Teachings of Jesus — Matthew 23:16-22

The Scribes and Pharisees didn’t actually instigate rebellion against Roman rule, not least because Rome permitted them to oppress their own people. One of the best kept secrets is that when Jewish rabbis talk about “freedom of religion,” it’s a code word. It is primarily a reference to their freedom to hold their own Jewish peasants in thrall. Rabbinical Judaism has always been just about the worst tyranny any human has known. A critical element in promoting the Jewish exclusiveness has always been to keep them trapped under a very harsh rabbinical thumb. The peasants have no where else to go.

One of the ways the legalistic Scribes and Pharisees kept their advantage was circulating secret rules among themselves, but not teaching the nobodies how to navigate the system. One of those secret rules was a collection of oaths that were considered legally binding. With His rabbinical training, Jesus was aware of their scams. To a regular Jew, the rabbi might solemnly swear to do something using an oath small courts considered invalid. To each other, they would play silly games and try to catch each other off-guard by having a very long list of such oaths.

Even the Romans caught onto this game and began requiring Jews to swear an oath in the name of Jehovah. They continued to resist this through all kind of hectoring complaints to Roman officials, making it a big sore point, piously resisting taking Jehovah’s name in vain. Yet this was exactly what Jesus indirectly accused them of doing.

In translating Jesus’ condemnation of this practice, Matthew chooses a Greek word to indicate a smokescreen. They were supposed to be teaching and guiding the people, but made it a point to keep them in the dark about certain issues. What the Pharisees didn’t understand was that they were the ones who were blinded. He hinted that making an oath on the Temple non-binding, but an oath on the gold of the Temple binding, simply showed their rapacious greed in the first place. The Temple was nothing, but the gold was everything in their eyes. They were more worried about the food on the altar and what it cost when it could have filled their bellies than they were about the image of honoring God as a guest at their table.

Worse, they had to audacity to proclaim that their power and wealth was a sign of God’s favor. Yet they utterly failed to recognize God’s own Son when He came to walk among them.

About Ed Hurst

Disabled Veteran, prophet of God's Laws, Bible History teacher, wannabe writer, volunteer computer technician, cyclist, Social Science researcher
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