconciliation from Jerusalem to the World
  7. The Parting of the Ways and the New Covenant of Salt
    1. Paul’s Godly Legacy: Preaching to a Salted Priesthood
    2. The Ungodly Legacy of Pharisaism: Rabbinic Judaism
  8. Conclusion: The Royal Priesthood Of Believers
  9. Bibliography
  10. End Notes


This study of the Pharisees in relation to the priesthood is not just as a summation of what we know about their origins, history, or theology. It is also an attempt to understand how Jesus our Messiah used the Pharisees as a foil to highlight the birthing of a new people in Israel in order to make a new covenant with and through them that reaches all nations of the earth.

The use of “salt” as a powerful covenant language metaphor to describe the nature of the covenantal relationship desired between the LORD and His people is a discernible thread woven through both the Old and the New Testament. As salt makes things incorruptible, so He preserves His people in a “covenant of salt” that they may know how to share in Him who made them His portion. The Lord coins as covenants of salt the Levitical and Davidic Covenants, which deal with the divinely-called mediating offices of priest and king. These are the very offices that became seriously compromised during the intertestamental period, causing a number of parties to emerge to try and fill the spiritual vacuum.

The aim of this paper is to evaluate the Pharisees’ purposes and how they indirectly helped the emergence of New covenant communities and a new priesthood in Christ (1 Peter 2:5-9)1, even when they meant to hinder them. It will also enable us to understand the historical parting of the ways that separated Rabbinic Judaism from the Way of Messiah (Meshichit Halakhah), later known as Christianity.

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Significance of Salt in the Ancient Middle East

In the ancient world, salt was a valuable commodity due to its quality as a preservative. “Salary” comes from the Latin term for salt as a Roman soldier was often paid in salt. Hence, the old saying, “he is worth his salt.” Pliny reports in his day its nutritional and life-giving properties, such as a cure for leprosy or snakebite. Babies were commonly rubbed with salt at birth (Ezekiel 16:4). People enjoyed the healing powers of salt baths. Armies cut off supplies of salt to overcome enemies through salt hunger as a military strategy. Salt was used to flavor food and was required accompaniment to sacrifices in the Bible for meat and especially grain offerings (Lev 2:13; Ezra 7:21) and in the customs of the pagan world.2 Josephus mentions large quantities of salt required for sacrifices in the Temple.3 The altar was considered a table before the Lord (Ezekiel 41:22) as were the table of showbread and the altar of incense in the Tabernacle, each requiring the purifying presence of salt along with the bread (Leviticus LXX version: go to p. 103 to Lev 24:7) or spice mix (Ex 30:34-35).

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“Covenant of Salt” in the Pentateuch

The covenant of salt is an ancient Middle Eastern custom or rite to establish an enduring bond of friendship and peace between two parties by sharing salt. Sharing bread alone does not ensure that the covenant will endure forever. The covenant of salt or ‘brith melah’ is mentioned three times in the Scriptures (Lev 2:13; Num 18:19; 2 Chr 13:5). Spurgeon comments, “By which was meant that it was an unchangeable, incorruptible covenant, which would endure as salt makes a thing to endure, so that it is not liable to putrefy or corrupt.”4 Though true, an examination of the verses in their context reveals even deeper implications. After Israel was redeemed from Egypt, they were brought into the wilderness to worship the LORD and receive His Instruction for life. From the start, the gift of Torah was for sanctification, not salvation. God desired a holy nation, a kingdom of priests separated unto Him (Deut 32:9), and when Israel responded at Sinai, He substituted one tribe (Levi) for the firstborn, to be consecrated to Him as priests. In Num 18:19-20, God offers Aaron (and the Levites) a share in the sacrifices offered to the LORD as an everlasting “covenant of salt”, but demands a share in return from them. They must give up any land inheritance and make the LORD alone their portion.

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Davidic Covenant, A Covenant of Salt

Later, he promises eternal kingship to the David who declares the LORD His portion forever (Ps 16:5; 73:26). But prophet Ahijah reproves Jeroboam for establishing false gods, a false sacrificial system and a false priesthood from any tribe “like the peoples of other lands, priests of what are no gods” (2 Chr 13:9). He exclaims with indignation, “Do you not know that the LORD God of Israel gave the rule over Israel forever to David and his sons by a covenant of salt?” An unalterable covenant of salt suggests that treachery is faithlessness to salt. The Persian expression “namak harâm” means “untrue to salt.”5

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Salt in the Gospels and Epistles

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus reveals that salt can be lost (Matt 5:13). But it can also be regained. “Everyone will be salted with fire” (Mark 9:49). In this declaration, Jesus reveals another aspect of salt as an irritant that painfully refines and purifies. For this reason, those who are “salted” often become an irritant to the unsalted around them, attracting persecution (2 Cor 2:15-16). Some Christians have recently called themselves Saltshakers in response to Jesus’ challenge to be the salt of the earth, knowing they face rejection from those whose friendship with the world sets them at enmity with God. According to Mark 9:50, proof of saltiness is being at peace with one another, moderating one’s ambitions and giving up possessions (Luke 14:27-34), and speech seasoned with grace (Col 4:6).

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Salt, Sacrifice, and the Faithful Priesthood

E.W. Bullinger6 sees salt no longer as just a metaphor but as representing God’s sanctified people:

Matt 5:13: ‘Ye are the salt of the earth’: i.e., ye are (or represent) with regard to the earth what salt is to other things, preserving it from corruption and destruction; just as the few righteous in Sodom would have preserved the city. When the Lord Jesus shall have returned and caught up His people (the salt) to meet Him in the air and to be for ever with Him, then the corruption will proceed apace, and the harvest of the earth speedily be ripened for judgment.”

The purpose of the covenant of salt then is the sharing that takes place between God and the one bringing the sacrifice. Sacrifice is more than giving up something to the Lord. It is making the Lord one’s portion. A faithful priest does not just perform the sacrifice, but teaches the people by his own life service to the Lord that one must bring one’s best offering to the Lord’s table with a right heart, the right fire and the right focus. Only then can a life-giving exchange take place between the Lord and His people.

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Malachi’s Judgment on the Levitical priesthood

Malachi 1-2 warns of impeding judgment upon a Levitical priesthood that did not bring the right offering by pronouncing a curse on their offspring (Mal 2:2-3). We already see the seeds of the historical decay of the priesthood that was soon to follow. Here is a summary of how it came about.7 When the Persians granted religious freedom to their subject nations by restoring the temples of their gods, every religious community was encouraged to regulate its own affairs and enforce its own religious laws as long as they did not conflict with the laws of the sovereign state. King Artaxerxes issued orders to religious functionaries like Ezra, a priest officiating as scribe,8 who was given the task of reorganizing the religious life of the returned exiles, teaching the laws of YHWH, and appointing magistrates and judges (Ezra 7). The Avodah or temple service was restored with Jerusalem as the center, and the priests won back their functions and privileges. The nobility emerged from the “nivdalim” (Ezra 6:21), those who had separated themselves from the surrounding nations to preserve the family line from mixed marriages and defilement. Until then, the Law of God had been in the hands of priests of the Zadok line, but Ezra started the tradition of oral exposition of the law through the Levites (Nehemiah 8:7-8).

