I want to take a look at three main motifs in understand spirituality that are constant and existed at the time of Y’shua and are a metaphor or parable for all of us to learn from. There are those who seek to be ascetic or set apart, from the ancient Essene‘s to Rabbi’s living on welfare in Israel, to Monk’s in a Monestary. Then there are those who seek to be engaged in the world through entertainment (theatre), exercise (sports), bath houses (health), and social means. You could compare those to being of heavenly minded or earthly good as a contrast. I always enjoyed Dr MLK Jr’s statement it’s not “Us Versus Them, its Us and Them.” We can have both Ascetic and Social lives. The Pharisee‘s where the group that the early Apostles and Y’shua associated with one as taking up the role of Rabbi (or teacher) and engaging in the social Synagogue (or ecclesia) institution. They sought to bridge the Ascetic with the Social in a way that rightly divided Torah for each individual.
The Brit Chadasha (or New Testament) is a Pharisaic Document with some minor Essen undertones in John writings such as Revelation and some of the Apocalyptic text. It is also a manual for Social engagement or Tikkun Olam (repair of the world) through the parables of the Kingdom dealing with the heart and concepts of social morality. The Concepts of Rav (Teacher) and Talmidim (Disciples) are solely a Pharisaic, Second Temple, concept, not Sadducees or Essen. This is central to understanding Messiah goal in the Apostolic text or scrolls of the early ecclesia or Synagogues of ancient Messianic Judaism.
Essenes, ones who live an ascetic spiritually set apart life who are heavenly minded. We are called to be set apart, sanctified and holy. We have ascetic food, aka Kosher eating, ascetic time or holy time, times of prayer and moedim (festivals, Rosh Chodesh and Shabbat), and yet we are to be in the world but not worldly. To be in the world but of the word and thus not of the world.
Saducee‘s where Hellenistic, they enjoyed the theatre, watching sporting events, working out, being healthy, working vocationally, bath houses (Mikveh’s), and being doctrinally pure in that they transcribed Torah and kept the Torah Minimum’s. Much of Modern Christianity is Sadduceen Hypocrites, they put on many masks and engage in differing level’s of worldliness that Y’shua rebuked the Sadducee’s for being involved in. There is benefit for eating healthy, exercising and being socially responsible and engaged. It is not the exclusive right. Its is morally right to go to your brother and make amends, or be amended if you know your brother has a fault with you. Living pure, eating clean food and being healthy is of benefit however it must include some form of Asceticism.
The Pharisee’s saw the need to engage in education and study of Torah during Babylonian captivity and thus weren’t Hellenistic in engaging Greek culture however they believed in partial asceticism and not full asceticism. In essence we are to be in the world but not worldly. We are to study Torah and be clean where it says to be clean. We should be doctrinally pure, and healthy participants of Society. Pharisee’s were not as Ascetic as the Essenes’ (heavenly minded) and weren’t as worldly as the Sadducees’ (of earthly good) that they weren’t seeking to be rightly observant of the distinctives of Torah for all our lives. They sought to study and apply the Torah in our lives as they were scripturally and engaged in a way that was balanced.
Yeshua as taking the tile of Rabbi embraced the Pharisaic concept of being heavenly minded and of earthly good. He rebuked the Sadducees’ for being Hypocrites of divided mind and too worldly, he also rebuked the Pharisee’s for keeping the minutia of the law in Doctrinal Purity while missing the Kavannah (right intent) of being social engaged in Tikkun Olam (repairing the world).
It is important to have some asceticism as in observing Shabbat, clean food, seeking to be pure, holy and sanctified, to observe Rosh Chodesh and the Festivals, however we must be earthly good and engage in Tikkun Olam repairing the broken and fallen brotherhood of humanity.
We must learn to balance being Heavenly Minded, Socially engaged and Healthy and Doctrinal Purity is good to be balanced. We need be balanced and holy whole. Being Ascetic and Social are important. If one ever wonders how I can speak on the ill’s of pagan Christianity yet seem to be Humane and socially engaged might do good to not judge but seek to have some Asceticism and some Social engagement. The balance is the story of the Gospels and the message of the parables.