Category Archives: THE NATION ISRAEL

Who were the “elders?”

WHO WERE THE “ELDERS?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

The “elders” were members of the Sanhedrin, or Jewish Supreme Court (see our related study linked at the end of this article). As their name implies, they were elderly men in leadership positions. They are important characters in Matthew through John, as well as Acts, since they were among the Lord Jesus’ enemies. The elders were influential in putting Christ to death, and harassing and persecuting His Apostles and other disciples. Remember, contrary to popular belief, old age does not necessarily imply wisdom! “The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness(Proverbs 16:31).

THE ELDERS MISTREATED CHRIST (QUICK SUMMARY)

The “elders” were instrumental in arrogantly challenging, surreptitiously betraying, fraudulently trying, incorrectly accusing, mercilessly torturing, wrongly convicting, irreverently mocking, and brutally executing Jesus Christ!

  • Matthew 16:21: “From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.”
  • Mark 8:31: “And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.”
  • Luke 9:22: “Saying, The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day.”

THE ELDERS CHALLENGED CHRIST’S AUTHORITY

  • Matthew 21:23: “And when he was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching, and said, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority?”
  • Mark 11:27: “And they come again to Jerusalem: and as he was walking in the temple, there come to him the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders,….”
  • Luke 20:1: “And it came to pass, that on one of those days, as he taught the people in the temple, and preached the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes came upon him with the elders,….”

THE ELDERS PLOTTED TO KILL CHRIST

  • Matthew 26:3-5: “Then assembled together the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders of the people, unto the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, And consulted that they might take Jesus by subtilty, and kill him. But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar among the people.”

THE ELDERS ARRANGED AND PARTICIPATED IN CHRIST’S ARREST

  • Matthew 26:47: “And while he yet spake, lo, Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and elders of the people.”
  • Matthew 27:3: “Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders,….”
  • Mark 14:43: “And immediately, while he yet spake, cometh Judas, one of the twelve, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders.”
  • Luke 22:52: “Then Jesus said unto the chief priests, and captains of the temple, and the elders, which were come to him, Be ye come out, as against a thief, with swords and staves?”

THE ELDERS PRESIDED OVER CHRIST’S “TRIAL” (A SHAM, TO SAY THE LEAST!)

  • Matthew 26:3: “Then assembled together the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders of the people, unto the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas,….”
  • Matthew 26:57: “And they that had laid hold on Jesus led him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled.”
  • Matthew 26:59: “Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death;….”
  • Matthew 27:12: “And when he was accused of the chief priests and elders, he answered nothing.”
  • Mark 14:53: “And they led Jesus away to the high priest: and with him were assembled all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes.”
  • Mark 15:1: “And straightway in the morning the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council, and bound Jesus, and carried him away, and delivered him to Pilate.”

THE ELDERS PERSUADED MULTITUDE TO DEMAND CHRIST’S CRUCIFIXION

  • Matthew 27:20: “But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus.”

THE ELDERS MOCKED CHRIST AS HE HUNG ON CALVARY’S CROSS

  • Matthew 27:41: “Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said,….”

THE ELDERS BRIBED THE ROMAN SOLDIERS TO COVER UP CHRIST’S RESURRECTION

  • Matthew 28:11-15: “[11] Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch came into the city, and shewed unto the chief priests all the things that were done. [12] And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers, [13] Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept. [14] And if this come to the governor’s ears, we will persuade him, and secure you. [15] So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.”

THE ELDERS PERSECUTED THE 12 APOSTLES AND STEPHEN IN EARLY ACTS

  • Acts 4:5: “And it came to pass on the morrow, that their rulers, and elders, and scribes,….”
  • Acts 4:8: “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel,….”
  • Acts 4:23: “And being let go, they went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them.”
  • Acts 6:12: “And they stirred up the people, and the elders, and the scribes, and came upon him [Stephen], and caught him, and brought him to the council,….”

THE ELDERS SUPPORTED THE APOSTLE PAUL’S WRONGFUL CONVICTION AND DEATH (MURDER!)

  • Acts 23:14: “And they came to the chief priests and elders, and said, We have bound ourselves under a great curse, that we will eat nothing until we have slain Paul.”
  • Acts 24:1: “And after five days Ananias the high priest descended with the elders, and with a certain orator named Tertullus, who informed the governor against Paul.”
  • Acts 25:15: “About whom, when I was at Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews informed me, desiring to have judgment against him.”

Also see:
» What was the Sanhedrin?
» Who were the “chief priests?”
» Who were the “Pharisees?”
» Who were the “Sadducees?”
» Who were the “Herodians?”

Who were the “chief priests?”

WHO WERE THE “CHIEF PRIESTS?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

The “chief priests” are important characters in Matthew through John, as well as Acts, since they were among Christ’s enemies. (We will get to those verses later.) For now, let us provide some Old Testament background to identify their origin.

In chapter 24 of 1 Chronicles, King David organized Israel’s Levitical priesthood (which had begun with Moses and his brother Aaron, Israel’s first high priest, some 500 years earlier). Levitical priests were classified according to their forefathers, arranged by “courses” (ranks, orders, positions). They served the LORD God by following an annual schedule as touching ministration in the Tabernacle and, later, the Temple.

“[1] Now these are the divisions of the sons of Aaron. The sons of Aaron; Nadab, and Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. [2] But Nadab and Abihu died before their father, and had no children: therefore Eleazar and Ithamar executed the priest’s office. [3] And David distributed them, both Zadok of the sons of Eleazar, and Ahimelech of the sons of Ithamar, according to their offices in their service. [4] And there were more chief men found of the sons of Eleazar than of the sons of Ithamar, and thus were they divided. Among the sons of Eleazar there were sixteen chief men of the house of their fathers, and eight among the sons of Ithamar according to the house of their fathers. [5] Thus were they divided by lot, one sort with another; for the governors of the sanctuary, and governors of the house of God, were of the sons of Eleazar, and of the sons of Ithamar. [6] And Shemaiah the son of Nethaneel the scribe, one of the Levites, wrote them before the king, and the princes, and Zadok the priest, and Ahimelech the son of Abiathar, and before the chief of the fathers of the priests and Levites: one principal household being taken for Eleazar, and one taken for Ithamar.”

In all, there were 24 courses, lots, or ranks of priests. You can read these names in verses 7-18. Verse 19 summarizes: “These were the orderings of them in their service to come into the house of the LORD, according to their manner, under Aaron their father, as the LORD God of Israel had commanded him.” Other sons of Levi (men of the tribe of Levi) served in non-priestly roles, and they are listed in verses 20-30. Verse 31 recaps: “These likewise cast lots over against their brethren the sons of Aaron in the presence of David the king, and Zadok, and Ahimelech, and the chief of the fathers of the priests and Levites, even the principal fathers over against their younger brethren.”

Following the Jews’ Babylonian Captivity, Ezra, some 500 years after David, conducted his ministry as a priest-scribe. “Then arose Ezra, and made the chief priests, the Levites, and all Israel, to swear that they should do according to this word. And they sware” (Ezra 10:5). Israel and her religious leaders agreed to turn from their idols and worship the LORD God alone. However, their descendants were not believing. Let us skip over to Christ’s earthly ministry now, five centuries after Ezra. The “chief priests” are aware that their Hebrew Bible pinpoints Bethlehem of Judaea as Jesus’ birthplace, but they do not accompany the Gentile wise men to worship Him (Matthew 2:1-11; cf. verse 4). This is just the first of many sins the chief priests commit against the Son of God and His servants.

THE CHIEF PRIESTS MISTREATED CHRIST (QUICK SUMMARY)

Such men show us how possessing a Bible and being religious leaders are really not honorable at all unless we believe God’s Word in the heart. Despite their outward appearance, they are not people of faith. Hence, they will be instrumental in arrogantly challenging, surreptitiously betraying, fraudulently trying, incorrectly accusing, wrongly convicting, mercilessly torturing, irreverently mocking, and brutally executing the Son of God!

  • Matthew 16:21: “From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.”
  • Matthew 20:18-19: “[18] Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death, [19] And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall rise again.”
  • Mark 8:31: “And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.”
  • Mark 10:33: “Saying, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be delivered unto the chief priests, and unto the scribes; and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles:….”
  • Luke 9:22: “Saying, The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day.”

THE CHIEF PRIESTS PLOTTED TO KILL CHRIST

  • Matthew 26:3-5: “[3] Then assembled together the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders of the people, unto the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, [4] And consulted that they might take Jesus by subtilty, and kill him. [5] But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar among the people.”
  • Mark 11:18: “And the scribes and chief priests heard it, and sought how they might destroy him: for they feared him, because all the people was astonished at his doctrine.”
  • Mark 14:1-2: “[1] After two days was the feast of the passover, and of unleavened bread: and the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might take him by craft, and put him to death. [2] But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar of the people.”
  • Luke 19:47: “And he taught daily in the temple. But the chief priests and the scribes and the chief of the people sought to destroy him,….”
  • Luke 22:2: “And the chief priests and scribes sought how they might kill him; for they feared the people.”
  • John 11:47,53: “[47] Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles…. [53] Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death.”
  • Matthew 27:1-2: “[1] When the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death: [2] And when they had bound him, they led him away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor.”

