The Matthew’s Gospel – Roman Occupation and Government, Pharisees, Sadducees and Herodians, The idea of The Messiah

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All Information here DOES NOT represent the personal beliefs of the Author. It is based on the Syllabus for O level and IGCSE Religious Studies subject.

The Roman Occupation and Government

  • Matthew is the first book of the New Testament.
    • Naturally, it means it is deeply connected to the Roman government
  • Written by SECOND generation Christians
    • There Christians were influenced by 2 main events
      • Destruction of Jerusalem
        • In 70 CE, first Jewish Roman war occurred where Romans captured and destroyed Jerusalem
        • The army leader was Tiberius
      • Destruction of the temple of Jerusalem
  • Naturally, such actions separated Christianity from Judaism as separate religions
    • Before this event, Christianity was considered a reform movement for Jewism
  • Thus, the events of Roman occupation naturally broke off Christianity from Judaism
    • Posing one crucial question
      • How far did Matthew represented this break up from Judaism
  • The Roman Community
    • Still had 1st Generation Christians in it
      • Still considered itself widely a part of Jewism
      • Also called the Jewish Christian community
      • As a result, some common themes in Matthew are in conflict with Jewish beliefs, while others are in alignment with the Jewish Messiah concept.
  • The writing was done for people who spoke Greek and were from Jews
    • The current area refers to the Jewish Syrian town on Antioch
      • Antioch was the largest city in Roman occupied Syria
      • Again, proving the Roman roots of the Gospel
  • Matthew has NOT explained the Jewish terminologies and customs in his Gospel
    • Which is another proof that he was writing was Roman-Jewish settlers who knew the customs before hand.
  • The idea of a Church based assembly in Matthew signifies the division of the community AWAY from Judaism which was a part of the society AFTER the roman occupation

The Pharisees, Sadducees and Herodians

  • Pharisees
    • The Second Temple of Judaism was destroyed in 70 CE
    • The Pharisees Movement begun BEFORE the destruction of the Second Temple during the Second Temple Era
    • It was a school of thought
      • A social movement
      • Area of origin: Levant
    • Once the temple was destroyed
      • The same movement became the base of Rabbinic Judaism
      • After the Babylonian Talmud was codified
        • Pharisees became the mainstream Judaism
    • There were issues between the Pharisees and Sadducees
      • Roman conquests increased these issues
      • They caused divide amongst the Jews
    • Total Pharisee before Second Temple’s Destruction
      • 6000
      • Were supported by common people
      • Why?
        • Pharisees were not as UPPER CLASS as Sadducees
    • Main difference between Pharisees and Sedducees
      • Pharisees believed in the original interpretation of Jewish texts given by Moses
      • Sedducees claimed more power of interpretation must be with the religious clergy
    • Pharisees
      • Had conflicts with both Saint John and Jesus
      • Saint Paul was considered a Pharisee as well
      • Early Christianity and Pharisee relationship
        • Individual preferences
        • It was for the Pharisee to decide if he wanted to be friendly or hostile to Christianity.
        • Sympathetic Pharisees included
          • Joseph of Arimathea
            • Who buried Jesus according to canonical Gospels
          • Nicodemus
            • Mentioned in Gospel of John
          • Gamaliel
            • One of the key figures during the era who supported the growth of Christianity.
  • Sedducees
    • Their main location: Judea
    • They, too, started before the fall of the Second Temple in 70 CE.
    • Considered upper class people
      • Remember, Pharisees were comparatively lower in social and economic class
        • This made Pharisees more popular with the common people compared to the Sedducees
    • Sedducees were
      • Political people
      • Religious Clergy
      • Of the three sects of Judaism in our syllabus
        • They were the ones responsible for maintaining the Second Temple before it was destroyed.
    • Unlike Pharisees
      • Sedducees did NOT survive the destruction of the temple.
      • The complete group ended in just a few years after the Temple’s destruction by the Romans
    • Issues with Pharisees
      • Sadducees considered split water pure after pouring, Pharisees considered it impure
      • Pharisees believed that if a man died with no sons and only daughters, the property will go to daughters.
        • Sedducees challenged this view and gave more importance to family over daughters.
        • This view is more inline with Christianity as well
      • Pharisees believed that any problem caused by the slave is the slave’s fault. The slave will pay for it
        • Sedducees considered the master to be responsible for the slave, and thus the master will pay.
        • IMPORTANT POINT: This idea is related to the Christian concept of “REMOVING SINS”
          • Christians consider that AS Jesus is the Saviour and Lord, he should pay for the sins of the slaves (followers)
      • Pharisees ask for the execution of false witnesses
        • Sedducees consider that only death penalty for the false witness if his false witness has caused an innocent person to be executed .
        • Major area of conflict with Christianity
          • If that was the case, why wasn’t the false witness in Jesus’s case later executed.
    • Differences between Sedducees and Christian Church in the start
      • Matthew considers anecdotes to show problems with Sedducees and early Christianity
      • According to Mark (sister Gospel for Matthew)
        • Sedducees did NOT believe in Christian power to resurrect people.
        • Jesus countered this issue by mentioning in the Gospel that it was GOD who let it happen, not Jesus ihimself
      • According to Matthew
        • Jesus said that Sedducees were wrong because they had no knowledge of the power of God or the scriptures of God
        • MAJOR DIFFERENCE
          • Matthew: both power of God and scripture not known by Sedducees
          • Mark
            • Only power of God not known
        • Jesus also raised questions regarding the way Sadducees were interpreting their religious literature
          • Remember, Sedducees gave the power of interpretation to the priests instead of the traditional interpretation by Moses.
        • Sedducees interpreted the miracle of raising the death to be similar as the miracle of birth
          • The male and female encounter reproduces humans.
        • It was on these interpretative issues that John called Sadducees brood of vipers.
        • As such, New Testament (including Matthew) sees Christianity as an opposite idea to Sadducees
        • Still, there are many similarities in religious interpretation as mentioned above.
  • Herodians
    • There are two distinct places connected to this sect that are mentioned in the New Testament
      • Their first appearance: Galilee
      • Their Second appearance: Jerusalem
      • Their period: Hellenistic Jewish period
        • Why such name? Connected to Hellen of Troy
        • Refers to the form of Judaism that connected Jewish culture to Greek tradition
      • IN MATTHEW however
        • They are mentioned in just context of being HOSTILE to Jesus
        • This mention specifically occurs in 22:16
        • Remember, whenever Herodians are mentioned in Gospels in their hostility to Jesus, they are always mentioned with the Pharisees
    • Why is the Galilee Region important?
      • It has connections to many historical narrations in the Bible, including that of Prophet Solomon.
    • They were largely considered a political party with public support
      • Key difference between Pharisees / Sadducees and Herodians?
        • Herodians have always remained friendly to both Herod the great who remained the King of Jews in Judea and his dynasty, while the two other major sects have differed opinions about him.
        • Herodians focus more on restoring the Kingdom of Herod, instead of Prophet David
    • Interesting point to note
      • There are three major references to Herodians by name in the Gospels
        • The last one of these in Matthew 22:16
          • In relation to the issue of taxes mentioned in Mark 12:13
    • Why are Herodians important in early Christianity?
      • Pharisees wanted to execute Jesus
      • If Herodians were involved
        • They would have asked Herod Antipas or their frontier courts to take a decision
        • Would the decision be different?
          • That is doubtful because the Herod Antipas executed John the Baptist
          • Which means they could have done the same to Jesus as well
          • There are chances that the frontier courts of Herods may have spied on Jesus as well.
    • The support by Herods for Herod Antipas, the son of Harod, shows the hostility of Herodians to Jesus
      • The main source of this difference was due to payment of taxes
      • They also executed John the Baptist
      • Proving their hostility.

