THE DEPUTATION FROM JERUSALEM
THE THREE SECTS OF THE PHARISEES, SADDUCEES, AND ESSENES
EXAMINATION OF THEIR DISTINCTIVE DOCTRINES. 1
1This chapter contains, among other matter, a detailed and critical examination of the great Jewish Sects, such as was necessary in a work on ‘The Times.’ as well as ‘The Life,’ of Christ.
APART from the repulsively carnal form which it had taken, there is something absolutely sublime in the continuance and intensity of the Jewish expectation of the Messiah. It outlived not only the delay of long centuries, but the persecutions and scattering of the people; it continued under the disappointment of the Maccabees, the rule of a Herod, the administration of a corrupt and contemptible Priesthood, and, finally, the government of Rome as represented by a Pilate; nay, it grew in intensity almost in proportion as it seemed unlikely of realisation. These are facts which show that the doctrine of the Kingdom, as the sum and substance of Old Testament teaching, was the very heart of Jewish religious life; while, at the same time, they evidence a moral elevation which placed abstract religious conviction far beyond the reach of passing events, and clung to it with a tenacity which nothing could loosen.
Tidings of what these many months had occurred by the banks of the Jordan must have early reached Jerusalem, and ultimately stirred to the depths its religious society, whatever its preoccupation with ritual questions or political matters. For it was not an ordinary movement, nor in connection with any of the existing parties, religious or political. An extraordinary preacher, of extraordinary appearance and habits, not aiming, like others, after renewed zeal in legal observances, or increased Levitical purity, but preaching repentance and moral renovation in preparation for the coming Kingdom, and sealing this novel doctrine with an equally novel rite, had drawn from town and country multitudes of all classes – inquirers, penitents and novices. The great and burning question seemed, what the real character and meaning of it was? or rather, whence did it issue, and whither did it tend? The religious leaders of the people proposed to answer this by instituting an inquiry through a trust-worthy deputation. In the account of this by St. John certain points seem clearly implied; 2 on others only suggestions can be ventured.
That the interview referred to occurred after the Baptism of Jesus, appears from the whole context. 3 Similarly, the statement that the deputation which came to John was ‘sent from Jerusalem’ by ‘the Jews,’ implies that it proceeded from authority, even if it did not bear more than a semi-official character. For, although the expression ‘Jews’ in the fourth Gospel generally conveys the idea of contrast to the disciples of Christ (for ex. St. John vii. 15), yet it refers to the people in their corporate capacity, that is, as represented by their constituted religious authorities. 4 On the other hand, although the term ‘scribes and elders’ does not occur in the Gospel of St. John, 5 it by no means follows that ‘the Priests and Levites’ sent from the capital either represented the two great divisions of the Sanhedrin, or, indeed, that the deputation issued from the Great Sanhedrin itself. The former suggestion is entirely ungrounded; the latter at least problematic. It seems a legitimate inference that, considering their own tendencies, and the political dangers connected with such a step, the Sanhedrin of Jerusalem would not have come to the formal resolution of sending a regular deputation on such an inquiry. Moreover, a measure like this would have been entirely outside their recognised mode of procedure. The Sanhedrin did not, and could not, originate charges. It only investigated those brought before it. It is quite true that judgment upon false prophets and religious seducers lay with it; 6 but the Baptist had not as yet said or done anything to lay him open to such an accusation. He had in no way infringed the Law by word or deed, nor had he even claimed to be a prophet. 7 If, nevertheless, it seems most probable that ‘the Priests and Levites’ came from the Sanhedrin, we are led to the conclusion that theirs was an informal mission, rather privately arranged than publicly determined upon.
And with this the character of the deputies agrees. ‘Priests and Levites’ – the colleagues of John the Priest – would be selected for such an errand, rather than leading Rabbinic authorities. The presence of the latter would, indeed, have given to the movement an importance, if not a sanction, which the Sanhedrin could not have wished. The only other authority in Jerusalem from which such a deputation could have issued was the so-called ‘Council of the Temple,’ ‘Judicature of the Priests,’ or ‘Elders of the Priesthood,’ 8 which consisted of the fourteen chief officers of the Temple. But although they may afterwards have taken their full part in the condemnation of Jesus, ordinarily their duty was only connected with the services of the Sanctuary, and not with criminal questions or doctrinal investigations. 9 It would be too much to suppose, that they would take the initiative in such a matter on the ground that the Baptist was a member of the Priesthood. Finally, it seems quite natural that such an informal inquiry, set on foot most probably by the Sanhedrists, should have been entrusted exclusively to the Pharisaic party. It would in no way have interested the Sadducees; and what members of that party had seen of John 10 must have convinced them that his views and aims lay entirely beyond their horizon.
