Jesus Loathed The Pharisees

Or so says the subject line of an e-mail I received recently. Below is a quote from this e-mail, containing the entire body of the argument offered by its author. I’m offering this e-mail and my reply here, because the points that she raises about the Bible are not uncommon errors.

I happened to come across your page on the internet while researching roles of the mass and was deeply saddened by your interpretation of scripture when it comes to women’s roles. If there was one group of people in the Bible that Jesus loathed, it was the Pharisees, and I fear you have become a modern day version. The Pharisees held their people to unreasonable laws and rules. Here are some examples below of Biblical laws…I certainly hope you don’t hold people to these standards as well:

Don’t wear clothes made of more than one fabric (Leviticus 19:19)

Don’t cut your hair nor shave. (Leviticus 19:27)

Any person who curseth his mother or father, must be killed. (Leviticus 20:9)

People who have flat noses, or is blind or lame, cannot go to an altar of God (Leviticus 21:17-18)

Anyone who curses or blasphemes God, should be stoned to death by the community. (Leviticus 24:14-16)

Kill anyone with a different religion. (Deuteronomy 17:2-7)

You see Ron, we cannot use practices from the Bible that we know in our hearts are unjust, racist, sexist, etc. This would be going against the Holy Spirit’s work on the progression of a culture. We shall not follow people’s law, but that of our Lord. The roles in which you spoke of on your website are laws of people, not God.

Lastly, if we look at the most important perspective: God’s…we can see that He chose a woman, who was only 13 years old, to have the most important job of any person on this earth…to be the mother of His only son!!! We can see that God would disagree with your interpretations of women’s roles. If Mary had followed your Pharisaical law, we would not have had a Savior…she would have been stoned to death.

Let’s examine her position, one point at a time. She refers to women’s roles, especially with regard to the Mass. She gave her real name in the e-mail, and when I searched on her name, I found that she is an active member of Call To Action, a group that promotes the ordination of women to the priesthood. Also, since women already have roles at Mass as lectors, extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist, and altar servers, it would seem that ‘celebrant’ would be practically the only role left, to which she might be referring.

What is her argument on this point? She puts forward her emotional response to my position (that women cannot be priests) — she was saddened. This type of rhetorical argument is often used, and yet has no real value. The fact that a theological position makes one sad, does not indicate that it is incorrect. To suggest otherwise is to set up one’s self as the standard for what is true or false in religion, as if religious ideas that cause sadness (or another emotion) must not be true.

[Matthew]
{19:21} Jesus said to him: “If you are willing to be perfect, go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and then you will have treasure in heaven. And come, follow me.”
{19:22} And when the young man had heard this word, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

The young man was saddened by the call of Jesus to perfection. But this does not prove that Jesus’ teaching is wrong.

On the question of the ordination of women to the priesthood, the Magisterium has infallibly taught that Jesus did not give His Church the authority to ordain women priests (Ordinatio Sacerdotalis). So my interpretation of Sacred Scripture in support of that dogma is not a misinterpretation.

Next, she says: “If there was one group of people in the Bible that Jesus loathed, it was the Pharisees”. I don’t think it is true to say that God, or Jesus specifically, loathes or hates any human person or group of persons. We can say that God hates sin, but even this expression is something of a figure of speech. God is Love, and so the phrase “God hates sin” is not hatred within God, but an expression of the grave disparity between the Nature of God who is Goodness and Love, and the nature of sin, which is diametrically opposed to goodness and love. Jesus did not loathe, did not hate, anyone.

As for the Pharisees, not all of them were necessarily guilty of what we today call Pharisaism. Some of the Pharisees were devout Jews, who truly loved God and neighbor. Not all of the Pharisees had fallen into the errors for which Jesus rebukes them. The same can be said for the scribes. Not every scribe was guilty of grave sin regarding religion. So Jesus could not have loathed the group of people called Pharisees.

