MATTHEW 23:5-7
Pp Mark 12:38-39, Luke 20:46

Four honours

These verses are a continuation of Jesus’ words to both the crowds and His followers (Mtw 23:1) and, as such, really should be interpreted in that context. But here a new theme is being introduced and it warrants separate treatment.

The previous three verses dealt with the unquestioned authority of the scribes and Pharisees in their responsibility to make plain the Law of Moses and also showed the contrast of their man-made interpretations which undercut Biblical authority. Jesus’ instructions to the people to obey whatever the leaders said was solely on the basis of what Moses had said in the Law but not what they did as a result of their own interpretations. For they laid religious burdens upon believers and wouldn’t allow them to be removed even when it would have been the easiest thing in the world for them to do.

Such condemnation of their deeds continues throughout these next three verses but, here, we’re considering purely external demonstrations of their piety which elevated the scribes and Pharisees into positions of great honour which they delighted in amongst the people. The opening phrase (Mtw 23:5) that

‘They do all their deeds to be seen by men...’

is central and defines what follows, reminding the reader of Mtw 6:1 where Jesus warned His disciples of

‘...practising your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven’

Following these three verses, Jesus turns His attention away from the scribes and Pharisees for a few sentences and gives simple and plain instruction to those gathered listening to Him in the Temple that would safeguard their lives from an ostentatious show of piety to a simple and humble walk with God Himself.

The only direct parallel passage of Mtw 23:1-36 occurs here (that is, a parallel passage which has the same context in which it’s spoken as well as the actual words which are being said) and is duplicated in both Mark 12:38-39 and Luke 20:46.

There may be some significance in a comparison of the words at this point seeing as Mtw 23:6-7 notes the four characteristics of the scribes and Pharisees as

‘...the place of honour at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and salutations in the market places and being called rabbi by men’

while both Mark and Luke record the four as (the text is from Mark 12:38-39)

‘...long robes and to have salutations in the market places and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honour at feasts’

It can be seen that there are three statements which are almost identical in each of the passages but that ‘being called rabbi by men’ and the wearing of ‘long robes’ stand as differences. However, these may be intended to be similar in meaning for the long robe may have been the badge of the scribes and Pharisees’ office which caused the general population to turn their attention towards them and regard them with honour. In that case, Jesus may have said something to the effect that the religious groups

‘...wear long robes that they might be called rabbi by men’

and that each of the synoptic writers has taken the specific phrase which they thought was the more relevant for inclusion in the text.

Mtw 23:5

The word ‘phylactery’ or ‘phylacteries’ occurs just the once throughout the entire NT, is a transliteration rather than a translation (Strongs Greek number 5440) and is probably the Greek word which corresponds to the present day ‘tephilim’ in Judaism which continue to be used amongst the more strict sections of that religion. Having said that, many Jewish scholars dispute the association, insisting that what Jesus was criticising is markedly different from its present day counterpart, probably because they don’t want such condemnation to fall upon the observers of their beliefs!

However, there should be no thought that this is likely to take place for Jesus’ words - as we will see - have nothing whatsoever to do with the legitimacy of the wearing of phylacteries, their justification from OT Scriptures or the structure of such items. Jesus is, on the contrary, not out to discredit their use but to point out that they can be an item which can be abused to promote one’s own righteousness before men and women who look upon them.

Vines defines the word as meaning

‘...primarily an outpost or fortification, then any kind of safeguard [and which] became used especially to denote an amulet [good luck charm]...It was supposed (eventually) to have potency as a charm (safeguard) against evils and demons’

Whenever a religious rite loses its meaning and ‘freshness’, it will often degenerate into a superstitious legalism that is worn for the power supposed to be vested in the item itself rather than for the adherent to look to a relationship with the one true God and see any spiritual props as simply expressions of that relationship.

We shouldn’t wonder at such possibilities in Judaism as a whole simply because it’s been all too often the case in established Christianity through the centuries and many of the ‘traditions’ which believers hold on to are nothing more than outdated ceremonies that are devoid of any anointing of God but which are looked to to protect those who take part from either the judgment of God or from the direct work of satan.

However, that the Jews of the first century regarded the phylacteries which they wore as amulets is doubtful for Shabbath 6:2 in the Mishnah mentions both phylacteries and amulets in the same verse where each is distinct from the other and, besides, Jesus doesn’t mount an attack upon them for doing such a thing which He may well have chosen to do had it been the case.