The origin of the two great parties of Pharisees and Sadducees has already been traced. 11 They mark, not sects, but mental directions, such as in their principles are natural and universal, and, indeed, appear in connection with all metaphysical 12 questions. They are the different modes in which the human mind views supersensuous problems, and which afterwards, when one-sidedly followed out, harden into diverging schools of thought. If Pharisees and Sadducees were not ‘sects’ in the sense of separation from the unity of the Jewish ecclesiastical community, neither were theirs ‘heresies’ in the conventional, but only in the original sense of tendency, direction, or, at most, views, differing from those commonly entertained. 13 Our sources of information here are: the New Testament, Josephus, and Rabbinic writings. The New Testament only marks, in broad outlines and popularly, the peculiarities of each party; but from the absence of bias it may safely be regarded 14 as the most trustworthy authority on the matter. The inferences which we derive from the statements of Josephus, 15 though always to be qualified by our general estimate of his animus, 16 accord with those from the New Testament. In regard to Rabbinic writings, we have to bear in mind the admittedly unhistorical character of most of their notices, the strong party-bias which coloured almost all their statements regarding opponents, and their constant tendency to trace later views and practices to earlier times.
Without entering on the principles and supposed practices of ‘the fraternity’ or ‘association’ (Chebher, Chabhurah, Chabhurta) of Pharisees, which was comparatively small, numbering only about 6,000 members, 17 the following particulars may be of interest. The object of the association was twofold: to observe in the strictest manner, and according to traditional law, all the ordinances concerning Levitical purity, and to be extremely punctilious in all connected with religious dues (tithes and all other dues). A person might undertake only the second, without the first of these obligations. In that case he was simply a Neeman, an ‘accredited one’ with whom one might enter freely into commerce, as he was supposed to have paid all dues. But a person could not undertake the vow of Levitical purity without also taking the obligation of all religious dues. If he undertook both vows he was a Chabher, or associate. Here there were four degrees, marking an ascending scale of Levitical purity, or separation from all that was profane. 18 In opposition to these was the Am ha-arets, or ‘country people’ (the people which knew not, or cared not for the Law, and were regarded as ‘cursed’). But it must not be thought that every Chabher was either a learned Scribe, or that every Scribe was a Chabher. On the contrary, as a man might be a Chabher without being either a Scribe or an elder, 19 so there must have been sages, and even teachers, who did not belong to the association, since special rules are laid down for the reception of such. 20 Candidates had to be formally admitted into the ‘fraternity’ in the presence of three members. But every accredited public ‘teacher’ was, unless anything was known to the contrary, supposed to have taken upon him the obligations referred to. 21 The family of a Chabher belonged, as a matter of course, to the community; 22 but this ordinance was afterwards altered. 23 The Neeman undertook these four obligations: to tithe what he ate, what he sold, and what he bought, and not to be a guest with an Am ha-arets. 24 The full Chabher undertook not to sell to an ‘Am ha-arets’ any fluid or dry substance (nutriment or fruit), not to buy from him any such fluid, not to be a guest with him, not to entertain him as a guest in his own clothes (on account of their possible impurity) – to which one authority adds other particulars, which, however, were not recognised by the Rabbis generally as of primary importance. 25
These two great obligations of the ‘official’ Pharisee, or ‘Associate’ are pointedly referred to by Christ – both that in regard to tithing (the vow of the Neeman); 26 and that in regard to Levitical purity (the special vow of the Chabher). 27 In both cases they are associated with a want of corresponding inward reality, and with hypocrisy. These charges cannot have come upon the people by surprise, and they may account for the circumstance that so many of the learned kept aloof from the ‘Association’ as such. Indeed, the sayings of some of the Rabbis in regard to Pharisaism and the professional Pharisee are more withering than any in the New Testament. It is not necessary here to repeat the well-known description, both in the Jerusalem and the Babylon Talmud, of the seven kinds of ‘Pharisees,’ of whom six (the ‘Shechemite,’ the ‘stumbling,’ the ‘bleeding,’ the ‘mortar,’ the ‘I want to know what is incumbent on me,’ and ‘the Pharisee from fear’) mark various kinds of unreality, and only one is ‘the Pharisee from love.’ 28 Such an expression as ‘the plague of Pharisaism’ is not uncommon; and a silly pietist, a clever sinner, and a female Pharisee, are ranked among ‘the troubles of life.’ 29 ‘Shall we then explain a verse according to the opinions of the Pharisees?’ asks a Rabbi, in supreme contempt for the arrogance of the fraternity. 30 ‘It is as a tradition among the pharisees 31 to torment themselves in this world, and yet they will gain nothing by it in the next.’ The Sadducees had some reason for the taunt, that ‘the Pharisees would by-and-by subject the globe of the sun itself to their purifications,’ 32 the more so that their assertions of purity were sometimes conjoined with Epicurean maxims, betokening a very different state of mind, such as, ‘Make haste to eat and drink, for the world which we quit resembles a wedding feast;’ or this: ‘My son, if thou possess anything, enjoy thyself, for there is no pleasure in Hades, 33 and death grants no respite. But if thou sayest, What then would I leave to my sons and daughters? Who will thank thee for this appointment in Hades?’ Maxims these to which, alas! too many of their recorded stories and deeds form a painful commentary. 34
But it would be grossly unjust to identify Pharisaism, as a religious direction, with such embodiments of it or even with the official ‘fraternity.’ While it may be granted that the tendency and logical sequence of their views and practices were such, their system, as opposed to Sadduceeism, had very serious bearings: dogmatic, ritual, and legal. It is, however, erroneous to suppose, either that their system represented traditionalism itself, or that Scribes and Pharisees are convertible terms, 35 while the Sadducees represented the civil and political element. The Pharisees represented only the prevailing system of, not traditionalism itself; while the Sadducees also numbered among them many learned men. They were able to enter into controversy, often protracted and fierce, with their opponents, and they acted as members of the Sanhedrin, although they had diverging traditions of their own, and even, as it would appear, at one time a complete code of canon-law. 36 37 Moreover, the admitted fact, that when in office the Sadducees conformed to the principles and practices of the Pharisees, proves at least that they must have been acquainted with the ordinances of traditionalism. 38 Lastly, there were certain traditional ordinances on which both parties were at one. 39 Thus it seems Sadduceeism was in a sense rather a speculative than a practical system, starting from simple and well-defined principles, but wide-reaching in its possible consequences. Perhaps it may best be described as a general reaction against the extremes of Pharisaism, springing from moderate and rationalistic tendencies; intended to secure a footing within the recognised bounds of Judaism; and seeking to defend its principles by a strict literalism of interpretation and application. If so, these interpretations would be intended rather for defensive than offensive purposes, and the great aim of the party would be after rational freedom – or, it might be, free rationality. Practically, the party would, of course, tend in broad, and often grossly unorthodox, directions.
The fundamental dogmatic differences between the Pharisees and Sadducees concerned: the rule of faith and practice; the ‘after death;’ the existence of angels and spirits; and free will and pre-destination. In regard to the first of these points, it has already been stated that the Sadducees did not lay down the principle of absolute rejection of all traditions as such, but that they were opposed to traditionalism as represented and carried out by the Pharisees. When put down by sheer weight of authority, they would probably carry the controversy further, and retort on their opponents by an appeal to Scripture as against their traditions, perhaps ultimately even by an attack on traditionalism; but always as represented by the Pharisees. 40 A careful examination of the statements of Josephus on this subject will show that they convey no more than this. 41 The Pharisaic view of this aspect of the controversy appears, perhaps, most satisfactorily because indirectly, in certain sayings of the Mishnah, which attribute all national calamities to those persons, whom they adjudge to eternal perdition, who interpret Scripture ‘not as does the Halakhah,’ or established Pharisaic rule. 42 In this respect, then, the commonly received idea concerning the Pharisees and Sadducees will require to be seriously modified. As regards the practice of the Pharisees, as distinguished from that of the Sadducees, we may safely treat the statements of Josephus as the exaggerated representations of a partisan, who wishes to place his party in the best light. It is, indeed, true that the Pharisees, ‘interpreting the legal ordinances with rigour,’ 43 44 imposed on themselves the necessity of much self-denial, especially in regard to food, 45 but that their practice was under the guidance of reason, as Josephus asserts, is one of those bold mis-statements with which he has too often to be credited. His vindication of their special reverence for age and authority 46 must refer to the honours paid by the party to ‘the Elders,’ not to the old. And that there was sufficient ground for Sadducean opposition to Pharisaic traditionalism, alike in principle and in practice, will appear from the following quotation, to which we add, by way of explanation, that the wearing of phylacteries was deemed by that party of Scriptural obligation, and that the phylactery for the head was to consist (according to tradition) of four compartments. ‘Against the words of the Scribes is more punishable than against the words of Scripture. He who says, No phylacteries, so as to transgress the words of Scripture, is not guilty (free); five compartments – to add to the words of the Scribes – he is guilty.’ 47 48
