Imagini ale paginilor

To denote great external purity they used frequent ablutions, never entering their houses, or sitting down to their meals without carefully washing themselves. They would not so much as touch a publican, or any man who led an ill life, neither would they eat, drink, or pray with him.


They kept many fasts not instituted by the law of Moses, particularly Monday and Thursdày in every week and in the observation of the sabbath they were remarkably rigid. According to them it was unlawful to heal the sick, or to do any work of necessity or righteousness on that day. Our Saviour upbraids them for their hypocrisy, calling them whited sepulchres, having a pleasing appearance at a distance, but which on being examined are found full of corruption. It appears also that notwithstanding their boasted piety and mortification, they were ambitious and vengeful, oppressive and avaricious. They affected to rebuild the tombs of the old prophets, and to condemn their fathers who had been guilty of persecution; while they were themselves actuated by the same spirit, and opposed all who differed from them with the greatest hatred. These pretended devotees who made so much scruple about the practice of indifferent things, and had such a shew of religion and charity, were, at the same time, oppressors of the poor, and "consumers of widows' houses.'

To the traditions of the antients, they were continually making frivolous additions, thereby overburthening the law with a prodigious number of trifling ceremonies and scruples, equally useless and disgusting. They even went so far as to corrupt and pervert the commandments by false interpretations, thus as our Saviour accused them, "making the word of God of none effect through their tradition." (Mark vii, 13).

The Pharisees believed in the immortality of the soul, and acknowledged the existence of angels and spirits; they allowed a kind of metempsychosis or transmigration of the souls of good men from one body to another; thus it was that some of this sect supposed our Lord to be Elias or one of the old prophets, come among them. They also believed in a resurrection, and in these respects they differed essentially from the Sadducees, with whom they had therefore the most violent contentions. The Pharisaic sect survived the destruction of Jerusalem, and the greater part of the Jews at this present day are of this persuasion, being most rigidly attached to their traditions which they call the oral law.


THE most ancient sect among the Jews was that of the Sadducees, so named, it is said, from the founder Sadoc, who lived above two hundred years before Jesus Christ. There are some indeed who derive the name from the Hebrew word sedec, which signifies justice, and was applied to this sect on account of their rigid adherence to the letter of the law. They were principally distinguished from other Jews by denying the immortality of the soul, a future state of rewards and punishments, the existence of angels, and the doctrine of a resurrection. As they allowed no retribution in another life, the Sadducees were uncommonly severe in punishing criminals. They strictly kept the law themselves, and were as rigid in enforcing the observance of it upon others. They would not receive any of the traditions, or explications of the Pharisees, but adhered only to the text of the law, alleging that nothing more was to be believed than what was written. The Sadducees are charged with rejecting all the books of scripture except the Pentateuch; but this is evidently a mistake, for many of them were priests, and held the highest offices; which they could not well do if they had openly denied such a large portion of the scriptures.

Josephus affirms that the Sadducees did not

admit of a Providence, but imputed every thing to human choice and free will; saying that God neither did evil nor knew it, so that they seem to have differed in this respect very little from the Epicureans.


THOUGH neither a sect, nor a party, the scribes are so often mentioned in the gospels as to render some account of them necessary in this place.

SCRIBE denotes an able and skilful man, a doctor of the law, and one who is entrusted with the management of business. The scribes of the people were public writers, and professed doctors or expounders of the law. In the time of our Saviour they were mostly Pharisees, which is accounted for from the necessity there was of a body of instructors to explain to the people the numerous traditions and modifications which had been introduced by that powerful sect. All the scribes valued themselves on their profound acquaintance with the law, and on their skill in expounding it, whence they are said to have "sate in the chair of Moses, and to have usurped the key of knowledge." (Matt. xxiii, 2. Luke xi, 52),


THESE rather constituted a political party than a religious sect, and were so called from being the flatterers and followers of Herod the Great. They not only held that the dominion of the Romans over the Jews was just, but that it was lawful under such circumstances as the people then were to adopt many of the heathen customs as well religious as civil. They principally attached themselves to the Pharisees, with whom they at different times consulted how to destroy Jesus, who cautioned his disciples against the leaven of their principles. (Mark viii, 15).


THIS party or faction arose on the occasion of Augustus's appointing the people to be enrolled, which command was executed by Quirinus, and is not to be confounded with the numbering of the people at the birth of our Saviour which happened ten years before. Judas of Gaulan, in upper Galilee, opposed the enrollment and tax by Quirinus, as a mark of bondage which every Israelite ought to resist. He obtained many followers, who obtained the name of Galileans, from the place where they originated. They were

« ÎnapoiContinuă »