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wards by St. Paul, was adopted by him from the Rabbis, and was a portion of his religious acquisition at the feet of Gamaliel..
. But there was yet another public, outside of this deferential circle which moved around the Pharisees. It was a public that probably comprised the bulk of the population, not perhaps in Jerusalem itself, but certainly in Galilee. It was a public that lay under a cloud, that was made up of the bewildered and despairing, of those who could not keep the law as expounded, and who had given it up as impossible of reconciliation with their daily associations, as well as of those who were in utter opposition.
On this public the Pharisee scowled, and from it his adherents withdrew themselves.
To it was applied the term Amme Haarazoth, the people of the land, outcasts, aliens from the commonwealth of Israel. The term by which they were known has been unsatisfactorily rendered in the English New Testament, "sinners." But, in fact, there was no word
that completely corresponded to be found in the Greek.
It would be erroneous for us to assume, as is so generally done by commentators and especially by preachers, that this term "sinners " embraced only the morally depraved, or indeed implied their moral transgression. It had no such signification: it was a term of distinction, which covered such as did not study the law and obey the Halacha.
A man might be a liar, a thief, an adulterer, even a murderer, without ceasing to be a "saint"; whereas a "sinner" might lead the most exemplary life, be a model of domestic virtues and of integrity in business. But for all this the kingdom of heaven was for the former, and from it the latter would be rigorously excluded. The study of the Thora, the tithing of the mint, anise, and cummin, the washing of pots and vessels, qualified for the kingdom, not observance of the broad principles of right and wrong.
The situation was very similar to that in the first half of the present century in England, when the "Evangelicals," holding to verbal inspiration with every fibre of their souls, and whispering their "shibboleths" to one another, arrogated to themselves exclusive right to be called "Christians," and condemned their fellow men and women, often God-fearing, humble and devout persons, as worldlings" because they would not accept their guidance, abstain from theatres and dances, and abjure fiction.
An Am Haarez, "sinner," was he who did not commit to memory every morning and evening a section of the Mishna, and this could only be done by attendance at the school, for all tradition was oral. He was one who neglected to repeat the "Hear, O Israel," &c. morning and evening; one who did not wear phylacteries, and did not observe the rules of purification after association with Gentiles.
In Galilee the inhabitants cannot have been largely affected by Rabbinism. The neighbourhood of Phoenicians, Syrians, and Arabians could not fail to enlarge their sympathies and break down exclusiveness. They could not help themselves. They were forced into association with the foreigners, and this association made strict observance practically impossible. They were in the midst of Greek colonies, and the Herodian cities of Cæsarea Philippi, Tiberias, and Sepphoris were centres of Greek culture and of paganism. It is not surprising, therefore, to find there an independence of Judaic narrowness that begat resentment or suspicion at Jerusalem.
But, indeed, throughout every portion of the Holy Land, wherever there were Jews, inevitably there must have been parties, a certain set of narrow bigots, with their wide circle of respectful adherents, and the larger mass of people who could not or would not submit. Of the latter there were such as were entirely without religious interests, such as coquetted with the heathens, or had wholly cast aside their Jewish faith and customs. Some were too immersed in business to concern themselves about matters spiritual. It is true that the Word of God had come to them so distorted and in such an unattractive form-one so little appealing to all that is deepest and most divine in man's heart-that it did not move them, and awaken a hunger and thirst after better things.
But, on the other hand, there must have been a great many whose natural common sense and whose unperverted religious instincts protested against Rabbinism and against the distortions of tradition. In a dim manner many a "sinner" must have felt that there was something wrong in the exposition of the law, and that if God were just He could not exclude him from the kingdom merely because he did not wash so many times a day, and wear a rag with lines written on it. The Jew who was brought into constant intercourse with the Greeks or Romans must have felt at times uneasy. He could not fail to realise how far nobler his national religion was than that of the Gentiles, and yet how impossible it was for him to follow it! And there was the ever-present fear lest the Pharisee in the end might be right, and he wrong.
Now, the Am Haarez was treated as an outlaw. His testimony could not be received in court; he lost every legal right; the touch of his garments rendered a saint unclean; he polluted every house into which he entered, rendered impure every vessel he touched. He was disqualified for becoming the guardian of the orphan and the widow. No Jew of the Observance was suffered to read the law before him, or to associate himself with him on a journey. It was laid down that he who gave his daughter in marriage to a "sinner" was to be esteemed as one who had flung her to wild beasts. It was questioned whether it were lawful to show a kindness to an Am Haarez. At a period of
great famine, the Rabbi Jehuda the Saint (born A.D. 135) threw open his granaries and said, “Let all enter and take who have studied the Scriptures or the Mishna, or the Talmud, Halachoth or Haggadoth, but let no Am Haarez enter." There drew near a poor man, who was a "sinner," and entreated for bread.
Jehuda asked, "Hast thou learned the Scriptures ? "
"Nor the Mishna ?"