THE CHIEF PRIESTS CHALLENGED CHRIST’S AUTHORITY

  • Matthew 21:15: “And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the son of David; they were sore displeased,….”
  • Matthew 21:23: “And when he was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching, and said, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority?”
  • Matthew 21:45: “And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them.”
  • Mark 11:27: “And they come again to Jerusalem: and as he was walking in the temple, there come to him the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders,….”
  • Luke 20:1: “And it came to pass, that on one of those days, as he taught the people in the temple, and preached the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes came upon him with the elders,….”

THE CHIEF PRIESTS ARRANGED AND PARTICIPATED IN CHRIST’S BETRAYAL AND ARREST

  • Luke 20:19: “And the chief priests and the scribes the same hour sought to lay hands on him; and they feared the people: for they perceived that he had spoken this parable against them.”
  • John 7:32: “The Pharisees heard that the people murmured such things concerning him; and the Pharisees and the chief priests sent officers to take him.”
  • John 7:45: “Then came the officers to the chief priests and Pharisees; and they said unto them, Why have ye not brought him?”
  • John 11:57: “Now both the chief priests and the Pharisees had given a commandment, that, if any man knew where he were, he should shew it, that they might take him.”
  • Matthew 26:14-16: “[14] Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests, [15] And said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver. [16] And from that time he sought opportunity to betray him.”
  • Mark 14:10: “And Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went unto the chief priests, to betray him unto them.”
  • Luke 22:4: “And he went his way, and communed with the chief priests and captains, how he might betray him unto them.”
  • Matthew 26:47: “And while he yet spake, lo, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and elders of the people.”
  • Mark 14:43: “And immediately, while he yet spake, cometh Judas, one of the twelve, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders.”
  • Luke 22:52: “Then Jesus said unto the chief priests, and captains of the temple, and the elders, which were come to him, Be ye come out, as against a thief, with swords and staves?”
  • John 18:3: “Judas then, having received a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, cometh thither with lanterns and torches and weapons.”

THE CHIEF PRIESTS PRESIDED OVER CHRIST’S “TRIAL” (A SHAM, TO SAY THE LEAST!)

  • Matthew 26:59-62: “[59] Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death; [60] But found none: yea, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none. At the last came two false witnesses, [61] And said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days. [62] And the high priest arose, and said unto him, Answerest thou nothing? what is it which these witness against thee?”
  • Matthew 27:12: “And when he was accused of the chief priests and elders, he answered nothing.”
  • Mark 14:53,55-59: “[53] And they led Jesus away to the high priest: and with him were assembled all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes…. [55] And the chief priests and all the council sought for witness against Jesus to put him to death; and found none. [56] For many bare false witness against him, but their witness agreed not together. [57] And there arose certain, and bare false witness against him, saying, [58] We heard him say, I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands. [59] But neither so did their witness agree together.”
  • Mark 15:1-3: “[1] And straightway in the morning the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council, and bound Jesus, and carried him away, and delivered him to Pilate. [2] And Pilate asked him, Art thou the King of the Jews? And he answering said unto him, Thou sayest it. [3] And the chief priests accused him of many things: but he answered nothing.”
  • Luke 22:66: “And as soon as it was day, the elders of the people and the chief priests and the scribes came together, and led him into their council, saying,….”
  • Luke 23:4-5: “[4] Then said Pilate to the chief priests and to the people, I find no fault in this man. [5] And they were the more fierce, saying, He stirreth up the people, teaching throughout all Jewry, beginning from Galilee to this place.”
  • Luke 23:10: “And the chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused him.”

THE CHIEF PRIESTS SOUGHT TO TAKE LAZARUS’ LIFE

  • John 12:10-11: “[10] But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death; [11] Because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus.” (Sadducees, who denied resurrection [Matthew 22:23; Mark 12:18; Acts 23:8], were influential in the Sanhedrin, especially since the high priest was both a Sadducee and the leader of the Sanhedrin [cf. Acts 5:17]. To be sure, Christ and His Apostles performing miracles of raising the dead made them most unpopular with the chief priests, Sadducees forming some 90% of the Sanhedrin!)

THE CHIEF PRIESTS WERE NOT BOTHERED WHEN JUDAS ISCARIOT CONFESSED HE BETRAYED “THE INNOCENT BLOOD”

  • Matthew 27:3-8: “[3] Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, [4] Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that. [5] And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself. [6] And the chief priests took the silver pieces, and said, It is not lawful for to put them into the treasury, because it is the price of blood. [7] And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter’s field, to bury strangers in. [8] Wherefore that field was called, The field of blood, unto this day.”

THE CHIEF PRIESTS BETRAYED CHRIST TO THE ROMAN GOVERNMENT

  • Luke 24:20: “And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him.”
  • John 18:35: “Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done?”

THE CHIEF PRIESTS PERSUADED MULTITUDE TO DEMAND CHRIST’S CRUCIFIXION

  • Matthew 27:20: “But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus.”
  • Luke 23:23: “And they were instant with loud voices, requiring that he might be crucified. And the voices of them and of the chief priests prevailed.
  • John 19:6: “When the chief priests therefore and officers saw him, they cried out, saying, Crucify him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Take ye him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him.

THE CHIEF PRIESTS REFUSED CHRIST AS THEIR KING

  • John 19:15: “But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar.”
  • John 19:21: “Then said the chief priests of the Jews to Pilate, Write not, The King of the Jews; but that he said, I am King of the Jews.”

THE CHIEF PRIESTS ENVIED CHRIST (IT WAS THEIR MOTIVATION TO MURDER HIM)

  • Mark 15:10-11: “[10] For he knew that the chief priests had delivered him for envy. [11] But the chief priests moved the people, that he should rather release Barabbas unto them.”

THE CHIEF PRIESTS MOCKED CHRIST AS HE HUNG ON CALVARY’S CROSS

  • Matthew 27:41-43: “[41] Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said, [42] He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. [43] He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God.”
  • Mark 15:31: “Likewise also the chief priests mocking said among themselves with the scribes, He saved others; himself he cannot save.”

THE CHIEF PRIESTS OPPOSED CHRIST EVEN AFTER HIS DEATH, CALLED HIM A “DECEIVER”

  • Matthew 27:62-66: “[62] Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate, [63] Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. [64] Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first. [65] Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can. [66] So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch.”

THE CHIEF PRIESTS BRIBED THE ROMAN SOLDIERS TO COVER UP CHRIST’S RESURRECTION

  • Matthew 28:11-15: “[11] Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch came into the city, and shewed unto the chief priests all the things that were done. [12] And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers, [13] Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept. [14] And if this come to the governor’s ears, we will persuade him, and secure you. [15] So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.” (Sadducees, who denied resurrection [Matthew 22:23; Mark 12:18; Acts 23:8], were influential in the Sanhedrin, especially since the high priest was both a Sadducee and the leader of the Sanhedrin [cf. Acts 5:17]. To be sure, Christ resurrecting made Him most unpopular with the chief priests!)

THE CHIEF PRIESTS PERSECUTED THE 12 APOSTLES IN EARLY ACTS

  • Acts 5:24: “Now when the high priest and the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these things, they doubted of them whereunto this would grow.”

THE CHIEF PRIESTS GAVE SAUL OF TARSUS PERMISSION TO PERSECUTE AND ARREST MESSIANIC JEWS IN EARLY ACTS

  • Acts 9:14: “And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name.”
  • Acts 9:21: “But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests?”
  • Acts 26:10: “Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them.”
  • Acts 26:12: “Whereupon as I went to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests,….”

THE CHIEF PRIESTS OPPOSED THE APOSTLE PAUL

  • Acts 22:30: “On the morrow, because he would have known the certainty wherefore he was accused of the Jews, he loosed him from his bands, and commanded the chief priests and all their council to appear, and brought Paul down, and set him before them.”
  • Acts 23:14: “And they came to the chief priests and elders, and said, We have bound ourselves under a great curse, that we will eat nothing until we have slain Paul.”
  • Acts 25:15: “About whom, when I was at Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews informed me, desiring to have judgment against him.”

Also see:
» What was the Sanhedrin?
» Who were the “elders?”
» Who were the Pharisees?
» Who were the Sadducees?
» Who were the Herodians?”

Did the 12 Apostles ever join the Church the Body of Christ?

DID THE 12 APOSTLES EVER JOIN THE CHURCH THE BODY OF CHRIST?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Brethren, the answer is a resounding NO! There was absolutely no reason for them to do so.

Unfortunately, Acts is the most misunderstood Books of the Bible. Dispensationalists—especially we Pauline dispensationalists—should be the most skillful in this regard. If anyone should be capable of shedding light on the subject, it should be we ourselves. Alas, we are often just additional contributors to the preexisting confusion. It is not God’s fault! In this our special-edition Bible Q&A article #800, we can delineate at least 10 problems that arise if we incorporate the 12 Apostles into the Body of Christ.