The second doctrinal difference between Pharisees and Sadducees concerned the ‘after death.’ According to the New Testament, 49 the Sadducees denied the resurrection of the dead, while Josephus, going further, imputes to them denial of reward or punishment after death, 50 and even the doctrine that the soul perishes with the body. 51 The latter statement may be dismissed as among those inferences which theological controversialists are too fond of imputing to their opponents. This is fully borne out by the account of a later work, 52 to the effect, that by successive misunderstandings of the saying of Antigonus of Socho, that men were to serve God without regard to reward, his later pupils had arrived at the inference that there was no other world – which, however, might only refer to the Pharisaic ideal of ‘the world to come,’ not to the denial of the immortality of the soul – and no resurrection of the dead. We may therefore credit Josephus with merely reporting the common inference of his party. But it is otherwise in regard to their denial of the resurrection of the dead. Not only Josephus, but the New Testament and Rabbinic writings attest this. The Mishnah expressly states 53 that the formula ‘from age to age,’ or rather ‘from world to world,’ had been introduced as a protest against the opposite theory; while the Talmud, which records disputations between Gamaliel and the Sadducees
54 on the subject of the resurrection, expressly imputes the denial of this doctrine to the ‘Scribes of the Sadducees.’ In fairness it is perhaps only right to add that, in the discussion, the Sadducees seem only to have actually denied that there was proof for this doctrine in the Pentateuch, and that they ultimately professed themselves convinced by the reasoning of Gamaliel. 55 Still the concurrent testimony of the New Testament and of Josephus leaves no doubt, that in this instance their views had not been misrepresented. Whether or not their opposition to the doctrine of the Resurrection arose in the first instance from, or was prompted by, Rationalistic views, which they endeavoured to support by an appeal to the letter of the Pentateuch, as the source of traditionalism, it deserves notice that in His controversy with the Sadducees Christ appealed to the Pentateuch in proof of His teaching. 56
Connected with this was the equally Rationalistic opposition to belief in Angels and Spirits. It is only mentioned in the New Testament, 57 but seems almost to follow as a corollary. Remembering what the Jewish Angelology was, one can scarcely wonder that in controversy the Sadducees should have been led to the opposite extreme.
The last dogmatic difference between the two ‘sects’ concerned that problem which has at all times engaged religious thinkers: man’s free will and God’s pre-ordination, or rather their compatibility. Josephus – or the reviser whom he employed – indeed, uses the purely heathen expression ‘fate’ (eimarmenh) 58 to designate the Jewish idea of the pre-ordination of God. But, properly understood, the real difference between the Pharisees and Sadducees seems to have amounted to this: that the former accentuated God’s preordination, the latter man’s free will; and that, while the Pharisees admitted only a partial influence of the human element on what happened, or the co-operation of the human with the Divine, the Sadducees denied all absolute pre-ordination, and made man’s choice of evil or good, with its consequences of misery or happiness, to depend entirely on the exercise of free will and self-determination. And in this, like many opponents of ‘Predestinarianism,’ they seem to have started from the principle, that it was impossible for God ‘either to commit or to foresee [in the sense of fore-ordaining] anything evil.’ The mutual misunderstanding here was that common in all such controversies. Although 59 Josephus writes as if, according to the Pharisees, the chief part in every good action depended upon fate [pre-ordination] rather than on man’s doing, yet in another place 60 he disclaims for them the notion that the will of man was destitute of spontaneous activity, and speaks somewhat confusedly – for he is by no means a good reasoner – of ‘a mixture’ of the Divine and human elements, in which the human will, with its sequence of virtue or wickedness, is subject to the will of fate. A yet further modification of this statement occurs in another place, 61 where we are told that, according to the Pharisees, some things depended upon fate, and more on man himself. Manifestly, there is not a very wide difference between this and the fundamental principle of the Sadducees in what we may suppose its primitive form.
