Charles F. (Charles Force) Deems.

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gestion that the modern Council would, as far as possible, have
been formed upon the model of that of Moses.

The President was styled " Nasi," and was chosen on account
of his eminent worth and wisdom, and was supposed to occupy

Its President ^ ie l^ ace °^ Moses. Sometimes the High-Priest
had this honor. At the condemnation of Jesus
the High-Priest was presiding, as we learn from Matt. xxvi. G2.
The Vice-President was called " Ab-Beth-Din," and sat at the
right hand of the President. The Babylonian Gemara states that
there were two scribes, one to record the votes of acquittal and
one those of condemnation. The lictors, or attendants of the
Sanhedrim, are called vjitjqetuIj in Matt. xxvi. 5S, and in Mark xiv.
54. While in session the Sanhedrim sat in form of a semicircle
in the front of the President.

The place of the meeting of the Sanhedrim, it is supposed, was

in a building near the Temple ; but that it might be assembled

elsewhere we learn from Matt. xxvi. 3. when

meeting ^ seems *o have met in the residence of the


The jurisdiction of this body was mainly over questions of

religion, as the trial of a tribe for idolatry, the trial of false

Ti . . ,. .. prophets, and of the High-Priest,* and other
Its jurisdiction. l . . 1

priests, f Jesus was arraigned as a false prophet,:}:
and Peter, John, Stephen, and Paul, as teachers of pestilential
errors. Its jurisdiction seems to have extended beyond Palestine.
The power of capital punishment was taken from this body forty
years before the destruction of Jerusalem. § It was for this rea-
son the Jews answered Pilate : " It is not lawful for us to put any
man to death." (John xix. 31.) The Sanhedrim arrested, tried,
convicted, and then handed the condemned over to the secular
power, represented by the Roman procurator. There appears an
exception (in Acts vii. 56, etc.) in the case of Stephen : but that
was "a tumultuous proceeding or an illegal assumption of

* Mishna, SanJiedr. L
f Middoth, v.
% John xi. 47.

§ That is, according to the Jerusa
lem Gemara, quoted by Selden, book
ii., chap. 5, 11.


power," as the execution of James in the absence of the procura-
tor is declared by Josephus* to have been.

The religious sects of the day were the Pharisees, the Sadducees,
and the Essenes. We shall soon see that the ministry of Jesus
was antagonistic to all these, and in studying that antagonism we
shall more clearly understand the distinctive tenets and tempers
of these several religionists. It is sufficient in this place to ren-
der a mere synopsis.

The Pharisees (separatists, as their name implies) were the Puri-
tans of the time, claiming superior sanctity. They taught that
tradition was as binding as the written law; that p , .
God must have communicated much religious
truth to Moses orally, as the people generally held, and had from
time immemorial held, certain doctrines to be as well settled aa
the law, although they are not mentioned in the Pentateuch, of
which prayer and the resurrection of the dead are notable in-
stances, and that this oral law was as binding as the written law.
The classical passage in theMishnaf on this subject is the follow-
ing: "Moses received the (oral) law from Sinai, and delivered
it to Joshua, and Joshua to the elders, and the elders to the pro-
phets, and the prophets to the men of the Great Synagogue."
They held themselves to be in the succession and to have the right
to interpret and apply the law. They had become the most ex-
treme ritualists. They were formalists. They had smothered
spiritual religion to death under ceremonials. They laid on tho
conscience " burdens too heavy for men to bear."

The Sadducees were a sect owing their existence to a reaction
against Pharisaic teaching:. The Sadducees held that the oral law
was not at all binding, that nothing was binding sadducees
except the written law. To them it was a logical
consequence to deny a future state of rewards and pnnishmente.
As in the written law, in all the pleadings of the great lawgiver
for good living, and in all his threatenings against, evil-doing,
Hoses had never called to his aid the consolation of the doctrine
of future rewards nor the terror of future punishments, it Beemed
to them inconceivable that he should have believed in any such
doctrine. They proceeded to deny the immortality of the soul,
and then the existence of the soul itself. They believed in
neither angel nor spirit.