1. OBSCURING THE DISTINCTIONS IN SCRIPTURE

Let us begin with this. To assert the 12 Apostles joined the Body of Christ is to do nothing but blur the distinctions between it and the Little Flock. Anyone who mixes, or appears to combine, the Messianic Church (Israel’s Little Flock) with the Mystery Church (Body of Christ) should be watched with a great deal of suspicion. Whether a subtle blending (“some of the Little Flock became members of the Body of Christ”) or a full-blown grouping (“there has always been and will always be only one church in the Bible”), heresy and apostasy are nigh. Eliminating such differences is a sure way to wind up on a slippery slope, bound for the chasm of unanswerable confusion. We had better be on guard and promptly flee upon discovering the error!

2. TALLYING IS AMBIGUOUS

If we add the 12 Apostles to the Body of Christ, when do we stop taking from the Little Flock? Since the leaders of the Little Flock join the Body of Christ, why not have the entire Little Flock join the Body of Christ? What is good for the teachers is good for their disciples, right? If the most important members of the Little Flock—that is, the 12 Apostles—migrated into the Body of Christ, why did all members of the Little Flock not transfer to the Body of Christ? Or, again, maybe they all did! When is enough, enough? How do we reckon what percentage of the Little Flock moved into the Body of Christ? Will we ever answer it with certainty? It just results in more questions.

A similar argument can be made against the Apocrypha, the so-called “missing books” or “banned books” from the Bible. If the 66 Protestant Books are not enough in the canon of Scripture, how many are? Why stop at 73 or 80 like the Roman Catholics? We could add many more Books than the Roman Church if we wanted, right? Again, we are just blurring the distinctions between the Little Flock and the Body of Christ. Leave the 12 Apostles in the Little Flock, and we will avoid a lot of complications.

3. RE-JUSTIFYING THE 12 APOSTLES

The only reason someone is placed into the Church the Body of Christ is to be moved from being “in Adam” (lost, no fellowship with God, dead in trespasses and sins) to being “in Christ” (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17). Requiring the 12 Apostles to move from the Little Flock to the Body of Christ implies their “re-justification”—as in, the 12 Apostles had no right standing before God until they joined the Body of Christ. To say they were not justified until the Body of Christ began is to then claim they were lost and dead in trespasses and sins throughout Matthew through John, and even into early Acts!

We know the 12 Apostles had already believed the Gospel of the Kingdom—that Jesus was Christ, Messiah, King of Israel (Matthew 16:13-19)—and were justified before God then. They had believed John the Baptist’s message (cf. John 1:35-50). In order to join the Body of Christ, they would have to “come to Christ by faith” a second time, believing Paul’s Gospel or the Gospel of Grace (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). This would be totally unnecessary. We have no reason to believe they lacked any right standing before God after believing the Gospel of the Kingdom, for they were members of the Little Flock and heirs of the Kingdom of Heaven. Someone cannot be forgiven of their sins twice, cannot move into God’s family twice, cannot be justified twice, et cetera. It makes no sense, and it causes us to question whether or not the Little Flock was ever a valid part of God’s family.

4. IGNORING THE CIRCUMCISION/UNCIRCUMCISION DIVISION

In the Church the Body of Christ, there is neither Jew nor Gentile (Romans 3:22; 1 Corinthians 12:12-13; Galatians 5:6; Galatians 6:15; Ephesians 3:6). Of course, God’s purpose in forming the nation Israel was to make a Jewish body of believers. The only group of believers prior to the Body of Christ is the Little Flock (Israel’s believing remnant). As we noted in #3, Israel’s 12 Apostles believed the Gospel of the Kingdom during Christ’s earthly ministry.

Later, in the Book of Acts (chapter 9, specifically), the middle wall of partition—the distinction between Jew and Gentile—is broken down (see Ephesians 2:11-18). This was done in order to make Paul himself qualified to join as the first member of the Body of Christ. In Paul’s ministry, in the Church the Body of Christ, there is no difference between Jew and Gentile. All who join the Body of Christ come by faith in Paul’s Gospel, lose their Jewish or Gentile identity. God sees no racial or national distinction in the Body of Christ. Therefore, would the 12 Apostles (if they join the Body of Christ) retain or lose their Jewish standing before God? It is not only unnecessary but also impossible for them to be both saved before the middle wall of partition and then saved again after its abolishment. Again, the suggestion is rubbish. The 12 Apostles were not incorporated into the Body of Christ!

5. REPLACING ISRAEL WITH THE BODY OF CHRIST

If the 12 Apostles joined the Body of Christ, that would necessarily mean they could not remain in the nation Israel. What exactly happened to Israel then? Did it just disappear into thin air? If they were once part of Israel, but now part of the Body of Christ, we are left to wonder if the Body of Christ absorbed the Little Flock simply because the Body of Christ replaced Israel. Let us take it a step further. If the 12 Apostles were heirs of Israel’s covenants, and they joined the Body of Christ, would that not then make the Body of Christ—or, at least a portion of it—recipient of Israel’s covenants? Once we make the 12 Apostles members of the Body of Christ, it will not take too much to then convince us the whole Body of Christ replaced Israel. We wind up on more unstable theological ground.

Additionally, since Matthew 19:27-29 has the 12 Apostles inheriting material possessions and goods, will they receive these or not? “Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore? And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.”

Nothing in Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon, ever suggests the Church the Body of Christ is promised material possessions or earthly blessings. Therefore, how can the 12 Apostles be recipients of earthly blessings in the Body of Christ? That would conflict with Pauline doctrine, for the Body of Christ does not inherit earthly blessings. If the 12 Apostles do not inherit earthly blessing, then God broke His promise to them. Even in the future (Millennium), there is an incongruity. The 12 Apostles cannot be both heirs of something on Earth and not be heirs of something on Earth. It is either one or the other.

6. COMBINING GOVERNMENTAL ROLES

As we noted in #5, Scripture is clear that, in the ages to come (Millennial Kingdom), the 12 Apostles will sit on 12 thrones judging the 12 tribes of Israel. Look again at Matthew 19:27-28: “Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore? And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

Now, if the 12 Apostles are part of the Body of Christ, then that means a portion of the Body of Christ rules over Israel. But, are not Israel and the Body of Christ two equal entities, the former exalted in the Earth and the latter exalted in the Heavenly Places? Ephesians 1:8-10: “[8] Wherein he [Father God] hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; [9] Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: [10] That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:….”

Also, Colossians 1:16-20: “[16] For by him [God the Son, Jesus Christ] were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: [17] And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. [18] And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. [19] For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; [20] And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.”

Making the 12 Apostles join the Body of Christ confuses the matter. Israel really does not have supremacy in the Earth then, for the Body of Christ would be the governmental authority in Heaven and Earth. Now, we have Heaven and Earth scrambled, with part of the Body of Christ (the 12 Apostles) in Heaven… but, if the Apostles moved into the Body of Christ, they have lost their position on Earth? Who then reigns over Israel on the Earth, if not the 12 Apostles? Will Israel be governed from Heaven? We have part of the heavenly government reigning over the earthly realm… or part of the earthly government reigning over the heavenly realm? Which is it?! Do you see the unfathomable complexity and perplexity?

7. INSERTING THE APOSTLES WHERE THEY DO NOT BELONG

Nothing in Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon, indicates the 12 Apostles ever became part of the Body of Christ. None of the Books of Hebrews through Revelation—writings of Apostles James, Peter, Jude, and John—ever suggest they joined the Body of Christ. Here is the evidence.

The Apostle Peter appears by that name in Paul’s epistles five times, and “Cephas” five times. He is confined to Galatians and 1 Corinthians. See for yourself:

(PETER)

  • Galatians 1:18: “Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days.”
  • Galatians 2:7: “But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter;….”
  • Galatians 2:8: “(For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles: )….”
  • Galatians 2:11: “But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.”
  • Galatians 2:14: “But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?”

(CEPHAS)

  • 1 Corinthians 1:12: “Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.”
  • 1 Corinthians 3:22: “Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours;….”
  • 1 Corinthians 9:5: “Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?”
  • 1 Corinthians 15:5: “And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:….”
  • Galatians 2:9: “And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.”

(JOHN AND JAMES)

As for the Apostle John, he is found only once in Paul’s epistles. That is in Galatians 2:9, where the Apostle James also appears. See our last verse quoted. The Apostle James is found two other times in Paul’s writings. Like Cephas/Peter, he too is restricted to 1 Corinthians and Galatians.

  • 1 Corinthians 15:7: “After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.”
  • Galatians 2:12: “For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision.”

Now, let us examine it from another angle. Instead of looking for James, Peter, and John in Paul’s epistles; let us see if we can find Paul in their writings. As it turns out, Paul appears only once in the Circumcision or Jewish Epistles. Read 2 Peter 3:15-16: “And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.”

Second Peter was Peter’s final epistle. In it, the Holy Spirit directs Peter’s readers to consider the Divine revelation given to Paul. Peter confessed he himself did not have that insight, for the revelation of the mystery was not his ministry (it was Paul’s—cf. Colossians 1:23-29). How could Peter be a member of the Body of Christ and yet be so unable to adequately communicate truths associated with it? Evidently, Peter assumed the Body of Christ was something totally unrelated to his ministry or what God was doing in and through him. Remember, this is Peter at the end of his life. He would gain no further revelation, which is why he urges his audience to consult Paul’s epistles for more information.

