It is evident from this and several other quotations of the same kind, where Jesus reprimands them severely and rebukes them, that he considered the Pharisees the most vicious, cunning and dangerous of all Jews.
Next, we have second, the Sadducees. These were a kind of philosophers who denied the immortality of the soul and a life after this, and they taught that they deceived themselves who lived a pious and devoted life and exercised virtue, hoping therefore to get their reward after death.
Such a reward after death there was not, but it always was a necessary duty that men should fulfill to themselves, by living a virtuous and good life, as they then, more contented in their mind, could proceed on their way through life, and in consequence thereof would the burden of life be easier to carry.
This was their peculiar interpretation of the moral meaning of the commandments, but yet it preserved them from the hypocrisy and the dissembling of the Pharisees.
The Sadducees showed themselves openly to the world such as they in reality were, in a life intermixed with virtues, faults and vices. Towards the Master, Jesus, they never showed such an animosity as the Pharisees. On the contrary, they often with great attention and admiration seemed to listen to his doctrines of wisdom.
They were more energetic and active than the Pharisees were, and they, like the former, had a great desire for acquiring wealth and worldly possessions, they were generally rich and considered the wealthiest class among the Jews. The king, " Herod", belonged to the sect of the Sadducees and acknowledged their doctrines.
The third sect comprised the publicans. They are not to be considered as a distinct religious sect, but it is evident that they widely differed from the above named sects, and the so-called, "Proper Jews", in their religious belief; and this is even shown by the contempt in which they were held by the common people.
But we have reasons to believe that this contempt often was unmerited, as they were often kindly received by the Master, Jesus, and he friendly communed with many of them. He speaks thus of himself in unison with them in Math. Chap. V. 19:
"The Son of Man came eating and drinking and they say, behold a man gluttonous, and a wine bibber a friend of Publicans and sinners."
But even the life of these he reproached on several occasions. In Math. 5 Chap., V. 46 he says:
"For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye; do not even the Publicans the same?"
Every Jew who had knowledge of the Scriptures of the Old Testament, shortly everybody that examined into things and claimed to possess the culture of his time generally belonged to either the Pharisees, Sadducees, or the Essenes.
We know with certainty, and the writings of the Evangelists do not deny it, but to the contrary strengthen this fact, that the Masters great predecessor, John, from his infancy was adopted and brought up in the School of the Essene Order, and there acquired his knowledge and wisdom.
We cannot here give any information on this subject, of what the higher degrees of the Order did know about it, as this description of the old Essenes is written for the benefit of the brethren of all degrees, we will therefore confine ourselves to examining the gospel and other New Testament scriptures for testimony to prove the same.
It is evident neither from the gospel that John neither belonged to the sect of the Pharisees nor to that of the Sadducees. He rebuked them both severely for their lives - as his great successor, - and when many of both the Pharisees and Sadducees came to him at Salem on the bank of the Jordan to be baptized by him he said to them:
"O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance." Math. 3 Chap., 7 and 8 v.
Herod adhered, as above mentioned to the doctrines of the Sadducees, and it was this Herod, whom John so severely rebuked on several occasions for Herodias his brother Phillip's wife, and "For all the evils which Herod had done, added yet this above all, that he shut up John in prison." Luke, iii. Chap 19-25.
Luke as the Evangelist relates to us in his iii Chap. 12 and 13 v.:
"Then came also Publicans to be baptized and said unto him, "Master, what shall we do" And he said unto them, ' Exact no more than that which is appointed to you.'"
John says about himself in the gospel of John, l-Chap. 23 v.:
"I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness."
And the Evangelists added that this answer did he give to, "They which were sent were of the Pharisees."
Marcus says of John in his 1 Chap. 4-6 v.:
"John did baptize in the wilderness and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. And John was clothed with camels hair and with a girdle of a skin about his loins, and he did eat locusts and wild honey"; and in about the same words and sense does Matthew speak of John in his third chapter.