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Zadokites, Levites and the Rise of the Soferim

For the next two centuries even lay scribes (soferim), neither priests not Levites, would become interpreters of the law (mevinim) in the surrounding province while the priestly aristocracy (Zadokites) centered in Jerusalem. These ‘soferim’ began to supplant the priests’ roles as Torah interpreters and judges.9 Joined by other returnees from Babylonian exile in the 2nd and 3rd century BC, some even became scholars, academicians, and sages (hakhamim) and developed their own wisdom literature, though non-canonical as the Hagiographa. The latter increased in the wake of the disappearance of prophecy in Israel. The “termination of prophecy,” according to Tannaic sources, dates from the Pre-Maccabean period after the Greeks took over the Persian Empire. Already since the return from exile, Israel had been unable to “inquire from the Lord” since the Urim and Thummim had been lost. The school of the Prophets lost its influence in the Persian period and ceased altogether in the 4th century.

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Scribes, Sages, and Oral traditions (Halachot)

The scribe as a copyist who normally assisted as a recorder of the prophet took on the role of compiling and closing the canon, but also replaced the prophet, resorting to declarations, petitions, prayers and confessions rather than oracles. The scribe, Ben Sira (200 B.C.) describes the “sofer” as seeking the wisdom of the ancients to exhort the community and glorify the works of God.10 All later writings of the Second Temple Period would be considered non canonical, including the Apocrypha, the sectarian and apocalyptic literature, but excluding the Greek and Aramaic translations of Hebrew Scriptures for the diaspora community. Alongside at the same time, halachic collections were transmitted orally in the form of enactments and ordinances (taqqanoth) or decrees and prohibitions (gezeroth). According to the Mishna Tractate Avoth, these oral traditions were supposedly recounted as Aggadoth from the prophets to the men of the Great Synagogue to Simon the Just to Antigonus of Socho to the Pharisaic academies of Schemaya and Abtalion and later that of Shammai and Hillel. Levison identifies these scribes as the ideological and practical leaders who structured postexilic society.11 Jewish rabbis today consider them the remote forerunners of Pharasaism and the initiators of Judaism.

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The Ptolemies, The Temple State, and the High Priest

Hellenistic rule under the Ptolemies 331 B.C. continued the temple constitution granted by Persia under high priest control, the most notable being Simon the Just, the high priest ca. 250 BC who first convened the “Great Assembly.”12 According to Tannaic literature, the word Perushim is first mentioned in the Hebrew at that time. They were often made synonymous with the Hakhamim or Pre-Hasmonean Sages.13 In Jerusalem, the Sanhedrin, a council of elders whose members came from aristocratic priestly nobility (Zadokites or Proto-Saduccees) functioned as a supreme court of justice. Also, the spread of the local synagogue (Bet Midrash) gave the Jews a sense of local autonomy while spreading the influence of scribal authority. Jews built synagogues wherever they were dispersed in an effort to maintain a clear distinction (havdil) between the ethical monotheism of the Jewish law and the immoral paganism of the Greeks. The rule of the Ptolemies at first brought as a boon the translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, but the subtle Hellenization campaign came as a threat to Jewish lifestyle and values. Jewish farmers transplanted and dispersed in Greek city-states became merchants adopting Hellenistic language and customs. At the same time, the traditional rural economic landscape of villages was poised for radical transformation. The age-old struggle between the submerged, small unlanded groups, and their oppressors, the great landowners, was expressed in the resistance of traders and artisans to the nobles and courtiers, and in the bitter rivalry between Levite and priest. It is from these new urban plebeians that the Pharisees would soon draw their membership.14

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Seleucids: Hellenization & the Hasidim

Under the Seleucids, the threat of Hellenism intensified the zeal for the Law of the Covenant as cultural tensions were rising to a pitch. Members of leading Jewish families in Jerusalem yearned for the social, political and cultural privileges of the Greek Metropolis like Antioch or Alexandria. By frequenting the theater, the gymnasium with its public baths exposing the fact of their circumcision, they yielded to Greek sophistication, and the youth were enticed by Greek pleasure and philosophy. The priestly nobility was soon corrupted by those “renegade Jews” who incited the people to make a covenant with the Gentiles because “disaster upon disaster has overtaken us since we segregated ourselves from them.” (1 Macc 1:11-15) As Hellenization progressed, the road to licentiousness and apostasy threatened the fabric of traditional Jewish values, the Epicureans15 were singled out as special targets for condemnation by the pious Hasidim (Hasideans),16 a remnant led by Onias III, the high priest in the pre-Maccabean period. Unlike the Jerusalem Hellenists, the Hasidim refused to raid the temple treasury to pay tribute to the Seleucids while the latter sent a delegation to King Antiochus to buy the high priesthood office to Jason, Onias’ dissipate brother. Antiochus Epiphanes under pressure to pay tribute to Rome, eagerly agreed and Onias was deposed.

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The Collapse of the Zadokites & the Maccabean Revolt

The Greek control of the high priesthood spelled the beginning of the collapse of the Zadokite priesthood. Upon returning from Egypt, Antiochus carried the mandate of Hellenization to its extreme while Matthatias took a stand for the Covenant leading a seemingly hopeless revolt. The Hasidim (“pious ones”) had studied the prophecies of Daniel closely and apocalyptic fervor peaked with the desecration of the Temple. F.F. Bruce would write about the Hasidim, “although they are despised as hopelessly behind the times by the ‘progressive’ elements in the population, the day came when they proved to be the salt of the land and the salvation of their people.”17 Most scholars today consider them as the direct forerunners of both the Pharisees and the Essenes, who sought and followed after the prophetic tradition, producing their own prophetic commentaries and Apocalyptic literature.18 Following the desecration of the temple, the Zadokite priesthood collapsed19 and many priests performed pagan sacrifices in the sanctuary. The Hasidim armed themselves with Scripture and became valiant soldiers, noted in Heb 11:33-38. They joined the Maccabean Revolt to victory. Then they withdrew their support of the Hasmoneans20 a few years later.

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Hasmoneans: High Priesthood & Pharisaic Compromise

Judah Maccabee was succeeded by his brother Jonathan who accepted the high priesthood from an Alexander Epiphanes look-alike claiming to be heir to the Seleucid throne. This act of great folly legitimized from then on the regal control of the high priesthood until 70 A.D. After Jonathan’s death, Simon Maccabee, the last brother of Judah, convened the “Great Assembly” which appointed him hereditary ruler and high priest “until a true prophet shall arise.” One problem was, his dynasty could not claim descent from the line of David. The second problem was, though a Levite, he was not a descendent of Aaron. Ellis Rivkin argues from his study of Tannaic sources that, obscured by the sound and fury of the Maccabean Revolt, a Pharasaic Revolution took place at the time of the collapse of the Zadokite priesthood to legitimize the transfer of the high priesthood to the Hasmonean line. It is from then that the conflict originates between the Pharisees and Saduccees (Zedukim or Zadokites). This gave Pharisees as a non-priestly class a status as guardians of the law that led to the legitimization of the Oral Law in direct opposition to the strict Pentateuchal literalism of the Sadducees.21 Thus the Pharisees gained status by encouraging as a middle solution the Hasmonean high priesthood of Levitical rather than Zadokite descent as a temporary compromise “until a true prophet shall arise,” the latter probably linked to Apocalyptic expectations at the time. Soon however, The Hasmoneans sought the friendship or intervention of Rome in a series of ill-considered alliances. From 63 B.C. onwards, the Roman governors selected the high priest until the destruction of the Temple.