• Antiq. , ix. 9, § 1. | \ Quoted in Smith's Uifiionary.


The Essenes represented rather a tendency than a sect. But
they grew into a community. They separated themselves from
-. the distraction of business. They were Pharisees

in doctrine, in general terms ; but they held to-
wards the Pharisees very much the relation which the Pharisees
maintained toward the mass of the common people. They were
the Quakers of the day of Jesus. They opposed wai and slavery
and commerce. They were monks, ascetics, mystics. They ex-
erted little influence on Christianity, and Jesus made no special
allusion to them. His life and doctrine did not accord with their
views and practices.

The Herodians were a politico-religious sect or party. Herod
the Great was of foreign descent, but was a Jew in his religious
professions. There were many Jews who saw no
way to sustain the national independence, in face
of the Roman power, except in the continuance of the reign of
Herod ; and, as they believed that the preservation of their nation-
ality was necessary to the glory of their destiny, they would sup-
port Herod, in whom they saw a protection against direct heathen
rule. Others were quite willing to have a compromise between
the old Hebrew faith and the culture of the Pagans, such as
Herod seemed to be making. The political wing of the Hero-
dians would side with the Pharisees, and the religious wing with
the Sadducees. But the Herodians seem never to have attempted
to harmonize the doctrines of the two sects. It is, perhaps, more
nearly proper to call the Herodians a coalition than a party or a





john's preaching and ministry.

John, called " the Baptist," performed a ministry in Judsea

which certainly opened the way for the public work of Jesas,

and hence he is spoken of as the Harbinger.

Of the wonderful circumstances attending the . _ , .'.'.

n 1. ; Luke m.

birth of this very extraordinary man we have
already spoken. In his case, as in that of his consin Jesns, a
silence covers the years of his youth. His marvellous birth, and
the manner in which he obtained his name, must have had a great
effect upon the character of the child, making his very boyhood
and youth sacred and solemn. He grew up in the study of the
law, grieved at the spiritual deadness of his times, and the hard
conventionalities which had enervated the heart of the nation.
Upon his spirit must have fallen, also, the influence of the gen-
eral expectation of a Mighty One, a Messiah, a Deliverer. His
nation had pondered the strange intimations of the prophets, and
the uprising of Elijah in their midst would not have been to
them a surprising event.

If Moses be excepted, there was no figure among all the
mighty men of their earlier history who filled so large space in
the Hebrew mind, and tilled it so solemnly, as
Elijah. To their imagination lie was colossal. To
the modern mind he is v> the grandest and most romantic charao-



ter that Israel ever produced." * His history fascinates us. " Hie
rare, sudden, and brief appearances, — his undaunted courage and
fiery zeal, — the brilliancy of his triumphs, — the pathos of his des-
pondency, — and the glory of his departure, — threw such a halo of
brightness around him as is equalled by none of his compeers in
the sacred story." f He has been well called " Prodigiosus Thes-
bites" X — the prodigious Tishbite. It is noticeable that the very
last sentence which fell from the lips of Prophecy, before they
were sealed into silence, contained the prediction of the reap-
pearance of Elijah (Malachi iv. 5, 6) ; and whenever any man
of extraordinary power appeared, it seemed to the Jews, in their
political troubles and degradation, that Elijah had come.

Such was their expectation when this holy Nazarite, John, fol-
lowing the example of many good men who were discouraged by

the degeneracy of the times, retired to the desert
conse- re g- on ue y 0n( j the Jordan and gave himself to

the self -discipline of meditation and prayer.
After years of stern training the hour of his manifestation came,
and he broke upon the world with preaching that roused the nation.
His appearance was not comely. His physique had none of the
plumpness, his complexion none of the richness, which comes
from jrenerous diet. His food was locusts § and wild honev. His
dress was removed as far as possible from the elegance of fashion
and the pomp of office ; it was a vestment of camel's hairj bound
about his waist by a leathern girdle. His address was blunt and
brusque. He held no office and had no official sanction. He
was not a priest, nor a rabbi. As De Pressense well says : " It
was not priests or doctors that were wanting ; the very spirit of


* Stanley, S. and P., 328.

f Smith's Diet., Art. Elijah.