We will yet take it a step further. If we search the Scriptures for the term “body of Christ,” or “the church which is his body,” we will discover one plain and simple fact. It is exclusive to Paul’s ministry and writings. Look at the references yourself, brethren. Read Romans 12:4-5; 1 Corinthians 10:17; 1 Corinthians 12:12-14,27; Ephesians 1:23; Ephesians 2:16; Ephesians 3:6; Ephesians 4:4,12,16; Ephesians 5:23,30; Colossians 1:18,24; Colossians 2:19; and Colossians 3:15.

Contrariwise, there is absolutely nothing about the Church the Body of Christ in the Books of Hebrews through Revelation. If you doubt this, take a concordance and look up the term “body” in Hebrews through Revelation. You will find not so much as one verse about the Church the Body of Christ. Peter, James, and John do not write about it. Would they have not done so, had they been part of it? Now, search for the word “church” in Hebrews through Revelation. It always appears in conjunction with the Messianic Church (Israel’s believing remnant), for the word “body” is never attached to it. “Church” in the Hebrew Epistles is strictly Israel’s Little Flock, the group of Jewish believers God calls out of the apostate nation to form His kingdom of priests. Again, take a concordance and see for yourself. Do not take anyone’s word for it—including mine!

8. IGNORING THE ACTS 15 & GALATIANS 2 BIBLE CONFERENCE

Had the 12 Apostles joined the Church the Body of Christ, the Bible conference of Galatians chapter 2 and Acts chapter 15 would not have ended in the fashion it did. Paul and Barnabas would not have parted from James, Peter, and John. We remind ourselves of Galatians 2:9 once more: “And when James, Cephas [Peter], and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.”

They would have all been part of one Body of Christ, preaching the same Gospel of the Grace of God. Yet, we can see their mutual promise to remain separate and distinct groups. Paul and Barnabas would preach and minister to the heathen (all lost people, whether Jew or Gentile); whereas James, Peter, and John would preach and minister to the circumcision (Israel’s Little Flock). Obviously, the Church the Body of Christ and Israel’s believing remnant remained apart. The leadership of the Little Flock (James, Peter, and John) would in no way join Paul and Barnabas because the leadership of the Little Flock knew the division was there. It was a joint agreement, and the rest of the Book of Acts bears that out. Paul visits synagogues (lost Jews), pagan Gentiles, and so on. There is no record in latter Acts or Paul’s epistles that James, Peter, or John ever taught Paul’s converts or evangelized synagogue worshippers. From Acts 15 / Galatians 2 onward, the lost were given over to Paul’s ministry.

9. OVERLOOKING THE LAW/GRACE DIVISION

The 12 Apostles were told to preach the Law in Matthew 5:17-18: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” Yet, the Church the Body of Christ is under Grace and not Law. Romans chapter 6, verses 14 and 15: “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.”

So, are the 12 Apostles under the Law, or under Grace? If they are under the Law, they cannot be part of the Body of Christ. The Body of Christ is under Grace. However, if the 12 Apostles are under Grace, then they are least in God’s earthly kingdom. Continue reading in Matthew chapter 5, verses 17-20: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” How could we make the leaders of God’s earthly kingdom least in that kingdom at the same time?

As an extra sidenote, many years (a decade?) after the Acts 15 / Galatians 2 Bible conference, we read chapter 21 of Acts: “[18] And the day following Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present. [19] And when he had saluted them, he declared particularly what things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry. [20] And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord, and said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law: [21] And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs.”

We will notice the Apostle James—the same one of Acts chapter 15 and Galatians chapter 2—is still associated with Jews “which believe… [who] are all zealous of the law” (verse 20). If James is under Grace and not Law, what is he doing here? Should he not be discouraging these Jews, members of the Little Flock, from being under the Law? Maybe he is following his promise in Acts and Galatians? Perhaps he is restricting his doctrine to match the group of people to whom he is ministering? Of course he is!

10. CAUSING CONFUSION ABOUT APOSTOLIC AUTHORITY

With the 12 Apostles being incorporated into the Body of Christ, what happens to their apostolic authority? Do they retain it, or lose it? If they retain it, why? They can in no way function in the Body of Christ as apostles, for the only apostles in the Body of Christ were given their offices after Christ’s ascension (Ephesians 4:8-11)! If they lose it, then that means Israel herself is without 12 Apostles now. Consequently, once the Body of Christ began in the Book of Acts (chapter 9 with Saul’s salvation), Israel’s believing remnant had no Apostles leading it. All Apostles would be in the Body of Christ now. Preposterous!

CONCLUSION

The idea that “the 12 Apostles joined the Body of Christ” breaks down into nothing but hopeless confusion. It is simply denominationally-minded Christians, or even lost people, not making the distinctions in Scripture that they should. Since they have not fully broken from religious tradition, their thinking is clouded. It is natural-man wisdom, an attempt to harmonize differences in the Bible, and it does nothing more than complicate Scripture. Such people need to grow in God’s Word rightly divided before they attempt to teach it. Dear brethren, if you make the 12 Apostles part of the Church the Body of Christ, the best of luck to you in reducing that chaos to order! (You will need it.)

Also see:
» Can you explain Peter and the 11’s ministry from Acts chapters 7 through 15?
» Can you explain Paul’s ministry during Acts?
» Why does the Book of Acts end so abruptly?
» What is Acts 9/28 Hybrid Theology?
» When did the Church the Body of Christ begin?
» Is Hebrews 13:3 a reference to the Body of Christ?
» Did the Church the Body of Christ begin in Acts 2?

“For such an high priest became us?”

“FOR SUCH AN HIGH PRIEST BECAME US?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

“For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens;…” (Hebrews 7:26). Is that proper grammar? “For such an high priest became us?”

It is not to say we became a high priest. This would be utter nonsense… even more so when we consider the adjectives in the verse in no way apply to us. It should be understood in the sense of “he is a high priest appropriate/suitable/proper for us.” The Lord Jesus Christ can meet all our needs: He is everything we are not, and He has everything we do not have but need. Therefore, He is fitting—and, in this context, it is His ministry as Israel’s High Priest. You can read Hebrews 4:14–10:39 for all the details.

Our King James translators rendered this Greek word (“prepo”) in six other verses, all carrying the same meaning:

  • Matthew 3:15: “And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh [is proper, suitable for] us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.”
  • 1 Corinthians 11:13: “Judge in yourselves: is it comely [proper, suitable] that a woman pray unto God uncovered?”
  • Ephesians 5:3: “But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh [is proper, suitable for] saints;….”
  • 1 Timothy 2:10: “But (which becometh [is proper, suitable for] women professing godliness) with good works.”
  • Titus 2:1: “But speak thou the things which become [is proper, suitable for] sound doctrine:….”
  • Hebrews 2:10: “For it became [is proper, suitable for] him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.”

Also see:
» Why was the Temple’s veil rent when Christ died?
» How was there healing in touching Jesus’ garment hem?
» Can you explain Luke 18:13, “God be merciful to me a sinner?”

Why did Christ need to heal that blind man twice?

WHY DID CHRIST NEED TO HEAL THAT BLIND MAN TWICE?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Let us first read the passage, Mark 8:22-26, and then we can expound it: “[22] And he [the Lord Jesus Christ] cometh to Bethsaida; and they bring a blind man unto him, and besought him to touch him. [23] And he took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the town; and when he had spit on his eyes, and put his hands upon him, he asked him if he saw ought. [24] And he looked up, and said, I see men as trees, walking. [25] After that he put his hands again upon his eyes, and made him look up: and he was restored, and saw every man clearly. [26] And he sent him away to his house, saying, Neither go into the town, nor tell it to any in the town.”

Doubtless, this strange miracle has puzzled many Bible readers. However, if we look at it in context, and remember to approach it dispensationally (2 Timothy 2:15), we need not stumble over it. Like the healing of the deaf and speech-inhibited man (Mark 7:31-37), this passage is unique to Mark. It is found nowhere else in Scripture. The miracle occurred in the area of “Bethsaida,” near the northernmost tip of the Sea of Galilee. People bring a blind man and ask Jesus to recover his sight. The Lord agrees to perform the miracle, but does so in secret. Firstly, He grabs the man’s hand and directs him away from Bethsaida. Secondly, after healing him, He forbids the man to enter the town or share the news therein. Why are privacy and silence so important here?

What is unexpected is the fact the miracle here in Mark chapter 8 was performed in stages. Jesus spits on his eyes and touches him, but his vision is only partially recovered. The man confesses, “I see men as trees, walking.” His eyesight is still quite poor, so Jesus places His hands on the man’s eyes a second time. “He was restored, and saw every man clearly.” Once again, we remind ourselves Jesus sends the man to his house, ordering him not to enter Bethsaida or tell anyone in the town about that miracle.

Let us deal with the issue of concealment first. Several months earlier, Jesus had pronounced judgment on Bethsaida for its obstinate refusal to believe on Him. Despite His many miracles in their midst, they remained in unbelief! See Matthew chapter 11: “[20] Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not: [21] Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. [22] But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you. [23] And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. [24] But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee.”

By the time of Mark chapter 8, the Lord has already given Bethsaida over to spiritual darkness. Consequently: (1) He does not minister in the city, (2) He insists the man be healed outside the town, (2) He directs the man not to return to the city, and (4) He orders him not to share the news of his healing with the town.

