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Is Judaism the Law of Moses? (part 11)

Why were the Pharisees in New Testament times divided among themselves?
Why did they come to Jesus to ask Him to settle disputes? Here is the answer!


Previous installments of this series have shown how the Pharisees and the other chief leaders of the Jews disregarded the Word of God. They had accepted customs that came directly from heathenism, which the Scripture clearly commands us not to do (Jer. 10:1-4). In many cases they knowingly taught commandments that were completely contrary to the plain words of God. They even ADMITTED that in so doing they were leaving the teachings of Moses.

The majority of these commandments of the Pharisees were enacted on the pretext that they had special divine revelatory powers from God to reveal to the Jews His present will. The Scriptures, to their reasoning, could not suffice alone for teaching the people.

"The written Torah [the old Testament] was good for the age in which it was given, or in which it was first read; but the written Torah alone could not suffice for later ages" (Herford, Talmud and Apocrypha, p. 113).

This prevailing opinion of the Pharisaic teachers is manifest today also in modernism among Protestants.


Pharisees Make Void God's Law

The Pharisees were confronted time and time again with many Mosaic commandments which they considered impractical in the society in which they were living. This led them to a dangerous conclusion. Since they were living in a later age than Moses and because times had changed considerably, they felt that many of the Laws of the Scripture had to be drastically altered or, in some cases, completely annulled. The Pharisees saw no reason why such alteration or rescission should not be done, especially Since they convinced themselves they were in authority to reveal the current will of God.

Herford says that these Pharisaic teachers came to the place many times of "actually annulling an express command in the written Torah [the Scripture] and replacing it by a halachah [their own law] in accordance with a [supposed] higher moral standard" (Talmud and Apocrypha, p. 73).

Jesus refers to one Law of God, among many, that they completely set aside or annulled. Notice Mark 7:10-13:

"For Moses said, 'Honor your father and your mother'; and, 'He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him surely die'; but you say, 'If a man tells his father or his mother, What you would have gained from me is Corban' (that is, "given to God") — then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making VOID the word of God through your tradition which you hand on. AND MANY SUCH THINGS YOU DO" (RSV).

In this case, they had actually annulled a specific one of the Ten Commandments of God that had been given through Moses. They claimed to have given to God offerings that should have been used to help Father and Mother.

We are left in no doubt about the attitude of the Pharisees in regard to Moses and his teaching. If they did not approve of what Moses taught, they rejected him! It was just that simple! Jesus said: "Had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me. . . . BUT YE BELIEVE NOT HIS WRITINGS" (John 5:46, 47).

Actually, the Pharisees had come to the place of believing it impossible to keep the civil Law of Moses. The only thing they could do, they reasoned, was either to alter, or disregard, many of its "impractical" instructions. They had no hesitation in carrying out their intentions.

"The teachers . . . were quite aware of the extreme gravity of the step they were taking. They intended to modify the written commandment in various ways, and in the course of time actually did so in NUMBERLESS CASES. Yet they had before them the plain injunction (Deut. 4:2): 'Ye shall not add to the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish from it; that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you(Herford, Talmud and Apocrypha, p. 113).

It is almost impossible to believe that religious leaders claiming to serve God would be so bold as to do such things, but the Pharisees intentionally did so.

"This conclusion that the written word of the Torah might be modified or set aside, or even annulled (as was sometimes done), was DELIBERATELY DRAWN AND CONSISTENTLY ACTED UPON by the teachers who developed the halachah [the new Pharisaic laws]" (ibid., p. 112).


Why Christ Condemns Teaching of Pharisees

Is it any wonder that Christ was so indignant at the doctrines of the Pharisees? Should we be amazed that He so sharply rebuked them?

"Well has Isaiah prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, this people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. FOR LAYING ASIDE THE COMMANDMENT OF GOD YE HOLD THE TRADITION OF MEN . . . FULL WELL YE REJECT THE COMMANDMENT OF GOD, that ye may keep your own tradition" (Mark 7:6-9).

Now that we have the background to the beliefs of the Pharisees and their attitudes regarding the Word of God — as has been presented thus far in this series — this Scripture should take on much more meaning. Jesus was rebuking the Pharisees as they had never been rebuked before. And they needed every bit of it!

Notice what Christ said elsewhere!

"Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your own tradition?" (Matt. 15:3)

"Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition" (Matt. 15:6).

"Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in" (Matt. 23:13).

"Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity" (Matt. 23: 27,28).


