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The Good Life and Hard Times
Of the Apostle Paul
Edited by John R. Wible1
Lessons 10, 11, and 12 – Religio‐Political Groups in Second Temple Judaism
During the Second Temple period, there arose or continued basically four groups that, whether
they liked to think of themselves this way, were in essence political groups. These include:
Zealots and Sicarii.
Paul was a Pharisee, but it is noteworthy to see how the other groups influenced what was
going on at the time. You will find reference to these groups in the New Testament. We will
look at these groups in order of their connection to Paul.
The Pharisees were a religious party that flourished in Palestine during the
latter part of the Second Temple period (515 B.C.–A.D. 70.) Their insistence on
the binding force of oral tradition (“the unwritten Torah”) still remains a basic
tenet of Jewish theological thought. 3
We know much about their teachings
from their compilation of the oral Law, known as the Mishna in about A.D. 200
by Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi in Roman occupied Judah 4
and compiled by his
father and Nathan the Babylonian.5
The Pharisees believed that the oral
tradition was not a “development” but was given to Moses on Mount Sinai.
They were merely collecting it and passing it along.
Editor’s note. Most of the material used herein is taken from a number of other sources. In some cases, it is taken
ver batem. That being the case, I refer to myself as the Editor and not the Author.
“Pharisee.” 2016. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. http://www.britannica.com/topic/Pharisee accessed January
"Commentary on Tractate Avot with an Introduction (Shemona perakim)." World Digital Library.
Codex Judaica' Kantor, second edition, NY 2006, page 146.
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Their belief that the Oral Torah was transmitted orally from God
to Moses on Mount Sinai during the Exodus from Egypt was
recognized as one of the Thirteen Principles of Faith6
There is no direct Biblical evidence for the oral
Law’s Mosaic origin.
The Pharisees (Hebrew: Perushim,) like the Sadducees and
Essenes, came to be a distinct group shortly after, and probably
as a result of, the Maccabean revolt, about 165–160 B.C. They
claimed to be the spiritual descendants of the Hasadeans who
were a Jewish sect of uncertain origin, noted for
uncompromising observance of the Law.
The Hasadeans joined the Maccabean revolt against the
Hellenistic Seleucids in the 2nd Century B.C. to fight for
religious freedom and stem the tide of paganism. They had no
interest in politics and withdrew from the Maccabean side as
soon as they had regained their religious freedom. For this
reason, they fell into disfavor with the Hasmonean
(Maccabean) rulers. 8
Soon thereafter, the Pharisees emerged
as a party of laymen and scribes who opposed the priestly
Sadducees that had traditionally provided ruled the Jewish
The basic difference that led to the theological split between the Pharisees and the Sadducees
lay in their differing attitudes toward the Torah and the problem of finding in it answers to
questions and bases for decisions about contemporary legal and religious matters arising under
circumstances far different from those of the time of Moses.9
Both parties recognized the problem. However, as in most matters, the two parties differed in
their response to this problem. The Sadducees flatly refused to accept any precept as binding
unless it was based directly on the Torah, the Written Law. The Pharisees, on the other hand,
believed that the Law that God gave to Moses was twofold, consisting of the Written Law and
the Oral Law.10
Whereas the priestly Sadducees taught that the written Torah was the only
source of revelation, the Pharisees recognized and indeed, elucidated upon the principle of
David Birnbaum, Jews, Church & Civilization, Volume III (Millennium Education Foundation) 2005.
Century Jewish scholar considered by most to be the preeminent scholar on Judaism.
Encyclopædia Britannica Online, s. v. "Hasidean." accessed January 22, 2016,
“Pharisee.” 2016. Encyclopædia Britannica Online, supra.
See text, supra.
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evolution in the Law. The stated that men must use their reason in interpreting the Torah and
applying it to contemporary problems.11
Rather than blindly follow the letter of the Law even if it conflicted with
reason or conscience, the Pharisees Attempted to harmonize the
teachings of the Torah with their own ideas or found their own ideas
suggested or implied in the Torah. They insisted that they interpreted the
Law according to its spirit. When in the course of time a law had been
outgrown or superseded by changing conditions, they gave it a new and
more‐acceptable meaning, seeking scriptural support for their actions. It was due to this
progressive tendency of the Pharisees that their interpretation of the Torah continued to develop
and has remained a living force in Judaism.12
The Sadducees detested this Pharisaic expansion of the law seeing it as
“cutting the pattern to fit the cloth” rather than the other way around. In
other words, the Sadducees held that the Pharisees “made it up” as they
went along by their practice of citing predecessor Pharisees who cited their
predecessors & ETC.