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Hycarnus & the Pharisees’ Revolt

The general position that Pharisees emerge on the scene in the 2nd century B.C. under Hasmonean ruler John Hyrcanus I, son of Simon Maccabee is based on Josephus’ account that Hyrcanus was early on a disciple of the Pharisees. This shows the Pharisees must have been in existence by then. When Hyrcanus claimed the three offices of high priesthood, prophet and ruler of Judea, one Pharisee Eleazar advised him to lay down the priesthood based on his mother having been captive of Antiochus Epiphanes at one time. Infuriated by the implication of tainted origins aimed at disqualifying him from the priesthood, Hyrcanus expelled the Pharisees from the Sanhedrin where they had maintained a minority and tried to censor their authority and power. They censored him in return. The rift deepened as his administration became more secular and in the end of his long reign, he became a Sadducee. The Pharisees opposed the Hasmoneans from then on, insisting on Davidic lineage. In 89 B.C. they pelted Alexander Janneus with citrons to show his officiating as high priest during Sukkoth desecrated the high priesthood.22 This led to the murder of hundreds of Pharisees who joined ranks with the Syrian armies and they routed Alexander. Hoping he had learned his lessons, they rejoined him and defeated the Syrians. But Alexander sought out and crucified 800 rebel Pharisees, butchering their families alongside. On his deathbed, he evidently had learned his lesson as he told his wife to share her authority with that of the Pharisees.

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Salome Alexandra, Herod, and the Pharisees’ Rise

During Salome Alexandra’s nine-year regency, the Pharisees became the dominant party in Judea. They regained access and dominated the Sanhedrin therafter. However, politics were not their primary concern. According to Witherington,23 “Politics mainly concerned them insofar as it affected their practice of Torah. Their real agenda was the hallowing of every day life in all its aspects within the existing structure of society, not apart from it (unlike the Qumranites).” One important decree made by the Sanhedrin at that time transferred the responsibility of educating young boys from the family to the synagogue, which became a school. Pharisees could also free prisoners and recall exiles.24 Two teachers/sages, Hillel, upon his return from exile and Shammai established academies in the days of Herod. Under Herod, Pharisees along with the Essenes enjoyed exemption from the oath of loyalty to Caesar and Herod. This may be due to Herod’s friendship with Pollion and Samaias, two prominent Pharisees in the Sanhedrin whose loyalty Herod did not question and/or to the fact that both groups objected to the swearing of oaths. Josephus reports a later faction (morion) within the Pharisees opposed Herod’s rule thus incurring stricter judgment (Ant XVII:41-45, ch. 2, paragraph 4), but Rivkin concludes it would be wrong to assume this faction of the pharisaoi represented all the Pharisees.25

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The “Sons of the Synagogue” & the Fence around the Law

According to Finkelstein, “The result of the unequal struggle against Antiochus had transformed the belief in truth and divinity of the Law not merely into a principle, but into a rigid system of Divine discipline which elevated the smallest minutiae of observance into passionate issues.”26 A diversity of small groups emerged convinced the coming of the Messiah depended on its beliefs. The Pharisees were the first to count 613 commandments in the Mosaic Law, 248 active and 345 prohibitions. This is reminiscent, as we will see in more detail later, of what Eve did by “stretching” the commandment of God in the Garden of Eden with the additional command of not touching the fruit “lest we die.” Similarly, the Pharisees created a “hedge around the Law, called “traditions” in the gospels for protection against accidental violation. Moseley explains, “The idea was to establish enough traditions around the Law that an individual would have to break a tradition before he could go all the way to breaking an explicit provision of the Law.”27 The strict code of the Pharisees governing the Sabbath included a list of 22 prohibitions as early as the Hasmonean Period.28 The authority of their “halakhot”29 or unwritten laws was not just based on Scripture but also on oral tradition and the popularity of sages and teachers whom they quoted frequently in their anecdotes. The P’rushim, or “separated ones” saw themselves as practitioners of the code of holiness of Ezra as they did not associate with the Am Ha-Eretz, the common people who did not tithe, were ritually impure and knew nothing of the law. From the start, we see the single feature that aligned them with the Biblical prophets and made their appeal so widespread as to mark the history of the Jews forever, i.e. that all men, not just priests, are given an equal mandate of personal holiness before God. They called themselves the Holy community of Jerusalem,30 and “sons of the synagogue.” Yet, they remained open-minded, liberal and more tolerant of variant opinions, thus gaining popularity among the masses. Their popularity is also due to the influence in the synagogue, which owes its liturgy to them. Their authority in matters of personal and Temple ritual worship surpassed even that of the priests. They rendered decisions on the qualifications of the priests and the details of ritual purity and feast observances. However, synagogues were not alternatives to temple worship.

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Pharisees, Sadducees, and their Teachings

Although Pharasaic rules were often contested by the Sadducees who lived only by the written law, they made many rulings to ensure the proper observance of original written precepts, so that their teachings were more biblical than that of the Sadducees. The latter had strayed in advocating a materialist theology that failed to recognize the immortality of the soul, the resurrection of the body, the existence of angels, the free will of man, the doctrine of retribution and rewards, and the value of mercy. According to the Mishna, the Pharisees received most of their doctrines from the schools of the prophets, as the prophets transmitted them to the men of Ezra’s Great Synagogue. This may explain why their doctrines were the most Biblical in the ancient world. They also showed leniency in matters of punishment that distinguished them from the Sadducees who were often cruel. Unlike them, the Pharisees administered capital punishment only in extreme cases saying, “A Sanhedrin executing capital punishment one in seven years is a murderous court.” The only instance where the Pharisees demanded a harder interpretation than that of the Sadducees was in the case of false witness. Deut 19:18-19 holds that the penalty should match the injury done. Sadducees argued this applied only in case of actual injury, but the Pharisees verbal intent was incriminating whether injury occurred or not. Brad Young doubts strongly that the trial of Jesus ever appeared before the Sanhedrin, since leaders like Gamaliel the Elder would never have allowed such proceedings. He argues that the Greek sunedrion means council and may not refer to the prestigious High Court. Also, Luke 22:66 states it was a council of Sadducee priests and scribes.31 Since not all scribes were Pharisees, Nicodemus who spoke in his defense may have been part of a Pharasaic minority.