Now, we address it being a double miracle. Oddly, Jesus performed this bodily healing in phases—as opposed to His normal instant cures (Matthew 8:3; Matthew 20:34; Mark 1:31,42; Mark 2:12; Mark 10:52; Luke 4:39; Luke 5:13,25; Luke 8:44,47; Luke 13:13; Luke 18:43; John 5:9). One “faith healer” used Mark 8:22-26 against this writer to defend the gradual “healings” in religion today. However, this miracle is the exception as opposed to the norm. The God of the Bible can and did perform miracles immediately. Yet, Jesus needed to touch the blind man twice for him to see perfectly. Why?

This is not the disciples’ gradual enlightenment but rather Israel’s enlightenment being pictured. Bethsaida, recall, is spiritually blinded. She has been given over to darkness, just like Israel as a whole because the nation has constantly rejected Jesus these past two years (Matthew 13:10-17; Mark 4:10-12; Luke 8:9-10). However, at Christ’s First Coming, there is a believing remnant within the nation. This remnant has been restored to spiritual sight, and the nation partially recovered from spiritual blindness. This corresponds to the first stage of the blind man’s cure. It will not be until the second time (the second laying on of Jesus’ hands, His Second Coming) that Israel is nationally converted and given spiritual sight (cf. Romans 11:25-27). Hence, the two stages of sight given to the blind man in Mark.

Saints, please remember us in your monthly giving—these websites do cost money to run! 🙂 You can donate securely here: https://www.paypal.me/ShawnBrasseaux, or email me at arcministries@gmail.com. Do not forget about Bible Q&A booklets for sale at https://arcgraceministries.org/in-print/booklets-bible-q-a/. Thanks to all who give to and pray for us! By the way, ministry emails have really been backed up this year. I am handling them as much as humanly possible. Thanks for your patience. 🙂

Also see:
» How was there healing in touching Jesus’ garment hem?
» What about modern-day “faith healing?”
» Is there “healing in the Atonement?”
» Why did Jesus Christ heal on the Sabbath day?

Who were the “scribes?”

WHO WERE THE “SCRIBES?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

Anyone familiar with the Scriptures has heard of the characters known as the “scribes.” Exactly who were they? Why do they appear in the Bible?

SCRIPTURE SPEAKS

As their title implies, scribes were literate men—able to read and write. They were copyists of the Old Testament Scriptures in the nation Israel. Also, they were teachers of the same. Scribes were of the tribe of Levi, the priestly tribe.

“And Shemaiah the son of Nethaneel the scribe, one of the Levites, wrote them before the king, and the princes, and Zadok the priest, and Ahimelech the son of Abiathar, and before the chief of the fathers of the priests and Levites: one principal household being taken for Eleazar, and one taken for Ithamar” (1 Chronicles 24:6). “Also they were over the bearers of burdens, and were overseers of all that wrought the work in any manner of service: and of the Levites there were scribes, and officers, and porters” (2 Chronicles 34:13). Shaphan the Scribe appears in this chapter.

Living circa 500 B.C., Ezra was another Levitical priest and scribe. These verses from Ezra chapter 7 describe his job: “[6] This Ezra went up from Babylon; and he was a ready scribe in the law of Moses, which the LORD God of Israel had given: and the king granted him all his request, according to the hand of the LORD his God upon him…. [11] Now this is the copy of the letter that the king Artaxerxes gave unto Ezra the priest, the scribe, even a scribe of the words of the commandments of the LORD, and of his statutes to Israel. [12] Artaxerxes, king of kings, unto Ezra the priest, a scribe of the law of the God of heaven, perfect peace, and at such a time…. [21] And I, even I Artaxerxes the king, do make a decree to all the treasurers which are beyond the river, that whatsoever Ezra the priest, the scribe of the law of the God of heaven, shall require of you, it be done speedily,….” Ezra faithfully copied the words of God, and was influential in getting the Old Testament Scriptures to us to read even now!

Ezra also taught the Hebrew Old Testament, as we see in Nehemiah chapter 8: “[1] And all the people gathered themselves together as one man into the street that was before the water gate; and they spake unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded to Israel…. [4] And Ezra the scribe stood upon a pulpit of wood, which they had made for the purpose; and beside him stood Mattithiah, and Shema, and Anaiah, and Urijah, and Hilkiah, and Maaseiah, on his right hand; and on his left hand, Pedaiah, and Mishael, and Malchiah, and Hashum, and Hashbadana, Zechariah, and Meshullam…. [9] And Nehemiah, which is the Tirshatha, and Ezra the priest the scribe, and the Levites that taught the people, said unto all the people, This day is holy unto the LORD your God; mourn not, nor weep. For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the law…. [13] And on the second day were gathered together the chief of the fathers of all the people, the priests, and the Levites, unto Ezra the scribe, even to understand the words of the law” (cf. Nehemiah 12:26,36).

Baruch was the Prophet Jeremiah’s scribe, writing the words of the LORD as He spoke through Jeremiah. See Jeremiah chapter 36. Another scribe, Elishama, is mentioned here as well. Verse 4: “Then Jeremiah called Baruch the son of Neriah: and Baruch wrote from the mouth of Jeremiah all the words of the LORD, which he had spoken unto him, upon a roll of a book.”

Around 600 B.C., Israel really did not care to read the scribes’ work, the Hebrew Bible. “How do ye say, We are wise, and the law of the LORD is with us? Lo, certainly in vain made he it; the pen of the scribes is in vain” (Jeremiah 8:8) By the time of Christ’s arrival, even the scribes were in unbelief… some of Jesus’ greatest critics. They knew the Old Testament prophecies of Messiah, including His birthplace (Bethlehem of Judaea), but they did not visit Him when He was born (Matthew 2:4-6). Possessing the Word of God, and yet not believing it, profited them nothing (Hebrews 4:2; 1 Thessalonians 2:13).

Jesus paired the scribes with the Pharisees—self-righteous, conceited people who were not right in God’s sight (Matthew 5:20). Both scribes and Pharisees considered others to be “sinners,” but they viewed themselves as sinless (Luke 5:29-32; Luke 15:1-10).  Jesus said of scribes in Luke 11:44: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are as graves which appear not, and the men that walk over them are not aware of them.” They were hypocrites—appearing to good and righteous, but really as defiled and disgusting as corpses! “Beware of the scribes, which desire to walk in long robes, and love greetings in the markets, and the highest seats in the synagogues, and the chief rooms at feasts; Which devour widows’ houses, and for a shew make long prayers: the same shall receive greater damnation” (Luke 20:46-47).

When teaching their Jewish people the Old Testament Scriptures, the scribes relied on others’ interpretations of the Bible. However, Jesus was His own authority, never quoting rabbis, which impressed the crowds (Matthew 7:28-29). Some of the scribes manifested themselves as unbelievers in that they accused Jesus of blasphemy when He forgave a man of his sins (Matthew 9:3; Luke 5:21). Like the Pharisees, scribes were strict Sabbath observers. They watched Jesus closely to see if He would heal the man with the withered hand on the Sabbath—a violation of rabbinical tradition (Luke 6:6-11). Right here, they are “filled with madness [insanity]; and communed one with another what they might do to Jesus.” The scribes will reject Him to the point of His death (Luke 9:22).

In Luke 11:53-54, the scribes partnered with the Pharisees to try to cause Jesus to stumble in His words: “And as he said these things unto them, the scribes and the Pharisees began to urge him vehemently, and to provoke him to speak of many things: Laying wait for him, and seeking to catch something out of his mouth, that they might accuse him.” Some scribes and Pharisees even took an adulteress and brought her before Jesus for condemnation—another unsuccessful attempt to embarrass Him (John 8:1-11).

“And he taught daily in the temple. But the chief priests and the scribes and the chief of the people sought to destroy him, And they could not find what they might do: for all the people were very attentive to hear him” (Luke 19:47-48). The scribes united with the chief priests and deliberately challenged Jesus’ authority in Luke 20:1-8. “And the chief priests and the scribes the same hour sought to lay hands on him; and they feared the people: for they perceived that he had spoken this parable against them” (Luke 20:19). Also, Luke 22:2: “And the chief priests and scribes sought how they might kill him; for they feared the people.” The scribes assembled with Israel’s other religious leaders in trying and condemning Christ (Luke 22:66-71). During His Gentile trial before King Herod Antipas: “And the chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused him [Jesus]” (Luke 23:10).

The scribes gathered with Israel’s other religious leaders in opposing the Apostles in early Acts (chapter 4, verses 1-22). Scribes were some of those who were convinced to be antagonistic against Stephen, the Holy Spirit’s preacher to Israel at the time of Acts chapters 6 and 7 (cf. Acts 6:12). A portion of the scribes of the Pharisees “somewhat” came to the Apostle Paul’s defense during his trial many years later (Acts 23:9). While not clear in Scripture, some scribes (likely few) seem to have some spiritual receptivity, though we cannot ascertain to what degree. See Matthew 8:19 and Luke 20:39.

