Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Mark 2:23-24 commentary: Phariseeism

23 And it came to pass, that he went through the corn fields on the sabbath day; and his disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears of corn. 24 And the Pharisees said unto him, Behold, why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful?

The American Heritage dictionary online gives this definition among the several for corn. “Any of various cereal plants or grains, especially the principal crop cultivated in a particular region, such as wheat in England or oats in Scotland.”

Of course, if you had just believed the Bible you wouldn’t have needed to go to the dictionary. It would have defined itself.

John 12:24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.

The Law of Moses did not prohibit one from simply putting something in your mouth. These disciples weren’t working. This is about the oral tradition of the Pharisees.

Deuteronomy 23:25 When thou comest into the standing corn of thy neighbour, then thou mayest pluck the ears with thine hand; but thou shalt not move a sickle unto thy neighbour’s standing corn.

However, the oral tradition of the Pharisees forbade even this.

“The categories of work are forty less one (i.e., thirty-nine): one who sows, plows, reaps, or gathers; who threshes or winnows; one who selects, grinds, sifts, kneads, or bakes; one who shears wool, washes it, cards it, colors it, spins, or weaves it; one who makes two loops, or weaves two threads, or removes two threads from the loom; one who ties, or unties, or sews two stitches; one who tears in order to sew two stitches; one who traps a deer, slaughters it, skins it, salts it, cures the hide, scrapes it, or cuts it up; one who writes two letters and one who erases in order to write two letters; one who builds or destroys; one who extinguishes ignites; one who strikes with a hammer; one who carries from one domain to another. Behold, these are the categories of work, forty less one.”(1)

(1) Center for Online Judaic Studies, “Mishnah Shabbat 7:1-2: The Thirty Nine-Forbidden Labors on the Sabbath”, http://cojs.org/cojswiki/Mishnah_Shabbat_7:1-2:_The_Thirty_Nine-Forbidden_Labors_on_the_Sabbath (Accessed May 13, 2012).

The Misnah is the oral law of the Pharisees, first written down around 200AD it is supposed, but having a much older tradition that reflects several hundred years of oral law.

An application for the Christian today would be the various rules and regulations that churches adopt that make even the Pharisees look tame by comparison. A Pastor’s personal convictions and the demands of running a church body can add a great many rules to what God has shown are His standard of righteousness. This usually comes in three ways. The first is imposing the Pastor’s personal convictions on the church body. The second comes from changing the definitions in the Bible to suit those convictions. The third is to focus on a verse or verses in another dispensation and pounding on that verse or those verses as a standard by which we, as Christians, are supposed to live, according to the Pastor who is trying to support his personal convictions. God doesn’t bless it. It’s not honoring to Him or His words. It imposes additional burdens on the people that they are often unable to bear. It drives people from the congregation. Phariseeism is alive and well in many churches today.

It is important to remember that we are never given authority to add to God’s word or to take away from it; either placing a burden on the church God will not help them carry because it is not of Him or ignoring a sin which will bring the congregation down if they ignore it because it is against His will. If I was preaching a sermon I’d give examples but since I’m not I’ll let you think about it.

What do you require of others because you require it for yourself and yet it can’t be supported by a clear, literal statement given by inspiration of the Holy Spirit written in the part of the Bible specifically purposed for the church by looking at all of the verses regarding a subject? Of course, if you’re a hypocrite you don’t require it of yourself. You just want other people to do it.

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