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The Popular Appeal of the Pharisees

The Pharisees’ knowledge of the law was not the only reason for their reputation. Josephus states they also claimed foreknowledge of things through God’s appearances to them. For example, when the Pharisee Pollion “foretold to Hyrcanus and the judges that if Herod’s life were spared, he would persecute them all. In time this turned out to be so, for God fulfilled his words.” (Ant XV:4, ch. 1 paragraph 1) Pharisees are also reported to be ‘affectionate’ (philalleloi) to one another. They drew strength from closed communities of friends (havurot). Admission was strictly regulated with four levels. First, the candidate must prove trustworthy (ne’eman)32 by a full acceptance of obligations before three witnesses, tithe what he eats sells, and buys, refrain from being a guest of an Am Ha-Eretz. Then he is accepted “for wings” (2nd level) and must wash his hands before eating and touching ritually clean food. The third was more complicated and the fourth was a probation period of 30 days (Hillel) or one year (Shammai). If their standard of levitical purity was “suspect” they were demoted to the status of Am Ha-Eretz by a vote of the Sanhedrin.33 The number of haverim regularly enrolled was small, 6000 by Josephus’ reckoning at the time of Herod. In listing the many jobs the Pharisees were thought to have done in Jesus’ day, E. P. Sanders34 suggests they must have had the help of the twenty thousand Levites since they were forbidden from earning a living through secular work and their duty in the Temple was one week out of every twenty-four. Though only a few thousands were admitted into formal membership their teachings influenced millions. The ability of the Pharisee to impress his doctrine on others without drawing them into the Order was a rejection of religious dogma. A Pharisee did not demand universal obedience to his discipline but sought primarily an admission of the philosophical truth and universal ethics, which undergirded the Written and Oral Law. Believing in the resurrection or taking to heart the Sayings of the Fathers35 (Pirkei Avot) may not be as righteous as accepting “the full yoke of the Law,” but it was better than associating oneself with the Hellenists or the Sadducees by a denial of Pharasaic doctrines. Finkelstein points out, “He who violated a Pharasaic interpretation transgressed the Law; he who rejected a major Pharasaic dogma lost his immortality. This idea and the technique it introduced were as important in the history of religious teaching as the Macedonian phalanx in the history of military tactics. In this way the faith was spread, but it was not diluted.”36 In that sense the Essenes, the Therapeutae, the Qumranites, the early Christians, the future Pietists, and Puritans, are co-working offshoots of Pharasaism. But for our purposes, we need to point out that Pharisees stand biblically in the line of Eve who “stretched” the commandment of God. When she responded to the Serpent by adding a statute that God had not given concerning the consequences of mere touching of the fruit, she facilitated the Serpent’s task of temptation and the downward slide toward outright transgression. For before her the Serpent was touching the fruit, quite alive, countering God’s credibility with his own partial truth saying, “you will not surely die for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God knowing good and evil.’” Such “stretching” exposes human frailty and our vulnerability to temptation and how easy is the slippery slope that precipitates us down our self-destructive path. For a partial truth is also a lie that spawns a false sense of uprightness, a delusion that convinces us that the smallest infraction that goes unpunished proves the law ineffective, thus upstaging the lawgiver. Among Pharisees we see this as a full-blown and fruitless human effort at separation through endless legalistic observance of minutiae that cloud the spiritual understanding and application of God’s order, God’s boundaries and God’s Law.

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Baptism, the Pharisee and the Appeal of John the Baptist

As we turn to the New Testament, John the Baptist (Yohanan the Immerser) comes on the scene with a call to repent, which could only be interpreted in messianic terms “for the kingdom is at hand.” It must be noted that the accepted practice of baptism resulted from the Pharisees’ victory in a dispute with the Sadducees concerning ritual impurity. Unlike the latter, who insisted that uncleanliness persists, even after immersion, until sunset, the Pharisees considered immersion alone to be sufficient for non-priests and for priests.37 The work of the Pharisees among the people had prepared them to understand the Baptist’s message as valid enough to deserve respect and so powerful as to arouse speculations that he might be the awaited Prophet. This Prophet in the popular mind may have referred to Deut 18:5 (Acts 3:22; 7:37) but more importantly, he was also expected to terminate the Hasmonean claim to the high Priesthood, as noted above. When many Pharisees and Sadducees came for baptism, they were met with the epithet “You, brood of vipers who warned you to flee from the wrath to come. Therefore bring forth fruit in keeping with repentance.” Note here first that the Sadducees were the ones who did not believe in retribution and judgment. Second, some Pharisees did get baptized as long as they repented. Third, while John only warns of impending judgment, Jesus addresses the question of reward by posing the question of which reward we seek, that in heaven or on earth, a direct strike at the Pharisees (Matt 6:5).

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The Sermon on the Mount and the Leaven of Pharisees

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus positions the scribes and Pharisees favorably at first, “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matt 5:20. Later, he still positions them in Moses’ seat in a place of authority, “Therefore all that they tell you, do and observe.” Then he warns, “but do not do according to their deeds; for they say, and do not do.” (Matt 23:3) Clearly the teachings of the Pharisees are not the main target, as they are based on the Torah, but their conduct which used oral traditions based on wrong interpretations of Torah as a cover for unrighteousness. The prominent issues are pride and hypocrisy (Luke 12:1). Their fundamental doctrines were scriptural and not wrong. Their level of sanctification missed the mark. This can easily be deduced by the direct contrast of Jesus’ indictment of the Pharisees in (Matt 23:4-10; 13-29) and his teachings in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 6:1-6). The hypocrisy of some Pharisees was already legendary among the people and accords with Talmudic sources. The Jerusalem Talmud describes seven kinds of Pharisees, five were hypocrites and two were good. (1) The shoulder Pharisee paraded his good deeds wearing a badge on his shoulders. Jesus began his diatribe against the Pharisees by mentioning the shoulder.38 There is an interesting connection here as the Pharisees were noted for their heave offerings (“t’rumah” means “shoulder” as the offering was lifted upward from the shoulder). These are associated with the peace offerings of lips and deeds from man to God (shlamim), yet Pharisees were accused of lip service and parading their deeds. “T’rumah” the peace offering that was lifted upward signified praise and thanksgiving towards God. Interestingly, “t’nufah,” the lateral wave offering across the breast, together with the vertical heave offering caused the priest to perform the movement symbolic of the cross as the bridge of reconciliation and peace (shlamim) between God and man. So, Jesus in effect indicts the “shoulder” Pharisee of hypocrisy in performing shlamim as before man (wave), rather than before God (heave), and God is displeased. The observance of the law practiced for social visibility and prominence nullifies its original intent, which is Kiddush haShem (the sanctification of the Name). Jesus exposes their wrong focus thus, “How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes only from God?” (John 5:44). Such was the leaven of the Pharisees.