In closing, the scribes copied and taught the Old Testament Scriptures in Israel. If anyone in the nation should have been familiar with the writings of the ancient Jewish prophets, these were the men. They were the educated, literate crowd—alas, they could not care less about God’s Word or God’s Son. A good many such “scholars” today exist in Christendom. They do not believe the Bible, and, using their vast influence, they encourage others not to believe it either. Remember, the scribes possessed and copied the Scripture… but did not actually trust the Scripture. Let us learn this lesson. It is not enough for us to have the Bible: we must also read, study, and (most importantly!) believe it in the heart!

Also see:
» Who are “lawyers” in Scripture?
» Who were the “Pharisees?”
» Who were the “Sadducees?”

Who were the “Sadducees?”

WHO WERE THE “SADDUCEES?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

Anyone familiar with the Scriptures has heard of the characters known as the “Sadducees.” Exactly who were they? Why do they appear in the Bible?

HISTORIANS SPEAK

While the Pharisees numbered around 6,000, the Sadducees were an even smaller group during Christ’s earthly ministry. Sadducees were the second most influential group in Judaism (Jewish religion) in the nation Israel, but were equally corrupt. The origin of the name “Sadducee” is debated. It may be related to Zadok (Greek, “Sadok”), the priest who served under Kings David and Solomon (2 Samuel 8:17; 2 Samuel 15:24-29; 1 Kings 1:32; 1 Kings 2:35). Sadducees disappeared in A.D. 70, the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, about four decades after Christ’s earthly ministry.

Now, we can move on to God’s Word.

SCRIPTURE SPEAKS

The Sadducees—along with the Pharisees—are first found in God’s Word in Matthew 3:7. John the Baptist addresses them as “vipers,” for they resemble their spiritual father Satan (John 8:44; Revelation 12:9; Revelation 20:2). According to the Bible study principle of “the law of first mention,” this first instance of the word sets the tone of the Scriptures as touching them. They are some of the bitterest opponents of the Lord Jesus Christ and God’s will for the nation Israel, especially in the Four Gospel Records (Matthew through John) and the Acts period.

Sadducees appear by name a mere 14 times in the King James Bible. However, many Jewish priests, including the high priest, were Sadducees. Thus, Scripture may indirectly refer to them when it mentions priests, chief priests, high priests, and so on. Sadducees were aristocratic, wealthy and exclusive. Hence, they are rarely seen mixing with the common Jewish people: this explains their few verses in Scripture. In contrast, the Pharisees involved men of all social statuses, as Pharisees engaged in proselytizing.

Jesus warned His disciples of the doctrine (teaching) of the Sadducees (verses 11-12). The Sadducees were noteworthy for two positions. Firstly, they did not believe in bodily resurrection (they were “sad, you see!” hahaha). Secondly, they did not believe in angels or spirits.

  • Matthew 22:23: “The same day came to him the Sadducees, which say that there is no resurrection, and asked him,….”
  • Mark 12:18: “Then come unto him the Sadducees, which say there is no resurrection; and they asked him, saying,….”
  • Luke 20:27: “Then came to him certain of the Sadducees, which deny that there is any resurrection; and they asked him,….”
  • Acts 4:1-2: “[1] And as they spake unto the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them, [2] Being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead.”
  • Acts 23:8: “For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both.”

If you read Matthew 22:23-33, Mark 12:18-27, and Luke 20:27-38; you will see the Sadducees posing a complex and ridiculous question about resurrection so as to make Jesus look foolish. (They did not believe in resurrection, so they were not interested in learning the truth. It was nothing but a pointless argument to embarrass Christ. He answered them—and put them to silence!)

Unlike the Pharisees, the Sadducees rejected oral tradition, contending that the written Law of Moses (Scripture) alone was the source of Divine revelation. Sadducees accepted only Moses’ writings, however; Jesus skillfully used Moses to answer the “resurrection dilemma” they posed to Him. They were materialistic, far more involved in politics than religion. Yet, they agreed with the Pharisees challenging and murdering Jesus Christ, and opposing Him and His followers as much as possible. “The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven” (Matthew 16:1). They persecuted the Little Flock of believers in Acts 4:1-3 because they preached Jesus’ resurrection. Notice Acts 5:17-18: “Then the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him, (which is the sect of the Sadducees,) and were filled with indignation, And laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison.”

In closing, the Sadducees are modern rationalists, skeptics, and liberals in that they outright questioned, denied, and refuted Bible truth. They do not believe in the supernatural, only the material or physical world.

SUPPLEMENTAL: FROM WHERE DID THE SADDUCEES’ STRANGE POSITIONS COME?

How could the Sadducees not believe in resurrection, when their Old Testament clearly taught it (Exodus 3:6; Job 19:25-27; Daniel 12:2; et cetera)? How could they not believe in angels and spirits, when their Old Testament abounds with these creatures (Genesis 19:1,15; Genesis 32:1; Job 4:18; Psalm 68:17; et al.)(Leviticus 19:31; Leviticus 20:6,27; Deuteronomy 18:11; et al.)?

Remember, the Sadducees only accepted Moses’ five Books—Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Now, why did they not listen to Moses concerning resurrection, spirits, and angels? The most likely answer is they developed their anti-spirit, anti-angel, and anti-resurrection attitude during the time between Malachi and John the Baptist. For 400 years—between the writing of Malachi and the beginning of the ministry of John the Baptist—God was not speaking to Israel. The Jews had rejected His words for centuries, so now He was being quiet (Amos 8:11-12). He would send no angels or prophets to talk to them, perform no miracles in their midst, and so on. Once Malachi’s ministry terminated, Israel did not hear from God until John the Baptist four centuries later (cf. Malachi 4:5-6; Luke 1:13-17). That interim of God’s silence probably led to the surfacing of the Sadducees.

Also see:
» Who were the “Pharisees?”
» Who were the “scribes?”
» Who were the “Herodians?”

Who were the “Pharisees?”

WHO WERE THE“PHARISEES?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

Anyone familiar with the Scriptures has heard of the characters known as the “Pharisees.” Exactly who were they? Why do they appear in the Bible?

HISTORIANS SPEAK

The Pharisees numbered only about 6,000 during Christ’s earthly ministry. Although a relatively small sect of Judaism (Jewish religion), they were the most influential group in the nation Israel. The name “Pharisee” is from the Hebrew word “parash,” meaning “separated ones.” However, they preferred the title “chasidim,” or “pious ones.”

Josephus, the famed Jewish historian who lived A.D. 37–100, reports they arose in Israel during the 400-year-long intertestamental period (between the ministries of Malachi and John the Baptist), roughly 150 B.C. They were they successors of the Hasidim, religious Jews who allied with the Maccabees during the fight to be liberated from Syrian oppression (166–142 B.C.). Some sources claim the Pharisees first appeared during the reign of Jewish leader and high priest John Hyrcanus (ruled circa 135–105 B.C.).

Now, we can move on to God’s Word.

SCRIPTURE SPEAKS

The Pharisees—along with the Sadducees—are first found in God’s Word in Matthew 3:7. John the Baptist addresses them as “vipers,” for they resemble their spiritual father Satan (John 8:44; Revelation 12:9; Revelation 20:2). According to the Bible study principle of “the law of first mention,” this first instance of the word sets the tone of the Scriptures as touching them. They are some of the bitterest opponents of the Lord Jesus Christ and God’s will for the nation Israel, especially in the Four Gospel Records (Matthew through John) and the Acts period.

Pharisees appear by name nearly 100 times in the King James Bible. One particular fault of theirs is religious hypocrisy: they pretend to be God’s people and servants but are anything but. Jesus warned, “In the mean time, when there were gathered together an innumerable multitude of people, insomuch that they trode one upon another, he began to say unto his disciples first of all, Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy (Luke 12:1). “Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, Saying The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not (Matthew 23:1-3).

Saul of Tarsus, later the Apostle Paul, was a Pharisee. Alluding to his former life, he shares: “[All the Jews] Which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee” (Acts 26:5). Pharisees were strict in their observance of religious rules and regulations, to the point they underscored outward performance (“going through the motions”) instead of inward faith (believing in and relying on God’s Word).

Pharisees refused to be water baptized of John the Baptist, demonstrating their unbelief, their rejection of Jesus as Messiah: “And all the people that heard him, and the publicans, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John. But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him” (Luke 7:29-30). The Pharisees asked silly questions to challenge John the Baptist in John 1:19-25. According to Luke 5:17-21, Pharisees doubted Jesus was God: they accused Him of blasphemy because He forgave sins. Pharisees were also known for their dedication to frequent fasting and prayers (Matthew 9:14; Mark 2:18; Luke 5:53). Some would pray for as long as three hours at a time—just for the public to notice and praise them!

In modern English, the adjective “Pharisaism” is applied to a self-righteous person. This is rooted in Scripture, as the Pharisees considered others as “sinners” but they themselves as sinless (Matthew 9:10-13; Mark 2:15-17; Luke 5:29-32; Luke 7:36-43; Luke 15:1-2). It was feigned (pretend) righteousness—self-righteousness—and certainly not enough to please God (Matthew 5:20). They did not seem themselves in need of a Saviour, and they did not desire to have Jesus Christ reign over them as the rightful King of Israel. Hence, they rebelled against Him at every possible opportunity.