We might cite more instances of the same kind, but these ought to be sufficient to show that the Scriptures of the New Testament give a positive proof that John did not belong to either the school of the Pharisees or that of the Sadducees. At the same time it gives more than a negative proof for the conclusion that he belonged to the holy order of the Essenes; and the more we study the writings of the Evangelists and interpreters of the Bible, and consider who were the friends of John, and the doctrine he preached to the people, the more are we convinced that he belonged to the Essenes.
By comparing all the above named with the manner of life, ceremonies and fundamental belief of the Essenes, we are thereby convinced that this champion of truth was the messenger of the Brotherhood to prepare the way for Jesus and to promote his mission, who indeed had sent him.
We will proceed to a truthful illustration of this Brotherhood, as we find it related of authentic authors from the commencement of the New Testament time, and let these speak for themselves.
Of all the Gentile authors, none give more authentic and minute information on the subject than the Jewish historian, Josephus, in his work, De Bello Judaico, 8 Chap. 2-13 vs. and especially in this Historia Antiqua Judiaco 3 book, 5 Chap.
He lived both before and after the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, and as he himself belonged to the Essene Order, and had undergone the ordered term of trial for the three years, his accounts merit our belief of its authenticity. Of his admission into this Order he writes as follows:
"When I had reached my sixteenth year did I undertake to examine into our different religious sects and their doctrines, that having come to know them I might choose the one that to me appeared the best. I have already mentioned there were three sects of Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes.
"Having resolved this, did I at once begin to prepare myself in different ways that I might be found worthy to be admitted into the Order of Essenes. In order to accomplish this, I turned to a man called Banus, of whom was told that he belonged to the Brotherhood of Essenes, and lived in the wilderness, made his clothes out of the bark and leaves of the trees, fed upon wild fruits, plants and herbs, and from holiness bathed several times night and day in cold water.
"In this man's company I spent three entire years, undergoing all kinds of trials, temptations and privations, and then returned to the city (Jerusalem). When I had filled my nineteenth year did I commence to shape my life and habits according to the doctrines of the Pharisees, and this sect is very similar to the Grecian Stoics."
Of these Josephus' own works, we are informed that he had actually undergone then, according to the Essene law, ordered term of trial; and although he afterwards returned to Jerusalem, and in the future obeyed the doctrines of the Pharisees, he did continue to remain a member of the Essene Brotherhood, and was admitted into their meetings as long as he did not transgress the duties of the Order, or in any way did break the oath that he had taken at his initiation.
It was not before the Jewish kingdom was destroyed by Titus, Jerusalem and most of the other cities of the country laid in ashes, and the members of the Essene Orders widely dispersed, that Josephus in his writings committed to the world what we here will communicate.
Josephus was of high-priest by descendantcy, and as it was in the tribe of Aaron that Phariseeism most flourished and had its foundation among the priests, it is not to be wondered that the nineteen-year-old Josephus soon tired of the rigid habits of the Essenes, their toilsome work and frugal living, and that when he had gone through the term of trial found more pleasure in the jolly life of the Pharisees, as much more as these by hypocrisy and assumed piety could take part in many worldly amusements without thereby losing their esteem among the people.
What we now will lay before the reader is written by him and ought to be sufficient to show that he always harbored a high degree of esteem and admiration for the Brotherhood.
"The doctrine of the Essenes," says he "Tends to learn all men that they confidently may trust their fate in the hands of God, as nothing happens without His will. They say that the soul is immortal, and they aspire to lead a righteous and honest life. Indeed, they send their offerings to the temple, but this they do, not because they consider it in any way meritable, but because they consider it their duty to give their share of the offerings, that the other people shall not for their sake be oppressed and encumbered.
"They are the most honest people in the world, and always as good as their word, very industrious and enterprising, and show great skill and concern in agriculture.
"But most of all are those venerated, esteemed and admired who live in the wilderness, on account of the sense of justice that they ever show and the courage and intrepidity that they manifest in ever defending truth and innocence. And this trait is not found in such a high degree neither with the Grecian nor any other people, but it has always characterized the Essenes from time immemorial.
"They exercise justice and equality in their dealings with all people, have all their property common, so that the rich does not consume more of his riches than the poor of his small means. In this way four thousand people pass their life.
