Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, and Zealots: What Was Essay

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Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, and Zealots:

What was the problem(s) in first-century Palestine?

What or who was the cause of the problem?

What was the potential solution(s) to the problem?

How were they/did they participate in the solution?

If a Messiah was anticipated, what would/should be His priority?

In 1st Century Palestine, the people were divided; in fact the entire country was divided with no core of union. There was mongering and corruption. The people were divided internally, the Jews splintered into various sects of differing beliefs, and they were also divided externally with rebellion against insecure and corrupt rule. On an external level, the Jews too were occupied by the Romans and their various proctors and, therefore, reduced to foreign and interfering rule.

Three prominent groups represented the Homeland at this time: the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, and Zealots.

The Pharisees

The Pharisees, strict in their observance of law (Luke 18:10-12) as well as "traditions of the elders" (Mark 7:1-13; Matt 15:1-20) were mostly comprised of laymen although also members of the Sanhedrin. Their leaders were called the rabbis and they practiced adherence to both an Oral as well as a written tradition (which included adherence to detailed laws of Sabbath rest, purity rituals, tithing, and food restrictions amongst others). They had trained "scribes" (Mark 2:16; Acts 23:9) and "disciples" (Mark 2:18; Matt 22:16; Luke 5:33) and their problem was disrespect to their authority.
Mark (7:9) refers to them admonishing the populace, "of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions."

To them, problems in the country were caused by the Jews not being sufficiently circumspect to the latter of the law. Adherence to the latter of the law would have -- they thought - better protected them. There had been a slew of false messiahs. They considered Jesus to be one of them. A Messiah -- they thought -- would ensure that the rules of the Jewish Homeland be in lieu with the rules of the Torah as they taught it which consisted of both Oral and Written. A messiah too would have redeemed them form their occupiers making their country solely under their jurisdiction. Paul was a Pharisee (Phil 3:5; Acts 23:6; 26:5), as were most of the other early Christians (Acts 15:5).


The Sadducees were a smaller group than the Pharisees, but more influential since they were made up of wealthier, more elite individuals. They thought the Pharisees were ruining the country by their strict demand of compliance with irrelevant detail. They wanted control of the Temple. They followed the Bible but rejected newer traditions.

Consisting largely of priests and some members of the Sanhedrin, they wielded political influence and wished the country to be out….....

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