Jesus describes a Pharisee most graphically in Luke 18:9-14: “[9] And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: [10] Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. [11] The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. [12] I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. [13] And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. [14] I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”

The Pharisees stressed outward performance, particularly washing hands to make them ceremonially clean according to rabbinical tradition (Matthew 15:1-20; Mark 7:1-23). Ignoring their sin problem, they overlooked their need for internal cleansing. They took the Word of God—the Hebrew Bible, our Old Testament, at the time—and set it aside so they could retain their religious tradition. Their authority was not the Scriptures alone, but rather the interpretations of men (oral tradition). The Lord Jesus Christ thus warned His disciples of the dangerous doctrine (teaching) of the Pharisees (Matthew 16:6-11; Mark 8:15).

Pharisees were fanatics as touching the observance of other rabbinical traditions. For example, they complained when Jesus’ poverty-stricken, hungry disciples plucked corn (grain) to eat on the Sabbath Day. Oral tradition forbade such a practice, although the Word of God had taught them to be merciful (and not cold-hearted religious extremists)! See Matthew 12:2, Mark 2:24, and Luke 6:2. Regarding Jesus healing a man on the Sabbath, the Pharisees were outraged that He did not observe their rabbinical rule (Matthew 12:9-14; Mark 3:1-6; Luke 6:6-11). According to Jewish religious tradition, no medical aid was to be rendered on the Sabbath unless it was a life-threatening condition.

The Pharisees operated with the desire to attract the attention and praise of others. Read this excerpt from Matthew chapter 23: “[4] For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. [5] But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, [6] And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues,…. [13] But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. [14] Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. [15] Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.”

“[23] Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. [24] Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. [25] Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. [26] Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. [27] Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. [28] Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.” (Read all of Matthew chapter 23 in your own time. Also, see the companion passage, Luke chapter 11, verses 37-52.)

Matthew 9:34 shows us the Pharisees were bitter enemies of Jesus, falsely accusing Him with: “He casteth out devils through the prince of the devils.” That is, they publicly labeled Christ as a partner of Satan! It is no mystery why they wanted Jesus out of the way. He was “competition,” and they desired the attention for themselves. “And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto him, Master, rebuke thy disciples” (Luke 19:39). Read this context. They did not like Jesus being praised because the crowds were ignoring them!

The Pharisees frequently questioned—yes, opposed—Jesus. As touching the issue of divorce, for instance, they used a captious question to make Him look foolish (Matthew 19:3-9; Mark 10:2-9). Moreover, they mentioned numerous other topics, hoping to trip Him up in His words so He would discredit Himself (Luke 11:53-54). In Matthew 22:34-40, a Mosaic Law “scholar” of the Pharisees asks Jesus a trick question as concerning what is the great commandment. Pharisees constantly sought signs (miraculous demonstrations), outright ignoring the numerous others Jesus had already performed (Matthew 12:38; Matthew 16:1; Mark 8:11)! They were also materialistic, ridiculing Jesus after He spoke out against their greediness: “And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him” (Luke 16:14).

While the Pharisees and Sadducees were diametrically opposed in doctrine (see our companion “Sadducees” study linked at the end of this article), they united with each other in their absolute hatred for the Lord Jesus Christ. In Matthew 16:1, both sects challenge Him to perform a special kind of miracle. He refused, for they were not willing to believe anyway.

The Pharisees despised Christ so much they actually conspired to put Him to death! “Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him” (Matthew 12:14). “And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him” (Mark 3:6). As we can see, the Pharisees also allied with the “Herodians” (a political group instead of a religious group—see our related study linked at the end of this article). Later, the Pharisees sent some of their students with the Herodians to ask Jesus a trick question regarding paying taxes to the Roman government (Matthew 22:15-22; Mark 12:13-17).

Jesus was aware the Pharisees were scheming to put Him to death, and He informed them of it in a parable—which convicted and angered them (see Matthew 21:33-46). On another occasion, the Pharisees sent officers to arrest Jesus in the Temple, but failed (John 7:32-44). Later, in chapter 8 of John, they dare Jesus by bringing an adulteress to Him for her to be condemned. Also, He has some more harsh words for them throughout the rest of the chapter! They manifest their unbelief again in verse 13: “The Pharisees therefore said unto him, Thou bearest record of thyself; thy record is not true.”

In chapter 9 of John, Pharisees persecute the blind man whom Jesus just healed. They do not believe the man was actually cured of anything, and they refuse to believe on Christ too! When the Lord Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead, the Pharisees respond by wanting to capture and kill Jesus once again (John 11:46-53,57). In chapter 12, we see more of the Pharisees’ complaints: “The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, Perceive ye how ye prevail nothing? behold, the world is gone after him.” Verses 42-43 now, and notice how they tyrannically suppress Jews in the synagogues from sharing their testimonies of faith in Jesus as Christ: “Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.”

The Pharisees assembled a mob to accompany Judas Iscariot at Christ’s arrest, as John 18:3 reveals. Even after His death, the Pharisees challenged Jesus in denying He would really rise from the dead. Joined with the chief priests, they called Him a “deceiver” (Matthew 27:62-63; cf. John 7:45-47).

As far as Scripture is concerned, some Pharisees became believers in Jesus Christ. One was named Nicodemus (John chapter 3; cf. John 7:47-50), and another was Joseph of Arimathaea (Matthew 27:57; Mark 15:43; Luke 23:51; John 19:38). As we mentioned near the beginning of this study, the Apostle Paul was a former Pharisee, trained under Gamaliel, a rabbi of the Pharisees (see Acts 26:5; Philippians 3:5; cf. Acts 5:34). However, it is unclear whether Gamaliel ever trusted Jesus Christ. Acts 15:5 speaks of some of “the sect of the Pharisees which believed.” Their names are not revealed though.

The Apostle Paul, in the late Acts period, stood on trial before Pharisees and Sadducees (Acts chapter 23). From verse 8, we learn the Pharisees believed in resurrection, angels, and spirits (the Sadducees did not). Verse 9 indicates some Pharisees were “scribes”—copyists and teachers of the Old Testament Scripture. (See our related “scribes” study linked at the end of this article.)

In closing, there are many such “Pharisees” in Christendom today. They value oral tradition, so much so that they gave it equal authority to the Scriptures—and even discard Scripture for sake of keeping their tradition. Also, they place emphasis on meticulously observing religious rules and rituals as opposed to faith in God’s Word. In these two senses, they are the modern Roman Catholics. As formalism corrupted ancient Judaism, so it perverts the Church the Body of Christ today. Incidentally, modern Orthodox Judaism is based on the doctrines and rules of the ancient Pharisees.

Also see:
» Who were the “Sadducees?”
» Who were the “scribes?”
» Who were the “Herodians?”

Why did John the Baptist behave so strangely?

WHY DID JOHN THE BAPTIST BEHAVE SO STRANGELY?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Consider these two verses regarding John the Baptist. “And the same John had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey” (Matthew 3:4). “And John was clothed with camel’s hair, and with a girdle of a skin about his loins; and he did eat locusts and wild honey;…” (Mark 1:6).

John the Baptist certainly did not conduct himself in any ordinary way, did he? Locusts (grasshoppers) and wild honey were his diet. He wore a garment made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt. The Bible also says he lived out in the wilderness, far away from people. “And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel” (Luke 1:80). Some 30 years later, he even conducted his ministry out in the wilderness. “In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea,…” (Matthew 3:1). “John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins” (Mark 1:4). “Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness” (Luke 3:2).

One cross-reference helpful in understanding John the Baptist’s manner of living and ministry is 2 Kings 1:8: “And they answered him, He was an hairy man, and girt with a girdle of leather about his loins. And he said, It is Elijah the Tishbite.” The Prophet Elijah and John the Baptist are very closely related (see Matthew 11:11-15, Matthew 17:10-13, and Mark 9:11-13). (Be sure to note “Elias” is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew “Elijah.”) Perhaps the clearest verse is Luke 1:17: “And he [John the Baptist] shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” This is actually an allusion to Malachi 4:5-6, written about four centuries before John the Baptist: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”

Elijah’s ministry was managed as apostate King Ahab and Queen Jezebel increasingly polluted the 10 tribes of the Northern Kingdom with pagan idolatry (Baal worship). Be sure to read 1 Kings chapters 16–22, with Elijah first appearing in chapter 17. Israel has heathen leaders, and the LORD God confronts them through Elijah’s preaching! If you are familiar with the Four Gospel Records—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—you will immediately see the parallel. Apostates here are in the form of chief priests, scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, lawyers, Herodians, and so on. They are actively opposed to the Lord Jesus Christ, and do everything they can to malign and discredit Him. Ultimately, it was these “religious” leaders who presided over His trial, deliberately and unapologetically lied about Him, and then demanded Roman Governor Pontius Pilate crucify Him! John the Baptist had rightly titled them “vipers” (Matthew 3:7; Luke 3:7)—snakes, deceptive souls akin to the serpent Satan!

That being said, John the Baptist is dressed in such a way as to cause the nation Israel to remember their spiritual condition in the days of Elijah. His camel’s hair garment and leather belt are reminiscent of Elijah’s clothes, are they not? The paganism (false religion) that deceived and plagued the Jews in Elijah’s time is exactly the system Satan is operating so as to oppose Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry! As for John eating locusts and wild honey, locusts are nothing but grasshoppers (and the Mosaic Law permitted their consumption in Leviticus 11:22). The honey likely made grasshoppers “tastier!”