"They never marry, and keep no servants. They consider that marriage would only create discord and rapture among the brethren, and do not think it right that one should be the slave or servant of the other, as all men are brethren and God their Father.
"Therefore do they live entirely separate from women and serve and assist each other.
"For accountants for the profits of their agricultural labor and handiwork they choose the most virtuous, honest and pious of their brethren. These also perform the service of priests and provide for all the wants, as food, and clothing. They all live in the same simple industrious and frugal life, and may be compared with the "Palistas" of the 'Dacies'."
In his work De Bello Jusaico, 8 Chap. 2-13 vs. Josephus further writes:
"The third class of the philosophers among the Jews, and the class that is most esteemed for their just and moral life, is the so-called Essees, or Essenes, that although they certainly descended from the Jewish people, yet show more amity and love for each other than the other Jews, and live a more moral life.
"They shun and despise sensuality as a great sin, but consider a moral and temperate life a great virtue, and pride highly the strength of mind and the power to overcome the passions and desires of their nature.
"Therefore they subdue the sensual instinct, but willingly adopt the children of other people and especially while these are very young, as they then are most susceptible to teaching and impressions.
"They show great kindness to such children, hold them dear, and teach them all kinds of knowledge and science, morals and religion.
"They do not reject wedlock, but, to the contrary, consider it necessary for the propagation of mankind; but themselves they want no intercourse with women, as they fear of their unchastity and levity, because they consider that no woman gives her affections to her husband alone.
"They despise riches and worldly gain, and the equality of property among them must be admired; therefore none of them are seen to live in abundance nor in need.
"The laws of the Order regulate that everyone that enters into the Brotherhood gives up all his property and wealth, and therefore among them are neither seen haughtiness nor slavish subjections; but all live together as brethren, sharing good and evil.
"'The Ointment with Oil,' which the other Jews praise so highly, they consider to be without any sacred power or use, and do not therefore use it, but to the contrary cleanse themselves from it if any one of their body should be touched thereby an accident.
"For the administration and account of the common property, they elect inspectors and directors, but in every way respect they assist each other.
"They do not live in any particular town, but in every town the Order has its respective 'house' where the members take their abode when they on their travels arrive, and they are there supplied with all they want. Everything is here to their disposition, as if in their own houses, and here they are received as the best friends and near relations by persons they never before saw.
"In every town there is an inspector, who has in his care clothes and other necessary things that he graciously distributes to them who need such.
"The Essenes use their clothes until they are worn out and can't be used any longer. They neither buy nor sell among themselves, but every member willingly gives his brother what he needs of his, and is again supplied by others with the needful; and even if he thinks he never can repay it, he may without bashfulness receive it, as this is a rule with them.
"The Essene worship of God is grand, sacred and majestic, and therefore the sun rises and greets the earth with its beams, and they do not speak on earthly matters, but read and send forth their sacred and humble prayers that they have learned from their fathers. The prayer over, the inspector points out the work in which each one is most skilled.
"Having thus worked for five hours, do they again gather, bathe themselves in cold water, and don a white linen garb. Having washed themselves, they proceed to the special halls of the Order, where no one dare come who does not belong to their Order.
"Having gone through the ceremonies that the law prescribes, they proceed, perfectly cleansed, to their eating rooms with the same reverence as if they entered the holy temple.
"Everybody having taken his place in supreme silence and stillness, the bakers of the Brotherhood enter, distributing a bread to each person after a certain order. The cook sets before each one a plate of vegetables and other eatables, and this being performed, one of the priests steps forth and holds a prayer, for they consider it a grave sin to rest or touch food before praying.
"The meal over, the priest reads another prayer, and then the hymn of praise is sung; and in this way they praise and thank God the Giver of all good, both before and after the meal.
"They then take off their white aprons, that they consider sacred clothes, and return to their work, which they pursue until the twilight spreads over the earth.
"Then they go to their frugal evening meal again, during which they observe the same ceremonies as at their dinner, and if members from a foreign part have arrived, are they put in the chief places at the table.
"The meal is taken with the most solemn silence and stillness, no noise nor dispute disturbing the peace of the house.
Pages To Ponder
Crucifixion By An Eyewitness