We are going to do a brief review before we move on with additional information that will help us with a proper foundation in the Gospels and Epistles. The Pharisee’s were made up of two main groups, Beit (house) of Hillel and Beit (house) Shammai. The Zealot Party will be associated with Beit Shammai because of their stand on the non-Jews. Members of Beit Hillel were killed just prior to a vote on the 18 Edicts of Shammai in 20 BC. These edicts were designed to limit interaction between Jews and non-Jews. These members of Hillel that were killed were either killed by the Zealots, or Zealots from Beit Shammai. The Talmud says this day was as dark as the Golden Calf incident. The Sadducee’s with Annas and Caiaphas will enter into an alliance with Beit Shammai. From 20-30 AD, Beit Shammai will have total control of the Sanhedrin. In 30 AD, Yeshua is slain and Shammai dies. Later in the year, Gamaliel, the grandson of Hillel, becomes Nasi of the Sanhedrin and will be the teacher of Paul, meaning, Paul was a Pharisee from Beit Hillel. Numerically, Gamaliel was still outnumbered in the Sanhedrin by Beit Shammai.
Now, in Christianity, it is very important to understand that it is driven by Replacement Theology. The Rabbi’s and Pharisee’s are seen as “bad guys” and there is a huge chasm. We have a distorted picture of what was really happening, so we are going to take some of the things Yeshua said, then look at some Jewish writings and you will see many similarities.
First, let’s go to Matt 23.1-5 and look at some of the things Yeshua said. First of all, Yeshua seems to recognize their authority because they are sitting in “Moses seat” (Exo 18.13). So, we know this was dominated by Beit Shammai in the Sanhedrin, so his remarks will be directed towards them specifically. But, he is also referring to their interpretation of Scripture. They read and explained the Torah and taught, and “sitting” was the posture when teaching (Exo 18.13). Beit Shammai put “burdens” on the people (v 4) and this is different than a “fence” as we have already explained. But, they are hypocrites because they don’t do them themselves. As you go through the rest of Matt 23.6-39, you will see many expressions that were very familiar to the hearers. This was not an indictment against all Jews, or rabbinic teaching or even anti-Pharisee. Remember, these comments of Yeshua were pointed towards the Pharisees from Beit Shammai, and the expressions Yeshua uses were very familiar to his hearer’s. For example, Josephus says in Antiquities of the Jews, Book 18, Chapter 1, Paragraph 1: “Yet there was one Judas, a Gaulonite (otherwise known as Judas the Galilean of Acts 5.37. He formally started the Zealot movement in 6 AD. He is related to Hezekiah Ben Gurion, who has a son named Hananiah. It was at the upper room of Hananiah that the members of Beit Hillel were killed and the 18 Edicts of Shammai were passed) of a city whose name was Gamala, who, taking with him Zadok, a Pharisee (from Beit Shammai-Talmud, Yevamot 15b; Eduyyot 2.2) became zealous to draw them to revolt, who both said that this taxation was no better than an introduction to slavery, and exhorted the nation to assert their liberty; as if they could procure them happiness and security for what they possessed, and an assured enjoyment of a still greater good, which was that of the honor and glory they would acquire for magnanimity.” Later on, the passage goes on to say that “All sorts of misfortunes also sprang from these men, and the nation was infected with this doctrine to an incredible degree; one violent war came upon us after another, and we lost our friends, who used to alleviate our pains; there were also very great robberies and murders of our principle men (Matt 23.14, 28-31). This was done in pretense indeed for the public welfare, but in reality for the hopes of gains to themselves (Matt 23.5-7, 14); whence arose sedition’s, and from them murders of men (Matt 23.29-31), which sometimes fell on their own people by the madness of these men towards one another, while their desire was that none of the adverse party might be left, and sometimes on their enemies; a famine also coming upon us, reduced us to the last degree of despair, as did also the taking and demolishing of cities; nay, the sedition at last increased so high, that the very temple of God was burnt down by their enemy’s fire” (Matt 23.37-39). were the consequences of this, that the customs of our fathers were altered (Matt 23.1-5) and such a change was made, as added a mighty weight toward bringing destruction, which these men occasioned by thus conspiring together; for Judas (the Galilean-Acts 5.37) and Zadok (from Beit Shammai) who excited a fourth philosophic sect among us, and had a great many followers therein, filled our civil government with tumults at present, and laid the foundation of our future miseries, by this system of philosophy, which we were before unacquainted with, concerning which I shall discourse a little, and this the rather, because the infection which spread thence among the younger sort, who were zealous for it, brought the public to destruction.”