In the end, the Pharisees won out and their ideas
are still binding on Observant Jews today,
especially the modern sect known as the Hasidim,
the ultra‐orthodox strict sect famous for their
black hats and uncut strands of hair resembling
sideburns that are known as payot.13
the destruction of the Temple, the Sadducees
were divested of their main source of authority,
without which their theology could not survive.
On the other hand, the Pharisees became the progenitor of the rabbinic class,
who formalized the traditions of their predecessors. Following the fall of the
Temple, it appears that the Pharisaic leader Johanan ben Zakkai (A.D. 30‐90)
established himself in Yavneh (a town south of Jaffa known to the Greeks as
Jamnia), where he established a school that came to be regarded by fellow Jews
as the successors of the Jerusalem Sanhedrin.14
“Pharisee.” 2016. Encyclopædia Britannica Online, supra.
The modern‐day Hasidic Jews consider themselves as the spiritual progeny of the Hasmonean Hasideans.
Danby, Herbert. The Mishnah: Translated from the Hebrew with Introduction and Brief Explanatory Notes.
Hendrickson Publishers. pp. xvii–xix.
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The Pharisees were primarily not a political party but a society of scholars and strictly observant
Jews. About 100 B.C., they engaged in a long struggle with the Sadducees for control of the
direction of Judaism.
The Pharisees tried to make their religion more of a people’s religion
and less of a controlled religion as decreed by the priestly Sadducees
who held power by virtue of dominating the priesthood and especially
by holding the hereditary office of High Priest.
The Pharisees asserted that God could and should be
worshipped even away from the Temple and outside
Jerusalem. To the Pharisees, worship consisted not in
bloody sacrifices—the practice of the Temple priests—
but in prayer and in the study of God’s law. Hence, the
Pharisees supported and enlarged the idea of the
synagogue as an institution of religious worship, outside
and separate from the Temple.
The synagogue, though of Babylonian origin and born of necessity due to the Captivity grew to
be considered a Pharisaic institution, since the Pharisees developed it, raised it to high
eminence, and gave it a central place in Jewish religious life. After the destruction of the Second
Temple and the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, it was the synagogue and the schools of the
Pharisees that continued to function and to promote Judaism in the long centuries following
Alfred Edersheim gives us a picture of the personal excesses to which the Pharisees went and
expected of others not even of their school.
There was probably no town or village inhabited by Jews which
had not its Pharisees, although they would, of course, gather in
preference about Jerusalem with its Temple, and what, perhaps
would have been even dearer to the heart of a genuine Pharisee‐‐
its four hundred and eighty synagogues, its Sanhedrims (great and
small), and its schools of study. There could be no difficulty in
recognising such an one. Walking behind him, the chances were,
he would soon halt to say his prescribed prayers. If the fixed time
for them had come, he would stop short in the middle of the road,
perhaps say one section of them, move on, again say another part,
and so on, till, whatever else might be doubted, there could be no
question of the conspicuousness of his devotions in market‐place or corners of streets.
“Pharisee.” 2016. Encyclopædia Britannica Online, supra.
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There he would stand, as taught by the traditional law, would draw his feet well
together, compose his body and clothes, and bend so low "that every vertebra in his
back would stand out separate," or, at least, till "the skin over his heart would fall into
folds." The workman would drop his tools, the burden‐bearer his load; if a man had
already one foot in the stirrup, he would withdraw it. The hour had come, and nothing
could be suffered to interrupt or disturb him. The very salutation of a king, it was said,
must remain unreturned; nay, the twisting of a serpent around one's heel must remain
unheeded." Citations omitted.16
The Pharisees enjoyed a large popular following, and in the New Testament they appear as
spokesmen for the majority of the population. Unfortunately, that having been said, they fell
victim to the same disease of power that would befall the Sadducees. “All power corrupts and
absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” 17
Indeed, in the Gospels, each and every one of
the 89 times the Pharisees are mentioned by
the writers either in narrative or through the
words of Our Lord or John the Baptizer, it is
with a well‐deserved criticism. Though it might
be said that sometimes the criticism lumps the
Pharisees in with the Priests and other
Jesus says, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea
and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son
of hell as yourselves.18
John the Baptizer says, “But when he saw many of the Pharisees
and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of
vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?”19
Almost 80 additional times we see the Gospel writers pointing out
that the Pharisees have gone seriously off track. Remember that
Paul was “such an one.”20
Edersheim, Alfred. Theological and Homiletical Commentary on the Gospel. Chapter 13.
Letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887. Lord Acton quoting The Prince, Chapter VIII by Nicolo Machiavelli.
I Corinthians 5:5 King James (Authorized) version.
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Century Christians have a pretty low impression of the Scribes due to their
“shenanigans” in New Testament times. However, that was not always who they were, rather
who they became. Their original duty was to supervise the carrying out of the Shema, the
commands laid out in Deuteronomy 6:9.
“Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!
You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart
and with all your soul and with all your might. 6
words, which I am commanding you today, shall be
on your heart. 7
You shall teach them diligently to
your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your
house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.
You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your
You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Of the 3rd
Century B.C. Scribes, the Jewish Encyclopedia states that they were:
[a] [b]ody of teachers whose office was to interpret the Law to the people, their
organization beginning with Ezra, who was their chief, and terminating with Simeon the
Just. The original meaning of the Hebrew word "soferim"21
was "people who know how
to write"; and therefore the royal officials who were occupied in recording in the
archives the proceedings of each day were called scribes (comp. II Sam. viii. 17; II Kings
xix. 2, passim); but as the art of writing was known only to the intelligent, the term
"scribe" became synonymous with "wise man" (I Chron. xxvii. 32).
Later, in the time of Ezra,
the designation was
applied to the body of
teachers who, as stated
above, interpreted the Law
to the people. Ezra himself
is styled "a ready scribe in
the law of Moses" (Ezra vii. 6).
Editor’s note. See the cognate Greek word for wisdom, sophia. This is an evidence of the common linguistic
source of Hebrew and Greek.
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Indeed, he might be correctly so called for two reasons, inasmuch as he could write or
copy the Law and at the same time was an able interpreter of it . . . It is evident that
these scribes were the first teachers of the Torah and the founders of the oral law. 22
As to their function, the Jewish Encyclopedia states:
The activity of the scribes began with the cessation of that of the Prophets. In fact, after
the Israelites who came back from Babylon had turned their hearts to God, there was
greater need of men to instruct the people, and to assist them in obtaining a clear
understanding of the Law. This body of teachers is identified . . . with the "men of the
If this identification is correct, the organization of the scribes lasted
from the time of Ezra until the conquest of Palestine by Alexander the Great, a period of
about 200 years. It must be said, however, that the term "soferim" was sometimes used,
particularly in the post‐Maccabean time, to designate teachers generally.24
The Scribes beginning with Ezra, had a great heritage. Perhaps next
to Ezra, the greatest was “Simon the Just,” mentioned on the
previous page who lived until in the Third or Second Century B.C. He
was either Simon I (310–291 or 300–273 B.C.) or Simon II (219–199
B.C.,) perhaps more likely Simon II.25
The Book of Sirach and the Second Book of Maccabees all contain accounts of him. He was
termed "the Righteous" because of the piety of his life and his benevolence toward his fellow
He was credited with being deeply interested in the spiritual and material development
of the nation. It is said that he “rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem, which had been torn down by
Ptolemy, and repaired the damage done to the Temple in Jerusalem, raising the foundation‐
walls of its court and enlarging the cistern into a pool.”27
An interesting story about Scribe Simon the Just illustrates the esteem in which he was held not
only by the Jews but others, including Alexander the Great.
Singer, Isodor, M. Seligsohn, Wilhelm Bacher, and Judah David Eisenstein, “Scribes,” Jewish Encyclopedia.
http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/7605‐herodians accessed 1/21/2016.
