In my Conversation with God a couple of weeks ago, I asked the Lord why, if Yeshua told us to do all that the Scribes and Pharisees said to do, would He then warn us about their teaching? As goes many of our conversations, the Lord told me to start digging to find the answer.
‘No problem,’ I thought, ‘I love research.’ Besides, it seemed pretty cut and dried: put together a Venn diagram showing the teachings of each group and whatever was common to both groups would be what we had to avoid.
Well…in theory maybe. However, there isn’t much written about the teachings of the Sadducees. Add to that how the internet is full of lots of folk’s opinions (including mine) and just trying to find fact from misguided opinion was a challenge.
Most of what we know of the Sadducees comes from their opponents. Typically, it dealt with their disagreements, not commonalities.
Pharisaic beliefs developed into Judaism, so we can chart those beliefs, but the Sadducees? Not so much. So what I thought would be a couple of hours of digging turned into days (in between work and home obligations).
This past Shabbat, I was nearing what I thought was the answer, but still felt uncomfortable with the development, until I had a conversation with my grandchildren at the Sabbath table.
I shared with the kids the beliefs of both groups, as least as much as I could find.
The Pharisees believed and taught the Prophets and the Writings as having as much authority as the five books of Moses, along with the Oral Torah. They believed and taught the importance of purity. They believed and taught the resurrection of the dead. They came from Hasidim, who opposed Hellenization. They had influence over the people.
The Sadducees believed in a literal interpretation of the Torah. The Prophets and the Writings had their place, but not as much as the five books of Moses. Their emphasis was on the Temple. They did not believe in the resurrection of the dead, but that all dead go to Sheol – a place of darkness where all inhabitants are shades.
I could not find any glaring common teaching of these two groups that conflicted with Yeshua’s teaching, so much so that He would warn us about it.
Now, I know that God does not waste words, so there has to be something there.
Then it hit me! The Sadducees believed in the letter of the Law while the Pharisees believed in the spirit of the Law. How could they have anything in common?
Their commonality was their interpretive slant of the scriptures. Not that it was the same, but that each group interpreted scripture with their own bent – one was too harsh, the other too lenient.
The Sadducees took it literally – an eye for an eye – the letter of the Law without the Spirit. The Pharisees had too much Spirit, lifting the traditions of men above the Law.
However, there was still a Venn diagram and His name is Yeshua!
The Torah is God’s Spirit in writing. The Torah gives life. Any interpretation that brings death is not accurate. Any interpretation must take into account the Author, who revealed Himself to Moses when He revealed His Name.
“Adonai, Adonai, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, and abundant in lovingkindness and truth, showing mercy to a thousand generations, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, yet by no means leaving the guilty unpunished, but bringing the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, to the third and fourth generation.” – Exodus 34:6-7
Then the Author sent His Son who said, “When you have seen Me, you have seen the Father.”
Yeshua is the Word/Torah/Law made flesh. His teaching is the correct interpretation – a perfect balance of Letter and Spirit. He warned us to beware of teaching that leans too far one way or the other.
I very much agree with your conclusion, and admire the way you set out to find the facts to underlie it.
I keep searching, oddly enough, for what I call the Middle Way of Yeshua, and you have described why I want it. Torah with Mercy…staying on the straight and narrow path of a generous G-d, and straying neither to the right, nor the left…neither to rigidity, or to leniency.
This allows us to take the letter of the law, and allow circumstances to blur the edges of it without wiping it away. Certainly, traditions form from this ability to use the Torah to inform but not overpower the individual decision, but so long as the traditions are not held to BE Torah, they too can be adjusted as necessary.
Thank you Questor. Since coming to Messianic Judaism (which is not, in itself, clearly defined) the old wristband “What would Jesus do?” is a constant question I ask myself.
My answer is always, “He would uphold the Law and bring life.”
Some might then wonder how that could be in circumstances like the Korah portion. That’s where the wisdom of God, who see all comes in.
Removing Korah brought life to the congregation. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our individuality that,we forget we are part of a bigger community.