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From Sinners & Outcasts to a New Priesthood of Faith

Paul Barnett rightly notes that “Jesus’ close association with ‘sinners’, the moral outcasts of the synagogues, as recorded in the Gospels, offended the Pharisaic spirit of separation reflected in the Scriptures.”39 Moreover, Jesus’ popularity among the masses was treading on the territory of the Pharisees, provoking them to jealousy. Jesus’ appeal towards holiness is framed with salt, “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how will it be made salty again? It is good for nothing anymore, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men (Matt 5:13). Jesus made a point of selecting disciples from among sinners and outcasts, who were strong in faith rather than education. Throughout life, it is a privilege that our character (heart) is being tested and refined. As Messiah, Jesus came to save sinners but also to call, build and sanctify a people that bears God’s name, a new Ekklesia, that is not just an assembly of “called ones,” but an assembly of resurrected ones. He was calling in Israel a new people after the faithful priesthood desired at Mt. Sinai, which would be purchased at Calvary, and built after His resurrection. His act of resurrecting his friend Lazarus (Eleazar) at Bethany with the cry, “Come out!” is a picture of what he was about to do in Jerusalem – to destroy the temple (die at the cross) and build it up again in three days (Resurrection) – and in the world with His Messianic Church. Interestingly, Eleazar is the name of Aaron’s son, the ancestor of Zadok and a picture of the legitimate priesthood. Peter later puts it in very Hebrew terms, “You also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Pet 2:5). Jesus offered himself as a sin-offering on the cross in a covenant of blood. As the uplifted High Priest / King, He fulfills His part of the covenant of salt.40 It is then up to us to know Him, the power of His resurrection, and share in the fellowship of His sufferings (Phil 3:10).

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Salt, Sanctification, and New Covenant Sacrifices

In response, there are three other types of offerings which believers in Christ, as His people, are called upon to offer daily, namely: our lives dedicated in prayer (olah), our fellowship with God and man through sharing in His Word of life (mincha), our sacrifices of praise, thanksgiving and good deeds (shlamim). The Olah (burnt offering) refers in New Covenant priestly terms to the presentation of our lives on the altar in prayer as advocated in Rom 12:1-2. The altar of incense that lifts the prayers of Israel to the Lord was lit by the coals of the altar in the tabernacle. Mincha (grain offering) in New Covenant terms means Partaking in God’s Word of Life, which is Christ. This is evident in symbolic communion, which is of deep spiritual significance and much more than a ritual. (John 6:51-53) For this reason, Christ said that those who do not eat his flesh have no part in Him. Shlamim (peace offerings) in New Covenant terms means peaceful reconciliation for a restored relationship with the Lord and is expressed through praise and thanksgiving. Hebrews 13:15-16 says. “Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. And do not neglect doing good and sharing; for with such sacrifices God is pleased. “These three sacrifices are called the sweet-smelling offerings and constitute our response to the call of holiness. They are not requirements for salvation, but the evidence of sanctification. Jesus says, “Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another” (Mark 9:50). Paul writes, “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned, as it were, with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person. (Col 4:6).

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‘Havdil’ v. Carnality and the Failure of the Pharisees

The priests consumed by the burden of ritual and the Pharisees by the burden of teaching both failed to make the proper spiritual distinction (havdil) and fell into carnality. “Havdil” which means to ‘make a distinction’ was a duty that belonged to the priest until it was taken over by the Pharisees who were better at it.41 Paul, the Pharisee gives an excellent definition when he talks about “rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15) or speaks of things spiritually discerned (1 Cor 2:14). In partaking of God’s Word of life (mincha), even the Messianic believer is warned that the Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Heb 4:12).

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Jesus’ controversies with Pharisees: Salting by Fire

Those who resist God’s word are then salted by fire, either for refining or for judgment. Let’s take the example of the Sabbath controversy. Jesus did not break the Sabbath nor did he teach anyone to break the commandments (Matt 5:17-19). His saying that the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath is a good example of the Pharasaic interpretive principle of “halakhah” to derive a practical application or ruling, in this case, “Therefore the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” Morever, He reveals a deep awareness of the view of God, man and creation totally in line with Pharasaic teachings.42 So, Pharisees would have to conclude that Jesus succeeded in advancing the spiritual meaning behind the command of Sabbath observance by discerning the spirit of the commandment. When asking, “Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day?” (Matt 12:9-13, Mark 3:1-6, Luke 6:6-11), He recalls the syllogism used in other Pharisaic rulings that permit assisting an animal rescue or an animal birth (M.shab. 18.3 and b. Shab. 128b), based on the ruling from the school of Shemiah and Abtalion (b. Yom35b) posing the question, “Is it lawful to save life or let it die on the Sabbath day?”43 This scenario of confrontation between Jesus and the Pharisees is repeated, but the Pharisees became polarized in their responses. Either they had to admit defeat and recognize a superior authority or they could harden their hearts and lose the little discernment they had. They had been salt and light for the people of Judea and the Diaspora. They even made many converts among the Gentiles from the Hasmonean period onward in response to Isaiah 2:20 and Jeremiah 16:19. Though it is said that some in the Shammai school considered Gentile converts to be a leprosy in Israel, Hillel consented to admit proselytes even when unreasonable conditions of admission were laid down. It was then probably to Shammaites that Jesus said, “you shut off the kingdom of heaven from men; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. (Matt 23:13).

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Pharisees Divided: Hillelites & Shammaites Encounter Jesus

Some scholars believe that in his contentions with the Pharisees, Jesus was simply taking the side of the school of Hillel.44 The school of Shammai was the mouthpiece of the wealthier (patrician) Pharisees. Other examples attributed by the rabbis today as Jesus targeting the Shammaites are the issue of Pharasaic traditions nullifying the law and the dispute about handwashing before taking food (Matt 15:1-2) The latter is answered in Luke 11:37-41 and Matthew 23:23-25 where Jesus goes into a familiar Hillel dissertation upholding the Hillel ruling that it is permissible to wash the outside of the cup later. But blaming the Shammaite and Zealot Pharisees may not exonerate even the Hillelites from the charge of hypocrisy. Paul Barnett points out rightly that the rabbinic style of fellowship between Jesus and the Twelve effectively anticipated the birth of the early church as a new community of faith.45 As a rabbinic school moving from place to place, his teachings condensed in easily remembered forms reminiscent of the language of the most evangelistic Pharisees, he reached out to the lowest and poorest of the Am Ha-Eretz, those sinners often rejected from the synagogues. He was the shepherd “sent to the lost sheep of Israel.” Jesus went further than most Pharisees had been willing to go. The pride hidden behind their zeal was thus exposed in the contrast of the sinner and the self-righteous Pharisee at prayer (Luke 18:11-14).

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Ungodly Zeal

So far, we have seen that the collapse of the Zadokite priesthood and the materialism of their offspring the spiritually bankrupt Sadducees and chief priests gave opportunity to the Pharisees to rise as the teaching authorities in Israel. They, in their zeal to prevent the backsliding of the nation, began to perform some of the non-temple duties of the priests. Their purpose was to educate all people, men, women, children, laborers, artisans, and even foreigners towards sanctity through the law of Moses. But their efforts missed the mark as only the Lord through His sent one, His anointed, can provide the Way, the Truth, and the Life. In this context, a stronger message would be for God to use the zeal of the Pharisees but guide it with the right knowledge of Messiah in the Scriptures to build His church. This Messiah-Prophet-Priest-King alone could sanctify a people and send them out into the world. He would do it by building His Ekklesia of resurrected ones upon His way. The church was originally called the Way, i.e. the Way of Messiah (Meshichit Halakhah). In Greek, they were simply called Messianics (Christianoi).