But something more will have to be said as illustrative of Pharisaic teaching on this subject. No one who has entered into the spirit of the Old Testament can doubt that its outcome was faith, in its twofold aspect of acknowledgment of the absolute Rule, and simple submission to the Will, of God. What distinguished this so widely from fatalism was what may be termed Jehovahism – that is, the moral element in its thoughts of God, and that He was ever presented as in paternal relationship to men. But the Pharisees carried their accentuation of the Divine to the verge of fatalism. Even the idea that God had created man with two impulses, the one to good, the other to evil; and that the latter was absolutely necessary for the continuance of this world, would in some measure trace the causation of moral evil to the Divine Being. The absolute and unalterable pre-ordination of every event, to its minutest details, is frequently insisted upon. Adam had been shown all the generations that were to spring from him. Every incident in the history of Israel had been foreordained, and the actors in it – for good or for evil – were only instruments for carrying out the Divine Will. What were ever Moses and Aaron? God would have delivered Israel out of Egypt, and given them the Law, had there been no such persons. Similarly was it in regard to Solomon, to Esther, to Nebuchadnezzar, and others. Nay, it was because man was predestined to die that the serpent came to seduce our first parents. And as regarded the history of each individual: all that concerned his mental and physical capacity, or that would betide him, was prearranged. His name, place, position, circumstances, the very name of her whom he was to wed, were proclaimed in heaven, just as the hour of his death was foreordered. There might be seven years of pestilence in the land, and yet no one died before his time. 62 Even if a man inflicted a cut on his finger, he might be sure that this also had been preordered. 63 Nay, ‘wheresoever a man was destined to die, thither would his feet carry him.’ 64 We can well understand how the Sadducees would oppose notions like these, and all such coarse expressions of fatalism. And it is significant of the exaggeration of Josephus, 65 that neither the New Testament, nor Rabbinic writings, bring the charge of the denial of God’s prevision against the Sadducees.
But there is another aspect of this question also. While the Pharisees thus held the doctrine of absolute preordination, side by side with it they were anxious to insist on man’s freedom of choice, his personal responsibility, and moral obligation. 66 Although every event depended upon God, whether a man served God or not was entirely in his own choice. As a logical sequence of this, fate had no influence as regarded Israel, since all depended on prayer, repentance, and good works. Indeed, otherwise that repentance, on which Rabbinism so largely insists, would have had no meaning. Moreover, it seems as if it had been intended to convey that, while our evil actions were entirely our own choice, if a man sought to amend his ways, he would be helped of God. 67 It was, indeed, true that God had created the evil impulse in us; but He had also given the remedy in the Law. 68 This is parabolically represented under the figure of a man seated at the parting of two ways, who warned all passers that if they chose one road it would lead them among the thorns, while on the other brief difficulties would end in a plain path (joy). 69 Or, to put it in the language of the great Akiba: 70 ‘Everything is foreseen; free determination is accorded to man; and the world is judged in goodness.’ With this simple juxtaposition of two propositions equally true, but incapable of metaphysical combination, as are most things in which the empirically cognisable and uncognisable are joined together, we are content to leave the matter.
The other differences between the Pharisees and Sadducees can be easily and briefly summed up. They concern ceremonial, ritual, and juridical questions. In regard to the first, the opposition of the Sadducees to the excessive scruples of the Pharisees on the subject of Levitical defilements led to frequent controversy. Four points in dispute are mentioned, of which, however, three read more like ironical comments than serious divergences. Thus, the Sadducees taunted their opponents with their many lustrations, including that of the Golden Candlestick in the Temple. 71 Two other similar instances are mentioned. 72 By way of guarding against the possibility of profanation, the Pharisees enacted, that the touch of any thing sacred ‘defiled’ the hands. The Sadducees, on the other hand, ridiculed the idea that the Holy Scriptures ‘defiled’ the hands, but not such a book as Homer. 73 In the same spirit, the Sadducees would ask the Pharisees how it came, that water pouring from a clean into an unclean vessel did not lose its purity and purifying power. 74 If these represent no serious controversies, on another ceremonial question there was real difference, though its existence shows how far party-spirit could lead the Pharisees. No ceremony was surrounded with greater care to prevent defilement than that of preparing the ashes of the Red Heifer. 