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At the time of Ezra, as already noted, there was a great religious revival among those who had returned to the land of their fathers. The profession which had of old only characterised individuals in Israel (Psa 30:4, 31:23, 37:28) was now taken up by the covenanted people as a whole: they became the "Chasidim" or "pious" (rendered in the Authorised Version, "saints"). As "Chasidim," they resolved to be "Nivdalim," or "separated from all filthiness of heathenism" around. The one represented, so to speak, the positive; the other, the negative element in their religion. It is deeply interesting to notice, how the former Pharisee (or "separated one"), Paul, had this in view in tracing the Christian life as that of the true "chasid," and therefore "Nivdal"--in opposition to the Pharisees of externalism--in such passages as 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1, closing with this admonition to "cleanse ourselves from all filthiness * of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God." And so St. Paul's former life and thinking seem ever to have served him as the type of the spiritual realities of his new state. **
* The Greek word for "filthiness" occurs in this passage only, but the verb from which it is derived seems to have a ceremonial allusion attaching to it in the three passages in which it is used: 1 Corinthians 8:7; Revelation 3:4, 14:4.
** If St. Paul was originally a Pharisee, the accounts given by the earliest tradition (Euseb. H. E. ii. 23), compared with that of Josephus (Ant. xx, 197-203), would almost lead us to infer that St. James was a "Chasid." All the more significant would then be the part he took in removing the yoke of the law from the Gentile converts (Acts 15:13-21).
Two points in Jewish history here claim our special attention, without attempting to unravel the whole somewhat tangled web of events. The first is the period immediately after Alexander the Great. It was one of the objects of the empire which he founded to Grecianise the world; and that object was fully prosecuted by his successors. Accordingly, we find a circle of Grecian cities creeping up along the coast, from Anthedon and Gaza in the south, northwards to Tyre and Seleucia, and eastwards to Damascus, Gadara, Pella, and Philadelphia, wholly belting the land of Israel. Thence the movement advanced into the interior, taking foothold in Galilee and Samaria, and gathering a party with increasing influence and spreading numbers among the people. Now it was under these circumstances, that the "Chasidim" as a party stood out to stem the torrent, which threatened to overwhelm alike the religion and the nationality of Israel. The actual contest soon came, and with it the second grand period in the history of Judaism. Alexander the Great had died in July 323 BC. About a century and a half later, the "Chasidim" had gathered around the Maccabees for Israel's God and for Israel. But the zeal of the Maccabees soon gave place to worldly ambition and projects. When these leaders united in their person the high- priestly with the royal dignity, the party of the "Chasidim" not only deserted them, but went into open opposition. They called on them to resign the high-priesthood, and were ready to suffer martyrdom, as many of them did, for their outspoken convictions. Thenceforth the "Chasidim" of the early type disappear as a class. They had, as a party, already given place to the Pharisees--the modern "Nivdalim"; and when we meet them again they are only a higher order or branch of the Pharisees--"the pious" of old having, so to speak, become pietists." Tradition (Men. 40) expressly distinguished "the early Chasidim" (harishonim) from "the later" (acheronim). No doubt, those are some of their principles, although tinged with later coloring, which are handed down as the characteristics of the "chasid" in such sayings of the Mishnah as: "What is mine is thine, and what is thine remains thine as well" (P. Ab. V. 10); "Hard to make angry, but easy to reconcile" (11); "Giving alms, and inducing others to do likewise" (13); "Going to the house of learning, and at the same time doing good works" (14). The earliest mention of the Pharisees occurs at the time of the Maccabees. As a "fraternity" we meet them first under the rule of John Hyrcanus, the fourth of the Maccabees from Mattathias (135-105 BC); although Josephus speaks of them already two reigns earlier, at the time of Jonathan (Ant. xiii, 171-173). He may have done so by anticipation, or applying later terms to earlier circumstances, since there can be little doubt that the Essenes, whom he names at the same time, had not then any corporate existence. Without questioning that, to use a modern term, "the direction" existed at the time of Jonathan, * we can put our finger on a definite event with which the origin of "the fraternity" of the Pharisees is connected. From Jewish writings we learn, that at the time of Hyrcanus a commission was appointed to inquire throughout the land, how the Divine law of religious contributions was observed by the people. **
* In proof of this, it may be stated that before the formal institution of the "order," R. Jose, the son of Joezer, declared all foreign glass vessels, and indeed the whole soil of heathen lands, "unclean," thus "separating" Israel from all possible intercourse with Gentiles.
** It may be to the decrees then enacted by Hyrcanus that Josephus refers (Ant. xiii, 293-298), when he speaks of their "abolition" after Hyrcanus broke with the Pharisaical party.
The result showed that, while the "therumah," (see The Temple) or priestly "heave-offerings," was regularly given, neither the first or Levitical tithe, nor yet the so-called "second" or "poor's tithe," was paid, as the law enjoined. But such transgression involved mortal sin, since it implied the personal use of what really belonged to the Lord. Then it was that the following arrangements were made. All that the "country people" ('am ha-aretz) sold was to be considered "demai"--a word derived from the Greek for "people," and so betraying the time of its introduction, but really implying that it was "doubtful" whether or not it had been tithed. In such cases the buyer had to regard the "therumah," and the "poor's tithe" as still due on what he had purchased. On the other hand, the Pharisees formed a "Chabura," or fraternity, of which each member--"Chaber," or "companion"--bound himself to pay these tithes before use or sale. Each "Chaber" was regarded as "neeman," or "credited"--his produce being freely bought and sold by the rest of the "Chaberim." Of course, the burden of additional expense which this involved to each non-"chaber" was very great, since he had to pay "therumah" and tithe on all that he purchased or used, while the Pharisee who bought from another Pharisee was free. One cannot help suspecting that this, in connection with kindred enactments, which bore very hard upon the mass of the people, while they left "the Pharisee" untouched, may underlie the charge of our Lord (Matt 23:4): "They bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers."