In researching for my previous post – Beware the Teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees – I learned a few things I didn’t know before, as well as making some connections previously unconnected. Given that I love to learn and share what I learn, here are a few tidbits I discovered in my research that I found interesting.
The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection of the dead, but only in Sheol, a place of silence, a place of darkness where all the dead go. The inhabitants are ‘shades’. The Hebrew Scripture describes Sheol as a permanent place of the dead.
During the Second Temple period (500 BCE – 70 CE) various beliefs were established, such as Sheol being separated into compartments of the righteous and unrighteous or a place of punishment. It is the place that the dead go and await judgement.
As believers in Yeshua as Messiah, we understand that He correctly interprets Torah. In Luke 16:19-31 Yeshua taught there were two compartments in Sheol as He shared the lesson of what went on in Abraham’s Bosom between Lazarus and the rich man.
Influence on Christian Thought
I was reading a short article on the Sadducees, Pharisees, and Essenses when it hit me: two of these groups had a lot of influence on Christian thought.
The Sadducees disappeared after the destruction of the Temple with none of their writings surviving. The little we do know about them is from their opponents.
On the other hand, we know a lot about the Pharisees and Essenes.
The Pharisees were the spiritual fathers of modern Judaism. They believed in an after-life; that God punished the wicked and rewarded the righteous; they believed in a messiah who would herald an era of world peace. Saul of Tarsus was a Pharisee.
The Essenes believed in a resurrected “Teacher of Righteousness”; they believed in an after-life; they believed in celibacy; they believed in a coming end-time battle.
When delving into the beliefs of both the Pharisees and Essenes, we see a great deal of influence over Christian thought. It’s a subject in which I would love to spend more time.
Sadducees, Pharisees, and…Korah?
As I was digging into the beliefs of these two groups, I thought of the story of Korah. It just so happened that it turned out to be the Torah portion for that week. Coincidence? I think not.
Korah accused Aaron of thinking too highly of himself. He insisted that all of Israel was holy, so they could all participate in the High Priest duties, that Aaron was no better than the rest of them.
When we look at the Sadducees, they are the epitome of Korah’s accusation of Aaron! Though Aaron was not full of himself, we find that the Sadducees were elitists, stressing the importance of the priesthood.
The Pharisees, on the other hand, insisted on participation of all Jews.
In combining these two groups, we see the fullness of Korah’s rebellion.
The Name Pharisee
I thoroughly enjoyed digging into history at Bible.org, particularly the origin of the name ‘Pharisee’. It comes from the Hebrew word ‘paras’ that means ‘to divide, separate’. Because the word is passive, it more likely means ‘separated ones’.
However, what popped into my mind were words from our apostle Paul the Pharisee:
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. – 2 Timothy 2:15 (NKJV)
There you have it. I hope you will pick up on one or two (or all four) of these tidbits and dive deep into the connections these topics have as you journey closer to Messiah.