% Acta Sanctor.

§ The dxpit, permitted to be eaten
(Levit. xi. 22), was used as food by the
lower orders in Judaja, and mentioned
by Strabo and Pliny as eaten by the
Ethiopians, and by many other authors
as articles of food. Jerome, adv. Jo-
vinian, 2, 6, says: ' ' Apud Orientales et
Libya? populos quia per desertam et
calidam eremi vastitatera locustarem
nubes reperiuntur, locustis vesci moris
est : hoc verum esse Joannes quoque

Baptista probat." Shaw found locusts
eaten by the Moors in Barbary . ( Travels,
p. 1G4.) See 1 Sam. xiv. 25. Here again
there is no need to suppose anything
else meant but honey made by wild bees.
| The garment of camel's hair was
not the camel's skin with the hair on,
which would be too heavy to wear, but
raiment woven of camel's hair, such as
Josephus speaks of (B. J. i. 24, 3).
From Zech. xiii. 4, it seems that such a
dress was known as the prophetic garb :
' ' Neither shall they (the prophets) weal
a rough garment to deceive."

John's preaching and ministry. 75

Judaism was stifled under rites and traditions. It was this spirit
that had to be reanimated and freed from all that oppressed it."
For this work John needed, as he took, a free, broad space.

His ministry is remarkable for the absence of two things,
namely, miracles and an organization. He pretended to no
miracle ; he formed no school. Of the multitudes

■. , . .,.,..,, John's ministry.

who came to him, some remained in his neighbor-
hood and gained what benefit they could from his society and his
teaching. But he did not add another sect to the Pharisees, the
Sadducees, and the Essenes. He was simply a preacher, a herald.

As to his style, two things are to be noticed :

1. His earnestness. He believed that he had a great message
to his generation. He could not forbear. He had no specially
favorable position for its delivery, but it was in
him and it grew, and it became too large and
strong for him to hold, and there was room in the wilderness and
he went there " crying." One can fancy that he cried and cried
until a stray traveller across the wilderness heard him, listened,
went and reported the sound ; and another came and heard, and
reported the strange voice crying in the wilderness ; and they
that went alone hung timidly on the outskirts of the desert, and
held their hands behind their ears to catch the flying sounds, and
trembled as they heard the cry, " Repent ! Repent ! " then drew
near in groups and beheld the strange wild man who, when he
saw them, opened his great eyes wide upon them, and cried, " Re-
pent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Frightened, they
fled. But there is a fascination in earnestness. The tones of the
prophet's voice rang in their ears whether they waked or slept,
and they could not stay away. And when they went again he
cried, " Bring forth fruits meet for repentance." He was in full
earnest. He believed that before he came Isaiah heard him with
his own prophetic ears, and exclaimed, " Hark ! a voice is crying
in the wilderness ! "

2. The message was indiscriminate. The crowds of common
people drew the great and learned to this powerful preacher.
lie had no compliments for the rabbis, no gallant speeches
for the ladies, no politic utterances for the powerful. Be Baw
before him men and women, full of Bin, concealed f rom them-
selves by their conventionalities, and he thundered the truth
at them indiscriminately. They had Abraham to their lather


and needed no special moral illumination, certainly no spiritual

regeneration — so they thought of themselves. But he believed

that they did need spiritual regeneration, and believed that that

regeneration was the most important thing in all the world.

The matter of his preaching we gather from the few notices in

the Evangelists.
Matter of his -. r , . 7 i . • u t>

. . Matt/teiv reports him as saving, Kepent ye :

preaching. L J °' l •*

for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (iii. 2.)

"But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to

his baptism, he said unto them, ' O generation of
Matthew's re- , , ., -, n

Online LibraryCharles F. (Charles Force) DeemsWho was Jesus? → online text (page 8 of 77)