Now, Josephus is saying the same things Yeshua did in Matt 23 and all the atrocities and abuses. Was Josephus anti-semitic? Was he anti-rabbinic? Was he anti-Pharisee? No, he was a Jewish Pharisee from Beit Hillel, and a Kohen (priest). You will see the same statements in the Talmud, Mishnah, Tosefta and other Jewish writings so you can ask the same three questions when you read them. So, if we have the same statements made by Yeshua being made with the other Jewish writings, and we say that these statements aren’t anti-semitic, anti-rabbinic or anti-Pharisee with the Jewish writings like the Talmud, Mishnah and the Tosefta, how can we say that about Matt 23 and other statements in the Gospels and Epistles? Something isn’t consistent in our understanding. The Talmud says the same thing Josephus does about the Zealot atrocities and murders in Sotah 47a and Gittin 56a. Another source for more information is “Hillel and Shammai” in Wikipedia. They will say there were over 300 differences between the two schools. Shammai was stricter about things than Hillel. Beit Shammai’s stance on the non-Jews was similar to the Zealots, among whom they found support. Beit Hillel was called more “gentle and conciliatory” than Beit Shammai. Beit Shammai proposed all commerce between Jew and non-Jew be prohibited. The Zealots sided with Beit Shammai. It discusses the meeting where members of Beit Hillel were murdered, meaning Beit Shammai could force all the remaining individuals to vote for the 18 Edicts. As a result of the Jewish War, the Sanhedrin was reconstructed at the city of Yavneh. They reviewed all points disputed by the House of Hillel, and won the support of the Sanhedrin. This meant that whenever there was a dispute between the opinion of Beit Shammai with Beit Hillel, the opinion of Beit Hillel was upheld and the opinion of Beit Shammai was now null and void.
There is another good source for some information on this and that is the book by Rabbi Harvey Falk called “Jesus the Pharisee.” You can also find some of the same information in the Jewish Encyclopedia. Both the Talmud and Josephus call the Zealots “murderers” and “robbers” which was what Yeshua called them. They were largely responsible for what happened before, during and after the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem. As we have already shown you, Yeshua and Josephus blamed them. Additionally, the Zealots had a direct connection to Beit Shammai.
Now, the revolt against Rome started in 66 AD. Rome had some bad emperors in the first century. Nero was one of the worst, and he is emperor in 66 AD. If you were going to mess with an emperor, you wouldn’t want to mess with him. The High Priest is a Pharisee from Beit Shammai and he reports to Caesar that the Jews are rebelling. There is a famous midrash about the destruction of the Temple. Caesar sends a korban (sacrifice) to the Temple as a peace offering to see if they offer it. The person who escorted the calf was a man named Bar Kamsa. He caused a blemish to the calf, one that the Jews would recognize but a Roman wouldn’t. The Rabbi’s considered offering it for the sake of peace because war was coming, but they realized that the people might get the wrong impression. They also considered killing Bar Kamsa so he would not be able to tell Caesar the calf was not offered. Then Rabbi Zechariah said people will think that someone who blemishes a consecrated animal is worthy of death. Then Rabbi Yochanon said that the tolerant display of Rabbi Zechariah, in refusing to have Bar Kamsa put to death, “destroyed our Temple, burned down our Sanctuary and exiled us from our land” (this story appears in the Talmud, Gittin 55b, Midrash, Lamentations Rabbah 4.3). The calf is never offered as a peace offering, and Caesar was angry, and we know what happened.
In Part 12, we will pick up here and continue to present vital information that will help us understand the Torah and will help us have a proper foundation to study the Gospels and Epistles.