The members of the Great Synagogue are designated in the Mishnah as those representatives of the Law who
occupied a place in the chain of tradition between the Prophets and the earliest scholars known by name. "The
Prophets transmitted the Torah to the men of the Great Synagogue. . . . Simon the Just was one of those who
survived the Great Synagogue.”
See lately B. Barc, Siméon le Juste: L'auteur oublié de la Bible hébraïque: Judïsme antique et origines du
christianisme 4), Turnhout: Brepols Publishers, 2015.
Josephus, Antiquities, 12:2, § 5.
Sirach 50. 1‐14.
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According to the Talmud and Josephus, when
Alexander the Great marched through Land of Israel
in the year 332 B.C. Simeon the Just, dressed in his
priestly garments went to . . . meet him . . . [in]
Jerusalem. As soon as Alexander saw him, he
descended from his chariot and bowed respectfully
before him. When Alexander's courtiers criticized
this act, he replied that it had been intentional, since
he had had a vision in which he had seen the high priest, who had predicted his victory.
Alexander demanded that a statue of himself be placed in the Temple, but the high
priest [Simon the Just] explained that this was impossible. He, [Simon] promised instead
that all the sons born of priests in that year would be named Alexander.28
Thus, through the Scribe Simon’s good name and shrewdness, a crisis was averted.
However, once the Canon of Old Testament Scripture was complete, and inspiration of the
prophetic period in Old Testament times had been accomplished, the work of the Scribes began
to degenerate. We have already learned that during this Intertestamental Period, Greek culture
and Hellenization began to threaten the life and mission of Judaism. To thwart this wrong‐
headed shift, their religious leaders determined that the law needed to be preserved and
taught with the most jealous of care. At first blush, one would think this a good thing, but this
decision had a bad outcome.
The logic went like this. In order to preserve the Law, the Law needed to be studied carefully,
and all of its precepts needed to be given application according to the ever‐changing way of
public and private life in Israel. To accomplish this was the job of the Scribes. Unfortunately, by
developing a system of rules for people to follow, they forgot the heart and spirit of the law.
Josephus l.c. xi. 8, § 4. See also for comparison, 3rd
Maccabees, Chapter 2.
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They had, in effect, made the Law to be greater in their minds than God Himself. That is the sin
of Idol‐worship. Their rules cut deeper and deeper until no one had the freedom to truly seek
the real God. 29
To accomplish this, the Scribes set about with two main goals:
1. Multiplying oral traditions to “put a fence or [gezeirah] around”
the law, and
2. Interpreting the Law to accomplish their social purposes rather
than stating truth.
These two goals actually achieved the opposite effect from their intention. The words became
infinitely more important than the Word and the Word lost its meaning. Without the Word, the
people ultimately were lost.
By New Testament times, they had become all highly educated from a young age, and at an
appropriate time (some say by the age of 30) they were elected to office. They were not only
copyists of the Law, but also the preservers of the oral tradition which included the
commentaries and additions to the Law. This oral tradition accumulated over the course of time
into a great mass, and was regarded by most to be equal to or to be even greater than the Law
itself. It was to these oral traditions that Jesus so often attacked. Luke called the Scribes
and "doctors of the law."31
The Scribes had over the centuries developed forced
interpretations of the law, attempting to find a hidden meaning
in every word, syllable, and letter. Jesus charged them saying
"Woe unto you, lawyers! For you have taken away the key of
knowledge, you entered not in yourselves, and those that were
entering in you hindered." (Luke 11:52.)
From force of habit, the people had become dependent on the
Scribes. By this time in history as we have seen, Hebrew, the
language of the Jews, was being replaced by the Aramaic
dialect. That being the case, the uneducated people, which
included most of the people, were unable to understand their
own Torah They were forced to accept the interpretation
which was given by the Scribes. They quoted not the law but
an earlier interpretation of the law given by a particular
See Russell, R., “Scribes – Jewish Leaders of the New Testament.” Bible History Online. http://www.bible‐
history.com/Scribes/THE_SCRIBESBackground.htm accessed 1/21/2016.
Luke 11 and 14.
