Throughout Christ’s ministry here on earth we see Him spreading the good news of God’s love, His compassion demonstrated through healing and His offer of forgiveness to all that would accept it. Yet Jesus’ confrontational attitude toward the Pharisees and religious ‘Powers-That-Be’, and His characterization of them as “whitewashed tombs” whose father was the devil himself was certainly remarkable and possibly puzzling. Now however, scholars are increasingly uncovering a link to the occult that would explain the necessity for His unwavering attitude.
PART I – DEFINING THE LINK
“Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God… You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do.’” (John 8:42, 44)
We will begin by looking at a concept that will go a long way toward explaining Christ’s ongoing war with the Pharisees and other religious authorities that ran throughout His earthly ministry. What we observe is Jesus reaching out in love and compassion to Jews, Samaritans, Romans and the poor, – and even the Pharisee Nicodemus and others of that party that would listen. For the Pharisaical hierarchy however he reserved His most biting commentary and attacks. It seems there was something more going on here. Now previously we’ve documented the infiltration of Christ’s Church by pagan forces and the adoption by some Christian branches of practices that had their origins in the worship of pagan gods. The same happened to Israel through the Pharisees. Over the centuries they had let the influence of the occult sneak in. They had turned to mysticism colored by an association with Gnosticism that served as the forerunner of Kabala. That by the way, is the same Kabala followed by some Jewish sects today and adopted by such Hollywood types as Madonna. As such, the ancient Pharisees plugged into the system of secret societies that began in Babel/ Babylon then migrating to Egypt and across the world. It survives today in Freemasonry, Rosacrucianism, Skull & Bones, The Bildebergs, etc ad infinitum. So though the term was not yet in use, the 1st century Pharisees were the forerunners of today’s kabbalists with all of their New Age / occult baggage. That’s our starting point.
To understand this at all perhaps we should begin by talking just a little bit about Kabala and its relationship to both Biblical Judaism and early Christianity. Now Kabala is at its root a mystical Jewish theology that can be traced back at least to one, Isaac the Blind, considered to be the Father of Kabbalah. It was considered a search by the mystics to reach the “higher throne” of the Almighty. Its’ practitioners believe that it reveals the deeper and truer meaning of the Torah, the Jewish Law as contained in the first five books of Moses.[i] As such it is “a revelation to the Sages from a remote past, and preserved only by a privileged few”. It comprises and gives meaning to the Oral Law, [ii]such as that which was enforced by the Pharisees in Jesus’ day. It was and remains, a religious system of ‘secret knowledge’ about God. Thus it was intimately entwined in the 1st century with Gnosticism, – with each influencing the other. Gershom Scholem, the leading modern scholar on Jewish mysticism confirms the occult roots of the Kabbalah. “From the beginning of its development, the Kabbalah embraced an esotericism closely akin to the spirit of Gnosticism, one which was not restricted to instruction in the mystical path, but also included ideas on cosmology, angelology, and magic.” He goes on to describe how over the centuries, this developing Jewish thought took in “…the mystical, speculative elements from the occult and especially magical elements”. These later developed into “secret doctrine” and “initiation rites” that have existed “up to modern times” in Jerusalem.[iii] [iv] [v]
So we can understand something about the Pharisees belief’s by looking at Kabbalah and can shed light on that by looking at Gnosticism. Gnostic beliefs would after Christ’s death and the founding of Church, rise up to influence and challenge early Christian doctrine. Now just like Kabbalah, Gnosticism was all about secret knowledge which only the privileged could know. Today’s Gnostic Apostolic Church tells us that “Mankind is moving toward the Omega Point” via the “Path of Transfiguration” returning to the “Treasury of Light”. Yeah, just like this sounds, these are all concepts of the New Age and Eastern religious systems, that have often just adopted the veneer of Biblically based religions as they advance their heresy. The ‘Treasury of Light’ for instance is a concept found in Zen Buddhism, the “root source of all Buddhas”. We are told “there is no ego in the treasury of light”.[vi] And as for the concept of a ‘Path of Transfiguration’,; – well that can be found in Rosacrucianism for one. It is a way that leads “humans back to their divine origin”.[vii] Remember, in all occult / New Age / and Eastern based systems, man is a part of the divine; – a little god, – if you will.
As you can see, these religious philosophies have much more in common with the occult than with the Bible on which they claim to be based. Modern Kabbalah for instance utilizes angels, magic and astrology as it attempts to influence the workings of the universe. According to Louis Berkhoff, the Apostle Paul was likely taking on these heresies in Colossians and 1st Timothy. This philosophy which had its roots in Judaism, “ultimately developed into a strange mixture of Jewish elements, Christian doctrines, and heathen speculative thought”.[viii] It was only a few years before Paul addressed these problems, that these Jewish-fermented ideas were infecting the likes of the Pharisees who opposed Christ.