John lived out in the wilderness not only to fulfill prophecy (see Isaiah 40:3 cf. Matthew 3:3), but also to call Israel away from the apostate religious system centered in the Jerusalem Temple. Instead of being a priest like his father Zacharias and serving in the Temple (Luke 1:5-9), John the Baptist was out in the desert places because the Temple had been corrupted and converted into the house—yea, had become the headquarters—of a vain, worthless religion that will eventually lead to the Antichrist’s satanic regime and his Whore of Babylon religion (pictured in Ahab and Jezebel)!

Also see:
» Why was the Temple’s veil rent when Christ died?
» How could John the Baptist question if Jesus really is Christ?
» Was John the Baptist really Elijah?

Why was the Temple’s veil rent when Christ died?

WHY WAS THE TEMPLE’S VEIL RENT WHEN CHRIST DIED?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Turning to Matthew chapter 27, we read these words of God: “[51] And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; [52] And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, [53] And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.” This tearing of the veil of Herod’s Temple is also recorded in Mark 15:38 and Luke 23:45.

Why was the veil of the Jerusalem Temple ripped in two? Various and sundry explanations have been offered. Some say the Mosaic Law ended here and the Dispensation of Grace began. Others further claim this tearing of the veil signifies the abolishment of the distinction between Jew and Gentile, all people now having equal access to the God of the Bible. Are these correct views? Could there be another reason? “For what saith the Scriptures?”

At Jesus’ death, the veil of the Temple was torn in two, “from the top to the bottom.” The nature of the split indicates God did it as opposed to man: man would have torn it from bottom to top, but Divine working would have caused it to tear from top to bottom. According to the Mishnah, this curtain was 60 feet (18 meters) long, 30 feet (9 meters) tall, and as thick as man’s palm. It was so heavy it took 300 men to lift it when wet! This was the partition between the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place. Behind it, once a year (Day of Atonement), the high priest would enter the Most Holy Place with animals’ blood and, on the Mercy Seat, make atonement for his sins and the sins of Israel (cf. Leviticus chapter 16). God’s presence—also known as “the Shekinah glory”—hovered above the Mercy Seat, the lid of the Ark of the Covenant (cf. Exodus 25:17-22, for example).

This veil as touching the Tabernacle was first constructed according to Exodus chapter 26: “[31] And thou shalt make a vail of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen of cunning work: with cherubims shall it be made: [32] And thou shalt hang it upon four pillars of shittim wood overlaid with gold: their hooks shall be of gold, upon the four sockets of silver. [33] And thou shalt hang up the vail under the taches, that thou mayest bring in thither within the vail the ark of the testimony: and the vail shall divide unto you between the holy place and the most holy. [34] And thou shalt put the mercy seat upon the ark of the testimony in the most holy place. [35] And thou shalt set the table without the vail, and the candlestick over against the table on the side of the tabernacle toward the south: and thou shalt put the table on the north side.” You may also see Exodus 36:35-36 and Hebrews 9:1-7. A similar arrangement was followed in King Solomon’s Temple 500 years later (2 Chronicles 3:14). Zerubbabel’s Temple was constructed 500 years after that, and King Herod the Great refurbished it a few decades before Christ’s birth.

Why was the Temple veil ripped in two in Matthew chapter 27? Firstly, let us deal with the supposition the Mosaic Law was rescinded (cancelled) when Jesus died and the veil was rent. No one who reads the Bible with an open heart could ever suggest this to be true. Either they have not actually read the verses, or they have read the verses and chosen to ignore them for sake of maintaining denominational traditions! It is absolutely, categorically wrong to say the Law ended at Calvary and the Dispensation of Grace began at Calvary. All we have to do is turn to Ephesians chapter 3, and read the first two verses: “[1] For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, [2] If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:….” If the Bible is correct—and it is!—then the Dispensation of Grace could in no wise begin until the Apostle Paul. Saul of Tarsus is a lost or unsaved man in Matthew chapter 27, and he will not be converted until a year later (Acts chapter 9).

Furthermore, the Mosaic Law was not abolished at the cross, for Christ Himself commanded His disciples to observe the Law and teach men to do the same so they could be great in the Kingdom. Matthew 5:17-19, spoken before the cross: “[17] Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. [18] For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. [19] Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. Matthew chapter 23, also spoken before the cross: “[1] Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, [2] Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: [3] All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.”

Matthew 28:18-20 now: “[18] And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. [19] Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: [20] Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” What were the “things” Jesus commanded them? Was it not the Law, as we just read? No one is told anywhere here, “You are not under the law, but under grace.” We do not find such language until the Apostle Paul (namely, Romans 6:14-15).

Even after Calvary, Temple worship is still ongoing. No one in these passages is under the impression that they are under grace and not law! “And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen” (Luke 24:53). “And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,…” (Acts 2:46). “Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour” (Acts 3:1). There is absolutely no question about it. Even though the Temple veil was rent, Law observance was encouraged and continued. Temple worship remained.

Now, let us deal with the claim the rending of the veil means there is no longer a difference between Jew and Gentile. This too is false, nothing more than a baseless assumption. The cross of Calvary did not abolish the distinction between circumcision and uncircumcision. Again, if we have eyes to see, we can clearly see the middle wall of partition is still up post-resurrection. The nation Israel is still considered separate and distinct from the nations of the world, and God’s messengers restrict His Word to the Jews even into the early Acts period. “And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem(Luke 24:47). “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth(Acts 1:8).

Read the Apostle Peter’s famous sermon on the Day of Pentecost in Acts chapter 2: “[14] But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words:…. [22] Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know:…. [36] Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made the same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.” Whom is Peter addressing? The whole world? No, the nation Israel! Again, “Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole” (Acts 4:10). “Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins (Acts 5:31).

The “no difference between Jew and Gentile” is applicable beginning with the Apostle Paul’s ministry in Acts chapter 9 onward. Someone will inquire about Peter visiting Gentile Cornelius in chapter 10. Here, we will notice this followed Paul’s salvation and the beginning of his ministry (chapter 9!). God directed Peter to Cornelius’ house so that he may defend Paul’s “all-men” message in chapter 15 many years later. Paul wrote, “Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference (Romans 3:22). “For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him” (Romans 10:12). For more information, see our Ephesians 2:18-22 article linked at the end of this study. Also, read all of Ephesians chapters 2 and 3, which speak of the difference between Jew and Gentile being removed in the Church the Body of Christ—an entity that did not exist until Paul’s salvation and ministry.

Having handled the misconceptions, we can now offer two reasons why the Temple veil was ripped apart when the Lord Jesus died.

Firstly, back in Matthew chapter 23, Christ had told Jerusalem, “The Temple is now your house!” Notice: “[37] O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! [38] Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.” No longer was the Temple His house (Matthew 21:13) or His Father’s house (John 2:16). With the veil rent, it is clear to all in the Temple that the Shekinah glory of God is absent! They have rejected Him, and they have rejected His Son (crucified Him), and now He has given them over to the error they so passionately desired. The Temple vacated, the Antichrist can enter and occupy (Matthew 24:15; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4)!

By the way, at the time of Christ dying and the Temple veil rending, the priests would have been there offering the animal sacrifices. No doubt they knew God Himself took that veil and tore it. While not recorded in the Bible, it is said they stitched the veil back together and continued with their vain religious system!

The second reason the Temple veil was rent is found in the Book of Hebrews, information God revealed many years after Calvary. Go over to chapter 10: “[19] Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, [20] By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; [21] And having an high priest over the house of God; [22] Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. [23] Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised; ) [24] And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: [25] Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”

When the writer of Hebrews speaks of “a new and living way,” he refers to something beyond the Mosaic system. This is the transitioning from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant. In fact, read chapters 8-10, carefully noting 8:7-13, 9:1-28, and 10:1-25. As explained in Hebrews 10:19-20, the Temple veil being split was a picture or symbol of Christ’s flesh—His death—opening the way for Israel to approach God differently. Through Christ’s shed blood, the New Covenant can now be ratified. It will be instituted at His Second Coming, as seen in the following two passages (cf. Jeremiah 31:31-34).

Romans 11:25-27: “[25] For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. [26] And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: [27] For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. Acts 3:19-21: “[19] Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord. [20] And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: [21] Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.”

CONCLUSION

Why was the Temple veil rent in Matthew 27:51? Contrary to popular belief, it was not because the Dispensation of Law ended and the Dispensation of Grace began. Also, it was not because the middle wall between Jew and Gentile was abolished. These are true with respect to the Apostle Paul’s ministry, which is over a year away. The veil was torn because it was a sign of God judging Israel, His absence from the Most Holy Place now evident. No glory or presence of God is visible in Herod’s Temple because this is the way Israel has chosen it to be! Through later Divine revelation unveiled in Hebrews—information not known at the cross—we learn the veil symbolized Christ’s flesh. With the shedding of His sinless blood, the New Covenant can be confirmed and the Old Covenant can pass away.

Also see:
» Could you please clarify Ephesians 2:18-22?
» Does Hebrews 10:25 really teach we must attend church?
» Why did Jesus curse the “poor” fig tree?