Sadducees, Pharisees, Essenes, Messiah: Parashat Emor Reflections

Hebrew Vision News Exclusive

by Miykael Qorbanyahu aka The End Time Scribe

Torah: Leviticus 21.1-24.23   Prophet: Ezekiel 44.15-31   Witness: Luke 11.1-12.59


…”Yeshua” or more accurately “Yahusha” in Aramaic was a unique name in Jewish society; what we do know is that the name Yahushua was a quite frequent name in 1st century Judea. The name is found in the lineages of King David and in the lineage of the high priests of the House of Zadok. Even the name of the Messianic Prototype and successor to Moses, Joshua (Yahusha) was a foreshadowing of “the name of the coming Ruling Zadok “Melchizedek”. The name of Yahusha was relatively common as the name of the High Priests of Israel actually. There were a total of five High Priests that were named Yahusha. It seems YHWH was trying to tell us something of the Eternal High Priest who would serve Him.

Melchizedek and the Passover Lamb. Rav Shaul. Chapter 1

But the priests, the Lewites, the sons of Tzadoq, who guarded the duty of My setapart place when the children of Yisrael went astray from Me, they shall draw near to Me to serve Me, and shall stand before Me to bring to Me the fat and the blood,’ declares the Master יהוה.

Ezekiel 44.15 


Image result for emorWith this week’s parashat Emor we continue to be informed by the Torah of the priestly standards of holiness, sacrificial duties, as well as the national cultic observances and practices which makes up the religious calendar of appointed times, collectively called moedim in Hebrew.

Commentators have noted that the word emor, which means to say or speak, is used twice in the opening passage of this reading suggesting an emphasis to be brought to both the priesthood’s and the readers attention. The intention of this literary device is to have the target audience made duly aware of the laws of sanctity, which if broken would disqualify a priest from being able to officiate in his capacities as Temple administrator. On a wider scale, though this principle was strictly to be observed by the priesthood for the further purpose of facilitating the process by which the nation would become a set-apart people unto יהוה, these standards also applied to the entire nation. For it is as such that when this mission is fulfilled by both the priests and the people, as we have mentioned on several occasions in our writings, it then becomes possible for the Shekinah of יהוה to become manifest within and upon the entire nation of Israel.

Image result for nadab and abihuHowbeit the standards for the priesthood and people were expressly made known through the teachings of Moshe once and for all time, throughout the history of Israel we often find that the priesthood and the people wind up corrupting and defiling themselves with specific prohibitions that are outlined in this week’s and preceding parshiot. The first hint of corruption within the priesthood was seen in parashat Shemini with the death of Aharon’s two sons Nadab and Abihu who brought a strange fire before יהוה. With their unauthorized offering we find that it is when priests and people do what is right in their own eyes, which is typically cynically motivated, that corruption, exile and destruction ensue.

To best capture this principle and its resolution in the life of Israel of old, I have chosen to examine the second Temple era of the early first-century period prior to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by Rome. I have chosen to briefly analyze this era due to the rich tapestry of social life during this particular time that then existed. I believe that by examining this epoch will yield an intensive glimpse into the contextualization and polarization of the power structure that existed between the priesthood and the people. Not only is this time period the most recent and well documented point of reference of the national life of ancient Israel due to the preserved records of the past from both primary and first-hand account sources that have been unearthed, but it is also the period of time in which the Messianic idea of Israel was at its peak and most radical expression. With these matters in mind, we will briefly examine four significant first-century Israelite schools of thought that were present with the factions of the Sadducees, Pharisees, Essenes and Nazarenes.


Image result for sadduceesAs this week’s haftarah from Ezekiel notes, it was the sons of Tzadoq who ascended to priestly power to eventually assume the role of the sole administrators of the Temple precinct. From this position they had come to serve as power brokers between the colonizing Roman power and the people of Israel. According to an article by Robert Mock from the website Bible Searchers, around the of the early first century

There was the House of Ananus and the influential high priest power brokers of the Sadducees.  One of the reasons the House of Ananus had their political power was in part with the collaboration and collusion of the Pharisees of the Beit (school or disciples) of Shammai.  In the first century, the Pharisees of Beit Shammai were in charge of the institutional Jewish religion and were in control of the matrix or fabric of Jewish life.   This was because the entire fabric of Jewish life was centered in the Mosaic rituals held in the Temple of Herod…On the other hand, there were teh Hasidim that were closely known as the Essenes who were buttressed by the disciples of the Beit (school or disciples) of Hillel the Elder. They viewed the temple hierarchy as apostates in the House of Zadok of the House of Aaron. They were descendants of the House of Zadok that had the divine authority to run the temple complex that had become corrupt like the sons of Eli, the judge of Israel.

