Contrary to popular belief, the “bad guys” of the Gospels did not wear capes, twirl their moustaches, and interrupt Jesus’ parables with sinister laughter.
Nor were they just generic anti-Jesus people who opposed him for no reason beyond the fact that, you know, someone had to put him on the cross and stuff. Understanding the culture of the New Testament helps a lot to give the stories in the Gospel the right context.
So, because my brain resembles what would happen if you put BuzzFeed in a blender with systematic theology, here’s a quiz to help you get to know four of the major Jewish groups around during Jesus’ day.
Which New Testament Era Political-Religious Group Would You Belong To?
Are you a woman?
Yes—Great, then in Jesus’ day, you would be a woman, and your theological/political views wouldn’t really matter. You are done with the quiz. (Kidding. I mean, not kidding in that women’s views didn’t matter in that time period, because they didn’t, but you can still take the quiz.)]
No—continue on with the quiz.
You are in a spaceship. There is a small room with one big red button marked, “Do Not Push.” What do you do?
- Lock the room and ask someone else to hide the key so you can’t even go in it. Problem solved.
- Only push the button in an emergency.
- If you don’t push the button right away (which you might), it at least torments you every time you look at it.
- You are not even tempted by the button. Who cares?
If there’s ever a situation where you don’t handle conflict well, it’s probably because you…
- Think of yourself as slightly superior to the other person.
- Just want everyone to get along and try to cover over any disagreements.
- Get angry and lose your temper.
- Secretly know you’re never going to change your mind no matter what the other person says.
So maybe they didn’t get everything right, but here’s an often-criticized group you find interesting:
- The fire and brimstone preachers of the Great Awakening—sure, God’s love needs to balance out God’s wrath, but sometimes an extreme message is necessary.
- The Loyalists during the Revolutionary War—come on, guys, let’s be real: were taxes really worth killing people over? Really?
- The extremist abolitionists during the Civil War—okay, so maybe John Brown took things a little far, but he had the right idea, anyway!
- The Puritans coming over on the Mayflower—yes, they were a little strict. But they were sincere and had standards, and God blessed them for that.
Your biggest problem with the modern church in America is that:
- We don’t maintain a sense of awe and reverence of God in our daily lives.
- Non-Christians see us as narrow-minded and anti-intellectual.
- All of our doctrine isn’t leading us to action against social injustice—we are too comfortable.
- There’s nothing about us that’s really different from the secular world.
Which song from a musical fits your personality the best?
- “Iowa Stubborn” from The Music Manhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xV7ZcVFSWWU
- “Popular” from Wickedhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e4EtbRJw14E
- “Do You Hear the People Sing?” Les Miserableshttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dOlKBX7BzpI
- “The Sound of Music” from The Sound of Musichttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5fH2FOn1V5g
An Old Testament character you see as a hero is:
- Moses—he was an uncompromising leader who spoke directly with God and gave his commandments to the people.
- Esther—she used her political power to defend her people when the time was right, and maintained her faith even in a pagan kingdom.
- Gideon—he became a strong warrior who freed his people from oppression.
- Elijah—he was a bold prophet who called a lost people to repent and reminded them of where their true priorities should be.
You’re elected leader of a group project. Which best describes your leadership style?
- Overall, things stay pretty organized and everyone knows the deadlines. I can be a little bossy, but, hey, everything gets done.
- I’m pretty good at listening to and incorporating others’ ideas. Often, they don’t even know I’m the one leading.
- Sometimes setting specific deadlines doesn’t actually happen, but I’m good at making people care about what we’re doing.
- It depends. If I’m with a bunch of slackers, I usually end up doing everything myself.
Total up your scores!
Mostly 1s: You would be a Pharisee! Not only did they follow the rules, they followed the extra rules they put around the rules so they couldn’t possibly break a commandment. People saw them as the religious elite: the holiest and most knowledgeable (although the actual class of priests and religious rulers were mainly Sadducees). The Law was very important to them, and they also held to a number of traditions established outside of the Mosaic canon.
Why they hated Jesus: He went around breaking the Sabbath and associating with sinners and all sorts of things a good Jewish rabbi shouldn’t do. Also, Jesus called down a bunch of woes on them, which couldn’t have helped.
Mostly Bs: You would be a Sadducee! Practical and at least a little conniving, Sadducees were the popular kids with the reigning Roman government. They were okay with compromise and political maneuvering because it was what was best for their people (and also them—they were mostly in charge of the temple because the Romans gave them a stamp of approval). Though they could come together for the common good, they were not friends with the Pharisees. Besides a difference in politics, they had theological differences; for example, the Sadducees didn’t believe in the resurrection from the dead.
Why they hated Jesus: He made them look bad and threatened their shaky peace with the Roman empire (you don’t go around claiming to be King of the Jews and expect Caesar to be totally okay with that).
Mostly Cs: You would be a Zealot! The resident hotheads of the Jewish people, these guys were ready to take down the corrupt and oppressive Roman government. Of course, you didn’t have to be particularly religious to be a zealot, but if you were, you had a lot of Old Testament prophecies about a coming kingdom and judgment on Israel’s enemies to back you up.
Why they hated Jesus: They probably didn’t at first…until they realized that he wasn’t planning on overthrowing the establishment. At that point what good was he? Talking about all of these spiritual metaphors and stuff.
Mostly Ds: You would be an Essene! These guys are never actually mentioned in the Bible, because they went off and formed their own communities in the wilderness. They felt like the Pharisees and Sadducees had corrupted Judaism and they needed to break away to worship God in the true way. They observed strict purity and dietary rules and also did a lot of scribe work—we have them to thank for the Dead Sea Scroll collection.
Why they hated Jesus: Jesus? Who’s Jesus? Is there something going on down there in that pagan civilization beneath us?