The Din of Silence Part 3

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Din Silence Intertestamental

Wednesday 10/25/23 

Message: The Din of Silence Part 3

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The Din of Silence Part 3

Tonight I am hoping to bring us right up to the door of the establishment of the Sadducees and the Pharisees in our lessons on the intertestamental period.

As a reminder, during our first two weeks we covered essentially the same time period from the returning Judeans from Babylonian exile….. to the time of the last Seleucid ruler, Antiochus IV. This represents the time in Israel’s past roughly spanning 458-175B.C.

We did, however, back up a little bit more, near the time of  Daniel,  to address how Aramaic became the dominant language and had a diluting effect on the unity of the Jewish people. The wealthy, political and religious leaders all retained their use of the Hebrew language, which helped to develop a type of “class system”, which came into play much later. That was why Ezra had to interpret the law to the people before the Levites could teach them the meaning of it.

Though we covered essentially the same time period both weeks, it was with two separate focuses. 

The first week we were just getting our bearings on the time period itself and its socio-political environment.

The second week we backed up and ran through the same time period, looking at the religious world of the Jews – What challenges did they face, what attitudes and rebellions took place and how did all of this change the nation and its spirituality as a result.

Now tonight it is my goal to deal with…

  • Sanhedrin
  • Pre-synagogue
  • Ruler of Synagogue 
  • Scribes (Ezra)
  • Doctors of the law
  • Antiochus epiphanes
  • The Hasmoneans

… and introduce the Maccabees. This will leave us with only the development of the Maccabean war and the resulting development of the Sadducees, Pharisees, Zealots and Essenes for our final lesson.


We will begin with the Sanhedrin and the Synagogue because I introduced them last week and even told you some things about synagogue, I did not speak to the origin of the Sanhedrin nor the possible earliest expression of Synagogue.

It was during the time of Grecian rule that the creation of Synagogue most likely came about,  as well as the formation of the Sanhedrin, though both of these had their previous or forerunning manifestations. 

The term “Sanhedrin” as well as many of its formal rules of operation developed over the years, but its origin is owed to the command of God given to Moses as recorded in Numbers 11:16-17. We will address this more next week.

Numbers 11:16-17,

“(16) The LORD said to Moses, “Gather to me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know are elders of the people and officials over them, and bring them to the tent of meeting; let them take their position there with you.  (17)  Then I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take part of the Spirit that is on you, and will put it on them, and they will bear some of the burden of the people with you, so that you do not bear it all by yourself.”

The term Sanhedrin is from the Hebrew word סַנְהֶדְרִין‎ (sanhedrín), which itself derived from the ancient Greek συνέδριον (sunédrion) meaning, “sitting together, hence assembly or council”. The council of Jewish elders has always contained 71 members – 70 from the tribes of Israel and the eldest and most experienced or wise assuming the lead and bringing the number to 71 members. Of course originally, this uppermost position belonged to Moses.

An elder did not simply speak to the age of the individual, it was a reference to the wisest and most respected men of the tribes of Israel.

We see this counsel in the book of Acts when Paul appeared before the chief priests and the counsel.

This is a place where the rules regulating the Sanhedrin, altered over the years. 

By the time of Jesus its members were restricted to priests, Levites, and the more wealthy and influential men from among the families of Israel who had a pure ancestry among the Jews

As we just read, God’s command was to gather 70 of the elders of Israel. Moses was NOT the high priest or even of the priesthood so this was not a God ordained qualification for being head of the Sanhedrin. However, Josephus, the Jewish historian of about 100A.D., sets forth the Sanhedrin as a political and judicial council headed by the high priest as Israel’s “civil ruler”. 

Ananias, the High Priest of Paul’s day. When Paul appeared before the counsel, Ananias ordered Paul struck on the mouth when he first spoke before the counsel. Paul reacted hastily, charging him with breaking the law. Later Paul recanted his statement when he learned that the one who ordered him to be struck was the High Priest. This is a strong indication that the head of the Sanhedrin did not yet have to be the High Priest because, it is unlikely that Paul did not know who was the High Priest in his day. He simply knew the head of the Sanhedrin had ordered him struck. 

Now as to why Paul did not recognize that it was Ananias is another question. Perhaps he was too far away to make a clear identification or he had never physically met him. In any case, this incident clearly indicates that no law requiring the head of the Sanhedrin to be the current High Priest existed yet.


Last week I also mentioned that Synagogue was very likely a development following the Babylonian exile but I failed to mention that it is also possible that synagogue existed in a more basic form DURING the Babylonian exile. We know gatherings did take place during Judah’s exile, so this is possible.

For example, we see in Ezekiel 8:1 that he and the elders of Israel were sitting in his home. This of course is proof of nothing regarding Synagogue because these men were, as I said, all elders. So this may have actually been a judicial gathering, though I doubt Ezekiel’s home in exile was large enough to accommodate 70 people. 

The point however, is that clearly,  even in exile,  the Jews had some freedom to gather, at least in one another’s homes and such could have been a place where the idea which later developed into Synagogue developed.