75 What seem the original ordinances, 76 directed that, for seven days previous to the burning of the Red Heifer, the priest was to be kept in separation in the Temple, sprinkled with the ashes of all sin-offerings, and kept from the touch of his brother-priests, with even greater rigour than the High-Priest in his preparation for the Day of Atonement. The Sadducees insisted that, as ’till sundown’ was the rule in all purification, the priest must be in cleanliness till then, before burning the Red Heifer. But, apparently for the sake of opposition, and in contravention to their own principles, the Pharisees would actually ‘defile’ the priest on his way to the place of burning, and then immediately make him take a bath of purification which had been prepared, so as to show that the Sadducees were in error. 77 78 In the same spirit, the Sadducees seem to have prohibited the use of anything made from animals which were either interdicted as food, or by reason of their not having been properly slaughtered; while the Pharisees allowed it, and, in the case of Levitically clean animals which had died or been torn, even made their skin into parchment, which might be used for sacred purposes. 79
These may seem trifling distinctions, but they sufficed to kindle the passions. Even greater importance attached to differences on ritual questions, although the controversy here was purely theoretical. For, the Sadducees, when in office, always conformed to the prevailing Pharisaic practices. Thus the Sadducees would have interpreted Lev. xxiii. 11,15, 16, as meaning that the wave-sheaf (or, rather, the Omer) was to be offered on ‘the morrow after the weekly Sabbath’ – that is, on the Sunday in Easter week – which would have brought the Feast of Pentecost always on a Sunday; 80 while the Pharisees understood the term ‘Sabbath’ of the festive Paschal day. 81 82 Connected with this were disputes about the examination of the witnesses who testified to the appearance of the new moon, and whom the Pharisees accused of having been suborned by their opponents. 83
The Sadducean objection to pouring the water of libation upon the altar on the Feast of Tabernacles, led to riot and bloody reprisals on the only occasion on which it seems to have been carried into practice. 84 85 Similarly, the Sadducees objected to the beating off the willow-branches after the procession round the altar on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles, if it were a Sabbath. 86 Again, the Sadducees would have had the High-Priest, on the Day of Atonement, kindle the incense before entering the Most Holy Place; the Pharisees after he had entered the Sanctuary. 87 Lastly, the Pharisees contended that the cost of the daily Sacrifices should be discharged from the general Temple treasury, while the Sadducees would have paid it from free-will offerings. Other differences, which seem not so well established, need not here be discussed.
Among the divergences on juridical questions, reference has already been made to that in regard to marriage with the ‘betrothed,’ or else actually espoused widow of a deceased, childless brother. Josephus, indeed, charges the Sadducees with extreme severity in criminal matters; 88 but this must refer to the fact that the ingenuity or punctiliousness of the Pharisees would afford to most offenders a loophole of escape. On the other hand, such of the diverging juridical principles of the Sadducees, as are attested on trustworthy authority, 89 seem more in accordance with justice than those of the Pharisees. They concerned (besides the Levirate marriage) chiefly three points. According to the Sadducees, the punishment 90 against false witnesses was only to be executed if the innocent person, condemned on their testimony, had actually suffered punishment, while the Pharisees held that this was to be done if the sentence had been actually pronounced, although not carried out. 91 Again, according to Jewish law, only a son, but not a daughter, inherited the father’s property. From this the Pharisees argued, that if, at the time of his father’s decease, that son were dead, leaving only a daughter, this granddaughter would (as representative of the son) be the heir, while the daughter would be excluded. On the other hand, the Sadducees held that, in such a case, daughter and granddaughter should share alike. 92 Lastly, the Sadducees argued that if, according to Exodus xxi. 28,29, a man was responsible for damage done by his cattle, he was equally, if not more, responsible for damage done by his slave, while the Pharisees refused to recognise any responsibility on the latter score. 93 94
For the sake of completeness it has been necessary to enter into details, which may not posses a general interest. This, however, will be marked, that, with the exception of dogmatic differences, the controversy turned on questions of ‘canon-law.’ Josephus tells us that the Pharisees commanded the masses, 95 and especially the female world, 96 while the Sadducees attached to their ranks only a minority, and that belonging to the highest class. The leading priests in Jerusalem formed, of course, part of that highest class of society; and from the New Testament and Josephus we learn that the High-Priestly families belonged to the Sadducean party. 97 But to conclude from this, 98 either that the Sadducees represented the civil and political aspect of society, and the Pharisees the religious; or, that the Sadducees were the priest-party, 99 in opposition to the popular and democratic Pharisees, are inferences not only unsupported, but opposed to historical facts. For, not a few of the Pharisaic leaders were actually priests, 100 while the Pharisaic ordinances make more than ample recognition of the privileges and rights of the Priesthood. This would certainly not have been the case if, as some have maintained, Sadducean and priest-party had been convertible terms. Even as regards the deputation to the Baptist of ‘Priests and Levites’ from Jerusalem, we are expressly told that they ‘were of the Pharisees.’ 101
