« FöregåendeFortsätt »
1 Luke vii. 5.
2 Acts x. 31.
minded or pious soldiers, who favoured the Jews' religion, as in the case of the centurion at Capernaum,” who built the synagogue; or of Cornelius, who prayed and gave alms that were had in remembrance in the sight of God.” Herod the Great, likewise, though an Idumean, rebuilt the Jews' temple.
But besides this European, or foreign, element in Palestine, there had also lived there for several centuries the Samaritans, who accepted the law of Moses, and consequently the obligation to pay tithes (as indeed they do to this day), whilst the mass of the people were Jews, who, concerning tithes and all other requirements, professed obedience to the laws of Judaism. That tithe-paying was a general practice in the days of our Lord and until the destruction of Jerusalem (A.D. 70) is plain from what Josephus (born A.D 37) says of himself in his thirtieth year :
“As to what presents were offered me, I despised them, as not standing in need of them ; nor indeed would I take
those tithes which were due to me as a priest, from those 8 Life, sect. 15. that brought them.”S
Again, he says of Ananias, the high-priest :
“ He also had servants who were very wicked, who joined themselves to the boldest sort of the people, and went to the threshing-floors, and took away the tithes that belonged to the priests, by violence, and did not refrain from beating such as would not give these tithes to them. So also other high-priests acted in the like manner, as did
those his servants, without any one's being able to prohibit 4 Antiquities,
them: so that some of the] priests that of old were wont to be supported with those tithes died for want of food."
bk. xx. ch. ix. sect. 2.
There was, however, in the condition of the Jews in our Lord's day, this great difference as compared with that of Jews under Jewish monarchs, in that being now enrolled as Roman subjects, they were not required by the law of the empire to observe the ordinances of the Jewish religion ; and hence it is not surprising if some may have availed themselves of the opportunity to evade the payment of religious dues, and became lax in the observance of tithe-paying and other religious duties.
But concurrently with this possible laxity, and perhaps provoked thereby, there had sprung up a great zeal for religion among the Jews, as manifested by three religious parties.
Of these the Essenes, who arose about the second century B.C., renounced their worldly goods, lived in communities in the desert, and greatly extolled the virtue of poverty. There were also 1. Cohen, vol. ii. the Sadducees, who, if not absolutely rejecting tradition and the unwritten law, brought them to the test of the Pentateuch, the authority of which they acknowledged ; whilst closely allied with these, there were the Pharisees, who accepted all the Old Testament writings with the rabbinical interpretations thereon, and who were exceedingly zealous for the religion of their forefathers.
The Pharisees arose about B.C. 150, and were not so much a sect as what we in England should now call a "party.” Josephus speaks of their fraternity as numbering about six thousand.: The Edersheim, object of their association was twofold: first, to p. 30
Life and Times of Jesus, vol. i.
secure extreme care and exactitude in the payment of tithes and religious dues, and secondly, to promote the observance in the strictest manner, and according to traditional law, of the ordinances concerning Levitical purity.
A candidate had to be admitted into the Phari1. p. 31; Becho: sees' confraternity in the presence of three members.
He might undertake the obligation as to complete tithe paying without going forward to the vow concerning purity ; but he could not undertake the latter, and supposed higher degree, without passing through the lower.
If he entered upon the first degree only, he was simply a Nææman, who undertook four obligations, namely, to tithe (1) what he ate, (2) what he sold, (3) what he bought, and (4) not to be the guest of an "outsider." Having attained this degree, he was looked upon as a person accredited, with whom one might freely transact business, since he was assumed to have paid on his goods all religious dues.
If a candidate took in addition the “higher” vow, he was called a Chaber, or associate, who (in relation to the subject before us) undertook not to sell to an outsider any substance, whether fluid or solid ; not to buy from him any such ; nor to be a guest with him, and not to entertain the outsider in his own clothes [on account, that is, of their possible impurity]: The Pharisees accordingly were tithe-payers par
( ha-aretz), or “ people of the land,” the uninstructed
-Am) עַם הָאָרֶץ excellence as distinguished from the
2 Matt. xviii. 17.
ones, who knew not, or cared not, for the oral or unwritten law, and were looked down upon by the learned as
" accursed.” 1
A Pharisee was 1 John i. 49. regarded as an aristocratic, punctilious religionist ; an Am-ha - aretz
“ heathen man and a publican.”
What attitude, then, did our Lord assume in regard to the paying of tithes and religious offerings as respectively observed, or more or less neglected by these two classes of Jews ? It would be impossible that He should have been neutral ; and we cannot imagine that He grew up in carelessness, or ignorance, or indifference to, this prominent feature of a Jew's religion. In His days tithepaying in Palestine was not only recognized, but “in the air,” as witnessed by the minuteness of the directions of the Mishna.
Any man having a spark of religion was necessarily brought face to face with this question continually. To buy a pennyworth of figs in the street involved also the responsibility of considering whether or not they had been tithed; and something similar had to be thought of even when a few leaves of vegetables were cut off and thrown aside to lighten a burden. No class of people, 3 See p. 100. moreover, was free from the observance of these details, for they had to be remembered alike by the field labourer, the gatherer of fruit, and the errand-boy.
Accordingly, when our Lord's parents went up, as they did every year, to Jerusalem, and in the ordinary course of things took their second tithe,
1 See p. 93.
2 Mishna, Treatise Raphall, p. 259.
with legal and appropriate offerings, it could hardly have escaped the observation of their Divine Son that the festival tithe was regarded as sacred ; that it might not be pledged nor sold on credit ; and that if perchance for convenience of carriage some of it
were turned into money (say at Nazareth), the coins received had to be perfect, nor might those coins be mingled with ordinary money."
When, further, it is remembered that for a wife to set before her husband untithed food was regarded as an offence sufficiently grave to warrant her
divorce, it will be seen that in our Lord's time, Ketebath, and and with respect to this burning question, none
could be neutral.
Was Christ's position, then, as regards tithepaying, that of an Am-ha-aretz, that is, one of the uninstructed ? He certainly was not so regarded by His contemporaries. The multitudes not only heard Him gladly, but, quite early in His ministry, after the Sermon on the Mount, the crowds
were astonished at His teaching, for “He taught 3 Matt. vii. 28-9. them as one having authority.” Even in His
own country, in the synagogue at Nazareth, many were astonished; and though some of them asked for the source of His learning, none of them doubted that the wisdom was there, for they asked, “What wisdom is this which is given unto Him?" 4
Later on, at Jerusalem, the Jews marvelled, saying, “ How knoweth this Man letters, having never learned ?"5 and as it was at the beginning
Mark vi. 2.
5 John vii. 15.