The Book of Luke, Looking on the Outward Appearance - Lesson 148
Luke 11:37‑44, 37And as he spake, a certain Pharisee besought him to dine with him: and he went in, and sat down to meat. 38And when the Pharisee saw it, he marvelled that he had not first washed before dinner. 39And the Lord said unto him, Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness. 40Ye fools, did not he that made that which is without make that which is within also? 41But rather give alms of such things as ye have; and, behold, all things are clean unto you. 42But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. 43Woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye love the uppermost seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets. 44Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are as graves which appear not, and the men that walk over them are not aware of them.
We see in this passage the continuing conflict between the Pharisees and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Note that this conflict centered around the Pharisees concern with the outward for: the Lord said unto him, Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness.
Jesus, in this clash of minds, characterizes the whole belief system of the Pharisees to expose its basic failures.
And its failures center on what is to be made pure, the outside or the inside.
The Pharisees' understanding of religion is to perform every requirement of the law in accordance with their oral tradition in order to justify themselves before God and thereby receive salvation.
Good works are performed not for the sake of others necessarily, but to ensure one's own salvation whereas in Godís economy good works are to be done in Godís name for the benefit of others.
They are interested in making themselves look pious to outsiders but that outward piety covers extreme self-centeredness which is what God sees for God looks on the heart.
There is no concentration of the Pharisee upon others but an intense concentration upon himself.
The Pharisees were bound by what is called the oral tradition that was composed though the years to expound and to make known the carrying out of the law of God as expressed in the five books of Moses.
Those five books of Moses are known as the Torah, the written Law.
The Oral Law, the Mishna, as it became known after the time of Christ, is a legal commentary on the Torah, explaining in minute detail how the Torahís commandments are to be carried out.
Let me read some excerpts from a web site called the Jewish Virtual Library so we can get a beginning understanding of the complexities of the religious system that the Pharisees operated under in the time of Christ.
Please note that this is a Jewish site and this information is presented in a positive light.
The Oral Law
The Written Law is another name for the Torah. The Oral Law is a legal commentary on the Torah, explaining how its commandments are to be carried out. Common sense suggests that some sort of oral tradition was always needed to accompany the Written Law, because the Torah alone, even with its 613 commandments, is an insufficient guide to Jewish life.
For example, the fourth of the Ten Commandments, ordains, "Remember the Sabbath day to make it holy" (Exodus 20:8).
From the Sabbath's inclusion in the Ten Commandments, it is clear that the Torah regards it as an important holiday.
Yet when one looks for the specific biblical laws regulating how to observe the day, one finds only injunctions against lighting a fire, going away from one's dwelling, cutting down a tree, plowing and harvesting. Would merely refraining from these few activities fulfill the biblical command to make the Sabbath holy? Indeed, the Sabbath rituals that are most commonly associated with holiness-lighting of candles, reciting the kiddush, and the reading of the weekly Torah portion are found not in the Torah, but in the Oral Law.
The Torah also is silent on many important subjects. We take it for granted that the large majority of couples want their wedding ceremony to be religious, but the Torah itself has nothing to say concerning a marriage ceremony. To be sure, the Torah presumes that people will get married ó "Therefore shall a man leave his mother and father and cleave to his wife and they shall be one flesh" (Genesis 2:24) ó but nowhere in the Torah is a marriage ceremony recorded. Only in the Oral Law do we find details on how to perform a Jewish wedding.
Without an oral tradition, some of the Torah's laws would be incomprehensible. In the Shema's (The Shema is an affirmation of Judaism and a declaration of faith in one God) first paragraph, the Bible instructs: "And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart. And you shall teach them diligently to your children, and you shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk on the road, when you lie down and when you rise up. And you shall bind them for a sign upon your hand, and they shall be for frontlets between your eyes" (see Deuteronomy 6:4≠8).
