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
The Talmud has many references to the two schools of Hillel and Shammai, into which the Pharisees were divided at the time of Christ. They differed on little points, which to Christians seem childish. We find sometimes in it references to Rabbi Gamaliel, St. Paul's teacher, and to the members of the national Sanhedrin which condemned Christ to death.
The Talmud both of Jerusalem and Babylon are the great works which darkened the Hebrew minds, and prevented them from accepting Christ as their Messiah to this day. They hold that with the Law, God gave Moses explanations and ; truths which have come down from his time. "Moses received the oral law from Sinai, and delivered it to Josue, and Josue to the elders, and the elders to the prophets, and the prophets to the great men of the Synogogue.(Talmud, Pirke Aboth.) There is no historic evidence of this statement, but they held to these traditions as strongly as to the Five Books of Moses. The Pentateuch (The Five Books of Moses.) they say, has 613 laws, 248 commands, 365 prohibitions, but no duty of prayer, no reference to the future life. But as these are a part of the Jewish religion, they must have come down from Moses by oral tradition. Admit these two points and it is easy to bring in a host of other matters, and claim that they came down by tradition.
Year after year they added to their traditions. Disputes between the two schools of Hillel and of Shammai were settled by the Sanhedrin Court. Decrees made by the prophets were brought in and when these were settled nothing could set them aside—not even Elijah, the Forerunner of the Messiah, could change them. Legal questions, decided by the ecclesiastical court, at tributed to Moses, Josue, Esdras, and to Rabbis of a late date, became incorporated into the Law, were held as direct revelations of Jehovah, and the study of them be came the chief duty of the pious Jew.
These rules and regulations treated men as children. Every move and act of life were regulated by the most minute laws. "From what time do they recite the Sh'ma in the evening? From the time that the priests are admitted to eat their oblations, till the end of the first watch." These are the words of Rabbi Eliezer, but the wise men say up to midnight; Rabban Gamaliel says until the columns have arisen. (Mishna, Beracoth i.) Candles must be lighted on the eve of the Sabbath in all Jewish homes. " With what sort of wick and oil are the candles of the Sabbath to be lighted? They are not to be lighted with the woolly substance that grows on cedars, or with undressed flax, nor with silk, nor with rushes, nor with leaves out of the wilderness, nor with moss that grows on the surface of water, nor with pitch, nor with wax, nor with oil made of cotton-seed, nor with the fat of the tail or entrails of beasts." (Mishna, Beracoth i.) Then follows a long list of opinions given by learned Rabbis on this question.
Can an egg laid on the Sabbath or festival day be eaten? Hillel's school says No; Shammai's followers, Yes. For centuries they disputed this question, and it is not settled yet. (Ibidem, Moed. C. Beitzah, " A. egg,") The most minute and childish questions relating to the Law, the Temple service, the ceremonial of the sacrifices, were disputed in the same way. " He who teaches his son Greek is accursed, like him who keeps pigs." (Stapfer, Palestine in Time of Christ, p. 269.)
The Teruma, " the holy portion," " the tithe," must be strictly separated by the buyer, and the poor must prove that this had been paid for before it could be used, and this regulation prevented Jews from buying or selling to Gentiles, accepting hospitality from any but a Jew and forced every tradesman to establish his business by entering the union of the Pharisees. The whole nation was divided into two classes, the Haberim, strict followers of the Rabbis or Pharisees, and the Am-ha-aretzin, the common people who are ignorant and accursed. No one could know if the house he entered was clean according to the Law, that the food had paid the tithes, that the dress they wore might not be defiled, that the people they met were Levitically pure, the very members of their own family might become contaminated and cast out by the touch of an unclean person. The Pharisees alone were safe from this continual defilement which led infallibly to hell.
Religion consisted in observing Rabbinical purity, avoiding ceremonial defilement, or removing it by ceremonies the Pharisees had laid down. Rules were multiplied, and graduated scales of " holiness " were formed, from the lowest member of the common people, who could not become holy, because they were ignorant of the Law, to the highest asceticism. They must not eat any thing on which tithes had not been paid, or the tithe itself, or the priests' portion, or a thing touched by a heathen, without washing the hands.
Before eating of the offered sacrifice, a bath must be taken ; a plunge bath must be used before being sprinkled with the waters of purification, even if only the hands were unclean; he who bathed, in order to partake of things untithed, had not the right to partake; he who did that to enjoy the tithe, could not touch a priest's portion ; he who might touch it, could not eat what was " holy," while he who touched it must not wash with the waters of purification. To touch the clothes of a common man defiled a Pharisee; the clothes of a common Pharisee were unclean to one who could eat tithes; the garments of an eater of tithes to an eater of offerings, and his again to one who could be sprinkled with the water of purification.
Ten thousand Rabbincal rules of ceremonial purity, of fanatical observances, of religious pride, and of inflexible discipline regulated every act of life, foresaw every contingency, stifled activity, destroyed people's liberty, interfered with duty to family, friend, children, wife, husband, parent or relative, and isolated the Jew from every nation under the sun. Even his very thoughts were prescribed, and any deviation from the Pharisee's rules was looked on as profane, wicked, impious, deserving of hell's fire. The Jew had become a machine, run by Pharisaism. A member of the Pharisees or Rabbis was called Chaber, and all who were not members were " the people of the land," the common vulgar herd.
On entering the society of Pharisees, in the presence of three members the candidate took an oath to observe the regulations. u He who undertakes to be trustworthy, tithes whatever he eats, whatever he sells, whatever he buys, does not eat and drink with the people of the land," the Mishna says. This was why they accused Christ of eating with publicans and sinners. (Matt. ix. 10; Mark 11. 15)