The Pharisees were at various times a political party, a social movement, and a school of thought among Jews during the Second Temple period beginning under the Hasmonean dynasty (140–37 BCE) in the wake of the Maccabean Revolt.

Conflicts between the Pharisees and the Sadducees took place in the context of much broader and longstanding social and religious conflicts among Jews dating back to the Babylonian captivity and exacerbated by the Roman conquest. One conflict was class, between the wealthy and the poor, as the Sadducees included mainly the priestly and aristocratic families. Another conflict was cultural, between those who favored Hellenization and those who resisted it. A third was juridico-religious, between those who emphasized the importance of the Second Temple with its cultic rites and services, and those who emphasized the importance of other Mosaic laws and prophetic values. A fourth point of conflict, specifically religious, involved different interpretations of the Torah and how to apply it to current Jewish life, with the Sadducees recognizing only the Written Torah and rejecting doctrines such as the Oral Torah and the Resurrection of the Dead.

Josephus (37 – c. 100 CE), himself a Pharisee, claimed that the Pharisees received the backing and goodwill of the common people, apparently in contrast to the more elite Sadducees. Pharisees claimed prophetic or Mosaic authority for their interpretation of Jewish laws, while the Sadducees represented the authority of the priestly privileges and prerogatives established since the days of Solomon, when Zadok, their ancestor (disputed; see Sadducees), officiated as High Priest. Josephus' statement 'common people' strongly indicates that most Jews were 'just Jewish people' by separating them, and making them independent of the main liturgical groups. The New Testament also makes common reference to the common people indicating that the Jewish identity was independent and stronger than these groups. Paul of Tarsus indicates that changing liturgical sects in the Diaspora had occurred while still identifying oneself as 'Jewish' or 'Hebrew' 'circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, the Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, I am a Pharisee' Philippians 3:5.

After the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, Pharisaic beliefs became the liturgical and ritualistic basis for Rabbinic Judaism, which ultimately produced the normative traditional Judaism which is the basis for all contemporary forms of Judaism except for Karaite Judaism.

Outside of Jewish history and writings, the Pharisees have been made notable by references in the New Testament to conflicts between themselves and John the Baptist and with Jesus. There are also several references in the New Testament to Paul of Tarsus being a Pharisee. And the relationship between Early Christianity and the Pharisees was not always hostile, as e.g. Gamaliel is often cited as a Pharisaic leader who was sympathetic to Christians. Christian traditions have been a cause of widespread awareness of the Pharisees.

Read more about Pharisees:  Etymology, Sources, History of Israel (600 BCE – 160 BCE), Emergence of The Pharisees, The Hasmonean Period, The Roman Period, The Pharisaic Legacy, From Pharisees To Rabbis, Pharisees and Christianity, Kararites and Pharisees

Famous quotes containing the word pharisees:

    The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven. He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. And in the morning, It will be foul weather today: for the sky is red and lowring. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?
    Bible: New Testament Jesus, in Matthew, 16:1-3.