That there was trust put in the efficacy of the wearing of phylacteries doesn’t seem to be in doubt, though, for Erubin 10:1 gives specific guidelines for what a Jew was to do should he discover phylacteries in the open field and carrying instructions were laid upon him that he might not transgress the commandments of God. This, perhaps, goes back to Shabbath 16:1 which specifies that all Scripture which was no longer fit for use had to be hidden away or buried, implying that the Scriptures within the phylacteries were what made the object sacred to the Jew.

Danby’s translation of the Mishnah contains an explanatory note on page 104 (note 16) in which he defines the phylactery as

‘The small leather boxes containing, written on parchment, in one sheet or in four compartments, the passages Ex 13:1-10, 13:11-16, Deut 6:4-9, 11:13-21. They are now worn (at the daily week-day morning services) in fulfilment of Deut 6:8, one on the forehead and one on the left arm (on the inner side immediately above the elbow)’

and this, though probably accurate as well when applied to the items in the first century, seems to rely more on modern day practices than it does on any statement in the contemporary records. At Qumran, phylacteries were found which contained other OT Scriptures than the ones now accepted as being those which are to be inserted into the four compartments (proven to be sectioned in the same manner by reading Kelim 18:8 where each of the compartments is mentioned) so that it may be that Rabbinic commands had not, at that time, been fixed.

What will probably surprise the reader is that the wearing of phylacteries was extracted from the Mosaic Law from four specific passages (Ex 13:1-10 [esp v.9], Ex 13:11-16 [esp v.16], Deut 6:4-6 [esp v.6] and Deut 11:13-21 [esp v.18] and stated as being an obligation of the Law in Sanhedrin 11:3) where the passages in question seem to be meant to be taken figuratively rather than literally that the Laws of God were to be forever with the Jews that they might not forget them, rather than that they were to be fixed by the means of straps onto two specific regions of the body - on the forehead over the eyes and above the elbow on the (left) arm that they might be close to the heart. After all, the four passages are speaking of the entire Book of the Law rather than of four Scriptures representative of the whole and, if taken literally, it should have been the case that a copy of the entire Law of Moses should be strapped about them!

Also literally taken were the passages Deut 6:9 and 11:20 which command the writing of the ordinaces of the Law upon the doorposts and lintels of the houses when they were to come into the land of Canaan, a practice which is normally referred to as the Mezuzah (also referred to in the Mishnah). This practice sees a small piece of parchment upon which is written the first two paragraphs of the Shema (Deut 6:4-9 and 11:13-21) placed about a third of the way down the right-hand doorpost of the house (whether that’s the right-hand doorpost as one goes in or out of the house, I don’t know) in a case which has a small opening in its back.

The legitimacy of this practice may also be called into question even though the passage where it comes from reads literally enough to think it could have meant to be observed externally, but Jesus isn’t concerned to comment on this but on the abuses that the scribes and Pharisees were putting them to. Zondervan describes the structure of the object as being

‘...small cubic boxes made of the skin of clean animals, varying from half an inch to one and a half inches in width. The head-[phylactery] contained four distinct compartments into which the four separate passages were inserted. The hand-[phylactery] contained a simple compartment and carried a single piece of parchment with the four texts written out...Each phylactery was sewn to the base of thick leather by twelve stitches, one for each of the tribes of Israel. Leather flaps were left on the top of the cube through which passed long leather straps for binding the phylacteries to the head and the left arm. Both the boxes and the straps were black...’

Zondervan’s description is good here but, if anyone has ever witnessed the modern day phylacteries which are almost perfectly cubic, they will be misled into thinking that such a structure existed in the same form during the first century. Those found at Qumran near the place of the Dead Sea Scrolls are distinctively different and look more like a folded piece of leather which had been divided into four sections than anything resembling a cube.

The five in the picture to the left (taken from the Library of Congress web site) range in dimensions and from top left to bottom right measure 2x1cm, 2.3x2.6cm, 2.2x1.2cm, 3.2x1cm and 1.3x2.1cm, from the long but thin (3.2x1cm) to the more notably square (2.3x2.6cm) and demonstrate that there seems to have been no fixed or approved shape or measurement that was universally used.

