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§ 166. Discourse pronounced at a Feast against the Hypocrisy of the Pharisees and the Lawyers. (Luke, xi., 37-52.)

While Christ was engaged in the conversation just referred to, a certain Pharisee, who did not display his hostile disposition so openly as the rest, but masked it under the garb of courtesy, came and invited him to breakfast, probably with a view to catch up something in his words or actions that might point a charge of heresy, or serve to cast suspicion upon him at a subsequent period.

In this spirit, he found it quite a matter of offence that Christ sat down to table without washing his hands. The Saviour took occasion from this to expose the hypocrisy of the sect; and availed himself, for the purpose, of illustrations drawn from the objects around him at the feast. “You Pharisees make the cups and dishes clean outside, but. leave them full of dirt within. So you are careful to preserve an outward show of purity, but inwardly you are full of avarice and wickedness.440440   It is a question whether Matt., xxiii., 25, or Luke, xi., 39, contains the original form of these words. In the latter, the second member of the illustration is wanting; Christ passes over from the illustration (the vessels) to the thing illustrated (the Pharisees). The two members are more complete in Matthew: “Ye make clean the outside of the cups and platters, but inwardly they are full of extortion and wickedness,” i. e., their contents were obtained by avarice and oppression. But neither is this precisely apt, nor does it seem likely that Christ would have reproached the Pharisee exactly in this form. In Luke the last member of the illustration (the cups are dirty within) and the first member of the application (ye are careful for outward purity) are wanting. In the above interpretation of Matthew we follow the reading ἀδικίας; it would not apply if we take that of the lect. recept., viz., ἀκρασίας; which is not without good authority. This reading recommends itself as the more difficult: it is easy to conceive, as De Wette remarks, how the others could have grown out of it. Ye fools, are not the inward and the outward, made by the 247same Creator, inseparable? From within must true morality proceed; from the heart must the essence of piety be developed.”

From this he takes occasion (v. 41-44) to expose the mock piety of the Pharisees, displayed in their satisfying themselves, not merely in religion, but also in morality, with outward and empty show.441441    Luke, xi., 41, presents a difficulty. On any interpretation it seems to me that τὰ ἐνόντα corresponds to ἔσωθεν, as contrasted ἔξωθεν, v. 39, and must therefore be applied to the heart. This being admitted, the only question is whether the words were or were not spoken ironically. If they were not, it must seem strange that Christ, whose design was to aim at the disposition of the heart, should have laid down any thing so easily perverted into opus operatum. It may be said that, in accordance with a mode of teaching which he frequently adopted, viz., to give a specific instead of a general precept,—to command an outward act, as a sign of the disposition, instead of enjoining the disposition itself; he here enjoins alms-giving as proof, in act, of the possession of that love which imparts to others. This appears to be confirmed by the verse following, in which justice and love are mentioned as virtues wholly neglected by the Pharisees; implying that their alms-giving, previously mentioned, being destitute of the proper disposition, was valueless. But, on the other hand, where Christ employs this mode of teaching, the peculiar kind of special injunction that he gives is always determined by the character of his hearers; and alms-giving— would have been an inapt injunction to Pharisees, who, as we learn from the Sermon on the Mount, made great show and display thereof. Still, the injunction may have been given in view of the character of the individual Pharisees before him, who may have been known as avaricious men; and Christ may have known that to part with their money would be a test of love which they could not stand. If it be supposed that the words are not accurately reported, and that the special injunction is due to the writer, and not to Christ, still the connexion sufficiently guards even the writer from the charge of setting forth the opus operatum.
   All difficulties would disappear if we could assume that Christ intended only to point out the prevailing spirit in which the Pharisees acted, and the sophisms with which they satisfied their consciences. “As to your inward parts, all you have to do is to give alms, and lo! all is clean for you!” (You think that alms-giving is to cleanse your life and atone for your sins.) Although this view does not appear perfectly simple and natural, I cannot share in the decisive sentence which modern writers, and even De Wette, have pronounced against it. It may be connected with verse 42, as follows: “You cannot with this mock piety satisfy the law of God, and escape his judgments; but Woe unto you!” He then adds another illustration—their “tithing of mint,” &c., as corresponding to their kind of alms-giving; and contrasts both forms of hypocrisy (last clause of v. 42) with the true righteousness and love of which they were destitute.
They manifested their hypocrisy (v. 42) in giving “tithes” of the most trifling products (mint, cummin, &c.), and entirely neglecting the more essential duties of righteousness and love. Their vanity and haughtiness were shown (v. 43) in their claiming to lord it over every body. They were (v. 44), like tombs, so beautifully painted that no one would suppose them to be graves; but whose fair exterior concealed nothing but putrefaction.

At this point a lawyer442442   There appears to have been a marked distinction between these νομικοῖς and the Pharisees proper. They probably applied themselves more to the Scriptures than to the traditions; not, however, wholly rejecting the authority of the latter. (Perhaps they formed a transition sect to the later Karaites.) This might account for their expecting Christ to express himself more favourably of them than of the Pharisees, but did not save them from his reproach. They could derive a lifeless and unspiritual system from the letter of the Scriptures as well as from traditions; could be as severe as the Pharisees in judging others, and as indulgent towards themselves. This distinction between the νομικοί and the others confirms the originality of Luke. Strauss and De Wette think that these interlocutions of other persons, giving occasion to new turns of the discourse—a sort of table-talk—belong merely to the peculiar dress which Luke gives to the account; but it appears to me on the contrary, that their apt adaptation to the several speakers is a strong proof of the originality of the narrative. They belong to the very character of table conversation; and their faithful and accurate transmission may be easily accounted for; they were probably again and again repeated, and finally, in aid of memory, committed to writing; Any argument against the verisimilitude of these accounts, drawn from the modern etiquette of the table, is totally out of place, and valueless. who was present asked Christ whether he 248meant to apply these censures to the class to which he belonged, also From this the Saviour took occasion, in the remainder of the discourse (v. 45-52), to expose the crimes that were peculiar to the lawyers.


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