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The Godly Zeal of a Messianic Pharisee

The Lord did just that with Shaul, the Pharisee, later known as the apostle Paul. By intervening on the Road to Damascus, He brought Shaul to repentance and gave him a mission, promising Him only the fellowship of His sufferings (Acts 9:16). Over a few years, Shaul’s ungodly zeal was transformed into godly zeal (Romans 10:1-3). Not all Pharisees rejected the Christ as some like Nicodemus in Ephesus became believers and were baptized. But among them all, Paul of Tarsus stands as the greatest. Jesus said, “A student is not above his teacher” (Luke 6:40). Paul was educated as a Pharisee in Jerusalem from his youth at the feet of Gamaliel, Hillel’s grandson who saved the apostles from death at the hand of the high priest and the Sadducees (Acts 5:34-40a). Paul was swept away in the prevailing current of rejection of Messiah. Yet, Jesus selected him, a Pharisee whose zeal was ungodly and transformed him into a Messianic Pharisee filled with godly zeal. This can be seen in the contrast between Romans 10:2 which reflects his former self and 2 Cor 11:2 his new self. Paul was graciously spared the judgment of blindness Jesus warned Pharisees about in John 9:39-41 for those “who think they see.” In contrast, he gave the old man and became a new man in Messiah. He became salt and light for the Gentiles (Acts 13:47; 26:17-18), to salt many others into becoming light in the midst of darkness (Eph 5:8-11).

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The Gospel of Reconciliation from Jerusalem to the Ends of the Earth

The call originated appropriately in the wilderness and outside the Temple, i.e. outside the camp. Paul was accepted by the other apostles in Jerusalem who commissioned him to take the message to all nations. Through Paul, the gospel of Messiah went to the roads and mountains, in the villages and cities, in homes and gardens, in the synagogues and public places throughout the world. The messianic message rivaled the missionary efforts of unbelieving Pharisees, while garnering nonetheless a Jewish following from the Diaspora. The irony is that Pharasaism fathered two, not one offspring, Judaism and Christianity. Judeo-Christian dialogue today is self-deceived when it aims at building an alliance where Messiah has put the sword. There is another partition that has been abolished in Messiah, i.e. the enmity between Jew and Gentile (Eph 2:13-18). A Gentile need not become a Jew, nor a Jew become a Gentile to inherit all the blessings promised to Abraham’s seed. Today declaring Messianic Jewish communities a sect and Rabbinic Judaism a legitimate religion makes the word of Messiah into a lie. Yet there is an unholy agreement between many Christians and Jews that a Jew who believes Yeshua is the Messiah is no longer a Jew, hence he is shunned from all talks of reconciliation. The truth of Messiah, that is Messiah Himself is thus compromised. The covenant of salt is a covenant between friends and the reconciliation with God abolishes all partitions between people erected by human pride through gender, ethnicity, age, ability, learning, possessions, even though each is endowed with a unique variety of gifts and weaknesses. Jesus came not only to redeem sinners, but to show that regardless of past sins and present weaknesses, our Father in heaven is able to sustain and preserve us daily in His Way of holiness. Ezra’s priestly code was no longer just for the priests or the Pharisaic laicity, which tried to emulate them in the public place. We find it re-written in the letters authored by Peter, Paul and the apostles under the influence of the New Covenant Spirit.

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Paul’s Godly Legacy: Preaching to a Salted Priesthood

In summary, the New Covenant is a covenant of salt in that God’s people choose by faith throughout their lives to make God’s Anointed their portion, because He has made them their portion, by purchasing them with His blood unto eternal life. The sanctification of the Messianic redeemed on whose hearts the Torah (Word of Truth) was written is therefore also the consecration of a new man, a new reconciled community of holy ones, a new priesthood (1 Cor 6:11; Titus 3:5; Rev 7:14-15). The Lord keeps his side of the salt covenant by preserving those who are truly His with the seal of His Holy Spirit (2 Cor 1:22; Eph 1:13; 4:30) and completing their progressive sanctification. The tares who give obedience of face and perform lip service are abandoned to the cycle of self-deception and self-destruction with ample warnings (Is 29:10-16; Heb 6:4-11; Heb 10:26-38; Heb 12:4-17; 25-27) while those who produce fruit of the Holy Spirit and endure are sealed in their redemption (John 10:14-17, 27-30; Eph 1:13-14). This New Covenant replaces the Old covenant because the Old Covenant was broken and failed to produce a faithful priesthood. The LORD makes clear the fault is not with the Old Covenant in itself, but with the people and therefore the New Covenant is enacted through the Son as alone able to fulfill the Old Covenant in all its facets (Hebrews 8:7-13) was intended for those who would become the royal priesthood of believers, the long-awaited sons of God (Rom 8:19), both servants and ministers of the Priest-King, our Messiah Yeshua. The Hebrew language of the holiness code is found in all the New Testament writings such as 1 Peter 1:15-16. We become sweet-smelling sacrifices to the Lord (2 Cor 2:14-17). As, we present our bodies in daily worship (Rom 12:1-2), “olah” the burnt offering (Lev 1:3) is fulfilled. Through communion at the Table of Presence (1 Cor 11:26-27) and prayer46 (Mark 11:17; Acts 6:4; Eph 6:18; Phil 4:6; Col 4:2; James 5:15-16; 1 Peter 3:12, 4:7), we offer the “mincha” or grain offering with “its drink offering” (Lev 2:1-16, see v. 13 and Lev 23:37) in a new way (1 Cor 10:16-17 and 2 Cor 3:6). We present our fellowship or peace offerings, “shlamim” (Lev 3:1) with gifts of thanksgiving, praise (Col 4:6; Phil 4:6-7) and even our witness (Rom 15:16) – through evangelism, the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:18-20) and martyrdom seen as the fellowship of His sufferings (Phil 3:10; John 13:36). The language of fellowship of the Spirit with the Son transpires the New Testament scriptures (John 3:21; Acts 2:42; 1 Cor 1:9; 2 Cor 13:14; 1 Tim 2:1; Philemon 1:6; 1 Jn 1:3-10, 2 Cor 6:14-17). The sin and guilt offerings (Lev 4:3; Lev 5:5-6) were not considered sweet-smelling as olah, mincha and shlamim as they had to do with the blood atonement which was performed once and for all out of the camp by Messiah. We cannot replicate that atonement for ourselves or anyone else (John 8:22; 13:33; Heb 10:1-2; Heb 13:10-11).