Known as the Sadducees,  in Hebrew called Tzadokim (צַדִיקִים), a word meaning the righteous ones, this group eventually degenerated due to their embrace of Hellenism and became adherents of an Epicurean philosophy which held that pleasure was the greatest of all goods. Along with their literal interpretation and legalistic, non-oral tradition based stranglehold on the Torah, they held that there was no resurrection of the dead. With these notions as well as their aristocratic lifestyle, the Sadducees disappeared out of Israel’s national life when the Temple was destroyed in 70 CE.


Image result for phariseesThe other power party at this time in Israel was that of the Pharisees, or the Perushim (פרושים); a term that means the separate ones. This group arose from among the proletariat, or common people of Israel. The working class Pharisees sought to serve as a buffer between the Sadducees and the people, and provided the aristocracy with, at times more and others less, a system of checks and balances for power derived from officiating at the Temple. This group of scholars was largely responsible for the education of the people and the preservation of the traditions of the fathers. They believed in the resurrection of the dead, and their adherence to the oral law and belief in the divine revelation of the Torah to Moshe kept them rooted in their culture, and dissuaded them from any and all Hellenist influence. Their hierarchy was based on the wisdom of the wise in their understanding and application of Torah. Their use of the PaRDeS exegetical method of interpreting Scripture distinguished them from the literalist Sadducees, as the Pharisees were scrupulous scholars of the Law, Writings, Prophets and the developing Talmud. Yet, in spite of the righteous veneer that many Pharisees regularly exuded, they were not immune to the enticements of corruption. Of this matter, the Jewish Encyclopedia says

Nothing could have been more loathsome to the genuine Pharisee than Hypocrisy. “Whatever good a man does he should do it for the glory of God” (Ab. ii. 13; Ber. 17a). Nicodemus is blamed for having given of his wealth to the poor in an ostentatious manner (Ket. 66b). An evil action may be justified where the motive is a good one (Ber. 63a). Still, the very air of sanctity surrounding the life of the Pharisees often led to abuses. Alexander Jannæus warned his wife not against the Pharisees, his declared enemies, but against “the chameleon- or hyena- [“ẓebo’im”-] like hypocrites who act like Zimri and claim the reward of Phinehas:” (Soṭah 22b). An ancient baraita enumerates seven classes of Pharisees, of which five consist of either eccentric fools or hypocrites: (1) “the shoulder Pharisee,” who wears, as it were, his good actions. ostentatiously upon his shoulder; (2) “the wait-a-little Pharisee,” who ever says, “Wait a little, until I have performed the good act awaiting me”; (3), “the bruised Pharisee,” who in order to avoid looking at a woman runs against the wall so as to bruise himself and bleed; (4) “the pestle Pharisee,” who walks with head down like the pestle in the mortar; (5) “the ever-reckoning Pharisee,” who says, “Let me know what good I may do to counteract my neglect”; (6) “the God-fearing Pharisee,” after the manner of Job; (7) “the God-loving Pharisee,” after the manner of Abraham (Yer. Ber. ix. 14b; Soṭah 22b; Ab. R. N., text A, xxxvii.; text B, xlv. [ed. Schechter, pp. 55, 62]; the explanations in both Talmuds vary greatly; see Chwolson, “Das Letzte-Passahmahl,” p. 116). R. Joshua b. Hananiah, at the beginning of the second century, calls eccentric Pharisees “destroyers of the world” (Soṭah iii. 4); and the term “Pharisaic plagues” is frequently used by the leaders of the time (Yer. Soṭah iii. 19a).