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Thus, their formula for making a statement would be as follows. “As the Scribe Simon the Just
said . . .” In contrast Jesus’ formula was, “You have heard it said . . . [by a Scribe,] but I say to
you . . .” You now might understand why the people were so amazed when Jesus talked like
Their great failure was their over‐reaction to the Hellenistic influences placed on them. The fell
into the same situation as the people in the famous story of the life‐saving society which I set
out here as a verbal picture of the Scribes.
On a dangerous seacoast where shipwrecks
often occur there was once a crude little
life‐saving station. The building was just a
hut, and there was only one boat but the
few devoted members kept a constant
watch over the sea, and with no thought for
themselves went out day and night
tirelessly searching for the lost. Some of
those who were saved, and various others
in the surrounding area, wanted to become associated with the station and give of their
time and money and effort for the support of its work. New boats were bought and new
crews trained. The little life‐saving station grew.
Some of the members of the life‐saving station were unhappy that the building was so
crude and poorly equipped. They felt that a more comfortable place should be provided
as the first refuge of those saved from the sea. They replaced the emergency cots with
beds and put better furniture in the enlarged building. Now, the life‐saving station
became a popular gathering place for its members, and they decorated it beautifully
and furnished it exquisitely, because they used it as a sort of club. Fewer members were
now interested in going to sea on lifesaving missions, so they hired life‐boat crews to do
this work. The life‐saving motif still prevailed in this club’s decoration, and there was a
symbolic life‐boat in the room where the club initiations were held. About this time a
large ship was wrecked off the coast, and the hired crews brought in boat loads of cold,
wet, and half‐drowned people. They were dirty and sick and some of them had black
skin and some had yellow skin. The beautiful new club was in chaos. So the property
committee immediately had a shower house built outside the club where victims of
shipwreck could be cleaned up before coming inside.
At the next meeting, there was a split in the club membership. Most of the members
wanted to stop the club’s life‐saving activities as being unpleasant and a hindrance to
the normal social life of the club. Some members insisted upon life‐saving as their
primary purpose and pointed out that they were still called a life‐saving station.
This is particularly true in the Matthew 5 account of the Sermon on the Mount.
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But they were finally voted down and told that if they wanted to
save lives of all the various kinds of people who were
shipwrecked in those waters, they could begin their own life‐
saving station down the coast. They did.
As the years went by, the new station experienced the same changes that had occurred
in the old. It evolved into a club, and yet another life‐saving station was founded.
History continued to repeat itself, and if you visit that sea coast today, you will find a
number of exclusive clubs along that shore. Shipwrecks are frequent in those waters,
but most of the people drown. 33
The historical origin of the Sadducees is somewhat a
mystery. An important and controversial clue is the
etymology of the name 'Sadducees' (sedûqîm in
Hebrew). This word may be derived from the Hebrew
word Tsaddîq meaning 'righteous' or from the name
Zadok, who was either the high priest in the age of King
Solomon or the name of the founder of the sect. The
name 'righteous ones' may have been adopted as a
retort to the Hasidim, the early Pharisees, who claimed
that they were the only pious ones.
The name 'sons of Zadok', on the other hand, may refer to the fact that only the descendants of
were ‐according to an ancient tradition‐ entitled to perform the priestly service in the
The Sadducees appear in the middle of the second century B.C., and they are introduced by
Josephus at the same time as the Pharisees and Essenes.36
The three movements probably
originated in the same climate of national and ethical revival, which was a reaction to the
dominance of the Greek culture.37
The Temple which was considered unclean because of these
pagan influences, particularly the dastardly act of the pig sacrifice on the altar by the Seleucid
king Antiochus IV Epiphanes. As a result, in the Maccabean Revolt, with the overthrow (to some
extent) of the Seleucids, the Temple was purified in 164 B.C.
Origin unknown. Quoted in “Stories that Bring Sermons to Life.” Stories for Preaching.Com.
http://storiesforpreaching.com/category/sermonillustrations/church/ accessed 1/21/2016.
See Second Samuel 8,15,17,19, and 20 and First Kings 1, 2, and 4.
Lindering, Jona. “Sadducees,” Livius.org: Articles on Ancient History.
http://www.livius.org/articles/people/sadducees/ accessed January 21, 2016.
Flavius Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 13.171 ff.