"Bind them for a sign upon your hand," the last verse instructs. Bind what? The Torah doesn't say. "And they shall be for frontlets between your eyes." What are frontlets? The Hebrew word for frontlets, totafot is used three times in the Torah ó always in this context (Exodus 13:16; Deuteronomy 6:8, 11:18) ó and is as obscure as is the English. Only in the Oral Law do we learn that what a Jewish male should bind upon his hand and between his eyes are tefillin (phylacteries
Tefillin are two small black boxes with black straps attached to them; Jewish men are required to place one box on their head and tie the other one on their arm each weekday morning. Tefillin are biblical in origin, and are commanded within the context of several laws outlining a Jew's relationship to God. "And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might. Take to heart these instructions with which I charge you this day. Impress them upon your children. Recite them when you stay at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them serve as a frontlet between your eyes" (Deuteronomy 6:5-8).
Certain Jewish groups ó including probably the Sadducees, and definitely the medieval Karaites ó understood the last verse to be figurative; it means only that one should always be preoccupied with words of Torah, as if they were in front of one's eyes. The Pharisees, however, took the text literally; the words of the Torah are to be inscribed on a scroll and placed directly between one's eyes and on one's arm. Tefillin are wrapped around the arm seven times, and the straps on the head are adjusted so they fit snugly.
The text that is inserted inside the two boxes of Tefillin is hand-written by a scribe, and consists of the four sets of biblical verses in which Tefillin are commanded (Exodus 13:1-10, 11-16; Deuteronomy 6:4-9, 11:13-21). Because each pair of Tefillin is hand-written and hand-crafted, it is relatively expensive, and a well-made pair costs several hundred dollars.
This is only one example where the literal and the figurative interpretation of the Law came into conflict.
But the Oral Law became that which was observed instead of the Written Law.
The Oral Law is called the Mishna.
Let me read some facts about the Mishna.
The Hebrew verb 'shanah' literally means 'to repeat [what one was taught] and is used to mean 'to learn'. The term 'Mishna' basically means the entire body of Jewish religious law that was passed down and developed before 200 CE, when it was finally redacted by Rabbi Yehudah haNasi (Judah the Prince). He is usually simply referred to as 'Rabbi'. Prior to the time of Rabbi, all Jewish Law was transmitted orally; It was expressly forbidden to write and publish the Oral Law, as any writing would be incomplete and subject to misinterpretation and
abuse. However, after great debate, this restriction was lifted when it became apparent that it was the only way to insure that the law could be preserved. To prevent the material from being lost, Rabbi took up the redaction of the Mishna. He did not do this at his own discretion, but rather examined the tradition all the way back to the Great Assembly. Some of tractates preceded him; these he merely supplemented.
During this time period (around 200 CE) the Mishna, as such, was never published. Instead the main study of Jewish law was conducted in memorized form, except for private letters and notes.
The Mishna consists of six orders (sedarim). The first of the six orders is called Zera'im (Seeds), and deals with the agricultural rules of ancient Palestine, particularly with the details of the produce that were to be presented as offerings at the Temple in Jerusalem. The most famous tractate in Zera'im, however, Brakhot (Blessings) has little to do with agriculture. It records laws concerning different blessings and when they are to be recited.
Another order, called Nezikin (Damages), contains ten tractates summarizing Jewish civil and criminal law.
A fifth order, Kodashim, outlines the laws of sacrifices and ritual slaughter. The sixth order, Taharot, contains the laws of purity and impurity.
Each of the six orders contains between 7 and 12 tractates, called 'masekhot'. Each masekhot is divided into smaller units called 'mishnayot' Unquote
During the time of Christ the Mishna was not written down but passed orally by the scribes and the Pharisees.
This is what Jesus Christ confronts as he ministers in the land.
We get a picture of what He thought of their literal interpretation of the law as expressed in their oral tradition and their disregard for the intent of the books of Moses.
Matthew 23:1, Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, 2Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Mosesí seat: 3All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. 4For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on menís shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. 5But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, 6And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, 7And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.