In the Gospel Jesus criticized the Pharisees for all of their picky-picky rules. Now, I want to tell you about the Pharisees, and about how they got so finicky. So, bear with me while I mention three dates from Jerusalem’ history. This isn’t going to be as bad as it sounds. One event was from about nine hundred and fifty years before Christ. One event was from around two hundred and fifty years before Christ., and one event was from about one hundred and fifty years before the birth of Christ.
At about nine hundred and fifty years before Christ King David was dying, and although he had promised the throne to his son Solomon, a ruffian son named Adonijah grabbed the throne. On orders from a dying King David, the priest Sadoc, dreading that Adonijah would kill him for it, went ahead and anointed Solomon king. Surprisingly, the people all prostrated themselves before King Solomon, and Adonijah had to run for his life. To honor brave Sadoc, the people decided that they would only accept a direct descendent of his for the office of high priest.
Setting that aside for the moment, let us see what happened about two hundred and fifty years before Christ.
With Jerusalem falling into moral and physical bad times, at about two hundred and fifty years before Christ they decided on taking the Law of Moses as their civil law. And, since some of the Old law was out of date, they allowed themselves to pass amendments to the Torah. Then, over many decades that got out of hand, with their passing thousand of the kind of rules that Jesus complained about. There were so many prescripts that only the ultra-conservative Jews made an attempt at keeping them all.
When we come to one hundred and fifty years before Christ, the only direct descendent of Zadoc eligible to be appointed high priest was a weakling scoundrel, so most of the people went along with the anointing of man named Jonathan who was the younger brother of the national hero Judas Maccabeus.
Jonathan was a popular choice, but not with the ultra-conservatives who would not abandon their eight-hundred-year tradition of only accepting a direct descendent of Sadoc. However, those traditionalists could not come together on a unified protest. Half of the then went off to be the Essenes, who were the recluses who left us the Dead Sea Scrolls.
The other half of the traditionalists stayed on as a permanent protest group in Jerusalem. They were the Pharisees (which was a Semitic word for separatists).They dedicated themselves to being living examples of obeying the Law with all its thousands of extras.
Stone cutters cut it on stone. Woodcutters cut it in wood:
there’s nothing quite so bad as a man who thinks he’s good.