I wanted to ask why is it that the Pharisees were so intent in killing Jesus when he claimed to be equal with God. I understand that this needed to happen, but i remember Ravi mentioning in his book the Grand Weaver that the people during Old Testament times knew God had expressed Himself in multiple persons (like the Angel of Yahweh). If that’s the case, wouldn’t the Pharisees have had some evidence to maybe believe Jesus was in some way in relation to God, or is this misconstrued by their hopes of a Messianic King that would overthrow the Romans?
This is a very interesting subject and from what I have read complicated. I too have wondered why or how could the Pharisees have missed what the church today sees so clearly? I have always been taught that the Pharisees opposed Jesus because he was somehow a threat to the religious hierarchy a system that had the backing of the Torah and the “traditions of man”, a term that was Jesus’ way of challenging the very heart of what it meant to be a Pharisee the “oral Torah”.
Let me take a side trip and try to explain what some of the things that it meant to be a Pharisees pre 70AD, before the 2nd temple was destroyed.
The first point which I believe is crucial to a proper understand of what Torah meant to the first century Jew. This is from the book, Between Time and Eternity:The Essentials of Judaism by Jacob Nuesner.
When God revealed the Torah to Moses at Mount Sinai—that is, the events depicted in the Book of Exodus— revelation took two forms . One is the Written Torah , which is widely known. That consisted to begin with of the Five Books of Moses. Under the inspiration of God, various other prophets, psalmists, and chroniclers added to the sacred Scriptures.
But—and this is the crucial point—Moses received a second Torah as well, separate and distinct from the first. It is called the Oral Torah , for it was not written down but handed on by word-of-mouth teaching, from master to disciple. “Moses received Torah from Sinai and handed it on to Joshua, and Joshua to the elders, the elders to the prophets, the prophets gave it to the Men of the Great Assembly …”1 The language used in this report of the transmission of revelation is weighty indeed. The Hebrew word “received” (qibbel) means also “accept.” “Hand on” in Hebrew is massar, give to, which produces the noun, massoret, which means “tradition.” Notice, too, the saying is not “received the Torah,” but simply “received Torah,” revelation, there being no specification of which one, or of how many.
A second point that I think will help to understand why a Pharisee would take offense with Jesus was in how they viewed not only the giving of Torah but the creation of Torah.
In the beginning, two thousand years before the heaven and the earth, seven things were created: the Torah, written with black fire on white fire and lying in the lap of God; the Divine throne, erected in the heavens …; Paradise on the right side of God; Hell on the left side; the Celestial Sanctuary directly in front of God, having a jewel on its altar graven with the name of the Messiah, and a Voice that cries aloud, Return, Oh you children of men.2
Louis Ginzberg. (1961). The Legends of the Jews. (Henrietta Szold, Trans.) (Rev. ed., Vol. 1). Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society.
In the interest of brevity try to think like a Pharisee, here is Jesus calling you out on what you believe has been handed down (chain of authority) from Moses to Joshua, Joshua to the elders, elders to the prophets and the prophets to the great assembly and finally you (Pharisees). From your POV Jesus is appealing directly to Moses bypassing the chain of authority of which you feel that you are a part of declaring for all to hear that the written Torah has been corrupted with the teaching of the oral Torah as the law. Jesus called this “the tradition of men” and if you look most of the confrontations between the Pharisees were on these points. Let me add that the Sadducees did not believe in the oral Torah which likely would have caused some heart burn as they (Pharisees) where on opposite sides of this issue. Add to that Jesus’ claim that he was before Abraham and any self-respecting Pharisee would have been on board with some way of putting this situation to bed.
A third point would be the two opposing views of history by that I mean does history have a destination or is it a series of events with no end in sight? From the same book by Jacob Neusner.
The great happenings of the day require close attention, are heavy with meaning. We have therefore to center our interest in the lively, important news of the day. The consequence of this approach to life, in the history of Judaism, is a yearning for the end of time, the conclusion of history, and the coming of the Messiah.
There are scholars that would agree that this was a popular view particularly during this 2nd temple period pre 70AD.
The other view and the one that is most prevalent today is the view of history as event.
The other view is that what people should attend to is the everyday life of the home and the village, which, after all, they can do much to shape. History is something to be endured; it cannot be affected. Life at home goes on and on through time. It is, in its way, timeless, a kind of eternity. The cycle of life, birth, maturing, marriage, child-bearing, old age, and death, and the succession of days and weeks, months and seasons, year by year—these recurring patterns form a kind of eternity. And it is that timeless world of sunset, sunrise which is to be shaped and reformed.
A possible fourth point is that those of the Pharisees that where looking for Messiah (history as destination) simply could not except this Jesus that did not fall into the time line (Jesus was early) of scripture as the final event that would usher in God’s new creation.
The last point is that it might be good to remember that not all the religious elite were on board with killing Jesus. We know that Nicodemus was a friend of Jesus and Josephus of Arimathea we also know that the people were friends of Jesus and many people including that opposed him were forever changed and many came to the faith.
Sorry for the long answer. I hope that it helps.