The first thing many people say when you tell them that you believe in keeping God’s commandments is, “You are a Pharisee”, or “You are a legalist”. The idea behind calling someone a “Pharisee” comes from the fact that the sect of the Pharisees as a general rule opposed Yeshua’s (Jesus) teaching. The concern that we not have the same wrong doctrines and attitudes as the Pharisees is a legitimate concern.
Being a Pharisee in itself is not necessarily a problem. The Apostle Paul said more than once that he was a Pharisee (e.g. Acts 23.6, Philippians 3.5). When you read his statements he was not saying that being a Pharisee was a bad thing, but that it was of no advantage either when it came to the knowledge of Messiah.
Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea were both Pharisees, members of the Sanhedrin, and followers of Yeshua.
So what exactly was the problem with the Pharisees as a sect? What did they believe that caused them to oppose Yeshua, and caused him to reprove them? Was it because they believed and kept the Torah (law) of God?
The answer to that is ABSOLUTELY NOT. It was not their keeping of the Torah that was a problem, but it was exactly the opposite that was the problem; they did NOT keep the Torah. Yeshua said:
Mark 7:6-9 TLV And He said to them, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors Me with their lips but their heart is far from Me. (7) And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ (8) Having left behind the commandment of God, you hold on to the tradition of men.” (9) He was also telling them, “You set aside the commands of God, in order that you may validate your own tradition.
The problem was that many/most of the Pharisees held doctrines that they believed superseded God’s Torah. They believed that they could evade or circumvent God’s commandment by keeping their doctrines. They believed that they could actually change the Torah of God.
One of the examples Yeshua gave of their disobedience to God’s Torah was where the Pharisees allowed that a person could dedicate their money to God, and because they had dedicated it to God they believed that they were no longer obligated to financially support their parents when they had need. Yeshua reproved them for doing this because they set aside God’s commandment to, “Honor thy father and thy mother”, for the commandments and traditions of men.
One statement that is frequently made to prove that Yeshua was against the keeping Torah is the discussion in Mark 7 concerning the washing of hands. “See! Yeshua reproved the Pharisees for keeping the law!” This of course doesn’t prove that we should not keep Torah, but it shows the person’s ignorance of God’s Torah, because there is NO commandment in Torah concerning a person’s obligation to wash his hands before he eats. This was just another “Pharisaic” tradition of men.
The truly sad thing about the accusation that someone is being a “Pharisee” or a “legalist” when they try to keep God’s commandments is that the person making the accusation is actually the “Pharisees” by setting aside the Torah of God for their own traditions.
Romans 3:31 TLV Do we then nullify the Torah through faithfulness? May it never be! On the contrary, we uphold the Torah.
One troubling contention that I have recently heard is that Yeshua (Jesus) never used His Father’s actual name, Yehovah (Jehovah; the Tetragrammaton). In my opinion it is an assertion that is impossible to establish, and most likely is not true for some good reasons.
The main reason why I find it troubling is that in order to say he never used His Father’s name you pretty much have to say that he followed the traditions of “the scribes and Pharisees” i.e. the rabbinical leaders of His time, however when you read the gospels you find Yeshua in continual contention with the Pharisees over their traditions. They were replacing the commandments of Elohim (God) with their traditions for which Yeshua always reproved them. Given His criticism of the leaders of the Jews, which ultimately led them to crucifying him, I believe it is ludicrous to say he followed this tradition. I will deal more thoroughly with the subject of Yeshua’s division with the Jewish leadership over their traditions in a future post.
The strongest argument I find that Yeshua actually used His Father’s name is that Matthew 23.37-39. Here in this verse he is mourning over the nation of Israel’s rejection of Him:
Mat 23:37-39 KJV
(37) O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!
(38) Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.
(39) For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord (Yehovah).
In verse 39 he is actually a quote from Psalm 118.26:
Psa 118:26 KJV
(26) Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the LORD (Yehovah): we have blessed you out of the house of the LORD (Yehovah).
Here are several things that I have observed concerning this quote that indicate he actually used the name of Yehovah.
1. Hebrew was most likely Yeshua’s native language:
The Brit Chadashah (New Testament) is written in Greek, but Yeshua’s language was almost certainly NOT Greek, but Hebrew and Aramaic. He would have certainly known and understood the language of the Tanakh. In Luke 4.17-18 when he was in his home synagogue we see him reading from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah in his home synagogue.
One corroboration from scripture to establish Hebrew as the main language of the Jews is an event that happened to the Apostle Paul. When he was being attacked by the crowds in the temple, and wanted to get the attention of those attacking him he spoke in Hebrew, which caused them to be silent and listen (Acts 22.1-2).
So when Yeshua taught and spoke of the scripture he was using the language of the scripture, Hebrew and Aramaic.
2. We know the actual name was used in the text of Psalm 118.26:
When we look into the text of the Psalm there is no doubt what word is used for the Father’s name; it is Yehovah (Yod-Hey-Vav-Hey). As a matter of fact the testimony of the whole of the Tanakh is to use The Name. It is used more than 6,000 times even in the Massoretic Hebrew text. If there is a problem with pronouncing the name of Yehovah then why is it recorded in His Word over and over.
3. If Yeshua did not use Elohim’s name he would be guilty of misquoting scripture:
If He did NOT use His Father’s name he would be guilty of misquoting the scripture by substituting a word not used in the in the text.
4. If Yeshua did not use Elohim’s name he could not fulfil all the commandments:
In order to be a perfect substitute for our sins He had to obey the Torah (Law) in every respect. Since we are commanded to call upon, swear by, and bless in the name of Yehovah he would have been disobeying these commandment NOT to use His Name, which would disqualify Him as the perfect sacrifice.
5. By using another word for the name of Elohim you may very well change the intended meaning of the verse:
If Yeshua quoted the verse as saying “Blessed is he that cometh in the name of ‘Adonai’ or ‘the LORD'”, you could infer that he was saying they would not see him again until they were ready to welcome him back again.
If Yeshua quoted the verse as saying, “Blessed is he that cometh in the name of Yehovah”, it conveys a much different meaning in the context of Yeshua’s relationship with the religious leaders. By actually using Elohim’s name he could be saying, “You won’t see me again until you abandon your man-made tradition of not saying Elohim’s name, and beginning to sanctify His name by actually blessing by the name of Yehovah”.
6. To assert that Yeshua did not know His Father’s name is ridiculous:
One of the main reason for substituting a title such as Adonai or The Lord for the name of Elohim is that we do not we do not know how to pronounce the name of Elohim, however it is totally ridiculous to say that Yeshua, Elohim’s only begotten son, did not know how to pronounce His own Father’s name.