It is interesting to observe, that when the theological intelligentsia or academic classes, e.g. the theologians and seminarians and theologically inclined Christians, talk about how Christ speaks against the Pharisees and Sadducees, they always refer to them by the abstract and nebulous term of “powers-that-be”, accompanied by a commentary about how Jesus “challenged” the powers, etc.
But the odd thing about this critique is that it maybe applicable to the Sadducees, the “liberals” of the Jewish religion who denied the “mythological” elements of the Jewish faith, i.e. the resurrection, angels, the supernatural, but who were rich, powerful, and controlled the Temple, etc. However, the Pharisees were not “the powers-that-be”; they were simply the educated lay leaders, more like “elders” of the Presbyterian Church. The most the Pharisees were is middle-class.
But of course, the contemporary Christian intelligentsia or academia would never characterise the Pharisees as the middleclass lay academics or “educated classes” whom Jesus critiqued as the “Scribes and Lawyers” who searched the Scriptures but never came to him for eternal life (John 5:39-40). And of course, no prizes for guessing why! So instead by a clever sleight of hand, the Pharisees and scribes and lawyers who would actually match the Christian intelligentsia and academic classes very well, gets the vague label of “powers-that-be” instead, and so Jesus is now a leftist champion against corporations, CEOs and the vague and all encompassing term “powers-that-be”! A very very cunning trick of language if you ask me! (To be fair to the REAL communists, they did have the intelligentsia executed too, for, rightly in my opinion, the intelligentsias ARE also part of the “power-structures” and they also needed to be taken down.)
So much for this humbug. Behind the entire rhetoric of the contemporary Christian intelligentsia about how Jesus was “against the powers that be”, is actually the replay of a very ancient power struggle and rivalry between the middleclass educated Pharisees and the rich and politically powerful Sadducees. In our time, it is simply a replay of the power struggle between the established educated intelligentsia of the universities, and the economically rich and successful CEOs and businessman of the corporate world.
Jesus of course spoke out against both. And that is just what is so amusing, not only the rich and politically powerful but “secularized” and worldly Sadducees fall before Christ’s stinging rebukes and brilliant replies with regards to the realities of the afterlife, the Pharisees too, the lay educated middleclass, who search the Scriptures but ignored Christ, also fall before his rebuke. But of course, it is in the interest of the middleclass Christian intelligentsia to ever characterize the Pharisees as “the powers that be”…
Personally, I actually respect the Pharisees. Of course they were hypocrites who didn’t practice what they preach and who missed the substance of the faith in favour of the letter of the law, and more concerned with social structures and appearance and all that. But they were sincere and well-intentioned about defending and preserving the integrity and independence of the Jewish faith.
But more importantly, Jesus may have critiqued the behaviour of the entire Jewish intelligentsia class, but he did not seek to overthrow them or disestablish them. In fact, he recognised that they played an important and necessary role in true religion, as characterised by his rather paradoxical affirmation of the scribes and lawyers official position and role by telling his disciples to obey them!
Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so practise and observe whatever they tell you—but not what they do. For they preach, but do not practise.