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The Ungodly Legacy of Pharisaism: Rabbinic Judaism

By rejecting God’s chosen Messiah, the Pharisees stumbled on the Rock that was to be the chief cornerstone of the Church as God’s new Messianic Temple indwelled by the Holy Spirit (Eph 2:20-22), and sank deeper in the error that had led Jesus earlier to pronounce the woes upon them. During the Jewish Wars (A.D. 63-73), Vespasian favored the Pharisee leader Yohanan Ben Zakkai and permitted him to establish a rabbinic school at Yavneh. After these wars, the Sadducees disappeared, and after the Bar Kochba War (A.D. 135), the Zealots disappeared. This left the blind guide Pharisees as the self-professed leaders of the Jewish people. Zakkai brought significant changes like the replacement of Temple service with the synagogue and the Bet Midrash. He used Hosea 6:6, “For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice” as justification, concluding that prayer and charity (tsdaka) and good deeds (mitzvot) would substitute for sacrifice for the time being. But all these are rags without faith in Messiah. They gave rise to the invention of rabbinic Judaism, a religion based on merit and works. It has led Rabbis in modern times to presume further the superiority of their own counsel over that of God’s Word in the Scriptures. For example, the Biblical requirement of blood atonement is now thought to have been either nullified or a lie due to the lack of enlightenment in the ancient world. The legacy of pharisaism is a veil over those who are perishing and famine for the salted Word of God. For this reason, many Jews leave Judaism for esoteric sects and New Age religions, and the rabbis refuse to see that the glory has departed. The Talmud and the Zohar are neither inspired by God nor do they prepare a people to be a temple for His Spirit. In fact Kabbalah finds its roots in ancient esoteric beliefs and mysticism which lend credibility to a greater counterfeit about to emerge as the grand delusion of these final days. So, in the final accounting, the Pharisees became self-deceived preachers of a false religion. Yeshua, the Messiah did not come to found a religion but to confound religiosity and to build for Himself a bride. But as the threat of Jewish survival or assimilation increased through the ages, Jewish identity at times became so central to the “religion” of Judaism as to kick God from its very center altogether. The Messianic Way (Halakhah) declares that no satisfactory answer can be given to the question of who is a Jew without Christ or Messiah. Our identity and calling as well as our sanctification come from the Lord. The calling of the Jew is to praise His God as the name Judah implies and God Himself will preserve the Jew’s identity for His purposes only. Anything else is blasphemy of the type mentioned in Rev 2:9 where those who say they are Jews but are not are said to belong to the synagogue (or church) of Satan. When the Talmud claims that the council of two or three rabbis can overrule the counsel of God, it is also the idolatry of Satan. In rejecting the Way of Messiah, the Pharisees remained “shoulder” Pharisees whose appearance of spirituality did not dupe the Lord; they failed to make the bridge connection between God and Man. Their focus was on praise coming from man rather than God and they missed apprehending the work of Messiah in building a royal priesthood of believers, a New Covenant Priesthood, the Bride and the true Israel (Overcomer), composed of both Jews and gentiles.

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God raised up a faithful priest in Samuel (1 Sam 2:35-36), and a man after his own heart in David, the king. Now our Priest-King Messiah is raising up faithful priests to disciple the nations. His once-for-all atonement cannot be duplicated. He has written the law in our hearts so we would no longer live by the letter of the law as the Pharisees, but become living letters to a dying world. He did not come to found a new religion, but to confound religiosity and build up His bride as a royal priesthood of believers, a redeemed community of the “born-again,” a salted new creation. Peter wrote, “you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For this is contained in Scripture: "Behold I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious cornerstone and he who believes in Him shall not be disappointed." This precious value, then, is for you who believe. But for those who disbelieve, "The stone which the builders rejected, this became the chief cornerstone, and, "A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense"; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for {God's} own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:5-9). Regardless of our past, ethnicity, gender, or ability, we can be the right people chosen for our obedience of faith. Unlike the Pharisees who stumbled, we can be willing servants, ready to offer our new life, not the old one as a right sacrifice. Unlike Cain, we offer our sacrifices with a right heart free of jealousy. We allow God’s hand, in an act of spiritual surgery, to remove the old hardened heart and replace it with a soft humble heart that is willing to decrease, resist evil and ‘die daily to sin’ so we may live for Him. Casting away all idols and strange spirits, we are filled with His Spirit to offer a right fire not of our own making, refraining from false ministries. Finally, we have a right focus when we bow before Him alone and before no man, for He is the bridge who reconciles and sanctifies. As the Lord alone sanctifies, so our Lord prepares our ministry before Him (Eph 2:10). May he remove the leaven of hypocrisy and lift the veil from our eyes as he did for one salted Messianic Pharisee with ‘chutzpah’ to ripen the world for harvest.

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Baeck, Leo. The Pharisees and Other Essays. New York: Schocken books, 1966.

Barnett, Paul. Jesus & the Rise of Christianity: A History of New Testament Times. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, c1999.

Bruce, F.F. Israel and the Nations. Grand Rapids: Eerdsmans, 1963.

Bullinger, E.W. Figures of Speech Used in the Bible Explained and Illustrated. Reprint of 1898 ed. Grand Rapids, MI, Baker Book House, 1968.

Finkel, Asher. The Pharisees and the Teacher of Nazareth: A Study of their Background, their Halachic and Midrashic Teachings, the Similarities and Differences. Leiden: Brill, 1974.

Finkelstein, Louis. The Pharisees: The Sociological Background of their Faith. Vols 1-2. Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1962.

Fuchs, Daniel and Harold A. Sevener. From Bondage to Freedom: A Survey of Jewish History from the Babylonian Captivity to the coming of the Messiah. Neptune, N.J.: Loizeaux, 1995.

Gowler, David B. Host, Guest, Enemy, and Friend: Portrait of the Pharisees in Luke and Acts. New York: Peter Lang, c1991.

Kampen, John. The Hasideans and the Origin of Pharisaism. Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, c1988.

Levison, N. The Jewish Background of Christianity: A Manual of the Political, Religious and Literary Life of the Jews from 586 BC to A.D. 1. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1932.

Mason, Steve. Flavius Josephus on the Pharisees: A Composition-Critical Study. Leiden; New York: Brill, 1991.

Moseley, Ron. Yeshua: A Guide to the Real Jesus and the Original Church. Baltimore, MD: Lederer, c1996.

Nanos, Mark D. The Mystery of Romans : The Jewish Context of Paul’s Letter. Minneapolis: Fortress, c1996.

Renwick, David A. Paul, the Temple and the Presence of God. Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, c1991.

Rivkin, Ellis. A Hidden Revolution. Nashville, TN: Parthenon Press, c1978.

Roetzel, Calvin J.. The World That Shaped the New Testament. Rev. ed. London; Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, c2002.

Rogers, Cleon L, Jr. The Topical Josephus: Historical Accounts That Shed Light on the Bible. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, c1992.

Safrai, S., and M. Stern, in cooperation with D. Flusser and W.C. van Unnik, eds. The Jewish People in the First Century: Historical Geography, Political History, Social, Cultural and Religious Life and Institutions. Vol. 2. Assen, The Netherlands: Van Gorcum; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1976.

Sanders, E.P. Jewish Law from Jesus to Mishnah.

Schwartz, Daniel R. Studies in the Jewish Background of Christianity. Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck), c1992.

Scott, Julius J. Jewish Backgrounds of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, c1995.

Trumbull, H. Clay. The Covenant of Salt: as based on the significance and symbolism of salt in primitive thought. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1899.

Westerholm, Stephen. Jesus and Scribal Authority. Lund: C.W.K. Gleerup. (Ph.D. Lund University, 1978)

Witherington, Ben. New Testament History: A Narrative Account. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books; Carlisle, U.K.: Paternoster, c2001.