From the look of the first four of these, they appear to have been head phylacteries which would have stretched across the forehead as they’re obviously compartmentalised into four sections and attached by means of a leather strap which was inserted into the fold in the leather, while the more square, fifth example could reasonably have been thought to have been successfully fixed to the arm as it appears from the outside as if just the one compartment is possible.

We don’t, however, know these phylacteries to have been scribal or Pharisaic (and identification with the Essenes is not demonstrably certain either) so there may have been somewhat different shapes employed amongst them in Jerusalem but the ‘strips’ of phylacteries make attachment to the forehead straightforward and the feeling of having an artificial lump placed there sufficiently comfortable.

It was only the males of the nation that were obligated by the Rabbis to wear such boxes, women, slaves and children being exempted from the practice (Berakoth 3:3) and those men who still had dead who needed burying, for the phylactery could contract corpse-uncleanness (Berakoth 3:1). The obligation to wear them appears to have been on a daily basis for a vain oath (that is, one which is considered to be unfounded and spoken insincerely) is one which might say that phylacteries hadn’t been put on the entire day (Shebuoth 3:11) and their obligatory nature is also hinted at in the fact that they could not be taken in the payment of a pledge to an individual unless they belonged to either the man’s wife or children who were exempt from having to wear them (Arakhim 6:3-4). They were also only to be worn if they had been prepared by one who was skilled (Shabbath 6:2) which may refer to either the construction of the box or to the way they were placed upon the person.

Just when such an obligation came into being is difficult to determine but the letter of Aristeas (verses 159-160) which was written at the end of the first century BC observes that

‘...upon our hands, too, He expressly orders the symbol to be fastened, clearly showing that we ought to perform every act in righteousness, remembering (our own creation) and above all the fear of God’

and it must be noted that the observance of such a rite must have been fairly well established throughout the nation at this time to warrant a statement to the effect that it was binding on Israel and that it was a command of God.

It must also have been quite something to walk round the nation in the first century and see all the little black boxes that one could on the foreheads of the people encountered! It would have been a mark of immediate identification that such a person was ‘holy’ and committed to observing the requirements of the Mosaic Law just as a dog collar for a vicar in our present day can have the effect of proclaiming to the observer

‘Hey! Look at me! I’m holy!’

But, again, we need to remind ourselves that Jesus isn’t concerned to criticise their use but their abuse and it’s this which we should consider now for Jesus speaks only of the practice of the scribes and Pharisees in making

‘...their phylacteries broad...’

a statement which is interpreted differently by commentators. If taken at face value, it would seem to be a reference to the expanding the size of the compartments into which the Scriptures were placed or the black base which lay upon the forehead and which could, by a simple use of extra leather, be made to encompass the entire width of the face, drawing attention to the fact of their presence. This is the way Matmor interprets Jesus’ words and it seems the most logical.

However, the favourite interpretation amongst scholars is to see the lengthening of the straps by which the phylacteries were secured onto the head and arm as being what’s in mind. How this would have drawn attention to the phylactery is difficult to see for the presence of the box upon the head would be the most obvious testimony to their use, though large and broad straps affixing the box to the head would take on the appearance of the wearer as having something like a skull cap on! It must also be remembered that Jews normally covered their heads when in prayer and, if worn in first century Israel at the same times as they are today, such straps would be obscured by the prayer shawl. Matfran adds a comment that

‘ has also been suggested that it refers to wearing the phylacteries...during the rest of the day and not only as prescribed at the hours of prayer’

but the language doesn’t seem to warrant such an interpretation and there’s the possibility that such objects were worn by the religious Jew throughout the day as a matter of course and not just amongst the scribes and Pharisees. It seems best, therefore, to take Jesus’ comments to be primarily referring to the use of the head phylactery and to the expansion of the size of the actual object and which would have engulfed the entire forehead with a large slab of black leather as a testimony to the wearer’s righteousness.

This, says Jesus, is the problem because it’s done simply for ostentatious show and to declare oneself holy. If they were really pious individuals, they would be context to bear their phylacteries upon their person in a simple manner and to be rewarded by their Father in heaven (Mtw 6:6)

‘...who sees in secret...’

Just to make the point in case the reader has missed it, Jesus does not comment whether phylacteries should be worn or not based upon an interpretation of OT Scripture but on their use to promote a person’s self-righteousness and self-esteem before men. Instead of using this rite as a reminder of the Law of God, it had degenerated into a pedestal for glorying in the flesh.

