Word Studies:Pharisees and Sadducees

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Pharisees and Sadducees



Pharisees​​ –​​ the word itself means “separate ones”. They were a Jewish religious party​​ comprised mainly of​​ laymen and scribes.​​ They​​ separated themselves from society to study and teach the law, but they also separated themselves from the common people because they considered them religiously unclean.​​ At one time they​​ numbered​​ as many as approximately​​ 6,000​​ members.​​ The Pharisees had great influence among the Jews.​​ 

The Pharisees focused more on external behavior than having a clean heart.​​ 

Jesus said of the Pharisees -​​ 

5​​ “But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels​​ of their garments.​​ 6​​ “They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues,​​ 7​​ and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men.​​ Matthew 23.5-7​​ 

39​​ But the Lord said to him, "Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the platter; but inside of you, you are full of robbery and wickedness.​​ 40​​ “You foolish ones, did not He who made the outside make the inside also?​​ 41​​ “But give that which is within as charity, and then all things are clean for you.​​ Luke 11.39-41​​  

They taught that the way to God was by obeying the​​ Mosaic Law, however, they eventually considered their oral traditions greater than the Mosaic Law. They burdened the Jewish people by putting excessive rules for them to live by, while​​ often​​ violating the spirit of their own rules. Jesus called them hypocrites on more than one occasion​​ (Mat. 22:18; 23:14, 15, 23, 25, 27, 29)!​​ 

The Pharisees were dedicated,​​ but to the wrong thing. They sacrificed relationships for obedience to their rules. That is​​ one​​ reason that Jesus did not get along with them.​​ 

Furthermore,​​ Jesus did not always agree with the Pharisees’ interpretations of the Law. That,​​ among other reasons,​​ caused the Pharisees​​ to be​​ antagonistic toward Jesus.​​ 



The​​ Sadducees​​ were a political party and a prominent Jewish group. Their number was less than the Pharisees, but their wealth and priestly descent tended to balance their influence. The chief priests belonged to the Sadducee party. The Sadducees tried to stay on good terms with the Roman government for selfish reasons.

The Sadducees, like the Pharisees, were antagonistic toward Jesus. However, Jesus criticized the Sadducees less than the Pharisees. The Sadducees also tended to oppose the Apostle Paul as well because he tended to stir up the people, which​​ in turn​​ angered the Roman government.​​ 

Unlike the​​ Pharisees, the Sadducees​​ did not believe in the resurrection, angels,​​ or spirits​​ (Acts 23:8).​​ 

Interestingly, with only a few exceptions, every time the Sadducees are mentioned in the bible, the Pharisees are also mentioned in the same verse. ​​