Today's Churches Follow Pharisees

In contemporary secular Christianity we find millions of individuals like the Pharisees of New Testament times. Numerous professing Christian denominations have modified the commandments of Christ; many have set aside or disregarded His commandments; and many of them have intentionally annulled the commandments of Christ! Yes, our modern Christian civilization of this Western World is in the same or worse spiritual condition as were the Pharisees.

The past and present leaders of Christian churches have certainly resorted to the same tactics as did the Pharisaic leaders. It is time we realize that modern Christianity has paralleled the Jewish leaders of New Testament times in assuming the prerogative of altering, overlooking and rescinding the plain commandments of the Scripture. Christ, who is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb. 13:8), condemns it! "Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God ye hold the tradition of men . . . Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition" (Mark 7:7-9).


Why Churches Modify Commandments of Christ!

There are millions of individuals today who, like the Pharisees, claim to follow Christ, and yet have modified the plain and simple commandments of Christ. Here is one example among many, to illustrate this fact.

In Matthew 5:38, 39, we read: "Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also."

This is a classic statement of Christ which has been modified by different groups in numerous ways. Most of the Christ-professing ministers today assume Christ meant just the opposite from what He said in the above passage. Most reason that Christ surely could not mean that you are not to resist evil people and kill them if need be! Is this what Christ said? No! Christ said just the opposite — "love your enemies" — a plain and simple statement that any ten-year-old can read and understand. But today, this command of Christ in particular is MODIFIED by interpretations so that it says just the opposite from what Christ taught. The Pharisees were doing the same thing with the Law of Moses!

Let us notice another commandment of Christ that has been completely disregarded by the overwhelming majority of modern denominations. It is Jesus' command found in John 13:14,15.

"If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you."

How many Christ-professing churches do you know which follow this command — an example that Christ gave to His disciples? Very few! Most people have completely disregarded this command and example as though it were not even in the Scriptures. Some ministers, endeavoring to explain away the illustration, say that this was an example for the original twelve disciples and not for us today. But notice Matthew 28:19, 20: "Go ye [the original twelve disciples] therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: Teaching them [all nations] to observe all things whatsoever I HAVE COMMANDED YOU.:' The example of foot washing was commanded to the disciples, and Christ ordered them to teach all NATIONS the very things He had taught them. But again, the majority of ministers today are using the same reasons for disregarding the Scriptures (i.e., times have changed) as did the Pharisees in Christ's day.

Take another example. All readers of the Bible, scholars and laymen alike, are quite aware that the Sabbath is the day set aside by God for divine worship (Gen. 2:1-4; Lev. 23:1-3; Isa. 58:13, 14). The Sabbath day is from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset. All true followers of God have kept this day as the day of rest and worship. The Jews of Christ's day as well were observing this day. Christ, Himself, kept the true Sabbath, having ordained it at re-creation as a day for the benefit of all mankind (Mark 2:27, 28). The early New Testament Church observed the Sabbath, and that day only, as the weekly day of rest and worship. This was the only day which the early Church observed: this all competent Church Histories affirm.

There is no indication, or even the slightest hint, in the Scripture that the Sabbath was to be abrogated and another day substituted for it. In fact, you might ask yourself the questions: Just why should the Sabbath have to be changed? Wasn't it good enough? Was there something inherently wrong with that particular day — so that a better had to be found as a substitute? Just what could make one day better than another? And if one day is not inherently better than another, why should it be set apart — sanctified — by any other authority than God's express commands?

But there are millions of people today who claim to be following Christ and the Bible, who repudiate the plain command of God in regard to His holy day, the Sabbath, by observing another day. These people are not following the Bible command but are rather following the command of the Roman Catholic Church which admits that it, not the Bible, is the author of Sunday keeping. (See Who Changed the Sabbath? pp. 1-5, Published by Knights of Columbus, St. Louis, Mo.)

The majority of professing Christians today assume the Sabbath command has been annulled. But it certainly has not been done away with in the Bible. It has only been supposedly annulled by the Roman Catholic Church and all the Protestant denominations which follow her decision in this matter.

Our Western World is doing today exactly the same thing the Pharisees did in New Testament times. It is about time we wake up and get back to the true faith which was once delivered to the saints of God (Jude 3).

God's Church today does not add to His words, neither does it subtract from them. It is in obedience to His commandments.

"And hereby we do know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He that saith, I know Him, and keepeth not His commandments, IS A LIAR, and the truth is not in him" (I John 2:3, 4).