Reaction, therefore, even amongst followers of Christ may result in the adherence to many rites which have little or nothing to do with direct commands of Scripture but which can be a sincere response from the heart to a revelation of God in the believer. Such observances are certainly not to be criticised but there always is the danger that they become a point of proclamation of oneself which pulls away from the attitude of the heart which says

‘Hey! Look at God!’

and resorts to

‘Hey! Look at me!’

something which we all must safeguard against. I mentioned dog collars above and the reader may be thinking that I disapprove of them to the point of wishing they were banned. While that’s quite true (would you have expected anything else?), the more problematical situation is that they can often be a substitute for a real relationship with God and be used to draw attention to oneself rather than to the One who the individual professes to know.

It would be best if we had no religious crutches or props and that we served God simply as we are, but such items are necessary in some believers’ lives. What each person must be careful to do, however, is to make sure that such props don’t begin to point to themselves as being holy people but, rather, point to the One who is served by them - even that such crutches might be used ‘in secret’ that no glory be attracted to the believer (Mtw 6:1-18).

Mtw 23:5

The command to wear tassels or fringes on the corners of the upper garments was a direct command from YHWH in the Mosaic Law whereas the use of phylacteries was more of an interpretation based upon figurative statements which were ultimately taken literally.

As I noted on my previous web page

‘The Law commanded the Israelites to make four tassels for their garments from a cord of blue (Num 15:37-41, Deut 22:12) and to sow them into the “corners” of their garments that they might be reminders to the Jews to remember all the commandments of the Lord and so be careful to do them’

and these commands were taken to be instructing groups of white threads to be taken and either one single blue thread woven into it or used to attach it to the garment.

It would be wrong to think of the fringes which were placed on the four corners of the Jewish garment to remind one of the commandments of the Law as being an inferior rite to that of the phylacteries but there are only five mentions of them in the Mishnah and these don’t appear to give any significant instructions as the ones concerning the phylacteries do, except, perhaps, Menahoth 4:1 which speaks of the blue thread in the fringe and so proves to us that the commandment from which it was derived seems to have been still observed to the letter in first century Israel.

That Jesus wore these fringes is possible but by no means certain even though many commentators accept the statements in Mtw 9:20 and 14:36 to infer it. The problem is that the word which is used for the religious rite (Strongs Greek number 2899) is the same one which would be normally employed to represent the hem of anyone’s garment and there’s an element of uncertainty, therefore, that appears not to be able to be resolved by a mere consideration of the word employed.

Whether Jesus wore such items is not important for a consideration of the text, however, and Jesus - just as in the previous case - is not commenting on any conceived irrelevance based upon the commandment but upon their abuse not to remind the Jew of the commandments of the Law but to express their own piety to fellow Jews by their size.

The tassel didn’t bring righteousness to the person wearing such an item and it wasn’t meant to demonstrate a person’s righteousness either, but it was to serve them as a reminder to be righteous before God through obedience to His commands.

Although the command was to have a blue thread somewhere within the white tassel (depending on how this was interpreted it would either be a thread with the white or the thread which fastened the tassel to the garment), the fringes of modern day Jews have only white threads because the fish from which the blue dye was extracted to turn the thread the correct colour can no longer be identified and it’s considered wrong to use a colour which would be incorrect.

This may sound absurd to many christians and worthy of ridicule, but we must note that, though we might observe that a specific dye is not commanded but the colour and that, to be observant to the Law one should simply find a colour near to blue, Jesus would likely not be at all concerned today if He were to address the issue. Just as He spoke against the misuse of the phylactery in the previous section, He would be the more likely to notice any abuse which was being performed in the name of God and which promoted the self-righteousness of the person who bore the tassels.

Jesus is no Rabbi who had come to straighten out the Rabbis in their interpretation of the minutiae of their observance but He cut straight to the motives of the heart and expected a change there that service to God might ultimately become externally pure.

So Jesus isn’t condemning the use of the fringe - He condemns the size which was indicative of causing attention to be given to its wearer. Perhaps, even, the normal tassel was worn short and could easily have gone unnoticed if other, outer, garments were being worn but that, by making them demonstrably longer, the threads would be seen emerging from under any garment to proclaim self-righteousness.

