The Fourth Woe (Woe to You Scribes and Pharisees)
The fourth woe was a scathing charge against their moral distinctions. An
illustration of this confusing work of these "blind guides," was to be seen in
their spiritual distinctions about the kind of oaths that are binding. They taught
that the old general form of oaths was not binding, but only the new specific
kind. Three instances of this lack of spiritual insight are cited:
"Swearing by the Temple was no real oath, but swearing by the gold in the
Temple was valid." Of course the greater included the less, as any fool or even a
blind man should know.
"An oath by the altar was nothing, while one by the gift on the altar was
binding." They were blind not to understand that the altar was greater than the
gift, and he who should swear by the altar swore not only by the altar itself but
by all on the altar as well. Likewise, the one swearing by the Temple swore by
it and the one dwelling in it; and the one swearing by the Throne of God, swore
also by the one sitting on it. The teaching of Jesus was against all use of
oaths. A man of God's word must be as good as his oath. These men were blind,
deceiving themselves, and blotting out all moral lines and distinctions.
The Pharisees - Jewish
Leaders in the New Testament.
"Pharisee" is from a Greek word (pharisaios) taken from the Heb/Aramaic
"Perisha" meaning "Separated one." In the time of Jesus the Pharisees were one of
the three chief Jewish sects, the others were the Sadducees and the Essenes. Of
the three, the Pharisees were the most separated from the ways of the foreign
influences that were invading Judaism, and from the ways of the common Jewish
people in the land.
"There was probably no town or village inhabited by Jews which had not its
Pharisees, although they would, of course, gather in preference about Jerusalem
with its Temple, and what, perhaps would have been even dearer to the heart of a
genuine Pharisee--its four hundred and eighty synagogues, its Sanhedrims (great
and small), and its schools of study. There could be no difficulty in
recognising such an one. Walking behind him, the chances were, he would soon halt to
say his prescribed prayers. If the fixed time for them had come, he would stop
short in the middle of the road, perhaps say one section of them, move on, again
say another part, and so on, till, whatever else might be doubted, there could
be no question of the conspicuousness of his devotions in market-place or
corners of streets. There he would stand, as taught by the traditional law, would
draw his feet well together, compose his body and clothes, and bend so low "that
every vertebra in his back would stand out separate," or, at least, till "the
skin over his heart would fall into folds" (Ber. 28 b). The workman would drop
his tools, the burden-bearer his load; if a man had already one foot in the
stirrup, he would withdraw it. The hour had come, and nothing could be suffered to
interrupt or disturb him. The very salutation of a king, it was said, must
remain unreturned; nay, the twisting of a serpent around one's heel must remain
– Alfred Edersheim
Origin and History
The sect of Pharisees is thought to have originated in the 3rd century B.C.,
in days preceding the Maccabean wars, when under Greek domination and the Greek
effort to Hellenize the Jews, there was a strong tendency among the Jews to
accept Greek culture with its pagan religious customs. The rise of the Pharisees
was a reaction and protest against this tendency among their fellow kinsmen.
Their aim was to preserve their national integrity and strict conformity to Mosaic
law. They later developed into self-righteous and hypocritical formalists.
Later they were among those who had condemned Jesus to death.
How fearfully the prophecy of destruction that Jesus had foretold was
fulfilled! In a few brief years the Roman legions of the Emperor Titus utterly
destroyed the city and its glorious Temple. Over a million Jews perished in the siege
in a few days, and a hundred thousand more were taken away in captivity.
Without its marvelous Temple, the Jewish religion was forced to take on a new
character, and after the final Jewish rebellion (132 A.D.) all hope of
rebuilding the Temple was lost, and the work of these rabbis took a different
The Mishnah, compiled by the Patriarch Judah (200 A.D.), which is the final
work of these rabbis, began a final work in the history of Jewish scholarship. It
is a monument of Pharisaic scholarship and a testimony to the final triumph of
Pharisaism, which now is compiled into the Talmud which has become synonymous
Jesus and the Pharisees
The Pharisees were the most numerous and influential of the religious sects of
Jesus’ day. The were strict legalists. They stood for the rigid observance of the
letter and forms of the Law, and also for the Traditions. There were some good
men among them, no doubt, but for the most part they were known for their
covetousness, self-righteousness and hypocrisy.
Scribes were copyists of the Scriptures and because of their minute
acquaintance with the Law they became recognized authorities. They were sometimes called
"lawyers." Scribes and Pharisees were the religious leaders of the nation.
The incredible influence of the Pharisees among the masses cannot be mistaken.
The were the most honored in Judaism at the time of Christ. When Christ won
the favor of the people.
"But the great crowd of people went on hearing Him gladly."
The Words spoken by Jesus in Matt 23 constitute the most bitter denunciation
that ever fell from His lips. The enemies of Jesus could not answer Him a word,
nor did anyone ever again dare to ask Him anything. The Pharisees were
unrepentant, hypocritical, and more determined than ever to seek His destruction. In
His final public discourse in the Temple, it was fitting that He should warn His
disciples against the hypocrisy of these corrupt and wicked men. Even while He
denounced their spiritual blindness, ritualism, and wickedness, He wept over
Jerusalem, and ended His discourse with a lamentation, addressed to the beloved
but doomed city which had sinned away its day of opportunity.
The Paradox of the Pharisees
Jesus and the Pharisees
The Paradox of the Pharisees