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The Ancient Poisons: Discernment Heresies of the New Testament

[3]On the Pharisees see: John Bowker, Jesus and the Pharisees (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1973) and William Coleman, Those Pharisees (New York: Hawthorn Books, 1977). Not until my paper, “Phariseeism: A Pneumatological Perspective” (paper presented to the Twenty-first Annual Meeting of the Society for Pentecostal Studies, Lakeland Florida, 1991), was Phariseeism noted as primarily an anti-Holy Spirit movement. I elaborated the idea in my book, Quenching the Spirit (Lake Mary: Creation House, 1992). Perhaps the best description of Phariseeism as destructive legalism in the Church Age may be found in Dietrich von Hilderbrand’s True Morality and Its Counterfeits (New York: McKay Co. 1955).

[4] W.H.C. Frend, “Early Christianity and Society: A Jewish Legacy in the pre-Constantinian era,” Harvard Theological Review 76 #1 (January 1983, 55-71).

[5] On this see: Noel S Rabbinowitz, “Matthew 23:2-4: Does Jesus encourage the authority of the Pharisees and does he endorse their Halakah?” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 46 #3 (summer 2003), 423-447. Rabbinowitz believes that “Moses’ seat” both represented the Pharisees’ teaching tradition and referred to a real, physical seat in the synagogue where the rabbi sat to read and expounded the scriptures.

[6]See the very credible arguments on this by Anders Runesson, “Rethinking Early Jewish Christian Relations,” Journal of Biblical Literature, 127 #1 (spring 2008), 95-132.

[7]In fairness to the Pharisees’ position, it is true that the demonic can produce “good fruit” such as healings, in the short run, but Jesus’ point is that the fruit criterion should be considered first. If there is evidence of spiritualism or idolatry, then a further discernment is needed.

[8] On this see: Bowker, Jesus and the Pharisees 43.

[9] In my ministry among Hispanics I have had to be especially careful on this issue. Many curanderos (herbal healers) do indeed heal through spiritualism (i.e., demonic spirits), but some are authentically Christian who have not been able to practice their gift of healing within the traditions of the Catholic Church. One such person was in my congregation. She was from the Maya speaking area of Mexico, and knew much about healing herbs, but the only spirits she invoked was Jesus and His Spirit.

[10] The literature on the Sadducees is much less extensive than on the Pharisees. An excellent article on the Sadducees is an old one; Hugo Mantel’s, “Dichotomy of Judaism During the Second Temple,” Hebrew Union College Annual, 44 (1973), 55-87, which traces the origins of the Pharisees and Sadducees back to the time of Ezra and Nehemiah.

[11] Josephus, Antiquities, xviii, 1:4

[12] This latter view seems utterly ridiculous to moderns, but it is not without some biblical warrant. Note what the prophet Ezekiel wrote as he described the Temple worship of the priests (Ezk. 44:19).

[13] This insight on the Pharisee/Sadducee divide comes from the seminal article by Rabbi Victor Eppstein, “When and How the Sadducees were Excommunicated,” Journal of Biblical Literature 85 #7 (June 1966), 213-224. Rabbi Eppstein belied that the Sadducees were maneuvered into impotence by the Pharisees a decade before the destruction of the temple in 70AD through an esoteric dispute over the handling of the “red heifer” ashes of purification (Numbers 19).

[14] Pointed out in Bernard Jacob Bamberger, “Sadducees and Their Belief in Angels,” Journal of Biblical Studies, 82 #4 (Dec 1965), 33-435.

[15] See for example: Ernest G. Gordon, The Leaven of the Sadducees or Old and New Apostasies (Chicago: Bible Institute Colportage Association, 1926).

[16] For a good, brief review article on the state of Gnostic studies see: Berger A. Pearson’s, “Early Christianity and Gnosticism: A Review Essay,” Religious Studies Review, 13 #1 (Jan. 1987), 1-8.

[17] The older theory that Gnosticism arose in the 2nd and 3rd Centuries was superseded by the splendid scholarly work of Walter Schmithals, Gnosticism in Corinth: An Investigation of the Letters to the Corinthians. Trans. By John E. Steely (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1972). Schmithals’ work showed that Gnosticism was contemporary with the New Testament Church, and Jewish Gnostics a major opposing faction to Paul’s gospel. This has since been collaborated by others, see, for instance, the now standard work on early Gnosticism: Kurt Rudolph Gnosis: The nature and history of Gnosticism (New York: Harper & Roe, 1983). Rudolph shows the origins of Gnosticism as a pre-Christian and movement within Judaism which inverted the meaning of Old Testament scriptures. These discoveries had been foreseen in Fr. Ronald Knox’ book Enthusiasm: A chapter in the history of religion (New York; Oxford University Press, 1950), chapter 2. Scholars with liberal or non-Christian views often distort the evidence on early Gnosticism to make it some sort of valid Christianity that was unfairly suppressed by authoritarian bishops. On this point see the discussion of Elaine Pagel’s work, The Gnostic Gospels (New York: Random House, 1979), by Pierson in the above note.

[18] R. M. Grant, Gnosticism and Early Christianity (New York: Columbia University Press, 1957). Chapter 1.

[19] Irenaeus’ sound judgment on the Gnostics has been verified as more and more Gnostic texts are uncovered. See: Terrance L Tiessen, “Gnosticism as Heresy: The Witness of Irenaeus,” Dioskala, 18 #1 (winter 2007), 31-48.

[20] Grant, Gnosticism, 11.

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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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