My comments above on the use of phylacteries are equally applicable here to the fringe or tassel but we should note that the former which were not literally commanded in the Law and neither the latter which were, were criticised by Jesus simply because of what they were. It was solely their abuse at the hands of the scribes and Pharisees to elevate themselves as someone special before God which really got up Jesus’ nose.

Four honours
Mtw 23:6-7

These last two verses list four more examples of the things which the scribes and Pharisees do which elevate themselves as people who are demonstrably special in their own society and which they take great delight in because of the position with which they’re being attributed.

However, we need to notice that Jesus is not speaking against having places of honour at feasts (the place at the head of the u-shaped layout at which people reclined - see also Luke 14:7-10), the best seats in the synagogues (the ones which were elevated above the congregation and which faced them), salutations in the market places (which were public and so announced to passers-by their importance) or being called rabbi by others (possibly meaning ‘my lord’ or ‘my master’ and inferring the greatness of the one addressed with the title and the inferiority of the one addressing - at least, Jesus doesn’t speak against the title itself in this verse. In the following verse, Jesus will instruct the crowds and His disciples that they should avoid being called rabbi but this appears to be solely because of the dangers which such a title conveys. Here, though, the idea of being called rabbi is associated with receiving earthly glory and respect).

Having said that, we should note that Jesus is speaking against those scribes and Pharisees who loved those four things - that is, those who enjoyed the recognition that came with their position, glorying in their self-importance and self-exaltation.

It wasn’t for them to be an unnoticeable believer who got on quietly with serving God 24/7 - they wanted to have the earthly recognition that such commitment would also give.

Whenever ecclesiastical recognition is bestowed upon individuals, there’s always that danger lurking close at hand that was prevalent amongst the Jewish religious leaders (because what was in them is the same as what’s in us!) - namely, spiritual pride.

Edersheim notes that the Talmud warns frequently against studying the Law to receive earthly honour and recognition and that there should be a purity of study which should go unhindered by considerations of those things which it would reap in the earthly life before death. But he’s also been able to catalogue numerous instructions and records in the Rabbinic writings which demonstrate to the reader the sort of honour which the rabbis themselves expected to receive. He writes

‘...Rabbinic writings lay down elaborate directions, what place is to be assigned to the Rabbis according to their rank, and to their disciples, and how in the College the most learned, but at feast the most aged, among the Rabbis, are to occupy the “upper seats”. So weighty was the duty of respectful salutation by the title Rabbi, that to neglect it would involve the heaviest punishment. Two great Rabbis are described as literally complaining that they must have lost the very appearance of learning, since in the market place they only had been greeted with “May your peace be great” without the addition “My masters”...’

Edersheim goes on into a detailed exposition of their expectation from here and I’m tempted to quote his entire two pages of text which deal with the way they wrote into their own rules how they were to be regarded amongst the ordinary Jewish population and what sort of honour they were expecting to receive, but the reader can turn to the author and consider it themselves. But I will include one final story which Edersheim records as being indicative of

‘...the climax of blasphemous self-assertion...’

which relates the incident that

‘ a discussion in heaven between God and the heavenly Academy on a Halakhic question about purity, a certain Rabbi - deemed that most learned on the subject - was summoned to decide the point! As his soul passed from the body he exclaimed: “Pure, pure” which the Voice from Heaven applied to the state of the Rabbi’s soul; and immediately afterwards a letter had fallen from heaven to inform the sages of the purpose of which the Rabbi had been summoned to the heavenly assembly, and afterwards another enjoining a week’s universal mourning for him on pain of excommunication’

Quite amazing that God needed the presence of a rabbinical authority to decide upon a matter! They quite obviously knew more about the Law of God than God Himself from whom it had come! Jesus had already spoken against such self-exaltation on a previous occasion recorded in John 5:44 where He asked the religious leaders pointedly

‘How can you believe [the Gospel], who receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?’

and it’s true to say that Jesus saw only the self-promotion of their own affairs and concerns over and above those of God which secured for themselves earthly positions of respect which they assured themselves would be reflected in favour from Heaven.