This bold hypothesis seems, indeed, to have been invented chiefly for the sake of another, still more unhistorical. The derivation of the name ‘Sadducee’ has always been in dispute. According to a Jewish legend of about the seventh century of our era, 102 the name was derived from one Tsadoq (Zadok), 103 a disciple of Antigonus of Socho, whose principle of not serving God for reward had been gradually misinterpreted into Sadduceeism. But, apart from the objection that in such case the party should rather have taken the name of Antigonites, the story itself receives no support either from Josephus or from early Jewish writings. Accordingly modern critics have adopted another hypothesis, which seems at least equally untenable. On the supposition that the Sadducees were the ‘priest-party,’ the name of the sect is derived from Zadok (Tsadoq), the High-Priest in the time of Solomon. 104 But the objections to this are insuperable. Not to speak of the linguistic difficulty of deriving Tsadduqim (Zaddukim, Sadducees) from Tsadoq (Zadok), 105 neither Josephus nor the Rabbis know anything of such a connection between Tsadoq and the Sadducees, of which, indeed, the rationale would be difficult to perceive. Besides, is it likely that a party would have gone back so many centuries for a name, which had no connection with their distinctive principles? The name of a party is, if self-chosen (which is rarely the case), derived from its founder or place of origin, or else from what it claims as distinctive principles or practices. Opponents might either pervert such a name, or else give a designation, generally opprobrious, which would express their own relation to the party, or to some of its supposed peculiarities. But on none of these principles can the origin of the name of Sadducees from Tsadoq be accounted for. Lastly, on the supposition mentioned, the Sadducees must have given the name to their party, since it cannot be imagined that the Pharisees would have connected their opponents with the honoured name of the High-Priest Tsadoq.
If it is highly improbable that the Sadducees, who, of course, professed to be the right interpreters of Scripture, would choose any party-name, thereby stamping themselves as sectaries, this derivation of their name is also contrary to historical analogy. For even the name Pharisees, ‘Perushim,’ ‘separated ones,’ was not taken by the party itself, but given to it by their opponents. 106 107 From 1Macc. ii. 42; vii. 13; 2Macc. xiv. 6, it appears that originally they had taken the sacred name of Chasidim, or ‘the pious.’ 108 This, no doubt, on the ground that they were truly those who, according to the directions of Ezra, 109 had separated themselves (become nibhdalim) ‘from the filthiness of the heathen’ (all heathen defilement) by carrying out the traditional ordinances. 110 In fact, Ezra marked the beginning of the ‘later,’ in contradistinction to the ‘earlier,’ or Scripture-Chasidim. 111 If we are correct in supposing that their opponents had called them Perushim, instead of the Scriptural designation of Nibhdalim, the inference is at hand, that, while the ‘Pharisees’ would arrogate to themselves the Scriptural name of Chasidim, or ‘the pious,’ their opponents would retort that they were satisfied to be Tsaddiqim, 112 or
‘righteous.’ Thus the name of Tsaddiqim would become that of the party opposing the Pharisees, that is, of the Sadducees. There is, indeed, an admitted linguistic difficulty in the change of the sound i into u (Tsaddiqim into Tsadduqim), but may it not have been that this was accomplished, not grammatically, but by popular witticism? Such mode of giving a ‘by-name’ to a party or government is, at least, not irrational, nor is it uncommon. 113 Some wit might have suggested: Read not Tsaddiqim, the ‘righteous,’ but Tsadduqim (from Tsadu, w@dcaf), ‘desolation,’ ‘destruction.’ Whether or not this suggestion approve itself to critics, the derivation of Sadducees from Tsaddiqim is certainly that which offers most probability. 114
This uncertainty as to the origin of the name of a party leads almost naturally to the mention of another, which, indeed, could not be omitted in any description of those times. But while the Pharisees and Sadducees were parties within the Synagogue, the Essenes (‘Essanoior ‘Essaioi> – the latter always in Philo) were, although strict Jews, yet separatists, and, alike in doctrine, worship, and practice, outside the Jewish body ecclesiastic. Their numbers amounted to only about 4,000. 115 They are not mentioned in the New Testament, and only very indirectly referred to in Rabbinic writings, perhaps without clear knowledge on the part of the Rabbis. If the conclusion concerning them, which we shall by-and-by indicate, be correct, we can scarcely wonder at this. Indeed, their entire separation from all who did not belong to their sect, the terrible oaths by which they bound themselves to secrecy about their doctrines, and which would prevent any free religious discussion, as well as the character of what is know of their views, would account for the scanty notices about them. Josephus and Philo, 116 who speak of them in the most sympathetic manner, had, no doubt, taken special pains to ascertain all that could be learned. For this Josephus seems to have enjoyed special opportunities. 