Rabbis like Jesus and the Scribes frequently taught the people on the Southern Steps of the Temple Mount
Who were the Jewish Leaders, the Chief Priests, Scribes, and Sanhedrin?
The Sanhedrin…as an assembly of 23-71 men appointed in every city in the Land of Israel…Moses and the Israelites were commanded by God to establish courts…given full authority over the people of Israel…judges instructed…were the religious leaders and teachers…. The Mishnah arrives at the number 23 based on an exegetical derivation…. This court dealt with only religious matters.
The Great Sanhedrin was in Jerusalem. They consisted of different rabbis and the Chief Priests of the New Testament. One of them was always supposed to be the High Priest as described in the Old Testament. But they were always appointed by Rome and they were not descendants of Aaron like the Old Testament required. In fact, the High Priests were the richest ones paying the most to the Romans to become the High Priests. And these Priests received their income from the Temple tithes. So when the Jews had their tithes taken by force even by the Temple priests’ grunt men, they were indirectly generating more wealth for Rome.
The Scribes regularly copied the scriptures. They were well-versed in doing their job, so their teachings were respected as the most educated and authoritative.
Who were the Essenes?
Briefly, the Essenes are generally assumed to be like Jewish monks who were reacting against the corruption of the priests in Jerusalem. The dominant belief today, influenced by the writings of Josephus, is they saw themselves as the true “priests.” And they were waiting for Divine judgment on the corrupt priests so they could cleanse the corruption from the Temple when God brought their expectations to pass. It has also been generally assumed that the Essenes were the sect that wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls. After studying this subject at length, I agree. At any rate, because of the Dead Sea Scrolls, we know a lot about the sect that wrote them (whoever they were). This sect also had a lot in common with what John the Baptist and Jesus both taught. As for whether this sect was the Essenes–and what the Essenes were truly like–this will be discussed in next week’s blog.
How did Jesus compare with the Pharisees and Sadducees?
There’s a common misconception that Jesus had nothing in common with the Pharisees. Jesus had much more in common with them than he had with the Sadducees. He was particularly hard on the Pharisees for two reasons. One is when we have more in common with a group or sect, we expect more from them. The 2nd reason is the Sadducees were the rich, oppressive and politically-minded leaders who wanted to think they wouldn’t be held accountable. That’s why they wouldn’t believe in life after death. The Pharisees, in contrast, held the religion of the commoner. The poor respected them, and their teachings were more likely to be received. Jesus had to spell out more frequently to more crowds in more places the fallacy of the Pharisees’ practices and teachings.
Jesus confronted the religious leaders in the harshest ways because they were leading the people astray. The Pharisees were trying to apply Old Testament principles in a New Testament context. Since they didn’t have a close walk with God themselves, they became “blind leaders of the blind.” Scribes adhered more to the letter of the law. The Sadducees found lots of loopholes, ignoring all but the first five books of the Old Testament.
What about the Hellenists?
In 3 weeks, Lord willing, I’ll publish a documentary segment on YouTube called “Sepphoris.” This was a very Roman community 4 miles from Nazareth, while Jesus was here. There’s considerable evidence that Jews lived in Sepphoris in the 1st century because Jewish mikvahs were found there (for ritual cleansing). In the above-linked segment, I give good reasons for believing that both Jesus and his relatives in Nazareth would not go there. Also, that it seems Jesus likely had little if anything to do with Hellenists. Jesus did eat with publicans and sinners, but that was to shine the light and hopefully win them back to God (more on this will follow).
To be a Jew and live in Sepphoris, they had to be Hellenists. If Jesus did talk with them, he taught when responding to, or taking a stand against, those who taught and believed various things around him.
When you get together with the unsaved, do you try to blend in or take a stand?
The above picture was free stock from the web. The middle part wasn’t restored like the steps on the left and right. This shows how they looked when archaeologists first dug them up. But archaeologists also pieced together how to restore them to their original state on the left and right sides.