These would have been a type of pre-synagogue. Also possible is that Synagogue may have developed even earlier with the northern kingdom under Assyrian captivity. 

The simple fact is that there is no clear history to indicate when the practice of Synagogue developed and since it was clearly instituted by man the rules regulating Synagogue, though in keeping with the law, was not specific given in the law. So by Jesus’ day when we hear of rulers of Synagogue such as Jairus we have no indication as to who was allowed or required to fill this position.

As for the existence of Scribes, they definitely existed under the Old Covenant but they do not appear as prominent as they did in Jesus’ day. Scribes are mentioned about fifty times in the Old Testament and were not solely religious in nature since kings are also said to have had scribes. As for our purposes however, Scribes such as Ezra seemed to study, practice, and teach the Law as is seen in Ezra 7:11. These were also known as “Doctors of the law”. The doctor we use today comes from the Latin word doctoratus which simply means teacher or instructor.

Now we are turning our attention to the last groups we see just suddenly appear in the New Testament after leaving Malachi and that is the Sadducees and the Pharisees.

I introduced them last week, but I did not have time to give you their backstory which will require me to bring up the Hasmoneans, the Maccabees and Antiochus epiphanes.

If we were going to ask a modern practicing Jew about the time in their history we are covering tonight they would likely refer to it as the story of Chanukah (haa-nuh-kuh).

You remember that over 100 years following the reign of Alexander the Great, his four military leaders divided up his empire. Also that two of those groups largely presided over Judah, the last being the Seleucids under Antiochus IV.

Important to remember about this time period was that just before Antiochus IV was Seleucus IV who had been defeated by the Romans, but allowed to keep control over his portion of the Greater Grecian Empire so long as he continued to pay an enormous tax to Rome. He did so for a span of about 15 years at the expense of those under his rule.

This created a spiritual/moral dilemma for the Jews which eventuated in a division among them that is central to the development of these other groups I am going to introduce to you.

Out of all of this, two primary Jewish groups emerged. One was the Oniads or those loyal to the High Priest Onias. These were ardently against Seleucids rule due to its pagan influence.

The other group was headed by his brother Jason who claimed to believe it was in their best interest to conform. He and those who followed him set out on a campaign of slandering the High Priest Onias before their Seleucus IV

Of course it is more than possible that Jason’s only motivation in all of this was to replace his brother as High Priest. This base motivation is all but confirmed by the fact that Jason offered large amounts of money to the king. 

Now this portion of the story I find a little incredible since it was in the power of the king to simply take anything he wanted. Also, Jason NOT being High Priest was not likely in a position to give this money and in fact, there was not that much money in the treasury from which to give. Nevertheless, the promise to give the money was no doubt contingent upon his brother’s removal from the office. Much of this information comes from both Josephus’ Antiquity of the Jews and the apocryphal book of II Maccabees chapters 3-4

In 175B.C., Antiochus IV, murdered his father Seleucus IV’s and assumed control of the empire. Upon taking power he is said to have immediately accepted Jason’s monetary offer, removing his brother Onias from the office of High Priest

This was a short victory for Jason. Only a few years into his placement as High Priest, he sent his younger brother Menelaus to pay their tribute to the king. Menelaus took advantage of his audience before the king and offered him even more money if he could take the place of his brother Jason and so it was that Jason was sent into exile and Menelaus became High Priest in 171B.C.. This was reversed for a short time, but that is unnecessary to our lesson.

Notice if you will however, that all those taking the High Priesthood were, up to this point, all of the same family of Zadok descending from Aaron – so the lineage was unbroken.

Now quite in contrast to the leadership style of Alexander the Great, this Antiochus IV wanted cultural uniformity throughout his division of the Empire. So ardent was this desire, that he followed it up with severe oppression against all who did not conform. Of course for our purposes we are only concerned about these issues so far as they impacted the Jews.

As you can imagine, any Jew who was still faithful to God during this time was outraged by this flagrant mistreatment of what represented the highest position in Jewish society! The High Priesthood was being gambled with in the blood of the descendants of Aaron.

There were some who spoke out against these atrocities and they are known as the Hasidim or “the pious ones”. It is from this group that the Hasidic Jews of today trace their roots.The official sect of the Hasidim did not arise until the 18th century, but these were precursors to them.

Around 169B.C. Antiochus became all the more involved in the religious affairs of the Jews. He is said to have entered the Temple and taken from there a large amount of the valuables which only served to further enrage the pious Jews.

A later military defeat with the Romans is said to have inspired Antiochus to take out his hostilities upon the Jews. he is said to have torn down the walls of Jerusalem, killed many Jews, ordered the scriptures to be destroyed and brought prostitutes into the temple for sexual orgies.

It was at this time that Antiochus made laws forbidding the observance of any circumcision, sacrifices, Jewish feast day, holy days or the Sabbath at the penalty of death.

History records that Antiochus was brutal in his attacks against the Jews. An old scribe named Eleazar was said to have refused to eat pig meat and was therefore flogged to death. Other families were publicly killed for failing to worship Greek gods or for having their sons circumcised.