This is not such an unnatural development. Over the course of their history, the Israelites had often fallen to the sin of worshiping the gods of the land. The worship of Baal and Ashtoreth was related to the religious practices of ancient Babylon and the mystery religions of old. It is a habit that the Jews seemed not fully able to break. Now when the Israelites were in bondage in Egypt they had rubbed up against the worship of Osiris and other ancient gods. These had originated in Babylon before being imported by the Egyptians. The incident of the Golden Calves; – when the Israelites rebelled against the Great God Jehovah, to set up idols of their own making; – can be viewed as an extension of this mode of thinking that they had been exposed to while in Egypt. Next the Israelites took possession of the Promised Land, – but refused to obey God with regard to purging the land of all traces of their enemy. That opened the door to more pagan influences. So history shows that the Israelites repeatedly fell to that fatal temptation, adopting the native gods and grafting them somehow into some hybrid system. When they worshipped Baal, they sacrificed their children in a deadly form of Satanic ritualism. When they worshipped Ashtoreth, – knowingly or not, – they were paying homage to a very prince of demons.
Over time all of these religious compromises took their toll. The books of 1st & 2nd Kings chronicles a history of the Israelites in their split kingdoms of Israel headquartered in Samaria and Judah with its capital at Jerusalem. In each of these kingdoms, we find the kings alternately moving the population toward paganism and its practices or back toward God. In the end the evil triumphs and God banishes first the Northern Kingdom, or Israel and later the land of Judah from the land given to them by covenant. The Israelites had not held up their part of the bargain. Instead they had embraced the evil of these satanic pagan gods. Fast forward to the Babylonian captivity. The Israelites have been relocated to Babylon We see in the Book of Daniel how the Babylonian system took in the vast number of Jews, moving them toward their own paganized religious system. At the head of that Babylonian religion was a “sacerdotal caste” we call magi. In the words of Tom Stewart, these consisted of “priests, Chaldeans, physicians, philosophers, astronomers, astrologers, soothsayers, in short the brain trust of the kingdom”. The root word from the Greek magoi has been translated wise men, but also sorcerer, magician and specifically a member of the order of Zoroasterian priests coming mainly from the Medes and Persians. (However, the secret society that is the Magi has spread throughout the region and even as far as China.) Scripture tells how God showed the prophet Daniel, – a member of the Magi caste, – the King’s dream and its interpretation. For that service he was promoted “chief of the governors of all the wise men of Babylon”. (Daniel 2:48) Daniel somehow became a member of this priesthood without being tainted by its pagan influences. In fact, Daniel’s prophecies became part of the tradition for at least some of the Magi of succeeding generations. It was members of this class that looked to the Scripture for the timing and location of the coming of Messiah. They knew from prophecy of the 70 Weeks found in Daniel 9, the approximate timing of the appearance of the Christ. Matthew tells how God gave them a sign in the heavens, “His star in the East” (Matthew 2:2) to show them the exact time and location of Christ’s entrance into the world.[ix]
Apart from Daniel’s influence this cult of the Magi was nothing more than another form of the ancient mystery religion which had spread across the region. Throw in the fact that the Northern tribes and intermarried with other ancient peoples after the Assyrian conquest, corrupting their already fragile system of worship, and leading to “the development of a syncretistic religion” that rejected everything that did not come from the Pentateuch, (the first five books of Moses).[x] All of this had, by Christ’s day begun to congeal, expressing itself in the fact that the Jewish religious leadership had been compromised by the teachings and practices of the Middle Eastern mystery religions.[xi] Once we have understood that the Pharisees were likely in many cases to be working for ‘the other team’, it becomes easier to understand Christ’s struggle with them. This applies both to their unreasoning and committed hatred and rejection of all that Jesus stood for as well as His unrelenting assault on their ritualistic cult. It is not that their ritualism was empty and purposeless. Rather it was that it was filled with active satanic worship in the form of the secret / sacred rights of their mystery religion.
[i] S E Ray, Kabbalah Mysticism Examined, Eternal Path, October 4, 2008
[ii] Mile Chai, September 10, 2008
[iii] S Magid, Gershom Scholem, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, April 10, 2008
[iv] Kabbalah, TNN Online, November 14, 2008
[v] Kabbalah, Encyclopedia Judaica, Jewish Virtual Library, 2008
[vi] Zen Master Ejo, January 5, 2001
[viii] Louis Berkhoff, History of Christian Doctrines, Reformed Library, June 2000, pgs 44-45
[ix] Tom Stewart, The Magi and the Star of Bethlehem, What Saith The Scripture, December 2, 2002
[x] Wayne A Brindle, The Origin And History Of The Samaritans, Grace Theological Journal 5.1, pgs 47-48, 1984
[xi] David Bay, An Ancient Secret Society Killed Jesus Christ, Cutting Edge News #2032, 2004