Then she says: “The Pharisees held their people to unreasonable laws and rules. Here are some examples below of Biblical laws….” Jesus argued with the Pharisees over their misinterpretation of Scripture, and over rules that they added to the Jewish Faith, not based on Biblical laws or principles. But the author of this e-mail asserts that the ‘unreasonable laws and rules’ of the Pharisees were none other than the Divine laws instituted in the Old Testament. She thereby implies that the Bible contains unreasonable laws and rules. Did I say ‘implies’? Next, she openly asserts the same: “we cannot use practices from the Bible that we know in our hearts are unjust, racist, sexist, etc.” She openly explicitly claims that the Bible contains unjust, racist, and sexist laws and rules.

Let’s example each of the examples she gives to support this grave accusation against the Word of God.

“Don’t wear clothes made of more than one fabric (Leviticus 19:19)”

{19:19} Observe my laws. You shall not cause your cattle to breed with other kinds of animals. You shall not sow your field with diverse seeds. You shall not be clothed with a garment which has been woven from two things.

The first problem her claims is that she does not distinguish between doctrine and discipline. In the Church today, there are teachings on matters of faith and morals, and then there are rules, rulings, practices, etc. The former are doctrines; the latter are disciplines. In so far as any doctrine is true, it cannot change. God is unchanging Truth, and all other truths are a reflection of that one unchanging Truth. But disciplines (rules, practices) are changeable. The entire Old Testament set of disciplines, according to the dogma taught by the Council of Florence, have been dispensed. So Christians do not need to follow any Old Testament rules that are not of the eternal moral law, but are only practices. We do not need to follow the dietary laws, or the rules about sowing a field with diverse seeds, or wearing a garment made of two types of cloth.

What was the purpose of this type of Old Testament discipline? It was to make the lives of the Jews into living parables. The dietary laws distinguish between clean and unclean foods as a figure for distinguishing between good and evil. In this way, the devout Jew would daily be considering and deciding to follow the will of God. The same is true for the rule about garments. The weaving together of two types of cloth is a figure for the grave danger, faced by the devout Jew in Old Testament times, of weaving together in his life the Jewish way of life and the pagan way of life. This rule was a parable for the danger of living a life that is partly a life of faith and partly a secular worldly sinful life.

And this is still a danger today. The rule about garments has been dispensed; but we still today face this danger. And so the moral meaning of the parable imbedded in that practice is still in force. Do not weave together in your life the worldly secular way and the Way of Christ.

“Don’t cut your hair nor shave. (Leviticus 19:27)”

{19:27} And you shall not cut the hair of your head circularly, nor shave your beard.

This verse of Scripture, properly interpreted, does not actually prohibit cutting the hair on your head, nor shaving your beard. Rather, what it prohibits is certain practices associated with the pagan religions of that past time. The verse prohibits engaging in practices that express idolatry.

“Any person who curseth his mother or father, must be killed. (Leviticus 20:9)”

{20:9} Whoever curses his father or mother shall die a death; he has cursed his father and mother. So let his blood be upon him.

It is one of the Ten Commandments, and a positive precept of the eternal moral law, to honor your father and mother. For they gave you life, as also did God give you life. By honoring them, you are honoring God and the gift to you of your own life. This moral precept is still in effect. It is not mere discipline. Cursing one’s father or mother is a sin.

However, the penalty of death is not in force today, because penalties are not teachings, but rather are discipline. The Old Testament law required many instances of the death penalty, because the human race at the time had very little understanding of the eternal moral law. They did not attain to much understanding of the moral law by reason (by natural law), even though this was possible; for sin often prevailed over reason. There was, prior to the Jewish faith, no Judeo-Christian ethic, no influence on society at large from the Jewish and Christian understanding of morality. And so it was very difficult for God to establish within humanity the beginning of an understanding of morality, and its place in religion. The pagan religions did not have any moral code associated with their religious practices and belief. So the death penalty was necessary, to strictly enforce the Old Testament law, until this law was well established and the Messiah arrived. Subsequently, such a broad use of the death penalty was not necessary.

“People who have flat noses, or is blind or lame, cannot go to an altar of God (Leviticus 21:17-18)”

{21:17} Say to Aaron: A man from your offspring, throughout their families, who has a blemish, shall not offer the bread to his God.
{21:18} Neither shall he approach to minister to him: if he is blind, if he is lame, if he is small, or large, or has a crooked nose,
{21:19} if his foot or hand is broken,
{21:20} if he has a bulging back or bleary eyes, or if he has a white spot in his eye, or a chronic scab, or a skin disease on his body, or a hernia.