It is from this group, however, that both the Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmud were composed and compiled from the writings of the Mishnah. Their codification of Torah and archival records of rabbinic rulings and case law have established a continuity between the ancient and contemporary expressions of the cultural practices of Israel, though not without challenge. It is interesting to note, also, that it is from the Pharisees and their traditions that what is known today as Rabbinic Judaism find their source with this group.


Image result for essene sons of lightOur next focus group is that of the Essenes. Derived from the Hebrew word Zenu’im (צנועים) which is said to mean the humble or pious ones, this group had grown beyond disgruntled with the state of affairs at the Temple precinct and decided to separate themselves from the ritualistic services surrounding the Temple. The Essenes have come to our attention in the contemporary world through a discovery of what is called the Dead Sea Scrolls found in the caves of Qumran in the desert of the Negev where they established their highly disciplinary community. As separatists, this group was known as ascetics and extremely rigid in their keeping of the Torah’s standards of purity and holiness.

Their disillusionment with the corruption of the Temple and resultant culture in Jerusalem led them to develop an apocalyptic, eschatological ideology of the present and future established upon the foundation of Israel’s past Torah knowledge and history. This struggle that they perceived and articulated was between the sons of light and the sons of darkness. More than just a spiritual conflict, they expressed that this continual struggle is an ever present dynamic that played out in the daily life of the righteous against the wicked. Robert Mock again captures the essence of Essene epistemology in his essay The Essenes and the Hasidim, which tells us that

The first existence of this community of religious and philosophical rebels from mainstream Judaism existed from the third century BCE.  Its existence all the way back to the time of the return of the Jews from Persia is suggested by at least one author, Theodor Gaster, who states that Hillel was a disciple of Ezra. In fact the priest called Shechaniah the son of Jehiel (Ezra 10:2) who is talking with Ezra, is suggested as being one of the first Essene priests. (Ibid 45) This suggests that Ezra the Scribe who brought one of the waves of émigrés back to the Land of Israel from Persia was actually the first Teacher of Righteousness (Moreh Tzedek) of the Essenes. (Theodor H. Gaster in “The Dead Sea Scriptures, 1976, pp. 29,107 cited by Rabbi Harvey Falk, “Jesus the Pharisee, A New Look at the Jewishness of Jesus”, Paulist Press, 997 Macarthur Boulevard, Mahwah, N.J. 07430, 1985, page 44).

About nineteen hundred and fifty years ago the Essenes disappeared from all physical records.  Gradually a profile of the Essenes has been carefully pieced together by the scholars of antiquity.  One of the biggest difficulties is that at the zenith of their influence in Jewish culture, they were a “secret” and very secretive organization.  According to the Jewish Encyclopedia, the oaths taken by an initiate into the sect after his rigid probationary period were that they were never to divulge any secrets of the sect to any outsider even if they were tortured to death. (Jewish Encyclopedia 5:229).

Since one of the central focuses of this study is centered upon a mysterious individual called, Menahem (Manahem) the Essene, the profile of this isolated and secretive community is important to know and understand.  They were known to be a group of pious Jews who spent their days in isolated closeness with the [Elohim] of Israel.  As such, they became known as the Hasidim, the “pious ones.”  Their research and study was to understand their [Elohim] the Creator better.  Throughout their commentaries and writings they mixed images of great conflict and turmoil not only in their day but in a future day of the returning messiah.  They were devoted in their love for the God of Israel and for all mankind who walk in the “light”.

Image result for john the baptist baptizing jesus african artPerhaps the most famous of the Essenes was Yohanan ben Zekaryah, also known as John the Baptist. His ministry included reproving the Herodian monarchy, reforming the corrupted priesthood of the Sadducees and challenging diluted pedagogy of the Pharisees. Most importantly, however, was his role as forerunner of the coming Messiah to whom He was related by blood as a member of the tribe of Lewi. His proclamation of Israel’s Redeemer of which it is recorded in the witnesses of Matthew and Luke was a fire and brimstone message in direct confrontation with the corrupted power structure held by the Sadducees and Pharisees, of which he was descended from in both lineage and pedagogy, yet unequivocally rejected what it had become in the mainstream. The witness of Matthew tells us,

 But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his immersion, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?  Therefore produce fruit worthy of repentance; and do not think that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father’! For I tell you that from these stones [Elohim] can raise up children for Abraham. Already the axe is laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire! As for me, I immerse you in water for repentance. But the One coming after me is mightier than I am; I am not worthy to carry His sandals. He will immerse you in the Ruach ha-Kodesh and fire. His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He shall clear His threshing floor and gather His wheat into the barn; but the chaff He shall burn up with inextinguishable fire.