117 Still, the secrecy of their doctrines renders us dependent on writers, of whom at least one (Josephus) lies open to the suspicion of colouring and exaggeration. But of one thing we may feel certain: neither John the Baptist, and his Baptism, nor the teaching of Christianity, had any connection with Essenism. It were utterly unhistorical to infer such from a few points of contact – and these only of similarity, not identity – when the differences between them are so fundamental. That an Essene would have preached repentance and the Kingdom of God to multitudes, baptized the uninitiated, and given supreme testimony to One like Jesus, are assertions only less extravagant than this, that One Who mingled with society as Jesus did, and Whose teaching, alike in that respect, and in all its tendencies, was so utterly Non-, and even Anti-Essenic, had derived any part of His doctrine from Essenism. Besides, when we remember the views of the Essenes on purification, and on Sabbath observance, and their denial of the Resurrection, we feel that, whatever points of resemblance critical ingenuity may emphasise, the teaching of Christianity was in a direction opposite from that of Essenism. 118
We posses no data for the history of the origin and development (if such there was) of Essenism. We may admit a certain connection between Pharisaism and Essenism, though it has been greatly exaggerated by modern Jewish writers. Both directions originated from a desire after ‘purity,’ though there seems a fundamental difference between them, alike in the idea of what constituted purity, and in the means for attaining it. To the Pharisee it was Levitical and legal purity, secured by the ‘hedge’ of ordinances which they drew around themselves. To the Essene it was absolute purity in separation from the ‘material,’ which in itself was defiling. The Pharisee attained in this manner the distinctive merit of a saint; the Essene obtained a higher fellowship with the Divine, ‘inward’ purity, and not only freedom from the detracting, degrading influence of matter, but command over matter and nature. As the result of this higher fellowship with the Divine, the adept possessed the power of prediction; as the result of his freedom from, and command over matter, the power of miraculous cures. That their purifications, strictest Sabbath observance, and other practices, would form points of contact with Pharisaism, follows as a matter of course; and a little reflection will show, that such observances would naturally be adopted by the Essenes, since they were within the lines of Judaism, although separatists from its body ecclesiastic. On the other hand, their fundamental tendency was quite other than that of Pharisaism, and strongly tinged with Eastern (Parsee) elements. After this the inquiry as to the precise date of its origin, and whether Essenism was an offshoot from the original (ancient) Assideans or Chasidim, seems needless. Certain it is that we find its first mention about 150 b.c., 119 and that we meet the first Essence in the reign of Aristobulus I. 120
Before stating our conclusions as to its relation to Judaism and the meaning of the name, we shall put together what information may be derived of the sect from the writings of Josephus, Philo, and Pliny. 121 Even its outward organisation and the mode of life must have made as deep, and, considering the habits and circumstances of the time, even deeper impression than does the strictest asceticism on the part of any modern monastic order, without the unnatural and repulsive characteristics of the latter. There were no vows of absolute silence, broken only by weird chaunt of prayer or ‘memento mori;’ no penances, nor self-chastisement. But the person who had entered the ‘order’ was as effectually separated from all outside as if he had lived in another world. Avoiding the large cities as the centres of immorality, 122 they chose for their settlements chiefly villages, one of their largest colonies being by the shore of the Dead Sea. 123 At the same time they had also ‘houses’ inmost, if not all the cities of Palestine, 124 notably in Jerusalem, 125 where, indeed, one of the gates was named after them. 126 In these ‘houses’ they lived in common, 127 under officials of their own. The affairs of ‘the order’ were administered by a tribunal of at least a hundred members, 128 wore a common dress, engaged in common labor, united in common prayers, partook of common meals, and devoted themselves to works of charity, for which each had liberty to draw from the common treasury at his own discretion, except in the case of relatives. 129 It scarcely needs mention that they extended fullest hospitality to strangers belonging to the order; in fact, a special official was appointed for this purpose in every city. 130 Everything was of the simplest character, and intended to purify the soul by the greatest possible avoidance, not only of what was sinful, but of what was material. Rising at dawn, no profane word was spoken till they had offered their prayers. These were addressed towards, if not to, the rising sun – probably, as they would have explained it, as the emblem of the Divine Light, but implying invocation, if not adoration, of the sun. 131 After that they were dismissed by their officers to common work. The morning meal was preceded by a lustration, or bath. Then they put on their ‘festive’ linen garments, and enter.