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The Ancient Poisons: Discernment Heresies of the New Testament


Judging by Origins and Pedigrees

Faith, defined in the lives of the Old Testament patriarchs was trust in God and expectancy in His provision. But the Pharisees began to redefine faith as adherence to their theological and ritual positions – the Proto-Talmud. The center of faith moved from the heart to the head. As a natural result, the Pharisees split into factions among themselves. The principal factions were the schools of Hillel and Shammai. Gamaliel, mentioned twice in Acts, was a disciple of Hillel and a noted teacher in his own right (Acts 5:34-40 and 22:3).

For the patriarchs of the Old Testament, faith was trust in God and expectancy in His provision.

Pride of scholarship and their rabbinical schools led the Pharisees to assume that spiritual issues should be evaluated by the origins and pedigree of the person in question. For instance, did the person manifesting spiritual power, such as healing or exorcism, have the right to that power by nature of his training and association with the proper rabbinic school? If not, they reasoned, the spiritual powers probably came from witchcraft (Matt. 9:34).

Consider what happened to Peter and John after a lame man was healed through their ministry (Acts 4:1-22). They were dragged before the Sanhedrin to be prosecuted, and the question they were asked was: “By what power or by what name did you do this?” Peter answered their challenge with great wisdom and boldness about his authority in Jesus. The members of the Sanhedrin were astonished by the courage and wisdom of the apostles, as they were “uneducated, common men” (Acts 4:13). In other words, Peter and John did not belong to a proper rabbinical school.

The Pharisees assumed that their command of the scriptures and their traditions, which served well in discerning against pagan Hellenism, placed them in spiritual descent with the great prophets of the past. They also expected Judaism to develop and flower along lines they had already charted, the Proto-Torah. The Messiah would thus be a “super-Pharisee” who would resolve all their disputes with brilliant interpretations.

What kind of Messiah were the Pharisees looking for? A super-Pharisee who would resolve all their disputes with brilliant interpretations.

Rather than affirm the Pharisees’ expectations and assumptions, the true Messiah short-circuited their Proto-Talmudic system of theological controversies, rabbinical authority, and proper pedigrees. Jesus declared that spiritual issues and activity must be discerned by their fruit (Matt. 7:15-18).

John the Baptist had already raised the fruit question in regard to the Pharisees who came to him seeking baptism (Matt. 3:8-10). Jesus made the fruit criterion central to authentic discernment for His disciples. He instructed them: “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor figs from thistles, are they?” (Matt. 7:15-16).

Jesus declared that spiritual issues and activity must be discerned by their fruit, and he made this criterion central to authentic discernment for His disciples.

The contrast between the Biblical view of discernment on the one hand (fruit) and the Pharisees’ view on the other (origins and pedigree) is summarized dramatically in the case of the man healed by Jesus of blindness from birth (John 9). When the Pharisees questioned the man and then his parents, they were not concerned with the fruit of the incident, that is, that the man had his sight restored, but rather the origins and pedigree of the healer. They wanted to know what rabbinical school Jesus came from that authorized Him to do spiritual works. The Pharisees declared, “We are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses; but as for this man [Jesus], we do not know where He is from” (John 9:28-29).[7]

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Category: Church History, Winter 2018

About the Author: William L. De Arteaga, Ph.D., is known internationally as a Christian historian and expert on revivals and the rebirth and renewal of the Christian healing movement. His major works include Quenching the Spirit: Discover the Real Spirit Behind the Charismatic Controversy (Creation House, 1992, 1996), Forgotten Power: The Significance of the Lord’s Supper in Revival (Zondervan, 2002), Agnes Sanford and Her Companions: The Assault on Cessationism and the Coming of the Charismatic Renewal (Wipf & Stock, 2015), and The Public Prayer Station: Taking Healing Prayer to the Streets and Evangelizing the Nones (Emeth Press, 2018). Bill pastored two Hispanic Anglican congregations in the Marietta, Georgia area, and is semi-retired. He continues in his healing, teaching and writing ministry and is the state chaplain of the Order of St. Luke, encouraging the ministry of healing in all Christian denominations. Facebook

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