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However in 152 B.C., one of the members of the Hasmonaean (Maccabean) royal family
usurped the high priesthood that had traditionally from the time of King David belonged solely
to the family of Zadok, the Priest.38
This usurpation was scandalous as well as sacrilegious. The high priesthood
was hereditary in the Zadokite family, and if one accepts that Sadducees
means 'sons of Zadok,' the Sadducee movement found its origin in the
opposition against the Hasmonaean usurpation. On the other hand, an
argument can be made that the Sadducees usually collaborated with the
Hasmonaean kings. Whatever their relation to the Hasmonaeans, the
Sadducees remained deeply involved with the Temple cult in Jerusalem for
more than two centuries.39
The Sadducees never wrote about themselves, thus very little kind is said about the Sadducees
by any other writer of the period. The Pharisees were usually vehemently opposed to the
Sadducees and as a consequence, the few passages in the rabbinical literature that refer to the
Sadducees almost always portray them as enemies. For example, when Pharisee teachers were
discussing whether a good person could become an evil person, the example of a Pharisee who
went over to the Sadducees was quoted as proof that people could become evil.40
Pharisaic text stated that the Sadducee sect started as a group of Pharisee heretics.41
Josephus states of them, “the behavior of the Sadducees towards another is in some degree
wild, and their conversation with those that are of their own party is as barbarous as if they
were strangers to them.”42
In the New Testament, Matthew records them uniformly as enemies of Jesus along with the
The Pharisees and Sadducees came up, and testing Jesus, they asked Him to show them
a sign from heaven. 2
But He replied to them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair
weather, for the sky is red.’ 3
And in the morning, ‘There will be a storm today, for the
sky is red and threatening.’ Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but
cannot discern the signs of the times? 4
An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a
sign; and a sign will not be given it, except the sign of Jonah.” And He left them and
See note 15, supra.
Babylonian Talmud, Berakhot 29 a.
Avot de Rabbi Nahum A 5.
Josephus, Jewish War 2.166.
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And the disciples came to the other side of the sea, but they had forgotten to bring any
And Jesus said to them, “Watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees
and Sadducees.” Matthew 16:1‐6.
We have seen the difference in the history of the Sadducees and the Pharisees. There were also
fundamental differences between the Sadducees and the Pharisees is the interpretation of the
Law of Moses, the Torah. The Sadducees insisted that the only way for truly pious behavior was
to live according to the commandments in the written Law; the Pharisees, on the other hand,
taught that the written Law had been given to the Jews and that they were free to interpret the
Law. After all, the world had changed since the days of Moses. As a consequence, the Pharisees
said that the 'written Torah' was to be supplemented with 'the oral Torah', the interpretation of
the written Law by the Pharisee teachers, the rabbis. The Sadducees considered this an almost
blasphemous act, because it seemed to deny the majesty of the Law of Moses.43
The fact that the Sadducees had a very high opinion of the five first books of the Bible, does not
mean that they denied that the other books of the Bible, the prophets and the historical
writings‐ were divinely inspired. But they refused to accept the other Biblical books as sources
of law. When a Sadducee had to judge a case, he would look in the written Torah and ignore
the oral traditions that the Pharisees accepted as normative. One of the consequences was that
the Sadducees stressed the importance of the priests in the Temple cult, while the Pharisees
insisted on the participation of all Jews.
The Sadducees denied the existence of the supernatural world insisting that a person’s soul
died with the body.44
The Pharisees and Christians, on the other hand, believed in the
resurrection of the dead. When Paul was brought before the Sanhedrin to explain his ideas in
which some members were Pharisees and others Sadducees, he found it easy to create division
among his judges.
When Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other
Pharisees, he cried out in the council, 'Men and brethren, I am a
Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee; concerning the hope and
resurrection of the dead I am being judged!'
And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the
Pharisees and the Sadducees; and the assembly was divided. For
Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, and no angel or spirit;
but the Pharisees confess both. Then there arose a loud outcry.
And the scribes of the Pharisees' party arose and protested, saying,
'We find no evil in this man; but if a spirit or an angel has spoken to
him, let us not fight against God. (Acts 23:6‐9.)
Mark 12:18‐27 and Flavius Josephus, Jewish antiquities 18.16.
