Jun 19, 2011 Darin Allen

Halley's Bible Handbook At-A-Glance

As we continue profiling the Study Bibles from this month's sale, today we will take an at-a-glance look at Halley's Bible Handbook.

Halley Cover

Title: Halley's Bible Handbook

Area of Focus: Historical Context

Contributors: Henry H. Halley

Description: Halley's Bible Handbook was written from the conviction that everyone should be a daily reader of the Bible. According to Dr. Halley himself, it was designed as a handy brief manual, of a popular nature, to assist the average reader in their Bible study. The handbook was written to be as readable as the average newspaper in order to make it more accessible to a popular audience. This makes Halley's Bible Handbook a good choice for those who are interested in a guide that uses a conversational tone and seeks to avoid jargon. Historical facts and archaeological notes are contained throughout the handbook, and many facts have been organized into helpful lists and charts.

Sample Article: Religious Parties in the New Testament

The Pharisees

The two main parties within the Judaism of Jesus’s day were the Pharisees and the Sadducees. As Hellenism began to encroach on the religious life of the Jews, the unavoidable question was how the Law of God should be applied in the new circumstances. The Pharisees took the Scriptures and believed that it was their responsibility to determine how the Law should be applied to new conditions and how it should, if necessary, be reinterpreted. This led to the prominence of the teachers of the Law (or scribes) during the time between the Testaments. The Pharisees accepted both the Torah (Law) and tradition (the applications of the Law as taught by earlier teachers of the Law). The Sadducees, by contrast, made no such effort. They did not try to adapt God’s Law to the new situation but limited themselves to the five books of Moses; they did not even accept the authority of the prophets and other Scriptures.

The Pharisees and Jesus often clashed—yet they had much in common theologically, and Jesus had many nonadversarial contacts with Pharisees (Luke 7:36ff.; 11:37; 13:31–33; 14:1; Mark 12:28–34; Matthew 23:1–2). At the same time, Jesus rejected the validity of the oral laws of the Pharisees (see Teachers of the Law (Scribes)) and also their emphasis on ritual purity that made the Pharisees refuse any contact with “sinners.” Jesus came with the invitation to all people to enter the kingdom of God (including the Pharisees), while the Pharisees in effect disinvited all who did not live by the same standards as they—which was most people. It was especially this exclusivism that Jesus objected to in the Pharisees; by using only standards of external behavior to measure people’s relationship with God, they failed to realize that it is what is inside a person that counts, and that they therefore needed God’s grace as much as the worst sinner. And it was this external religion that made it very difficult for them to believe in Jesus (who did not do all the things the Pharisees felt a religious person should do).

The Sadducees

The party of the Sadducees consisted of wealthy priests and their friends in the aristocracy. They were religiously conservative in that they accepted the authority of the five books of Moses but not of the prophets and other later writings. Thus, when they question Jesus about the resurrection (Matthew 22:23–33), Jesus uses a quote from Exodus 3:6, since a quote from the prophets would not have carried weight with them. At the same time, they were the group who wielded political power, which led them to endorse—for pragmatic purposes—some aspects of Hellenism. When Palestine became part of the Roman Empire, the Sadducees collaborated with the Romans and tried to maintain the status quo, lest they lose their position of leadership.

The Sadducees had more power than the Pharisees (although the common people sided with the Pharisees) until A.D. 70. With the destruction of the temple—the focus of their power—the Sadducees simply ceased to have any role and disappeared. The Pharisees, on the other hand, became the true leaders of the Jewish people after A.D. 70 by providing them with a religious life apart from the temple. After the failed revolution of Bar Kochba the Romans recognized the Pharisees as the governing body for Jewish life.

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