But, just in case the reader should think that these notes are an attempted diatribe against the religious Jew and that I’m trying to infer that the follower of Christ has been of any better character through the years, I must point out that the very same problems have surfaced in the Church as did, then, in the Pharisaism of first century Israel. For instance,

‘...the best seats in the synagogues’

which Jesus condemns as being loved by the religious leaders are likely to have been those seats, as Mattask points out, which were at the front of building and which faced the congregation - ring any bells in the Church? And doesn’t it strike you as strange why we have such a layout when leadership placed within the congregation can be just as effective as when they’re sat in front of everyone (so long as it’s not a raised platform that can’t be scaled)? There may be a genuine case for music leaders and the speaker to be near the front to avoid unnecessary delays in large congregations but in a fellowship that has less than a hundred attendees (see also James 2:1-4)?

The point of our reading of these Scriptures shouldn’t be to join with Jesus in a condemnation of Jewish practices but to lift our hands in the air and ask ourselves the question as to why we went out and did the very same things throughout Church history that Jesus warned against - and that we continue to do such things even in this present day!

It’s not as if the Scriptures are devoid of relevant warnings to the reader for alarm bells should ring in the ears of those who sincerely want to please God as they consider passages which paint the seeking of earthly glory in a bad light.

When Hezekiah became proud with all that YHWH had granted him, his head was turned and he showed all that was in his possession to the visiting king of Babylon. He may have received adoration and respect from the king but not from God, for just such a display of self-exaltation was the deed that was to cause Hezekiah’s kingdom to be ultimately humbled (Is 39:1-8). As Prov 17:19 says in the Amplified Bible

‘...he who raises high his gateway and is boastful and arrogant invites destruction’

and as Jesus will conclude in this Matthean passage directed at the crowds and His followers (Mtw 23:12)

‘...whoever exalts himself will be humbled...’

Perhaps the best comment on the relationship between the Pharisees and Jesus is contained in the OT in the person of Haman in the Book of Esther who gloried in his exaltation by the king, gathering his friends together to tell them of his fame and privilege (Esther 5:10-12) but who was violently opposed to anyone who refused to give him the glory and praise which he expected (Esther 3:1-6, 5:13). Being proud of who he was and the position that he had in the kingdom prevented him from being able to rest while there were people who undermined his feeling of supremacy.

This sort of characteristic of a proud and self-exultant heart seems to have been contributory in prompting the religious leaders in Israel to seek out a way to destroy Jesus for He neither worked with them to bring more glory to their own religious sect and neither did He support the system of interpretation which they were proceeding with, calling them into question for the attitudes of their own hearts. Had Jesus been left to continue serving God, their own kingdom, honour and glory would have ultimately been destroyed.

Such considerations of aggrandisement should be far from a believer. Rather, Jesus notes that (Luke 17:10)

‘...when you have done all that is commanded you say “We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty”’

because to think any more highly of oneself than one is, is to lay the way open for others who begin to take over one’s own earthly position to be despised and opposed - and especially when the anointing of God begins to be seen upon them.

It’s also significant that both Mark and Luke end their short outline of Jesus’ denunciation of the scribes and Pharisees with a short observation by Jesus of a poor widow who made a small contribution into the Temple treasury (Mark 12:41-44, Luke 21:1-4) and who would have gone unnoticed through the large contributions which were being made by the rich.

The respect which the rich had received through their contributions was all that they would receive but the widow had put in significantly more because she’d made a donation out of her poverty (Mtw 6:2). The implication here is that God regarded as deserving more honour the woman who had put in two copper coins than any of the rich - but, in the Pharisaic scheme of things, the roles would have been reversed.

Finally, in conclusion of all these three verses (Mtw 23:5-7), it’s worthy to note as we have done previously that Jesus has set Himself to attack the underlying principle behind the religious ceremonies and actions rather than the actual ceremonies themselves.

As has been shown, the use of phylacteries came about as a probable misinterpretation of Mosaic Law yet Jesus doesn’t comment on this - neither would He bring to a present day Jews’ attention the piece of blue cord which is missing from the fringes sewn onto the garment.

But, using what is in existence, He exposes the underlying attitude of men’s hearts as He points out that many of the scribes and Pharisees’ ‘rites’ had degraded into an effort to be recognised, accepted, praised and held in awe by other Jews.

This is excellent corrective teaching for it puts to one side what believers might want to cling fast to and calls into question the underlying attitudes of the heart. If you reach into those hidden places, you ultimately transform the entire person.