Matthew 3.7-12

His ministry set the stage for the final group of which this article sets its focus, that of the Nazarenes.



LeviticusWith all of the Messianic expectations that were present in the first century, it was the sect of the Nazarenes that brought one of the most foreboding and challenging expressions of the Messianic idea to the people of Israel. In Hebrew this faction is called ha Notzrim (נוצרים), a word derived a term that means branch. This concept is from  the prophecy of Isaiah which refers to a branch descending from the root of Jesse who would come to have the seven spirits of יהוה rest upon him. Centered around the individual Yahoshua ben Yoseph, the teachings that he presented to the people was rooted in the radical message of a national return to the Torah, accessing ideas from the Oral Tradition with elements of the inspired tradition of the Essenes.  Akin to the ministry of his cousin, Yohanan ben Zekaryah, Yahoshua’s mission was indeed a revolutionary one which bore all the markings of the Messianic fervor that was present in the first century.

Epiphanius of Salamis, a bishop from Cyprus who lived during the early fourth century, provides us with an eye opening account of this faction of Israelites. In his writing called the Panarion, he devotes an entire chapter the sect of the Nazarenes where he provides readers with a detailed description of who this group was, the nature and activities of its leader, and the central tenets of their ideology. He tells us that

But these sectarians whom I am now sketching disregarded the name of Jesus, and did not call themselves Jessaeans, keep the name of Jews, or term themselves Christians-but “Nazoraeans,” from the place-name, “Nazareth,” if you please! However they are simply complete Jews.  They use not only the New Testament but the Old Testament as well, as the Jews do. For unlike the previous sectarians [the Cerinthians], they do not repudiate the legislation, the prophets, and the books Jews call ”Writings.” They have no different ideas, but confess everything exactly as the Law proclaims it and in the Jewish fashion-except for their belief in [Messiah], if you please! For they acknowledge both the resurrection of the dead and the divine creation of all things, and declare that [Elohim] is one, and that his Son is [Messiah Yahoshua].  They are trained to a nicety in Hebrew. For among them the entire Law, the prophets, and the so-called Writings-I mean the poetic books, Kings, Chronicles, Esther and all the rest-are read in Hebrew, as they surely are by Jews. They are different from Jews, and different from Christians, only in the following. They disagree with Jews because they have come to faith in [Messiah]; but since they are still fettered by the Law-circumcision, the Sabbath, and the rest -they are not in accord with Christians. As to [Messiah], I cannot say whether they too are captives of the wickedness of Cerinthus and Merinthus, and regard him as a mere man-or whether, as the truth is, they affirm his birth of Mary by the Holy Spirit.

The most dynamic reality of this group is that they were a fusion of each of the previously mentioned groups. They were of Sadducean order as Yahoshua was descended from the tribe of Lewi and the sons of Tzadok. In fact, Rav Shaul in his book, Melchizadek and the Passover Lamb, has this to say about this matter:

In the Bible all that remains of Yahusha’s lineage is through Miriam’s father Eli in Luke.  That, however, is only half his lineage through Miriam.  What about Yahusha’s lineage through Miriam’s mother?  We know from reading my third book Christianity – The Great Deception the degree to which the Romans turned Yahusha the Jewish Rabbi/Healer into a pagan Roman god “Jesus” and removed all Jewish heritage from his life.  We also know from the Talmud the extra-ordinary steps taken by Rabbinical Judaism to discredit Yahusha as the Messiah even going so far as to change their calendar in 358 AD so that Yahusha’s birth would not fulfill Daniel’s prophecy.  Given these dramatic steps taken over 2000 years to hide the true identity of Yahusha it seems his lineage through Miriam’s mother somehow “got lost” along the way as well!  We are about to find out why Yahusha’s lineage through Miriam’s mother was “misplaced”. 

