Beit Shammai not only did not want to go to the non-Jews, they closed the door for non-Jews to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. This was the center of contention between Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai, and more than any other topic we could study to correctly understand the Gospels and Epistles. Yeshua is either attacking the Pharisees or he is being attacked by the Pharisees, on a variety of subjects. It is only by putting these passages in their correct, historical setting are we able to understand what is going on. We will find out that he is only attacking Beit Shammai and not Beit Hillel, in fact, Beit Hillel will agree with most of what Yeshua is saying. But, you won’t know that unless you were able to take it back and develop the historical context. So, let’s go over some things again to make sure we have it, then move on and go a little deeper.
We know that the Pharisees were made up of two main “schools”, Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai. Beit Shammai and the Zealots are virtually “joined at the hip under the table” and this goes back to 20 BC. Beit Hillel and Menachem the Essene were known as “Chasidim.” This term goes back to the Maccabees, who were known as “Chasidim.” As we come out of the Maccabean period, this is where we have two major parties developing of the Pharisees, who will later develop into two “sub-parties” called Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai, in addition to the Sadducees. Through the time of Yochanon Hyrcanus, there is an actual civil war between these groups. The Essenes actually will be an off-shoot of the Pharisees. Hillel the Elder was thought to be an Essene, or “Chasid.” After the slaying of the students of Hillel by the Zealots and Beit Shammai, Menachem goes into the wilderness. He leaves his position of Av Beit Din of the Sanhedrin, and takes 80 students of his own and 80 students of Beit Hillel with him. This changes the “status quo” of the Sanhedrin. Shammai becomes Av Beit Din, with Hillel as Nasi. The Nasi of the Sanhedrin is not allowed to vote, but the Av Beit Din can. So, Beit Shammai, along with the Sadducees on the court, dominate the Sanhedrin for the next 50 years.
We have shown that Yeshua calls the Pharisees of Beit Shammai “murderer’s” and “sons of Satan” and we will find that these same statements were made about the Zealots and Beit Shammai by three different sources. The first source is the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS), which is older than the Gospels, so these terms were around before Yeshua made them. Secondly, in the Rabbinical writings like the Mishnah, Tosefta and the Talmud, you will see the same thing, and then we have Josephus. All of these will mirror the same statements and phrases Yeshua makes against Beit Shammai. The difference will be, except for the Dead Sea Scrolls, Josephus will be talking about the Zealots. The Rabbinical documents will make a division between Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel. The Dead Sea Scrolls talks about “the Wicked Priest” and the “Sons of Pharisees.” When you look into it further, you will see it is referencing Beit Shammai.
So, you can pick up the Gospels and Epistles without this back-round and say “the Pharisee’s are the bad guys” and “since the Rabbis today descend from the Pharisees, the Rabbi’s today are the bad guys.” We have statements like “by your tradition (halakah) you make null and void the word of God” and people read this and they identify keeping the Torah as the traditions of men, rather than the word of God, or the commandments and teaching of God. So, it might not be intended as such, but these Scriptures are interpreted in a very damaging way. The bottom line is, unless you have this back-round you wouldn’t know.
For many people, teachers and ministers in Christianity, there are all types of books about the fact that the hottest subject in the first century was whether Yeshua was the Messiah or not. They are wrong about this. Whether Yeshua was the Messiah or not was not the main issue. If you wanted to “push the button” of someone from Beit Shammai, talk about the inclusion of non-Jews into the Kingdom of God. Along with the Zealots, they are very anti-non-Jew. That was their “platform” just like a modern political party. What Beit Shammai and the Zealots “stood on” was the fact they wanted nothing to do with the non-Jews. If it weren’t for the aspect of the inclusion of the non-Jews into the Faith and the believers in Yeshua, it is possible, and even likely, that the various sects, or “Judaisms” by the end of the first century would have accepted Yeshua “corporately” as the Messiah. It would not have been a problem, but non-Jews were coming into the faith and Beit Shammai, the Zealots and the Sadducees were against it.
In Acts 21.40-22.22, Paul has been arrested on the false charge of bring a non-Jew into the Temple. He gives his testimony and spoke in Hebrew (21.40), but some versions say Aramaic, but it was Hebrew. The translator “knew better” than to put Hebrew there because some believed that Hebrew was replaced by Aramaic, but it wasn’t and we know that. But the translator put his belief in the text and changed what the word actually said.
Paul will identify himself with Beit Hillel in Acts 22.3. Hillel passed away in 10 AD and he was not replaced by another Nasi of the Sanhedrin. Shammai runs the Sanhedrin for 20 years without a Nasi, and the son of Hillel did not serve as Nasi. At the death of Shammai in 30 AD, Hillel’s grandson Gamaliel took over as Nasi of the Sanhedrin. However, the Sanhedrin is still under the control of Beit Shammai and the Sadducee’s. Gamaliel’s stature is beyond question, and he was understanding of the believers in Yeshua, and wasn’t so fast in condemning them (Acts 5.34-39). Paul was an officer of the Sanhedrin (22.20) and we see this in the stoning of Stephen. There is a procedure on how to do a stoning in the Mishnah, Sanhedrin 6.1-4. It is not how most picture it. So, as officer of the court he supervised the stoning of Stephen for the Sanhedrin.
Paul says in Acts 22.21, after giving his testimony about Yeshua, that the Lord sent him to the Gentiles. When he said this, that was when the people wanted to kill him (22.22). Did they want to kill him because he said Yeshua was the Messiah? Did they want to kill him because he said Yeshua talked with him? Nobody raised their voice against him until he said the Basar (Good News/Gospel) was to be taken to the Gentiles (like Menachem the Essene in 20 BC). If you want to understand the Book of Galatians, you must have this back-round. If you want to understand the writings of Paul, you must have this back-round. Basically, if you want to understand the New Testament, you must have this back-round. If you don’t, you will not only miss the “train” but the next train that comes along is going to take you to the destination of Replacement Theology. The “conductors” on this train will be false teachers, and the “cast of characters” will have different meanings and the content will change in the Gospels and Epistles.
In Part 14, we will pick up here and discuss anti-Semitism in the churches and the various types.