The Concept of Messiah Before Matthew

  • Remember, the concept of Messiah started with Judaism
    • It is not a CHRISTIAN origin concept
  • However, the base of the idea is different
    • For Jews
      • The Messiah is a future king of the Jews
      • He will rule the Jews in the Messianic age or the Age of the Messaih
      • That is why, such person is referred as the King as well.
      • Specific factors to decide if the Messiah is the Messiah
        • Called the Presumptive Requirements for Messiah
          • He must be from the children of David
          • He must know the Torah and understand the Written and Oral Lw
          • He will compel the people of Israel to follow the Torah
          • Will remove the issues for Jews
      • Another concept is the definite Messiah
        • A definite Messiah also has 4 requirements MORE THAN THE PRESUMPTIVE MESSIAH
          • Remember, it means to be a definitive Messiah, there are a total of 8 assumptions
            • 4 of them are from the presumptive ones
            • 4 others
          • The successful part
            • Will defeat surrounding nation
            • Rebuild the temple
            • Will gather the Israelis under one banner
          • The unsuccessful part
            • If any one of these 2 factors happen, the Messiah will no longer be considered the Messiah
            • First: he could not achieve massive success
            • Second and MORE IMPORTANT: He is killed
              • Killed by other mortals (humans)
              • Why is this point important
                • Because if Jesus was in fact crucified, it disqualifies him from the position of the Jewish Massiah.
    • The issue of Messianic allusions
      • Some figures who were considered to be the Messiah according to Jewish standards but were later considered not to be the same
      • Jesus
        • Remember, Christianity started as a separate religion after the destruction of Second temple
        • Before the second temple’s destruction, it was considered as sub sect of Judaism
        • Jews from this period considered Jesus as the resurrected Messiah
        • The main difference between Jewish Messiah and Christian Messiah
          • Jews can have multiple Messiahs
          • Christianity has one ultimate Messiah
        • Some people from Jewish Christianity still believe Jesus to fall in either of the category
      • Why was he rejected?
        • Maimonides considered him a false Messaih
        • Judaism believes that Jesus did not fulfill any of the standards of the Messiah.
        • However, now historians think that Jews from Jesus’s period may actually have been more accepting of Jesus than historical stories suggested.
      • Prophecy regarding Jesus
        • Deuteronomy 13:1-5 and 18:18-22 establishes the Mosaic belief of what is considered a Prophet and Messiah.
        • Almost the same aspects as presumptive messiah beliefs
        • False Messiah in Judaism
          • Someone who encourages idolatry
            • Jesus did not do that
          • Someone who says a previous commandment does not apply any more
            • That is the issue here
            • Jesus did deny some of the previous commandments according to Jews which makes the Prophetic status dubious.
    • Some establish Jesus as the follower of Nazarene, from where comes the term Jesus of Nazarath, which believes he was a follower of Judaism, signifying his Messiah status

 

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