"How then can I feed thee?" asked the Rabbi.
To which the man replied in some confusion, "Nourish me as the dog and the raven are fed by the hand of God."
Then Jehuda gave him to eat. But ever after he regretted his weakness, and said to himself, "Woe is me that I gave my bread to the sinner."
Thus the Amme Haarazoth were shut out from citizenship. They were also excluded from all hope at the Resurrection and all participation in the glories of the kingdom of heaven. Their place would be one of outer darkness and the gnashing of teeth.
That the treatment to which this unhappy class was subjected bred resentment is not to be wondered at. They had sharp words to say relative to the Pharisees, and they delighted in exposing their weakness. At the same time, it is by no means improbable that they formed a contingent of the people who rose in revolt against the Romans under false Messiahs, hoping thus to obtain a place in the kingdom denied them by the saints. And this would go some way to explain the hostility of the Pharisees towards these movements. It was by their advice that the Jews were brought to acquiesce in the rule of Herod.
The Rabbi Akiba once said, "When I was an Am Haarez I was wont to say that, if I had the chance, I would bite one of the sectaries of the law as bites an ass." "Why," exclaimed his pupils, "why not as a dog?" "Because," responded Akiba grimly, "when a dog bites he makes his teeth meet in the flesh, but an ass when it bites crunches the bones: by that you will see how great my hatred was."
The Amme Haarazoth were, in all probability, to a large extent worthy, decent citizens, obeying the moral law, but in their hearts full of trouble, unable to know where to draw a line between the command of God and the doctrine of man; and, although scouting the denunciations levelled against them by the saints, yet sore at heart at their present condition, and doubtful as to their position in the world to
When the Pharisees said, according to St. John (vii. 49), “This people, who knoweth not the law, are accursed," they expressed what had become a doctrine among them. The "sinners," those unfortu
nates who did not observe the tradition, were beyond the pale of salvation. The great trunk of Jewdom bore fruit as well as leaves: the fruit were the saints, who would be gathered into the garner; the leaves were the Amme Haarazoth, predestined to wither and be swept away by the wind.
When Christ answered the question, " And who is my chaber, my neighbour?" by showing that to every man mercy should be shown, and that the bond of brotherhood is charity, and not the trivialities of ceremonial observance, He smote at the root of the entire system reared by the lawyers, and on which the Pharisees throve. It was as grave an outrage on their feelings as it would have been to tell Mr. Chadband that poor Joe was a better Christian than himself.
Christ entered into the houses of the Amme Haarazoth, ate with them, went on journeys with them, suffered them to touch Him, called to Him disciples from among them. This was a defiance of all the principles of purification enunciated by the elders. By this association He became, in their eyes, Himself taboo; and they gathered their skirts about them, and kept out of reach, as from a moral leper.
Hitherto the "sinners" had been without a head, had not produced a leader, had been a scattered, cowed people, comprising, probably, the bulk of the population. According to Josephus, the Pharisees hardly numbered more than a small percentage. The people had been without effective means of giving expression to their discontent. Now, in Christ, this despised social bed was upheaved; it had a mouthpiece, and that one who did not ask for a corner in the kingdom for the excluded, but laid claim to the whole of it. He declared that those "sinners" who obeyed the moral law were truer sons of Abraham and better disciples of Moses than the Pharisees, who made the Word of God of none effect by their traditions.
Between the Amme Haarazoth and the Pharisees was the great belt of waverers, and it was to this public that the Pharisees postured and protested; and now Christ threatened to draw away this entire body, by teaching them that the Halacha was so much lumber, and that it impeded, instead of assisting, those who sought admission into the kingdom.
The Pharisees were well aware that a battle a outrance was declared. They would be squeezed out of existence by the Sadducees on one side, and by the rising power of the people on the other.
Such was the situation. The Pharisees recognised its gravityeither they or the Innovator must be destroyed. That was why they resolved on the death of Christ.
It is to misinterpret the condition of affairs to represent to oneself Christ as merely a preacher of great religious truths. The truths He taught were religious, indeed, but they were explosive, ready to alter the entire social condition of Jewdom, and change its political state as
well. They were subversive of the entire system of the Rabbis, the upsetting of the work of Ezra and his followers. The national party, of which the Pharisees formed the core, feared lest, in the event of His teaching prevailing, the hedge of the law should go down, every restriction elaborately reared by the Rabbis for keeping the sons of Israel apart from the natives should be cast aside, and the sacred seed disappear into the vast mass of heathenism.
They were right up to a certain point. The verities Christ taught were as surely calculated to create a revolution as was the declaration of the Rights of Man by the National Assembly in France in '89; but what they did not see, did not suspect, was that, granted that though the Jewish nationality disappeared, Jewdom, provided that it accepted the Gospel, would become a living ferment, a well-spring of perpetual revivification, in the great lump of humanity.