This rule applied to those chosen as Jewish priests and Levites, who were foreshadowings of the priests and religious of today. Again, this practice is a parable, indicating that those who are chosen to be clergy must be the best that the community has to offer. But the blemishes of the body that are mentioned are symbolic of the blemishes of the soul that should not be permitted in consecrated souls: grave sin, attachment to sin, and various disorders that tend toward grave sin, such as homosexuality, pedophilia, etc.

“Anyone who curses or blasphemes God, should be stoned to death by the community. (Leviticus 24:14-16)”

{24:14} saying: Lead away the blasphemer beyond the camp, and let all who heard him place their hands upon his head, and let the entire people stone him.
{24:15} And you shall say to the sons of Israel: The man who curses his God shall bear his sin,
{24:16} and whoever will have blasphemed the name of the Lord shall be put to death. The entire multitude shall overwhelm him with stones, whether he be a citizen or a sojourner. Whoever blasphemes the name of the Lord shall be put to death.

The answer here is the same as for the previous example of the use of the death penalty. It is a grave sin to blaspheme against God. But the use of the death penalty needed to be more extensive in Old Testament times, so as to establish a proper understanding of the eternal moral law within humanity, and thereby prepare for the Messiah who would offer salvation to all persons.

“Kill anyone with a different religion. (Deuteronomy 17:2-7)”

{17:2} When there will have been found among you, within one of your gates which the Lord your God will give to you, a man or a woman who is doing evil in the sight of the Lord your God, and who is transgressing his covenant,
{17:3} so as to go and serve foreign gods and adore them, such as the sun and the moon, or any of the host of heaven, which I have not instructed,
{17:4} and when this will have been reported to you, and, upon hearing it, if you have inquired diligently and have found it to be true, that the abomination is being done in Israel:
{17:5} you shall lead forward the man or the woman who has perpetrated this most wicked thing to the gates of your city, and they shall be stoned to death.
{17:6} By the mouth of two or three witnesses, he who is to be put to death shall perish. Let no one be killed with only one person speaking testimony against him.
{17:7} First, the hands of the witnesses shall be upon him who will be put to death, and lastly, the hands of the remainder of the people shall be sent forth. So may you take away the evil from your midst.

First of all, the text does not say that the Israelites must kill anyone with a different religion. There were many pagans living around Israel, throughout ancient times. God did not instruct the Israelites to kill them all.

The text refers to persons in the midst of Israel (‘among you’), who have fallen away from the true Faith established by God into idolatry — such as worshipping the sun and the moon and the stars. Idolatry is a grave sin, and grave sins during Old Testament times were often punished with death (for the aforementioned reasons). Notice that the grave sin must be proven, with the testimony of two or three witnesses, not only one witness. It is also worth noting that if anyone tried to put someone to death with false testimony, the penalty for that false witness was also death.

But the above passage from Scripture cannot be reasonably interpreted as ‘kill anyone with a different religion’. Neither has the Church taught such an interpretation or such a practice.

So my response above shows that the examples from Scripture are not unjust or racist or sexist, as the author of this e-mail claimed. How did she reach such a determination, to the condemnation of the Word of God? She says: “we cannot use practices from the Bible that we know in our hearts are unjust, racist, sexist, etc. This would be going against the Holy Spirit’s work on the progression of a culture. We shall not follow people’s law, but that of our Lord. The roles in which you spoke of on your website are laws of people, not God.”

So the Bible is to be judged, according to her, by our own hearts. Her heart considers these beliefs and practices in the Bible to be unjust. But again this is setting one’s self up as the standard to judge the Word of God. What good is Divine Revelation, and what good is Faith, if anything from Divine Revelation or Faith is rejected when it is contrary to our own hearts? We are mere weak and fallen sinners, so we cannot be the standard against which Divine Revelation is judged.

By saying that the Holy Spirit is working on ‘the progression of a culture’, she suggests that whatever modern society approves, can be put forward as a type of progress, not only to improve on Divine Revelation, but to contradict and correct Divine Revelation. This subjugates all of the teachings of the Faith to whatever the prevailing opinion might be in sinful secular society. The latter is termed a progression over the former. And somehow the popular sins of today are claimed to be the work of the Spirit, in contradiction to the true works of the Holy Spirit: Tradition, Scripture, Magisterium.

