Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Christian Trivia Question #25 - Phylacteries

 Jesus condemned a group for enlarging their phylacteries.

What are phylacteries?

Who did Jesus condemn and why? 


  1. ANSWER:

    Phylacteries, in the first century CE, were small, square, black leather boxes, containing passages of scripture"”which some strictly observant Jews still wear on the forehead, and on the left arm. This tradition arose because of what those biblical verses actually said, especially at Deuteronomy 6:6-8, "Keep these words that I am commanding you in your heart , bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem, or frontlet, on your forehead"”or between your eyes."

    Jesus mentions phylacteries in His blistering criticism of the scribes and Pharisees behavior. The focus of Jesus’ critique is not with their authority. In fact, He actually commands to obey what they teach for their authority is valid and given by God (“they sit in the seat of Moses”).

    The problem is that they don’t practice what they preach. They are hypocrites and Jesus calls them hypocrites 7 times in this discourse alone.

    Jesus’ reference to “broad phylacteries and enlarged garment borders” is one of many examples He gives about how these leaders puff themselves up artificially.

    He is teaching humility in this discourse and using these egotistical leaders as the textbook illustration of how not to act. The scribes and Pharisees were elevating themselves far above men – to status that is reserved only for God. To drive this point home, Jesus uses hyperbole (common in Jesus’ teaching) to emphasize humility by saying not to not call anyone “Rabbi” (doctor/master), “father”, or “teacher” except God. This is obviously not an absolute prohibition from using these titles, but a warning not to abuse positions of authority the way the scribes and Pharisees did.

    Here is the full passage recorded by Matthew:

    23:1 1 Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, 2 saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 Therefore whatever they tell you to observe,[fn] that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. 4 For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.

    5 But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments.

    6 They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, 7 greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.’ 8 But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. 9 Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. 10 And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ. 11 But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. (Matt 23:1-12)

  2. So interesting, I've never heard of phylacteries before. It's crazy to think some people still wear them.