While this crucial information concerning Yahusha’s lineage through Miriam’s mother was “removed” from our knowledge (although it was carefully kept as all royalty does) we can know who Miriam’s mother was for certain and reconstruct her true lineage.  The Bible records Miriam (Yahusha’s mother) went to live with her “kinswoman” Elizabeth while with child.  Elizabeth was Miriam’s auntie, the sister of Miriam’s mother Hannah.  We can go back into the historical record to discover that Elizabeth was one of three daughters of the High Priest Yahusha III.  One of Elizabeth’s sisters was named Hanna who was married in an arranged marriage to Eli.  Eli is the father of Miriam making Elizabeth Miriam’s “kinswoman or auntie” just like the Bible states.  Making Hanna her mother.  Knowing who Miriam’s mother was we can research historically ALL the blood running through the veins of Yahusha the Messiah!

Yahusha’s mother Miriam and grandmother Hannah were in fact considered royalty in Israel and both candidates to give birth to The Messiah as they were descended from the Zadokite Priestly line and  married to Lions of Judah or Davidic Dynasty heirs:

  • Miriam was the grand-daughter of the first High Priest (Yahusha III) to serve in the Second Temple – She was the daughter of Hannah (Anna) who was the daughter of the High Priest Yahusha III. Yahusha III was the first High Priest to serve in the second Temple coming out of Babylonian/Persian captivity. Yahusha III was a High Priest in the line of Zadok or a Zadokite High Priest who was to re-establish the House of Zadok in the office of High Priest.

Image result for priest king prophetThis powerful admission of ancestry provides us with evidence of Yahoshua’s High Priestly calling according to the order of Melki-Tzedeq, which is also Israel’s most powerful King and Prophet. Interestingly, his descent from the Tzadokite line also legitimizes his ascent to the office of Messiah, which is also inclusive of his paternal connection to the tribe of Yahudah. It is significant to note that the intermarriage of these two tribes goes back to the days of Moshe, as Aharon the High Priest was married to Elisheba who was the daughter of Amminadab and sister of Nachshon of the tribe of Yahudah. Not only was Aharon, a Lewi’im, married to a Yahudi, but his sister, Miriam, was also said to be married to a Yahudi, either Caleb or Hur. This mix of the priestly line with the royal line was what was a major determinant for the incarnation of the Messiah. With the appearance of Yahoshua ben Yoseph, this became a reality that sent shockwaves throughout the entire nation. Creating a political and spiritual earthquake, the nation was split over whether or not this humble son of a carpenter was the Messiah. From garnering a great following from the people to the leadership, to receImage result for mashiyachiving death threats from the power structure, his challenge to Israel’s hierarchy engendered sentiments of love and hate from his countrymen, as Rav Shaul tells us (ibid.),

Yahusha’s life and ministry inspired the hatred of the House of Annanias, for only Yahusha was capable of toppling the power and authority of this powerful high priestly family that had turned the sacred House of YHVH (the Temple of Herod) into a “den of thieves”.  So, Patriarch Annanias and his son-in-law, the High Priest Caiphas became the head of the “leading Jews” that instigated, plotted and conspired to fulfill their dream to eradicate this famous Rabbi of Galilee named Yahusha the Natsri (Nazarene which means The Branch) the royal descendant of David and the Zadokite High Priest Yahusha III.  

In the gospels, they were “The Jews” who sought to destroy Yahusha. It was Yahusha HaNotzri (Yahusha the Nazarene or THE BRANCH) who had garnered a large following in the foothills surrounding the Sea of Kinneret (Galilee).   This large following was no accident as Prince Yahseph and Princess Miriam were well known candidates to be the parents of The Messiah.  The people (looking for the Messiah) knew Yahusha was a Royal Prince/High Priest as he was the child of a very carefully cultivated bloodline of Prince and Princesses and High Priest in the line of Zadok to Aaron. 

