November 14th, 2001
Received by H.
I commented yesterday that John the Baptists father, Zacharias,
was a Temple priest in Jerusalem. And as you have also been told
already, he belonged to the Pharisee sect. To be even more precise,
he was a follower of the House of Hillel. Zacharias certainly had
a very important input into Joseph's decision to also join this
All that seems contradictory. I am aware that people who study
the history of Second Temple Judaism think that the priests were
Sadducees, belonging therefore to another religious group in competition
with the Pharisees. And there is some truth in this. The more influential
priests of higher rank, and of course the High Priests, were Sadducees.
But it is also true that there were many Pharisees in the priestly
There is also the impression that the Jewish aristocrats belonged
to the Sadducees, and in general terms, this is correct, but there
were also exceptions. As to the aristocracy, it is necessary to
point out that in many cases this affiliation had very base causes,
namely furthering ideas of political order.
Over the course of time, the Pharisees had developed a complicated
system of practical laws and of rules of behavior. They cherished the
idea that the Law as it appeared in Moses' books, didn't provide
enough accuracy for applying them with certainty in daily life. For
that reason they formed the so-called "oral law," which
simply constituted the regulations accompanying the Law. For example,
if the Mosaic Law determined that men should not work on Saturday,
then it was imperative to determine what the word "to work"
meant. Was it allowable for the physician to heal on the Day of
the Lord? And so this system, against which Jesus later on would
fight, grew. It was a system that fixed even the number of steps
people could walk on Saturday. And simultaneously, as usual, a tradition
also developed to avoid the strictness of this system, and the resulting
hair-splitting disputes constituted a great part of what they called
In contrast, the Sadducees, among them the High Priest, expressed
their wholesale rejection of this oral law. And not only that, they
exclusively recognized the five books of Moses, the Pentateuch or
Torah, as the only inspired Scriptures, rejecting all other books
of the prophets, the history books, etc. With that, they had much
in common with the Samaritans, although they fought so much with
Yes, I know, you have a great number of questions on the Samaritans.
I will answer them all, but not today. Everything in due course.
As for the Pharisees and Sadducees, I would just like to add that
both groups believed in the afterlife. I say this because there
is the impression, caused by the writings of the historian Josephus
Flavius, that the Sadducees didn't believe in the survival of the
soul. But that is absurd. Their ideas certainly were very vague and
not very defined. The Pharisees at least had some idea of a retribution
in the beyond, of a system of punishment and reward. But there was
not a lot of clarity in all that either. But that is not surprising.
Just ask any Christian about the afterlife, and you will be surprised.
Their ideas are no less hazy than those ideas of two thousand years
By what I have said you can see that John the Baptist, as well
as Jesus, grew up in a pharisaical atmosphere governed by a rigid
code of behavior. And I may add that both felt the same rejection
of this way of seeing God and His Laws.
Therefore, human behavior within the framework of God's Laws, often
constituted the subject of their discussions.
As they grew and their character formed, as they reached a certain
wisdom, fed by their spiritual experiences, and they also discussed
the role that each of them had to perform. John recognized that
Jesus would be Israel's Messiah, but he could not grasp what this
meant. Jesus certainly tried to put forth his still not very solid
ideas, but without success. And the independent development of their
character, of their opinions and visions of the world, would later be reflected
in their completely different approach to their respective
missions: The one living among the people, eating and drinking,
without rejecting any opportunity to have a good time with friends,
enjoying life and radiating happiness, with a deep message of Love;
the other one, withdrawn into the desert, receiving disciples and
visitors, but fleeing civilization, restricting his food in the
style of oriental hermits and ascetics, preaching remorse, punishment,
and sobriety. John awoke his disciples consciousness by throwing
buckets of the cold water of divine threat over them, Jesus inebriated
his followers with the sweet wine of Love.
Each man's life consists of a long chain of decisions. To make
decisions means to live, to escape decisions means to vegetate.
And usually, when we face decisions, we don't have only one choice
between two alternatives, but there is often a wide spread of possibilities
amongst which we may choose. I have already told you previously that
there are very good options, and others that are neither bad, nor
excellent, and there are frankly bad options. God gives us a lot
of freedom in our development. John was not forced to live an austere
life in the desert. That lifestyle was his choice.
In many cases it is not so important what we opt for. The important
thing is that we follow the chosen way with perseverance and resolution.
And, it is worthwhile saying, with a lot of love.
This is all for now, my brother. Thank you for the time you have
given me, and thank you for not forgetting me during the day. Sometimes
we are only remembered when people are in trouble. And it is a pleasure
to come to them with helping hands. But it is also comforting to
discover that you not only consider me your helper, but also your
friend and brother.
I give you my blessings and say good-bye. See
Your brother in Christ,