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They did not believe either in angels or in fate (divine determinism.) Of the former they held
that there is no mention of them in the Torah. Of the latter Josephus says:
Now for the Pharisees, they say that some actions, but not all, are the work of Fate, and
some of them are in our own power, and that they are liable to Fate, but are not caused
by Fate. But the sect of the Essenes affirm that Fate governs all things, and that nothing
befalls men but what is according to its determination. And for the Sadducees, they take
away Fate, and say that there is no such thing, and that the events of human affairs are
not at its disposal; but they suppose that all our actions are in our own power, so that
we are ourselves the causes of what is good, and receive what is evil from our own
Josephus gives us a final comparison of the ideas of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.46
The Pharisees are those who are esteemed most skillful in the exact explication of their
laws. [...] They ascribe all to Fate and to God, and yet allow that to act what is right, or
the contrary, is principally in the power of men, although Fate does co‐operate in every
action. They say that all souls are incorruptible, but that the souls of good men only are
removed into other bodies and that the souls of bad men are subject to eternal
But the Sadducees [...] take away Fate entirely, and suppose that God is not concerned
in our doing or not doing what is evil; and they say, that to act what is good, or what is
evil, is at men's own choice, and that the one or the other belongs so to everyone, that
they may act as they please. They also take away the belief of the immortal duration of
the soul, and the punishments and rewards in the Underworld.
[...] The behavior of the Sadducees towards another is in some degree wild, and their
conversation with those that are of their own party is as barbarous as if they were
strangers to them.
In summary, the Sadducees were a
conservative group. One remarkable aspect
shows this better than anything else: they
held on to the old Hebrew script, and never
adapted to the Aramaic alphabet that became
popular all over the ancient Near East.47
Flavius Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 13.172‐173.
Remember that Josephus was himself a Pharisee.
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The following table is an extraction of the views of the three major player groups.
Summary of the Views of the Three Parties
Sadducees Pharisees Essenes
Social Class Priests, aristocrats Common people [Unknown]
Authority Priests "Disciples of the Wise"
Emphasis on priestly
Application of priestly
laws to non‐priests
Calendar Luni‐solar Luni‐solar Solar
Hellenism For Selective Against
Opposed usurpation of
priesthood by non‐
Opposed usurpation of
Personally opposed to
Free will Yes Mostly No
Afterlife None Resurrection Spiritual Survival
Oral Torah No such thing Equal to Written Torah "Inspired Exegesis"
The Herodians were a sect or party of Hellenistic (Greek‐sympathizing) Jews who hated Jesus.
They are mentioned twice — first in Galilee, and later in Jerusalem. In each of these cases their
name is coupled with that of the Pharisees.
See: Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.,) Cambridge University Press and Kaufmann, Kohler. “Herodians,” Jewish
Encyclopedia. http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/7605‐herodians accessed 1/21/2016.
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Mark 3:6, “The Pharisees went out and immediately began conspiring with the Herodians
against Him, as to how they might destroy Him.”
Mark 12:13, “13
Then they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Him in order to trap
Him in a statement.”
Matthew 22:16, “16
And they sent their disciples to Him, along with the Herodians, saying,
“Teacher, we know that You are truthful and teach the way of God in truth, and defer to no
one; for You are not partial to any.”
Mark 8:15, “5
And He was giving orders to them, saying, “Watch out! Beware of the leaven of
the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”
Luke 13:31-32, “31
Just at that time some Pharisees approached, saying to Him, “Go away, leave
here, for Herod wants to kill You.” 32
And He said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast
out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I reach My goal.’”
Acts 4:27, “27
For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus,
whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of
According to many interpreters, the courtiers or the
soldiers of Herod were intended when one said,
“Herodians.” Others argue that the Herodians were
probably more of a public political party who
distinguished themselves from the two great historical
parties of post‐exilic Judaism, the Pharisees and
Sadducees. Their distinguishing fact was that while the
Pharisees and Sadducees merely attempted to “get
along with” Herod, the Herodians were and had been
supportive him and his dynasty.
It is possible that to gain adherents the Herodian or Herodian party may have been in the habit
of representing that the establishment of a Herodian Dynasty would be favorable to the
realization of the Jewish theocracy. This may account for the allegation that the Herodians
regarded Herod himself as the Messiah. Whether they truly thought this is a subject for debate.