The coup de grâce took place on December25 of that year of 168B.C.. It was then that Antiochus placed an altar to Zeus and offered a pig on it within the temple. This was the event which drew the line in the sand and lit the rebellion known as the Maccabean Revolt.

Ultimately two groups opposed Antiochus IV.

A nationalist group headed by a man named Mattathias who was of the priestly family from Modi’in. Mattathias was the grandson of Simeon the Hasmonite which is where we get the name Hasmonean. He, along with his son Judah Maccabee sparked the revolt against Seleucid rule.

In fact, it is said that in 167B.C. Mattathias was required to offer a sacrifice to Greek gods by a representative sent from King Antiochus Epiphanes. Not only did he refuse to comply but he is said to have killed a man who had stepped forward to make the offering and then killed the representative sent by the King.

He is quoted in 1Maccabees 2:27 as saying,

“Let everyone who is zealous for the law and supports the covenant come out with me!”

The second group were forerunners of those we have always known as the Pharisees. They were the Chasidim. They were against not only the Seleucid government but on their overall hellenizing influence over the Jewish nation.

Now I will not get into the details of the war itself. I figure if you are that interested in the particulars of the revolt it would be easy enough for you to discover on your own. Suffice it to say that the revolt was successful, Jerusalem was retaken and finally the temple was rededicated on December 25, 164B.C..

This was not the end of the conflict however because they were still under Seleucid control. The Greeks had simply relented – allowing the Jewish religious rites to be re-established. 

Next week we will begin with Demetrius, who was the nephew of Antiochus IV and who also had been exchanged for Antiochus as hostage in Egypt since the beginning of Antiochus IV’s reign. Demetrius encounters the resistance of Judas Maccabee. This brings in the last pieces of the puzzle leading to the  development of the Sadducees, the Pharisees, Zealots and the Essences. However, to continue any further tonight would simply be more history than I think you are prepared to absorb in one evening.


Hi my name is Mark and though I am opposed to titles, I am currently the only Pastor (shepherd/elder) serving our assembly right now.

I have been Pastoring in one capacity or another for nearly 30 years now, though never quite like I am today.

Early in 2009 the Lord revealed to me that the way we had structured our assembly (church) was not scriptural in that it was out of sync with what Paul modeled for us in the New Testament. In truth, I (like many pastors I am sure) never even gave this fundamental issue of church structure the first thought. I had always assumed that church structure was largely the same everywhere and had been so from the beginning. While I knew Paul had some very stringent things to say about the local assembly of believers, the point of our gatherings together and who may or may not lead, I never even considered studying these issues but assumed we were all pretty much doing it in numbers right?! Boy, I couldn't have been more wrong!

So needless to say, my discovery that we had been doing it wrong for nearly two decades was a bit of a shock to me! Now, this "revelation" did not come about all at once but over the course of a few weeks. We were a traditional single pastor led congregation. It was a top-bottom model of ministry which is in part biblical, but not in the form of a monarchy.

The needed change did not come into focus until following 9 very intense months of study and discussions with those who were leaders in our church at the time.

We now understand and believe that the Bible teaches co-leadership with equal authority in each local assembly. Having multiple shepherds with God's heart and equal authority protects both Shepherds and sheep. Equal accountability keeps authority and doctrine in check. Multiple shepherds also provide teaching with various styles and giftings with leadership skills which are both different and complementary.

For a while we had two co-pastors (elders) (myself and one other man) who led the church with equal authority, but different giftings. We both taught in our own ways and styles, and our leadership skills were quite different, but complimentary. We were in complete submission to each other and worked side-by-side in the labor of shepherding the flock.

Our other Pastor has since moved on to other ministry which has left us with just myself. While we currently only have one Pastor/Elder, it is our desire that God, in His faithfulness and timing, may bring us more as we grow in maturity and even in numbers.

As to my home, I have been married since 1995 to my wonderful wife Terissa Woodson who is my closest friend and most trusted ally.

As far as my education goes, I grew up in a Christian home, but questioned everything I was ever taught.

I graduated from Bible college in 1990 and continued to question everything I was ever taught (I do not mention my college in order to avoid being labeled).

Perhaps my greatest preparation for ministry has been life and ministry itself. To quote an author I have come to enjoy namely Fredrick Buechner in his writing entitled, Now and Then, "If God speaks to us at all other than through such official channels as the Bible and the church, then I think that He speaks to us largely through what happens to us...if we keep our hearts open as well as our ears, if we listen with patience and hope, if we remember at all deeply and honestly, then I think we come to recognize beyond all doubt, that, however faintly we may hear Him, He is indeed speaking to us, and that, however little we may understand of it, His word to each of us is both recoverable and precious beyond telling." ~ Fredrick Buechner

Well that is about all there is of interest to tell you about me.

I hope our ministry here is a blessing to you and your family. I also hope that it is only a supplement to a local church where you are committed to other believers in a community of grace.

~God Bless!