The icing on the cake of this absurd explanation is the claim that the Bible is ‘people’s law’ and the teachings of modern culture are somehow ‘of our Lord’. This idea is often expressed much more subtly and skillfully, but to the same effect, by modernist theologians. They adopt the views of present day culture, and they find various specious reasons to reject or re-interpret Sacred Scripture, to the effect that the teachings of sinful secular society are ‘of our Lord’, and the Word of God is somehow not.

For example, there are those today who claim that Jesus taught inclusiveness, or that Jesus taught a type of unconditional love that does not allow us to point out the grave sins of modern society and object to them. So her point of view and her errors are not so unique.

Finally, she has this to say: “Lastly, if we look at the most important perspective: God’s…we can see that He chose a woman, who was only 13 years old, to have the most important job of any person on this earth…to be the mother of His only son!!! We can see that God would disagree with your interpretations of women’s roles. If Mary had followed your Pharisaical law, we would not have had a Savior…she would have been stoned to death.”

The age of the Blessed Virgin Mary at the Annunciation is beside the point. But of course God chose a woman to be the mother of our Lord — mother implies woman. So this choice does not somehow imply the conclusion that women should be priests, or that a woman can have any role at all. The behavior of the Blessed Virgin Mary during the ministry of Christ shows that she did not consider herself to be a priest or a Bishop or an Apostle. She took a very different role than the male disciples of Christ. So her example proves my point, not the point of the author of this e-mail.

The assertion that if Mary had “followed your Pharisaical law” (apparently referring to my position that women cannot be priests), we would not have a Savior AND she would have been stoned — this assertion makes no sense. Mary did not need to be a priest in order to have the role as mother of God. And obviously only woman can have the role of mother; it is an inherently feminine role. Therefore, some roles are given based on gender; again proving my point that men and women, to some extent, have different roles. Why would Mary be stoned based on my assertions about distinctions of roles? There is no support for this claim.

The above is my response to the claims made in that e-mail. As for the position of Call To Action that women can and should be ordained as priests:

1. The Magisterium infallibly teaches that the Church does not have the authority to ordain women as priests or bishops. The Church not only lacks the authority, but also the ability, to do what CTA suggests She do.
2. Jesus never ordained any women as priests or Bishops, and He chose no women Apostles.
3. The Blessed Virgin Mary was sinless, and her level of holiness was greater than all the Apostles together, and yet even she did not have a role as an ordained priest or bishop.
4. God intends men and women to have different roles in the Church, the family, and society. This teaching is found in Sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture, and the Magisterium (e.g. Casti Connubii). This teaching is not of sinful secular society, but of God

by
Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and Bible translator

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4 Responses to Jesus Loathed The Pharisees

  1. Dr. Dave says:

    In addition, Ron, the accusation that you are a modern day Pharisee and the not so thinly veiled conclusion that God loathes you also is pitiable to say the least. How unfortunate that one like her goes around with this kind of vitriol. From her phraseology she feels in herself that she is kind, compassionate and on a mission from, by and through the Holy Spirit. In actuality she appears to be loathsome of herself while tilting at windmills. I pray for such souls and hope they pray for me.

    God bless you in your ministry,

    In His Divine Will,
    Dave

  2. Hopeful_watcher says:

    Why do you keep censoring my comments? Aside from this one, they are relevant to your topic, they aren’t spam and they are not abusive.

    • Ron Conte says:

      First, are you aware that your e-mail address has the word ‘spam’ in it? Second, all comments are heavily moderated; most comments do not make it through the moderation process. I don’t accept comments that promote a website or a book, or offer a baseless opinion, or assert a doctrinal error or assert an untenable theological opinion. (However, I don’t recall what the specific problem was with your previous comments.)

      See the newly-updated comments policy.

  3. Hopeful_watcher says:

    Fair enough. Was not aware of the commenting rules. Good luck and God bless. BTW, the spam email I use because I hate spam as much as the next person, so its my throw away address.

Comments are closed.