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They followed the Sadducees in their opposition to the Pharisees, and were therefore often
identified with them.49
The Zealots were originally a political movement in 1st century Second
Temple Judaism which sought to incite the people to rebel against the
Romans Empire and expel them from the Judea by force of arms, most
notably during the First Jewish–Roman War (66‐70). Zealotry was the term
used by Josephus for a "fourth sect" during this period.50
Simon the Zealot
was listed among the apostles selected by Jesus in Luke 6:15 and in Acts
According to the Jewish Encyclopedia article on Zealots:51
Following Josephus ("B. J." ii. 8, § 1; "Ant." xviii. 1, §§ 1, 6), most writers consider that
the Zealots were a so‐called fourth party founded by Judas the Galilean (see Grätz,
"Gesch." iii. 252, 259; Schürer, "Gesch." 1st ed., i. 3, 486). This view is contradicted,
however, by the fact that Hezekiah, the father of Judas the Galilean, had an organized
band of so‐called "robbers" which made war against the Idumean Herod ("B. J." i. 10, §
5; "Ant." xiv. 9, § 2), and also during the reign of Herod, if not long before by the fact
that the system of religious and political murders practised by the Zealots was in
existence during the reign of Herod, if not long before.
We have previously stated that the Galilee was a hotbed of anti‐Roman revolt and more than
one false messiah came from there. Perhaps, the most famous was Judas the Galilean. Two of
Judas' the Galilean's sons, Jacob and Simon, were involved in a revolt and were executed by
Tiberius Alexander, the procurator of Judea from 46 to 48.52
The Zealots had the leading role in, and probably precipitated, the
First Jewish–Roman War (A.D. 66–73.) This patriotism proved to be
deadly to them and to the nation as a whole. The Zealots objected to
Roman rule and violently sought to eradicate it by targeting Romans
Another group, likely related but much more vicious, were the Sicarii,
(dagger bearers) who raided Jewish homes and killed Jews that they
considered to be collaborators. They urged Jews to fight on against
Grätz, "Gesch." 4th ed., iii. pp. 2, 693.
Flavius Josephus, The Jewish War, supra.
Kauffmann Kohler, "ZEALOTS”. Jewish Encyclopedia.com. Originally published in book form 1906.
Ben‐Sasson, H.H. A History of the Jewish People, Harvard University Press, 1976, page 275.
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the Romans. Josephus paints a very bleak picture of their activities as they instituted what he
characterized as a murderous "reign of terror" prior to the Jewish Temple's destruction.53
According to Josephus, the Zealots followed John of Gischala, who had fought the Romans in
the Galilee, escaped, came to Jerusalem, and then inspired the locals to a fanatical position that
led to the Temple's destruction. They succeeded in taking over Jerusalem, and held it until A.D.
70, when the son of Roman Emperor Vespasian, Titus, retook the city and destroyed Herod's
Temple during the destruction of Jerusalem.54
A small number of Zealots and Sicarii escaped Jerusalem with their
families and took the fortress of Masada to the south. They held out
there for four years until overtaken by the Tenth Roman Legion. We have
previously written about the mass suicide that took place there.55
Josephus records the speech of Elazar ben Yair, their leader.
"Since we long ago resolved never to be servants to the Romans, nor to any other than
to God Himself, Who alone is the true and just Lord of mankind, the time is now come
that obliges us to make that resolution true in practice ...We were the very first that
revolted, and we are the last to fight against them; and I cannot but esteem it as a favor
that God has granted us, that it is still in our power to die bravely, and in a state of
Taken together, these diverse groups coalesced into what was to become the Jewish homeland
of Jesus’ and Paul’s time. Their diversity of ideas yet harmony of patriot ideas set the stage for
the drastic events that would take place in A.D. 70 when Jerusalem went away and Roman
domination became final and complete, lasting for centuries.
Flavius Josephus, The Jewish War, supra.
Lendering, Jona, "Wars between the Jews and Romans: Masada (A.D. 74.)" Livius, Articles on Ancient History.
http://www.livius.org/ja‐jn/jewish_wars/jwar05.html accessed 1/23/2016.
Flavius Josephus, The Jewish War, supra.