Young, Brad H. Jesus, the Jewish Theologian. Peabody MA: Hendrickson, c1995.

Young, Brad H. Paul, the Jewish Theologian: A Pharisee among Christians, Jews, and Gentiles. Peabody MA: Hendrickson, c1995.

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1 All Scripture references in the text are from the New American Standard Bible unless another version is indicated. Those with hyperlinks are from the New International version.

2 H. Clay Trumbull. The Covenant of Salt: as based on the significance and symbolism of salt in primitive thought. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1899.

3 Flavius Josephus. Antiquities of the Jews. XII, iii, 3.

4 Spurgeon, Charles. Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit. London : Passmore and Alabaster. 1861-1917. Vol. 33, 1887. In his sermon entitled, “Salt for Sacrifice,” 41.

5 Trumbull, The Covenant of Salt. 109.

6 E.W. Bullinger. Figures of speech used in the Bible. Grand Rapids, Baker, 1968. 738.

7 Daniel Fuchs and Harold A. Sevener. From Bondage to Freedom.

8 His official Persian title was ‘sofer data’ = scribe of the Law.

9 Leo Baeck. The Pharisees and Other Essays.

10 Asher Finkel. The Pharisees and the Teacher of Nazareth. 18-23.

11 Levison, N. The Jewish Background of Christianity. 171-178.

12 “Knesset gedolah” The Sanhedrin claims to have developed from this assembly.

13 Rivkin, Ellis. A Hidden Revolution. 125ff.

14 Louis Finkelstein. The Pharisees: The Sociological Background of their Faith. Vol. 2.

15 The epithet Apikoros became a dreaded curse that survives in Yiddish today.

16 John Kampen. The Hasideans and the Origin of Pharisaism.

17 F.F. Bruce. Israel and the Nations. 131.

18 Judith and The Psalms of Solomon are attributed

19 It finally collapsed when Menelaus succeeded Jason as the first high priest of non-Zadokite priest, a puppet of the Hellenizers who discontinued temple services, destroyed copies of the Scriptures, forbade circumcision and abolished the food laws. Hasideans developed the early Apocalyptic writings such as the book of Enoch while the later writings are attributed to the Pharisees, such as Psalms of Solomon and especially the Essenes. Jason or Menelaus could be types of the future “Wicked Priest” referred to in the Apocalyptic writings of the Qumran sect.

20 Hasmonean is the title coined by Josephus and the Talmud to the descendants of the Maccabees, possibly from Asamonaios, great-grandfather of Matthatias, and the father of Judas Maccabee.

21 Rivkin, Ellis. A Hidden Revolution. 211ff. According to him, The Mishnah, I Maccabees written by a Zadokite (proto-Sadducee) and Josephus presuppose the Pharasaic revolution. This gave Pharisees as a non-priestly class a status as guardians of the law that led to the legitimization of the Oral Law, which opposed the strict Pentateuchal literalism of the Sadducees.

22 If Rivkin’s theory of the Pharisees initially devising or supporting the Hasmonean dynasty right to kingship and high priesthood is correct, these two events show a change of heart on the part of the Pharisees towards the Hasmonean rulers.

23 Ben Witherington. New Testament History: A Narrative Account. 47.

24 Ben Witherington. New Testament History: A Narrative Account. 46.

25 Rivkin, Ellis. A Hidden Revolution. Notes, p. 322.

26 Louis Finkelstein. The Pharisees: The Sociological Background of their Faith. Vol. 2.

27 Ron Moseley. Yeshua: A Guide to the Real Jesus and the Original Church.

28 By the time of the Jesus, the list was expanded to 39 as it is today (Jubilees 2:23) Moseley, Ron. Yeshua: A Guide to the Real Jesus and the Original Church. 89.

29 “Halakhah” translated “the way” is the domain of application of the law in the areas of cultus, festivals, property, ritual purity, calendar, criminal and civil law, etc.

30 Leo Baeck. The Pharisees and Other Essays.

31 Brad Young. Jesus, the Jewish Theologian. 231.

32 This is reminiscent of the faithful priest

33 Only three such cases are known.

34 E. P. Sanders. Jewish Law from Jesus to Mishnah. Jobs including, running most of the synagogues, controlling and staffing the schools, serving as scribes, missions to Diaspora Jews, serving as magistrates, instructing the Temple priests, regulating tithes & Temple revenues, giving advice on Torah, and secular jobs.

35 Maxims and epigrams of the sages directed towards teachers, judges and laymen used along with the Scriptures as a manual of instruction in the schools.

36 Louis Finkelstein. The Pharisees: The Sociological Background of their Faith. Vol. 2.

37 Rivkin, Ellis. A Hidden Revolution. 155.

38 (2) The Wait-a-little Pharisee would ask someone to wait for him while he performed a good deed. (3) The blind Pharisee would bruise himself walking into a wall because he shut his eyes to avoid seeing a woman. (4) The pestle Pharisee walked with hanging head so as not to observe alluring temptations (5) The ever-reckoning Pharisee was always counting his good deeds to see if they offset his failures.

39 Paul Barnett. Jesus and the Rise of Christianity. 62. The Pharisees expected the Son of David as the anointed “Messiah” King to gather and lead a holy people in righteousness, destroy the sinners’ pride, convict them in the thoughts of their hearts and expel them from the inheritance, destroy the lawless Gentiles by the rod of his mouth, rebuke the nations and put them to flight (Psalm of Solomon 17:21-27)

40 In Num 35:25 and Josh 20:6, a person guilty of killing a person unintentionally had to remain in the city of refuge until the death of the high priest, after which he was free to return to his own inheritance. The christological meaning is clear: only through the death of the high priest Jesus Christ is man able to return to the paradise he came from. This is the sin-offering (chata’t) which cannot be duplicated.

41 As between light and dark. Shabbat and weekdays, Israel and the nations (pagan), holy and profane, clean and unclean, sheep and goats, spirit and flesh, etc.

42 Brad H. Young. Jesus, the Jewish Theologian. 103ff.

43 Asher Finkel. The Pharisees and the Teacher of Nazareth. 171-172. Finkel proceeds to show through examples that “Jesus preached in the manner of the Pharisees, that is with the homiletic tools of pesher and hermeneutics in the form of pro-em homily, periscope-homily and yelammedenu-homily.”

44 Asher Finkel. The Pharisees and the Teacher of Nazareth. 123-124. The Pharisaic school of Hillel developed 7 hermeneutical rules governing interpretation, some which can be observed in the discourse between the Pharisees and Jesus. These are: 1. Syllogism (qal vayomer) 2. Analogy of words (gezerah shavah) 3. Analogy of subjects + deduction (Heyqesh) 4. Contextual understanding (Dabar halamed Me`inyano) 5. Induction (Binyan’ab) 6. Comparison (kayose’ bo bemaqom aher) 7. Quantitative relation in the law (kelal uperat)

45 Paul Barnett. Jesus & the Rise of Christianity: A History of New Testament Times. 162.

46 Prayer is associated with the offering at the altar of incense in Luke 1:10-11 as God answers Zechariah’s prayer through the angel of the Lord.

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