The Jews were eagerly awaiting The Messiah’s arrival and came out in droves to hear Prince Yahusha the High Priest speak to see if he was in fact… The Messiah.  Annanias and Chiaphas knew Yahusha was the rabbi who threatened to bring his spiritual revolution to the doorsteps of the temple!  And they knew he was qualified to be the Ruling Zadok (Melchizedek).  In fact, that is exactly what Yahusha did.  As in the Bazaar of Hanan, with a whip in his hand, he threw out the money changers and almost toppled the power of the House of Annanias/Chiaphas.

Here in the temple called the “Temple of Herod, Inc” was being conducted the most lucrative money laundering enterprise in the Eastern Roman Empire.  Think of a Movie Theater today and how you cannot bring food in.  You are forced to buy food at exorbitant prices.  In that day, when you went to The Temple to make an offering, you had to purchase the animals to be sacrificed from The Temple Priests at exorbitant prices (you couldn’t bring your own).  I don’t remember [reading] this statute in The Torah!  People worked and did business in a multi-cultural world at that time with many currencies.  You also had to “change your money” from one currency to the next in The Temple to give offerings at an exorbitant exchange rate.  I don’t remember reading that requirement in The Torah either?  No these were not authorized activities to be taking place in The Temple.

This was the source of the financial power of Ciaphas and the REAL reason behind his motivation to have Yahusha executed.  Not only was Yahusha the legitimate High Priest in the Order of Zadok but he was threatening to overthrow the “money”.  We all know how well that goes over, when you are a threat to “the money” you must die.

Image result for the ancient nazarene sealIn addition to this, the Nazarenes were of the Pharisaic tradition due to the working class nature of the group, coupled with the influence of the teachings of Hillel and the views of the resurrection of the dead. They were Essene is spirit as Yahoshua was the successor of Yohanan ben Zekaryah, who immersed Yahoshua and proclaimed him as the Lamb of Elohim sent to take away the sins of the world. Not only so, but the inspired exegetical method of interpreting the Scriptures was also a hallmark of Yahoshua’s teachings, which was given to his disciples. That this rarely recognized faction of first-century Israel found a way to make such a powerful impression in history, yet go nearly without notice today, is a concerted effort by those in power from times past to present to suppress this order which provides humanity with the most fulfilled pedagogy of Torah culture.

That the Nazarenes, this little known sect today, was a most powerful faction of Israelite society in the first century is fact of history that has not been truly squared with by the mainstream of both the Christian and Jewish to date. The reality of the presence of this group, however, must be reckoned with and examined in light of the powerful teachings of its Rabbi and his disciples which have been preserved in the form of what is known as the New Testament. An extremely influential movement, intent on restoring the power of the Torah as the oracles of יהוה, empowering the people of Israel as the kingdom of priests and set-apart nation that they were called to be, and toppling the corruption that was rife in society, the Nazarene movement of Israel has left its mark on society in indelible which have defied attempt after attempt to remove the marks in history that they have made. As one of the leading Pharisees of that age profoundly spoke with reason about what the rulers of Israel were maliciously intending to do with Yahoshua’s disciples, we find that the check and balance of the Pharisees provided the world with a most pristine opportunity to discover the Nazarene movement from the first century which was the host party of the revelation of the Messiah!

But a certain one in the council stood up, a Pharisee named Gamli’ĕl, a teacher of the Torah, respected by all the people, and ordered them to put the emissaries outside for a little while, and said to them, “Men of Yisra’ĕl, take heed to yourselves what you intend to do to these men. For before these days Toḏah rose up, claiming to be somebody. A number of men, about four hundred, did join him. He was slain, and all who obeyed him were dispersed, and came to naught. After him, Yehuḏah of Galil rose up in the days of the census, and drew away many people after him. He also perished, and all who obeyed him were scattered. And now I say to you, stay away from these men and leave them alone, because if this plan or this work is of men, it shall be overthrown, but if it is of Elohim, you are unable to overthrow it, lest you even be found to fight against Elohim.” And they heeded his advice, and having called for the emissaries, beating them, they commanded that they should not speak in the Name of יהושע, and let them go. Then indeed they went rejoicing from the presence of the council, because they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His Name. And daily in the Set-apart Place, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and bringing the Good News: יהושע the Messiah!

Acts 5.34-42


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