The tragedy of Calvary: or the minute details of Christ's life from Palm Sunday morning till the resurrection and ascension taken prophecy, history, revelations and ancient writings
by Meagher, Jas. L. (James Luke), 1848-1920
|Roman copy in marble of a Greek bronze bust of Aristotle by Lysippus, c. 330 BC.|
When the scholar arrived at the age of thirty, he passed a strict examination, hands were imposed on him, while the presiding Rabbi said: "I admit thee, and thou art admitted to the Chair of the Scribe ; " at the same time giving him the tablets on which he was to write down the sayings of the wise he was to follow to open or shut the treasures of Divine wisdom. Thus he became a Chaber, or member of the teaching fraternity, forever separated from the common brute herd, the ignorant, the cursed " people of the earth doomed to perdition because they knew not the Law."
Different careers now opened out before him. He might use his reed pen in copying the law on the Phylacteries and selling them, write out contracts, act as notary at marriages and divorces, transcribe the Scriptures for the use of synagogue or Jewish homes, become a doctor of the Law, a magistrate, a teaching Rabbi in one of the schools, a member of the local synagogue, or a regularly called Rabbi over a congregation. But the high est ambition was to become a member of the great national Sanhedrin, which we will describe farther on. The pay of the Scribe was not large. The great Hillel worked as a day-laborer, and St Paul, who was a Scribe and a Pharisee, supported himself by making tents. But rich families supported Scribes, who acted as tutors for their children, scholars brought gifts to their teachers, lawyers' fees were considerable, and each notary received an honorarium for his acknowledgment of an oath.
The Rabbis, or Scribes, as they were also called after Hillels time, as teachers of the people were respected, and they received honor according to their grade as Rab, Rabbi, and Rabban, —Rab is the Hebrew for Great, corresponding to Rev., Very Rev., and Rt. Rev. Shemaiah warned his followers against receiving titles, but after his death his words were forgotten, and at the time of Christ the pride and hunger for titles, high places and honors among the Scribes was insatiable. They loved to be saluted in the public places, sought the highest seats at gatherings, required their scholars to kiss their hands when entering and departing from the school, greeted each the other with the word Abba, " father "; wore long stoles with a big fringe, the blue Zizith " girdle" were covered with a large Imation or cope ; continually wore great Phylacteries on their foreheads and wound around their left arms day and night, while the other Jews wore simpler ones, and that only when praying.
Like the Pharisees the members of the whole order were marked with the most incurable pride and hypocrisy. All other men were ignorant of the Law, unclean, degraded, doomed to everlasting perdition. They alone were the holy ones of Israel. The Gentiles were lower than dogs. The Samaritan was like a pig, the people of Galilee were unclean, only the Scribes and Pharisees were holy. Their fanaticism was incredible. This is why our Lord denounced them so bitterly and so often.
The Mishna says: " It is more punishable to act against the words of a Scribe than against those of the Scriptures. If a man were to say : ' There is no such thing as a Tephillin," in order thereby to act contrary to the words of the Bible, he is not to be treated as a rebel. But if he were to say : 'There are five divisions in the Tephillin 1 in order to add to the words of the Scribes, he is guilty." 2
The Tephillin mentioned here are the Phylacteries, for the name was changed from the Hebrew to the Greek after Alexander came to Jerusalem. In Christ's time they wore these Phylacteries as charms or amulets, that being the pagan meaning of the word. In the time of our Lord they pretended to perform wonders with them, and they wore them as charms and spells, and tended to wards witchcraft. The early Christians used to wear them till forbidden by the Popes.
The Pharisees mentioned so often in the Gospels formed the largest religious sect or party at that time. They were a school of strict Jews, who pretended that they lived better lives and obeyed the Torah, " The Law," of Moses, better than the common people or the priests. They were the Puritans of that epoch, separated from the rest of men. They took their name from the Hebrew word Perushim, "The Separated." They loved to be called the Chasidim, " Godly men," "The Saints." They are mentioned in the books of the Machabees under the name of the Assideans. 3 They were fanatics, who had banded themselves together for the better observance of the Mosaic law; they resisted all Gentile influences, which were breaking down the changless customs of the Jew, and they opposed all change. They were the conservative party of their day.
Their doctrine may be summed rip in the prayer of one of them in the Temple: " O God, I give thee thanks that I am not as the rest of men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, as this publican. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I possess." 4 We find people like that in every church to-day. There are whole denominations built on such principles.
They were Christ's chief opponents, and he denounced them in bitterest words, and some ministers in their Lives of Christ say "he was too severe," as though the Son of God could make a mistake in His sermons. These denunciations against them, when He departed from His meekness, exasperated them against Him, so that He willingly lost his life in protesting against their spirit and practices. The chief sources of information relating to them are Josephus, who was a Pharisee, and the New Testament. St. Paul was a rigid follower of their teachings before his conversion.
The first part of the Talmud, called the Mishna, " The Second Law," is full and complete on this subject. It was written in the second century at Tiberius by Rabbi Jehudah, " The Holy," who succeeded his father Simeon, a wealthy Jew and the patriarch of that city, on the banks of the Lake of Galilee, where later St Jerome learned Hebrew. It is a digest of Jewish traditions, and a compendium of the whole Law, very concisely written, requiring explanatory notes. It is in later Hebrew, interspersed with Greek, Latin, and Aramaic, or Syro-Chaldaic words.
1 That is in place of four as the Scribes and Pharisees taught.
2 Talmud, Mishnah, San. xi. 3.
3 I..Mach ii. 42 ; vii, 13 ; II. Mach. xiv. 6.
4 Luke xviii. 10-12.