Luke 5.29 - Levi's party guests

Jonathan Robie jonathan at
Wed Jan 6 11:48:41 EST 1999

I think that this passage needs to be seen in the context of Roman domination.

The tax collectors worked for Rome; the Pharisees cooperated with Rome
within limits, but less so than the Sadducees, and the Pharisees also
protested vigorously against Rome at the risk of their lives from time to
time. The tax collectors represent one extreme when it comes to cooperating
with Rome. The other extreme was represented by the Essene separatists or
by the Zealots, who wanted to resist Roman domination at all costs and
re-establish Jewish rule.

In "The Jesus I Never Knew", Yancey discusses the differences between
Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, and Zealots. Here's what he says about

"Pharisees, the popular party fo the middle class, often found themselves
on the fence, vacillating between separatism and collaboration. They held
to high standards of purity, particularly on such matters as Sabbath
observance, ritual cleanliness, and the exact time of feast days. They
treated nonobservant Jews "as Gentiles," shutting them out of local
councils, boycotting their businesses, and ostracizing them from mealso and
social affairs. Yet the Pharisees had already suffered their share of
persecution: in one instance eight hundred Pharisees were crucified on a
single day. Although the believed passionately in the Messiah, Pharisees
hesitated to follow too quickly after any imposter or miracle worker who
might bring disaster on the nation."
"The Pharisees picked their battles carefully, putting their lives on the
line only when necessary. Once, Pontius Pilate spurned a prior agreement
with the Jews that Roman troops would not enter Jerusalem carrying
standards that bore an image ("icon") of the emperor. The Pharisees
regarded this act as idolatry. In protest a crowd of Jews, mostly
Pharisees, stood outside Pilate's palace for five days and nights in a kind
of sit-down strike, weeping and begging him to change. Pilate ordered them
to the hippodrome, where soldiers lay in ambush, and threatened to put to
death any who did not cease their begging. As one, they fell on their
faces, bared their necks, and announced they were prepared to die rather
than have their laws broken. Pilate backed down."

I think this illustrates the relationship between the Pharisees and Rome,
and the Pharisees would naturally disdain the tax collectors, who not only
sold out to Rome for personal gain, but also extorted money from pious Jews
(and others) using the threat of Rome's force.

jonathan at
Texcel Research

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